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In a book that I'm reading, a passage form Johann Gottlieb Heineccius is referred to illustrate the difference between codicilli and epistolae (the last paragraph [starting: "unde recte"] is the problematic part, but to give more context I lay here the entire passage):

Codicilli voce nihil Romani denotabant aliud, quam scripturam quamdam ad alios missam. Hinc saepe codicillos pro epistolis ponit Cicero epist. ad Fam. IV 13; VI. 18. ad Quint. Fratr. II. 11. Praecipue tamen id nomen tribuebatur epistolis ad praesentes missis, italice: viglietti. Unde Seneca ep. LV:

"Video te, mi Lucili, quum maxime audio, adeo tecum sum, ut dubitem, an incipiam non epistolas sed codicillos tibi scribere"

Unde recte colligas codicillos, quos deinde imperatores tamquam ultimae voluntatis genus adprobarunt, nihil aliud fuisse quam epistolas scriptas ad haeredes de eo, quod post mortem suam scribentes ab haeredibus fieri vellent. Heineccius lib. II. A. R. p. 543.

My free-translation so far:

For the Romans, Codicilli denoted nothing else but a certain writing that is sent to others. Therefore Cicero sometimes uses Codicilli instead of epistola. Yet, chiefly, this name [codicilli] is given to letters that are sent to those in presence. from this Seneca: [citation that illustrates that is Codicilli and not epistola that being sent to the closed one ("adeo tecum sum")].

But now is the part I'm struggling with and too-far from understanding(which is maybe a citation from another source at least partially):

(from there/where) you are, correctly, collecting codicillos, whom Imperators(?), ["tamquam ultimae voluntatis genus adprobarunt"], nothing but written epistolas to his heirs which after his death, writing (the imporatores?) as they wish to become among the heirs.

Not even sure who are the players in this paragraph or what "tamquam ultimae voluntatis genus" means in the context [and even when it stand-alone], is eo and suam can relate to the same person or should account for 2 different?

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    I assume that "italice: viglietti" refers to the word which in modern Italian is biglietti, French billets, in the sense "notes passed from one person to another". – fdb Jul 15 at 8:45
  • @fdb, indeed Wiktionary confirms this. It also says the french billets is from the Latin bulla (that could mean in medieval times a seal of a document, or the document itself) – d_e Jul 15 at 9:08
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Unde recte colligas codicillos, quos deinde imperatores tamquam ultimae voluntatis genus adprobarunt, nihil aliud fuisse quam epistolas scriptas ad haeredes de eo, quod post mortem suam scribentes ab haeredibus fieri vellent. Heineccius lib. II. A. R. p. 543.

"And from this you may conclude/summarise correctly that codicils, which the Emperors later established/sanctioned as (if they were) a kind of last will, were nothing else but letters written to heirs about what they, writing after their own death, wanted done from their heirs."

I think colligo must mean "conclude, summarise", because "collect" wouldn't make sense in context.

"The Emperors" can refer to legal system and customs instituted by or common during the Roman Empire, as opposed to the preceding Republic. The passage can be read such that it was the Emperors themselves who instituted this practice, by leaving letters to their own heirs (otherwise, we have a dangling subject "they" in the quo clause).

Note that a tamquam clause is normally subjunctive, and most subordinate clauses depending on an accusativus cum infinitivo are also normally in the subjunctive.

Suus can refer to any antecedent in the third person, including a plural like the Emperors.

De eo is to be translated by "about that" as normal. Quod is a relative pronoun referring back to eo, so "about that which... / about what...".

Fieri must be translated as the passive of facere here, rather than the alternative ("to become"): so it should be "to be done". Quod vellent fieri is then "what they wanted (to be) done".

The praeposition a(b(s)) means "by, from" here.

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  • Thanks for detailed response! How far I got it ... alas. – d_e Jul 14 at 15:57
  • By the way, my second-hand source, from which I transcribed the text says "Codicilli voce nihil Romani denotabant", while the original source says "Veteres" instead of "Romani". Which indeed makes this clearer. – d_e Jul 14 at 16:25
  • Note that colligas is subjunctive, so "you would correctly conclude..." – TKR Jul 14 at 20:32
  • @TKR: Ah, of course. What would be the best translation? Would might suggest an irrealis? I'm not entirely sure about the conventions of translating into English. A potentialis can be expressed as could/might? Alternatively, an adhortativus "should" is possible. I feel that perhaps would fits the context best, but I'm not sure whether it is possible with a present subjunctive. – Cerberus Jul 14 at 21:18
  • I was using would as an implied apodosis ("if you were to conclude this, you would conclude correctly"), but might/could seem equally good. A jussive should seems less suitable to me in this context, since you wouldn't normally order someone to "conclude correctly". – TKR Jul 14 at 21:43

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