In North & Hillard Ex. 210 Blosius is summoned before the Consuls and told to denounce his late friend, Gracchus; or, face execution.

The whole passage is to be translated into Latin: this part of Blosius' reply:

If you, Consuls, should bid me save my life by accusing Gracchus, I would not so save it.

The Answer Book gives:

si vos, Consules, me iubeatis me ipsum ea lege servare ut Gracchum accusem, non ita me incolumem faciam.

A complex-conditional sentence: improbable conditions using the present subjunctive in both clauses. The fulfilment of the condition is improbable but possible. (Given Blosius' attitude, impossible conditions might have been more appropriate.)

Clearly Blosius is told to condemn Gracchus and then his life will be spared. This ordering of events may not be achieved by "ut" alone ("You bid me save my life "with the result that"/ "in order that" I accuse...") which reverses the timeline. The construction "ut...ita" = "in such a way" preserving the timeline: "You bid me save my life in such a way that I (would) accuse Gracchus."

Note that N & H achieved this (timeline) by translating "ut" = "by"; most efficacious, but I can find no listing for "ut" = "by" (Oxford & Wiki).

The second thing: the English requires intensifier "so" in: "...I would not so save it." Conveniently placed, in this separate clause (from "ut"), is "ita" = "so", from the construction "ut...ita".

I know that top translators do not attempt to translate every word (as I like to do); it may be that "so" can be omitted; but, if this is not the case then does "ita" fulfill this second use, as well?


2 Answers 2


In this case ita and ut are unrelated. There is a construction ita…ut, but it is not used here. You can drop the intensifier "so" or ita and the sentence works equally well. (The emphasis is good to have, but not strictly necessary.)

The suggestion from the book is unnecessarily complicated. One might even argue that it has two elements reversed by accident: it should be about accusing Gracchus so that you save yourself, not saving yourself so that you accuse Gracchus. The proposed phrasing does make sense (see Sebastian's answer), but it feels clumsy. The key to the suggestion is ea lege which connects with ut.

I would prefer to leave ea lege out entirely and say simply:

Si vos, Consules, me iubeatis Gracchum accusare ut me ipsum servem, non ita me incolumem faciam.
"If you consuls order me to accuse Gracchus so that I save myself, I would not make myself uninjured in such a way."

My English translation is clumsy, as it attempts to be faithful to the Latin structures.

The exercise is about writing your own Latin prose, not about hitting the exact same wording as the authors. There is rarely a good reason to compose something exotic when you are too uncomfortable or unfamiliar with it yourself, so I suggest sticking with simplicity. The overall structure of the sentence is necessarily a little complex, but there is no need to add more complexity on top of that.

  • Joonas llmavirta: Thank you. This sentence has been driving me mad. Is it the case that N& H have been a touch clumsy--incredible? Is their use of "ut" = "by" an excellent (highly convenient) piece of sleight-of-hand? Given the myriad of meanings attributed to "ut" (Lewis & Short gave 1134 hits) it would be so easy to look past it, assuming it to be correct.
    – tony
    Nov 10, 2020 at 14:23
  • @tony It could of course be something more exotic, but I can't parse their Latin sentence in a way that resembles the English. Ut is one of the frustratingly versatile words in Latin. We should wait and see what others think before making a final decision on this. We two may have overlooked something...
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 10, 2020 at 14:41
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    @tony Indeed, I had overlooked something. I stand by my suggested translation (minus the ea lege), given the English original, but the one in the book does make sense after all.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 10, 2020 at 18:20
  • llmavirta: Yes, I think that "ea lege" was a trap, inviting "from the law" when Blosius hadn't broken any laws. I knew that "ut" was linked to something (Seb's answer); I just picked the wrong link (ita). Yourself used "in such a way" = "ut...ita" (interesting); Seb said "...that way" at the end of his translation. I sweated blood on this sentence because I did not want to submit the Q! A basic (?) use of "ut"--I'll look silly; in the end there was no alternative.
    – tony
    Nov 11, 2020 at 14:05
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    @tony When something is trivial in retrospect, it often indicates that learning has taken place. It might feel embarrassing, but it's a good sign!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 11, 2020 at 20:39

The ut follows ea lege:

ea lege, ut …
under the condition that …

The key is to question what ea lege is doing in that sentence, especially since there is no context talking about some legislation or other. Lex can occasionally be used with ut + subjunctive (e.g. lex erat apud Romanos, ut …, the Romans had a law stipulating that …). So an overly literal translation would be: “under a law stipulating that …”

That lex can mean “condition” is definitely in the “exotic” category (ut nuncupavit Joonas), but it is mentioned in Lewis & Short (II.E). An expression with ut is given as an example, from Plautus, Mostellaria 2,1,13 (the spelling is also mangled in the online version, probably due to two scanning mistakes; I quote the correct version here):

Ego dabo ei talentum, primus qui in crucem excucurrerit;
sed ea lege, ut offigantur bis pedes, bis bracchia.
Ubi id erit factum, a me argentum petito praesentarium.

I'll give that man a talent [around 26 kg of silver] that first runs out to the cross;
but under the condition that his feet are fastened twice, his arms twice.
Right when that is done, let him ask me for the silver.

But the possibility of adding an ut clause is not expressly spelt out. It is also found in the Georges, which curiously only mentions ne + subjunctive, but it stands to reason that ut would work as well.

Thus we can read the whole sentence:

If you, Consuls, should decree that I save myself under the condition that I blame Gracchus, I would not ensure my wellbeing that way.

  • 2
    That's indeed exotic. The key revelation to me was that you could read lex that way. How would you parse the whole sentence with this reading? A rough literal translation to English would clarify how this works in the context.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 10, 2020 at 17:01
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    Thanks for the edit! It makes more sense now. In fact, you have a good chance of getting a bounty for teaching me something interesting...
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 10, 2020 at 18:18
  • @JoonasIlmavirta et me ipsum. In a prose composition exercise, I'd have expected ea condicione. Nov 10, 2020 at 20:04
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    I'd have expected nothing at all; there's no explicit "condition" in the English original. I'd have gone with a simple final ut.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 10, 2020 at 20:28
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    @JoonasIlmavirta Right, not only that, the idea of a condition does also not square with the verb iubere. Your reversed version would make more sense. Nov 11, 2020 at 0:51

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