I am reading Historia plantarvm vniuersalis. There are many sentences I do not understand, but the particular one I would like to ask about is on page 10 (page 26 in the link):

Literal transcription:

Februario ʃectum carne ʃatis molli erat, acidodulci, ac penè vinoʃo.

my adjustment into pedagogical Latin:

Februario sectum carne satis molli erat, acidodulci, ac paene vinoso.

Just from the words being used here I roughly know what is being said. The meaning of this sentence is more or less:

In February it (the fruit) was ripe. It tasted sour-sweet, almost like wine.

And I can start to construct a translation. Our verb is erat, the imperfect of sum, esse; sectum is nominative because erat does not take an accusative, and doesn't make sense as the subject so it is the compliment. Februario is easy, it is pretty clearly ablative of time when since it is a time period and it is in the ablative. So the sentence is now

In February it was cut.

At this point every remaining noun and adjective is in the ablative (could be dative either).

I think that statis molli and acidodulci ac paene vinoso are two separate ablative constructions. However I can't fit them into any ablative construction that I know of, so I don't know how to translate them.

Why are these in the ablative? How do they fit into this sentence?

1 Answer 1


My non-expert literal translation:

It had been cut in February, the flesh soft enough, sour-sweet, almost wine-like.

The phrase carne satis molli is an ablative absolute. It has no grammatical connection with the rest of the sentence; molli modifies carne, which is neither a subject nor subject-complement of the verb, erat. The adjective vinoso modifies the implied subject pomum. I assume that acidodulci also modifies pomum.

I understand the ablative case to be chosen here to describe the specimen at the time it was cut and to explain why it was cut at that time. The following paragraph says that this type of apple is picked in October when it's a little sour and its flesh is still pretty hard. Apparently it needs to sit about 5–6 months to soften up. So here is a free translation to better indicate the meaning of the ablative:

The specimen had been cut in February, by which time its flesh had softened sufficiently and it had become sour-sweet—almost wine-like (hence a good time to eat it).

According to this site, the Pomum pentagonum ("star apple") doesn't taste very good. So maybe we're wrong that it tasted "almost wine-like"? On the other hand, this page suggests that ancient apple varieties may have been more palatable to people long ago—when they knew of nothing better. The first site also mentions picking the apple in October but waiting until March to eat it.

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