In his answer to Q: Can Gerundives be predicates of Ablative Absolutes?, Seb offered a number of examples, the second of which:

"quo senatus consulto recitato cum [populus] more hoc insulso et novo plausum meo nomine recitando dedisset, habui contionem." (Cic. Att. 4.1.6) =

"With the recommendation of the Senate having been read out, when the people had applauded in this tasteless and new manner, with my name read out I spoke to the assembly."

Apart from the clumsy repetition of "recitato", why deploy a gerundive, in an ablative-absolute construction, ("meo nomine recitando"), as opposed to a conventional AA-construction, "meo nomine recitato" = "with my name (having been) read out"?

EDIT: 14/1/2021:

This is incorrect: "meo nomine recitato...habui contionem" has "my" (from "meo"), included in the AA, and "I" (in "habui") in the subsequent clause. This violates the grammatical rule that a species, in an AA, cannot be referred to again in the following clause.

Seb continued: "Hofman & Szantyr accept these examples only grudgingly as AAs, while gerundives are often and freely used in late Latin taking on the role of future-passive participles."

Is this example an AA, at all; or, simply an agreement of case-endings as directed by the grammatical rule governing gerundive constructions (noun/ pronoun must agree in case, number & gender with the gerundive)?

This would give: "meo nomine recitando" = "with my name (reading-out) calling....I spoke to the assembly.".

EDIT 11/1/2021:

In his answer to Q: What is the difference in meaning/usage between "nasciturus" and "nascendus"?, Mitomino offered an example of Cicero's use of the gerundive, in this way, which also demonstrates how the ablative case negates the gerundive's passive and deontic qualities:

"placet contra gaudere nosmet omittendis doloribus" (Cic. Fin. 1.56) =

"but on the other hand one is to rejoice by releasing pains".

Any thoughts?

  • 2
    Are you asking in which cases the gerundive can be said to lack the passive and deontic (obligation) "qualities"/meanings? If so, perhaps you could try to formulate your question in a more transparent way. I agree with you that the two examples above (meo nomine recitando & omittendis doloribus) can be said to be relevant to show the lack of those two meanings/"qualities" (passivity and obligation) that are present in examples like Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.
    – Mitomino
    Commented Jan 12, 2021 at 17:57
  • @Mitomino: Thank you. In the first example, "meo nomine recitando", classed as a "borderline" ablative absolute (Hofman & Szantyr), how is the gerundive to be translated here? As yourself has shown, in the earlier Q., the ablative case negates the deontic & passive moods of this species. Therefore, must the gerundive, in this format, be translated as a gerund? If so, it must become a verbal noun; here, "the reading-out"/ "the calling"; giving "with 'the reading-out' of my name". In the second example, "the releasing"; giving "by the releasing of the pains".
    – tony
    Commented Jan 13, 2021 at 13:05
  • @Mitomino: The problem with this approach is that a genitive will be required for the noun. Of course the grammatical rule, for the gerundive, demands the agreement of case-endings. Here, may be a clue to the answer: a gerundive, deployed in an ablative-absolute construction, will lose its passive & deontic moods but will to continue to dictate an agreement of case-endings. This beggars the question: why was such an agreement required? A guess: it suited the literary effect/ rhetorical force required by the speaker, here, Cicero.
    – tony
    Commented Jan 13, 2021 at 13:25
  • @Mitomino: I asked why a conventional AA was not deployed e.g. "meo nomine recitato" = "with my name read-out"; overlooking that with "my" in the AA and "I" ("I spoke to the assembly") in the following clause, there would be a violation of the grammatical rule governing the AA--a species in the AA must not appear again in the succeeding clause.
    – tony
    Commented Jan 13, 2021 at 13:39
  • @Mitomino: The famous example from Cato uses indirect speech "I opine that... " (accusative-infinitive construction, "delendam esse") therefore the gerundive retains its natural qualities. The other example, previous Q., from yourself is trickier: "patriam ipsam inflammandam reliquimus"; "inflammandam" given as an accusative-gerundive, by Pinkster, having lost its deontic & passive properties, but only seems to work if translated as a gerund: "We have left our mother-city 'to the burning'".
    – tony
    Commented Jan 13, 2021 at 14:04

1 Answer 1


Has Cicero made a mistake?

In "meo nomine recitando...habui contionem" there is "my" (from "meo") in the AA, and "I" (in"habui") in the following clause.

This is a grammatical violation for the AA (see EDIT: 14/1/2021). That, or this is not an ablative absolute, contrary to the opinion of Hofman & Szantyr. Therefore, what can it be but an agreement of case-endings, dictated by the grammatical rule for the gerundive?

An example of this in my elementary text (Oulton):

"navibus eorum delendis hostes vicimus." =

"We conquered the enemy by destroying their ships."

This may look like an AA (ordinarily it would be "navibus deletis") but it isn't. If it was "eorum" (= "of these" [the enemy]) would be ablative-plural, "eis"--a grammatical violation because the enemy ("hostes") is referred to again, in the following clause.

Here, "navibus... delendis" is an agreement of case-endings dictated by the gerundive.

Similarly, in Mitomino's example (Comments in the 2nd. linked Q.) "omittendis doloribus" = "by releasing the pains".

EDIT: 15/1/2021:

This latter example is not an ablative-absolute either, as Mitomino has been good enough to remind me.

Concluding: there does not appear to be an advantage in the inclusion of a gerundive in an AA-construction. The gerundive, in the oblique cases, may lose its passive & deontic qualities but it will require an agreement of case-endings. This symmetry may have suited some Roman writers who used this technique e.g. Cicero.

***EDIT: 2/3/2021:

Thanks to Mitomino for a discussion on the well-known AA "mutatis mutandis" in Q: On the alleged ambiguity of the Ablative Absolute "Mutatis mutandis" the accepted translation of which is:

"with the things which ought to be changed (having been) changed".

This, more succinctly (Joonas in Q: Why does the substantive come second in 'mutatis mutandis'?

"having changed what had to be changed".

Therefore, there is a role for the gerundive in an AA-construction in which the gerundive retains its deontic and passive qualities. However, as Mitomino indicates:

"... "mutandis" retains its passive and deontic meaning when it is the subject of the AA. However, it lacks these properties when it is the predicate e.g.

"mutatis mutandis tribunatum gessit." =

"He spent the tribunate in changing what had been changed."

Therefore, if "mutatis" is the subject it is "the things that were (having been) changed"; gerundive, "mutandis", the predicate, is "by changing"; giving:

"by changing what had been changed" (Joonas)."

In "mutandis" = "by changing", it could be argued that the gerundive, in losing its deontic & passive qualities (in the ablative case) is functioning as a gerund ("by [the] changing") while continuing to dictate agreement in number, case and gender.

Both Mitomino & Joonas appear to agree that "mutatis mutandis" is ambiguous though there is some debate about when, in Roman history, each expression might have been accepted.

  • 1
    I agree that navibus delendis hostes vicimus does not contain an AA. The 2nd example of gerundive construction is not an AA either but is a bit different since it is semantically selected by the verb gaudere: cf. placet gaudere nosmet omittendis doloribus (Cic. Fin. 1.56). Note that the syntactic status of this 2nd gerundive is not different from the following "dominant participle" construction, which is also selected by the verb: Cum absoluto Scaevola gauderet,…’ (Cic. Orat. 2). Cf. perseus.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/…
    – Mitomino
    Commented Jan 15, 2021 at 0:18
  • @Mitomino: (Cic. de Oratore 2.281) "cum...valde absoluto Scaevola gauderet", the use of adjective-as-noun ("absoluto") gives "...when...with the acquitted one, Scaevola, Granius celebraed magnificently...". Is this correct? In English it woks better as an AA: "...when...with Scaevola [having been] acquitted, Granius celebrated magnificently...". Have you read Cerberus's answer to Q: latin.stackexchange.com/q/110/1982? What an answer! Cerberus seems to agree that a gerundive does not really belong in an AA-construction; that it will, effectively, be translated as a gerund,
    – tony
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 13:11
  • @Mitomino: as in "inflammandam", above. Example: "floribus carpendis Eurydice mordetur a serpente."
    – tony
    Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 13:14

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