I have trouble parsing a passage from Seneca's Quaestiones Naturales (Natural Questions) Book VII COMETS, [25,4] The first sentence —

“Veniet tempus quo ista quae nunc latent in lucem dies extrahat et longioris aevi diligentia.”

The Loeb has the corresponding English as “The time will come when diligent research over long periods will bring to light things which now lie hidden. ”

I parsed as follows (details omitted)

  • veniet : main verb
  • tempus : main subject
  • quo … diligent : relative clause explaining tempus
  • [ista quae nunc latent] : ‘those things that now lie hidden,’ i.e., direct object noun phrase of extrahat
  • [in lucem] : ‘(in)to light’ preposintal phrase for extrahat
  • dies : ???
  • extrahat : verb in the subordinate (relative) clause
  • et : ???
  • [longioris aevi diligentia] : ‘diligence of a rather long period’ subject noun phrase of relative clause

In short, I'm puzzled by ‘dies’ and ‘et.’ What are they doing in the sentense?

First, I thought dies is in nominative case and diligentia as adjective modifying it, but the genders don't agree. Not good.

Next, I guessed dies and diligentia both as being nouns and in nominative, but then that conflict with the verb extrahat in number. Not good.

Third, tried dies as in accusative going with lucem to make a longer prepositonal phrase [in lucem et dies] that solves the agreement problems, but the sense? and most perplexingly is the word order.

Hmm… I'm stuck. Could anyone plaease help me?

  • 1
    I think the subject of the relative clause is "dies et longioris aevi diligentia".
    – gmvh
    Commented Jan 22, 2021 at 14:30
  • Thanx, gmvh. I finally understood.
    – Iunius
    Commented Jan 22, 2021 at 16:52

1 Answer 1


I believe that dies . . . et longioris aevi diligentia are both nominative subjects that go with extrahat.

Though this seems like a blatant violation of subject-verb agreement, there is quite a bit of precedent for this. See, for instance, Allen & Greenough § 317.b:

b. If the subjects are connected by disjunctives (§ 223.a), or if they are considered as a single whole, the verb is usually singular.

The linked grammar entry provides a few relevant examples. Here are two that are closest:

Fāma et vīta innocentis dēfenditur. (Rosc. Am. 15)


Est in eō virtūs et probitās et summum officium summaque observantia. (Fam. 13.28 A. 2)

In light of that, a very literal translation of Seneca's whole sentence could run:

The time will come when day and the diligence of a longer age will bring into light those things that are now hidden.

Given the singular verb and the funny positioning of the et, it's pretty clear that Seneca wants dies to be a poetic equivalent of diligentia. The translation from Loeb captures the sense really well.

  • 1
    Got it! Great!, very clear explanation! Thanx brianpck!
    – Iunius
    Commented Jan 22, 2021 at 16:51

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