In an old TV-prog. (1950s), "The Annals of Scotland Yard", old cases were dramatised with a narration from distinguished criminologist, the late Edgar Lustgarten. One of these, from the 1930s, featured a man who killed his friend (?) in order to steal the latter's recently-acquired £30,000 win on the (long-defunct) football-pools. Edgar's chilling observation:

"£30,000? Murders have been committed for a lot less."

In Latin this could be:

"triginta milia librae? caedes actae sunt multo minori."

Texts & dictionaries offer many examples of "more this"/ "less that" but I couldn't find "for a lot (much) more"/ "for a lot (much) less". Is it simply a double adjective, in the dative case e.g. "multo maiori"/ "multo minori"?

Alternatively, might "quam" = "than" be required, with the sum-of-money in the nominative, giving:

"... multo minori quam triginta milia librae."?

Possibly, an ablative-of-comparison (without "quam"), giving:

"...multo minori triginta milibus libris.".

These latter two would require the clumsy repetition of the sum-of-money--unlikely to be correct.

Any thoughts?

  • 2
    I feel a noun is lacking, but i wouldn't repeat the amount. What about multo minori pretio
    – Rafael
    Mar 7, 2021 at 10:18
  • 1
    Or you could use an adverb, e.g. multo minus
    – Rafael
    Mar 7, 2021 at 14:22
  • @Rafael: I thought of the adverb but chose the double-adjective. Do both have equal merit?
    – tony
    Mar 8, 2021 at 12:47
  • 1
    I could be missing something (and that's why I'm not posting an answer yet), but I think multo is playing its adverbial role here, since adjectives cannot modify adjectives. Re: adv+adj without a noun, it would need a nominalized adjective. In theory they work, but they're not the first option one would think of. It sounds (somewhat) like £30,000? Murders have been committed for a lot the less or many of the less.
    – Rafael
    Mar 8, 2021 at 19:20
  • 1
    It makes sense to me
    – Rafael
    Mar 9, 2021 at 14:38

2 Answers 2


Here's an attempt:

Triginta milia librarum? Multo minoris homines necati sunt.

  • librarum is genitive because milia always takes the partitive genitive.
  • Multo is ablative of degree of difference, "(by) much".
  • minoris is genitive of value. The difference between genitive of value and ablative of price is a bit tricky, and you might think that the latter should be used here because we're talking about the "price" of the murder. But it seems that with quantity adjectives like "much, little, more, less" the genitive was the usual choice. Allen and Greenough give an example which seems close to what is needed here: Tantōne minōris decumae vēniērunt? "Were the tithes sold for so much less?"
  • I've personalized the phrasing to say "people have been murdered", which feels to me a bit more idiomatic than using an abstract noun as in caedes actae sunt. You could of course use some other verb than neco out of the bountiful cornucopia of Latin words for "kill".
  • Thank you. I rejected "price" because it was reminiscent of a fee for an assassin. Similarly, "value", attributing an intrinsic worth to killing. Looks like I was being too literal, again.
    – tony
    Mar 9, 2021 at 12:20
  • 1
    Is the issue here really price or value though? As I understand it, the English statement is saying simply that murders are committed in order to obtain an amount; the amount is the goal, not what one would have to pay to achieve it. It seems as though a gerund/gerundive construction ('for the purpose of acquiring much less') would be more to the point.
    – cnread
    Mar 9, 2021 at 18:04
  • 1
    @cnread That's a good point and you may be right (though one could argue that the price was "paid" by the murdered party). It feels like a natural extension to me, but I don't have any evidence to back that up.
    – TKR
    Mar 9, 2021 at 23:20
  • 1
    And I don't have any evidence to refute it, really. To be honest, I've never gone to the trouble to examine the ablative of price and genitive of value in any great depth, to see how flexible/extensible they are in practice. You could be perfectly correct; it just feels 'off' to me, as though we're saying that people have paid some amount of money to have themselves murdered (e.g., so that their spouse can collect the life insurance money).
    – cnread
    Mar 10, 2021 at 1:07

I'm not convinced that either genitive of value or ablative of price is particularly appropriate in this context, in spite of the fact that the original English would seem to invite one or the other of them. (I could be wrong though!) Therefore, I'm going to suggest a few different approaches.

Although I've used some flowery vocabulary in these, so that they reflect the passages that were their inspiration, all of them could obviously be stripped down somewhat and made more prosaic (for example, quaestus instead of compendium; a simple form of minor instead of adjectives such as leviore or minus ubere).

triginta milia librarum? multi in aliorum exitium* multo leviore compendio ducti sunt!

Thirty thousand pounds? Many have been led to the murder of others by much less substantial profit!

* Or caedem or necem.

This is inspired by Seneca the Younger, Dialogi 4.8.2:

inter istos quos togatos vides nulla pax est: alter in alterius exitium levi compendio ducitur; nulli nisi ex alterius iniuria quaestus est; felicem oderunt, infelicem contemnunt; maiorem gravantur, minori graves sunt; diversis stimulantur cupiditatibus; omnia perdita ob levem voluptatem praedamque cupiunt.

Here's another:

triginta milia librarum? longe minoris pecuniae spes multos induxit ad necandum!

Thirty thousand pounds? Hope of far less money has led many to murder(ing)!

This is inspired by pseudo-Cicero, Rhetorica ad Herennium 2.29:

omnes enim cum minima peccata cum causa suscipiunt, tum vero illa, quae multo maxima sunt maleficia, aliquo certo emolumento inducti suscipere conantur. si multos induxit in peccatum pecuniae spes, si conplures scelere se contaminarunt imperii cupiditate, si multi leve conpendium fraude maxima commutarunt, cui mirum videbitur, istum a maleficio propter acerrimam formidinem non temperasse?

A couple more, for good measure...

Since the £30,000 (or a lot less) is the motivating factor – that is, the reason for or cause of the murder – another possibility is to use causa:

triginta milia librarum? quanto* minore causa** neces illatae sunt!

triginta milia librarum? quanto* minore causa** homines necati sunt!

Thirty thousand pounds? Murders have been committed/People have been murdered for much less cause!

* Or multo or longe.
** Or de causa or e causa.

Cf., for example, Pseudo-Quintilian, Declamationes maiores 6.2:

quanto minore causa excaecata est!

Finally, since obtaining the £30,000 (or a lot less) is the murderer's goal (so that 'for' doesn't so much express a notion of price or value as it is shorthand for 'for the purpose of obtaining'), a gerund/gerundive showing purpose can be used:

triginta milia librarum? ad compendium longe minus ubere nanciscendum neces illatae sunt!

triginta milia librarum? ad compendium longe minus ubere nanciscendum homines necati sunt!

Thirty thousand pounds? Murders have been committed/People have been murdered in order to obtain far less abundant profit!

This is inspired by Suetonius, Life of Vitellius 2.1:

contra plures auctorem generis libertinum prodiderunt, Cassius Severus nec minus alii eundem et sutorem veteramentarium, cuius filius sectionibus et cognituris uberius compendium nanctus, ex muliere vulgari, Antiochi cuiusdam furnariam exercentis filia, equitem R. genuerit.

  • What a wonderful answer! Thank you.
    – tony
    Mar 19, 2021 at 13:19

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