Continuing from Q: What is the Role of "Quid" in "ne quid obstet"?, with Livius (9.8.6):

"ne quid divini humanive obstet quominus iustum piumque de integro ineatur bellum."
"so that there may be no restriction, human or divine, to prevent your entering on the war without violating either religion or justice."

[Translation: D. Spillan (1849). Available on Perseus, Livy 9.8.6]

Translating literally:

"let nothing, human or divine, obstruct the war which will be entered into anew, so that religion and justice are not (violated)."

The verb "obsto" takes the dative case (Oxford); "usually takes the dative" (Wiki); here, direct object, "war" = "bellum" is in the accusative case.

Why is this?

An aside, if I may: "violated" is understood. How does the reader know that this is the meaning? It has already been stated: "let nothing, human or divine, obstruct the war..." implying that "religion and justice" are to swept aside along with anything else that may get in the way, of the war.

1 Answer 1


In this case, and in many other cases, the details of obstare are given in a subordinate clause. That subordinate clause, introduced here by quominus, has bellum as its subject. But the grammatical role of bellum could be anything, depending on how the subordinate clause is put together, and this has nothing to do with obstare. Bellum is not an object of obstare.

The one to suffer from obstare would indeed be indicated by the dative, but no such entity is given in this sentence. You could say tibi obsto, "I hinder you".

Perhaps you could translate your Latin sentence more literally to see what is going on: "May nothing of divine or human [nature] obstruct lest a righteous and pious war be entered anew." There is no object for the verb "obstruct", but a more natural rephrasing in English will typically introduce such an object. The words pium and iustum are attributes of bellum, and the first translation you quote expands their meaning; I went with mere "righteous and pious" to match the Latin syntax better.

  • llmavirta: Thanks. This answer confirms that "divini" & "humani" are neuter genitive singulars. Canon Roberts' translation [also available on Perseus Livy 9.8.6] gave these as masculine/ neuter plural adjectives, describing (unwritten) "law/s" ("...so without infringing any (law) human or divine...". The trouble is that "law" = "lex" is feminine! Your translation offers, I think, (unwritten) "ingenium"/ "ingenii"; "of divine or human (nature)".
    – tony
    Commented Apr 15, 2021 at 11:04
  • llmavirta: This same translator took the two neuter adjectives-as-nouns, "iustum" & "piumque" and created: "...which will be justified by the law of nations and sanctioned by the gods.". Is that a leap of faith worthy of the Grand Canyon? The more sober translation can be seen, above.
    – tony
    Commented Apr 15, 2021 at 11:09
  • llmavirta: How can a literal translation be made "more literal"? The only, minor, problem is the unwritten "violated".
    – tony
    Commented Apr 15, 2021 at 11:11
  • @tony The translation you offered in your question was not literal. Pretty far from it if you ask me, as the grammatical roles have been shuffled. In English "war" was an object in the main clause, in Latin it was a subject in a subordinate clause. The words iustum and pium are attributes of bellum, but the English translation treats them very differently. // The word "nature" I supplied was just to make more sense of the Latin genitive; I did not mean that I implicitly understood any additional Latin noun.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Apr 15, 2021 at 13:13
  • I updated my literal translation to contain all the words; I had previously skipped some.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Apr 15, 2021 at 13:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.