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In the film "Spartacus" (1960) Marcus Publius Glabrus, having just lost six cohorts of the garrison of Rome, in an ill-starred attempt to crush the slave-uprising in its incipient stages, is summoned to the Senate for a debriefing. Senator Gracchus rises to his feet:

"If we had punished every commander, who made a fool of himself, we'd have no-one left above the rank of centurion."

Translating this into both direct & indirect speech: it's a conditional sentence; impossible conditions (it did not happen: we did not punish every commander). In advanced texts e.g. Allen & Greenough "impossible conditions" is called "contrary-to-fact" i.e. "counterfactual".

FIRST CLAUSE: (The protasis: a statement of the condition.)

A counterfactual condition, in the past tense, requiring a pluperfect subjunctive for the verb.

SECOND CLAUSE:

A relative "qui" clause. In direct speech the verb is in the indicative.

THIRD CLAUSE: (The apodosis: the result of the condition.)

The present-tense consequence of action/ inaction, in the past, requiring the imperfect subjunctive.

TRANSLATION:

"si puniissemus (punivissemus) omnem imperatorem, qui se ludificatus est, neminem (relinquentem) maioris ordinis centurione haberemus."

INDIRECT SPEECH:

Gracchus told the Senators that if they had punished every commander, who had made a fool of himself, they would have no-one left above the rank of centurion."

Rules for changing a condition contrary-to-fact into indirect speech are given in (A & G) section 589; 3(b): p.383; (https://dcc.dickinson.edu/grammar/latin/conditions in indirect discourse)

FIRST CLAUSE:

The protasis always remains unchanged in tense.

SECOND CLAUSE:

The relative clause will require the accusative-infinitive construction for indirect speech.

THIRD CLAUSE:

(A & G): "The apodosis, if active, takes a peculiar infinitive form, made by combining the participle in -urus with fuisse."

TRANSLATION:

Gracchus Senatoribus narravit si punissisent (punivissent) omnem imperatorem, quem se ludificatum esse, neminem (relinquentem) maioris ordinis centurione habituros fuisse.

Are the two translations correct?

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  • 2
    In the indirect discourse version, I'm not sure that the verb in the relative clause should be infinitive. Doesn't that happen only when the relative is functioning as a so-called connecting relative (= et/sed is)? I would think subjunctive is needed in this instance.
    – cnread
    Jun 2 at 17:01
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    This is an excellent question which touches upon several interesting corners of grammar; minor point (which could distract from the central questions): punissisent should be punivissent. I also doubt that se ludificari is a good translation for "make a fool of oneself," it sounds Latinglish to me, but I could be wrong. Jun 2 at 18:14
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    I'd think the relative clause would be subjunctive even in the direct version (relative clause of characteristic).
    – TKR
    Jun 3 at 0:54
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    @TKR No, because he is not talking about a characteristic ("the sort of commander who makes a fool of himself"), but about those commanders who, however characteristic or not, did so in the actual campaign. That said, I would argue in favour of the subjunctive too, due to attraction of mode. Jun 3 at 10:02
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    @tony That is a rather literal translation though for an idiom which really means "to act stupidly in a disgraceful way. For lack of a better idea, I'd say: stultitia se dedecorare. Jun 3 at 11:28
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A number of points:

  • I do not think se ludificari is an appropriate translation for “make a fool of oneself.” As I wrote in the comments, I would prefer: ⋯ qui stultitia se dedecoravit (who disgraced himself through foolishness).

  • Relative clauses in counterfactual condicional clauses often take on the subjunctive of the governing clause, which is called attractio modi. The pluperfect subjunctive is dedecoravisset, which is quite a mouthful, though it can at least be shortened to dedecorasset.

  • Relinquere does the one who leaves. The one who is left is therefore relictus. There is also a related, more or less synonymous word named reliquus. Instead of neminem relictum/reliquum haberemus you could also say neminem retineremus, but I am not sure that is necessarily better.

  • I am also unsure about maior ordo centurione. I think a higher rank should at least be superior instead of maior. I also changed the word order with Hor. C. 3,30 in mind ;-)

So I would translate the direct-speech version thus:

Si puniissemus omnem imperatorem, qui stultitia se dedecorasset, neminem ordinis centurione superioris reliquum haberemus.

For the second part:

  • Narravit seems an unusual choice, I would have gone with a simple dixit.

  • Punissisent should be punivissent (or puniissent).

  • Relative clauses in an AcI context do not become AcI themselves. They retain the finite verb, but stand in the subjunctive mood, following the c.t.

So we end up with:

Gracchus Senatoribus dixit si punivissent omnem imperatorem, qui stultitia se dedecorasset, neminem ordinis centurione superioris reliquum habituros fuisse.

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  • Does puniissemus have an extra I?
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jun 4 at 15:25
  • @Joonas llmavirta: According to Wiki's conjugation tables; I made the mistake of a single "i" in the original posting--if it is a mistake?
    – tony
    Jun 4 at 15:34
  • @tony I see, I read too hastily. I'm not sure if the I at the end of the perfect stem is retained in all forms. Contracting to a single long I is appealing, but I'm not sure if it's done.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jun 4 at 15:59
  • @Joonas llmavirta: Concepts e.g. "relative clause of characteristic" & "attraction of mode" are completely new to me. The latter I am still asking Seb about--it appears to be the legitimising of a mistake--do you have a thought on this one?
    – tony
    Jun 5 at 8:51
  • @tony Those concepts are well worth studying if you want to dig deeper into Latin grammar. It makes some sense to call all language evolution "legitimization of mistakes", and I see nothing deeply different in the various attraction phenomena (of mode and case) in Latin. Things don't always go as you'd expect, but language is not exactly a logic puzzle.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Jun 5 at 19:44

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