I just finished translating line 6 of Bellum Gallicum, Book I Ch. I, and the absence of a coordinating conjunction at the end made me wonder.

Belgae ab extremis Galliae finibus oriuntur, pertinent ad inferiorem partem fluminis Rheni, spectant in septentrionem et orientem solem.

The Belgians arise from the farthest lands of Gaul, extend to the lower part of the Rhine river, and look toward the north and the rising sun.

You can see how, in the English translation, I added the conjunction which is normal for our language. But in the Latin, it's conspicuously missing. This bristles my prejudices as an English speaker. Clearly, I was expecting to see et or the enclitic -que.

This brings me to my question. Does classical Latin not require a coordinating conjunction at the end of a list? Is it optional? Is it better not to include it? Is there a hard-and-fast rule or is it just up to the author's discretion?

Thanks for any feedback — I look forward to finding out.

  • 4
    It is indeed not required in Latin. You could call it an asyndeton. Incidentally, you can even omit the conjunction in English, but it will have something of a rhetorical or stylistic effect, right?
    – Cerberus
    Commented Sep 29, 2016 at 18:52
  • 1
    In fact it's pretty common in lists of more than two items (whatever the size of the items themselves -- single words, phrases) to leave out all the "and"s.
    – TKR
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 2:10

1 Answer 1


As commenters have pointed out, adding an "and" between the last two elements in a list is not required in Latin. In fact, I have been instructed that it is stylistically preferred to leave such conjunctions out when there are three or more items. (Where those who instructed me, university lecturers of Latin, got this information is unknown to me, so I cannot give a stronger reference.)

If you want to clarify or emphasize the conjunction, consider polysyndeton: put an "and" between all elements of the list. The opposite way is asyndeton, where no conjunction is left.

In modern languages (that I know), it is a very general and common rule that an "and" is added between the last two elements when listing two or more items. This rule simply did not exist in antiquity, at least not as strongly as today. Nevertheless, I think using an "and" between the last two items is perfectly grammatical classical Latin, even if not preferred. In good classical style it is either asyndeton or polysyndeton, not in between.

  • 1
    I don't think adding "and" between the last two elements of a list is standard Latin: my impression is that you either leave out the "and"s completely, or use them with each item (X and Y and Z), rather than just the last one.
    – TKR
    Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 16:27

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