The very first line of Cicero's De Oratore reads as follows

Cogitanti mihi saepenumero et memoria vetera repetenti perbeati fuisse, Quinte Frater, illi videri solent, qui in optima re publica, cum et honoribus et rerum gestarum gloria florerent, eum vitae cursum tenere potueunt, ut vel in negotio sine periculo vel in otio cum dignitate esse possent.

At the beginning, what does "fuisse" refer to? And why isn't "perbeati" declined in the accusative? And is "memoria vetera repetenti" together?

1 Answer 1


I deal here with the first part of this long sentence, as I it seems there lies the crux of the question.

The main structure of this sentence is this:

mihi videntur illi fuisse perbeati. To me they seem to have been happy

illi perbeati is not in the accusative as this is the subject of the sentence; it is right that videri might take the "accusative + infinitive" pattern, and this when it is used impersonally. If it were the case here the main structure would be as follows: mihi videtur illos fuisse perbeatos (note the singular videtur). Here, however, the pattern used is nom+inf that might also receive the dative of the person.

"memoria vetera repetenti" should indeed be taken together. meaning "to [me] recalling the old-times from/with memory.". vetera, as the direct object of repetenti is in the accusative. memoriā I read here as abl. singular of memoria.

In our structure above:

  • mihi = Cogitanti mihi saepenumero et memoria vetera repetenti
  • videntur = solent videri
  • 2
    Great answer, thanks! So the difference between "mihi videtur illos perbeatos fuisse" and "mihi videntur illi perbeati fuisse" is that in the first sentence we have a subordinate: "it seems to be THAT they were happy", whereas in the second one it is the subject: "they seem to have been happy to me"?
    – user35319
    Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 11:05
  • 3
    @user35319, yes, I would say your sentences demonstrate the distinction between the two.
    – d_e
    Commented Jun 16, 2021 at 11:24
  • This is indeed a great, memorable answer. I could not lock on to the grammar in Cicero's sentence at all. The breakdown of the structure into mihi and videntur made it all clear—and shows what's going in simpler form in circumspicienti in mentem venit.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Oct 7, 2021 at 11:29

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