My question concerns the use of the word 'eque'. As far as I can see it is the vocative of 'equus' but that clearly doesn't make sense and I can find no other meaning of the word in the dictionary. Perhaps it is a typo for

spiritusque feris humana in corpora transit

But that would ruin the hexameters.

omnia mutantur, nihil interit: errat et illinc
huc venit, hinc illuc, et quoslibet occupat artus
spiritus eque feris humana in corpora transit
inque feras noster

The translation that I have seems to have ignored the word:

The moving soul
may wander, coming from that spot to this,
from this to that, in changed possession live
in any limbs whatever.

Also, there's a great rendition of this poem found here


1 Answer 1


First, note that the first vowel must be long, to fit the meter:

spīritus ēque ferīs humāna in corpora transit

This rules out the vocative of equus, which has a short vowel there.

Instead, this seems to be the preposition ē plus the enclitic -que. (Something else plus the enclitic is always a good option to consider when you see a strange-looking word ending in -que.)

Rearranging this line into a more natural-sounding sentence:

spīritus ē-que ferīs in corpora humāna transit
The spirit moves both from beasts to human bodies

(But of course that's no longer a hexameter.)

For more confirmation, look at the start of the next line, which uses a parallel construction:

in-que ferās…
and [back] into beasts…

  • Excellent, I hadn't though of that one. Thanks.
    – bobsmith76
    Jul 15, 2021 at 23:50

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