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Context : Pamphillus has to bring two vases (scyphos) to the praetor Verres who is advised by two corrupted connoisseurs with which Pamphillus has negotiated a sum of money in exchange for Pamphillus to keep his vases.

Here is the excerpt :

Vocat interea praetor ; poscit scyphos. Tum illos coepisse praetori dicere putasse se, id quod audissent, alicujus preti scyphos esse Pamphili ; luteum negotium esse, non dignum quod in suo argento Verres haberet. Ait ille idem sibi videri. Ita Pamphilus scyphos optimos aufert…

My problem is with the sentence in bold and mainly about the word illos. Does it refer to the "Scyphos" or to the "advisors".

I would translate by : "Then they have started (coepisse) to say (dicere) to the praetor that they (se) had thought (puta(vi)sse), as they have heard, that the Pamphillus's vases were somewhat worthy."

But "illos" is not translated. It can be linked to scyphos but it is far away from it. It should not be linked to the connoisseurs as they are the subject of the sentence so, "se" would be used instead of "illos".

Also I am not sure if coepisse is linked to dicere (they have sarted to say) or with putasse (they say they had started to think)

1 Answer 1

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A bit more context would probably be helpful. What one has to understand is that Cicero is relating the testimony of Pamphilus, sometimes as direct speech, sometimes he switches to indirect speech, sometimes he retells it in his own words. Pamphilus in turn relates the conversation between him, the brothers from Kibyra (your "connoisseurs") and Verres, also using both direct and indirect speech. (Plus, the story is complicated: Verres' underlings unexpectedly turn on him, exploiting his stupidity for their own profit.)

By the way, I do believe a scyphus is a drinking cup, not a vase.

Apparently your source does not use quotation marks to distinguish direct speech; if it did, it would look like this:

"... Vocat interea praetor; poscit scyphos." Tum illos coepisse ...

So the sentence beginning with Tum is indirect speech, reporting Pamphilus' retelling of the scene; within it, Pamphilus reports the words of the brothers in indirect speech.

Illos can therefore very well be the subject and refer to the brothers, because at that point Pamphilus is the speaker; however after dicere (which is what the brothers begin to do), they are the speakers and would have to be referred to by se. As it happens that is exactly the case, because they are talking about their own actions (or rather, thoughts):

Then (Pamphilus continues) the brothers began to tell the praetor that they had thought, because they had heard it said, the cups of Pamphilus were of some value, but it was junk, not worthy to be added to Verres' treasure.

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    Thank you so much. The accusative illos is the subject of the infinitive verb coepisse. I did not see that it could be indirect speech. Nov 4, 2021 at 20:01
  • Good answer. I wonder about "id quod": is it really "because", or is it "(that) which"?
    – Cerberus
    Nov 5, 2021 at 18:11
  • @Cerberus It never even came to my mind to interpret the quod as a causal conjunction, I was just translating the relative clause freely. Nov 5, 2021 at 19:04
  • @SebastianKoppehel: Ah, I see.
    – Cerberus
    Nov 5, 2021 at 21:57

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