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In Cic. de Fin. 5.83:

"in virtute enim sola et in ipso honesto cum sit bonum positum, cumque nec virtus, ut placet illiis, nec honestum crescat, idque bonum solum sit, quo qui potiatur, necesse est beatus sit,".

The translation (Lacus Curtius):

For since the good consists solely in virtue and in actual Moral Worth, and neither virtue nor Moral Worth, as they hold, admits of increase, and since that alone is good which necessarily makes its possessor happy,".

From ("cum" = since, plus subjunctive) "...idque bonum solum sit, quo qui potiatur, necesse est beatus sit," the English translation clearly works but it leaves some questions. The literal translation:

"and since that ('the increase') alone is good, from which (quo) it is necessary (necesse est) that he who possesses this (qui potiatur) is happy (beatus sit),";

this implies that "to be happy" is necessary--an obligation--which happiness isn't.

(i) The adverb "necessarily" is "necessario"; for "necesse est" Oxford lists one meaning, "it is necessary"--nothing else. If this sentence only works with adverb, "necessarily", why didn't Cicero use "necessario"?

(Interesting is this from Caes. de Bel. Gal. 7.19.4:

"quanto detrimento et quot virorum fortium morte necesse sit constare victoriam;" =

"with how great loss and the death of how many gallant men the victory would necessarily be purchased;"'

The present subjunctive "necesse sit" = "would be necessary" might have been better than "necesse est", in Cicero's example: "cum" = "since" was already dictating the use of the present subjunctive (sequence-of-tenses)).

(ii) Then, "which necessarily makes its possessor happy"; there is no verb, in the Latin, for something making anything happen.

EDIT: 13/11/2021:

(iii) Deponent verb, "potior", selects the ablative, sometimes the genitive, according to context. Does this explain why the first relative pronoun, "quo", is in the ablative; or, would "quo" have been used anyway, because it fits?

2 Answers 2

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This passage exhibits "interlacing," a construction in which "a constituent that belongs semantically to a subordinate clause fulfils a function in the superordinate clause" (Oxford Latin Syntax 14.19). In particular, this is "relative interlacing" (OLS 18.2).

In this construction, three clauses are in play:

a) a superordinate clause, which contains a coreferential element;

b) a subordinate clause;

c) a clause subordinate to (b), which contains a relative pronoun coreferential to its counterpart in (a).

This creates a situation in which there is no element expressing the relationship between (a) and (b) except for the pronoun in (c), which has no semantic value in (b).

An example:

Magna vis conscientiae quam qui neglegunt ... se ipsi indicabunt.

a) Magna (est) vis conscientiae

b) [quam qui neglegunt] ... se ipsi indicabunt

c) quam qui neglegunt

The only connection between (a) and (b) is the quam in (c), which has no semantic role in (b).

This kind of construction is impossible in English or German, so translation will necessarily involve significant restructuring. Three options stand out.

  1. Convert (b) into a clause coordinate with (a) and make the pronoun anaphoric. "There is great power in conscience, and those who ignore it will give themselves away."

  2. Introduce (b) with a subordinator and make the pronoun anaphoric. "There is great power in conscience, such that those who ignore it will give themselves away."

  3. Restructure the syntax of (b) to incorporate the relative pronoun, usually leaving a personal pronoun in (c) to compensate for the missing element. "There is a great power in conscience, which will make those who ignore it give themselves away."

Now, for this sentence, we have:

a) cum ... idque bonum solum sit

b) [quo qui potiatur] necesse est [beatus sit]

c) quo qui potiatur beatus sit

Applying our three translation strategies:

  1. This thing alone is good; it is necessary that those who possess it be happy.[I don't think this quite worked.]

  2. Something is good, only if a necessary consequence is that those who possess it are happy.

  3. That thing alone is good, which necessarily makes its possessor happy.

So we see that your translator chose 3, which may indeed be the best option here, because preserving the correlative force of the pronouns seems more important than preserving the precise syntax of (b), which loses virtually nothing in transformation.

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necesse is a predicate that, in this case, takes a subject clause. We tend to render these subject clauses in English either as a "that-clause" like indirect discourse [that the possessor is happy] or as a gerund phrase [the possessor being happy].

The subject is "qui potiatur sit beatus."

All of this is in a relative clause introduced by quo, which is correlative with id.

That thing alone would be good, by virtue of which (quo) it is inevitable (necesse est) that the one who should possess it would be happy (qui potiatur sit beatus).

Or:

That thing alone would be good, by virtue of which (quo) the one possessing it being happy (qui potiatur sit beatus) is inevitable (necesse est).

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  • I'm not sure about the 'by virtue of which' part. Isn't quo just the object of potiatur?
    – cnread
    Nov 10, 2021 at 20:28
  • @cnread: I did ask about this (Deponent verb "potior" selects the ablative, sometimes the genitive, according to context. Does this explain why the first relative pronoun, "quo", is in the ablative; or, would "quo" have been used anyway because it fits?) then deleted it. The use of "quo" could be classed as both of these, couldn't it?
    – tony
    Nov 12, 2021 at 13:35
  • @Kingshorsey: I seem to have found this example, (18,) in Harm-Pinkster's notes on relative clauses: htttps://www.Harm Pinkster.nl/files/articles/Relative_clauses_in_Latin(2012).pdf: "In ex. (18), "quo" is coreferential with "bonum". It is governed by "potiatur", which has "qui" as its subject. "Quo qui potiatur" is the subject of "beatus sit", the combination of which in turn forms a sentence with "necesse est" in which it is the subject. The adnominal construction is incorporated into the autonomous construction. Ex. (19) shows the same form of FUSION...".
    – tony
    Nov 12, 2021 at 14:04
  • @Kingshosey: I cannot claim to understand all of this, yet. However erudite this analysis is, it does not explain the use of "necesse est", which is what bothered me the most.
    – tony
    Nov 12, 2021 at 14:06
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    @tony If you look at Pinkster's ex. 19, you see that in translation, he made the relative clause into a new independent clause (and those...). That indicates to me that English has no direct analogy to this kind of linking construction. Nov 12, 2021 at 16:45

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