In Q: When Does A Deponent Verb Return to its Passive Roots?, the essay linked by Kingshorsey, in his answer, "Syntax of Nitor", by Herbert Nutting (1930) explored (Section II) the passive use of deponent verb, "nitor". Exx. from Cicero and Quintillian were offered. One of these:

"(quamquam hoc iam prior ille confessus est) qui cum fortiter fecisset, cum recenti meritorum gratia niteretur, plus tamen putavit apud vos valere virtute et religionem et fidem vestram."

Context (Nutting): "...the man in question did not depend upon the sentiment in his favour (note "tamen"), though it was making for his security."

Unusually, for Latin literature, there does not appear to be an English translation of, "The Declamations", on the net. However I did find some study notes: https://archive.org/detail/minordeclamation0000unse.

Further context: "...'plus tamen'...: 'he asked for the pardon because he knew that the upright judges would condemn him for adultery despite his public services'".

The setting: a legal dispute between husband-&-wife (adultery) in which the wife insists that her husband be prosecuted before she is:

"ne liceat cum adultera marito agere nisi prius cum adultero egerit." =

"It may not be allowed that wifely-adultery should be prosecuted unless, prior to this, the husbandly-adultery already has been."

Translating the quote from Quint. Decl. 249.18:

(Although this already before the accused ["ille"] confessed), when he who has done this bravely, since he has been restored recently by the grace of the deserving ones. In spite of this, he thought more, to be strong in virtue according to you, religion and your faith."

Why did Nutting say, "note 'tamen'"; I took it to mean "in spite of"?

Why is "recens" in the dative singular, "recenti"?

I am sure that this translation is wrong. What should it be?

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    That archive.org link seems to be broken.
    – TKR
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 19:48
  • @TKR: It can be found at: "The Declamations ascribed to Quintillian: Free". I had to join a "book-club" thing and the work is "lent-out" for an hour. The study notes are at the back. Why not just publish the translations side-by-side with the Latin? Many of these old works, for other writers, do exactly that?
    – tony
    Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 9:31

3 Answers 3


Recenti is probably not a dative, but an ablative agreeing with gratia. (Third-declension adjectives are i-stems, so their dat. sg. and abl. sg. both end in -i.)

Here's my attempt at a translation, though without more context I'm unsure of some details:

although/since/when he did [it] bravely (did what? this is the part I have most doubts about), although he relied upon the recent gratitude for his deserving deeds / services, nevertheless he thought that both your piety/conscientiousness and your faithfulness weighed more heavily with you (plus valere apud vos) than virtue.

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    I considered that possibility, but I couldn't find any confirmation that gratia + the genitive could mean "gratitude for..." Usually gratia + the genitive means something like "on account of..." which doesn't seem to fit well with the adjective recent. Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 19:58
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    @ExpeditoBipes I think this is a pretty common type of "transferred epithet" -- the gratitude on account of the services is recent, though (from an English perspective) we might more naturally expect the services themselves to be described as recent.
    – TKR
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 20:06
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    OK. But with the genitive, I don't even see "gratitude" as one of the meanings listed. You're probably right, but I just don't find anything to the support the meaning you're attributing to it. Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 20:14
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    @ExpeditoBipes I actually doubt that the dative can be used in the sense "gratitude for something", as opposed to "gratitude to someone". I don't have an example for the genitive use, but it seems natural.
    – TKR
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 20:24
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    @ExpeditoBipes Livy has "meritorum gratiam", and Suetonius has "pro meritorum gratia", both of which seem to have a sense similar to Q.'s passage. Commented Nov 17, 2021 at 3:55

There's a lot of context necessary to understand this one. A woman being prosecuted for adultery is claiming that the proceeding is invalid, because the law states that the man should be prosecuted first. However, that is impossible, because the adulterer used the favor he recently gained from a military victory to have the proceeding against him scuttled. Likely, he did this thinking that that would protect both of them.

The declaimer is arguing the opposing side, that the rather irregular reason for not prosecuting the adulterer should NOT extend protection to the adulteress.

With that understanding, here's how I would translate. Note, however, that this passage is rather heavy in implication. Also, I'm using a slightly different text, found in the 2006 Loeb.

Quamquam hoc iam prior ille confessus est, qui, cum fortiter fecisset, cum recenti meritorum gratia niteretur, plus tamen putavit apud vos valere [virtutem et] religionem et fidem vestram...

As the prior defendant he has already confessed to this crime [by having the trial quashed]. Although he had acted bravely [in battle], although he could have relied on favor won by his recent services [to carry him through the trial], nevertheless he thought that your virtue, conscience, and oath would carry more weight [than his deeds; therefore he chose not to risk a trial].

Further notes: I did not translate the quamquam, because I think it's going with the preceding clause (she is unwilling to defend herself in court, although he's as good as confessed). Then, the "qui" starts an explanation of how he's confessed. Not risking judgment by trial is a tacit admission of guilt.


Unless I'm mistaken, I believe recenti is in the dative in reference to gratia. That is, in gratitude for the recent [accomplishment] of meritorious acts.

[Edit: I now recognize that the dative is most likely incorrect, and that recenti should be understood as the ablative, as TKR stated in his answer. However, that doesn't affect the following translation:]

Although he has now already confessed this, and while he might have depended on your gratitude for his recent meritorious deeds, having acted with courage; he, nonetheless, also thought that your self-constraint and faithfulness would prevail with you in an honorable manner.

Since niteretur is in the imperfect subjunctive, the text suggests that he could have depended on the gratitude of the person in question, but tamen affirms the contrary, so it might be translated as however, but I thought that nonetheless fit well in this context.

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    Niteretur has to be subjunctive since it's in a cum clause, so I don't think it necessarily means "could have".
    – TKR
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 20:08
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    @TKR. I also didn't interpret it that way at first, but Nutting said, "the man in question did not depend upon the sentiment in his favour". Besides that, I found a translation that had: "although he could rely on your gratitude..." Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 20:37
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    I read it as meaning "although he did rely to some extent on your gratitude, he couldn't depend on it wholly". The distinction is admittedly pretty slight, but I think "could have relied (but didn't)" would have been expressed with something more than a bare subjunctive, precisely because a subjunctive by itself wouldn't make the meaning clear. (In the translation "could rely" likely means "was able to rely (and did)".)
    – TKR
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 20:43

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