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I'm having a real tough time with this passage from Tibullus 1.2 lines 3 and 4:

Neu quisquam multo percussum tempora baccho Excitet, infelix dum requiescit amor.

Is he using 'baccho' as a synonym for alcohol? It is also seems that 'percussum tempora' is accusative, 'percussum' would be a participle acting as an adjective that modifies 'tempora'. 'Beaten temples (on the head)' seems to be the best translation. But who is doing the beaten? Quisquam or the alcohol? Alcohol I would think would be more logical. But because 'molto baccho' is dative/ablative, I cannot translate it into anything that makes sense. Also, the "infelix dum requiescit amor" is difficult. 'While unhappy love sleeps,' but I'm not exactly sure what T is doing here. It's clear from line 1-2 that he is talking about himself. So is he saying that he is now the god 'Amor' or perhaps the embodiment of love. It's clear from the poem that he is in love but I don't say why he would say that he is love itself. Anyway, he seems to be saying: "let no one rouse (excitet) while unhappy love sleeps" then it gets hard to complete the translation. Should it be: struck to the temples by copious alcohol??? Or perhaps 'with temples beaten with copious alochol' But if the second is true I don't see why 'tempora' would be accusative.

2 Answers 2

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As I see it, quisquam is the subject of excitet, percussum the direct object (adjective functioning as a noun; it can't be an adjective with tempora as that's plural). Baccho is a dative of agent to go with percussum, multo is just an adverb, tempora is a Greek accusative (accusative of specification).

My literal translation:

And let no-one rouse him who is much beaten about the temples by Bacchus, while love rests unfortunate.

Obviously Bacchus does stand in for the effects of the unmixed wine mentioned in the first two lines, yes. The last bit is just flowery, I wouldn't try to interpret it too hard; the grammar is clear.

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    I think the one who is percussus and whom you shouldn't excitāre is the same as the one who requiēscit, namely amor. The poem is autoreferential - Tibullus puts his love pains to sleep with wine. Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 10:04
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    I do think grammatically multo is modifying Baccho. As a pure adverb, multum would be expected. Of course, there's a lot of freedom in how one renders that in English. Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 13:52
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    @Cerberus I don't think Tibullus is literally referring to Bacchus, but is using the name metaphorically, and therefore is treating it as an inanimate instrument. Cf. this other Tibullan passage: Care puer, madeant generoso pocula baccho He's talking about a hangover, which is caused by a lot of wine, i.e., multo Baccho. I cannot believe Tibullus wrote multo ... Baccho and didn't expect them to be read together. Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 16:25
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    @Unbrutal_Russian Please review, especially section 375a. The gerundive's dative of agent (about which I'm inclined to agree with you) is not identical with the dative of agent that goes with other verbal forms.
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 23:21
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    Additionally, multo as an adverb is indeed most common with comparatives, but by no means restricted to them. The use of bacchus to literally (as opposed to metaphorically) mean 'wine' is certainly considerably dodgier.
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented Feb 12, 2022 at 23:34
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Cairnarvon has addressed the Greek accusative, so I'll limit myself to the phrase multo ... baccho. Sometimes the name of a god is used to refer poetically to some physical thing with which that god is associated. Here, baccho just means wine, and multo percussum tempora baccho means "a person pounded in the temples by a lot of wine."

Some parallel passages for confirmation

Tibullus, Carmina 3.6.1:

Care puer, madeant generoso pocula baccho

Dear boy, keep the cups brimming over with "bacchus" of good vintage 

Vergil, Eclogae 5.65-69:

... en quattuor aras: 
ecce duas tibi, Daphni, duas altaria Phoebo.    
pocula bina nouo spumantia lacte quotannis
craterasque duo statuam tibi pinguis oliui,
et multo in primis hilarans conuiuia Baccho 

Lo, four altars:
Lo, two for you, Daphne, two high altars for Phoebus.
Two cups yearly frothing with fresh milk 
And two bowls of rich olive oil I will set out for you, 
and, most importantly, enlivening the feast with lots of "Bacchus"

Propertius, Elegia 1.3:

ebria cum multo traherem vestigia Baccho

while I was dragging my steps intoxicated from lots of "Bacchus"
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  • Thanks, I appreciate that.
    – bobsmith76
    Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 21:59

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