There are a couple words and phrases which are ambiguous to me in Caesar's De Bello Gallico, 1.3.3. I'll reproduce the text, here, which I got from the Perseus digital library.

Ad eas res conficiendas Orgetorix deligitur. Is sibi legationem ad civitates suscipit. In eo itinere persuadet Castico, Catamantaloedis filio, Sequano, cuius pater regnum in Sequanis multos annos obtinuerat et a senatu populi Romani amicus appellatus erat, ut regnum in civitate sua occuparet, quod pater ante habuerit;

For completing these things, Orgetorix is chosen. He takes it upon himself to be an ambassador to the clans. On his journey he persuades Casticus, the son of Catamantaloedes, a Sequanian, whose father had held sovereignty over the Sequanis for many years, and had been named a friend by the senate of the Roman people, that he should seize sovereignty over his clan, which his father had held before;


  1. It's unclear to me whether the subject of occuparet is Casticus, or Orgetorix himself. That is, who should seize sovereignty? Is this made clear by context?
  2. Should the verb habuerit be in the pluperfect, habuerat? Everything else describing the father is in the pluperfect, and it makes more sense here.

I appreciate any help in clearing up these ambiguities — thanks in advance.

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    Good question! I think it would be clearer to write "had been named a friend of the Roman people by the senate". The long description of the father is part of the governing clause with the indicative predicate persuadet, while the last relative clause is subordinate to the subordinate clause with the conjunctive predicate occuparet. I don't understand why everything is just the way it is, but that might play a role.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Oct 12, 2016 at 19:45

2 Answers 2


This sentence depends a bit on context. Nothing grammatically precludes Orgetorix from being the subject of occuparet, but if he were then the sua in ciuitate sua would have to refer to Orgeterix, too. Orgetorix would be saying to Casticus, "Since you father was king of your clan, you should come be king of my clan."

habuerit is in the perfect tense because it took place before persuadet while occuparet is imperfect because it's at the same time. We use the pluperfect in English in this case ("he persuades... that he should seize... because his father had held...) but that's just English. The present tense persuadet should be considered quasi-past tense since it is really describing past events ("historical" present). In Latin with the main verb in a past tense your choices in the subordinate clause are limited to imperfect or perfect subjunctive.

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    Interesting. I would have thought that the subordinate clause could take the present tense as well. But I guess you're saying that's not the case, correct? Regardless, I never thought that habuerit might be perfect subjunctive. I assumed it was a future perfect indicative. That was the source of my confusion. Looks like I should read up on subordinate clauses.
    – ktm5124
    Oct 13, 2016 at 3:16
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    Welcome to the site! Doesn't consecutio temporum allow only present and perfect conjunctive when governed by present tense? Since occuparet doesn't follow this rule, it might be an irreal conjunctive or something. Anyway, good answer.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Oct 13, 2016 at 6:56
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    You're right and that makes me realize I subconsciously glossed over the "historical present." persuadet is present tense but is narrating something that really happened in the past so, as a historical present, and can be treated either as primary sequence (following its form) or as secondary sequence (following its sense). The ut clause here is following secondary sequence. Oct 13, 2016 at 12:25
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    Right, historical present is the crux here. You might consider editing the answer to address that.
    – TKR
    Oct 13, 2016 at 16:15
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    Edited to clarify that point. Oct 14, 2016 at 2:58

I would add that persuadeo often takes a dative and ut (or ne) + subjunctive. "I persuade the dative to do (or not do) the subjunctive." Since Castico is in the dative right behind persuadet and occuparet follows later nicely filling out the period, the pattern matches perfectly and so it's hard not interpret this as a straight-up indirect command, with Castico therefore as the subject of occuparet.

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