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I hope this is the right place to ask this, and I hope it seems I have done enough research before asking. Basically, I am working my way through translating Tacitus' Annals, and have come across something that I cannot for the life of me find out what is going on. I will show the whole sentence and then explain my specific concern.

milesque nullo illic hominum cultu fame absumptus, nisi quos corpora equorum eodem elisa toleraverant.

Most of this I am fine with, and I shall give my rough and more polished translation up to where I am certain:

Rough:

And the soldiers [Tacitus has often been using the singular for the plural during this episode], there [the islands the soldiers have been shipwrecked on - there is a storm happening on the north sea] with not any civilization of humans, were ruined by hunger [understanding some form of esse with to create a passive construction],

More polished:

And the soldiers, as these islands had no trace of the civilization of humans, were ruined by hunger,

However, when moving onto the second clause of this sentence, I am bewildered by the use of "quos". Everything online as well as Loeb seems to take the "quos" [those soldiers, those, those who] to be the subject, and translate it along the lines of

"save those who fed upon the bodies of the horses washed to the same island".

This patently seems to be the gist of the sentence, but I cannot understand why Tacitus wouldn't use qui. Is there some arcane use I am not aware of?

I tried very hard to find this out before asking, googling and looking around stack exchange with stuff such as "accusative relative pronoun as subject", but had no luck. All I turned up was a discussion of the shift of the nominative singular ending in this stack exchange post. This led me to my only guess - it's a wild guess, and probably wrong, but as yet my only way of rationalizing this: Tacitus is using an archaic form of the nominative singular that looks like an accusative, frustratingly paired with a plural verb. I feel, however, that this is a bit of a reach.

I would be very grateful to anyone who could explain what is going on here and what I am missing! I am sorry if this is very obvious and I am just being thick.

Thank you,

F. De Vries.

2 Answers 2

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I think corpora equorum must be the subject of the clause, with quos its object, and the verb tolerare being used with the following sense per Lewis and Short:

Transf., to support a person or thing, i. e. to nourish, maintain, sustain, preserve by food, wealth, etc.

(in fact, this passage of Tacitus is cited under that definition);

a fairly literal translation would then be

except those whom horses' bodies washed to the same place sustained.

The quoted translation "save those who fed upon the bodies of the horses washed to the same island" is better at expressing the same idea naturally in English, but does not have the same argument structure as the original Latin.

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    I am unsure if I am allowed to say thank you per the regulation: "Comments are used to ask for clarification or to point out problems in the post. Outdated comments may get deleted" so I am sorry if I am not allowed to do reply in such a way. Anyhow, thank you ! that makes sense and I feel silly now. I didn't even think to think the solution was another use of the verb. thanks again !
    – fdvries
    May 6 at 3:36
  • got it, thank you again!
    – fdvries
    May 6 at 6:02
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It's accusative as the object of tolerāverant. Corpora is nominative: "except for those whom the washed-ashore-there bodies of horses sustained".

This isn't the most common meaning of tolerāre, but it can mean "to provide food for" with a direct object of the person being nourished. I imagine you, like me, originally interpreted it with the more common meaning "endure": "except for those who(?) endured the washed-ashore-there bodies of horses [as their only source of food]".

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  • I am unsure if I am allowed to say thank you per the regulation: "Comments are used to ask for clarification or to point out problems in the post. Outdated comments may get deleted" so I am sorry if I am not allowed to do reply in such a way. Anyhow, thank you ! that makes sense and I feel silly now. I did indeed understand the verb that way at first, and am glad to be corrected. thank you for your help.
    – fdvries
    May 6 at 3:38
  • @fdvries You're not the only one—I was very confused by this, posted an entirely different answer that turned out to be completely wrong, and consulted some colleagues about it before I discovered that other meaning of tolerāre!
    – Draconis
    May 6 at 7:13

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