While reading the Wiki entry on "opera", I found this example from Cicero's "ad Familiares 10.21.6":

"ut exercitum locis habeam opportunis, provinciam tuear, etiam si ille exercitus descierit, omniaque integra servem dabo operam, quoad exercitus hoc [sic] summitatis parique felicitate rem publicam hic vindicetis."

The mistake, "hoc", should be, "huc" = "to here". The translation:

"I shall take care to keep my army in suitable locations, to protect my province even if that army defects, and to preserve the whole position uncompromised, until you send armies to my support and defend the commonwealth with just as much success."

Checking an alternative translation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistulae_ad_Familiares

"I shall do my best to keep my army advantageously situated, to protect my province, even if that other army has revolted, and to keep my hands free in every respect, until you send reinforcements here, and defend the republic with as much good fortune here as elsewhere." (William Glynn Williams, Volume 2, 1927)


(i) In the Wiki translation, the subordinate clause appears to be using "descierit" as a future-perfect; with Williams, it's a perfect subjunctive. Which is it or is it open to interpretation?

(ii) In "omniaque integra servem" = "I may preserve the whole and all (the neuter) things"--it's not great English. Wiki: "preserve the whole position uncompromised". It's a good fit apart from "uncompromised"--where is this adverbial treatment in the original Latin?

Williams: "keep my hands free in every respect"--bizarre--"keep my hands free"?!; again, an adverbial "in every respect"--from where?

(iii) For "quoad exercitus huc summitatis" = "until armies to here of the highest place". What is the role of, "summitas", here? The action, in this letter, takes place around the river Isara, which flows through some high places--the Alps-- Italy into France. Is it: "until (you send) armies to here of the highest place"? As Williams mentioned "reinforcements" I thought of "armies of the highest number or quality"; can "summitas" be used in these ways c/f the English, "height of achievement"?

  • Typo: summittatis from the verb summitto (sub-mitto). Commented May 9, 2022 at 19:58

1 Answer 1


In order...

  1. descierit could formally be both future perfect or perfect subjunctive. I believe it is the latter, as (a) the “future less vivid” type of condicional clause fits here, because Plancus is talking about a contingency, a scenario he brings up to specify the consequences he envisions, and (b) it cannot really be future perfect in the protasis, because that would ususally have the ordinary future in the apodosis, so we would expect tuturus sim instead of tuear. But condicions sometimes do strange things, and condicions dependent upon a subjunctive subordinate clause add an extra level of complication, so I am not entirely sure. Note that for the meaning it ultimately does not make much of a difference.

  2. omniaque integra servare does not mean “preserve the whole and all things,” it means “and keep everything intact,” because -que at the end of a word connects it to the previous text, not the following. But integer also means “still open, undecided,” and mihi integrum est (for example followed by an infinitive) means “I am free to …, etc.” (Si mihi esset integrum = if it were up to me.) This is surely the reasoning behind the translation “and to keep my hands free in every respect.” Whether you agree with this interpretation, or like the English phrasing, is another matter, but I think you can see it was not pulled from thin air.

  3. As Kingshorsey pointed out in a comment, it should be summittatis (= submittatis), a form of summittere, which can mean “send, despatch clandestinely” or simply “send, supply.” The “reinforcements” does not seem too fanciful, especially as “send armies” sounds perhaps a bit too dramatic in English.

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