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I am reading the following passage in the Ecce Romani series:

Tradam igitur isti me? Fac posse tuto (multi enim hortantur), num etiam honeste? — Cicero, Epistulae ad Atticum VII.22

It is the first clause of the second sentence that I have a problem with. The authors gloss it like this:

Fac (me) posse (tradere)

I found a translation on the internet (so it must be right):

Suppose that I am able to surrender

This definitely seems to capture what Cicero is saying in context, but I do not understand how to supply the “suppose” and the function of “fac” (imperative?).

2 Answers 2

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Facio can be used to introduce a hypothetical, as L&S shows:

  1. To make believe, to pretend: facio me alias res agere, Cic. Fam. 15, 18: cum verbis se locupletem faceret, id. Fl. 20: me unum ex iis feci, qui, etc., id. Planc. 27, 65.

  2. Hypothetically in the imper. fac, suppose, assume: fac, quaeso, qui ego sum, esse te, Cic. Fam. 7, 23, 1; cf.: fac potuisse, id. Phil. 2, 3, 5: fac animos non remanere post mortem, id. Tusc. 1, 34, 82; 1, 29, 70: fac velit, Stat. Ach. 2, 241: fac velle, Verg. A. 4, 540.

I would translate the phrase "Suppose I can do so safely."

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Literally, "Make it to be safe (as many urge), is it even honorable?"

You have it right, Fac is imperative. It is a strange construction and I could find no other examples of it. However, fac is often used to mean "suppose" or "guess" where 'make' really means 'imagine that', ie, make it in your mind. For example, from the famous meditation of Dido in the Aeneid:

Quis me autem, fac velle, sinet ratibusve superbis invisam accipiet?

However, even if I wanted it, who would allow one so detested on those proud ships?

Here, fac velle literally means "make it to be wanted", but idiomatically means "suppose it to be wanted (by me)".

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