Livy's "ab Urbe Condita" (26.1.9) is a complete sentence which includes three (numbered) relative "qui"-clauses:

"C. Sulpicio (i) cui Sicilia evenerat duae legiones (ii) quas P. Cornelius habuisset decretae et supplementum de exercitu Cn. Fului, (iii) qui priore anno in Apulia foede caesus fugatusque erat." =

"To Caius Sulpicius, to whose lot Sicily had fallen, the two legions which Publius Cornelius had commanded were assigned, and reinforcements to be recruited from the army of Cneius Fulvius, which, the year before, had been shamefully and decisively defeated, in Apulia, and put to flight."

Of the three relative clauses: (ii) has it's verb in the (pluperfect) subjunctive; (i) & (iii), their verbs are in the indicative--why the difference?

It looks like indirect speech--Livy is discussing the actions of other parties: Sulpicius, Cornelius & Fulvius's army--without the accusative-infinitive consstructions. Is this informal indirect speech (Allen & Grenough section 592, p.385)? A & G:--

"A subordinate clause takes the subjunctive when it expresses the thought of some other person than the writer...";

Paragraph 3:

"When a reason or explanatory fact is introduced by a relative...".

The authority in clause (ii) remains with Livy, the writer--he said what Cornelius was doing; therefore, why the subjunctive and not the indicative?

Taking para 3: all three relative clauses are explaining something: (i) to whom Sicily had been assigned; (ii) these were the two legions which Cornelius had commanded; (iii) Fulvius's army had suffered a defeat, the year before.

Therefore, why aren't the verbs, in all three relative clauses, in the subjunctive?

What's going on, here?

  • Duae legiones looks like a subject, but I see no plural verb anywhere in the sentence. What am I missing?
    – Figulus
    Jul 12, 2022 at 22:08
  • 1
    @Figulus: Livy used the perfect passive, "decretae (sunt)" = "have been assigned"; or, it could be translated as simple past, "were assigned".
    – tony
    Jul 13, 2022 at 8:27

1 Answer 1


Yes, I think this is informal indirect discourse, really a kind of informal indirect command. As Livy presents it, the actual wording of the decree included only which legions should be given over to Sulpicius' command and from where he should draw reinforcement: duae legiones quas P. Cornelius habuisset et supplementum de exercitu Cn. Fului. In order to make this decision salient to the reader, Livy himself is adding two pieces of information, that Sulpicius had received authority over Sicily and that Fulvius' army had recently suffered a defeat.

It will be helpful to contrast this passage with one just a little above it:

prorogatum et M. Marcello, ut pro consule in Sicilia reliqua belli perficeret eo exercitu quem haberet: si supplemento opus esset, suppleret de legionibus quibus P. Cornelius pro praetore in Sicilia praeesset...

Here, I think the best explanation for the subjunctives in the relative clauses is that Livy is presenting them as part of the instructions explicitly given to Marcellus: "Marcellus, finish the war with the army you have, and if you need reinforcements, take them from Cornelius' legions." If Livy were presenting the purpose of the prorogatio based on his own reasoning, I think those relative clauses would contain indicatives.

  • Thank you. Concerning the contradictory instructions from A & G: do you have any thoughts on this? It's the same with regular-- accusative-infinitive--indirect speech. Section 580; "All subordinate clauses take the subjunctive..."; section 583: exceptions are given: truth; an explanation; worthy of emphasis--indicatives. (Wouldn't any writer say that his material is true; explaining something; worthy of emphasis; combinations thereof?) Finally, top of p. 378: "..but it often depends upon the feeling of the writer whether he uses the indicative or the subjunctive." Confused? I am.
    – tony
    Jul 17, 2022 at 10:26

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