St. Augustine writes in Soliloq. i, 10:

nihil esse sentio quod magis ex arce deiiciat animum virilem quam blandimenta feminæ, corporumque ille contactus sine quo uxor haberi non potest.

Is the genitive feminæ here being used subjectively or objectively? Viz., do the flattering words (blandimenta) belong to the women (subjective genitive), or is St. Augustine referring to men's flattering women (objective genitive)? How do we know?

  • 2
    Rather than "possessive", I would usually call that a subjective genitive indicating the subject. Or are you going for a different meaning here?
    – Draconis
    Sep 23, 2022 at 1:32
  • @Draconis I mean subjective genitive.
    – Geremia
    Sep 23, 2022 at 3:55
  • As far as general ideas go, we've covered this ground before. See this and that.
    – cmw
    Sep 23, 2022 at 13:24
  • The text linked to doesn’t read *feminae, but rather feminea, which is a neuter plural adjective modifying blandimenta, making the phrase blandimenta feminea grammatically parallel to animum virile, the phrase which with it is semantically contrasted. Forming an adjective out of a noun like this, femineus from femina, is a common way Latin has to avoid the very ambiguity between subjective and objective genitives that is under discussion.
    – Patricius
    Oct 3, 2022 at 19:24
  • @Patricius Thanks for pointing that out! Yes, feminea is much clearer, but I wonder if it's a typo or authentically what St. Augustine wrote.
    – Geremia
    Oct 4, 2022 at 2:34

1 Answer 1


As you can read in grammar books, the subjective and objective genitive can be ambiguous, especially in the case of a noun as we have here.

In this particular sentence, it seems clear to me that blandimenta feminae refers to the blandishments of women, meaning the blandishments they produce, not cajoling made by men. For one thing, the object in the previous clause is not men, it is the male mind. If for example the sentence was Vires deliciunt blandimenta feminae, or something like that, then it would be more ambiguous.

In general, I would think it a good practice to assume that a genitive is possessive/subjective unless the context clearly indicates that it is objective.

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