I have some difficulties to understand this sentence from Cicero - De Legibus

"praeter Idaeae matris famulos eosque justis diebus ne quis stipem cogito"

remark : Idaeae matris stands for Cybele.

I have found some translation, that looks like : "Expect for the priests of Cybele and during some specific days, no one should be allowed to ask for alms."

The part that seems obscur to me is "ne quis stipem cogito".

Cogito might mean "I indend that"

Quis might be an indefinite subject : "someone". So, ne quis would be translated into "no one"

stipem is an accusative for stips stipis (alm)

But there is no verb. Is it omitted ? Or I am wrong in my analysis ?

  • 3
    cogito isn't first person singular present indicative active of cogito, cogitare. Look at the verbs in surrounding sentences: iungunto, colunto, esto, sanciunto. You're dealing with imperatives. Cogito is therefore imperative of cogo, cogere. You're right that quis is indefinite (= aliquis).
    – cnread
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 0:00
  • thank you. I have checked and cogito is a futuro imperative.(I am not familiar with them). Is Quis the subject and is the sentence negative ? I have read that imperative sentences can not be negative. A correct translation would be "let no one collect alms expect ..." ?
    – Arnaud
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 0:13

2 Answers 2


Note the forms of the other verbs in this passage:

Ex patriis ritibus optuma colunto.
From the ancient rites, let the best be cultivated.

This is a third-person imperative, something we don't have in English, and even in Classical Latin it was seen as rather archaic and formal. But it means exactly what you'd expect from the name: it's commanding that a third person (not the person being spoken to) should do something.

In this case, cōgitō is the same: it's not cōgit-ō "I think", but cōgi-tō "let [someone] collect" (from cōgō, which is a contraction of cō-agō).

Thus, the law says to let no one (nē (ali)quis) collect alms (stipem cōgitō) except the servants of the Idaean Mother (praeter Idaeae matris famulōs), and those (eōsque) only on appropriate days (justīs diebus).

From the comments: it's true that imperatives usually cannot be negative. But this is specifically an archaic formulation, using with an imperative instead of with a subjunctive. I'm not sure if it's actually more acceptable with third-person (or future) imperatives than normal second-person ones, or if writers using one archaic feature are simply more likely to use another.

  • I admit I'm not too sure about the view of such things in traditional English grammar, or modern linguistics, but personally I think we do have a third-person imperative in English. Consider 'thy kingdom come, thy will be done'. Granted this is almost the definition of 'rather archaic and formal', but being from The Lord's Prayer it's something that most native speakers of English will have encountered. Just a comment, if nothing else, it's always helped me understand the 3rd IMP and may help the OP
    – Au101
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 0:29

That translation is about right, although famulus usually means an enslaved domestic servant of some kind, not a priest. In the context of a temple, the famuli would be acolytes.

cogito is the future imperative of cōgo, to collect (it's tricky because the word is exactly the same as the first person singular present of cogito, to think)

The rest of your translation is correct, "noone shall collect an alm".

iustis diebus would be on the proper days; the Romans had an elaborate system of approved days for doing specific things

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