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In a comment Sebastian brought to my attention that in Virgil's famous verse: Omnia vincit amor, et nos cedamus amori, the syllable o in amor (or or(?); since according to the cited Wiki article it seems the r should be stretched and not the vowel o) should be scanned as heavy which is contradictory to naïve/rule-of-thumb scansion rules.

Interestingly, having nos et instead of et nos is possible and adheres to the natural rules. Then why it was important to deviate from the regular rule and to have et nos? Generally, I would assume the location of et can provide information on the meaning of the et - as a conjunction or an adverb. In this particular case it would hint to be a conjunction. However, skimming some translations, I start doubting this reasoning, as some translators tend to take the et in this verse as an adverb ("let us, too, yield to love").

So what can we learn from the position of et in this verse?

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    One option that comes to mind but sounds difficult to prove is that the unusual scansion gives the word amor more weight. (I'm not sure how much we can really say from a sample of one; more similar examples might shed more light on this.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Dec 26, 2022 at 19:30
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    Amо̆r is a development from earlier *amōr (long vowel before word-final r shortens in polysyllabic words), and the long ō is still there in the rest of its paradigm. There's no way this is a stretching of the r instead of either a poetic retention or an analogical restoration of the older vowel length.
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented Dec 27, 2022 at 3:25
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    @Cairnarvon It isn't necessarily either; lengthening in arsis is not that uncommon in Vergil and more often than not involves vowels that were never etymologically long: brill.com/view/journals/mnem/73/4/article-p577_3.xml
    – TKR
    Commented Dec 28, 2022 at 19:17
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    FWIW, I'm not finding any verse instances of nos et in the sense "we too" on PHI -- that order may not be very natural.
    – TKR
    Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 21:31
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    @TKR, due to more search, but tried to make several searches on poetry. it seems there is no "nos et" unless it is something like "nos et vos" or "nos et id facimus et id2 facimus". The only exception (apart from the trigger "Tempora muntantur nos et mutamur in illis"), is also not classical "carmina dant Musae, nos et modulamur avena" from Nemesianus. There the et is simply in the regular meaning of "and"; and it was impossible to have "et nos" because it would be eliided with the "ae". All in, it seems having "nos et" makes the reader expect two actions "nos" is doing. nos et ... et
    – d_e
    Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 23:20

1 Answer 1

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As this website explains:

On occasions, Virgil permits himself a certain licence in his metrication, when he lengthens syllables at the end of words which would normally be short both by nature and by position. Ancient authorities commentating on these irregularities explain them either by focusing on their position in the verse, or by suggesting that Virgil’s usage in these instances reflects that these syllables had been long in quantity in earlier periods of Latin poetry.

In particular, this tends to happen to words ending in -r; the above page lists "omnia vincit Amor" as one such example.

Edit: so why does Virgil do this here, if he doesn't need to? It's because he usually puts a caesura in the middle of the third foot, and the "et" creates a natural break within the line.

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  • Thanks. I understand that the last syllable can be lengthened as in our verse. However, The crux of the question was why it was necessary in this specific verse where the verse could be written without this lengthening (using "nos et" instead of "et nos"). Was that regular to lengthen final -r in this position in Virgil or the exception?
    – d_e
    Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 19:02
  • Just edited my answer--he does it here because he usually puts a caesura in the middle of the third foot.
    – alphabet
    Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 20:09
  • Not just he, but with hendecasyllabics as a whole. But, the caesura can go in the fourth foot sometimes. There may be more to it than that. (Upvoted.)
    – cmw
    Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 22:00
  • hmmm. I think in both cases the scan would be exactly the same. Or caesura is not only technical meter stuff, but also should fit the content itself?
    – d_e
    Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 22:19
  • @cmw Virgil prefers to put it in the 3rd foot; other authors vary.
    – alphabet
    Commented Jan 5, 2023 at 23:20

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