I was wondering about the correct/preferred syntactic analysis of recitatis litteris in the following complex sentence from Cicero.

Tum Cethegus, qui paulo ante aliquid tamen de gladiis ac sicis, quae apud ipsum erant deprehensa, respondisset dixissetque se semper bonorum ferramentorum studiosum fuisse, recitatis litteris debilitatus atque abiectus conscientia repente conticuit. (Cic. Catil. 3, 10)

In my opinion, two basic syntactic analyses are possible: cf. (1) with (2) infra. Here I'd go for (2) but not without some hesitation... Hence my question. Which analysis/parsing & interpretation do you think is the preferred one here?

(1) recitatis litteris is a typical Ablative Absolute construction ([recitatis litteris] [[debilitatus atque abiectus conscientia] repente conticuit]). NB: e.g. this is the analysis underlying Pinkster's (2021: 394) translation: 'when his letter was read out'.


(2) recitatis litteris is a dominant participle construction in the ablative case that is not to be analyzed here as "absolute" (cf. option (1) supra) but rather as "dependent" on the participle debilitatus (i.e. 'weakened by the reading of his letter'); e.g.: [[[recitatis litteris debilitatus] atque [abiectus conscientia]] repente conticuit].

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    According to Perseus, this reference is Catil. 3.5.
    – tony
    Jan 28 at 9:34
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    @tony You'll see some people quoting it as "Cat(il). 3.5.10" but I prefer doing it following the standard guidelines provided by the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae: thesaurus.badw.de/en/tll-digital/index/a.html . Cf. also: thelatinlibrary.com/cicero/cat3.shtml and latin.packhum.org/search?q=conscientia%7Erepente%7Econticuit , where the line 15 is added to facilitate the search in PHI Latin Texts.
    – Mitomino
    Jan 28 at 16:17
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    @tony I've just taken a look at the translation by C.D.Yonge in the Perseus site: 'Cethegus...being stricken down and dejected at the reading of his letters, convicted by his own conscience, became suddenly silent'. Note that his translation is more in tune with my option 2) above. However, it is based on the addition of the participle convictus (please see note 6 on the Latin text). In addition to the two analyses above, the analysis (the third one!) involved in C.D. Yonge's translation would be [recitatis litteris debilitatus atque abiectus] [conscientia convictus] repente conticuit.
    – Mitomino
    Jan 28 at 18:14


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