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I came across this sentence from Livy in Roma Aeterna, and although I believe I grasp the general meaning, I don't really understand the use of the genitive gerund 'sperandi':

Deinde, cum minus agri esset quam quod dividi posset sine offensa etiam plebis (quoniam eos ad cupiditatem amplum modum sperandi incitaverat)...

My rough translation would be: 'then, since there was less land than could be divided without offense to the people (because he [Gracchus] had incited them [by/with hope?] to the desire of a large measure [of land]...'

I guess my question is twofold: am I right in translating it as 'by or with hope'? And if so why is it not a gerund ablative? I presume this is a common use case for the gerund genitive that I'm not aware of.

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  • I've updated my translation to specify the agent.
    – William
    Mar 19, 2023 at 23:34
  • thanks for adding that!
    – d_e
    Mar 19, 2023 at 23:34
  • @William: Is it, "he incited them to desiring ('ad cupiditatem'...continuing with the accusative...) a greater measure ('amplum modum') of the hoping (genitive gerund, 'sperandi') [of the land] would be understood?
    – tony
    Mar 20, 2023 at 9:23

2 Answers 2

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It is quite common to see the word cupiditas or cupido and their derivatives together with the genitive gerund. Hence, most probably, cupiditas amplum modum sperandi should be understood as a single unit to mean "greed/desire/passion to expect/hope a large land".

There is some redundancy here, but I see no other way to parse this sentence. As amplum modum cannot really be attached directly to cupiditas as according to the examples we should see this in genitive or in with ad + acc.

Note that in the case of genitive or ablative gerunds, it is possible to attach a direct object instead of using the gerundive. (See note 1 in A&G 503.a)

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In d_e's answer, if "'cupiditas amplum modum sperandi' is to be understood as a single unit to mean, 'greed to expect a large land' why did Livy select the genitive-gerund, "sperandi", requiring the English translation, "of"?

Scouring the net for a translation I came across this from "Quizlet":

"Then, when there was less of land than which was able to be divided, without offence even to the plebs, because Gracchus had incited them, toward a desire ('ad cupiditatem') of [the] expecting ('sperandi') a large measure [of land] ('amplum modum'),".

This does give a genitive role for the genitive-gerund, "sperandi", which was the OP's request.

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