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This lament over the all-pervading nature of corruption in human affairs might have been said by many people, in many places, in many time-periods. A famous exponent may have been Italian dictator, Benito Mussolini. When petty officials palmed wedding-rings being donated to the war-effort, by Italian women, BM was reputed to have said this; but, now, I can't find any trace of it.

How to say this in Latin?

As always it's not as easy as it looks. It's not just a case of "quis"; but, the quirky, "quis est qui" = "who is there who", as part of a relative clause of characteristic (Allen & Greenough section 535[a]) requiring a subjunctive, giving:

"quis est qui mures in granario prohibere possit?" =

"Who is there who is able to stop rats in a granary?"

Is this correct?

(Interesting to note that in Latin, "mus" means both "rat" & "mouse". The assumption is that the Romans saw rats as big mice. Term, "rattus", used in taxonomy, is a Medieval invention.)

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  • That's a fine translation, but you could also drop the indirect question if you wanted to, Quis mures in granariis prohibere potest?
    – Figulus
    May 20, 2023 at 3:06
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    Figulus: Therefore, this can be both a direct and an indirect question (interrogative + subjunctive)? How can it be both?
    – tony
    May 20, 2023 at 9:02
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    It can be a direct question with an indirect question within it. There is a difference between asking who can keep mice from a granary and who is it (who can keep mice from a granary). The indirect question is in parentheses here, and it is inside a direct question question, who is it?
    – Figulus
    May 29, 2023 at 22:29

1 Answer 1

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I think your general construction is sound; I would only remark that:

  1. granarium seems mostly to be used in the plural, so that should be granariis instead of granario.

  2. in granariis prohibere seems like an odd thing to say, prohibere is typically used with ab + abl. or the pure ablative.

With this in mind, I would translate:

Quis est, qui mures a granariis prohibere possit?
Who can keep rats out of the granary?

By the way, I can see how one might think rats are just big mice, but if the dictionaries are not lying, the Romans also subsumed martens and similar animals like sables and ermines under this term.

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  • Also worth noting, "mus" = "rat" is a Latin pejorative: "videbo te in publicum, mus. immo terrae tuber," (Petronius, Satyricon 58) = "I shall meet you somewhere in public, you rat, in reality (you are) a tumour of the earth,". I didn't like Michael-Heseltine's translation (Perseus), "immo terrae tuber" = "puff-ball"; therefore, I've changed it. And "mus" = "mouse", a term of endearment, "cum me murem dicis" (Mart. 11.29.3) = "You talk together with me my little mouse." Why is "mus" in the accusative, here?
    – tony
    May 20, 2023 at 8:57
  • @tony well, for one thing it means that that translation can't be right. The other hint is that "with me" is always mecum, not cum me. So what Martial is saying is "when you call me 'mouse'." By the way, according to Lewis & Short and Georges, terrae tuber means "molehill" in this instance. May 20, 2023 at 18:09
  • A molehill? In English this is not a pejorative, so, from the various lump-like definitions of "tuber", I chose the most unpleasant, "tumour". Thanks for explaining the "mecum" thing.
    – tony
    May 21, 2023 at 7:49

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