The second i in "laviniaque" from the 2nd line of Aeneid is supposed to be consonantal to fit the hexameter; therefore the pronunciation should be something like: /la'wi.nja.qʷe/. My question is focused more on if that is a precursor to palatalization phoenomena seen from Romance languages, so this: /nja/ > /nʲa/ > /ɲa/; and if possible, are there any other examples of this sort of thing from the Aeneid or other CLassical Latin hexameter poems?

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    This is synizesis, and it's a common phenomenon in dactylic hexameter, even in Greek; the opening line of the Iliad famously has an instance of it.
    – Cairnarvon
    Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 2:42
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    Worth noting that there's an alternate reading Lavinaque which avoids the problem: perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/…
    – TKR
    Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 17:41
  • @TKR Lectio difficilior potior.
    – fdb
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 14:21
  • @fdb True, but I'm not sure what the lectio difficilior is in this case, since the adjective for "of Lavinium" would naturally be Lavinius, not Lavinus.
    – TKR
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 17:20

1 Answer 1


This is a phenomenon called synizesis (συνίζησις), and it happens in both Greek and Latin poetry. For example, at the beginning of the Iliad:

μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος

To fit in a hexameter, that εω needs to be a single syllable, maybe something like /jɔː/. Vergil uses it in various places; I particularly remember an instance of arjēs for ariēs "(battering) ram" during the fall of Troy.

Was this a foreshadowing of sound changes in Romance? Well, the standard pronunciation in both Greek and Latin poetry was still hiatus, with multiple vowels forming distinct syllables. Synizesis was an option used for poetic purposes, but distinctly not the default.

Since synizesis used in both Greek and Latin, and Greek never (re)developed a /j/ or /w/ like Romance did, I suspect the Roman authors were just imitating Greek practice rather than any pronunciation that was common in their era. The later changes in Romance were probably unrelated. (But this is just a guess, not something known for sure. It might be interesting to count the instances of synizesis by era and see if they become more common as Vulgar Latin develops.)

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    For aries you might be remembering 7.175 hae sacris sedes epulis, hic ariete caeso. Greek influence does seem possible but it should be noted that synizesis where the first vowel is ι is rare (dcc.dickinson.edu/grammar/monro/elision-crasis-synizesis).
    – TKR
    Commented Jul 6, 2023 at 17:40
  • @TKR That's the one!
    – Draconis
    Commented Jul 7, 2023 at 2:30

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