When including the following two examples from Cicero in what turned out to be a too long! answer to a previous post, a terminological question came to my mind: How would one classify those constructions marked in bold below? As "Ablative Absolutes (AAs)"? According to Pinkster's (1990: 117-118; Latin syntax and semantics) definition of AA ("I assume that the ablative absolute construction is in reality nothing else than a Dominant participle construction functioning as a satellite <i.e. adjunct: Mitomino> with regard to the remainder of the predication"), it seems that the following two adjunct ("satellite", in his terms) dominant participle constructions could be said to fall under the set of AAs.

Ceteris enim semper bene gesta, mihi uni conservata re publica gratulationem decrevistis. (Cic. Catil. 4, 20) ‘For you have passed votes of congratulation to others for having governed the republic successfully, but to me alone for having saved it.' (C. D. Yonge, 1856, Perseus site).

Mihi togato senatus non ut multis bene gesta, sed ut nemini conservata re publica, singulari genere supplicationis deorum immortalium templa patefecit. (Cic. Pis. 6.6) ‘Though I was only clad in the garb of peace, the senate, by an unprecedented sort of supplication, opened the temples of the gods in my honour; not because I had successfully governed the republic, that being a compliment which had been paid to many, but because I had saved it, that being an honour which has never been conferred on any one.’ (C. D. Yonge, 1891, Perseus site).

However, intuitively speaking, these participial constructions do not seem to function as typical AAs like Urbe capta, hostes fugerunt or Cicerone consule, coniuratio Catilinae patefacta est (or like the ones that are typically found in Latin grammars: e.g. see here). It is true that both bene gesta re publica and urbe capta function as adjunct predications in the examples above but the former is not as "absolute" as the latter... It seems that the dominant participle constructions exemplified above are to be descriptively analyzed as "causal adjuncts" but they are not as "peripheric/syntactically high" as the typical AAs: the former are Verb Phrase (VP) modifiers, whereas the latter ("true" AAs) are sentential modifiers. In this sense, these participial constructions from Cicero are more similar to the interesting case discussed in this post than to the typical AAs: i.e. they are not sentential modifiers but rather XP(hrase) modifiers, where "XP" can be an Adjective Phrase (AdjP), like the one discussed in that post (victa serpente superbus), or a Verb Phrase (VP), like the ones discussed in the present question.

All in all, it seems that the definition of AA above provided by Pinkster (1990) is not precise enough (e.g. it would include examples like the ones above, which are not, in my opinion, AAs). Could you please let me know your favorite definition of AA or the one you find more convincing or precise (or pedagogically useful in case you are a teacher of Latin)?

  • 1
    As a learner, I have found the term (rather than the definition ) of AA misleading. many times there is hardly anything absolute about it meaning-wise. Which caused me confusions (see for example the last paragraph in my old question.
    – d_e
    Jul 9, 2023 at 9:14
  • @d_e Yes, when trying to define an AA, I think that perhaps too much focus has been put on discussing apparently problematic examples like Obsidibus imperatis centum hos Haeduis custodiendos tradit. (cf. latin.stackexchange.com/questions/15055/… ). In my opinion, this example is an AA like Urbe capta, hostes fugerunt. Both examples are AAs since both are sentential modifiers.
    – Mitomino
    Jul 9, 2023 at 13:20
  • @Mitomino: How does, "mihi togato" = "for me wearing a toga" come to mean, "I was only clad in the garb of peace,"; where would "only" & "peace" come from?
    – tony
    Apr 5 at 15:02
  • @tony Why did C.D. Yonge choose this translation instead of a more literal one like the one you mention? I don't know. We should travel to the XIX c. and ask him ;-)
    – Mitomino
    Apr 5 at 22:20


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