In this quote from Livy (6.8.6):

"ita quocumque se intulisset victoriam secum haud dubiam trahebat."

"thus, in whatever direction he went, he carried certain victory with him."

The reflexive pronoun, "se", is deployed with, "secum"; a bizarre translation: "he carried himself (accusative, "se") certain victory with him ("secum")"; or, "wherever he advanced himself ("se trahebat"), he carried...", is better but doesn't sound right: does a general advance himself or lead his army?

The use of "se" works if it means, "he". This happens in indirect speech (accusative-infinitive) when the subject of an indirect statement is the same as the subject of the main verb; then, a reflexive pronoun must be used, in the accusative:

"rex dicebat se hostes superaturum esse."

"The king said that he ("se"; the king) would overcome the enemy." (Oulton, Book III, p.41).

Livy did not use an accusative-infinitive construction and "he" is already included in the two third-person verbs: "intulisset" & "trahebat".

What is the role of "se", here; what if it was omitted?

1 Answer 1


Lewis and Short include this on infero:

  1. Se, to betake one's self to, repair to, go into, enter, esp. with the accessory notion of haste and rapidity.

That is, se inferre means more or less "to move". You might argue that it's literally "to carry oneself into something", but that's too literal a reading. A good dictionary will indicate if there is something noteworthy about a reflexive use.

The verb inferre seems to typically want an explicit object, so you can't just drop the reflexive pronoun. Maybe you could say arma inferre instead of se inferre, but the meaning changes slightly. Check the dictionary entry for details.

Even though both languages have a similar looking reflexive construction, they aren't always used at the same time. It is sometimes more a matter of idiom than of logic.

  • llmavirta: Thank you. In that section of L&S there is this ex., "(visa) sed vi quadam sua inferunt sese hominibus noscitanda," = "but through a certain power of their own they force their recognition upon men,". Is this a gerundive-of-obligation? The gerundive, "noscitanda", appears to agree with ablative, "sua". A gerundive, in an oblique case (ablative) can be translated as a gerund, giving: "but with a certain power of their own (seen), they force their recognising upon men,".
    – tony
    Jul 24, 2023 at 12:43
  • llmavirta: Tricky; those upon whom the obligation falls go into the dative; but, "upon/ on" require an ablative. Fortuitously, "hominibus", is the same for both cases. Do you have a thought on this confusion? (I know that you are not keen on translating literally; but, I don't think the gerundive should just be glossed-over.) (Gellius 19.1.15)
    – tony
    Jul 24, 2023 at 12:49
  • 2
    @tony noscitanda modifies vi. They impose themselves upon people by a certain force that must be recognized. The hyperbaton makes it more emphatic. Jul 24, 2023 at 14:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.