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In Seneca's Moral Letters 78:

Athletae quantum plagarum ore, quantum toto corpore excipiunt!

to receive blow in the face is plagam ore excipere: that is an ablative without preposition which would not be my first guess. Searching for other examples, I found the same formula:

quem ad modum C. Caesar Pomponio ostendenti uulnus ore exceptum in seditione Sulpiciana ( Quint.Inst.6.3.75.3).

It looks like ablative of means/instrument (?). ("to receive blow with the face), but can we use in +abl or +acc instead? In Lucretius we have indeed :

Et quoniam plagae quoddam genus excipit in se pupula

But I feel it is not quite the same because this is se. I also not sure if se is ablative or accusative. (my guess that accusative).

The reason for this question is that using the ablative without preposition creates ambiguity with the source of the blow. To illustrate, we can say thus: vulnus manu manu exceptum est.

I'm mainly looking for an example that contains the location of the blow as well as the object giving it.


  • It is not clear that the simple telo accipere vulnus is even valid; maybe we can't use this instrumental ablative with excipere vulnus; in which case the question still stands as it is not necessarily restricted to those words. just how to render this kind of sentence which I can't find even something like gladio icuts in venter; Only things I found were active which I prefer to avoid like: ipse mihi asciam in crus impegi; (Petr.Sat.74.17.1); maybe we can simply say saxum mihi in caput impactum est; at any case I also found omnis ictus excepit in faciem so "in +acc" is probably okay, but I suspect we cannot say saxo ictus in faciem excepit or even without excepit it would not work, that despite "ictus + abl" alone is very common. (as here is noun there is adj)
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  • Just to clarify, the main question is "can we use in +abl or +acc instead?" Right?
    – cmw
    Aug 2, 2023 at 1:57
  • @cmw, Well, I guess there are several questions there... as I say in the edit, I think we can use in+acc. But let me edit the question to be more precise later on
    – d_e
    Aug 2, 2023 at 8:26

1 Answer 1

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One simple way to render "to receive blow in the face with hand" is to use the accusative of respect. some examples:

(volucres) perculasae corda tuā vi (Lucretius)

femur tragulā graviter ictus cecidit. (Livy)

ōs impressa toro (Virgil)

As noted in this site, this type of of accusative is quite rare in prose "but is present Sallust's and Livy's prose, and "in both is applied usually to wounds."

So I believe the usage in this case of wounds is not only to be allowed without strong reservation, but perhaps also even to be the preferred idiomatic choice (at least when instrumental ablative is required) as I am yet to find an example without this accusative of respect.

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  • This is good. I wonder whether constructions with the sympathetic dative could fill a similar role. Jan 9 at 18:49

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