I was reading the last chapter of Fabellae Latīnae, "Puer Barbarus", when I came across this sentence:

Dāvus: Laetāre quod tibi licet in lūdum īre – mihi puerō non licēbat.

And I understand that it means:

Be glad that you are allowed (lit. is is allowed for you) to go to school. To me as a child, it was not.

But I was wondering what case puerō is in in that sentence:

  • Dative, agreeing with mihi, literally meaning "to me-boy", or
  • Ablative of time of some sort, meaning "during the time I was a boy", i.e. "during my boy-days / childhood".

However, I couldn't find any reference to such an ablative of time with a similar example sentence (i.e., a noun describing a person of a certain age in the ablative, to represent that time period in one's life).

Perhaps I am overthinking this with the ablative interpretation, and instead I should become more familiarized with the "personal pronoun + noun agreeing in case" compound expression? (mihi puerō)

There's an additional sentence using the same form further in the chapter:

Multa mihi puerō erant officia, nec enim servum nec ancillam habēbat pater meus.

1 Answer 1


Puero is a dative in apposition to mihi. Appositives in Latin often have an adverbial component (cf. A&G 282). Here it tells us when the statement applies.

This construction is perhaps most commonly seen with a nominative in apposition to the implied subject of a verb.

Audivi hoc de parente meo puer

I heard this from my father when I was a boy.

Cicero, Pro Balbo

  • 1
    Do you think that the inner syntactic structure of mihi puero is different from that of the so-called Ablative Absolute (AA) me puero? I'm raising this point since there is an interesting debate in the literature on Latin syntax as to whether the AA is an expanded Nominal Phrase (e.g. Ruppel 2013: p. 10, i.a.) or is a subordinate clause (e.g. Pinkster 2021: p. 5, i.a.).
    – Mitomino
    Aug 14, 2023 at 22:07
  • @Mitomino I don't have the numbers on me, but aren't phrases like me puero, where the subject of the ablative absolute is the same as the subject of the sentence, relatively rare, especially compared to ones where the ablative absolute does not relate to the subject (e.g. Caesare consule Cicero ad me scripsit)?
    – cmw
    Aug 14, 2023 at 23:40
  • @cmw Yes, examples with this subject coreferentiality are very rare in Classical Latin (e.g. Coactis equitum milibus VIII...haec... recensebantur (Caes. Gall. VII, 76, 3); e.g. according to Tarriño (2000: 60), "La proporción en el libro <VII Bell. Gall.> de César es por tanto de 1/290, mientras que en G(regory of)T(ours) ha aumentado a 1/55": gredos.usal.es/bitstream/handle/10366/55584/…). In contrast, it seems that this subject coreferentiality is frequent in inscriptions (e.g. /monumentum/me vivo aedific/avi . . . CIL I.1251.3–5 (Rome, Rep.))).
    – Mitomino
    Aug 15, 2023 at 0:45
  • @Mitomino That makes me thinks it's a matter of formality rather than grammar.
    – cmw
    Aug 15, 2023 at 1:10
  • @cmw Formality/genre/style/... is indeed relevant (e.g. Classical Latin prose vs. inscriptions) but at the same time grammar (in this case, syntax and its connection with information structure) is also relevant when accounting for why the abovementioned example that involves subject coreferentiality is so infrequent compared to another examples that are also said to violate the typical AA rule (for more discussion, see latin.stackexchange.com/questions/15055/… ).
    – Mitomino
    Aug 15, 2023 at 2:04

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