Ovid's Fasti 5. 353-4:

"et monet aetatis specie, dum floreat, uti: contemni spinam, cum cecidere rosae."

"and she warns that, while it flourishes with the appearance of youth, when the roses fall the thorn is to be despised."

(i) What exactly is "uti" doing here; there's no subjunctive involved, in that clause?

(ii) Why is indirect speech (accusative-[passive] infinitive), "contemni spinam", used with the historic-infinitive cum-clause?

1 Answer 1


Here, moneo is being used with a simple infinitive, which is uti. The ablative specie is the object of uti.

The colon (after uti) is a signal, as it often is, that the speaker is switching into indirect statement (here to represent some of the words that were used in offering the advice/warning).

Also, note that cecidere isn't an infinitive but an alternative to ceciderunt, the 3rd person plural of the perfect.

She advises/warns (someone) to use the beauty of the period of life while it flourishes, (saying that) the thorn is thought little of when the roses have fallen.

  • Do you think it's possible to read "contemni spinam" with moneo, i.e. "she warns that the thorn is despised..."?
    – brianpck
    Oct 12, 2023 at 4:39
  • 1
    I don't think it means 'she warns that the thorn should be despised' in the same way that the first part means 'she warns that (one?) should use beauty,' if that's what you're asking. It's indirect statement, indicating something she says in the course of issuing her warning; it's separate from the infinitive (uti) that gives the actual substance of the warning and is equivalent to ut utatur (or utaris, utamur/, or whatever is meant to be extrapolated from context as the subject). Caesar, e.g., does this sort of thing all the time, but usually with a verb of ordering instead of warning.
    – cnread
    Oct 12, 2023 at 5:29
  • Wait, why is cecidere indicative, though? Oct 12, 2023 at 7:28
  • @Sebastian Koppehel: Were you expecting the imperfect subjunctive? I think it's one of those historical-present things; axiomatic, accepted truths, written in the present. Therefore, for the present (and future) cum = "when" selects the indicative. Most interesting, yesterday, Allen & Greenough section 463 on the "Historical Infinitive"--just to add to the confusion!!
    – tony
    Oct 12, 2023 at 13:26
  • @tony I was expecting a subjunctive because it's indirect speech. Neither the historical present nor the historical infinitive seem pertinent, seeing that cecidere is neither present nor an infinitive. Oct 12, 2023 at 19:16

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