Sallust, Jugurthine 3. 3-4:

"frustra autem niti neque aliud se fatigando nisi odium quaerere extremae dementiae est; nisi forte quem inhonesta et perniciosa libido tenet potentiae paucorum decus atque libertatem suam gratificari."

"To strive in vain and to seek nothing other than hatred, from the exhausting of self, is the extreme of folly; unless, by chance, someone can be impelled by dishonourable and pernicious passion, to seek the glory and freedom of a few."

Firstly, given that "neque aliud" means "nothing else but"; "nothing other than", what is the role of the first "nisi"?

Secondly, is "fatigando" a gerundive, agreeing with "se" (ablative) giving, "from exhausting self"; or, a gerund giving, "from the exhausting of self"? This has a gerund taking an accusative direct object ("se"), which isn't supposed to happen. Also, the direct object would have to be a genitive, "exhausting of", would it not?

In the oblique cases gerundives tend to lose their passive and deontic qualities, functioning like gerunds, though they must still agree (number, case, gender) with the nouns they are describing. Further, as "se" is both accusative and ablative, differentiating between gerund and gerundive, in this example, is not so clear-cut.

  • 3
    not relevant to the Q, but paucorum probably goes not with decus but with the dative potentiae (to the power of few): => gratificari libertatem suam potentiae paucorum = to surrender/sacrifice one's freedom to the power of a few;; Loeb reads: "Moreover, to struggle in vain and to gain nothing by wearisome exertion except hatred is the height of insanity—unless, by chance, one is possessed by a dishonorable and pernicious passion to put one’s honor and personal freedom at the service of a few powerful men"
    – d_e
    Commented Nov 30, 2023 at 16:32
  • 1
    Interesting question! +1! I've just revised my answer to a related question (latin.stackexchange.com/questions/1144/… ). As noted by Sebastian Koppehel, it's very difficult to determine whether we have a Gerund+reflexive accusative or a Gerundive in Ablative. Considering the statistics shown in my answer (see the Sal(lustius) column in the figure copied there), if I was forced to choose, I'd go for the former here.
    – Mitomino
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 21:32
  • @Mitomino: Thank you. I found this quote, "...fatigando...", in your Q: latin.stackexchange.com/q/16653/1982.
    – tony
    Commented Dec 9, 2023 at 12:11
  • @Mitomino: Here's an example of a gerundive functioning as a gerund, in the accusative, while still agreeing..."habendam fortunae gratiam" = "having the friendship of fortune", (Caes. de Bel. Civili 3.73.3).
    – tony
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 9:41
  • @tony I've just taken a look at this text from Caesar. Here habendam is not functioning as a gerund but rather as a gerundive plus esse (cf. the so-called "passive periphrastic" with the gerundive): i.e. gratiam is the subject of habendam (esse).
    – Mitomino
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 19:11

1 Answer 1


Firstly, given that "neque aliud" means "nothing else but"; "nothing other than", what is the role of the first "nisi"?

Nihil aliud means “nothing else.” Nisi is the “but” or “than” in that phrase. In my opinion, neque aliud nisi is an audacious construction; nec quicquam aliud (Cic. Off. 2, 5; in that case followed by praeter) seems better to me.

Secondly, is "fatigando" a gerundive, agreeing with "se" (ablative) giving, "from exhausting self"; or, a gerund giving, "from the exhausting of self"?

Anumne vides an virginem?

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In my opinion this question cannot be answered definitely because (a) the accusative and the ablative of the reflexive pronoun are identical – se – (b) the gerund with an accusative object is allowed, if not as common as the gerundive, in the ablative without preposition (see Allen & Greenough, § 503 (a), Note 1), and (c) it makes no difference in meaning. I am not particularly familiar with Sallust's style, maybe one could infer something from that, but even a stylistic argument would be no definite proof.

Also, the direct object would have to be a genitive

No, the transformation of a gerund's direct object from accusative to genetive, which you seem to have in mind, does not happen in Latin. By the way, “direct object” is basically a synonym of “accusative object.”

  • Thank you. I was expecting to be shot down in flames on this one: something like--I should know how to distinguish between these two species, by now! If yourself cannot be definite about it, I feel a whole lot better!
    – tony
    Commented Nov 30, 2023 at 16:20
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    Yes, I think there's no way to say for sure. Just a sampling of the surrounding few paragraphs turned up 'studium meum laudando' (4.2) and 'ostentando virtutem' (7.2), two gerunds + acc. object; but also 'ad explendam animi cupidinem' (6.3) and 'de administrando imperio' (11.5), two gerundives. I'm not aware of any systematic analysis of Sallust's use of gerunds/gerundives, though I wouldn't be suprised to learn that someone did one at some point. Perhaps the gerundive is more common when prepositions are involved? Yet it wouldn't surprise me to find that Sallust dashes even that expectation.
    – cnread
    Commented Nov 30, 2023 at 17:16
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    @cnread Allen & Greenough write: “The gerund with a direct object is practically limited to the genitive and the ablative (without a preposition); even in these cases the gerundive is commoner.” Assuming Sallust knew his A & G, his gerundives could not have been gerunds. Put differently, one could say in the surrounding text Sallust used a gerund + acc. (as opposed to a gerundive) wherever possible, which is remarkable. Commented Nov 30, 2023 at 23:05
  • @cnread As for your questions, I hope you will find this answer useful: latin.stackexchange.com/questions/1144/… In fact, I've just decided to revise it, in part after reading the present question, answer, and comments. By the way, this sentence from Sallust is also interesting for the use of the infinitive gratificari (cf. latin.stackexchange.com/questions/16653/… ).
    – Mitomino
    Commented Dec 3, 2023 at 21:47
  • Somehow, se pushes me into gerund territory, but I don't know why.
    – Cerberus
    Commented Dec 5, 2023 at 0:22

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