In Tacitus Annals XVI, 13, one can read (emphasis mine on the words that cause me difficulty):

Vastata Campania turbine ventorum, qui villas arbusta fruges passim disiecit pertulitque violentiam ad vicina urbi; in qua omne mortalium genus vis pestilentiae depopulabatur, nulla caeli intemperie quae occurreret oculis. Sed domus corporibus exanimis, itinera funeribus complebantur; non sexus, non aetas periculo vacua; servitia perinde et ingenua plebes raptim extingui, inter coniugum et liberorum lamenta, qui dum adsident, dum deflent, saepe eodem rogo cremabantur.

There is a translation to English of the text in the above link, so I can understand its meaning. But I cannot see why the ablative corporibus and funeribus are used. Can anyone explain it?

  • 2
    It is a type of instrumental ablative, possibly ablative of agent, though I'm not confident enough to classify it and write an answer. Houses were filled with bodies and streets with (by?) funerals. In that case you can use ablative.
    – Rafael
    Commented Jan 12 at 18:31

1 Answer 1


They're formed with the verb complebantur, which is accompanied by an ablative of material.

The translation makes it clear:

But the houses were filled with lifeless bodies (corporibus exanimis), the streets with funerals (funeribus).

You can read more on the ablative of material in Allen and Greenough §403:

The ablative (usually with a preposition) is used to denote the source from which anything is derived, or the Material of which it consists.

  • A&G class this as ablative of means: 409a. I had a professor who insisted on “ablative of content” since what something is filled with is logically distinct from the means of filling. Commented Jan 13 at 2:22
  • @Kingshorsey Yeah, I disagree with means and agree with your professor that material/content (same basic idea) is more likely here, as Lewis and Short state.
    – cmw
    Commented Jan 13 at 2:31
  • As an addendum, it seems to me that ablative of means would be the way in which the material filled in location, not the material/content itself.
    – cmw
    Commented Jan 13 at 2:49
  • That's why "content" is better than both material and means. If I fill a metal bucket with water using a hose, I have metal as the bucket material, water as the content, and hose as the means. Commented Jan 13 at 19:15
  • Also, I don't really care much about how we label it, but your answer points to the wrong section in A&G. Verbs of filling are discussed in 409a. Commented Jan 13 at 19:16

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