Lines 405–407 of Vergil's Aeneid, Book 6, are as follows:

Si te nulla movet tantae pietatis imago,
at ramum hunc" (aperit ramum qui veste latebat)
"agnoscas." Tumida ex ira tum corda residunt;

Context: Aeneas and the priestess are trying to cross the river to the Underworld, but living bodies are not permitted to cross. Thus, they present Charon with a the golden branch which allows them to enter the Underworld

My translation is:

if no image of such great piety moves you,
but this bough" (she reveals the bough which was hiding in her clothing)
"you should recognise." Then the hearts swollen from anger settle;

After reading my translation over a few times, I came to wonder whether my translation of the section in parenthesis is actually correct. Could it be "she reveals the bough which she was hiding in her clothing", or is the subject of latebat the bough as I currently have it?

  • I think there actually is an ambiguity here: whether tumida modifies corda or ira!
    – brianpck
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 16:42
  • Oops, that's a typo on my part. It should be irā instead of ira, while tumida and corda are neuter plurals. I will add in the long marks!
    – Sapphira
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 16:45
  • @Brianpck is saying that it's metrically ambiguous. Because the a elides with ex, it could be long, modifying ira, or short, modifying corda. It of course makes better sense for ex ira to be dependent off tumida, but it's theoretically possible to go the other way.
    – cmw
    Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 17:05

2 Answers 2


Grammatically, the subject must be the bough, because qui, the relative pronoun that refers to ramum, is nominative.

In the clause 'which she was hiding', 'which' is the direct object; so the relative pronoun would have to be accusative (quem). In addition, the verb would have to be transitive, which lateo isn't; it doesn't take a direct object (except in some relatively uncommon instances where it means 'to escape the notice of' or 'to be hidden from').

Still, if you're not aiming for a strictly literal translation, I think you'd be perfectly justified in translating as 'which she was hiding.' After all, the bough was unlikely to have snuck into her clothing on its own.


English is unhelpful here, as "hide" can be transitive or intransitive. However, the verb lateo, latere is intransitive. It doesn't mean to hide something, but rather to lie hidden or to be hidden. It's intransitive, and thus does not take a direct object.

If you want the verb to hide as in to conceal, you'd want to use instead something like celo, celare or perhaps contego, contegere, words where the subject hides something, not be hidden.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.