I am trying to translate from Bartolf of Nangis, Gesta Francorum expugnantium Iherusalem. This sentence is below:

Quo viso, ignorantes quid esset, Deo se commitentes, inde ad oppidum quod Marescum dicitur profecti sunt, ubi mora et quiete tribus diebus facta, versus Antiocham, Syria urbem quam maximam.

The sentence that I made translate:

... They moved to toward city of Marash and rested there for 3 days, then they were on the road to Antioch which is the biggest center of Syria

Is this a correct translation or not? Could someone examine this sentence, please?


My guess is that the people described in the sentence saw a divine omen of some kind. The sentence starts with an absolute ablative quo viso, "that thing having been seen". In more fluent English it is best adapted to the subject of the sentence: "Having seen that thing, they…"

So, the people had seen something. They were ignorantes, ignoring, of the fact indicated by a short indirect question: quid esset. That is, they ignored or did not know what it was that they saw.

In addition to ignorantes, they were committentes (two Ts in classical Latin), "committing". They committed themselves (se) to the God (Deo). I don't know the most idiomatic English phrasing in this situation, but they entrusted themselves in God's hands.

Putting the beginning of the sentence together, the had seen something, they didn't know what it was, and they trusted the God. Your translation starts from this point. It is good, but I want to clarify some points:

  • They went towards "a city (which is) called Marescum".
  • They made a pause and rest (mora et quies, again an absolute ablative).
  • The superlative maximam does not mean that it was the biggest city; especially with quam it means that the city was very large, but no comparison is implied. One could read urbs quam maxima as "largest possible city", but "an extremely large city" sounds much more likely to me. (Literally, urbs quam maxima can be read as "a city as big as possible", but such a hyperbole is not idiomatic English. There are many choices for the exact phrasing, but I don't think a strict comparison is intended.)
  • I assume it is Syriae, not Syria, since I cannot parse a nominative or an ablative here, and a genitive would make sense (and you translate it as a genitive).

For more natural English, I prefer to split the sentence in two. Combining all this, I would translate your sentence as follows:

After seeing it but not knowing what it was, they, leaving themselves in God's hands, set out [from there] towards a city called Marescum/Marash. After pausing there to rest for three days, they continued towards Antioch, a very large city of Syria.

I assumed that the predicate profecti sunt is implied to cover also versus Antiocham. For fluency, I translated this (implicit) second occurrence with "they continued". I might be able to offer a better translation for the start if I knew what they had seen.

There is a worse alternative (mis)reading that I did originally. I include it here for completeness. If you read commitentes as comitantes, then the people were "accompanying". They accompanied themselves (se) to the God (Deo). That is, they were in the company of the God.

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  • @JoonasIlmavirta Do you think it works to extend profecti sunt to the second clause? Doesn't the ubi introduce a new clause that requires a verb? (Obviously there turns out there is a verb, but I'm curious if it's possible to parse the sentence as-is.) – brianpck Feb 21 '17 at 13:42
  • @brianpck The way I saw it, ubi modifies only the absolute ablative mora et quiete facta ("after resting there"). If you read ubi to modify the whole second half of the sentence, it gets stuck (or I get stuck). – Joonas Ilmavirta Feb 21 '17 at 14:08

Joonas did the bulk of the work showing the proper translation of this phrase, but there's one important piece missing.

The phrase, as quoted, struck me as elliptical and strange, since there is no main verb with "versus Antiocham."

I did a little digging and discovered, sure enough, that you are missing the last part of this sentence. Here is the omitted main verb, along with the preceding sentence for context, taken from Recueil des historiens des croisades, pg. 572:

Quumque ad urbem Eracleam pervenissent, viderunt signum in coelo nimio splendore in modum ensis, cuspide versus orientem protento. Quo viso, ignorantes quid esset, Deo se committentes, inde ad oppidum quod Marescum dicitur profecti sunt, ubi mora et quiete tribus diebus facta, versus Antiochiam Syriæ urbem quam maximam iter direxerunt.

Here is my translation:

And when they had arrived at the city of Heraclea, they saw with great brightness a sign in the sky in the form of a sword, with its tip extended toward the east. Upon seeing this, not knowing what it was and committing themselves to God, they set out from there to a town that is called Marescum. Then, after staying and resting for three days, they directed their march to Antioch, the largest city in Syria.

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  • 2
    This makes a lot of sense. The sign in the previous sentence, the predicate at the end, and the genitive Syriae make the pieces fit together. I gave (and now updated) my answer to be based on what was given in the question, so I had to assume an implicit repetition of profecti sunt. – Joonas Ilmavirta Feb 21 '17 at 7:13

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