In book II, line 141 of Vergil's Aeneid (shown at the end of the question), my notes describe the first word 'quod' as an 'adverbial accusative', but no explanation as to what that means.

So my question simply is, what is an adverbial accusative, and how should I translate it in this sentence? I've looked online a bit but anything I've found has been quite confusing to understand.

nec mihi iam patriam antiquam spes ulla videndi
nec dulcis natos exoptatumque parentem,
quos illi fors et poenas ob nostra reposcent
effugia, et culpam hanc miserorum morte piabunt. 140
quod te per superos et conscia numina veri,
per si qua est quae restet adhuc mortalibus usquam
intemerata fides, oro, miserere laborum
tantorum, miserere animi non digna ferentis.

  • Here's another example (which works in English and Latin.) > I've been doing sums ages > Etatem mensuro. Aetas -age; aetatem for a long time. Date 1300, spoken by puer, colloquial, deliberately ambiguous. – Hugh Jun 14 '17 at 9:15
  • Notice in the previous line two elisions, used by Virgil to intensify the effugia, culpa, miser, morte. Quod is resumptive; it gives the reader time to draw breath after the turmoil. On the radio interviewees start: "So..." – Hugh Jun 14 '17 at 9:27
  • Unless I am missing something, this doesn't seem like an adverbial accusative, but rather an Accusative Duration of Time. – Sam K Jun 14 '17 at 20:00
  • I suggest taking a look at Bennet's Latin Grammar 176.3, as it looks promising, but I do not know enough to elaborate on the topic. – Sam K Jun 14 '17 at 20:11

Honoratus, in his Commentary on the Aeneid, glosses:

[141] quod te per superos: propter quod

Conington explicitly refers to it as an adverbial accusative:

[141] Quod is usual in adjurations, 6. 363, Hor. 1 Ep. 7. 94, Ter. And. 1. 5. 54. Grammatically it is of course the cognate or adverbial accustaive after ‘oro;’ but we need not therefore take ‘miserere,’ &c. as epexegetical of it, which is the view of Gossrau, comp. 10. 903., 12. 819; as it may equally well stand for “quam ob rem,” and in the other passages where it is used, as here, it comes in after a sentence supplying the considerations on which the petition is based.

A cognate or adverbial accusative (Allen & Greenough § 390) is an accusative noun following an intransitive verb, usually with a kindred meaning. Some examples from the above link:

  • Noun and verb have similar meaning: vitam vivere
  • Tasting/smelling: Herbam mella sapiunt
  • Loosely, by poets: Torvum clāmat.
  • Neuter/indefinite pronouns: Id laetor.

This last case is the one relevant for us: it is the reason why quid can mean "why?" (= "for what?"). Another common usage, indicated in A&G § 397, is the construction "quod (ni)si..." (= "as to which, if (not)...").

In this case, quod simply means "to which extent..." or "for which reason." It indicates that what precedes is the reason for what follows. An almost identical phrase occurs in Aen 6:362-5:

Nunc me fluctus habet, versantque in litore venti.
Quod te per caeli iucundum lumen et auras,
per genitorem oro, per spes surgentis Iuli,
eripe me his, invicte, malis.

I disagree that quod is being used here as a simple causal conjuction (= "because"). It is clear from the context, as noted by Conington, that the quod refers to the preceding "reason" for the prayer. The imperative ("miserere" and "eripe," respectively) is what is being implored, not the result of the act of imploring.

  • 2
    Would the downvoter care to comment why they disagree? – brianpck Jun 15 '17 at 20:59
  • It seems that both your answer and Maria's were downvoted. I too would like to know why. (Anyone is of course free to vote down if they want and to remain anonymous if they prefer, but it would be more useful to get some feedback.) – Joonas Ilmavirta Jun 16 '17 at 13:58
  • I've decided to accept your answer since it's the translation that fits in best, as well as the one which my notes agree with, so thank you. – Cataline Jun 17 '17 at 9:22

First of all I have to point out that the word “quod” in book II, line 141 of Vergil's Aeneid is not an adverbial accusative, but simply a causal conjunction introducing the causal clause with the verb “oro”, as you can read in the literal translation at the foot of my answer.

Your notes describe “quod” as an 'adverbial accusative' because the causal conjunction “quod”, (meaning “because”/” for”/ “ since”) was in origin a relative pronoun used adverbially in the accusative neuter , though its use as a causal particle is an early special development.

As for the Latin 'adverbial accusative' , it is an idiomatic use in a few adverbial phrases such as “id temporis”( at that time), “maximam partem”( for the most part), “quod nisi” ( if not), etc. (See Allen and Greenough's New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges J. B. Greenough, G. L. Kittredge, A. A. Howard, Benj. L. D'Ooge, Ed., §397 at http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0001%3Apart%3D2%3Asection%3D9%3Asubsection%3D13%3Asmythp%3D397 ).

So, here’s the literal translation of “Quod te per superos et conscia numina veri,/per si qua est quae restet adhuc mortalibus usquam/ intemerata fides, oro, miserere laborum/ tantorum, miserere animi non digna ferentis”:

“Because ( quod) I beg (oro) you (te) in gods above name (per superos) and the deities (numina, accusative neuter plural depending on “per) [who are] conscious (conscia, acc neuter plural agreeing with “numina”) of the truth (veri, genitive sing), in name of (per) a pure (intemeratam, which is implied, however, just like the following “fidem”, both depending on the preposition “per”) faith (fidem, implied), if (si) some (qua/aliqua) pure faith (intemerata fides, nominative) exists (est) which (quae) still (adhuc) remains (restet, present subjunctive suggesting possibility) anywhere (usquam) among the mortals (mortalibus, dative depending on “restet”), have pity (miserēre, 2nd sing present imperative of the deponent verb “misereor”) on so great sufferings (tantorum laborum, genitive plural depending on “miserēre”), have pity (miserēre) on a soul (animi, genitive singular depending on “miserēre”) which suffers (ferentis, present participle in the genitive singular agreeing with “animi”) not deserved things (not digna, acc neuter plural)”, i.e.: “So, I beg you in gods name as well as in the name of those deities who know the truth, and also in the name of a pure faith, if some pure faith exists which still remains anywhere among the mortals, have pity on my so great sufferings, have pity on my heart which suffers what I really do not deserve”.

Please note that:

  1. in the literal translation I’ve used round brackets to indicate Latin terms and square brackets to indicate implied terms.

  2. in “per si qua est quae restet adhuc mortalibus usquam /intemerata fides” (line 142) the preposition “per” implies the accusative “intemeratam fidem” which is understood, because “per” is used with ellipsis of the object in order to avoid any repetition.

Hope all is clear enough.

  • Welcome to the site and thanks for the explanation! (I took the liberty to reformat your list a little. Feel free to re-edit or roll back.) – Joonas Ilmavirta Jun 15 '17 at 15:52
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    The argument of this post is that it means, "miserere quia te oro..." (="have mercy because I beg you..."). I'm genuinely surprised this reading is getting traction: I haven't found a single source that supports it. – brianpck Jun 16 '17 at 13:39

As I posted earlier in a comment, quod is used as a connective particle here, quite often with so called adversative meaning - cf. the first meaning in the OLD.

One of the best Latin grammars, Lateinische Grammatik, written a while ago but not terribly outdated and still relevant in our time, in the second part, called Lateinische Syntax und Stilistik, discusses quod in much detail (they devote twelve pages to quod only!)

The authors (Leumann et al.) discuss our use of quod in section "Das auf einen ganzen Satz bezogene quod" (i.e. quod referring to the whole sentence).

Here is the relevant quote:

Das darin enthaltene anknüpfende quod ist ein urspr. Nominativ oder Akkusativ des Relativums, welcher einmal schon bei Plautus, häufiger seit Ter. seine Kasusbedeutung verloren hat und lediglich der Anknüpfung und Überleitung (= 'nun, aber') dient

The connective quod contained therein is originally the nominative or accusative of the relative, which has lost its case meaning once already in Plautus and more frequently since Terence, and merely serves as a connection or transition (= "now, but").

[p. 571; emphasis mine - Alex B.]

In other words, this quod is used as a connective particle. Note the German equivalents, nun or aber - that would be now or but or even therefore in English. Crucially, our quod is not causal, contrary to what the other two posts suggest.

Leumann et al. specifically mention quod used "in zur Einleitung eines Hauptsatzes in dem Typus te oro", citing Terence, Sallust , Vergil, and Horace among others.


Terence, The Woman of Andros (289-291)

quod ego per hanc te dexteram et genium tuom,

per tuam fidem perque huius solitudinem

te obtestor ne abs te hanc segreges neu deseras.

Sallust, The Histories (9)

Quod ego vos oro atque obsecro, patres conscripti, ut ....

  • I would be very grateful if you could translate the German into English! Thanks! :) – Penelope Jun 16 '17 at 10:47
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    @Penelope I added a translation based on my limited German (I'm not sure if "einmal" means "one time" or "a while ago"). – brianpck Jun 16 '17 at 13:55
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    This is a well-researched and valid interpretation, so +1, but I still have qualms. The force of "quod" seems very clearly "therefore" (as Honoratus and many translators have seen), and these abjurations all have the same formula: [Explanation of bad situation] + quod + [te oro...]. The "quod" clearly seems to say "given this" and hence is glossed by Honoratus as "propter quod." If we say that "quod" is an "urspr. Akkusativ," I really don't think there's much difference between my answer and yours. – brianpck Jun 16 '17 at 14:04
  • 1
    @brianpck Thanks for translating the German! – Alex B. Jun 16 '17 at 15:17

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