Thank you friends/colleagues for the contributions to "Epistemic Modality". These certainly helped to clear up frustrating confusions. Apologies to brianpck: I should have defined/explained EM - point taken.

Anyway, with your permission, I have another Q: N & H Ex 222: "If ever a man deserved to be well-treated by his fellow citizens it was Tib. Gracchus."

Answer: "Tib. Gracchus (TB) si quis alius dignus fuit qui a suis civibus beneficiis afficeretur."

I put "dignus erat". To me "dignus fuit" implies that his worthiness ended at some point; and, or TB is now dead: he, like his worthiness, is a completed action in the past. Thus, "dignus erat" - he is still alive: his worthiness was; presumably still is; therefore, continues to be... .Is this a correct interpretation of the effects of erat & fuit in this context?

In the same passage, if I may, please; "...and connected by birth with both the conquerors of Africa,..."

N & H advised the student (footnotes) to deploy "uterque Africanus" for "the conquerors of Africa", giving:- "...et natu coniunctus cum utroque Africano,..." Given that uterque means "each of the two", how is the required: "conquerors of" achieved by this?


It's often appropriate to select between erat and fuit by thinking of expressions such as 'was', 'was at the time', 'used to be', and so on. Learned Latinists a hundred years and more ago used to argue about this in a point-scoring kind of way, but I don't think that there is a hard-and-fast rule : it's only necessary to choose the one which you think fits comfortably with the meaning as you understand it. For this example, I would personally prefer erat.

'Both' can be expressed in different ways — ambo, uterque, geminus etc., and it can be confusing.

  1. ambo is usual when the pair act as one, or are referred to as a single entity.
  2. I've just looked at N&H, and agree with them because uterque can only mean 'either of two', implying the 'both' of the English (there were two of the gens Scipio who were dignified by the title Africanus for the parts they played in the Punic Wars).
  3. geminus is used for natural (maybe inseparable) pairs, such as twins, eyes, hands : geminae ocellae, for example.
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Tom Cotton explained "both" and erat/fuit well, so let me only address your last question about "conquerors of". While it is true that the adjective Africanus means "African" or "related to Africa", this particular case is very specific.

Publius Cornelius Scipio did not have African origins1. Instead, Africanus was an honorary title given to him after a decisive victory by his troops in Africa. The adjective Germanicus has a similar use. This is not explained in your typical Latin dictionary, so some knowledge of Roman nickname conventions regarding military service is needed. I should point out that this is an example of a case where to fully understand what the language does, you need to have some understanding of the culture as well. Culture and language are always related.

In this particular context Africanus means "conqueror of Africa", and leaving out an explicit "conqueror of" looks idiomatic to me.

1 For someone of African origin, it is better to use Afer than Africanus. If you want more details on the relations of different African (or other) adjectives in Latin, ask a separate question. Many locations have several adjectives, and comparison is not always easy.

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    Or perhaps just closely associated with? I wonder if an English parallel might be "Lawrence of Arabia", where there is no suggestion that T. E. Lawrence actually came from Arabia. (Then there's "Chinese Gordon", also known as "Gordon of Khartoum.) – varro Nov 24 '17 at 17:54
  • Certainly informative, but am I wrong to wonder what this has to do with the actual question? – Tom Cotton Nov 25 '17 at 14:37
  • @TomCotton The last paragraph of the question asks how "conquerors of" is achieved, and that is what I answered. I may have misunderstood something, of course. – Joonas Ilmavirta Nov 25 '17 at 14:42

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