I can't figure out how the phrase "et audito eo multa faciebat" in the following sentence should be parsed:

Herodes enim metuebat Ioannem, sciens eum virum iustum et sanctum, et custodiebat eum: et audito eo multa faciebat, et libenter eum audiebat.

The translation which was given for that phrase is "And he heard that he was accomplishing many things..." (From the answer provided below by brianpck, I now understand that this translation is most likely incorrect.)

As the title suggest, I'm interpreting it as an ablative absolute having its own subphrase, so it seems like it should have a subordinating conjunction or relative pronoun to link "multa faciebat" to "audito eo", but I'm guessing that I might be wrong about that.

In any case, I can't figure out how it should be parsed.

1 Answer 1


The passage in question is taken from Mark 6:20.

ὁ γὰρ Ἡρῴδης ἐφοβεῖτο τὸν Ἰωάννην, εἰδὼς αὐτὸν ἄνδρα δίκαιον καὶ ἅγιον, καὶ συνετήρει αὐτόν, καὶ ἀκούσας αὐτοῦ πολλὰ ἐποίει*, καὶ ἡδέως αὐτοῦ ἤκουεν.

* N.B. Current critical editions favor a reading "ἠπόρει" ("he was perplexed"), not ἐποίει ("he was doing"), but that's not material to this question.

In Greek, the meaning is quite clear. ἀκούσας is an aorist active participle literally translated as "having heard," and if takes a genitive object when it refers to a person: αὐτοῦ. Literally, therefore, we have:

...and having heard him [i.e. John] he [i.e. Herod] did many things, and he heard him gladly.

Latin always has a problem translating aorist active participles because it does not have perfect active participles. The usual strategy for dealing with this is to flip the voice and make it an ablative absolute. Thus, instead of saying:

Having heard the news...

Latin will often say:

The news having been heard...

This is exactly what is done in the passage you cite. Instead of "having heard him," the Vulgate switches the voice and makes it an ablative absolute. Audito eo means:

Him having been heard...

  • Thanks. It appears to me that the same difficulty holds in the Greek, the only difference being that, in the Greek, the genitive absolute is used instead of the ablative absolute. But in both cases, there is nothing that seems to define (or limit) the relation between the subphrase πολλὰ ἐποίει or multa faciebat and the absolute construction. I suppose it's just a matter of understanding the relation by context and proximity. Mar 14, 2018 at 13:05
  • @PédeLeão Actually, not really. As I said, the Greek uses a participle, not a genitive absolute. It is as unambiguous as "audiens eum"--except "audiens" is aorist, not present.
    – brianpck
    Mar 14, 2018 at 13:08
  • You're right, the participle is in the nominative, but my point was that there is nothing to tie it to πολλὰ ἐποίει. Mar 14, 2018 at 13:15
  • In Latin, yes: the ablative absolute is sequestered off. In Greek, the nominative participle lets us know that the person who heard was also the person who was doing, so it's not quite as open.
    – brianpck
    Mar 14, 2018 at 13:18
  • 1
    I see my mistake now. I shouldn't have been trying to relate faciebat to eo; rather, I should have just let the main subject, Herod, carry through to faciebat as well. Thanks again! Mar 14, 2018 at 14:04

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