Moreland has this adapted paragraph from Cicero's De Senectute. I'm slightly confused about the use of infinitive over here.

Moriens Cyrus maior haec dicit: "nolite arbitrari, o mihi carissimi filii, me, cum a vobis discessero, nusquam aut nullum fore. Nec enim, dum eram vobiscum, animum meum videbatis, sed eum esse in hoc corpore ex his rebus quas gerebam intellegebatis. Eundem igitur esse credite, etiam si nullum videbitis. Nec vero clarorum virorum post mortem honores manerent, si nihil eorum ipsorum animi efficerent, quo diutius memoriam sui teneremus. Mihi quidem numquam persuaderi potuit animos dum in corporibus essent mortalibus vivere, cum excessissent ex eis mori."

I was translating these in the usual manner: 'to be' for instance. But the translation I saw turns the infinitive into the relevant tense as if it were indirect speech.

  1. Is it indirect speech?
  2. If it is then why doesn't the line in italics use infinitives?
  3. I understand that there were no inverted commas in the old days but I'd still treated it as direct at first. How did you quote someone verbatim in those days?

1 Answer 1


Are you familiar with accusativus cum infinitivo (ACI)? All of the bolded infinitives in your quote belong to an ACI structure, and should not be treated in isolation from other parts of the structure.

As the name suggests, ACI comes with an accusative and an infinitive. In English it is often best translated as a subordinate clause starting with "that", and it can be regarded as a form of indirect speech. I think it is best not to think of ACI as indirect speech, but as a peculiar syntactical construction in Latin. The use of ACI has nothing to do with the fact that you are within a direct quote.

The structure is typically governed with a verb of seeing, hearing, thinking, believing, or some other such form of observation (in a broad sense). Also other kinds of verbs are possible, like speaking. Judging by the frequency, I believe this segment in your textbook introduces ACI, and I hope the structure is explained in the material.

For a very simple first example, consider this sentence: Audio te canere. The ACI is te canere; the verb is in infinitive and the subject te is in accusative. This ACI is the object of the verb audio. The whole sentence can be translated as "I hear that you sing" or "I hear you sing". The tense of the infinitive indicates when the event happened with respect to the observation. Video te cecinisse is "I see that you have sung".

Every ACI has the three main parts: the actual accusative and infinitive, and the governing verb. I will point these parts out in your passage, stripped of all other structure. Sometimes the governing verb or accusative is not explicitly there due to ellipsis to avoid repetition.

  1. nolite arbitrari me fore — "do not think that I will be"
  2. videbatis eum esse in hoc corpore — "you saw that it was in this body"
  3. eundem esse credite — "believe that it is"
  4. persuaderi potuit animos vivere — "could persuade me that souls live"
  5. persuaderi potuit animos mori — "could persuade me that souls die"

To quote someone verbatim, you can do as is done in your quote. Start with "He said:" and tell what he said. The Romans did not have quotation marks, but they did certainly have quotes. The ACI can also be used to quote someone (although not verbatim). Consider these two ways to quote:

Ille dixit: Marcus abest. — He said: Marcus is away.
Ille dixit Marcum abesse. — He said that Marcus is/was away.

  • As far as I know, the present infinitive in an a.c.i. is always contemporary with the main verb, so I don't think is is possible in the last example. At least that's how everybody here is taught to translate it.
    – Cerberus
    Jul 18, 2018 at 15:25

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