I recently can across the following phrase when watching a video about the Battle of Ilerda:

With Caesar still weeks away...

This got me to wondering how one would translate such a phrase. It is relatively common in English to measure distances in terms of the time it would take for one to travel that distance, but I am unaware of a similar construction in Latin. Below is my best attempt at translation:

Caesare diviso a hebdomadibus multis

This doesn't quite satisfy me, however, for a few reasons. First, it seems a bit ambiguous as to from what Caesar is separated. a hebdomadibus multis is being used as an ablative of agent (With Caesar separated by many weeks), but it could also be perceived as an ablative of separation (With Caesar separated from many weeks). This leads to a problem if, say, the phrase was "with Caesar still weeks away from the city." You could then feasibly have two a(b) s present in the sentence.

My second qualm with my translation is the use of a perfect passive participle to indicate separation. Typically when I think separation I think of an ablative of separation, but that would not really work here. The ablative absolute made sense for this construction due to the "with..." part of the phrase, but I am not sure how to reconcile these ideas.

Now that I think about it, I am not sure how to say the phrase if it was "with Caesar many miles away." There are a lot of things to think about here, so I hope someone can shed some light on a construction for this instance. The question of whether this is idiomatic or not does not much concern me. Thank you in advance!

  • Not exactly what you're looking for, but FWIW, prope and longe work for both space and time – Rafael May 26 '18 at 18:14
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    The verb disto can be used this way: e.g., Caesare adhuc multas hebdomades distante, ... 'with Caesar still many weeks distant, ...' – Anonym May 26 '18 at 21:23
  • @Anonym Can you write that as an answer? It does answer the question. (Do you want to use accusative or ablative of the quantity multae hebdomades? I thought distare would use ablative exclusively.) – Joonas Ilmavirta May 26 '18 at 21:33
  • @JoonasIlmavirta It's an accusative of extent, but another reason for the accusative to be preferred is that the ablative often marks the thing from which the subject is distant. – Anonym May 28 '18 at 18:07

The verb disto, distare 'stand apart, be distant, be different' may be used this way, with an accusative of extent to show how far away one is, either in time or in space:

Caesare adhuc multas hebdomades distante, ...

'With Caesar still many weeks distant, ...'

Caesare adhuc multa milia passuum distante, ...

'With Caesar still many miles distant, ...'

If you wish to show the thing from which Caesar is distant, you may do so either with ab, a or the bare ablative:

Caesar a Roma viginti milia passuum distat.

'Caesar is twenty miles distant from Rome.'

Or, if the subject is plural, with inter se and a distributive number:

Oppida inter se vicena milia passuum distant.

'The towns are twenty miles distant from each other.'


While researching an answer for another question, I came across these passages and thought I'd throw them into the mix.

The first is Caesar, De bello gallico 6.7.2:

iamque ab eo non longius bidui via aberant, cum duas venisse legiones missu Caesaris cognoscunt.

Here, via is ablative of comparison with longius, and it has a genitive (bidui) to define the extent (in time) of the journey; so literally, 'they were not farther away than the journey of a two-day period' (i.e., 'they were no more than a two days' journey away' or 'they were, at most, two days away').

Cicero, Ad Atticum 5.16.4 has something similar, but without the comparative:

nos in castra properabamus, quae aberant bidui.

Here, the genitive bidui is dependent on an implied accusative (iter or viam), showing extent; so '[our camp] which was a journey of two days away.'

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