In North & Hillard, Ex. 191, q. 3, the following English sentence needs to be translated into Latin:

While the conspirators gathered round Caesar, Antonius was led aside by Trebonius.

The answer key gives us:

dum coniurati Caesarem cingunt Antonius a Trebonio clam deductus est.

The answer includes "clam"; but, the question does not state that anything was done secretly/clandestinely/furtively. Is this a mistake? This adverb takes the ablative, presumably covered by "a Trebonio"; but, could it be Antonius who was the person being furtively led away; or, could it be either?

  • An adverb does not “take” anything, the preposition does, and the usage of clam as a prep. is both archaic and extremely rare. Then, Trebonio is already governed by the preposition a, and clam is obviously in postposition in relation to it. So it's an adverb, modifying the verb. Yes, Antonius is being led by Trebonius. Just like in English, where the word by is a remnant of the old instrumental case, the same instr. was lost in L., and its function (the indication by whom or by what the action is done) was subsumed by the ablative. Jun 21, 2018 at 14:19
  • @tony Concerning your title, I assume you mean "waxing poetic"? I don't understand why that's there.
    – brianpck
    Jun 22, 2018 at 13:29

2 Answers 2


When Antonius was led by Trebonius in passive voice, the subject is Antonius and the agent is Trebonius: Antonius a Trebonio ductus est. The one being led is Antonius, and the one leading is Trebonius. The agent in a Latin passive is indicated with ablative, and the preposition a/ab/abs when the agent is "human".

The adverb clam is not directly included in the English original, but it fits well in the translation. The English phrase "to lead aside" has a stronger nuance of secrecy than the Latin deducere, so emphasizing this aspect with an adverb makes sense. The translation may not be "clinically accurate", but it tells the same story with the same nuance quite accurately, and that is what matters most.


Joonas's answer responds to your main question, but, to recap: *clam deductus est" is an additive, but certainly not inaccurate, translation of "was led aside." You are correct that it adds the notion of "secretly," but there is no arcane reason, besides translator's license, that is operative here.

I wanted to add a quick note about clam, since one of your comments shows a little confusion:

This adverb takes the ablative, presumably covered by "a Trebonio."

As an adverb, clam does not take the ablative. It's a simple adverb that modifies the verb (deductus est) and functions in the same way as English. Antonius was led away secretly by Trebonius: there is no way to construe it the other way around.

Your comment about the ablative makes me think that you are considering clam as a preposition, which can take either the ablative or the accusative (meaning II in L&S). This is rare and (as far as I know) only found in the older, more colloquial writers Plautus and Terence. For purposes of prose composition, you probably shouldn't use this form.

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