I'm kind of 'intermediate' Latin, and I can't find a completely satisfactory way to parse this poem (Priapea IV, Bucheler Ed. via latinlibrary):

Obscaenas rigido deo tabellas
dicans ex Elephantidos libellis
dat donum Lalage rogatque, temptes,
si pictas opus edat ad figuras.

Right now, the best I can do is:

Lalage donum obscaenas rigido deo dat
dicans tabellas ex Elephantidos libellis
rogatque: temptes (deus) opus, si ad figuras pictas edat (Lalage)

I'm not completely satisfied, because:

  • I don't know why obscaenas isn't dative like rigido deo
  • Reading 'ad figuras pictas edat' just seems odd. What's 'ad' doing there? I feel like I might be reading the whole second clause incorrectly
  • Doesn't obscenas agree with tabellas?
    – Rafael
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 1:08
  • 1
    @Rafael for some reason I read obscaenas as the plural noun obscena, as in Ov.Met. 9.347 'obscena Priapi'. I think you're right, though, taking it as obscenus, a, um is much simpler! Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 1:29

1 Answer 1


Obscaenas modifies tabellas, the direct object of dicans/dat.

In this context, ad means 'according to' (OLD def. 35) or 'after (a pattern, example, fashion, etc.)' (OLD def. 36). Pictas figuras isn't the direct object of edat, opus is; ad figuras pictas describes the manner in which that's done.

I'd rearrange the words into something like this:

Lalage, obscaenas tabellas ex Elephantidos libellis deo rigido dicans, dat [eas] donum, rogatque [ut] temptes, si [Lalage] edat opus ad figuras pictas.

Other points:

  • Donum is an appositive: Lalage is dedicating the tablets and giving them 'as a gift.'

  • Si means 'to see if, in case, on the off chance that' (OLD def. 11) and is to be taken closely with temptes. Here, it's practically equivalent to num or -ne introducing an indirect question (= 'whether') (cf. OLD def. 13), as in Petronius, Satyricon 33.5:

    'temptemus tamen, si adhuc sorbilia sunt.'

    'Let us test whether they [the eggs] are still runny enough to suck.'

  • The surface meaning of opus edat is something like 'carry out activities'; however, those words can also be used in the context of literary/artistic production, and so could also mean 'produce a work of art' – Lalage wants to produce (living) copies of the painted scenes.

  • thankyou, that’s helpful. So we take opus as acc, then ‘ad picturas figuras’ is adverbial. But doesn’t temptes need some kind of object? Isn’t this OLD sense 2? Is it [Lalage]? Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 9:02
  • ohhhh... temptes [the acts portrayed] Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 9:09
  • @BenjaminNagy, No, I was taking temptes without a direct object here, just with the si clause, as in Petronius 33.5: 'temptemus tamen, si adhuc sorbilia sunt' ('Let us test whether they [the eggs] are still runny enough to suck').
    – cnread
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 19:31
  • In that case I’m confused again :) I expect try to take a NP direct object (try the fish), or a VP in the inf. (try to escape). Test takes a DO or a conditional and then a standalone sentence in complement (your egg example). Could you give me your model translation of the temptes clause so I can see what you mean? Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 23:54
  • @BenjaminNagy. Assuming that I'm understanding the passage correctly, temptes works exactly like temptemus in the Petronius example, with a si clause instead of a dir. obj. or inf. Instead of testing whether eggs are still runny, she wants Priapus to test whether she can reproduce the sexy scenes from the illustrations.
    – cnread
    Commented Aug 14, 2018 at 4:41

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