I understand that Vergil often uses the -um genitive plural ending for some second declension nouns, instead of -ōrum. For example:

huc delecta virum sortiti corpora furtim (Aeneid, Book II, line 18)

Allen & Greenough, §49d, provide a bit of usage guidance, saying:

The genitive plural often has -um or (after v) -om [...] especially in the poets

I'd like a better understanding, however, of "often" and "especially" here. Do we have any examples of -um being used in this way outside the constraints of meter? Was it especially associated with particular authors, or periods within Classical Latin? How common was it compared to the "standard" -ōrum ending?

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    -um (the older ending) and –orum (a Latin innovation) are discussed in detail in Sihler, “A new comparative Greek and Latin grammar”, pp. 264 sqq.
    – fdb
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 22:26

2 Answers 2


@Cerberus is right that it does appear in prose in limited circumstances. In addition to deum and virum, genitive plurals of second declension nouns denoting money or measure often end in -um:

Nam cum fere constaret, curriculum stadii quod est Pisis apud Jovem Olympium Herculem pedibus suis metatum [esse] idque fecisse longum pedes sescentos, cetera quoque stadia in terra Græcia ab aliis postea instituta pedum quidem esse numero sescentum, sed tamen esse aliquantulum breviora, facile intellexit. . . .

For since it was quite well known that Hercules measured out the track of the stadium of Olympian Jupiter at Pisa and made it six hundred feet long, and that the rest of the stadia built later in Greece by others were of six hundred [feet], but a little shorter, he easily understood. . . .

Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticæ, I.1


I believe it is also used in prose with certain words, like deum and virum, although it is indeed less common. Livius, Ab Urbe Condita V 14.4:

... pestilentiam agris urbique [esse] inlatam haud dubia ira deum, quos pestis eius arcendae causa placandos esse in libris fatalibus inuentum sit; ...

"...by/through the undoubted ire of the gods, whom in order to placate...". The plural relative pronoun shows that deum must be plural, and accusative singular wouldn't fit the sentence anyway.

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    "deum" is commonly presented as an alternative genitive plural for "deus," e.g. at the end of this document
    – brianpck
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 18:30
  • @brianpck: I don't really see the point of pasting some anonymous "document". There are plenty of reputable Latin grammars in circulation.
    – fdb
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 20:02
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    @fdb: the link was meant as an easy reference (I originally wrote the declension out in the comment), not a source: I didn't think my comment merited any corroboration.
    – brianpck
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 21:01
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    @brianpck: The link implies that the -um ending is specific to deus. That is wrong.
    – fdb
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 22:04
  • @fdb: Well, deus has it far more often than the average word on -us of the 2nd declension. So in that way it is kind of specific to deus that it has this ending relatively often.
    – Cerberus
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 22:33

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