I'm in a second semester latin class (hence this might be considered a beginner question) and I have a question about what to me at least is a translation conundrum. The phrase in question, Pliny 8.95, is

Maior altitudine in eodem Nile belua hippopotamus editur ...

I wanted to translate 'Maior altitudine' as referring to a 'higher altitude on the river Nile', i.e. 'At a greater altitude on the same Nile is brought forth the Hippopotamus beast..."

However the consensus in my class seemed to be that Pliny was referring back to a previous paragraph (which we didn't have available as the sentence appeared out of context in our textbook) in which he was discussing a shorter animal than the Hippopotamus, so something like "Taller in height, the Hippopotamus beast is brought forth on the same Nile...".

I looked up the Pliny reference and the previous paragraph is about crocodiles on the river Nile (I haven't been able to determine yet if there is any reference to position on the river, high or low), so either explanation could potentially hold (since Hippopotami are taller than crocodiles).

Any thoughts out there?

  • 1
    Your classmates are right. The use of bare locative ablative, ablativus loci (i.e. without a preposition) was restricted to a very small group of nouns. In this case we deal with ablativus comparationis. – Alex B. Oct 16 '18 at 2:39
  • 2
    Another thought: maior is nominative (masc. or fem.) and therefore subject, or complement of the two other possible nominatives in the phrase. – Hugh Oct 16 '18 at 11:50

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