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I am working on Satyricon, currently chapter 30, and have stumbled upon a passage with a grammar that baffles me:

Et quod praecipuē mīrātus sum, in postibus triclīniī fascēs erant cum secūribus fīxī, quōrum ūnam partem quăsĭ embŏlum nāvis aēneum fīniēbat, in quō erat scrīptum:

My current translation is such:

And that which particularly baffled me / had me wondering, was that fasces were attached to the doorway with [their] axes, which [had] one part finished like the blazened beak of a ship, on which were written:

The relative clause, ‘quōrum … fīniēbat’, is where the problem is. The relative pronoun quōrum is such because it possessive; it is the fasces’ axes that are being described. Then follows ‘ūnam partem’, which is in the accusative. For the life of me, I cannot figure out what the cause of this accusative is. It is as far as I can tell, not the object of the verb, but rather the subject!

This same conundrum applies to ‘embŏlum nāvis aēneum’. I interpret this to be a direct object, but find ‘quăsĭ’ to make this harder. With regards to ‘nāvis’, it is genitive, and again I believe this to be a possessive genitive.

My suspicion is that there is something either with the verb ‘fīniēbat’ or the conjunction ‘quăsĭ’ that causes these strange things, but I suppose I am completely wrong about this as well. My grammar led me to comparative conditional clauses with regards to ‘quăsĭ’, but then ended up even more confused, because I after reading about that, expected ‘quăsĭ’ to call a subjunctive verb.

I hope I have explained the problem well enough. In summary:

  • Why is ‘ūnam partem’ accusative?
  • Am I correct in assuming that ‘embŏlum nāvis aēneum’ is a direct object?
  • Why doesn’t ‘quăsĭ’ cause ‘fīniēbat’ to be ‘fīnīret’?
  • And finally, do ‘fīniēbat’ and ‘quăsĭ’ have some special properties to them calling specific cases?
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There aren't any special uses involved here; your incorrect assumption is that embolum (navis) aeneum is accusative -- in fact it's the nominative subject of finiebat. Literally, "one part of which a sort of (quasi) bronze beak of a ship completed". The Latin idiom is different here from how we'd say it in English, which is what makes this clause confusing, but the idea being expressed is the same as in your translation.

As for quasi, the reason it's not followed by subjunctive here is that it isn't really modifying the verb, but just the noun phrase embolum navis aeneum. In addition to being a conjunction, quasi can be a kind of adverb meaning something like "nearly, sort of" (see section II of the L&S entry).

  • I am assuming this means that my final question is a ‘No, there aren’t any special properties to them’, correct? – Canned Man Nov 27 '18 at 14:40
  • @CannedMan That's right, no special properties (unless you count the adverbial use of quasi). – TKR Nov 28 '18 at 5:27
  • I would include that comment in the answer, to have it all in one collected answer. Thank you! – Canned Man Nov 29 '18 at 7:05
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    @CannedMan Done. – TKR Dec 1 '18 at 1:09

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