North & Hillard; Ex. 195: the following is to be translated into Latin: "But, since his men had found no water to drink for many hours, they could not be restrained from rushing into the water, even when it was red with the blood of their comrades."

The answer: "...cuius autem milites, cum aqua multas horas carerent, non sibi temperabant (cohiberi poterant) quin in flumen ipso comitum sanguine rubrum proruerent."

Why the dative reflexive-pronoun "sibi", in "non sibi temperabant", when the natural instinct is to deploy accusative "se"; as in "milites se interfecerunt"—"the soldiers killed themselves"? Similarly, "ipso", referring to their comrades (the blood of whom): firstly, "ipso" is singular; secondly, why not deploy "ipsorum"; or, just "suorum"—"of their own men"?

1 Answer 1


It's actually quite common that various orders are given with dative, and we say tibi impera or sibi temperabant. Latin usually does not use an accusative object in these cases. One way to think about it is that orders or constraints are given to someone and hence expressed with dative.

You are right that ipso can't refer to comitum; it would have to be ipsorum. Instead, it refers to sanguine. When something doesn't make sense, look for other words that might go together with what puzzles you! It's quite useful to carefully go through all the words (even implicit ones in some cases) and see what your pronoun or adjective or something can refer to. Using ipso puts emphasis on the blood instead of the comrades, making the water "red with the very blood of their comrades".

Most importantly, there is no unique correct answer to a translation task like this. There are multiple choices you can make. You could use ipsorum instead of ipso or leave the whole word out. You could use sui instead of cuius milites. You could rush into the water with another verb. The answer key gives you an example translation, not the translation.

If you are in doubt, you can ask questions with the original English sentence, your translation and the textbook's translation side by side and ask us to evaluate your translation. It might turn out that your translation is perfectly valid although very different from the suggested answer, or it might turn out that you are mistaken about something. If you ask such questions here, please elaborate on what you are worried about as you did here.

  • llmavirta Thanks. There is no concept of "ordering", here. The thirst-crazed soldiers could not control themselves. There may be a case, therefore, for putting "temperabant" in the passive; but, checking in Pock. Ox. Lat. Dict., "tempero" can mean the controlling of others or self. So, it can be further argued that a feflexive pronoun is unnecessary; giving; non temperabant--they were not controllong/ did not control themselves? Any thoughts?
    – tony
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 10:19
  • llmavirta: Thanks. There is no concept of ordering, here. The thirst-crazed soldiers could not control themselves. It could be argued that "temperabant" should be passive. Checking Pock. Ox. Lat. Dict., "tempero" can mean the restraining of others or self; therefore, it may be argued, further, that a reflexive pronoun is unnecessary, giving: "non temperabant"--they were not controlling/ did not control themselves? Any thoughts?
    – tony
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 10:25
  • The first one disappeared, repeated it; first one returned!
    – tony
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 10:29
  • @tony You need the reflexive sibi with temperabant. The men were unable to give constraints to themselves (= sibi). If temperare took an accusative object, you could replace se*+active with passive, but you can't (usually) passivize something that works with datives. Whether you give orders (*imperare) or constraints (temperare), you give them to someone with a dative. I'm not aware of temperare being used to controlling oneself without sibi, but it can well be a matter of my limited knowledge.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 12:14

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