I've seen this quote appear in a few different places, ostensibly from Seneca's Octavia. (Or maybe not Seneca's, we're not sure.)

Extinguat et me, ne manu nostra cadat!

However, I don't have a copy of Octavia, so I have no context for it.

My translation would be:

And let it end my life; may it not fall from our hand!

But this doesn't make very much sense. Am I missing some point of grammar?


This is line 174 of the Octavia. From context, the subject of extinguat and cadat is understood to be Nero. (In the preceding lines, the Nurse had traced the trail of blood that led to Nero's becoming emperor and to Octavia's current situation, where she has no family left.)

In this instance, cadere means 'die' (i.e., 'fall and not get up again'); the ablative manu nostra is showing instrument/means, not separation/place from which.

So Octavia is basicallly saying that Nero should either kill her too or be killed by her – literally, 'Let him snuff me out too, lest he fall by my hand.'

  • Ah, that makes sense! Only one question left: why is it nostrā and not meā, if it's her (and only her) hand? – Draconis Dec 6 '18 at 16:03
  • @Draconis, it's just what's sometimes called a 'poetic plural' (though that's a misnomer because it's also very common in prose). – cnread Dec 6 '18 at 18:00

@cnread's answer is already quite complete. I would only specify that in view of the construction "ne + subjunctive", ne manu nostra cadat means "so as not to be killed by me", or maybe more literally and suggestively , "[...] to die by my hand".

EDIT: To clarify, I think the last part of the sentence is a final clause rather than a negative "command" because I kind of read it as "if he doesn't want to be killed by me".

Other than that, the subsequent reply by the Nurse:

Natura vires non dedit tantas tibi

implies manu nostra must indeed mean "by my hand", at least here. I'm not sure whether it is always the case or not, but I couldn't find instances of manu mea for the same purpose (it seems it is mostly used to describe suicide, sticking to the context of killing, i.e. cado mea manu).

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