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I'm a bit puzzled with some verses of the Vulgata, regarding the use or not of genitive. Consider 3 Regnum (1 Kings in non LXX-based bibles). Verses 13-15 in Chapter 10 go as follows:

[13] Rex autem Salomon dedit reginae Saba omnia quae voluit et petivit ab eo: exceptis his, quae ultro obtulerat ei munere regio. Quae reversa est, et abiit in terram suam cum servis suis.
[14] Erat autem pondus auri, quod afferebatur Salomoni per annos singulos, sexcentorum sexaginta sex talentorum auri:
[15] excepto eo, quod afferebant viri qui super vectigalia erant, et negotiatores, universique scruta vendentes, et omnes reges Arabiae, ducesque terrae.

I highlighted the words of interest. I don't understand why reginae is not in accusative but in dative (genitive?). Compare with pondus, which is in nominative (and not accusative, because of the nature of the esse verb, as I gather from here). And then, talentorum is in genitive but the talent (currency) are of gold (auri), so why not in accusative (as the direct object of afferebatur)? Verse 15 then shows two examples of "proper" use of genitive, with kings (of Arabia) and leaders (of the land) being in nominative.

So, in short, I don't understand why sometimes the genitive is extended from the noun representing the attribute (auri) to the object/subject to which that attribute belongs (talentorum).

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[13] Rex autem Salomon dedit reginae Saba omnia quae voluit et petivit ab eo : exceptis his, quae ultro obtulerat ei munere regio. Quae reversa est, et abiit in terram suam cum servis suis.

Something is given to the queen, and this is expressed with dative. For example, if I were to give you a gift, I could say tibi donum do but no te donum do. The second would mean giving you as a gift, and I have no intention to sell or give you as a slave. The forms of "queen of Saba" are formed by declining "queen" and keeping "of Saba" in genitive, but it seems that the word Saba looks the same in all cases.

The word reginae is a dative, not a genitive.

[14] Erat autem pondus auri [quod afferebatur Salomoni per annos singulos] sexcentorum sexaginta sex talentorum auri

I put the relative clause in parentheses, as it has no effect on the syntax of the outside governing clause. The weight of gold was 66 talents of gold, so the subject is pondus auri, "weight of gold". The repetition of auri, "of gold", seems unnecessary here.

I think that the talents, talenta, could also be in nominative. However, it is not an object; the simplified clause is:

Pondus erat sex talenta/talentorum.
The weight was six talents / of six talents.

Instead of nominative, one can use a genitive to express quality. Compare with giraffa erat colli longi, "the giraffe was of long neck", i.e. "the giraffe had a long neck". Such a use of genitive is idiomatic in Latin, and I find talentorum more natural although I would not reject talenta. In English I find it more idiomatic to leave "of" out of "of six talents".

The object of afferebatur is quod. They are both within the relative clause. Of course quod refers to pondus auri, but syntactically they are not the same entity.

The genitive auri specifies pondus the same way as "of gold" tells more details about "weight". This kind of genitive is common in English as well, but the qualitative one (genetivus qualitatis) is more specific to Latin. I recommend ruminating on my giraffe example for a moment.

The genitive is often used to express quality when no adjective is available. The giraffe example is good again: there does not seem to be an adjective "long-necked", so one uses the genitive instead. The ablative can also be used in this sense. The need for genitive or ablative of quality often arises when you want to use an adjective and a noun to describe something, as in "long-necked". This is not exclusive, I think, but a good rule of thumb.

[15] excepto eo, quod afferebant viri qui super vectigalia erant, et negotiatores, universique scruta vendentes, et omnes reges Arabiae, ducesque terrae.

These are indeed the very basic genitive.

  • Thanks for the clarifications. Some comments. If I say "I give to the X of Y" (e.g. queen of Saba), Y should be in genitive or dative? Is there an order of preference? Regarding talentorum, is erat the key here, differentiating the "was of..." from the "had ..." in your giraffe example? If so, would then the translation be "the weight was of six talents"? You omitted the "of". And, is there a particular situation in which the genitive is preferred to express quality? – luchonacho Feb 7 at 13:07
  • @luchonacho I expanded my answer. Yes, "of Saba" stays in genitive, but the word doesn't seem to be declinable in Latin. When you decline "X of Y", you put "X" in the form required by syntax and keep "of X" untouched. Yes, erat often goes with the qualitative genitive. If one insists in precision, one should translate as "of six talents", but leaving the "of" out is more idiomatic English. That's why I left it out, but added it more explicitly now. The genitive is often used when there is no adjective, but the ablative can be used the same way. – Joonas Ilmavirta Feb 7 at 13:30
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To the second question, regarding the use of the genitive with pondus, the answer is that the sentence contains both a genitive of material (A&G 344) and a genitive of measure (sometimes classified under the genitive of quality, as in A&G 345b).

The word pondus most basically means "a mass of something," so it's easy to see why you might want to specify both 1) of what kind of thing the mass consists (material) and 2) how large the mass is (measure). Both of these are functions of the genitive case.

Here's a classical example along with a translation that's somewhat unrealistic but emphasizes the point:

Livius: tetrachma vocant, trium fere denariorum in singulis argenti est pondus.

(They call [these coins] "tetrachma." The mass made of silver in each one is a weight measuring nearly three denarii.)

Now for the Vulgate passage:

Erat autem pondus auri ... sexcentorum sexaginta sex talentorum auri:

(Now the mass made of gold ... was a weight measuring 666 talents made of gold.)

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