AN incorrect and improper meaning of a word has been established by long usage, in that we use the expression hic illi superest when we wish to say that anyone appears as another's advocate and pleads his cause. And this is not merely the language of the streets and of the common people, but is used in the forum, the comitium and the courts. Those, however, who have spoken language undefiled have [p. 99] for the most part used superesse in the sense of “to overflow, be superfluous, or exceed the required amount.” Thus Marcus Varro, in the satire entitled “You know not what evening may bring,” 1 uses superfuisse in the sense of having exceeded the amount proper for the occasion. These are his words: “Not everything should be read at a dinner party, but preferably such works as are at the same time improving and diverting, so that this feature of the entertainment also may seem not to have been neglected, rather than overdone.” I remember happening to be present in the court of a praetor who was a man of learning, and that on that occasion an advocate of some repute pleaded in such fashion that he wandered from the subject and did not touch upon the point at issue. Thereupon the praetor said to the man whose case was before him: “You have no counsel.” And when the pleader protested, saying “I am present (supersum) for the honourable gentleman,” the praetor wittily retorted: “You surely present too much, but you do not represent your client.” 2 Marcus Cicero, too, in his book entitled On Reducing the Civil Law to a System 3 wrote these words: “Indeed Quintus Aelius Tubero did not fall short of his predecessors in knowledge of the law, in learning he even outstripped them.” In this passage superfuit seems to mean “he went beyond, surpassed and excelled his predecessors in his learning, which, however, was excessive and overabundant” ; 4 for Tubero was thoroughly versed in Stoic dialectics. [p. 101] Cicero's use of the word in the second book 5 of the Republic also deserves attention. This is the passage in question: “I should not object, Laelius, if I did not think that these friends wished, and if I myself did not desire, that you should take some part in this discussion of ours, especially since you yourself said yesterday that you would give us even more than enough (te superfuturum). But that indeed is impossible: we all ask you not to give us less than enough (ne desis).” Now Julius Paulus, the most learned man within my recollection, used to say witll keenness and understanding that superesse and its Greek equivalent had more than one meaning: for he declared that the Greeks used περισσόν both ways, either of what was superfluous and unnecessary or of what was too abundant, overflowing and excessive; that in the same way our earlier writers also employed superesse sometimes of what was superfluous, idle and not wholly necessary, a sense which we have just cited from Varro, and sometimes, as in Cicero, of that which indeed surpassed other things in copiousness and plentifulness, yet was immoderate and too extensive, and gushed forth more abundantly than was sufficient. Therefore one who says superesse se with reference to a man whom he is defending tries to convey none of these meanings, but uses superesse in a sense that is unknown and not in use. And he will not be able to appeal even to the authority of Virgil, who in his Georgics wrote as follows: 6
I will be first to bear, so but my life still last (supersit),[p. 103] For in this place Virgil seems to have used that word somewhat irregularly in giving supersit the sense of “be present for a longer or more extended period,” but on the contrary his use of the word in the following line is more nearly the accepted one: 7
Home to my native land . . .
They cut him tender grass,for here superesse means to be more than equal to the task and not to be crushed by it. I also used to raise the question whether the ancients used superesse in the sense of “to be left and be lacking for the completion of an act.” For to express that idea Sallust says, not superesse, but superare. These are his words in the Jugurtha: 8 “This man was in the habit of exercising a command independently of the king, and of attending to all business which had been left undone (superaverant) by Jugurtha when he was weary or engaged in more important affairs.” But we find in the third book of Ennius' Annals: 9
Give corn and much fresh water, that his strength
Be more than equal to (superesse) the pleasing toil.
Then he declares one task's left over (super esse) for him,that is, is left and remains undone; but there superesse must be divided and read as if it were not one part of speech, but two, as in fact it is. Cicero, however, in his second Oration against Antony 10 expresses “what is left” by restare, not by superesse. Besides these uses we find superesse with the meaning “survive.” For it is so employed in the book of letters of Marcus Cicero to Lucius Plancus, 11 as [p. 105] well as in a letter of Marcus Asinius Pollio to Cicero, 12 as follows: “For I wish neither to fail the commonwealth nor to survive it (superesse),” meaning that if the commonwealth should be destroyed and perish, he does not wish to live. Again in the Asinaria of Plautus that same force is still more evident in these, the first verses of that comedy: 13
As you would hope to have your only sonThus we have to avoid, not merely an improper use of the word, but also the evil omene, in case an older man, acting as advocate for a youth, should say that he “survives” him.
Survive (superesse) you and be ever sound and hale.