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595. Latin differs from English in having more freedom in the arrangement of words for the purpose of showing the relative importance of the ideas in a sentence.

596. As in other languages, the Subject tends to stand first, the Predicate last. Thus,—

  1. Pausāniās Lacedaemonius māgnus homō sed varius in omnī genere vītae fuit (Nep. Paus. 1) , Pausanias the Lacedœmonian was a great man, but inconsistent in the whole course of his life.

Note.--This happens because, from the speaker's ordinary point of view, the subject of his discourse is the most important thing in it, as singled out from all other things to be spoken of.

a. There is in Latin, however, a special tendency to place the verb itself last of all, after all its modifiers. But many writers purposely avoid the monotony of this arrangement by putting the verb last but one, followed by some single word of the predicate.

597. In connected discourse the word most prominent in the speaker's mind comes first, and so on in order of prominence.

This relative prominence corresponds to that indicated in English by a graduated stress of voice (usually called emphasis).

a. The difference in emphasis expressed by difference in order of words is illustrated in the following passages:—

  1. apud Xenophōntem autem moriēns Cȳrus “mâior haec dīcit(Cat. M. 79) , IN XENOPHON too, on his death-bed Cyrus the elder utters these words.
  2. Cȳrus quidem haec moriēns; nōs, placet, nostra videāmus (id. 82), CYRUS, to be sure, utters these words on his death-bed; let US, if you please, consider our own case.
  3. Cȳrus quidem apud Xenophōntem sermōne, quem moriēns habuit (id. 30), CYRUS, to be sure, in Xenophon, in that speech which he uttered on his death-bed.

Note.--This stress or emphasis, however, in English does not necessarily show any violent contrast to the rest of the words in the sentence, but is infinitely varied, constantly increasing and diminishing, and often so subtle as to be unnoticed except in careful study. So, as a general rule, the precedence of words in a Latin sentence is not mechanical, but corresponds to the prominence which a good speaker would mark by skilfully managed stress of voice. A Latin written sentence, therefore, has all the clearness and expression which could be given to a spoken discourse by the best actor in English. Some exceptions to the rule will be treated later.

The first chapter of Cæsar's Gallic War, if rendered so as to bring out as far as possible the shades of emphasis, would run thus:—

GAUL,1 in the widest sense, is divided 2 into three parts,3 which are inhabited 4 (as follows): one 5 by the Belgians, another 6 by the Aquitani, the third by a people called in their own 7 language Celts, in ours Gauls. THESE8 in their language,9 institutions, and laws are all of them10 different. The GAULS11 (proper) are separated12 from the Aquitani by the river Garonne, from the Belgians by the Marne and Seine. Of THESE13 (TRIBES) the bravest of all 14 are the Belgians, for the reason that they live farthest 15 away from the CIVILIZATION and REFINEMENT of the Province, and because they are LEAST16 of all of them subject to the visits of traders,17 and to the (consequent) importation of such things as18 tend to soften 19 their warlike spirit; and are also nearest 20 to the Germans, who live across the Rhine,21 and with whom they are incessantly 22 at war. For the same reason the HELVETIANS, as well, are superior to all the other Gauls in valor, because they are engaged in almost daily battles with the Germans, either defending their own boundaries from them, or themselves making war on those of the Germans. Of ALL THIS country, one part—the one which, as has been said, the Gauls (proper) occupy—BEGINS at the river Rhone. Its boundaries are the river Garonne, the ocean, and the confines of the Belgians. It even REACHES on the side of the Sequani and Helvetians the river Rhine. Its general direction is towards the north. The BELGIANS begin at the extreme limits of Gaul; they reach (on this side) as far as the lower part of the Rhine. They spread to the northward and eastward. AQUITANIA extends from the Garonne to the Pyrenees, and that part of the ocean that lies towards Spain. It runs off westward and northward. Gallia est omnis dīvīsa in partīs trīs, quārum ūnam incolunt Belgae, aliam Aquītānī, tertiam quī ipsōrum linguā Celtae, nostrā Gallī appellantur. omnēs linguā, īnstitūtīs, lēgibus inter differunt. Gallōs ab Aquītānīs Garumna flūmen, ā Belgīs Mātrona et Sēquana dīvidit. Hōrum omnium fortissimī sunt Belgae, proptereā quod ā cultū atque hūmānitāte prōvinciae longissimē absunt, minimēque ad eōs mercātōrēs saepe commeant atque ea quae ad effēminandōs animōs pertinent important, proximīque sunt Germānīs, quī trāns Rhēnum incolunt, quibuscum continenter bellum gerunt. Quā causā Helvētiī quoque reliquōs Gallōs virtūte praecēdunt, quod ferē cotīdiānīs proeliīs cum Germānīs contendunt, cum aut suīs fīnibus eōs prohibent, aut ipsī in eōrum fīnibus bellum gerunt. Eōrum ūna pars, quam Gallōs obtinēre dictum est, initium capit ā flūmine Rhodanō; continētur Garumnā flūmine, Ōceanō, fīnibus Belgārum; attingit etiam ab Sēquanīs et Helvētiīs flūmen Rhēnum; vergit ad septentriōnēs. Belgae ab extrēmīs Galliae fīnibus oriuntur: pertinent ad īnferiōrem partem flūminis Rhēnī; spectant in septentriōnem et orientem sōlem. Aquītānia ā Garumnā flūmine ad Pȳrēnaeōs montīs et eam partem Ōceanī quae est ad Hispāniam pertinet; spectat inter occāsum sōlis et septentriōnēs.

b. The more important word is never placed last for emphasis. The apparent cases of this usage (when the emphasis is not misconceived) are cases where a word is added as an afterthought, either real or affected, and so has its position not in the sentence to which it is appended, but, as it were, in a new one.

598. The main rules for the Order of Words are as follows:—

a. In any phrase the determining and most significant word comes first:—

    Adjective and Noun:—
    1. omnīs hominēs decet, EVERY man ought(opposed to some who do not).
    2. Lūcius Catilīnanōbilī genere nātus fuit, māgnā et animī et corporis, sedingeniō malō prāvōque (Sall. Cat. 5), Lucius Catiline was born of a NOBLE family, with GREAT force of mind and body, but with a NATURE that was evil and depraved. [Here the adjectives in the first part are the emphatic and important words, no antithesis between the nouns being as yet thought of; but in the second branch the noun is meant to be opposed to those before mentioned, and immediately takes the prominent place, as is seen by the natural English emphasis, thus making a chiasmus. 23]
    Word with modifying case:—
    1. quid magis Epamīnōndam,Thēbānōrumimperātōrem, quamvictōriaeThēbānōrum cōnsulere decuit (Inv. 1.69) , what should Epaminondas, commander of the THEBANS, have aimed at more than the VICTORY of the Thebans?
    2. lacrimā nihil citius ārēscit (id. 1.109), nothing dries quicker than a TEAR.
    3. nēmō ferēlaudis cupidus (De Or. 1.14) , hardly any one desirous of GLORY (cf. Manil. 7, avidī laudis, EAGER for glory).
b. Numeral adjectives, adjectives of quantity, demonstrative, relative, and interrogative pronouns and adverbs, tend to precede the word or words to which they belong:—
  1. cum aliquā perturbātiōne (Off. 1.137) , with SOME disturbance.
  2. hōc ūnō praestāmus (De Or. 1.32) , in THIS one thing we excel.
  3. cēterae ferē artēs, the OTHER arts.

Note.--This happens because such words are usually emphatic; but often the words connected with them are more so, and in such cases the pronouns etc. yield the emphatic place:—

  1. causa aliqua (De Or. 1.250) , some CASE.
  2. stilus ille tuus (id. 1.257), that well-known STYLE of yours (in an antithesis; see passage). [ Ille is idiomatic in this sense and position.]
  3. Rōmam quae apportāta sunt (Verr. 4.121) , what were carried to ROME (in contrast to what remained at Syracuse).

c. When sum is used as the Substantive verb (§ 284. b), it regularly stands first, or at any rate before its subject:—

  1. est virī māgnī pūnīre sontis (Off. 1.82) , it is the duty of a great man to punish the guilty.

d. The verb may come first, or have a prominent position, either (1) because the idea in it is emphatic; or (2) because the predication of the whole statement is emphatic; or (3) the tense only may be emphatic:—

    (1) dīcēbat idem Cotta (Off. 2.59), Cotta used to SAY the same thing (opposed to others' boasting).
  1. idem fēcit adulēscēns M. Antōnius (id. 2.49), the same thing was DONE by Mark Antony in his youth. [Opposed to dīxī just before.]
  2. facis amīcē; (Lael. 9), you ACT kindly. [Cf. amīcē facis, you are very KIND (you act KINDLY).]
  3. (2) “prōpēnsior benīgnitās esse dēbēbit in calamitōsōs nisi forte erunt dīgnī calamitāte(Off. 2.62) , liberality ought to be readier toward the unfortunate unless perchance they REALLY DESERVE their misfortune.
  4. praesertim cum scrībat (Panaetius) (id. 3.8), especially when he DOES SAY (in his books). [Opposed to something omitted by him.]
  5. (3) fuimus Trōes, “ fuit Īlium(Aen. 2.325) , we have CEASED to be Trojans, Troy is now no MORE.
  6. loquor autem commūnibus amīcitiīs (Off. 3.45) , but I am SPEAKING NOW of common friendships.

e. Often the connection of two emphatic phrases is brought about by giving the precedence to the most prominent part of each and leaving the less prominent parts to follow in inconspicuous places:—

  1. plūrēs solent esse causae (Off. 1.28) , there are USUALLY SEVERAL reasons.
  2. quōs āmīsimus cīvīs, “eōs Mārtis vīs perculit(Marc. 17) , WHAT fellow-citizens we have LOST, have been stricken down by the violence of war.
  3. maximās tibi omnēs grātiās agimus (id. 33), we ALL render you the WARMEST thanks.
  4. haec rēs ūnīus est propria Caesaris (id. 11), THIS exploit belongs to Cæsar ALONE.
  5. obiūrgātiōnēs etiam nōn numquam incidunt necessāriae(Off. 1.136) , OCCASIONS FOR REBUKE also SOMETIMES occur which are unavoidable.

f. Antithesis between two pairs of ideas is indicated by placing the pairs either (1) in the same order (anaphora) or (2) in exactly the opposite order (chiasmus):—

  1. (1) “rērum cōpia verbōrum cōpiam gignit(De Or. 3.125) , ABUNDANCE of MATTER produces COPIOUSNESS of EXPRESSION.
  2. (2) lēgēs suppliciō improbōs afficiunt, “dēfendunt ac tuentur bonōs(Legg. 2.13) , the laws VISIT PUNISHMENTS upon the WICKED, but the GOOD they DEFEND and PROTECT.

Note.--Chiasmus is very common in Latin, and often seems in fact the more inartificial construction. In an artless narrative one might hear, “The women were all drowned, they saved the men.”

  1. nōn igitur ūtilitātem amīcitia sed ūtilitās amīcitiam cōnsecūta est (Lael. 51) , it is not then that friendship has followed upon advantage, but advantage upon friendship. [Here the chiasmus is only grammatical, the ideas being in the parallel order.] (See also p. 395: longissimē , minimē , proximī .)

g. A modifier of a phrase or some part of it is often embodied within the phrase (cf. a):—

    commūnī hominum memoriā; (Tusc. 1.59), in regard to the UNIVERSAL memory of man.

h. A favorite order with the poets is the interlocked, by which the attribute of one pair comes between the parts of the other (synchysis):—

  1. et superiectō pavidae natārunt aequore dammae(Hor. Od. 1.2.11) .

Note.--This is often joined with chiasmus: as,arma nōndum expiātīs ūncta cruōribus (id. 2.1.5).

i. Frequently unimportant words follow in the train of more emphatic ones with which they are grammatically connected, and so acquire a prominence out of proportion to their importance:—

  1. dictitābat hortulōs aliquōs emere velle (Off. 3.58) , he gave out that he wanted to buy some gardens. [Here aliquōs is less emphatic than emere , but precedes it on account of the emphasis on hortulōs .]

j. The copula is generally felt to be of so little importance that it may come in anywhere where it sounds well; but usually under cover of more emphatic words:—

    cōnsul ego quaesīvī, cum vōs mihi essētis in cōnsiliō; (Rep. 3.28), as consul I held an investigation in which you attended me in council.
  1. falsum est id tōtum (id. 2.28), that is all false.

k. Many expressions have acquired an invariable order:—

  1. rēs pūblica; populus Rōmānus; honōris causā; pāce tantī virī.

Note.--These had, no doubt, originally an emphasis which required such an arrangement, but in the course of time have changed their shade of meaning. Thus, senātus populusque Rōmānus originally stated with emphasis the official bodies, but became fixed so as to be the only permissible form of expression.

l. The Romans had a fondness for emphasizing persons, so that a name or a pronoun often stands in an emphatic place:—

  1. [dīxit] “vēnālīs quidem hortōs nōn habēre(Off. 3.58) , [said] that he did n't have any gardens for sale, to be sure.

m. Kindred words often come together ( figūra etymologica ):—

  1. ita sēnsim sine sēnsū aetās senēscit (Cat. M. 38) , thus gradually, without being perceived, man's life grows old.

Special Rules

599. The following are special rules of arrangement:—

a. The negative precedes the word it especially affects; but if it belongs to no one word in particular, it generally precedes the verb; if it is especially emphatic, it begins the sentence. (See example, 598. f. N.)

b. Itaque regularly comes first in its sentence or clause; enim , autem , vērō , quoque , never first, but usually second, sometimes third if the second word is emphatic; quidem never first, but after the emphatic word; igitur usually second; ... quidem include the emphatic word or words.

c. Inquam , inquit , are always used parenthetically, following one or more words. So often crēdō, opīnor , and in poetry sometimes precor .

d. (1) Prepositions (except tenus and versus) regularly precede their nouns; (2) but a monosyllabic preposition is often placed between a noun and its adjective or limiting genitive:—

  1. quem ad modum; quam ob rem; māgnō cum metū; omnibus cum cōpiīs; nūllā in ; (cf. § 598. i).

e. In the arrangement of clauses, the Relative clause more often comes first in Latin, and usually contains the antecedent noun:—

  1. quōs āmīsimus cīvīs, eōs Mārtis vīs perculit (Marc. 17) , those citizens whom we have lost, etc.

f. Personal or demonstrative pronouns tend to stand together in the sentence:—

    cum vōs mihi essētis in cōnsiliō; (Rep. 3.28), when you attended me in counsel.

Structure of the Period

600. Latin, unlike modern languages, expresses the relation of words to each other by inflection rather than by position. Hence its structure not only admits of great variety in the arrangement of words, but is especially favorable to that form of sentence which is called a Period. In a period, the sense is expressed by the sentence as a whole, and is held in suspense till the delivery of the last word.

An English sentence does not often exhibit this form of structure. It was imitated, sometimes with great skill and beauty, by many of the earlier writers of English prose; but its effect is better seen in poetry, as in the following passage:—

  1. High on a throne of royal state, which far
  2. Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,
  3. Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand
  4. Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold,
  5. Satan exalted sat.—Paradise Lost, ii. 1-5.
But in argument or narrative, the best English writers more commonly give short clear sentences, each distinct from the rest, and saying one thing by itself. In Latin, on the contrary, the story or argument is viewed as a whole; and the logical relation among all its parts is carefully indicated.

601. In the structure of the Period, the following rules are to be observed:—

a. In general the main subject or object is put in the main clause, not in a subordinate one:—

  1. Hannibal cum recēnsuisset auxilia Gādēs profectus est (Liv. 21.21) , when Hannibal had reviewed the auxiliaries, he set out for Cadiz.
  2. Volscī exiguam spem in armīs, aliā undique abscissā, cum tentāssent, praeter cētera adversa, locō quoque inīquō ad pūgnam congressī, inīquiōre ad fugam, cum ab omnī parte caederentur, ad precēs ā certāmine versī dēditō imperātōre trāditīsque armīs, sub iugum missī, cum singulīs vestīmentīs, “īgnōminiae clādisque plēnī dīmittuntur(Liv. 4.10) . [Here the main fact is the return of the Volscians. But the striking circumstances of the surrender etc., which in English would be detailed in a number of brief independent sentences, are put into the several subordinate clauses within the main clause so that the passage gives a complete picture in one sentence.]

b. Clauses are usually arranged in the order of prominence in the mind of the speaker; so, usually, cause before result; purpose, manner, and the like, before the act.

c. In coördinate clauses, the copulative conjunctions are frequently omitted (asyndeton). In such cases the connection is made clear by some antithesis indicated by the position of words.

d. A change of subject, when required, is marked by the introduction of a pronoun, if the new subject has already been mentioned. But such change is often purposely avoided by a change in structure,—the less important being merged in the more important by the aid of participles or of subordinate phrases:—

  1. quem ut barbarī incendium effūgisse vīdērunt, tēlīs ēminus missīs interfēcērunt (Nep. Alc. 10) , when the barbarians saw that he had escaped, THEY threw darts at HIM at long range and killed HIM.
  2. celeriter cōnfectō negōtiō, in hīberna legiōnēs redūxit (B. G. 6.3) , the matter was soon finished, AND he led the legions, etc.

e. So the repetition of a noun, or the substitution of a pronoun for it, is avoided unless a different case is required:—

    dolōrem nōn potuerō frangere occultābō; (Phil. 12.21), if I cannot conquer the pain, I will hide IT. [Cf. if I cannot conquer I will hide the pain.]

f. The Romans were careful to close a period with an agreeable succession of long and short syllables. Thus,—

  1. quod scīs nihil prōdest, quod nescīs multum obest (Or. 166) , what you know is of no use, what you do not know does great harm.

Note.--In rhetorical writing, particularly in oratory, the Romans, influenced by their study of the Greek orators, gave more attention to this matter than in other forms of composition. Quintilian (ix. 4.72) lays down the general rule that a clause should not open with the beginning of a verse or close with the end of one.

1 GAUL: emphatic as the subject of discourse, as with a title or the like.

2 Divided: opposed to the false conception (implied in the use of omnis ) that the country called Gallia by the Romans is one. This appears more clearly from the fact that Cæsar later speaks of the Gallī in a narrower sense as distinct from the other two tribes, who with them inhabit Gallia in the wider sense.

3 Parts: continuing the emphasis begun in dīvīsa . Not three parts as opposed to any other number, but into parts at all.

4 Inhabited: emphatic as the next subject, “The inhabitants of these parts are, etc.”

5 One: given more prominence than it otherwise would have on accountof its close connection with quārum .

6 Another, etc.: opposed to one.

7 Their own, ours: strongly opposed to each other.

8 THESE (tribes): the main subject of discourse again, collecting under one head the names previously mentioned.

9 Language, etc.: these are the most prominent ideas, as giving the striking points which distinguish the tribes. The emphasis becomes natural in English if we say “these have a different language, different institutions, different laws.

10 All of them: the emphasis on all marks the distributive character of the adjective, as if it were “every one has its own, etc.”

11 GAULS: emphatic as referring to the Gauls proper in distinction from the other tribes.

12 Separated: though this word contains an indispensable idea in the connection, yet it has a subordinate position. It is not emphatic in Latin, as is seen from the fact that it cannot be made emphatic in English. The sense is: The Gauls lie between the Aquitani on the one side, and the Belgians on the other.

13 Of THESE: the subject of discourse.

14 All: emphasizing the superlative idea in “bravest”; they, as Gauls, are assumed to be warlike, but the most so of all of them are the Belgians.

15 Farthest away: one might expect absunt (are away) to have a more emphatic place, but it is dwarfed in importance by the predominance of the main idea, the effeminating influences from which the Belgians are said to be free. It is not that they live farthest off that is insisted on, but that the civilization of the Province etc., which would soften them, comes less in their way. It is to be noticed also that absunt has already been anticipated by the construction of cultū and still more by longissimē , so that when it comes it amounts only to a formal part of the sentence. Thus,—“because the civilization etc. of the Province (which would soften them) is farthest from them.”

16 LEAST: made emphatic here by a common Latin order, the chiasmus (§ 598. f).

17 Traders: the fourth member of the chiasmus, opposed to cultū and hūmānitāte .

18 Such things as: the importance of the nature of the importations overshadows the fact that they are imported, which fact is anticipated in traders.

19 Soften: cf. what is said in note 15, p. 394. They are brave because they have less to soften them, their native barbarity being taken for granted.

20 Nearest: the same idiomatic prominence as in note 1 above, but varied by a special usage combining chiasmus and anaphora (§ 598. f).

21 Across the Rhine: i.e. and so are perfect savages.

22 Incessantly: the continuance of the warfare becomes the all-important idea, as if it were “and not a day passes in which they are not at war with them.”

23 So called from the Greek letter χ (chi), on account of the criss-cross arrangement of the words. Thus,

a b
c d

(see f below).

hide References (30 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (30):
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 6.3
    • Cicero, On Pompey's Command, 7
    • Cicero, Philippics, 12.21
    • Cicero, Against Verres, 2.4.121
    • Cicero, For Marcellus, 17
    • Cicero, For Rabirius Postumus, 3.28
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 2.325
    • Cicero, On Oratory, 1.14
    • Cicero, On Oratory, 1.250
    • Cicero, On Oratory, 1.32
    • Cicero, On Oratory, 3.125
    • Cornelius Nepos, Alcibiades, 10
    • Cornelius Nepos, Pausanias, 1
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 4, 10
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 21, 21
    • Cicero, De Legibus, 2.13
    • Cicero, De Senectute, 38
    • Cicero, De Senectute, 79
    • Cicero, De Amicitia, 51
    • Cicero, De Amicitia, 9
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 1.59
    • Cicero, De Officiis, 1.136
    • Cicero, De Officiis, 1.137
    • Cicero, De Officiis, 1.28
    • Cicero, De Officiis, 1.82
    • Cicero, De Officiis, 2.59
    • Cicero, De Officiis, 2.62
    • Cicero, De Officiis, 3.45
    • Cicero, De Officiis, 3.58
    • Cicero, De Inventione, 1.69
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