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WHEN I have leisure from legal business, and walk or ride for the sake of bodily exercise, I have the habit sometimes of silently meditating upon questions that are trifling indeed and insignificant, even negligible in the eyes of the uneducated, but are nevertheless highly necessary for a thorough understanding of the early writers and a knowledge of the Latin language. For example, lately in the retirement of Praeneste, 1 as I was taking my evening walk alone, I began to consider the nature and degree of variety in the use of certain particles in the Latin language; for instance, in the preposition pro. For I saw that we had one use in “the priests passed a decree in the name of their order,” and another in “that a witness who had been called in [p. 307] said by way of testimony”; that Marcus Cato used it in still another way in the fourth book of his Origins: 2 “The battle was fought and ended before the camp,” and also in the fifth book: 3 “That all the islands and cities were in favour of the Illyrian land.” Also “before the temple of Castor” is one form of expression, “on the rostra” another, “before, or on, the tribunal” 4 another, “in presence of the assembly” another, and “the tribune of the commons interposed a veto in view of his authority” still another. Now, I thought that anyone who imagined that all these expressions were wholly alike and equal, or were entirely different, was in error; for I was of the opinion that this variety came from the same origin and source, but yet that its end was not the same. And this surely anyone will easily understand, 5 if he attentively considers the question and has a somewhat extensive use and knowledge of the early language.
1 From this passage some have inferred that Gellius had a villa at Praeneste.
2 Fr. 91, Peter2.
3 Fr. 96, Peter2.
4 On the origin of such expressions, see Frank, Riv. di Fil. liii (1925), p. 105.
5 The preceding statement is not “easy to understand.” Gellius seems to mean that all the different significations of pro developed from one or two original meanings. Thus “for” or “before” will give the general meaning in nearly all the examples except “on the rostra” and “on the tribunal,” for which see Frank's article, cited in the preceding note.
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