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IN the eleventh book of Lucilius are these lines: 1
Thus base Asellus did great Scipio taunt:
Unlucky was his censorship and bad.
I hear that many read obiciebat with a long o, and they say that they do this in order to preserve the metre. 2 Again farther on he says: 3
I'd versify the words the herald Granius spoke.
In this passage also they lengthen the prefix of the first word for the same reason. Again in the fifteenth book: 4
Subicit huic humilem et suffercitus posteriorem, 5
they read subicit with a long u, because it is not proper for the first syllable to be short in heroic verse. Likewise in the Epidicus of Plautus 6 they lengthen the syllable con in
Haste now, Epidicus, prepare yourself,
And throw (conice) your mantle round about your neck.
In Virgil too I hear that some lengthen the verb subicit in: 7 [p. 365]
Parnassian laurel too
Lifts (subicit) 'neath large mother-shade its infant stem.
But neither the preposition ob nor sub is long by nature, nor is con long either, except when it is followed by the letters which come directly after it in constituit and confecit, 8 or when its n is lost, as in Sallust's faenoribus copertus. 9 But in those instances which I have mentioned above the metre may be preserved without barbarously lengthening the prefixes; for the following letter in those words should be written with two i's, not with one. For the simple verb to which the above-mentioned particles are prefixed, is not icio, but iacio, and the perfect is not icit, but iecit. When that word is used in compounds, the letter a is changed into i, as happens in the verbs insilio and incipio, and thus the first i acquires consonantal force. 10 Accordingly, that syllable, being pronounced a little longer and fuller, does not allow the first syllable to be short, but makes it long by position, and thus the rhythm of the verse and the correct pronunciation are preserved.

What I have said leads also to a knowledge of this, that in the line which we find in the sixth book of Virgil: 11

Unconquered chieftain, save me from these ills;
Or do thou earth cast on (inice) me,
[p. 367] iniice is to be written and pronounced as I have indicated above, unless anyone is so ignorant as to lengthen the preposition in in this word too for the sake of the metre.

We ask then for what reason the letter o in obicibus is lengthened, since this word is derived from the verb obiicio, and is not at all analogous to motus, which is from moveo and is pronounced with a long o. I myself recall that Sulpicius Apollinaris, a man eminent for his knowledge of literature, pronounced obices and obicibus with a short o, and that in Virgil too he read in the same way the lines: 12

And by what force the oceans fathomless
Rise, bursting all their bounds (obicibus);
but, as I have indicated, he gave the letter i, which in that word also should be doubled, a somewhat fuller and longer sound.

It is consistent therefore that subices also, which is formed exactly like obices, should be pronounced with the letter u short. Ennius, in his tragedy which is entitled Achilles, uses subices for the upper air which is directly below the heavens, in these lines: 13 By lofty, humid regions (subices) of the gods I swear, Whence comes the storm with savage roaring wind; yet, in spite of what I have said, you may hear almost everyone read subices with a long u. But Marcus Cato uses that very verb with another prefix in the speech which he delivered On his Consulship: 14 “So the wind bears them to the beginning of the [p. 369] Pyrenees' range, where it extends (proicit) into the deep.” And so too Pacuvius in the Chryses: 15

High Ida's cape, whose tongue into the deep extends (proicit).

1 394, Marx.

2 The point is, that the syllable ob, being a closed syllable, is long, while the vowel o is short. Hence o is pronounced short, but the first three syllables of obiciebat form a dactyl (_ u u). Gellius' explanation in §§ 7–8 is correct, although not so clear as it might be.

3 411, Marx.

4 509, Marx, who reads suffert citrus, following Lion.

5 The reading is uncertain and the meaning doubtful. The line is an hexameter, since final s (as in suffercitus) did not make position in early Latin.

6 194.

7 Georg. ii. 18.

8 Cf. ii. 17.

9 “Loaded with debt,” Hist. fr. iv. 52, Maur.; see note on ii. 17. 11, p. 168. Copertus is from co- (not con-) opertus, and there is no loss of n.

10 Gellius is partly right. As in + capio and in + salio became incipio and insilio, so ob + iacio became obiicio. As the Romans disliked the combination ii, only one i was written, but both were pronounced, and the syllable ob was thus long “by position.” In the early Latin dramatists the scansion ăbicio indicates that the i was syncopated and the semi-vowel changed to a vowel. See Sommer, Lat. Laut- und Formenlehre, p. 522.

11 Aen. vi. 365.

12 Georg. iii. 479.

13 2, Ribbeck3.

14 i. 9, Jordan, who reads nos for hos.

15 94, Ribbeck3.

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