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VII. The Preposition.

(Pradel: de praepositionum in prisca Latinitate vi atque usu. Part i, Leipzig, 1901.)

The genesis of Prepositions from Adverbs may be illustrated from lines like Cas. 763omnes festinant intus totis aedibus”, Most. 596an metuis ne quo abeat foras urbe exsulatum?”, where the meaning, already expressed by the Case-forms aedibus ‘in the house,’ urbe ‘from the city,’ is made definite by the addition of the Adverbs intus and foras. These Adverbs at a much later time came to be used as Prepositions.

The independent existence of Prepositions in Compound Verbs, e.g. supplico, which is seen in Old Latin Tmesis1, e.g. sub vos placo for supplico vos (cf. Trin. 833distraxissent disque tulissent”), leaves a trace of itself in Plautus in the retention of the bare Ablative (or Accusative) without a Preposition after Compound Verbs like abeo (or accedo) (see II. 1).

It is seen, too, in the collocation of the words in lines like

and in lines like Possibly also in, e.g. amicum erga (Trin. 1126, 1128, etc.), me advorsum (Poen. 400, etc.). But the Postpositon of Prepositions is a feature of all the Italic languages, and must date from a very early time. In classical Latin it survives in quocum, mecum, quamobrem, etc. In Plautus postposition with the Interrog. Pronoun is normal, with the Relative very frequent, e.g. We find also, e.g. In Stich. 71gratiam per (a patre P si petimus”, the reading is not quite certain; more so in Amph. 238sed fugam in se tamen nemo convortitur” ‘but however no one turns himself to flight.’

(For fuller details see Studemund in Verhandlungen der philolog. Versammlung in Karlsruhe. Leipzig, 1883, pp. 49, 57, 58; Degering: Beiträge zu hist. Syntax. Erlangen, 1893.)

List of noteworthy Prepositions.

a, ab

Of Plautine usages the following call for notice:

The origin of the use of ab to indicate the Agent with a Passive Verb is seen in a line like Men. 783A. ludibrio habeor. B. unde? A. ab illo”. Ab re (the opposite of in rem and ex re) is used even in a positive sentence, Trin. 239subdole ab re consulit”. Un-Plautine is servus a manu, a pedibus, etc.

absque seems to be a survival from an earlier period of the language. For it is found only in one stereotyped phrase, a Conditional protasis with a Pers. Pronoun (or Demonstrative) followed by esset or foret, e.g.

(On the subsequent disappearance of the word from the language, see Woelfflin in Rheinisches Museum, 37, pp. 96 sqq.)


The Vulgar Latin use of ad with Accusative as the equivalent of the Dative is, as we have seen (II. 22), already exemplified here and there in Plautus, e.g. Epid. 38si in singulis stipendiis is ad hostes exuvias dabit.” Cf. nuntiare ad aliquem, e.g. Capt. 360 and nuntiare alicui, e.g. Capt. 400. But the phrase promittere ad aliquem Stich. 483, 513 is not an example. It is a variation of promittere ad cenam (Men. 794, Stich. 596), which is coined on the type of vocare ad cenam. Similarly we find condicere ad aliquem (cf. Stich. 433), like condicere ad cenam (Stich. 433, 447).

Noteworthy uses of ad in Plautus are adfatim, ‘to weariness,’ ‘quite sufficiently,’ admodum ‘to (full) measure,’ ‘extremely,’ “usque ad mortem mulcareMil. 163. Also:

advorsus, advorsum

Originally Nominative Masculine and Nominative and Accusative Neuter and Accusative Masculine, respectively, of the Perfect Participle of advertor (cf. II. 43); may be illustrated by:

It is an Adverb (or Participle) in lines like these (with Dative):


Noteworthy is the Comedians' phrase sum apud me ‘I am in my right senses.’ Also, e.g.: (On the occasional variant ad forum, see above.)


Originally Cognate Accusative of circus, e.g. circum ire ‘to go a round,’ would be originally used only with Verbs of motion. In the Casina prologue v. 26 (post Plautine?) we have it however with esse: “Alcedonia sunt circum forum” (cf. Truc. 66). Circa is unknown to Plautus as a Preposition (but cf. “circumcircaAul. 468); but not circiter, which occurs twice in this function (often as an Adverb):


In Plautus is used only of time, e.g. Truc. 348nulla faxim cis dies paucos siet”: citra is post-Plautine.


Both Adverb and Preposition (with Accusative) in Plautus, clanculum (apparently a Diminutive of clam) only Adverb (but Preposition in Ter. Adelph. 52alii clanculum patres quae faciunt”).


Not - in Plautus. Rarely2 a Preposition: On its use (as Adverb) with Ablative of Price, e.g. Mil. 658cedo tres mi homines aurichalco contra”, see II. 60 It is Adverb in a line like Rud. 693 (with Dative)praesidio Veneris malitiae lenonis contra incedam” (cf. obviam ire).


Only an Adverb in Plautus and Terence.


Replaces the Ablative of Description in lines like the Instrumental Ablative e.g. Rud. 937sed hic rex cum aceto pransurust”; the Ablative of Manner, e.g. Ablative Abs., e.g. Pers. 332sequere hac, mea gnata, me cum dis volentibus”; Ablative of Time, e.g.

Noteworthy phrases are:


As early as Plautus' time, this Preposition can readily divest itself of the notion ‘down from’ and express merely ‘from,’ ‘away from,’ e.g. It acquires ultimately the sense of ‘from,’ ‘in consequence of,’ e.g. Cas. 415de labore pectus tundit”, Men. 266iam abs te metuo de verbis tuis”; also ‘immediately after,’ e.g. Most. 697non bonust somnus de prandio”. Notice the phrases: On its occasional approximation to the ‘partitive’ function of the Preposition in Romance languages, e.g. French boire du vin, see II, 1 n


If derived from ē *rĕgā ‘from a line,’ must have had originally a local signification ‘directly opposite.’ The one instance of this in Plautus is doubtful: Truc. 406A. tonstricem Suram novisti nostram? B. quaen erga aedem sese habet?” (mercedem sese habet, Leo). In all other occurrences it expresses ‘feeling (or conduct) towards,’ whether the feeling (or conduct) be good or bad, e.g.


Already in Plautus' time confused with de, e.g. Rud. 173desiluite scapha”, and ab (e.g. abire ex). It indicates change of state in a line like Stich. 138condicionem ex pessuma primariam”; ‘in consequence of,’ e.g. ‘in accordance with,’ e.g. ‘after’ or rather ‘henceforth,’ of time, e.g. Pers. 479bonus volo iam ex hoc die esse.

Here are some of Plautus' phrases with ex:

It will be noticed how often it is exchangeable with de, e.g. de industria, de audito, or with the simple Ablative (or in with Ablative) e.g. animo, nomine, or with ab. In fact Plautus seems to allow metrical convenience to dictate the substitution of one of these Prepositions for another. Thus beside the normal auferre ab we find in Pseud. 1225auferre de”; beside abire a foro, in Men. 599abire de foro”; beside longe ab, in Rud. 266,longule ex hoc loco”. (For a fuller list of examples see Pradel, pp. 553 sqq.)


On the analogy of intro (Motion), intra (Rest), we should expect to find also *extro. But extra is used in both functions, e.g. It has, occasionally, as in classical Latin, the sense of praeter, especially with accompaniment of unus, e.g. Amph. 833mi extra unum te mortalis nemo corpus corpore contigit”, Ter. Phorm. 98neque notus neque cognatus extra unam aniculam quisquam aderat.


See II. 59. With Ablative, Men. 859osse fini dedolabo assulatim viscera” (cf. Cato Agr. cult. 28, 2 “postea operito terra radicibus fini”). In a sentence like Cato Agr. cult. 113, 2 “amphoras nolito implere nimium, ansarum infimarum fini”, the word is a Noun.


(Kampmann: deinpraepositionis usu Plautino. Breslau, (progr.), 1845).

The old Preposition indu (older indo, endo), e.g. Ennius Ann. 238 V. “indu foro lato sanctoque senatu”, 576 “endo suam do” (Homer's δῶ), had been superseded by its rival in and was current in the language of Plautus' time only in Compound Verbs, like indaudire (later inaudire).

Noticeable uses of in with Accusative are:

With Ablative:

The Accusative is substituted for the Ablative in Old Latin phrases like in potestatem esse. Cf. Amph. 180numero mihi in mentem fuit” (for in mentem venit), Ter. Adelph. 528. The reading is not quite certain in lines like Most. 328, 594, Epid. 191, Poen. 590. Similarly the function of the Adverbial Ablative is played by in with Accusative in phrases like Bacch. 355hic nostra agetur aetas in malacum modum”, Most. 32is nunc in aliam partem palmam possidet.


This is the reciprocal Preposition in Plautine as in classical Latin, e.g. Stich. 729haec facetiast, amare inter se rivales duos.

Notice also


The endings - and - differ in this, that -ro is appropriate to words of motion, -ra to words of rest. But this distinction was soon effaced, e.g. Truc. 43eaque intra pectus se penetravit potio”. For the temporal use of intra Curc. 448 is noteworthy: “subegit solus intra viginti dies.


(K. Reissinger: über Bedeutung und Verwendung der Praepositionen ‘ob’ und ‘propter’ im aelteren Latein. Part I. (progr.) Landau, 1896).

This Preposition played a greater part in Old Latin than later. Compounds with ob are characteristic of the early language; e.g. occipio plays the same part in Plautus as incipio in Cicero, oggero as ingero. The oldest sense is ‘to,’ ‘towards,’ ‘against,’ e.g. Ennius Ann. 297 V. “ob Romam noctu legiones ducere coepit”; cf. obicere ob, e.g. Most. 619obicere argentum ob os impurae beluae”, and the frequent ob oculos obicere, obstare, etc.

Noteworthy is the sense ‘as payment or equivalent for,’ e.g.

Also the frequent ob industriam ‘intentionally,’ ‘taking pains,’ e.g. Cas. 276 (cf. de industria, e.g. Cas. 278, and ex industria); ob rem like in rem, Ter. Phorm. 526A. non pudet vanitatis? B. minime, dum ob rem.


(See Langen Beiträge, p. 153.) Only used with Pronouns, e.g.


(R. Obricatis: deperpraep. latinae . . usu, qualis obtinuerit ante Ciceronis aetatem. Königsberg (diss.) 1884). Its use to express time should be noticed, e.g. Stich. 179per annonam caram dixit me natum pater”, Curc. 644per Dionysia”; cf. per tempus ‘opportunely,’ the opposite of post tempus (venire, etc.).

Also its use with licet, e.g.

And its Adverbial use, e.g. “per pacem” ‘peacefully’ Amph. 388, per silentium ‘in silence’ Ter. Heaut. 36, etc.; in Amph. 963 (cf. Poen. 573) we have both per iocum and ioco,A. me dixisse per iocum. B. an id ioco dixisti?” On the arrangement of the words used in attestations, e.g. per ego te tua genua obsecro, see I, 4 n.

pone, post

pone (for pos-ne) and post (pos-te) are closely connected.

Pone is local, e.g. Curc. 481pone aedem Castoris”; post is temporal usually, but local in Epid. 237duae sic post me fabulari inter sese”.


Plautus' use of this Preposition will be seen from these examples:



The local use, curiously, does not appear in the Dramatists. We may quote Ennius Ann. 628 V. “apud emporium in campo hostium pro moene.

The following uses may be noticed:

(1) ‘proportion,’

(2) ‘office,’ ‘authority,’ Capt. 244pro iure imperitabam meo”; cf. “pro imperioAmph. 21, Poen. 44, Ter. Phorm. 196; “pro praefecturaCapt. 907;

(3) ‘equivalence,’ pro nihilo esse duco, e.g. Pers. 637;

(4) ‘on behalf of,’ e.g. Pseud. 232ego pro me et pro te curabo” (cf. procurare).

From one or other of these senses come the following:

With Trin. 26concastigabo pro commerita noxia”, compare v. 23amicum castigare ob meritam noxiam.


(K. Reissinger: ueber . . ‘ob’ und ‘propter.’ Part I, Landau, 1896). Related to prope (e.g. Stich. 330quisnam hic loquitur tam prope nos?”) as circiter to circum, subter to sub, etc. Its oldest sense must therefore have been local, ‘near,’ ‘beside,’ e.g. Mil. 853ibi erat bilibris aula sic propter cados”. The local and the much more frequent causal senses are combined in this passage.

illic habitat Daemones
in agro atque villa proxuma propter mare,
senex qui huc Athenis exul venit, haud malus;
neque is adeo propter malitiam patria caret.


From the old Gerundive of sequor, lit. ‘following’ (cf. secundus ventus ‘a following or favourable wind’).

(1) ‘behind’ (like pone), e.g.

(2) ‘along,’ e.g. Rud. 149quid illuc est, Sceparnio, hominum secundum litus?

(3) ‘after’ (like post) possibly of time, Cas. prol. 28 (un-Plautine?)ludis poscunt neminem, secundum ludos reddunt autem nemini”; more certainly of order, e.g. Capt. 239nam secundum patrem tu es pater proxumus.

The classical Latin sense ‘according to,’ is found by some in Ter. Eun. 1090postquam eis mores ostendi tuos et conlaudavi secundum facta et virtutes tuas, impetravi.


The logical sense ‘concerning’ (like de) is very common, e.g. Cas. 254A. qua de re? B. rogas? super ancilla Casina.

supra is local, Pers. 819ille qui supra nos habitat (= Juppiter ille).

1 Tmesis appears with other word-groups too, e.g. with sis or si vis ‘please,’ Asin. 354si erum vis Demaenetum, quem ego novi, adduce”. On at-qui, postquam, etc., see the next chapter.

2 Some say ‘never in Plautus and Terence,’ regarding me in Poen. 1355 as governed by recusas (Double Accusative) and in Pers. 13, Pseud. 156 by ad- of the Compound Verb. In Adelph. 44 they punctuate after omnia and supply with ille contra haec omnia the verb fecit.

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