Thursday, June 20, 2013

Founding of Rome: A little Latin for the Brain.

Everyone should know the foundation story of Rome. Let's start the story together in the original Latin.

The foundation story of Romulus and Remus can be found in Plutarch's Life of Romulus, but better known would be Book I of Livy's Ab urbe condita (From the Founding of the City)  (Literally: From the City having been founded). Thus, Livy's Ab urbe condita begin with the founding of Rome and progress to his modern day.

But it was destined, as I believe, by the fates the origin of such a great city and the beginning of the greatest power secondary/next after the power of the gods.

 sed debebatur:
                 Sed= But
                debebatur is from debeo, it is a verb that is 3rd singular (he, she, it) imperfect and          passive meaning "it was destined."

  ut opinor:
                  ut= as, how
                opinor 1st person singular meaning= I believe, suppose or think. (opinor resembles English opinion.)

fatis tantae origo Urbis
              fatis= is from the noun fatum which is neuter (as opposed to masculine or feminine) and the form is neuter plural ablative. Ablative is a case in Latin that serves many functions, but in this scenario- I would argue this is an ablative of origin or means. "By means of the fates this was destined" or " This was destined originating from the fates." For translation though "by the fates."

            origo= is nominative feminine singular. It is from origio meaning origin or beginning. The nominative case is equivalent to the subject in English( The subject is who or what the sentence is about. Romulus kills Remus. Romulus is the subject, kills is the verb, and Remus is the direct object). So, origo is actual the subject of the first half of this sentence along with being the subject of debebatur: "But the origin was destined, as I believe, by the fates."

             tantae Urbis= tantae is an adjective that is from tantus meaning "so great/ such great." Since it is an adjective it agrees with the form and case of the word it goes with: Urbis. Urbis is from urbs, its form here is singular, feminine, genitive (as is tantae) and it means city. The genitive case is mainly used for possession or description. Here it could be either. For example: origo tantae Urbis all go together to mean= "the origin of such a great city or the beginning of a city so great." The genitive will usually have an "of" before it in the English translation.

maximique secundum deorum opes imperii principium:
            *This next part is somewhat tricky
    Although maximique is the first word it is not our nominative (or subject) of this clause. Our clue that we are looking for a new subject is the "que." Que is another way of saying "and" in Latin instead of using "et." When one uses "que" for "and" instead of "et;" there are certain rules that must be remembered for it use:
  1. que is always affixed to the end of a word and will usually not stand alone.
  2. The que is your indicator that a new part or clause of a sentence has begun.
  3. Most importantly, the word that que is affixed to , although it comes before the que, it is part of the que clause.
  For example "maximique" is actual maximi + que. Maximi come from Maximus which somewhat resembles maximum and thus it means greatest. Maximi is an adjective which means it goes with something and it matches the case and form of that word.

 Remember, case and form are usually detected by a words ending**. Maximi ends with an "I." Now, if maximi went with "fatis tantae origo Urbis" does its ending of "I" match anything? It does not! Of course it does not, because it doesn't go with that clause! maximi goes with : "secundum deorum opes imperii principium." Because the "que" attaches it to this clause! Now what does the maximi look like it goes with?

    maximi and imperii  are a match! However there are not our nominative/subject, but they are genitive neuter singular. They come to mean "of the greatest power."

   Our nominative/subject is principium which is a neuter noun that means the beginning. So far, the translations follows: And (que) the beginning (principium) of the greatest power (maximi + imperii). It is important to note that principium is nominative because it is also (along with origo) the subject of debebatur. THUS: "The origin of so great a city and the beginning of the greatest power was destined, as I believe, by the fates."

 Now in English, when we have two subject our verb tenses change. For example: "The origin of the city was destined." This is grammatically correct in English. But,  "The origin of the city and the beginning of greatest city WERE destined. This is grammatically correct in English.

However, the Latin verb debebatur is 3rd singular not 3rd plural (3rd singular= he, she, it is/was  VS.  3rd plural= they are/were). The reason why Latin takes a 3rd singular verb instead of a 3rd plural verb is for emphasis.

The Latin translation would be literally: "But the origin of so great a city was destined, as I believe, by the fates AND the beginning of the greatest power was destined." We take the verb debebatur twice, but the Romans did not need to write it twice since it is the only verb in the sentence and thus understood to be taken with both origo and principium.

Now, we have yet to deal with:  secundum deorum opes .
    Secundum is another adjective that is neuter nominative agreeing with principium. However this adjective should be taken as a verbal adjective. Thus it is a "beginning of the greatest power that is secundum (second/ next/after)".  The reason this has to be a verbal adjective is because a normal adjective would be translated as the "secondary/next beginning of the greatest power." Contextually, this makes no sense.

    Opes Deorum= opes is plural feminine accusative. Accusative is a form that similar to the direct object in Latin. So, "the beginning of the greatest power that is second to the opes (power)." Deorum is plural masculine genitive meaning gods. THUS. " and the beginning of the greatest power second to the power of the gods."

As one can see Latin is a very complex language that has various nuances that test and train the mind to look for patterns and logical sequences in putting sentences together. There will be a further translation of Livy's description of the birth of Romulus and Remus along with the she-wolf that finds them.


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