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HD: Fearing Greeks
Posted: 10 November 2011 04:50 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Languagehat has come up with a nice poser regarding one of the most famous lines in literature, and his readers have come through with an answer.

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Posted: 10 November 2011 08:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Nice writeup (and thanks!), but “The problem is that according to the classical rules, ferentis, a plural present active participle modifying Danaos (Greeks), is genitive” should end “is dative/ablative.”

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Posted: 10 November 2011 08:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Every resource I have tells me that it is the genitive singular present participle of fero, a third conjugation verb.

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Posted: 10 November 2011 10:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Buck and Hale 118.4., p.58. (link) says:

The Acc. Plur. Masc. and Fem, had the regular i-Stem form -īs, and this was in general more persistently retained than in Nouns, although forms in -ēs are also found in the Augustan period. But the words which had the Gen. Plur. in -um had the Consonant-Stem form of the Acc. Plur., namely, -ēs, from the outset.

(Look on p.55 for the paradigm of acer.)

Isn’t Danaos in the accusative?

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Posted: 10 November 2011 12:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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What an interesting tit-bit. I’ve never seen the quotation rendered as anything else but ....ferentes. The explanation’s absolutely plausible, and a salutary reminder that not only English is changing all the time.
I would be interested to know, what is the original authority for the spelling ferentis? Is there one absolutely authoritative version of the Aenid, from ancient times? Or are there several equally authoritative ancient versions, all yielding ferentis?

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Posted: 10 November 2011 02:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Every resource I have tells me that it is the genitive singular present participle of fero, a third conjugation verb.

That would be true if it had a short i, but it has a long one.

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Posted: 10 November 2011 04:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I question the Wikipedia entry on this one, although I’m hardly the greatest Latinist. The long < i > makes no sense; the dative/ablative ending is with a short < i >, so the long syllable just doesn’t work. It is true that most lines would end with a spondee, which would make the < -is > long, but classical hexameter allows for an anceps in the final foot, which permits the line to end on a short syllable.

And yes, jheem, Danaos is accusative. Ferentis/es has to be accusative for the grammar to work.

And no, there are no “authoritative” versions of the Aeneid (or pretty much any other Roman work) from classical times. The manuscripts all date to the medieval period. Wikipedia says the Vergilius Vaticanus (Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica, Cod. Vat. lat. 3225) dates from c. 400 C. E., but a “citation needed” note is slapped on that fact. That is quite early compared to many other works. The earliest extant manuscript of Caesar’s Commentaries, for example, is hundreds of years later than that.

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Posted: 10 November 2011 05:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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No, Wikipedia is correct, the older form of the accusative ending had -is with long i (at least, that’s what the commenters on my post were saying).

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Posted: 10 November 2011 10:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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The Wikipedia article (the one entitled timeo Danaos et dona ferentes, not the one entitled Aenid) says...."the original text has ferentis”.  To what “original” text, then, does this statement refer? Dave says that the oldest known text of the Aenid is in the Vatican, and may have been written c. 400 C.E., that is, about 400 years after Virgil’s death.  Hardly an “original” text.  Do people look at editions of Shakespeare published 400 years after Shakespeare’s death, to sort out what Shakespeare “really” wrote? So --- how do we know what Virgil really wrote? If it’s the Vatican text that says ferentis, then that’s what a copyist writing 400 years after Virgil wrote, not necessarily what Virgil himself wrote at all. It might be a reflection of the copyist’s ideas about Latin grammar.  Or of the copyist’s boss’s ideas. Or it might be a typo, or a scripto, or whatever a mistake in handwriting is called. And the same applies to later texts - if not more so. I confess to feeling confused. Will somebody strike a light?

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Posted: 11 November 2011 04:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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The Wikipedia article is poorly worded. “Original” is a bad choice.

We recently had a (somewhat painful) go round on this topic.

To summarize. This is an issue with just about every text, not just ancient ones—although the problems tend to be more numerous before the age of print. The published text almost never matches the author’s manuscript perfectly. Printers and editors intervene in modern works as well.

A good scholarly edition will compare the various extant versions of the manuscript, note the variations, and make an informed choice as to what the “original” probably looked like. My understanding is that scribes tended to mess with Latin texts less than vernacular ones. For Old and Middle English manuscripts, you find significant variation, especially in spelling, based on the dialect of the scribe. For Latin, with a much more standardized spelling, this happens less. And, somewhat ironically, the less well a scribe knows the language he (and it was nearly always a man) was copying, the more likely he would be to produce an accurate copy. Of course, there are still scribal errors, though.

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Posted: 11 November 2011 05:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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No, Wikipedia is correct, the older form of the accusative ending had -is with long i (at least, that’s what the commenters on my post were saying).

If that’s the case, then what’s the problem? The word is either ferentis (genitive) or ferentīs (old form of the accusative). The form must be accusative for the grammar to work. And ending the line with a spondee, two long syllables, is the usual pattern for dactylic hexameter; so the long syllable presents no problem. It’s only a problem if the accusative ending is short—but not really because it is permissible end a line with a short syllable; it’s just not the usual pattern. But in no way could this be dative or ablative, which would be ferenti.

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Posted: 11 November 2011 05:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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This discussion reminds me of this.

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Posted: 11 November 2011 05:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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The subject line reminds me of Phobos, and hence the failed Russian mission thereto.

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Posted: 11 November 2011 07:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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But in no way could this be dative or ablative, which would be ferenti.


In the singular; I was talking about the plural.  This whole discussion is amusing me; we seem to be talking past each other, whereas we basically agree about everything!
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Posted: 11 November 2011 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Doh! Of course it should be plural.

Now I see what you’re getting at. The dativ/ablative plural ferentiis can be syncopated to ferentis. But that doesn’t mean the genitive is wrong metrically. The final syllable could be long or short.

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Posted: 11 November 2011 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Doh! Of course it should be plural.

Now I see what you’re getting at. The dativ/ablative plural ferentiis can be syncopated to ferentis. But that doesn’t mean the genitive is wrong metrically. The final syllable could be long or short.

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