Archives for: November 2009, 11

11/11/09

Permalink 10:03:24 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 291 words, 2911 views   English (US)
Categories: Augustine's Confessions

Difficultas omnino ediscendae linguae peregrinae

In a passage that always makes Latin students smile, Augustine admits the problems he had learning Greek in school:

Videlicet difficultas, difficultas omnino ediscendae linguae peregrinae, quasi felle aspergebat omnes suavitates Graecas fabulosarum narrationum. Nulla enim verba illa noveram, et saevis terroribus ac poenis ut nossem instabatur mihi vehementer. (I.14.23)

quasi felle - “as if with vinegar” seems to be a simile for difficultas - “difficulty". So why then is felle ablative? Because quasi is used to introduce a similarity of action, not things; if Augustine were directly comparing difficultas with fel, he would have a parenthetical sicut fel. Instead he’s saying the difficulty was such that it was “as if it sprinkled all the charms of celebrated Greek stories with vinegar.” Note also the transferred epithet Graecas, a word which grammatically belongs to suavitates but more naturally describes narrationum.

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Qui sciet quae quoque sint modo dicenda, nisi tamen in procinctu paratamque ad omnis casus habuerit eloquentiam, velut clausis thesauris incubabit.

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