In the famous line from the Aeneid "Quidquid id est, timeo danaos et dona ferentis", why is ferentis in the genitive?
January 7, 2005 10:03 AM   Subscribe

[Language(hat)Filter] In the famous line from the Aeneid "Quidquid id est, timeo danaos et dona ferentis", why is ferentis in the genitive? [plus intus]

This all started when I ran across it in Wikipedia in the Laocoon entry. The whole line is rather easy to translate (even for a first year student), but I was stuck on ferentis. Putting the search in Google has it suggest ferentes, which makes more sense to me. However, the online Latin Library says it is ferentis (line 49).

So I'm confused. Is it ferentes, and Wikipedia and the Latin Library are wrong? Or is it ferentis, and if so how does that translate?
posted by sbutler to Writing & Language (9 answers total)
"ferentis" can also be accusative plural.
posted by kenko at 10:13 AM on January 7, 2005

Response by poster: Ummm... it can? My Wheelock says the acc. pl. of a pres. part. is -es. Also, William Whitaker seems to agree with me.
posted by sbutler at 10:17 AM on January 7, 2005

Response by poster: Okay, I see what you're saying now. You would decline is like an i-stem adj, in which case the -is ending was just being phased out when Virigil wrote this. I can accept that answer.
posted by sbutler at 10:34 AM on January 7, 2005

I-stems stink. If you're going into english, just try to parse the stem into the rest of the sentence where it makes the most sense and assume case from that.

If you're translating into Latin, it's probably going to be wrong, so put down your first guess and don't waste any time on it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:34 PM on January 7, 2005

If I recall correctly, Vergil basically standardizes on -is as the 3rd declension accusative plural ending. I think this is a poetic thing, though, sbutler, and not that it was current when he was writing but not later. Remember, the Latin you learn in school is defined by the usage of Vergil, his contemporaries in the early Principate, and immediate predecessors (Cicero, Caesar, et al.) in the late Republic.
posted by rustcellar at 1:39 PM on January 7, 2005

Also (not that the Classics worlds needs more students crippled, like me, by years of use of Perseus), the Latin Morphological Analysis page will tell you when a form has (like ferentis) multiple possible interpretations.
posted by rustcellar at 1:44 PM on January 7, 2005

Response by poster: rustcellar: pretty much. What I learned of Latin I learned from Whitaker. The reason I missed the -is ending is because he only mentions it in two footnotes in the appropriate chapters.

IIRC (I don't have it in front of me right now) he said something to the effect that this ending on i-stems was no longer used by the late Augustan period. Thus, it didn't appear in my book and that is also why I was unfamiliar with it.

I am certainly going to have to bookmark that morphological analysis page. That's cool.
posted by sbutler at 2:10 PM on January 7, 2005

I must say that posts like this make me adore
posted by u.n. owen at 2:48 PM on January 7, 2005

Another thing to point out is that the i in the accusative plural is long, and that in the genitive singular is short.
posted by oaf at 5:37 PM on January 8, 2005

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