Watch this to learn about Indirect Statements (and to appreciate that Rome was built for the victors)
If you visit Rome today you get a sense of the incredible power of the Roman world. The buildings were a monument to their might and their expectation that their empire would last forever. It is an amazing place where you can still feel their power.
Caius Julius Caesar famously wrote to a friend after another military victory, stating only three words: veni, vidi, vici (“I came, I saw, I conquered”).
Ever since, countless historians and scholars have re-quoted this phrase. In doing so, they turn a direct statement from Caesar, into an indirect statement about what Caesar said, and alter the very nature of Caesar’s words.
In Latin, indirect statements are the backbone of literary production in the Classical period.
So let’s try and conquer them.
This is ThinkFour.
The following direct statement, Britanni appropinquant, means: “the Britons are approaching”. What if I wanted to slightly rephrase this sentence with “Caesar says that the Britons are approaching”? Well, this would no longer be a direct, but rather an indirect statement, since the main message is not being conveyed directly, but rather reported.
How does this alter the syntax of a Latin sentence?
“Caesar says that the Britons are approaching” translates to Caesar Britannos appropinquare dicit.
Britannos appropinquare changes drastically from the original Britanni appropinquant. What was originally a nominative (Britanni) changes into an accusative (Britannos) and what was a present indicative (appropinquant) changes to a present infinitive (appropinquare)
The indirect statement is always composed of two elements: the accusative, which becomes the new subject, and the infinitive, which becomes the main verb.
The following sentence presents a main clause (credo, meaning “I believe”) and an indirect statement (Caesarem virum fortem esse). Here, Caesarem virum fortem is our accusative and esse is our verb. So, how do we translate the whole sentence? “I believe that Caesar is a brave man”.
Let’s analyse the following sentence: Caesarem virum fortem fuisse credo
This example replicates almost to the letter the one we have just discussed. Yet, translating it with “I believe that Caesar is a brave man” would be partially incorrect.
If we look at the verb of the indirect statement, we would see that it is no longer conjugated in the present (esse), but in the perfect tense (fuisse).
Therefore, the correct translation of our sentence would be: “I believe that Caesar was a brave man”.
Roman power would have been terrifying if you were on the wrong side. At their height, they truly dominated their world. But they could be delicate too…
They created a linguistic device that stripped away bluntness and the occasional indelicacy of direct speech. They found a way to add to the elegance and sophistication of what we say and write, in Latin and also now in Modern English.
Understanding how to use the indirect statement might not help you conquer the world, but it will help you conquer Higher Latin.
This was thinkfour; thanks for watching.