An Infinitive Story

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today, as promised, we’ll look at a story from Lectiō XXV of Cursus Prīmus, in which we see a great amount of ōrātiō oblīqua with present infinitives. The setting is Herculaneum, in mid-August A.D. 79, about 8 years after the time when Lectiōnēs I-XXI are set.  So Lucius, Caius, and Cnaeus are now about 16 years old … young men in the eyes of Roman law … and their sisters are all married, in many cases with children of their own. Lectiōnēs XXV-XXVII will explore the eruption, including the fates of characters who live and who perish in the disaster.  Of course, some of our animal friends are no longer among the living … but Ridiculus the mouse has some lineal descendants who continue to occupy the “cēnāculum” in Valerius’ house. 🙂

Today’s story focuses on Caelius and Cnaeus; other stories in the Lectiō will feature Caius, Lucius, their old teacher Fabius, and poor old Flavius Caeso, who has (unfortunately) gone to Pompeii for a few days on business (!) with his new mustēla, Livia.  As this story opens, our friends are a bit worried about what seems to be going on up on Mt. Vesuvius….

Caelius sollicitus prope larārium stat et dīs parentibus precēs effundit. “quid mihi suādētis, ō dī parentēs?” rogat. “heri, cum per agrōs ambulābam, subitō vīdī fumum flammāsque ē summō monte ascendere! hodiē māne, quandō istum Cnaeum vituperābam, subitō sēnsī terrās vehementer tremere! quid facere dēbeō, mī pater? quid mihi suādēs, mī ave carissime?” Caelius trīstis et sollicitus prope larārium manet.

in vīllā proximā, Caelia Prīma quoque sollicita cum marītō suō colloquium habet. “mī Flavī,” inquit, “nōnne sentiēbās terrās vehementer tremere? nōnne flammās fūmumque ē summō monte ascendere etiam nunc vidēs?” Flavius sollicitus Prīmae respondit, “uxor mea, nōnne nōs decet ab hāc vīllā paucōs diēs abīre? nōnne nōs decet sorōrem tuam marītumque eius in urbe Neāpolī vīsitāre?” Prīma celeriter cōnsentit. paucīs post hōrīs Prīma Flaviusque cum īnfante suō ad urbem Neāpolim contendunt, Secundam Aeliumque vīsitātum. servī tamen perterritī in vīllā manent. Flavius enim, “vōbīs necesse est,” inquit, “hīc manēre et vīllam custōdīre. nōnne facile est furibus lātrōnibusque vīllās vacuās intrāre? vōs enim istōs hominēs ā vīllā arcēre potestis.”

intereā Caelius iam prope larārium stat. “ō dī,” iterum iterumque exclāmat, “quaesō, dī mānēs, nōs adiuvāte! quaesō, mihi cōnsilium praebēte!” imāginēs māiōrum tamen tacitī et immōtī in mūrō ātriī pendent.

subitō Caelius “vae! heu!” audit et īrātus sē ad iānuam vertit. per agrōs currit Cnaeus, fīlius Caeliī sēdecim annōs nātus. “vae! heu!” identidem exclāmat ille, “ubi est iste servus neglegentissimus? nōnne intellegit mē vehementer ēsurīre? nōnne cognōvit mē servōs negelegentēs semper crūciāre?”

Caelius attonitus, “mī fīlī,” rogat, “cūr servōs ita castīgās? quis erat neglegēns?” et Cnaeus īrātissimus, “mī pater, nōnne servōs oportet aquam trahere? cum tamen ad fontem prōcessī, nihil aquae aderat. fōns vacuus erat! nōnne mē oportet istōs servōs crūciāre?”

Caelius, “tacē, mī fīlī, et mihi rem mōnstrā!” exclāmat. tum pater fīliusque per agrōs contendunt. Caelius ipse videt nihil aquae in fonte stāre. tum ad montem oculōs vertit et multum fumī ē summō monte ascendere videt. Caeliusque Cnaeusque subitō sentiunt terrās vehementissimē tremere. “heu! vae!” exclāmant ambō, “dī magnī, nōs servāte, quod maximam pietātem semper ostendimus!” Cnaeus agnum, Caelius vīnum quaerit. servī attonitī vident āram maximam ā dominīs in agrīs aedificārī, sacrificium splendidum dīs īnferīs offerrī. tum Caelius cum Vipsāniā Cnaeōque ē vīllā celerrimē effugit. “quō contendere dēbēmus, mī pater?” rogat Cnaeus. “nōnne melius est nōbīs urbem Pompēiōs petere, quod iter brevius est?”

“mī fīlī stultissime,” clāmat Caelius perterritus, “breve est iter, sed necesse est trāns istum montem iter facere! istī montī appropinquāre haudquāquam volō! longius est iter ad urbem Neāpolim, sed tūtius, quod istum montem vītāre possumus.”

Cnaeus “vae, heu, mē taedet itinerum,” respondet, sed celeriter per viās prōcēdit.  servī in vīllā perterritī precēs et vōta dīs omnibus offerunt.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • First, how do you like the story … as a story?
  • How do you respond to the characters and situation?
    • If you’ve read the previous stories in which Cnaeus appears (a much younger Cnaeus – he’s 8 in those stories and 15 or 16 in this one), do you find his character consistent?
    • For purposes of future stories – and of historical accuracy – how many of our characters do you think should survive?
  • Second, how do you like the incorporation of ōrātiō oblīqua?
    • Does it fit naturally? Does it illustrate the concept, as developed in yesterday’s post, without “beating the learner over the head” with the new material?
    • Do you find enough examples, too many, or not enough?
    • If the number is wrong, where would you suggest that we add … or subtract?
  • And would you like to see the story that practices ōrātiō oblīqua with perfect-tense infinitives?

Tune in next time for a series of posts in which we explore the editing and revision process for user-contributed stories. Our subscriber David H has provided a pair of interesting, exciting, but slightly imperfect stories, and (with his generous permission!) we’ll take a look at the editing process that such stories will undergo in the Tres Columnae system. When we’re done, you’ll have a greater understanding of the time commitment involved (both for the editor and for the contributor), and we hope you’ll see why an editing charge will be necessary.

In the meantime, grātiās maximās omnibus legentibus! I truly appreciate you for continuing to read the blog, visit the site, and be part of the Tres Columnae family! 🙂

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. In order: I like the story. I don’t know the characters in depth yet, but their actions certainly seem credible. It is also in line with the archaeological evidence, since whether the characters survive or die on their way to Naples, they will not provide bodies to be uncovered. i suppose that at least one major character should be killed off, considering the magnitude of the disaster.
    In terms of oratio obliqua, it all fitted very well and naturally in the story, and seemed to be in good quantities. The only examples that I found noticeable were those using the present passive infinitive towards the end; it felt as though they were just there to provide an example. Could someone earlier comment, along the lines of Pliny, that they saw “omnia non moveri sed verti”?
    And I’m looking forward to the story with the perfect tense infinitives.

    • Claire,
      Thanks so much for your perspective. I’m glad you found the actions credible! As you might imagine, Caelius and Cnaeus aren’t quite such exempla pietātis as they claim to be … but disasters do tend to produce a lot of prayer even among non-regular pray-ers! 🙂

      You’re quite right about those passive infinitives; they need more justification, and something like Pliny’s description would work very well. I imagine the feeling was much worse in Herculaneum (and on the slopes of Vesuvius, where Caelius’ farm is located in our stories!) than across the bay.

      You’ll see that perfect-infinitive story early next week if all goes well.


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