Workbook of Latin Grammar

Adverbial participles and the ablative absolute

The majority of participles in Latin, particularly in prose, should be understood to perform an adverbial function. This is to say, they serve to situate or contextualize the action expressed the primary verb in the clause.

With this in view, many instances of the participle which might first appear to be attributive are best taken adverbially. Platō scrībēns mortuus est is not best rendered, “Plato, who was writing, died” but instead, “While he was writing, Plato died”. Likewise, Rēmus ictus in turbā cecidit is not best translated, “Remus, struck, fell in the commotion” but, “Remus was struck and fell in the commotion.”

The most common types of adverbial participles include: coordinating, circumstantial, temporal, causal, and concessive. The exact force of the participle can only be determined by referencing the broader context in which is found. Even after fully understanding the context, however, sometimes multiple interpretations may seem equally suitable.

While adverbial participles do not always need to be translated with a separate clause in English, it is a useful way to highlight the adverbial force of the participle. As such, all adverbial participles will be translated as a separate clause in this assignment.

Like adjectival participles, adverbial participles express a time relative to the primary verb of the clause.

A participle, often a perfect participle, may be coordinating and express an action which is immediately prior or practically simultaneous to the action of the primary verb in the clause. The coordinating participle is often translated with the conjunction “and”.

Urbs condīta nōmine conditōris appellāta est.

“The city was founded and called by the name of it’s founder.”

Ab urbe profectus in citeriōre ripā Aniēnis castra posuit.

“He set out from the city and placed his camps on the far bank of the Anio.”

Sometimes participle with a coordinating effect will be attached to a word other than the subject. In such instances, the participle is often best translated as an action performed by the subject.

Cerēs ad audītās vōcēs stupuit. “Ceres heard the words and was astounded at them.”

Aeole, obrue submersās puppēs. “Aeolus, sink and destroy his ships.”

A participle may be circumstantial, indicating the occasion correllating with or prompting the the action of the primary verb. It may be best translated into English with the conjunctions “while”, “when”, or “once”.

Haec agentī portentum terribile vīsum est.

“A terrible portent appeared to him while he was doing these things”

Nec sōl nec pluviae nivem iactam resolvunt.

“Neither the sun nor the rain melts the snow, once it has fallen.”

Ōrātor irātus aliquandō melior est.

“The orator is sometimes better when he is upset.”

A participle may be temporal, establishing the time relative to when the action of the primary verb occurs. A present tense temporal participle is usually translated with the conjunctions “when” or “while”.

Scīpiō obsidiōnem sine certāmine adveniēns solvit.

When Scipio arrived, he dissolved the seige without a struggle.

A perfect tense temporal participle is usually translated with the conjunction “after”.

Repulsī ab equitātū sē in silvās abdidērunt.

After they were repelled by the cavalry, they hid themselves in the woods.”

A future tense temporal participle is usually translated with the conjunction “before”.

Amīcōs in peregrīnātiōnem exitūrī saepe relīquimus.

“We have often left friends behind before we go on a long journey.”

A participle may be causal, expressing the reason why the action of the primary verb of the clause occurred. Conversely, a participle may be concessive, expressing a reason which might have prevented the action of the primary verb of the clause. A causal participle is usually translated with the conjunctions “because” or “since” whereas a concessive participle is often translated with the conjunctions “though” or “although”.

Oppidānī obsessī externa auxilia nōn habēbant.

Because they were beseiged, the townspeople had no external assistance.”

Numquam virtūs sē contenta vitiō adiuvanda est.

Since virtue is self-satisfied, it never needs to be aided by vice.”

Eum esse salvum haec cōnfitentem volunt.

Although he admits these things, they wish for him to be safe.”

Īrātī quīdam sē continent.

“Certain people, though they have been angered, restrain themselves.”

The term ablative absolute refers to a construction which establishes context by attaching a participle to an ablative noun inserted into the sentence solely as part of this construction. This ablative noun expresses either the performer of the action of an active participle or the recipient of the action of a passive participle. An ablative absolute may express any of the possible contexts expressed by an adverbial participle.

Nūllīs prohibentibus in tuā aulā rēgnant.

Since none stand in the way, they reign in your court.”

Omnibus impensīs nihil āctum est.

Although all things have been furnished, nothing has been accomplished.”

Tubā audītā mīles ad arma concitāvit.

Once the warhorn was heard, the soldier rushed to his arms.”

When a present participle functions as an adverbial participle in the ablative singular, the ending is usually -e (ie. dūcente, agente).

Paulinā meā retinente exīre persevērāvī.

Although my Paulina detained me, I insisted on going out.”

Sometimes an ablative absolute contains an implied participle of the verb sum (which only has a future active participle form). The construction contains two ablatives, in which one ablative is the subject of the implied participle of sum. A second ablative, either a noun or an adjective, is a predicate ablative, and is identical to the predicate nominative or predicate accusative in its function.

Magnum frūctum hārum rērum rē pūblicā salvā tulī.

“I obtained a large reward for these things while the Republic was unharmed.”

Valerio Āsiāticō cōnsule iterum accīdit.

“It happened again when Valerius Asiaticus was consul.”

Some additional notes

An adverbial participle may have a conditional effect when the occurrence of the action of the primary verb of the clause is logically dependant on the action of the participle. A conditional participle is best translated into English with the conjunction “if”.

Victae cēdite fonte Medūsaeo.

If defeated, depart from the font of Medusa."

A future active participle may function adverbially to express purpose.

Cornēlius ad castra hostium vēnit nūllam moram dīmicandī factūrus.

“Cornelius came to the camps of the enemy in order to make no delay in fighting.”

Participles may be found after verbs of perceiving in place of an indirect statement. This construction expresses the things actually perceived rather than the information gained from the perception.

Colōnī vīdērunt vesperā serpentem ē pāstū redeuntem.

“Farmers have seen a dragon returning from the pasture at night.”

A noun paired with a participle may sometimes perform the same function otherwise expressed by a noun clause.

Classis cōnspecta cōnsulī spem fēcit.

That the fleet was seen brought about hope for the Consul.”

or “The sight of the fleet brought about hope for the Consul.”

Activity 1

Translate the following sentences into English while conveying the underlined participle with a clause of the type indicated in parentheses.

Sample: Cupiditāte glōriae adductus vōs in perīculum dēdūxī. (causal)

Answer: Because I was incited by a desire for glory, I led you into danger.

SampleScrībēns haec dīxī, “Ī, fēlīx littera!” (circumstantial)

Answer: While writing these things, I said, “Go, happy letter!”

Sample: Scīpiō Āfricānus captam urbem dēlēvit. (coordinating)

Answer: “Scipio Africanus captured and destroyed the city.”

Accēpī tuās litterās cēnāns. (circumstantial)

Mīlitēs revocātī rediērunt in castra. (causal)

Classis adpulsa ab lītore stābat. (temporal)

Nōmen atque imperium eius absentis timēbant. (concessive)

Haec effāta Dīdō silet. (coordinating)

Illī coāctī sententiam Scīpiōnis sequuntur. (causal)

Hoc oppidum ab Aenēā fugiente ā Troiā conditum est. (temporal)

Rōmānī grātulantēs Horatium accipiunt. (coordinating)

Graecī fessī longō bellō discessērunt. (causal)

Nympha Narcissum per rūra vagantem accēdit. (circumstantial)

Lacrimae nihil prōfutūrae cadunt. (concessive)

Nostrī mīlitēs temere hostēs īnsecūtī in locum inīquum prōgrediuntur. (causal)

Cōnsul mortiferō vulnere īctus cecidit. (temporal)

Ille prīmus respōnsum mihi petentī dedit. (circumstantial)

Rōmānī pulsōs hostēs in castra persequuntur. (coordinating)

Activity 2

Translate the underlined phrases into an ablative absolute construction using the vocabulary provided.

Sample: Since no one came, Narcissus spoke out again. (nūllus, veniō)

Answer: nūllō veniente

Sample: There were various opinions when we were boys. (nōs, puer)

Answer: nōbīs puerīs

Sample: Since you were urging, I returned to these studies. (tū, hortor)

Answer: tē hortante

After the sign was given, the army rushed to arms. (sīgnum, )

Because the cavalry (s.) had been seen from far off, they quit their journey. (equitātus, videō)

While my father was alive, I married. (pater, vīvus)

Once these matters were known, I did not delay. (rēs, cōgnōscō)

After the ships were joined, he ordered that a bridge be made. (nāvis, iungō)

Although everyone objected, this came to pass. (omnis, recūsō)

After the matter was announced, Caesar sent his cavalry from the camp. (rēs, nūntiō)

Although I disagreed, they thought you were the best. (ego, dissentiō)

Once the sun had risen, the enemy entered the valley. (sōl, orior)

When the tide diminishes, the ships would be buffeted against the shoals. (aestus, minuō)

After his legion was handed over, Varro came to Caesar at Corduba. (legiō, trādō)

Although we are silent, these laws condemn you. (nōs, taceō)

While all other pleasures were spurned, I devoted myself to these studies. (voluptās, spernō)

When I was consul, I did not allow men to exercise their plots against the Republic. (ego, cōnsul)

Since none are keeping guard, they rob the fields of wealth. (nūllus, tueor)

Simple Sentences

Translate the following sentences using grammar from this assignment.

Haec dictāvī ambulāns.

Illī flōrente rē pūblicā flōruērunt.

Mūsa vocāta hīc nōn venit.

Flēns ad pedēs imperātōris prōcubuit.

Līctōrēs illōs fugientēs comprehendunt.

Saepe aliquod verbum mūtāre cupiēns relīquī.

Vēnio moritūrus et haec dōna tibi portō.

Verba mihi conanti dicere aliquid desunt.

Vīctī praesentī metū in deditiōnem concessērunt.

Hās rēs Cicerōne cōnsule omnēs bonī prō commūnī salūte gessērunt.

Examples in Context

Translate the following modified examples.

n) Context for the sentence(s)

Modified example sentence(s)

[grammatical and contextual notes, if any]

1) Ovid warns those reading that it is impossible to keep out the adulterer.

Omnibus exclūsīs adulter intus erit.

2) After tricking and wounding the enemy commander, Fabius Pelignus is killed.

Fabius ā proximīs mīlitibus circumventus interficitur.

3) Cicero, while travelling to his governorship in Cilicia, writes to Cato at Rome.

Velim mē absentem dīligās et dēfendās.

[velim, potential subjunctive “I would like” (see Assignment 8); dīligās et dēfendās, subjunctives expressing the content of the wish, as often with volō]

4) Caesar marches his army throughout the night toward the camps of Vercingetorix.

Illīs rēbus cognitīs mediā nocte prōfectus ad hostium castra māne pervēnit.

[māne, “in the morning”]

5) Auspices confirm Numa as the second king of Rome.

Illīs auspiciīs missīs dēclārātus rēx Numa dē templō dēscendit.

[dēclārātus rēx, “declared king”]

6) A monstrous snake from the sea arrives and attacks Laocoon and his two sons.

Serpēns amplexus corpora nātōrum implicat et miserōs artūs morsū dēpascitur.

[amplexus, participle from amplector; dēpascitur, from depascor; morsū, abl. means]

7) Agave, in a Bacchic craze, displays the severed head of her son Pentheus.

Agāvē conplexa caput clāmat, “Iō comitēs, hoc opus victōria nostra est.”

[Iō, an interjection, perhaps “look!” or “huzzah!”; victōria, nom. predicate]

8) Tiberius is described as he delivers a panegyric about his deceased son to the Roman people.

Flente populō Rōmānō Tiberius Caesar nōn flexit vultum.

[flexit vultum, “soften one’s expression” or “show emotion”]

9) Creusa has just pleaded with Aeneas not to go back into the city to fight and die alone.

Creūsa vōciferāns tālia gemitū omne tēctum replēbat.

[tēctum, here “house”]

10) The ghost of Creusa addresses Aeneas a final time and departs.

Creūsa mē lacrimantem et dīcere multa volentem dēseruit tenuēsque in aurās recēssit.

[dēseruit, “abandon”]

11) Cicero gives an example of the slander he has suffered from Antony.

Ausus es dīcere clīvum Capitōlīnum mē cōnsule plēnum servōrum armātōrum fuisse.

[armātōrum, an attributive participle or simply an adjective, “armed”]

12) Seneca lists the ways we waste our time.

Magna pars vītae ēlābitur nōbīs male agentibus, maxima nihil agentibus, tota vīta aliud agentibus.

[nōbīs, dative of reference “for”; maxima, supply pars vītae; aliud, “something else” ie. other than pursuing moral virtue]

13) Aeneas begins his recollection of the end of the Trojan War.

Annīs tot iam lābentibus ductorēs Danaum fractī bellō et fātīs repulsī equum aedificant.

[tot, “so many”; lābentibus, present participle, but perhaps best translated with “after”; Danaum, “Danaans” one of various appellations for the Greeks found in Homer]

14) While he works his farm, Cincinnatus receives news that he has been elected dictator and asks his wife Racilia to retrieve his toga.

Abstersō pulvere ac sūdōre vēlātus togā prōcessit. Legātī grātulantēs dictātōrem eum cōnsalūtant et in urbem vocant.

[sūdōre, supply abstersō; Vēlātus, “dressed”; cōnsalūtant, “to salute X as Y” where both X and Y are accusatives]

15) Caesar’s forces have broken the blockade at Brundisium and prepare to join him in Greece.

Illī ipsīs mīlitibus multum hortantibus et nūllum perīculum prō salūte Caesaris recūsantibus nactī austrum nāvēs solvunt.

[Illī, Caesar’s army; nactī, from nancīscor here “receive”; austrum, the south wind, required here for sailing; nāvēs solvunt, “set sail”]