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About the syntactic irregularities of second part of the edict hypothesized by Fraenkel



We believe that the bronze table found in Tiriolo in 1640 is an original copy of an edict of consuls about Bacchanals. This thesis is confirmed by authoritative scholars (Kupfer, «Glotta»», LXXX, 2004, pp. 158-160; Lavency, La proposition relative, Paris 1998, p. 62).

In the preamble (ll. 1-3) the consuls communicate the procedure followed and the identification data of the senatus consultum which is the basis of their edictum. In following lines (3-22) follow the various requirements recommended by the Senate that the consuls transpose into their edict and make them enforceable. Some are reproduced in full by the minutes of the consultum of the Senate, while others are more or less simplified, with omission of data not considered relevant. In the final part (ll. 22-30), the consuls give local authorities the execution orders of the edict.

By line 22 onwards the text seems structured differently from previous lines.

22. … … Haice  utei in conventionid exdeicatis ne minus trinum

23  noundinum, senatuosque sententiam utei scientes esetis, eorum

24. sententia ita fuit : « sei ques esent, quei aruorsum ead fecisent, quam suprad

25. scriptum est, eeis rem caputalem  faciendam censuere ». atque utei

26. hoce in tabolam aheneam inceideretis, ita senatus aiquom censuit,

27. uteique eam figier  ioubeatis ubei facilumed gnoscier potisit, atque

28. utei Bacanalia sei qua sunt, axstrad quam sei quid ibei sacri est

29. ita utei suprad scriptum est, in diebus X quibus uobeis tabelai datai

30. erunt faciatis utei dismota sient. In agro teurano.


That you should publish these measures in public assembly of not less than three consecutive market days and you could know the opinion of the Senate, the opinion of the senators has been as follows : "If there were any persons who acted contrary to what has been written above, they advised that a capital process should be made against them" ; and the senate advised rightly that you should inscribe this on a bronze table and you should order that it be posted where it can be read most easily and, to the extent has been written above, you should cater, within ten days after these tablets have been delivered to you, that the meeting places of the Bacchantes, if there are some, should be dismantled,  unless in the shrine there is something venerable. Published in agro Teurano.

Opinion of Fraenkel

The text is appeared confused and unclear to many and it has led Fraenkel («Hermes», 1932, p. 373) to exclaim: "here we fall from light to dark." He makes a careful critical analysis of text and notes that in the central part (lines 4- 22) everything is impeccable, clear in the account of the facts, secure and accurate in expression of language and believes that can be extended also to all this part the positive judgment on the first phrase (ll. 2-9) expressed by Meillet (Esquisse d’une histoire de la langue latine, Paris, 1966, p. 120):

« La phrase est complexe; elle comprend plusieurs membres bien articulés, sans la moindre gaucherie. La transposition du style direct au subjonctif, sous des formes temporelles commandées non par le sens lui–même, mais par  les formes de la phrase principale, est exécutée avec précision. On observe ici un usage linguistique fixé, mené à maturité grâce à un emploi prolongé dans la langue officielle ».

Instead, in the final part (ll. 22-30), in his opinion, the Latin text is rough and often uncertain. He focuses in particular on its syntactic structure and notes that "in the middle part the consecutio temporum is observed with great care: none of the numerous subjunctives shows irregularities. In the final part instead the present and the imperfect subjunctives alternate merrily with each other: utei ... exdeicatis and joined with –que to this utei scientis esetis, then atque utei ... inceideretis ... uteique ... ioubeatis, ubei ... potisit; atque utei ... faciatis utei dismota sient.” He also notes in that part an impression of relaxation or linguistic carelessness: the relationship of dependence of the discourse a couple of times is not marked: ll. 28 ss. sei qua sunt (contra l. 3 e l. 24: sei ques esent), exstrad quam sei quid… ibei sacri estin diebus x quibus uobeis tabelai datai erunt («Hermes», LXVII, 1932, p. 378). The indicative in indirect discourse is not passed, as usually happens, in the subjunctive. Based primarily on these formal irregularities, he attributes the authorship of this final part to an official of Oscan and Greek language, which, with little experience of the Latin language, would have made ​​mistakes (Fraenkel, «Hermes», 1932, p. 392).

Other opinions

To Fraenkel responds shortly after Keil («Hermes», 1933, p. 311 f.) defending how to adjust the syntactic structure of the last part. In his opinion, "when the consuls instruct the federated of something, use a polite subjunctive present, when the decisions were decided by the Senate, use the imperfect subjunctive." He also cites a bronze tablet of the same period from Tibur, which had engraved a letter from the praetor Lucius Cornelius to the Tiburtini (CIL I² 586). Unfortunately, the table itself has disappeared, so that the date around 158 BC, which is derived from the identification of the praetor Cornelius with the consul of 156, cannot be verified in the form of writing. It has a striking resemblance to our document. For his statements the scholar is then based mainly on the content of the provisions, but does not attempt to justify the form used by the grammatical point of view. He does not mention then the fact that the indicative in indirect discourse in some subordinate clauses is preserved and it has not passed to the subjunctive.

In his wake, Gelzer analyses a number of communications from Roman magistrates to cities of Greece preserved to us in Greek translation. Like the letter to the Tiburtini, they show a close analogy expressive with the document of Tiriolo. He too is convinced that our document has not been at all modified by some local official, since the expressive style is identical to other similar documents of that period.

How difficult is the proof of the reality, in the material we have available, shows the article of Krause («Hermes», 1936, pp. 214-312) appeared before that of   Gelzer. He also believes, like Fraenkel,  that the second part of the inscription was composed by a Bruzian official, but at the same time notes that even this part is built so perfectly logical, even if heavy. Until now in the comment of final part of the inscription there is not a unified opinion.

Dihle («Hermes», 1962, pp. 376-379) sees in every way justified the opinion of Fraenkel on the composition of the text. He also emphasizes the lack of a reasonable structure, the confusion of temporal forms, terminology incorrect. Editing and wording of the last part of the inscription are work, second Dihle, of a local official of the last corner of Italy.

Meyer («ANRW», I 2, 1972, pp. 978-982, n. 51) has subsequently accepted this view and said: “Against attempts to prove that the text of the inscription has been prepared by the consuls, I can repeat that it is a patchwork of the parts of the letter made ​​by local authorities.”

Among those who claim that the inscription reproduces the letter of the consuls, we must underline McDonald («JRS», 1944, pp. 28-32) which expresses his ideas with a wide and careful argumentation and with the bibliography appeared so far. If one considers the scientific discussion, it seems that here is one of those cases that do not allow unique and compelling solutions.

Opinion of Heilmann

Heilmann (AINIGMA, 1987, p. 245 ff.), some years later, notes that it is dangerous, in a text which is unclear, to shore up a plausible apparent clarity with presentations that are born only by historical fantasy, but are not documented at all. He believes it is right to follow the advice of Keil that in front of Fraenkel stated that the understanding of the document “must first be acquired by itself”(«Hermes», LXVIII, 1933, p. 312). Resuming and deepening the opinion of Keil, he thinks that the content and form of the last part of the inscription can be justified in this way:

Order of execution

a Haice utei in conventionid  exdeicatis  ne minus trinum  noundinum

Notification of a decision of the Senate

b senatuosque sententiam utei scientes esetis

eorum sententia ita fuit:                c

sei ques esent …censuere              d

Another decision of the Senate

b atque utei hoce …inceideretis,       d

ita senatus aiquom censuit             c

Order of execution

a Uteique eam figier ioubeatis …

Another order of execution

Atque utei ea Bacanalia …faciatis, utei dismota sient

This summary table shows that not only the measures provided by the consuls and the decisions the Senate are arranged in chiastic form but also that the contents of the two decisions of the Senate are framed by the clear indication that the senate has decided so (eorum sententia ita fuit … ita senatus aiquom censuit). In this way there is another chiastic order. Therefore, speak of work of an officer of Bruzian inexpert of Latin language seems implausible.

Heilmann comes to the conclusion that the speech of the last part is clear and contains no errors. However he analyses the syntactic structure in a generic way without going into details and his analysis is mainly based on the content of prescriptions. He does not mention then, in any way, the other objections of Fraenkel that in two sentences is preserved the indicative while in the indirect discourse would have to go to the subjunctive.

In summary we can say that after Fraenkel has slowly sets the opinion that the last part of the letter is work of consuls and contains no errors, but no one has attempted to analyse in detail the syntactic structure. We will attempt to do just that.

Analysis of syntactic structure

In the complicated and controversial part final the specific character of letter is immediately put in evidence and it is the passage from third person singular to second plural: addressees are no longer the foideratei but the competent authorities for the area. The first directive communicated to them is to make known orally the individual decisions approved by the Senate in the popular assembly of three consecutive markets. Not only the second person plural is conspicuous, but also the present subjunctive depending on a perfect indicative. But if we examine the proposition, by the point of view syntactic we find that it is introduced by utei (= cl. uti) and anticipated in the main clause by correlative ita. It is, therefore, formally a proposition consecutive in which, as is known, the respect of consecutio temporum not is required. In fact, " in the case of the consecutives, already the presence of the subjunctive leaves in the shade the reality of the consequence, and considers it as the content of a thought, as an action conceived by the mind that relates cause and effect: precisely for this reason the chronological reference does not aim so much at the time of the efficient action (cause) as to the time when the subsequent action is thought as such, which is a different time from that.”(Ronconi, Il verbo latino, Firenze 1959, p. 177)

The publication oral of the edict probably was not approved at the meeting of 7 October 186, because the simultaneous publication of a written and oral law was almost certainly a legal rule approved by the Senate in the past, used for a long time and now routine established, for which the consuls did not need further approval of the Senate for its prescription. By Cicero (Phil., 5, 8; Dom., 41; Fam., 16, 12. 3) we know that in his time the oral publication of the laws in three consecutive markets was still in use. Thus the verb is in the present subjunctive because the actual consequence was neither conceived nor desired by the subject of the efficient action (the Senate), only the writers (the consuls) compare the two circumstances to catch a relationship of cause and effect: the chronological reference can apply only at the time when the consuls draw up the edict (Ronconi, Il verbo latino, p. 178).

Soon after is invoked a decision of the Senate (l. 24: “you could know the opinion of the Senate”). It, depending on a perfect indicative, has regularly the verb in the imperfect subjunctive, because the subject of the action efficient (the Senate) not only makes a decision but, at the same time, takes the decision in anticipation of the effect. In this case, "the effect is wanted by the subject of the effective action and the consecutive can be called "consecutive final to which corresponds a rigidly hypotactic structure (which for the grammars means allegiance to the consecutio temporum)" (Ronconi, Il verbo latino, p. 178). This provision does not apply to an order, like the previous one, which must be executed immediately but it has the same value of the provisions of the cult for the future. It is not simply an order of the consuls, but expressly communicates a decision of the Senate (“If there were any persons who acted contrary to what has been written above, they advised that a capital process should be made against them”). The consuls pass from the use of second person plural to the reproduction of the resolution. Local authorities responsible should note the following decision of the Senate because the process to those who would act against the provisions will be operated under their jurisdiction.

Even the next order to affect the text of the edict of a bronze tablet (“and the senate advised rightly that you should inscribe this on a bronze table and you should order that it be posted where it can be read most easily”) on a material that is not perishable is a provision of the Senate, aimed at preservation of the text as long as possible in the future. From the grammatical point of view depending on a perfect indicative is the verb regularly in the imperfect subjunctive as subject of the action efficient (the Senate) not only makes a decision but, at the same time, takes it in anticipation of the effect.

The consuls immediately after notify to local authorities the latter two provisions: the publication written of the document and the destruction of the Bacchanals within ten days from when they received the tablets, except those in which there was something venerable. Note that here the document speaks of the reception of the tablets (tabellae, diminutive of tabula), whereas previously the order was to transcribe the text on a tabola of bronze. How to explain the contradiction between the tablets received and the engraving on a table? If we consider that in legal language two different words never have the same meaning, on this issue, in my opinion, we can only give this logical explanation. The text sent from Rome was written on two or more blocks of wood (There were probably standard tablets that alone were not sufficient to contain all the text). Later in agro Teurano the writing by the tabellae had to be reproduced in a tabola of bronze larger suitable to contain all the text.

This also seems to show that document of Tiriolo has been packaged in Rome and not in agro Teurano, as stated by Fraenkel, where instead there would be only the engraving of the text on the bronze tabula.

Regarding the publication of the edict you apply the same reasoning as for the publication oral.

For the destruction of the unauthorized Bacchanalia we can say that it was certainly approved by the Senate, but not at the meeting of October 7, but almost certainly in the previous one, in which the senators had decided to entrust,  extra ordinem, to the consuls the task to inquire about the Bacchanalian rites and nightlife. This is confirmed twice by Livy. First, when about this first senatus consultum he says that “The consuls were instructed that all the Bacchanals in Rome and throughout Italy were then destroyed, unless there was in it an altar or a statue consecrated” (XXXIX, 18, 7). The second time when the console Postumius, in his address to the people immediately after this session, among other things says: "I thought it best to put you first aware of the situation so that your souls are not surprised by some disturbance in the religious break when you saw torn down the locations of the Bacchanalia and disperse those nefarious covens” (XXXIX, 16). Even in the last two implementing provisions the consuls make executive previous opinions of the Senate, though expressed in other circumstances. The present subjunctive, in these two consecutive, is due to the fact that  are the consuls who, at present, based on decisions of the Senate expressed in the past and on other occasions, give the orders to be executed immediately.

One could argue, at this point, that two or more parallel subordinate clauses should still have the same time, while in the text there is, as Fraenkel says, "the merry alternation of present and imperfect subjunctives." But the asymmetric order - from the syntactic point of view - of phrases or cola is rare in classical Latin, not in the archaic texts, where the search of concinnitas is poorly developed. The phenomenon becomes again quite common in Late Latin. It should also add that the alternation of time in the subordinate coordinates in the subjunctive is more common after ut consecutive, as in our case, and is also used by Cicero (Pro Sulla, 32).

If the implementing orders of the edict, both those expressed in the present and those expressed in the imperfect subjunctive are formally consecutive propositions, when we go to translate them, we cannot deny that the translation is more appropriate if we consider them final clauses.

In my opinion, even the subjunctive of such propositions can be defined as "volitional subjunctive oscillating between sequential value and final" (Traina-Bertotti) and is used too in the central part for the bans. The difference is that in the prohibitions, all wanted by the Senate, of course in all is respected the consecutio temporum, in the final part the consecutio is observed only in the two provisions requested by the senators, while in the other three is used the present subjunctive because the consuls, at present, based on decisions of the Senate expressed in the past and on other occasions, give the orders to be executed immediately.

The non-compliance of the "consecutio temporum", reported by Fraenkel, in the indirect speech with the verb in the indicative present is not outside the norm. The two propositions conditional objective (l. 28: Baccanalia sei qua sunt and sei quid ibei sacri est) are incidental, or at least so they are considered by the consuls. In this case the indicative in the indirect style is preserved and not passes, as generally happens, in the subjunctive (Ernout-Thomas, Syntaxe, p. 425).

. Yet the future indicative in the temporal proposition (ll. 29-30: in diebus x quibus vobeis tabelai datai erunt) is quite normal. In fact, it is preserved in indirect speech, because "especially in the indirect style in a broad sense, the temporal propositions, causal, and so on, have some autonomy and the fact that they enunciate may be considered objectively in itself, in the time. [...] This happens often, when the verb is in future" (Ernout-Thomas, Syntaxe, p. 426).

Conclusions about the syntax of second part

An accurate analysis of the syntax of the last part, in our opinion, shows that:

The syntax errors hypothesized by Frenkel there are no. It is normal both the temporal alternation of present and imperfect subjunctive, and the maintenance of the indicative in the two conditional and temporal propositions in dependence of a subjunctive.

The hypothesis of Keil - Heilmann is acceptable: the present subjunctive is used for the implementing provisions of the consuls, the imperfect for the decisions of the Senate.

We can clarify this hypothesis: The imperfect is used for decisions taken in the Senate meeting on October 7 since the subject of action efficient (the Senate) not only makes the decisions but at the same time makes the decisions in preparation for effect. Then, the effect is desired by the subject of the action efficient and the consecutive can be called" consecutive final. To it corresponds a structure rigidly hypotactic (which means for the grammars adhering to consecutio). The present subjunctive is used for implementing the ordinances of the consuls, since the consuls use decisions of the senators previously taken, however, and for other circumstances. The present result therefore was neither designed nor desired by the subject of the action efficient (the Senate); only the writer (the consuls) compares the two conditions to capture a relationship of cause and effect: the chronological reference may not apply if not at the time of writing.

It is therefore not possible to think that this part of the document, absolutely correct and with stylistic procedures sometimes refined (chiasmus), has been the work of an official of Bruzian with little experience of the Latin language, as Fraenkel thinks. It was certainly the work of the consuls.