Pinkster, Harm (1942-) [1990], Latin Syntax and Semantics [info], xii, 320 p.: ill.; 24 cm. [word count] [Pinkster].
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11.3. The role of the indicative of the various tenses in narrative texts

Above the function of imperfect and perfect in the Latin verbal system has been described. In this section I address the question of how these two verb forms are used in narrative texts. Of the (historic) present, which, as I have already remarked above, cannot be used indiscriminately in all predications

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that refer to the past, I will determine which of the real past tenses (imperfect and perfect) it can, as it were, replace. I briefly discuss the pluperfect. Finally I say something about the so-called historic infinitive.

11.3.1 Imperfect and perfect as background and foreground tenses

`Perfecto procedit, imperfecto insistit oratio' (`In the perfect the text moves on, in the imperfect it stands still'). The use of the perfect as the tense for successive actions in the foreground and of the imperfect as the tense for accompanying circumstances in the background has long been recognized for Latin, and has parallels in many languages. [34] The use of the imperfect as a background tense is a result of its value, viz. to characterize a predication as taking place at and contemporaneous with a certain moment in the past. Predications marked by the imperfect thus constitute the framework within which other events and situations occur. In contexts in which one or more predications in the imperfect are followed by a predication in the perfect the latter will be interpreted as the incident that takes place in a situation in the past (see example (68a)), just as a cum-clause in the so-called cum-inversum construction is the incident (see example (68b)):

(68a) tantos illa suo rumpebat pectore questus: / Aeneas celsa in puppi iam certus eundi/carpebat [35] somnos rebus iam rite paratis. / huic se forma dei … obtulit (`Such were the wails that kept bursting from her heart. But Aeneas, now that he was resolved on going, was snatching sleep on his vessel's high stern, all having been duly prepared. To him there appeared the vision of a god …', Verg. A. 4.553–7)

(68b) iamque hoc facere noctu apparabant cum matres familiae repente in publicum procurrerunt flentesque proiectae ad pedes suorum omnibus precibus petierunt ne … (`And they were already doing this at night, when the wives suddenly came running out into the open and, lying weeping at the feet of their relatives, implored them with prayers not to …', Caes. Gal. 7.26.3)

(68c) tantus repente terror invasit, ut, cum Lentulus consul ad aperiendum aerarium venisset …, protinus … profugeret. Caesar enim adventare iam iamque et adesse eius equites falso nuntiabantur (`Such a panic suddenly seized them that when the consul Lentulus came to open the treasury he fled immediately. For it had incorrectly been reported that Caesar was approaching and that his cavalry had already arrived', Caes. Civ. 1.14.1)

The relations between (a) preceding predication(s) in the imperfect and (a) following predication(s) in the perfect are often indicated explicitly, e.g. with connectors such as igitur, ergo (`therefore'). In contexts where the order is reversed, so first a perfect and then one or more imperfects, the predication in

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the imperfect will often be interpreted as offering additional information or a motive. [36] This can be made explicit by connectors such as nam, enim (`for'), e.g. example (68c). The relation between a predication in the imperfect preceding or following a predication in the perfect may also be compared with the relation between a `participium coniunctum' or ablative absolute construction with a present participle and a main predication (in the perfect).

A predication in the perfect refers to an event or situation which is presented by the speaker, from his situation, as `ended', anterior. If the context does not contain any further information, a series of predications will be interpreted as referring to events that have occurred successively (without overlapping one another). See example (50):

(50) Orgetorix … suam familiam … coegit et omnes clientes … conduxit. per eos … se eripuit (`O. gathered all his retainers and assembled all his clients. Thanks to them he escaped from …', Caes. Gal. 1.4.2)

In a series of predications in the imperfect, however, the predications can overlap; as a rule, they are not intended as successive, e.g. example (69):

(69) (Caesar) Aeduos … in dicione videbat Germanorum teneri eorumque obsides esse apud Ariovistum … intellegebat; quod … turpissimum … arbitrabatur … Germanos consuescere Rhenum transire … videbat. Neque sibi homines … barbaros … temperaturos existimabat quin …; quibus rebus quam maturrime occurrendum putabat (`He could see that the Aedui were fast bound in subjection to the Germans and he was aware that their hostages were with Ariovistus. This he deemed to be an utter disgrace. He could see that the Germans were becoming gradually accustomed to cross the Rhine. Nor did he suppose that the barbarians would stop. All this, he felt, must be faced without a moment's delay', Caes. Gal. 1.33.2–4)

We can justifiably suppose that non-successive events or situations–unless the context offers special information–must be expressed in the imperfect, e.g. (70):

(70) (Mercurius) hinc toto praeceps se corpore ad undas / misit avi similis, quae circum litora, circum / piscosos scopulos humilis volat aequora iuxta / haud aliter terras inter caelumque volabat / litus harenosum ad Lybiae, ventosque secabat / (`Hence with his whole frame Mercury sped sheer down to the waves like a bird, which round the shores, round the fish-haunted cliffs, flies low near to the waters. Even thus between earth and sky flew Cyllene's nursling to Libya's sandy shore and cut the winds', Verg. A. 4.253–7)

Volabat in (70) does not follow upon se misit; it is a specification of the way in which Mercury was flying, rather than a factual statement that he was flying.

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It is the function of the imperfect to characterize a predication as `going on in the past'. If a story or an episode begins with one or more imperfects, the reader expects certain actions to take place within the framework thus created. The imperfect is, therefore, a very suitable beginning for a fairy - tale, as in (71):

(71) erant in quadam civitate rex et regina (`In a certain city there were a King and a Queen', Apul. Met. 4.28)

Conversely, the imperfect may also be impossible, e.g. (72)–(73):

(72) Samia mihi mater fuit; ea habitabat Rhodi (`My mother came from Samos; she lived on Rhodes', Ter. Eu. 107)

(73) apud Helvetios longe nobilissimus fuit et ditissimus Orgetorix (`Among the Helvetians the noblest man by far and the most wealthy was Orgetorix', Caes. Gal. 1.2.1)

It would be strange, and at any rate something completely different, to begin (72) with `once upon a time I had a mother from Samos', and in (73) to say that at a certain moment Orgetorix, who has not yet been mentioned, was the most wealthy man; in both cases, the reader would want to know: `what happened then?'

It goes without saying that instances in which one of the two verb forms is impossible give important information as to the specific value of each form. Further research is required on this point.

11.3.2 Historic present

The historic present predominantly occurs in predications where a perfect would also have been possible, i.e. in successive, `ended' events and situations. An example is (74):

(74) Caesari cum id nuntiatum esset … maturat ab urbe proficisci et quam maximis potest itineribus in Galliam ulteriorem contendit et ad Genavam pervenit. provinciae toti quam maximum potest militum numerum imperat (`When this had been reported to Caesar, he hurriedly left the city and marched to Gallia ulterior, covering as much distance as possible each day, and reached Genava. He ordered the province as a whole to provide as many soldiers as possible (there was in Gallia ulterior only one legion altogether); he ordered that the bridge near Genava be destroyed', Caes. Gal. 1.7.1–2)

We see in this passage a mixture of explicit past tense forms and present tense forms, so that there can be no doubt as to the location in the past. Note in particular the form nuntiatum esset, which can only be understood as anterior to a moment in the past. The following maturat cannot, therefore, but be interpreted as referring to the past. The actions in the present are successive.

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None of them can sensibly be interpreted as the background to other actions in this text.

It would, however, be incorrect to assume that the historic present can only `replace' the perfect, see example (75):

(75) totis trepidatur castris, atque alius ex alio causam tumultus quaerit (`There was confusion throughout the camp, and one sought from another the cause of the uproar', Caes. Gal. 6.37.6)

Here non-successive actions are concerned. The imperfect is not uncommon in passages of this kind. In, for example, Virgil whole episodes (both foreground and background) are often transposed [37] to the present, e.g. the passage Verg. A. 4.54–90:

(76) his dictis impenso animum flammavit amore
spemque dedit dubiae menti solvitque pudorem. 55

principio delubra adeunt pacemque per aras
exquirunt; mactant lectas de more bidentis
legiferae Cereri Phoeboque patrique Lyaeo,
Iunoni ante omnis, cui vincla iugalia curae.

ipsa tenens dextra pateram pulcherrima Dido 60
candentis vaccae media inter cornua fundit,
aut ante ora deum pinguis spatiatur ad aras,
instauratque diem donis, pecudumque reclusis
pectoribus inhians spirantia consulit exta.

heu, vatum ignarae mentes! quid vota furentem, 65
quid delubra iuvant? est mollis flamma medullas
interea et tacitum vivit sub pectore vulnus.
uritur infelix Dido totaque vagatur
urbe furens, qualis coniecta cerva sagitta,
quam procul incautam nemora inter Cresia fixit 70

pastor agens telis liquitque volatile ferrum
nescius: illa fuga silvas saltusque peragrat
Dictaeos; haeret lateri letalis harundo.
nunc media Aenean secum per moenia ducit
Sidoniasque ostentat opes urbemque paratam, 75

incipit effari mediaque in voce resistit;
nunc eadem labente die convivia quaerit,
Iliacosque iterum demens audire labores
exposcit pendetque iterum narrantis ab ore.
post ubi digressi, lumenque obscura vicissim 80

luna premit suadentque cadentia sidera somnos,
sola domo maeret vacua stratisque relictis
incubat. illum absens absentem auditque videtque.
aut gremio Ascanium genitoris imagine capta
detinet, infandum si fallere possit amorem. 85

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non coeptae adsurgunt turres, non arma iuventus
exercet portusve aut propugnacula bello
tuta parant: pendent opera interrupta minaeque
murorum ingentes aequataque machina caelo.
quam simul ac tali persensit peste teneri … 90

While at the beginning of the passage (which is introduced by forms of the perfect) adeunt and exquirunt must almost be successive, this is not the case with est, vivit, uritur in 66–8.

11.3.3 Pluperfect

The pluperfect is used to characterize predications as anterior to a moment in the past, regardless of whether this moment in the past has been created by an imperfect, a perfect or a historic present (or historic infinitive).

11.3.4 Historic infinitive

The historic infinitive is used in narrative texts or passages, predominantly in predications where an imperfect could have been used. Like the imperfect, the historic infinitive is often used with non-terminative (non-momentaneous) states of affairs. This is, however, not always the case (Sz. 367). See (77) and (78), where we see a difference between the imperfect and the historic infinitive:

(77) venit Chremes postridie ad me clamitans: indignum facinĂș; comperisse Pamphilum pro uxore habere hanc peregrinam. ego illud sedulo negare factum. ille instat factum. denique ita tum discedo ab illo, ut … (`The next day comes Chremes full of complaint: a shocking affair! He had found out that Pamphilus regarded this foreign person as his wife. I zealously denied it, he insisted it was so. Finally we parted in a manner …', Ter. An. 144–8)

(78) Romanus promissa consulis … expectabat, cum Appius … ius …dicere (`The Romans were looking for the help which the consuls had promised, when Appius began to pronounce judgment …', Liv. 2.27.1)

In (77) no difference can be discerned between negare and the following present instat. In (78) the clause with the infinitive constitutes the incident that occurs within the framework of the situation created by the imperfect expectabat. We also find the historic infinitive after expressions that are typically associated with the perfect, such as tum vero, hinc (`subsequently'), etc. [38]

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Pinkster, Harm (1942-) [1990], Latin Syntax and Semantics [info], xii, 320 p.: ill.; 24 cm. [word count] [Pinkster].
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