Aranti Lucio Quinctio Cincinnato nuntiatum est eum dictatorem esse factum.

If you know or study Latin, how hard do you find the above sentence?

Back when I was in High School (in the 1960's), this sentence, taken straight from an ancient Roman history book, appeared in our Latin textbook as an exercise at the end of the chapter on accusative with infinitive.And we were expected to translate it as part of our homework.

I was totally stunned, and finally asked my father (who was a university professor in linguistics) for help but even he could not "crack" it. When I came to the next class, I was relieved that no other student got it.

Probably the problem stemmed from the very first word in the sentence, "aranti". I figured out it was a dative, but of what? I looked up arantus in the dictionary, but it was not there. That's because arantus is not a Latin word.

Our teacher solved the problem for us: It's a verb, aro, arare (meaning I plough, to plough), from which we get arans, i.e., ploughing. That brings us back to the dative, aranti, i.e., to (the) ploughing (one).

Now, the next three words are also in dative and are the name of a 5th Century BCE general and statesman, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus. His last name, Cincinnatus was further confusing me because cincinnatus does appear in the Latin dictionary. It means curly.

Anyway, the sentence is now fairly easy to translate:

  • Aranti Lucio Quinctio Cincinnato = To the ploughing Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus.

  • nuntiatum est = (it) was reported. Yes, was, not is. Even though est by itself means is, when used for the passive mode, it implies past tense.

  • eum dictatorem esse factum. Here we get to the accusative with infinitive:

Now we can translate the whole thing as "To the ploughing Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus it was reported that he was made dictator."

Or, to put it into a more English structure, "While Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus was ploughing, they told him they had just made him their dictator." A pretty cool way of ending your early retirement, isn't it.

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