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The Local Ablative in Statius1

  • R. D. Williams (a1)

Of the unusual grammatical constructions which Statius employs for the sake of variety and novel effect, among the most remarkable is his use of the ablative case. There are striking instances at Th. 8. 157, Th. 10. 309, Ach. 1. 219, Ach. 2. 129; and W. C. Summers was led to say: ‘We see some traces in Valerius of the lax use of this case which became almost a disease with Statius, who employs it for almost any kind of idea.’ There are three passages in Statius which have been misinterpreted or emended through the failure to recognize a use of the ablative to which he was especially prone—the local ablative where the poetic dative of ‘motion towards’ would seem more normal. I shall first list examples of this use in Statius where there is little or no doubt about interpretation or reading, and in the light of this accumulated evidence consider the three passages which are disputed.

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2 Lactantius Placidus here comments ‘anti ptosis pro cavae testudini’, but this convenient grammatical label does not explain everything nor does a comment such as that of Bernartius on Th. 1. 406: ‘auferendi casum pro dandiposuit, quod est elegantiae priscae’.

3 A Study of the Argonautica of Valerius Flaccus (1894), p. 45.

4 Statius has the ablative with iacio in Ach. 2. 16 hic spumante salo iaciens tumida exta profatur. The Thesaurus (s.v. 37. 57) explains this ablative as absolute, but as compounds of iacioand iacio itself are not rarely followed by in with the ablative (e.g. Ovid, Fast. 4. 821 fruges iaciuntur in ima-sc. fossa), it is better to take salo as local.

5 See H. Frère in the Budé Silvae, Intro., p. 53: ‘le poète, soucieux d'une expression originale—non vulgare loqui 5.3. 214—ne renonce a aucune des ressources du lexique ni de la syntaxe‘.

4 Statius has the ablative with iacio in Ach. syntaxe'.

1 See Österberg P. I., De structura verborum cum praepositionibus compositorum quae exstant apud C. Valerium Flaccum P. Papinium Statium M. Valerium Martialem (Upsala, 1883), p. 69.

2 The explanation of Barth's scholiast, subit hominem ore, where ore would be ablative of the route traversed, is not convincing. If the text of Prop. 4. 8. 10 cum temere anguino creditur ore manus is sound, there seems to be a somewhat similar construction there. See Enk P. J. in Mnem. (Tert. Ser.) viii (1940), pp. 314 f.

3 For the dative after intro see Langen on Val. Fl. 1. 590 mediis intrarent montibus undae, where, however, he wrongly explains mediis montibus as ablative absolute.

4 This very rare usage occurs also in Propertius 1.17.4 omniaque ingrato litore vota cadunt, and perhaps 1. 16. 34, where, however, see Enk.

5 Passages such as Silv. 1. 6.13, 2. 5. 26, where cado is used with a local ablative where no motion is implied, are not unusual and do not concern us here.

6 See Nauke A., Observationes criticae et grammaticae in Publium Papinium Statium (Vrat., 1863), p. 18, n. 7, where he maintains it is de liberate.

7 See Enk's note on Prop. 1. 14. 5, and his article in Mnem. (Tert. Ser.), viii (1940), pp. 314 f.: ‘dativus in ë desinens nusquam apud poetas Latinos invenitur’. See also Kühner, Lat. Gramm. i, pp. 321–2, and Birt's edition of Claudian, Intro., p. 222, where he comments on unusual ablatives in Claudian, and says ‘quibus locis abuti possint qui dativos in ě cadentes aucupantur’. The passages already quoted, especially Th. 1.406 and Th. 9. 536, make it plain that Statius is not using ě as a dative ending.

8 After subeo, intro, and cado there are instances (Th. 1. 255, 1. 427, 3. 385, 6. 341, 7. 238; Silv. 1. 5. 49, 2. 2. 105) where the case ending does not indicate whether we have the normal dative of ‘motion towards’ or the local ablative. Although there is no certain occurrence in Statius of the dative after any of these words, I do not think we can assume the substitution of a rare construction for a common one unless it is indicated grammatically. Statius frequently uses the normal dative of ‘motion towards’ with other verbs, and cado is often followed by in with the accusative, and it seems that his audience could not in ambiguous cases do otherwise than interpret him in the normal way. This principle would apply to ambiguous cases after other verbs, e.g. Ach. 2. 61 solo procumbere, Th. 7. 427 (Asopus) descendebat agris, both quoted by Brinkgreve as ablatives parallel to Ach. 1. 43. Any suggestion that Statius habitually avoided the normal construction would be false: he varied it occasionally for effect.

1 So does S. Jannaccone in her edition of the Achilleii (Florence, 1950) ad loc.

1 I am indebted to Professor L. J. D. Richardson and Mr. O. A. W. Dilke for helpful suggestions in connexion with this article.

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