Sequence of Tenses in Suetonius Galba 3.1

Petronius1993

New Member

Hello,

I've began reading Suetonius' Life of Galba and was struck by the use of the subjunctive in the following sentence, discussing the origin of the name Galba:

"Quidam putant, quod oppidum Hispaniae frustra diu oppugnatum inlitis demum galbano facibus succenderit; alii, quod in diuturna valitudine galbeo, id est remediis lana involutis, assidue uteretur: nonnulli, quod praepinguis fuerit visus, quem galbam Galli vocent"

Clearly we have an explanatory use of the subjunctive ascribing reasons (not vouched by the author) as to the name's origin. My issue is with the tenses of the subjunctive used by S - the mix of primary (perf. subj. in succenderit & fuerit) and historic (imperf. in uteretur) seems strange.

Perhaps subjunctives used causally don't need to follow sequence of tenses, but both Betts "TY Latin" has "Laudat Panaetius Africanum quod fuerit abstinens" and Bradley's Arnold has "mihi irascitur quod eum neglexerim", which both imply that they do.

In particular, the perfect 'fuerit visus' seems to require the more continuous sense of the imperfect (which S. had just used previously in 'uteretur'), so I can't understand why S went for the primary perfect here but the secondary imperfect in the previous clause.

If anyone could shed light on what's going on here I would be very grateful

Gratias vobis!
 

Pacifica

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In subordinate clauses dependent on indirect speech, the sequence of tenses can follow the introducing verb (here putant) or the tense of the main verb of the indirect speech (which is here left implied), depending on context or the author's perspective.

Here Suetonius switched his perspective. Where the perfect is used, he's looking back from the present at the completed things, making the sequence of tenses depend on the present-tense main verb putant. Where the imperfect is used, he's going back to some point in the past when this was happening, making the sequence of tenses depend on an implied perfect infinitive like putant (eum Galbae nomen traxisse) quod...
 

Petronius1993

New Member

Thank you so much, this was exactly the info I was looking for!

Am I right in saying that the perfect in "fuerit visus" is just a consequence of the sequence of tenses and the a continual action is implied (i.e "he often seemed a fat man/ he used to be a fat man")
 

Pacifica

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Am I right in saying that the perfect in "fuerit visus" is just a consequence of the sequence of tenses and the a continual action is implied (i.e "he often seemed a fat man/ he used to be a fat man")
Not really, since if Suetonius had wanted to do that, he could have used the imperfect here just as well as in uteretur.
 

Pacifica

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It should be noted that something that happened many times or for a long time isn't necessarily expressed with the imperfect (even in direct speech). The imperfect aspect is something a little different from just repetition or duration.
 

Petronius1993

New Member

Thanks for the reply - I'm a bit puzzled here then, why exactly did S say "fuerit visus" then and not "videretur" if the sense was "he seemed a fat man" presumably more than a single occasion? I'm also a bit confused about your comment regarding continuous usage not always needing the imperfect.

Thanks again for the help
 

Pacifica

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Location:
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The difference between the perfect and the imperfect is subtle and especially hard to grasp from an English perspective because there's no exact equivalent in English. One could pretty much write a book about it. I almost did so, here. (Seriously, it's just a long-ish post; don't be too scared.)

It isn't actually rare for things that happened on more than one occasion to go in the perfect tense.
I'm also a bit confused about your comment regarding continuous usage not always needing the imperfect.
It isn't wrong to say that "continuous usage" needs the imperfect, but I'm being cautious here because it depends how you understand the term "continuous". If you take it as "something that lasted for a long time" or "something that happened more than once", then no, those things don't necessarily go in the imperfect.
 

Petronius1993

New Member

Wow that is a phenomenal explanation. The perfect subjunctive has always made me hesitate but that ties everything up. Thank you very much, really appreciated :)
 
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