Use of indicative in Sat. 34


New Member


I was wondering if you could help me with a grammar point here.

During the dinner, two servants come in with skins of wine for the guests:

"Subinde intraverunt duo Aethiopes capillati cum pusillis utribus, quales solent esse qui harenam in amphitheatro spargunt . . ."

My question is - why is spargunt in the indicative? If the sense is 'they were like those who (generally) sprinkle sand in the arena' then surely the subjunctive of characteristic would apply here, since Petronius doesn't mean that these exact servants are the ones you who are sprinkling the sand?

Maybe I'm being too pedantic but just wondered if anyone can shed some light on this.

Gratias vobis



  • Aedilis

There is no reason to expect the subjunctive or a relative clause of characteristic here. The duo Aethiopes are not those who sprinkle the sand, of course, but their leather bags are being compared to those of the guys who sprinkle the sand, and the statement made about the latter is just a straightforward and factual one: "...those who sprinkle the sand". A relative clause of characteristic would make it something like "those who are of such a character that they (tend to/have the potential to/are willing to/can be found to) sprinkle the sand". It would be pretty odd and unexpected.
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