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Delenda Carthago

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38009.  Fri Dec 09, 2005 7:27 pm Reply with quote

Someone, somewhere, has posted a reply "Referenda Carthago" but I can't for the life of me find the post again but I'll post here because it's QI.

Cato the Elder (Marcius Porcius 234-149BC) was a Roman statesman, orator and writer. Largely responsible through his political manoeuvring for the eventual destruction of Carthage in the third Punic War Cato's fear and hatred of Carthage for its threat to Rome was obvious. Carthage was, until its destruction, Rome's principal Mediterranean military and commercial rival.

Furthermore he famously incorporated the words 'Carthage must be destroyed !' (Delenda Carthago!) into every speech he held in the senate, no matter what the subject of the matter debated was.

Another source quotes Cato as

"Censeo Carthaginem esse delendam" or "I declare that Carthage must be destroyed."

This site make more reference to Plutarch, the original source as does another which cites him as

“Et memento—delenda est carthago” – “And remember—Carthage must be destroyed.”

Is it possible that Cato never actually said Delenda Carthago?

Delenda est Carthago. - Carthage must be destroyed.
Cato the Elder, Plutarch, Life of Cato

It seems that it may be a contraction of the above quote, I can’t find what I would call a reliable example of ‘Delenda Carthago’ but my schoolboy Latin hardly qualifies me as an expert. Anyone?

38060.  Sat Dec 10, 2005 6:00 am Reply with quote

I must say Celebailin, that I always thought the kosher phrase was 'Delenda Est Carthago'.

I'd never heard of 'Delenda Carthago' before.

My schoolboy Latin is probably even ropier than yours but shouldn't there be a verb in there somewhere?

Delenda est Carthago literally translates as 'worthy-of-destroying is Carthage' or 'Carthage must (or should) be destroyed'.

'Delenda Carthago' isn't a full sentence. It would be like someone going round saying something like 'Carthage Destroyable!'

38063.  Sat Dec 10, 2005 6:06 am Reply with quote

The technical explanation can be found here:

'Delenda', as it turns out, is a gerundive.

The Gerundive is a verbal adjective and is always passive in force. It is formed by adding -ndus, -a, -um (-iendus, -a, -um with I-stems and 4th conjugation verbs) to the stem of the verb. It declines like a lst and 2nd declension adjective.

When the Gerundive is used as a simple adjective, it:

...carries a notion of necessity, obligation or propriety and can be used (like any adjective) in simple agreement with its noun

Last edited by JumpingJack on Sat Dec 10, 2005 6:12 am; edited 1 time in total

38065.  Sat Dec 10, 2005 6:11 am Reply with quote

In the case under discussion, you will need to know of:

D. The Passive Periphrastic Conjugation:

Finally, the gerundive is used with 'sum' in the Future Passive Periphrastic Conjugation. Here, also, there is always a notion of necessity, obligation, or propriety. The construction is passive; and the gerundive will agree (number, case, and gender) with the subject of the sentence. Since the gerundive here functions in a verbal setting, agreeing with the subject of the sentence, the case will always be nominative (or accusative in indirect speech).

Carthago delenda est. Carthage must (should) be destroyed.

38067.  Sat Dec 10, 2005 6:16 am Reply with quote

I must say that I have never knowingly come across the word 'periphrastic' before except in The Four Quartets by TS Eliot which is, of course, The World's Greatest Poem.

That was a way of putting it—not very satisfactory:
A periphrastic study in a worn-out poetical fashion,
Leaving one still with the intolerable wrestle
With words and meanings.
TS ELIOT East Coker

I've never known what periphrastic meant, and I still don't know.

I will go away and look it up.

38069.  Sat Dec 10, 2005 6:20 am Reply with quote

I'm back.

a roundabout way of speaking

38073.  Sat Dec 10, 2005 6:24 am Reply with quote

JumpingJack wrote:
The Four Quartets by TS Eliot which is, of course, The World's Greatest Poem.

I always thought it was four poems, hence the title

38075.  Sat Dec 10, 2005 6:29 am Reply with quote

The most periphrastic people in the world, therefore, must be the members of The Roundabout Appreciation Society.

Yes, there really is one, and you can read about them here:

The secretive Roundabout Appreciation Society meets in and around Poole in Dorset. Members get together to discuss roundabout architecture, design, safety features and wildlife.

One of their key contributions to the culture and the language appears to be naming various types of driver (with regard to their behaviour at roundabouts) after characters in The Magic Roundabout.

There are False-Start Florences, who inch forward a bit but don't make the decision to pull out completely. The person behind them assumes they are going to go further, so accelerates and goes straight into the back of them.

Zebedees bounce straight across some roundabouts. They don't use their mirrors properly.

Dillons drive straight into the middle of a roundabout because they didn't see it coming.

38109.  Sat Dec 10, 2005 7:56 am Reply with quote

There's a Ronald Searle drawing in one of the Molesworth books of a gerund (a hairy creature of indeterminate shape) meeting a gerundive (ditto, but different).

38114.  Sat Dec 10, 2005 8:04 am Reply with quote

Thanks Jack

As far as I can recall I have only ever heard it quoted as 'Delenda Carthago' although in fairness my sources on this would include such authoratative works as Asterix the Gladiator and that annoying guy down the pub who's always quoting some rubbish or other at you, usually incorrectly (oh, that's me). You have no idea how happy I was to add Plutarch to my mental listings, it makes it sound like I've actually picked up a copy of "Lives of the Great Greeks and Romans" or whatever the hell it's called.

I'd always wondered how the 'must be' element came into it, so, a Gerund(ive)? Well well stap me vitals.

So to be clear on this do we think 'Delenda Carthago' was or could have been used by friend Marcius as a phrase or would there have to have been an intervening/following 'est' for it to make sense?

38115.  Sat Dec 10, 2005 8:09 am Reply with quote

'Referendum' is a gerundive, as well, meaning 'that which must be brought back (ie referred)' - so it has no plural form, which is why 'referenda' is a made-up word.

38117.  Sat Dec 10, 2005 8:33 am Reply with quote

I've had a look at the page where 'Delenda Carthago' appears:

and my guess is that the lack of an 'est' is almost certainly an (accidental) omission.

It's a nice page and quite well written but the punctuation is not great and there are at least three typos, viz:

In 184 BC Cato finally found the roel of his life...

Cato's name shoudl for future generations of Romans...

Cato called him over and asked wether he had found a husband yet for his daughter.

Since all the other sites have part of the verb 'sum' in them, I
think it's probably safe to assume that this question is a non-runner.

38118.  Sat Dec 10, 2005 8:34 am Reply with quote

No matter, though.

That's the great thing about QI research – it's equally informative if you find out you are wrong...perhaps more so!

38396.  Sun Dec 11, 2005 11:35 am Reply with quote

Other than being able to talk confidently about Latin, in as much as we know anything of spoken Latin, I don’t think this is surmountable. The Original Plutarchos wrote in Greek so that won’t help particularly

From Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans - Marcus Cato translated by John Dryden

Nay, he never after this gave his opinion, but at the end he would be sure to come out with this sentence, "ALSO, CARTHAGE, METHINKS, OUGHT UTTERLY TO BE Destroyed." But Publius Scipio Nasica would always declare his opinion to the contrary, in these words, "It seems requisite to me that Carthage should still stand."

The Baldwin Project translation gives

Cato hated this city, and would finish his speeches in the forum by saying, "And Carthage must be destroyed," no matter what else he was talking about. Thus he might say:
"It is a good thing, O Romans, to teach our sons healthy exercises, to be hardy, to be thrifty, and to serve their fatherland even unto death. And Carthage must be destroyed!"
[67] Or perhaps:
"He who takes what belongs to the public is a thief, even though he is a man of noble birth and dwells in a villa. And Carthage must be destroyed!"

I have written to the Journal Editor of The International Plutarch Society asking if he would be willing to offer me an informed opinion about the Latin phrase ‘Delenda Carthago’. I didn’t mention QI but I’ll send you a copy of the e-mail if you’d like, it’s polite without being chatty. With any luck we might get a learned answer, after all it’s probably a bit of a chestnut as far as (s)he’s concerned.

38414.  Sun Dec 11, 2005 12:38 pm Reply with quote

Cato's mild mannered approach to international relations is recorded in Pliny the Elder's Natural History as well, which was written in Latin, unlike Plutarch (book XV, section 74). The "est" is missing there, too, but it is grammatically necessary, as pointed out earlier. One has to "understand" the est, as Latin teachers are wont to phrase it. Which is to say that even though Pliny couldn't be bothered to write it, you have to translate it anyway. However, as the phrase is in indirect speech in Pliny, none of this need matter; it's not a direct quote, so Pliny's "est"lessness need not imply Cato was in a similar state. It's usually quoted with an "est", e.g. in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.


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