Ablative Absolutes

(Cf. Wheelock 24)

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The Latin word absolutus means detached, set off, or loosened.

Ablative absolutes are Latin phrases based on a word in the ablative case and in a way detached or set off or loosened from the rest of the sentence. (This means that they do not grammatically interrelate very closely with the other words of the sentence. They have a certain independence.)

Ablative absolutes usually consist of a noun and an adjective. The adjective is often a participle (present like running, or past like done).

The noun is usually not mentioned at all in the sentence's main clause.




This structure is best learned by examples. First consider some phrases in English that are used absolutely. Notice the nouns in green and adjectives in red.


Absolute Construction

Main Clause

1. Weather permitting,

we will have the picnic there.

N.B. This absolute expression can be expressed as a clause ("If the weather allows it...") as can the others given here.

2. God willing,

their freedom will be preserved.

3. All things considered,

you are not a bad Latinist.

> >
tax included.

4. You owe me ten dollars,

5. Dishes done,

she prepared to leave for her engagement that night.

> >
guns a-blazing.

6. They broke through the swinging doors of the saloon,

> >
arms akimbo.

7. He stood there,

8. Time permitting,

we will have a contest at the end of class.

> >
no holds barred.

9. They had an all-out fight,

10. Tears running down her cheeks,

she finally admitted to herself that she could never abandon the study of Latin grammar if she wanted to achieve true happiness.

> >
no cost to you.

11. The replacement will be sent next week,

> >
no questions asked.

12. Your money will be refunded,



Nota Bene: The following sentence does not include an absolute phrase:

Run ragged by the heavy schedule, they dropped out.

Run ragged modifies they. Adjectival phrases modifying a word in the sentence are not "absolute."



Fully loaded, the plane took off.

Loaded describes the plane. The phrase is not absolute, but in Latin, it would have to interact with the syntax of the main clause: the adjective loaded would have to take the same gender, number, and case as the word plane.

The cargo fully loaded, the plane took off.

Cargo loaded is "detached" and loaded modifies only a word within its own phrase. This phrase is therefore an absolute.




Famous Latin Ablative Absolutes

mutatis mutandis

with the things that need to be changed (mutandis) having been changed (mutatis)

ceteris paribus

with the other things being equal

his dictis

these things having been said (after these things had been said)

vice versa

with the alternation turned around to its opposite, reversely

lite pendente

with the lawsuit pending

Cn. Pompeio et M. Crasso consulibus

[or the names of any two consuls, to designate a particular year in Roman history]: in the year of the consulate of Gnaeus Pompeius and Marcus Crassus (with Gnaeus Pompeius and Marcus Crassus being the consuls) — N.B.: Here two nouns are enough to fashion an ablative absolute: the idea of being is understood.




Further Latin Examples of the Ablative Absolute with Translations


porro autem anxius erat dubitans, in maximo scelere, tantis ciuibus deprehensis, quid facto opus esset:

Yet still he was distressed, in doubt about what needed to be done about such an awful crime, which involved the arrest of such important citizens [lit: with such important citizens arrested].

At Fulvia, insolentiae Curi causâ cognitâ, tale periculum rei publicae haud occultum habuit,

But Fulvia, when the reason for Curius's arrogant behavior became known, did not keep quiet about such a great threat to the republic. [Or: But Fulvia, when she had discovered the reason for Curius's impertinence,...]

quid intra moenia deprensis hostibus faciatis?

What would you do after catching the enemy inside the walls?

in pace uero quod beneficiis magis quam metu imperium agitabant et acceptâ iniuriâ ignoscere quam persequi malebant.

But in peace, because they conducted their administration on the basis of benefits rather than fear, when they suffered an injury, they preferred to pardon rather than avenge it.

sed civitas incredibile memoratu est adeptâ libertate quantum brevi creverit.

But it is hard to imagine how much the state grew in a short time, once it had acquired its freedom,

contione habitâ

when an assembly was held or after holding an assembly

Catilina demisso vultu voce supplici postulare a patribus coepit ne quid de se temere crederent:

Catiline, turning his gaze downward [lit: with downturned face], began to beg the senators in a suppliant tone that they not be too quick to believe anything about himself.

necato filio

after his son had been killed

obsidibusque datis

after hostages had been given

impedimentis relictis

leaving their baggage behind [lit: their baggage abandoned]

his rebus ita actis

when these things had been carried out in this way

prope iam desperata salute

when all hope of rescue had now almost been given up

signo dato

when the signal had been given

eo absente

since he was absent

compluribus expugnatis oppidis

when several towns had been captured

inîta hieme

since winter had begun

pace facta

after peace had been made




Further Exercises on the Ablative Absolute

authentic examples from Sallust and Caesar

1. per dedecora patrimoniis amissis

2. per Sangam consilio cognito

3. sine tumultu praesidiis collocatis

4. abdicato magistratu

5. aduersis uulneribus

6. Aenea duce

7. amissâ animâ

8. amissis bonis

9. amisso patrimonio

10. annitente Crasso

11. appellato Crasso

12. armis receptâ re publicâ

13. bello confecto

14. captâ urbe

15. causâ cognitâ

16. cito cognito consilio

17. cognito indicio

18. comitiis habitis

19. confecto proelio

20. confirmato animo

21. coniuratione patefacta

22. consilio communicato

23. constitutâ nocte qua proficiscerentur

24. consulente Cicerone

25. contione aduocatâ

26. conuocato senatu

27. corruptis moribus

28. cum Catilina data atque accepta fide

29. demisso uultu

30. deuictis Atheniensibus

31. dispositis praesidiis ut res atque tempus monebat

32. eâ re cognitâ

33. eo praesente

34. exaequato periculo

35. fascibus correptis

36. grege facto

37. his rebus comparatis

38. immutato more

39. L.Caesare et C.Figulo consulibus

40. L.Tullo et M'.Lepido consulibus

41. languentibus aliis

42. mutatâ mente

43. obstinatis animis

44. omnibus arbitris procul amotis

45. omnibus rebus exploratis

46. paratis magnis copiis

47. perlectis litteris

48. perterritis ac dubitantibus ceteris

49. praesidiis additis

50. praesidiis dispositis

51. quibus rebus confectis

52. re cognita

53. remotis omnium equis

54. simul caede et incendio perculsis omnibus

55. sublato auctore

56. superbiâ atque deliciis omissis

57. uolentibus omnibus bonis

58. secundis aliquot proeliis factis

59. castellisque compluribus eorum expugnatis

60. missis ad eum undique legatis

61. non magna adiecta planitie

62. detractis cohortibus duabus

63. compluribus singillatim, qui commeatûs petendi causa missi erant, absentibus

64. his nuntiis acceptis

65. deditione facta

66. obsidibusque acceptis

67. consilio celeriter convocato

68. interclusis itineribus

69. hoc reservato ad extremum consilio

70. brevi spatio interiecto

71. languidioribusque nostris

72. eruptione factâ

73. convocatis centurionibus

74. dato signo

75. omnibus portis eruptione facta

76. commutata fortuna

77. plus tertia parte interfecta

78. omnibus hostium copiis fusis

79. armisque exutis

80. Quo proelio facto

81. omnibus eius vici aedificiis incensis

82. nullo hoste prohibente aut iter demorante

83. His rebus gestis

84. expulsis Germanis

85. victis in Alpibus Sedunis

86. paucis portibus interiectis

87. celeriter missis legatis per suos principes

88. His rebus celeriter administratis

89. cognito Caesaris adventu

90. His inîtis consiliis

91. datis obsidibus

92. hac parte neglecta

93. rursus minuente aestu

94. extruso mari aggere ac molibus

95. his oppidi moenibus adaequatis

96. magno numero navium adpulso

97. magnis aestibus,

98. raris ac prope nullis portibus

99. captis oppidis

100. turribus autem excitatis

101. navigio remis incitato

102. quibus abscisis

103. his ereptis

104. deiectis, ut diximus, antemnis,

105. expugnatis compluribus navibus

106. conversis in eam partem navibus

107. quibus amissis

108. omni senatu necato

109. productis copiis

110. oportunitate aliqua data

111. hâc confirmatâ opinione timoris

112. qua re concessa

113. explorata victoria

114. sarmentis virgultisque collectis

115. Impeditis hostibus propter ea quae ferebant onera

116. exercitu pulso

117. impedimentis amissis

118. re frumentaria provisa

119. auxiliis equitatuque comparato

120. multis praeterea viris fortibus Tolosa et Carcasone et Narbone, quae sunt civitates Galliae provinciae finitimae his regionibus, nominatim evocatis

121. cuius adventu cognito

122. magnis copiis coactis, equitatuque, quo plurimum valebant,

123. equitatu suo pulso

124. insequentibus nostris

125. adulescentulo duce

126. quorum magno numero interfecto

127. quibus fortiter resistentibus

128. eruptione temptata

129. cuniculis ad aggerem vineasque actis

130. qua re impetrata

131. in eam rem omnium nostrorum intentis animis

132. eo interfecto

133. clamore ab ea parte munitionis sublato

134. armis obsidibusque acceptis

135. hâc rê ad consilium delatâ

136. productis omnibus copiis

137. duplici acie instituta

138. auxiliis in mediam aciem coniectis

139. obsessis viis

140. commeatu intercluso

141. hoc consilio probato ab ducibus,

142. productis Romanorum copiis

143. hac re perspecta

144. omnibus cupientibus

145. multis telis coniectis

146. lapidibus telisque subministrandis

147. ad aggerem caespitibus comportandis

148. circumitis hostium castris

149. eductis iis cohortibus quae praesidio castris relictae intritae ab labore erant,

150. longiore itinere circumductis,

151. omnium oculis mentibusque ad pugnam intentis

152. his prorutis

153. clamore ab ea parte audito

154. redintegratis viribus

155. desperatis omnibus rebus

156. ex milium L numero, quae ex Aquitania Cantabrisque convenisse constabat, vix quartâ parte relictâ

157. hâc auditâ pugnâ

158. omni Gallia pacatâ

159. dispersis in opere nostris

160. compluribus interfectis

161. magno spatio paucis diebus confecto

162. vastatis omnibus eorum agris

163. vicis aedificiisque incensis





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