Engagement, Choice

Caesar continues to delight me.1 This time it’s a wonderfully brief sentence, still in the battle near Bibrax.

Acriter in eo loco pugnatum est. The Gallic War, Loeb Classical, p. 102

Edwards translates it as “Fierce was the engagement fought there.” Acriter, which is of course has descended to acrimony from its root which means “pungent,” but in adverb form is “fiercely, strongly.” Then the one-two-three punch of in eo loco2 and the hinge of the sentence, pugnatum, from whence we get pugnacious. To sum it all up, the lovely est, bringing a consonant and the Latin habit of making you wait for the very last breath of the sentence for emphasis.

Part of the joy is the translation, too, keeping some of the rhythm but sadly losing that punch at the end. Fierce was the battle fought there is how I’d have done it, but I think Edwards chose “engagement” because this is just one small part of the ongoing battle at Bibrax, which Caesar has been telling as a whole. I can’t argue with the translation, but I did stop and think “battle would be more poetic, wouldn’t it?”

Of such choices are translation made.

  1. Yes, I know he was really an asshole. I really do. And yet.
  2. Location, not crazy