Expedit esse deos, et, ut expedit, esse putemus

Discussion in 'Lingua Latina (Latin)' started by Casquilho, Nov 28, 2012.

  1. Casquilho Senior Member

    São Paulo, Brazil
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Hi fellows,
    I found this line, expedit esse deos, et, ut expedit, esse putemus, in Ovid's Ars amatoria (first book, I don't know the verse number). An English translation I found renders it as, "’Tis well that the gods should exist and well that we should believe in them."

    I would like to know about the Latin original. How is the verb esse working there? And the verb expedit? I simply cannot discover any meaning in the Latin phrase.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    It is not an easy sentence for the learner, and has its pitfalls for the more advanced as well.
    I do not agree with the translation given, which reads like a pious misinterpretation.

    The context, at AA 1 637, is that Ovid is advising how girls can be persuaded by promises.
    He says 'Add whatever gods you like as witnesses to your promise'. He explains that Jupiter smiles on the perjuries of lovers; Jupiter himself used false promises to Hera and will be favourable if you follow his example.

    Now comes the line quoted. The real meaning, as I see it, is:

    It is helpful for gods to exist and, so far as it helps, let us consider them to exist.

    Expedit is the impersonal use of expedio in the sense of 'facilitate'. Thus expedit means 'it helps'.

    The accusative and infinitive deos esse is an indirect statement: 'that gods (should) exist'.
    It does not commit Ovid to saying categorically that gods do exist, but expresses the idea of their existence.

    The flexible conjunction ut, followed by the indicative, could mean 'seeing that', 'in view of the fact that' or it could mean 'according as', 'to the degree that'. In view of the surrounding context, I take it as the latter.

    The concluding clause esse putemus is short for deos esse putemus; putemus is a jussive subjunctive: 'let us think that gods exist'.
    There is a recognised phrase deos putare meaning 'to believe in the gods': but there putare has deos as its direct object, whereas Ovid is giving putemus an indirect statement [deos] esse.
    putare does not have to mean 'believe' in the religious sense: it can also mean 'consider' or even 'imagine'.

    Accordingly, in view of the cynical attitude towards gods which Ovid expresses, I do not see this sentence as implying a genuine belief at all.
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2012
  3. Casquilho Senior Member

    São Paulo, Brazil
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Thank you very much, wandle.

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