Section 1

1. Plērīque mortālēs studiō et glōriae saeculārī ināniter dēditi exinde perennem, ut putābant, memoriam nōminis suī quaesiērunt, sī vītās clārōrum virōrum stilō illustrāssent. 2. quae rēs utique nōn perennem quidem, sed aliquantulum tamen conceptae speī fructum afferēbat, quia et suam memoriam, licet incassum, prōpāgābant, et prōpositīs magnōrum virōrum exemplīs nōn parva aemulātio legentibus excitābātur. sed tamen nihil ad beātam illam aeternamque vītam haec eōrum cūra pertinuit. 3. quid enim aut ipsīs occāsūra cum saeculō scriptōrum suōrum glōria prōfuit? aut quid posteritās ēmolumentī tulit legendō Hectorem pugnantem aut Sōcraten philosophantem? cum eōs nōn sōlum imitārī stultitia sit, sed nōn ācerrimē etiam impugnāre dēmentia: quippe quī hūmānam vītam praesentibus tantum āctibus aestimantēs spēs suās fabulīs, animās sepulcrīs dederint: 4. sīquidem ad sōlam hominum memoriam sē perpetuandōs crēdidērunt, cum hominis officium sit, perennem potius vītam quam perennem memoriam quaerere, nōn scrībendō aut pugnāndō vel philosophandō, sed piē sānctē religiōsēque vīvendō. 5. quī quidem error hūmānus litterīs trāditus in tantum valuit, ut multōs plānē aemulōs vel inānis philosophiae vel stultae illius virtūtis invēnerit.

6. unde factūrus mihi operae pretium videor, sī vītam sānctissimī virī, exemplō aliīs mox futūram, perscrīpserō: quō utique ad vēram sapientiam et caelestem mīlitiam dīvīnamque virtūtem legentēs incitābuntur. in quō ita nostrī quoque rationem commodī dūcimus, ut nōn inānem ab hominibus memoriam, sed aeternum ā Deō praemium exspectēmus, quia etsi ipsī nōn ita vīximus, ut exemplō aliīs esse possīmus, dedimus tamen operam, nē is latēret quī esset imitandus. 7. igitur sānctī Martīnī vītam scrībere exordiar, ut sē vel ante  epīscopātum vel in epīscopātū gesserit, quamvīs nēquāquam ad omnia illius potuerim pervenīre: adeo ea, in quibus ipse tantum sibi cōnscius fuit, nesciuntur, quia laudem ab hominibus nōn requīrēns, quantum in ipsō fuit, omnēs virtūtes suās latēre voluisset. 8. quamquam etiam ex hīs, quae comperta nobis erant, plūra omīsimus, quia sufficere crēdidimus, sī tantum excellentia notārentur: simul et legentibus cōnsulendum fuit, nē quod hīs pāreret cōpia congesta fastīdium. 9. obsecrō autem eōs quī lēctūrī sunt, ut fidem dīctīs adhibeant, neque mē quicquam nisi compertum et probātum scrīpsisse arbitrentur: aliōquīn tacēre quam falsa dīcere māluissem.

Pagan historians wrote to secure their own literary immortality, and to inspire readers to emulate the deeds of their subjects. But eternal life is secured by living a holy life. These other works have led many people to pursue empty philosophies and vain forms of virtue. My subject is a very holy man, who will show readers the way to true wisdom and divine virtue. It is based on wholly reliable sources.

Plerique mortales: 'very many mortals', i.e. many people, a turn of phrase borrowed from SallustWar with Catiline ch. 51. This whole section reflects critically on Sallust's famous discussion of the aims and value of writing history, War with Catiline chs. 1-3.

studio: '(literary) study', dative with dediti ('given over to, devoted to')

gloriae saeculari 'worldly fame', dative with dediti.

exinde: 'from that source', looking forward to the main verb, quaesierunt.

quaesierunt: 'sought' (> quaero, -ere, quaesii, quaesitum).

stilo: 'with a stylus', i.e., by writing about them.

illustrassent: 'had given luster to'. illustrassent = illustravissent, plupf. subj.

et . . . et: both . . . and.

licet incassum: 'though to no purpose' (adverbial, modifying propagabant).

non parva aemulatio: 'no small desire to emulate' the deeds of great men--the conventional justification of biography among Roman writers.

haec cura eorum: 'this study of theirs', i.e., the works of pagan biographers.

ipsis: dative with profuit ('was beneficial to')

quid . . . emolumenti: 'what advantage' (emolumenti is partitive genitive, AG 356).

tulit: 'derived (for itself)'

legendo Hectorem: 'by reading (about) Hector'

sed non acerrime ... dementia: 'but it is also madness not to fight against them very strenuously'.

quippe qui ... aestimantes: 'in as much as they, valuing human life on the basis of worldly deeds alone'.

cum hominis officium sit: 'although it is the duty of a human being' (cum is concessive).

potius ... quam: 'rather than'

in tantum valuit: 'has become so strong' (> valesco, -ere).

unde facturus mihi operae pretium videor: 'and so I seem to myself to be about to do something worth the trouble', an allusion to the famous opening of the preface to Livy's History of Romefacturusne operae pretium sim si a primordio urbis . . .

exemplo aliis mox futuram: 'which will serve as an example for others later'. exemplo is 'predicative' dative or dative of purpose (Woodcock sec. 68, AG 382).

utique . . . incitabuntur: 'will certainly be roused'. The indicative mood of the verb marks this as a confident assertion.

in quo ita nostri quoque rationem commodi ducimus, ut: 'in (doing) this I am taking into account my own advantage as well, in such a way that'. rationem ducere = 'take account of'. The first person plurals here and below (expetemus, viximus, possimus,dedimus) refer to the author alone, but the tone is polite rather than pompous.

dedimus . . . operam: 'I have devoted myself to the task'.

ut se . . . gesserit: indirect question, 'how he conducted himself'.

ad omnia illius . . . pervenire: 'to include all of his deeds'

vel . . . vel: 'both . . . and' (late Lat.).

in quibus ipse tantum sibi conscius fuit: 'to which only he himself was privy'.

quantum in ipso fuit: 'as much as he could'

voluisset: subjunctive because it is assumed to be true, rather than personally vouched for by the speaker. "No doubt because he wanted . . ."

nobis: 'by me' (dative of agent), plural for singular, as with omisimus and credidimus below.

si tantum excellentia notarentur: 'if only the highlights were pointed out'.

simul et legentibus consulendum fuit: 'at the same time it was necessary to consider the interests of the readers as well'.

ne quod his pareret copia congesta fastidium: 'lest a heaped-up abundance (of material) produce any annoyance for them' (i.e., the readers).

fidem . . . adhibeant: 'trust, believe in' (+ dat.).

probatum: 'proven true'.

alioquin: 'in other circumstances' i.e., when dealing with information what was not confirmed and definite.

maluissem: 'I (would have) preferred'

saeculāris -e: worldy, temporal

ināniter: (adv.) vainly, uselessly

exindē: adv., thence

perennis -e: everlasting, perpetual, perennial

stilus -ī m.: a style

illūstrō -āre: light up, illuminate; explain, make famous

utique: (adv.) certainly, assuredly, undoubtedly

aliquantulus -a -um: little, small

incassum: (adv.) in vain, to no purpose

prōpāgō -āre: propagate; prolong, preserve

aemulātiō -ōnis f.: striving after, emulation

excitō -āre: call out or forth; excite, incite

posteritās -ātis f.: future time, posterity

ēmolumentum -ī n.: gain, profit, benefit

philosophor -ārī -ātus sum: philosophize

sōlum: (adv.) only, merely

imitor -āri: imitate

stultitia -ae f.: folly, foolishness

impūgnō -āre: attack, assail

āctus -ūs m.: act, deed

aestimō -āre: estimate, value

sīquidem: (adv.) if indeed; since indeed, since

perpetuō -āre: make perpetual, perpetuate

plānē: plainly, clearly, distinctly

aemulō -āre: emulate; rival

inānis -e: empty, void

philosophia -ae f.: philosophy

stultus -a -um: foolish, stupid

perscrībō -scrībere -scrīpsī -scrīptum: write out in full, report

incitō -citāre: set in rapid motion; incite, impel

commodum -ī n.: advantage, profit

lateō -ēre -uī: lie hid, be hidden

exordior -ordirī -orsus sum: begin, commence

nēquāquam: (adv.) in nowise, by no means, not at all

cōnscius -a -um: conscious (+ gen. or dat.)

requīro -quīrere -quīsīvi -quīsītum: seek again, search for; miss

omittō -mittere -mīsī -missum: pass over, say nothing of, omit

sufficiō -ficere -fēcī -fectum: supply, afford; be able

excellentia -ae f.: superiority, excellence, perfection

congestus -ūs m.: accumulation, a collecting

fastīdium -ī n.: dislike, aversion

obsecrō -āre: beseech, entreat, implore

probātus -a -um: tried, tested, proved

aliōquin: (adv.) otherwise

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Suggested Citation

Christopher Francese, Sulpicius Severus: Life of St. Martin. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2011. ISBN: 978-1-947822-03-0. http://dcc.dickinson.edu/sulpicius-severus/section-1