Watch Your Elbow! or The Wooden Horse Part 4 of 12 / by Anthony Gibbins

The Wooden Horse. Part 4. As we await the October 1 arrival of Legonium pars tertia, here is some complete nonsense in 12 parts.

From the translation of The Aeneid, Book II by John Dryden

Thus they pretend, but in the hollow side

Selected numbers of their soldiers hide:

With inward arms the dire machine they load,

And iron bowels stuff the dark abode.


in : in is a preposition. Prepositions never change their form, but you do need to learn the case of the noun that follows them. Prepositions are followed by a noun (or pronoun) in the accusative or ablative case. in is one of the rare prepositions that can be followed by either. Followed by an accusative it means ‘into’ or ‘onto’. Followed by an ablative it means ‘in’ or ‘on’.

hoc : hic is the demonstrative adjective that means ‘this’. Like all adjectives, hic can decline (change its form) to indicate its gender (masculine, feminine or neuter), number (singular or plural) and case (nominative, vocative, accusative, genitive, dative or ablative). hoc is masculine, singular and ablative to ‘agree with’ equo.

equo : equus, as we have seen, is a masculine noun meaning ‘horse’. Here it is ablative in case to indicate that it is part of a prepositional phrase with in. It also shows that in should be read as ‘in’ (not into). Hence, the entire prepositional phrase in hoc equo means ‘in this horse’.

viri : vir is a masculine noun meaning ‘man’. Here it is nominative, to indicate that it is the subject of the verb, and plural, to indicate that there are more than one of them.

fortissimi : fortis is an adjective meaning brave. fortissimus is its superlative form, meaning ‘very brave’. Here it is masculine, plural and nominative to ‘agree with’ viri.

sese : sese is the reflexive pronoun in Latin, although it is more often written just se. Here it is accusative because it is the object of the verb. The reflexive pronoun refers back to the subject of the verb, in this case the viri fortissimi. To put it simply, it means that the ‘very brave men’ did something ‘to themselves’.

celaverunt : celare is a verb that means ‘to hide’. Here the verb is third person and plural, because we have a third person plural subject viri. It is also in the perfect tense, because it describes an action that was completed in the past.

Translation: Very brave men hid themselves in this horse.