for many years now / by Anthony Gibbins

Chapters seven through nine of The Oxford Latin Course contain a brief and (relatively) simple retelling of the Trojan War. Here is just a taste of it. I will put a translation at the post’s end.

deinde Achilles hastam summa vi conicit; volat hasta per auram et Hectorem transfigit. ille ad terram cadit mortuus.

accurit Achilles et dirum facinus facit. Hectorem mortuum ad currum alligat et circum muros trahit. pater et mater e muris spectant. Hecuba clamat: ‘o Achilles,’ inquit, ‘tandem ab ira desiste: filium nobis redde. sed Achilles eam non audit; Hectorem ad naves trahit et eum relinquit in terra iacentem.

One things you will notice is that the story is told completely in the Present Tense. The Oxford Latin Course does not introduce tenses other than the Present until Book II. (Above all else, Book I concentrates on Noun Cases.) So when I first encountered this next sentence I thought it was a bit of a work around.

decem annos Graeci urbem obsident sed eam capere non possunt.

I understood that what it wanted to say was for ten years the Greeks have been besieging the city but they have not been able to capture it but I wasn’t totally convinced that the Latin could be correct; surely have been besieging and have been able require something other than the Present Tense obsident they besiege and possunt they are able. It turns out that I was wrong. In Latin, past action that continues into the present is described with the Present Tense. It is a phrase like decem annos for ten years that tells the rest of the story.

On today’s page we see Hadrian say of a precious gem multos iam annos hanc gemmam desidero I have desired this gem for many years now. desidero is Present Tense; I desire.

I do not yet trust you, however. Therefore, listen. In a far off town there is a bank that holds a precious gem. I have desired this gem for many years now.

Translation of Oxford Passage: 

Then Achilles hurls a spear with the utmost force; the spear flies through the air and pierces Hector. He falls to the ground dead.

Achilles runs up and does a terrible deed. He ties the dead Hector to his chariot and drags him around the walls. (His) mother and father watch from the walls. Hecuba shouts: ‘o Achilles,' she says, 'at last cease from (your) anger: return (our) son to us. But Achilles does not hear them; he drags Hector to the ships and leaves him lying on the ground.