Daniel interempto Dracone in foueam leonum iniectus a Deo seruatur illesus


Hieronymus Cock (Flemish, 1507-1570)
Daniel in the Lion’s Den, 1565
Purchase, 1967
McMaster Museum of Art
(Photo credit: John Tamblyn)

This one was a bit of fun. An ablative absolute, a surprise noun, and some strictly medieval Latin!

For some reason I always feel little clever when I catch an ablative absolute. This one, interempto Dracone, was patently obvious. There’s also a fair bit of leeway in translating them, since a strictly literal translation is usually so clunky. You the translator get to decide how to fit it into the sentence. Is it temporal? Concessive? Causal? What’s it gonna be? Changing the voice is often fair game, too.

And then iniectus surprised me. I fully expected this to be a form of iacio, iacere prefixed by in- and thus “to throw into”. But apparently that doesn’t exist in Classical Latin, at least not according to Lewis & Short, the Latin lexicon I usually use. There is, however, a noun iniectus, -us, m. “a throwing in”. This isn’t especially helpful, though. In order to fit into the sentence, it should be an ablative, iniectu, to indicate separation. That is, “Daniel is saved from the throwing in…” In the end I had to assume that my first guess became medieval practice. Reading iniectus as a perfect passive participle (“having been thrown in” or just, “thrown in”) fits the sentence so neatly.

Late Edit: In reading a passage from Livy, I have come across a use of inicio, inicere. I’m not sure why Perseus didn’t pull up anything for iniectus at the time, but it’s definitely a Latin word that dates back to antiquity.

And finally, the medieval adjective, illesus. This occurs nowhere in Lewis & Short, but Google turned it up in a word list of medieval Latin! Cool beans!

This is a difficult sentence to translate gracefully into English. A fairly literal translation reads

Daniel, with the Dragon destroyed, thrown into the lions’ den, is rescued by God, unharmed.

I’m tempted to shake that up quite a bit and go with something like this

Daniel, thrown into the lions’ den after he destroyed the Dragon, is rescued by god, unharmed.

Now as for the picture, it’s pretty great. The image and the inscription together depict Daniel 14:30-38. That’s obviously Daniel in the foreground. The guy carried by the angel would be Habacuc (Habakuk the prophet?). This accurately illustrates Daniel 14:35.

“And the angel of the Lord took him [Habacuc] by the top of his head, and carried him by the hair of his head, and set him in Babylon over the den in the force of his spirit.”

By the hair? Really?

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