Actually this is the Optative use of the subjunctive. Showing a wishing or wanting for something. It is not meant to show politeness, but rather focuses on the desire aspect. Both the indicative and subjunctive of velle fit this well.
Also the imperative is not inherently rude, it can be used in requests as well. Hence using the imperative to beseech deities. No one dares to command the gods.
Eleanor Dickey and Peter Barrios-Lech (among others) have done some very good work in the past 15 years about the politeness question. In Cicero's case in his letters, a bare imperative is abrupt and peremptory. It is softened by words such as rogo and quaeso. But not by sīs, apparently, which is peremptory in itself.
I think one just has to think of prayer (both pagan and Christian, BTW; there are three imperatives in the Vulgate Lord's Prayer) as a special category with its own rules. Just as it has struck me as odd that languages with the formal/informal distinction seem to use the informal/intimate addressing God, so imperatives are part of the formula.
You raise good points, ColinJParry, about the indicative of velle fitting this situation well and also that the imper is not inherently rude, but where in classical Latin do you find an example of an attainable wish/ optative subjunctive with or without utinam asking for something? I cannot find any examples & classical scholars provide evidence for ways to ask for things in Latin that do not use the subjunctive in this way. At issue is the subjunctive on its own asking for something simple, say, at a taverna. Please show us an example from Plautus or Apuleius, for instance, where such a request/wish occurs.
I hesitate to disagree, but I've looked at the Horace poem you reference, and if I'm not mistaken, the velim in line 38 of Horace Odes 3.16 is part of a "future less vivid" condition, and so not an example of a potential subjunctive at all. (Or maybe I'm missing the point!)
Horace writes, " ... nec, si plura velim, tu dare deneges" (where both velim and deneges are present subjunctives in a conditional sentence). "... and, if I should want more [things/stuff], you would not refuse to give [them]."
Yes; the Amphitryo passage is interesting. The slavewoman is upset, unwell, all in a panic, her head hurts, and she wishes she had some water (aquam velim)--notice she's not making a request of anyone, however. But it is the first I've seen, of a velim form governing a simple accusative.
I agree with you. She's not requesting water from someone, she saying she could really do with some.
I've just checked the notes for the lesson which explicitly state that the subjunctive should used for requesting something. I've not seen this before and I don't know of any authority for this. I think it's simply wrong.
Nancy, thanks for the effort in this interesting discussion, but the Cicero passage is an ut clause. SuzanneNussbaum has already shown that the Horace passage does not work. The Plautus passage is the only one that comes close but unfortunately she is not asking someone for something. Would that we could visit a taverna to hear how people asked for simple items! Maybe some Romans did use the optative subjunctive in this way, but the evidence does not appear strong.
Yes, the name is taken from the phrase panem et circenses (bread and circuses) in the Satires, a collection of poems by the 2nd century A.D. author Juvenal. In A.S. Kline's translation:
Long ago, when they lost their votes, and the bribes; the mob
That used to grant power, high office, the legions, everything,
Curtails its desires, and reveals its anxiety for two things only,
Bread and circuses.
If you feel like tackling the Latin you can find it here. The phrase panem et circenses is at line 81. It's written in dactylic hexameter and the poetry is in the ictus, or the rhythm of the lines when spoken.
Some comments here (and in other discussions) I don't understand. Some of them since they are on a higher level than the course. Then you need to explain every word, that has not yet been part of the course. Everyone is not a grammar expert, but perhaps we could learn, if there is a proper explanation. Other comments are hard to grasp since they are (perhaps) jokes, or just plain gibberish.