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The sentence I read is from the book The Life of Greece written by Will Durant.(Chapter IV)

Their first king, Aethlius, was father of that Endymion whose beauty so allured the moon that she closed his eyes in a perpetual sleep, sinned at leisure, and had by him half a hundred daughters.

First question, is it common to describe a good looking boy by the word "beauty"?

Secondly, how to understand "sinned at leisure"? Whom exactly is talking about by this phrase, Aethlius or Endymion?

Thirdly, what does "had by him 50 daughters" mean, and whom exactly is talking about? Is this usage of "by" common in English?

  • she closed his eyes...? – Maulik V May 28 '14 at 7:35
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    Exactly. The moon goddess is female, I think. – dennylv May 28 '14 at 7:36
  • It was more common in older writings to use long sentences like these, which are harder to parse. Here is a more modern version (using mostly the same words, even if they are also old-fashioned): "Their first king, Aethlius, was the father of Endymion. This Endymion was so beautiful that the Moon goddess was greatly allured by him. She closed his eyes in perpetual sleep, so that she could sin with him at her leisure. By him, she had half a hundred daughters." – Tim Pederick Jun 21 '14 at 6:34
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Okay, Let me start with a warning first, this sentence you have doubt about describes sex , more precisely kind of a rape. So pardon me if you find the answer offensive or a few words obscene.

It is quite okay to use the word beauty to describe a man. In fact Narcissus (from whose name the word ' Narcissistic ' is derived ) was referred to as a man of great beauty. So it is common in Greek mythology and in general, olden times to use the word "beauty" to describe a really handsome man.

To answer your next question. The sentence refers to 3 people in total

1) King Aethlius - father of Endymion (who is not a boy, but a man) 2) Endymion - son of King Aethlius 3) The moon - who was allured by the beauty of Endymion

You should be clear of the three people first.

Getting to the sentence. Let me break it up

"Their first king, Aethlius, was father of that Endymion" - means, Aethlius was the first king and the father of Endymion

"that Endymion whose beauty so allured the moon" - Endymion was very beautiful. The moon was "allured" meaning, powerfully attracted to Endymion's beauty. It is worthy to note, that the moon was only attracted to Endymion's beauty, not his character.

"that she closed his eyes in a perpetual sleep" - she (the moon) was so attracted to Endymion ,that the moon (referred to as "she" in the sentence) closed Endymion's (referred to as "his" ) eyes in a "perpetual" (never ending) sleep.

"sinned at leisure" - in olden times, and even sometimes now, having sex with a person without his consent or having sex with another person who is not your spouse or having sex with people who you should not have sex with (incest) was considered a sin (trust me, it is still a sin). So they referred to immoral sex as "sinning" (Remember angelina jolie's Original sin?). leisure means free time, or you can also mean, whenever you are free and relaxed. So "sinned at leisure" means, she had non-consensual sex with Endymion whenever she felt like it. Remember, Endymion is in an eternal sleep.The poor guy cannot protest.

"and had by him half a hundred daughters." - And had because of him 50 daughters.

Finally to help you further, I will just rephrase the sentence into simple terms

Their first king, Aethlius, was father of that Endymion whose beauty so powerfully attracted the moon that she closed Endymion's eyes into a perpetual/eternal sleep and had non-consensual sex with Endymion whenever she felt like it making with him about 50 daughters in the process.

  • That sounds reasonable and clear. – dennylv May 28 '14 at 8:16
  • @dennylv, I am curious. Where did you come across this sentence?. And also, please do not forget to accept one of the responses as the answer. – NANDAGOPAL May 28 '14 at 8:32
  • @NANDAGOPAL OP gives the source in the first line. – StoneyB May 28 '14 at 9:00
  • Awesome. +100 if it was possible! ;) – Maulik V May 28 '14 at 9:16
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    To clarify a little further, the slightly unusual phrasing "that Endymion whose beauty so allured the moon" should be taken as meaning "You might know a whole bunch of Endymions. The one I'm talking about is the one whose beauty so allured the moon." – David Richerby May 28 '14 at 12:29
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Their first king, Aethlius, was father of that Endymion whose beauty so allured the moon that she closed his eyes in a perpetual sleep, sinned at leisure, and had by him half a hundred daughters.

This is a very antiquated style of English, but not uncommon to see in texts this old. Do not assume this is a common style of modern writing nor speaking.

First question, is it common to describe a good looking boy by the word "beauty"?

In texts of this nature, yes, "beauty" is used fairly commonly for both genders.

Secondly, how to understand "sinned at leisure"? Whom exactly is talking about by this phrase, Aethlius or Endymion?

Here "sinned at leisure" is referring to the (goddess of the) moon having sex with ("sinning") Endymion whenever "she" wants ("at leisure").

Thirdly, what does "had by him 50 daughters" mean, and whom exactly is talking about? Is this usage of "by" common in English?

It means that as a result of the (goddess of the) moon "sinning at leisure" with the sleeping Endymion, she had 50 daughters. The "by him" makes very clear that "he", in this case Endymion, is the father.

  • I'm still not clear on what you said "having sex with Aethlius"...Who is having sex with who? – dennylv May 28 '14 at 7:59
  • @ Samuel Lijin no worries mate, since this is the English Language Learners stack, wrong answers might possibly have bad consequences. – NANDAGOPAL May 28 '14 at 8:34
  • @NANDAGOPAL, perfectly understandable, and perfectly warranted. – Pockets May 28 '14 at 8:35
  • @dennylv: The moon (personified as a female deity, the "she" in this sentence) captured and took advantage of Endymion. – keshlam May 28 '14 at 12:34
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Thirdly, what does "had by him 50 daughters" mean, and whom exactly is talking about? Is this usage of "by" common in English?

This is the only part that hasn't quite been covered by the other answers. To have a child "by" somebody means to have a child with that other person as the mother/father. It tends to be used in situations where the role of one parent is being specifically emphasized. For example, you might say that King Henry VIII of England had a son (Edward VI) by Jane Seymour, which has slight connotations of "Henry had a boy called Edward. Oh, by the way, the mother was Jane" – what matters in terms of the succession to the throne is who his father was.

Today, it's more common to say "with" rather than "by", which doesn't have that connotation of the child being "owned" by one of the parents, at least when talking about people. As TRiG points out, "by" is still used when talking about the pedigree of animals.

  • This is still used in pedigree stock breeding. An animal might be described as [Name] out of [dam's name] by [sire's name]. – TRiG May 28 '14 at 17:40

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