Saturday, 15 September 2012

Lactantius on the death of Valerian (de mortibus persecutorum c.5)

When I posted my latest post on my blog, a friend was complaining on Facebook `Again Catullus... Don’t you have some Christian creep writing saucy things?’  Elizabeth, at your service! Some time ago I read Lactantius (240-320) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lactantius . He lived during the time Christians were persecuted and also lived to see the ascension of Constantine, for whom he became an advisor. He wrote various works and in his De mortibus persecutorum he described how the various emperors persecuting the Christians came to their end. As is well-known, many emperors had a nasty death and it is with great pleasure that Lactantius wrote about that, seeing it as a punishment from the Christian god. In Chapter 5 he describes the death of emperor Valerian. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valerian_%28emperor%29
Valerian was taken prisoner by the Persians and after his death in captivity his skin was torn off and exposed in a Persian temple. But there is a caveat: Lactantius is our only source for this and some historians doubt the truth of his story. Well, se è non vero, è ben trovato!

[5] Non multo post Valerianus quoque non dissimili furore correptus impias manus in deum intentavit et multum quamvis brevi tempore iusti sanguinis fudit. At illum deus novo ac singulari poenae genere adfecit, ut esset posteris documentum adversarios dei semper dignam scelere suo recipere mercedem. 2 Hic captus a Persis non modo imperium, quo fuerat insolenter usus, sed etiam libertatem, quam ceteris ademerat, perdidit vixitque in servitute turpissime. 3 Nam rex Persarum Sapor, is qui eum ceperat, si quando libuerat aut vehiculum ascendere aut equum, inclinare sibi Romanum iubebat ac terga praebere et imposito pede super dorsum eius illud esse verum dicebat exprobrans ei cum risu, non quod in tabulis aut parietibus Romani pingerent. 4 Ita ille dignissime triumphatus aliquamdiu vixit, ut diu barbaris Romanum nomen ludibrio ac derisui esset. 5 Etiam hoc ei accessit ad poenam, quod cum filium haberet imperatorem, captivitatis suae tamen ac servitutis extremae non invenit ultorem nec omnino repetitus est. 6 Postea vero quam pudendam vitam in illo dedecore finivit, derepta est ei cutis et exuta visceribus pellis infecta rubro colore, ut in templo barbarorum deorum ad memoriam clarissimi triumphi poneretur legatisque nostris semper esset ostentui, ne nimium Romani viribus suis fiderent, cum exuvias capti principis apud deos suos cernerent. 7 Cum igitur tales poenas de sacrilegis deus exegerit, nonne mirabile est ausum esse quemquam postea non modo facere, sed etiam cogitare adversus maiestatem singularis dei regentis et continentis universa?

Non multo post i.e. after the death of his predecessor Decius
non dissimili furore correptus : ie.  like the frenzy  Decius had against the Christians.
correptus: seized  (corripio)
intento: stretch out
quamvis; though
multum iusti sanguinis i.e. blood of the Christians
fundo - fudi - fusum: to pour out, shed
singularis: unparalled
ut esset posteris documentum adversarios dei semper dignam scelere suo recipere mercedem. documentum is predicate to esset  `he would be an example’. adversarios....mercedem is apposition to documentum. In translating we have to insert `namely that’ and make adversarios the nominative  and recipere the main verb.
posteris `for the future’
dignam mercedem; deserved reward
hic captus at Edessa in 260. Valerianus was about 70
imperium:  power
quo:  utor goes with the ablative!
insolenter: extravagantly
adimo - emi - emptus: to take away
turpissime: most shameful
Sapor; from the dynasty of the Sassanids, ruled from 242 till 273.
libuerat. plsqm pf from libet `whenever it pleased him’
inclino: to bow before
terga praebeo: normally this means ` to offer the back (to the enemy)’, `to flee’, but here it is litteral `to offer his back (as stepping stone )‘.
imposito pede super dorsum eius abl.abs, with super dorsum eius as a compliment to imposito
dorsum: back
exprobo + dat: to reproach
non quod in tabulis aut parietibus Romani pingerent: namely triumphant emperors
tabula: board, plank
paries, -etis: wall
pingo - pinxi - pictum: to paint
aliquamdiu: `rather long'. In fact 6 years (260-266)
ludibrio ac derisui: predicative use of the dative `The Roman name was for etc.’, whereas in English we say `The Roman name was a etc’.
ludibrium: mockery
cun; when used as adversum (`though’) takes the subjunctive.
filium Gallienus (260-68) succeeded his father as emperor and though from various sides help was offered to him for fighting against the Persians and freeing his father, he declined all offers. Lactantius saw this as an extra punishment from God for Valerianus....
invenit :subject Valerianus
ultor; revenger
omnino; indeed
repeto: demand back
pudendus: shameful
dedecus, -oris; dishonor, infamy
deripio  - ripui - reptus: to tear off
cutis, f.: skin
exuo: strip off
pellis. f.: skin
viscera, -um: flesh                                       
infecta rubro colore; `dyed with vermilion’
legatisque nostris: `and for our ambassadors’
ostentui: again predicative use of the dative: `as a sign/ warning’.
nimium; too much
vis, viris: power
exuviae, -arum: that which is stripped off, the stripped off skin (exuviae is derived from exuo)
cerno -  crevi - certus: to see, discern
poenam exigo: to exact punishment, to punish
audeo -  ausus sum: to dare
non modo ....sed etiam: not only...but even
singularis dei regentis et continentis: of the only God reigning and encompassing.

For those too lazy to work through the Latin: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf07.iii.v.v.html


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