Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Pliny the Younger: letter 1.6: a scholar as hunter.

Pliny the Younger (61/62 – 113/115) gives us in his collection of letters a view of upper-class everyday life and also lots of other information. His most well-known letter is about the outburst of the Vesuvius at which his uncle Pliny the Elder lost his life trying to investigate this event. This is not the only letter he wrote to his friend, the historian Tacitus. In the following letter he tells Tacitus about his hunting experience: he has captured three boars! Yes, he, the man of study and letters! Well, actually he was just sitting near a hunting-net thinking and writing. He ends by advising Tacitus also to go to woods for refreshing the mind. This has to me a surprising touch of 19th century romanticism: Caspar David Friedrich or John Constable going to the woods to paint or Franz Schubert taking his guitar to the Vienna Wood to compose his Lieder. Anyway, Pliny doesn’t take himself that serious as a hunter! But those three boars?! Of course he was not hunting alone, but with friends and lots of slaves and my guess is that his contribution to that hunting party was nothing at all….

Pliny, letter 1.6


1 Ridebis, et licet rideas. Ego, ille quem nosti, apros tres et quidem pulcherrimos cepi. 'Ipse?' inquis. Ipse; non tamen ut omnino ab inertia mea et quiete discederem. Ad retia sedebam; erat in proximo non venabulum aut lancea, sed stilus et pugillares; meditabar aliquid enotabamque, ut si manus vacuas, plenas tamen ceras reportarem. 2 Non est quod contemnas hoc studendi genus; mirum est ut animus agitatione motuque corporis excitetur; iam undique silvae et solitudo ipsumque illud silentium quod venationi datur, magna cogitationis incitamenta sunt. 3 Proinde cum venabere, licebit auctore me ut panarium et lagunculam sic etiam pugillares feras: experieris non Dianam magis montibus quam Minervam inerrare. Vale.

nosti = novisti
aper apri (m.): boar
non tamen ut omnino: without even at all
rete retes (n.): net
venabulum: hunting-spear
pugillares -ium (m. pl.): (small) writing-tablets
ut si manus vacuas, plenas tamen ceras reportarem.: best to translate reportarem twice: so that, if would return empty-handed, I would still bring back  etc.
cera: wax (writing tablets had a thin layer of wax to write on, so cera was used as a pars pro toto for pugillares)
Non est quod: there is no reason that
undique: from all sides
venatio –onis (f.): hunting
proinde: hence
venor: to hunt (venabere = venaberis)
auctore me: on my example, on my authority etc.
ut…sic etiam: not alone…but even
panarium: breadbasket
lagunculam: small/little flask/bottle; (for wine)
Diana: as the goddess of hunting she lives in the wild
inerro: to wander

Translation (in this edition it is letter iv!):