Saturday, 14 December 2013

Petronius, Satyricon 51: an unfortunate inventor.

The Satyricon by Petronius Arbiter (27-66 AD) has been copied in the Middle Ages from one single and defective manuscript. Many pages are lost, but the Cena Trimalchionis is largely intact. This part of the Satyricon tells about the nouveau riche Trimalcho, a man with more money than taste – what is new? He and his wife organize a lavish dinner with many guests and to entertain each other they tell stories. One story is about an inventor of unbreakable glass, but this invention brings the man less fortune than hoped for…

Petronius, Satyricon 51.

Fuit tamen faber qui fecit phialam vitream, quae non frangebatur. Admissus ergo Caesarem est cum suo munere, deinde fecit reporrigere Caesarem et illam in pavimentum proiecit. Caesar non pote valdius quam expavit. At ille sustulit phialam de terra; collisa erat tamquam vasum aeneum. Deinde martiolum de sinu protulit et phialam otio belle correxit. Hoc facto putabat se solium Iovis tenere, utique postquam illi dixit: 'Numquid alius scit hanc condituram vitreorum?' Vide modo. Postquam negavit, iussit illum Caesar decollari: quia enim, si scitum esset, aurum pro luto haberemus.

faber fabris (m.): craftsman
phiala: saucer
vitreus: made of glass
frango fregi fractum: to break (yes indeed, both verbs have the same root.)
admitto admisi admissum: to grant an audience
(ad) Caesarem: i.e Tiberius
munus muneris (n.): here `invention’
deinde fecit reporrigere Caesarem: thereupon he made Caesar to give him back (the saucer). Either the sentence is elliptic and we have to understand that our inventor had first given the saucer to Tiberius, or a part of the text has been lost. reporrige is only found here.
non pote valdius quam: very much
expavesco expavi: to be terrified
tollo sustuli sublatum: to pick up (the perfect and the supine come from fero.)
collisus: damaged
aeneus: made of bronze
marteolus: hammer (only found here, maybe a colloquial word.)
sinus sinus: pocket
otio: at his ease
belle: nicely
se solium Iovis tenere: he held the throne of Jupiter `be in seventh heaven’
(Caesar) dixit
conditura: making, fabrication (only found here)
Vide modo: see why
decollo: to behead, decapitate
lutum: mud


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