Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Hyginus: the fate of Io - the short version.



Gaius Julius Hyginus  64 BC – 17 AD was a freedman and head  the Palatine library. He was an industrious writer, but all of his works are lost.  His work on mythology has been summarized by someone in the second century AD and is now known as the Fabulae, a title probably given by Jacob Mycellus, the first to print work in 1535. The copyist is thought to be a schoolboy, as the Latin shows errors. The text has survived in a single manuscript: many scholars dearly wish that instead of this excerpt some now lost play by one of the Greek tragedians had survived. The original work of Hyginus must have been highly popular as a compendium of mythology, so why did an abstract survive and not the original?  Probably for this simple reason: copying was expensive and copying a mere abstract was cheaper. I guess Hyginus would rather have his mythography not to have survived in this poor abstract.
I am currently reading the Prometheus Vinctus by Aeschylus, in which poor Io is a main character. Io was a nymph turned into a cow by Zeus, in order that his ever jealous wife Hera might not recognize her. Of course she did and by various means she was chasing her all over the world, until Io reached Egypt and got her original beauty back.
The story is brought back to its very bones and many important traits are left unmentioned, like her meeting with the chained Prometheus at mount Caucasus. Io will be the ancestress of Hercules, who will free Prometheus in the far future.
The origin of Io is unclear – as is often the case with Greek mythology, because many pre-Greek gods and goddesses have been assimilated into the Greek Pantheon. Io was connected with the moon and hence her identification with Isis, the Egyptian moon-goddess.

Hyginus, Fabulae, Io

Ex Inacho et Argia Io. Hanc Iuppiter dilectam compressit et in vaccae figuram convertit, ne Iuno eam cognosceret. Id Iuno cum rescivit, Argum, cui undique oculi refulgebant, custodem ei misit; hunc Mercurius Iovis iussu interfecit. At Iuno formidinem ei misit, cuius timore exagitatam coegit eam, ut se in mare praecipitaret, quod mare Ionium est appellatum. Inde in Scythiam tranavit, unde Bosporum fines sunt dictae. Inde in Aegyptum, ubi parit Epaphum. Iovis cum sciret suapte propter opera tot eam aerumnas tulisse, formam suam ei propriam restituit deamque Aegyptiorum eam fecit, quae Isis nuncupatur.

dilectus: loved
comprimo compressi compressum:  to subdue
vacca: cow
rescisco rescivi: to find out
Argus: guardian of Io. He had a100 eyes
undique: from all sides
refulgeo refulsi: to glitter
custos custodis (m. and f.): guard
interficio interfeci interfectum: to kill
formido forminidis (f.):  fear, something bringing fear;  in this case the gadfly sent by Hera
cuius timore exagitatam coegit eam: she (Iuno) forced her, vexed by fear for that (gadfly)
praecipito: to cast down
trano: to swim across
pario peperi partum: to give birth
Epaphus: the father is Zeus
Iovis cum sciret suapte propter opera tot eam aerumnas tulisse: when Zeus (Iovis is here nominative!) got to know that she had suffered that many tribulations because of his very own (sua-pte ) deeds
propius: own
nuncupo : to call (nomen capio)



Io as a heifer & Hermes slaying Argus, Athenian red figure vase C5th B.C., Kunsthistoriche Museum, Vienna

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Martial: how unfair that education doesn't make one rich.



Epigrams by Martial are very instructive for our knowledge of daily life at Rome. I never realized that shoemakers had to chew the leather of old shoes to make it supple again: a repulsive practice especially when the shoe was old and dirty (luto putre: dirty (puter, putre) with mud (lutum). A job not to be envied! However the unknown shoemaker in this epigram has inherited an estate at Praeneste from his patron. Praeneste is a city 25 km eastern of Rome and was a favourite summer resort for wealthy Romans due to it cool breezes.
Martial leaves us in the dark about how this shoemaker was made an heir. Some manuscripts read in line 3 decepti patroni: `deceived patron’ and this is the reading of the text at Perseus, but the text below is from the Latin Library. The translation below follows the reading decepti.
Martial is clearly full of resentment against the shoemaker – or at least pretends to be in this poem – and wonders why he as a well-educated man, living from his poems, ever took up his job as an underpaid poet, whereas an uneducated man could become so rich.  A sentiment still valid today for many educated, but poorly paid writers and scholars.


Martial, book 9, LXXIII

Dentibus antiquas solitus producere pelles
       et mordere luto putre vetusque solum,
Praenestina tenes defuncti rura patroni,
       in quibus indignor si tibi cella fuit;
rumpis et ardenti madidus crystalla Falerno              5
       et pruris domini cum Ganymede tui.
at me litterulas stulti docuere parentes:
       quid cum grammaticis rhetoribusque mihi?
Frange leves calamos et scinde, Thalia, libellos,
       si dare sutori calceus ista potest.              10


solitus: used
produco produxi productum:  (here) to make longer, stretch out
pellis –is (f.): skin, hide
mordeo morsi morsum: to bite
solum: sole of a shoe
rus ruris (n.): lands, estate
indignor  indignatus sum: to deem unworthy, be indignant
cella: cell, small room
rumpo rupi ruptum: to break
madidus: drunk
ardenti Falerno: Falernum was expensive wine. The shoemaker mixes it with hot water – as was common praxis (yuck!) – and so breaks the expensive crystal glass.
prurio: to itch
Ganymedes: a reference to the beautiful young man reaped by Zeus from earth to become his wine –pourer. Here also used for toy-boy.
litterula: literary learning
docuere = docuerunt
quid cum...mihi: what have I to do with, wat use was it for me
frango fregi fractum: to break
calamus: reed, pen
Thalia: the muse of poetry
scindo scidi scissum:  to tear
sutor –is (m.): shoe-maker
calceus:  shoe, half-boot


Translation: Bohn's Classical Library (1897), adapted by Roger Pearse (2008).

You, whose business it once was to stretch old skins with your teeth, and to bite old soles of shoes besmeared with mud, now enjoy the lands of your deluded patron at Praeneste, where you are not worthy to occupy even a stall. Intoxicated with strong Falernian wine, too, you dash in pieces the crystal cups, and plunge yourself in debauchery with your patron's favourite. As for me, my foolish parents taught me letters. What did I want with grammarians and rhetoricians? Break up, my muse, your flowing pen, and tear up your books, if a shoe can secure such enjoyments to a cobbler.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Jordanes, Getica 8: no need for men.



Mediaeval historians often have delightful phantasies. Jordanes  (6th century) for instance tells in his  Getica  - a history of the Goths - that the Amazons derived from Gothic women. At some point in early history, the Goths while roaming through Asia Minor, left their wives behind for fighting and looting. Neighbouring tribes tried to get hold of these undoubtedly Valkyrie like beauties, but they were beaten by those furies. Having discovered that they could do very well without their men, some decided to form an army and they conquered various tribes and kingdoms. However there was a problem: how to have progeny?

Jordanes, Getica, caput 8

VIII. 56 Quae veritae, ne eorum proles rarisceret, vicinis gentibus concubitum petierunt, facta nundina semel in anno, ita ut futuri temporis eadem die revertentibus in id ipsum, quidquid partus masculum edidisset, patri redderet, quidquid vero feminei sexus nasceretur, mater ad arma bellica erudiret: sive, ut quibusdam placet, editis maribus novercali odio infantis miserandi fata rumpebant. Ita apud illas detestabile puerperium erat, quod ubique constat esse votivum. 57 Quae crudelitas illis terrorem maximum cumulabat opinionis vulgatae. Nam quae, rogo, spes esset capto, ubi indulgi vel filio nefas habebatur? Contra has, ut fertur, pugnavit Herculis, et Melanis pene plus dolo quam virtute subegit. Theseus vero Hippoliten in praeda tulit, de qua et genuit Hypolitum. Hae quoque Amazones post haec habuere reginam nomine Penthesileam, cuius Troiano bello extant clarissima documenta. Nam hae feminae usque ad Alexandrum Magnum referuntur tenuisse regimen.

To be sure, when all this was supposed to have happened, the Goths  were still living in Scandinavia!

vereor veritus sum: to fear
proles, is (f.) offspring
raresco: to become rare
vicinus: neighbouring
concubitus –us (m.): sleeping together
peto petii petitum: to strive for
nundina: market day, appointed day
ita ut… patri redderet: so that (the mother)  could give back to the father
futuri temporis eadem die revertentibus in id ipsum : abl. abs.
reverto reverti: to return (cl. Latin revertor)
partus, us (m): offspring (gen.)
edo edidi editum: to bring forth, give birth
erudio: to teach
ut quibusdam placet: as others (i.e. historians) prefer
editis maribus: the males being exposed (mas, maris)
novercalis, is: of a step-mother (noverca)
fata: (here) future life
rumpo rupi ruptum: to break, destroy
puerperium: giving birth
constat esse votivum: it is certain to be wished for
illis terrorem maximum cumulabat opinionis vulgatae:  increased the fear for them of (in) general rumour  to a maximum  
captus: captive
ubi indulgi vel filio nefas habebatur: where it was considered a shame for even (vel) a sone to be spared
ut fertur: as is said
Menalis: according to the critical apparatus in the edition of Mommsen, this must be Menelippen, but the mistake seems to derive from Jordanes himself. The final n is a Greek accusative.
pene = paene:  almost
dolus: cunning
subigo subegi subactum: to conquer
in praeda tulit: took as booty
gigno genui genitum: to beget
exto: to exist
clarissima documenta:  not in Homer, but in Pseudo-Apollodorus’ Epitome of the Bibliotheke.
referuntur tenuisse regimen: are said to have hold power


Amazon in battle. Greek relief 4C BC. K√ľnsthistorische Museum, Wien.

Translation by Charles C. Mierow (1908)

VIII (56) Fearing their race would fail, they sought marriage with neighboring tribes. They appointed a day for meeting once in every year, so that when they should return to the same place on that day in the following year each mother might give over to the father whatever male child she had borne, but should herself keep and train for warfare whatever children of the female sex were born. Or else, as some maintain, they exposed the males, destroying the life of the ill-fated child with a hate like that of a stepmother. Among them childbearing was detested, though everywhere else it is desired. (57) The terror of their cruelty was increased by common rumor; for what hope, pray, would there be for a captive, when it was considered wrong to spare even a son? Hercules, they say, fought against them and overcame Menalippe, yet more by guile than by valor. Theseus moreover, took Hippolyte captive, and of her he begat Hippolytus. And in later times the Amazons had a queen named Penthesilea, famed in the tales of the Trojan war. These women are said to have kept their power even to the time of Alexander the Great.