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