Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Propertius 3,25: enough is enough.

The relationship between Propertius and his mistress Cynthia is now definitely over. In his final poem describing their relationship, Propertius is spitting out his frustration, sick of her wiles during the five years of their relationship. He hopes she will grow old as an ugly old woman, spending her years in loneliness and regretting all the wrong she has done to him.
Let’s hope this poem had its therapeutic effect and well, maybe it is still useful for all those poor men suffering the same agony.

Propertius 3, 25

Risus eram positis inter convivia mensis,
    et de me poterat quilibet esse loquax.
quinque tibi potui servire fideliter annos:
    ungue meam morso saepe querere fidem.
nil moveor lacrimis: ista sum captus ab arte;
    semper ab insidiis, Cynthia, flere soles.
flebo ego discedens, sed fletum iniuria vincit:
    tu bene conveniens non sinis ire iugum.
limina iam nostris valeant lacrimantia verbis,
    nec tamen irata ianua fracta manu.
at te celatis aetas gravis urgeat annis,
    et veniat formae ruga sinistra tuae!
vellere tum cupias albos a stirpe capillos,
    iam speculo rugas increpitante tibi,
exclusa inque vicem fastus patiare superbos,
    et quae fecisti facta queraris anus!
has tibi fatalis cecinit mea pagina diras:
    eventum formae disce timere tuae!

risus risus (m.): object of laughter (cf. French risé)
convivium: company at a table, guests
positis mensis: at the arranged tables
de me loquax: talkative/gossiping about me
quinque annos: the first book of elegies must have been published five years earlier.
querere = quereris: with vivid detail Propertius tells Cynthia that she will deeply bewail (queror questus) her misbehaviour, biting her nails (ungue morso).
ab insidiis: Cynthia used to weep to find his weak spot, but Propertius’ weeping will be genuine.
bene conveniens: `coming well together’ is the expression for a happy marriage.
iugum: yoke as metaphor for a couple in love
limina valeant: let the threshold be strong, i.e. goodbye to the threshold
lacrimantia: wet by tears
irata manu: whatever Cynthia did to Propertius, he could not become angry and ruin her door. The situation refers to a paraclausithyron, a theme in Roman elegiac poetry, in which a lover is in vain lamenting outside the door of his mistress.
celatis annis: with `hidden years’ years spent in loneliness are meant. With aetas gravis, not with urgeat.
forma: beauty
ruga: wrinkle
vello (-ere): to tear out
stirps stirpis (f.): root
speculo rugas increpitante: when the mirror is scolding your wrinkles
exclusa: i.e. without lovers
in vicem: in your turn
fastus fastus (m.): haughtiness, disdain
patiare = patiaris
anus anus (f.): an old woman
fatalis diras: fatal portents (dirae dirarum)
cano cecini : to sing, prophesy

Translation by A.S. Klyne

I was laughed at among the guests seated for the banquet, and whoever wished was able to gossip of me. I managed to serve you faithfully for five years: you’ll often grieve for my loyalty with bitten nails.

Tears have no effect on me: I was ensnared by those wiles: Cynthia you only ever wept with guile. I will weep, in departing, but insult overcomes tears: you would not allow the yoke to move in harmony.

Now goodbye to the threshold weeping at my words: to the entrance never hurt by my hand in anger. But let age’s weight burden you with secret years and luckless lines furrow your features! May you long then to tear out your white hairs by their roots, ah, when the mirror rebukes you with your wrinkles, and may you in turn, rejected, suffer proud arrogance, and, changed to an old woman, regret your deeds!

Friday, 9 December 2016

Gesta Francorum: quisque sibi proximus: `everyone is nearest to himself '.

The First Crusade (1095–1099) succeeded in its gaol to capture Jerusalem, Surprisingly, as the majority of its army consisted of ill-trained troops and though its destination was clear, tactical and strategical manoeuvres were often ill-considered. A major obstacle posed the city of Antioch, blocking the road to Jerusalem. The city was besieged from 21 October 1097 and fell due to treason on 2 June 1098. However the crusaders did not capture the citadel, in which the Turkish troops well-stocked with food supplies had withdrawn. The city was unable to provide the amount of food necessary for the crusaders and so they found themselves soon starving in a half occupied city. To make matters worse, a Turkish relief force had surrounded the city: the besiegers besieged. On June 28 1098 Bohemond came to their rescue, driving the besieging Turkish forces away and conquering the citadel.
A major source for our knowledge of the First Crusade is the Gesta Francorum, written by an unknown author, probably a cleric from Southern Italy. (I have taken this information from the German wiki on the Gesta Francorum, which is based on more recent research than the English entry.) It is from this work that the following description has been taken. I found it in Harrison’s Millennium, a Latin Reader/ 374-1374, but the commentary in that book left some points open regarding understanding and interpretation. I have tried to supply more information in the notes. What is clear anyway, is that idea of sharing in need amongst Christians was completely absent, but who are we to blame them? This short passage simply shows that in times of need everyone tends to take care of himself only. A superficial idea of the Crusades is that it was a Christian enterprise and of course Christian notions were important, especially the idea that taking part in the Crusade would secure one of a place in heaven (ah those fighters for ISIS!), but the historical reality is far more complex. Reading such a short text can be quite revealing.
A translation of this part is not available on internet, but the Latin is fairly simple, though not Classical.

Gesta Francorum, Book 9, xxvi (part)

Pars vero quae erat in castello, agebat bellum cum nostris die noctuque, sagittando, vulnerando, occidendo. Alia autem pars undique obsedit civitatem, ita ut nullus nostrorum civitatem auderet exire aut intrare, nisi nocte et occulte. Ita vero eramus obsessi et oppressi ab illis, quorum numerus fuit innumerabilis. Isti autem prophani et inimici Dei ita tenebant nos inclusos in urbe Antiochiae, ut multi mortui fuerint fame, quoniam parvus panis vendebatur uno bisantio. De vino non loquar. Equinas namque carnes aut asininas manducabant, et vendebant. Vendebant quoque gallinam quindecim solidis, ovum duobus solidis, unam nucem uno denario; omnia enim valde erant cara. Folia fici et vitis et cardui, omniumque arborum coquebant et manducabant, tantam famem immensam habebant. Alii coria caballorum et camelorum et asinorum atque boum seu bufalorum sicca decoquebant, et manducabant. Istas et multas anxietates ac angustias quas nominare nequeo passi sumus pro Christi nomine et Sancti Sepulchri via deliberanda. Tales quoque tribulationes et fames ac timores passi sumus per viginti sex dies.

pars (Turcorum)
in castello: the citadel
sagittando etc.: the ablative of the gerund is used as present participle nominative.
sagitto: to shoot with arrows
prophani: confusion between ph and f in Mediaeval Latin sometimes occurs
vendabatur: Sold by whom? Though a major part of the population of Antioch had been slaughtered by the crusaders, the Christian population was spared, but it seems unlikely that they were the only sellers. More likely is that bread and wine were also sold by crusaders having taken this as booty.
quoniam parvus panis vendebatur uno bisantio:  many took part in the crusades on an individual basis and they had to pay for their own food. Of course the poor could not afford such a price for a piece of bread. A bezant was a golden or silver coin, far out of reach for most of them.
De vino non loquar: i.e. the price of wine was excessive.
Equinas namque carnes aut asininas manducabant: i.e. the Crusaders had to slaughter their own animals.
namque: either affirmative (`and indeed’) or adversative (`on the other hand’, `but’), a Mediaeval Latin usage. In the latter case it would imply a constrast to the preceding sentence. I wish our author would have been more accurate for modern historians.
manduco: to eat (this word had replaced edo)
vendebant: i.e. they sold it to each other (horses and donkeys were personal property.)
gallina: hen
solidis: a solidus is twelve pence and from contemporary  sources it is known that daily living  cost three and a half pence.
unam…uno:  unus is here an indefinite article.
carus: expensive
carduus: thistle
coquo coxi coctum (-ere): to cook
cabellus: horse
corium: hide
decoquo = coquo
delibero: to deliver

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Martial: a life spent well is a life lived twice.

Antonius Primus was a friend and admirer of Martial and in return Martial mentioned him in various epigrams and even devoted some complete epigrams to him. In this epigram Martial portrays him as a complacent old man, looking with satisfaction back on the life he has lived. We might well feel envy for such a happy life, were it not that this vir bonus is also known from another source: `This man, though an offender against the law, and convicted of fraud in the reign of Nero, had, among the other calamities of war, recovered his rank as a Senator. Having been appointed by Galba to command the 7th legion, he was commonly believed to have often written to Otho, offering the party his services as a general. Being slighted, however, by that Prince, he found no employment during the war. When the fortunes of Vitellius began to totter, he attached himself to Vespasian, and brought a vast accession of strength to his party. He was brave in battle, ready of speech, dexterous in bringing odium upon other men, powerful amidst civil strife and rebellion, rapacious, prodigal, the worst of citizens in peace, but in war no contemptible ally.’ (Tacitus, Historiae, 2.86). Of course both accounts are not mutual exclusive: combined they show that a questionable character can be satisfied with his life. They also show that judging a person is a matter of perspective: Martial as friend, Tacitus as historian.

Martial, X.23

Iam numerat placido felix Antonius aevo
       Quindecies actas Primus Olympiadas
Praeteritosque dies et tutos respicit annos
       Nec metuit Lethes iam propioris aquas.
Nulla recordanti lux est ingrata gravisque;                            5
       Nulla fuit, cuius non meminisse velit.
Ampliat aetatis spatium sibi vir bonus: hoc est
       Vivere bis, vita posse priore frui.

numero: to count, enumerate
aevum: (old) age
quindecies actas Olympiadas: as the Olympic games took place every fourth year, one would expect that Antonius was sixty. However, if inclusive counting is used, he would be 75. Translators and commentators differ on this point. The idea of inclusive counting has always escaped my ratio.
praeter-eo: to pass by, go by
Lethes propioris: of Lethe (coming ever) nearer (Lethe is the river of death, surrounding the underworld. Lethes is a Greek genitive)
recordanti: for him remembering (recordor)
lux = dies
amplio (-are): to increase, amplify
cuius meminisse: memini (to remember) only occurs in the perfect tense, but it has a present meaning. It is both constructed with the accusative or – as here – with the genitive.
fruor fructus (+ abl.): to enjoy
hoc est vivere bis, vita posse priore frui: whatever the character of Antonius Primus, Martial has certainly a point in general.

Translation: Bohn's Classical Library (1897)


The happy Antonius Primus now numbers fifteen Olympiads (75 years) passed in tranquillity; he looks back upon the days that are gone, and the whole of his past years, without fearing the waters of Lethe to which he daily draws nearer. Not one day of his brings remorse or an unpleasant reflection; there is none which he would be unwilling to recall. A good man lengthens his term of existence; to be able to enjoy our past life is to live twice.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Jerome: rumours of a disaster.

The Crimean War (1853-1856) was the first war in which the home front could follow the outcome of the various battles within days, thanks to the invention of the telegraph. Modern technology makes it possible that we can watch a war life on television. Not so in Antiquity: it took two years before the news of the sacking of Rome by the Goths in 410 reached Saint Jerome, who was at that time at Bethlehem. It was an utter shock, when slowly and in bits news about this this disaster reached him. As a theologian he immediately recalled to mind Isaiah and the Psalms, but Jerome was also deeply learned in classical literature – his first love which he later so resented – and he could not help but quote Vergil too.

Saint Jerome, Letter 127, 12

Dum haec aguntur in Iebus, terribilis de Occidente rumor adfertur, obsideri Romam et auro salutem civium redimi spoliatosque rursum circumdari ut post substantiam vitam quoque amitterent. Haeret vox et singultus intercipiunt verba dictantis. Capitur  Urbs, quae totum cepit Orbem, immo fame perit ante quam gladio  et vix pauci qui caperentur, inventi sunt. Ad nefandos cibos erupit esurientium rabies et sua invicem membra laniarunt, dum mater non parcit lactanti infantiae et recipit utero, quem paulo ante effuderat. Nocte Moab capta est, nocte cecidit murus eius. Deus, venerunt gentes in hereditatem tuam, polluerunt templum sanctum tuum, posuerunt Hierusalem in pomorum custodiam, posuerunt cadavera  servorum tuorum escas volatilibus caeli, carnes sanctorum tuorum bestiis terrae. Effuderunt sanguinem ipsorum sicut aquam in circuitu Hierusalem et non erat qui sepeliret.
Quis cladem illlus noctis, quis funera fando
Explicet , aut possit lacrimis aequare dolorem?
Urbs antiqua ruit  multos dominata per annos,
Plurima perque vias sparguntur inertia passim
Corpora , perque domos et plurima mortis imago.

Iebus: name for Jerusalem, cf.  Jebusites
obsideo obsedi obsessum: to besiege
redimo redemi redemptum: to buy (in 408 the besieged Romans tried to buy peace with a large amount of gold.)
spolio (-are): to rob plunder
rursum: again
substantia: resources, wealth
haereo haesi: to stick
singultus -us (m.): a sobbing
dictantis: for me dictating this letter
fames famis (f.): hunger
immo….ante quam: (The City) has fallen indeed before by hunger rather than by the sword
vix: hardly
qui caperentur: who could be taken captive
nefandos cibus: heinous nutriment
erumpo erupi eruptum: to burst out. (Here used as a vivid and rhetorical description for what the esurientium rabies (the madness of the hungry) has led to.)
invicem: mutually
lanio (-are): to tear in pieces, butcher
parco peperci parsum (+ dat.): to save, spare
lacto: to suck milk
infantia: children (collective use of the singular.)
dum..effuderat: This rhetoric is far beyond what we would nowadays consider palpable…
recipit (in) utero: received in her belly
effundo effudi effusum: to pour out, give girth
Nocte eius: Is. 15, 1
Deus...sepeliret: Ps. 79, 1-3
Posuerunt custodiam:  They have turned …into an orchard (pomorum custodiam. This translation is from the Septuagint, which has ὀπωροφυλάκιον. The Hebrew has a different word, meaning `ruims’.)
esca: food
volatilibus cœli: for the birds of the sky
circuitus –us (m.): surrounding
Hierusalem: Hebrew words are not declined
Quis…imago: Verg. Aen. II 361-365
clades cladis (f.): destruction, slaughter
fando: by speaking
lacrimis aequare dolorem: i.e. there are not enough tears to equal the pain
urbs: Troy
spargo sparsi sparsum: to scatter
iners inertis: motionless
plurima imago: the manifold image, face

Sack of Rome by Alaric - sacred vessels are brought to a church for safety. Picture from a French manuscript (1475)

Translation:  Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 6.  (1893) (old fashioned, sometimes misleading and incomplete, but the only available on internet )

12. Whilst these things were happening in Jebus a dreadful rumour came from the West. Rome had been besieged and its citizens had been forced to buy their lives with gold. Then thus despoiled they had been besieged again so as to lose not their substance only but their lives. My voice sticks in my throat; and, as I dictate, sobs choke my utterance. The City which had taken the whole world was itself taken; nay more famine was beforehand with the sword and but few citizens were left to be made captives. In their frenzy the starving people had recourse to hideous food; and tore each other limb from limb that they might have flesh to eat. Even the mother did not spare the babe at her breast. In the night was Moab taken, in the night did her wall fall down. Isaiah 15:1 O God, the heathen have come into your inheritance; your holy temple have they defiled; they have made Jerusalem an orchard. The dead bodies of your servants have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven, the flesh of your saints unto the beasts of the earth. Their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem; and there was none to bury them.
Who can set forth the carnage of that night?
What tears are equal to its agony?
Of ancient date a sovran city falls;
And lifeless in its streets and houses lie
Unnumbered bodies of its citizens.
In many a ghastly shape does death appear.