Thursday, 23 June 2016

Gregory of Tours 7.20: competing women.

Anyone interested in mediaeval heroic lays knows queen Brünhild, the legendary queen from Das Nibelungenlied and the Valkyrie Brynhildr from Old Norse Eddic poems. She is also known to opera lovers as one of the main roles in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. In both traditions there is an antagonist: Kriemhild in the West Germanic sources and Gudrun in the North. Many scholars think that these figures are based on the Merovingian queen Brunichild (c. 543–613) and Fredegund  († 597), stepmother of her second husband Merovech. I can’t go in all the details of their animosity and the complicated intrigues of the various competing factions – for which see the links – but it lasted for some decades. Brunichld’s end was tragic: having made herself unpopular amongst the Franks and Burgundians, she was captured and torn apart by horses, limb by limb.
In this extract from Gregory of Tours’ History of the Franks, Brunichild has managed to gain the upper hand, to the dismay of Fredegund. She sends a clergyman to Brunichild, who after having won her confidence, had to kill her. The plot was discovered and after returning to Frededgunde, his feet and hands were cut off as punishment for not succeeding. Who says women are incapable of harsh measures?

Gregory of Tours, Historiarum Libri Decem, 7,20. Quod idem emisit qui Brunechildem lederet.

Postquam autem Fredegundis regina ad supradictam villam abiit, cum esset valde maesta, quod ei potestas ex parte fuisset ablata, meliorem a se existimans Brunichildem, misit occulte clericum sibi familiarem, qui eam circumventam dolis interemere possit, videlicet ut, cum se subtiliter in eius subderet famulatum, ab ea credi possit, et sic clam percoliretur. Veniens igitur clericus, cum diversis ingeniis se eidem commendavit, dicens: 'A facie Fredegundis reginae fugio, deposcens auxilium tuum'. Coepit se etiam omnibus reddere humilem, carum, oboedientem ac reginae privatum. Sed non longo tempore interposito, intellexerunt eum dolosae transmissum; vinctusque ac caesus, cum rem patifecisset occultam, redire permissus est ad patronam. Reseransque quae acta fuerant, effatus, quod iussa patrari non potuissit, manuum ac pedum abscisione multatur.

There is no translation of this chapter on internet. Keep in mind that this is not classical Latin, but a stage between Late Latin and Vulgar Latin: syntax is sloppy and word order is becoming more important than cases.

quod idem: that the same (in the heading of the previous chapter Fredegundis is mentioned. Note the carelessness in gender: idem = eadem)
lederet = laederet (laedo laesi laesum: to hurt, kill)
supradictam villam: her estate mentioned above (at Reuil)
valde: very much
maestus: sad
ei…ablata: taken away from her
ex parte: partly
meliorem: more powerful
occulte: secretly
sibi familiarem: belonging to her inner circle
circumvenio  -veni -ventum: to cheat
dolus: trickery, fraud
interemo -emi -emptum: to kill
videlicet ut: namely in such a way
se in eius subderet famulatum: would impose himself in her servitude
et sic clam percoliretur: and so would be done away with secretly (lit: `to be swallowed’)
ingenium: deceit
commendo:  to recommend
deposco depoposci: to require
Coepit se etiam omnibus reddere: he even started to show himself to all
ac reginae privatum: and in private to the queen (to show himself humble etc.)
non longo tempore interposito: `being not a long time set in between (abl. abs.)’ = after not a long time
eum dolosae transmissum: that he had been sent for a deceitful thing (dolosae rei)
vincio vinxi vinctum: to bind, fetter
caedo cecidi caesus: to cut bet, torture
patifacio (= patefacio) –feci –factum: to disclose
resero: to tell
effor: to say
patro: to accomplish
multo: to punish

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Phaedrus 1.26: too much ambition.

Fables are reflections of morality and folk wisdom in societies, often from the point of view of the less well off. It is for this reason that this genre is of great interest for historians of mentality. Part of the charm of fables is too that we modern readers can still identify with the morals expressed in them, Take for instance the following fable: a frog (rana) sees a cow (bos, bovis) and overtaking by jealousy she puff herself up to the point she bursts. It is not difficult to see people, companies or states trying to imitate the more powerful and ending bankrupt. Indeed, the second part of this word –rupt – is the very same as rupta. Be warned!

Phaedrus 1.26. Rana Rupta et Bos
Meter:  senarius (6 feet iambic)

Inops, potentem dum vult imitari, perit.
In prato quondam rana conspexit bovem,
et tacta invidia tantae magnitudinis
rugosam inflavit pellem. Tum natos suos
interrogavit an bove esset latior.
Illi negarunt. Rursus intendit cutem
maiore nisu, et simili quaesivit modo,
quis maior esset. Illi dixerunt 'bovem'.
Novissime indignata, dum vult validius
inflare sese, rupto iacuit corpore.

rumpo rupi ruptum: to burst
inops inopis: without recourses, poor, a poor man
potens potentis: mighty, a mighty man
pereo perii per(ivi): to pass away, get destroyed
pratum: meadow
quondam: `once’
tacta invidia tantae magnitudinis: `touched by envy for such size (gen. obj.)’
rugosus: wrinkled
pellis pellis (f.): skin
natus: child
latus: broad
rursus: again
intendo intendi intentum: to stretch out
cutis cutis (f.): skin
nisus nisus (m.): effort
simili modo: in the same way
quis: in classical Latin uter is used `who of both’
novissime: ultimately
validus: strong (validius with inflare)
iaceo iacui iacitum: to lie


Translation by C. Smart (1765)

The Proud Frog

When poor men to expenses run,
And ape their betters, they 're undone.
An Ox the Frog a-grazing view'd,
And envying his magnitude,
She puffs her wrinkled skin, and tries
To vie with his enormous size:
Then asks her young to own at least
That she was bigger than the beast.
They answer, No. With might and main
She swells and strains, and swells again.
"Now for it, who has got the day ?"
The Ox is larger still, they say.
At length, with more and more ado,
She raged and puffed, and burst in two.