Thursday, 25 August 2016

Juvenal 3: 226-231: a very small garden.

Last night I was drinking wine with a befriended couple in their garden. It was still above 20 degrees and a pleasant breeze did its best to drive the heat of the day away. It had been well over 30 degrees and no, I am not somewhere in Southern Europe, but at home in Netherlands. We had a nice conversation under the stars and a frog was now and then jumping in the small pond at a corner of the garden. Yes, the joy of a garden.
A friend of Juvenal is completely fed up with life at Rome and is about to depart. Juvenal is meeting him at a gate and this friend is dreaming of his life at some country village, where he will have a small garden. It doesn’t matter how small the garden is: even if it is so small that only one lizard lives there, he can call it his own.
May be that with the climate change lizards instead of frogs will become inhabitants of Dutch gardens too.

Juvenal, Satire 3: 226-231

hortulus hic puteusque brevis nec reste movendus
in tenuis plantas facili diffunditur haustu.
vive bidentis amans et culti vilicus horti
unde epulum possis centum dare Pythagoreis.
est aliquid, quocumque loco, quocumque recessu,                   
unius sese dominum fecisse lacertae.

hic: in a county town
puteus: well
brevis: shallow
restis restis (f.): rope (nec reste movendus i.e. the water is near ground level, so you don’t need a bucket with a rope.)
tenuis plantas: tender plants
diffundo diffudi diffusum: to pour out (subject is puteus)
haustus haustus  (m.): drawing (of water)
bidens bidentis (m.): a mattock with two iron teeth (bidentis is an objective genitive.)
vilicus: an overseer of an estate (`as a king of your own cultivated garden’)
epulum: meal, banquet
Pythagoreis: Pythagoreans were vegetarians
est aliquid; it is something (with the notion of something special)
(in) locu, (in) recessu
recessus recessus (m.): retreat, hidden spot
lacerta: lizard

Translation by G. G. Ramsay (1918)

And you will there have a little garden, with a shallow well from which you can easily draw water, without need of a rope, to bedew your weakly plants. There make your abode, a friend of the mattock, tending a trim garden fit to feast a hundred Pythagoreans. It is something, in whatever spot, however remote, to have become the possessor of a single lizard!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Phaedrus 2.13: copyright problems.

Suppose I write a novel, but being a completely unknown author, I use the name J.K. Rowling in the hope that people will readily buy my book. Or that I sell Harry Potter under my name, which by the way is far less laborious than writing a pseudo Rowling. Of course that is nowadays unthinkable, but it happened occasionally in former days. Phaedrus (first century AD) was an author of fables. As he was successful, other writers used his name for their own inferior products or claimed his fables as their own. There was little he could do, as Roman law hardly provided in such cases and even when a judge decided in favour of the original author, there was no way of enforcing the verdict. The only thing he could do was to express his anger and indignation in a fable: bees had built a hive, but drones claimed it as theirs. A wasp was appointed as judge and the bees won the case. The drones however refused to accept it. Would there have been a Roman so daring to publish this fable under his own name?

Phaedrus, book 3, 13 : Apes et Fuci, Vespa Iudice

Apes in alta fecerant quercu favos:
hos fuci inertes esse dicebant suos.
Lis ad forum deducta est, vespa iudice.
Quae genus utrumque nosset cum pulcherrime,
legem duabus hanc proposuit partibus:
non inconveniens corpus et par est color,
in dubium plane res ut merito venerit.
Sed ne religio peccet imprudens mea,
alvos accipite et ceris opus infundite,
ut ex sapore mellis et forma favi,
de quis nunc agitur, auctor horum appareat.
Fuci recusant: apibus condicio placet.
Tunc illa talem protulit sententiam:
apertum est quis non possit et quis fecerit.
Quapropter apibus fructum restituo suum.
Hanc praeterissem fabulam silentio,
si pactam fuci non recusassent fidem.

apis apis (m. and f.): bee
focus: drone
vespa: wasp (vespa and wasp are cognate words from the root *uobh-s-eh2, which in its turn is a derivation of the root*uebh  `to weave’)
quercus –us (f.): oak
favus: honey-comb
iners inertis: inactive, lazy
lis litis (f.): suit, process
ad forum: into court
quae…nosset cum = quae cum nosset
pulcherrime: very well
legem: rule
inconveniens –entis: dissimilar
par paris: equal
in dubium plane res ut merito venerit  =  ut merito (justly) res plane (clearly) in dubium venerit
religio mea: my conscience, duty
imprudens –entis: without knowledge
alvus: beehive
ceris opus infundite: pour your labour into the wax (opus refers to honey, which drones can’t make.)
sapor saporis (m.): smell, taste
mel mellis (n.): honey
de quis = de quibus (quis, with long i, is an ancient form .)
recuso (-are): to reject
illa (vespa)
apertum est: it is clear
praeter-eo: to pass by
pactam fidem: the agreed deal (of following the verdict of the wasp)

Translation by HENRY THOMAS RILEY, B.A. (1887)


Some Bees had made their combs in a lofty oak. Some lazy Drones asserted
that these belonged to them. The cause was brought into court, the Wasp
{sitting as} judge; who, being perfectly acquainted with either race,
proposed to the two parties these terms: “Your shape is not unlike, and
your colour is similar; so that the affair clearly and fairly becomes a
matter of doubt. But that my sacred duty may not be at fault through
insufficiency of knowledge, {each of you} take hives, and pour your
productions into the waxen cells; that from the flavour of the honey and
the shape of the comb, the maker of them, about which the present
dispute exists, may be evident.” The Drones decline; the proposal
pleases the Bees. Upon this, the Wasp pronounces sentence to the
following effect: “It is evident who cannot, and who did, make {them};
wherefore, to the Bees I restore the fruits of their labours.”

This Fable I should have passed by in silence, if the Drones had not
refused the proposed stipulation.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Ausonius, epigrams 57 and 60: creeping into the mind of women.

Writing from the perspective of a famous person – mythical or historical, was common practice in Latin literature. Famous are the Ovid’s Heroides, in which Ovid wrote letters in the name of famous heroines, but other writers too used this literary device. Ausonius (310-395) for instance has written a number of epigrams from the perspective of women. Now I come to think about it: I can’t remember that this device is used for famous men. Probably there are some, but is seems that male poets felt for more comfortable using the perspective of a woman. Maybe – and I say it with some hesitation – it is because the mind of women was seen as more fickle and hence more interesting.
In the first of the following epigrams we hear Niobe speaking. She once boasted that she with her fourteen children had far more offspring than Leto, who had only Apollo and Artemis. True, but Apollo and Artemis killed her children and Niobe herself fled to mount Sipylus, where she turned into a stone constantly weeping.  There was a famous sculpture of Niobe and her children at Rome, brought there by C. Sosios around 66 BC. Contemporary writers were in doubt about the sculptor: Praxiteles or Scopas? The point of this epigram is clear: both as living person and as sculpture I had no sense.
In the second epigram the famous prostitute Lais is talking. There were actually two famous courtesans with that name, but in literature they often merged into a single person. Lais was said to have innumerable lovers during her long life – supposed to be long because of all her lovers of which the number can’t be handled in just a few years. This is perfect example of circular reasoning. After her death she kept the imagination of men, or more precise: male poets. I think Freud had a point about the mind of men.
Ausonius imagines her as an old woman looking in a mirror: too old now for seducing lovers.

Ausonius, Epigrams, 57 and 60. The texts are those given by N.M Kay, Ausonius, Epigrams (2001)

Vivebam: sum facta silex, qua deinde polita
   Praxiteli manibus, vivo iterum Niobe.
Reddidit artificis manus omnia, sed sine sensu;
  hunc ego, cum laesi numina, non habui.

Lais anus Veneri speculum dico: dignum habeat se
  aeterna aeternum forma ministerium.
at mihi nullus in hoc usus, quia cernere talem,
  qualis sum, nolo, qualis eram, nequeo.

silex silicis (m. and sometimes f.): stone
qua deinde polita: abl. abs. `which subsequently being polished’
polio (-irepolivi politum: to polish, smooth
Praxiteli: Latin genitive of a Greek name
vivo iterum Niobe: I, Niobe, live (now) a second time
reddo (-ere) reddidi redditum: to restore, give back
artifex artificis (m.): artist
hunc (sensum): as for insulting gods (numina) one must be out of his (and her!) senses
laedo laesi laesum: to wound, offend
anus anus (f.): old woman (a derogatory term)
dico (-are): to dedicate (Veneri speculum dico: dear items were dedicated to gods when they were no longer used. Lais dedicates her mirror to Venus, as she realizes she has become unattractive.)
dignum habeat se aeterna aeternum forma ministerium = aeterna forma habeat aeternum ministerium dignum se (habere): let eternal beauty have eternal service (to Venus), worthy it (i.e. forma) having (i.e. only eternal beauty is worthy of the eternal service to Venus.)
in hoc (speculum)
cerno (-ere) crevi certum: to see, distinguish
talem (anum)
nequeo (-ire) nequivi: not be able to

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Suetonius, Vespesian 23: the joking emperor.

Pecunia non olet `money doesn’t stink’ is a well-known expression, attributed to Emperor Vespasian (AD 69–79). After decennia of turmoil, the reign of this man must have come as a relief. It says enough that Vespasian was one of the few emperors not to suffer a violent death.
At the end of his biography of Vespasian, Suetonius (69- after 122 AD) sums up some anecdotes about this man. Suetonius stresses the wit of this emperor, but the anecdotes are also revealing the endemic corruption and the constant shortage of cash of the Roman Empire at that period.
Entertaining as such anecdotes are, modern historians doubt their historicity. True or not, they illustrate Vespasian’s character. He even kept his wit when death was approaching: `O dear, I think I am becoming a god!’, referring to the practice of giving a divine status to deceased emperors. He was right: `Divus Vespasianus’ is the heading of his biography.
The Latin is not that easy and the anecdotes require explanation, as for modern readers the point is not immediately obvious.

Suetonius, Divus Vespasianus ,23 (The first few sentences have been left out as they contain Greek quotes)

Maxime tamen dicacitatem adfectabat in deformibus lucris, ut invidiam aliqua cavillatione dilueret transferretque ad sales. Quendam e caris ministris dispensationem cuidam quasi fratri petentem cum distulisset, ipsum candidatum ad se vocavit; exactaque pecunia, quantam is cum suffragatore suo pepigerat, sine mora ordinavit; interpellanti mox ministro: Alium tibi, ait, quaere fratrem; hic, quem tuum putas, meus est. Mulionem in itinere quodam suspicatus ad calciandas mulas desiluisse, ut adeunti litigatori spatium moramque praeberet, interrogavit quanti calciasset, et pactus est lucri partem. Reprehendenti filio Tito, quod etiam urinae vectigal commentus esset, pecuniam ex prima pensione admovit ad nares, sciscitans num odore offenderetur; et illo negante: Atqui, inquit, e lotio est. Nuntiantis legatos decretam ei publice non mediocris summae statuam colosseam, iussit vel continuo ponere, cavam manum ostentans et paratam basim dicens. Ac ne in metu quidem ac periculo mortis extremo abstinuit iocis. Nam cum inter cetera prodigia Mausoleum derepente patuisset et stella crinita in caelo apparuisset, alterum ad Iuniam Calvinam e gente Augusti pertinere dicebat, alterum ad Parthorum regem qui capillatus esset; prima quoque morbi accessione: Vae, inquit, puto, deus fio.

dicacitatem adfectabat in deformibus lucris: He used to resort to his wit (dicacitas) in relation to his foul profits (lucrum)
affecto (-are): to strive after, aim, resort (the imperfect here describes a habit)
cavillatio onis (f.): a jest, irony
diluo dilui dilutum: to wash away
transferretque ad sales: and turned it onto jokes (sal (m.): salt, but also joke, jest)
(Cum distulisset) quendam… dispensationem cuidam quasi fratri petentem: (when he had put off ) a certain person… asking for the office of treasurer (dispensatio. A dispensator is a treasurer) for someone pretending to be that it was his brother. (Such a job could be very profitable and the pretended brother was of course paying the servant money once he got that job. However Vespasian was shrewder than his servant.)
exactaque pecunia: the money being extorted
suffragator –oris (m.): helper, supporter
pango (-ere) pepigi pactum: to agree
mora: delay
ordinavit (eum dispensatorem)
interpello (-are): to interrupt, disturb by speaking (interpellanti ministro: abl. abs.)
quaero quaesivi quaesitum: to ask
mulionem...suspicatus ad calciandas mulas desiluisse:  he suspected that a muledriver had dismounted to shoe the mules (calcio (-are)= calceo (-are): to shoe (Mules had no iron horseshoes with nails, but a kind of leather shoes.)
litigator –oris (m.): litigant, person involved in a lawsuit (In theory an emperor was the highest judge and hence the muledriver gave (praebeo praebui praebuitum) the man time and opportunity (spatium moramque) for approaching Vespasian. In practice complains were handled by the staff of an emperor, but now there was an opportunity for direct access.)
quanti: genitive of price `for how much money’, cf. below non mediocris summae
paciscor pactus sum: to agree, stipulate
reprehendenti (eum) filio Tito: abl. abs. `when his son Titus was rebuking him’
urinae: namely for urinating in public toilets
vectigal –alis (n.): (indirect) tax
comminiscor commentus est: to devise, invent
ex prima pensione: from the first payment (of that tax)
naris naris (f.): nostrils
sciscitor scisciscatus sum: to ask
odor odoris (m.): smell
atqui: and nevertheless
lotium: urine
Nuntiantis legatos decretam ei publice non mediocris summae statuam colosseam, iussit = iussit legatos nuntiantis (= nuntiantes) ei statuam colosseam publice decretam (esse) non mediocris summae
statua: statue
publice: i.e. to be paid by state resources
vel: even. Indeed (not to be confused with the disjunctive vel)
continuo: immediately
cavam manum: the cavity of his hands
basis basis (m.): fundament (the point is that Vespasian rather wanted the money than an expensive statue.)
quidem: indeed
prodigium: omen
pateo patui: to be/stand open (Normally the doors of the Mausoleum were closed. It was a bad sign when they were open.)
derepente: suddenly
stella crinita: `hairy star’, meteor
Iunia Calvina: the last survivor of the family of Augustus (Calvinus comes from calvus `bald’)
capillatus: with long hair (which was normal for the Parthians)
prima quoque morbi accessione: at the first (signs of the) appearance of death

Translation by J.C. Rolfe (1913)

But he particularly resorted to witticisms about his unseemly means of gain, seeking to diminish their odium by some jocose saying and to turn them into a jest. 2 Having put off one of his favourite attendants, who asked for a stewardship for a pretended brother, he summoned the candidate himself, and after compelling him to pay him as much money as he had agreed to give his advocate, appointed him to the position without delay. On his attendant's taking up the matter again, he said: "Find yourself another brother; the man that you thought was yours is mine." On a journey, suspecting that his muleteer had got down to shoe the mules merely to make delay and give time for a man with a lawsuit to approach the emperor, he asked how much he was paid for shoeing the mules and insisted on a share of the money. 3 When Titus found fault with him for contriving a tax upon public conveniences, he held a piece of money from the first payment to his son's nose, asking whether its odour was offensive to him. When Titus said "No," he replied, "Yet it comes from urine." On the report of a deputation that a colossal statue of great cost had been voted him at public expense, he demanded to have it set up at once, and holding out his open hand, said that the base was ready. 4 He did not cease his jokes even when in apprehension of death and in extreme danger; for when among other portents the Mausoleum
 opened on a sudden and a comet appeared in the heavens, he declared that the former applied to Junia Calvina of the family of Augustus, and the latter to the king of the Parthians, who wore his hair long; and as death drew near, he said: "Woe's me. Methinks I'm turning into a god."