Sunday, 16 July 2017

Seneca: a lively bathhouse.



Noise disturbance is an evil rapidly having spread since the invention of loudspeakers and ghetto blasters, but it is not something new: an overcrowded city like Rome must have been a disaster for people insisting on a quiet surrounding. In Letter 56 Seneca describes the noises from the bathhouse above which he has an apartment. What is told with some irony seems to be an accurate description of what was happening there.  Of course Seneca, a true stoic, doesn’t care about all that noise.

LVI. SENECA LUCILIO SUO SALUTEM

[1] Peream si est tam necessarium quam videtur silentium in studia seposito. Ecce undique me varius clamor circumsonat: supra ipsum balneum habito. Propone nunc tibi omnia genera vocum quae in odium possunt aures adducere: cum fortiores exercentur et manus plumbo graves iactant, cum aut laborant aut laborantem imitantur, gemitus audio, quotiens retentum spiritum remiserunt, sibilos et acerbissimas respirationes; cum in aliquem inertem et hac plebeia unctione contentum incidi, audio crepitum illisae manus umeris, quae prout plana pervenit aut concava, ita sonum mutat. Si vero pilicrepus supervenit et numerare coepit pilas, actum est. [2] Adice nunc scordalum et furem deprensum et illum cui vox sua in balineo placet, adice nunc eos qui in piscinam cum ingenti impulsae aquae sono saliunt. Praeter istos quorum, si nihil aliud, rectae voces sunt, alipilum cogita tenuem et stridulam vocem quo sit notabilior subinde exprimentem nec umquam tacentem nisi dum vellit alas et alium pro se clamare cogit; iam biberari varias exclamationes et botularium et crustularium et omnes popinarum institores mercem sua quadam et insignita modulatione vendentis.

in studio seposito: for one engaged in study
undique: from all sides
balneum (balineum): bath
propone tibi: imagine
in odium possent aures adducere: which can lead to hating one’s own ears
fortiores: rather strong men
manus plumbo graves:  the Romans used a kind of muffles with lead
iacto: to thrust, swing
gemitus gemitus (m.): groan (think of tennis games…)
retentum spiritum: breath hold in
sibilus: hissing
acerbus: harsh
hac plebeia unctione contentum: satisfied with that cheap oil (Seneca is referring to someone getting a cheap oil massage)
incidi incidi: to fall upon
crepitus crepitus (m.): clashing
illisae manus umeris: of a hand having been struck on the shoulders (i.e. the hand of the masseur)
prout: according as
pilicrepus: ballplayer (but score-shouter seems a better translation here)
pila: ball
actum est: it is done with the quietness
scordalus: a quarrelsome fellow
fur furis (m.): thief
deprehendo deprehendi deprehensum: to catch
piscina: swimming pool
salio salui saltum: to jump
rectae voces: normal voices
alipilus: one who epilates armpits
cogita: think of
tenuem et stridulam vocem (acc. resp.): with his thin and shrieking voice
quo sit notabilior: in order that he may be more distinctive
subinde: continually
vello (-ere): to pluck
ala: armpit
alium pro se clamare cogit: it must have been a rather painful experience
iam (cogita)
biberarius: seller of drinks
botularius: sausage-maker
crustularius: pastry-maker
popina: food sold at a cookshop
institor institoris (m.): peddler, broker
mercem sua quadam et insignita modulatione vendentis (= es): selling their ware with some own and specific melody

Translation by Richard Mott Gummere (1917)

1. Beshrew me if I think anything more requisite than silence for a man who secludes himself in order to study! Imagine what a variety of noises reverberates about my ears! I have lodgings right over a bathing establishment. So picture to yourself the assortment of sounds, which are strong enough to make me hate my very powers of hearing! When your strenuous gentleman, for example, is exercising himself by flourishing leaden weights; when he is working hard, or else pretends to be working hard, I can hear him grunt; and whenever he releases his imprisoned breath, I can hear him panting in wheezy and high-pitched tones. Or perhaps I notice some lazy fellow, content with a cheap rubdown, and hear the crack of the pummelling hand on his shoulder, varying in sound according as the hand is laid on flat or hollow. Then, perhaps, a professional comes along, shouting out the score; that is the finishing touch. 2. Add to this the arresting of an occasional roisterer or pickpocket, the racket of the man who always likes to hear his own voice in the bathroom, or the enthusiast who plunges into the swimming-tank with unconscionable noise and splashing. Besides all those whose voices, if nothing else, are good, imagine the hair-plucker with his penetrating, shrill voice, – for purposes of advertisement, – continually giving it vent and never holding his tongue except when he is plucking the armpits and making his victim yell instead. Then the cakeseller with his varied cries, the sausageman, the confectioner, and all the vendors of food hawking their wares, each with his own distinctive intonation.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Paulus Diaconus: remains of an unknown Germanic lay?



In his Historia Longobardorum, Paulus Diaconus makes a digression to king Gunthram of Burgundy (532-592). Burgundy is not to be confused with the kingdom of the Burgundian, which fell in Frankish hands in 532. Gunthram belonged to the Frankish dynasty of the Merovingians.  This king was after his death soon venerated as a saint by his people and Paulus tells a remarkable event which happened to this king. While asleep a snake came out of Gunthram’s mouth and this animal discovered a hoard inside a mountain. When awake, Gunthram tells that he had a dream in which he found a treasure in a mountain. A close associate of the king – having seen the animal creeping out of the king’s mount and disappearing in a mountain - then tells the king about what he had seen and Gunthram ordered this mount to by dug out and indeed an immense amount of gold was found. There are some remarkable traits in this story: first of all the snake, which must represent the soul of a man. Many cultures believe that the soul (or part of the soul) leaves the body when one is dreaming and though references to the soul in the shape of an animal are few in Germanic sources, great importance was attached to dreaming as a way of divination. Secondly the hoard inside the mountain, which reminds of the hoard found by Siegfried in the oldest layers of Das Nibelungenlied an epic compiled around 1200 about the fall of the Burgundian kingdom. It is possible that elements of an early and unknown Germanic heroic lay have in popular tradition been attached to king Gunthram?  We will never know.

Paulus Diaconus, Historia Longobardorum 3,34

Erat autem Gunthramnus iste, de quo diximus, rex pacificus et omni bonitate conspicuus. Cuius unum factum satis admirabile libet nos huic nostrae historiae breviter inserere, praesertim cum hoc Francorum historia noverimus minime contineri. Is, cum venatum quodam tempore in silvam isset, et, ut adsolet fieri, hac illacque discurrentibus sociis, ipse cum uno fidelissimo tamen suo remansisset, gravissimo somno depressus, caput in genibus eiusdem fidelis sui reclinans, obdormivit. De cuius ore parvum animal in modum reptilis egressum, tenuem rivulum, qui propter discurrebat, ut transire possit, satagere coepit. Tunc isdem in cuius gremio quiescebat spatam suam vagina exemptam super eundem rivulum posuit; super quam illud reptile, de quo diximus, ad partem aliam transmeavit. Quod cum non longe exinde in quoddam foramen montis ingressum fuisset, et post aliquantum spatii regressum super eandem spatam praefatum rivulum transmeasset, rursum in os Gunthramni, de quo exierat, introivit. Gunthramnus post haec de somno expergefactus, mirificam se visionem vidisse narravit. Retulit enim, paruisse sibi in somnis quod fluvium quendam per pontem ferreum transisset et sub montem quendam introisset, ubi multum auri pondus aspexisset. Is vero in cuius gremio caput tenuerat cum dormisset, quid de eo viderat ei per ordinem retulit. Quid plura? Effossus est locus ille, et inestimabiles thesauri, qui ibidem antiquitus positi fuerant, sunt reperti. De quo auro ipse rex postmodum cyborium solidum mirae magnitudinis et magni ponderis fecit, multisque illud preciosissimis gemmis decoratum ad sepulchrum Domini Hierosolimam transmittere voluit. Sed cum minime potuisset, idem supra corpus beati Marcelli martyris, quod in civitate Caballonno sepultum est, ubi sedes regni illius erat, poni fecit; et est ibi usque in praesentem diem. Nec est usquam ullum opus ex auro effectum, quod ei valeat conparari.

conspicuus: distinguished
factum: story, event
libet: pleases (subject factum)
insero inserui insertum: to insert
praesertim: especially
hoc (factum in) Francorum historia contineri: Paulus is referring to Gregory of Tours’ history of the Franks.
minime: not at all
veno: to hunt (venatum: supine)
adsolet = solet
hac illacque: hither thither
discurro discucurri discursum: to wander, roam (discurrentibus sociis: abl. abs)
remaneo remansi: to stay behind
genu genus (n.): knee
obdormio: to fall asleep
reptilis: snake
rivulus = rivus: small stream, brook
propter: nearby
satago: to attempt, try
gremium: lap
quiescabat: i.e. Gunthram
spata: sword
vagina: sheath
eximo exemi exemptum: to draw out
partem aliam: the other side
transmeo: to pass, cross
exinde: from there
foramen foraminis (n.): opening, hole
spatium: time
expergefacio: to arouse
refero retuli relatum: to tell
pareo parui: to appear
pondus ponderis (n.): weight
is: the fidelissimus
caput tenuerat cum dormisset: the king kept his head while sleeping
ei: the king
effodio effodi effossum: to dig out
antiquitus: long ago
reperio repperi repertum: to find
ciborium: canopy over an altar or tomb
gemma: gem
Marcelli martyris: Saint Marcellus of Chalon-sur-Saône (Cabellonum). Died in 178
poni fecit: he let it be put

Translation by William D. Faulke (1907)

This Gunthram indeed of whom we have spoken was a peaceful king and eminent in every good quality. Of him we may briefly insert in this history of ours one very remarkable occurrence, especially since we know that it is not at all contained in the history of the Franks. When he went once upon a time into the woods to hunt, and, as often happens, his companions scattered hither and thither, and he remained with only one, a very faithful friend of his, he was oppressed with heavy slumber and laying his head upon the knees of this same faithful companion, he fell asleep. From his mouth a little animal in the shape of a reptile came forth and began to bustle about seeking to cross a slender brook which flowed near by. Then he in whose lap (the king) was resting laid his sword, which he had drawn from its scabbard, over this brook and upon it that reptile of which we have spoken passed over to the other side. And when it had entered into a certain hole in the mountain not far off, and having re-
turned after a little time, had crossed the aforesaid brook upon the same sword, it again went into the mouth of Gunthram from which it had come forth. When Gunthram was afterwards awakened from sleep he said he had
seen a wonderful vision. For he related that it had seemed to him in his slumbers that he had passed over a certain river by an iron bridge and had gone in under a certain mountain where he had gazed upon a great mass
of gold. The man however, on whose lap he had held his head while he was sleeping, related to him in order what he had seen of it. Why say more? That place was dug up and countless treasures were discovered which
had been put there of old. Of this gold the king himself afterwards made a solid canopy of wonderful size and great weight and wished to send it, adorned with
many precious gems, to Jerusalem to the sepulcher of our Lord. But when he could not at all do this he caused it to be placed over the body of St. Marcellus
the martyr who was buried in the city of Cabillonum (Chalon-Sur-Saone) where the capital of his kingdom was, and it is there down to the present day. Nor is
there anywhere any work made of gold which may be compared to it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guntram#

Friday, 16 June 2017

Ovid, Ariadne Theseo: a desperate woman.



The female perspective is often not far away in Ovid’s poetry and this is especially true for his Heroides: imaginary letters from heroines in classical mythology to their husbands and lovers who have betrayed them. Of course it would be nonsense to portray Ovid as a feminist – after all Ovid’s voice is that of a Roman living during the time of Augustus  - but still I think Ovid sympathizes with his heroines.
A famous example of a woman betrayed by a man is the story of Ariadne and Theseus. Theseus left her behind at the island of Lesbos while she was still asleep and now she describes how she searched for him in vain.

Ovidius, Heroides X, Ariadne Theseo 25-58.

Mons fuit; apparent frutices in vertice rari;
     hinc scopulus raucis pendet adesus aquis.
adscendo; vires animus dabat; atque ita late
     aequora prospectu metior alta meo.
inde ego—nam ventis quoque sum crudelibus usa—
     vidi praecipiti carbasa tenta Noto.
aut vidi aut fuerant quae me vidisse putarem;
     frigidior glacie semianimisque fui.
nec languere diu patitur dolor. Excitor illo,
     excitor et summa Thesea voce voco.
"quo fugis?" exclamo "scelerate revertere Theseu!
     flecte ratem! numerum non habet illa suum!"
Haec ego. quod voci deerat, plangore replebam;
     verbera cum verbis mixta fuere meis.
si non audires, ut saltem cernere posses:
     iactatae late signa dedere manus.
candidaque imposui longae velamina virgae
     scilicet oblitos admonitura mei.
iamque oculis ereptus eras. tum denique flevi;
     torpuerant molles ante dolore genae.
quid potius facerent, quam me mea lumina flerent,
     postquam desieram vela videre tua?
aut ego diffusis erravi sola capillis,
     qualis ab Ogygio concita Baccha deo;
aut mare prospiciens in saxo frigida sedi,
     quamque lapis sedes, tam lapis ipsa fui.
saepe torum repeto qui nos acceperat ambos,
     sed non acceptos exhibiturus erat
et tua, quae possum pro te, vestigia tango
     strataque quae membris intepuere tuis.
incumbo lacrimisque toro manante profusis
     "pressimus" exclamo "te duo, redde duos!
venimus huc ambo; cur non discedimus ambo?
     perfide, pars nostri, lectule, maior ubi est?"

frutex fruticis (m.): shrub, bush
vertex verticis (m.): top
hinc: from there
scopulus: a projecting point of rock, crag
raucus: roaring
adedo adedi adesum: to wear away
animus: courage
late: far and wide, (line 40) to and fro
prospectusus (m.): gaze
metior mensus: to measure, scan
utor usus (+ abl.): (here) to find, experience
vidi praecipiti carbasa tenta Noto: I your sails (carbassa) stretched out by the swift (praeceps) Southern wind
vidi…putarem: the reading of this line varies in the various manuscripts. This text is taken from the Latin Library site. The readings in other manuscripts are problematic too and many attempts have been made by scholars to emend this line. As it stands, it must mean something like: either I saw (the sails) or I thought I had seen (the sails) (as?) they were. Many attempts have been made to emend this line and that of A.J. Housman has found some favour: Ut vidi dignam quae me vidisse putarem `I saw a thing (ea), quae) such as I thought I did not deserve to see’. I wonder though
semianimis: half-alive (scanned four-syllabic:  semanimis)
langueo: to be faint, languid
excitor illo (dolore) excito: to rouse
quo: where to
sceleratus: impious, wicked
numerum non habet illa suum: she (the ship) has not the full number of passengers
haec (dixi)
ratisis (f.): raft, boat
quod voci deerat, plangore replebam: what lacked (desum + dat.) in voice, I filled with beating of the breast (plangor)
verber verberis (n.): stroke, blow
fuere = fuerant
ut saltem cernere posses: that you could at least see
iacto (-are): to wave
dedere = dederant
candidus: white
velaman velaminis (n.): cloth
virga: twig
scilicet oblitos admonitura mei: namely to remind (litt. (the clothes) willing remind) those who forgot me. Oblivos is poetic plural, as only Theseus was on board.
oculis (meis)
torpesco torpui: to become dull
ante: adv. before
genae: cheeks, but in poetic language `the eyes’ (lumina)
quid potius facerent, quam me mea lumina flerent = quid mea lumina potius facerent, quam me flerent
desino desesii : to cease
velum: sail
difussis capillis: with dishevelled hair (as a sign of grieve)
Ogygio deo: Dionysus (Ogyges was a king of Thebes, where Dionysus’ mother Semele came from)
Baccha: a Bacchante, a maenad
quamque lapis sedes, tam lapis ipsa fui = et tam lapis ipsa fui, quam lapis sedes: I was as much a stone as was the stone that was my seat
torus: cushion, bed
repeto repetivi repitum: to seek again
exhibeo exhibui exhibitum: to show, reveal
quae possum pro te: which I can touch instead of you
strata stratorum (n. pl.): bed
intepesco intepui: to become lukewarm (intepuere = intepuerunt)
incumbo incubui incubitum: to lay oneself
lacrimisque toro manante profusis: and while the cushion was drenched (mano) by my shed tears
reddo reddidi redditum: to give back
perfide lectule: either Ariadne curses in her despair the bed, or it is a kind of enallage with Theseus as the real perfide.
pars nostri maior: my greater part, i.e. my better part

 Afbeeldingsresultaat voor ariadne naxos


 

Honoré Daumier - the abandoned Ariadne

Translation by A.S. Klyne
 
There was a hill: a few bushes were visible on its summit:
a crag hangs there hollowed out by the harsh waves.
I climbed it: courage gave me strength: and I scanned
the wide waters from that height with my gaze.
Then I saw now the cruel winds were also felt
your ship driven before a fierce southerly gale.
Either with what I saw, or what I may have thought Id seen:
I was frozen like ice and half-alive.
But grief allowed no time for languor.  I was roused by it,
and roused, I called to Theseus at the top of my voice.
Where are you going? I shouted turn back, wicked Theseus!
Work your ship! Youre without one of your number!
So I called. When my voice failed I beat my breast instead:
my blows were interspaced with my words.
If you could not hear at least you might still see:
I made widesignals with my outstretched hands.
I hung a white cloth on a tall branch,
hoping those whod forgotten would remember me.
Now you were lost to sight. Then finally I wept:
till then my cheeks were numb with grief.
What could my eyes do but weep at myself,
once they had ceased to see your sails?
Either I wandered alone, with dishevelled hair,
like a Maenad shaken by the Theban god:
or I sat on the cold rock gazing at the sea,
and I was as much a stone as the stones I sat on.
Often I seek again the bed that accepted us both,
but it shows no sign of that acceptance,
and I touch what I can of the traces of you, instead of you,
and the sheets your body warmed.
I lie there and, wetting the bed with my flowing tears,
I cry out: We two burdened you, restore the two!
We came here together: why shouldnt we go together?
Faithless bed, wheres the better part of me now?