Thursday, 23 February 2017

Phaedrus 5.3: an irritating fly.

Looking for another book, I found Speyer’s Phaedri Fabulae Aesopi (1912). Since I had to reshuffle my books and have far more double rows now, some books are at erratic places. Speyer was professor of Latin at my hometown Groningen and later became professor of Sanskrit at Leyden. Sanskrit was his first and foremost love and his publications on that language are far more important than his contributions to Latin. Still, the date of publication suggests that also during his professorship in Sanskrit he did not forget Latin. The book fell open on a page telling the story of a bald man and a fly. Bitten by a fly, the poor man hit himself trying to kill his adversary.
Nothing can by more irritating than a fly unceasingly trying to bite or indeed managing to bite. I am rather clumsy in capturing flies, but to my luck, flies take little to no interest in my blood. A friend of mine, with whom I use to hike twice a year, is always heavily attacked during the night, while I have mostly nothing.

Phaedrus 5.3: Calvus et musca.

Calvi momordit musca nudatum caput;
Quam opprimere captans alapam sibi duxit gravem.
Tunc illa irridens: Punctum volucris parvulae
Voluisti morte ulcisci; quid facies tibi,
Iniuriae qui addideris contumeliam?
Respondit: Mecum facile redeo in gratiam,
Quia non fuisse mentem laedendi scio.
Sed te, contempti generis animal improbum,
Quae delectaris bibere humanum sanguinem,
Optem necare vel maiore incommodo.
Hoc argumentum veniam ei dari docet
Qui casu peccat. Nam qui consilio est nocens,
Illum esse quavis dignum poena iudico.

mordeo momordi morsum: to bite
capto: to try, to seek
alapa: a stroke or blow upon the cheek with the open hand, a box on the ear
alapam duco: to give a blow
irrideo irrisi: to laugh at
volucris –is (f.): anything that can fly
parvulus: diminutive of parvus
ulcicsor ultus: to revenge
contumelia: insult (i.e. by giving himself a hard blow)
red-ire in gratiam cum aliquo: to reconcile with someone
mentem laedendi: intention of hurting
improbus: shameless
delector: to delight
bibo bibi: to drink
opto: to wish
neco: to kill
vel: even
incommodum: inconvenience, injury
argumentum: moral
veniam do: to forgive
casu: unintentionally
consilio: on purpose
dignus (+ abl.): worthy of

Translation by C. Smart (1913)

The Bald Man and the Fly

As on his head she chanced to sit,
A Man's bald pate a Gadfly bit;
He, prompt to crush the little foe,
Dealt on himself a grievous blow:
At which the Fly, deriding said,
" You that would strike an insect dead
For one slight sting, in wrath so strict,
What punishment will you inflict
Upon yourself, who was so blunt
To do yourself this gross affront ?"-
"0," says the party, "as for me,
I with myself can soon agree.
The spirit of th' intention's all;
But thou, detested cannibal!
Blood-sucker! to have thee secured
More would I gladly have endured."
What by this moral tale is meant
Is-those who wrong not with intent
Are venial; but to those that do
Severity, I think, is due.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Pliny 1.24: a pleasant estate for a scholar.

Tranquillus is a friend of Plmy and wants to buy a small estate, which a friend of another friend of Pliny – Baebius Hispanus - has offered for sale. Pliny writes to this Baebius to help with the purchase.
Tranquillus is a scholasticus – a man of learning and not that rich – needing a pleasant place where he can read and write and go outside to refresh the mind. Pliny describes exactly what a man of books needs: a modest villa easy to maintain, near a city and with a pleasant garden to walk around. Actually something I would like to have too – a gardener and some servants included.

Piny 1.24


1 Tranquillus contubernalis meus vult emere agellum, quem venditare amicus tuus dicitur. 2 Rogo cures, quanti aequum est, emat; ita enim delectabit emisse. Nam mala emptio semper ingrata, eo maxime quod exprobrare stultitiam domino videtur. 3 In hoc autem agello, si modo arriserit pretium, Tranquilli mei stomachum multa sollicitant, vicinitas urbis, opportunitas viae, mediocritas villae, modus ruris, qui avocet magis quam distringat. 4 Scholasticis porro dominis, ut hic est, sufficit abunde tantum soli, ut relevare caput, reficere oculos, reptare per limitem unamque semitam terere omnesque viteculas suas nosse et numerare arbusculas possint. Haec tibi exposui, quo magis scires, quantum esset ille mihi, ego tibi debiturus, si praediolum istud, quod commendatur his dotibus, tam salubriter emerit ut paenitentiae locum non relinquat. Vale.

contubernalis -is (m. and f.): mess-mate, comrade
emo empsi emptum (-ere): to buy
agellum: small piece of land (diminutive of ager)
vendito: to sell
rogo (ut) cures
quanti aequum (agellum) est: quanti is gen. pretii, `it is fair of price’=  when the price is fair
eo maxime quod exprobrare stultitiam domino videtur: even more when it seems to blame the foolishness of the owner (i.e. when he has bought it for too much money. The text below gives a circumscription and not a translation.)
exprobro: to make a matter of reproach, to cast in the teeth, to accuse of any thing (constr. aliquid in aliqua re or alicui.)
arrideo arrisis arrisum: to laugh at, to be favourable
stomachus: here `taste’
sollicito (-are): to excite
mediocritas villae: a not to big land house
rus ruris (n.): farm
distringo distrinxi districtum: to distract
porro: furthermore
abunde: more than enough
solum: ground
reficio refeci refectum: to restore (i.e. from reading)
repto: to walk lazely
limen limitis (n.): (border)-path
unam semitam terere: to beat one track
vitecula: wine-shoot
arbuscula: shrub
quantum esset ille mihi (debiturus), ego tibi debiturus (essem)
praediolum: small estate
quod commendatur his dotibus: which is recommended by these advantages
salubriter: advantageously
paenitentiae locum: room for regret

Translation by JOHN B. FIRTH (ca. 1900)


My comrade Tranquillus wishes to buy a bit of land which your friend is said to be offering for sale. I beg that you will see that he purchases it at a fair price, for in that case he will be glad to have bought it. A bad bargain is always annoying, and especially so as it seems to show that the previous owner has played one a scurvy trick. As to the plot in question, if only the price is right, there are many reasons that tempt my friend Tranquillus to buy--the nearness of the city, the convenient road, the modest dimensions of his villa and the extent of the farm, which is just enough to pleasantly disengage his thoughts from other things, but not enough to give him any worry. In fact learned schoolmen, like Tranquillus, on turning land-owners, ought only to have just sufficient land to enable them to get rid of headaches, cure their eyes, walk lazily round their boundary paths, make one beaten track for themselves, get to know all their vines and count their trees. I have gone into these details that you might understand what a regard I have for Tranquillus, and how greatly I shall be indebted to you if he is enabled to purchase the estate which has all these advantages to commend it at such a reasonable price that he will not regret having bought it. Farewell.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Historia Augusta: those damned Egyptians.

The Historia Augusta is a collection of biographies written around 400 about third century emperors and would be emperors. The author or authors - mirrored social and political issues from his own time into these biographies and this makes the Historia Augusta problematic as a reliable source. Unfortunately it is almost the only source covering that period.  The wiki link below gives full details about the scholarly debates on this work.
Most biographies are short and actually no biographies at all, but hardly more than anecdotes. One such short biography is about Mussius Aemilianus, not to be confused with emperor Aemilianus, who was emperor during three months in 253.  It was a time of unrest and various commanders in the Eastern provinces revolted against Emperor Gallienus.  All failed and then Aemilianus decided to declare himself emperor . The cause was a revolt in Alexandria and Aemilianus, thinking his life was in danger anyway, gambled – and lost: he was defeated in March 262, captured and strangled.
There is a problem: Aemilianus’ life is also known from a long inscription and Eusebius’ ecclesiastical history and outside this source nothing is known of Aemilianus’ imperial ambitions.  Could it be that Gallienus simply put Aemilianus aside under the pretext that he tried to usurp power?
What is interesting in this text is not so much Aemilianus, but the way Egyptians are described: quarrelling about trivialities and easily rioting. What the text does not say is that the burden of taxation was high and that many lived on the brink of starvation.  A good excuse for resentment and revolt.

Historia Augusta, Tyranni Triginta 22.

Est hoc familiare populi Aegyptiorum ut velut furiosi ac dementes de levissimis quibusque ad summa rei publicae pericula perducantur; 2 saepe illi ob neglectas salutationes, locum in balneis non concessum, carnem et olera sequestrata, calceamenta servilia et cetera talia usque ad summum rei publicae periculum in seditiones, ita ut armarentur contra eas exercitus, pervenerunt. 3 familiari ergo sibi furore, cum quadam die cuiusdam servus curatoris, qui Alexandriam tunc regebat, militari ob hoc caesus esset quod crepidas suas meliores esse quam militis diceret, collecta multitudo ad domum Aemiliani ducis venit atque eum omni seditionum instrumento et furore persecuta est; ictus est lapidibus, petitus est ferro, nec defuit ullum seditionis telum. 4 qua re coactus Aemilianus sumpsit imperium, cum sciret sibi undecumque pereundum. 5 consenserunt ei Aegyptiacus exercitus, maxime in Gallieni odium. 6 nec eius ad regendam rem publicam vigor defuit, nam Thebaidem totamque Aegyptum peragravit et, quatenus potuit, barbarorum gentes forti auctoritate summovit. 7 Alexander denique vel Alexandrinus (nam incertum id quoque habetur) virtutum merito vocatus est. 8 et cum contra Indos pararet expeditionem, misso Theodoto duce Gallieno iubente dedit poenas, et quidem strangulatus in carcere captivorum veterum more perhibetur.

familiaris -is: usual
levissimis quibusque: whatever trivial
perduco perduxi perductum: to lead, bring
balneum: public bath
olus oleris (n.): vegetable
sequestro (-are): to separate, withhold
carnem et olera sequestrata: probably sequestrata with carnem too. The meaning is vague.
calceamenta servilia: shoes of slaves
seditio –onis (f.): insurrection, revolt
armo (-are): to equip with arms
curator –is: governor
caedo cecidi caesum: to strike, kill
militaris –is (m.): soldier
crepida: sandal
instrumentum: tool
iacio ieci iactum: hit
petitus: attacked
ullum telum: any kind of weapon
undecumque: from every side
maxime in Gallieni odium: foremost for their hate of Gallienus
nec eius vigor defuit: nor did he lack the vigor (ei instead of eius is usual)
Thebaiden Aegyptum: large dessert in Upper (= southern) Egypt
peragro: to traverse
quatenus: as far as
summoveo summovi summotum: to expel, drive away
virtutum merito: on account of his virtues
id incertum habetur: this is held uncertain = this is uncertain
Indos: not the people of India, as in the translation below and my recent Dutch translation have, but the Ethiopians or Arabs (cf. Lewis and Short s.v. Indus)
paro: to prepare
misso Theodoto duce Gallieno iubente dedit poenas: general Theodotus being sent he was punished, Gallienus ordening  = general Theodotus was sent and he was punished  on the order of Gallienus
quidem: indeed
strangulatus perhibetur: he is said to be strangled
captivorum veterum more: like the captives of old or as is done with old captives?

Translation by David Magie (1921)

It is the wont of the people of Egypt that like madmen and fools they are led by the most trivial matters to become highly dangerous to the commonwealth; 2 for merely because a greeting was omitted, or a place in the baths refused, or meat and vegetables withheld, or on account of the boots of slaves or some other such things, they have broken out into riots, even to the point of becoming highly dangerous to the state, so that troops have been armed to quell them. 3 With their wonted madness, accordingly, on a certain occasion, when the slave of the chief magistrate then governing Alexandria had been killed by a soldier for asserting that his sandals were better than the soldier's, a mob gathered together, and, coming to the house of the general Aemilianus, it assailed him with all the implements and the frenzy usual in riots; he was pelted with stones and attacked with swords, and no kind of weapon used in a riot was lacking. 4 And so Aemilianus was constrained to assume the imperial power, knowing well that he would have to die in any event. 5 To this step the army in Egypt agreed, chiefly out of hatred for Gallienus. 6 He did not, indeed, lack energy for administering public affairs. For he marched through the district of Thebes and, in fact, the whole of Egypt, and to the best of his powers drove back the barbarians with courage and firmness. 7 Finally, he won by his merits the name of Alexander, or else Alexandrinus — for this is considered uncertain. 8 But when he was making ready for a campaign against the people of India, the general Theodotus was sent against him by order of Gallienus, and so he suffered punishment, for it is related that, like the captives of old, he was strangled in prison.  (The German wiki on Aemilianus is far better.)