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.

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