Sunday, 24 March 2019

Ovid. Tristia 5,11: not exiled but sent away.

In 8 AD Augustus punished Ovid by sending him away to the shores Black Sea. The reasons are far from clear, but it is assumed the poems from the Ars Amatoria could not charm Augustus, who was by all accounts very prude. There is one big problem: was Ovid really sent away or was it his poetic construction? Much ink has been spoiled on this issue, but as long as we do not use his Tristia and Littera ex Ponto as real biographical accounts and stay within the frame of the poems, this does not affect the interpretation.
In this poem Ovid is offended because he was called an exul – an exile. This was not true as he had been sent away (relegatus), not exiled. This is not a mere play of words, but had juridical implications: an exul was stripped of his property and civil rights, a relegatus not. In the second part of this poem Ovid admits his trespass and flatters Augustus. It is reminiscent of Stalinist or Maoist show trials at which the accused confessed guilt and praised the leadership. Ovid had no success.

Ovidius, Tristia 5.11

Quod te nescioquis per iurgia dixerit esse
exulis uxorem, littera questa tua est.
indolui, non tam mea quod fortuna male audit,
qui iam consuevi fortiter esse miser,
quam quod cui minime vellem, sum causa pudoris, 5
teque reor nostris erubuisse malis.
perfer et obdura; multo graviora tulisti,
eripuit cum me principis ira tibi.
fallitur iste tamen, quo iudice nominor exul:
mollior est culpam poena secuta meam. 10
maxima poena mihi est ipsum offendisse, priusque
venisset mallem funeris hora mihi.
quassa tamen nostra est, non mersa nec obruta navis,
utque caret portu, sic tamen extat aquis.
nec vitam nec opes nec ius mihi civis ademit, 15
qui merui vitio perdere cuncta meo.
sed quia peccato facinus non affuit illi,
nil nisi me patriis iussit abesse focis,
utque aliis, quorum numerum comprendere non est,
Caesareum numen sic mihi mite fuit. 20
ipse relegati, non exulis utitur in me
nomine: tuta suo iudice causa mea est.
iure igitur laudes. Caesar, pro parte virili
carmina nostra tuas qualiacumque canunt:
iure deos, ut adhuc caeli tibi limina claudant, 25
teque velint sine se, comprecor, esse deum.
optat idem populus; sed, ut in mare flumina vastum,
sic solet exiguae currere rivus aquae,
at tu fortunam, cuius vocor exul ab ore,
nomine mendaci parce gravare meam! 30

nescioquis: someone
quod…,  littera = littera…, quod..
per iurgia dicere aliquid: in the heat of a dispute call someone something
queror questus:  to complain
indolesco indolui: to feel pain
non tam…quam: not so much…but
male/ bene audio: to have a bad/ good name
consuesco sonsuevi consuetum: to become used to
fortiter: bravely
pudor pudoris (m.): shame
reor ratus: to believe, think
erubesco erubui (+ abl): to blush
prefer et obdura: bear and endure
eripio eripui ereptum: to tear away from
principis:  Augustus
ira: anger
fallor: to err
iste: the man who had called Ovid an exsul
quo iudice: in whose judgement
mollis: soft, mild
sequor secutus: to follow
ipsum: Augustus
priusque venisset mallem = et mallem prius venisset
funus funeris (n.): burial, death
quatio quassum (-ere): to shake
mergo sersi mersum: to sink
obruo obrui obrutum: to overwhelm, overflow
careo carui (+ abl): to lack
exto/ exsto: to stand/ rise above
(ops) opis (no nom. or dat sing.) (f.): wealth
ius civis: civil rights
abimo abemi abemptum: to take away, deprive of
mereo merui meritum: to deserve
vitium: fault
perdo: to lose
quia peccato facinus non affuit illi: because a crime did not accompany the fault. i.e. Ovid did not commit a criminal act
nil nisi: nothing but
focus: hearth
aliis: other people ordered to leave
Caesareum numen: the divine will of the Emperor
mitis: mild
utitur in me nomine: he uses for me the name of
tuta causa: my case is safe i.e. I am not an exsul.
iure: rightly
laus laudis: praise, glory
pro parte virile: to the best of their power
quails-cumque: of what quality so ever
adhuc: thus far
limen liminis (n.) threshold
teque velint sine se esse deum: i.e. Ovid prays that the gods grant Augustus divinity while still alive.
comprecor compratus: to pray
opto: to wish
ut in mare flumina vastum (solent currere), sic solet exiguae currere rivus aquae:  i.e. the prayers of the people for the wellbeing of Augustus are a river, that of Ovid.
vastus: vast, immense
exiguus: small, poor
rivus: a small stream, brook
mendax mendacis: false, untrue
parco peperci/parsi parsum: to spare, refrain from
gravo: to load, burden

Translation by A.S. Klyne (2003)

Your letter complains that someone has said
that you’re ‘an exile’s wife’, by way of insult.
I was aggrieved, not so much that my fate is spoken of
with malice, I’m used to suffering pain bravely now,
as to think that I’m a cause of shame to you, to whom
I’d wish it least of all, and that you blushed at our ills.
Endure, and be true: you’ve suffered much worse,
when the Prince’s anger tore me away from you.
Still the one who called me ‘exile’ judges wrongly:
a milder sentence punishes my fault.
My worst punishment is having offended him,
and I wish the hour of my death had come before.
Still my ship was wrecked, but not drowned and sunk,
and though deprived of harbour, it still floats.
He didnt take my life, my wealth, my civil rights,
though I deserved to lose them all by my offence.
But since no criminal act accompanied my sin,
he only ordered I should leave my native hearth.
Caesar’s power proved lenient to me,
as to others, whose number is immeasurable.
He applied the word relegatus to me not exul:
my case is sound because he judged it so.
So my verses, rightly, sing your praises, Caesar,
however good they are, to the best of their abilities:
I beg the gods, rightly, to close the gates of heaven
o you still, and will you to be a god, separate from them.
So the people pray: and as rivers run to the deep ocean
so a stream runs too, with its meagre waters.
And you, the one whose mouth calls me ‘exile’,
stop burdening my fate with that lying name!

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Navigatio sancti Brendani abbatis: making fire on a whale.

One of the most charming poems in Middle Dutch is De Reis van Sint Brandaan (the voyage of Saint Brendan), dating from the 12th century. It is based on a Latin prose story, which was widely popular in the Middle Ages. It tells the story of the Irish abbot Brendan, who with 16 monks sets sail for finding the Island of the Blessed. Saint Brendan of Clonfert (c. AD 484 – c. 577) was indeed a historical figure, but the earliest story of his voyage dates from the ninth century. During their voyage, Brendan and his monks visit all kinds of mysterious islands. Traces of Celtic mythology are clearly visible in this story. On one occasion it is not an island, but a sea-monster, mostly considered a whale. The monks make a fire on it for cooking…
Note: this text is taken from the Bibliotheca Augustana (Transcription du manuscrit d'Alençon à la bibliothèque municipale d'Alençon, Codex 14, f° 1 r à 11 v., XIème siècle) and differs from the standard edition by C. Selmer (1959). Also the numbering of the chapters and the order in which the adventures appear differs in the various manuscripts. The translation below comes from a different edition, but apart from the beginning it mainly agrees with the Latin text below.

Navigatio sancti Brendani abbatis, Cap.  XI.    
Sanctus vero Brendanus sciebat qualis erat illa insula sed tamen noluit illis indicare ne fuissent perterriti. Mane autem facto precepit sacerdotibus ut singuli missas cantasset et ita fecerunt. Cum ergo sanctus Brendanus et ipse cantasset missam in navim, ceperunt fratres crudas carnes portare foras de navi ut condidissent sale et etiam pisces quos secum tulerunt de alia insula. Cum haec fecissent posuerunt cacabum super ignem. Cum autem ministrassent lignis ignem et fervere cepisset cacabus, cepit illa insula se movere sicut unda. Fratres vero ceperunt currere ad navim deprecantes patrocinium sancti patris.
At ille singulos per manus trahebat intus. Relictisque omnibus quae portabant in illam insulam ceperunt navigare. Porro illa insula ferebatur in oceanum. Tunc poterant videre ignem ardentem super duo miliaria. Sanctus Brendanus narravit fratribus quod hoc esset, dicens: Fratres admiramini quod fecit haec insula?» Aiunt: «Admiramur valde nec non et ingens pavor penetravit nos.» Qui dixit illis: «Filioli mei nolite expavescere. Deus enim revelavit mihi hac nocte per visionem sacramentum hujus rei. Insula non est ubi fuimus sed piscis. Prior omnium natancium in oceano querit semper suam caudam ut simul jungat capiti et non potest pro longitudine, quam habet nomine Jasconius».

illis: the brethren
mane facto: when morning had arrived
praecipio praecepi praeceptum: to instruct, order
singuli: one by one, individually
crudus: raw
caro carnis (f.): flesh, meat
foras: outside
condo sale: to pickle
cacabus: cooking pot
ministro: (here) to add
lignum: wood
fervo: to become hot, boil
cepisset: not from capio but from coepio coepi coeptum, to start, begin (mediaeval spelling)
deprecor deprecatus: to pray, beg
patrocinium: protection
traho traxi tractum: to draw
intus: inside
porro: next
ferebatur: the medial-passive of fero means `to move (one’s self)
super duo miliaria: from more than two miles distance
admiror admiratus: to wonder
valde: very much
nec non: very, indeed
pavor pavoris: fear
filiolus: diminutive of filius
expavesco: to be terrified
sacramentum: mystery
natancium = natantium
prior: the greatest
quaero quaesivi quaesitum: to seek, strive
cauda: tail
ut simul: at the same time
pro longitudine: because of it length
iungo iunxi iunctum: to join (when whales jump above water, they have a curved back, hence the idea that they try to touch their tail with their head.)
Jasconius: latinization of the Irish word iasc, `fish’
Afbeeldingsresultaat voor brendan whale 

16th century engraving.

Translation by D. O’Donoghue (1893)

When they drew nigh to the nearest island, the boat stopped ere they reached a landing-–place; and the saint ordered the brethren to get out into the sea, and make the vessel fast, stem and stern, until they came to some harbour; there was no grass on the island, very little wood, and no sand on the shore. While the brethren spent the night in prayer outside the vessel, the saint remained in it, for he knew well what manner of island was this; but he wished not to tell the brethren, lest they might be too much afraid. When morning dawned, he bade the priests to celebrate Mass, and after they had done so, and he himself had said Mass in the boat, the brethren took out some un–cooked meat and fish they had brought from the other island, and
put a cauldron on a fire to cook them, After they had placed more fuel on the fire, and the cauldron began to boil, the island moved about like a wave; whereupon they all rushed towards the boat, and implored the protection of their father, who, taking each one by the hand, drew them all into the vessel; then relinquishing what they had removed to the island, they cast their boat loose, to sail away, when the island at once sunk into the ocean. Afterwards they could see the fire they had kindled still burning more than two miles off, and then Brendan explained the occurrence: ‘Brethren, you wonder at what has happened to this island,’ ‘Yes, father,’ said they: ‘we wondered, and were seized with a great fear.’ ‘Fear not, my children,’ said the saint, ‘for God has last night revealed to me the mystery of all this; it was not an island you were upon, but a fish, the largest of all that swim in the ocean, which is ever trying to make its head and tail meet, but cannot succeed, because of its great length. Its name is Iasconius.’

Friday, 8 March 2019

Digesta 9.2.52: guilty?

Normally juridical prose is boring and hermetic for me – I hasten to say that this does not count for the couple of friends of mine who have studied law – but what is interesting are the anecdotes illustrating certain principles of law. The following example is taken from the Digesta and treats the question of liability for maltreatment. The Digesta or Pandectae are a compendium of Roman law, compiled under Justinian I (530–533). The amount of Roman juridical writing was so overwhelming that a coherent and systematic compendium had to be made. The result was that the works of many Roman jurists are just known by excerpts in the Digesta. One of these is Alfenus Varus, who lived in the first century BC. The following fragment is taken from the second book of Digesta by Alfenus: a shop-keeper tries to take back stolen property from a thief. He is beaten off by this thief, but resumes his pursuit and while fighting he scratches one of the thief’s eyes out. Apparently he was charged for maltreatment by the thief and therefore asked Alfenus for his opinion as lawyer.

Digesta 9.2.52

Alfenus libro secundo digestorum.

1. Tabernarius in semita noctu supra lapidem lucernam posuerat: quidam praeteriens eam sustulerat: tabernarius eum consecutus lucernam reposcebat et fugientem retinebat: ille flagello, quod in manu habebat, in quo dolor inerat, verberare tabernarium coeperat, ut se mitteret: ex eo maiore rixa facta tabernarius ei, qui lucernam sustulerat, oculum effoderat: consulebat, num damnum iniuria non videtur dedisse, quoniam prior flagello percussus esset. Respondi, nisi data opera effodisset oculum, non videri damnum iniuria fecisse, culpam enim penes eum, qui prior flagello percussit, residere: sed si ab eo non prior vapulasset, sed cum ei lucernam eripere vellet, rixatus esset, tabernarii culpa factum videri.

tabernarius: shop-keeper
semita: narrow street, path
noctu: at night (irregular abl. of nox)
lapis lapidis (m.): stone
praeter-eo: to pass by
tollo sustuli sublatum (-ere): to take away
lucerna: oil-lamp
consequor consecutus: to follow, go after
reposco (-ere): to ask back
ille: the thief
flagellum: whip
dolor: pain, i.e. iron had been attached to the end of the whip
verbero: to lash, whip
ut se mitteret: so that he (the shop-keeper) let him (the thief) go
ex eo: there upon
rixa: quarrel, strife (maiore rixa facta: abl. abs.)
effodio effodi effossum: to dig out, to scratch out (oculum)
damnum do: to inflict harm
injuriā: unjustly
operam do: to give attention (data opera, abl. abs. `attention being given’ i.e. on purpose)
domnum facio = damnum do
penes (+ acc.): in the possession of, with
vapulo: to be beaten
eripio eripui ereptum: to snatch away
rixor rixatus: to quarrel
culpa  abl.

Translation by Samuel P. Scott ( Cincinnati, 1932, note that it is sometimes more a paraphrasis.)

 (1) The keeper of a shop placed his lantern on a stone in a street at night, and a passer-by took it away; the shopkeeper followed him and demanded the lantern, and detained the party as he was trying to escape. The latter began to strike the shopkeeper with a whip which he held in his hand and to which an iron was attached, in order to compel him to release his hold. The struggle having become more serious, the shopkeeper knocked out the eye of the party who had taken away his lantern, and he asked for an opinion whether he could not be considered not to have inflicted unlawful damage, as he had been first struck with a whip? I answered that unless he had knocked out his eye designedly he would not be considered to have caused unlawful damage, because the party who first struck him with the whip was to blame; but if he had not first been beaten, but had fought with the party who is trying to take the lantern from him, the shopkeeper must be held to be responsible for the act.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Gellius 1.19. Burning oracles.

One of the most amusing books in Latin must be the Noctes Atticae of Attic Nights by Aulus Gellius (125 – after 180). It is a compendium of anecdotes, which he started writing spending the nights during a winter at Attica. He tells how the last Roman king Tarquinius Superbus got the Sibylline Books. These books contained oracles written in Greek hexameters and were consulted during times of dangers and distress. An old woman, the Cumaean Sybil Amalthea, in disguise, offered nine books with these oracles. Tarquinius refuses twice, whereupon the old woman each time burned three books. Finally Tarquinius buys the remaining three. What would have happened to the Roman Empire having had the possession of nine such books?

Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 1.19 Historia super libris Sibyllinis ac de Tarquinio Superbo rege.

1 In antiquis annalibus memoria super libris Sibyllinis haec prodita est: 2 Anus hospita atque incognita ad Tarquinium Superbum regem adiit novem libros ferens, quos esse dicebat divina oracula; eos velle venundare. 3 Tarquinius pretium percontatus est. Mulier nimium atque inmensum poposcit; 4 rex, quasi anus aetate desiperet, derisit. 5 Tum illa foculum coram cum igni apponit, tris libros ex novem deurit et, ecquid reliquos sex eodem pretio emere vellet, regem interrogavit. 6 Sed enim Tarquinius id multo risit magis dixitque anum iam procul dubio delirare. 7 Mulier ibidem statim tris alios libros exussit atque id ipsum denuo placide rogat, ut tris reliquos eodem illo pretio emat. 8 Tarquinius ore iam serio atque attentiore animo fit, eam constantiam confidentiamque non insuper habendam intellegit, libros tris reliquos mercatur nihilo minore pretio, quam quod erat petitum pro omnibus. 9 Sed eam mulierem tunc a Tarquinio digressam postea nusquam loci visam constitit. 10 Libri tres in sacrarium conditi "Sibyllini" appellati; 11 ad eos quasi ad oraculum quindecimviri adeunt, cum di immortales publice consulendi sunt.

super (+ abl.): about
prodo prodidi proditum: to transmit
anus (f.): old woman
hospitus: foreign
venundo = venum-do: to put for sale, to sell
percontor percontatus: to inquire
nimius: too great, excessive
posco poposci: to ask, demand
desipio ( -ere): to act silly
derideo derisis derisum: to laugh at, deride
foculus: fire-pan
coram (adv.): before the eyes
deuro deussi deustum: to burn up
ecquid: whether
emo emi emptum: to buy
procul dubio: without doubt
ibidem: at the same place
statim: immediately
denuo: a second time
placide: quietly
os oris: facial expression (the ablatives are ablatives of description)
non insuper habendem: must not be regarded as superfluous, not be despised
mercor mercatus: to buy
nusquam loci: litt. nowhere of place (loci gen. partitivus) = at no place
constitit: it is certain
sacrarium: shrine (in the temple of Jupiter on the Capitol. Augustus transferred them to the temple of Apollo on the Palatine.)
conditus: hidden
quindecimviri: the 15 (originally 10) priests who were appointed to consult the Sibylline

Translation by J.C. Rolfe (1927)

19  The story of king Tarquin the Proud and the Sibylline Books.

1 In ancient annals we find this tradition about the Sibylline Books. 2 An old woman, a perfect stranger, came to king Tarquin the Proud, bringing nine books; she declared that they were oracles of the gods and that she wished to sell them. 3 Tarquin inquired the price; 4 the woman demanded an immense  p91 and exorbitant sum: the king laughed her to scorn, believing her to be in her dotage. 5 Then she placed a lighted brazier before him, burned three of the books to ashes, and asked whether he would buy the remaining six at the same price. 6 But at this Tarquin laughed all the more and said that there was now no doubt that the old woman was crazy. 7 Upon that the woman at once burned up three more books and again calmly made the same request, that he would buy the remaining three at the original figure. 8 Tarquin now became serious and more thoughtful, and realising that such persistence and confidence were not to be treated lightly, he bought the three books that were left at as high a price as had been asked for all nine. 9 Now it is a fact that after then leaving Tarquin, that woman was never seen again anywhere. 10 The three books were deposited in a shrine and called "Sibylline"; 11 to them the Fifteen resort whenever the immortal gods are to be consulted as to the welfare of the State.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Juvenal: invited for dinner.

Reading Roman writers is often also an exercise in cultural anthropology for understanding the context of a text. A complicated social system was the relationship between a patronus and a cliens. Ideally a patronus cared for the material well-being of his clientes and defended them in legal procedures. A cliens – always from the plebeian ranks - in his turn had to accompany his patronus at public displays and to vote for him at elections. In practice however a patronus made use of his clients, without returning much. This so especially in the early Empire and the social position of a cliens was thus feeble, that he couldn’t do anything, but hoping for the best. It is with this system in the background that we must understand Juvenal and Martial. The following fragment is from Juvenal: what to do when your patronus summons you for dinner and how to avoid humiliation. The satire is addressed to the poor cliens Trebius.

Iuvenalis, Satura V, 12 – 23

Primo fige loco, quod tu discumbere iussus
mercedem solidam ueterum capis officiorum.
fructus amicitiae magnae cibus: inputat hunc rex,
et quamuis rarum tamen inputat. ergo duos post              
si libuit menses neglectum adhibere clientem,
tertia ne uacuo cessaret culcita lecto,
'una simus' ait. uotorum summa. quid ultra
quaeris? habet Trebius propter quod rumpere somnum
debeat et ligulas dimittere, sollicitus ne              
tota salutatrix iam turba peregerit orbem,
sideribus dubiis aut illo tempore quo se
frigida circumagunt pigri serraca Bootae.

figo fixi fixum: (here) to consider
discumbo discumbui discumbitum: to recline at a table
mercedem solidam: full payment
officium: the duty of a client
fructus, -us (m.): reward, profit
amicitiae magnae: of course irony
cibus: food (in apposition with fructus)
imputo (-are): to reckon to one’s credit or discredit (a term from book keeping)
hunc rex: that big boss (the word rex has negative overtones in Roman ears)
rarum: rarely
si libuit adhibere: whenever it pleases him to summon (libuit is here a perfect of repeated action)
cesso (-are): be unused
culcita: cushion, pillow (tertia culcita: a  lectus (couch for dinner) had room for three guests, who were reclining on it with their left elbow on the culcita. The third position was the lowest in status. Three lecti were arranged around a mensa and this all together was called a triclinium)
una simus: let us be together
votorum summa (est): it is the height of your ambition
ultra: further, more
rumpo rupi ruptum: break, disrupt
ligulas dimittere: to leave his shoe-ties untied
sollicitus: disquieted
salutatrix turba: the crowd (of clientes) making their complimentary visits  (these visits took place in the morning: the greater the crowd the more prestige a patronus had. Often a cliens has more than one patronus, hence the hade to make a round (orbs) to visit and greet their `benefactors’)
perago peregi peractum: to follow through the end, finish
sideribus dubiis: with stars fading away (i.e. early in the morning)
frigida serraca: the constellation Bear was also known as plaustrum (wagon), a serracum is a two-wheeled cart and it is frigidus because it is in the north of the hemisphere. It was driven by the herdsman Bootes and as this constellation is nearly stationary, the Bootes is called piger (lazy).
circumago circumegi circumactum: to go around

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor triclinium

Drawing of a triclinium.

Translation G.G. Ramsay (1918)

 First of all be sure of this----that when bidden to dinner, you receive payment in full for all your past services. A meal is the return which your grand friendship yields you; the great man scores it against you, and though it come but seldom, he scores it against you all the same. So if after a couple of months it is his pleasure to invite his forgotten client, lest the third place on the lowest couch  should be unoccupied, and he says to you, "Come and dine with me," you are in the seventh Heaven! what more can you desire? Now at last has Trebius  got the reward for which he must needs cut short his sleep, and hurry with shoe-strings untied, fearing that the whole crowd of callers may already have gone their rounds, at an hour when the stars are fading or when the chilly wain of Bootes is wheeling slowly round.