Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Pliny IX, 36: how I spend my day.

Fuscus, a good friend of Pliny, asks how Pliny spends his day at his summer-house in Toscana. What follows is an elaborate list of activities during the day of a rich – very rich – man. At his disposal were lots of slaves, among them a secretary to whom he dictated his letters, actors and musicians. Further a private hippodrome and a private bathhouse. As a chroniqueur of daily life and teller of anecdotes Pliny never disappoints.


 [1] Quaeris, quemadmodum in Tuscis diem aestate disponam. Evigilo cum libuit, plerumque circa horam primam, saepe ante, tardius raro. Clausae fenestrae manent; mire enim silentio et tenebris ab iis quae avocant abductus et liber et mihi relictus, non oculos animo sed animum oculis sequor, qui eadem quae mens vident, quotiens non vident alia. [2] Cogito, si quid in manibus, cogito ad verbum scribenti emendantique similis, nunc pauciora nunc plura, ut vel difficile vel facile componi tenerive potuerunt. Notarium voco et die admisso quae formaveram dicto; abit rursusque revocatur rursusque dimittitur. [3] Ubi hora quarta vel quinta (neque enim certum dimensumque tempus), ut dies suasit, in xystum me vel cryptoporticum confero, reliqua meditor et dicto. Vehiculum ascendo. Ibi quoque idem quod ambulans aut iacens; durat intentio mutatione ipsa refecta. Paulum redormio, dein ambulo, mox orationem Graecam Latinamve clare et intente non tam vocis causa quam stomachi lego; pariter tamen et illa firmatur. [4] Iterum ambulo ungor exerceor lavor. Cenanti mihi, si cum uxore vel paucis, liber legitur; post cenam comoedia aut lyristes; mox cum meis ambulo, quorum in numero sunt eruditi. Ita variis sermonibus vespera extenditur, et quamquam longissimus dies bene conditur. [5] Non numquam ex hoc ordine aliqua mutantur; nam, si diu iacui vel ambulavi, post somnum demum lectionemque non vehiculo sed, quod brevius quia velocius, equo gestor. Interveniunt amici ex proximis oppidis, partemque diei ad se trahunt interdumque lasso mihi opportuna interpellatione subveniunt. [6] Venor aliquando, sed non sine pugillaribus, ut quamvis nihil ceperim non nihil referam. Datur et colonis, ut videtur ipsis, non satis temporis, quorum mihi agrestes querelae litteras nostras et haec urbana opera commendant. Vale.

quemadmodum: how, in what way
aestas –atis (f.): summer
diem dispono: to arrange the day
evigiilio (-are): to wake up
cum libuit: as it pleased (me)
plerumque: often
horam primam: in summer around 6 a.m. (look at the link below for further information)
saepe: often
tardius: later
clausus: closed (The bedrooms in Pompeian houses…and in Italy ...up to this day, go far to prove that man can live without oxygen. Elmer Truesdel  Merril, Selected Letters of the Younger Pliny (London, 1924)
mire: wonderful, astonishing
silentio et tenebris ab iis quae avocant abductus: in the silence and darkness/shadows I am separated from the things which divert (me)
mihi relictus: left to myself
non oculos animo sed animum oculis sequor: i.e. In this darkness he is able to think and imagine (I follow (sequor secutus) with my eyes my mind/thoughts.)
quae mens (videt)
quotiens: as often as
cogito: i.e. thinking of what to write
quid in manibus: engaged in something
ad verbum: word by word
emendo (-are): to improve
paucus: little, few
ut: according to
componi tenerive: to be written down or to be kept in memory
notarius: secretary, stenographer
die admisso: after having let in daylight
formo (-are): composed (in the mind)
rursus: again
dimitto dimisi dimissum: to send away
hora quarta vel quinta: see link
dimetior dimensum: to measure out
dies: weather
suadeo suasi suasum: to recommend, urge
xystus: an open colonnade or portico, or a walk planted with trees
cryptoporticusa: a covered gallery, hall
confero: to bring oneself, go
relicta: what has been left, remains
meditator meditatus: to consider
vehiculum ascendo: Pliny had a private hippodrome
ibi:  there
idem (facio)
iaceo iacui: to lie down, rest
duro (-are): to continue
intentio –onis (f.): concentration
reficio refeci refectum: to renew
paulum: a little
redormio: i.e. a siesta
clare et intente: clear and concentrated (with lego)
non tam vocis causa quam stomachi: not so much because of the voice, as for the stomach (reading aloud – the normal procedure- was also recommended by physicians for a better digestion.)
pariter: at the same time
illa = vox
iterum: again
ungo (ungeo) unxi unctum: to anoint with oil (ungor either passive or, like exerceor, medial)
exerceor: taking exercises was recommended before taking a bath (lavo, lavor medial)
ceno: to dine
lyristes –ae: luteplayer
meis: his slaves and freedmen (Pliny was very kind to his slaves and considered them as fellow humans.)
vespera = vesper
quamquam longissimus dies bene conditur: whatever a very long day, it is closed well
non nunquam: not never = sometimes
diu: all day, a little too long
post…demum: (but) not till after
velocius: a horse under saddle goes faster than a  harnessed horse
equo gestor: to ride a horse (gestor medial)
interveniunt: intervenio refers to an unwelcome, distracting visit, subvenire (+ dat.) a pleasant visit
oppidum: town
ad se traho: to demand
interdum: sometimes, now and then
lassus: tired
opportuna interpellatione: with a welcome interruption
venor venatus: to hunt
aliquando: sometimes
pugilaris –is (n.): writing tablet (Pliny was not a very successful and devoted huntsman, as he confesses in letter I.6)
ut quamvis: if in case
referam: if he catches no game, he has at least something written down to take back home. A true man of letters!
datur: subject tempus
colonus: farmer (working on Pliny’s estate)
agrestes querelae: boorish complaints (agrestis `belonging to the countryside’, as opposed to urbanus `urbane, civilised’)
commendo (-are): to make agreeable  (Pliny uses these querelae as anecdotes for his letters)

Translation by J.B. Furth (1900)
[36] L   To Fuscus.

You ask me how I spend the day on my Tuscan villa in summer time. Well, I wake at my own sweet will, usually about the first hour, though it is often before, and rarely later. I keep my windows shut, for it is remarkable how, when all is still and in darkness, and I am withdrawn from distracting influences and am left to myself, and free to do what I like, my thoughts are not led by my eyes, but my eyes by my thoughts; and so my eyes, when they have nothing else to look at, only see the objects which are present before my mind. If I have anything on hand, I think it over, and weigh every word as carefully as though I were actually writing or revising, and in this way I get through more or less work, according as the subject is easy or difficult to compose and bear in mind. I call for a shorthand writer, and, after letting in the daylight, I dictate the passages which I have composed, then he leaves me, and I send for him again, and once again dismiss him.

At the fourth or fifth hour, according as the weather tempts me - for I have no fixed and settled plan for the day - I betake myself to my terrace or covered portico, and there again I resume my thinking and dictating. I ride in my carriage, and still continue my mental occupation, just as when I am walking or lying down. My concentration of thought is unaffected, or rather is refreshed by the change. Then I snatch a brief sleep and again walk, and afterwards read aloud a Greek or Latin speech, as clearly and distinctly as I can, not so much to exercise the vocal organs as to help my digestion, though it does at the same time strengthen my voice. I take another walk, then I am anointed, and take exercise and a bath. While I am at dinner, if I am dining with my wife or a few friends, a book is read to us, and afterwards we hear a comic actor or a musician; then I walk with my attendants, some of whom are men of learning. Thus the evening is passed away with talk on all sorts of subjects, and even the longest day is soon done.

Sometimes I vary this routine, for, if I have been lying down, or walking for any length of time, as soon as I have had my sleep and read aloud, I ride on horseback instead of in a carriage, as it takes less time, and one gets over the ground faster. My friends come in from the neighbouring towns to see me, and take up part of the day, and occasionally, when I am tired, I welcome their call as a pleasant relief. Sometimes I go hunting, but never without my tablets, so that though I may take no game, I still have something to bring back with me. Part of my time too is given to my tenants - though in their opinion not enough - and their clownish complaints give me a fresh zest for my literary work and my round of engagements in town.   Farewell.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Landino: Xandra!

Christoforo Landino (1424 -1498) was professor of poetry and rhetoric at the University of Florence. He was a prolific writer and amongst his output are three books of poems for his love Xandra. This Xandra has the same status as for instance Cynthia and Corinna in Classical poetry: a literary construction rather than a real woman.
This poem starts with what is called with a German word a Natureingang (nature entrance). This is a well-known feature of mediaeval poetry evoking the coming of spring, but the meter is the classical Sapphic stanza. A further difference with mediaeval poetry is the explicit mention of a name, making this poem personal. Finally, nature is blossoming not because the time of the year, but because Xandra is visiting the poet and even the wolf will not attack other animals: where Xandra is, there is Arcadia.

     Nunc virent silvae, nemus omne frondet
     ridet et tellus variisque frontem
     floribus pingit, fugiuntque nubes
             montibus altis.

     Naiades laetas agitant choreas
     Gratiis passim Satyrisque mixtae
     et comas flavas religant corona

     Concidunt venti, levis afflat aura ;
     parcit atque haedis lupus et capellis,
     Nostra dum celsas Faesulas frequentat
             candida Xandra.

     Nunc suos tristis Philomela luctus,
     immemor stupri simul et nepotis,
     ponit et versus modulans sonoros
             cantat amores.

   Gaudet et fructu segetis colonus
   horreum quaerens ubi farra condat,
   gaudet et Baccho nimium feraci
             vinitor uvae.

   Hos tamen montes mea si relinquat
   Xandra, si Tuscae revocetur urbi,
   arbores siccas videas et ipsa           
 flumina sicca.

vireo: to be green
nemus nemoris (n.): forest  
frondeo: to have leaves
tellus telluris (n.): earth
frons frontis (f.): head, face
pingo pinxi pictum: to paint
(ex) montibus altis
Naiades, Gratiae, Satyres: Nymphs, the three Graces (Beauty, Joy and Happiness) and Satyrs
agito choreas: to dance and sing (agito is a frequentative of ago, denoting a repeated action)
passim: everywhere
coma: hair
flavus: blond
religo (-are): to bind, fasten up
(in) corona
versicolor –oris: with various colours
concido concidi: to fall down, stop
afflo: to blow, breathe
parco peperci parsum (+ dat.): to spare
haedus: he-goat
capella: she-goat
celsus: high
Feasula = Fiesole (a town on a hill near Florence)
frequento (-are): to visit
candidus: bright
Philomela: nightingale (Philomela was an Athenian princess who was raped by Tereus, her brother in law, and turned into a nightingale. When her sister Procne found out what had happened, she killed the son she had with Tereus, Philomela’s nephew (nepos nepotis)
luctus –us (m.): grief, sorrow (ponit luctus: put down her sorrows)
immemor –oris (+ gen.): unmindful
stuprum: violation
modulor modulatus: (here) to whistle
sonorus: resounding
amores: lovesongs
seges segitis (f.): crop, cornfield
colonus: farmer
horreum: barn
far farris (n.): corn
condo condidi conditum: to store
baccho feraci uvae: in the abounding wine of his vine
nimium: exceedingly
vinitor –oris (m.): vine-dresser, cultivator
relinquo reliqui relictum: to leave, abandon
Tusca urbs: Florence
siccus: dry, arid

This is not a difficult poem, but a translation can be found here:

Thursday, 19 March 2020

Horace, epode 3: garlic.

Next to Horace’ four books of odes, there is a fifth book with epodes or Iambi, as he called it. Iambic poems were an invention of the Greek poet Archilochus (7th century BC) and Horace not only used the iambic structure of Archilochus’ verses, but also their content:  personal attacks, mockery and persiflage, though Horace is by far not that angry as his example.
Maecenas once offered Horace a meal with lots of garlic. It was may be food eaten by reapers (l. 4), whose favourite dish consisted mainly of garlic. I like garlic, but not as dominant substance of a dish and I wonder whether it had some apotropaic function.  It was not to Horace’ taste, to say the least, and he wrote a joking poem on garlic. It is also a crash course in the use of venom in mythology.

Horace, Epode 3.

Parentis olim siquis inpia manu
      senile guttur fregerit,
edit cicutis alium nocentius.
      o dura messorum ilia.
quid hoc veneni saevit in praecordiis?
      num viperinus his cruor
incoctus herbis me fefellit? an malas
      Canidia tractavit dapes?
ut Argonautas praeter omnis candidum
      Medea mirata est ducem,
ignota tauris inligaturum iuga
      perunxit hoc Iasonem,
hoc delibutis ulta donis paelicem
      serpente fugit alite.
nec tantus umquam Siderum insedit vapor
      siticulosae Apuliae
nec munus umeris efficacis Herculis
      inarsit aestuosius.
at siquid umquam tale concupiveris,
      iocose Maecenas, precor,
manum puella savio opponat tuo,
      extrema et in sponda cubet.

senile guttur parentis
olim: one day (referring to the future)
guttur, uris (n.): neck, throat
frango fregi fractum: to break
edo edi esum edere/esse: to eat (edit is subjunctive `let him eat’. Edo and to eat are from the same PIE  root  pie. *h1ed- `to eat’. This word can easily be confused with edere `to give out’. The infinitive esse is not common.)
cicuta: hemlock (used in ancient Athens for the death penalty, as it was a poisonous plant)
alium: garlic
noceo nocui: to be harmful
messor oris (m).: reaper
durus: hard, harsh, stubborn
ilia: stomach
venemum: poison
saevio saevii saevitus: to rage
praecordia: midriff
viperinus: of a serpent
cruor oris (m.): blood
incoctus: uncooked
fallo fefelli falsum: to escape notice (note that cruor is the subject: in Latin the construction is `the blood has escaped me’’
Canidia: a sorceress often mentioned by Horace
tracto (-are): to handle, prepare
daps dapis (f.): banquet, meal
praeter (+ acc.): above
Medea: daughter of the king of Colchis and sorceress who fell in love with Jason, leader of the Argonauts. When after a couple of years Jason rejected her, she killed their two children and the new bride of Jason. Euripides’ Medea is a must read.
Candidus: bright, shining
miror miratus: to admire (in Vulgar Latin compounds were preferred over simplex forms, hence miror, but English admire from admire.)
ignota tauris inligaturum iuga      perunxit hoc Iasonem: she anointed Jason with this (hoc: instrumental ablative!), who was about to put (inligaturum) the yoke on the bulls, unused to it. (The bulls were blazing flames and had copper legs.)
delibuo –ui –utum: to besmear, anoint
ulciscor ultus: to avenge (she avenged herself on the concubine with gifts besmeared with this)
donis: Medea gave clothes to Jason’s concubine (paelex). These clothes would inflame as soon as they were worn.
serpente alite: with a winged serpent (collective singular: Medea was the granddaughter of the sun god Helios: he sent a carriage with fiery dragons to help her escape.)
Siderum vapor: the heat of the stars (sidus sideris , n. i.e. the dog stars. The star Siderius is visible in the early morning from ca July 20 – August 20, the hottest period of the year.)
siticulosus: dry, arid
Apulia: in Southern Italy
nec munus umeris efficacis Herculis  inarsit aestuosius: nor was (such) a hot gift burning on the shoulders of mighty Hercules. (The centaur Nyssus had raped Hercules’ wife Deianira and Hercules killed him with a poisoned arrow. Before Nyssus passed away, he gave Deianira a cloak, secretly drenched in his poisoned blood, telling that she would for ever be sure of Hercules’ love when he would wear this. Hercules does,  but immediately this mantle causes such a pain that he has no other option but to commit suicide.)
tale: such food
concupio  –ivi –itum: desire (concupiveris: perfect subjunctive)
precor: I pray, please!
oppono (-are): to ward off, to put against
puella: some love of Maecenas
savium: kiss
extrema et in sponda = et in extrema sponda (bed)
cubo –ui –itum: to lie down

Translation by A.S. Kline (2005, Kline has tried to keep the iambic structure.)

Epode III – Garlic!
If any man, with impious hand, should ever
Strangle an aged parent,
Make him eat garlic, it’s deadlier than hemlock,
O you strong stomachs that cull it!
What poison is this that’s burning my entrails?
Has viper’s blood mixed with these herbs
Betrayed me? Or has Canidia been tampering
With this unfortunate dish?
Medea, intoxicated with her Jason,
That most handsome of Argonauts,
Smeared him all over with this, while he tried to yoke
Those bulls unused to the harness:
She took revenge on her rival with gifts of this,
Before mounting her winged dragon.
Never did such a vapour from any dog-star
Settle on parched Apulia:
Nessus’ gift burnt Hercules’ shoulders with no less
Effective a fiery heat.
If ever, my dear Maecenas, you aspire
To repeat the jest, I just pray
That your girl with her hands obstructs your kisses,
And takes the far side of the bed!