Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Phaedrus: Venus interrogates a hen.

The fables of Phaedrus, well-known nowadays, where hardly read during the Middle-Ages and the first printed edition (1596) was based on a single manuscript. The Italian bishop and Humanist Nicollò Perotti (1429-1480) had collected some manuscripts too, but it was not until 1831 that the best copy, containing 32 fables unknown before, was published. These did not constitute a separate book, but must have been part of the original five books. As it is impossible to decide where, they are printed as an appendix, the appendix Perottina.
The following fable gives a picture of how Romans – better: Roman men - thought about the fidelity of women. I have an excellent German school edition with commentary published in 1889. It does not contain this fable.

Phaedrus, Fabula, Appendix Perotinna XI. [Iuno, Venus et gallina]
De mulierum libidine

Cum castitatem Iuno laudaret suam,
iocunditatis causa non renuit Venus,
nullamque ut affirmaret esse illi parem
interrogasse sic gallinam dicitur:
"Dic, sodes, quanto possis satiari cibo?"
Respondit illa "Quidquid dederis, satis erit,
sic ut concedas pedibus aliquid scalpere."
"Ne scalpas" inquit "satis est modius tritici?
"Plane, immo nimium est, sed permitte scalpere."
"Ex toto ne quid scalpas, quid desideras?"
Tum denique illa fassa est naturae malum:
"Licet horreum mi pateat, ego scalpam tamen."
Risisse Iuno dicitur Veneris iocos,
quia per gallinam denotauit feminas.

castitas –atis: chastity
iocunditas –atis (f.): pleasure, joke
renuo renui (-ere): to deny, disapprove
nullam (feminam)
par, paris: equal
gallina: chicken
sodes (= si audes): please
satio (-are): to satisfy
cibus: food
scalpo scalpsi scalptum: to scratch
ne: in order not to
modius: corn measure (8.75 litre)
triticum: wheat
plane: sure
immo: in reality, and even
nimium: too much
ex toto: not at all
fateor fassus: to confess
denique: at last
licet: even if
horreum: barn
mi = mihi
denoto: to brand, scandalize

Translation HENRY THOMAS RILEY, B.A. (1887)

When Juno was praising her own chastity, Venus did not lose the opportunity of a joke, and, to show that there was no female equal to herself in that virtue, is said to have asked this question of the Hen: “Tell me, will you, with how much food could you be satisfied?” The hen replied: “Whatever you give me will be enough; but still you must let me scratch a bit with my feet.” “To keep you from scratching,” said the Goddess, “is a measure of wheat enough?” “Certainly; indeed it is too much; but still do allow me to scratch.” “In fine,” said Venus, “what do you require, on condition of not scratching at all?” Then at last the hen confessed the weak point in her nature: “Though a whole barn were open for me, still scratch I must.” Juno is said to have laughed at the joke of Venus, for by the Hen she meant the Female Sex.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Tacitus, Annales iv, 45: murder.

Tacitus is an author still worth reading for his vividness of language and eye for details. In this chapter he describes the murder on Lucius Piso, a praetor in Spain. He investigated fraud amongst the Termistine tribe. Little is known about this tribe, but their capital was the city of Termes, near Numantia.  The fraud was the disappearance of tax revenues - revenues under Roman control. My guess is that rather having these revenues send to Rome or spend on Roman prestige projects, the Termistines wanted to have it for their own purposes. From a Roman perspective, Tacitus of course sees this as an act of rebellion and the murder as a terrible crime.  

Tacitus, Annales, iv, 45

[45] Isdem consulibus facinus atrox in citeriore Hispania admissum a quodam agresti nationis Termestinae. is praetorem provinciae L. Pisonem, pace incuriosum, ex improviso in itinere adortus uno vulnere in mortem adfecit; ac pernicitate equi profugus, postquam saltuosos locos attigerat, dimisso equo per derupta et avia sequentis frustratus est. neque diu fefellit: nam prenso ductoque per proximos pagos equo cuius foret cognitum. et repertus cum tormentis edere conscios adigeretur, voce magna sermone patrio frustra se interrogari clamitavit: adsisterent socii ac spectarent; nullam vim tantam doloris fore ut veritatem eliceret. idemque cum postero ad quaestionem retraheretur, eo nisu proripuit se custodibus saxoque caput adflixit ut statim exanimaretur. sed Piso Termestinorum dolo caesus habetur; quippe pecunias e publico interceptas acrius quam ut tolerarent barbari cogebat.

Isdem consulibus: under the same consuls, i.e. Lentulus Gaetulicus and C. Calvinus in 26 AD
facinus admitto: to commit a crime
citer citra citrum: at this side (citeriore Hispania: seen from Rome, so the east)
agrestis –is (m,): peasant
praetor: in the provinces of Rome, a praetor was a governor,
incuriosus: careless
ex improviso: unexpectedly
adorior adortus: to attack
in mortem adficio: to kill
pernicitasatis (f.): swiftness
saltuosus: covered with woods
attingo attigi attactum: to reach
per derupta et avia: by precipices and wildernesses
frustror frustratus: to elude, deceive (sequentis = sequentes)
fallo fefelli falsum: to deceive
prenso (prehenso) (-are): to grasp, seize
pagus: district
cuius foret cognitum = cognitum (erat) cuius foret: it was found out of whom (it) was.
reperio repperi repertum: to find, discover
edo edidi editum: to disclose
conscius: partaker, accomplice
adigo adegi adactum: to compel
sermone patrio: in his own language (probably Celtiberian)
frustra: in vain
clamito: frequentative of clamo `he kept screaming’
adisterent socii et spectarent: irrealis
elicio elicui (-ere): elicit, bring out
postero die
questioonis (f.): interrogation
eo nisu…ut: with such an effort…that
proripio proripui proreptum: to rush out (but here also the meaning eripio `to break out’)
saxoque caput adflixit: and dashed his head to a stone
exanimor: to die
Piso  caesus  habetur: Piso is thought to be killed
pecunias a publico ereptas: money embezzled from the public purse
quippe: because
acrius: more zealously
cogebat: tried to collect

Translation by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb (1876, note that the translation is not always accurate.)

While the same consuls were in office, an atrocious crime was committed in Nearer Spain by a peasant of the Termestine tribe. Suddenly attacking the prætor of the province, Lucius Piso, as he was travelling in all the carelessness of peace, he killed him with a single wound. He then fled on a swift horse, and reached a wooded country, where he parted with his steed and eluded pursuit amid rocky and pathless wilds. But he was soon discovered. The horse was caught and led through the neighbouring villages, and its owner ascertained. Being found and put to the torture that he might be forced to reveal his accomplices, he exclaimed in a loud voice, in the language of his country, that it was in vain to question him; his comrades might stand by and look on, but that the most intense agony would not wring the truth from him. Next day, when he was dragged back to torture, he broke loose from his guards and dashed his head against a stone with such violence that he instantly fell dead. It was however believed that Piso was treacherously murdered by the Termestini. Some public money had been embezzled, and he was pressing for its payment too rigorously for the patience of barbarians.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Horace 3.15: too old.

There are elderly women who think they can still compete with young women in the prime of their beauty. This is not a modern phenomenon – far from. Horace makes fun of such a woman in the following poem. The particular scene is fictitious: Chloris, the widow of Ibycus, behaves like her daughter Pholoe, who is in love with Nothos. The names are all Greek and the name Ibycus is undoubtedly a reference to the Greek poet Ibycus (6th century BC), famous for his libidinous life and poems. This poem is funny and a bit wicked, but I wonder whether Horace would have dared to publish this poem had he lived now.

     Uxor pauperis Ibyci,
tandem nequitiae fige modum tuae
     famosisque laboribus;
maturo propior desine funeri
     inter ludere virgines               5
et stellis nebulam spargere candidis.
     Non, si quid Pholoen satis,
et te, Chlori, decet. Filia rectius
     expugnat iuvenum domos,
pulso Thyias uti concita tympano.               10
     Illam cogit amor Nothi
lascivae similem ludere capreae:
     te lanae prope nobilem
tonsae Luceriam, non citharae decent
     nec flos purpureus rosae               15
nec poti, vetulam, faece tenus cadi.

nequitia: vileness, wickedness
tandem: finally
fige modum: put an end to
famosus: ill-famed (fama in Latin mean `report, rumor’, independent of the content is positive or negative)
laboribus: labor means `exertion, toil’ and often not `labour’ in the modern sense
maturo propior funeri: very close to your timely burial (i.e. she had reached an age at which no one would be surprised about her death)
desino desii: to cease, leave
spargere nebulam: to spread a cloud
stellis candidis: the virgins
si quid Pholoen satis (decet): if something is sufficiently fitting for Pholoe (Pholoen is a Greek Acc.)
et: also
Chlori: vocative
expugno: to attack (i.e. with her beauty and lust)
Thyas Thyadis: a Bacchante or Maenad (a female devotee of Bacchus; according to legend they roam in groups through the wilderness, dancing in ecstatic frenzy)
uti = ut
concito: to rouse, excite
tympanum: drum, tambour
lascivus: playful
caprea: wild she-goat, roe
lanae prope nobilem tonsae Luceriam = lanae tonsae prope nobilem Luceriam
lana: wool (spinning and weaving was seen as decent work for women)
tondeo totondi tonsum: to shear, shave
Luceria: a place famous for its wool
flos purpureus rosae: the rose as symbol of love and youth
nec poti faece tenus cadi = nec cadi poti tenus faece (nor jars (cadi) drained/drunk (poto potavi potum or potatum) as far as (tenus + abl.) to the dreg (faex –is f, )
vetula: old woman, old hag (vetulam agrees with te)

Translation by A.S. Klyne (2003)

Too old.

O, dear wife of poor Ibycus,
put an end to your wickedness, at last, and all
of your infamous goings-on:
now you are nearer the season for dying,
stop playing about with the girls,
and scattering a mist over shining stars.
What fits Pholoe is not quite
fitting for you, Chloris: while your daughterís more
suited to storming the houses of lovers,
like a Bacchante stirred by the beating drum.
Her love for Nothus forces her
to gambol like a lascivious she-goat:
the wool thatís shorn near to noble
Luceriaís fitting for you, sad old thing,
not the dark red flower of the rose,
nor the lyre, nor the wine-jars drained to their dregs

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Historia Augusta: Zenobia.

Zenobia (240 – 274, or later in Rome), queen of Palmyra, is certainly one of the most fascinating women of Ancient History. Her husband Odaenathus was an ally of Rome and served as a buffer against the Persians. After his assassination in 267 AD, she took over his position – and extended her empire, much to the dismay of the Romans. But as the Romans had to face various crises in the West, there was little they could do and for the moment they thought it best to keep her as a guard against the Persians. She was not anti-Roman, but tried to keep a good relationship with Rome. This intention was not reciprocal and it was Aurelian (270- 275) who defeated and captured her in 274. Instead of killing her, he saved her life and had her displayed in a triumph at Rome. This was not to everyone’s liking: a woman in a triumph?!, but Aurelian defended himself by sending a letter in which he praised her capacities as a leader. This letter is found in the Historia Augusta, but as this source ill-famed for its unreliability, the genuineness of this letter is doubtful. Her fate after the Triumph is not certain: according to most sources she was killed, but the Historia Augusta states that she was spared and was granted to live in a villa near Rome. I wish I could believe that.
In the Historia Augusta her life is described in the section about the life of the Thirty Pretenders – those who strove to be emperor, but did not succeed. Grudgingly the writer has to admit that she, though a woman, reigned very well. The link below gives more information

Historia Augusta: Zenobia 4-12.

4 Exstat epistula Aureliani, quae captivae mulieri testimonium fert. nam cum a quibusdam reprehenderetur, quod mulierem veluti ducem aliquem vir fortissimus triumphasset, missis ad senatum populumque Romanum litteris hac se adtestatione defendit: 5 "Audio, patres  conscripti, mihi obici, quod non virile munus impleverim Zenobiam triumphando. ne illi, qui me reprehendunt, satis laudarent, si scirent quae illa sit mulier, quam prudens in consiliis, quam constans in dispositionibus, quam erga milites gravis, quam larga, cum necessitas postulet, quam tristis, cum severitas poscat. 6 possum dicere illius esse quod Odaenathus Persas vicit ac fugato Sapore Ctesiphonta usque pervenit. 7 possum adserere tanto apud orientales et Aegyptiorum populos timori mulierem fuisse ut se non Arabes, non Saraceni, non Armenii commoverent. 8 nec ego illi vitam conservassem, nisi eam scissem multum Romanae rei publicae profuisse, cum sibi vel liberis suis orientis servaret imperium. 9 sibi ergo habeant propriarum venena linguarum ii quibus nihil placet. 10 nam si vicisse ac triumphasse feminam non est decorum, quid de Gallieno loquuntur, in cuius contemptu haec bene rexit imperium? 11 quid de divo Claudio, sancto ac venerabili duce, qui eam, quod ipse Gothicis esset expeditionibus occupatus, passus esse dicitur imperare? idque consulte ac prudenter, ut illa servante orientalis fines imperii ipse securius quae instituerat perpetraret." 12 haec oratio indicat quid iudicii Aurelianus habuerit de Zenobia.

reprehendo reprehendi reprehendum: to rebuke, find fault, reprehend (subject: Aurelian)
triumpho: to lead in triumph
missis litteris:  with a letter sent (ad)
patres conscripsi: the Senators
mihi obici: to be hold against me
virile munus: a manly deed
impleo: to fulfil
ne illisatis lauderent: in order that they…would not praise enough
quae: what kind of
dispositio –onis (f.): management, handling
gravis –is: severe
largus: giving abundantly, liberal
tristis –is: harsh
illius esse quod: that it is thanks to her that
Sapor: king of the Persia (241 – 272). This event took place in 243, but the next year he defeated the Romans.
Ctesiphon: capital of Persia (Ctesiphonta usque = usque Ctesiphonta)
assero asserui assertum: to add
tanto…timori mulierem: that the woman was (till) such a terror (predicative dative)
conservo: to spare
prosum: to be useful
cum...servaret: as she kept/saved
orientis imperium
venenum: venom
quid de: what about
Galienus: Roman Emperor (252 – 268), who had to deal with many insurgences  
cuius:  Galienus
haec: Zenobia
Claudio: Emperor Claudius Gothicus (268 -270) He designated Aurelianus as his successor before his death.
Gothicis …expeditionibus: in 268 or 269 Claudius defeated a Gothic army at Naissus (modern Niš, a place in Serbia)
eam…passus esse dicitur imperare: is said that he endured/allowed her to reign
idque: and this even
consulte: considerately
illa servante: abl abs. with orientalis fines imperii as object of servant
quae instituerat perpetraret =  perpetraret (ea), quae instuerat:  he could accomplish, what he had planned

Translation by David Magie (1932)

4 There is still in existence a letter of Aurelian's which bears testimony concerning this woman, then in captivity. For when some found fault with him, because he, the bravest of men, had led a woman in triumph, as though she were a general, he sent a letter to the senate and the Roman people, defending himself by the following justification: 5 "I have heard,  Conscript Fathers, that men are reproaching me for having performed an unmanly deed in leading Zenobia in triumph. But in truth those very persons who find fault with me now would accord me praise in abundance, did they but know what manner of woman she is, how wise in counsels, how steadfast in plans, how firm toward the soldiers, how generous when necessity calls, and how stern when discipline demands. 6 I might even say that it was her doing that Odaenathus defeated the Persians and, after putting Sapor to flight, advanced all the way to Ctesiphon. 7 I might add thereto that such was the fear that this woman inspired in the peoples of the East and also the Egyptians that neither Arabs nor Saracens nor Armenians ever moved against her. 8 Nor would I have spared her life, had I not known that she did a great service to the Roman state when she preserved the imperial power in the East for herself, or for her children. 9 Therefore let those whom nothing pleases keep the venom of their own tongues to themselves. 10 For if it is not meet to vanquish a woman and lead her in triumph, what are they saying of Gallienus, in contempt of whom she ruled the empire well? 11 What of the Deified Claudius, that revered and honoured leader? For he, because he was busied with his campaigns against the Goths, suffered her, or so it is said, to hold the imperial power, doing it of purpose and wisely, in order that he himself, while she kept guard over the eastern frontier of the empire, might the more safely complete what he had taken in hand." 12 This speech shows what opinion Aurelian held concerning Zenobia.