Break Time

Dear readers: I will be out of the country for the next eight days, and will not be posting any more notes on Persius or anything else until I get back, as I will not have access to my boos. Please feel free to comment, as I will be moderating them at least once a day. Once I return, I expect to post quite a lot.

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Who Invented Ten-Sided Dice?

Who invented the ‘d10′ ten-sided dice used in many modern board games?

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I don’t know, but Shakespeare seems to presume their existence in the last scene of Timon of Athens (variously numbered 5.4, 5.5, or 17), lines 31-34, where the 2nd Senator makes Alcibiades an offer:

By decimation and a tithèd death,
If thy revenges hunger for that food
Which nature loathes, take thou the destined tenth,
And by the hazard of the spotted die
Let die the spotted.

It may be possible, but it is certainly not simple to select one-tenth of anything with a traditional six-sided die, or with two or three of them. Did ten-sided dice exist in Shakespeare’s day, and if so were they called simply ‘dice’? That seems unlikely. Was the 2nd Senator (inadertently or not) generously offering the lives of one-sixth of his fellow-citizens? That would not fit at well well with the emphatic repetition in ‘decimation’, ‘tithèd’, and ‘tenth’. Did Shakespeare, or the 2nd Senator, not stop to think about the incommensurability of decimation and six-sided dice? Or did Shakespeare notice the incongruity, but think no one else would? If so, he was nearly right: neither Klein’s 2001 New Cambridge edition nor Jowett’s 2004 Oxford World Classics nor Dawson and Minton’s 2008 Arden3 has a note on the problem ad loc. Since the decimation is canceled before it begins, the practical questions never actually arise, so it’s easy to miss.

In sum, the answer to my title question looks like it may be ‘Shakespeare, of course’, though perhaps inadvertently.

Update – 4:55pm (original post was 10:55am):

Thanks to my first two commenters, Ian Spoor and James Cross, it appears that Shakespeare may well have known 20-sided dice (both), but probably not 10-sided (Cross). That makes accurate decimation by dice-roll (rather than just counting off every tenth man) easy enough. Either you roll the die for every captive and have two unlucky numbers. (Hmmm, 13 and what else?) Or you just line the captives up in groups of 20 and roll twice to see which two will die. (Be sure to specify whether you’re counting right to left or left to right before rolling to avoid argument!) That still doesn’t entirely solve the problem in Timon: the Greek 20-sided die has letters on its faces, since the Greeks used letters to represent numbers. (See my Ancient Numbers website Nvmeri Innvmeri for more information, and to test your skills in translating from one system to another.) Would a hypothetical Shakespearean 20-sided die have had dots to represent the numbers? I don’t know, but that seems unlikely, since it would have been difficult to tell at a glance the difference between (for instance) 17, 18, and 19 without tediously counting dots. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that a hypothetical 20-sided die in Timon would not have had ‘spots’ to pun on, but printed numbers (Roman or Arabic), like modern ‘d20s’. And that still assumes it would have had the same name as the six-sided kind.

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Three Small Problems in Persius, Prologus 14

1. I find Harvey’s argument for a question mark at the end of the poem compelling and do not understand why subsequent editors have not followed him. I’m tempted to quote his entire long paragraph (9), but these bits should suffice:

“A question-mark at the end of 14 looks to be correct, since this punctuation alone makes 8-14 meaningful. The full stop unanimously adopted by edd. causes chaos, reducing the second half of the poem to lameness and extreme obscurity. . . . 12-14 as a statement is unintelligible. It suggests that money turns a bad poet into a good one, while credas (14), ‘you would suppose’, is not merely otiose but positively intrusive.”

2. Kißel (98) comments on “die Kühnheit der Junktur cantare nectar“, and Harvey also calls it “bold and incongruous”. Others use harsher words: “cantare . . . nectar pro: ‘cantare carmen nectareum vel suave’ nemo dixit praeter P., neque exempla allata . . . usum insolitum defendunt” (van Wageningen), “insolenter dictum nouitatis cupiditate” (Bo). So far as I have seen, no one has noted that cantare and nectar are very nearly anagrammatic, and share an entire syllable: CaN-TAR-E ~ NEC-TAR. That seems an effective way of combining things that are closely related and at the same time very different. Was such jingling word-play typical of the contemporary bad poets that are his target? Is Persius providing an illustration of “the smooth mellifluous stuff so dear to the popular taste of [his] day” (Lee-Barr) in the very description of it? Such wordplay also seems Lucretian, which arguably provides a nice lead-in to 1.1. Or are the sounds supposed to be crowlike or magpielike? Except for the Ns, cantare . . . nectar sounds rather corvine to me.

3. Since Persius is at least as willing as other Roman satirists to wade into the filthy side of life, I wonder: if nectar here means ‘honey’ (and it does), and honey is a golden liquid excreted by animals,(1) might Pegaseium nectar imply a less pleasant golden liquid excreted from the other end of a much larger animal? In short, is there some hint that the bad poets’ works are no better than horse-piss? If that seems harsh, I will gladly grant that mythological-flying-horse-piss is a better class of piss than ordinary barnyard horse-piss.(2) I should say that I do not think this can be the primary meaning: if it were, it might make Harvey’s question mark unnecessary. Rather, I agree with Gildersleeve: “Nectar . . . combined with Pegaseium is sufficiently grandiloquent to be as absurd as it is intended to be.” A whiff of the barnyard would help make the grandiloquence even more absurd.


(1) I have not done a thorough investigation of what the ancients knew about how honey is made, but Persius’ contemporary the Elder Pliny knew that honey is bee vomit: ore enim eum vomunt (NH 11.12.31).

(2) Other poets (not Persius) are already drinking from a horse-pond in line 1, which is nasty enough. It is not surprising that some scribes misread prolui as pollui there.

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POTIS Comment Policy

A Public On-Line Textual-Interpretative Seminar (POTIS) is a new thing for me and – as far as I know – the classical world, though the APA has announced plans for something similar. No doubt it will take some time to work out the best way to do a seminar in the form of a blog with comments, but here are my thoughts on where to start:

  1. We are speaking in public. Let’s try to show the world (or that small part that is at all interested in such things) how technical scholarship is done. I am very reluctant to delete a comment just because the commenter has had second thoughts. Please don’t embarrass yourselves or each other or (especially!) me. Of course, I will be very quick to delete obvious trollery and spam, but I hope I will never have to ban any Persius scholar for bad behavior. Factories often post large signs saying “This facility has gone 127 days without an injury”. I would like to be able to post a message “This blog has gone 127 days without a banning”.
  2. Please check your politics at the door. On this site, I am emphatically uninterested in knowing what any of you think about any contemporary politician or political issue whatsoever. Save it for more appropriate sites, as I do. The most political thing I will ever have to say on this site is that I did enjoy rereading Persius 4 while waiting in line to vote last November.
  3. Try to keep it (relatively) clean. If any of my former students – many of them still in high school – visit, they are unlikely to stay long, but let’s try to make sure that they will be much more likely to leave bored or confused than offended or titillated. See Con #3, ‘The Other Side of Access’, in my post Why Publish Original Scholarship On-Line?
  4. Try to be pertinent and specific – not that those are strong points of mine! There will be posts dedicated to reporting tiny problems (typos, formatting inconsistencies, and so on), posts asking about general (?) issues (“How should I improve my formats?”) and specific technical issues (“How can I . . . .?”) and maybe even the occasional open thread (“What’s on your mind?”) – though the last will only be repeated if it works well the first time. If you get tired of waiting for an appropriate post for your Persius-related thoughts, you’re welcome to e-mail with suggestions for a post. I may allow guest-posts.
  5. How to address each other when agreeing or disagreeing? I lean towards avoiding first names and titles, and sticking with plain last names, with or without a first name or initial (which may be needed to avoid confusion). There are too many duplicate first names, many of us will have never met, and it will be a lot clearer to newcomers. As for titles, I don’t really want to have to worry about who’s a Professor, who a Doctor, and who a Mister, Ms, Miss, or Mrs.
  6. Don’t be bashful. Feel free to toot your horn, but don’t get carried away. If you’ve written something pertinent to the discussion, say so, and feel free to quote yourself or update your thoughts (“no one else seems to believe me, but I still think . . .” or “maybe I went too far, but my basic point seems sound” or “please ignore what I said about x – I’ve changed my mind – but read the other part on y”.)
  7. Avoid gush.
  8. Puns are allowed and even encouraged.

Comments – or would these be metacomments? – on any or all of these, and suggestions for additons, changes, or deletions, will be much appreciated.

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Index and Database

Before I put together my Adversaria database (here), I made a simple Index file for Persius (here). Should I try to combine the two, or keep them separate? Does anyone have any advice on that? (Please note: your first comment will be moderated, but once that is approved, all others will appear immediately, unless you do something to make me ban you.)

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Categories of Adversaria

As mentioned in my previous post, I plan to assign categories to my various notes so users can filter them to see only what they want to see. This will become more important as their number increases.

Here are my tentative categories – many notes will of course fall into more than one.

  • Textual (one of the larger categories, including any note that offers arguments on decisions between variants and conjectures – should I have a separate category for original conjectures?)
  • Orthographic (for things like Pulydamas vs. Polydamas here)
  • Punctuation
  • Attribution (assigning lines to to speakers – mostly a problem in drama, but also a big problem in Persius)
  • Exegetical (one of the larger categories)
  • Puns and wordplay
  • Structural (symmetry, ring composition, and so on – here is an example from Silius Italicus, not yet in the database)
  • Intertextual (sources, parallels, and ancient allusions and imitations)
  • Nachleben (modern allusions and imitations)
  • Some kind of ‘Meta’ category for things like my note on semipaganus in 1.6 (here)
  • Rhetoric, style, figures of speech
  • Meter
  • Questions and Hypotheses – passages where I have a partial solution, or an unlikely one, or none, and am asking others to help solve the problem.

I’m not sure whether these next four really cover what they need to cover, or should be redivided differently – I will generally be worrying about them only insofar as they affect text or interpretation:

  • Realien
  • History
  • Prosopography
  • Social Issues (including obscenity)

I’m also not sure whether these last five should be listed separately, or all together, or rolled into Textual. There’s no need to decide now, since none of them (except maybe obelization) comes up in Persius, but Propertius has plenty of all five, and Juvenal all but the last:

  • Deletions
  • Obelizations
  • Transpositions
  • Lacunae
  • Divisions between poems

Please let me know if you have any suggestions for combining or subdividing any of these, or (very important) anything I’ve missed.

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Vaut le Detour? Adversaria as Database

Apologies for the long delay in my Persius project. As soon as I uploaded my first few Persius Adversaria, I realized that I needed to rethink the whole web-publication process, since blog posts with links to printable PDF versions would not suffice. It would be awkward enough comparing a text in forwards order with blog posts in backwards order. Worse, I found that blogging passages strictly in their order in the text was slowing things down way too much. I wanted to be able to blog them as I finished them, and move some of the more interesting ideas to the head of the line as I try to attract commenters.

What I needed was a way to blog the pieces bit by bit, while allowing readers to read them in their order in the text, or in the order in which they were published, as they pleased. I also needed to allow multiple versions of each note, since I was already itching to edit the ones I’d put up just a few days before. In short, I needed a database. (I like databases.) It only took a couple of days to put together the basic table, but several more to get the links working.

Each note now exists in four different formats, all interlinked, and will eventually exist in five:

  1. Each one is composed and edited as a Word document, with footnotes and standardized headers and footers. This is for my own use, and will probably never be seen by users.
  2. PDF versions for printing are easily made from these with Adobe Acrobat.
  3. Blog posts for commenting are made by pasting in the Word text and adding appropriate HTML formatting. Macros should be able to automate most, if not all, of this process, though I haven’t done that yet.
  4. With only slight changes in the HTML, the blog post version can be pasted into my Adversaria database table. This process will also be automated with a private PHP input module based on some I already use to update other database tables.
  5. Once the whole set of Adversaria has been edited to my satisfaction, I will be able to put all the Word docs together into one big one, make a PDF, and send it off to a POD publisher, if it looks like anyone will want a hard copy.

The Word, PDF, and Database versions (1, 2, and 4) will all have multiple versions, as I rewrite each note to improve the style or argumentation, meet objections, add suggestions, and so on. This is where the POTIS (Public On-Line Textual-Interpretative Seminar) comes in. Version control should be easy, as long as I’m careful to put changes in the Word version first.

The Adversaria database (4) is here. The buttons below the title allow the reader to sort individual notes by their order in the text (the default), date posted, and length of comment, all either upwards [Λ] or downwards [V]. Once I begin revising them, I will add an option to sort by date last edited, and anything else that seems useful.

I plan to add a Filtering option just below the Sorter: this will allow readers to see only notes that fall into particular categories: Textual, Exegetical, Realien, Meter, Puns&Wordplay, and so on: many comments will of course fall into more than one category. My next post will give my tentative list of categories, and ask for suggestions to improve it.

Some bits of the Adversaria software are hard-coded for Persius, but as soon as I parameterize them, I will start adding comments on other authors, some new, some recycled from published articles. The aim is to aggregate all my Juvenalia (for instance) in a form convenient for readers.

I should mention that it occurred to me just yesterday that I could use this software to compile a complete commentary on a text. All I need to do is to make the references more granular. Right now, they refer to poem and line of Persius, but I would need to specify author, work (if the author wrote more than one), book (if the work has more than one), poem, beginning line, beginning word, ending line, and ending word. (The last two or three will be NULL if the note refers to a single whole line, or a single word.)

I should also mention that the reason I haven’t yet put up my list of manuscripts, list of editions consulted, and bibliography is that I realized a few days ago that these also need to be database tables. (I was trying to decide whether editors should be listed alphabetically or chronologically in my HTML file when I realized that this is yet another case where the reader should be allowed to decide.)

Now what I need is comments. I’ve drafted a Comment Policy, which I will be posting later tonight. Even if you’re not interested in Persius, or do not feel qualified to discuss his text (some of the most difficult Latin ever written by a semicanonical author), you may have ideas about how an on-line textual seminar ought to be run. If this works out, I plan to start a couple more on the first of April.

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Persius 1.53: An Udderly Hypocritical Patron

A rich patron fishes for compliments (1.53-55):

                        calidum scis ponere sumen,
scis comitem horridulum trita donare lacerna,
et ‘verum’ inquis ‘amo, verum mihi dicite de me.’        55

The two gifts offered as bait are oddly assorted. A worn cloak shows a suitably sordid mixture of generosity and parsimony, well worth having but far less valuable than a new one would have been. However, a hot sow’s udder is an unambiguous delicacy. Lee and Barr see the problem but try to wiggle out of it: “a popular and doubtless not over-expensive delicacy”. Kißel offers all the parallels one could wish to prove that sumen was “a choice delicacy” and hot “the ideal serving temperature”. It may have been popular in the sense that everyone liked it, but surely not in the sense that anyone but the rich could afford to eat it often, if at all. Jenkinson’s ‘caviar’ seems a legitimate translation into modern socio-economic terms.

The pairing of udder and cloak might be defended as combining gifts of approximately equal value – not that I feel qualified to calculate the value of either gift in first-century currency. When clothes were woven, cut, and sewn by hand, a new cloak would have been worth far more than a fresh-cooked sow’s udder – unlike today, when a brand new winter jacket from K-Mart may (experto credite) cost less than a lambburger with fries and imported Mexican Coca Cola at the hot new restaurant in town. Whether a used cloak would have been worth more or less than a fresh sow’s udder would presumably have depended on just how worn it was.

Nevertheless, this is satire, and I expect a foodstuff that is at least mildly sordid and degrading to go with the worn cloak: as I have suggested elsewhere, in satire and invective the rule is lectio foedior potior. I suggest therefore that Persius wrote gelidum (a polar error in more ways than one – tepidum would be less sordid and further from the paradosis). The patron serves his poor client a cold sow’s udder, presumably left over from dinner with rich cronies the night before. (At least he doesn’t invite the two classes of guests to the same feast to humiliate the poor ones, like Virro in Juvenal 5 or the anonymous villain of Pliny, Epistulae 2.6.) In the days before refrigerators, a day-old udder would have been none too fresh, though still edible. Like the contents of a doggy bag from a fine restaurant today, it would have been tastier than a lot of fresh foods, while still far less attractive than it had been when fresh.

Now the two gifts match: they’re both cold, though in slightly different ways, both are used or at least not fresh, both would have been more welcome if given new-made (fresh from the tailor or freshly-cooked), and both are still worth having, thus putting the client firmly in his place. Or perhaps the clients: we don’t know whether the recipients of udder and cloak are the same person, but identifying the two might add a bit of point. Anyone would rather have his cooked meat hot from the stove, but a man who’s shivering with cold would especially appreciate any kind of hot food or drink, just to help warm up.

On the other hand, the plural dicite shows that two or more clients are present. Does one get the udder, the udder other the cloak? Or is there a whole crowd of clients, and one gets the udder, one the cloak, while the rest are sent away cold and hungry, but still hoping to be among the lucky few next time? Either way, it looks like the patron is trying to elicit some competitive flattery.

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Persius 1.4: Machinical Error?

A minor question of orthography:

ne mihi Polydamas et Troiades Labeonem

The name of the Trojan hero Πολυδάμας does not scan in hexameters: the first three syllables are short. Homer therefore lengthened the first syllable to make Πουλυδάμας. How that should be spelled in Latin is not entirely settled.

The latest editors of the three Augustan poems in which Πολυδάμας is mentioned all print forms of Pulydamas: Heyworth in Propertius 3.1.29, Knox in Ovid, Heroides 5.94, and Tarrant in Ovid, Metamorphoses 12.542. Propertius’ older manuscripts are divided, with N giving poli and the descendants of A (FLP, Heyworth’s Π) puli (both as separate words). But the older manuscripts of Ovid – quite a bit older than Propertius’ – give Poly- in both works. Nevertheless, none of the three editors argues the point, and neither Knox nor Tarrant even mentions it in his apparatus, printing accusative Pulydamanta in both texts without explanation. Nor do Heyworth or Knox argue the point in their commentaries. It seems to be the consensus of modern editors (perhaps only ‘Anglo-Saxon’ editors) that Pulydamas is the proper way to spell the name, at least in the higher genres of verse during the reign of Augustus.

Is that how Persius would have spelled the name? His editors much prefer Polydamas: of those I have seen, only Valpy and Némethy print Pulydamas. However, only Gildersleeve and Kißel argue the point at all. I find their arguments unconvincing, and have therefore printed Pulydamas in my text. Kißel (116) adduces the preponderance of manuscripts in verse authors who name Polydamas, but does not explain why he would have preferred the Doric-Aeolic form. (Besides Propertius and Ovid, the sources are Ilias Latina 786 and Silius 12.212.) Gildersleeve doesn’t argue so much as assert: “Some write Pulydamas, corresponding with the Homeric form, Πουλυδάμας; but Pōlydamas (Πωλυδάμας) is the Sicilian Doric, like pōlypus (πωλύπος).” He goes on to expound the allusion to the Iliad, which makes nonsense of the supposed Sicilian origin. It seems obvious to me that most Romans would have learned pōlypus at the fishmarket, where Sicilian dialect would have been likely enough, while those Romans who knew the name of the hero at all would have learned it from reading Homer. They would have had no more need to assimilate the two spellings than the spellings of machina and mechanicus. Here, too, the less learned borrowing (machina from μαχανά) presumably came from personal contact with Dorian speakers, while the more learned (mechanicus from μηχανή) would have come from reading Attic texts.

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Persius 5.159: When Two Ets Are Two Too Many

A concise animal allegory illustrates the difficulty of achieving true freedom (5.157-60):

nec tu, cum obstiteris semel instantique negaris
parere imperio, ‘rupi iam uincula’ dicas;
nam et luctata canis nodum abripit, et tamen illi,
cum fugit, a collo trahitur pars longa catenae.        160

                159 et tamen αVXRW : at tamen P : ast tamen GLN : tamen C

Braund translates the last two lines “Even when a bitch breaks the knot after a struggle, a long section of chain still trails from her neck”. I don’t quite see the “when” in the Latin, and it seems to me that ut for the first et in 159 would provide better sense at very small cost. Now the first clause means “even supposing a bitch breaks the knot after a struggle”: a hypothetical is good here. As the OLD notes (s.v. 35), this concessive use of ut is often matched with tamen in the main clause, and that is exactly what we have after the comma. It also requires the subjunctive, so we must alter abripit to abripiat and then delete the second et to save the meter. However, that actually removes another small problem: the variants listed in the apparatus, particularly the unmetrical reading of C, point to interpolation. Once abripiat had lost its second a, et and at and ast were variously inserted to mend the meter, while C or its ancestor left it unmended.

My final text:

nam ut luctata canis nodum abripiat, tamen illi,
cum fugit, a collo trahitur pars longa catenae.        160

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Persius, Prologus 10-11: a Bit of Nachleben

An amusing bit of Nachleben seems worth mentioning here. In his Südelbucher, G. C. Lichtenberg wrote (L 315):

Ein Stoß auf den Magen beraubt alles Bewußtseins nicht den Magen sondern den Kopf selbst. Überhaupt wird immer von Kopf und Herz geredet und viel zu wenig vom Magen, vermutlich, weil er in den Souterrains logiert ist, aber die Alten verstunden es besser. Persius kreierte ihn bekanntlich schon zum Magister Artium, und in den 1700 (?) Jahren kann er doch wohl etwas hinzu gelernt haben.

A punch in the stomach deprives of all consciousness not the stomach but the head itself. In general, people are always talking about head and heart, and far too little about the stomach, probably because it lodges in the basement, but the ancients understood it better. As is well known, Persius awarded it the Master of Arts, and in 1700 (?) years it may surely have become more learned.

Of course, Lichtenberg cheats a bit by taking Persius’ magister artis is if it were magister artium. I do not know what the parenthesized question mark after 1700 is supposed to mean. Lichtenberg was writing in 1796, which was 1734 years after the death of Persius, so 1700 is a good round figure for the number of years the stomach had had to for further education. Did Lichtenberg himself add the query because he was unsure of Persius’ dates?

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Persius, Prologus 6: semipaganus

I suspect that more pages have been written on semipaganus than on any other single word in Persius. Not only is the meaning of paganus obscure – fellow-townsman? rustic? civilian? – it is far from obvious what the implied other half is. This is a problem with other semi- compounds. A semivir is obviously half a man, but whether the other half is a beast or a woman or a boy or an inanimate object depends on the context: Ovid might have called the Minotaur a semivir bos or a semibos vir or a semivir semibos (calling him semibovemque virum, semivirumque bovem in A.A. 2.24 was just overkill) but a simple semivir or semibos, without further clues in the context, would have left his readers scratching their heads.

I lean towards the (familiar) idea that the pagus of which Persius is a partial member is Poetopolis, and that he is claiming to be half a poet and (presumably) half a prosaic writer of philosophical diatribe. Satiric and choliambic verse are certainly prosier than most genres, and putting philosophy into verse, as Lucretius did, will also tend to prosify it. Did Persius think of himself as a Stoic Lucretius? Or perhaps a Semilucretius, omitting Stoic physics and writing only on ethics? He certainly sounds Lucretian in 1.1. However, this is a huge subject, best put off for another day.

In the mean time, whatever semipaganus means, it certainly implies that Persius is half one thing, and half something else. Given Persius’ intimate knowledge of all Horace’s works, and his thorough reworking of the Sermones, I wonder: can it possibly be coincidental that the only ‘Persius’ mentioned in any of Horace’s works is a hybrida, the pun-loving Clazomenian halfbreed of Sermones 1.7?(1)

What Gowers says about Horace’s Persius in her recent commentary on Satires I (CGLC, 2012) sounds rather like the Neronian satirist: “this rancid legal pickle of bitter flavours . . . The poem can be read as a literary-critical duel between two old kinds of satire, [Persius'] the Greek-influenced wit of Lucilius, sharp but uncontrolled, and [Rex's] the rustic and vinegary humour of Italy” (250). Was Persius inspired by ‘Persius’? It seems likely to me. Some may also wish to associate Horace’s Rupilius Rex with Persius’ supposed Mida rex or even Nero, but I’m not sure I’m willing to go so far.

As it happens, Persius’ other model Lucilius also mentions only one ‘Persius’ in the surviving bits of his satires, in two passages of what seems to have been his first published poem. We know that Book XXVI was his first collection of satires, placed after the hexameter works by officious editors. If Warmington and Krenkel are right in putting lines 632-4 W (= 591-3 K = 595-6 Marx) in the first satire of Book XXVI, then Lucilius stakes out his poetical position in his very first satire as midway between the tastes of the overlearned Persius and the underlearned Manius Manilius:

                                                  <ab indoctissimis>
nec doctissimis <legi me>; Man<ium Manil>ium
Persiumve haec legere nolo, Iunium Congum volo.

Different editors print different supplements, but Persium is safely outside them, and the general sense seems clear. Again, he says (Fr. 635 W = 594 K = 593 M)

Persium non curo legere, Laelium Decumum volo.

(We know from Cicero, who quotes this line, that Persius was the overlearned reader.) Is Persius the satirist thinking of Lucilius’ Persius when he writes his snobbish rejections of the common herd and professes that he doesn’t care whether anyone reads him?

Of course, my second point is less compelling than my first. We have only a small percentage of Lucilius’ works, so he may have mentioned this Persius or others many times in passages now lost. My first point is much stronger. We have no reason to believe that Horace wrote any lost works except for juvenilia that he did not wish to survive. It seems likely that his single ‘Persius’ caught the satirist Persius’ eye and influenced his work.


(1) If no one (so far as I know) has noticed the connection between the satirist Persius and his Horatian forebear, that may be because Sermones 1.7 is everyone’s least favorite poem of Horace, except for possibly Iambi 8 and 12.

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Persius’ Choliambi: Prologue, Epilogue, or . . . ?

Most manuscripts (followed by most editors) place Persius’ fourteen choliambic lines before the six hexameter satires, but two of the three best (AB = α) place them after all six, while the third (P) omits them entirely. The lines themselves fall into two halves of seven lines each, with a very abrupt transition. Some have therefore argued that they are two separate poems, though this opinion is now out of fashion.(1) A bit of ring-composition – the first and last lines both contain allusions to Pegasus – makes it hard to separate them.

There is one other possible arrangement I think worth outlining, since, so far as I can tell, no one else has suggested it before. (If I am mistaken, please correct me in the comments.) I don’t believe it myself, but hope that it may prove a stimulus to further thought.

Is it conceivable that the choliambs are in fact Persius’ prologue and epilogue, that lines 1-7 should be placed before Satire 1 and lines 8-14 after Satire 6? That would explain their uncertain position in the manuscripts: faced with two bits of verse in the same non-hexameter meter, a scribe might well have been tempted to combine them in one place, and either end of the corpus would have done as well as the other. The lack of connection between lines 7 and 8 would obviously not be a problem if they originally had 660+ hexameters between them, and the Pegasean ring-composition would work just as well as a device to unite an entire book, rather than a single short poem.

The first half without the second would arguably work as a lead-in to Satire 1. It could almost be printed with a colon at the end: “I’m bringing a poetic offering to the Holy Rites:” . . . and here it is, in a new paragraph and a different meter. So far, so good. However, the second half doesn’t work for me at all as an epilogue. It starts out as an interesting new poem, but whether we punctuate the last line with a full stop (editors) or with a question mark (as Harvey suggests, ad loc.), it doesn’t seem to provide anything in the way of closure. That is why I do not believe my hypothesis. I could modify (and complicate) it by arguing that something is missing at the end of 8-14, but that would ruin the matching lengths of the hypothetical Prologue and Epilogue, so I’m not willing to go that far.


(1) Dessen (16 and n4) attributes it to F. Leo, “Zum text des Persius und Iuvenal”, Hermes 45 (1910) 48. I will look it up next time I’m in a research library, since Google Books refuses to tell me whether they have even scanned it, much less whether I can read it, no matter how carefully I tailor my search terms.

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At Last: Notes on Persius

This has been taking a lot longer than expected, but I will post my first note on Persius’ Prologus in a few minutes, and at least a couple more later tonight. I still hope to finish the whole thing by March 15th: the Prologus is particularly beset with interlocking problems.

In the next day or two, I will also put up a Persius front page (modeled on the Juvenal front page), with a table of contents, list of manuscripts, list of editions consulted, and a select bibliography.

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Why Start with Persius?

Briefly, I have three reasons for starting with Persius’ Satires: it’s a short text (one book, seven poems, 664 lines), a very difficult text that offers interesting textual and exegetical problems on every page, and (not least) I have a lot to say about it. All this makes Persius an appropriate subject for an experiment in on-line publishing, distributed discussion, and open refereeing.

The general consensus seems to be that Persius’ manuscripts are “almost good”, as Housman put it (Collected Papers ii.525) and that conjectural emendation is rarely needed. In the Juvenal section of the current Loeb edition (2004), Braund demonstrates that she has no aversion to conjectures, old or new, but in the Persius section she prints just two in the text, one more (mine as it happens) in the apparatus. That is not a lot even for so short a text. The oldest of the three (Madvig’s) is not yet 150 years old, and the other two not yet fifty. Vergil’s manuscripts are the best of any classical Latin author, hundreds of years older than any of Persius’, but the first 663 lines of Goold’s Loeb Aeneid contain three conjectures (all old) in the text, plus one transposition and one deletion. Is Persius’ text in better shape than Vergil’s?

A glance at a fuller apparatus of Persius – Clausen’s separate edition of 1956 or Kissel’s 2007 neoTeubner – shows that even his oldest manuscripts are in fact riddled with idiotic errors. That is why I find Housman’s summary (CP ii. 602) overoptimistic: “Persius is not difficult to edit. The two authorities which preserve him, P on the one hand and AB on the other, are both exceedingly corrupt, yet each so well repairs the deficiencies of its rival that emendation is hardly required. Even recension is no troublesome or dangerous business; for where the two witnesses dissent it mostly happens that either the one or the other is unmistakably wrong; and in some places where the text is doubtful it matters next to nothing how we choose, because both alternatives are good and even equally good.” Is it true – can it be true – that two cloths, each full of holes, would just happen to provide complete coverage when laid together? I find that hard to believe. I also find many of the places where the manuscripts agree dubious.

The contents of the MSS have been thoroughly investigated by very competent scholars, numerous helpful commentaries have been written, and the Internet offers new possibilities for scholarly communication – particularly important for less popular authors, whose admirers are less likely to be able to meet. It seems a good time to take another look at the text and interpretation of Persius.

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More on My Plans for an On-Line Edition of Persius

Two days ago, I announced that I will be publishing an on-line text of Persius with apparatus criticus and accompanying adversaria over the next month, with comments open for suggestions from anyone who is interested. This is only the first step. Once I have made up my mind on the many remaining textual and interpretative questions, I will (a) freeze the text as a ‘virtual first edition’, and (b) make inexpensive printed copies available through a POD publisher, most likely Amazon CreateSpace. I will do the same with the adversaria, making a single collected on-line edition, linked and indexed for easy access to each note, plus a POD version.

Any further changes will be listed in detail on a separate page, with dates. If these accumulate a sufficient mass, I can always do a second edition. Export for the formatting, my Juvenal text has not changed in the last ten years, but I have a lot of ideas for additions, alterations, and deletions, and plan to do a second edition of that later this year.

To get to the finished work, I will need help, and for this I envision a public on-line textual-exegetical seminar or POTIS – not a MOOC because it is neither massive nor a formal course. (More on this soon.)

The advantages of publishing an on-line text with apparatus criticus and accompanying adversaria are fairly obvious: anyone with a web connection will be able to consult them at any time, without cost. See my previous post for more on this point. Though still under construction, my QLTP page provides adjustable formats not possible in printed texts: macra can be shown or concealed, u’s and v’s and national styles of quotation marks adjusted to the reader’s tastes, and much more. Persius’ Prologus is here, and the rest will be uploaded to QLTP as I edit it.

The main advantage of providing a hard-copy text along with the web-text is that it would be useful for students. If you’re teaching Persius in the next few years (don’t everyone speak up at once!) why not urge your students to buy a copy of Kißel’s Teubner Saur De Gruyter text (currently only $46.06 on Amazon US) for consultation and the long term, plus a copy of mine to write in. God knows an unannotated Persius is not very intelligible, and mine will have plenty of room for notes, since I plan to put the text on the left-hand page, with the apparatus facing it on the right, just as it appears on the website. That will provide many of the practical advantages of an old-fashioned interleaved text – without the constant back-and-forth from right to left. I should be able to offer a complete text for US $8.00 or so, and even make a small profit.

The advantages of hard-copy adversaria are less obvious, and I don’t expect to sell many copies. However, I do hope that scholars who find my thoughts interesting or convincing or both will recommend that their university libraries order a copy of the finished work, when it is finished. It would be nice to have a few hard copies around in case of a Carrington Event, an EMP attack, or the kind of webmelting electronic pandemic (perhaps a global deletion by a mad scientist at cloud-computing headquarters) that we hope will stay entirely within the world of Science Fiction. Persius scholars may also want to acquire their own copies of my notes to annotate, correct, or defile. If you find that you really hate them, why not buy a whole stack for your fireplace? Like the text, it should be only 60-80 pages, and correspondingly inexpensive. Help support an impecunious scholar: don’t make me take a job unless it is a good one.

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Why Publish Original Scholarship On-Line?

I can think of at least seven good reasons to publish original classical scholarship on my own site where anyone can read it, and only three against. In favor are these:

  1. Access: Anyone can read what I have to say. Most of those interested in the structure of Silius Italicus’ Punica (link) or the text of Cymbeline (link), or any of the other subjects on which I have posted or will be posting, are probably academics with easy access to JSTOR, but not all. I personally have to drive 35 miles each way and pay for parking whenever I need to look up articles in even the more widely-distributed classical journals, and I’m sure there are others who have even less convenient access to scholarship. Easier access to my work may turn out to be a competitive advantage. Not that classical papers are often interchangeable, but, ceteris paribus, those that are easier to get hold of will be read more.
  2. Immediacy: There is no need to wait a year or two or three for what I’ve written to appear in print: I can upload it as soon as it’s done. As I get older, I find this instant gratification more compelling. Friends and colleagues can also read it immediately, even without access to JSTOR, and I don’t have to spend money on postage for hard-copy offprints. (Then again, offprints have their charms.)
  3. Accuracy: In the short run, there will surely be more mistakes in my web-publications, given the lack of any editor or proofreader other than myself. However, in the long run, there will certainly be fewer, since any that are found can and will be removed, and there is no specific date before the death of the author at which that becomes impossible. I will, of course, record and date any significant changes I make in each paper, and credit the authors of those I don’t think of myself. (Instant gratification for them, too.) Publishing my work in blog-form with open comments means that these will often be obvious.
    Journal referees are often wonderfully helpful, and usually work harder and more systematically at correcting errors than ordinary readers, but it seems likely that the casual remarks of all those interested in the subject could be at least as useful, if less well-organized, as long as they are abundant and come from a variety of points of view. Given sufficient time, a sufficient number of interested blind men should be able to describe an elephant more accurately than a single sighted man facing a deadline.
    A commented blog offers opportunities for dialogue, as well. If comments are unconvincing, they can be argued with, or rejected, politely or otherwise. Defying unconvincing objections would not require one to withdraw the paper, find another journal, and wait another however-many months or years for another set of (possibly incompatible) comments.
  4. Up-to-Dateness: Printed texts are often out of date before they even appear, partly because pertinent work has a way of appearing just when the work has gone to press, partly because no one can read everything and it’s easy to miss important work that could have been included if only it had been found in time. The last two things I looked for in recent editions were not there. (Should I provide details? Not tonight: I want to post this before midnight.) Whether text, commentary, or more traditional paper, an on-line publication whose author is still alive and keeping up with the latest research – or even just responding to comments from others who are keeping up – need never be out of date by more than a day or two. Careful choice of an intellectual heir may even remove the limitation of death.
  5. Microscholarship: Nothing is too small for the web. (Or too large, though that’s never been a problem for me.) Scholars have been known to publish collections of tiny notes on tiny problems as ‘adnotatiunculae’ or ‘limaturae’, but editors of paper journals are not fond of them. Posted on-line and properly indexed, these will be easy to find, and very easy to read without even leaving one’s comfy chair. If good enough, such scholarly tidbits will eventually be gathered up into standard commentaries.
    In passing, I should mention that web-publication also makes the stupider kind of index or concordance superfluous: once a text is on-line, Ctrl-F will do the job. The more intelligent kind, the analytical index or lemmatized lexicon, can be done on-line as easily as in book form. The on-line version can also be consulted much more easily: it’s always quicker to type in the word or form or name you’re looking for than to leaf through many pages looking for it.
  6. Unity of Design: On-line work can be recycled and collected for the convenience of author and reader, without having to worry about copyrights and the qualms of publishers. I have often seen collections of adversaria on a particular author or work in which some of the notes say ‘see my paper in journal x’. I would have liked to have all the notes on a single work in a single place, but can certainly understand why a traditional publisher would not want to include something that is not new, even when it is not already copyrighted by a different publisher. An author who is his own publisher can just paste previous work in where it belongs in a larger work, with or without changes and updates.
  7. Illustrations: Even for a lit critter such as myself, illustrations are sometimes necessary to make a point, and the web can often provide excellent color illustrations at no cost, though we do have to watch out for link-rot and permissions. One paper I hope to finish in the next month or two is a revision of the geography of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, Part II. If I can get the permissions, I can illustrate it far more profusely than any journal would allow, at zero cost. For this paper, a print journal would probably have told me to omit the map on page 4 and refer readers to a classical atlas, which would have made it slightly less intelligible.

What about the reasons against?

  1. Lack of Respect I: There is of course one very large disadvantage to publishing one’s own work on one’s own website. With no stamp of approval from a first- or second-rate journal and no official refereeing, there is no guarantee of quality, probably less scholarly respect, and definitely far less credit towards tenure. That matters very little to me, since (a) I’ve published enough (link) to have a pretty good idea what is worth publishing and what is not, and (b) I’m not on a tenure-track or likely ever to be. That means that I can afford to care very much whether people read my stuff and find it convincing, not at all whether it would convince a committee to hire or promote me. (Do feel free to contact me if anything I write here makes you want to hire me to teach Latin.) I am very curious to see how long it takes for someone to follow my example.
  2. Lack of Respect II: If classicists start publishing their work on their own websites, and this is counted for tenure, there is a danger that the web will be flooded with crap by desperate scholars – as Amazon has been flooded with print-on-demand reprints of out-of-copyright books, reprints whose quality is always dubious and often abysmal. On the other hand, open comments will provide some promise of quality even for personal ‘vanity’ websites, and those that do not allow comments, or selectively delete them, can be (a) shunned or (b) freely discussed on other sites where the author has no power to delete.
  3. The Other Side of Access: There is one real danger of on-line scholarship that worries me. I have published papers on some of the filthier passages of Latin literature, and have also taught at high schools and middle schools, as well as universities, both secular and religious. I’ve never had any problem with a student being offended by something I wrote in a journal, because none of them has ever read the papers in question. (I’ve posted PDFs of most of my publications on this site (link), but felt obliged to omit the ones I wouldn’t want my younger students to read.) The fact that anything I write on-line is available to anyone with a web-connection means that a student who wanted to get me in trouble with parents, teachers, or administrators can do so with a simple link, where a visit to a major research library would previously have been necessary. Writing on-line about some passages of Roman Satire, or Martial, or Aristophanes, might mean never being able to teach high school again. This danger can be palliated, but not removed entirely. I hope that participants in my Persius seminar (see previous post) will not be too enthusiastically blunt about the meanings of some passages, though I won’t ask them to do as Housman did in his paper “Praefanda” and write their remarks in Latin. I’ll have more to say on this in my suggested Rules for Commentators late tonight or early tomorrow.

In Conclusion: Digital Humanists have been arguing over ‘green’ and ‘gold’ Open Access for quite some time. What I have in mind is something better than either, the ultimate in Open Access: just post your work on the web where anyone can read it. (Or almost anyone: some governments, and many employers, ban even inoffensive scholarly websites for no apparent reason, but most of us outside a few countries can read whatever we want, though we may have to wait until we get home from work.) So what color is my ‘Extreme Open Access’? Green, gold, . . . what comes next? I don’t know, maybe ‘transparent’?


Note: Comments on this post – or any other – will be very much appreciated. Your first comment will be moderated, but once it is approved, further comments will appear immediately, unless you write something so offensive that I feel compelled to ban you.

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Announcement: A New Edition of Persius

Over the next month, I will be editing the text of Persius’ Satires for this site, with a select apparatus criticus containing a few of my own conjectures and an original selection of older readings. These will be expounded, along with some new interpretations, in accompanying on-line adversaria. There is no need for a full commentary: Persius is well-provided with those, most notably Walter Kißel’s huge one (Heidelberg, 1990). I therefore plan to comment only where I have something new to say, or something new to ask: there are many passages where I have questions but no answers, or only partial answers, and hope that others will be able to help nail down convincing solutions. Ordinary blog software with a comment function should suffice to allow something very like an on-line seminar.

Tomorrow I will post more on the whys and hows of this project. Starting Monday, I will edit and upload roughly 25 lines of text and apparatus per day, with however many separate notes are needed to support my more original or controversial decisions, or to seek help in the many cases where I am still unsure. The last two Persius posts each day will be open posts, where readers will be invited to (a) propound their own ideas (problems or solutions) on issues I haven’t written about, and (b) offer corrections and comments on minor issues (typographical errors, formatting issues, bibliographic omissions, and such).

At that rate, the job will be done on the Ides of March, one month from today. I will be going out of the country for a week or so soon after that, so it will be a good time for a break. If the Persius project works out well, I will start another author or two at the beginning of April.

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Casaubon – and Cicero?

At Laudator Temporis Acti, Michael Gilleland quotes a witticism of Casaubon. It looks to me like a far more succinct variation on a story Cicero tells in his De Legibus – or rather has his character Atticus tell, since it’s a dialogue. I posted the story as the second item on my Ancient Jokes page eleven years ago. (I hope to restart the page at some point, but as a searchable database.) I wonder whether the learned Casaubon was alluding to Cicero, and if so, whether he expected his hearers to recognize the allusion.

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Happy Holiday

I hope everyone’s having a pleasant Groundhog’s Eve – or already had one if you’re in the Eastern Hemisphere.

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