Facts about the ancient world, even when mentioned in ancient texts, are not always found in the texts we would think of consulting first, or second, or at all. In his commentary on Martial I, Peter Howell refers (205) to Philodemus, On Methods of Inference (II.3f., if anyone wants to look it up) as the source for a list of “celebrated dwarfs (Egyptian, and possibly Syrian)”. What dwarfs and their names have to do with formal logic is not obvious, though I’m not quite intrigued enough to try to find out.
Sunday: October 21, 2007
Tuesday: June 20, 2006
In Martial: Select Epigrams (Cambridge ‘green and gold’, 2003), Lindsay and Patricia Watson include 4.87 (71 in their numeration):
Infantem secum semper tua Bassa, Fabulle,
conlocat et lusus deliciasque uocat,
et, quo mireris magis, infantaria non est.
ergo quid in causa est? pedere Bassa solet.
For a text with apparatus, go here and scroll down to the third-to-last epigram. The Watsons’ paraphrase:
Your acquaintance Bassa, Fabullus, is forever cuddling a baby and calling it her darling. The odd thing is that she is not baby-minded. The reason? She is given to farting.
The scholastic humor is in the notes, where the Watsons write “the topic receives an airing in other comic writers” and “[t]he inveterate farter is a butt of comedy”.
Saturday: August 20, 2005
After my trip to the U.N.C. library, I’ve been leafing through Toto Notus in Orbe, Perspektiven der Martial-Interpretation (ed. Farouk Grewing, Palingenesis LXV, Stuttgart, 1998). One sentence in T. J. Leary’s paper on the Xenia and Apophoreta caused a double-take. On page 46, he has just listed several filthy jokes in the two Saturnalian books, and goes on to explain that the two are not so different from the rest of Martial as one might expect: “They bear many of Martial’s most appealing hallmarks, for instance . . . .” Given the context, I at first misread this as “appalling heelmarks”.
My subconscious may have been influenced by Hank Thompson’s punning lyric:
Every man must leave his footprint
on the shifting sands of time,
but I’ll just leave the mark of a heel.
She was mine for ten long years:
that’s about ten thousand beers.
The story gets grimmer from there. Thompson seems to have been influenced by
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
I’ve always liked the anonymous parody:
Lives of great men all remind us,
As we o’er their pages turn,
That we too may leave behind us
Letters that we ought to burn.
Friday: August 19, 2005
The word dexiocholus, ‘lame in the right leg’, though securely attested in Martial 12.59.9, is not to be found in either the Oxford Latin Dictionary or Liddell-Scott-Jones: no doubt each editorial team thought it could safely be left to the other. (I have not checked Housman’s list of “Greek words used by Martial and, so far as can be learnt from the dictionaries, by no other Roman author” [Classical Papers 1167] to see whether they are in OLD, or LSJ, or both, or neither.)
Martial lists the dexiocholus among the people one would not wish to kiss:
Tantum dat tibi Roma basiorum
post annos modo quindecim reverso
quantum Lesbia non dedit Catullo.
te vicinia tota, te pilosus
hircoso premit osculo colonus;
hinc instat tibi textor, inde fullo,
hinc sutor modo pelle basiata,
hinc menti dominus periculosi,
†hinc† dexiocholus, inde lippus
fellatorque recensque cunnilingus.
iam tanti tibi non fuit redire.
9 hinc ] istinc uel hinc et Lindsay
One of my uncles has a wooden right leg, and such an inoffensive debility has always seemed out of place in this list of the diseased, the perverted, and the practitioners of filthy professions, particularly when limited to the right side only. As Housman put it in his usual pithy way (CP 993):
Neither leg, so far as I have noticed, is much used in kissing; and it therefore does not appear how lameness can lend horror to a kiss, nor what difference it makes if the lame leg happens to be the right one.
Seven years later (CP 1105) he answered his own question:
Men lame of the right leg were to be dreaded because it was unlucky to meet them. Lucian pseudol. 17 hemeîs dè kaì toùs kholoùs tôi dexiôi ektrepómetha, kaì málista ei héothen ídoimen autoús, Pliny n. h. xxviii 35 ‘despuimus comitiales morbos . . . simili modo et fascinationes repercutimus dextraeque clauditatis occursum’.
It’s odd that Housman does not say why a dexiocholus would be unlucky. The prejudice was hardly arbitrary or inexplicable. We all know that the Romans made a point of entering rooms and setting out on journeys dextro pede, ‘right foot first’ (cf. e.g. Petronius 30.6, Juvenal 10.5, Vitruvius iii.3). A dexiocholus would tend to drag his right leg behind him, and would therefore enter every room and begin every journey or enterprise left foot first. That would suffice to make him hated by the gods, permanently unlucky, and well worth avoiding. I suppose there is also some idea that his bad luck would ‘rub off’ on anyone he embraced. (For a while, I wondered whether a man whose left leg was lame might be particularly popular, but I don’t suppose the man who can’t help doing things dextro pede has much advantage in fortuna and felicitas over those who are careful to do so on every occasion.)
As for the missing syllable just before, I wonder whether Martial wrote hinc stat dexiocholus, inde lippus. Does Latin use compound for simplex? That is, can stat mean instat when instat precedes, or is that a Greek practice? (Time to ransack the unabridged grammars! I have a paper on compound and simplex somewhere in my files, but they are not as well-organized as they might be.) Or might there be a tiny joke in the lame man just standing there expecting a kiss while the others press forward? Perhaps not, since the same verb would apply to the last three horrors. And stat does not seem particularly likely to drop out in this context. So the textual problem may be more recalcitrant than the exegesis.
Sunday: August 14, 2005
I have now gone through the first seven books of Martial, and have learned about 360 of the best lines. His merit seems to me to lie, not in wit, but in the rapid succession of vivid images. I wish he were less nauseous. He is as great a beast as Aristophanes. He certainly is a very clever, pleasant writer. Sometimes he runs Catullus himself hard. But besides his indecency, his servility and his mendicancy disgust me. In his position,—for he was a Roman Knight,—something more like self-respect would have been becoming. I make large allowance for the difference of manners; but it never can have been comme il faut in any age or nation for a man of note,—an accomplished man,—a man living with the great,—to be constantly asking for money, clothes, and dainties, and to pursue with volleys of abuse those who would give him nothing.
From Macaulay’s diary for 1857, quoted in Life and Letters, ii.372.
Monday: July 4, 2005
It’s too early to party, but I have uploaded the first e-fascicle of an electronic text of the complete epigrams of Martial: Book IV, with a few textual novelties, an original selection of variants and conjectures, and an apparatus criticus fuller than Shackleton Bailey’s Teubner but not so full as Lindsay’s OCT. The index file is so far only a prototype. There will be a few adjustments to Book IV, but it is 99% finished. Book I will be next, and is nearly ready. I plan to post questions here about specific possible improvements to the text and format, but comments may also be volunteered here.
What would be the most appropriate dish to serve at a party celebrating the publication of a book on Martial, or the Priapea, or some other scurrilous and scoptic classic? Crudités, of course.
Tuesday: June 14, 2005
Found on Amazon:
Martial, Buch VI: Ein Kommentar (Hypomnemata)
by Farouk Grewing
Availability: Currently unavailable.
It is in fact still in print in Germany, for only 89 Euros — around $107 — in paperback, and worth every penny. For more information, go here and search on the author’s (I mean the editor’s, not Martial’s) name. German Amazon also lists it, though with very little information except that they can ship it within 1-2 days. I would have thought that the various Amazon sites could share information and avoid misstatements, but apparently not.
What I found humorous is the single review on the U.S. Amazon site:
Just great!, April 25, 2002
Reviewer: Dr. Farouk F. Grewing (Cambridge, MA United States)
I really did an excellent job on this one!
He did, actually, and I use the book often, still grateful that a book dealer in the U.S. was foolish enough to price a used copy in excellent condition at $20 when I would have gladly paid quite a bit more. (Some of my Martial texts, with marginal apparatus criticus, are nearly ready to unveil, though not Book VI.)
Dr. Grewing’s curriculum vitae (on line here) confirms that his middle initial is F. and that he was a visiting lecturer in the Boston area in 2002, so I suspect the review is genuine. One small detail of the c.v. is also slyly humorous. The bullets for list items are all dark green, except for the one marking a review of Hans Peter Obermayer, Martial und der Diskurs über männliche ‘Homosexualität’ in der Literatur der frühen Kaiserzeit, which is pink. I like the portrait, too.