Two Kinds of Crux, neither of them Christian (Maecenas, Fr. 4.4)

    Thousands of lines of excellent verse dedicated to Maecenas survive, but only a few precious bits of his own – precious in more ways than one. Seneca (E.M. 101.10-12) preserves, and comments on, one of the most interesting (Fr. 4 Courtney = 1 Lunderstedt):(1)

Inde illud Maecenatis turpissimum votum quo et debilitatem non recusat et deformitatem et novissime acutam crucem, dummodo inter haec mala spiritus prorogetur:

debilem facito manu, debilem pede coxo,
tuber adstrue gibberum, lubricos quate dentes:
vita dum superest, benest. hanc mihi vel acuta
si sedeam cruce sustine . . .

Quod miserrimum erat si incidisset optatur, et tamquam vita petitur supplicî mora. Contemptissimum putarem si vivere vellet usque ad crucem: ‘tu vero’ inquit ‘me debilites licet, dum spiritus in corpore fracto et inutili maneat; depraves licet, dum monstroso et distorto temporis aliquid accedat; suffigas licet et acutam sessuro crucem subdas’: est tanti vulnus suum premere et patibulo pendere districtum, dum differat id quod est in malis optimum supplicî finem?

Much of interest will be found in Reynold’s apparatus, but the only serious remaining textual problem I can see is in the fourth line of the quoted poem, where si sedeam does not scan by the usual rules of Latin meter. The meter is Priapean, so we need either a cretic (as in the previous lines) or a molossus, not a choriamb. Buecheler considered but rejected sidam for sedeam, but, as Courtney notes, the following context, specifically sessuro in Seneca’s indignant paraphrase, “seems to support sedeam“. I would only add “or some other form of the same verb”.

    Courtney notes that there are a few Priapeans with dactylic bases in Greek. However, it seems to me that we might also solve the problem with two small emendations. First, delete the superfluous si: an implied condition works well here, especially with vel. Second, as hinted above (did you guess my solution?), change anapestic sedeam to a cretic form of the same verb so it will scan. Like the proverbial donkey between two bundles of hay, I am unable to decide between sedero and sederim. The perfect subjunctive is closer to the paradosis, but the future perfect would fit better with Seneca’s paraphrastic future participle. Either seems acceptable syntactically, so far as my not impeccable Stilgefühl can tell. Can anyone help me make up my mind between them?


(1) I quote Maecenas from E. Courtney, The Fragmentary Latin Poets (Oxford, 1993), 278-79, the enclosing Seneca from L. D. Reynold’s OCT of the Epistulae Morales (1965), omitting Seneca’s tedious continuation.

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