A Different Kind of Astronomical Conjunction (Pliny, Ep. 1.3.1)

    Pliny opens the third letter of his collection, to Caninius Rufus, with a series of questions about the latter’s luxurious villa in Comum – I mark the clauses I am most interested in (1.3.1):(1)

Quid agit Comum, tuae meaeque deliciae? quid suburbanum amoenissimum, quid illa porticus uerna semper, quid platanon opacissimus, quid euripus uiridis et gemmeus, quid subiectus et seruiens lacus, quid illa mollis et tamen solida gestatio, quid balineum illud quod plurimus sol implet et circumit, quid triclinia illa popularia illa paucorum, quid cubicula diurna nocturna?

In The Letters of Pliny: a Social and Economic Commentary (Oxford, 1966, ad loc.), A. N. Sherwin-White give three parallels to Epistle 2.17, in which Pliny describes his own Laurentine villa: there are elegantly varied references to rooms catching the sun from different directions at different times of day in § 8, 13, and 23. As his “Cf.” implies, Caninius’ villa must be designed to do the same.

    It seems to me that one sentence of Pliny’s description of his other villa at Tifernum (Ep. 5.6), is even more pertinent, at least grammatically and textually (5.6.31):

Hac [porticu] adeuntur diaetae duae, quarum in altera cubicula quattuor, altera tria ut circumit sol aut sole utuntur aut umbra.

The architecture is not quite parallel: here we have a suite of rooms designed so that some will be sunny, others shady, all day long. Nevertheless, in comparing the two passages, it seems obvious (at least to me) that 1.3.1 should be emended to read quid balineum illud quod plurimus sol implet ut circumit? I think we can conclude that Caninius’ bathhouse has windows facing southeast, south, and southwest, to catch the sun as it goes around. Whether the bathhouse itself was curved like Pliny’s cubiculum in hapsidi curvatum (2.17.8), or more angular, I cannot tell.


(1) Text and variants are quoted from Mynors’ Oxford Classical Text (1963). There are no variants pertinent to my argument. As for impertinent variants, I do wonder why editors print platanon in Roman letters, when one manuscript family (α) gives ΠΛΑΤΑΝΩΝ (with a grave accent over the omega). Surely scribes are more likely to have transliterated from Greek to Latin than the other way around.

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Female Turpitude Meets Male Torpitude (Catullus 11.18)

    Daniél Kiss’s Catullus Online: An Online Repertory of Conjectures on Catullus is a wonderful resource, which I have found complete and accurate in whatever I have checked, but rather depressing viewed at length. Only six of the sixty-eight lines in the first four-plus poems (1-4 plus the fragment 2b) have no variants or conjectures listed, and some have a dozen or more.

    The first four-line passage with no variants or conjectures listed is 11.17-20, the fifth stanza of Catullus’ Sapphic farewell to Lesbia:(1)

cum suis vivat valeatque moechis,
quos simul complexa tenet trecentos,
nullum amans vere, sed identidem omnium
      ilia rumpens;          20

It seems to me that this would be wittier with one tiny change: distributive trecenos for trecentos in 18. That would mean that Lesbia entertains three hundred partners at a time, and imply that there are hundreds more moechi in town for other evenings if she tires of these, or wears them out beyond recovery.

    One complication must be mentioned. There is a similar passage in which Catullus himself threatens to act much as Lesbia is (he says) acting here (37.6-8):(2)

an, continenter quod sedetis insulsi
centum an ducenti, non putatis ausurum
me unum ducentos irrumare sessores?

Looking only at the second half (non putatis . . . sessores?), we might think that distributive ducenos would be wittier here as well as in 11.18: Catullus alone (unum) can provide two hundred irrumationes in one session, not just now, but on any appropriate occasion. On the other hand, ducentos fits better with centum an ducenti in the previous line. Some may wish to count this parallel against my conjecture in 11.18, which would damage the parallelism.


(1) It is the one crude stanza out of six: perhaps the vivid subject matter kept the sleepier monks’ attention from wandering. It is traditional to say whose text one is quoting, but it doesn’t matter here, does it? I should add that I did not notice the textual cleanness of this stanza until after I had devised my conjecture: an interesting fact, not a challenge to be overcome.

(2) Mutatis mutandis, of course, with the change of gender. J. M. Trappes-Lomax, Catullus: A Textual Reappraisal, Swansea 2007, argues convincingly ad loc. for Pleitner’s unum in 8 (una OGR), and Kiss prints unum in the text accompanying his repertory.

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“I’ll put her to her pension”: A Mad World, My Masters I.ii.66

One of the more difficult passages in Middleton’s play is the soliloquy of Harebrain (aka Shortrod) as the “pure virgin” (actually a courtesan) fetches his wife (I.ii.62-69):

This is the course I take; I’ll teach the married man
A new selected strain. I admit none
But this pure virgin to her company;
Puh, that’s enough. I’ll keep her to her stint,          65
I’ll put her to her pension;
She gets but her allowance, that’s a bare one;
Few women but have that beside their own.
Ha, ha, ha, nay, I’ll put her hard to’t.

In her comments on Peter Saccio’s text of the play in the Oxford Middleton, quoted above, Celia R. Daileader provides three notes on these lines, including this on 65:(1)

stint: an allotted amount or measure; an allowance, here sexual.

In his Oxford World Classics edition of the play, Michael Taylor gives five notes on the eight lines, including this on 66:(2)

pension: (sexual) payment for board and lodging.

Leaving aside the ‘pension’ for the moment, it seems most natural to distinguish Mistress Harebrain’s ‘stint’ (65) from her ‘allowance’ (67), taking the first as the work (sexual and otherwise) she must do to earn the latter, Taylor’s ‘board and lodging’. The rhetorical parallelism of lines 65 and 66 makes the ‘pension’ look like her work, the duty she performs, rather than the compensation she receives for it. But ‘pension’ would more naturally mean the reward, the payment for her work, in her husband’s degrading financial metaphor. Could ‘I’ll put her to her pension’ mean ‘I’ll put her to earning her pension’? Again, the parallelism makes that difficult: she isn’t earning her stint, she is doing her stint to earn her allowance, for which ‘keep her to’ and ‘put her to’ seem insufficiently differentiated.

I suggest that ‘pension’ is a corruption of a similar, rare (at least in English), and more suitable word: pensum. I put it in italics because it is not really an English word at all, but Latin. Any classically educated Englishman in Middleton’s day would have known it, since it is found in all the most-read Roman authors. The root sense is ‘thing weighed’ (neuter perfect passive participle of pendere, ‘to weigh’), but it came to mean the specific weight of wool a woman or slave was expected to weave or spin in a day, hence more generally (Oxford Latin Dictionary s.v. 2) ‘An allotted piece of work, task, stint’. After ‘stint’ in 65, a synonym is precisely what we want in 66. The Shorter OED italicizes pensum in the lemma, dates it to the 18th century, and glosses ‘A duty, an allotted task. Also, a school-task or lesson to be prepared; (US) this as a punishment.’ I would add that I suspect it usually referred to a specific and constant quantity of ‘lesson to be prepared’, and was most used in Latin classes, where schoolboys would be expected to have 15 or 20 lines of Vergil or Horace parsed and scanned for every class, with more added as punishment for misbehavers. In short, a modern (or early modern) scholastic pensum is a measured piece of assigned drudgery, as for the Roman woolworker.(3)

If (as I think) Middleton wrote ‘pensum’, the scribe’s or typesetter’s ‘pension’ could be explained as substitution of a familiar for an unknown word, anticipation of ‘allowance’, or a bit of each.

Should we backdate the word in the OED? That is a very difficult question: I don’t see any clear criterion for deciding when a Latin word has become sufficiently naturalized to count as an English word and be listed in an English dictionary.


(1) Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works, ed. Gary Taylor and John Lavagnino, Oxford, 2007.

(2) Thomas Middleton: ‘A Mad World My Masters’ and Other Plays, ed. Michael Taylor (1995): subtract 5 from Saccio’s line numbers to get Thomas’s.

(3) It may be worth mentioning that Schopenhauer calls life a pensum: “Das Leben ist ein Pensum zum Abarbeiten: in diesem Sinne ist defunctus ein schöner Ausdruck” (“Life is a pensum, to be worked off: in that sense ‘defunctus’ is a fine expression”), Parerga und Paralipomena: Kleine Philosophische Schriften, II § 156. Samuel Beckett seems to have been influenced by this passage: cf. Ulrich Pothast, The Metaphysical Vision: Arthur Schopenhauer’s Philosophy of Art and Life and Samuel Beckett’s Own Way to Make Use of It, Peter Lang, 2008, p. 15, from which I take quotation and translation.

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A Dumb Question about Animals (Pliny, Ep. 1.20.5)

    In the course of a long discussion of rhetoric addressed to Tacitus, Pliny argues that size matters in judging orations, with an extended analogy from living creatures (Epistulae 1.20.4-5):(1)

Et hercule ut aliae bonae res ita bonus liber melior est quisque quo maior. 5 Vides ut statuas signa picturas, hominum denique multorumque animalium formas, arborum etiam, si modo sint decorae, nihil magis quam amplitudo commendet. Idem orationibus evenit; quin etiam voluminibus ipsis auctoritatem quandam et pulchritudinem adicit magnitudo.

1 melior est β : meliorem γ | 2 multorumque β : pictorum multorum γ | 3 amplitudo β : magnitudo γ

In his BMCR review of Zehnacker’s new Budé edition of Books I-III, G. Liberman impugns multorumque:(2)

Multorum semble être une faute par anticipation due à multorum plus bas (7); on attend ici aliorum ou ceterorum.

I am not convinced, partly because multorum in § 7 is nine lines further down the page in Mynors’ text, which is a long way to anticipate, partly because neither aliorum nor ceterorum has much palaeographical resemblance to multorum, but mostly because I think I have a better solution.

    My conjecture seems so obvious that I almost hesitate to bring it forward – hence my title. It seems to me that the adjective we want is mutorum. The collocation muta animalia is almost formulaic in early Imperial Latin: I find it (in various cases, but always plural) in Manilius (2.99), Petronius (140.15), the younger Seneca (Cons.Marc. 7.2, De Ira 1.3.6, E.M. 123.16), and Tacitus (H. 4.17.5), to look no further. In these passages, the adjective is mostly used to distinguish other animals from humans: not ‘silent’ but ‘inarticulate, lacking speech’. That makes mutorum in our passage functionally equivalent to aliorum and ceterorum, but arguably more vivid, and certainly closer to the ductus litterarum. Mutus is not a rare adjective, but multus is commoner, so multorum is still the lectio facilior.

    I take it that si modo sint decorae refers to humans and animals as well as trees: the antecedent of the implied subject of the condition is formas, not arborum. It is not just ugly trees that would be uglier magnified, but ugly humans and animals as well. There was no need for Pliny to write multorum to exclude ugly animals that would look even worse on a large scale (toads, moles, lampreys, baboons(3)), because si modo sint decorae already does that. In the first sentence quoted, he had already specified that only a good book is better for being longer.(4)


(1) Text and variants are quoted from Mynors’ Oxford Classical Text (1963).

(2) Hubert Zehnacker (ed.), Pline le Jeune. Lettres: Livres I-III. nouvelle édition. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2009. Liberman’s review: BMRC 2009.7.16 (link).

(3) Then again, not everyone agrees that large portraits of ugly animals should not be made: there is a Boll Weevil Monument in Enterprise, Alabama (link).

(4) I owe the pun, and the hyperbaton, in my title to Andrea Harris.

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Philogelos V (75)

Σχολαστικὸς νοσῶν, εἶτα πεινῶν, ὡς οὐδέπω τετάρτη ὥρα ἀπηγγέλη, ἀπιστῶν πρὸς ἑαυτὸν τὸ ὡρολόγιον ἐκέλευσε κομισθῆναι.

A pedant, being sick and then hungry, and suspicious as the fourth hour was never announced, ordered the sundial to be moved into his room.

Since the day was divided into twelve equal parts, the fourth hour is roughly 9-10 a.m. It must have been meal time, though it seems early for lunch and late for breakfast. Did the Greeks brunch? (τετάρτη ὥρα is Dawe’s conjecture for τετάρτην ὥραν in the manuscripts.)

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Philogelos IV (256)

Σχολαστικὸς εἰς χειμῶνα ναυαγῶν καὶ τῶν συμπλεόντων ἑκάστου περιπλεκομένου σκεῦος πρὸς τὸ σωθῆναι, ἐκεῖνος μίαν τῶν ἀγκυρῶν περιεπλέξατο.

A pedant, as his ship was sinking in a storm and his fellow passengers were each one embracing a piece of tackle to be saved, put his arms around one of the anchors.

I hope one of my readers can tell me what ἐκεῖνος is doing here. It doesn’t seem to add anything, and I’ve omitted it from the translation.

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Philogelos III (25)

Σχολαστικὸς ἐν τῶι πλέειν χειμῶνος ὄντος σφοδροῦ καὶ τῶν οἰκετῶν κλαιόντων· Μὴ κλαίετε, ἔφη· πάντας γὰρ ὑμᾶς ἐν διαθήκαις ἐλευθέρους ἀφῆκα.

A pedant on a sea-voyage, when there was a severe storm and his slaves were weeping, said: “Don’t cry: I’ve set you all free in my will.”

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Philogelos II (2)

Σχολαστικὸς κολυμβῶν παρὰ μικρὸν ἐπνίγη· ὤμοσε δὲ εἰς ὕδωρ μὴ εἰσελθεῖν, ἐὰν μὴ μάθῃ πρῶτον καλῶς κολυμβᾶν.

A pedant nearly drowned while swimming; he swore that he would not go into the water again, if he did not learn first how to swim well.

In his essay on Milton (1843), Macaulay used this joke to illustrate a deep political argument:

“Many politicians of our time are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition, that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom. The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story, who resolved not to go into the water till he had learnt to swim. If men are to wait for liberty till they become wise and good in slavery, they may indeed wait for ever.”

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Philogelos I (55)

Σχολαστικὸς εὐτράπελος ἀπορῶν δαπανημάτων τὰ βιβλία αὐτοῦ ἐπίπρασκε, καὶ γράφων πρὸς τὸν πατέρα ἔλεγε· Σύγχαιρε ἡμῖν, πάτερ· ἤδη γὰρ ἡμᾶς τὰ βιβλία τρέφει.

A witty pedant, in difficulties for money, began to sell his books, and writing to his father said: “Congratulate me, father: I’m already making a living from my books.”

Literally, “Rejoice with me, father: for my books are already feeding me.” Some manuscripts make the subject an ignorant (ἀμαθής) pedant rather than a witty (εὐτράπελος) one. Selling one’s books is likely to lead to ignorance, but does not seem to be caused by it, so I prefer ‘witty’.

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A Literary Translator’s View of Heaven

On the last page of An Homage to Jerome, Patron Saint of Translators (1946), Valery Larbaud imagines Jerome in Heaven, “surrounded by his court of glossophile, grammarian and lexicographic angels, more beautiful even than Correggio’s, and who work under his guidance on the never ending Dictionary of all the languages ever spoken or to be spoken by Adam’s children”. (I quote the translation of Jean-Paul de Chezet, The Marlboro Press, 1984.)

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Lies Necessary and Unnecessary

A real liar does not tell wanton and unnecessary lies. He tells wise and necessary lies. It was not necessary for Gahagan to tell us once that he had seen not one sea-serpent but six sea-serpents, each larger than the last; still less to inform us that each reptile in turn swallowed the last one whole; and that the last of all was opening its mouth to swallow the ship, when he saw it was only a yawn after too heavy a meal, and the monster suddenly went to sleep. I will not dwell on the mathematical symmetry with which snake within snake yawned, and snake within snake went to sleep, all except the smallest, which had had no dinner and walked out to look for some. It was not, I say, necessary for Gahagan to tell this story. It was hardly even wise. It is very unlikely that it would promote his worldly prospects, or gain him any rewards or decorations for scientific research. The official scientific world, I know not why, is prejudiced against any story even of one sea-serpent, and would be the less likely to accept the narrative in its present form.

G. K. Chesterton, “Ring of Lovers” (1935), collected in The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond (1936)

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How Is Gaios Holy and Good?

Laudator Temporis Acti quotes A Third-Century A.D. Inscription from Eumeneia, adding many interesting comments. Here is one more. The first four lines mean “I Gaius, who am equal in numerical value to two words of awe, make this declaration as a holy and good man.” Since the Greek alphabet was also used to express numbers, and Greek word has a numeric value. Gaios is proud that his name has the same value as the adjectives hágios (‘holy’) and agathós (‘good’). What value? You can do the arithmetic yourself, or you can use my calculator page, Are You the Beast of Revelations?, part of a larger site on ancient numbers, Nvmeri Innvmeri, that also allows you to test how quickly and accurately you can translate randomly-selected numbers from one ancient system to another.

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Latin Syllabification and Accentuation

As part of my larger project (QLTP), one of the things I’ve been working on in the last few months is software to divide a Latin word into syllables, determine which ones are short, which long by nature, and which long by position, and find the word-accent. Here is my test module, analyzing the 123 words of Horace, Carmina 2.7. It has one bug and couple of refinements still to be added:

  1. The bug can be seen in the second-to-last word: it’s marking a last (or only) syllable short when it is actually long by position. That’s just defective logic in the code and needs further analysis.
  2. I haven’t yet added code to look for prefixes: if it is a compound of ob (etymologists seem to be unsure), then 91 o·blī·vi·ō·sō (˘  ̄ ˘  ̄́  ̄ ) should be ob·lī·vi·ō·sō ( ̄  ̄ ˘  ̄́  ̄ ), and the same goes for 74 obligatam and (mutatis mutandis) 62 sustulit.
  3. Latin dictionaries don’t seem to bother with syllabification, but it’s not quite so unproblematic as that implies. For instance, Gildersleeve and Lodge (§ 10) say that MN “under Greek influence . . . belongs to the following vowel”. I don’t doubt that (e.g.) Polymnestor would be divided Po·ly·mne— rather than Po·lym·ne—, but is it really true that somnus would be so·mnus rather than som·nus, and amnis a·mnis rather than am·nis? If so, I’ve been pronouncing them wrong for decades. The same problem comes up with ST. Can anyone point me to more recent work on this?
  4. Latin editors who distinguish consonant V from vowel U seem to put some of them consistently in the wrong category. Whether QU should be QV doesn’t really matter, since the combination is a special case metrically and needs to be handled as such, but what about the Us in suavis, anguis, and sanguis, and the second U in unguentum? Aren’t those all consonants? They’re not listed as diphthongs in any grammar I’ve seen, and my software is currently misdividing unguenta (word 97) as four syllables (un·gu·en·ta) when it’s actually three (un·guen·ta). So why aren’t they spelled angvis, sangvis, svavis, and ungventum? That’s how they’re pronounced, and syllabized. More urgently, where can I find a complete list of these exceptions? The class does not include every Latin word in which NGU is followed by a vowel, because relanguit (for instance) is four syllables, not three.

Comments and questions will be very much appreciated. I plan to offer my syllabizer as a stand-alone module, not just a part of the larger project. As soon as I get this module working correctly, I will add code to search for elisions and scan whole lines.

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I’m Back

Actually, after my eight-day trip, I’ve been back and pretty much silent for . . . let’s see . . . twelve weeks now. Let’s see if I can get back in the swing of things, posting every day. I have plenty to say.

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Gentler Remedies Are Preferable

In A Perpetual Student, Laudator Temporis Acti notes a couple of misprints. Here is the second, from a paper by Joachim Latacz on Nietzsche:

By now he has already received (from Leiden) the handwritten transcription of the time by Stephanus from the Florentine Codex Laurentianus.

I don’t understand what “transcription of the time” means. A bold emender might suggest “text” for “time.”

I have no aversion to bold emendations, but in this case I think the solution is “tome”.

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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 boo<k>s. 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?

null

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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