There’s More than One Kind of Filthy Lefty: Catullus 12.1-3

Just posted: a note on Catullus, titled as above. The PDF is here. Help with the final question would be much appreciated: perhaps pictorial representations of convivia will answer it.

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Peripatetic Conjectures

I try to walk an hour a day, and find that memorizing verse is an excellent way to pass the time: usually Latin verse, most often Horace or Catullus. I can’t keep more than a dozen or so texts in memory at one time, but they’re much easier to relearn than to learn the first time. At one time or another I’ve memorized most of Catullus 1-60, all of Horace’s Epodes and Book I of the Odes, half of Book II, and more than half of Book III, and about a third of Book I of the Epistles.

I get a lot of ideas reading and rereading verse very slowly, some of which I have published here. Are these good ideas? Not always.

One of the most interesting things about memorizing verse is seeing which lines are hard to remember right. Perhaps I should say hard to remember in the transmitted form, since I suspect that many of the passages that are most difficult to remember are in fact corrupt. For some, it is very hard to tell. For instance, the received text of Epodes 2.4 is solutus omni faenore. I tend to remember it as omni solutus faenore. Separating the adjective from the noun and putting the emphatic omni up front does seem Horatian, but I hesitate to emend the text, not wishing to asssume that even Horace went for the maximum level of Horatianity at all times. A similar case is Epodes 4.14, et Appiam mannis terit, which I tend to remember as mannis et Appiam terit, postponing the conjunction and emphasizing the luxury possession. Can my Stilgefühl can be trusted in these cases? It is certainly defective in other instances. I always remember Odes 3.9.4, Persarum vigui rege beatior, with rigui for vigui: that is no doubt partly a sign of a dirty mind, partly anticipation of the consonants in the next word. Worse, I always remember Odes 2.14.17, visendus ater flumine languido, with lumine flanguido as the last two words, or rather I always recite to myself “visendus ater lumine flang — wait, that’s not right, flumine languido”.

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It Takes an O to Make a Ring: Catullus 50.21

Just uploaded: a textual note on Catullus, titled as above: PDF. Comments, anyone?

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Proleptic Mountains? (Horace, I. 16.28)

Just uploaded: an exegetical note on ‘Proleptic Mountains’ in Horace, Iambi (Epodi) 16: PDF.

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Catullus 16.14: Ring Composition with a Twist?

Just uploaded: another conjecture, this one in Catullus: PDF. I suspect it will amuse more than it persuades.

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Blame the Author, or the Scribe? (Pliny, Ep. 10.4.3)

Just uploaded: another conjecture, this one in the letters of the Younger Pliny: PDF. Comments?

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An Inadvertent Conjecture: Horace, C. 3.1.5

Just uploaded: another conjecture, this one of arguable authorship: PDF. Comments are even more welcome than usual. I’m hoping someone can answer the question just before the post scriptum.

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Two Kinds of Textual Conjecture in One: Horace, I. 12.12

I have just written another textual note (a page and a half – 585 words), this one a really obvious, but apparently original, emendation of one of Horace’s dirtiest poems. Here is the link to the PDF. As always, comments are welcome, and may be left here.

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Martial 8.6.8

I have just written a textual note (half a page – 185 words) on a word in Martial 8.6 – one of his catalogue poems. Here is the link to the PDF. As always, comments will be very much appreciated, and may be left here.

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Catullus 33: Helping Out in the Family Business?

I have just written an exegetical note (2 pages – 476 words) on Catullus 33 – one of the “few poems which for good reason are rarely read” left out of Fordyce’s edition. Rather than pasting in the whole note here, which takes a great deal of reformatting, I will just link to the PDF. Comments will be very much appreciated, and may be left here. I will be making a sortable database of Catullus comments, along the lines of my Persius comments (here), and eventually turning it into a database that can be sorted by author, type of comment (textual, exegetical, Realien, prosopography), date of comment, and so on. I hope to add comments to the sortable database, too, so they won’t have to be left here.

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Statius, Thebaid 1.250: Conjecturing an Intertext

    Juno’s first words in the Thebaid (1.248-51) come in reply to Jupiter’s announcement (214-47) of his plan to punish both Argives and Thebans for their various sins:

    Sic pater omnipotens. ast illi saucia dictis
flammato uersans inopinum corde dolorem
talia Iuno refert: ‘mene, o iustissime diuum,    250
me bello certare iubes? . . .’

Her first adjective is surprisingly conciliatory and complimentary (and superlative) compared to the rest of her speech. I suspect that Statius in fact wrote mene, iniustissime diuum. Once the negative prefix was lost through reduction of minims (from 6 to 3) or Christian rewriting (a pious monk might well have thought that even a pagan divine ruler of the universe deserved more respect), o would have been the obvious metrical stopgap.

Of course, iustissime can be understood as sarcastic irony,(1) which would arguably suit Juno’s rhetoric just as well as open insults, and the reader may well wonder what difference my conjecture makes. The answer is that it would restore (I hope) or introduce (I fear) an interesting intertext. In a tiny note in Liverpool Classical Monthly in 1993, William Levitan suggested that the first words of the first speech in the Aeneid contain a bilingual pun: Juno’s mene incepto echo and allude to the first word of the Iliad, μῆνιν.(2) If I am right, Statius noticed Vergil’s pun and reproduced it in the first words of the first speech of Juno (the fourth in the epic) in his own Vergilian and wrath-soaked epic – a ‘window allusion’. He certainly repeated the initial mene. He also closely modeled his preceding line, in which Statius introduces Juno’s speech (flammato uersans inopinum corde dolorem, Th. 1.249) on the first line after Juno’s speech in Vergil (talia flammato secum de corde uolutans, A. 1.50).(3) It doesn’t seem much of a stretch to believe that he also reproduced both μῆνιν and mene in- by writing mene, iniustissime diuum.

PDF version

(1) It might be unfair to adduce the remarks of Eduard Fraenkel (Horace, 46n2) on “that last expedient of a despairing commentator, the assumption of ‘sarcastic irony’”: it works tolerably well here.

(2) “Give up the beginning?: Juno’s mindful wrath (Aeneid 1.37)”, LCM 18.1 (Jan. 1993), 14. The whole thing is one longish sentence – is that a record?

(3) So Randall T. Ganiban, Statius and Virgil: The ‘Thebaid’ and the Reinterpretation of the ‘Aeneid’, Cambridge, 2007, 53, with further elaboration.

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Books for Sale

I have somehow ended up with two copies each of five different Classics books, and am offering the spares for sale at competitive prices (a few dollars less than the lowest price for the same title in comparable condition on ABE or Amazon Marketplace). All are in Near Fine, or Fine condition, depending on how picky you are, except the last, which is only Very Good – a bit dingy, with a penciled price ($3.50) and some specks next to it on the title page, but the text is totally clean and unmarked. Here are the details:

  1. Patrick Kragelund, Roman Historical Drama: The ‘Octavia’ in Antiquity and Beyond, Oxford University Press, 2016 (cloth in dustjacket), $60.
  2. S. J. Harrison, Generic Enrichment in Vergil & Horace, Oxford University Press, 2007 (cloth in dustjacket), $40.
  3. M. L. West (ed.) Homeric Hymns, Homeric Apocrypha, Lives of Homer, Loeb Classical Library 496, 2003 (cloth in dustjacket), $12. SOLD!
  4. Eleanor Dickey, Ancient Greek Scholarship: A Guide to Finding, Reading, and Understanding Scholia, Commentaries, Lexica, and Grammatical Treatises, from Their Beginnings to the Byzantine Period, Oxford University Press/American Philological Association, 2007 (paperback), $15. SOLD!
  5. Peter Garnsey and Richard Saller, The Early Principate: Augustus to Trajan, Greece & Rome New Surveys in the Classics No. 15, Oxford University Press, 1928 (paperback), $10.

To claim a book, e-mail me at curculio + at-sign + curculio + dot + org, or write a comment if you want the whole world to know your bibliographical wants and needs.

Don’t like my prices? Make me an offer, but prepare to be disappointed if someone offers more. Postage will depend on the destination: I try to break even on that, and it would be $3.00 or less in the U.S. for book-rate. Here is a picture of all five:

I also have a couple of duplicate Plato books, but a college friend has ‘first dibs’ on those. I will add them here if he turns them down.

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New for 2017: Cedo Alteram ePrompter

I have just uploaded a tool – a website – for memorizing passages of Latin literature, the Cedo Alteram ePrompter. The test module may be seen here, using Horace, Carmina 2.7 as a sample text. The site works in Firefox, but I haven’t tested it yet in other browsers.

It needs a front end for selecting passages of Latin (and other) literature, and a much larger database of passages, but the concept should be clear with a little practice. I am also working on a version (Prithee) that will allow readers to upload their own texts.

The site has three uses I know of, but I only thought of the third when it was mostly done, so there may be more:

  1. Lovers of Latin (and other languages) may use it to memorize favorite passages. I find that I understand Horace and Catullus in particular much better if I memorize them on long walks. Long boring drives are also good for practicing texts I already have down, and thinking further about them. I get lots of ideas for textual and exegetical papers on these walks and drives. The software will allow me and others to do the same at our desks or (eventually) on cellphones or tablets.
  2. Actors will be able to use the Prithee software to memorize their lines.
  3. When teaching a passage of Latin literature, I have found it useful to show the class a word or two at a time, forcing students to guess where each sentence is headed, and to say what we can tell so far, and what remains to be learned in the unseen parts. Cedo Alteram allows a teacher with an overhead projector and a web connection to do that without wasting time, or chalk, or dry-erase ink. Or rather it will allow that once I have the front end put together, and a large corpus of literature in the database

Comments on any aspect of this project will be very much appreciated.

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A Martial Acronym in Ennius?

    I just reserved a room at a cheap motel in West Chester, PA so I can go to the Ennius conference at the University of Pennsylvania this Friday and Saturday. I hope I can find a parking place near campus: last I heard there was a transit strike going on, which may complicate things. As part of my preparation, I’ve uploaded a PDF of my only publication on Ennius, a note that few have read since it appeared twenty years ago in the last issue (I think) of Liverpool Classical Monthly, though the basic idea seems to have spread to many who have not read it. An HTML version has been up on this site for most of the last twenty years, but I got a little carried away with the background images, and screens are much wider now, so it’s not very readable. The PDF is here, the HTML here. Even after all these years, comments are welcome. Of course, the bibliography on ancient acrostichs and even acronyms has exploded since then, and I have not attempted to update the paper.

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A Tactful Cue (and Non-Q) in Horace (Ep. 1.13.17)

    The last four lines of the epistle to Vinnius, on his way to deliver a copy of Horace’s Carmina to Augustus, are clear enough, but one of the conjunctions seems dubious (16-19):

neu uolgo narres te sudauisse ferendo
carmina quae possint oculos auresque morari
Caesaris; oratus multa prece, nitere porro.
uade, uale, caue ne titubes mandataque frangas.

In line 17, oculos auresque would naturally imply that the emperor will read Horace’s works aloud to himself, experiencing them with eyes and ears (not to mention tongue) at the same time, in the usual ancient way. Could Horace presume that? A disjunctive conjunction, oculos auresue, might better suit the tact of the poem, which otherwise carefully avoids any hint of presumption. Horace can hope that Augustus will actually sit down and read the Carmina to himself, but knows that he is likely to be too busy for that, in which case the poet can still hope that the emperor will at least listen as they are read to him by an anagnostes while he dines or bathes or takes care of some other necessary and not-too-engrossing business.

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Vigils and Strigils: Juvenal 3.262

    The man crushed by a collapsing stone-wagon never comes home, and his household, though still unaware of his death, finally gives up waiting for him (260-63):

        obtritum uulgo perit omne cadauer
more animae. domus interea secura patellas
iam lauat et bucca foculum excitat et sonat unctis
striglibus et pleno componit lintea guto.

260 uulgo Eremita : uulgi Ω        262 unclis P1R ||


One of the epithets seems out of place. As Courtney puts it,(1) “unctis is a fixed epithet, as the strigils have not been used yet on this occasion” (and would hardly be put away oily if they had been used). Such a fixed or ornamental epithet seems awkward when the next clause states that the oil-bottle is still full. The inconcinnity is impossible to avoid.

    A less transitory epithet for striglibus is not hard to find: I suspect that Juvenal wrote uncis. If someone objects that uncus, ‘hooked’ like a fishhook, is not the same thing as ‘curved’ like a strigil, I would make two points: 1. Strigils are, like fishhooks, distinctly curved, though not usually 180°, and usually just at the blade end. 2. A Bing or Google image search on ‘strigil’ will summon dozens of examples, some much more curved than others, and a few approaching fish-hooks in hookiness. Finally, the meaningless variant unclis in P1R might imply a bit of damage or smudged ink in the archetype.

(1) E. Courtney, A Commentary on the Satires of Juvenal (London, 1984), ad loc.

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Marring Marlowe: A Low Pun in Edward II?

    Contemporary humanists often seem to operate on the principle that any possible pun in Shakespeare and his contemporaries is real or intended (loaded word!) or somehow present to the alert reader, inevitably adding to the meaning of the passage. It seems to me that one can go too far with this principle. One example should suffice to prove it.(1)

    After the climactic regicide in Marlowe’s Edward II, the young king calls Mortimer “Villaine” and then delivers this accusation ( 27-32):

Thinke not that I am frighted with thy words,
My father’s murdered through thy treacherie,
And thou shalt die, and on this mournefull hearse,
Thy hateful and accursed head shall lie,
To witness to the world, that by thy meanes,
His kingly body was too soone interrde.

In the previous scene, the king his father complained that he was imprisoned in a sewer (V.v 56-57):

This dungeon where they keepe me, is the sincke
Wherein the filthe of all the castell falles.

It would therefore be entirely appropriate, in one way, to take the last word of his son’s speech as a pun, and hear “interrde” as a disyllable and at the same time as two monosyllables. However, this would be so utterly inappropriate in every other way, that I cannot believe Marlowe intended any such pun. Sometimes meaningful word-play is purely coincidental – or at most subconscious and better suppressed. Apologies to my readers for bringing this one out into the no-longer-quite-so-fresh air.

(1) Text and line numbers are taken from Fredson Bowers (ed.), The Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe, Vol. II (Cambridge, 1973). The line numbers of the two quotations are 2595-2600 and 2504-05 in C. F. Tucker Brooke (ed.), The Works of Christopher Marlowe (Oxford, 1910).

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Mood and Voice: A Footnote on Horace, Epode 10

    In their commentaries on the Epodes, both D. Mankin (Cambridge, 1995) and L. C. Watson (Oxford, 2003) note the appropriateness of the name Inachia in 12.17:

    “Inachia langues minus ac me;
Inachiam ter nocte potes, mihi semper ad unum
    mollis opus. pereat male, quae te
Lesbia quaerenti taurum monstrauit inertem”

As Mankin puts it: “The reference to Io, the ‘Inachian heifer’, is more pointed here with H. about to be described as a ‘bull’ (17).”

    Neither editor mentions a similar subtlety a few pages or columns before (10.15-20):

o quantus instat nauitis sudor tuis
    tibique pallor luteus
et illa non uirilis eiulatio
    preces et auersum ad Iouem,
Ionius udo cum remugiens sinus
    Noto carinam ruperit!

More obviously than Inachia, the Ionian Sea is named after the cow-girl Io. It is therefore a nice touch that it ‘moos back’ at Maevius and his storm-tossed crew. It seems to me that the participle remugiens is not just ‘bellowing’ (Watson) like any angry mammal, but more specifically ‘mooing’. Though mugire and remugire are used of a wide variety of animals and natural phenomena, and even a Sibyl (Vergil, Aeneid 6.99), mugire is the vox propria (not the name, but the voice) of cows and bulls, as seen in (e.g.) Livy 1.7, Juvenal 14.286, and (very significantly) Epode 2.11-12, where mugientium . . . errantis greges, with the mooing creatures not further specified, is generally taken to refer to cattle.

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Catullus 41: Is the Line-Order as Screwed Up as the Subject?

    I quote the whole poem, since it is so short, with Mynors’ apparatus, which is conveniently sized for my purposes:(1)

Anneiana puella defututa,
tota milia me decem poposcit,
ista turpiculo puella naso,
decoctoris amica Formiani.
propinqui, quibus est puella curae,
amicos medicosque conuocate:
non est sana puella, nec rogare
qualis sit solet aes imaginosum.

1 A me an a V, uix sanabile defutura R | 4 formani V corr. rmg 5 puelle V : corr. δ | 6 conuocare V : corr. 1473 | 8 aes Froehlich : et V

Once Froehlich had brilliantly emended the last line, the poem presented no urgent textual problems. The proper name is highly doubtful and hardly matters, and I print the conjecture which Goold in the Loeb attributed to Schwabe, but Kiss (note 1) reassigns to Fay. However, I still have some doubts about line 2, though my first two suggestions are incompatible, and all three are tentative:

1. It seems to me that it might be rhetorically more effective if line 2 came after 3-4:

Anneiana puella defututa,
ista turpiculo puella naso,
decoctoris amica Formiani,
tota milia me decem poposcit.
propinqui, . . .

The first three lines now identify Anneiana (or whatever her name was) with an insulting detail in each line, while the fourth tells of the action that has (presumably) elicited the poem, immediately followed by Catullus’ equally insulting reaction, couched as advice.

2. On the other hand, there is one advantage to keeping the manuscript order that I do not recall having seen in commentaries. It allows us to take tota as feminine singular with puella defututa, rather than (or in addition to) accusative plural with milia. Adjectival tota works very well, and adds a layer of insult: she is ‘exhausted by sensuality’ (as Lewis and Short discreetly put it) ‘entirely’ or better ‘all over’, like Theodora in Procopius’ most notorious passage, or Thais in Martial 4.12:

Nulli, Thai, negas; sed si te non pudet istud,
    hoc saltem pudeat, Thai, negare nihil.

Examples could no doubt be multiplied. What worries me is one question: can tota be taken equally with puella and milia? That seems difficult. Or can it be taken primarily with one (presumably milia) with a sly pun involving the other? I hope my readers will be able to help me decide. This would mean removing the comma at the end of line 1, but no change in the text or line-order.

3. While writing the preceding pararagraphs, it occurred to me that a different transposition would allow us to keep the rhetorical climax and the cruel pun. Transpose lines 1-2 after 3-4:

Ista turpiculo puella naso,
decoctoris amica Formiani,
Anneiana puella defututa,
tota milia me decem poposcit.
propinqui, . . .

I like the new line order, which not only puts the outrageous demand fourth (point 1 above), and keeps puella defututa / tota together (point 2), but puts the preceding descriptions in a dramatically plausible order. Catullus is apparently chatting with a friend on the street: Ista suggests that he’s answering someone’s question, presumably ‘Who’s that girl?’. The first line (3) identifies her as the girl with the imperfect nose, the second (4) as the lover of Mamurra, the third (1) by name and reputation. Each identification is more specific: most of the girls on the street would have had imperfect noses, and Mamurra might have had more than one girlfriend,(2) but the name would clinch it. If the implied friend had thought she was someone else’s lover, quite likely she was last time he saw her. As with my first suggestion, the fourth line (2) turns from her identity to her action, followed immediately by the poet-narrator’s reaction.

(1) Dániel Kiss’s Catullus Online ( is essential for anyone wanting to know more about manuscript readings and conjectures.

(2) If the implied friend had thought she was someone else’s lover, quite likely she was last time he saw her, to judge by defututa.

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Two Conjectures on Horace’s 16th Epode

    Horace introduces his proposed solution for the corruption of contemporary Rome with a Greek precedent (17-22):(1)

nulla sit hac potior sententia: Phocaeorum
    velut profugit exsecrata civitas
agros atque Lares patrios habitandaque fana
    apris reliquit et rapacibus lupis,        20
ire pedes quocumque ferent, quocumque per undas
    Notus vocabit aut protervus Africus.

For the last few years, I have been taking long walks for my health, memorizing as much of Horace and Catullus as I can along the way. It helps me think, and I notice incongruities and other difficulties, often because they make passages unusually difficult to remember correctly. Two things bother me about this passage:

    1. The shift from the Phocaean comparison (17b-20) to the Roman recommendation (21-22) is awkward. Granted that ire (21) can depend on sententia (17), they are a long way apart, unlike either of Mankin’s parallels from Cicero and Pseudo-Cicero.(2) It seems to me that a very small change would make 19-20 refer to the Romans, not the Phocaeans, and provide another infinitive, a little closer to sententia, to prepare for ire. Read relinquere et for reliquit et. This might easily have been haplographized to relinqueret, and it would not have taken a great deal of scribal acumen to correct the tense and mood to match profugit two lines above, making room to put the obviously needed et back in. Of course, we also need a comma at the end of 18 to mark the end of the simile.

    2. Whenever I recite this poem to myself, I can’t help thinking that the second quocumque in 21 should be quascumque. Googling quascumque per undas, I find that Valerius Flaccus used the phrase in the first lines of his last book, and paired it with quamcumque . . . puppem – a closer match than I have proposed for Horace (8.1-5):

At trepidam in thalamis et iam sua facta paventem
Colchida circa omnes pariter furiaeque minaeque
patris habent, nec caerulei timor aequoris ultra
nec miserae terra ulla procul: quascumque per undas
ferre fugam, quamcumque cupit iam scandere puppem.        5

For better or worse, I should note that I have yet to sit down and read Valerius Flaccus, so my conjecture was not inspired by memory of the parallel.

    My final text, with the changes highlighted:

nulla sit hac potior sententia: Phocaeorum
    velut profugit exsecrata civitas,
agros atque Lares patrios habitandaque fana
    apris relinquere et rapacibus lupis,        20
ire pedes quocumque ferent, quascumque per undas
    Notus vocabit aut protervus Africus.

(1) Shackleton Bailey quotes no variants. Commentators mentioned by name include D. Mankin (Cambridge, 1995) and L. C. Watson (Oxford, 2003).

(2) Madvig (Adversaria Critica 1873, ii.58-9) proposed ite for ire (21), which helps in some ways, but does not satisfy. K. Lehrs, in his meta-Adversaria (“Adversarien über Madvigs Adversarien und ihren Verfasser III”, RhM 30 (1875), 105-17, at 111), quotes an unnamed friend as noting that second person ite does not suit the following first persons moramur (24) and iuremus (25).

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