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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