At last, here’s your best ancient literature of 2015! Gratias Maximas to all the contributors:
- Joe Howley, @hashtagoras
- Thomas Schmid, @th_schmid
- Patrick Burns, @diyclassics
- Grace Gardner
- Yours Truly
- Feel free to send in more if you find something in the next couple days!
This year I spent a fair bit of time chasing down the fate, in the first century or so of printing, of the ancient “Table of Contents” (“capita rerum”) to the Noctes Atticae of Aulus Gellius. It takes many forms in that first century, but by the mid-16th century, some editions are dispensing with the table qua table, having printed a modern, alphabetized word-index, and having recycled Gellius’s table entries as intertitles for individual essays in the Noctes. I found this note in a 1550 Lyons printing that borrows many elements of the Aldine edition, including the word-index and the Greek glosses, but can’t even be bothered to print the original ancient Table. This was the umpteenth copy I’d looked at in half-an-umpteen different libraries, and it was such a delight to suddenly hear a c16 printer talking to me about this Table and what he had decided to do with it.
I offer this free translation:
“This Is Just To Say”
I have omitted
the table of contents
which goes here
in the manuscripts
I have already
my alphabetic index
is more useful
and more complete
…who bravely submits his entries by brevissima tweets!
in labore virtus et vita. a saying no Roman would have deemed wise @ Gymnasium Kirchenfeld
Thomas also sends this fascinating correspondence in Latin from 1952:
O sacer et magnus vatum labor! Omnia fato
eripis et populis donas mortalibus aevum.
Invidia sacrae, Caesar, ne tangere famae;
nam, siquid Latiis fas est promittere Musis,
quantum Zmyrnaei durabunt vatis honores,
venturi me teque legent; Pharsalia nostra
vivet, et a nullo tenebris damnabimur aevo.
Lucan, *Bellum Civile* 9.980-86
I am writing a dissertation on the Bellum Civile, so my 2015 has been Lucan, day in day out. There are literally a hundred passages I could have chosen. But this one stands out in particular, because it is the only place in the epic where I am mentioned. Or, better, that all of us are mentioned. We are the venturi. Lucan predicted that his poetry—the serious, hard work of “visionaries”—would continue to be read as long as Homer is still read. Lucan was right—we still read his poem, just as we still read the Iliad and the Odyssey. (We still read Caesar too—missing out perhaps on the full force of Lucan’s polemical attempt to set straight Caesar’s own version of the events. Who knows? Maybe someday—if the Latin Muses’ word is good for anything—we’ll see AP Latin: Lucan.) The Pharsalia, against Caesarian-Neronian odds, is still alive, obsessed with its own future. DURABUNT-LEGENT-VIVET-DAMNABIMUR. If the Bellum Civile had been recorded in 1977, it might have sounded something like “We’re the future—your future!” As the rest of the epic proves, the past is always at risk of being conveniently misremembered by the victrix causa. Lucan can rewrite the past. And so, with Lucan’s labor—”There is no future in Caesar’s dreaming.” Poetry snatches all things from oblivion. Poetry gives undying voice to dying generations. The venturi just need to keep of reading the story—and, I guess, writing about the story.
This coin from the rule of Domitian, near the end of the first century AD. It shows a rhinoceros on one side, and the title of the Emperor Domitian on the other: IMP[erator] DOMIT[ian] AUG[ustus] GERM[anicus]. Pretty weird that the coin points south to the exotic animals of Africa and north to the domination of Germany — a coin that shows in both image and text the extent and power of the Roman empire near its strongest point. You can learn more about this coin (and so many others) at the American Numismatic Society.
These neo-Latin epigrams by John Owen.
I especially like Humilitas, not only the sentiment but the alliterative and rhyming wordplay.
As a student, a runner, and a teacher, I’m also partial to the motto of my alma mater, Hillsdale College: Virtus Tentamine Gaudet.
I’ll always be captus amore for any kind of Latin story about animals, so this year I turned my attention to the medieval epic, Ysengrimus, thousands of elegiac couplets about the rivalry between a fox (Reinardus) and a wolf (Ysengrimus).
This story reminds me a little of Peter and the Wolf or Carnival of the Animals, two extended musical works that use stock animal characters to introduce children to music—some of my favorite stuff from growing up:
But like Prokofiev’s music, Ysengrimus isn’t just for kids. Some view this medieval epic as an extended allegory of the corruption of the clerical class, hardly a retelling of children’s stories or even Latin literature tailored for the elementary school classroom—you can read all about it in a new edition from Dumbarton Oaks. But for the internet Latinist, perhaps the best thing about this tale its long shelf life, literally: it builds on well-known characters and has spawned its own series of translations and additions, many of which are freely available on the web. Scope out this thirteenth-century French volume at BnF.