One hundred lines! One hundred lines,
Of Vergil left remaining.
And when translation’s burnt on Dido’s pyre,
All that’s left undone is explaining.
In Australian politics it’s been a pretty awful week for women, with a range of rather horrid men from the conservative side of politics parading their misogyny in public concerning our (female) Prime Minister. But this blog isn’t the place for that (you can see my twitter for many comments illuminating what exactly I think of this country’s right wing). This blog’s about Classical History and related topics.
But as well as the political dimension, the Australian football manager (as in, the coach of the national soccer team, not as in so-called “Australian Football”, i.e. the Victorian game that’s played on Cricket ovals) made a terrible sexist gaffe about women shutting up in public (yes, he really said this). Now he claimed that the cause of this was actually him quoting a Latin expression mulieres taceres in ecclesia, an expression I have never heard before, but somehow as if quoting some old bit of sexist Latin that supposedly spouted out of some fourth century patristic saint somehow excuses your own sexism (and Osieck’s attempt at translation is thoroughly debunked here). So it’s been an entirely terrible week for women in general in this country, what with the army thing also coming to light (but to their credit, Army brass seem to have responded to this incident with some foresight and an excellent commitment to the ongoing acceptance of women in the military).
However so-called political columnist Annabell Crabb seeks to explain the week with this article A little more respect, a little less Latin, right?. Crabb tries to get a little even by using Google translate to tell Osieck, in Latin, that:
“Football experts should stick to football”
which Google translate apparently told Ms. Crabb was:
“ornare eu peritorum adherebit”
Oh, dear God, no. Anyone who says Google translate is OK is a fool. It doesn’t understand even something basic like verb tense, let alone mood or voice. Allowing for the spelling mistake of adhaereo, the above says something totally nonsensical like:
to embellish, well done! it will stick of experts
Well, In Latin you’re going to have a real problem with football of course, so let’s broaden the possibility to sport in general: “experts in sports should stick to sport” … using the 2nd person plural imperfect subjunctive active as a iussive for “should stick to”, and the dative (adhaereo takes the dative) for the thing that must be stuck to (ludo, sport), as well the genitive for “experts of sports”, I get something like:
periti ludorum ludo adhaerent
You could also probably use the gerundive adhaesundum est (or perhaps adhaesundi sunt in the pl. masc.) to imply a sense of obligation, but I’m not going to even attempt that here.
It’s funny sometimes how Latin terms are glossed. Consider Sallust, Catilinae Coniuratio 55.5;
in eum locum postquam demissus est Lentulus, vindices rerum capitalium, quibus praeceptum erat, laqueo gulam fregere
This is typically translated as something like the following:
When Lentulus had been let down into this place, executioners, to whom orders had been given, strangled him with a cord.
The translation above is almost exactly the one on Perseus, which is the 1899 English translation by J.S. Watson. But he has glossed “executioners” above as “certain men”.
But even then, the word “executioners” is a certain type of gloss. The Latin in question is vindices rerum capitalium, which is far more literally something like “the revengers of the capital matters”, or perhaps more favorably but still rather cryptic (although no more cryptic than “certain men”): “capital revengers”. Anyway this is where we get the idea of “capital punishment” or “capital crimes” from.
A strange turn of phrase, perhaps, but how exactly did Lentulus (and Cethegus, Statilius, and others too) die at the illegal order of Cicero? Is that “strangled with a cord”? Well, yes, but … no. In fact it’s far more brutal than that!
The Latin words for the method of execution are laqueo gulam fregere. Laqueo is ablative laqueus, meaning noose, snare, etc, lets say “by a noose”. Gulam is straightforward: it’s accusative gula – the throat or neck. Now that’s leaves the verb, fregere. Oh yes, perhaps “strangled”, but not exactly: there’s some typical archaising going on here by Sallust that’s altered the form of the verb somewhat, it’s really frango frangere fregi fractum … and look at that supine, fractum, which is were we ultimately derives the word “fracture”. And indeed frango means more like “break”, “crush”, “grind”, “bruise” and also by transference, “violate”, “subdue”, “soften”, and “weaken”. Lentulus is having his throat violated. This being ancient Rome, it’s not a noose breaking the neck as in a 19th century long-drop hanging: it’s a rather brutal garrotting, pure and simple.
So sure, while it might be fine to think that “certain men … strangled him with a cord”, but that makes it sound rather more pleasant a death than the way it surely was (and Sallust had just finished describing just how disgusting in darkness, filth, and smell, the dungeon where the execution took place, actually was). Therefore I think it’s far more fitting to think that in the dark and fetid pit of the Tullianum, that “the capital revengers … crushed his throat with a noose”.
hoc illud est praecipue in cognitione rerum salubre ac frugiferum, omnis te exempli documenta in inlustri posita monumento intueri: inde tibi tuaequae rei publicae quod imitere capias, inde foedum inceptu, foedum exitu, quod vites. — ‘Here in acquiring knowledge of [history] it is particularly salutary and fruitful, for you to behold lessons of every type [as if] laid out on a brilliant memorial: from that you may make use for yourself and your public business what to copy, from that you may shun [that which] is detestable in the beginning, [and] detestable in the conclusion.’ — (Livy 1 pr.10)
esse apibus partem diuinae mentis et haustus | aetherios dixere — Vergil, Georgics 4.220-221
Just saw this quoted in Claire Preston, 2006, Bee London: Reaktion Books. Google tells me that Claire Preston is Professor of Early Modern English literature at the University of Birmingham. It’s quoted, in itself a quote, from 17th C. Italian writer. I really, really, want to like this book. I love Bees. I love this sort of scholarship (although this is not really a piece of serious scholarship, and for me, just light-hearted summer reading). It’s a really interesting book about Bees, their natural and social history,
However the book is full of quotes, from English translations, mostly Dryden, of Vergil, quoted by page number. Which is really, really sloppy, because it makes much of the translation’s meaning (bees keep shop, they live in a commonwealth, etc), when the translations can’t be necessarily trusted. But never mind, until I saw the above passage translated as:
It is said that bees share divine intelligence by drinking ethereal draughts.
I just can’t let it pass. Plainly, apibus is dative/ablative apis (“bee”), so it means “to/by/with/from bees”. diuinae mentis is genitive f. singular, so “of the divine mind” and partem is accusative, and forms both the object and forms part of the infinitive-accusative construction esse … dixere. So I think apibus is dative, so that leaves it as “to/from bees”. However I doubt that et haustus aetherios is the agent of partem diuinae mentis, because clearly the et is introducing a new clause, it’s an additional accusative object with an implicit verb like ‘[given] to the bees’, with aetherios
a nominative an accusative plural adjective used as a substantive “… and drinking ethereal [elixirs]”, supposing that if you can be drinking anything ethereal, it would have to be an elixir of some sort. So I think something like, to be quite literal for the moment about the infinitives:
to be to the bees a share of the divine mind, and drinking ethereal [elixir], to have said.
But of course, infinitive-accusative, oratio obliqua, indirect speech, and esse with the dative can mean in the sense of ‘to belong’ or ‘to pertain to’, so naturally;
It is said that to the bees [belongs] a share of the divine mind, and drinking ethereal elixirs.
Curiously, Lewis and Short on Perseus gives esse as the present infinitive active also of edo, “to eat”, and the presence of haustus, “drinking” … really makes me wonder if the translation could be rendered along the lines of:
It is said that the bees eat of the divine mind, and drink ethereal elixirs.
There’s also a sense with aetherius can mean “heavenly” or “celestial”, not just “ethereal”, and in that sense it tickles my fancy much better in terms of its relation to “the divine mind”, so perhaps we could render it;
It is said that the bees eat the Mind of God, and drink of Heaven.
After all the part of Georgics here immediately after this expounds on how God permeates all existence:
deum namque ire per omnes | terrasque tractusque maris caelumque profundum — Vergil Georgics 4.221-222. (see here).
More prosaically, however, and bringing it back to earth for a moment, I’d say it most likely translates:
It is said that to the bees belongs a share of the divine mind, and the drinking of heavenly elixirs.
John the Lydian was a 6th century (b. 490) Byzantine author and bureaucrat. He wrote De Mensibus (Περὶ τῶν μηνῶν), ‘On the Roman Months’, from sources that we’ve now lost. Which makes this translation by Andrew Eastbourne, which Roger Pearse is publishing on his site, interesting and valuable. This section is on our current month, November. There’s a downloadable word doc link there too. You can see more entries (including the other parts of the translation) on this author directly on Roger’s blog.
Andrew Eastbourne has sent me a further chunk of John the Lydian, which again is seasonable. This is the first English translation of John the Lydian, On the Roman Months, (De Mensibus) book 4. The manuscript is increasingly damaged towards the end of the text, and the translation indicates damage with <> accordingly.
A version of the text in Microsoft Word is here: JohnLydus-November. All this material is public domain: do whatever you like with it, whether for personal, educational or commercial use.
John Lydus, De Mensibus (Book 4)
144. Cincius, in his [work] On Festivals, says that among the ancients, November was called Mercedinus,  that is, “Remunerative.” For in it, the hired laborers would contribute the profits of the past cycle to the [land]-owners, as further returns were coming in in turn. It was called  November later, from the number [nine]—for it is ninth from March.
145. An oracle from the Sibylline [Books] declared that the Romans would preserve their kingdom just so long as they took care of the city’s statues. And this oracle was in fact fulfilled; for when Avitus, who was the last to reign over Rome, dared to melt down the statues, thereafter it was the kingdom of Italy.
146. The Colchians, who are also called Lazoi, are the Alaïnoi.
147. Marius the Great, while making war upon the Cimbri and the Teutones, saw in a dream that he [would] overcome the enemy if he sacrificed his own daughter to the “Evil-Averting” [gods]—and, preferring his fellow-citizens to his natural instincts, he did this, and overcame the enemy.
It is said that <something similar> hap<pen>ed to the Lace<daem>onians…<according to> Aristeides, who, in the fi<fth [?] [book]…> says: When…this  <plague was oppressing Lacedaemon, <with ma>ny perishing, the Pythian god gave an <or>acle that <t>he disease <would cease> if every year, a yo<uthful and noble> maiden were <sa>crificed to the <”E>vil-Averting” god<s>. <And> as the lawless supers<tition> was thus practiced <ever>y autumn, it happened at one time that <the lot fell> to Helen, and Tynda<re>us brou<g>ht his daugh<ter, adorn>ed <with g>arl<an>ds, to the altars. When h<e> was beginning the <la>wless <sac>rifice, an eagle swooped down and snatched the ki<ng>’s sword, <and> released it <nea>r a certain white heifer. And his bodyguards, <fo>llowing af<ter>, and becoming eyewitnesses of what had happened, led <th>e cow to Tyndareus. And he, marvelling at Providence, ceased from <th>e m<urd>erous custom, and, sacrificing the he<if>er, brought relief from the suffering of the plague.
148. On the fourth and third days before the Nones of November, in the temple of Isis, [is] the con<cl>usion of the festivals. And there was also celebra<ted> the one called Drepan…—<a>t which festival, Metrodorus says the Sout<h wind> blows. And it seemed good to the multitude to go unwashed until the end, as they say, in order to escape from disease.
On the ei<ghth> day before the Id<es of No>vember, honors for Dem<eter> and <Eilith>yia were performed by the women. Eilithyia <is the> ove<rseer> of <t>hose who are giving birth, <so t>ha<t the on>e, as Plut<arch> says, may <make> t<wo> in <simi>lar fashion <to> itself. And they say that Artemis is <also su>ch,  for those who are p<reg>ant, in their suffering. But accordi<ng to th>e arithmetical ac<count>, Artemis <i>s the one who produces the birth-proc<ess> that moves toward completeness / evenness [eis to artion] and for this purpose hurries to c<ome> forth. Therefore, <too>, the myth is told that Apoll<o>, when he was being <b>orn from Le<to>…when he had been displayed, she, serving the mother as midwife, sh<owed[?]>…to the same forth-………herself and Apo<llo>………
149. <On the seventh day before the Ides of Novem>ber………ten………is said to be placed underneath………according to the <Egy>ptian Hermes, who in the so-called “Perfect Discourse” speaks as follows: “But the souls that have gone beyond the rule of piety, when they are freed from the body, are handed over to the daimons and move down through the air [as though] launched from a sling, down to the fiery and hail-filled zones, which the poets call Pyriphlegethon and Tartarus.” Hermes, for his part, [is speaking] only about the purification of souls; but Iamblichus, in the first [book] of his work “On the Descent of the Soul,” also mentions their restoration, allotting the area above the moon as far as the sun to Hades, with whom he says the souls that have been purified stand—and that it [i.e., the sun] is Pluto; and the moon is Persephone. That [is what] the philo<sophers> [say.] But the sacred rites of the festival were performed with words of praise at the unquenchable fire of He<stia, concerning which Porphy>ry s<ay>s the foll<owing>: “By this sacrifice welcoming the visible heavenly gods, and bestowing undying honors on them through fire, they would also preserve undying fire in the temples for them, on the grounds that it was most exactly like them.”
150. On <t>he following day, [there is] a memorial of Remus and Romulus. When Amu<lius>, being tyranically dispos<ed> <toward Numit>or, <killed his> son, and <comm>anded that his daughter be a prie<stess>. <And> when she <gave birth, as they s>ay, to Ares’ [offspring], he [i.e., Amulius] orde<red the inf>ants to be thrown into the sea. But when his bod<ygua>rds <expo>sed them on the banks of the Tiber, a sh<e-wol>f approa<ch>ed them and offered <to> them her teats. A sh<eph>erd, who had been watching this, to<ok> up the children and reared them as his o<wn>—and they founde<d> Rome. The same [story can be found] also in Zopyrus of <Byzantium>…
151. Beginning from the fifteenth of November, and all through December, the Romans would be idle,  being engaged only in festivities, because of the shortness of the days.
152. On the seventh day before the Kalends of December, Democritus says the sun enters Sagittarius.
It seemed good to the Romans to call beans faba, from the [term for the] West wind—when it begins to blow, this sort of plant naturally starts to sprout. And in their [language], the West wind is called Favonius. Hence also March [is called] Zephyrites, and similarly January [is called] Monias, from the monad, and October, Sementilius, from the seed—as antiquity has handed it down. For the year, as established by Numa, begins from January, while the [year established] by Romulus [began] from March. And the chronological beginning [established] by Numa is in harmony with the beginning [established] straightway by Romulus. For indeed, Romulus began to rule in the spring,  but he carefully observed the month of Mars; and Numa, watching for the sun’s being in the midst of Capricorn, seems to have been in agreement with Romulus—for Capricorn is the exaltation of Mars.
 Cf. Plutarch, Numa 18.2; Julius Caesar 59.4.
 Avitus was emperor 455-456. For the (melting and) selling the metal from bronze statues, and the consequent discontent with Avitus, cf. John of Antioch, Historia Chronikê, fr. 202.
 Cf. Ps.-Plutarch, Greek and Roman Parallel Stories [Parallela Minora] 20 (310d 5-10).
 Cf. Ps.-Plutarch, Greek and Roman Parallel Stories [Parallela Minora] 20 (310d 1-5).
 Cf. Ps.-Plutarch, Greek and Roman Parallel Stories [Parallela Minora] 35 (314d). Here in particular, the full text of Ps.-Plutarch will help to explain the references: “When a plague had gained a wide hold on the city of Falerii, and many perished of it, an oracle was given that the terror would abate if they sacrificed a maiden to Juno each year. This superstitious practice persisted and once, as a maiden chosen by lot, Valeria Luperca, had drawn the sword, an eagle swooped down, snatched it up, and placed a wand tipped with a small hammer upon the sacrificial offerings; but the sword the eagle cast down upon a certain heifer which was grazing near the shrine. The maiden understood the import: she sacrificed the heifer, took up the hammer, and went about from house to house, tapping the sick lightly with her hammer and rousing them, bidding each of them to be well again; whence even to this day this mystic rite is performed. So Aristeides in the nineteenth book of his Italian History.” (tr. F. C. Babbitt, LCL)
 As Wuensch points out, Aristodemus, not Aristeides, is cited by Ps.-Plutarch as the source for this story.
 Cf. Ps.-Plutarch, Greek and Roman Parallel Stories [Parallela Minora] 35 (314c 5-11).
 2 and 3 Nov. This would correspond with the Hilaria of Isis (celebrating the recovery of the parts of Osiris’ body) on the 3rd of Nov., as mentioned on the Calendar of Philocalus.
 6 Nov.
 In this sentence, I am using the supplements suggested by Hase, printed in Wuensch’s apparatus.
 Cf. De Mensibus 2.7, discussing the second day of the week (Monday): “Hence, she is called Artemis, from the even [artios] and material number [i.e., the number 2].”
 At the end of this section, the remnants are so scanty that little detailed sense can be made of the odd letter or word preserved. The story, however, appears to be that Artemis helped Leto bring forth Apollo (as in Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1.21).
 7 Nov.
 Cf. De Mensibus 4.32. For the Hermetic text cited, cf. Asclepius 28 [Nock-Festugière, Corpus Hermeticum, 2:334, printing John Lydus’ quotation as a parallel to the extant Latin translation]: “But if, on the other hand, [the highest daemon] sees [the soul] besmeared with the stains of misdeeds and befouled by vices, he casts it down from above to the depths and hands it over to the frequently quarreling squalls and twisters of air, fire, and water, so that, with eternal punishments, it may be buffeted and forever driven in different directions by the material currents.” Lactantius, Divine Institutes 7.18.3, refers to the Asclepius as the “Perfect Discourse,” just as John Lydus does here.
 Porphyry, De Abstinentia 2.5—the text of Porphyry, however, reads “we too preserve the undying fire…”
 Alternatively, “stormy weather.”
 8 Nov.
 T. P. Wiseman, Remus: A Roman Myth (1995), p. 136, suggests some connection here with the Ludi Plebeii.
 John gives the Greek letter beta in the transliteration of both faba and Favonius.
 From zephyros, the Greek word for the West wind.
 I.e., the number one, as being the first month.
 Lat. semen, as John pointed out in 4.135.
 Alternatively, “set the beginning [i.e., of the year] in the spring.” Interpretation is difficult because the Greek word archê can mean either “beginning” or “rule”; here, the beginning of the year has been the main issue, but if that is the only point again (i.e., the year began in March), the next part of the sentence follows illogically and redundantly. As translated above, John Lydus is presumably referring to the Spring date of Rome’s foundation (21 April—see, e.g., Ovid, Fasti 4.807ff) and hence, the beginning of Romulus’ reign.
 Cf. De Mensibus 4.34.
(Via Roger Pearse)