Note: Last year, our friend Festus published a series of posts about medieval scribal complaints. the Original, followed by “Son of Medieval Scribes’ Complaints” and then a two-part Halloween Special. Now, the Son of Medieval Scribes Rides Again! (well, against the Scribes…)
The Medieval Scribes have not died; they just took a good long snooze. It’s time to wake them up and tell them why they have a high nuisance factor sometimes for long-suffering classicists.
Let’s start with some Latin so simple that intermediate Latin students have no problem with it. The opening line of Petronius’ Cena Trimalchionis (“Trimalchio’s Dinner”) from his enormous fragmentary novel, the Satyricon:
Already it was the third day. that is, the hope of free [or “open to all”] meal….
Uenerat iam tertius dies, id est expectatio liberae cenae….
Cena Trimalchionis 26.7
What is the problem? Sounds like a cheap date. A free feed. Maybe this proves that classicists have absolutely no sense of humor. Alas, while there are good reasons to suspect that, this is not the evidence.
The phrase after the comma, the free feed phrase, makes me, among others, downright queasy. Look at the “id est” which you surely seen at least occasionally, regularly if you’re an academic, in its abbreviated form “i.e.” Let’s stay with that for some ancient examples.
The second century antiquarian Aulus Gellius in his wonderful notebook Noctes Atticae (“Nights in Attica”), digressing about damned near anything, gets interested in the many taboos surrounding that venerable Roman priesthood, flamen Dialis, possibly the original priest of Jupiter. The priest was surrounded by many taboos, many of them peculiar such as…he did not work and could not be in the presence of work and thus, when he took to the streets, everyone working was ordered to stop. I can think of several undergraduates who’d be naturals for this gig. But our interest is this:
It is religiously wrong to to remove any fire from the flaminia, that is, from the flamen’s dwelling, unless for ritual uses.
Ignem e ‘flaminia’ id est flaminis Dialis domo nisi sacrum efferri ius non est
Noctes Atticae 10.15.8
Servius on Georgics 1.269