A Philologist, a Grammarian, and a Philosopher Go Into a Book…

Seneca, Epistles 108:

“When a philologist, a grammarian, and a philosopher read Cicero’s book On the Republic, each one applies his attention to something different. The philosopher marvels that so many things could be said against justice. When the philologist approaches the same reading, he notes this: that there were two Roman kings, of which one did not have a father and the other lacked a mother. (For there is doubt about Servius Tullius’ mother, and Ancus Martius is said to have been the grandon of Numa, but no father is remembered.) Further, the philologist notes that what we call a ‘dictator’ and read thus described in history was known among the ancients as the ‘magister populi’. That fact remains today in the Augural Books, and is proven by the fact that the one nominated by a dictator is called the ’magister equitum’. The philologist also notes that Romulus died during a disappearance of the sun; that there was a provocatio ad populum even from the kings – thus it is registered in the pontifical books and in Fenestella.

When the grammarian explains the same books, he first puts into his commentary that Cicero says ‘reapse’ for ‘re ipsa’ and is no less inclined to write ‘sepse’ for ‘se ipse’. He then moves on to those things which the custom of our time has changed, just as Cicero says, ‘since we were called from the chalk (calce) by his interruption’, for what we now call ‘chalk’ (creta) was called calce by the ancients.”

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Cum Ciceronis librum de re publica prendit hinc philologus aliquis, hinc grammaticus, hinc philosophiae deditus, alius alio curam suam mittit. Philosophus admiratur contra iustitiam dici tam multa potuisse. Cum adhanc eandem lectionem philologus accessit, hoc subnotat: duos Romanos regesesse quorum alter patrem non habet, alter matrem. Nam de Servi matre dubitatur; Anci pater nullus, Numae nepos dicitur. Praeterea notat eum quem nos dictatorem dicimus et in historiis ita nominari legimus apud antiquos magistrum populi vocatum. Hodieque id extat in auguralibus libris, et testimonium est quod qui ab illo nominatur ‘magister equitum’ est. Aeque notat Romulum perisse solis defectione; provocationem ad populum etiam a regibus fuisse; id ita in pontificalibus libris et Fenestella. Eosdem libros cum grammaticus explicuit, primum [verba expresse] ‘reapse’dici a Cicerone, id est ‘re ipsa’, in commentarium refert, nec minus ‘sepse’, id est ‘se ipse’. Deinde transit ad ea quae consuetudo saeculi mutavit, tamquam ait Cicero ‘quoniam sumus ab ipsa calce eius interpellatione revocati.’ Hanc quam nunc in circo

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