Erasmus, Adagia 43:
Ἔβα καὶ ταῦρος ἀν᾽ ὕλαν, that is, Even the bull has set off into the forest. This is a pastoral proverb, an ugly little allegory, signifying the separation and neglect of an old girlfriend. Even if it will be permitted to draw it in this way into a more modest use, if it is accommodated by a joke to those who seem to neglect their earliest friends and to have become unaccustomed to the flock of their familiars and peers. It may also be applied to those who separate themselves from their usual pursuits and follow a different course of life. Theocritus in his Idyll, entitled Theonychus, relates it in the form of a proverb:
Αἶνος θην λέγεταί τις ‘ἔβα καὶ ταῦρος ἀν᾽ ὕλαν’,
It was once said that ‘the bull is withdrawing into the forest.’
For the lover is complaining that he was long ago left behind by his girlfriend, and he shows that it was a lot of time that Cynisca, that is Catella (for that was the girl’s name) was entertaining herself with a certain Lycus, and showed no inclination to return to her former way of life, in much the same way that bulls, who themselves occasionally wander off from the crowd of cows and either hang out with other bulls or wander in solitude through the groves, touched by no desire for women.
Pastors refer to that withdrawal and that divorce-like neglect with the peculiar word ‘ἀτιμαγελεῖν’ (‘herd-forsaking’), with a sense clearly composed ἐκ τοῦ ἀτιμεῖν, τὸ ἀτιμάζειν καὶ καταφρονεῖν, which is to say from ‘to dishonor, to neglect, and to rate as worthless,’ and from τοῦ ἀγέλη, which means the herd. Bulls are said to ‘forsake the herd’ when, having been set apart from interaction with the cows, care for them so little that they not only don’t seek intercourse with them, but they don’t even wish to use the same pastures. In his sixth book of On the Nature of Animals, Aristotle demonstrates the custom of this animal and the nature of the word given to this phenomenon with these words:
Ὁ δὲ ταῦρος ὅταν ὥρα τῆς ὀχείας ᾖ, τότε γίνεται σύννομος καὶ μάχεται τοῖς ἄλλοις. Τὸν δὲ πρότερον χρόνον μετ᾽ ἀλλήλων εἰσίν, ὃ καλεῖται ἀτιμαγελεῖν. Πολλάκις γὰρ οἵ γε ἐν τῇ Ἠπείρῳ οὐ φαίνονται τριῶν μηνῶν ὅλως δὲ τὰ ἄγρια πάντα ἢ τὰ πλεῖστα οὐ συννέμονται ταῖς θηλείαις πρὸ τῆς ὥρας τοῦ ὀχεύειν.
We will consider rather than number these words in this way:
‘But the bull, when it is time for intercourse, will then share the same pastures with the cows, and will fight with the other bulls. For, before that time, they were out to pasture with each other, and they call this ἀτιμαγελεῖν. Indeed, the bulls in the province of Epirus often do not appear for a space of three months; further, all wild beasts (or at least, certainly, most of them) do not congregate at shared pastures with the females of their species before it is time to procreate.
It seems to me worth noting in the version of Theodore of Gaza, for the word ἀτιμαγελεῖν, which Latin is unable to express properly, we find the word ‘coarmentari’ or ‘to herd together.’ That little piece of a word has poured a bit of fog over even the most learned men, such that they think that the passage in Aristotle is corrupt, and they bring to bear an entirely different interpretation on it by changing the reading, and they think that Theodore has hallucinated not a little in translating it. But I have weighed this matter out more diligently, and I seem to see the sense of Aristotle’s words to square exactly on this side of the change of any word. Clearly, a bull may spend time in the same pastures with cows when the time for breeding approaches, and may not come together with the other herds of bulls (but rather, wage war with them), while at other times bulls may enjoy the same pastures with other bulls and not pursue a life shared with the cows, choosing instead to spend time with each other, which is the case for pretty much all other animals. Clearly, this society of bulls with bills while the herds of cows are neglected is called ἀτιμαγελεῖν or ‘herd neglect’.
Now I ask, what scruple is there, why should we think that the reading of Aristotle must be changed, unless we are offended by the changed number of the words ‘bull’ and ‘are’, which is a common enough occurrence in that word of Aristotle. It can’t be doubted that the word ‘coarmentari’ here is not appropriate, but spurious, and has entered the work either from the carelessness of booksellers or the temerity of some person who possessed too little education. I suspect that we should read ‘dearmentari’ or ‘abarmentari’ (‘to be away from the herd’). I cannot be led to believe that Theodore, a man so perfect in every mode of learning, could have slipped so, especially in a word which is neither that unnatural or unusual in Greek authors, and one whose force and meaning is clearly indicated by etymology, and which is further read in Theocritus, an ultra famous and common author in his Νομεῖ ἢ Βωκόλοις, that is in his ‘Pastor or the Flocks’:
Χοἲ μὲν ἁμᾷ βόσκοιντο καὶ ἐν φύλλοισι πλανῷντο Οὐδὲν ἀτιμαγελεῦντες
But these are in the pasture at the same time, and they wander in the tall grasses, and they seek no separation from the flock.
In reference to this, the Suda has ταῦρον ἀτιμάγελον signifying τὸν τῆς ἀγέλης καταφρονοῦντα, that is, ‘one who neglects the herd. It seems to me that Vergil alluded somewhat to this in his Silenus:
Ah, unfortunate maiden, you know wander in the mountains. He, reclining his snowy side on soft hyacinth grazes on the pale grasses below a dark rock, or follows another cow in a large herd. Close, nymphs, Dictaean nymphs, now close the woodlands, if by chance the wandering tracks of a cow bear themselves before our eyes. Perhaps some cows may lead him, captured in the green grass or following the herd, to the Gortynian stables.
For, when he says
He, reclining his snowy side on soft hyacinth grazes on the pale grasses below a dark rock
he intimates that the bull is ἀτιμάγελον (‘herd forsaking’). The same is true when he describes the ‘wandering tracks of a cow.’ The poet, however, is talking about the bull whom Pasiphae loved, is engaged in herd forsaking in such a way that he neglects his own herd and follows other cows.
Further, on the fighting of bulls at the very time of copulation itself, Vergil writes in the third book of Georgics:
Nor is it the custom for the fighters to dwell together, but one goes away vanquished to an exile far away on distant shores, groaning much of his ignominy and the blows of the arrogant victor, and then complains of the loves which he has lost unavenged, and looking at his abode, departs from his ancestral kingdom.
For my part, I think that this expression, if it is bent a little bit, is proverbial, like the words καπροῦν et ἱππομανεῖν (‘to be lewd’ and ‘to be horse-mad’), and Theocritus seems to have reflected on that the most when he notes that it is said proverbially, Ἔβα καὶ ταῦρος ἀν᾽ ὕλαν’, ‘And the bull has gone among the woods.’ The scholia on Theocritus have in this expression ἔβα κεν ταῦρος, with the conjunction καὶ changed to the explanatory κεν. They add that this is proverbially said of those who are absent and not likely to return. For if a bull flees once to the forest, he cannot be caught. For this reason, someone once elegantly said that a husband who has long been away from his wife is ‘herd-forsaking’, just as is a person who has ceased to visit his friends, and one who has abstained for a long time from the company of the Muses and his books. Similarly, one who abhors interaction with others and lives with himself may be called ‘herd-forsaking.’ And one who has wandered off and withdrawn from legitimate companionship will not wrongly be said to ‘forsake the herd.’ The expression of Aristophanes in Lysistrata is not far from this:
Οἴκοι δὲ ἀταυρώτη διάξω τὸν βίον,
I will live the celibate life at home, away from the bull.
For he has thus signified the celibate life of the woman neglecting the bull, that is, the husband. Thus Horace writes:
May Lesbia meet a bad end for showing you this impotent bull when you asked.
Ἔβα καὶ ταῦρος ἀν᾽ ὕλαν, id est Abiit et taurus in syluam. Pastorale prouerbium, allegoria subturpicula, significans diuortium ac neglectum veteris amicae.Tametsi licebit in vsum verecundiorem trahere hoc modo, si per iocum accommodabitur ad eos, qui pristinos amicos negligere videntur et a familiarium congerronumque grege desuescere. Aut in illos etiam, qui a solitis desciscunt studiis diuersumque vitae sequuntur institutum. Theocritus in Idyllio, cui titulus est Theonycho, nominatim etiam prouerbii vice refert:
Αἶνος θην λέγεταί τις ‘ἔβα καὶ ταῦρος ἀν᾽ ὕλαν’, id est Fertur et hoc olim in syluam secedere taurum.
Queritur autem amans se iam pridem ab amica relictum plurimumque iam esse temporis ostendit, quod Cynisca, id est Catella, nam id erat nomen puellae, sese Lyco quodam oblectet neque omnino curet ad pristinam redire consuetudinem, non magis quam tauri, qui et ipsi nonnunquam a vaccarum armentis secedunt et aut reliquis aggregantur tauris aut solitarii per nemora vagantur nullo foeminarum desiderio tacti.
Eum secessum eumque vaccarum neglectum quasique diuortium, pastores peculiari verbo vocant ἀτιμαγελεῖν voce nimirum composita ἐκ τοῦ ἀτιμεῖν, τὸ ἀτιμάζειν καὶ καταφρονεῖν, quod est despicere negligereque ac pro nihilo ducere, et ἐκ τοῦ ἀγέλη, quod armentum sonat. Ac tum ἀτιμαγελεῖν dicuntur tauri, cum segregati a vaccarum commercio adeo non curant illas, vt non modo coitum non appetant, sed ne pascuis quidem iisdem vti velint. Hunc animantis morem simulque vocem ipsam ei tributam rei demonstrat Aristoteles libro De natura animalium sexto his verbis: Ὁ δὲ ταῦρος ὅταν ὥρα τῆς ὀχείας ᾖ, τότε γίνεται σύννομος καὶ μάχεται τοῖς ἄλλοις. Τὸν δὲ πρότερον χρόνον μετ᾽ ἀλλήλων εἰσίν, ὃ καλεῖται ἀτιμαγελεῖν. Πολλάκις γὰρ οἵ γε ἐν τῇ Ἠπείρῳ οὐ φαίνονται τριῶν μηνῶν ὅλως δὲ τὰ ἄγρια πάντα ἢ τὰ πλεῖστα οὐ συννέμονται ταῖς θηλείαις πρὸ τῆς ὥρας τοῦ ὀχεύειν. Ea verba nos appendemus magis quam annumerabimus hoc modo:
At taurus, cum tempus coitus adfuerit, tum demum incipit communibus cum vaccis pascuis vti cumque reliquis tauris dimicat. Nam ante id temporis inter sese pascuntur, quod quidem appellant ἀτιμαγελεῖν. Sane qui sunt in Epiro prouincia tauri, saepenumero trium mensium spacio non apparent; porro fera animantia aut omnia aut certepleraque ante tempus coeundi non aggregantur ad communes cum foeminis pascuas.
Illud admonitu dignum mihi visum est in versione Theodori Gazae pro Graeca voce ἀτιμαγελεῖν, quam Romana lingua nullo pacto reddere potest, scriptum esse coarmentari. Idque verbi doctis etiam viris non parum caliginis offudit, ita vt deprauatum apud Aristotelem locum existiment commutataque lectione longe diuersum sensum inducant putentque Theodorum in transferendo non mediocriter hallucinatum. At ego tota re diligentius pensiculata videre videor Aristotelicorum verborum sententiam citra vllius vocis commutationem adamussim quadrare: videlicet taurum aggregari cum vaccis et in iisdem versari pascuis appetente coitus tempore eumque non conuenire cum reliquis taurorum armentis, sed bellum cum aliis gerere, reliquis autem temporibus tauros cum tauris socialiter iisdem vti pascuis neque foeminarum conuictum sequi, sed inter sese agere, quod idem accidat in feris ferme omnibus. Hanc autem taurorum cum tauris societatem neglectis vaccarum armentis vocari ἀτιμαγελεῖν.
Quaeso quid hic scrupuli, cur Aristotelicam lectionem mutandam existimemus, nisi si quid offendit mutatus numerus in ταῦρος et εἰσίν, id quod Aristoteli praesertim eo in opere pene familiare deprehenditur. Dictionem autem illam coarmentari non germanam, sed supposititiam esse dubium non est, et aut librariorum incuria aut alicuius parum eruditi temeritate inductam. Suspicor enim legendum vel dearmentari vel abarmentari. Neque enim adduci possum, vt credam Theodorum hominem tam in omni doctrinae genere absolutum fuisse lapsum praesertim in voce neque magnopere prodigiosa nec inusitata Graecis autoribus, vtpote cuius vim vel ipsa statim indicat etymologia, praeterea quae apud Theocritum autorem vsqueadeo notum vulgatumque legatur ἐν Νομεῖ ἢ Βωκόλοις, id est in Pastore siue Bubulcis:
Χοἲ μὲν ἁμᾷ βόσκοιντο καὶ ἐν φύλλοισι πλανῷντο
Οὐδὲν ἀτιμαγελεῦντες, id est
Atque hi pascuntur simul inque comantibus herbis
Errant et non vlla gregis diuortia quaerunt.
Ad haec Suidas ostendit ταῦρον ἀτιμάγελον appellatum τὸν τῆς ἀγέλης καταφρονοῦντα, id est qui negligeret armentum. Huc mihi videtur nonnihil allusisse Vergilius in Sileno:
Ah virgo infelix, tu nunc in montibus erras.
Ille latus niueum molli fultus hyacintho
Ilice sub nigra pallentes ruminat herbas
Aut aliquam in magno sequitur grege. Claudite, nymphae,
Dictaeae nymphae, nemorum iam claudite saltus,
Si qua forte ferant oculis sese obuia nostris
Errabunda bouis vestigia; forsitan illum
Aut herba captum viridi aut armenta secutum
Perducant aliquae stabula ad Gortynia vaccae.
Cum enim ait,
Ille latus niueum molli fultus hyacintho
Ilice sub nigra pallentes ruminat herbas,
taurum innuit ἀτιμάγελον. Item cum ait: Errabunda bouis vestigia. Significat autem poeta taurum, quem adamabat Pasiphae, aut prorsus ἀτιμαγελεῖν aut eatenus ἀτιμαγελεῖν, vt suo armento neglecto vaccas alias sequeretur. Porro de pugna taurorum inter ipsos coitus tempore meminit idem Maro libro Georgicôn tertio:
Nec mos bellantes vna stabulare, sed alter
Victus abit longeque ignotis exulat oris
Multa gemens ignominiam plagasque superbi
Victoris, tum quos amisit inultus amores,
Et stabula aspectans regnis excessit auitis.
Equidem arbitror hanc ipsam vocem, si deflectatur alio, prouerbialem esse, quemadmodum sunt et illae καπροῦν et ἱππομανεῖν, ad eamque potissimum respexisse Theocritum, cum ait prouerbio dici: Ἔβα καὶ ταῦρος ἀν᾽ ὕλαν. Scholia quae feruntur in Theocritum, habent ἔβα κεν ταῦρος pro καὶ coniunctione copulatiua mutata κεν expletiua; addunt esse prouerbium de his dici solitum, qui abessent non reuersuri. Taurus enim si semel aufugerit in syluam, capi non potest. Vnde non inconcinne quis dixerit maritum diutius ab vxore secubantem ἀτιμαγελεῖν et eum, qui familiares desierit inuisere, ἀτιμαγελεῖν et qui diutius a Musis ac librorum abstinuerit contubernio, ἀτιμαγελεῖν. Item qui a conuictu hominum abhorreat secumque viuat, ἀτιμάγελον licebit appellare. Et qui a legitimo contubernio aberrarit secesseritque, non inepte dicetur ἀτιμαγελεῖν. Nec prorsus abhorret ab hac forma, quod est apud Aristophanem in Lysistrata:
Οἴκοι δὲ ἀταυρώτη διάξω τὸν βίον, id est
Domi absque tauro coelibem vitam exigam.
Sic enim significauit vitam coelibem foeminae negligentis taurum, id est maritum. Sic et Horatius:
Pereat male quae te
Lesbia quaerenti taurum monstrauit inertem.