AP Latin Week: Servius Rails Against Idle Nonsense

Servius tries to explain to empty-headed readers why Vergil’s Aeneid begins with the word ‘arma.’ (Commentary 1.1)

“Many people reason in various ways about why Vergil began his poem with ‘arms,’ but it is clear that their heads are full of idle nonsense, since it is obvious that he began his poem in another spot, as has been made clear in the biographical sketch already presented*. By ‘arms’ he means ‘war,’ and this is the literary device known as metonymy. For, he has substituted for war the arms which we use in war, just as the toga which we use in peace may substitute for the peace itself, as in that saying of Cicero, ‘Let arms yield to the toga,’ that is, let war give way to peace.”

*In his life of Vergil, Servius explains that the opening lines of the Aeneid were originally

‘I am he, who once measured out my song on the slender reed,
and emerging from the forests I compelled the neighboring fields
to obey the farmer, however grasping he might be –
all a pleasing work for farmers, but now I sing the awful
arms of Mars, and the man….”

Ille ego, qui quondam gracili modulatus avena
carmen, et egressus silvis vicina coegi
ut quamvis avido parerent arva colono,
gratum opus agricolis, at nunc horrentia Martis

ARMA multi varie disserunt cur ab armis Vergilius coeperit, omnes tamen inania sentire manifestum est, cum eum constet aliunde sumpsisse principium, sicut in praemissa eius vita monstratum est. per ‘arma’ autem bellum significat, et est tropus metonymia. nam arma quibus in bello utimur pro bello posuit, sicut toga qua in pace utimur pro pace ponitur, ut Cicero cedant arma togae, id est bellum paci.

Aeneas and Odysseus: Some Alternative Myths for AP Vergil Week

Dionys. Hal. A. R. I, c. 72: (Fowler 2000,68; Damastes fr. 3)

“After summarizing the sacrifices in Argos and how everything was done with each, he says that Aineas came from the Molossoi to Italy with Odysseus and became the founder of the city. And he named it.”

῾Ο τὰς ἱερείας τὰς ἐν ῎Αργει καὶ τὰ καθ’ ἑκάστην πραχθέντα συναγαγὼν Αἰνείαν φησὶν ἐκ Μολοττῶν εἰς ᾿Ιταλίαν ἐλθόντα μετ’ ᾿Οδυσσέως, οἰκιστὴν γενέσθαι τῆς πόλεως· ὀνομάσαι

As Fowler (Early Greek Mythography 2. 2013, 564-5) notes, the Greek could mean either that Aeneas came to Italy with Odysseus or came to Italy and founded the city with Odysseus. Either way, the story is certainly not one at home in our Odyssey.

Note though that the close collocation of Odysseus and Aeneas appears in Hesiod’s Theogony too (1008-1013):

“And well-crowned Kythereia gave birth to Aeneias
after having lovely sex with the hero Anchises
on the hills of windy Ida with its many valleys.
And Kirke the daughter of Helios the son of Hyperion
after sex with enduring-minded Odysseus
gave birth to Agrios and blameless and strong Latinus.”

Αἰνείαν δ’ ἄρ’ ἔτικτεν ἐυστέφανος Κυθέρεια,
᾿Αγχίσῃ ἥρωι μιγεῖσ’ ἐρατῇ φιλότητι
῎Ιδης ἐν κορυφῇσι πολυπτύχου ἠνεμοέσσης.
Κίρκη δ’ ᾿Ηελίου θυγάτηρ ῾Υπεριονίδαο
γείνατ’ ᾿Οδυσσῆος ταλασίφρονος ἐν φιλότητι
῎Αγριον ἠδὲ Λατῖνον ἀμύμονά τε κρατερόν τε·

It may be important that a possible reference is here too to Italy (in the name Latinus). In other texts, there is still an indirect association between Aeneas, Odysseus and the founding of Rome:

Geoponica, 11.2.8.6 (10th Century CE)

“For they say that Latinus was the brother of Telegonos and the son of Circe. and the father-in-law of Aeneas, that he founded the Akropolis before Aeneas arrived, and discovered laurel there.”

τὸ παλάτιον ὠνομάσθη, ἀπὸ τῆς ἐπικλήσεως δάφνης τῆς ἐν ῾Ρώμῃ. φασὶ γὰρ Λατῖνον τὸν Τηλεγόνου μὲν ἀδελφόν, Κίρκης δὲ παῖδα, πενθερὸν δὲ Αἰνείου, κτίζοντα τὴν ἀκρόπολιν πρὸ τῆς Αἰνείου παρουσίας, εὑρηκέναι ἐκεῖ δάφνην.

Aelian claims that the Greeks let Aeneas go: Varia Historia, 3.22

“After they captured Troy, the Greeks pitied the fate of the captured people and they announced this altogether Greek thing: that each of the free men could select and take one of his possessions. Aeneas selected and was carrying his ancestral gods, after dismissing everything else. Impressed by the righteousness of this man, the Greeks conceded that he may take a second possession away. Then, Aeneas placed his father—who was extremely old—on his shoulders and walked off. Because they were so amazed, they granted him all of his own possessions, attesting to the fact that men who are enemies by nature become mild when faced with righteous men who revere the gods and their parents.”

῞Οτε ἑάλω τὸ ῎Ιλιον, οἰκτείραντες οἱ ᾿Αχαιοὶ τὰς τῶν ἁλισκομένων τύχας καὶ πάνυ ῾Ελληνικῶς τοῦτο ἐκήρυξαν, ἕκαστον τῶν ἐλευθέρων ἓν ὅ τι καὶ βούλεται τῶν οἰκείων ἀποφέρειν ἀράμενον. ὁ οὖν Αἰνείας τοὺς πατρῴους θεοὺς βαστάσας ἔφερεν, ὑπεριδὼν τῶν ἄλλων. ἡσθέντες οὖν ἐπὶ τῇ τοῦ ἀνδρὸς εὐσεβείᾳ οἱ ῞Ελληνες καὶ δεύτερον αὐτῷ κτῆμα συνεχώρησαν λαβεῖν• ὃ δὲ τὸν πατέρα πάνυ σφόδρα γεγηρακότα ἀναθέμενος τοῖς ὤμοις ἔφερεν. ὑπερεκλαγέντες οὖν καὶ ἐπὶ τούτῳ οὐχ ἥκιστα, πάντων αὐτῷ τῶν οἰκείων κτημάτων ἀπέστησαν, ὁμολογοῦντες ὅτι πρὸς τοὺς εὐσεβεῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων καὶ τοὺς θεοὺς καὶ τοὺς γειναμένους δι’ αἰδοῦς ἄγοντας καὶ οἱ φύσει πολέμιοι ἥμεροι γίνονται.

Pausanias also has a strange account that Aeneas traveled through Greece proper and that Anchises died there

Pausanias, 8.12.8

“Of the roads leading to Orkhomenos there remains the one that goes by Mt. Anchisia and a monument to Anchises near the base of the mountain. When Aeneas was traveling to Sicily, he stopped his ships near Laconia and founded the cities Aphrodisias and Etis. His father came to his area for some reason and died. Aeneas buried him there. For this reason they named the mountain for Anchises. The Aiolians who live Troy near Troy now offer some support for this since they have no monument to Anchises in their land.

λείπεται δὲ ἔτι τῶν ὁδῶν ἡ ἐς ᾿Ορχομενόν, καθ’ ἥντινα ᾿Αγχισία τε ὄρος καὶ ᾿Αγχίσου μνῆμά ἐστιν ὑπὸ τοῦ ὄρους τοῖς ποσίν. ὡς γὰρ δὴ ἐκομίζετο ἐς Σικελίαν ὁ Αἰνείας, ἔσχε ταῖς ναυσὶν ἐς τὴν Λακωνικήν, καὶ πόλεών τε ᾿Αφροδισιάδος καὶ ῎Ητιδος ἐγένετο οἰκιστὴς καὶ τὸν πατέρα ᾿Αγχίσην κατὰ πρόφασιν δή τινα παραγενόμενον ἐς τοῦτο τὸ χωρίον καὶ αὐτόθι τοῦ βίου τῇ τελευτῇ χρησάμενον ἔθαψεν ἐνταῦθα· καὶ τὸ ὄρος τοῦτο ἀπὸ τοῦ ᾿Αγχίσου καλοῦσιν ᾿Αγχισίαν.τούτου δὲ συντελοῦσιν ἐς πίστιν Αἰολέων οἱ ῎Ιλιον ἐφ’ ἡμῶν ἔχοντες, οὐδαμοῦ τῆς σφετέρας ἀποφαίνοντες μνῆμα ᾿Αγχίσου.

Servius Rails Against Idle Nonsense

Servius tries to explain to empty-headed readers why Vergil’s Aeneid begins with the word ‘arma.’ (Commentary 1.1)

“Many people reason in various ways about why Vergil began his poem with ‘arms,’ but it is clear that their heads are full of idle nonsense, since it is obvious that he began his poem in another spot, as has been made clear in the biographical sketch already presented*. By ‘arms’ he means ‘war,’ and this is the literary device known as metonymy. For, he has substituted for war the arms which we use in war, just as the toga which we use in peace may substitute for the peace itself, as in that saying of Cicero, ‘Let arms yield to the toga,’ that is, let war give way to peace.”

*In his life of Vergil, Servius explains that the opening lines of the Aeneid were originally

‘I am he, who once measured out my song on the slender reed,
and emerging from the forests I compelled the neighboring fields
to obey the farmer, however grasping he might be –
all a pleasing work for farmers, but now I sing the awful
arms of Mars, and the man….”

Ille ego, qui quondam gracili modulatus avena
carmen, et egressus silvis vicina coegi
ut quamvis avido parerent arva colono,
gratum opus agricolis, at nunc horrentia Martis

ARMA multi varie disserunt cur ab armis Vergilius coeperit, omnes tamen inania sentire manifestum est, cum eum constet aliunde sumpsisse principium, sicut in praemissa eius vita monstratum est. per ‘arma’ autem bellum significat, et est tropus metonymia. nam arma quibus in bello utimur pro bello posuit, sicut toga qua in pace utimur pro pace ponitur, ut Cicero cedant arma togae, id est bellum paci.

Some Servius for Saturday Morning

Comment on Aeneid, 1.22:

VOLVERE PARCAS: Either he took the word ‘volvere’ (to turn) from thread, or from a book: for one of them speaks, one of them writes, and another spins the thread. They are called ‘Parcae’ through antiphrasis, because they spare no one. Similarly so, we have lucus (a grove) from non lucendo (not shining) and bellum (war) from nulla re bella (no beautiful thing). The names of the Parcae are Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos.

VOVLVERE PARCAS aut a filo traxit ‘volvere’ aut a libro; una enim loquitur, altera scribit, alia fila deducit. et dictae sunt parcae κατὰ ἀντίφρασιν, quod nulli parcant, sicut lucus a non lucendo, bellum a nulla re bella. nomina parcarum Clotho Lachesis Atropos.

Servius Rails Against Idle Nonsense

Servius tries to explain to empty-headed readers why Vergil’s Aeneid begins with the word ‘arma.’ (Commentary 1.1)

“Many people reason in various ways about why Vergil began his poem with ‘arms,’ but it is clear that their heads are full of idle nonsense, since it is obvious that he began his poem in another spot, as has been made clear in the biographical sketch already presented*. By ‘arms’ he means ‘war,’ and this is the literary device known as metonymy. For, he has substituted for war the arms which we use in war, just as the toga which we use in peace may substitute for the peace itself, as in that saying of Cicero, ‘Let arms yield to the toga,’ that is, let war give way to peace.”

*In his life of Vergil, Servius explains that the opening lines of the Aeneid were originally

‘I am he, who once measured out my song on the slender reed,
and emerging from the forests I compelled the neighboring fields
to obey the farmer, however grasping he might be –
all a pleasing work for farmers, but now I sing the awful
arms of Mars, and the man….”

Ille ego, qui quondam gracili modulatus avena
carmen, et egressus silvis vicina coegi
ut quamvis avido parerent arva colono,
gratum opus agricolis, at nunc horrentia Martis

ARMA multi varie disserunt cur ab armis Vergilius coeperit, omnes tamen inania sentire manifestum est, cum eum constet aliunde sumpsisse principium, sicut in praemissa eius vita monstratum est. per ‘arma’ autem bellum significat, et est tropus metonymia. nam arma quibus in bello utimur pro bello posuit, sicut toga qua in pace utimur pro pace ponitur, ut Cicero cedant arma togae, id est bellum paci.

“Troy Fell, Let It Perish With Its Name”: Jupiter Decides the Fate of Refugees From the East

“When they make peace through joyful weddings,
(May it happen), when the laws and treaties have joined them,
Do not allow the Latins to change their ancient name
either in becoming Trojans or being called Teucrians.
Don’t let them change their language or their clothing,
may it be Latium, may there be Alban kings for generations;
may the Roman race be strong through Italian power.
It fell: let Troy perish with its name.”

Laughing, the master of man and creation responded:
“Truly you are the sister of Jove and Saturn’s other child:
Such waves of rage turn within your chest.
But come, put down your rage conceived in vain—
I grant what you want, and, overcome, I willingly give in.
The Ausonians will preserve their inherited tongue and customs,
The name will stay as it is—the Teucrians will fade into the land
Once they have shared their blood. I will provide their sacred rites
And will unite all the Latins in a single tongue.
You will see a race mixed with Ausonian blood rise up
And outpace all men, even the gods in devotion,
No other race will perform your honors the same.”

cum iam conubis pacem felicibus, esto,
component, cum iam leges et foedera iungent,
ne vetus indigenas nomen mutare Latinos
neu Troas fieri iubeas Teucrosque vocari
aut vocem mutare viros aut vertere vestem.
Sit Latium, sint Albani per saecula reges,
sit Romana potens Itala virtute propago:
occidit, occideritque sinas cum nomine Troia.”
Olli subridens hominum rerumque repertor
“Es germana Iovis Saturnique altera proles:
irarum tantos volvis sub pectore fluctus.
Verum age et inceptum frustra submitte furorem
do quod vis, et me victusque volensque remitto.
Sermonem Ausonii patrium moresque tenebunt,
utque est nomen erit; commixti corpore tantum
subsident Teucri. Morem ritusque sacrorum
adiciam faciamque omnis uno ore Latinos.
Hinc genus Ausonio mixtum quod sanguine surget,
supra homines, supra ire deos pietate videbis,
nec gens ulla tuos aeque celebrabit honores.”

Caveat Lector: Personal commentary follows…

Continue reading

Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit: Some Vergilian Quotes on His Birthday

Publius Vergilius Maro was born on this day in 70 BCE. He is probably best known for the challenging and unforgettable Aeneid, but his Eclogues and Georgics are eminently quotable. Oh, and a man who writes his own epitaph deserves some respect:

Here are a handful of  our favorite lines.

Aeneid, 1.203

Perhaps one day it will be a joy to remember also these things”

forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit

Eclogues, 3.60

“Beginnings are from Jove, oh Muses! Everything is full of Jove”

ab Jove principium, Musae; Jovis omnia plena

Aeneid, 6.266

“Let me have the right to speak what I have heard”

sit mihi fas audita loqui

Georgics, 1.505-7

“Right and wrong are turned upside down: so many wars throughout the world, so many faces of wickedness, the plow is given no proper respect”

fas versum atque nefas: tot bella per orbem,
tam multae scelerum facies, non ullus aratro
dignus honos

Aeneid, 7.312

“If I cannot bend the gods, I will move Acheron”.

flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo.

Eclogues, 4.18-20

“And for you, little boy, the uncultivated earth will scatter its first small gifts, wandering ivy and cyclamens everywhere, beans mixed with laughing acanthus”

at tibi prima puer nullo munuscula cultu / errantis hederas passim cum baccare tellus / mixtaque ridenti colocasia fundet acantho.

Aeneid, 12.677

“Whither Zeus and cruel Fortune summon, let us go.”

quo deus et quo dura vocat Fortuna sequamur.

Numanus Remulus, big man in town…maybe not (Vergil, Aeneid 9.595-7)

[Editor’s Note: We are so absolutely psyched to introduce a new contributor, The fabulous Festus.  It is always great to find like-minded people ( as Herodotus puts it: “An intelligent and well-disposed friend is the finest of all possessions.” κτημάτων πάντων ἐστὶ τιμιώτατον ἀνὴρ φίλος συνετός τε καὶ εὔνοος, 5.24.3); but it is especially nice to find friends who can bring gravitas and new expertise to our endeavors (because, as Plato knows,“If you are wise, then everyone will be your family and friend.” ἐὰν μὲν ἄρα σοφὸς γένῃ, ὦ παῖ, πάντες σοι φίλοι καὶ πάντες σοι οἰκεῖοι ἔσονται, Lysis 210d). Let’s hope he shares many posts like the following with us]

With the ninth book, Vergil seriously gets into the battles of the so-called “Iliadic” Aeneid. The battle wavers; the Italian Numanus Remulus strides out to pillory the Trojans with words most distinctly not suave (598-620). Vergil introduces him thus (595-7):

Vaunting before his troops, and lengthen’d with a stride,
In these insulting terms the Trojans he defied:

is primam ante aciem digna atque indigna relatu               595
vociferans tumidusque novo praecordia regno
ibat et ingentem sese clamore ferebat:

The late fourth-century century AD commentator Servius remarks on the last four words of 598:

Vergil was not saying Remulus was a big man, but he was boasting that he was a big man.

ingentem sese clamore ferebat non erat ingens, sed se esse clamitabat ingentem.

Stop for a minute! Isn’t there something comical about a warrior in the middle of battle striding out and yelling “I am Mr. Big”? Yes, battles then as now had a surfeit of testosterone, but testosterone here could get you killed. The first time I read the Servius many years ago it took several minutes to regain a straight face.

The Latin supports either reading. Ferebat in the sense of walking, or ferebat in the sense of yelling, put differently, the indirect discourse beloved of generations of Latin students.

More modern commentators have been agnostic. There are no manuscript problems; no issue of the lectio difficilior (the more difficult reading is best). Clearly it’s an interpretational issue here. We have to think about warriors of the heroic age, especially in Homer.

Homeric warriors certainly could do self-promotion; the Iliad is peppered with it. Even in battle, especially in battle. But that self-promotion is about lineage and deeds. Nobody says “look at me, look at how big I am.” Further on this in my next post.

On this basis, Servius has it wrong. But his comment remains truly priceless.

[the translation is John Dryden’s. There are several fine modern ones available, but no one gives as close a sense of the Latin original as Dryden. Takes a major poet to know a major poet.]

Update

I am minded that not everyone will grasp the “big man in town” part of this post’s title. It is from (obviously to me and my generation), the Four Seasons’ song Big Man in Town, which rose to number twenty on the charts in 1964. I remember it well, since I was in high school then. Some are making claims the the Jersey Boys do it better. Let them. There is no arguing with them.

 

 

 

Arriving in Italy, But Not at the Journey’s End: Aeneid 6.1-12

I am currently in Siena, Italy (leading a summer study-abroad program for the month). My travels took about 20 hours followed by a mad search through Florence for a lost student who had neither phone nor money. (And today I travel south to retrieve more students from Rome!). I arrived in Siena tired and worn. But once I opened the Aeneid to consider Aeneas’ arrival on the Italian peninsula, I realized my complaints were quite unbecoming:

“He spoke this crying and then gave rein to the fleet
And they finally reached the Eubaean shores of Cumae.
They turn the prows toward the sea and then fasten the ships
safe by anchor where the curved boats make a shelter
on the shore. An eager band of youths leap down
on the Italian strand; one part seeks the seeds of flame
contained in a flint’s vein; another seizes trees
used as beasts’ thick roofs; and another traces along the river’s path.
But dutiful Aeneas climbs the hills where Apollo rules
On high and seeks the hollow cave of the horrid Sibyl,
the prophet whose mind and great soul the Delian inspires
as he lays open for her the secrets yet to come.”

Sic fatur lacrimans, classique immittit habenas,
et tandem Euboïcis Cumarum adlabitur oris.
Obvertunt pelago proras; tum dente tenaci
ancora fundabat naves, et litora curvae
praetexunt puppes. Iuvenum manus emicat ardens
litus in Hesperium; quaerit pars semina flammae
abstrusa in venis silicis, pars densa ferarum
tecta rapit silvas, inventaque flumina monstrat.
At pius Aeneas arces, quibus altus Apollo
praesidet, horrendaeque procul secreta Sibyllae
antrum immane petit, magnum cui mentem animumque
Delius inspirat vates, aperitque futura.

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