The Connection between Humility and Exhumation

Varro’s De Lingua Latina 5.23

Terra (earth) is, the same as humus (soil). Thus, they say that Ennius meant “to the earth” when he said: “they were striking the soil with their elbows”. Because the earth is soil, the man who is dead and covered with earth (terra) is said to be inhumed (humatus).

Based on this correlation, if some Roman is cremated and if his burial place is not covered with clods of earth or if a bone has been excluded for the purification of the family of the dead, the family remains in mourning until the bone or body is covered by soil (humus) for the purpose of purification—the period of time during which, as the priests say, the body is uncovered [or exhumed? Inhumatus]. Also, a man who inclines toward the soil (humus) is called “more humble”; the lowest character is called most humble (humillimus) because the humus (soil) is the lowest thing in the world.”

Terra, ut putant, eadem et humus; ideo Ennium in terram cadentis dicere:
Cubitis pinsibant humum; et quod terra sit humus, ideo is humatus mortuus, qui terra obrutus; ab eo qui Romanus combustus est, si in sepulcrum, eius abiecta gleba non est aut si os exceptum est mortui ad familiam purgandam, donec in purgando humo est opertum (ut pontifices dicunt, quod inhumatus sit), familia funesta manet. Et dicitur humilior, qui ad humum, demissior, infimus humillimus, quod in mundo infima humus.

What Is Soil Organic Matter? | DeepRoot Blog

Some Dramatic Fragments for a Monday Morning

Accius, Principles for Playwrights, 3–6

“Perperos: uneducated, foolish, rude, uncultured, liars. In his Principles Accius uses “perperos to describe common people.
The same poet in that work writes:

Poets are beat up because of this instead of some fault of their own:
The excessive gullibility of your minds or your lack of sophistication.”

Nonius, 150, 11: ‘Perperos,’ indoctos, stultos, rudis, insulsos, mendaces. Accius Pragmaticis—
describere in theatro perperos popularis.
Idem eodem—

et eo plectuntur poetae quam suo vitio saepius
ductabilitate animi nimia vestra aut perperitudine.

Dubious Fragments Attributed to Ennius

24

“Many a menacing machine maximally menaces the munitions”
Machina multa minax minitatur maxima muris

26

“Theta, a letter unluckier than the rest”
O multum ante alias infelix littera theta!

42

“To restep a step…”
regredi gressum

Image result for Ancient Roman Tragedy

Jupiter Stopped Gods and Men From Eating People

Most people know Ennius for his fragmentary Annales inspired in part by Greek epic poetry. But he was also inspired by the tradition of Euhemerism, the idea that the gods were just metastasized stories of once great men. He left fragments of a prose work inspired by this Greek mythographical tradition.

Ennius, Euhemerus, 81-87

“In that time, Jupiter used to spend most of his time on Mount Olympos; and people would come to him there if there was any matter over which there was a dispute. In the same way, if anyone found anything new which might be useful for human life, they would go there to show it to him.

It once was the case that Saturn and Ops and even the rest of mankind were in the habit of eating human flesh;. But, in truth, it was Jupiter, the first to make laws and customs for men, who prohibited through an edict that it was any longer allowed to consume that food.”

Ea tempestate Iuppiter in monte Olympo
Maximam partem vitae colebat et eo ad
Eum in ius veniebant, si quae res in
Controversia erant. Item si quis quid
novi invenerat quod ad vitam humanum
utile esset, eo veniebant atque Iovi
ostendebant.

Saturnum et Opem eterosque tunc
Homines humanam carnem solitos esitare;
Verum primum Ovem leges hominibus
Moresque condentem edicto prohibuisse
Ne liceret eo cibo vesci

 

Image result for Ancient Roman Cannibal

Eternal Fame, or Specks of Gold in a Sh*theap? – Early Reception of Ennius

In response to a comment about Ennius’ reputation in Joel’s post from yesterday, I began to wonder about the reception of Ennius’ poems.  I remembered that Ennius was cited by practically every (surviving) Roman poet of the Golden Age, but  I could not recall a consistent portrait emerging from these references. The only anecdote which readily stuck in my mind was the one of Vergil, cited by Donatus and Cassiodorus, saying that he was “looking for gold in the shitheap of Ennius.” Yet this is a late reference, and likely a totally fabricated story. As such, I dug through all of the major surviving Roman poets of the 1st century BC for direct references to Ennius, in order to form some sort of rough sketch of Ennian reception at the time. I omitted any prose authors (especially Cicero) in order to keep the search limited to the manageable which seemed appropriate for slapdash online posting, but I may later delve deeper into the subject. For now, here is a brief summary of early Ennian reception:

One of the recurring themes among the poets who mention Ennius is his lack of art or technical skill. This may be readily attributed to the fact that he was, in effect, a pioneer of Latin versification; we ought not to be surprised if his compositions lack the polish of the later writers who took him to task for his roughness:

And as grave Ennius sang of Mars with his own style – Ennius, the greatest in talent, but wanting in art.

utque suo Martem cecinit grauis Ennius ore,
Ennius ingenio maximus, arte rudis:
Ovid, Tristia II

The work which you ask for is a mortal thing, but I am seeking eternal fame, that my praises might be sung the world over. Homer will live on, while Tenedos and Ida still stand, while the Simois churns its rapid waters into the sea. Hesiod, too, will live, while the grapes teem with must and Ceres falls when cut by curved sickle. Callimachus will always be sung all over the world, though more for his skill than his native talent. No loss will ever befall the Sophoclean buskin; Aratus will last as long as the sun and moon. As long as there be a lying slave, a harsh father, a saucy madam and a pleasing prostitute, Menander will live on; Ennius, lacking art, and windy-mouthed Accius have a name that will die in no age.

Mortale est, quod quaeris, opus. mihi fama perennis
    quaeritur, in toto semper ut orbe canar.
vivet Maeonides, Tenedos dum stabit et Ide,
    dum rapidas Simois in mare volvet aquas;               10
vivet et Ascraeus, dum mustis uva tumebit,
    dum cadet incurva falce resecta Ceres.
Battiades semper toto cantabitur orbe;
    quamvis ingenio non valet, arte valet.
nulla Sophocleo veniet iactura cothurno;               15
    cum sole et luna semper Aratus erit;
dum fallax servus, durus pater, inproba lena
    vivent et meretrix blanda, Menandros erit;
Ennius arte carens animosique Accius oris
    casurum nullo tempore nomen habent.      

Ovid, Amores 1.15.7-20

This appears rarely in the noble trimeters of Accius, and presses upon the verses of Ennius, sent onto the stage with a great weight, with the shameful fault either of hasty workmanship lacking art, or lack of technical skill.

…Hic et in Acci
nobilibus trimetris adparet rarus, et Enni
in scaenam missos cum magno pondere uersus               260
aut operae celeris nimium curaque carentis
aut ignoratae premit artis crimine turpi.

Horace, Ars Poetica 258-262

Propertius in particular seems to focus on the gravity of Ennius as a foil to his own image as the Roman Callimachus in search of softer themes and softer expression. Yet, this impression of gravity which is attributed to him by Propertius is undercut by a note of Horace:

I dreamt that I reclined in the gentle shade of Helicon, where the water of Bellerophon’s horse did flow, and that I could sing, O Alba, your kings and deeds – ah, such a work! – with my instruments. I had brought my tiny mouth to those grand founts (from whence thirsty Ennius once drank, when he sang the Curian brothers and the Horatian spears, and the regal trophies carried on the Aemelian raft, and the victorious delays of Fabius, and the awful fight at Cannae, and the gods who turned to our pious prayers, and the Lares chasing Hannibal from the Roman land, and how Jupiter was saved by the voice of a goose). Suddenly, Phoebus saw me from a Castalian tree, and leaning on his golden lyre by the cave, said, ‘What business have you, you madman, with this stream? Who ordered you to undertake the work of a heroic poem?

Visus eram molli recubans Heliconis in umbra,
Bellerophontei qua fluit umor equi,
reges, Alba, tuos et regum facta tuorum,
tantum operis, nervis hiscere posse meis;
parvaque iam magnis admoram fontibus ora
(unde pater sitiens Ennius ante bibit,
et cecinit Curios fratres et Horatia pila,
regiaque Aemilia vecta tropaea rate,
victricisque moras Fabii pugnamque sinistram
Cannensem et versos ad pia vota deos,
Hannibalemque Lares Romana sede fugantis,
anseris et tutum voce fuisse Iovem),
cum me Castalia speculans ex arbore Phoebus
sic ait aurata nixus ad antra lyra:
‘quid tibi cum tali, demens, est flumine? quis te
carminis heroi tangere iussit opus?
Propertius, 3.3

Ah me, how light is the sound in my mouth! Yet, whatever flows from the tiny heart of this stream, all of it will serve my country. Let Ennius gird his sayings with a bristly crown: but Bacchus, give me the leaves of your ivy, so that Umbria may swell with pride as the birthplace of the Roman Callimachus!

ei mihi, quod nostro est paruus in ore sonus!
sed tamen exiguo quodcumque e pectore riui
    fluxerit, hoc patriae seruiet omne meae.
Ennius hirsuta cingat sua dicta corona:
    mi folia ex hedera porrige, Bacche, tua,
ut nostris tumefacta superbiat Vmbria libris,
    Vmbria Romani patria Callimachi!

(Propertius, 4.1)

But I have said that he flows like mud, and often bears many things which must be removed from that which should remain. Yet tell me, with all of your learning, do you find nothing to criticize in great Homer? Does pleasing Lucilius change nothing of tragic Accius? Does he not also laugh at the verses of Ennius, which are lighter than the gravity of their subject, when he speaks of himself as not being greater than the things which he reproaches?

at dixi fluere hunc lutulentum, saepe ferentem               50
plura quidem tollenda relinquendis. age quaeso,
tu nihil in magno doctus reprehendis Homero?
nil comis tragici mutat Lucilius Acci?
non ridet versus Enni gravitate minores,
cum de se loquitur non ut maiore reprensis?

Horace, Sermones 1.10.50-55

Yet, Ennius is still given a certain amount of credit for his pioneering efforts. Lucretius and Horace both note the importance of Ennius as a bold adventurer in early Latin versification. Horace, in particular, focuses on his enhancement of Latin vocabulary by “bringing forth new names for things.”

No one knows what the nature of the soul might be, whether it be born, or whether it be inserted into us as we are born, and whether it die at the same time as us, or whether it visits the shadows and vast lakes of Orcus, or whether it insert itself into new flocks, as our Ennius has sung, who first brought down the eternally blooming crown from pleasant Helicon, to appear renowned through all of the Italian races.

ignoratur enim quae sit natura animai,
nata sit an contra nascentibus insinuetur
et simul intereat nobiscum morte dirempta
an tenebras Orci visat vastasque lacunas               115
an pecudes alias divinitus insinuet se,
Ennius ut noster cecinit, qui primus amoeno
detulit ex Helicone perenni fronde coronam,
per gentis Italas hominum quae clara clueret;
Lucretius, 1.112-119

Yet what will the Roman give to Caecilius and Plautus, taken away from Vergil and Varius? Why am I, if I am able to obtain a little, envied, when the language of Cato and Ennius enriched their country’s speech, and brought forth new names for things? It has, and always will be possible to bring forth a name distinguished by some present thing of note.

…. Quid autem
Caecilio Plautoque dabit Romanus, ademptum
Vergilio Varioque? Ego cur, adquirere pauca               55
si possum, inuideor, cum lingua Catonis et Enni
sermonem patrium ditauerit et noua rerum
nomina protulerit? Licuit semperque licebit
signatum praesente nota producere nomen.

Horace, Ars Poetia 53-59

 

Horace also suggests that these early attempts at poetry have been sanctified by their age itself, giving expression to the old notion of gloria primis:

Ennius, a man wise, and brave, and even a second Homer (as the critics say) seems to have given rather light care to where the promises and dreams of Pythagoras fall. Naevius is not to hand, and clings to the mind as though he were almost recent? Such is the sanctity of every ancient poem.

Ennius, et sapiens et fortis et alter Homerus,               50
ut critici dicunt, leuiter curare uidetur
quo promissa cadant et somnia Pythagorea.
Naeuius in manibus non est et mentibus haeret
paene recens? Adeo sanctum est uetus omne poema.

Horace, Epistulae, 2.1.50-54

Yet, for all of the faults which these poets attribute to Ennius, they all accord to him a certain respect. Comparisons to Homer abound, and Ovid suggests that Ennius has earned his immortal fame:

What is sought by our sacred poets, except for fame alone? The sum of our labor inclines to this. At one time, poets were the concern of the gods and kings: ancient choruses bore off great rewards. Poets had a sacred majesty and a respectable name, and great wealth was bestowed upon them. Ennius, born in the Calabrian Mountains, deserved to be placed next to you, great Scipio. Now the ivy crowns lie without honor, and the waking, laborious care exercised by the learned Muses has the name of indolence. But vigilance is a help to Fame: who would have known Homer, if that eternal work, the Iliad, had been hidden?

Quid petitur sacris, nisi tantum fama, poetis?
     Hoc votum nostri summa laboris habet.
Cura deum fuerant olim regumque poetae:               405
     Praemiaque antiqui magna tulere chori.
Sanctaque maiestas et erat venerabile nomen
     Vatibus, et largae saepe dabantur opes.
Ennius emeruit, Calabris in montibus ortus,
     Contiguus poni, Scipio magne, tibi.               410
Nunc ederae sine honore iacent, operataque doctis
     Cura vigil Musis nomen inertis habet.
Sed famae vigilare iuvat: quis nosset Homerum,
     Ilias aeternum si latuisset opus?

Ovid, Ars Amatoria 3.403-414

Finally, Ennius is mentioned along with Homer, not just as a great poet, but also as one who relied on the assistance of Bacchus for his versification:

The sweet Muses almost smelled of wine in the morning; Homer may be proven to be a sot from his praises of wine. Father Ennius himself never sprang to the task of describing battles unless he got drunk first. ‘I will leave the Forum and the Well of Libo to the sober.”

uina fere dulces oluerunt mane Camenae; 5
laudibus arguitur uini uinosus Homerus;
Ennius ipse pater numquam nisi potus ad arma
prosiluit dicenda. ‘Forum putealque Libonis
mandabo siccis, adimam cantare seueris’:
Horace, Epistulae 1.19.5-9

War Corrupts Public Discourse

Ennius, Annales book 8, 262-8

“After [the details of] the battles are well-known
Wisdom is publicly rejected, affairs are pursued with force,
A good speaker is spurned, and the wretched warrior is loved.
Men strive not with educated speeches but instead with insults
attack one another and enter into mutual enmity.
They seize property suddenly not by the right of law but with swords
As they seek sovereignty and wander with the power of the mob.

<proeliis……promulgatis>
Pellitur e medio sapientia, vi geritur res,               263
Spernitur orator bonus, horridus miles amatur.
Haut doctis dictis certantes sed maledictis
Miscent inter sese inimicitiam agitantes.
Non ex iure manu consertum sed magis ferro
Rem repetunt, regnumque petunt, vadunt solida vi.

Romulus and Remus

The Annales of Quintus Ennius are available only in fragmentary form. They told the tale of Roman history in epic form from the story of Romulus and Remus down to his own time period (2nd Century BCE; Ennius served in the Second Punic War). While there are many fragments, only a handful are longer than a line or two.

It is difficult to evaluate from the short lines the quality of Ennius (his reputation is pretty good). From what we have, however, it seems that he was well-versed in the Homeric epics. One thing to note about the style from a Latin perspective, is how short the sense-units are in comparison to those of a later epic poet like Vergil (the slightly earlier Lucretius seems to be closer to Ennius in allowing most of his lines to make sense on their own).

Indeed, the ringing and repetition of the last line above (Rem repetunt, regnumque petunt, vadunt solida vi) seems much more akin to Lucretian style and some oral Greek traditions, perhaps…

Too-Late Tuesday: Poetic Epitaphs

Some literary epitaphs from Greece and Rome:

“If it were right for gods to mourn for mortals
Then the Muses would mourn the poet Naevius.
And when he was brought down to death’s warehouse
Rome would forget how to speak the Latin tongue.”

Immortales mortales si foret fas fiere
Fierent divae Camenae Naevium poetam
Itaque postquamst Orchi traditus thesauro
Obliti sunt Romae loquier lingua latina.

Naevius? A Roman poet who flourished between he first two Punic wars. According to Aulus Gellius, here is the epitaph of Pacuvius (Gellius I.24.4)

“Young man, even though you hurry by, this stone
asks you to look on it and then to read what is written.
Here is where you find interred the bones of the poet
Marcus Pacuvius. I desire that you know this. Farewell.”

Adulescens, tam etsi properas te hoc saxum rogat
Ut sese aspicias, deinde quod scriptum est legas.
Hic sunt poetae Pacuvi Marci sita
Ossa. Hoc volebam nescius ne esses. Vale.

 

The Romans, of course, were not the only ones in on this game. Famous as well is Callimachus, epigram 21.

“Whoever you are lifting your foot near my grave
Know that I am the child and father both of Cyrenian Callimachus.
You would know both men. One led the soldiers of his country,
And the other sang songs beyond envy.
Don’t be surprised: whomever the Muses behold at birth
Are not abandoned friends as they grow grey.”

῞Οστις ἐμὸν παρὰ σῆμα φέρεις πόδα, Καλλιμάχου με
ἴσθι Κυρηναίου παῖδά τε καὶ γενέτην.
εἰδείης δ’ ἄμφω κεν• ὁ μέν κοτε πατρίδος ὅπλων
ἦρξεν, ὁ δ’ ἤεισεν κρέσσονα βασκανίης.
[οὐ νέμεσις• Μοῦσαι γὰρ ὅσους ἴδον ὄμματι παῖδας
†ἄχρι βίου† πολιοὺς οὐκ ἀπέθεντο φίλους.]

 

Gellius also adds to Pacuvius’, an epitaph of a more commonly known comedian, Plautus:
“Now that Plautus has found death, Comedy weeps,
Abandoned on the stage. And then, Laughter, Play and Jest
mourn together with all the uncountable Measures.”

postquam est mortem aptus Plautus, Comoedia luget,
scaena est deserta, dein Risus, Ludus Iocusque
et Numeri innumeri simul omnes conlacrimarunt,

 

Ennius, Varia 17-18

“Let no one honor me with tears nor celebrate my funeral
with weeping. Why? Alive I fly on the mouths of men.”

Nemo me lacrimis decoret nec funera fletu
faxit. cur?  volito vivos per ora virum.

 

epitaph
A real epitaph

Leisure, Work and Child-Sacrifice: Two Fragments from Ennius

Ennius’ Iphigenia was certainly modeled on Euripides’ Iphigenia on Aulis. But that in no way keeps the fragments from being their own creations….

232-234 Agamemnon

“Am I tortured because you mess up? You wander and I am on trial?
Let Helen return for her misdeed, but an innocent girl will perish?
That you and your wife be reconciled, my daughter should be served up?”

Ego projector quod tu peccas? Tu delinquis, ego arguor?
Pro malefactis Helena redeat, virgo pereat innocens?
Tua reconcilietur uxor, mea necetur filia?

241-248 Chorus

“Whoever doesn’t know who to use leisure when he has it,
Has more work in leisure than he has in work.
For the man who has a set task, does it without work:
He pays attention to it and in it entertains his mind and spirit.
In true leisure the sick mind does not know what it wants.
It is the same way here: look, we are neither at home nor soldiers;
We go here and there and when we have gone there, we go away again.
Our spirit wanders pointlessly; life is lived, more or less.”

Otio qui nescit uti <quom otium est, in otio>
Plus negoti habet quam quom est negotium in negotio;
Nam cui quod agat institutumst non ullo negotio
Id agit, id studet,ibi mentem atque animum delectat suum.
Otioso in otio animus nescit quid velit.
Hoc idem est; em neque domi nunc nos nec militiae sumus;
Imus huc, hin illuc;quom illuc ventum est, ire illic lubet.
Incerte errat animus, praeterpropter vitam vivitur.

Roma Could have Been Remora

This passage from Ennius is preserved in Cicero’s De Divinatione 1.48

“They were struggling over whether the city would be called Roma or Remora.
And worry about which one of them would rule infected all men.
They were awaiting the word as when the consul wishes to give the signal
And all men eagerly look to the wall’s border to see
How soon he will send out the chariots from the painted mouths—
This is the way the people were watching and holding their tongues
For which man the victory would elevate to a great kingdom.
Meanwhile, the white sun receded into the darkness of night.
When suddenly a white light struck the sky with its rays.
At the same time there came flying straight down the most beautiful
Bird from the left and then the golden sun rose.
Three times, four sacred forms of birds descended from the sky
And settled themselves in propitious and noble positions.
In this, Romulus recognized that the first place was granted to him,
A kingdom and place made certain by the signs of birds.”

Certabant urbem Romam Remoramne vocarent.
Omnibus cura viris uter esset induperator.
Expectant vel uti, consul cum mittere signum
Volt, omnes avidi spectant ad carceris oras,
Quam mox emittat pictis e faucibus currus: 90
Sic expectabat populus atque ora tenebat
Rebus, utri magni victoria sit data regni.
Interea sol albus recessit in infera noctis.
Exin candida se radiis dedit icta foras lux.
Et simul ex alto longe pulcherruma praepes 95
Laeva volavit avis: simul aureus exoritur sol.
Cedunt de caelo ter quattor corpora sancta
Avium, praepetibus sese pulchrisque locis dant.
Conspicit inde sibi data Romulus esse priora,
Auspicio regni stabilita scamna locumque.

Romulus and Remus
Ah, the city of brotherly….

Jupiter Made Us Stop Being Cannibals

Most people know Ennius for his fragmentary Annales inspired in part by Greek epic poetry. But he was also inspired by the tradition of Euhemerism, the idea that the gods were just metastasized stories of once great men. He left fragments of a prose work inspired by this Greek mythographical tradition.

Ennius, Euhemerus, 81-87

“In that time, Jupiter used to spend most of his time on Mount Olympos; and people would come to him there if there was any matter over which there was a dispute. In the same way, if anyone found anything new which might be useful for human life, they would go there to show it to him.

It once was the case that Saturn and Ops and even the rest of mankind were in the habit of eating human flesh;. But, in truth, it was Jupiter, the first to make laws and customs for men, who prohibited through an edict that it was any longer allowed to consume that food.”

Ea tempestate Iuppiter in monte Olympo
Maximam partem vitae colebat et eo ad
Eum in ius veniebant, si quae res in
Controversia erant. Item si quis quid
novi invenerat quod ad vitam humanum
utile esset, eo veniebant atque Iovi
ostendebant.

Saturnum et Opem eterosque tunc
Homines humanam carnem solitos esitare;
Verum primum Ovem leges hominibus
Moresque condentem edicto prohibuisse
Ne liceret eo cibo vesci

The Connection between Humility and Exhumation: Varro on Earth (Terra) and Soil (Humus)

From Varro’s De Lingua Latina 5.23

Terra (earth) is, the same as humus (soil). Thus, they say that Ennius meant “to the earth” when he said: “they were striking the soil with their elbows”. Because the earth is soil, the man who is dead and covered with earth (terra) is said to be inhumed (humatus).

Based on this correlation, if some Roman is cremated and if his burial place is not covered with clods of earth or if a bone has been excluded for the purification of the family of the dead, the family remains in mourning until the bone or body is covered by soil (humus) for the purpose of purification—the period of time during which, as the priests say, the body is uncovered [or exhumed? Inhumatus]. Also, a man who inclines toward the soil (humus) is called “more humble”; the lowest character is called most humble (humillimus) because the humus (soil) is the lowest thing in the world.”

Terra, ut putant, eadem et humus; ideo Ennium in terram cadentis dicere:
Cubitis pinsibant humum;
et quod terra sit humus, ideo is humatus mortuus, qui terra obrutus; ab eo qui Romanus combustus est, si in sepulcrum, eius abiecta gleba non est aut si os exceptum est mortui ad familiam purgandam, donec in purgando humo est opertum (ut pontifices dicunt, quod inhumatus sit), familia funesta manet. Et dicitur humilior, qui ad humum, demissior, infimus humillimus, quod in mundo infima humus.