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.

Servius on Paris’ First Wife (AP Vergil Week Continues)

Things are getting really strange with Servius (=Jacoby Abas 46, f1)

Servius  on Virgil, Aeneid 9.262

devicta genitor (sc. Aeneas) quae cepit Arisba]

“Which his father took once Arisba was conquered…”

“(And yet, according to Homer, Arisba sent aid to the Trojans and was overcome by Achilles)…the city is called Arisba after the daughter of Merpos or Macareus who was the first wife of Paris. According to some authors, Abas, who wrote the Troika, related that after the Greeks left Troy, the rule of this city was given to Astyanax. Antenor expelled him once he had allied himself with the states neighboring where Arisba’s location. Aeneas took this badly and took up arms for Astyanax; once the expedition was prosecuted successfully, he returned the kingdom to Astyanax.”

[[atqui secundum Homerum Arisba Troianis misit auxilia et ab Achille subversa est …]] dicta est Arisba ab Meropis vel Macarei filia, quam primum Paris in coniugio habuit. quidam ab Abante, qui Troica scripsit, relatum ferunt, post discessum a Troia Graecorum Astyanacti ibi datum regnum. hunc ab Antenore expulsum sociatis sibi finitimis civitatibus, inter quas et Arisba fuit. Aeneam hoc aegre tulisse et pro Astyanacte arma cepisse, ac prospere gesta re Astyanacti restituisse regnum.

Several details of this are strange. First, the fact that Paris had a first wife, though not strange on the surface, is rarely mentioned. Second, Astyanax’s survival after the fall of Troy is far from typical—the typical tale is his murder at the hands of Odysseus. Less surprising but still worth mentioning is the antagonism between Antenor—who is depicted in some sources as being friendly to Menelaos and Agamemnon—and the surviving heir of the house of Priam. Finally, I find it touching that Aeneas would take a break from all of his own troubles to help his cousin’s star-crossed son.

Image result for Ancient Greek Paris vase

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.

Paris’ First Wife and Astyanax’s Post-Trojan Life

Things are getting really strange with Servius (=Jacoby Abas 46, f1)

Servius  on Virgil, Aeneid 9.262

devicta genitor (sc. Aeneas) quae cepit Arisba]

“Which his father took once Arisba was conquered…”

“(And yet, according to Homer, Arisba sent aid to the Trojans and was overcome by Achilles)…the city is called Arisba after the daughter of Merpos or Macareus who was the first wife of Paris. According to some authors, Abas, who wrote the Troika, related that after the Greeks left Troy, the rule of this city was given to Astyanax. Antenor expelled him once he had allied himself with the states neighboring where Arisba’s location. Aeneas took this badly and took up arms for Astyanax; once the expedition was prosecuted successfully, he returned the kingdom to Astyanax.”

[[atqui secundum Homerum Arisba Troianis misit auxilia et ab Achille subversa est …]] dicta est Arisba ab Meropis vel Macarei filia, quam primum Paris in coniugio habuit. quidam ab Abante, qui Troica scripsit, relatum ferunt, post discessum a Troia Graecorum Astyanacti ibi datum regnum. hunc ab Antenore expulsum sociatis sibi finitimis civitatibus, inter quas et Arisba fuit. Aeneam hoc aegre tulisse et pro Astyanacte arma cepisse, ac prospere gesta re Astyanacti restituisse regnum.

 

Several details of this are strange. First, the fact that Paris had a first wife, though not strange on the surface, is rarely mentioned. Second, Astyanax’s survival after the fall of Troy is far from typical—the typical tale is his murder at the hands of Odysseus. Less surprising but still worth mentioning is the antagonism between Antenor—who is depicted in some sources as being friendly to Menelaos and Agamemnon—and the surviving heir of the house of Priam. Finally, I find it touching that Aeneas would take a break from all of his own troubles to help his cousin’s star-crossed son.

Image result for Ancient Greek Paris vase

Odysseus, Necromancer

A student paper on the Elpenor Pelike at the MFA in Boston drew my attention to the following passage.

Servius ad Aen. 6.107

“For this reason the place is named without joy since, as people claim, it would not have been there but for necromancy or spellcraft. For, Aeneas completed these sacred rites when Misenus was killed and Ulysses did it with the death of Elpenor. This very scene Homer himself presented falsely from the detail of its location which he specifies along with the length of time of the journey. For he claims that Ulysses sailed for one night and came to the place where he completed these sacrifices. For this reason it is abundantly clear that he doesn’t mean the ocean but Campania.”

sine gaudio autem ideo ille dicitur locus, quod necromantia vel sciomantia, ut dicunt, non nisi ibi poterat fieri: quae sine hominis occisione non fiebant; nam et Aeneas illic occiso Miseno sacra ista conplevit et Vlixes occiso Elpenore. quamquam fingatur in extrema Oceani parte Vlixes fuisse: quod et ipse Homerus falsum esse ostendit ex qualitate locorum, quae commemorat, et ex tempore navigationis; dicit enim eum a Circe unam noctem navigasse et ad locum venisse, in quo haec sacra perfecit: quod de Oceano non procedit, de Campania manifestissimum est.

The relevant passages from the Odyssey don’t give any hint that Elpenor was intentionally killed for black magic. When Odysseus actually does summon the dead, now that gets a little dark.

Odyssey, 10.552–560

“I could not even lead my companions unharmed from there.
The youngest of my companions was a certain Elpênor,
He was neither especially brave in battle or composed in his thoughts.
He separated himself from the companions in Kirkê’s holy home
Because he needed some air; then he fell asleep because he was drunk.
When he heard the noise and trouble of our companions moving out,
He got up immediately and it completely escaped his thoughts
To climb down again by the long ladder—
So he fell straight from the roof and his neck
Shattered along his spine; then his spirit flew down to Hades.”

οὐδὲ μὲν οὐδ’ ἔνθεν περ ἀπήμονας ἦγον ἑταίρους.
᾿Ελπήνωρ δέ τις ἔσκε νεώτατος, οὔτε τι λίην
ἄλκιμος ἐν πολέμῳ οὔτε φρεσὶν ᾗσιν ἀρηρώς,
ὅς μοι ἄνευθ’ ἑτάρων ἱεροῖσ’ ἐν δώμασι Κίρκης,
ψύχεος ἱμείρων, κατελέξατο οἰνοβαρείων·
κινυμένων δ’ ἑτάρων ὅμαδον καὶ δοῦπον ἀκούσας
ἐξαπίνης ἀνόρουσε καὶ ἐκλάθετο φρεσὶν ᾗσιν
ἄψορρον καταβῆναι ἰὼν ἐς κλίμακα μακρήν,
ἀλλὰ καταντικρὺ τέγεος πέσεν· ἐκ δέ οἱ αὐχὴν
ἀστραγάλων ἐάγη, ψυχὴ δ’ ῎Αϊδόσδε κατῆλθεν.

Elpênor appears twice more in the epic: 11.51–80 (Odysseus meets Elpênor’s ghost when he summons the dead); 12.9-15 (Odysseus buries Elpênor).

MFA Boston, Accession Number 34.79; Caskey-Beazley, Attic Vase Paintings (MFA), no. 111; Highlights: Classical Art (MFA), p. 070-071.

Nekuomanteia, glossed by Hesychius as nekromanteia (i.e. “necromancy”) is an alternate name for the Nekyuia, the parade of the dead in book 11 of the Odyssey. From the Greek Anthology: ᾿Εν τῷ Η ἡ τοῦ ᾿Οδυσσέως νεκυομαντεία· (3.8); Scholia to the Odyssey, Hypotheses: Λ. Νεκυομαντεία, ἢ, Νεκυία. Cf. Eustathius, Comm. Ad Od. 1.396.10

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.

‘Diomedean Compulsion’: Or, Remember the Time Odysseus tried to Stab Diomedes in the Back?

 

The Suda Has the following Entry:

Diomedean Compulsion: “This is also called a horse; a proverb from either the son of Tydeus or from the Thracian Diomedes who compelled guests to sleep with daughters who were ugly (and whom some allegorize as horses), or he would kill them.

And some say that Odysseus and Diomedes, after stealing the Palladion, returned during the night. Odysseus, who was following, planned to kill Diomedes. But when Diomedes saw the shadow of the sword in the moonlight, because he feared Odysseus, he made him walk in front of him, slapping him with the sword in the middle of the back. This proverb is used when people do things under compulsion.

For this reason, Diomedes kept man-eating horses: in the departure he was greatly aggrieved and was not welcomed to his own home, but after he was exiled he went to Kalabria and founded a city which he called Argurippê but whose name later was changed to Benebentos.”

 

Διομήδειος ἀνάγκη. λέγεται καὶ ἵππος. παροιμία, ἀπὸ τοῦ Τυδέως ἢ ἀπὸ τοῦ Θρᾳκός· ὃς ἠνάγκαζε τοὺς ξένους αἰσχραῖς οὔσαις ταῖς θυγατράσιν αὐτοῦ μίσγεσθαι (ἃς καὶ ἵππους ἀλληγορεῖ), εἶτα ἀν-ῄρει. οἱ δέ, ὅτι Διομήδης καὶ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς τὸ Παλλάδιον κλέψαντες νυκτὸς ἐπανῄεσαν. ἑπόμενος δὲ ὁ ᾿Οδυσσεὺς τὸν Διομήδην ἐβουλήθη ἀποκτεῖναι. ἐν τῇ σελήνῃ δὲ ἰδὼν τὴν σκιὰν τοῦ ξίφους ὁ Διομήδης, δείσας τὸν ᾿Οδυσσέα ἐποίησε προάγειν παίων αὐτοῦ τῷ ξίφει τὸ

μετάφρενον. τάττεται δὲ ἐπὶ τῶν κατ’ ἀνάγκην τι πραττόντων. διὰ τοῦτο λέγει, ὅτι ἵππους ἀνθρωποφάγους εἶχεν ὁ Διομήδης. ὅτι Διομήδης εἰς τὸν ἀπόπλουν καταχθεὶς εἰς τὰ ἴδια οὐκ ἐδέχθη, ἀλλὰ διωχθεὶς ἀπῆλθεν εἰς Καλαβρίαν καὶ κτίζει πόλιν, ἣν ἐκάλεσεν ᾿Αργυρίππην, τὴν μετονομασθεῖσαν Βενεβεντόν.

 

Hesychios the Lexicographer discusses the same two origins for the phrase:

“Diomedean Necessity: A proverb. Klearkhos says that Diomedes’ daughters were absolutely wretched and that some were forced to sleep with them or he murdered them immediately. In the little Iliad, the story is that the phrase comes from the theft of the Palladion.

Διομήδειος ἀνάγκη· παροιμία. Κλέαρχος μέν φησι, Διομήδους
θυγατέρας γενέσθαι πάνυ μοχθηράς, αἷς ἀναγκάζειν πλησιάζειν
τινάς, καὶ εὐθὺς αὐτοὺς φονεύειν· ὁ δὲ τὴν μικρὰν ᾿Ιλιάδα
φησὶ (fr. 9 Allen) ἐπὶ τῆς τοῦ Παλλαδίου κλοπῆς γενέσθαι

There is one fragment from the Little Iliad about this moment:

“It was the middle of the night, and the bright moon lay on them”

νὺξ μὲν ἔην μεσάτη, λαμπρὴ δ’ ἐπέτελλε σελήνη.

This, admittedly, doesn’t say much. The basic story is that, in order to take Troy, the Greeks needed to steal the Palladion, an image of Athena. Odysseus and Diomedes sneaked into the city to get it. On the way back, Odysseus tried to kill Diomedes. According to the fragments of the historian Konon, Diomedes climbed on Odysseus’ shoulders to get into the city, but then left him behind to secure the Palladion himself. According to other accounts (summarized by Servius in his commentary on the Aeneid, see Gantz 1992, 643-5), Odysseus just wanted the glory all to himself.

In any case, the Palladion-tale is a re-doubling of other Trojan War Motifs: the requirement of Herakles’ bow and Philoktetes or the need to have Neoptolemus present, for example, are similar talismanic possessions to end the long war. Odysseus’ conflict with Diomedes, here, is not dissimilar either to his quarrel with Ajax or his feud with Achilles (mentioned in the Odyssey). This narrative, also engages with the pairing of Diomedes and Odysseus elsewhere, especially Iliad 10.

Odysseus and Diomedes

 

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.

 

 

 

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