Friday, 16 June 2017

Ovid, Ariadne Theseo: a desperate woman.

The female perspective is often not far away in Ovid’s poetry and this is especially true for his Heroides: imaginary letters from heroines in classical mythology to their husbands and lovers who have betrayed them. Of course it would be nonsense to portray Ovid as a feminist – after all Ovid’s voice is that of a Roman living during the time of Augustus  - but still I think Ovid sympathizes with his heroines.
A famous example of a woman betrayed by a man is the story of Ariadne and Theseus. Theseus left her behind at the island of Lesbos while she was still asleep and now she describes how she searched for him in vain.

Ovidius, Heroides X, Ariadne Theseo 25-58.

Mons fuit; apparent frutices in vertice rari;
     hinc scopulus raucis pendet adesus aquis.
adscendo; vires animus dabat; atque ita late
     aequora prospectu metior alta meo.
inde ego—nam ventis quoque sum crudelibus usa—
     vidi praecipiti carbasa tenta Noto.
aut vidi aut fuerant quae me vidisse putarem;
     frigidior glacie semianimisque fui.
nec languere diu patitur dolor. Excitor illo,
     excitor et summa Thesea voce voco.
"quo fugis?" exclamo "scelerate revertere Theseu!
     flecte ratem! numerum non habet illa suum!"
Haec ego. quod voci deerat, plangore replebam;
     verbera cum verbis mixta fuere meis.
si non audires, ut saltem cernere posses:
     iactatae late signa dedere manus.
candidaque imposui longae velamina virgae
     scilicet oblitos admonitura mei.
iamque oculis ereptus eras. tum denique flevi;
     torpuerant molles ante dolore genae.
quid potius facerent, quam me mea lumina flerent,
     postquam desieram vela videre tua?
aut ego diffusis erravi sola capillis,
     qualis ab Ogygio concita Baccha deo;
aut mare prospiciens in saxo frigida sedi,
     quamque lapis sedes, tam lapis ipsa fui.
saepe torum repeto qui nos acceperat ambos,
     sed non acceptos exhibiturus erat
et tua, quae possum pro te, vestigia tango
     strataque quae membris intepuere tuis.
incumbo lacrimisque toro manante profusis
     "pressimus" exclamo "te duo, redde duos!
venimus huc ambo; cur non discedimus ambo?
     perfide, pars nostri, lectule, maior ubi est?"

frutex fruticis (m.): shrub, bush
vertex verticis (m.): top
hinc: from there
scopulus: a projecting point of rock, crag
raucus: roaring
adedo adedi adesum: to wear away
animus: courage
late: far and wide, (line 40) to and fro
prospectusus (m.): gaze
metior mensus: to measure, scan
utor usus (+ abl.): (here) to find, experience
vidi praecipiti carbasa tenta Noto: I your sails (carbassa) stretched out by the swift (praeceps) Southern wind
vidi…putarem: the reading of this line varies in the various manuscripts. This text is taken from the Latin Library site. The readings in other manuscripts are problematic too and many attempts have been made by scholars to emend this line. As it stands, it must mean something like: either I saw (the sails) or I thought I had seen (the sails) (as?) they were. Many attempts have been made to emend this line and that of A.J. Housman has found some favour: Ut vidi dignam quae me vidisse putarem `I saw a thing (ea), quae) such as I thought I did not deserve to see’. I wonder though
semianimis: half-alive (scanned four-syllabic:  semanimis)
langueo: to be faint, languid
excitor illo (dolore) excito: to rouse
quo: where to
sceleratus: impious, wicked
numerum non habet illa suum: she (the ship) has not the full number of passengers
haec (dixi)
ratisis (f.): raft, boat
quod voci deerat, plangore replebam: what lacked (desum + dat.) in voice, I filled with beating of the breast (plangor)
verber verberis (n.): stroke, blow
fuere = fuerant
ut saltem cernere posses: that you could at least see
iacto (-are): to wave
dedere = dederant
candidus: white
velaman velaminis (n.): cloth
virga: twig
scilicet oblitos admonitura mei: namely to remind (litt. (the clothes) willing remind) those who forgot me. Oblivos is poetic plural, as only Theseus was on board.
oculis (meis)
torpesco torpui: to become dull
ante: adv. before
genae: cheeks, but in poetic language `the eyes’ (lumina)
quid potius facerent, quam me mea lumina flerent = quid mea lumina potius facerent, quam me flerent
desino desesii : to cease
velum: sail
difussis capillis: with dishevelled hair (as a sign of grieve)
Ogygio deo: Dionysus (Ogyges was a king of Thebes, where Dionysus’ mother Semele came from)
Baccha: a Bacchante, a maenad
quamque lapis sedes, tam lapis ipsa fui = et tam lapis ipsa fui, quam lapis sedes: I was as much a stone as was the stone that was my seat
torus: cushion, bed
repeto repetivi repitum: to seek again
exhibeo exhibui exhibitum: to show, reveal
quae possum pro te: which I can touch instead of you
strata stratorum (n. pl.): bed
intepesco intepui: to become lukewarm (intepuere = intepuerunt)
incumbo incubui incubitum: to lay oneself
lacrimisque toro manante profusis: and while the cushion was drenched (mano) by my shed tears
reddo reddidi redditum: to give back
perfide lectule: either Ariadne curses in her despair the bed, or it is a kind of enallage with Theseus as the real perfide.
pars nostri maior: my greater part, i.e. my better part

 Afbeeldingsresultaat voor ariadne naxos


Honoré Daumier - the abandoned Ariadne

Translation by A.S. Klyne
There was a hill: a few bushes were visible on its summit:
a crag hangs there hollowed out by the harsh waves.
I climbed it: courage gave me strength: and I scanned
the wide waters from that height with my gaze.
Then I saw now the cruel winds were also felt
your ship driven before a fierce southerly gale.
Either with what I saw, or what I may have thought Id seen:
I was frozen like ice and half-alive.
But grief allowed no time for languor.  I was roused by it,
and roused, I called to Theseus at the top of my voice.
Where are you going? I shouted turn back, wicked Theseus!
Work your ship! Youre without one of your number!
So I called. When my voice failed I beat my breast instead:
my blows were interspaced with my words.
If you could not hear at least you might still see:
I made widesignals with my outstretched hands.
I hung a white cloth on a tall branch,
hoping those whod forgotten would remember me.
Now you were lost to sight. Then finally I wept:
till then my cheeks were numb with grief.
What could my eyes do but weep at myself,
once they had ceased to see your sails?
Either I wandered alone, with dishevelled hair,
like a Maenad shaken by the Theban god:
or I sat on the cold rock gazing at the sea,
and I was as much a stone as the stones I sat on.
Often I seek again the bed that accepted us both,
but it shows no sign of that acceptance,
and I touch what I can of the traces of you, instead of you,
and the sheets your body warmed.
I lie there and, wetting the bed with my flowing tears,
I cry out: We two burdened you, restore the two!
We came here together: why shouldnt we go together?
Faithless bed, wheres the better part of me now?

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Carmina Burana 93: the maiden's garden.

Inspired by a short holiday in Germany and having visited various castells and ruins, I am reading now a book about daily life in the Middle Ages `Alltagsleben im Mittelalter’ by Otto Brust.  I am not a mediaevalist and don’t ask me the finesses of all the feuds, wars, royal lineages and so on, but I like to read books about the Middle Ages now and then. In the chapter on women, Borst remarks that in the Carmina Burana a woman is just an object for male desire and satisfaction of lust. True, I think, but on the other hand there is some poetic convention in these love poems.

When in a poem the garden of a virgin is mentioned, sited on an island, one doesn’t need to be an expert in Freudian analyses to realise that the poet is of course not talking about a real garden.

Carmina Burana 93

Hortum habet insula    virgo virginalem.
hunc ingressus, virginem    unam in sodalem
spe robustus Veneris    elegi principalem.

Letus ergo socia    elegantis forme
– nil huic laudis defuit,    nil affuit enorme –
cum hac feci geminum    cor meum uniforme.

Est amore dulcius    rerum in natura
nichil et amarius    conditione dura:
dolus et invidia    amoris sunt scissura.

hortum virginalem : a virginal (i.e. untouched) garden
insula: best taken as ablative: (in) insula, given that it is the correct reading, as the text has the meaningless infula.
ingredior ingressus: to enter
virginem unam in sodalem spe robustus Veneris elegi principalem = spe rubustus Veneris elegi virginem unam in sodalem principalem:  strengthened by hope of love, I chose this girl alone as my principal companion.
Veneris: conjecture for virginis in the text.
letus (= laetus) + abl.: rejoicing in
forma: beauty (forme = formae)
desum: to be absent
adsum: to be present
enormis: (out of the norm) wicked
cum hac feci geminum cor meum uniforme: with her I have made my single heart double
rerum natura: the world
nichil = nihil
amarus: bitter
conditio, onis (f.): agreement, law, condition (clas. Lat. condicio)
dolus: fraud, malice
invidia: envy, grudge
scissura: division, split

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Cicero, De oratore: an expert speaking?

With dozens of volumes of the Loeb Classical Library and the Tusculum and Artemis Greek/Latin – German editions within reach, it is easy to think that Classical Antiquity was a culture of the written word.  Of course this is to some extant true, but the spoken word was dominant: reading was done aloud and poets and would-be poets recited there latest poems at street corners – not always to everyone’s delight. No wonder that the art of speaking held an important position within the school curriculum, as power over the spoken word was indispensable for politicians, magistrates, lawyers or anyone with ambition.
In his De oratore (ca 55 BC) Cicero explains what the conditions are for becoming a good orator. The work is composed as a dialogue and in Book 2 Marcus Antonius Orator (143-97 BC), a famous orator, and Quintus Catulus (149-87 BC), Roman general and also orator, are the main speakers. The question is whether an orator should himself be an expert in the subjects he is teaching schoolboys to speak about. Take for instance that orator Phormio, who in front of Hannibal held a speech about military matters. Hannibal had so his ideas about the `expertise’ of this orator. I am afraid there are still a lot of such `experts’ walking around.
Catulus is speaking:

Cicero, de Oratore, 2, 75-76

[75] Nec mihi opus est Graeco aliquo doctore, qui mihi pervulgata praecepta decantet, cum ipse numquam forum, numquam ullum iudicium aspexerit; ut Peripateticus ille dicitur Phormio, cum Hannibal Karthagine expulsus Ephesum ad Antiochum venisset exsul proque eo, quod eius nomen erat magna apud omnis gloria, invitatus esset ab hospitibus suis, ut eum, quem dixi, si vellet, audiret; cumque is se non nolle dixisset, locutus esse dicitur homo copiosus aliquot horas de imperatoris officio et de [omni] re militari. Tum, cum ceteri, qui illum audierant, vehementer essent delectati, quaerebant ab Hannibale, quidnam ipse de illo philosopho iudicaret: hic Poenus non optime Graece, sed tamen libere respondisse fertur, multos se deliros senes saepe vidisse, sed qui magis quam Phormio deliraret vidisse neminem. [76] Neque me hercule iniuria; quid enim aut adrogantius aut loquacius fieri potuit quam Hannibali, qui tot annis de imperio cum populo Romano omnium gentium victore certasset, Graecum hominem, qui numquam hostem, numquam castra vidisset, numquam denique minimam partem ullius publici muneris attigisset, praecepta de re militari dare?

opus est (+ abl.): there is need for
aliquo Graeco doctore: note the derogative tone
pervulgatus: very usual, very common
decanto (-are): to repeat in a singing manner, say the same thing over and again
forum: court
iudicium: trial
praeceptum: precept, instruction
Antiochus: Antiochus Magnus (c. 241 – 187 BC), Seleucid king of Syria
ille dicitur Phormio: as that Phormio is said = as they say about that Phormio
Peripateticus: adherent of the philosophy of Aristotle
exsul: as exile
proque eo, quod: and for this, because = and for the reason that his name (as general) etc.
magna gloria: apposition to nomen eius
ut eum: i.e. Phormio
non nolle dixisset: a double negative is used to emphasise the positive (litotes) `he said he would like to come.’
copiosus: abounding (in words)
delecto (-are): to delight
Graece: in the Greek language
libere: freely
fertur: is said to
delirus: silly, crazy
deliro (-are): to be crazy, deranged
iniuria (verba)
loquacius: more verbosely
Hannibali…Graecum hominen…praecepta de re mlitari dare
Populo Romano, victore
certo (-are): to struggle
minimam partem: even the slightest part
attingo attigi attactum: to come in contact with

E. W. SUTTON, B.C.L., M.A. (1949)

75 Nor do I need any Greek professor to chant at me
a series of hackneyed axioms, when he himself never
had a glimpse of a law-court or judicial proceeding,
as the tale goes of Phormio the well-known Peri-
patetic ; for when Hannibal, banished from Carthage,
had come in exile to Antiochus at Ephesus and, inas-
much as his name was highly honoured all the world
over, had been invited by his hosts to hear the
philosopher in question, if he so pleased, and he had
intimated his willingness to do so, that wordy in-
dividual is said to have held forth for several hours
upon the functions of a commander-in-chief and
military matters in general. Then, when the other
listeners, vastly delighted, asked Hannibal for his
opinion of the eminent teacher, the Carthaginian is
reported to have thereupon replied, in no very good
Greek, but at any rate candidly, that time and again
he had seen many old madmen but never one madder
than Phormio. And upon my word he was right, for
what better example of prating insolence could there
be than for a Greek, who had never seen a foeman or
a camp, or even had the slightest connexion with any
public employment, to lecture on military matters to
Hannibal, who all those years had been disputing
empire with the Roman people, the conquerors of the
world ?