Fixing a Cracked Record

Silenus as a musician. – Image source: http://www.theoi.com/image/T50.1Seilenos.jpg.

Silenus as a musician. – Image source: http://www.theoi.com/image/T50.1Seilenos.jpg.

Vergil, Rome’s most celebrated poet, in his sixth eclogue (an altogether intriguing piece!), imagines a fantastic story.

Silenus lies in a cave, sleeping off his state of inebriation, when two young men, Chromis and Mnasyllos, catch sight of him.

Driven by their feeling defrauded of many a song by Silenus, and supported by the Naiad Aegle, they bind Silenus with his own garlands.

Eventually, Silenus wakes up.

He addresses his assailants as follows (Verg. ecl. 6.23–26):

ille dolum ridens ‘quo uincula nectitis?’ inquit.
soluite
me, pueri: satis est potuisse uideri.
carmina quae uoltis cognoscite: carmina uobis,     25
huic aliud mercedis erit.’ (…)

Laughing at the trick, he said: ‘Why entwist those fetters?
Release me, boys: it suffices to be perceived as powerful.
Hear those songs that you desire: there will be songs for you,
and some other reward for her!’

Satis est potuisse uideriit suffices to be perceived as powerful: an apt summary of most nations’ foreign policy, to be sure, but also (and more importantly) an important turning point in the eclogue itself. It provides the point at which Silenus finally appears ready to live up to his promises, and to sing, overcome by the ‘appearance of power’ (and his remaining intoxication), his resounding song of cosmogony, the power of love, the Muses and poetic initiation, and mythical sin and suffering.

It was this famous passage of power, cosmogony, love, and song (and songs in songs), that I was reminded of, when I went to Italy last week, looking for a number of Latin verse inscriptions for my current research project.

How come?

AE 1972.39. – Photo (c) PK, 2014.

AE 1972.39. – Photo (c) PK, 2014.

One of the inscriptions that I managed to see on an extended walking tour down the Via Appia, was a marble plaque preserved in the context of the catacombs of S. Sebastiano, affixed to a wall by a door in the gift-shop area of the San Sebastiano complex.

The plaque, dating to the second half of the second century A. D., is inscribed as follows (AE 1972.39)

- – – – – –
[- – -]t iam potuisse uideri

[- – – sicut a]ues et garrula cantus
[- – -]ue suas dat voce querellas
[- – – a]ddit postaea dolores
[- – – pr]imae dant littere nomen     5
[- – -]ti, udis athanatos.

In translation (as far as possible, considering the fragmentary state of the inscription):

… already to be perceived as powerful …
… like birds and a garrulous song …

… utters their laments with their voice …
… subsequently adds pains …
… the first letters indicate the name …
… [- – -]t(i)us: no one is immortal.

The plaque is broken into (adjoining) pieces, and it has been resected on the left and on the top (possibly at the bottom as well, but this is less certain). As the text (in typical epigraphical self-referentiality) points out, what has been lost on the left-hand side, in addition to the actual words that opened the surviving lines, is an acrostic, spelling out the name of the deceased.

It is quite possible (but not necessarily cogent) that the deceased was a male, and that his name ended in -t(i)us, as preserved in the final line, preceding the reminder udis athanatos (a translitteration of the Greek phrase οὐδεῖς άθάνατος): similar texts that have the phrase udis athanatos, show personal names, addressed by the inscription, in front of it, and the surviving letters -ti perfectly well fit the morphological requirements for a vocative in this position.

Whatever the name of the deceased, the broken record of his (or her – let’s not rule this out prematurely!) funerary inscription makes numerous references to songs – whether one would like to see the phrase potuisse uideri in line 1 as a reference to Vergil’s aforementioned sixth eclogue or not. (The allusion is too short, and the inscription too fragmented, to be absolutely certain of that, of course.)

Before mentioning  any laments (querellae) and pains (dolores), the inscription specifically refers to ‘birds’ (aues) and ‘garrulous song’ (garrula cantus). Garrula cantus, of course, is a feature that is easily associated with birds themselves (see, for example, CIL VI 34421 and EChrAfr III 176, to mention but two inscriptions).

Garrulus, however, is also a word often associated with the behaviour of young children – and one may wonder if this is not a clue that helps to unlock the entire text, in spite of its high level of fragmentation.

Does it seem unreasonable to assume that a child – boy or girl – managed to cast his spell over his parents: potuisse uideri, even though he (or she) never managed to grow up and show his (or her) actual power? He (or she) acquired the gift of speech and song, birdlike: [- – – sicut a]ues et garrula cantus. Yet, there was reason for querellae, laments, to be voiced (for the deceased himself/herself, or for someone else?) – and eventually, the child even added dolores, pains: undoubtedly a reference to the child’s untimely demise.

Is there anything else one can gauge from the text about the (presumed) child?

Well, one more thing, perhaps.

Udis athanatos, no one is immortal: why does this phrase appear in translitterated Greek? The manfredclauss.com database currently holds five entries for this phrase: four from Rome (this one as well as CIL VI 10889. 20453. 21617), and one from nearby Ostia (CIL XIV 603). All the four other examples in addition to the present case here show Greek personal names – suggesting that the present example of AE 1972.39 belongs into the sphere of Greek migrants in Rome.

Did this young Greek, garrulus (or garrula) and all, too, manage to overpower his/her parents, like Chromis and Mnasyllos did with Silenus in Vergil’s eclogue?

We cannot know.

But it is a lovely thought.

To Be All Ears

Today, I have had the immense pleasure to visit the University of Pisa. I was invited to talk about an aspect of my recent linguistic research, carried out in 2013 in collaboration with my brilliant undergraduate research assistant Abi Cousins, regarding the discourse about communication disorders in the ancient world.

locandina_singola_Kruschwitz_corretta

Did I give this talk in shameful disregard of my obligations to the British Academy, who stipulated that I must work on nothing but the Carmina Latina Epigraphica during my 2014-5 mid-career fellowship, you ask?

Well, I’d never! My frame of mind and my sense of duty are way too Prussian as to even consider such appalling behaviour!

So where do these two topics meet?

Potentially, or so it would appear, they meet in Epidaurus, on the Peloponnese, of all places – not a particularly likely place to find Latin inscriptions to begin with, but that is a different matter altogether.

Discovered in Epidaurus, by the famous temple of Asclepius, there is a votive inscription that exhibits the iconic shape of a tabula ansata (‘winged tablet’) cut into the stone.

The only thing that is displayed on the tabula ansata, however, is not text, but a pair of ears:

Underneath that tabula, however, there is an elegiac distich, which reads as follows (CIL III 7266 = CLE 866):

Cutius has auris Gallus tibi uouerat olim,
Phoebigena, et posuit sanus ab auriculis.

Cutius Gallus had, once upon a time, promised you these ears,
Offspring of Phoebus, and he put them up, healed, ear-wise.

Unlike my spell checker suggested, Cutius Gallus’ problem was not a name-related ‘cute gall’ or any such bilious issues: according to the above inscription, it was an unknown disease that affected his ears – and it is for this reason that the (votive) ears take centre stage on the tablet (rather than the inscription itself): they are the actual gift to the healer, and the poem is a mere ornament.

Temporary as it would appear to have been, Cutius Gallus’ infliction must have been relatively large-scale (either in terms of the pain that was caused or in terms of the effect it had on his hearing), as one would not normally make such a costly vow for what is but a minor ailment.

Once he was healed, Cutius Gallus appears to have (re-)discovered his good humour, though: note how he refers to the monumental ears as aures, whereas his own, by contrast, are just little auriculae.

So, what’s the connection to communication disorders then, you ask?

My question is this: if Cutius Gallus had a problem with his hearing, a problem so significant that this votive was in order, one must wonder, of course: how did he manage to communicate with his immediate environment – with his family, doctors, and religious personnel?

Did he write? Did he use gestures? (Yes, sign languages are attested for the ancient world, in case you were wondering…)

Communication disorders – including, but not restricted to, stutters, stammers, or mute/deafness – seem easily noticeable in everyday scenarios through obvious disruptions to speech production. Yet, they are in fact rather complex phenomena, caused by a wide and diverse range of issues.

Very obviously, hearing issues are one of many potential causes, as insufficient hearing, if not treated or counterbalanced by supporting aids, does not only make everyday communication difficult or impossible: it also, especially at a young age, may have an effect on one’s ability to speak, resulting in delayed or incomplete forms of language learning – an issue perfectly well known in ancient literature.

An interesting example can be found in sources as early as Herodotus, who presents King Croesus talking with little regard about one of his two sons – to the other! The son who is the subject of the following statement was, according to this version of the story, deaf/mute (Herodotus 1.38.2):

εἷς γάρ μοι μοῦνος τυγχάνεις ἐὼν παῖς· τὸν γὰρ δὴ ἕτερον διεφθαρμένον τὴν ἀκοὴν οὐκ εἶναί μοι λογίζομαι.

You happen to be my one and only child: the disabled one, as far as his hearing is concerned, I do not regard him as existing to me.

A bit harsh?

Well, yes.

In fact, I’d see your ‘harsh’, and raise you a ‘despicable’ … if this attitude had been displayed in our own times and in our own society. (Parallels do exist, sadly.)

But this example is not a modern one. And as usual, it is salutary not just to jump to conclusions and pull the discrimation card for the sake of it, when other societies, remote in time and space, are concerned: a closer look often reveals rather more complex scenarios.

Without going into great detail about attitudes towards disabilities and disfigurement in the ancient world, it seems fair to say that, despite significant changes in attitude since then, one thing has not changed at all: the high value assigned to an unimpaired ability to communicate.

It is easy to feel superior and say ‘we no longer discriminate against those who are affected by communication disorders’. Except, we do, inasmuch we aim to level the playing field, wherever possible, so that the disorder does not cause as much of a disadvantage as it would otherwise. (More extreme and shocking attitudes continue to exist as well, however.)

Our progress, admirable and desirable, is largely the result of technical and medical advancements, not of a deep and fundamental change in attitude – based on our society’s ability and willingness to afford it – and, generally speaking, our (alleged) changes in attitude coincide with those technical advancements, rather than precede them.

It is hard to overestimate the importance and the role that the human voice played in ancient civilisations such as Greece and Rome –societies that were fundamentally oral, reliant on power of the spoken word, to such a degree that rhetorical education became the cornerstone to upper-class education.

Pliny the Elder, for example, in his Naturalis Historia writes that an individual’s voice constitutes a ‘large part’ of a human being’s external features (uox in homine magnam uoltus habet partem), as it is usually recognisable before any visual feature (Plin. nat. 11.271). This, in turn, would imply a notion of significant incompleteness in a person, when this key feature is damaged or absent altogether.

These factors are of even higher significance, of course, for those who, like Croesus, aim to continue their rule through their offspring – after all, members of the ruling class with communication disorders have been subject to immense ridicule since ancient times.

Whether delivered from pain, disorientation, or an actual inability to hear: Cutius Gallus must have been immensely relieved to have been cured, for it allowed him to participate actively again in a society in which unimpaired hearing and speaking, resulting in unimpaired communication, were of pivotal importance to anyone who hoped to make a difference.

[Postscriptum – I wrote large chunks of this post on a train from Rome to Pisa. Opposite me, there was a lady – a property lawyer on her way up north – who for almost two hours yelled into her mobile phone as if it was one of those tin phones that children use. Every other sentence – I’m not even exaggerating – was introduced by the phrase ascoltami, ‘listen to me!’. That is the importance of hearing in (technically) disrupted communication right there for you, I thought.]

A Latin Poem for the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

25 years ago today – it was a Thursday –, I came home from school, in that idyllic world that was Hamburg-Harburg (Heimfeld), I chucked my school bag into a corner, and I started watching Knight Rider (’cause, as I am sure you know, all Germans back then were bizarrely obsessed with everything David Hasselhoff – or not…).

My viewing pleasures got crudely interrupted by the most bizarre press conference that I have ever seen.

One day later, after school on Friday and after a long drive, I was back in my home town of Berlin, celebrating, with my father and my grandmothers, the truly unbelievable and unimaginable things that had just started to happen – crossing a border repeatedly which previously I could only pass at gunpoint.

I had great hopes back then – hopes of a better, more peaceful world, a world that would finally come to its senses.

Having a look at the world today – well, let us just say: there is significant room for improvement…

To commemorate the quarter of a century that has since passed, and in the best tradition of the eclectic creativity that, in its reliance on other poetic sources, has spawned many a poem in the collection of the Carmina Latina Epigraphica, here is a little poem, versified especially for today – inscribed on a wall and everything:

Carmen Epigraphicum Berolinense (a P. K. fictum).

Carmen Epigraphicum Berolinense (a P. K. fictum).

Admiror paries te non populos docuisse

uitandas faciles ad fera bella manus.

I am amazed, wall, that you have not taught the people

that one must eschew those hands

that are easily given to fighting savage wars.

The Other 99%, Or: Much Ado about Nothus

Entertainment for elites: Vergil reading the Aeneid to Augustus. – http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8c/Virgil_Reading_the_Aeneid.jpg

Entertainment for elites: Vergil reading the Aeneid to Augustus. – Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8c/Virgil_Reading_the_Aeneid.jpg

Ancient literary Latin poetry – with a few exceptions such as scripts for theatrical performances, for example – is commonly regarded as an upper-class elite phenomenon, and, on average, perhaps rightly so.

This observation was one of the many reasons that, for quite some time now, drew my own research interest to ‘the other 99%‘ of Latin poems – the ‘poetry of the people’, as I have called it for my British Academy-funded project on the Carmina Latina Epigraphica.

Currently, I am carrying out research into the social types that get commemorated in verse inscriptions.

One group that is of particular interest to me is the the group of members of the writing profession.

There is something beautifully ‘meta’ about poems for poets, writers, scribes, and the literati in general, and something sad and sobering about poems for those members of the writing profession who did not make it into our canon and whose outputs did not make it even into the corpora of documentary texts, as they were lost a long time ago.

The following case appears to be one such example.

The tomb of the Statilii in the city of Rome, instituted by Marcus Statilius Taurus (consul A. D. 44)  for the slaves and freedmen of his family, is a fascinating structure.

Designed as a columbarium, the monument provided loculi, little burial niches – niches that, following the deposit of the ashes of the deceased, could be closed with inscribed funerary plaques.

Dating to the first half of the first century A. D., one of the numerous remarkable findings that came from this burial site is the inscribed plaque (40 x 32 cm) for a man named Nothus (CIL VI 6314 cf. p 3419 = CLE 1014):

Nothi librari a manu. ||

Non optata tibi coniunx monimenta locauit,

ultima in aeternis sedibus ut maneant,

spe frustra gauisa Nothi, quem prima ferentem

aetatis Pluton inuidus eripuit.     5

hunc etiam fleuit quaequalis turba et honorem

supremum digne funeris inposuit.

In translation:

(Burial) of Nothus,  librarius a manu.

Not as you desired, your wife has placed your monument here, so that your remains may rest in their eternal settings: in vain I entertained hopes in you, Nothus, whom jealous Pluto took away at the youngest age. A coeval crowd wept for him too, and, in a dignified manner, paid him the last respect of a funeral.

The plaque, resembling a building, with an arched opening, is neatly produced and well laid out. The name of the deceased, in addition to his occupation, is written in a separate field at the top, whereas the poem, in rather smaller, less clear-cut letters, has been inscribed in a dedicated area at the bottom.

The author of these verses – elegiacs – remains unknown, as does the name of Nothus’ wife: the fact that the poem purports to speak in her name does not allow us to infer that she composed the text. All we (seem to) know about the deceased himself is known from this inscription: his name was Nothus (a Greek name, with a latinised ending, meaning ‘illegitimate’), he was a librarius a manu, and he died young – or so the inscription implies.

What exactly is a librarius a manu then?

The Thesaurus Linguae Latinae gives a wide range of potential meanings for the word librarius. It may denote (i) someone who writes books in a book hand, a copyist, a scribe (is qui describit sive ipse legens exemplar sive dictata audiens (sc. servus, libertus, artifex, miles, sim.), (ii) a bookseller (is qui libros vendit), (iii) a teacher of writing (is qui docet artem scribendi), or (iv) a book or record keeper (i. q. tabellarius publicus). (Note, however, that a librarius is not usually a term used to denote a ‘librarian’!)

The addition of a manu (‘from the hand’) would appear to suggest someone who was capable of taking dictations, which, in conjunction with the spectrum of meanings proposed for librarius leads to the assumption that Nothus must have been a private secretary and record or book keeper for his master.

The poem in honour of Nothus (whose name should be added to Heikki Solin‘s Die griechischen Personennamen, 2nd ed., vol. II p. 1070) contains a number of features as well that deserve a brief comment – features that reveal both the desire to commemorate Nothus in a dignified manner and the struggle that it was to achieve this. Minor infelicities aside, one must note that –

  • The opening phrase non optata tibi (‘not as you desired’), in Latin, can go with either coniunx (‘wife’) or monimenta (‘monument’). One would hope for both Nothus and his nameless wife that this ambiguity was an accident rather than intentional.
  • While ultimus is a term that can be found in the context of references to death (‘the utmost’), the use of ultima (line 3) as an expression for ‘(mortal) remains’ is highly unusual.
  • The spelling of Pluton (line 5) with a final -n does not only help to avoid a hiatus, but it also results in a transcription of the Greek spelling of this deity, which would have been called Pluto in Latin.
  • The word quaequalis (line 6), written as a single unit in this inscription does not actually exist in Latin. Regardless of the absence of word-dividing punctuation, as found otherwise in this inscription, Franz Bücheler, the editor of the Carmina Latina Epigraphica proposed to read quae qualis, as a Grecism for τίς ποῖος (‘some such’). A more convincing solution has been suggested by the editors of the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae, who proposed to read it as a spelling variant of coaequalis, ‘coeval’ (ThLL s. v. coaequalis, 1372.18-9).

The expression of the final distich, honorem | supremum digne funeris inposuit (‘in a dignified manner, paid him the last respect of a funeral’) is odd as well – honorem imponere, literally ‘to impose an honour’ is not a common way of expressing the bestowing of an honour.

Imponere, however, is a term that particularly frequently features in the context of servile language – it can be found in a wide range of contexts, from ‘imposing a command’ to ‘imposing punishment’ to ‘bestowing freedom’.

Was it from their everyday experience that the writer of this poem for Nothus, freedman (or so it would appear, as a wife is mentioned) of the Statilii, drew this expression?

Whatever the case may be, it is easy (and cheap) to be irked by infelicities in expression and metrical design – belittling the efforts of those who, for whatever reason, did not employ a literary artist for their personal glory – as if any such criticism rendered the text and its underlying motivation less sincere and less valuable.

To me, this text teaches an important lesson: very much like the 1%, the other 99%, too, had a desire not to be forgotten, to find dignity and respect at least in death – the use of honorem and digne in the final distich is a clear, unambiguous expression of this.

Listening to their poetry and its imperfections (as well as its many gems) reveals many a story – and it tells of hopes and disappointment (note the use of spe frustra gauisa, line 4: ‘in vain I entertained hopes’) of those people who do not commonly get mentioned by the elite and their writers.

Trick or Treat? Torture, Death, and a Chilling Poem

Jack-o'-losseum. - Image source: http://sirpasalenius.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/pumpkincolosseum.jpg

Jack-o’-Losseum or the ultimate Apocolocyntosis? – Image source: http://sirpasalenius.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/pumpkincolosseum.jpg

Halloween 2014 is near. As every year, people around the globe will celebrate this occasion. Children and grown-ups alike will indulge themselves in the pleasurable thrill that arises from this day’s spooky combination of the fantastic with the morbid.

Halloween derives its peculiar dynamics from this haunting combination, blurring and blending  otherwise absolutely certain and irrevocable distinctions between ‘our’ world and the other – a netherworld full of rot, decay, and frightening creatures.

Despite its Christian name Hallow e’en, denoting the eve of All Saints’ day, the roots of Halloween appear to go back to an earlier stage. It may well be related to pagan rites and one of the many festivals that existed (and continue to exist) everywhere, in every civilisation, and at all times, that invoke the presence of netherworldly spirits and imagine a contact with the dead.

Nowadays, Halloween is, or rather: can be, a day of fantastic story-telling (or even story-enacting). These stories bring about a haunted fantasy world, spooky and scary, of course, yet irresistably appealing, impossible to ignore – especially as there are sweets aplenty on offer as well (presumably in a sustained effort to extend the prevailing rot-and-decay theme to children’s teeth).

A haunted world provides entertainment and fascination only for as long as we can securely rely on the knowledge that all of this is, in fact, a game, a staged performance. We would like to , and we must, be reassured that there are not any actual monsters, zombies, and spectres around, walking about in our streets and inhabiting our neighbours’ houses.

But what if gory horror were to become part of the real world, the world that we encounter? What if such gruesomeness that we playfully invoke on occasion of Halloween were to be part of the world as we can experience it? (Not that this is, in fact, particularly hard to imagine in times in which the radical propagators of the Islamic State celebrate staged and choreographed public violence for propaganda purposes just as much as for the advancement of their cause.)

A deeply unsettling, chilling thought – stuff that nightmares are made of, and stuff that requires healing powers of coping mechanisms.

Flagellation of Santa Engratia. – Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d8/Flagelaci%C3%B3n_de_Santa_Engracia.jpg/320px-Flagelaci%C3%B3n_de_Santa_Engracia.jpg.

Flagellation of Santa Engratia. – Image source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d8/Flagelaci%C3%B3n_de_Santa_Engracia.jpg/320px-Flagelaci%C3%B3n_de_Santa_Engracia.jpg.

Such desire to dispel the spectres of a gory, gruesome other world  and to transform haunted spaces into a safe harbour appears to have been the underlying motivation for the creation (and use) of a most remarkable Latin poem, which has been incorporated in  the rich and diverse corpus of Latin verse inscriptions, the Carmina Latina Epigraphica – the collection of poems that is at the heart of my current British-Academy-funded research project ‘Poetry of the People’.

Conveniently for a blog post  on occasion of the celebrations of the eve of All Saints’ day, our poem also appears to relate to a Christian martyr and saint, viz. Saint Engratia.

The inscription in question appears to have read as follows (CLE 1448 = ICUR II 46; substantially emended by J. Gil, CFC 14, 1978, 113–9):

Hic inhumata pridem cadabera lapsa iacebant

tabidaq(ue) omentis, frustris et artris atris

huc cernebamus amplis cuneis fluitare catervas,

rorare caducum fuso Falerno limum:

stolida per eresi litabant vota favillis;     5

(i)staque femineo iam pars funesta stupro

mancipatur Avernis umbrisq(ue) truditur imis.

quo funus squalebat <at> ara sacra micat,

hanc tibi stirps edem parat, Engra(tia), Prisci

quam vulneris guttis abluas, alma, rubris.     10

Eusebius invexit huc te, beata, sacerdos,

aeterni martir currens ad arce poli.

culmine mira vota que quisquis prespicis intrans,

hec ope levite Mileti dedicat.

In translation:

Here used to lie, in times past, uninterred, corpses, fallen,
with their bowels putrid and body parts and limbs blackened.
Hither we used to see streaming crowds, in huge droves,
to soak the sliding mud with spilled Falernian wine:
on account of their foolish heresy, they consecrate their promises to the ashes;
and this place, netherworldly already due to feminine sin,
is transformed into an Underworld and shoved down to the deepest shades.
The place is filthy with death, but a holy altar stands out in splendour:
an offspring of Priscus made this temple for you, Engratia,
a temple which you cleansed with the red drops of your wound.
Eusebius, the priest, has moved you in here, blessed,
a martyr, on your way to the summit of the eternal heaven.
The amazing decoration (?) above that you see upon entering,
those are dedicated to you courtesy of Miletus, the deacon.

The (lost) inscribed monument, introduced by a chi-rho symbol an followed by the line amen. deo gratias  (‘Amen. Thank be to God’), appears to have been once created to commemorate the construction of the Basilica of Santa Engrácia in Zaragoza.

It survives reported in a Parisian manuscript of the 9th century, and, while it refers to proceedings of the early 4th century A. D., there are reasons to believe that it has been inscribed at some point in the 6th century or later.

Bodies, uninterred and festering, a place polluted by murder, putrefaction – stained even further by the way in which the masses derived their perverted pleasure from celebrating such acts: how can a place like this ever be cleansed?

The writer of the poem chooses a simple model: he (presumably a ‘he’ rather than a ‘she’, anyway) builds up a contrast between the hellish environment of a place ‘filthy with death’ and the clean, shiny shrine, and then reinterprets the previously disgusting fluids that resulted from a murder – the ‘red drops of your wound’ – into the pure, cleansing substance that gives the place its special (religious) meaning.

Most of all, however, this poem, too, is a great example of gruesome story-telling: it brings to life the author’s vision of an horrendous past, offering a vivid imagination of cruelties past, only to provide a soothing turn and to draw attention to the structure for which this poem was originally intended.

The poet demonstrates his control over the demons of the past and asserts his prerogative of (re-)interpretation, when he invites that haunted past to take centre stage at the beginning of his poem, only to subject it to his (narrative) rule, leaving behind a place that is not only cleansed, but – according to the poem’s final distich – even neatly adorned.

What the author chooses to suppress, however, is that, without the grim tale that preceded the foundation of the shrine, heavenly order was not only (relatively) meaningless, but impossible.

In that respect: spooky Halloween, everyone! (Just don’t forget to restore order afterwards…)

The Top 3 (+1) Latin Poems on STDs and Related Issues [NSFW]

SHAG week giveaways.

SHAG week giveaways.

This week is SHAG week at the University of St. Andrews, where I am spending a wonderful time at the moment working on my project on the Latin verse inscriptions.

One aspect that makes the subject of my research so exciting is its versatility, brought about by the wide range of issues covered in these remarkable texts, from the mundane to the highly philosophical.

This week’s examples will be on the mundane side – and decidedly so.

Unlike the  name suggests, SHAG week is not an invitation to a week of widespread, uninhibited consensual sexual pleasures (we are in Britain after all!).

Much rather, it is a week dedicated to Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance, with numerous activities and workshops offering quintessential advice on sexual health and hygiene as well as on the DOs and DON’Ts of consensual sex – important lessons to learn early on.

So, as a contribution to St. Andrews’ 2014 SHAG week, here are my personal Top 3 Latin inscribed poems on symptoms that may hint towards venereal diseases or sexually transmitted diseases (existence, spread, and extent of ancient medical awareness of which are matter of ongoing academic debate), or at least loosely related issues to do with less-than-desirable side-effects of love-making – just to make sure everyone knows exactly what to avoid (or to expect).

Out of pure generosity, a poem of the rather NSFW collection of the Carmina Priapea has also been thrown in, for your reading pleasures (?).


A word of warning: if you are easily offended by explicit sexual content – do stop reading here!


1. CIL IV 1516 = CLE 955 (Pompeii)

Hic ego nu[nc f]utue formosa(m) fo[r]ma puella(m)
laudata(m) a multis, set lutus intus eerat.

Here I have now shagged a girl, beautiful of appearance,
praised by many, but inside she was pure slime.

A famous epigram, here in a version from Pompeii, that has, with some variations, become known from a number of places across the Roman Empire. It is not known, of course, what exactly this writer was referring to when suggesting that she was lutus inside. A nearby inscription of the same type (CIL IV 1517) opens virtually identically, but then refers to a disease (morbus) that affected the girl’s face.

Lutus as a reference to a (clearly undesirable) vaginal discharge is also used in Carmina Priapea 83.37 (transl. Sir Richard Burton):

Quid hoc novi est? Quid ira nuntiat deum?
Silente nocte candidus mihi puer
tepente cum iaceret abditus sinu,
venus fuit quieta, nec viriliter
iners senile penis extulit caput.     5
Placet, Priape, qui sub arboris coma
soles, sacrum revincte pampino caput,
ruber sedere cum rubente fascino?
At, o Triphalle, saepe floribus novis
tuas sine arte deligavimus comas,     10
abegimusque voce saepe, cum tibi
senexve corvus impigerve graculus
sacrum feriret ore corneo caput.
Vale nefande destitutor inguinum,
vale Priape: debeo tibi nihil.     15
Iacebis inter arva pallidus situ,
canisque saeva susque ligneo tibi
lutosus affricabit oblitum latus.
At o sceleste penis, o meum malum,
gravi piaque lege noxiam lues.     20
Licet querare, nec tibi tener puer
patebit ullus, imminente qui toro
iuvante verset arte mobilem natem,
puella nec iocosa te levi manu
fovebit apprimetve lucidum femur.     25
Bidens amica Romluli senis memor
paratur, inter atra cuius inguina
latet iacente pantice abditus specus,
vagaque pelle tectus annuo gelu
araneosus obsidet forem situs.     30
Tibi haec paratur, ut tuum ter aut quater
voret profunda fossa lubricum caput.
Licebit aeger angue lentior cubes,
tereris usque, donec (a miser! miser!)
triplexque quadruplexque compleas specum.     35
Superbia ista proderit nihil, simul
vagum sonante merseris caput luto.
Quid est, iners? Pigetne lentitudinis?
Licebit hoc inultus auferas semel,
sed ille cum redibit aureus puer,     40
simul sonante senseris iter pede,
rigente nervos excubet libidine,
et inquietus inguina arrigat tumor,
neque incitare cesset usque dum mihi
venus iocosa molle ruperit latus.     45

What news is this? What does the anger of the gods announce? When in the silent night a lovely boy lay with me hidden in my warm bosom, my desire was quiescent, nor did the sluggish penis courageously raise its senile head. Does it please thee, Priapus? who under the foliage of a tree art wont, thy sacred head circled with the leaves and tendrils of the vine, ruddy to sit with rubicund fascinum. But, O Triphallus, oft fresh flowers with loving care have I wreathed in thy locks; and oft driven off with my shouts an aged raven or an active jackdaw when it would have pecked thy sacred head with its horny bill. Fare thee well, Priapus, I owe thee naught. Farewell, impious forsaker of the privities, thou shalt he in the glebe mouldy with neglect; a savage dog shall continually piss upon thee, or a wild boar rub against thee his side befouled with mire. O cursed father of the penis, to whom my calamity [is due], thou shalt expiate this injury with a severe and pious atonement. Thou canst complain: no tender lad shall yield to thee who on the groaning bed with aiding art shall writhe his mobile buttocks. Nor shall a sportive girl caress thee with her gentle hand, or press against thee her lubricious thigh. A mistress with two teeth is prepared for thee, who can call to mind the time of Romulus; and amid her gloomy loins and loose-stretched hide, covered with frost and full of mould and cobwebs, thy privity shall blockade the entrance. This is the one prepared for thee, that thrice and four times her bottomless ditch may swallow up thy lubricious head. Notwithstanding weak and languid thou liest, thou shalt shag her again and again until, O miserable wretch, thrice and fourfold thou fillest her cavity. And now thy pride shall avail thee naught when thou plungest thy reeling head into the splashing mire. Why is [my yard] inert? doth not its sluggishness displease thee? This once thou mayst deprive it of vigour with impunity. But when that golden boy shall return, at the same time that thou hearest the patter of his foot upon the path, on a sudden let a restless swelling excite my nerves with lust and raise my privy part; nor let it cease to incite more and more until sportive Venus shall have spent my feeble strength.


2. CIL IV 1882 (cf. p. 465) = CLE 47 (Pompeii)

Accensum qui pedicat urit mentulam

He who buggers an inflamed, burns his prick.

This one-liner derives its jocular force from the ambiguity of the term accensus (‘inflamed’), denoting either someone suffering from some kind of inflamation – or, as a technical term, the holder of a low-level office.


3. CIL IV 1820 (cf. p. 704) = CLE 50c (Pompeii)

Chie, opto tibi ut refricent se ficus tuae
ut peius ustulentur quam ustulatae sunt
.

Chius, I hope your piles will become irritated again,
so that they may get inflamed worse than they were inflamed before.

In antiquity, piles were taken to be a side-effect of anal penetration, as e. g. Edward Courtney pointed out – thus this short epigram is to be included among the others here, as a double threat against Chius: the writer wishes him to be at the (according to ancient thought: less desirable) receiving end of anal intercourse, and he hopes that it will result in additional pains as well.

Chius may not be the name of any specific person, but merely a pun, as the best figs (ficus) were said to come from the island of Chios. Except that ficus is also the Latin term for ‘piles’…


Tracy Jordan, in the US comedy programme 30 Rock, advises Kenneth, the page, to live every week like it’s Shark Week.

Looking at the sound advice provided in leaflets and other materials, one should add: live every week like it’s SHAG week, too!


Read more about sexual diseases and the ancient world (to give but a small selection, from the entertaining to the technical):

Less is more

Today is National Poetry Day, and this year’s theme is ‘Remember’. Could there be a better occasion for me to throw in a gratuitous Latin poem from the Carmina Latina Epigraphica?

No, I didn’t think so, either.

Nardus inscription. – Image source: http://rm.univr.it/biblioteca/volumi/ebanista/2.1.Ricci.pdf

Inscription for Nardus, the poet. – Image source: http://rm.univr.it/biblioteca/volumi/ebanista/2.1.Ricci.pdf

So here it comes (CIL X 1284 = CLE 962 = ILS 7785):

Nardu(s)
poeta
pudens
hoc
tegitur
tumulo.

In translation:

Nardus,
the poet,
bashful,
is covered
by this
tomb.

The inscription, of uncertain origin and date (presumably of the first century B. C., however), now kept in Nola, commemorates an otherwise unknown poet called Nardus.

At first glance, the text does not appear to be much of a poem: six meagre words, spread out over six lines.

Yet, it is a poem – and even as such it is an unusual one, as reductionist as everything else about this stone: it is a monostich, a poem of but a single line, and it is made up of a line that does not normally feature individually in Latin poetry, namely a dactylic pentameter: this rhythm hardly ever occurs without a preceding hexameter line. There is little imagery (except, of course, for the notion of a tomb ‘covering’ the deceased like clothing or a blanket), and there is little play with sound (but note the double use of alliterations in poeta pudens and tegitur tumulo).

The infuriating brevity of this poem has inspired scholars for a long time now: who was this Nardus?

Should one interpret pudens (‘bashful, shame-faced, modest’) as another part of the poet’s name, and could he then be a Pudens that is already known from other sources?

One scholar was even desperate enough to think of a compound noun nardu-poeta, supposedly meaning ‘soap maker’ (nardus is a Graeco-Roman term denoting lavender).

In Latin epitaphs, pudens is a quality that praises restraint, moderation, and temperance in moral terms. In a number of cases one finds it accompanied by references to (sexual) chastity (as a female virtue), sometimes accompanied by references to a deeper understanding of the role of temperance and simplicity in life (such as frugi, gender neutral).

It might just be the case, then, that Nardus, the poeta pudens, (or his relatives, of course) gave us a poetic example by which he wanted to be remembered, illustrating his being pudens in the single-most reductionist way possible – linguistically, metrically, poetically.

And yet, we can remember him and his poem today.

Poetry Morbid and Vivid

My research on the Latin verse inscriptions is progressing nicely. Over the last week or so, I have collected and analysed the evidence for the ways in which the Romans themselves engaged with their inscribed poetry – essentially asking a very simple question: assuming having poetry engraved on stone was not an end in itself, who would actually read it – and how and why? I had planned to blog about some of the remarkable statements that I encountered as I went along in my research, but then something unexpected happened.

As I went to Dundee last weekend, I used the opportunity to explore this city a little further. Most tourist guides that I consulted had suggested that Dundee is worth an excursion, but not a long one. I cannot claim myself that I found Dundee anywhere near as depressing as I had been led to believe – in fact, I was rather struck by the place.

On occasion of this visit, I managed to explore Dundee’s historic graveyard called ‘the Howff‘. Originally, the Howff was the orchard of a Franciscan monastery; subsequently, following Maria Stuart’s grant of the land to the burgh, it was converted into a graveyard.

What struck me was the number of stones that displayed little poems for the deceased – poems written in English (no Latin ones, sadly – or at least not in the area that I covered on this occasion!), but not altogether different in content, tone, and world of thought from those Latin inscriptions that are at the heart of my own research. My business is graveyard science, after all.

Here are three of the little gems that I encountered:

1. The _____ Wife

wife

She was, but words are wanting
to say what;

Think what a wife should be,
she was that.

2. A Safe Harbour

sailor

Through Stormy Seas of trouble past,
I’ve found a peaceful Shore:
From tempests Safe I’m moor’d at last,
And leave my port no more.

3. No Escape for Anyone – Especially Not for You, M’Dear…

weep not

Weep not for me, my HUSBAND dear,
I am not dead but sleeping here.
My end you know, my grave you see,
Prepare yourself to Follow ME.

In many ways these poems raise the same questions and pose the same difficulties as their ancient Latin counterparts: who wrote them? and for whom to read? What is the story behind the first poem, which is attested more than once, and bears striking similarities to poems that have appeared in print? Would one fill in the blanks of the first poem in the same way that the (ostensibly) grieving husband did? What did the writer of the second poem allude to with the off-hand mention of ‘trouble past’?

Who seems to be talking through these poems (or, in the case of the third poem: who is pretending to be talking through a poem) – and to whom? What do these poems tell us about the intellectual world of the individuals that they represent?

Are these poems designed to be read in silence? Or will one, almost automatically, start reading them out loud, to indulge in their words and in their rhymes? Inscribed headstones seem to provide us with an interface to the past – they allow us to read of the thoughts, and – especially when read out aloud – to hear voices of times long gone. The art historian Peter Sager wrote that ‘on its graveyard ‘The Howff’ the old city on the river Tay is more alive than anywhere else’ – yet another snide remark to malign Dundee, to be sure, yet so deceptively convincing.

Why deceptively?

Deceptively, because – at least to the Classicist’s mind – the same rules do not seem to apply to epigrams that are written on stone as opposed to those that are of a literary nature.

But how can a change of medium and a change of environment possibly suspend the artifice of poetry? And why would it? The poems on these Dundonian headstones, like all other poems, are imaginations of the world, of life and afterlife – they are fantastic coping mechanisms and expressions of desires, first of all.

Whether it is the beautiful device of letting a reader fill in the blanks as regarding the nature of the ideal wife (as if there were significantly fewer responses than people who ever lived!), or the image of the grave as a tranquil harbour, or the imagination that a pre-deceased wife addresses her husband with a veritable threat (‘you, too, will die!’) – all of these are the imaginations of those left behind, pieces that invite us to join a perspective on this world (and the next), and bring this perspective of a by-gone era back to life with our very own voice.

This perhaps rather unsettling thought has been expressed strikingly at the opening of a Latin verse inscription that I recently had the pleasure to re-read (CLE 513.1–4):

Carpis si qui [uia]s, paulum huc depone la[borem].
Cur tantum proper(as)? non est mora dum leg(is), audi
lingua tua uiuum mitique tua uoce loquentem.
Oro libens libe[n]s releg(as), ne taedio duc(as), amice

If you there seize these ways, let go of the stress for a short while: why such a rush? There is no time wasted while you read: listen to a living person who talks in your tongue and with your gentle voice. I ask you to read this favourably, favourably, so that you will not derive dislike, my friend.

Monuments thus do not only preserve memories, good or bad.

Monuments allow future generations to re-enact the past and to bring it back to life – by means of breathing our own life-breath into it, by means of lending it our own voice, as a service and as a favour to generations past.

Remember Lucius M-whatsisface?

I am a lucky person. The British Academy recently awarded me a Mid-Career Fellowship for 2014-5, allowing me to work on a project on my long-standing research interest, Latin inscriptions in verse or, as they are more commonly called among us ‘carminatores’, the Carmina Latina Epigraphica (or, shorter still, the CLE).

Certainly, in the vast stream of Latin inscriptions that survived antiquity, the CLE are but a small island: approximately 0.5–1% of all Latin inscriptions were composed in verse.

In the context of Latin poetry, however, their importance must not be underestimated: they add several thousands of epigrams – complete or fragmentary, from a wide range of diverse authors, across time and space in the Roman empire – to the body of literary poetic texts that underwent a manuscript transmission and that more commonly catch the attention of Classical scholars.

Over the next year or so, I will present examples of this genre and related discoveries on my blog, to share my enthusiasm with a wider audience and to promote this remarkable collection of texts.

CIL XIII 11885 (from Mainz/Moguntiacum), similar to that imagined by Ausonius. – Image source: http://db.edcs.eu/epigr/bilder/$OS_CIL_13_11885.jpg

CIL XIII 11885 (from Mainz/Moguntiacum), similar to that imagined by Ausonius. – Image source: http://db.edcs.eu/epigr/bilder/$OS_CIL_13_11885.jpg

To commence this series, I would like to present a little-known poem by the 4th century Gallic poet Decimus Magnus Ausonius.

Ausonius, in his collection of Epitaphia Heroum, wrote a short poem called De nomine cuiusdam Lucii sculpto in marmore (‘On the name of some Lucius, carved in marble’, c. 32). Sesto Prete, in his Teubner edition of Ausonius’ poems, presented the text as follows:

Vna quidem, geminis fulget set dissita punctis

littera, praenomen sic <.L.> nota sola facit.

post .M. incisum est, puto sic: <.^\.> non tota uidetur:

dissiluit saxi fragmine laesus apex.

nec quisquam, Marius seu Marcius anne Metellus

hic iaceat, certis nouerit indiciis.

truncatis conuulsa iacent elementa figuris,

omnia confusis interiere notis.

miremus periisse homines? monumenta fatiscunt;

mors etiam saxis nominibusque uenit.

The text translates, roughly, as follows:

One letter, indeed, yet it shines embedded in between two points: thus makes a single sign, •L•, a first name. After that an •M• has been carved, as follows, •^\•, I think, one cannot see it in full: the top is mutilated and came off due to a fracture of the stone. Consequently, no one will be able to know from unambiguous evidence whether it is a Marius or Marcius or Metellus who lies here. Distorted lie the letters, with truncated shapes, everything died as a result of the mangled signs. Should we be surprised that people die? Monuments languish, and death even comes to stones and names.

It is rather amusing to see that Otto Hirschfeld, the editor of the first volume of CIL XIII, decided to take Ausonius’ little piece literally, as evidence for an actual inscription from Bordeaux (Ausonius’ home town), ut videtur (‘as it would appear’):

CIL XIII 791.

CIL XIII 791.

Hirschfeld even added a D(is) M(anibus) (‘To the Manes‘) as an (arguably) lost initial part of the inscription – no doubt in an attempt to account for the dots that, according to Ausonius, surrounded the abbreviated first name (instead of just one dot following it, as one would expect if L(ucius) were indeed the first word of such an inscription).

Whether or not one would like to see Ausonius’ poem as evidence for an actual inscription (or as a mere literary imagination), the text manages to combine two essential aspect of Latin epigraphy.

It is testament to an unbroken desire to make sense of fragmented texts (in that regard, Ausonius’ description, albeit poetic in nature, does not actually diverge much from the technical prose of the volumes of the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum).

In addition to that, the text–  all too quickly dismissed as ‘trite in its conclusion of the decay of stone as metaphor for the ephemerality of man’ by Nigel M. Kay in his otherwise immensely useful and thorough commentary on Ausonius (p. 153) – invites study of the world of popular thought of the Roman Empire: a world in which the fear of being forgotten after death has been expressed many a time.

An illustrative example of that, randomly chosen from a wide range of texts, is the funerary inscription for Ennia Fructuosa from Lambaesis in the Roman province of Numidia (now Tazoult-Lambese, Algeria).

Its text, presumably dating to the third century A. D., reads as follows (CIL VIII 2756 = CLE 1604):

Quae fuerunt praeteritae
vitae testimonia nunc decla-
rantur hac scribtura. postre-
ma haec sunt enim mortis
solacia ubi continetur nom[i]-
nis vel generis aeterna memo-
ria. Ennia hic sita est Fructu-
osa karissima coniunx cer-
tae pudicitiae bonoque obse-
quio laudanda matrona.
XV anno mariti (!) nomen acce-
pit, in quo amplius quam XIII
vivere non potuit, quae non
ut meruit ita mortis sortem
retulit. carminibus defi-
xa iacuit per tempora mu-
ta ut eius spiritus vi
extorqueretur quam
naturae redderetur.
cuius admissi vel Ma-
nes vel di Caelestes e-
runt sceleris vindices.
Aelius haec posuit Procu-
linus ipse maritus legio-
nis tantae III Augustae
tribunus.

In translation:

This writing now declares what testifies to the life that has passed. For that is what is the ultimate solace in death, where eternal memory of the name and the family is preserved. Ennia Fructuosa lies here, dearest wife, of unique modesty and good towardliness, a praiseworthy matron. In the fifteenth year, she accepted the appellation of a married person, with which she was not allowed to live for more than thirteen years – she, who was not granted a fate of death that she deserved. Spellbound by magic charms she lied there for a long time, mute, so that her life breath wound its way out by force rather than to be restored to nature. The Manes or the heavenly gods will avenge the crime that has been allowed happened. Aelius Proculinus himself erected this monument, tribune of the great legio III Augusta.

This text, written in a form that blends Latin prose with less-than-perfect hexameters and senarii, purportedly written by a military tribune named Aelius Proculinus, is not only an expression of heartfelt love of a man who lost his wife too soon (and who gives an idea of his values and his views on life and death in general): it gives an idea of the concerns of Roman(ised) people in second and third century North Africa, their fear of death in a world that partly can only be explained in terms of magic and ritual – and their fear to be forgotten, unless their names and lives are recorded in lasting monuments.

To me, and for my new research project, however, the text is also an expression of something else. It is an example of what I would like to call ‘poetry of the people': a text (allegedly) not written by a poet, but by a member of a society that, in certain contexts, valued poetic and poeticising works of art and put those on display; a text that tells a highly personal story, to commit it, along with its views and values, to an uncertain afterlife; a text that obfuscates any clear-cut lines between high art and pedestrian craftsmanship; a text that is hard to classify as either prose or verse.

And yet, a text that, quite undeniably, deserves to be listened to, with the side-effect that the death that ‘even comes to stones and names’, as Ausonius had put it, will be stalled for a little bit longer.

Love Bites

One of the more bizarre stories of the 2014 FIFA World Cup was the Luis Suárez biting incident: Uruguay’s striker, currently playing for Liverpool, bit Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini.

Suárez has a remarkable history of this peculiar behaviour:

Meanwhile, the incident has resulted in a record ban for Suárez as well as in a predictable stream of creative effusions on the internet.

Beyond a doubt, Suárez needs help of some sort (certainly not that of the media, though – or that of this blog, for that matter).

What could be the explanation for Suárez’s behaviour?

Was he just as eager as the young Alcibiades, perhaps, who, too, is reported to have bitten an opponent during sports (Plutarch, Alcibiades 2.1-2)?

φύσει δὲ πολλῶν ὄντων καὶ μεγάλων παθῶν ἐν αὐτῷ, τὸ φιλόνεικον ἰσχυρότατον ἦν καὶ τὸ φιλόπρωτον, ὡς δῆλόν ἐστι τοῖς παιδικοῖς ἀπομνημονεύμασιν. ἐν μὲν γὰρ τῷ παλαίειν πιεζούμενος, ὑπὲρ τοῦ μὴ πεσεῖν ἀναγαγὼν πρὸς τὸ στόμα τὰ ἅμματα τοῦ πιεζοῦντος, οἷος ἦν διαφαγεῖν τὰς χεῖρας. ἀφέντος δὲ τὴν λαβὴν ἐκείνου καὶ εἰπόντος· ‘δάκνεις, ὦ Ἀλκιβιάδη, καθάπερ αἱ γυναῖκες,’ ‘οὐκ ἔγωγε,’ εἶπεν, ‘ἀλλ᾽ ὡς οἱ λέοντες.’

He was naturally a man of many strong passions, the mightiest of which were the love of rivalry and the love of preëminence. This is clear from the story recorded of his boyhood. He was once hard pressed in wrestling, and to save himself from getting a fall, set his teeth in his opponent’s arms, where they clutched him, and was like to have bitten through them. His adversary, letting go his hold, cried: ‘You bite, Alcibiades, as women do!’ ‘Not I,’ said Alcibiades, ‘but as lions do.’

Or it could have been an expression of passion of different sorts, along the lines expressed by the Roman Epicurean poet Lucretius (Lucr. 4.1073-85) . . .

Nec Veneris fructu caret is qui vitat amorem,
sed potius quae sunt sine poena commoda sumit;
nam certe purast sanis magis inde voluptas    1075
quam miseris; etenim potiundi tempore in ipso
fluctuat incertis erroribus ardor amantum
nec constat quid primum oculis manibusque fruantur.
quod petiere, premunt arte faciuntque dolorem
corporis et dentes inlidunt saepe labellis    1080
osculaque adfigunt, quia non est pura voluptas
et stimuli subsunt, qui instigant laedere id ipsum,
quod cumque est, rabies unde illaec germina surgunt.
sed leviter poenas frangit Venus inter amorem
blandaque refrenat morsus admixta voluptas.     1085

Nor is he who shuns love without the fruits of Venus, but rather enjoys those blessings which are without any pain: doubtless the pleasure from such things is more unalloyed for the healthy-minded than for the love-sick; for in the very moment of enjoying the burning desire of lovers wavers and wanders undecided, and they cannot tell what first to enjoy with eyes and hands.

What they have sought, they tightly squeeze and cause pain of body and often imprint their teeth on the lips and clash mouth to mouth in kissing, because the pleasure is not pure and there are hidden stings which stimulate to hurt, even that whatever it is from which spring those germs of frenzy.

But Venus with light hand breaks the force of these pains during love, and the fond pleasure mingled therein reins in the bites.

Perhaps we will find out some day.

Suárez’s grandmother suggested that her grandson had been treated like a dog by FIFA. The footage, however, largely suggests that his conduct on this occasion was somewhat short of that of an adorable lap-dog – a lap-dog that could get away with lovable little nibbles (CIL XIII 488 = CLE 1512):

Quam dulcis fuit ista quam benigna
quae cum viveret in sinu iacebat
somni conscia semper et cubilis
O factum male Myia quod peristi
latrares modo si quis adcubaret     5
rivalis dominae licentiosa
O factum male Myia quod peristi
Altum iam tenet insciam sepulcrum
nec saevire potes nec insilire
nec blandis mihi morsibus renides     10

How sweet she was, how kind,
while she lived she used to lie in my lap
always a confidante of sleep and the couch.
O the sad day, Myia, when you died.
You would bark liberally if anyone should lie
on your mistress as a rival.
O the sad day, Myia, when you died.
Now a deep tomb holds you unconscious,
you can neither howl nor be silent,
nor do you delight at me with your bites or caresses.

Suárez explanation made matters worse, as he claimed that these things happen all the time: a damaging comment, somewhat along the lines of maxime mortiferi morsus solent esse morientium bestiarum (‘the bites of dying animals tend to be particularly deadly’, Florus, Epitome 1.31.43).

Except that Suárez’s comments clearly ended up biting himself.

At any rate,  his opponents must remain hopeful that this was the last time Suárez would bite someone, and that the involved parties will be able to reconcile. Or, as Pope Symmachus had put it, in an inscription that was produced after the schism over his papacy came to an end (ICUR II 4108 = ILCV 985, line 3):

ni(hi)l formido valet, morsus cessere luporum.

Dread achieves nothing: the bites of the wolves have stopped.