Key to Reading Unit 23

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Unit Key 24

Unit 23

  1. Calamity reveals whether you have a friend or a name (i.e. a real friend or a friend only in name).

  2. We read that among the Romans a certain nobleman, when his friends asked him why he had divorced a wife, beautiful and chaste and wealthy, stretched out his foot and said to them, 'This slipper too, which you see, also seems to you to be new and elegant but no-one except me knows where it is tight (lit. is pressing me).'

  3. You ask, Linus, what my farm (lit. field) at Nomentum brings me? The farm brings me this: I do not see you, Linus. (Martial, II, 38)

  4. Am I to mention the pride of that man first or his cruelty? (Cicero, in Verrem, II, 1, 122 adapted)

  5. Surely I am standing now before our house? (Plautus, Amphitruo, 406)

  6. Did you think, Etruscan, that you were driving wild beasts in the woods? (Vergil, Aeneid, XI, 686)

  7. While alive, you give me nothing; you say that [you] will give after your death. If you are not stupid, you know, Maro, what I want. (Martial, XI, 67)

  8. I have always said and will say that there is a race of gods dwelling in the sky, but I think that they do not care what the human race does; for if they were to care, the good would fare well, the bad badly (lit. it would be well for the good etc.), which now is not the case (lit. is absent). (Ennius, Tragedies, 270-1, 265)

  9. Maternus had scarcely finished when Vipstanus Messalla entered his room and, suspecting from the concentration of each person that there was a deeper conversation among them, said, 'Surely I have not come at an inopportune moment?' (lit. too little at the right time; parum here is the equivalent of a simple negative; tempestivus must be translated by an adverbial expression, cf. 17.1/3 ) (Tacitus, Dialogus, 14, 1 adapted)

  10. Surely I have not violated the divinity of mighty Venus with a word and now my impious tongue is suffering punishment? Surely I am not said (feror) to have approached the seats of the gods [when] unclean and to have snatched wreaths from sacred hearths? If I have deserved [it] I would not hesitate to fall down at temples and give kisses to sanctified thresholds; I [would] not [hesitate] to crawl over the earth on my knees as a suppliant and beat my miserable head on a holy door-post (only priests were allowed into temples and hence to show his contrition Tibullus would have been obliged to content himself with kissing the threshold of a temple door and beating his head against its post). (Tibullus, I, 2, 79-86)

  11. Stranger, what I [have to] say is little. Stand here (lit. stand by [this tomb]) and read [it] through. Here is the not beautiful tomb of a beautiful woman. Her parents called her Claudia. She loved her husband with [all] her heart. She gave birth to two sons. One of these she left on earth, the other she put below the earth (linquit and locat are historic presents). Her conversation was charming, and also (lit. then [introducing a further point] also) her deportment was pleasant. She kept house, she made wool. I have spoken, go on your way (the odd wording of the second line contains a pun; the popular etymology of sepulchrum was si[ne] pulchrum, which was supposed to mean '[something] without beauty'; this misconception is reinforced by the following words). (C.I.L. 12, 1211 (the spelling has been brought to the classical norm); the C[orpus] I[nscriptionum] L[atinarum] is the standard collection of Latin inscriptions, of which thousands survive)

  12. In ancient chronicles this record has been handed down about the Sibylline books: a certain unknown old woman approached King Tarquin the Proud bringing nine books which, she said, were divine oracles; [and she said] that she wanted to sell them. Tarquin inquired about the price. The woman asked [something] excessive and huge. The King, as though the old woman were out of her mind because of her age, made fun of [her]. Then she placed a little hearth with fire before him (coram) and burnt three of the nine books, and asked the king if he wanted to buy the remaining six at the same price. But Tarquin laughed much more at this and said that the old woman was now mad beyond doubt. Then the woman immediately burnt three other books and again calmly asked the very [same] thing, that he should buy the three remaining books at that same price. Tarquin now assumed a serious expression and a more attentive attitude; he realized that her resolution and assurance were not to be disregarded and he bought the three remaining books at a price no lower (nihilo ablative of measure of difference; see 19.1/4b) than what had been asked for all. But it was established that the woman, who then left Tarquin (lit. then having gone away from Tarquin), was subsequently seen nowhere. (Aulus Gellius I, 19 adapted)

  13. Very recently, when I was in my native town, the young son (praetextatus wearing the toga praetexta, a toga with a purple border which was worn by boys until they had reached the age of manhood) of a fellow townsman of mine (lit. my fellow townsman, but to translate this way might imply that there were only two men living in the town) came to greet me. I said to him, ‘You are studying?’ (i.e. you are at school?) ‘Yes.’ ‘Where?’ ‘At Mediolanum.’ ‘Why not here?’ And his father–for he was together [with him] and had in fact (etiam) brought the boy himself–[said,] ‘Because we have no teachers here.’ ‘Why [do you have] none? For it concerns you very much’– and, opportunely, numerous fathers were listening–’that your children for preference go to school (lit. learn) here. For where would they either reside more pleasantly than in their native place or be kept more virtuous (lit. kept more chastely in check) than under eyes of their parents, or at less expense than at home? How little [trouble], in that case (ergo), it is to collect money and hire teachers, and to add to their salaries what you now spend for lodgings, for travel arrangements, [and] for those thing which are purchased outside the town? And further, I, who do not yet have children, am prepared for our public good, as though for a daughter or a parent, to give a third part of what you will decide to contribute.’ (Pliny the Younger, Letters, IV, 13, 3-5 adapted; patria here means native place/town, not native country; Mediolanum is the modern Milan)

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(c) Gavin Betts 2000