Saturday, 31 May 2014

Antigone on Film

I've just watched a film of Antigone that is available on Youtube. Its from 1961 and is in Greek, though I don't know if it is classical or modern Greek. Definitely worth a watch.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Digital Loeb Classical Library - Coming Late 2014

I am pretty damn excited about this as I am sure you might be too. Classics really comes into the digital age with the advent later this year of The Digital Loeb Classical Library. I imagine from the sneak previews in the video that the online experience will be very exciting.

Triple Euge!

The Thebans - Opera on BBC Radio 3 Julian Anderson


Just a heads up regarding Julian Andersons Thebans Opera which will be broadcast this Monday 26th of May in the evening from 7.30 pm. For more details see the link below!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Metaphor and Word-play in the Satyricon


Just a quick selection here from a Petronius PhD thesis of 1913 (James Walker Downer – Selections from his PhD Thesis- Metaphors and word-plays in Petronius (Baylor University Press Waco, Texas) of some of the metaphors and wordplays that occur in the Satyricon. They seem to abound in a text which is full of the vernacular Latin, spoken in causal everyday contexts by the ordinary citizen and the ‘lower orders’. There is a noteworthy postscript (VI. Observations and Conclusions) to Downer’s short text. It certainly locates the text in its own times as he attempts to relate the use of metaphors with similar usages of pre-First World War I America.

‘Whatever may be the origin of figurative language, it seems to be universally true that the speech of persons of the lower walks of life is the richest in the use of figures. Figures with the cultured are an ornament of speech and are often used with a view to securing greater beauty, elegance and force of style; with the unlettered, however, figures spring forth naturally and spontaneously, and are often unusual and telling in effect. Such persons realize that they are speaking in language other than literal, but there is no apparent effort on their part. Some unlettered persons speak almost entirely in figures. This habit may well arise from lack of wide vocabulary, and accordingly few words may have to express many thoughts. The figurative language of the old-time Southern negro is a good example of the foregoing principles. Many of the negroes rarely employ literal speech. Their expressions are so striking and unusual that frequently even persons who have lived with them from childhood do not understand their meaning; and to persons who do not know the negroes, their manner of speech is ridiculous and almost a foreign language. On a summer day, a friend of the writer walked into a field where negroes were at work. One of them remarked, ‘Boss we’s sholy got a new ingineer today’. My friend did not know the meaning of the remark, although he had been with the race from childhood. On asking, he found that the negro was referring to the excessive heat of the sun and to the fact that a new engineer keeps his engine hotter and burns more coal than an experienced one. A negro in Virginia town, who had lost his arm in a railroad accident, went to the authorities in Richmond to ask for the position of watchman. Being unable to understand his figurative language and misplaced words, they told the gentleman who had come to intercede for the negro to take that fool away from there and they would give him anything he wanted. He was appointed. The negro always seems surprised that his language is not understood, and after explaining his meaning by another figure, it may be, he will add with a smile, ‘White folks don’t know much no how’.

I wonder if members of the Roman upper classes would have had similar problems with the frank and lurid modes of expression during the lusty interchanges of freedman and slave alike that we find in the Satyricon. Here are some examples of the metaphors noted by Downer:-

Caldicerebrius – Hot Brained.

‘nec sum natura caldicerebrius’ I am not hot-brained by nature

Natus est. No one of us is born solid
nemo nostrum solide natus est. (Of the necessity for all to go to stool) ‘We have all gotta go!’

Olla - Pot.   (too many chefs spoil the broth)
sociorum olla male fervet – ‘A pot of confederates boils slowly’

Litigo. Having a suit with the winds – talking to one’s self, giving one’s self pointless bother.
ecce autem,ego dum cum ventis litigo, intravit senex
Lo and behold, in came an old man while I was muttering inanely to myself

Sauciae. Wounded by weapons (or drink/wine)= smashed
interim mulieres sauciae inter se riserunt ebriaeque iunxerunt oscula.
Meanwhile the women had got smashed and giggling amongst themselves exchanged drunken kisses.

Quadrigae – Chariots.  Already my chariots have run their last race, I have been gout ridden ever since.
iam quadrigae meae decucurrerunt, ex quo podagricus factus sum.

Asinum – Ass. Striking the saddle instead of the Ass (revenge on the wrong person when the target of one’s ire cannot be reached)
sed qui asinum non potest, stratum caedit

Asinus in tegulis (an Ass on a rooftop)
Something unusual or bizarre

Peduculum – (Louse)

in alio peduculum vides, in te vicinum non vides
You see the louse on another whilst ignoring the tick on yourself.


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Satyricon Top Ten - A Confession

I initially had the idea of posting up a list of my top ten best bits of the Satyricon, but having read through again two curious things happened; firstly that there seemed to be so many ‘best bits’ that the exercise quickly became very difficult, nay impossible and secondly the sections that I had thought were the best bits seemed in isolation less distinctive – as if the power that lit them up had in some way been cut off. This has led me to conclude that it’s the stream of textual action as well as its accumulation of devices and imagery that results in such stand out moments. The build-up provides the energy and impetus

A case in point would be a scene describing the first appearance of Trimalchio. Here we meet him playing an ancient Roman version of boules (?) with the local dandies and lads about town, his flunkies in attendance.

'Cum has ergo miraremur lautitias, accurrit Menelaus: "Hic est, inquit, apud quem cubitum ponitis, et quidem iam principium cenae videtis. Et iam non loquebatur Menelaus cum Trimalchio digitos concrepuit, ad quod signum matellam spado ludenti subiecit. Exonerata ille vesica aquam poposcit ad manus, digitosque paululum adspersos in capite pueri tersit.' Satyricon 27


‘While we were admiring these displays, Menelaus ran up and said ‘That’s the one with whom you are going to recline at dinner tonight, and what you are looking at now is merely the preliminary to the festivities.’ And he had hardly got these words out when Trimalchio snapped his fingers, at which signal a eunuch ran up and held a piss-pot underneath him. Having emptied his bladder, he impatiently called for a water basin for his hands and having perfunctorily washed them dried his still dripping fingers in the hair of a small boy.'

You need the build-up, the breathless Menelaus excitedly running up (accurit) and pointing the great Man out, ‘Hic est’ ‘That’s him!!’ the ‘iam’ repeated giving a sort of excited flurry to the description. ‘Et iam non loquebatur Menelaus cum...’ Menelaus had hardly uttered this when Trimalchio snapped his fingers…’ (lit: and now/already this was not being said..’ It is interesting to see a verb like loquor –locatus – loqui (Talk, Speak, Utter) in the 3rd person imperfect indicative passive. It suddenly throws the focus on the utterance itself with the image of the words having hardly left Menelaus’ lips – with the immediacy and urgency of a camera suddenly swinging and zooming in. There is an additional aspect; the passive here, I feel, impersonalises Menelaus - he is less important than the words or the utterance and it is Trimalchio (even his Eunuch is ranked above the outside observers as the centre of action) whose actions are active indicative here, ‘digitos concrepuit’ and ‘in capite pueri tersit’

There are many other features like this which make Petronius so lively and vivid but I thought I would post just this one to give you a taste of how the language and the build-up to a lot of these compelling images is just as important, the sum evidently being more than the parts.