August 8th, 2012 by Chris Francese

Show Me the Scansion

I have been experimenting with a nifty iPad app and teacher community called ShowMe as a way of teaching the basics of scansion and reading aloud. It has a sort of “telestrator” feature that seems tailor made for this kind of thing. I’ve been getting lucky with the apps I’m finding lately! First I found one that gets you ig likes for instagram, and it works really well, and now I found this one. I probably should look in the marketplace for things I need more often.

I have one on the very basics of Latin prosody,

and one on Latin vowel quantity and diphthongs.

If you have the time take a look and let me know what you think!

Making the one on vowel quantity taught me a lot about diphthongs. A simple search through Aeneid 1 for the various diphthongs revealed starkly how wrong it is to just tell students (as the grammar books do) that  “ei” is  a diphthong, or “ui” is a diphthong. In actual fact they are almost always NOT diphthongs. And the same is true of “eu,” and sometimes of the others. So this will definitely change the way I teach scansion.

The reason to use a tool like this is to take the most difficult and technical aspects of scansion out of the classroom, and into homework, where a student can look at and listen to the explanations as many times as necessary to really get it. In class, most rational people will not raise a hand and say “I still don’t get that,” and as a result many never really catch on to some of these basic concepts.

I plan to do more of these, as a kind of video commentary on the wonderful metrical introduction to Ovid’s Amores 1 authored by William Turpin, to go in the forthcoming Dickinson College Commentaries edition. You can see it here (still under construction, though) .

Thanks, Chrissy Schanes, for putting me on to ShowMe. And thanks to all of you for any feedback and suggestions. We use wordpress accessibility for everything in case you need it!

August 3rd, 2012 by Chris Francese

A Fabulous Punishment (Martial, De Spectaculis 7)

Martial De Spectaculis 9

The epigram writer Martial describes a mythological enactment in the arena, the execution of a slave which was staged to resemble a popular mime based on the story of a notorious bandit, Laureolus. He compares his fate of being exposed to a bear to that of the mythological hero Prometheus, punished by Zeus. It comes from a set of poems meant to commemorate the inaugural games of the Flavian Amphitheater, that is, the Colosseum in Rome.

Qualiter in Scythica religatus rupe Prometheus

Adsiduam nimio pectore pavit avem,

Nuda Caledonio sic viscera praebuit urso

Non falsa pendens in cruce Laureolus.

Vivebant laceri membris stillantibus artus 5

Inque omni nusquam corpore corpus erat.

Denique supplicium <meruit quo crimine tantum?>

Vel domini iugulum foderat ense nocens,

Templa vel arcano demens spoliaverat auro,

Subdiderat saevas vel tibi, Roma, faces. 10

Vicerat antiquae sceleratus crimina famae,

In quo, quae fuerat fabula, poena fuit.

The text is that of Kathleen Coleman, M. Valerii Martialis Liber Spectaculorum  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), p. 82. Line 7 is defective in the manuscripts, and the supplement printed here is due to Leonfranc Holford-Strevens.

Here is my translation:

Think of Prometheus, tied to his Scythian crag, feeding the tireless

 bird of prey with his too abundant thorax.

Just so ‘Laureolus’, hanging on no mock theatrical cross,

 gave his naked guts to a Scottish bear.

His mangled limbs lived on, dripping gore, until on his body

there was no body left at all. So, what

heinous crime merited such retribution? Either the guilty

man slit his master’s throat with a sword,

or in his madness robbed a temple of its hidden gold, or else

he put a savage torch to you, dear Rome.                                            10

The criminal had outdone misdeeds of ancient story, but in his case

 what was fiction became a punishment quite real.


July 1st, 2012 by Chris Francese

A cure for madness (Quintus Serenus, Liber Medicinalis 1.87-99)

Quintus Serenus 1.87-99

Grave relief of a Greco-Roman doctor.Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Sk 804. Photo Johannes Laurentius.

ex vitio cerebri phrenesis furiosa movetur 87
amissasque refert frendens amentia vires,
sive calens febris iactatos exedit artus
sive meri gustus seu frigoris efficit aura. 90
convenit calidis pecudum pulmonibus apte
tempora languentis medica redimire corona.
inlotis etiam lanis suffire memento
cerritum; saepe horrendi medicantur odores.
non semper praesens dolor est sanabilis: ergo 100
cura magis prodest venturis obvia morbis
atque ideo sanos etiam curarier est par. 95
purgatur cerebrum mansa radice pyrethri,
unguitur et sucis, dederit quos parva sabucus,
expressusque hederae mandatur naribus umor
aut mixtum rutae cerebro instillatur acetum.

Quintus Serenus was the author of Liber Medicinalis, a collection of therapeutic recipes. It cannot be dated very closely, but evidently derives from somewhere in the 2nd to 4th centuries AD. In this excerpt he discusses cures for phrenesis, a kind of mental derangement accompanied by fever. The translation here is my own (in fact I don’t think this work has ever been translated into English, but there is a French edition, which I have not seen). The discussion of the various forms of madness in Roman medical texts is derived from my book, Ancient Rome in So Many Words. My other podcast of a bit of Serenus is here. The Latin text is from PHI, which atypically does not itself list a source. Hope you enjoy!


June 6th, 2012 by Chris Francese

Bring Vergil back (Horace, Odes 1.3)

Horace Odes 1.3

Horace’s sending-off poem (or propempticon) for Vergil is written in a meter usually called the “Forth Asclepiad,” (though the terminology varies depending on which modern authority you check). It consists of a Glyconic line followed by an Asclepiad line. In this installment I discuss the poem briefly and describe its meter, give my own translation, and then read it slowly in Latin. Hopefully you will be able to hear the regular sequence of long and short syllables, hear how that interacts with natural sense pauses, and perhaps even be able to understand it as you listen the Latin. Enjoy, and feel free to leave a comment if you have any suggestions. The text is Klingner’s, taken from PHI.

Sic te diva potens Cypri,

sic fratres Helenae, lucida sidera,

ventorumque regat pater

obstrictis aliis praeter Iapyga,

navis, quae tibi creditum 5

debes Vergilium: finibus Atticis

reddas incolumem precor

et serves animae dimidium meae.

illi robur et aes triplex

circa pectus erat, qui fragilem truci 10

conmisit pelago ratem

primus, nec timuit praecipitem Africum

decertantem Aquilonibus

nec tristis Hyadas nec rabiem Noti,

quo non arbiter Hadriae 15

maior, tollere seu ponere volt freta.

quem mortis timuit gradum

qui siccis oculis monstra natantia,

qui vidit mare turbidum et

infamis scopulos Acroceraunia? 20

nequiquam deus abscidit

prudens oceano dissociabili

terras, si tamen inpiae

non tangenda rates transiliunt vada.

audax omnia perpeti 25

gens humana ruit per vetitum nefas,

audax Iapeti genus

ignem fraude mala gentibus intulit.

post ignem aetheria domo

subductum macies et nova febrium 30

terris incubuit cohors

semotique prius tarda necessitas

leti corripuit gradum.

expertus vacuum Daedalus aera

pinnis non homini datis; 35

perrupit Acheronta Herculeus labor.

nil mortalibus ardui est:

caelum ipsum petimus stultitia neque

per nostrum patimur scelus

iracunda Iovem ponere fulmina. 40


March 14th, 2012 by Chris Francese

Sulpicius Severus, Life of St. Martin

It’s prose, not poetry, but I just finished recording the complete Life of St. Martin, Bishop of Tours (AD 316 or 317-397), written by Sulpicius Severus (ca. AD 363 – ca. 425). You can listen to the audio by clicking on the “media” tab at the right of each chapter on this site. The text will remain visible. Hope you enjoy. It’s a fascinating work.

January 24th, 2012 by Chris Francese

Horace’s Lyric Meters 2: Sapphic (Odes 1.2)

This is the second in a series dealing with Horace’s lyric meters. The previous installment covered Asclepiadeans. This one discusses the Sapphic stanza, so named because of its association with Sappho, the famous Greek lyric poet.

Odes 1.2 is summarized as follows by Nisbet and Hubbard: God has sent enough ill-omened weather. We begin to be afraid that the age of the Flood might return. We have seen the avenging Tiber make for the temple of Vesta; our descendants will hear that we fought each other instead of the Parthians. To which of the gods will the people and Vestals turn for succour? Who will expiate our sin? Come and save us, Apollo, or Venus, or Mars. Or perhaps Mercury is already here on earth in the guise of a young man, condescending to be known as Caesar’s avenger. May you live long amongst us, and take vengeance on the Parthians–Caesar. A translation can be found here.

There is an excellent article on Sapphics by Andrew Becker of Virginia Tech that I heartily recommend to anybody interested in Latin metrics or performance: “Listening to Lyric: Accent and Ictus in the Latin Sapphic Stanza,” Classical World 103.2 (2010), 159-182. It’s not freely available on the internet, but very much worth tracking down (more info. about Classical World is here). I follow his approach closely. The English Sapphics I quote come from John Greene, “A Practical method of Presenting the Lyric Meters of Horace,” Classical Journal 4.3 (1909), 116-123, at p. 120.

Horace, Odes 1.2

Iam satis terris nivis atque dirae
grandinis misit pater et rubente
dextera sacras iaculatus arces
terruit urbem,

terruit gentes, grave ne rediret 5
saeculum Pyrrhae nova monstra questae,
omne cum Proteus pecus egit altos
visere montis

piscium et summa genus haesit ulmo,
nota quae sedes fuerat columbis, 10
et superiecto pavidae natarunt
aequore dammae.

vidimus flavom Tiberim retortis
litore Etrusco violenter undis
ire deiectum monumenta regis 15
templaque Vestae,

Iliae dum se nimium querenti
iactat ultorem, vagus et sinistra
labitur ripa Iove non probante u-
xorius amnis. 20

audiet cives acuisse ferrum,
quo graves Persae melius perirent,
audiet pugnas vitio parentum
rara iuventus.

quem vocet divum populus ruentis 25
imperi rebus? prece qua fatigent
virgines sanctae minus audientem
carmina Vestam?

cui dabit partis scelus expiandi
Iuppiter? tandem venias precamur 30
nube candentis umeros amictus
augur Apollo;

sive tu mavis, Erycina ridens,
quam Iocus circum volat et Cupido;
sive neglectum genus et nepotes 35
respicis auctor,

heu nimis longo satiate ludo,
quem iuvat clamor galeaeque leves
acer et Marsi peditis cruentum
vultus in hostem; 40

sive mutata iuvenem figura
ales in terris imitaris almae
filius Maiae patiens vocari
Caesaris ultor,

serus in caelum redeas diuque 45
laetus intersis populo Quirini,
neve te nostris vitiis iniquum
ocior aura

tollat: hic magnos potius triumphos,
hic ames dici pater atque princeps, 50
neu sinas Medos equitare inultos
te duce, Caesar.


January 20th, 2012 by Chris Francese

Horace’s lyric meters: Asclepiadeans (Odes 1.1)

Herewith a re-do of a poem I have done on an earlier podcast, this time with special attention to the meter. It is part of a series on Horace’s lyric meters. This installment focuses on a meter that scholars call variously Asclepiads, asclepiadeans, the First Asclepiad, and the Lesser Asclepiad. The name is given by ancient grammarians, and evidently derives from a certain Greek poet named Asclepiades, though which one and why are unclear. I generally hate the cryptic way textbooks and scholarly publications deal with Latin meters, but there is one article I found helpful in thinking about this one, Leon Richardson, “On the Form of Horace’s Lesser Asclepiads, ” America Journal of Philology 22 (1901) 283-296 (look past the outdated terminology and check out the stats on sense pauses, ictus and accent, word length, and ‘compactness’) . There is a reasonably literal  translation of the poem here. Hope you enjoy, and do leave a comment if you would like to.

Horace, Odes 1.1new

Maecenas atavis edite regibus,
o et praesidium et dulce decus meum:
sunt quos curriculo pulverem Olympicum
collegisse iuvat metaque fervidis
evitata rotis palmaque nobilis 5
terrarum dominos evehit ad deos;
hunc, si mobilium turba Quiritium
certat tergeminis tollere honoribus;
illum, si proprio condidit horreo
quidquid de Libycis verritur areis. 10
gaudentem patrios findere sarculo
agros Attalicis condicionibus
numquam demoveas, ut trabe Cypria
Myrtoum pavidus nauta secet mare;
luctantem Icariis fluctibus Africum 15
mercator metuens otium et oppidi
laudat rura sui: mox reficit rates
quassas indocilis pauperiem pati.
est qui nec veteris pocula Massici
nec partem solido demere de die 20
spernit, nunc viridi membra sub arbuto
stratus, nunc ad aquae lene caput sacrae;
multos castra iuvant et lituo tubae
permixtus sonitus bellaque matribus
detestata; manet sub Iove frigido 25
venator tenerae coniugis inmemor,
seu visa est catulis cerva fidelibus,
seu rupit teretes Marsus aper plagas.
me doctarum hederae praemia frontium
dis miscent superis, me gelidum nemus 30
Nympharumque leves cum Satyris chori
secernunt populo, si neque tibias
Euterpe cohibet nec Polyhymnia
Lesboum refugit tendere barbiton.
quodsi me lyricis vatibus inseres, 35
sublimi feriam sidera vertice.


September 22nd, 2011 by Chris Francese

Not Going Back There (Phaedrus, Fables 1.18)

Phaedrus Fables 1.18

Nemo libenter recolit qui laesit locum.
Instante partu mulier actis mensibus
humi iacebat flebilis gemitus ciens.
Vir est hortatus, corpus lecto reciperet,
onus naturae melius quo deponeret.
“Minime”, inquit, “illo posse confido loco
malum finiri, quo conceptum est initio.”

Phaedrus, Fables 1.18. Text: Giannina Solimano, ed. Fedro: Favole (n.p.: Garzanti, 1996)

Francesco Furini (1600-1646), Rachel Giving Birth to Joseph


July 22nd, 2011 by Chris Francese

The Fall of Rome

“De mutata Romae fortuna,” incerti auctoris, ed. N. E. Lemaire, Poetae Latini Minores vol. 4 (Paris, 1825), pp. 537-538.

Romulus Augustulus Deposed

Romulus Augustulus Deposed

De mutata Romae fortuna

Nobilibus quondam fueras cōnstructa patrōnīs
subdita nunc servis, heu, male Roma tuis.
Deseruere tui tanto te tempore reges;
cessit et ad Graecos nomen honosque tuus.
Cōnstantīnopolis florens, nova Roma vocatur,                                  5
moribus et muris Roma vetusta cadis.
Transiit imperium, mansitque superbia tecum;
cultus avaritiae te nimium superat.
Vulgus ab extremis distractum partibus orbis,
servorum servi, nunc tibi sunt domini.                                       10
In te nobilium rectorum nemo remansit,
ingenuique tui rura Pelasga colunt.
Truncasti vivos crudeli funere sanctos,
vendere nunc horum mortua membra soles.
Nam nisi te meritum Petri Paullique foveret,                                  15
tempore iam longo Roma misella fores.

My translation:

Once upon a time you had been built up by noble patrons; now, alas, Rome, you are shamefully subjected to your (former) slaves (i.e. the Goths). The emperors who ruled here for such a long time have abandoned you, and your name and title have been ceded to the Greeks. Flourishing Constantinople is called the New Rome, and old Rome is falling, in both the walls and the character (of its people). Political power has moved along, and your haughty attitude has remained with you; the pursuit of avarice is too much your downfall. A rabble drawn from the furthest regions of the earth, the slaves of slaves, are now your masters. None of the old noble leaders has stayed with you, and your native born sons tend Greek lands. You  mained, mutilated and cruelly killed living saints; now you often set up a trade in pieces of their dead bodies. For if you were not keeping alive the memory of the good deeds of Peter and Paul, you would long ago have become a sad little town.

The Gibbonesque quote about men’s minds being “pusillanimous, gloomy, and spiritless” comes from The Life and Letters of Barthold George Niebuhr, and Selections from his Minor Writings, ed. Susanna Winkworth, 2nd ed., vol. 3 (London: Chapman and Hall, 1852), pp. 282-283, in an essay called “Sketch of the History of the City of Rome,” written in 1823.




June 12th, 2011 by Chris Francese

The Wrath of Iarbas (Vergil, Aeneid 4.196-218)

The Wrath of Iarbas

protinus ad regem cursus detorquet Iarban
incenditque animum dictis atque aggerat iras.

Hic Hammone satus rapta Garamantide nympha
templa Iovi centum latis immania regnis,
centum aras posuit vigilemque sacraverat ignem,               200
excubias diuum aeternas, pecudumque cruore
pingue solum et variis florentia limina sertis.
isque amens animi et rumore accensus amaro
dicitur ante aras media inter numina divum
multa Iovem manibus supplex orasse supinis:               205
‘Iuppiter omnipotens, cui nunc Maurusia pictis
gens epulata toris Lenaeum libat honorem,
aspicis haec? an te, genitor, cum fulmina torques
nequiquam horremus, caecique in nubibus ignes
terrificant animos et inania murmura miscent?               210
femina, quae nostris errans in finibus urbem
exiguam pretio posuit, cui litus arandum
cuique loci leges dedimus, conubia nostra
reppulit ac dominum Aenean in regna recepit.
et nunc ille Paris cum semiviro comitatu,                215
Maeonia mentum mitra crinemque madentem
subnexus, rapto potitur: nos munera templis
quippe tuis ferimus famamque fovemus inanem.’

Carthage and Garama, main town of the nomadic Garamantes. Numidia, home of Iarbas,  was to the north of Garama, and to the west of Carthage.

Egypt and Siwa, the oasis with the famous temple of  Ammon, whom the Greeks and Romans identified with Zeus/Jupiter

Provinces of the Roman Empire, showing Numidia, home of Iarbas, and Mauretania to the west.

Translation (by Francese with lots of help from R.G. Austin (P. Vergili Maronis Aeneidos Liber Quartus [Oxford 1955], pp. 75 ff.):

Immediately Rumor turned her course to King Iarbas and she inflamed his mind with her words and heaped up his rage. This man, sprung from Hammon, on the ravishing of a Garamantian nymph built a hundred huge temples in his wide realm (Numidia), a hundred altars, and he had sanctified an eternal fire, sentinel of the gods everlasting, and the ground was thick with the blood of sacrificial animals, the entrances all aglow with gay garlands. And he, utterly distraught of mind, and enraged by the sour rumor, is said to have prayed much to Jupiter as a suppliant before the altars in the very presence of the majesty of the gods with his hands turned upward:

“All-powerful Jupiter, to whom the Maurusian race offers the wine-god’s rich libations as it holds banquets on multi-colored couches: do you see these things? Can it be in vain, my father, that we shiver as you whirl your thunderbolts? Are they blind, those flames among the clouds that make our hearts to quake? Is it empty mutterings that they stir? A woman, who while wandering in our territory founded a puny city for a price, to whom we gave a piece of shore to plough and conditions of holding it, she has thrust away our marriage proposal and taken Aeneas into her realm as her master. And now, that Paris with his half-man retinue, his chin and essences hair wound about with a Lydian turban, enjoys what he has filched, while we keep bringing presents to your shrines—yes, to yours—and coddle your great name, for nothing.”



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