Wednesday, October 6th, 2010...7:11 pmChris Francese

The Elephant (Anth. Lat. 187)

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Chief of Monsters

Monstrorum princeps, Elephans proboscide saevus

horret mole nigra, dente micat niveo.

sed vario fugienda malo cum belua gliscat,

est tamen excepti mors pretiosa feri.

nam quae conspicimus montani roboris ossa

humanis veniunt usibus apta satis.

consulibus sceptrum, mensis decus, arma tablistis,

discolor et tabulae calculus inde datur.

haec est humanae semper mutatio sortis:

fit moriens ludus, qui fuit ante pavor.

Anth. Lat. 187  (D.R. Shackleton Bailey, Anthologia Latina [Stuttgart: Teubner, 1982], pp. 128-9).

Reise’s slightly different text is here. Excepti (4) is Shackleton Bailey’s nice emendation for the manuscripts’ ex certis, which makes no sense. Montani can mean savage in temperament, like mountain dwellers. Tab(u)lista, -ae (m.) is a rare and late word, not in OLD or Lewis and Short, but it is a sensible enough term for those who play at tabula, a game which, according to Isidore of Seville, involved dice, tower-like pieces, and counters. See DuCange s.v. tabula. As far as I can tell, arma tablistis and tabulae calculus refer to the same game, or type of game.


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