Main Text

Editor’s Note7.

Editor’s Note1.'post grande interuallum dum solus in eremo sedeo et praeter caelum terramque nihil uideo, coepi mecum tacitus uoluere et inter multa monachorum quoque contubernia recordari, maximeque uultum patris mei, qui me erudierat, tenuerat, perdiderat. Editor’s Note2.sicque cogitans aspicio formicarum gregem angusto calle feruere. uideres onera maiora quam corpora. aliae herbarum quaedam semina forcipe oris trahebant, aliae egerebant humum de foueis et aquarum meatus aggeribus excludebant. illae uenturae hiemis memores, ne madefacta humus in herbam horrea uerteret, illata semina praecidebant; hae luctu celebri corpora defuncta portabant. quodque magis mirum esset in tanto agmine, egrediens non obstabat intrantibus; quin potius si quam sub fasce uidissent et onere concidisse, suppositis umeris adiuuabant. Editor’s Note3.quid multa? pulchrum mihi spectaculum dies illa praebuit, unde recordatus Salomonis ad formicae sollertiam nos mittentis et pigras mentes sub tali exemplo suscitantis coepi taedere captiuitatis et monasterii cellulas quaerere ac formicarum illarum sollicitudinem desiderare ubi laboratur in medium et, cum nihil cuiusquam proprium sit, omnia omnium sunt.



1.'After a long period, while I was sitting alone in the desert seeing nothing but heaven and earth, I began silently to reflect and to recall among many things the community of the monks as well, and especially the face of my Father, who had taught me, kept me, and lost me. 2.While I reflected thus, I caught sight of a colony of ants buzzing with activity along a narrow path. You could see that their loads were larger than their bodies. Some were dragging some grass seeds with the pincers of their mouth. Others were carrying out soil from the chambers and blocking water courses with ramparts. Some, mindful of the coming winter, to prevent the moistened earth from turning the granaries into grass, were cutting up the seeds which had been brought in. Others were carrying out deceased bodies in a mournful procession. But what was more remarkable in such a throng, whoever was going out did not get in the way of those coming in; rather, if they saw one of their number fall under its heavy burden, they would support it by putting their shoulders to the load. 3.In short, splendid was the spectacle that that day offered me. As a result, remembering Solomon, who points us to the ingenuity of the ant and rouses sluggish minds by their example, I began to tire of captivity and to long for the cells of the monastery, and to crave the industrious way of life of those ants, where labour is for the common good and, with no one having anything in private, everything belongs to everyone.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
Although content in his situation as chaste husband and shepherd, Malchus is seized with longing for the monastery which he abandoned (§1). The virtues of the cenobitic monastic life are illustrated by his observation of a colony of ants (§2). He wishes to imitate their labour and their concern for the community (§3). The implication is that such a community life is only possible among cenobitic monks, and that it is superior to his individualistic monasticism. There is no discussion in this chapter of the additional complication of his attachment to the woman (VM 6).
The chapter is particularly significant for the polemical purposes of the VM as it juxtaposes the eremitical life with cenobitic monasticism and champions the latter (cf. de Vogüé in Leclerc et al. 2007: 80–1). The respective status of different monastic models was becoming an object of debate in the late fourth century: Basil, Cassian, and Pachomius all wrote rules for monastic communities. Jerome actively participated in this debate, for example by translating the Rule of Pachomius into Latin; see also his exposition of three different categories of monks at Ep. 22.34–7. The VM can be read as an attempt to construct a precedent for Jerome's own version of monastic life with Paula in a double community of monks and nuns (de Vogüé 1991–2007: II.100–1). That Jerome was concerned in his hagiographic works to create aetiologies for existing models of monastic life is clear from the VP's construction of a predecessor for Antony; and the VH shows the continuity of Antony's tradition, presenting its spread from Egypt to Palestine and then all over the Mediterranean.
In the narrative construction of the VM this chapter provides a moment of rest between the adventures of the preceding and following chapters. Malchus does nothing but sit in the desert, reflect, and observe the ants. His contemplation initiates the final and climactic episode of adventure in the VM. The decision which leads to this climax is narrated in two stages. First he fondly recalls life in the monastery which he abandoned; then the observation of the ants sharpens this vague nostalgia into a positive decision for a way of life which does not only embrace chastity but also community. Thus the ants' example spurs Malchus to make this decision and to act on it.
A novelistic parallel for a description of a natural spectacle with a moralizing interpretation may be Ach. Tat. 1.15–18, where the narrator Clitophon suggestively describes a garden, explains the courtship rituals of peacocks to his beloved, and expands on the power of love more generally.
Editor’s Note
post grande interuallum: cf. 3.5 post multos annos: Malchus twice indicates the passage of great lengths of time. In this way the plot is made to cover almost all of Malchus' life, although it has been described by Fuhrmann (1977: 59) as a single complete action and therefore 'keine Lebensbeschreibung'.
The substitution of grandis for magnus in later Latin and Romance languages is discussed above, s.v. 5.1 grandi amne transmisso. There is no parallel for grande interuallum before Jerome. In earlier texts interuallum with temporal meaning is qualified by magnus or longus: TLL VII.i.2294.43ff. s.v. intervallum: 'rei interpositae': Sen. Q. Nat. 3.26.6 post magnum interuallum temporis, Quint. Inst. 10.1.75 longo post interuallo temporis.
Editor’s Note
solus in eremo: this collocation may be a conscious wordplay on 'alone' in Latin and 'deserted' in Greek: see O'Hara (1996: 64–5; 137, 339) for similar, if more complex, juxtapositions of Latin adjectives glossing Greek nouns, for example Aen. 1.744 (= 3.516) pluuiasque Hyadas, where the juxtaposition suggests the semantic relationship of the adjective pluuius to the Greek verb ὕω‎, from which root, by implication, the name Hyades is derived (O'Hara 1996: 64) and Cat. 64.1–18, where 'Catullus plays on the connection of the name of the ship Argo with the word ἀργός‎, "swift," in a way that demonstrates his awareness of earlier etymologies' (O'Hara 1996: 339); see also Cairns (1979: 96–7) on Tibullus' wordplay on tener (Greek ἁβρός‎) and Arabs at 2.2.4, with references to Varro LL 6.96, 7.88–9, etc. Cf. also Ruf. Hist. mon. 11.9.3, where the phrase solus . . . in eremo forms the background for a comparable (albeit diabolical) epiphany: huic quondam cum solus esset in eremo, desiderium uescendi mellis exortum est, et conuersus uidit in saxo fauum mellis inhaerentem.
For the use of eremus, solitudo, and desertum in the Vitae cf. 3.3 eremum with note.
Editor’s Note
praeter caelum terramque nihil uideo: a vision which is simultaneously grand and empty. The aspect of the desert landscape evokes the first stage of creation at Gen. 1:1–2 in principio creauit Deus caelum et terram / terra autem erat inanis et uacua; cf. also the experience of sailors in the open sea at Lucr. 4.434 nil aliud nisi aquam caelumque tuentur. The phrase illustrates the type of experience sought by the anchorite monk: to be without sensual distraction and focus solely on communication with the divine. There is an implicit contrast between the perception of these huge entities and the observation of the ants in §2.
The phrase caelum terramque is found twice in Lucretius (5.78, 6.601), as well as in Virgil (Aen. 1.133), Seneca (Q. Nat. 2.4.1), Statius (Theb. 11.692), Lactantius (Div. Inst. 4.4.10), and Rufinus (translation of Orig. De princ. 2.11.6; translation of Ps.-Clement Rec. 3.66.2). In none of these is it combined with uideo.
Editor’s Note
uideo: the first of four words referring to vision in this chapter; the others are aspicio, uideres, and spectaculum. Malchus presents himself as the spectator of a stage play enacted by ants and directed by God.
Editor’s Note
coepi mecum tacitus uoluere: for coepi see note on 6.4. This passage and 7.3 coepi . . . desiderare are the only two out of the VM's five instances of coepi where coepi is in the first position. The only other instance of coepi in first position in Jerome's Vitae is VP 3.3, where it does not begin the sentence but comes after a subordinate clause: quo cum, recedentibus cunctis, meretrix speciosa uenisset, coepit delicatis stringere colla complexibus. A parallel for coepi in first position with a verb of mental activity in colloquial classical Latin is Cic. Fam. 7.5.1: coepi uelle ea Trebatium exspectare a te quae sperasset a me (Löfstedt 1956: II.450–1, with references to coepi uelle in TLL III.1424.34 ff.).
Editor’s Note
mecum... uoluere: cf. VP 16.2 talia eo animo uoluente. The phrases mecum uoluo and mecum uoluto are both relatively rare in Latin and belong to a high stylistic register. In early and classical Latin the combination of mecum with the frequentative verb uoluto is overwhelmingly more frequent than that with uoluo. mecum uoluto occurs as early as Plautus (Mil. 195–6 sed quid est, Palaestrio, / quod uolutas tute tecum in corde?) and is used exclusively by Virgil (Ecl. 9.37, Aen. 1.50, 4.533, 6.157–8, 10.159, 12.843), followed by Ovid (Met. 1.389) and Silius (5.369, 17.185). Among historians, Sallust prefers the non-frequentative form (Cat. 32.1, Iug. 113.1) while Livy uses both uoluo (26.7.3) and uoluto (30.14.3, 40.8.5, 42.11.5) and Tacitus only uoluto (Ann. 4.12.2, 13.15.1).
In later Latin uoluo becomes the normal verb for this formula: cf. for example Amm. 26.4.3; Ambr. Exp. Ps. CXVIII 2.1.2, 19.10.2; Aug. C. Acad. 1.4.10, 1.6.18, Ep. 7.3.7, Enarrat. 86.2; Jer. In Sophon. 3.10–13 (CCSL 76A p. 705 line 423), VP 8.1, Ep. 36.11.1, 108.11.1 (a close parallel, with coepit and predicative tacita: statimque . . . coepit . . . tacita secum uoluere, quomodo eunuchus Aethiops gentium populos praefigurans mutauerit pellem suam eqs.). Only Claudian (Rapt. Pros. 1.118 and Carm. mai. 20.447) continues to use mecum uoluto; Aug. De Trin. 15.16 (CCSL 50A p. 500) has mecum uoluto in a quotation from Virgil, together with a gloss. The combination of predicative tacitus with forms of mecum uoluto first occurs in Virg. Ecl. 9.37 id quidem ago et tacitus, Lycida, mecum ipse uoluto.
Editor’s Note
mecum . . . uoluere . . . recordari... cogitans: the marked uariatio sermonis with three verbs for 'reflecting' draws attention to Malchus' thought process.
Editor’s Note
inter multa: 'among many things'; it does not belong with contubernia in the same clause.
Editor’s Note
maximeque uultum patris mei, qui me erudierat, tenuerat, perdiderat: de Vogüé (1991–2007: II.93) points out the thematic parallels between this passage and the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32, esp. 17–19, 24, 32): cf. Introduction p. 21.
Editor’s Note
maximeque: for redundant -que see the note on sicque at 7.2 below.
Editor’s Note
patris mei: this is the only place where Malchus refers to the abbot with the Latin word pater; elsewhere he is called abbas (a Greek form from a Semitic root). See 3.6 abbas with note.
Editor’s Note
erudierat, tenuerat, perdiderat: for this conspicuous tricolon with homoeoteleuton in -erat at the end of the sentence cf. my Introduction pp. 55–61.
Editor’s Note
The moral example of the ants serves to develop Malchus' inchoate thoughts. While Malchus' experience is entirely naturalistic, the impact of his observation is akin to that of a supernatural revelation. Jerome's depiction of the ants draws on an ancient moralizing tradition which has its roots in Near Eastern wisdom literature: ants are found in the Syrian versions of the Story of Ahiqar (the oldest version of this text, which does not refer to ants, is an Aramaic version preserved on a papyrus from the fifth century bc, for which see Niehr 2007); implicitly in Hes. WD 778 (ἴδρις σωρὸν ἀμᾶται‎: 'the wise one gathers a pile'); and in the Old Testament Proverbs ascribed to Solomon (6:6, quoted in the VM). The philosophical interests of Greek and Latin authors produced an increasingly differentiated presentation of ants, with scientific observations and mythological imagination inspiring and illustrating each other, usually in the service of a search for universal truths.
The descriptions of ants by Aelian (NA 2.25, 4.43 (4.44 Teubner), 6.43, 6.50), Pliny (NH 11.108–10), Plutarch (Soll. an. 967d–968a), and Philo (De Animalibus 42, 91–2) are closely related. In part they go back to Aristotle (HA 488a, 622b, 623b), but they seem to have other shared sources and/or copy one another. All of these authors provide more or less coherent accounts which share a number of preoccupations: cf. Terian (1981: 154).
Christian authors drew on this scientific material, especially in the homiletic genre of the Hexameron, a series of sermons on the first six days of creation, in which the order of the natural world was interpreted in such a way as to yield theological insights and to contribute to the moral edification of the congregation. The earliest extant examples are the fourth-century Hexameron of Basil and its Latin adaptation in Ambrose's Exameron, which, Jerome claims, also incorporates material from Origen and Hippolytus: Ep. 84.7.4: nuper Ambrosius sic Exameron illius [i.e. Origenis] compilauit, ut magis Hippolyti Sententias Basiliique sequeretur). According to Henke (2000: 19), this refers to the Genesis commentary of Origen, the fragments of which are printed at PG XII.45–146; Hippolytus' Hexameron is all but completely lost (Harnack 1893: 627.22 lists one possible fragment).
The precision of Jerome's description of the ants makes it likely that he was acquainted not only with the moral exegesis of science but also with the scientific tradition itself. Among natural histories that of Pliny the Elder, the only Latin representative of this genre, is the most likely direct source for the account in VM 7: Leclerc in Leclerc et al. (2007: 42, nn. 3 and 4). The following table gives in full the relevant passage, Plin. NH 11.108–10, and juxtaposes it with Jerome's use of the same motifs, which are in a different order. Verbal parallels are underlined.

Table 2. Parallels between Pliny, NH 11.108–10 and VM 7.2–3

Pliny, NH 11

VM 7.2–3

108 plurima insectorum uermiculum gignunt, nam et formicae similem ouis uere

— —

. . . et hae communicantes laborem ut apes,

laboratur in medium et, cum nihil cuiusquam proprium sit, omnium omnia sunt

sed illae faciunt cibos, haec condunt.

aliae herbarum quaedam semina ... trahebant

ac si quis conparet oneracorporibus earum, fateatur nullis portione uires esse maiores.

uideres oneramaiora quam corpora

gerunt ea morsu

forcipe oris trahebant

maiora auersae postremis pedibus moliuntur umeris obnixae

suppositis umeris adiuuabant

et his rei publicae ratio, memoria, cura.

— —

109 semina adrosa condunt, ne rursus in frugem exeant e terra, maiora ad introitum diuidunt, madefacta impre proferunt atque siccant.

ne madefacta humus in herbam, horrea uerteret, illata semina praecidebant

operantur et noctu plena luna, eaedem interlunio cessant.

— —

iam in opera qui labor, quae sedulitas!

Salomonis ad formicae sollertiam nos mittentis . . .

coepi . . . formicarum illarum sollicitudinem desiderare, ubi laboratur in medium

et quoniam ex diuerso conuehunt altera alterius ignara, certi dies ad recognitionem mutuam nundinis dantur.

— —

110 quae tunc earum concursatio,quam diligens cum obuiis quaedam conlocutio atque percunctatio!

— —

silices itinere earum adtritos uidemus et opere semitam factam, ne quis dubitet, qualibet in re quid possit quantulacumque adsiduitas.

angusto calle feruere

sepeliunt inter se uiuentium solae praeter hominem.

hae luctu celebri corpora defuncta portabant.

This table shows that the similarities between the two accounts lie in the general characteristics of the ants' life: their labour division, their collection of food, their remarkable strength and industry, their cleverness in preserving their food, and their burial rituals. There are no significant verbal parallels (with the possible exception of madefacta, NH 109, VM 7.2, which is, however, used in slightly different contexts), and Jerome's structure differs from that of Pliny's description. Not every detail of the NH is taken up in the VM, and Jerome adds some points which appear to have been taken from elsewhere: their consideration and help for each other and the removal of soil from the nest (cf. below on aliae egerebant humum de foueis et aquarum meatus aggeribus excludebant and egrediens non obstabat intrantibus).
In addition, the ant section exhibits some close parallels in vocabulary and phraseology in two passages of Latin verse. Firstly, Hor. Sat. 1.1.32–40:
  •                                                                        . . . sicut
  •                   paruula (nam exemplo est) magni formica laboris
  •                   ore trahit quodcumque potest atque addit aceruo
  • 35                  quem struit haud ignara ac non incauta futuri.
  •                   quae, simul inuersum contristat Aquarius annum,
  •                   non usquam prorepit et illis utitur ante
  •                   quaesitis sapiens; cum te neque feruidus aestus
  •                   demoueat lucro neque hiems, ignis, mare, ferrum,
  • 40                  nil obstet tibi, dum ne sit te ditior alter.

. . . just like the small ant (for she serves as an example [for the avaricious]) with great effort drags with her mouth whatever she can and adds to the heap which she is building, not without knowledge and care for the future. But as soon as Aquarius darkens the declining year she does not crawl out anywhere and in her wisdom uses the goods collected earlier; whereas you cannot be deflected from your gain by blazing heat nor by storm, fire, sea, or sword; nothing will stand in the way of your quest that no other man be richer than you.

Here the proverbial wisdom of the ant (sapiens, line 39; cf. Prov. 6:6) manifests itself both in its labour (haud ignara ac non incauta futuri, line 35) and particularly in its choice to rest from collecting provisions during the winter to enjoy its stores. This behaviour is contrasted with that of the avaricious man, who ignores external constraints in his single-minded pursuit of wealth. The only verbal parallels to this passage in VM 7 are exemplo (33), formica (33) and ore trahit (34, transformed into forcipe oris trahebant).
A more thoroughgoing influence has been found in Virg. Aen. 4.401–7 (cf. Hagendahl 1958: 118):
  •                   migrantis cernas totaque ex urbe ruentis,
  •                   ac uelut ingentem formicae farris aceruom
  •                   cum populant hiemis memores tectoque reponunt:
  •                   it nigrum campis agmen praedamque per herbas
  • 405                  conuectant calle angusto, pars grandia trudunt
  •                   obnixae frumenta umeris, pars agmina cogunt
  •                   castigantque moras, opere omnis semita feruet.

You would see them move home and rush from everywhere in the city, just like ants who ravage a huge pile of spelt, mindful of winter, and lay it by in their home: a black battleline moves over the field and drags the booty across the grass on a narrow path; a fraction push along the large grains, straining with their shoulders, a fraction bring up the rear of the columns and punish delays; their whole path seethes with toil.

In the Aeneid the Trojans who prepare their departure from Carthage are described from Dido's point of view and likened to a colony of ants plundering a great heap of grain, which symbolizes the wealth of Carthage. A number of the details are adapted from Virgil's earlier characterization of the bees in the Georgics (especially 4.153–69) and the closely related bee simile at Aen. 1.430–6, for example hiemis memores (Geo. 4.156, cf. below p. 258), agmen (cf. Geo. 4.167, Aen. 1.434), and feruet (Geo. 4.169, Aen. 1.436). This passage has explicit verbal echoes in Jerome's description (cf. below s.vv. angusto calle, feruere, herbarum, hiemis memores, agmine, umeris; also aliae ... aliae, which corresponds to the Aeneid's pars . . . pars but echoes more closely Geo. 4.158–64), whose concentration makes it extremely likely that the parallels are designed to be noticed. The influence of Aen. 4 is also noticeable in VM 6 (see notes ad loc.).
The overlaps between descriptions of ants and bees in Virgil, and their reception in other authors, complicate the picture of the intertextual affiliations in VM 7.2. Virgil's bees have long been recognized as presenting a divinely organized model state, where individuals sacrifice themselves for the common good and, significantly, for their ruler. Among other adaptations, the moralizing drift of this depiction was put to use in Ps.-Quint. Decl. mai. 13 (Apes pauperis), a work from which Jerome quotes verbatim at VM 6.1 (sic quoque me latentem inuenit inuidia, with note, and Introduction pp. 37–8). This fictional prosecution speech, assigned to a poor man whose bees were killed by his rich neighbour, exploits the traditional associations of the bee hive with order and virtue, and it abounds in Virgilian quotations (analysed in Krapinger 2005). Jerome not only uses Virgilian phraseology (whether directly or filtered through the text of Ps.-Quintilian), but he also uses phrases from Ps.-Quintilian which do not originate in Virgil and transfers them from the bees to his ants. An intriguing aspect of Jerome's use is that he makes nothing of the sexlessness ascribed to the bees by Virg. Geo. 4.198–202 ( ... neque concubitu indulgent nec corpora segnes / in Venerem soluunt aut fetus nixibus edunt eqs.) and Ps.-Quint. Decl. mai. 13.16 (solae omnium non edunt fetus sed faciunt). In the VM there is no mention of ants' procreation, eggs, or offspring; the nest seems to be a community of adults. Another marked departure from the bees of the Virgilian tradition is the absence of a king, leader, or superior among Jerome's ants (see below, pp. 264–5).
Editor’s Note
sicque: in classical Latin the connective particle -que would have been avoided as redundant and cacophonous with its clash of -c- and -qu- (Hofmann and Szantyr 1965: 473). The use in later Latin appears to be a revitalization of the early Latin sentence connector -que (cf. Adams 1976: 77, referring to the argument of Watkins 1972: 129 that sentence-connecting particles like -que are an Indo-European phenomenon). Later Latin forms more introductory adverbs with redundant -que, partly on the analogy with itaque, namque, atque, etc. There are eighteen examples of sicque in Jerome's LLT–A corpus; his use of cumque (488 instances), statimque (109 instances), ibique (sixty-six), ideoque (ten), dumque (nine), itemque (one), and utinamque (one) is likely to be governed by the same principles.
Editor’s Note
angusto calle: cf. Virg. Geo. 1.380 angustum formica terens iter, Aen. 4.405 calle angusto; of bees: Virg. Geo. 4.35 angustos habeant aditus (cf. Ps.-Quint. 13.4 angusto festinaretur aditu), 4.228 sedem angustam (v.l. augustam).
Editor’s Note
feruere: cf. Virg. Aen. 4.407, 409; Aug. Ep. 41.1 ferueat iter sanctarum formicarum; Jer. Alt. Luc. 22 feruenti agmine . . . formica. Of bees: Virg. Geo. 4.169 (= Aen. 1.436) feruet opus, redolentque thymo fragrantia mella.
Editor’s Note
uideres onera maiora quam corpora: cf. Plin. NH 11.108 ac si quis conparet onera corporibus earum, fateatur nullis portione uires esse maiores. Ants can in fact lift multiple amounts of their body weight; the exact ratio depends on the species (cf. Keller 1909–13: II.419).
Editor’s Note
uideres: probably an echo of Virg. Aen. 4.401 cernas. Pease (1935: 339) quotes Servius' comment ad loc.: honesta figura si rem tertiae personae in secundam referas, hoc est, 'si quis cernat' and gives parallels for the use of the present subjunctive, which in this kind of situation is less usual than the imperfect.
The mood is the potential of the past: 'you could have seen', which is almost always used in the generic second person ('you' = 'one') with a limited range of verbs (e.g. 'to know', 'to find', 'to say'): cf. Handford (1947: 107). For this form used outside a conditional construction cf. Hofmann and Szantyr (1965: 334). The use is rare in Plautus, but Hofmann and Szantyr quote Curc. 331 scires uelle gratiam tuam as an exception. From Terence onwards the form becomes more common, although a conditional clause of the type si adfuisses is usually implied. Yet Handford (1947: 107) argues against regarding the remote conditional as the origin of the potential on the grounds that the range of verbs and forms so used is very narrow. In classical Latin (especially Cicero, e.g. Phil. 2.67 conchyliatis Cn. Pompei peristromatis seruorum in cellis lectos stratos uideres, and Livy, e.g. 2.43.9 iniussu signa referunt maestique—crederes uictos—execrantes imperatorem redeunt in castra) this subjunctive is fairly frequent, while in later Latin it becomes a purely literary device (cf. Salonius 1920: 23). The use of the imperfect instead of the pluperfect for the past potential is commonly explained by reference to the more immediate character of the potential compared to the hypothetical meaning. Mayer (1956: 133) objects that immediacy should not be the norm of a general use but an option determined by pragmatics (thus the historic present, for example, can be interpreted as a marked variation on the perfect or imperfect to achieve immediacy; but see Pinkster 1990: 224–5, discussed below, p. 265), whereas for the past potential the imperfect is the regular, unmarked form. Mayer instead takes the use as an indication that the Latin imperfect has its morphological origins in the Proto-Indo-European preterite.
The LLT–A has two other instances of the past potential of the verb uideo in Jerome, both in the VH: 13.7 uideres de ore barbaro, et qui Francam tantum et Latinam linguam nouerat, Syra ad purum uerba resonare (introducing a miraculous event, and perhaps increasing its effect) and 21.3 uideres senem huc atque illuc cum discipulis beati Antonii discurrere. Cf. also the use of crederes at VH 31.4, and of diceres, found twice in Ep. 125.18.2–3: criticum diceres esse Longinum ('you would have said [had you seen him] that he was a critic like Longinus') . . . totus ambiguus, ut ex contrariis diuersisque naturis unum monstrum nouamque bestiam diceres esse conpactam ('impossible to define, so that one should have said that from various contrary natures a single monster, a new beast, had been put together').
Although Malchus addresses the listener elsewhere (3.1 mi nate, 9.3 quid putas fuisse nobis animi?) there is no suggestion of any substantial interaction between the two beyond the telling and hearing of the story. The second person here is most likely to be an empty cliché.
Editor’s Note
aliae . . . aliae . . . illae . . . hae: this description of the ants' division of labour is an adaptation of Virg. Aen. 4.405–7: pars grandia trudunt / obnixae frumenta umeris, pars agmina cogunt / castigantque moras. The words used to subdivide the ants into groups are paralleled more closely in Virg. Geo. 4.158–64:
  •                   namque aliae uictu inuigilant et foedere pacto
  •                   exercentur agris; pars intra saepta domorum
  •                   Narcissi lacrimam et lentum de cortice gluten
  •                   prima fauis ponunt fundamina, deinde tenacis
  •                   suspendunt ceras; aliae spem gentis adultos
  •                   educunt fetus; aliae purissima mella
  •                   stipant et liquido distendunt nectare cellas.

For some watch over the provisions and are busy in the field according to an agreed rule; a faction, enclosed inside the dwellings, arrange the tear of Narcissus and the sticky resin from the bark as the first foundations of the honeycomb, and then hang up the clinging wax; some lead out the grown-up young, the hope of the tribe; others stack the purest honey and stretch the cells with fluid nectar.

Cf. also Ps.-Quint. Decl. mai. 13.4 quemadmodum aliae libratae pinnis onera conferrent, aliae deposita sarcina in nouas prorumperent praedas . . . aliae militaribus castris pellerent uulgus ignauum, aliae longum permensae iter fatigatae anhelitum traherent, haec ad aestiuum solem porrectas panderet pinnas; Ps.-Quint. Decl. mai. 13.17 ut aliae congerant onera, aliae accipiant, aliae linant; and Plin. NH 11.20–2 (also of bees) cum agmen ad opera processit, aliae flores adgerunt pedibus, aliae aquam ore guttasque lanugine totius corporis . . . sunt enim intus quoque officia diuisa: aliae struunt, aliae poliunt, aliae suggerunt, aliae cibum comparant ex eo quod adlatum est. On labour division among ants in ancient literature see Plin. NH 11.108 communicantes laborem ut apes, Lucian Icar. 19 (Keller 1909–13: II.419).
Editor’s Note
aliae herbarum quaedam semina forcipe oris trahebant: herbarum may be an echo of Virg. Aen. 4.404 per herbas. The presence of grass in the 'desert' is in keeping with the fact that this is where Malchus pastures his master's sheep. This indicates that the description of the landscape here is inspired by the Syrian 'desert', which is in reality interspersed with steppe areas: cf. 3.3 perueni tandem ad eremum Chalcidos eqs. with note.
Editor’s Note
forcipe oris trahebant: cf. Hor. Sat. 1.1.34 ore trahit. In the same way ants use their mouths at Plin. NH 11.108 gerunt ea morsu. For Jerome's more anatomically precise forcipe cf. Basil Hex. 9.3 ταῖς ἑαυτοῦ χηλαῖς‎. trahebant is equally precise: modern entomologists, such as Sudd (1965), observe that some species of ants carry lighter loads and drag heavier burdens.
Editor’s Note
aliae egerebant humum de foueis et aquarum meatus aggeribus excludebant: a detail not found in Plin. NH 11.108–10 but paralleled in Ael. NA 6.43: τὴν δὲ γῆν ἣν ἐξορύττουσιν, ἀλλὰ ταύτην ὑπὲρ τοῦ στομίου περιβαλόντες οἱονεὶ τείχη τινὰ καὶ προβλήματα ἐργάζονται, ὡς μὴ τὸ ὕδωρ τὸ ἐξ οὐρανοῦ καταθέον εἶτα ῥᾳδίως αὐτoὺς ἐπικλύσαν ἢ ἀπολέσῃ πάντας ἢ τoύς γε πλείστoυς‎ ('And the soil which they excavate they put around the mouth [sc. of the nest], forming as it were walls and barriers, so that the rain which descends from the sky may not easily flood them and destroy all or at any rate most of them', tr. Scholfield 1958–9: II.61).
Editor’s Note
egerebant humum: possibly taken from Liv. 38.7.6 non solum sub terra fodientes sed egerentes etiam humum fefellere hostem or Tac. Ann. 1.65.7 amissa magna ex parte per quae <e> geritur humus aut exciditur caespes.
Editor’s Note
egerebant . . . de foueis: the use of de with egero, rather than ex, which one might expect to complement a compound verb with the prefix e(x)-, is typical of later Latin. The transition was anticipated in the republican period: Cato Agr. has de uino manipulum eicito (115.1) alongside ex oleis albis, nigris uariisque nuculeos eicito (119) and eximito de dolio (112.3) as well as ex fornace calcem eximit calcarius (16); Cicero especially in his early speeches has phrases like de manu . . . eripere (Verr. 2.4.112), de carcere emitti (Verr. 2.5.22), and in the later Vatin. 31 de balineis exeunti; similarly B. Afr. 11.2 de nauibus . . . egredi (with Wölfflin and Miodónski 1889: 21), 58.1 de castris ... educunt (Hofmann and Szantyr 1965: 262–3).
Goelzer (1884: 338, 341) argues that Jerome's pervasive use of de in this way is the feature with respect to which the author goes furthest in embracing contemporary linguistic developments: in later Latin de comes to stand in not only for ab and ex but also to complement the simple ablative. cf. Löfstedt (1911: 103–6) on the dominance of de in the Peregrinatio; see also Médan (1926: 61) on Apuleius. Adams (2003b: 567) discusses exportare + de in Vindolanda tablet 659, noting the parallel expression exit de paedagogio, of which Väänänen et al. (1966–70: I.254) find nine instances in the Palatine graffiti. Cf. also Väänänen (1966: 126) on de for ab in the Pompeian Tabulae ceratae CLV 8 (ad 61, CIL IV suppl. 1 p. 411): accepit de Poppea. See my Introduction p. 53.
Editor’s Note
illae uenturae hiemis memores: while hiemis memores is in Virgil's description of ants at Aen. 4.403 (quoted at the start of this section), this phrase is even closer to Virg. Geo. 4.156 uenturaeque hiemis memores (of bees); for the thought cf. also Hor. Sat. 1.1.35 haud ignara ac non incauta futuri, Ps.-Quint. Decl. mai. 13.17 (of bees) non ut ferae uolucres, non praesentis modo cibi memores in diem uiuunt; duraturus hiemi reponitur uictus.
Editor’s Note
ne madefacta humus in herbam horrea uerteret: a fact taken from Plin. NH 11.109, but the metaphorical expression humus in herbam horrea uerteret is more poetic: for horrea used of ants' storage cf. Ov. Trist. 1.9a.9 horrea formicae tendunt ad inania numquam. madefactus recurs at VM 8.4.
Editor’s Note
illata semina praecidebant: this example of ants' cleverness is also discussed at Ael. NA 2.25 and Basil Hex. 9.3 διακόπτει γὰρ ταῖς ἑαυτοῦ χηλαῖς τῶν καρπῶν τὸ μεσαίτατον, ὡς ἂν μὴ ἐκφυέντες ἄχρηστοι πρὸς τροφὴν αὐτῷ γένοιντο‎. Cf. also Keller (1909–13: II.419).
Editor’s Note
hae luctu celebri corpora defuncta portabant: Virg. Geo. 4.255–6 (on bees): tum corpora luce carentum / exportant tectis et tristia funera ducunt (Morales' reference, in Leclerc et al. 2007: 202 n. 1); cf. Ps.-Quint. Decl. mai. 13.17 efferuntur prius corpora, posteriorque operum quam funerum cura est. The burial customs of ants are described in Ael. NA 5.49: μύρμηκες δέ, καὶ ἐκείνοις ἐκφορᾶς νεκρῶν μέλειν καὶ καθαίρειν τοὺς σφετέρους χηραμοὺς ἡ σοφωτάτη φύσις ἔδωκεν‎ ('ants also, thanks to the supreme wisdom of Nature, are careful to carry away dead bodies and cleanse their nests', tr. Scholfield 1958–9: I.347), 6.43: σοφὸν δὲ καὶ ἐκεῖνο προσακήκοα, ὅτι ἄρα τοὺς τεθνεῶτας μύρμηκας οἱ προσήκοντες ἐν ταῖς τῶν πυρῶν κηδεύουσι θυλακίσιν, ὡς πατέρας ἢ πᾶν τὸ φίλιον ἐν ταῖς σοροῖς οἱ ἄνθρωποι‎ ('I have also heard the following example of their cleverness: their relations bury dead ants in the capsules of wheat, just as men bury their parents or all whom they love in coffins', tr. Scholfield 1958–9: II.63), and 6.50 (a ransom ritual for the cadaver of an ant belonging to a different nest; cf. Plut. Soll. an. 967 e–f). Pliny NH 11.110 claims that ants sepeliunt inter se uiuentium solae praeter hominem.
Editor’s Note
luctu celebri: the closest parallel for this phrase is Amm. 20.5.5, in Julian's speech to his troops, with reference to the few Roman victims in the battle of Argentoratum (Strasbourg, ad 357): exsequias honestauimus celebri potius laude quam luctu For the possible influence of Ammianus on Jerome cf. Introduction pp. 30–2. But the similarity here may be coincidental: in classical Latin celebritas and luctus are juxtaposed at Cic. Leg. 2.65 sublata etiam erat celebritas uirorum ac mulierum, quo lamentatio minueretur; auget enim luctum concursus hominum. Christian parallels are Aug. Quaest. in hept. 1.172 nescio utrum inueniatur alicui sanctorum in Scripturis celebratum esse luctum nouem dies, Aug. Civ. 7.20 quae res cum fuisset luctu publico celebrata.
Editor’s Note
portabant: this is what I read in all my five manuscripts. Morales' apparatus in Leclerc et al. (2007: 202) ascribes the reading deportabant to Neap. (mistakenly) and to other manuscripts which I have not seen. There is some scope for defending deportabant on the grounds of meaning: verbs which are synonymous with deporto, such as effero (TLL V.ii.141.32ff.) and exporto (TLL V.ii.1769.83ff.; for the relationship between ex and de cf. note on egerebant . . . de foueis, pp. 257–8 above), can be used specifically of funerary transport, for example Plaut. Asin. 615 utinam sic efferamur; cf. also CIL XII.155 corpus eius deportatum hic condidit. Both effero and exporto are used of insects in Virg. Geo. : 1.379 [formica] tectis penetralibus extulit oua, 4.255–6 (of bees) corpora luce carentum / exportant tectis et tristia funera ducunt.
Winterbottom (2008:373) rejects deportabant as a result of dittography from the preceding defuncta, whereas 'portabant gives rhythm' (cretic-trochee with accentual cursus planus). Although the accentual pattern of defúncta deportábant can be taken as an instance of cursus trispondaicus (see Introduction p. 60), the quantities of defūnctaˇ dēpōrtābānt do not correspond to the associated metre ˉ ͜ ͜ ͜ ˉ ˟, which makes the rhythm less attractive. The VM usually has quadrisyllabic clause-final words like deportabant preceded by a paroxytone to produce cursus uelox (e.g. 1.2 históriam latiórem; cf. 1.3, 2.2, 3.5, etc.). Would Jerome purposely introduce a less rhythmical quadrisyllable instead of a straightforward rhythmical ending? Together with strong manuscript support this makes portabant the preferred option.
Editor’s Note
quodque magis mirum esset: cf. Jer. Ep. 108.29.2: quodque mirum sit, nihil pallor mutarat in facie.
Editor’s Note
magis mirum: for periphrastic comparatives in the VM cf. 6.2 fidum . . . magis with note. Here the periphrasis is used according to the phonetic rule for adjectives ending in -rus: TLL VIII.61.1ff.
Editor’s Note
agmine: used of ants at Virg. Aen. 4.404 it nigrum campis agmen, 4.406 agmina cogunt; of bees at Virg. Geo. 4.167, Aen. 1.434, Plin. NH 11.20 agmen ad opera processit.
Editor’s Note
egrediens non obstabat intrantibus: the phrasing closely parallels Ps.-Quint. Decl. mai. 13.4 (of bees) turba tamen exeuntium non obstaret intrantibus. The observation appears to be based on Plin. NH 11.22 (also of bees) aliis intrent, aliis exeant, 'they go in by one way and leave by another'. Pliny does not extend this observation to ants, but descriptions of ants' consideration for each other are found at Plut. Soll. an. 967f, Ael. NA 2.25, Dio Chrys. Or. 40.32, 40–1 (Keller 1909–13: II.418).
Editor’s Note
quin potius: this combination increases the intensity of the following statement compared to what precedes: Hofmann and Szantyr (1965: 676–7). In early Latin quin could have this force on its own (e.g. Plaut. Amph. 410–11 quid, domum uostram?—ita enim uero.— quin, quae dixisti modo, / omnia ementitu's. But in colloquial use this type of quin became equivalent to immo (Don. Ter. Eun. 902: quin pro immo) and therefore was often combined, like immo, with etiam (e.g. Plaut. Capt. 290) or potius (e.g. Plaut. Cas. 100). quin etiam is then used in classical Latin (in poetry shortened to quin et from Horace and Virgil); it is not found in Jerome's corpus (LLT–A), whereas quin potius occurs fifty-six times.
Editor’s Note
si quam sub fasce uidissent et onere concidisse: a hyperbaton of the hendiadys fasce et onere ('the heavy load'): cf. Introduction pp. 65–6. On the partial semantic overlap between fascis and onus see Servius on Virg. Ecl. 9.65 (hoc te fasce leuabo): fascem ait onus, cf. TLL VI.i.307.24ff. Jerome uses the same uariatio in his Praefatio in librum Ezrae (lines 2–3): magnitudo oneris inpositi ita ceruices premit, ut ante sub fasce ruendum sit quam leuandum.
Editor’s Note
sub fasce: Virg. Geo. 4.204 ultroque animam sub fasce dedere, of the self-sacrificing spirit of bees. The ants' concern for each other removes the need for such self-sacrifice.
Editor’s Note
umeris: this particular anthropomorphism is also found of ants in Virg. Aen. 4.406 (of bees: Geo. 4.217), Plin. NH 11.108 (maiora auersae postremis pedibus moliuntur umeris obnixae), and Ambr. Ex. 6.4.16, 6.4.20.
Editor’s Note
quid multa?: the same praeteritio is used at 3.3. Here the phrase has a concluding function, whereas the first quid multa? replaced the narration of Malchus' entire journey from Nisibis to Chalcis.
Editor’s Note
pulchrum mihi spectaculum dies illa praebuit: cf. triste spectaculum of an empty beehive at Ps.-Quint. Decl. mai. 13.6; cf. also Ps.- Quint. Decl. mai. 13.4 ipse spectator operis.
Editor’s Note
unde: 'from where' in the sense of 'in consequence'. This use is found in classical Latin as well, for example Virg. Aen. 7.778–9 unde etiam templo Triuiae . . . arcentur equi. Löfstedt (1911: 180–1) points out that colloquial Latin uses unde as equivalent to a/de/ex quo/qua/ quibus. For the development of this explanatory function into a causal meaning (equivalent to quare and quamobrem) in later Latin see Hofmann and Szantyr (1965: 209; cf. Vitae patr. 3.188 unde dicebat senex, with Salonius 1920: 212).
Editor’s Note
Salomonis ad formicae sollertiam nos mittentis: the reference is to Prov. 6:6 uade ad formicam o piger et considera uias eius et disce sapientiam. The same passage is discussed by Basil at Reg. fus. 37.2 (PG XXXI.1012 line 20) and (extensively) at Homilia in illud: Ne dederis somnum oculis tuis (PG XXXI.1501–5). For bees as an example to humans cf. Ps.-Quint. Decl. mai. 13.16 dicam animal quodammodo paruum hominis exemplar? hoc humana excogitare non potuit sollertia.
Editor’s Note
pigras mentes sub tali exemplo suscitantis: the effect of Malchus' recollection of Prov. 6:6 is here represented as the action of Solomon himself.
Editor’s Note
sub tali exemplo: sub + exemplo in pre-Christian prose is mainly found in Tacitus (Ann. 3.68.1, 4.11.3) and Pliny the Younger (Ep. 1.18.5, 2.6.6, 3.18.2, etc.). It becomes much more popular with Christian writers, for example Tertullian (De res. mort. 48), Chromatius, and Augustine. There are eleven more instances of the phrase in Jerome's corpus, for example Ep. 55.4(3).5 sub exemplo trium eunuchorum uirginitatis infert beatitudinem.
Editor’s Note
coepi taedere captiuitatis: on coepi in initial position cf. above 7.1. taedeo is outside the current scope of the TLL. According to the OLD2 it does not appear to be used with a personal construction in classical Latin, where we would instead expect coepit me taedere captiuitatis. The only classical exception is the use of taedet in a sequence of personal verbs at Cic. Or. 131 (for this reason the text has been considered problematic by scribes and editors): sed est faciundum etiam, ut irascatur iudex mitigetur, inuideat faueat, contemnat admiretur, oderit diligat, cupiat taedeat, speret metuat, laetetur doleat. In the history of Latin various impersonal verbs became personal, or acquired a personal use: mihi dolet was replaced by doleo, ueretur by uereor. In later Latin the deponent taedeor (formed from taedet on the analogy of misereor: Flobert 1975: 219) and then personal taedeo (primarily represented in the Vetus Latina: cf. Rönsch 1875: 382, e.g. Jer. 15:9 as quoted at Cypr. Ad Quir. 2.23 and Lact. Inst. 4.19.4 exterrita est quae parit et taeduit anima) became more prominent. This language change from impersonal to personal can be paralleled in English: Old English constructions like mec longade 'me longed' came to be replaced by personal ones ('I longed'); a few fossilized forms like 'me thinks' are preserved in Shakespeare (Traugott 1972: 81, 130–1).
Editor’s Note
monasterii cellulas: in other words, a cenobitic monastery, consisting not just of one cell but several (cf. 3.5 monasterium with note). cellulas fits well with the insect imagery of the passage: it is frequently used of beehives (TLL III.764.6ff.), for example Jer. In Tit. 1.12–14 (CCSL 77C p. 30 lines 674–5): apium, quae . . . solent . . . fauorum cellulas coaptare, Ruf. Hist. mon. 21.1.3 (of monks) uelut examen apum . . . ex suis cellulis proruunt. cella can even mean a cell of the honeycomb (TLL III.759.40ff.: i.q. singulae cauernulae fauorum apium). Jerome clearly prefers the diminutive of the word: a LLT–A search yields seven instances of cella against fifty-two of cellula.
Editor’s Note
formicarum illarum sollicitudinem: the industry of ants is proverbial and often combined in literature with their 'wisdom' in providing for the future. The emphasis on the cooperation of tiny insects is more commonly associated with bees in ancient literature. It seems that Jerome here combines the two 'moral' topoi into one.
A textual variant for sollicitudinem in two manuscripts of Morales' apparatus in Leclerc et al. (2007: 202; more witnesses with this reading are listed in E. M. Morales 1991: 62) is similitudinem, which is attractive in a context that underlines precisely the similarities between monastery and ant colony. But Jameson (1938: 417) defends sollicitudinem by reference to the (admittedly very free) Greek translation: τὸν γὰρ τῶν μυρμήκων τρόπον συμφώνως θείᾳ πνευματικῇ χάριτι εὐοδούμενοι ἐν πᾶσι τοῖς μοναστηρίοις οἱ τῷ Χριστῷ ἑαυτοὺς ... προσφέροντες . . . φυλάσσειν ἀμέμπτως σπουδάζουσιν . . .‎ ('for in the manner of the ants, harmoniously prospering through divine spiritual grace, in all the monasteries those who give themselves ... to Christ . . . strive to be irreproachably on their guard . . . ', ed. Van den Ven 1900: 443). Jameson argues that σπουδάζουσιν‎ 'represents the eager zeal of the ants, their most characteristic quality, and strongly supports sollicitudinem which expresses exactly the same idea'.
Editor’s Note
laboratur in medium et, cum nihil cuiusquam proprium sit, omnium omnia sunt: for a more circumstantial description of monastic arrangements which uses similar vocabulary cf. Jer. Ep. 22.34.2 de eo, quod laborauerint, in medium partes conferunt, ut habeant alimenta communia.
Malchus' attitude to monastic life has changed from 3.5, where he left the monastery because he wanted to have some property for himself. Now he has come to desire for himself the unselfish and unpropertied life of whose value the abbot tried to convince him by threats and manifestations of authority.
Editor’s Note
laboratur in medium: a very elliptical phrase. With in medium one would expect a verb signifying 'bringing', 'putting', or similar, and an object which is placed in the middle as the fruit of the labour, as at Jer. Ep. 22.34.2 de eo, quod laborauerint, in medium partes conferunt. The phrasing here seems inspired by Virg. Geo. 4.153–7: solae communis natos, consortia tecta / urbis habent magnisque agitant sub legibus aeuom, / et patriam solae et certos nouere penatis; / uenturaeque hiemis memores aestate laborem / experiuntur et in medium quaesita reponunt. Cf. also Ps.-Quint. Decl. mai. 13.17 in publicum uiuitur, et communes opes congeruntur in medium. At Acts 4:35 the first Christians sell their possessions and put the money at the feet of the apostles to be divided within the community according to need: et ponebant ante pedes apostolorum diuidebantur autem singulis prout cuique opus erat.
Editor’s Note
omnium omnia sunt: Acts 4:32 erant illis omnia communia, rendering the Greek πάντα κοινά‎. In a monastic context the Regula Benedicti quotes the same passage in the ban on private property: 33.6 omniaque omnium sint communia, ut scriptum est (cf. VM 3.5 partem in sumptuum meorum solacia reseruarem, with note).
De Vogüé (in Leclerc et al. 2007: 77) contrasts this 'communist' version of the cenobitic ideal with the hierarchical model of Egyptian cenobitism as discussed at Jer. Ep. 22.35.1:

ueniamus ad eos, qui plures in commune habitant, id est, quos uocari coenobium diximus. prima apud eos confoederatio est oboedire maioribus et, quidquid iusserint, facere. diuisi sunt per decurias atque centurias, ita ut nouem hominibus decimus praesit et rursus decem praepositos sub se centesimus habeat. manent separati, sed iunctis cellulis.

Let us come to those who live together in larger numbers, that is to say, those whom we have said to be called coenobium. The first basis of their covenant is that they obey their elders and to do whatever they command. They are divided into groups of ten and groups of a hundred, so that one person in ten is in charge of the nine others, and one in a hundred is in charge of these superiors. They live apart from each other, but their cells are linked.

De Vogüé notes that the ants' nest lacks a leader: their society is organized horizontally, not vertically. It is Malchus himself who supplies the father figure by recalling his abbot prior to his perception of the ants (7.1 coepi ... monachorum quoque contubernia recordari, maximeque uultum patris mei). Similarly, the community of Acts 4:32 functions because of the authority of the apostles, not only through spontaneous sharing.
By using a formulaic polyptoton Jerome here renders the idea more succinctly: according to Wills (1996: 190) polyptoton is 'a simple way of achieving both pointedness and closure in a single clause'. Polyptoton of omnis is frequent in classical Latin prose, for example Cic. Verr. 2.3.145 omnes omnia dicant, Rosc. Am. 122; Liv. 28.24.16 omnia omnes auderent, 44.7.1. Cf. also Jer. C. Ruf. 2.17 lines 33–4 ita fiet ut, dum omnium omnia sunt, nihil alicuius sit. The LLT–A evidence suggests that the order omnia omnium is more frequent in classical Latin; the reverse order omnium omnia is predominantly late.
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