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Editor’s Note22

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Editor’s Note
Of Suffenus, apart from this poem and a passing mention in a list of bad poets in 14. 19, we know nothing at all: even the name does not occur elsewhere (though Sufenās is known as a cognomen), but there is no reason to suppose that it is not a real name. His verses, says Catullus, unlike the man himself, are dull, insensitive, and 'provincial', that is, unfashionable; that condemnation may well mean merely that like Volusius, on whom the same kind of judgement is passed in 36. 19–20, he was a poet of the old school, an unadventurous follower of the staid Ennian tradition who ignored the new idiom which Catullus and his friends were giving to Latin poetry. The opening address to Varus which disguises literary criticism as a letter to a friend is a piece of hellenistic technique (see Kroll, Studien zur Verständnis der römischen Literatur, 231–3); he is presumably the Varus of poem 10, whether he is one of Catullus' known fellow countrymen of that name, Alfenus Varus the jurist or Quintilius Varus the critic, or someone unknown.
Editor’s Note
1. probe : for the colloquial use cf. Ter. Heaut. 180 'hunc Menedemum nostin?—probe', Cic. de Or. iii. 194 'Antipater quem tu probe meministi,' Fam. ii. 12. 2 'quod cum probe scirem'. The weakening of the adverb is like that of English 'properly'; compare such uses as Plaut. Most. 102 'aedes … factae probe', Men. 465 'hanc (pallam) hodie probe/lepideque concinnatam referam', where it refers to good, honest work or dealing, with such as Amph. 975 'errant probe', M.G. 1397 'uide ut … sit acutus … culter probe', Trin. 896 'ludam hominem probe', Ter. Heaut. 1020 'tui similis est probe'.
Editor’s Note
2. uenustus : cf. 3. 2, 13. 6: perhaps the most difficult word to analyse of all Catullus' social vocabulary, implying the charm in speech and behaviour which comes of taste and breeding.
Editor’s Note
dicax et urbanus : words for wit and humour in Latin are so loosely used that they are very difficult to define; Cicero, for example, at one point makes dicacitas and cauillatio subdivisions of facetiae (de Or. ii. 218); facetiae and dicacitas are combined in de Or. ii. 221 ('hominibus facetis et dicacibus': cf. Cael. 67), but distinguished in Or. 90 ('Demosthenes non tam dicax fuit quam facetus: est autem illud acrioris ingeni, hoc maioris artis'). But dicacitas is usually pointed witticism, the gift of saying clever things (dicta), particularly at other people's expense: cf. Quint. vi. 3. 21 'dicacitas … proprie significat sermonem cum risu aliquos incessentem'. urbanitas (see on 39. 8) is the sophistication in speech and manners which distinguishes the cultivated member of a city society from the rusticus.
Critical Apparatus
22. 3 idemque al. itemque G
Editor’s Note
3. idemque : 'and at the same time', with a neat suggestion of the inconsistency which is to be pointed out; cf. 14 and 15 below.
Editor’s Note
longe plurimos : 'far more lines than anyone else'.
Editor’s Note
4. aut … aut : 'thousands, it may be ten or it may be more', makes mille the unit of measurement of Suffenus' production.
Critical Apparatus
5 sic δ‎: sit V
Critical Apparatus
palimpsesto 1473, -ton Marcilius: palmisepto V
Editor’s Note
5. sic ut fit : 'in the ordinary way'.
Editor’s Note
in palimpseston : Palimpsestus (παλίμψηστος‎) refers to used writing material which has been cleaned to take fresh writing, usually parchment, though papyrus could also be reused; Trebatius wrote a letter to Cicero on used carta, i.e. papyrus (see below). In palimpsesto has caused difficulty, since the normal usage for 'write up in' is referre in with the accusative: so, for example, Cic. Phil. viii. 28 'sententias uestras in codicillos et omnia uerba referebat', Rosc. Com. 1 'ut mea causa falsum ('a forgery') in codicem referret' (at Rosc. Com. 5 the manuscript reading 'in codice' must be corrected to agree). Hence Lachmann substituted the Greek accusative palimpseston (following the suggestion of Marcilius, who wrote it in Greek characters), though accusatives in -on very rarely appear before the Augustan poets, and Catullus himself, when he uses a Greek second-declension neuter (mnemosynum 12. 13, epistolium 68. 2), latinizes the termination, as Cicero does with macrocollum, chirographum, and embolium. In fact the word is very rare in literature, either Greek or Latin. In Greek there are only two occurrences of it, both in Plutarch, Mor. 779c (βιβλίον παλίμψηστον‎) and 504d (παλίμψηστα‎), and both figurative. The only other instance in Latin is practically contemporary with this poem: acknowledging a letter from Trebatius in 53 b.c. Cicero writes (Fam. vii. 18. 2) 'quod in palimpsesto (sc. scribis), laudo equidem parsimoniam'. In palimpsesto may have been so much of a set phrase (perhaps even the only phrase in which the word was used) that Catullus found it natural to use it even with referre.
Critical Apparatus
6 noui 1473 (nouei Lachmann), nouem β‎: noue V
Editor’s Note
6. cartae are the material (χάρται‎, masculine in Greek), libri the rolls (uolumina) into which it was made up.
Editor’s Note
regiae clearly is a technical term for high-grade paper. Pliny (N.H. xiii. 74, the locus classicus for the papyrus trade) says that the best quality produced in Egypt, originally called hieratica from its use for priestly records, was renamed Augusta in compliment to the Emperor; Suetonius (ap. Isid. Orig. vi. 10. 2) gives the name of the best large-sized papyrus as Augustea regia. Hero of Alexandria speaks of χάρται βασιλικοί‎; perhaps the name regia displaced hieratica in Egypt and was an intermediate stage between that and Augusta.
Critical Apparatus
7 membrane V: membrana Auantius
Editor’s Note
7. noui umbilici : the umbilicus was the stick of wood or ivory round which the uolumen was rolled (so Hor. Epod. 14. 7 f. 'iambos ad umbilicum adducere', Mart. iv. 89. 2 'peruenimus usque ad umbilicos', of finishing the writing of a book) with projecting knobs or bosses (cornua), sometimes painted or decorated, at its ends. The plural umbilici, when used of a single uolumen, refers to the bosses; so Martial says to his book (iii. 2. 9) 'pictis luxurieris umbilicis' (cf. i. 66. 11 '(liber) umbilicis cultus', v. 6. 15 'nigris pagina creuit umbilicis') and Statius speaks of his as (Silv. iv. 9. 8) 'binis decoratus umbilicis'.
Editor’s Note
lora rubra membranae : the membrana was the parchment wrapper which might be put round a papyrus roll for protection and ornament; it was often stained red: cf. Mart. iii. 2. 10 (addressing his book) 'te purpura delicata uelet', x. 93. 4 'carmina purpurea … modo culta toga' ('a red jacket'). With the manuscript reading membranae must be taken as genitive, 'the red lora of the wrapper'; if it were nominative it would need an epithet like the other items in the list. Avantius meant his membrana to be taken with derecta plumbo, but these words do not provide a suitable epithet, since the cover would not normally need ruling, and are more naturally attached to omnia.
Editor’s Note
lora does not occur elsewhere as a term of book-production. It is easiest to suppose that lora are vellum or leather strings for tying up the roll. No literary volumen so secured has survived, but there are examples of documentary rolls tied up with strips of papyrus (see the illustration in Schubart, Das Buch ii, p. 55); in editions de luxe like Suffenus' the strings might well be red to match the wrapper. The alternative is to refer lora to the title-tabs, for which the ordinary name is index, strips of parchment attached to the end of the roll and bearing the title of the contents. The index which has survived in its place on the Oxyrhynchus papyrus 1091 of Bacchylides is not very ornamental, being a strip of palimpsest parchment, but there are literary references to more conspicuous indices on which the title was written in red: so in Mart. iii. 2. 11 'cocco rubeat superbus index' and in Ov. Tr. i. 1. 7 (whose book is to be denied the usual ornamentation) 'nec titulus minio, nec cedro carta notetur'.
Critical Apparatus
8 derecta Statius: detecta V
Editor’s Note
8. derecta … aequata : 'the whole thing ruled with lead and smoothed down with pumice'.
Editor’s Note
plumbo … pumice : plumbum is the small circular lead plate which was used, with a ruler, for marking out lines to guide the writer's hand: both instruments appear in a series of Greek epigrams in which draughtsmen dedicate the tools of their trade (A.P. vi. 62. 1 κυκλοτερῆ μόλιβον σελίδων σημάντορα πλευρῆς‎, 65. 1–2 τὸν τροχοέντα μόλιβδον ὃς ἀτραπὸν οἶδε χαράσσειν‎/ὀρθὰ παραξύων ἰθυτενῆ κανόνα‎, 66. 3 κανόνα τροχαλοῖο κυβερνήτηρα μολίβδου‎). pumex was used for rubbing down the rough edges of the papyrus and giving an even surface to the ends (frontes) of the rolled uolumen: cf. 1. 2 'arida modo pumice expolitum', Prop. iii. 1. 8 'exactus tenui pumice uersus eat', Ov. Tr. i. 1. 11 'nec fragili geminae poliantur pumice frontes [Ovid's book is to be in mourning], / hirsutus sparsis ut uideare comis'.
Editor’s Note
9. haec cum legas tu : 'when one reads these things'. The subjunctive of the indefinite second person is not uncommon in temporal clauses of this kind: so Lucr. v. 100 'ut fit ubi insolitam rem adportes auribus', Sall. Iug. 31. 28 'bonus tantum modo segnior fit ubi neglegas', Cic. Or. 225 'plurimum ualet maximeque eis locis cum aut arguas aut refellas', Sen. Ep. 75. 4 'qui et cum uideas illum et cum audias idem est'. But the addition of tu when the second person is being used indefinitely is very rare: in Cic. Tusc. i. 91 'uirtutis quam necessario gloria, etiam si tu id non agas, consequatur', it is emphatic ('even if one is not aiming at that oneself'); here, as in 23. 22, it looks like a metrical stopgap.
Editor’s Note
bellus : of one who knows and observes the usages of polite society (cf. 24. 7, 81. 2); Cic. Fam. vii. 16. 2 'sed mehercules extra iocum ('joking apart') homo bellus est', Att. i. 1. 4 'durius accipere hoc mihi uisus est quam homines belli solent' ('took this rather more rudely than nice people usually do'). For a lively description of the bellus homo, the society man, of a century later see Martial iii. 63.
Editor’s Note
10. unus caprimulgus aut fossor, 'any ordinary' farm-labourer: for this use of unus cf. Cic. de Or. i. 132 'sicut unus paterfamilias his de rebus loquor' ('like an ordinary citizen'), Att. ix. 10. 2 'me una haec res torquet quod non … Pompeium tamquam unus manipularis secutus sim' ('like an ordinary soldier'). While in its use to strengthen a superlative unus emphasizes uniqueness, in this idiom it has just the opposite implication, 'one among many'.
Editor’s Note
11. abhorret ac mutat : it is difficult to determine the precise sense of abhorret. Munro cites two instances of the absolute use of the verb in which it means 'be out of place, incongruous', Cic. de Or. ii. 85 'sin plane abhorrebit et erit absurdus', Livy xxx. 44. 6 'uestrae istae absurdae atque abhorrentes lacrimae'; to these may be added Livy xxvii. 37. 13 'carmen … illa tempestate forsitan laudabile … nunc abhorrens et inconditum si referatur'. The idea here may be similar, but it is perhaps likelier that a se is to be understood: 'he is so unlike himself', 'so disappointing'.
Editor’s Note
mutat : the intransitive use is not uncommon: cf. Cic. Orat. 59 'ergo ille princeps (our consummate orator) uariabit et mutabit', Livy ix. 12. 3 'animi mutauerant'.
Editor’s Note
12. hoc quid putemus esse : 'what are we to make of this?' A letter of Pliny's has several reminiscences of this poem: Ep. iv. 25. 3 'quid hunc putamus domi facere qui in tanta re tam serio tempore tam scurriliter ludit, qui denique in senatu dicax et urbanus est?'*
Editor’s Note
22. 12. The manuscripts agree on putemus, but one would expect the indicative which is normal idiom in such cases: cf. Lucr. vi. 1106 f. 'quid Brittannis caelum differre putamus et quod in Aegypto est?', Plin. Ep. iv. 22. 6 'quid putamus passurum fuisse si uiueret?', Juv. 4. 28 f. 'quales tunc epulas ipsum gluttisse putamus induperatorem?', Petr. 56 'quid putamus difficillimum esse artificium?'
Editor’s Note
modō : the second vowel of the adverb is normally shortened and Catullus always has modǒ elsewhere (on the 'law of iambic shortening' which operates in such words, see on 10. 27), but Plautus not infrequently uses modō, and Lucretius also uses both quantities. Similarly Catullus has both homŏ (24. 7, 115. 8) and homō (17. 12, 81. 2). It is not necessary to suppose that the length is due to the following sc-(see on 17. 24).
Editor’s Note
scurra has not yet acquired the implication of professional buffoonery which it came to have later. In Plautus 'urbani adsidui ciues quos scurras uocant' (Trin. 202) are city-bred 'wits', dandies and gossips who 'falson an vero laudent, culpent quem uelint / non flocci faciunt dum illud quod lubeat sciant': so in Most. 15 one slave taunts another 'tu urbanus uero scurra, deliciae popli, / rus mihi tu obiectas?' A scurra might do very well for himself, but for all his urbanitas respectable society looked askance at him: cf. Cic. Har. Resp. 42, 'scurrarum locupletium libidines', Quinct. 55 'uetus est de scurra multo facilius diuitem quam patrem familias fieri posse', Hor. Ep. i. 15. 27 'urbanus coepit haberi, / scurra uagus non qui certum praesepe teneret'.
Critical Apparatus
13 scitius L. Mueller, tritius Pontanus, tersius Peiper: tristius V
Editor’s Note
13. aut si quid : for the characteristic turn of phrase cf. 13. 10 23. 13, 42. 14, 82. 2.
Editor’s Note
hac re scitius : V's tristius is obviously corrupt. Both the old correction tritius and Munro's tersius (he actually proposed the alleged archaic form tertius) are palaeographically plausible but neither seems appropriate here. tersus when used metaphorically elsewhere refers to neatness of style or nicety of judgement; tritus means either 'commonplace' or 'practised' (tritae aures Cic. Fam. ix. 16. 4, tritae manus Vitr. ii. 1. 6). Müller's scitius suits the context better and scitus is a word of common speech (e.g. Ter. And. 486 'scitus puer', Plaut. Merc. 755 'satis scitum filum mulieris'). But the corruption may extend further: hac re, referring to scurra, may be accepted as a colloquialism (though there is no exact parallel: in Sen. Ep. 47. 13 'nihil hac re humilius', hac re refers to a whole preceding sentence), but one might expect the est which Catullus does not omit elsewhere in such phrases.
Critical Apparatus
14 infacetior θ‎: infaceto V
Editor’s Note
14. infaceto … infacetior : another favourite turn of Catullus: cf. 27. 4, 39. 16, 99. 2, and 14. For infacetus see on 43. 8. rus is the concentration of rusticitas: cf. 36. 19 (of another uninspired poet) 'pleni ruris et inficetiarum'.
Editor’s Note
idem : as often, points a contrast—of two attributes which inconsistently, and so surprisingly, exist in the same person (so, for example, Hor. Sat. ii. 7. 23 'laudas / fortunam et mores antiquae plebis et idem, / si quis ad illa deus subito te agat, usque recuses'): our corresponding idiom 'at the same time' has the same implication. But there is careless writing in the repetition of idem in 1. 15: 'the man who seemed a wit is at the same time a dullard at poetry and at the same time nothing makes him so happy'.
Critical Apparatus
15 neque X, uel neque nec O (cf. 23. 2)
Editor’s Note
15. attigit : 'turns his hand to poetry'; cf. Nepos, Att. 18. 5 'attigit poeticen', Cic. Or. 41 'omnibus qui unquam orationes attigerunt'.
Critical Apparatus
16 ac β‎: ha V
Editor’s Note
16. beatus : cf. Hor. Ep. ii. 2. 107 (again of self-satisfied poets) 'gaudent scribentes et se uenerantur et ultro, / si taceas, laudant quicquid scripsere beati', Cic. Mur. 26 'praetor interea ne pulcrum se ac beatum putaret ['in case he might feel too pleased with himself'] atque aliquid ipse sua sponte loqueretur, ei quoque carmen compositum est'.
Critical Apparatus
17 tamquam V: corr. r
Editor’s Note
17. gaudet in se : 'is delighted with himself': so Prop. ii. 4. 18 'gaudeat in puero'. For in aliquo used of the object of emotion see on 64. 98.
Critical Apparatus
18 neque X, nec O
Editor’s Note
18. nimirum : 'the fact is', offering an explanation (often, but not here, an ironical one).
Editor’s Note
idem … fallimur : 'we make the same mistake': for the internal accusative cf. Hor. A.P. 354 peccat idem.
Editor’s Note
19. in aliqua re … Suffenum : 'a Suffenus in something': the descriptive use of a proper name in the singular is not common, but cf. Vell. ii. 18 (of Mithridates) 'consiliis dux, miles manu, odio in Romanos Hannibal', Juv. 14. 41 'Catilinam / quocumque in populo uideas'. For quisquam … aliqua see on 73. 1 f., 76. 7.
Editor’s Note
22. 21 citat Porphyrion ad Horati serm. ii. 3. 299.
Editor’s Note
21. manticae quod in tergo est : 'the part of the knapsack that is on our back'. The reference is to the fable of Aesop which represented man as carrying two knapsacks, one slung in front holding his neighbours' faults, the other slung behind holding his own; in Phaedrus' version (iv. 10), 'peras imposuit Iuppiter nobis duas: / propriis repletam uitiis post tergum dedit, / alienis ante pectus suspendit grauem'. Horace refers to the same fable, Sat. ii. 3. 299 'respicere ignoto discet pendentia tergo'; Persius has a variation, 4. 24 'sed praecedenti spectatur mantica tergo', 'what we see is the bag on the back of the man in front of us'.
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