Queen Elizabeth I visited Oxford in 1566. To mark the occasion, a number of speeches were given, including one in Greek by the then Regius Professor of Greek, Giles Lawrence (1522-1584/5). The former Regius Professor, George Etheridge (1519-1588?), a committed Catholic, had been removed from office after Elizabeth’s accession. In an attempt to win favour with the Queen, he composed an encomium (poem of praise) on the queen’s father, Henry VIII. Click the graphic to learn more.
Click the graphic to go to the site. Especially recommended is the reading from Aeneid 6, over on the right hand side.
The Medieval and Ancient Research Centre, the Sheffield Classical Association and The Migration of Faith: Clerical Exile in Late Antiquity Project would like to invite you to a free film screening of "Constantine and the Cross" (1961) at the Diamond Lecture Theatre 2 on 28 March at 6pm - the third instalment in a series of films aiming to bring the Roman and early Christian world alive.
'Constantine and the Cross' narrates a moment of world history: the conversion of a Roman emperor to Christianity. Immerse yourself in the story of a man who has been described as an "erratic block diverting the stream of human history". Follow the young and energetic Constantine as he matures by the side of his father in Britain, progressing in a traditional Roman military career. Little does he know however, that his hunger for power, glory and conquest will lead him to discover and embrace a faith which was destined to shape the history of Rome, and indeed the whole world. A saint? A tyrant? Why not come along, discover more about Constantine and discuss the implications of one of the most influential conversions in the history of humanity.
The film will be followed by a Q&A session with Prof Kate Cooper, Professor of Ancient History and director of the research project 'Constantine's Dream' (University of Manchester).
You can collect your free ticket here:
The film is a part of a wider project and there will be one more film screenings this academic year:
25 April 2017 - Agora (2009), with Dr Richard Flower from the University of Exeter (at the Film Unit
Salve , nec minimo puella naso
nec bello pede nec nigris ocellis
nec longis digitis nec ore sicco
nec sane nimis elegante lingua .
decoctoris amica Formiani , 5
ten provincia narrat esse bellam?
tecum nostra comparatur?
o saeclum insapiens et infacetum !
Good day, young lady, neither snub-nosed enough
nor with beautiful feet, without the coal eyes,
without the long fingers, without the dry mouth,
hardly with the most beautiful of accents.
Consort to that broke debtor of Formiae,
you the Province announces as the stunner?
In comparison to my Lesbia?
Oh, what times we live in without taste or reason!
After Valerius Catullus
All Hail; a young lady with a nose by no means too small,
With a foot unbeautiful, and with eyes that are not black,
With fingers that are not long, and with a mouth undry,
And with a tongue by no means too elegant,
You are the friend of Formianus, the vendor of cosmetics,
And they call you beautiful in the province,
And you are even compared to Lesbia.
O most unfortunate age!
W. Shakespeare: Sonnet 130
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun,
Coral is far more red, than her lips red,
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun:
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head:
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks,
And in some perfumes is there more delight,
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know,
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet by heaven I think my love as rare,
As any she belied with false compare.
Salve: here, a sarcastic greeting
nec: introducing a litotes describing her nose, a structure continued for all seven of her features discussed here
puella: assumed to be Ameana, girlfriend of Mamurra; cf. Poem 41, a prostitute who apparently charges an outrageous sum for her favors
longis digitis: ancient Greek vase paintings exaggerated the length of women’s fingers as a mark of beauty
ore: “lips”; cf. Poem 80
lingua: Catullus may possibly be vague on purpose as to what he means by lingua; this has been variously interpreted to mean the way she shows her tongue, her disfigured speech, or the things she says
decoctoris: m., “a bankrupt”
Formiani: “from Formiae”, referring to Mamurra, an officer of engineers under Caesar; decoctoris…Formiani is a repetition of line 41.4, and allows Catullus to dispense of naming either Mamurra or Ameana
ten: = tene
provincia: probably referring to Cisalpine Gaul
Lesbia nostra: for the use of Lesbia as the standard of comparison, cf. Poem 86
infacetum: cf. 22.14 (Suffenus as writer); contrast 12.9 (Asinius Pollio)
LEGAL LANGUAGE, AMBIGUITY AND CATULLUS POEM 87.
nulla potest mulier tantum se dicere amatam
vere quantum a me Lesbia amata mea est.
nulla fides ullo fuit umquam foedere tanta
quanta in amore tuo ex parte reperta mea
No woman can say she's been loved as much,
truly, as my Lesbia's been loved by me:
there was never a guarantee so strong in any contract
as that found, on my part, in my love for you.
‘In the first couplet, Catullus protests that his amor for Lesbia was uniquely true or real (vere). The second couplet, with vigorous echoes of the first, indicates the nature of this verus amor: it is a bond or pact (foedus) resting upon fides. On this reading of the poem, however, the final verse seems decidedly awkward and redundant. The clumsy phrase, in amore tuo ex parte mea, means nothing more than ''my love" and, more important, why reperta, ''found" or "discovered"? By whom?’
Thus, an ‘earlyish’ commentator on this poem, making some good points but perhaps missing
the full meaning of some of the quasi-legal language that Catullus uses to bind himself even more tightly to his beloved Lesbia. As Konstan says, Catullus actually compares his love to a contract or treaty (foedus) and, like a legal document, his poem allows no loophole, straining to have the last, definitive word. Catullus may or may not be taking himself very seriously here - lawyers and their use of opaque phraseology (often in Latin!) have been made fun of before now- but he calls on some very serious concepts, deeply engrained in Roman tradition, most notably the crucial fides (trustworthiness, cf. fidelity) from which the word foedus (contract, cf. federal) is derived. It is also possible that a legal overtone is contained in Catullus’ final ‘ex parte reperta mea’, described above as ‘redundant and awkward’. In current legal parlance ex parte means a legal proceeding brought by one person in the absence of and without representation or notification of other parties. This usage goes back to the Digesta Iustiniani and probably beyond. A database search on the Digesta here, reveals very similar language to that used by Catullus. Our poet appears to be saying that however ambiguous the state of his love affair with Lesbia may be, on his part (in amore tuo might mean ‘your love for me’ just as much as ‘my love for you’ (ex parte . . . mea-playing the mock lawyer), it’s as firm as a binding legal document drawn up by a lawyer.
 D. Konstan, ‘Two Kinds of Love in Catullus’ The Classical Journal, No. 2 (Dec., 1972 - Jan., 1973), 102-106, at 105.
 For fides and foedus in the context of a real treaty cf. Liv. 220.127.116.11-4 . . . ea condicione ut
foedus extemplo aequis legibus fieret in urbem acceperunt. cuius rei prope non servata fides deditis est and on the importance of the foedus amicitiae in Roman society in general see B. Gladhill Rethinking Roman Alliance: A Study in Poetics and Society (Cambridge, 2016 and accessible here ) 113- ‘perhaps concurrent with Catullus' usage of foedus amicitiae (elsewhere at poem 109) is the marked usage of the concept by Cicero in a letter he wrote to Marcus Licinius Crassus (dated to 54 BC): has litteras velim existimes foederis habituras esse vim, non epistulae, meque ea quae tibi promitto ac recipio sanctissime esse observaturum diligentissimequc esse facturum. (Epistulae ad Familiares 5.8.5), ‘please, consider that this letter will have the force of a treaty, not of an epistle, and that I will most piously observe and most diligently perform the things I am promising to and receiving from you’. Cicero writes that he wishes his litterae to have the force of a foedus, rather than of an epistle-obviously a significant and substantial point.
 For a possible echo of legal language in ‘reperta’ cf. Digesta Iustiniani 2.15.1 cum transactio propter fideicommissum facta esset et postea codicilli reperti sunt and also perhaps Plaut. Captiv. 927 quomque huius reperta est fides firma nobis.
John Owen (c. 1564-1622) was famous in his day throughout Europe for his Latin epigrams, which were based on those of the Roman satirical poet Martial. He was a curmudgeon, whose trademark sentiment is (Epigram 1.58, to his friend Edward Noel):
‘Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis’:
quomodo? fit semper tempore peior homo.
‘Times change and we all change with them along’;
How? Human beings just go from wrong to wrong!
This is thought to be the form of the epigram known to Haydn when, over a century later, he prefaced his Symphony No. 64 with the words ‘Tempora mutantur etc.’
Owen’s Latin deserve to be translated so that people can enjoy his brilliance, even if the age in which he lived was no more politically correct than that of Martial. Compare and contrast:
Difficilis-facilis, iucundus-acerbus es idem:
nec tecum possum vivere, nec sine te.
Tough/kind you are, the joy/bane of my heart.
I cannot live with you, nor live apart.
Libertas-carcer, pax-pugna, dolenda voluptas:
spes metuens, mel-fel, seria-ludus: Amor.
Enslavement-freedom, conflict-peace, hell-heaven above,
Hope-trepidation, bitter-sweet, work-play: that’s Love.
Orpheus uxorem raptam repetivit ab Orco.
duxit ab inferno femina nulla virum.
Orpheus retrieved his wife from Death, they tell.
What wife has ever saved her man from Hell?
Owen 7.106: to his friend Theodore Prince:
Uno non possum, quantum te diligo, versu dicere;
si satis est distichon, ecce duos.
A single verse can’t speak my love for you;
So here’s a couplet — if two lines will do.
For more like this click here.
If you want to read more about another brilliant Latinist and speaker of Living Latin, Reginaldus Foster click here.
(Click the graphic above for live reading from Catullus. I'm indebted to Kath O'Donovan (U3A Classics) for this. Warning the first opens with a 'Queen' track and one of the others explores the whole range of Catullus' poetry!?
George Herbert, from Memoriae Matris Sacrum:
Κύματ᾽ ἐπαφριοῶντα θαμήσεος, αἴκε σελήνης
Φωτὸς ἀπαυραμένης ὄγκου ἐφεῖσθε πλέον,
Νῦν θέμις ὀρφναίῃ μεγάλης ἐπὶ γείτονος αἴσῃ
Οὐλυμπόνδε βιβᾶν ὔμμιν ἀνισταμένοις.
Ἀλλὰ μενεῖτ᾽, οὐ γὰρ τάραχος ποτὶ μητέρα βαίνῃ,
Καὶ πρέπον ὧδε παρὰ δακρυόεσσι, ῥέειν
If, white-topped waves of the Thames, you should claim a greater share
Of the moon's high station for yourself, her light already stolen,
This one time it is right for you, topping the banks into the night-black
Share of your great neighbour, to climb towards Olympus.
But stop, for chaos shall not approach my mother,
And it is fitting to flow so excessively alongside those who weep.
I’m particularly taken with this poem. It shows off George Herbert’s virtuosity as a composer of what, one might term, ‘Neo-Greek’. His talents as a writer of Latin verse are evident from the rest of this collection. A preliminary investigation of the language reveals that he was influenced by a whole range of Ancient Greek literature. There’s a hint of the bucolic with his use of the Doric αἴκε (had he got the Idylls of Theocritus in mind)? He may have read the late author Nonnus’ Dionysiaca. The verb ἐπαφριάω doesn’t appear anywhere else except in him ( and then only just as a varia lectio ). He certainly seems to have known Moschus’ Bucolic poems and maybe also the echo in the Epistle of Jude. Considering his status as a ‘divine’, this seems almost certain. The infinitive βιβᾶν is his own invention, maybe based on the verb βιβάζω or the language of the Iliad which he would, undoubtedly have known very well.
There may be another Classical reminiscence in line 2, or did he write originally ὁλκοῦ, ‘the path’ of the moon rather than its ‘mass’, or ‘station’. It would be very easy to misread. Just as the moon follows an orbit in the heavens, so does the Thames follow a path beside those weeping for the fate of Herbert’s, beloved mother.
For now it’s best to leave it there. All in all, a rich text.
αἴκε: poet. and Dor. for ἐάν
ἐπαφριάω: foam against, Ep. part. -όωσα Nonn. D. 43.318 (v.l. ὑπαφριάω)
Moschus Bucol. fr. 1. 5 ἀλλ’ ὅταν ἀχήσῃ πολιὸς βυθὸς ἁ δὲ θάλασσα /
κυρτὸν ἐπαφρίζῃ τὰ δὲ κύματα μακρὰ μεμήνῃ, ‘But when the gray deep roars and the foaming sea swells and the waves grow long and wild’.
Novum testamentum Epistula Juda 13.1 δένδρα φθινοπωρινὰ ἄκαρπα δὶς ἀποθανόντα ἐκριζωθέντα, κύματα ἄγρια θαλάσσης ἐπαφρίζοντα τὰς ἑαυτῶν αἰσχύνας, ‘autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted—twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame’.
βιβᾶν >βιβάζω: cf. Homeric ὕψι βιβάντα (Il. 13.371)
ὄγκου ἐφεῖσθε πλέον : cf. Soph. OC 1162 οὐκ ὄγκου πλέων, ‘of no great moment, or mass’.
Thanks are due to Mr. Nigel Coulton for alerting me to Herbert's Classical poems. It isn't the first time he's taught me something!
Sheffield branch of the Classical Association, founded in 1920