Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2000.07.24

Llewelyn Morgan, Patterns of Redemption in Virgil's Georgics.   Cambridge:  University Press, 1999.  Pp. x + 255.  ISBN 0-521-65166-2.  $59.95.  

Reviewed by Robert Cramer, Philologisches Seminar, Universität Bonn
Word count: 3965 words

One cannot accuse Llewelyn Morgan of being coy. He begins the printed version of his doctoral thesis written at Cambridge under the supervision of Philip Hardie by proposing to read Virgil's four books on agriculture "as a thoroughgoing exercise in Octavianic propaganda, a precise response to the requirements of the regime headed by Octavian which at the time of the poem's completion was emerging from the chaos of the Civil Wars; a text, in other words, capable of yielding a highly optimistic purport". Hereby he not only turns against the predominant interpretation of the Georgics as a document of Virgil's dark vision of the world, but also against "the current author-orientated emphasis" (p.13). It seems doubtful, however, whether the Georgics can be explained simply by referring to the contemporary political necessities. Such an interpretation does not leave any room for e.g. what Friedrich Klingner has called Virgil's "innere Zwiesprache mit Lucrez".1 It seems equally difficult to account for what the same scholar termed "Die Einheit des Virgilischen Lebenswerkes".2 Let me therefore state at once that though I share Morgan's reservation about the "Anglo-American two voices Harvard and Balliol pessimism" (Don Fowler), I nevertheless subscribe to the creed -- labelled by Morgan as hopelessly Romantic --, that Virgil's works indeed express the poet's view of the world.

Morgan confines himself largely to the story of Aristaeus, which forms the last third of the fourth Georgic and tells of the origin of bugonia, a technique by which the ancients believed new bees could be produced out of a slaughtered ox. It is here where in his view "the key to an understanding of the Georgics" lies (p.17). In order to anticipate: Morgan interprets the Aristaeus as an allegory of Octavian's victory in the civil wars. From the fact that the description of Proteus' capture by Aristaeus in Georg. 4.387-529 echoes very closely that of Proteus' seizure by Menelaos in Od. 4.383-570 and that both episodes are placed at a similar position, Morgan concludes that Virgil intended to style the Georgics as "a Latin Telemachy, written of course, by a Latin Homer" (p.27), a conclusion which I find unconvincing. Putting aside the question whether the author could suppose that the reader would notice the structural parallel, it seems difficult to view the four books of the Georgics as a Latin Telemachy, and, even if this were possible, writing such a poem would not suffice to lay claim to the title of Homerus Latinus. Furthermore, it is not only the passage from the Odyssey that forms the background of the Aristaeus: the laments Achilles addresses to his mother Thetis in Il. 1 and 18 about the seizure of Briseis and the death of Patroclus are prominent models for Aristaeus complaining to his mother Cyrene about the loss of his bees.3 Against this background the alleged structural parallel between the Georgics and the Telemachy seems no more than accidental. An equally important model for the Aristaeus is Catull. 64.4 Virgil fuses epic and neoteric poetry in order to create something new, just as in his treatment of apiculture he had taken the opportunity to meet the Callimachean ideal of a poem written κατὰ λεπτόν as well as to sing about reges et proelia, the themes of grand epic.5

No more successful seems Morgan's attempt to interpret the reference to Oceanus pater rerum, the addressee of Cyrene's and Aristaeus' prayer and sacrifice in Georg. 4.380-3, as an allusion not only to Homer (pp.32ff.) but also to a certain way of interpreting Homer and so to the way one has to understand the capture of Proteus which Cyrene recommends and Aristaeus carries out, namely as "physical allegory" (p.75). Although Morgan quotes passages in which Homer is compared to Ὠκεανός/Oceanus, Ὠκεανός/Oceanus does not seem to have been used as a synomym for Homer. It seems completely natural for the Naiad6 Cyrene, the daughter of Peneios,7 to pray for her son, who helplessly laments the death of his bees, to Oceanus, the source of all rivers and springs,8 who by the epithet pater rerum appears as the source of life,9 just as she turns to her sisters the nymphs, who from Georg. 2.494 are known as rural deities par excellence.

Similarly far-fetched seems Morgan's suggestion to interpret Maeonii carchesia Bacchi in Georg. 4.380 as an allusion to Homer (pp.34-6). Virgil uses Maeonius/Maeonis apart from the passage in question at Aen. 4.216, 8.499, 9.546, 10.141 and 11.759 -- nowhere with reference to Homer. The earliest example for this use seems to be Hor. Carm. 1.6.2, written after 29 BC.10 Lydia on the other hand is an old wine-growing region. The elder Pliny mentions the Pramnian wine, which he places in the region around Smyrna, in the same breath as that from Maroneia in Thrace, to which he ascribes antiquissima claritas (14.53f.). Both had already been praised by Homer (Il. 11.639, Od. 9.197, 10.235). Phrygia / Lydia as well as Thrace were regarded as the places from which the cult of Dionysus originated.11 The first view is most famously reflected in Euripides' Bacchae.12

Morgan also makes a lot of the observation that in listing the animals into which Proteus changes in Georg. 4.407f., Virgil replaces the panther and the lion of Od. 4.456f. by a tigress and a lioness (pp. 41-4). This he interprets as a reference to the finale of the first half of Book 3 about the furor amoris, where a lioness (245) and a tigress (248) are placed side by side with a boar (248: aper, but in 255: Sabellicus sus). Just as the natural force of love seizes these animals, in Morgan's view Aristaeus seizes Proteus. By this, Morgan suggests, Virgil wishes to compare him to "cosmic powers of destruction". In Roman poetry one does not come across a panther very often;13 the tigress on the other hand is a much more frequent guest.14 Furthermore, Paul Jahn has already pointed out that in Georg. 3.245 Virgil similarly had replaced the Aristotelean lion by a lioness,15 no doubt in order to be able to underline the strength of the frenzy by the epithet catulorum oblita, but also in view of the resulting chiastical gender pattern: leaena (at the end of the hexameter) / ursi (just before the hephthemimeres) -- aper (just before the hephthemimeres) / tigris (at the end of the hexameter). Robert Coleman was surely right when commenting on a similar case in Ecl. 2.63: "the choice of the feminine may be metrical, since torvos leo would be less tractable; but it also contributes to the chiastic gender pattern: leaena, lupum, lupus, capellam". In Georg. 3.407f. the animals, which compared to those of the Homeric model appear in the exactly reverse order, follow one another according to the gender pattern abab: sus horridus atraque tigris / squamosusque draco et fulva cervice leaena.16

Virgil's treatment of the Homeric sequence of wild beasts fits exactly his way of restructuring the passage as a whole, his "tidying up the model", as Morgan calls it.17 In further contrast to Homer the single cola grow in length. The first pair's epithets (in Homer only the first and the last beast get one, in chiastic order) follow a chiastic pattern, those of the second pair are parallel to each other. Boar and serpent are related to each other not only by their gender and because both of them take the first position in their respective pair but also by their chiastic epithets which describe the structure of their hide and skin respectively. Tigress and lioness are both female, are placed at the end of the hexameter and receive colour-related epithets, though in the first case the epithet is used metaphorically. The Homeric model lacks such a subtle texture.

Virgil also deviates from Homer by introducing chains as a means of capturing Proteus. Morgan interprets this as an allusion to "the cosmic δεσμός by which Zeus, λόγος or the active principle of Stoic theory ensures the continuing order of the universe" (p.89). Though he has to admit the possibility "that chains entered the Proteus tradition before Virgil's time", he asserts confidently: "what really matters is Virgil's emphatic indication of the divergence between his own text and Homer's" (p.46 n.82). Homer himself, however, stresses the necessity of using force.18 Virgil contracts the conversation between Eidothea and Menelaos of Od. 4.382-424 into one speech by Cyrene at Georg. 4.386-414, particularly by deferring the detailed description of Proteus' landing to the account of Aristaeus' actual assault on Proteus. Lines 396-400 ( hic tibi, nate prius vinclis capiendus, ut ... expediat ...) take up Od. 4.388-93 (τὸν γ' εἴ πως σὺ δύναιο λοχησάμενος λελαβέσθαι, ὅς κέν τοι εἴπῃσιν ...). Virgil omits the ambush of Od. 4.435-47 with all its rather repellent details. Unlike Menelaos (Od. 4.408bf.; 433bf.) Aristaeus is not supported by companions. He is dependent solely on his bodily strength. Therefore, unlike Od. 4.444-6 the ambrosia of Georg. 4.415-8a does not serve to sweeten the stench of the seals but to lend habilis vigor. But even so it could not have been done without chains: ἀργαλέος γάρ τ' ἐστὶ θεὸς βροτῷ ἀνδρὶ δαμήναι (Od. 4.397). Besides, Virgil not only intensifies the admonition that Aristaeus should hold fast with all his might but also enriches the description of how Proteus will attempt to escape, which is modelled on Od. 4.417f. with motives from Od. 4.455b-7. And even if chains were absent from the Proteus tradition before Virgil, it is not surprising that he introduced them since they had already played a part in the capture of the intoxicated Silenus by the two boys Chromis and Mnasyllus (with a little help from the Naiad Aegle), although in tune with the different situation it had been ipsis ex vincula sertis (19; cf. vincula in 23). From Ecl. 6.14 somno ... iacentem has found its way into Georg. 4.404. Cf. also adgrediare in 404 with adgressi in Ecl. 6.18.19

Morgan sees his view "that one of the poet's intentions in the episode is to represent a specifically Stoic creation" corroborated by "the extensive elemental colouring of the capture-scene. It occurs, pointedly, not in the cave where Proteus is sleeping but in the blazing midday sunshine, in a physical context emphatically bereft of water (401-3)" (p.87). I cannot see how one might escape the conclusion that the seizure takes place in Proteus' cave: cf. secreta senis (403), specus (418), intus se vasti Proteus tegit obice saxi (422), his ... in latebris (423), consueta petens ... antra (429), stabuli (433), tecta (434). It is true that in depicting the heat in 401f.20 (cf. Od. 4.400) and 425-9 (cf. Od. 4.450a)21 Virgil diverges from Homer. He does the same, however, when picturing the cave in 418b-22 (cf. Od. 4.403b) and when developing the bucolic scenery in 433-5 (cf. Od. 4.413b).22 By this he tries to make up for the extensive preparations by which Homer separates Eidothea's advice concerning the capture of Proteus from the description of the actual seizure. Just as arbitrary as the attempt to connect Aristaeus' name with dryness seems Morgan's identification of Aristaeus with Zeus as the active demiurgic principle of creation (p.90). On the contrary, the verbal similarities between the question about who invented the method of bugonia (4.315: quis deus hanc, Musae, quis nobis extudit artem?) and the description of why Jupiter put an end to the easy life of the golden age (1.333: ut varias usus meditando extunderet artis) show that Aristaeus is a human being forced to progress by the difficulties which the gods put in his path.23 If Virgil really had intended to connect Aristaeus with Zenon's πῦρ τεχνικόν (Cicero's ignis artificiosus), why should he have made Proteus change into fire (409f.; 442)?

An interpretation of the Aristaeus as an allegory of Octavian's victory in the civil wars runs into considerable difficulties when confronted with the proem of Book 3, where Virgil couches the announcement of a future epic on Octavian's victories within the picture of his own triumph as a poet. Morgan refers to lines 40-8, the first five of which do not, he thinks, cover the total remainder of the Georgics but only Book 3 and the first half of Book 4 (p.52). Therefore, he feels free to apply the last three lines which announce an epic on Octavian for the near future (mox) already to the Aristaeus, which forms the second half of the fourth Georgic. The authenticity of those lines had already been questioned by Richard Hurd in the mid-eighteenth century -- rightly I think.24 But even if we put aside the problem of authenticity, it seems clear that those lines are to be understood as a key to the allegory of lines 10-39 which promise a single epic on Octavian to be created in Mantua sometime in the future, modo vita supersit (10). Just as it seems difficult to prefix this epic with a sort of overture, one cannot separate the second half of the fourth Georgic from the rest of the poem, the whole of which the sphragis expressely connects with Naples. haec in 4.559 refers to the Georgics as a whole. Attempts to infer a special role of the fourth book from the fact that the bees are not mentioned specifically fail to convince (this special role would have to apply not only to the Aristaeus but to the book as a whole). If one compares lines 559-60a to the summary in 1.1-5a, one finds that the latter is overall more detailed and precise, since it reflects the dichotomy of Books 1 and 4, the predominance of viniculture in Book 2 and the order in which the subjects are actually treated. The survey of 4.559-60a, on the other hand, is shorter and puts the animal husbandry between agriculture and arboriculture. Servius had already seen that pecora includes bees.25 The last two books of the Georgics are very closely linked: hanc partem in 4.2 refers back to pars altera curae in 3.286. The reflections on the smallness of the subject matter in the proem to Book 4 take up similar thoughts from the proem to the second half of Book 3 (with an interesting difference though26). From the larger animals of the first half of the third Georgic the poets leads us by way of the smaller ones of the second half to the tiny ones of Book 4, some of which in the end are born out of the carcass of one of the larger animals from the beginning of Book 3.27 In so far as the Aristaeus tells of the origin of this method, it firmly belongs to the fourth book, just as the plague of Noricum belongs to the third.

In his third chapter Morgan proposes to read the description of the method of bugonia and its origin -- in his view an allegory for the refoundation of Rome by Octavian -- against the background of the stoic idea that destruction and (re-)creation of the universe are inseparably linked: "Virgil ... presents the Civil Wars as a catastrophic cosmic dissolution, ... but yet as a destruction which is the necessary prerequisite of the restoration of order" (p.107). In his eyes the account of how to create a new hive out of a slaughtered ox hints at the paradox of the constructive potential of destruction.

In order to support his view, he quotes the picture of the Nile in 287ff. which by overflowing its banks and inundating the country fertilizes it nigra ... harena (pp.136-8).28 Particularly the juxtaposition of fecundat and harena at the end of 291 (et viridem Aegyptum nigra fecundat harena) he regards as a first allusion to "the essentially paradoxical nature of bugonia". Lines 290-3 seem, however, to be a later insertion by another hand.29 Besides, the emphasis does not seem to lie on the contrast between fecundat and harena, but on that between viridem and nigra. nigra harena seems to come from 3.241.30 There is no indication that the beneficial inundation by the Nile should be viewed against the background of the destruction caused by other rivers (cf. 1.481-3a).

By way of the expression caesis ... iuvencis, which occurs in 4.284 and 2.537, Morgan sees the killing of the ox which the method of bugonia requires linked to that which had put an end to the golden age. caesi iuvenci, however, is not such a rare phrase. Apart from the two cases quoted by Morgan himself (Georg. 3.23: caesos ... iuvencos; Aen. 8.719: caesi ... iuvenci) one comes across it in Aen. 3.369 and 5.329 (both times caesis ... iuvencis; cf. also 5.96f.). Furthermore, in Georg. 2.537 there is no stress on the violence involved.

It is, by the way, not only "the accession to power of Jupiter and the first consumption of beef" (p.108) of Georg. 2.536f. that mark the dawn of the iron age but also the launching of wars in 539f. Lines 536-40 obviously form an integrated whole (cf. ante ... ante in 536 and necdum ... necdum in 539, the central position of line 538 and the structure of line 540). Line 537 corresponds to Arat. 134b, whereas lines 539f. reflect Arat. 133-134a. The point seems not the internal quality of violence but rather the attitude and the aims connected with it.

Morgan sees the link between 2.537 and 4.284 paralleled by that between the reference to Remus and his brother in 2.533, which he interprets as an allusion to the fratricide that preceded the foundation of Rome, and the reference to Octavian as Quirinus in 3.27: "... the death of Remus gestured at towards at the end of book 2 is framed as an unqualifiedly disastrous event, an equivalent to civil strife: the myth of Romulus and Remus reflects the fratricidal nature of the Civil Wars. But in the immediate context of the ktistic preoccupations of the proem to Book 3 explicated by Buchheit and the depiction of Octavianic power as the victoris arma Quirini (27), the killing of Remus must also be read as a prerequisite of the foundation of Rome" (p.122). There is no indication that Virgil intended to hint at the primeval sin of the Romans, indeed the phrase hanc olim veteres vitam (sc. the previously described life of the peasant) coluere Sabini,/ hanc Remus et frater seems to rule out this interpretation.31 In view of the preceding sic fortis Etruria crevit it seems hardly possible to translate scilicet et rerum facta est pulcherrima Roma by "Rome, the finest thing on earth, was created" and to see it as an allusion to the story of how the city had been founded. And even if line 535 were genuine,32 it would rather divert the attention from the time when Rome was founded (pace Morgan pp.117f.).

The killing of the ox is indeed described in strikingly drastic terms. Virgil seems deliberately to contrast this procedure with the preceding picture of the fortunate Canopians, who sail in their small painted boats across their inundated land, and the following description of the approaching spring. It may be, however, that the drastic account is due mainly to the accuracy one expects of a didactic poem. There is nothing which indicates that the killing of the ox should be seen as metaphor of civil strife.

The assumption that Virgil described the method of bugonia and its origin in order to demonstrate the paradoxically constructive potential of destruction sits most uncomfortably with the story told by Proteus of how Aristaeus had caused the death of Orpheus' wife Eurydice, of how Orpheus had won her back, had lost her again and in the end had been dismembered during a nocturnal festival in honour of Bacchus. Morgan tries to solve this problem by interpreting the myth against the background of mystery cult (pp.184f.). The death of Orpheus he regards as a counterpart to that of Dionysus, which precedes the rebirth of the god. The dismemberment of Orpheus and the scattering of his limbs over the countryside he reads as a fertility ritual following a suggestion by Dorothea Wender33 pp.198f.; 230-5). It is true, the scattering of Orpheus' body34 reminds one of sowing 35, but the point seems to be rather the perversion of this beneficial agricultural activity. 4.522 is not the counterpart of 1.489-92, as Morgan assumes, but a parallel (cf. also Aen. 7.551 together with 338f.). The emphasis lies on the atrocity of the incident (it seems no accident that discerptum and latos have been put side by side) and the final picture is that of lines 523-7, where the head torn from the singer's neck floats on the river Hebrus still calling out the name of the lost Eurydice. Aristaeus reacts in a fitting manner, i.e. frightened (530).

The preceding comparison between Orpheus who laments his wife, whom he now has lost a second time, to a nightingale which mourns for her young ones, quos durus arator / observans nido implumis detraxit, also emphasises the horridness of what had happened. Unlike 2.207-11 which Morgan quotes as a parallel (p.199), these lines do not illustrate the necessity of using violence against nature. Neither was it necessary for Aristaeus to pursue Eurydice in the first place so that she failed to notice the serpent lurking in the grass.36 Morgan's attempt to interpret the nightingale as a herald of spring and give its lament a paradoxically positive meaning (pp.209-11) also fails to convince me. Virgil is only saying that because of her loss the nightingale renews her song the whole night long. Unlike Arist. HA 632b21-3 and Plin. Nat. 10.81 Virgil does not refer to her continuous song at the beginning of spring which lasts fifteen days and nights. The night as a normally restful time is taken over from Hom. Od. 19.515-7 (it is worth noting that Virgil does not refer to the beginning of spring mentioned in Od. 19.519),37 and forms the counterpart to the seven months during which Orpheus mourns for his lost wife: cf. septem illum totos perhibent ex ordine mensis / ... / flesse sibi (507-9a) and illa / flet noctem (513b-4a). The choice of the nightingale reflects her link with poets in general and with Orpheus in particular38 as well as the fact that the lament over lost loved ones had time and again been compared to her song. Catull. 65.13f. had compared the bird's song to the poetry in which he would continually mourn for his brother whose foot the river of the underworld had recently washed against and whom he will never see again. Virgil obviously refers to Catullus and via Catullus to Homer. In doing so, he continues the process of correction which Catullus had already begun. Catullus had avoided calling the lamenting nightingale a murderess but had spoken more vaguely of absumpti fata ... Ityli. Virgil replaces this expression by amissos ... fetus, quos durus arator / observans nido inplumis detraxit. In so combining Hom. Od. 16.216-9 with 19.515ff. and Catull. 65.13f. he gets rid of the birds of prey, whereas the farmer receives the epithet durus. At the same time Proteus hints at Aristaeus as the person ultimately responsible (the Homeric ἀγρόται are replaced by a single arator).

There is no escape from the fact that Orpheus is miserabilis (454),39 he has lost his wife for good and has descended into the underworld for the last time.40 Nowhere does Virgil indicate that the development of bugonia springs from the constructive potential of Orpheus' suffering.

This is clearly a learned book and I have learned a lot from reading it, e.g. about the tradition of the allegorical interpretation of Homer or about mystery cults. Its interpretation of Virgil's Aristaeus, however, has failed to convince me, since the arguments from the text by which Llewelyn Morgan tries to support it in my view are not as strong as he thinks them to be.


[1]] F. Klingner, Virgil. Bucolica, Georgica, Aeneis. Zurich and Stuttgart 1967, 198.
2.   F. Klingner, 'Die Einheit des Virgilischen Lebenswerkes', MDAI (R) 45 (1930), 43-58.
3.   Morgan acknowledges this on p. 96. He maintains that Virgil imitated these passages, "because each Homeric episode introduces a passage -- the insurrection against Zeus (Il. 1.396-406) and the Shield of Achilles (Il. 18.478-613) -- which were interpreted as allegories of Creation".
4.   A.M. Crabbe, 'Ignoscenda quidem ...: Catullus 64 and the Fourth Georgic', CQ n.s. 27 (1977) 342-51.
5.   R. Cramer, Vergils Weltsicht. Optimismus und Pessimismus in Vergils Georgica. Berlin and New York 1998, 210-12.
6.   Richter ad 317.
7.   Mynors ad 353-6.
8.   West ad Hes. Theog. 337-70. 337ff. are a model for Georg. 4.363ff. In Hes. Theog. 343 Peneios is mentioned among the male descendants of Oceanus and Thetys.
9.   Page ad 382.
10.   Nisbet and Hubbard I, 81.
11.   E. Simon, Die Götter der Griechen. Munich 1985, 289f.
12.   Dodds XXsq.
13.   panthera: Lucr. 4.1016; 5.1036; Hor. Epist. 2.1.195, Verg. Aen. 8.460, Ov. Met. 3.669, Manil. 5.702, Phaedr. 3.2.2; pardus not before Lucan. 6.183.
14.   In Virgil five more times.
15.   P. Jahn, Aus Vergils Dichterwerkstaette, Georgica IV 281-558. Berlin 1905 (Wiss. Beilage zum Jahresbericht des Koellnischen Gymnasiums zu Berlin, Ostern 1905), 12.
16.   leaena seems more melodious and more poetic than leo and "ist noch spaet als Graezismus empfunden worden: Isid.orig. 12,2" (Richter ad loc.).
17.   It seems noteworthy that Virgil makes no attempt to link the changes of Proteus to the four elements, although the Homeric model was interpreted allegorically that way (see Morgan p.80).
18.   See Pherecyd. FGrHist 3 F 16 on the capture of Nereus by Heracles: λαβεῖν δὲ αὐτὸν βίᾳ. In Ov. Met. 11.252 Proteus advises Peleus to seize Thetis laqueis ... vincloque tenaci. 249 alludes to Verg. Georg. 4.387.
19.   Jahn (1905) 11f.
20.   Note, however, umbra in 402.
21.   Ladewig / Schaper / Deuticke / Jahn ad 425f. refer to Nic. Ther. 367f. Cf. also Apoll. Rhod. 2.516f. from the aition of the Etesian winds, which are interpreted as the divine response to a sacrifice by Aristaeus. Compare Apoll. Rhod. 2.513-5 and pastor in Georg. 4.317.
22.   The amplification of the heat is meant to prepare for the comparison between Proteus and a shepherd. Note particularly line 402: cum sitiunt herbae et pecori iam gratior umbra est.
23.   Cramer (1998) 244-6.
24.   Cramer (1998) 156 n. 627. L.P. Wilkinson, The 'Georgics' of Virgil. Cambridge 1969, 171 calls these lines "awkward".
25.   ThlL 10,1,952,45-53. Heyne, Forbiger and Ladewig / Schaper / Deuticke / Jahn follow Servius. Page, Williams and Thomas think lines 559-60a refer to Books 1-3 only. Thomas even thinks it possible that Virgil could have intended a second meaning: "'this [Book 4] is what I sang over and above [agriculture]'". This use of super with abl. is "very rare" (Lewis & Short 1804 s.v. II B 2) and in Virgil there is no other instance.
26.   Cramer (1998) 210-13.
27.   For the significant structural parallels and differences between the end of the third and that of the fourth book see Cramer (1998) 240f.
28.   The choice of Egypt seems natural given the miraculous fertility of the country, which appears to be the appropriate geographical background for the similarly miraculous method of bugonia (Cramer (1998) 242-4). There is no need for it to be linked to Octavian's final victory over Antony and Cleopatra.
29.   Cramer (1998) 284ff.
30.   Cf. also Aen. 9.714. In both places the expression refers to black sand which is whirled up from the bottom of the sea (cf. Hom. Od. 12.242f., Soph. Ant. 590f., Sil. 17.271). In Val.Fl. 6.716 it means black soil. Valerius has modelled this line on Verg. Aen. 5.374, transforming the picture of a boxer knocked down in the yellow sand into that of a young olive tree uprooted by fierce winds (the olive tree serves as a simile for a fallen young warrior). In this case, the epithet in the end goes back to Homer's γαῖα μέλαινα (Il. 2.699; cf. atram / ... humum in Verg. Aen. 10.730f. and terrae ... atrae in Ov. Met. 6.558). Gaude, Crasse, nigras si quid sapis inter harenas of Prop. 4.6.83 seems to mean the sandy plains around Carrhae, where Crassus had been defeated by the Parthians. Cf. paludosos ... Sygambros in 77. Nigras refers to the ominous character of the place. Cf. Sil. 5.154f. (together with Spaltenstein ad loc.): "meus, heu, meus atris / Ticini frater ripis iacet!" By the same epithet Horace had already hinted at the burial grounds on the Esquiline (Sat. 2.6.32f.: atras / ... Esquilias). Like Silius (cf. Sil. 1.45f.; 6.107f.) Propertius may also have thought of the blood which had steeped the battle-field. Cf. Lucan. 1.104f.: ... miserando funere Crassus / Assyrias Latio maculavit sanguine Carrhas (at Val. Max. 1.6.11 Crassus' corpse lies inter promiscuas cadaverum strues). As for the blackness of blood cf. Homer's μέλαν αἷμα (Il. 4.149) or Ov. Met. 12.326 (niger ... sanguis; ater as epithet of blood: ThlL 2,1019,6ff.). I think it less probable that Propertius should have thought of "the alluvial character of the soil in the neighbourhood of Carrhae" and therefore should have modelled his line on Georg. 4.291, as Postgate ad loc. suggests (cf. already Hertzberg ad loc.).
31.   See also H.J. Krämer, 'Die Sage von Romulus und Remus in der lateinischen Literatur', in K. Gaiser and H. Flashar, edd. Synusia. Festgabe für Wolfgang Schadewaldt. Pfullingen 1965, 355-402 (esp. pp.364ff.).
32.   Cramer (1998) n.595.
33.   D.S. Wender, 'Ressurection in the Fourth Georgic', AJPh 90 (1969) 424-36 (esp. p.434).
34.   See Eratosth. Cat. 24 (referring to Aeschylus' Bassarai: TrGF III 138-9 Radt). The phrasing might be influenced by Trag. inc. 167f. R2 (Cic. Nat. Deor. 3.67): ... membraque (sc. Absyrti) articulatim dividit (sc. Medea) / perque agros passim dispergit corpus.
35.   Morgan quotes Ov. Met. 5.655 (p.234 n.18).
36.   Compare servantem of the serpent at the beginning of line 459 and observans of the peasant at the beginning of 513. Mosch. 4.21-6 compares Megara helplessly mourning for her children who are being killed by Heracles to a bird lamenting her young ones who are devoured by a serpent. Heyne ad 511 refers to this poet as somebody, "quem et ipsum Vergilius ante oculos habuisse videri potest".
37.   For the nocturnal song of the nightingale see Hes. frg. 312 M.-W. (Ael. VH 12,20), D'A. W. Thompson, A Glossary of Greek Birds. London and Oxford 1936, 21, Diggle ad Eur. Phaet. 67ff. and A. Sauvage, Étude de thèmes animaliers dans la poésie latine. Le cheval--Les oiseaux. Bruxelles 1975 (Collection Latomus 143), 195.
38.   A. Steier, 'Luscinia', RE 132 (1927), 1854-65 (esp. col. 1864,42ff.), Sauvage (1975) 202f. and Morgan (1999) 208 n. 218.
39.   Compare miserabile carmen (of the nightingale's song) in 514.
40.   Following his mother's advice of line 545 in 553 Aristaeus sends funeral gifts to the dead Orpheus. Sen. Med. 630-33 draws the conclusion: Thracios sparsus iacuit per agros, / at caput tristi fluitavit Hebro; / contigit notam Styga Tartarumque, / non rediturus.

Read Latest
Index for 2000
Change Greek Display
Books Available for Review

HTML generated at 13:26:55, Friday, 03 April 2009