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5-8. Feb. 1829.

[4450,6]  Niebuhr (loc. cit. p. 4431. fine) sezione intitolata Beginning and Nature of the Earliest History, p. 216. segg. The greater is the antiquity of the legends: (dei miti ec. intorno ai fatti dei re di Roma, e ai primi tempi della città): their origin goes back far beyond the time when the annals (gli annali pontificali di Roma) were restored (furono rinnovati, dopo che gli antichi annali erano periti nell'incendio di Roma al tempo della presa della città fatta dai Galli.) That they were transmitted from generation to generation in lays, that their contents cannot be more authentic than those of any other poem on the deeds of ancient times which is preserved by song, is not a new notion. A century and a half will soon have elapsed, since Perizonius (not. 627. In  4451 his Animadversiones Historicae, c. 6.) expressed it, and shewed that among the ancient Romans it had been the custom at banquets to sing the praises of great men to the flute; (not. 628. The leading passage in Tusc. Quaest. IV. 2. Gravissimus auctor in Originibus dixit Cato, morem apud majores hunc epularum fuisse, ut deinceps, qui accubarent, canerent ad tibiam clarorum virorum laudes atque virtutes. Cicero laments the loss of these songs; Brut. 18. 19. Yet, like the sayings of Appius the blind, they seem to have disappeared only for such as cared not for them. Dionysius knew of songs on Romulus [ὡς ἐν τοῖς πατρίοις ὕμνοις ὑπὸ ῾Pωμαίων ἔτι καὶ νῦν ᾄδεται, dice Dionisio 1. 79. della nota favola circa la nascita di Romolo e Remo, e la vendetta da loro presa di Amulio]) a fact Cicero only knew from Cato, who seems to have spoken of it as an usage no longer subsisting. The guests themselves sang in turn; so it was expected that the lays, being the common property of the nation, should be known to every free citizen. According to Varro, who calls them old, they were sung by modest boys, sometimes to the flute, sometimes without music. (not. 629. In Nonius II. 70. assa voce: (aderant) in conviviis pueri modesti ut cantarent carmina antiqua, in quibus laudes erant majorum, assa voce, ei cum tibicine.) The peculiar function of the Camenae was to sing the praise of the ancients; (not. 630. Fest. Epit. v. Camenae, musae, quod canunt antiquorum laudes.) and among the rest those of the kings. For never did republican Rome strip herself of the recollection of them, any more than she removed their statues from the Capitol: in the best times of liberty their memory was revered and celebrated. (not. 631. Ennius  4452 sang of them, and Lucretius mentions them with the highest honour.)
[4452,1]  We are so thoroughly dependent on the age to which we belong, we subsist so much in and through it as parts of a whole, that the same thought is at one time sufficient to give us a measure for the acuteness, depth, and strength of the intellect which conceives it, while at another it suggests itself to all, and nothing but accident leads one to give it utterance before others. Perizonius knew of heroic lays only from books; that he should ever have heard of any then still current, or written down from the mouth of the common people, is not conceivable of his days: he lived long enough to hear, perhaps he heard, but not until a quarter of a century had passed since the appearance of his researches, how Addison (sic) roused the stupefied senses of his {literary} contemporaries, to join with the common people in recognizing the pure gold of poetry in Chevy-chase {(V. Τhe Spectator's N.os 70. 74.)} For us the heroic lays of Spain, Scotland, and Scandinavia, had long been a common stock: the lay of the Niebelungen had already returned and taken its place in literature: (l'autore, p. 196. the German national epic poem, the Niebelungen lay.) and now that we listen to the Servian lays, and to those of Greece, (raccolti da Fauriel, che l'autore cita più volte), the swanlike strains of a slaughtered nation; now that every one knows that poetry lives in every people, until metrical forms, foreign models, the various and multiplying interests of every-day life, general dejection or luxury, stifle it so, that of the poetical spirits, still more than of all others, very few find vent: while on the contrary spirits without poetical genius, but with talents so analogous to it that they may serve as a  4453 substitute, frequently usurp the art; now the empty objections that have been raised no longer need any answer. Whoever does not discern such lays in the epical part of Roman story, may continue blind to them: he will be left more and more alone every day: there can be no going backward on this point for generations.
[4453,1]  One among the various forms of Roman popular poetry was the nenia, the praise of the deceased, which was sung to the flute at funeral processions, (not. 632. Cicero de legib. II. 24.) as it was related in the funeral orations. We must not think here of the Greek threnes and elegies: in the old times of Rome the fashion was not to be melted into a tender mood, and to bewail the dead; but to pay him honour. We must therefore imagine the nenia to have been a memorial lay, such as was sung at banquets: indeed the latter was perhaps no other than what had been first heard at the funeral. And thus it is possible that, without being aware of it, we may possess some of these lays, which Cicero supposed to be totally lost: for surely a doubt will scarcely be moved against the thought, that the inscriptions in verse (not. 633. On the coffin of L. Barbatus the verses are marked and made apparent by lines to separate them: in the inscription on his son they form an equal number of lines, and may be recognized with as much certainty as in the former from the great difference in the length of them) on the oldest coffins in the sepulcre of the Scipios are nothing else than either the whole nenia, or the beginning of it.  4454 (not. 634. The two following inscriptions are of this kind: I transcribe them, because it is probable many of my readers never saw them.
Cornélius Lúcius Scípio Barbátus,
Gnáivo (patre) prognátus, fortis vír sapiénsque,
Quoius fórma vírtuti paríssuma fuit,
Consúl, Censor, Aédilis, qúi fuit apúd vos:
Taurásiam, Cesáunam, Sámnio cépit,
Subícit omnem Lúcánaam, (cioè Lucaniam)
Obsidésque abdúcit.
The second is:
Hunc únum plúrimi conséntiunt R(ománi)
Duonórum optumum fúisse virúm,
Lúcium Scipiónem, fílium Barbáti.
Consúl, Censor, Aédilis, híc fuit apúd vos.
Hic cépit Córsicam, Alériamque úrbem
Dédit tempestátibus aédem mérito.
[4454,1]  I have softened the rude spelling, and have even abstained from marking that the final s in prognatus, quoius, and the final m in Taurasiam, Cesaunam, Aleriam, optumum, and omnem, was not pronounced. The short i in Scipio, consentiunt, fuit, fuisse, is suppressed, so that Scipio for instance is a disyllable; a kind of suppression of which we find still more remarkable instances in Plautus. In the inscription of Barbatus, v. 2, patre after Gnaivo is beyond doubt an interpolation: and in that on his son, v. 6, it is to be observed that the last syllable  4455 of Corsicam is not cut off.) These epitaphs present a peculiarity which characterizes all popular poetry, and is strikingly conspicuous above all in that of modern Greece. Whole lines and thoughts become elements of the poetical language, just like single words: they pass from older pieces in general circulation into new compositions; and, even where the poet is not equal to a great subject, give them a poetical colouring and keeping. So Cicero read on the tomb of Calatinus: hunc plurimae consentiunt gentes populi primarium fuisse virum: (not. 635. Cicero de Senectute 17.) we read on that of L. Scipio the son of Barbatus: hunc unum plurimi consentiunt R(omani) bonorum optumum fuisse virum.
[4455,1]  The poems out of which what we call the history of the Roman Κings was resolved into a prose narrative, were different from the nenia in form, and of great extent; consisting partly of lays united into a uniform whole, partly of such as were detached and without any necessary connexion. The history of Romulus is an epopee by itself: on Numa there can only have been short lays. Tullus, the story of the Horatii, and of the destruction of Alba, form an epic whole, like the poem on Romulus: indeed here Livy has preserved a fragment of the poem entire, in the lyrical numbers of the old Roman verse. (not. 636. The verses of the horrendum carmen I. 26.
Duúmviri pérduelliónem júdicent.
Si a duúmviris provocárit,
Provocátióne certáto:
Si víncent, caput óbnúbito:  4456 Infélici arbore réste suspéndito:
Vérberato íntra vel éxtra pomoérium.
[4456,1]  The description of the nature of the old Roman versification, and of the great variety of its lyrical metres, which continued in use down to the middle of the seventh century of the city, and were carried to a high degree of perfection, I reserve, until I shall publish a chapter of an ancient grammarian on the Saturnian Verse, which decides the question.) On the other hand what is related of Ancus has not a touch of poetical colouring. But afterward with L. Tarquinius Priscus begins a great poem, which ends with the battle of Regillus; and this lay of the Tarquins even in its prose shape is still inexpressibly poetical; nor is it less unlike real history. The arrival of Tarquinius the Lucumo at Rome; his deeds and victories; his death; then the marvellous story of Servius; {Tullia's} impious nuptials; the murder of the just king; the whole story of the last Tarquinius; the warning presages of his fall; Lucretia; the feint of Brutus; his death; the war of Porsenna; in fine the truly Homeric battle of Regillus; all this forms an epopee, which in depth and brilliance of imagination leaves every thing produced by Romans in later times far behind it. Κnowing nothing of the unity which characterizes the most perfect of Greek poems, it divides itself into sections, answering to the adventures in the lay of the Niebelungen: and should any one ever have the boldness to think of restoring it in a poetical form, he would commit a great mistake in selecting any other than that of this noble work (del poema of the Niebelungen).
[4457,1]   4457 These lays are much older than Ennius, (not. 637.
-Scripsere alii rem
Versibu' quos olim Fauni vatesque canebant:
Quom neque Musarum scopulos quisquam superarat,
Nec dicti studiosus erat.
[4457,2]  Horace's annosa volumina vatum may have been old poems of this sort: though perhaps they are also to be understood of prophetical books, like those of the Marcii; which, contemptuously as they are glanced at, were extremely poetical. Of this we may judge even from the passages preserved by Livy (ΧΧV. 12.): Horace can no more determine our opinion of them than of Plautus.) who moulded them into hexameters, and found matter in them for three books of his poem; Ennius, who seriously believed himself to be the first poet of Rome, because he shut his eyes against the old native poetry, despised it, and tried successfully to suppress it. Of that poetry and of its destruction I shall speak elsewhere: here only {one} further remark is needful. Ancient as the original materials of the epic lays unquestionably were, the form in which they were handed down, and a great part of their contents, seem to have been comparatively recent. If the pontifical annals adulterated history in favour of the patricians, the whole of this poetry is pervaded by a plebeian spirit, by hatred toward the oppressors, and by visible traces that at the time when it was sung there were already great and powerful plebeian houses. The assignments of land by Numa, Tullus, Ancus, and Servius, are  4458 in this spirit: all the favorite Κings befriend freedom: the patricians appear in a horrible and detestable light, as accomplices in the murder of Servius: next to the holy Numa the plebeian Servius is the most excellent Κing: Gaia Cecilia, the Roman wife of the elder Tarquinius, is a plebeian, a Κinswoman of the Metelli: the founder of the republic and Mucius Scævola are plebeians: among the other party the only noble characters are the Valerii and Horatii; houses friendly to the commons. Hence I should be inclined not to date these poems, in the form under which we know their contents, before the restoration of the city after the Gallic disaster at the earliest. This is also indicated by the consulting the Pythian oracle. The story of the symbolical instruction sent by the last Κing to his son to get rid of the principal men of Gabii, is a Greek tale in Herodotus: so likewise we find the stratagem of Zopyrus repeated (dal figlio di Tarquinio a Gabii): (anche la storia di Muz. Scev. è greca, cosa non notata dall'autore neppure a suo luogo, e da me osservata altrove p. 4153 p. 4330; e greche sono quelle tante raccolte da Plutarco nel libro da me cit. altrove in tal proposito p. 4213) we must therefore suppose some knowledge of Greek legends, though not necessarily of Herodotus himself. (5-8. Feb. 1829.).