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A Curiosity in Seneca

  • J. D. P. Bolton (a1)


Thus the passage is printed in the Teubner edition of Seneca's Dialogues by E. Hermes, who, on the strength of Aen. 8. 702 f. (‘et scissa gaudens vadit Discordia palla, quam cum sanguineo sequitur Bellona flagello’), adds a note on the quotation ‘versus sunt Vergilii a Seneca licenter mutati’.

Now the imputation to Seneca of such gross alteration of Virgil can only be supported if we disregard or eject the evidence to the contrary. As only the last five words are actually Virgilian; as Seneca himself says ‘aput vate nostra?’; as out at the beginning of the second line may introduce a second quotation (so Rossbach); and as est, which Gertz secluded, has a part to play if the lines are by different poets, it is safer to take a step backwards and dispose the passage thus:



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page 238 note 1 Baehrens, who assigned these lines to ‘auctores incerti’, did recognize this (F.P.R., p. 359).

page 238 note 2 The similarity with Lucan's line was noticed by Kortte; it is also remarked by Bourgery and by Aymard, Jacques, Quelques series de compamisons chez Lucain, p. 29. All take the view that Seneca is adapting Virgil.

page 239 note 1 There is a slight doubt about the exact title. Many modern scholars prefer Iliacon, the form used by the two ancient authorities who mention the work by name. But in Vacca's list of titles genitives and nominatives are mixed (e.g. ‘epistolarum ex Campania’); and Lactantius may be making the same mistake as the scholiast on Pers. I. 121, who calls Nero's Troica ‘Troicon’. A singular in such a case seems unparalleled—unless it be by Lucan's own Catachthonion (itself a gen. pl.? Q has : misplaced erudition? But note Lact. ad Theb. 9. 424; ‘Lucanus in catachthonio’.).

page 239 note 2 The Roman practice of delivering a child on the ground is well attested: cf. Silv. I. 2. 109 f.; 5. 5. 68 ff.; Lucr. 5. 222 ff.; Macrob. Sat. 1. 12. 20: ‘vox (of which the primus vagitus would be the symptom) nas-centi homini terrae contactu datur’. Other passages are quoted by Wagenvoort, H., Roman Dynamism, p. 18, n. 3.

page 239 note 3 The train of Seneca's thought may have run thus: his mention of the ransoming of Hector reminded him of his nephew's recent recitation on that theme. Then, when in chapter 35 he meditated a poetic simile for Anger he thought of this line from the poem; but this recalled its model and the preceding line from the Aeneid. So would come the ‘coincidence’ that Bellona is conjoined with Discordia in Seneca as she is in Virgil.

page 239 note 4 The inspiration for this simile came from Ovid's description of Phaethon's drive (Met. 2. 1–332). Scaliger's emendation of flammati (1. 2) to flammatum, though receiving some support from Cat. 64.291 (flammati Phaethontis)—cf. Ov. Met. 2. 319 ff.—is not necessary: it can qualify caeli (cf. succendit aethera in the corresponding passage of the B.C.), or even poli (though this is less likely: the poles nearly catch fire in Ovid (295 ‘fumat uterque polus’), but this is because the terrestrial conflagration threatens to ignite them and so bring down the machina mundi). Totis in mon-tibus ardens terra: cf. Met. 2. 216–26 for the thought; for the diction, Man. 2. 420 (‘nudusque in collibus orbis’). It will be noticed that, though Lucan repeats the words transversa limite in the second passage, there the limes is oblique in a vertical direction to the sun's proper course (pronum—Duff (Loeb ed.) is right, Haskins and Bourgery wrong: cf. Met. 2. 206 ff.); here it is in a lateral, in the direction of the pole (hence poli videre).

page 240 note 1 Dial. 10. 9. 2: ‘clamat ecce maximus vates et velut divino ore, instinctu salutare carmen canit: optima quaeque dies miseris mortalibus aevi prima fugit’. Seneca quotes these lines again (Ep. 108. 26) widi the preamble ‘inhaereat istud animo et tanquam missum oraculo placeat’.

page 240 note 2 Apposite, as K. J. Dover has pointed out to me, is the deliberately high-flown passage in Pliny (Ep. 8. 4. 5): ‘proinde iure vatum invocatis dis et inter deos ipso, cuius res, opera, consilia dicturus es, immitte rudentibus, pande vela ac, si quando alias, toto ingenio vehere! cur enim non ego quo-que poetice cum poeta ?’

page 240 note 3 The later, L. Hermann, in his article on the chronology of Seneca's prose works (Latomus, i (1937), pp. 94 ff.), sums up his discussion of the date of the de ira with these words (p. 96): ‘Non seulement il faut dater le troisiéme livre d'aprés l'exil, mais encore il faut admettre que tout l'ouvrage a été écrit vers 49 ap. J.-C’

page 240 note 4 Nothing can be built on a comparison of de ira 1. 4. 1 with Suet. Claud. 38. 1. There Seneca distinguishes between ira (‘anger’) and iracundia (‘irritability’, a character of the temperament); Suetonius says that Claudius ‘irae atque iracundiae conscius sibi, utram-que excusavit edicto distinxitque, pollicitus alteram quidem brevem et innoxiam, alteram non iniustam fore’. An edict of this nature might well have been made by Claudius at the beginning of his principate on the analogy of the praetorian edictum perpetuum; but it was not based on a knowledge of the de ira, as some would have it (Schanz-Hosius, , loc. cit.). Apart from the fact that the particular distinction given above is not Seneca's own invention (cf. Cic. T.D. 4. 27), it was by no means always observed (even by Seneca himself in this very work—e.g. 2. 14. 1), and obviously Claudius is using a different one—between deeply felt anger, which would be merited, and mere outbursts of bad temper (iraamdia), which would be short-lived and innocuous. Brevis would be a strange adjective to apply to a natural propensity.

page 241 note 1 Dr. G. E. F. Chilver has drawn my at tention to Sen. Dial. 10. 18. 5—modo modo referring to Caligula in a work dated be tween 48 and 50. This is better than the Iivian examples.

page 241 note 2 2. 14. 3–4: ‘saepe itaque ratio patientiam suadet, ira vindictam, et qui primis defungi malis potuimus, in maiora devolvimur. quosdam unius verbi contumelia non aequo animo lata in exilium proiecit’, etc.

page 241 note 3 P.-W.2 x. 1035 favours c. 33 B.C.

page 241 note 4 Lucan's first published work was the Laudes Neronis, recited at the Neroneia of A.D. 60 (‘prima ingenii experimenta in Neronis laudibus dedit quinquennali certamine* Suetonian Life). This was followed by the extemporary Orpheus and three books of the Bellum Civile (‘dein civile bellum recitavit’, Suet.; ‘quippe et certamine pentaeterico … laudibus recitatis in Neronem fuerat corona-tus et ex tempore Orphea scriptum in experimentum adversum conplures ediderat poetas et tres libros, quales videmus. quare inimicumsibi fecit imperatorem’, Vacca; cf. Stat. Silv. 2. 7. 58 f.). The jealousy of the emperor now forbade further publication (‘interdictum est ei poetica’, Vacca). I take the distinction made by Vacca between the aforementioned poems and the rest of die works—the remainder of the Bellum Civile and the works listed after the introductory ‘extant eius conplures et alii, ut Iliacon’, etc.—to indicate diat diese were not published by Lucan himself. This was presumably done after Nero's death by Lucan's widow Polla, the only member of the family, apart from Acilia, to survive the failure of the Pisonian conspiracy and its aftermath. But we cannot be sure that all was then given to the world: the whole of the Bellum Civile was undoubtedly available to the public in the early Flavian era, for Valerius Flaccus has obvious reminiscences of the later as well as the earlier books; but it would be rash to assume too readily that the works listed at the end of Vacca's Life were equally accessible at diat time (Iliaca, Catachthonia(?)—another work of early youth: Stat. Silv. 2. 7. 54–57—Silvae, Medea, salticaefabulae—no doubt to be dated to the period of Lucan's intimacy with Nero, in view of the emperor's accomplishment as a ballet dancer—epigrammata), in Octavium Sagittam et pro to orationes—probably composed in 58, from the topicality of the subject; clearly academic controversies, in which Lucan excelled (‘declamavit et graece et latine cum magna admiratione audientium’, Vacca)—de incendio urbis, epistulae). The Vaccan Life shows signs of deriving from a source near to Lucan in time and kin. Sta-tius, who is acquainted with the contents of some of these works, was a friend of Polla and could have had access to them through her; die same can be said of Martial, who quotes a pentameter of Lucan in a poem addressed to the widow (10. 64). It is noteworthy that otherwise the only mention or quotation of any of these works is to be found in Lactantius the commentator on Statius’ Thebaid (apart from a Lucanian epigram (?) given by Vincent of Beauvais). We may suppose that the carmen famosum in Neronem, mentioned by Suetonius but not by Vacca, was given some sort of currency by Lucan himself; the same could be supposed of die prose de incendio urbis, in which Lucan accused Nero of firing Rome (Stat. Silv. 2. 7. 60 f.; cf. Tac. Ann. 15. 38), if it was a political pamphlet; but it would still be in a somewhat different class from the other published works.

A Curiosity in Seneca

  • J. D. P. Bolton (a1)


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