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Catullus 1. 10 and the title of his Libellus

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 September 2009

Extract

It was a natural and well-established usage in antiquity that works of literature might readily be referred to by their opening words. Aristophanes accidentally lends the ‘Παλλάδα περсέέολιν δεινάν …. ’ ‘Pallas the awful city-sacker …’ of a certain Lamprocles or maybe of Stesichorus and the ‘Τηλέπορον τι βόαμα …’, ‘Some far-reaching shriek …’ of one ‘Kydidas’ a pale and partial immortality this way (Nub.967), and in the imaginary world of Theocritus an imaginary poem the ‘τὸν ἐμὸν Λύκον….’ ‘Lycus my lover…’ by an imaginary ‘Larisaean fellow’ is thus evoked (Id. 14.30). Cicero refers to Ennius' Medea as the ‘Vtinam ne in nemore….’ (Fin. 1.5), and we even find him casually referring to an evidently near-definitive draft of his Cato maior de senectute which he had sent to Atticus as the ‘O Tite si quid …’ (Att.16.3.1) and ‘O Tite …’ 9 Att. 16.11.3): here an opening citation of a citation (of Ennius) is identifying the book, clearly doubly unsuitable as an official title; as if for Atticus the publisher and his clerks in the scriptorium this was a normal practice, mechanically applicable regardless of appositeness. In one of the less gloomy passages in Tristia (2.261) Ovid has a girl broaching Lucretius in not quite the right spirit: sumpserit ‘Aeneadum genetrix …’ ubi pritna, requiret Aeneadum genetrix unde sit alma Venus, and further on (2.534) alludes to the Aeneid in the same way: contulit in Tyrios arma uirumque toros; cf. Persius 1.96 ‘arma uirum’, nonne hoc spumosum etcorticepingui utramale uetus uegrandi subere coctum?, Martial 14.185 accipe facundi Culicem, studiose, Maronis, ne nucibus positis arma uirumque legas. Virgil himself had alluded in the closing signature to the Georgics to his own Bucolica with Tityre, tepatulae cecini sub tegmine fagi (G. 4.566); Ovid elaborates on that at Amores 1.15.25 Tityrus etfruges Aeneiaque arma, though without wanting just mechanically to insist specifically on first line allusions; after all, he could have written segetes instead of fruges in recollection of Ge orgies 1.1. Lastly in this little survey, which is merely illustrative, there is the point that it seems to have been standard Alexandrian practice in cataloguing works to refer, e.g., to ‘The Brothers of X of which the first line is …’, ‘The Phoenissae of Y, the first line of which is …’, presumably to resolve potential ambiguities within and between the canons of particular authors.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Classical Association 1991

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