Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ennius Project

Since I'm getting into early Latin poetry, I have in mind to read a bunch of Ennius. I plan to post a few fragments, with a translation, and write up short comments on aspects that intrigue me. I follow the organization and numbering of the Skutsch commentary.

Ennius was born in Rudiae in 239 BC. He was Messapian by birth and perhaps partly Oscan; his sister's son's same is Pacuvius, a good Oscan name, and the name Ennius may itself be Oscan. Having served in the Roman Army, he earned his Roman citizenshp in 184 BC, and, perhaps while serving in the army, encountered Cato, who took him to Rome (Nepos, Cato 1.4). There, he made a living as a teacher (Suet. gramm. 1), and it was probably through Cato that he met M. Fulvius Nobilior, who became Ennius' patron. Ennius died around 169 BC.

The Annals consisted of eighteen books (Diom. 1.484) that are organized into groups of three: Books 1-3 treated the Regal Period, 4-6 covered the conquest of Italy and the Pyrric War, 7-9 went over the Punic Wars, 10-12 treated the affairs of Greece, 13-15 covered the Syrian War and Fulivius' triumph over the Aetolians, and 16-18 treated the recent wars.

Book 1
1. Musae, quae pedibus magnum pulsatis Olympum
'Muses, [you] who beat mighty Olympus with your feet'

This is generally assumed to be the first line of the poem. It comes to us from Varro LL VII, 19, who quoted it to show that 'caelum dicunt Graeci Olympum...'

Skutsch notes that there may be later echoes of this line; cf. Aen 10.216 curru...Phoebe medium pulsabat Olympum, Ovid Met. 6.487 equique pulsabant pedibus spatium decliuis Olympi. More interesting to me are the Homeric parallels. Dismissed out of hand is Il. 8.443 ...ὑπὸ ποσσὶ μέγας πελεμίζετ' Ὄλυμπος, '...under [Zeus'] feet, mighty Olympus quaked'. But, I think the interlocking word order A b C b that shows up in both the Ennius and the Homer is hard to ignore. Note also the alliterative parallel pedibus...pulsatis and ποσσὶ...πελεμίζετ'. But maybe I like this because I've read too much Calvert Watkins.

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