Notes to Horace, Sermo I.8

olim adverb
once; at one time. This opening establishes the poem as a narrative, a tale told by the statue of Priapus.

truncus, -i m.
stump; tree trunk. The first-person narrator of the tale is a wooden statue, identified at the end of l. 2 as Priapus, the grotesque and bawdy primitive god of fertility whose image is often found in gardens as a protective guardian.

ficulnus, -a -um
made of fig wood; cheap and easy to carve, it was principally used for statues.

inutilis, -e
useless. Note the –e ending: what case(s) could this ending signify? It is unclear whether fig wood was of poor quality or whether the poet is at the outset preparing his surprise ending.

lignum, -i n.
wood; the nominative case, in apposition with truncus.

cum adverb
when; initiates a temporal clause whose verb is maluit.

faber, fabri m.
craftsman, carpenter; subject of the main verb maluit. A mock-epic touch reminiscent of satirical creation myths.

incertus, -a –um
unsure, uncertain.

scamnum, -i n.
stool. The carpenter first considers creating a practical product; supply aut before Priapum.

facio, facere, feci, factum
make; do;: faceret is a subjunctive in indirect question, indicated by the enclitic –ne.

malo, malle, malui, -----
prefer; the main verb of the sentence, followed by an indirect statement with the subject of esse understood as truncum.

inde adverb
thus, thence; from there, from that point.

ego: pronoun in apposition with deus;  supply eram.

fur, furis m.
thief; slave.

avis, avis f.
bird; omen.

formido, formidinis f.
source of fear, object of terror. Priapic statues were often placed in gardens to act as scarecrows as well as to ensure fertility (see Carmina Priapea).

dexter, dextra, dextrum
right; dextra in the singular is often used to mean dextra manus. Statues of Priapus often held scythes in their hand.

coerceo, -ere, -ui, -itum
check, curb, restrain, hold back.

obscenus, -a, um
indecent, lewd; filthy.

ruber, rubra, rubrum
red, ruddy, dark red. It was common for Priapus’ phallus to be painted red.

porrigo, -ere, -exi, -ectum
stick out, extend, protrude; the perfect passive participle modifies palus.

inguen, inguinis n.
crotch, groin, genitals.

palus, -i m.
pole, staff, shaft, stick; i.e.,Priapus’ primary attribute: his large, erect phallus.

ast /at  conjunction
but, yet, on the other hand.

importunus, -a, -um
annoying, troublesome.

volucer, -cris f.
bird, vulture.

vertex, -icis m.
head; top, summit.

harundo, -dinis f.
reed, cane; it moved with the wind.

terreo, -ere, -ui, -itum
scare away; deter; frighten; the perfect passive participle modifies harundo.

figo, -ere, fixi, fixum
attach, fasten; pierce.

veto (1)
hinder; prevent someone (accusative) from doing something (infinitive).

consideo, -ere, -sedi, -sessum
to settle, sit down, alight.  Translate: harundo vetat volucres considere in novis hortis.

hortus, -i m.
garden; pl. park.

huc adverb
to this place, hither; translate with portanda. Note how the poet emphasizes the physical space in which the story takes place.

prius adverb
earlier; before; in the past.

angustus, -a, -um
narrow, skinny, close.

eicio, -ere, -ieci, --iectum
throw out; put out. The past perfect participle modifies cadavera. The usual word would be elata. How does the use of eiecta convey the attitude of the master toward the death of his slave?

cadaver, -is n.
corpse, body; note the alliteration of –c, a harsh sound repeated in ll. 8-9.

cella, -ae f.
small room; slave quarters; an ablative of separation following eiecta.

conservus, -i m.
fellow-slave; subject of the main verb locabat.

vilis, -e
cheap; dirty, vile; modifies arca.

porto (1)
carry, haul, deliver; portanda, a gerundive (see A & G #500-507) modifies cadavera, the object of locabat.

loco (1)
arrange; contract for; place, put. Translate: conservus cadavera [ex] angustis cellis eiecta huc portanda in vili arca locabat.

arca, -ae f.
coffin; box, chest; ark.

plebs, plebis f.
common people; lower class; rabble; plebi is a dative following commune. Note that the poor are also buried here.

communis, -e
common, shared.

sepulcrum, -i n.
grave, tomb.

Pantolabus, -i m. The name is perhaps derived from the Greek (pan+labein = Mr. Grab All). Pantolabus and Nomentanus are in apposition to miserae plebi. Their names appear again in Horace, Sermones 2.1.22. What is the effect of using generic names for the males who appear here and in l. 39?

scurra, -ae m.
jester, parasite; rake; dandy.

nepos, nepotis m.
spendthrift; grandson. Lowlife characters possessed of money erected pretentious burial monuments here as well.

in fronte . . . in agrum: a standard surveying formula used in funerary inscriptions to specify the dimensions of the owner’s burial plot in width . . . in depth (see Hilara's tombstone and the image in the SPQR at the end of the line).

cippus, -i m.
grave marker; stone pillar, boundary marker. The subject of dabat, the stone is imagined as "speaking."

ager, agri m.
field; countryside; land.

hic adverb

do, dare, dedi, datum
proclaim, state; give; cippus, the subject, is personified. Note the tense of dabat.

heres, heredis m.
heir, inheritor.  The formula hoc monumentum heredes non sequitur (the subjunctive occurs after dabat) is abbreviated as H.M.H.N.S. (see Claudia Semne, Trimalchio's tomb and the image in the SPQR at the end of the line), meaning that the burial plot was not part of the heir's inheritance.

nunc adverb
now. Its position parallels prius in line 8. Maecenas, Augustus's wealthy patron of the arts, was in the process of converting the former cemetery on the Esquiline into a public garden.

licet, licere, licuit + infinitive
it is allowed, it is possible; an impersonal verb.

Esquiliae, arum f. pl.
Esquiline hill, the largest of Rome’s seven hills. Inhabited by the poor, in Augustus's time it was undergoing gentrification.

habito (1)
occupy; visit, spend time; dwell.

saluber, -bris, -bre
healthful, in good condition; predicate adjective. Maecenas' horti transformed the area from deathly to productive.

agger, aggeris m.
raised walkway, rampart. The precise location is uncertain; probably a part of the old earthen Servian wall was turned into an elevated garden path.

apricus, -a, -um
sunny, bright.

spatior (I deponent)
walk; stroll.

modo adverb
recently, just a short time ago; supply in with quo, which refers back to aggere.

tristis, -e
gloomy; dismal; sad; the adjective functions as a substantive noun and is the subject of spectabant.

albus, -a, -um
white; bright.

informis, -e
misshapen, deformed, ugly.

os, ossis n.
bone; ablative of means with informem. Here the poet changes focus from description of location to narrative of action.

cum conjunction + subjunctive
although, since, while. The concessive cum clause marks the beginning of Priapus’ anecdote.

mihi: dative of respect in a double-dative construction with non…curae sint atque labori (datives of purpose).

non tantumquantum correlative adverbs
not so much… as (see quantum on l. 19).

fera, -ae f.
wild beast; with fures, the subject of sint. How does fera foreshadow the portrayal of Canidia and Sagana?

suetus, -a, -um + infinitive
accustomed to, used to, in the habit of. It is scanned with three syllables.

vexo, (1)
trouble, bother, vex.

carmen, carminis n.
spell, chant, song, poem. Magic rituals made use of sung/spoken chants (see Vergil, Eclogue 8).

verso (1)
disturb; affect; turn over; the subject of the verb is [eae] quae. Many types of rituals (erotic, prophetic, hostile) involved the disturbance of the dead in some way.

venenum, -i n.
magical material; drug; poison, venom. A generic word, it is similar to the Greek pharmakon, which does not always signify magic or poison, but Priapus sees it as dangerous.

animus, -i m.
soul; mind, reason; feelings; will; courage.

has: the demonstrative pronoun refers back to [eae] quae.

perdo, -ere, -didi, -ditum
ruin; destroy; get rid of.

modus, i. m.
manner, way; modified by nullo.

simul ac (simulac) adverb
as soon as, the very moment. The moon was thought to have magical potency.

vagus, -a, -um
wandering, traversing.

decorus, -a, -um
beautiful, becoming.

profero, -ferre, -tuli, -latus
reveal; put forth, show.

os, oris n.
face; mouth.

quin conjunction
from or lest following a verb of prohibition or prevention (prohibere in l. 22).

lego, -ere, legi, lectum
gather, pick, choose, read; subjunctive after quin and a verb of prohibition. Bones of all kinds were used in magic rites.

nocens, -entis
harmful, noxious, baneful. The ending is long, a poetic alternative for the accusative plural of 3rd declension adjectives and i-stem nouns.

egomet intensive pronoun
I, myself. Priapus begins his story in mock heroic style.

succingo, -ere, succinxi, succinctum
bind at the middle; cinch; surround, followed by the ablative (nigra...palla); the perfect passive participle modifies Canidiam.

vado, -ere, vasi, ----
stride, walk, progress; an infinitive in indirect statement.

palla, -ae f.
cloak, feminine garment. The appearance of two women in dark clothing frightens Priapus.

Canidia, -ae f.
Canidia. An unusual name, it may suggest her age (canities = white hair) or her savagery (canis = dog), or both.

nudus, -a, -um
naked, bare. An unkempt appearance is a characteristic of practitioners of magic (e.g., Vergil, Aen. 4.518, Ovid, Met. 7.182, Ovid, Fasti 5.432) as well as mourners, another connection with the earlier use of the place .

passus, -a, -um
let down (of hair), spread out. Note the chiastic word order: pedibus . . . .capillo.

capillus, -i m.

Sagana, -ae f.
Sagana; ablative after cum. Another unusual name, perhaps derived from saga = witch, sorceress, wise woman. She again appears alongside Canidia in Epode 5 to assist in a macabre ritual.

maior, -ius comparative of magnus
older; more powerful, greater. Perhaps the elder (of two sisters) Sagana; given Canidia’s prominence in the Horatian corpus and her role as ritual leader in Epode 5, it is unlikely that the word refers to Sagana’s superiority.

ululo (1)
wail or shriek loudly; howl. The word is onomatopoeic, and is used of the iterative, high-pitched sounds emitted by women in mourning throughout the ancient world.

pallor, palloris m.
paleness, pallor.

uter, utra, utrum
both, each (of two); modified by horrendas.

horrendus, -a, -um
fearful, terrible; awesome.

aspectus, -us m.
appearance; sight, look;aspectu may be an ablative of description or ablative of the supine from aspicio = catch sight of, look at.

scalpo, -ere, scalpsi, scalptum
claw at, scrape, scratch. The main verb coeperunt, which also governs divellere, is delayed until l. 28. In ll. 26-28 Canidia and Sagana are described in increasingly animalistic terms (scalpere, unguibus, divellere mordicus). How does this make them more fearful?

unguis, unguis m.
nail, claw, talon; ablative of means.

pullus, -a, -um
black, dark. Black animals are typical sacrifices to the underworld deities (such as Hecate and Tisiphone); pure white animals are chosen for the Olympian gods.

divello, -ere, divelli, divulsum
rip apart, tear apart, shred.

mordicus adverb
with the teeth, by biting.

agna, -ae f.

cruor, cruoris m.
blood, gore. This scene is reminiscent of the underworld in Odyssey 11, where Odysseus sacrifices a black lamb and pours its blood into a pit to summon the dead souls.

fossa, -ae f.
pit, ditch. Canidia and Sagana dug it to contain the blood for their ritual.

confundo, -ere, -fusi, -fusum
pour, combine; supply est. The collection of blood from a sacrifice is associated with funerary libations and magic rites.

inde adverb
thence, from there.

manis, manis m.
ghost, shade, spirit; manis is a poetic alternative for the accusative plural manes.

elicio, -ere, -licui, -licitum
summon, draw forth; subjunctive after ut, indicating purpose. Spirits of the dead were often enlisted as agents in magic practice, from erotic spells to inquiries about the future and curses against thieves.

anima, -ae f.
spirit, soul; ghost; wind; animas is in apposition to manis.

responsum, -i n.
reply, answer, response; the object of daturas, the future active participle of dare used to indicate purpose. Canidia and Sagana seem to be consulting the dead about the future. The scene may also constitute an erotic spell (see Theocritus’ Idyll 2).

laneus, -a, -um
woolen, made of wool.

et: the emphatic placement of the word indicates it is best understood as even or also.

effigies, effigiei f.
effigy, figurine, doll. Figurines are often used in magic rituals; these seem to be erotic in nature.

alter, -era, -erum
the one, the other (of two); understand [effigies erat].

cereus, -a, -um
waxen, made of wax; wax, wool, lead, and clay were common materials for ritualistic figurines.

poena, -ae f.
punishment; penalty.

compesco, -ere, -pescui, ----
threaten, check, restrain; subjunctive in a relative clause of characteristic after quae. The larger wool figurine menaces the smaller wax one.

inferior, inferioris
smaller; lesser; understand effigiem.

suppliciter adverb
like a suppliant.

servilis, -e
servile; slavish; of slaves; the adjective modifies modis. The reference is to torture, which it was permissable to use on slaves.

ut adverb

pereo, -ire, -ii, -itum
perish, die; be lost, wasted. Add esset to the future active participle; a subjunctivein a relative clause of characteristic introduced by quae.

Hecate, Hecates f.
Hecate. Goddess of the crossroads, often depicted as threefold, she is associated with sorcery and the underworld as the infernal aspect of Diana, accompanied by snakes (serpentis, l. 34) and dogs (canes, l. 35.). Hecaten is a Greek accusative ending, as also Tisiphonen below.

saevus, -a, -um
savage, dread.

Tisiphone, Tisiphones f.
Tisiphone. A Fury of the underworld (see the SPQR image at the end of the line), Tisiphone is not usually an agent in magic rituals. Her presence adds to the grim nature of this rite.

videres: the Potential Subjunctive (in the imperfect tense) indicates possibility ("might") or capacity ("could") in the past. It is followed by infinitives in indirect statement (errare, latere). The shift to direct address places the reader in the scene as witness here and at the end of the poem, as the last word.

erro (1)
wander; make a mistake; the subjects are serpentis (=serpentes) and infernas canis (=canes).

rubens, rubentis
blushing, reddening, growing red; the subject of latere. Rubentem modifies lunam (see her image in the SPQR at the end of the line); Priapus is described above as ruber (l.5). How are the two connected?

ne  conjunction
so that not; to avoid; to prevent. It introduces a negative purpose clause (ne foret his testis) in the subjunctive (foret = futura esset); the subject is Luna, here the personified goddess..

testis, testis m.
witness; followed by the indirect object in the dative case: his is neuter plural.

sepulcrum, -i n.
tomb, grave; with magna it is the object of the preposition post, referring to wealthier burials.

lateo, latere, latui, -----
hide, conceal oneself; the subject is lunam rubentem.

mentior, -iri, mentitus/a sum
lie; deceive; translate: si mentior, followed by the object in the accusative.

quis, quid indefinite pronoun
anyone, anything; following si, (nisi, num, ne) quid is translated as aliquid, the direct object of mentior.

merda, -ae f.
droppings; dung. The vulgarities of ll. 37-39 are in keeping with Priapus' low character.

inquino (1)
make filthy, smear, stain. Note the independent subjunctive; what type of subjunctive is it?

corvus, -i m.

mingo, -ere, minxi, mictum
piss; urinate. Mictum is a supine, used after a verb of motion (veniat) to express purpose.

caco (1)
shit, defecate. Similarly cacatum is a supine governed by veniat.

Iulius, -i m.
Julius. Along with Pediatia and Voranus, he is unknown, but likely of ill repute despite the famous nomen.

fragilis, fragile
effeminate, soft, fragile.

singuli, -ae, -a
individual detail; each and every one; neuter plural object of memorem.

quid adverb
why; followed by a series of questions in the subjunctive.

memoro (1)
recall, remember, recollect. Another independent subjunctive (Deliberative), it is followed by several indirect questions introduced by quo pacto and ut (ll. 40-45).

quo pacto adverbial phrase (= quo modo)
how; in what way.

alternus, -a, -um
alternate; one after the other; neuter plural object of loquentes, it indicates conversation.

umbra, -ae f.
ghost, shade; shadow.

resono (1)
echo the sound; re-echo; imperfect subjunctive in indirect question.

acutus, -a, -um
shrill, piercing, sharp. Together with triste, the neuter adjective describes resonarent; translate as an adverb.

ut adverb
how; here and in l. 44 the word introduces indirect questions that originate with memorem.

lupus, -i m.

barba, -ae f.
beard. This may be a preventative for counter-spells, as there are records of wolf heads being used to ward off magical attacks.

varius, -a, -um
mottled, many colored, different.

colubra, -ae f.
serpent, snake.

abdo, -ere, -didi, -ditum
bury, hide, conceal, put away; subjunctive in indirect question, with Canidia and Sagana as the subjects.

furtim adverb
secretly, stealthily, furtively.

largior, -oris comparative adjective of largus
more intense; larger, bigger; a predicate adjective of ignis, translate here as an adverb.

ardeo, -ere, arsi, arsum
burn; shine; understand ut and the continuation of the indirect question, followed by an ablative of cause (imagine cerea).  Melting a waxen figurine over a fire was part of an erotic ritual designed to cause the spell’s target to “melt” with passion.

inultus, -a, -um
unavenged; predicate adjective with testis. Note the double negative for emphasis, the mock epic tone, and involvement of the reader as witness.

horresco, -ere, horrui + accusative
tremble at, be terrified of; this is the final subjunctive stemming from Priapus' question singula quid memorem in l. 40.

Furia, -ae f.
demon, creature of vengeance; although separated, Furiarum and duarum belong together. Priapus identifies the witches with these horrifying mythological figures.

duo, duae, duo
two; note the interlocking word order.

displosus, -a, -um
burst, popped, exploded.

sono (1)
make a noise/sound; the subject is displosa vesica.

[tantum] . . .quantum correlative pronoun
so great . . . as; translate: [tantum] sonat displosa vesica, quantum pepedi.

vesica, -ae f.
bladder; animal bladders were inflated as balloons and were used to carry various liquids.

pedo, -ere, pepedi, -----
to fart. Fig wood being prone to split, Priapus appropriates a human source for the noise he makes.

diffindo, -ere, -findi, -fissum
crack, break open; ablative absolute with nate.

natis, natis f.

ficus, fici f.
fig; as the subject of pepedi, Priapus effects a surprising comic triumph. In an example of ring composition, fícus recalls ficulnus in l. 1, where the use of the adjective inutile now appears to be ironic.

currere = historical infinitive.

dens, dentis m.
dentures, teeth. The word dentis (poetic alternative for the accusative plural) reduces Canidia to a silly old woman.

caliendrum, -i n.
headdress of false hair; wig; modified by altum.

excido, -ere, -cidi, -----
fall off, fall down, disappear; note the multiple elisions that convey the rapid reversal of power.

incantatus, -a, -um
enchanted, charmed.

lacertus, -i m.
upper arm, shoulder.

vinculum, -i n.
arm band; chain, knot.  The function of these “enchanted armlets” is, as with much of the ritual content of the poem, unclear.

risus, risus m.
laughter, smile.

iocus, -i m.
joking, joke; what began as Priapus' dark tale ended as his ludicrous rout of the "enemy."

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