Notes to Gellius, NA I.12

Noctes Atticae I.12: Chapter Introduction

In this chapter Gellius deals with the legal requirements and practice in his day of choosing and installing a Vestal Virgin. In this chapter heading he ennumerates the chapter topics in six successive questions and quotes from one of his sources, the Commentaries to the Twelve Tables of the famous 1st century BCE Roman jurist Marcus Antistius Labeo.
quis, quid interrogative pronoun
who, what; followed by a partitive genitive (aetatis).
qualis, -e interrogative adjective
what kind of; modifies familia, in the ablative as object of the preposition ex.
aetas, -tatis f.
age; life; time.
ritus, -us m.
rite; usage; habit; with quo, ablative of means.
caeremonia, -ae f.
sacred rite; ceremony; with quibus, ablative of means.
religio, -onis f.
pledge; observance; obligation, duty; with quibus, ablative of means.
pontifex, -ficis m.f.
priest, priestess; ablative of agent, the object of the preposition a/ab. The pontifex maximus was the head of the College of Priests and as the chief priest he was responsible for a number of cults, among them the Vestals, near whose residence was his office, the Regia.
capio, -ere, cepi, captum
take; seize; choose; the subject of the verb is Virgo Vestae. The verb is in the subjunctive, the main verb in a series of indirect questions, most immediately quo nomine. In section 1 it appears again as a gerund (capienda), a verbal noun
statim adverb
immediately. With this adverb and simul atque following, Gellius asserts that at the very moment of ritual seizure the Vestal became a new legal entity, i.e., emancipated.
ius, iuris n.
law; authority; right; here translate as legal standing/position, an ablative of description with quo.
incipio, -ere, cepi, captum
begin; start to (followed by an infinitive, here esse). The subject of the verb is Virgo Vestae; it is in the subjunctive in an indirect question after quo iure.
simul atque adverb
as soon as.
quod conjunction
that; in that; because.
Labeo, -onis m.
a cognomen. Gellius cites the law according to the respected Roman jurist Marcus Antistius Labeo (d. c. 10 CE), a member of the plebeian nobility and a Republican, said to be the author of voluminous commentaries on the Twelve Tables, praetorian edicts and pontifical law which survive only in fragments (see below in paragraph 18).
intestatus, -a, -um
without an heir, intestate; without witnesses. The dative case intestato cuiquam follows heres, referring to a Vestal. Labeo stated that daughters could inherit from an intestate paterfamilias, but Vestals could not because of their emancipation from their father's authority. Furthermore, that no one could inherit from a Vestal who died without a will (eius intestatae); by law her property reverted to the State.
quisquam, quaequam, quicquam/quidquam pronoun
anyone, anything, any; dative form, followed in the next clause by the nominative quisquam heres, subject of est.
heres, heredis m.f.
heir, heiress; a successor. The word heres has two different referents: in the first clause to a Vestal, then with quisquam to a Vestal's heir. Vestals had the privilege of making wills that named females as their heirs. The Lex Voconia (169 BCE) forbade senators from willing their property to a woman, but it was disregarded by the 1st century CE. The famous 2nd century jurist Gaius (Institutiones Book IV) cites the rules for passing down property and the family sacra: females could inherit the family property, but not the family sacra, which belonged to the paterfamilias.
qui, quae, quod relative pronoun
who, which, that; understand auctores as the antecedent.
diligens, entis
conscientious, attentive, painstaking; diligentissime is the superlative form of the adverb.
nascor, -i, natus/a sum
be born; be aged/ old (with years expressed). Understand virginem with natam as the subject of the infinitive capi.
nego (1)
say not, deny; followed by the infinitive fas esse in a clause of indirect statement.
fas n. indeclinable
right; divine law; it is lawful, sanctioned, permitted (with est). See similarly ius siet below in paragraph 14.
item adverb
likewise; still dependent on negaverunt capi fas esse, this addition is a relative clause of characteristic with its verb in the subjunctive (sit).
patrimus, -a, -um
of one who has a father living; agrees with quae, the Vestal candidate.
matrimus, -a, -um
of one who has a mother living; agrees with quae, the Vestal candidate.
debilis, -e
weak, disabled; modifies lingua, an ablative of description.
sensus, -us m.
feeling; sensation; -ve is an enclitic conjunction meaning or and is translated before the word it's attached to.
auris, -is f.
deminuo, -ere, -ui, -utum
diminish, weaken; the subject is quae [non] (the Vestal candidate): understand sit, subjunctive in a relative clause of characteristic.
alius, -a, -ud
other, different; with qua (after a negative =aliqua, meaning any, any at all).
labes, -is f.
defect; fall; ablative of description, modified by alia qua.
insignio, -ire, -ivi, -itum
mark; subjunctive in a relative clause of characteristic. The subject is quae (the Vestal candidate). Understand non continuing from above.
emancipo (1)
declare independent; subjunctive in a relative clause of characteristic, with non understood. The verb includes both quae and cuius pater.
etiamsi conjunction
even if, although.
vivus, -a, -um
alive; ablative absolute (ellipsis of esse) with patre. The subject of the second sit is quae.
avus, -i m.
potestas, -tatis f.
power, authority; Gellius means the legal bond to the paterfamilias.
alter, -a. -um
the one/the other (of two).
ambo, -ae, -o
both; two;
servio, , -ire, -ivi, -itum
be legally subject; give service; be at the service of, be subservient to (as a slave to a master); translate together with the cognate accusative servitutem (=service, slavery). The restriction includes former slaves, as freedmen were required to give officium to their former masters for their entire lives.
negotium, -i n.
business, work.
sordidus, -a, -um
base, mean; dirty; the Romans felt commercial enterprise of any sort (except landowning) was unworthy of a gentleman (Cicero uses this adjective in De Officiis I. 150 to characterize illiberales quaestus mercennariorum omnium).
versor (1 deponent)
engage in.
sacerdotium, -i n.
priesthood, sacred office; that is, the cult of Vesta.
lego, -ere, legi, lectum
choose, select; pick.
excusatio, -onis f.
excuse, plea; direct object after mereri.
mereor, -eri, meritus/a sum
deserve, be entitled to; the subject of the infinitive in indirect statement after aiunt is eam.
aio defective verb
say, affirm; the subject is Gellius' sources.
flamen, -inis m.
flamen, a priest appointed to preside over rituals for a named deity; when the deity is not names it usually refers to the Flamen Dialis. Click on the SPQR for an image from the Ara Pacis of the Priest of Jupiter, whose sign of office is the apex, a cap with wood spike.
augur, -is m.f.
diviner, seer. The augur was the interpreter of natural phenomena, birds, and unusual occurences. He was an influential member of the priestly college, especially in early Rome. Click on the SPQR for Augustus as augur, holding the lituus, the curved wand of his office.
quindecimviri, -orum m. pl.
fifteen men; quindecimvirum is an old genitive plural (translate "one of the quindecimviri"). This was one of the four major colleges of Roman priests for the performance of sacred rites (sacris faciundis). Elected for life and originally two in number (Livy AUC 5.13.6.), they were the custodians of the Sibylline books and supervisors of foreign cults in Rome.
septemviri, -orum m. pl.
seven men; septemvirum is an old genitive plural (translate "one of the septemviri). Another of the colleges of priests, they were in charge of the banquet of Jupiter (epulum Jovis).
Salius, -i m.
one of the Salii, a priesthood of twelve patricians established by Numa to preside over the cult of Mars Gradivus.
sponsa, -ae f.
betrothed woman.
tubicen, -inis m.
trumpeter; with sacrorum it refers to a priest who officiates at the Tubilustrium, the March and May festivals at which the trumpets were purified. Click the SPQR for a trumpeter leading a sacrificial procession.
vacatio, -onis f.
exemption, dispensation; subject of the verb solet.
tribuo, ere, -ui, -utum
confer, give; complementary infinitive after solet. The objects of tribuo are in the dative case (sponsae, filiae).
soleo, , -ere, -itus/a sum
be accustomed.
praeterea adverb
besides; moreover.
Capito Ateius
Gaius Ateius Capito, a Roman legal scholar of early imperial times, known for the conservatism of his legal opinions, well-respected in his own day, but soon considered obsolete. He specialized in sacral and pontifical law.
eius = a father; on both occasions in #8 to be translated with filiam. Augustan legislation awarded a man with three living children political privileges which he could lose if one of his children were removed from his authority.
domicilium, -i n.
vestalis, -e
of/belonging to Vesta; the adjective modifies virgo.
atrium, -i n.
hall; forecourt. The Atrium Vestae was the area east of the Forum Romanum that included the temple and grove of Vesta and the Vestals’ house (click on SPQR).
emancipatio, -onis f.
the formal release of a person from patria potestas, the authority of the paterfamilias; the transfer of property (i.e., release of a slave from servitude). Ablative following the preposition sine.
minutio -onis f.
lessening, diminution; ablative after the preposition sine. With capitis it signifies the formal loss of citizen rights. One could lose these rights by being sold into slavery or entering disreputable professions (gladiator, prostitute).
exeo, -ire, -ivi- -itum
go out, leave, pass beyond.
testamentum, -i n.
will; in the genitive case after ius, translate as the object of the gerundive faciundi (for an explanation of the verbal adjective, click here).
adipiscor, -i, adeptus/a sum
acquire, attain.
mos, moris m.
manner, practice.
autem conjunction
litterae, -arum f. pl.
written records; literature; modified by antiquiores. A clause of indirect statement follows from litterae with virginem understood as the subject of the infinitive captam esse.
quidem adverb
in fact, it is true.
exsto, -are, ex(s)titi
be extant, exist, be found.
Numa Pompilius, the second king of Rome, who established the cult of Vesta and appointed its first priestesses. Livy, however, states that Rhea Silvia was forced to become a Vestal by her uncle Numitor to prevent her from producing a legitimate heir after he seized the throne at Alba Longa (AUC 1.3). The SPQR shows Cesari's 1640 painting of the event.
Lex Papia = Lex Papia Poppaea, a law introduced in 9 CE at the request of Augustus, who intended it to strengthen the institution of marriage. Laws were named after the magistrate/s proposing them, in this case the consuls for the year, M. Papius Mutilus and Q. Poppaeus Secundus (ironically both were unmarried).
invenio, -ire, -veni, -ventum
find, come upon, discover; Gellius is himself the subject.
caveo, -ere, cavi, cautum
beware, guard against. The idiom ius cavet ut = the law provides that; two jussive noun clauses in the subjunctive follow: ut legantur . . . fiat et ut capiat . . .fiat).
arbitratus, -us m.
decision; discretion.
sortitio, -onis f.
drawing lots, choosing by lot; sortitio cuius virginis is the subject of ducta erit (note the tense and mood): with sortitio, duco = draw).
contio, -onis f.
nunc adverb
now, today; Gellius explains that in his day a Vestal could be chosen without the sortitio required by the lex Papia.
necessarius, -a, -um
inevitable, indispensible, necessary.
honestus, -a, -um respectable.
respectable. Patrician status was not a requirement for Vestal candidates, though most of them came from senatorial families.
locus, -i m.
place, station; note the gender of natus, referring not to the candidate but to her father.
adeo, -ire, -ii, itum
go to, approach; address; subjunctive (as also offerat) after the hypothetical si [ali]quis.
dumtaxat adverb + subjunctive
as long as, provided that; at least.
salvus, , -a, -um
safe, unharmed; ablative absolute with observationibus.
religio, -onis f.
religion; religious scruples; objective genitive with observationibus.
observatio, -onis f.
careful observance; practice; watching as a precaution; ablative absolute with salvis (the verb to be understood.
ratio, -onis f.
account, consideration; ratio haberi = official account be taken of, regard be paid to, followed by the objective genitive (cuius, whose antecedent is filiam, the candidate for the position of Vestal).
gratia, , -ae f.
exemption, dispensation from + genitive (Papiae legis), by the authority per of the Senate.
propterea adverb
because; for the reason that (followed by quia). Gellius here explains the use of the term to be taken for the induction into the Vestal order.
prendo = prehendo, -ere, prendi, prensum
take hold of, grasp; the subject is virgo (understand est).
veluti adverb
just as, like.
abduco, -ere, -duxi, -ductum
lead away, take away; the subject is [virgo] capta bello.
Quintus Fabius Pictor (fl. c. 200 BCE), a senator and general in the wars against the Gauls (225 BCE) and the second Punic War, he was one of the earliest Roman annalist historians, writing a history of Rome in Greek in order to bring Roman traditions to the Hellenic world. Click on SPQR for a coin image of him seated, holding an apex and shield as Flamen Quirinalis.
oportet, -ere, -ui impersonal verb
ought, should; subjunctive in indirect question.
sacerdos, -dotis f. m.
priestess, priest; Sacerdotem Vestalem is in apposition with te, the object of capio.
qui, quae, quod relative pronoun
who, which, that; it introducesa relative clause of purpose in the subjunctive (faciat). The antecedent of the following quae is sacra, introducing a relative clause of characteristic in the subjunctive (siet, an old form of sit).
Quirites, -ium m. pl.
Roman citizens, in apposition to pro populo Romano, the term refers to Romans as civilians and is used in speeches, solemn ceremonies or appeals. It is thought to be Sabine in origin, derived from the town of Cures.
uti = ut adverb
as, just as; how; correlative with ita = as . . . so. The antecedent of quae is again sacerdotem Vestalem.
optimus, -a, -um
best, highest; superlative of bonus, it is an ablative of quality. The meaning of optima lex is debated.
Amata, -ae f.
Beloved; Amata, the name of the wife of King Latinus, the mother of Lavinia, Aeneas' Latin wife. It is thought to be the name given to the first Vestal.
plerique, pleraeque, pleraque
most, very many; the adjective is a substantive noun here = plerique scriptores.
solus, -a, -u,
only, alone; with virginem, the subject of debere in an indirect statement.
puto, (1)
think; suppose; followed by an infinitive in indirect statement (debere).
Dialis, -e
of or belonging to Jupiter; heavenly; the Flamen Dialis at Rome was the Priest of Jupiter.
Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix (130-78 BCE), general, twice consul, and dictator, published his memoirs (Res Gesta or Exploits, a common title for Roman autobiographies) just before his death. He refers to an ancestor, Publius, a praetor in 212 BCE and chosen Flamen Dialis after 213 BCE. Click SPQR for the dictator's coin portrait and for more information on flamines.
cognomen, -inis n.
the surname of a family or individual; name; Lucius is the dictator's praenomen, Cornelius is his nomen, Sulla is his cognomen.
Marcus Porcius Cato Censorius Maior (234 BC– 149 BC), general, consul, censor, conservative Roman statesman, author of prose histories and various manuals. His work de Lusitanis, a speech, is lost. Click on SPQR for a portrait head of Cato and further information on the position of Censor.
Lusitani, -orum m. pl.
the Lusitanians; the inhabitants of western Spain and Portugal. Understand scripsit.
Servius Galba, praetor in 151 BCE, massacred the Lusitanians (inhabitants of modern-day Portugal) who were suing for peace. Cato’s prosecution seems not to have had lasting effect, as Galba was elected consul for 144 BCE.
tamen adverb
however; nevertheless.
deficio, -ere, -feci, fectum
revolt; desert; complementary infinitive after voluisse.
volo, -ere, volui
wish, want; be willing; understand Lusitanos as the subject of the infinitive deficere in indirect statement after dicunt (its subject is Lusitani).
optime superlative adverb
very well, best; modifies scire, infinitive in indirect statement whose subject is me. Cato here offers two hypothetical situations in which he points up how deficient in logic Galba's act and his defense of it was; Gellius' object is to show that capio is not used solely in regard to the Vestals.
iam, adverb
therefore; now, directly; with the enclitic ne introducing a question.
augurium, -i n.
the art of augury; the faculty of divination; here tenere means grasp, understand.
ecquis, -quid interrogative pronoun
anyone, anything?
Duodecim Tabulae, the law of the Twelve Tables, was the first iteration of Roman law, developed between 451 and 405 BCE, when it was promulgated as the core of the Republican constitution along with the mores maiorum. Click on the SPQR to view the reconstructed remnants.
compono, -ere, -posui, -positum
compose, put together, construct.
quisquam, quaequam, quicquam/quidquam pronoun
any, anyone, anything; cuiquam is the dative. For the following quisquam understand est heres. Vestals were not permitted to claim the property of an intestate father, nor could anyone be the heir of a Vestal who died without a will, as her property passed to the public treasury.
bona, -orum n. pl.
goods, property; the eius refers to the Vestal who died.
redigo, -ere, -egi, -actum
bring back, collect, take up; it is not clear who is Labeo's subject in aiunt.
quaero, -ere, sivi, situm
search for, seek; followed by the subjunctive fiat in indirect question. Labeo finds that the legal source in missing.
inter preposition + accusative
during, in the course of; between; the object is capiendum.
appello (1)
call, name; the subject is Amata.
quoniam conjunctiion
since, seeing that.
trado, -ere, tradidi, traditum
pass on, hand down, transmit; the subject is nomen (understand eius, the antecedent of quae).

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