The July Poems in the Chronography of 354

The image for July is preserved once again only in a single manuscript of the Chronography, MS Vienna 3146, which never contains the text of the poems, only the pictures. So for the text of the poems, once again we are reliant on other, unillustrated, manuscripts, or the indirect tradition.

Here is the 4-line poem (tetrastich), with the draft translation that I made earlier in the year.  Comments are always welcome!

Ecce coloratos ostentat Julius artus
crines cui rutilos spicea serta ligat.
Morus sanguineos praebet gravidata racemos,
Quae medio cancri sidere laeta viret.

Look! July shows off his tanned limbs,
Whose reddish hair a garland of corn ties.
His reddish hair, to which he ties a garland of corn.
The glad mulberry, loaded down with fruit, offers blood-red berries,
It flourishes with joy  to hang down in the middle of the summer heat.
It is green in the middle star of Cancer.

I.e. in the heat of summer.

The 2-line verse (distich) is as follows:

Quam bene, Quintilis, mutasti nomen! honori
Caesareo, Juli, te pia causa dedit.

How rightly, Quintilis, you changed your name!
A pious motive assigned you to the honour of Caesar.
The honour of Caesar, O July, gives you a pious motive.

I can’t work out the syntax for the second line: honori is dative, of course, not nominative.  The sense is that the motive for the change of name is to honour Caesar.

Again the image is only preserved in the 16th century Vienna manuscript 3416, folio 27 (online here):

As usual with this manuscript, the image is in the style of the renaissance, not antiquity.  But probably the layout is much the same as the original.  From Divjak and Wischmeyer, I learn that the depiction shows a naked young man – an image of summer, holding a bag in his right hand with extra long tassels.  In his left hand he holds a flat round basket containing three bunches of fruit with leaves, perhaps mulberries.  By his right foot is some kind of vessel – a money bag? – filled with coins marked with crosses and other symbols.  Two conical vessels stand by his left foot.  The whole picture is of a good harvest with the resulting wealth.

(For more information on this series of posts, please see the Introduction to the Poems of the Chronography of 354).

UPDATE: Many thanks to those who sent in corrections!


11 thoughts on “The July Poems in the Chronography of 354

  1. Congratulations on passing the halfway mark in this series. It’s a pleasure to look forward to each month’s post.

    A few notes on the texts:
    – The dative ‘cui’ being singular cannot refer to ‘crines’, but only to ‘Julius’. The subject of ‘ligat’ is ‘spicea serta’ (nom. sing.), and ‘crines rutilos’ is the object: something like “Julius, to whom a garland ties the hair”, or simply “whose reddish hair a garland of corn ties”. It might be regarded as a Greek accusative (Allen & Greenough 397b), but I think that would more properly require ‘quem’ (“Julius, whom a garland ties as to the hair”).
    – The subject of ‘viret’ is ‘gravidata morus’ (so, “flourishes”). Note that ‘vireo’ is literally “be/grow green”: it’s the tree’s leaves that are green, not its dark red/purple berries.
    – The second line of the distich literally says “A pious motive gave you to the honour of Caesar”: My guess would be that ‘dedit’ here is more or less “appointed”: more freely, “a pious motive elevated you to the dignity of Caesar” (i.e., the old month Quintilis became Caesar).

    BTW, the bunches in the basket don’t look like mulberries, because the leaves of the m. are large and serrated – very much like the leaves on the lids of the conical vessels. Which makes me wonder if the thing the figure is holding in his right hand is used for extracting mulberry juice. In that case the vessels could contain mulberry wine, which explains the leaves.

  2. Thank you so much for these, Diego. I struggled with this one, I recall. I will look at it again. You’re right about “A pious motive gave you to the honour of Caesar”!

  3. This part

    Caesareo, Iuli, te pia causa dedit

    might translate to

    Motives of piety assigned you to the honor of Caesar, July.

  4. For the last line of the tetrastich, then, how about this?

    Quae medio cancri sidere laeta viret.

    quae refers to morus, the mulberry.
    laeta also refers to morus, and it seems to fit best if put in line above
    viret = it is green / flourishes
    medio sidere = under the middle star
    canceri = of the constellation of Cancer

    I.e. in the summer heat.

  5. It looks good to me.
    Of course ‘sidus’ often means “constellation” rather than a single star, and so each the 12 regions of through which the sun travels through the year > “month” or “season” (‘sidus natale’ is the zodiac sign under which you are born). The sense here is exactly the same as in Virgil, Georgics I.1: ‘Quid faciat laetas segetes, quo sidere terram uertere … conueniat”. And ‘laetus’ can mean both “glad” and “flourishing”; it is unclear which sense came first and which is metaphorical.
    But I think translators of the Georgics generally go with “glad” and “star” (“beneath/by what star”) so I’m sure you’re safe there.

  6. Thank you, Diego, for these very useful points. I wondered about constellation. But by luck it sounds like I’m in good company!

  7. From one Christian to another… I don’t understand that because porn is artistic or ancient history that that somehow makes it okay for Christians to post and display it. There’s enough passages in the bible about such topics. Please remove these evil pornographic images.

  8. My apologies for any offence. I agree strongly about porn. Sadly I think the study of antiquity inevitably means dealing with nude images now and then.

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