The August Poems in the Chronography of 354

Finally!  At last we have more than one manuscript containing an image for August, the first month where this is so since March.

Here is the 4-line poem (tetrastich):

Fontanos latices et lucida pocula vitro
cerne, ut demerso torridus ore bibat.
Aeterno regni signatus nomine mensis
Latona genitam quo perhibent Hecaten.

Look for spring waters and transparent cups in glass,**
So that a thirsty man may drink with submerged mouth.
By the immortal name of a reign is the month designated,
In which, they maintain, that Hecate was born from Latona.

“vitro” is ablative singular, so I am not sure how that fits with the rest of the first line.  The reign mentioned in line 3 is that of Augustus.  On line 4, the Roman goddess Diana in one of her aspects took on the role of the Greek Hecate as goddess of the underworld. Her birthday was celebrated at Nemi on August 13th.

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

Tu quoque Sextilis venerabilis omnibus annis
Numinis Augusti nomen †in anno venis†.

You also, venerable Sextilis, in every year,
(Under) the** name of the divinity of Augustus †in the year you come†.

The last words are those in the manuscripts, but Divjak and Wischmeyer suggest that they are corrupt; apparently the editions give various suggested emendations.   I don’t see how the nominative “nomen” should be understood – “under” is a guess.

The 16th century Vienna manuscript 3416, folio 29 (online here), gives us this clearly redrawn image:

Vienna 3416, f.29

The rather more authentic 17th century R1 manuscript, Vat. (online here) gives us this, including the tetrastich and the first line of the distich (the other is on the facing page):

R1 – Ms. Vatican Barberini lat. 2154, f.19r

The Brussels 7543-49 manuscript, f.201r, gives us this image:

B – August

From the Berlin copy, Berol. lat. 61, f.233 (formerly f.228) we get this:

Divjak and Wischmeyer explain all this, so I shall summarise what they tell us.

All these images represent the heat of August, unsurprisingly, and ways to cool off.  The image shows a naked man, thirsty from the summer heat, drinking from a bowl.  The chin is visible through the bowl, so this is a glass bowl, as the first two lines of the tetrastich indicate.  Around the man are three melons; a large vessel with a flame coming out of it; a flabellum (ceremonial fan) with peacock feathers atop a spiral pole; and a jacket with elaborate decoration, including fringes at the cuffs, perhaps associated with the .  In the Vienna manuscript the vessel has a coat of arms with “ZO” on it; the others show “ZLS”.  The Vienna manuscript omits the jacket.  The R1 manuscript shows the (surely original) frame.

The jacket is perhaps associated with the Vulcanalia of August 23, a festival when fires were lit.  At this time garments were hanged up in the sunlight, according to a poem by ps.Paulinus:

nunc omnis credula turba / suspendunt soli per Vulcanalia vestes[1]

They add that the ZO/ZLS means “ΖΗΣ(ΗΣ) / ZES(es), a formula that is very often found in connection with precious drinking vessels such as gold glasses.”

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

  1. [1]Ps. Paulinus, carmen 32 (CSEL 30), 138 f.

5 thoughts on “The August Poems in the Chronography of 354

  1. I don’t think lucida pocula vitro makes good sense. What the sense demands is “Look for springs and (some other ‘water’ word because it’s hot) clearer than glass.” Why would someone need to bibere (with) ore demerso if s/he had a glass cups? Meter may explain why one person is commanded to search for multiple cups, but it’s a little odd. Perhaps the correct reading is simply lucidiores (modifying fontanos) and pocula has crept in from a gloss–misunderstanding vitro–and lucida forced to conform. I admit not terribly liking that solution, but I can’t think of a water word short enough to fit and still make lucida a comparative nor a convincing explanation for a corruption. lucidiorem rivum vitro would make sense if it scanned. I suppose vitro could be an ablative of material, cups (made from) glass, but the whole phrase looks suspect to me.

    Nomen in the distich I think grammatically nominative and the Numinis Augusti a periphrasis for Divi Augusti. Thus “you come as (under) the name of the god Augustus.” I agree, however, that the “in anno” looks highly suspicious.

  2. Thank you for these thoughts, which are very helpful. The Nomen sounds plausible. I agree about vitro – something just seems wrong. But others with more Latin than I may find a meaning.

  3. I think it’s

    Through spring waters and transparent glass cups,
    See how the parched one would drink,
    with underwater mouth.

    Sort of a glug glug glug.

  4. I agree that “see (how)” rather than “look for” is a better choice for ‘cerne’.
    ‘Bibo’ can also govern an object meaning a drinking vessel (see Glare s.v. 1.b, with examples), so ‘latices et pocula’ could be the object – assuming ‘pocula’ is correct; i.e. “drinks spring waters and glass cups”, even if it sounds a bit odd.

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