Seneca, Agamemnon 425–30

Classical Quarterly 31 (1):181-182 (1981)
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Abstract

All is set for the Greeks' departure from Troy. As I understand the scene, the rowers have their oars strapped to their hands and are eager to start. A warning flare now shines out from the regia ratis and the actual signal to start is given by a trumpet-blast, either rhetorically viewed as addressed to the thousand ships from the flagship or sounded on each at sight of the flare. The flagship then moves off and is followed by the fleet. Cf. the related passage, Tro. 1044–6 ‘cum tuba iussi dare uela nautae | et simul uentis properante remo | prenderint altum’.428 laetum was conjectured by Leo in view of the difficulty of reconciling lentum, which would normally mean ‘listless’ or ‘sluggish’, and properanti in 426 ; note too 437 ff. ‘properat iuuentus omnis adductos simul | lentare remos…’ and the expression properante remo in Tro. 1045. The simple correction laetum would appear both to remove the difficulty and to be entirely appropriate. Yet, though accepted by Peiper-Richter and Herrmann, laetum has come in for resistance: it is rejected by Moricca, Viansino, Giardina, and Tarrant. In defence of lentum Viansino compares Medea 623 portibus lentis, in which I find no relevance; F. Giancotti interprets that the men in their impatience to be off appear lenti to themselves; Tarrant renders ‘slow to respond’, explaining ‘the rowing of the men is uncoordinated after ten years' lack of practice’, but in 428 the rowing has not yet started, and note the harmony indicated in 437–9. lentum is alien to Seneca's spirited picture and seems to me indefensible; laetum, on the other hand, is both attractive in itself and supported by significant evidence, which I have not seen adduced.

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