Two notes on [Vergil] Catalepton 2

Classical Quarterly 36 (02):496- (1986)
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Abstract

The difficulty of this little poem is shown by the facts that Ausonius had no idea what it was about, and that Westendorp Boerma's commentary takes 22 pages to explicate its five lines. The latter relies on Quintilian 8.3.27ff., who quotes the poem, saying that Vergil wrote it to attack a certain Cimber for his taste in obsolete words. This is no doubt the Annius Cimber whom Augustus ridiculed when reprimanding Mark Antony for a similar foible and who, as an antiquarius is contrasted with the Asiatici oratores. For convenience, I have kept Westendorp Boerma's text, but I take issue with his interpretation on two points. 4 tau Gallicum: since Bücheler tentatively suggested it in RhM 38 , 508, the standard explanation of this has been to point out that a number of Latin inscriptions in Gaul use a Greek θ or else a barred D , to represent what appears to have been a dental fricative elsewhere indicated in Latin by -sd- or -st-. Thus Frank, AJP 56 , 255, quotes HYÐRITANVS for what is elsewhere spelled Thysdritanus, and says that ‘Ð clearly represents the best that one Celt could do with sd’. On the basis of this supposed Gallic incompetence, Frank went on to see the repeated -st- sounds in the poem as some sort of joke on the orator's inability to pronounce this sound. His view seems to have been generally accepted. There seems to me a profound error in this viewpoint which shows cultural imperialism at its worst. First, let us note that none of the examples of alleged substitution are in Latin words; they are native names for people or places or things. The Latin names by which we know some of them are only the approximation of foreigners, and not in any sense the ‘correct’ names of those people or places

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