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The Worlds of
Aulus Gellius

Edited by


The idea for this book originated during the preparations for the
colloquium on ‘Aulus Gellius and his Worlds’ held at Corpus
Christi College, Oxford, on 17 May 2003. That occasion was to
our knowledge the Wrst conference ever devoted to Gellius; like-
wise this volume, incorporating all the papers delivered at the
colloquium but conceived on a larger scale, is the Wrst collection,
in any language, of Gellian essays by various hands.
The plural ‘Worlds’ in the title of colloquium and collection was
and is intentional, for Gellius moved in his own day, and has
moved since, in several worlds. We see him amongst lawyers and
philosophers, the student learning from his elders, the scholar
correcting the ignorant, the loving friend of the polymath Favor-
inus, the zealous recorder of Fronto’s verbal precision. He hears
lawsuits and visits libraries: he is at home in the study, but mixes
without awkwardness in society. At one moment he deals in philo-
sophical speculation about the nature of instantaneity; at another
he is telling tales of dolphins who doted on boys, or retailing his
favourite love-poems. We see him in Rome, in villeggiatura, and by
the sea, but also in Greece, now inspecting a manuscript at Patrae,
now travelling to the Pythian Games at Delphi, the rest of the time
at Athens or in Attica. He improved his command of Greek, and
studied philosophy with Taurus the Platonist; at one moment he
was the tourist visiting Euripides’ cave, at another the scholar
discussing Latin in the Lyceum; he attended Herodes Atticus at
his mansion, and the Cynic Peregrinus at his hovel; a boat-trip on a
starry night Wnds him testing by observation an etymology for
septemtriones, a journey back from Eleusis makes us conjecture
initiation in the Mysteries—a mark of respectability, not religi-
osity. Immersed as he had been, and soon would be, in the Roman
world, it is this Greek world (and its Roman representative Favor-
inus) that gave him ingenii cultus and breadth of mind, and it is to
the winter nights in Attica, nights that though objectively shorter
than those further north in Rome seemed long to Gellius in the
quiet deme where he resided, those nights he whiled away, when
not participating in the amusements of Saturnalia, by writing up
his notes, that we owe his work, with all its charm and erudition.
vi Preface

Indeed, if Antonine Athens had left no other trace, and in all other
respects meant no more to us than the donkey-bearing Athens of
the Turcocratia, still it would claim and receive our thanks for the
Attic Nights.
The question whether and in what respects we should view
Gellius as reXecting contemporary Greek cultural phenomena
(such as linguistic Atticism and the so-called Second Sophistic)
on the one hand, or independent Roman traditions on the other,
occupied much Gellian scholarship of the twentieth century, and
continues to receive consideration in the present volume. But the
numerous worlds of Antonine Rome and Greece do not exhaust
those of Aulus Gellius. After his death, he became a resource for
pagan and Christian alike, read by Nonius, Ammianus, and
Macrobius, by Minucius Felix, Lactantius, and Augustine, some-
times for his words, sometimes for his matter. In the Middle Ages,
though often read in Xorilegia rather than the original, and sub-
jected to the false name of Agellius, he was not neglected by those
who had access to him: his works were sought out, and as many
pre-1400 copies now lost are attested as now survive. The Renais-
sance eagerly adopted him not only as a source of information, but
as a model for its elegant presentation; indeed, it was he, rather
than Cicero, who deWned the humanists’ humanitas.
The Enlightenment even elevated Gellius to the next world, as
described in the Vision of the amateur philosopher Abraham Tucker.
At Wrst he does not appear entirely to his advantage: as John Locke is
made to explain, ‘having a very moderate capacity he could produce
little of his own’, but being no more than ‘a diligent honest creature’
(for which reason indeed ‘we acknowledge him for one of our line’)
whose talents were ‘industry and exactness’, he is set to recording the
narrator’s adventures. Yet at the end we Wnd he may have been both
less and more: on the one hand, it is conceivable that his records were
inaccurate: ‘if there be anything in them not consonant to the truth of
facts it is his fault for misleading me’; on the other he was capable of
original comment: ‘It vexed me that I could not recover his interlin-
eations for by the imperfect notion I have of them I imagine they tend
to harmonize Reason with Religion . . . ’.
Tucker thus corrects the very prejudice that he anticipates; for a
period was to follow in which, Gellius’ information appearing to
have been mined, like other authors who had the misfortune to
survive he was disparaged as an inferior substitute for his lost
sources. But now that scholarship has come to terms with his
blurred distinction between fact and Wction, and understood that
he is no mere transcriber, but has notions of his own and a design
Preface vii

that we should think as well as read, not only do we once more

acknowledge him for one of our line, but we have escorted him
back to the world that is rightly his, of authors deemed worthy of
study for their own sake.
It would be impossible to enclose all Gellius’ worlds within the
compass of one volume; a selection was necessary. The essays are
distributed into three Parts: ‘Contexts and Achievements’,
‘Ideologies’, and ‘Reception’.
In Part I Simon Swain examines the implications for Romans,
and in particular the Antonines—Apuleius and Fronto as well as
Gellius—of using, or not using, Greek within a Latin context.
Alessandro Garcea and Valeria Lomanto consider ancient
approaches to loan-words, and the diVerences between Fronto’s
and Gellius’ evaluations of the lively vulgarisms in Laberius’
mimes; Franco Cavazza elucidates Gellius’ linguistic skills as an
etymologist by seeking to isolate those derivations he hit on for
himself; Graham Anderson compares his skills as a narrator with
those of other writers, in particular Fronto and Aelian; Andrew J.
Stevenson considers his relation to the antiquarian tradition on
which he drew so extensively.
Part II was conceived as a tribute to the late René Marache, who
initiated the modern rehabilitation of Gellius and credited him with
an humanisme gellien in which the primary role was played by ethics
(‘le primat de la morale’). Amiel Vardi reviews the expectations that
Gellius raised by choosing to write in the genre of miscellany, and the
manner in which his departures from generic conventions allow him
to project his ideas about knowledge, learning, and the intellectual
world; Teresa Morgan demonstrates that his claim to educate his
readers in sound morality can be upheld on a more generous under-
standing of ethical instruction than recent critics have allowed;
Stephen M. Beall engages directly with Marache’s concept, which
he vindicates by reinterpreting it of mental and social improvement;
Wytse Keulen compares Gellius’ attitude to intellectuals with that of
Apuleius against a background of satirical tradition.
In the opening chapter of Part III, Leofranc Holford-Strevens
considers the medieval exploitation of a morally improving Gellian
text, false ascriptions to Gellius of matter from other sources, and
traces of his diVusion through manuscripts now lost or fragmen-
tary. Michael Heath studies his presence in sixteenth-century
France, covering his editorial history and his service to scholarship
and literature, above all Montaigne’s Essais; Wnally, Anthony Graf-
ton shows humanists learning from him how to accumulate infor-
mation, display their learning, and conduct their quarrels, but also
viii Preface

demonstrates how he stimulated scientiWc research—a surprising

achievement, it may be, but not inappropriate for the man who
wrote on missile trajectories and Wre-prevention.
As Gellius challenged the demarcations of specialized learning,
and changed masks between insider and outsider at will, so the
established and younger contributors to this volume include Gellian
experts looking out and specialists in other Welds looking in. They
also exhibit both traditional and new approaches. Gellius’ linguistic
interests are considered in the light of both ancient grammatical
doctrine and modern comparative philology within a context of
Quellenforschung (Cavazza) and stylistics (Garcea and Lomanto).
Several authors treat him against a broader social, cultural, and
literary background: ancient views on education and ethics (Mor-
gan, Beall); antiquarianism (Stevenson); the ambivalent place of the
intellectual (Keulen); a bilingual culture in which the choice of
language is seldom innocent (Swain); the learned miscellany
(Vardi); the practice of narrative (Anderson). Others consider Gel-
lius’ place in the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque (Holford-
Strevens, Heath, Grafton), ranging in purview from manuscript
studies by way of homiletics to emblems, music, and mechanics.
Almost every paper touches on central issues in the history of ideas
such as concepts of language, tradition, and ethnicity and competing
views of knowledge, science(s), and intellectual life. Insights have
been gained from recent intellectual developments: the part played
by Xorilegia in medieval learning (Holford-Strevens); feminist and
post-modern views of ethics (Morgan); sociolinguistics and the play
of powers controlling choice of language (Swain); genre theory and
narratology (Anderson, Vardi); ironic self-presentation and subver-
sion (Keulen). Such approaches may be indicative of fascinating
developments in Gellian studies yet to come.
Our thanks are due to Bonnie Blackburn for preparing the music
example in Ch. 10 and for help with the indexes, to the Royal
Library in Brussels for Pl. 10. 2, and to Princeton University
Library for the illustrations in Ch. 12. We also owe a debt of
gratitude to all those who attended and contributed to the Corpus
colloquium, whether as speakers or as audience, but above all to
Ewen Bowie for proposing it in the Wrst place, for organizing it
with patience and enthusiasm, and for encouraging the publication
of the present volume.
Le o f r a n c Ho l f o r d -St r e v e n s
Am i e l Va r d i
22 March 2004

List of Illustrations xi
Abbreviations xiii
List of Contributors xv


1. Bilingualism and Biculturalism in Antonine Rome:
Apuleius, Fronto, and Gellius 3
2. Gellius and Fronto on Loanwords and Literary Models:
Their Evaluation of Laberius 41
3. Gellius the Etymologist: Gellius’ Etymologies and
Modern Etymology 65
4. Aulus Gellius as a Storyteller 105
5. Gellius and the Roman Antiquarian Tradition 118
A N D RE W J . S T E V E N S O N


6. Genre, Conventions, and Cultural Programme
in Gellius’ Noctes Atticae 159
7. Educational Values 187
8. Gellian Humanism Revisited 206
9. Gellius, Apuleius, and Satire on the Intellectual 223
x Contents


10. Recht as een Palmen-Bohm and Other Facets of
Gellius’ Medieval and Humanistic Reception 249
11. Gellius in the French Renaissance 282
12. ConXict and Harmony in the Collegium Gellianum 318

Bibliography 343
Index Locorum Potiorum 375
Index Verborum de quibus A. Gellius disputat 379
Index Rerum et Nominum 380
List of Illustrations


10.1. Emblem of the palm-tree, from Omnia Andreae

Alciati .V.C. emblemata (Paris, 1608) 257
10.2. First page in text order of Fragmentum
Egmondanum (Brussels, Royal Library,
MS IV 625/60 (Gellius 14. 2. 19–25) 267
12.1. Design for a bookwheel, from Agostino Ramelli,
Le diverse et artiWciose machine (Paris, 1588) 325
12.2. Design for a model of Archytas and his dove,
from Athanasius Kircher, Magnes: siue de arte
mechanica opus tripartitum, 3rd edn. (Rome, 1654) 340

Music example

10.1. Original text and melody of Anke van Tharaw,

stt. 6–7, from Heinrich Albert, FünVter Theil
der Arien (Königsberg, 1642) 258
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Blänsdorf Jürgen Blänsdorf, Fragmenta poetarum Lati-

norum (Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1995)
Bonaria Mario Bonaria, Mimi Romani2 (Rome, 1965).
C. Codex Justinianus
CCSL Corpus Christianorum, series Latina
CGL Corpus Glossariorum Latinorum a G. Loewe
incohatum, ed. Georg Goetz, 7 vols. (Leipzig,
1888–1923; repr. Amsterdam, 1965)
Courtney Edward Courtney, The Fragmentary Latin
Poets (Oxford, 1993)
CSEL Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum Lati-
D. Digest
DK Hermann Diels, rev. Walther Kranz, Die
Fragmente der Vorsokratiker6 (Berlin, 1951)
DS Deutero-Servius
Funaioli Grammaticae Romanae fragmenta, ed. Gino
Funaioli (Leipzig, 1907)
GG Grammatici Graeci
GL Grammatici Latini, ed. Heinrich Keil (vols. i,
iv–vii), Martin Hertz (vols. ii–iii), Hermann
Hagen (suppl.), 8 vols. in all (Leipzig, 1855–
Huschke–Seckel– Iurisprudentia anteiustiniana, ed. Ph. E.
Kübler Huschke, rev. Emil Seckel and Bernhard
Kübler, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1908).
J. Justinian, Institutiones
LHSz Lateinische Grammatik2, i: Manu Leumann,
Lateinische Laut- und Formenlehre; ii: J. B.
Hofmann, rev. Anton Szantyr, Lateinische
Syntax und Stilistik; iii: Fritz Radt and Abel
Westerbrink, Stellenregister und Verzeichnis
xiv Abbreviations

der nichtlateinischen Wo¨rter (Handbuch der

Altertumswissenschaft, II 2/1–3; Munich,
Malcovati Enrica Malcovati, Oratorum Romanorum frag-
menta liberae rei publicae4 (Turin, 1976).
Mazzarino Grammaticae Romanae fragmenta aetatis Cae-
sareae, ed. Antonio Mazzarino, i (all pub-
lished) (Turin, 1955)
MGH Monumenta Germaniae Historica
Peter Hermann Peter, Historicorum Romanorum re-
liquiae, 2 vols. (Leipzig, i 21914, ii. 1906; repr.
Stuttgart, 1967)
PF Pauli excerpta ex libris Pompei Festi de uerborum
signiWcatu, ed. W. M. Lindsay (Leipzig, 1913)
PG Patrologia Graeca
PL Patrologia Latina
Ribbeck2 Otto Ribbeck, Scaenicae Romanorum poesis
fragmenta2, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1871–3; repr.
Hildesheim, 1962)
Ribbeck Otto Ribbeck, Scaenicae Romanorum poesis
fragmenta3, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1897–8).
Schanz–Hosius Martin Schanz, Geschichte der römischen Lite-
ratur bis zum Gesetzgebungswerk des Kaisers
Justinian4, rev. Carl Hosius, vols. i–ii (Hand-
buch der Altertumswissenschaft, 8; Munich,
1914–35, repr. with vols. iii–iv of the 3rd edn.,
Periodicals are abbreviated as in L’Anne´e philologique.
Festus and PF are cited by page and line of Lindsay, Nonius in
the form ‘2 L. ¼ 3. 9 M.’ Stricter would be ‘p. 2 L. ¼ p. 3 Merc. l. 9
Mue.’: the pagination of Josias Mercerus’ second edition (Paris
and Sedan, 1614; reproduced line for line Leipzig, 1826) was
indicated by Lucian Mueller (2 vols., Leipzig, 1888), whose linea-
tion was cued to Mercerus’ pages and not his own; Mercerus’ pages
and Mueller’s lines are indicated by W. M. Lindsay (3 vols. Leip-
zig, 1903), and cited in preference to his own pages, though these
are sooner found.
List of Contributors

G r a h a m A n d e r s o n is Professor of Classics at the University

of Kent. His interests are in narrative literature in Antiquity, and
in the cultural history of the Roman Empire: he is the author of
Ancient Fiction (1984); Philostratus (1986), The Second Sophistic
(1993), Sage, Saint and Sophist (1994), and Fairytale in the Graeco-
Roman World (2000).
S t e p h e n M . B e a l l is Associate Professor of Classics at Mar-
quette University, Milwaukee. He is the author of a dissertation
entitled ‘Civilis eruditio: Style and Content in the ‘‘Attic Nights’’
of Aulus Gellius’ (University of California, Berkeley, 1988) and of
several articles relating to Gellius.
F r a n c o Ca v a z z a is Professor of the History of Linguistics
at the Università degli Studi di Bologna. His edition of Gellius
(Bologna, 1985– ) has reached the end of book 13; he is also
the author of Studio su Varrone etimologo e grammatico (1981),
Questioni di ortoepia e ortograWa latina (1999), and Lezioni di
indeoeuropeistica (2001–4), besides numerous articles on Gellius
and other subjects.
A l e s s a n d r o G a r c e a is Associate Professor at the Univer-
sité de Toulouse-Le Mirail and a researcher with the Laboratoire
d’Histoire des Théories Linguistiques (CNRS). His published
articles include substantial studies of Gellius, most notably ‘Gellio
e la dialettica’ (2000; based on his tesi di laurea at Turin). He is the
editor of Colloquia absentium: studi sulla comunicazione epistolare in
Cicerone (2003).
A n t h o n y G r a f t o n is Dodge Professor in the Department
of History, Princeton University. His many publications include
Joseph Scaliger (1983–93), Forgers and Critics (1990), Defenders of
the Text (1991), Commerce with the Classics (1997), and The Foot-
note (1998).
M i c h a e l He a t h is Professor of French at King’s College
London. He is the author of Crusading Commonplaces (1986) and
Rabelais (1996), the editor of René de Lucinge, and the translator
of numerous pieces for the Toronto Collected Works of Erasmus.
xvi List of Contributors

L e o f r a n c H o l f o r d - S t r e v e n s is Consultant Scholar-
Editor at the Oxford University Press. He is the author of Aulus
Gellius: An Antonine Scholar and his Achievement and (with Bonnie
J. Blackburn) of The Oxford Companion to the Year; also of nu-
merous articles on classical and other themes.
W y t s e K e u l e n is a postdoctoral researcher at the Rijks-
universiteit Groningen. His dissertation, entitled Apuleius
Madaurensis, Metamorphoses, Book I, 1–20: Introduction, Text,
Commentary (2003), will be published in the Groningen Commen-
taries on Apuleius.
V a l e r i a L o m a n t o is Associate Professor in the Diparti-
mento di Filologia, Linguistica, e Tradizione Classica ‘Augusto
Rostagni’ at the Università degli Studi di Torino. Her publications
include ‘Lessici latini e lessicograWa automatica’ (1980), Concor-
dantiae in Q. Aurelii Symmachi opera (1983), Index Grammaticus
(1990: with Nino Marinone), and ‘Cesare e la teoria dell’elo-
quenza’ (1994–5).
T e r e s a M o r g a n is Fellow and Tutor in Ancient History at
Oriel College, Oxford. She is the author of Literate Education in the
Hellenistic and Roman Worlds (1998).
A n d r e w J. S t e v e n s o n is Departmental Administrator in
the Department of Continuing Education at Lancaster University.
He is the author of a thesis entitled ‘Aulus Gellius and Roman
Antiquarian Writing’ (King’s College London, 1993).
Si m o n S w a i n is Professor of Classics and Ancient History at
the University of Warwick. His publications include Hellenism and
Empire (1996), Dio Chrysostom (2003), Bilingualism in Ancient
Society (2003; with J. N. Adams and Mark Janse), and Approach-
ing Late Antiquity (2004; with M. J. Edwards).
A m i e l V a r d i is Senior Lecturer in Classical Studies at the
Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the author of a dissertation
entitled ‘Aulus Gellius as Reader of Poetry’ (in Hebrew) and a
number of articles on Gellius and on Roman intellectual life in the
Wrst two centuries of our era.
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Bilingualism and Biculturalism
in Antonine Rome
Apuleius, Fronto, and Gellius
Si m on Sw a in

Understanding the cultural context of Aulus Gellius might seem

straightforward. He was a highly educated Roman who had trav-
elled to Athens as a student, knew prominent Greek sophists and
philosophers, was an active member of the second-century
Kulturszene at Rome, and was appointed to the respectable pos-
ition of iudex extra ordinem. There is enough to interpret here
without going further. But if we are interested in Gellius’ attitude
to Greece and the Greek language, we cannot ignore the back-
ground of over two centuries of intense thinking and rethinking by
Romans of their relationship with the older and more prestigious
culture of their conquered neighbours. The legacy of this thought
is apparent in Gellius and his contemporaries both in their
responses to Greece and—more importantly—in how they viewed
themselves as the leading lights of Latin literature in their time.
For this reason I shall start this chapter by sketching relevant
aspects of that relationship from the time of Cicero down to
Apuleius. This sketch will necessarily be rapid and much of inter-
est and importance will be omitted. I shall then focus in more
detail on Fronto and on Gellius himself.

1. context and background:

cicero to apuleius
When Julius Caesar remarked that Cicero was more deserving of
a medal than any military commander because ‘it was more
I should like to thank the editors for their invitation to write this piece and for their
comments and assistance. I am very grateful to Jim Adams for suggestions and
4 Simon Swain

important to advance the boundaries of Rome’s ingenium than her

imperium’ (Pliny the Elder, Natural History 7. 117), he knew what
he was talking about. Control of culture was the central part of
ancient education because it promised members of the governing
classes power. Yet in the time of Cicero’s boyhood professional
instruction in Latin rhetoric was still the object of suspicion at
Rome. Towards the end of his life Cicero records in his patriotic
history of Roman rhetoric, the Brutus, that the censors of 92 bc,
M. Antonius and L. Licinius Crassus, had in fact banned the
teaching of rhetoric in Latin. It is no coincidence that these two
men are identiWed by Cicero as having ‘equalled the glory of the
Greeks’ in their rhetorical powers (138). This privileged position
entitled them to condemn lesser talents and to reinforce the trad-
itional system of teaching the tricks of rhetoric through immersion
in Greek—as if we should learn to express ourselves in English by
practising Wrst in French. When Cicero presents Crassus discuss-
ing the edict in another late dialogue, On the Orator (3. 93–5), he
has him predict that a time will come when ‘that old and superior
wisdom of the Greeks’ will be transferred to Rome. Men of great
learning will be needed for this to happen; but, if they should
appear, ‘they will be ranked above the Greeks.’
In these remarks of Crassus, Cicero was praising his own suc-
cess. It is his generation that witnessed the maturity of Latin
culture. Already in Cicero’s 20s or 30s the author of the Ad Heren-
nium was pointing the way forward to formal, Greek-style rhet-
orical instruction in and for Latin. Cicero records that he still
declaimed in Greek to shape his Latin usage at this time (Brutus
310) and he continued to do so till the end of his life (Ad Att. 9. 4).
But things were changing. Translation complemented this process
by developing awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of Latin
in relation to Greek. Cicero’s little work, De optimo genere ora-
torum, from 46 is ostensibly an introduction to translations of On
the Crown and Against Ctesiphon.1 But the absence of the transla-
tions simply reinforces the purpose of what is in eVect a defence of
using Greek models to produce excellent Latin.
It is well known that Cicero and others of his epoch had a mixed
view of Greeks. They admired classical Greek civilization but
often despised the contemporary Greeks they ruled over.2 This
attitude reXects the particular circumstances of the time as much as

I accept the authenticity of this work, as J. G. F. Powell, ‘Cicero’s Transla-
tions’, 278 is inclined to do.
N. Petrochilos, Roman Attitudes, is a useful survey of Roman views.
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 5

anything. A combination of exploitative provincial government,

Roman civil wars, and Greek political chaos had made Greeks
despicable and cringing in Roman eyes. We should remember
that despite the Hellenizing tastes of many individuals in their
homes and private endeavours, Rome itself was hardly Hellenized
as a city in terms of its amenities. The Theatre of Pompey (inaug-
urated in 55) was the Wrst in a very long line of buildings that were
built under the inXuence of Greek (or rather Hellenistic–Greek)
styles and aspirations. This new Rome was Wrst realized in the long
reign of Augustus. Greek styles and inXuences permeate his build-
ings, and this reXects the very important but gradual change in the
status and character of the City during the Empire as it became
ever more cosmopolitan in appearance and population and the old
capital of the Roman Republic faded from sight.
The acquisition of Greek by the Romans of the Late Republic
may be seen as a process of Sprachanschluß (‘language annex-
ation’), as Wrst described by the sociolinguist Henrik Becker in
connection with the rise of Czech and Hungarian to national
standard languages in the context of the dominance of German.3
The process is a familiar one: codiWcation and enrichment, purism,
the development of the national literary language on the model of
an existing better-established code with a view to usurping and
replacing it. This is what Cicero, Caesar, Sallust, Varro, and the
late Republican and Augustan poets did at Rome. A fascinating
part of the Roman annexation of Greek is the phenomenon of
code-switching or the practice of using two or more languages in
the same utterance.4 Code-switching is not necessarily indicative of
bilingualism (which is the ability to deploy two languages equally
or fairly equally). Rather, it is an expression of a desire or a need to
deploy and negotiate two (or more) language-speciWc identities. In
the case of the Romans of the Late Republic—at least in the sole
extensive source of evidence, Cicero—using Greek tags, quota-
tions, or starting or Wnishing an utterance in Greek is, as I have
argued elsewhere, a sign of a wish to display knowledge of Greek
to those members of the Roman elite who shared their tastes.5
It stakes a claim to be recognized as a cultural equal. The evidence
points strongly to the fact that Romans’ Greek identity in language
usage was accessed mainly in private and—though proof on this

H. Becker, Sprachanschlüsse.
As deWned by Adams and Swain in J. N. Adams, M. Janse, S. Swain,
Bilingualism, 2.
Swain, ‘Bilingualism in Cicero?’
6 Simon Swain

point is lacking—between men.6 There is no evidence for the often

casual assumption that Romans regularly spoke in Greek to each
other. Greek was part of the construction of Romanness. More-
over, it was something to play down or hide in Roman public life.
We might expect Romans to have become more relaxed about
Greek from the Augustan period onwards. After all, Roman power
was indisputable and Roman intellectual and artistic worth was
assured by the establishment of their own canons and by the
beautiWcation of Rome and other Roman cities. But our sources,
though uneven in their value, show that tension continued. In the
Wfth decade of the Wrst century ad Seneca the Elder recalled the
performances he had seen at Rome by teachers of rhetoric who
were active for the most part under Augustus, the generation on a
par with, or ahead of, ‘insolent Greece’ owing to the eVorts of
Cicero (Controuersiae 1 pr. 6). Seneca’s recollections are especially
useful because he was writing for the beneWt of men who were
training to become lawyers. He recalls a world of Greek and
Roman declaimers who operated in both Greek and Latin. One
of his hate Wgures is the Greek L. Cestius Pius, who always spoke
in Latin. Cestius got above himself by attacking Cicero and, much
to Seneca’s satisfaction, was given a sound hiding by Cicero’s
son (Suasoriae 7. 12–13). Among the Romans Arellius Fuscus
declaimed ‘more often in Greek than in Latin’ (Suas. 4. 5) and is
charged with plagiarizing a Greek rhetor called Adaeus. ‘I did it
for training’s sake,’ he says. ‘Roman orators, historians, and poets
have not stolen sayings from the Greeks but have laid down a
challenge to them’ (Contr. 9. 1. 13–14). Seneca’s favourite
Roman rhetor, Porcius Latro, ‘could not be suspected of theft,
for he both despised the Greeks and was ignorant of them’
(Contr. 10. 4. 21). His most extensive comparison of a theme
(clearly Greek in origin) developed by both Greek and Latin
declaimers is intended to show ‘how easy is the passage from
Greek eloquence to Latin’ and how Latin has ‘as much resource-
fulness [as Greek], but less licence’ (Contr. 10. 4. 23).7
These attitudes are still visible at the end of the century and the
beginning of the next in Quintilian and Pliny the Younger (if such a
chronological leap may be excused). The comparability of Greek
and Latin literature is the subject of much of book 10 of Quintilian’s
Institutio oratoria, and he includes a short section (5. 2–3) on the
value of translation for expanding vocabulary and developing

On this aspect cf. O. Wenskus, ‘Wie schreibt man?’
Ut cogitetis Latinam linguam facultatis non minus habere, licentiae minus.
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 7

powers of expression. But the last book, book 12, is the most
interesting for our purposes. Here Quintilian concentrates on the
intellectual and moral qualities and the general knowledge needed
to produce a perfect orator. The penultimate chapter (10) is a
fascinating commentary on Roman bilingualism. Praise of Cicero
(the revival of whose style and concept of oratory is Quintilian’s
constant goal) leads to a Ciceronian deWnition of what constitutes
the true Roman ‘Attic’ orator (10. 12–26). The self-appointed
Roman ‘Attici’ of the Late Republic had attacked Cicero but failed
to appreciate that the best Attic oratory was to be found in Cicero’s
model, Demosthenes. Quintilian does not record this as historical
information.8 The view he opposes, that Lysias represented the best
in Athenian oratory, is, he says, still held by Greeks (10. 21, 24, 27).9
He is evidently sensitive to the ‘Atticizing’ renaissance of Greek
literature that was now Wrmly under way in the Greek world. Per-
haps for this reason he now jumps to a general comparison of Greek
and Latin (10. 27–39). Latin, he aYrms, closely resembles Greek in
many departments of rhetoric, but is inferior in its sounds and
elocution. It shows ‘extreme poverty’ in word-building (a major
worry for Quintilian: 1. 5. 32, 5. 70, 6. 31; 8. 3. 30–3, 6. 31–3). But
the demerits of Latin are turned into a major triumph. For if
Romans are not as ‘graceful’, they must win on the intellectual
resources available to them, viz. inventiveness, strength, weight,
and fullness of expression (12. 10. 36–9). Styling the major Roman
orators uelut Attici Romanorum, he asks about them, ‘Who is dis-
satisWed by something that cannot be bettered?’ (10. 39).10
Quintilian’s pupil, Pliny the Younger, saw himself as to some
extent standing in Cicero’s shoes (cf. Letters 4. 8. 4–5), so it is not
surprising that he displays a recognizably Ciceronian attitude
towards Greeks. Contempt towards the moderns is combined
with a self-conscious admiration of the classics. Pliny’s views
naturally bend with circumstance. The last letter in book 8 to a
certain Maximus who is going to Greece as an imperial trouble-
shooter contains obvious echoes of Cicero’s famous public letter to
his brother during his propraetorship of Asia (Ad Quintum 1. 1)
and is the clearest example of a negative and patronizing
On the Republican debate see J. Wisse, ‘Greeks’; Swain, Hellenism, 21–7 (the
wider Greek picture).
Inst. 12. 10. 27 in hac . . . opinione perseuerantis Graecos. Cf. e.g. Dionysius of
Halicarnassus, Lysias, and contemporary with Quintilian Plutarch’s ridicule of the
man who drinks only from Attic ware, has clothes of Attic wool, and ‘sits still and
inactive in the delicate, thin jacket of Lysias’ (De audiendo 42 d–e).
Cui porro non satis est quo nihil esse melius potest?
8 Simon Swain

viewpoint.11 The comments are literary pretension, but are not to

be dismissed on that account. They are a perfect example of the
normal Roman distinction between the present-day Greeks and
their cultural and racial ancestors. Two contemporary Greeks who
followed the ideals of the past are fulsomely praised. The Stoic
philosopher Euphrates at 1. 10 and the Atticist orator Isaeus at 2. 3
(sermo Graecus, immo Atticus), both well known from Greek
sources, virtually serve as models for Pliny’s own life (in the Letters
at any rate). Otherwise there are the familiar slurs. Pliny sneers at
the Bithynian noble Fonteius Magnus: ‘he is like most of those
Greeks in mistaking wordiness for word power—the result is that
you Wnd yourself overwhelmed by a torrent of sentences that are
lengthy, stilted, and monotonous’ (5. 20. 4).12 Naturally Pliny
found nothing odd about quoting Homer a little later in the same
letter to promote the merits of a ‘little speech’ of his own. In the
previous book he laments to Arrius Antoninus, ‘I envy the Greeks
when I see your preference for writing [verse] in their language.
The brilliant work you have done in that foreign tongue you have
learned means that I do not have to guess about your ability to
express yourself in your native speech (sermone patrio)’ (4. 3. 5).
Arrius’ Greek is of course more ‘Attic’ than the Athenians’ own, a
conceit we shall observe in other second-century authors.13 Later
in book 4 we read the fascinating letter about the exile Valerius
Licinianus, who was resident in Sicily. Formerly among the most
eloquent barristers at Rome, he has now become ‘a rhetor after
being an orator’, i.e. he has been reduced to the status of a teacher
of rhetoric from that of an active speechmaker at the Roman bar.
Pliny comments that Licinianus is obliged to enter the lecture hall
‘in a Greek cloak’, for he is banned from wearing the citizen’s toga,
and therefore has to begin by saying, ‘I am going to declaim in
Latin’ (4. 11. 1–3). Greek higher intellectual culture is Wne, but
popular activities are bound to be scorned. Thus Pliny crows
about the suspension of a Greek-style gymnastic competition at
Vienna in Gallia Narbonensis which ‘had been infecting the moral
character’ of the townsfolk (4. 22). When he himself acted as a

8. 24. 2–5 ‘reverence (Greece’s) ancient glory and its present old age . . . It is
Athens you are approaching, Lacedaemon you are ruling . . . Remember the past of
each city, without despising it because it is this no more (non ut despicias quod esse
desierit)’. Cf. A. N. Sherwin-White, Letters of Pliny, ad loc.
Est plerisque Graecorum, ut illi, pro copia uolubilitas: tam longas tamque frigidas
perihodos uno spiritu quasi torrente contorquent.
Cf. Swain, ‘Bilingualism in Cicero?’, 148 for possible precedents in the char-
acterization of Pomponius Atticus.
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 9

governor in Bithynia he sneered to Trajan about the Greeks’

addiction to ‘gymnasia’ (10. 40. 2).
None of this is surprising, for Roman authors had for a long
time hypocritically condemned the material side of Greek culture
while openly appropriating and acknowleding its intellectual
opportunities.14 The use of Greek to validate one’s culture in
front of male Roman peers comes through again strongly. Pliny
tells Arrius that his Latin versions of Arrius’ Greek poems were
hampered by ‘what Lucretius calls ‘‘the poverty of our native
tongue’’ ’ (4. 18. 1).15 Pliny does not believe this any more than
Cicero or Quintilian.16 The invocation of Lucretius is a polite
apologia. The comparability of the two languages (see especially
the start of 7. 9 on translation as the key to original composition,
cf. 7. 30. 5 on Pliny and Demosthenes) is assumed. But it must be
remembered that the Romans’ Sprachanschluß meant that no
genuine equality was intended in their bilingual culture. The
diVerence in power was far too clear. And for Pliny this is neatly
expressed in his claim that his hendecasyllables (a Romanized
Greek metre) were ‘set to the cithara and the lyre by Greeks who
have learnt Latin out of love for my little book; but why should
I boast?’ (7. 4. 9).
Pliny’s generation witnessed further cosmopolitan develop-
ments in the capital. There were senators from the Greek East
for the Wrst time and the massive Hellenistic complex of Trajan’s
Forum on the design of Apollodorus of Tarsus.17 Trajan’s self-
presentation as a new Augustus, emphasizing the importance of
Italy through his alimentary foundations, is no more out of keeping
with this than the Greek verse of Pliny and his friends. On this
reading his successor Hadrian’s obsession with Greek culture
should be seen as part of a long-term process rather than as an
individual’s taste. Hadrian’s erection of the Wrst Greek-style
temple at Rome—Venus and Roma, where Roma as the spirit of
Empire was for the Wrst time worshipped at Rome itself—is a bold

Note Sherwin-White, Letters of Pliny, 353 ‘Pliny is freer than most of his
contemporaries from the Roman dislike of Graeculi’.
For Lucretius (De rerum natura 1. 136–9, 832; 3. 260; cf. Seneca the Elder,
Contr. 7 pr. 3, Seneca the Younger, Letters 58. 1) see D. Sedley, ‘Lucretius’ Use of
Greek’. For a full survey of the evidence with attention to sociolinguistic categories,
see T. Fögen, Patrii sermonis egestas. Cf. S. M. Beall, below, p. 219.
Cicero: cf. De Wnibus 1. 10, 2. 13, 3. 15, 3. 51; De nat. deor. 1. 8; Disp. Tusc. 2.
35, 3. 11; Ad Atticum 12. 52. 3.
H. Halfmann, Die Senatoren, and ‘Die Senatoren aus den kleinasiatischen
Provinzen’; J. E. Packer, Forum of Trajan, esp. 174–200.
10 Simon Swain

but realistic assessment of the changing character of the City and

its role within a cosmopolitan empire.
At some point in the latter part of Trajan’s reign or the early part
of Hadrian’s Suetonius wrote his biographical accounts of Roman
history and culture. Suetonius sometimes wrote in Greek. Whom
for? The Suda ( 895) lists his works in Greek (of course) and this
has caused confusion. It is possible that lost works like that on
Roman customs (—æd   ŒÆd H K ÆPB §
 ø ŒÆd MŁH )
were written for educated Greeks, thereby documenting their
wish ‘to be informed about the Roman world to which they felt
they belonged’;18 but since it is probable that only two titles—the
fragmentarily surviving On the Games of the Greeks (—æd H
Ææ  ‚ººØ ÆØØH ) and On Terms of Insult (—æd ıø
Ø ºÆØH )19—were actually written in Greek (these
are known to late Greek authors, whereas the other lost works are
quoted in the main by Latin authors), it is more likely that com-
position in Greek of what are essentially lexical commentaries with
copious quotation from the poets should be seen as a normal part of
a grammarian’s output and a display of Greek for Roman pupils
and friends. In fact there are a number of casual comments in the
Caesars which show the attitudes we have been considering well
enough. But a much more important work is the De grammaticis et
rhetoribus. Here Suetonius outlines the development of grammat-
ical and rhetorical studies at Rome and sketches the lives of some of
the leading practitioners from the end of the second century bc
down to the second half of the Wrst century ad. He is almost totally
silent about the role of Greeks in establishing the teaching of
language and letters at Rome. As Robert Kaster remarks, ‘the
Romans are seen to pull themselves up by their own cultural
bootstraps’.20 Suetonius, like Cicero, is evidently keen to accord
Latin culture its own pedigree. The same attitude is clear from the
less well-preserved section of his book which deals with Latin
The attitudes of Quintilian, Pliny, and Suetonius are traditional:
well adjusted to the Empire politically, culturally they recall and
further the mindset of Cicero and the Late Republic. Behind the
application of this to contemporary culture we may, as has been
hinted, see a sign of a ‘purist’ reaction to the renaissance of Greek

A. Dihle, Greek and Latin Literature, 259. Plutarch, for example, oVers very
many explanations of Roman customs and institutions.
Ed. J. Taillardat, Sue´tone.
R. A. Kaster, edn. of Suetonius: De Grammaticis, p. xlv.
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 11

literature, especially rhetoric, that was well under way in the

Greek East by the reign of Trajan. Before turning to Fronto,
Gellius, and his contemporaries, something must be said about
this so-called ‘Second Sophistic’ movement and its reception at
Rome. Second Sophistic is the modern name for the Greek culture
of the Roman period. In recent work the phrase, which is found in
Philostratus’ Lives of the Sophists (481, 507), has been applied to the
distinctive combination of literary and cultural activity and political
life that Philostratus records for the sophists—the rhetorical stars
and, speciWcally, the teachers of rhetoric—of the period from the
mid-Wrst to the mid-third century when he was writing. Philostra-
tus actually intends it as a description of the taste for Wctional
declamatory oratory that characterizes the sophists’ work; but he
spends much of his time describing their way of life and their civic
and political activity, and that is why ‘Second Sophistic’ has come to
take on a wider sense that includes but goes beyond literature alone.
More to the point, there is a very distinctive combination of classi-
cizing linguistic and literary tastes with a phenomenally successful
urbanism in the Greek world from c. ad 50 to 250. The word
‘sophist’ at this time means someone who teaches declamatory
oratory. It carried prestige because (and this was explicitly in Phi-
lostratus’ mind) it recalled the great sophists of classical Athens.21
There is a good deal of overlap with the unmarked term ‘rhetor’, and
at any one time the sense of teaching or declamatory virtuosity may
prevail.22 If Suetonius had lived a century later, we might have had a
list of Latin sophists comparable to that of Philostratus. Clearly
there were such Wgures who taught the art of Wctional declamation.
From the second century (probably) we have the Minor Declam-
ations attributed to Quintilian; but there is not much else.23 In fact
we know of no one who exactly matches the proWle of the sophists of
the Greek East.
That said, if we use the phrase Second Sophistic in its enlarged
sense (as we should), can we not then include Suetonius, Gellius,
Fronto, Marcus, Apuleius, and others like them within it? To my
mind such a usage adds little and causes confusion. There is no
obvious link in the western Empire between a thriving civic culture

Philostratus’ overuse of the term in his Lives (where it is applied to those who
rejected it like Aelius Aristides and Dio Chrysostom) is also due to the appointment
of oYcial sophists on public salaries from the 180s onward.
Swain, Hellenism, 97–8.
The declamations of Calpurnius Flaccus and the Major Declamations (also
Ps.-Quintilian) are of uncertain date.
12 Simon Swain

and a distinctive form of language and literature, as there is in the

Greek East. Thus it does not help to follow e.g. Barnes in calling
the Christian Latin author Tertullian a ‘sophist’. He was certainly
not one.24 The only possible candidate is Apuleius, and I wish to
examine his credentials in this regard more carefully, for his atti-
tudes to Greek and Latin high culture will help to illustrate those
of his contemporaries nicely. Even on an exclusively intellectual or
literary level Apuleius’ range and standard make him look quite
diVerent from comparable Greek Wgures. Apuleius was a showman
and a playboy, clever but shallow. He deserved to be condemned
for seducing a rich widow, but had the audacity to base his claim to
innocence on the intellectual aYnity between himself and the
judge (the Apology). His egotism made him publish four books of
highlights from his display speeches, which were thoughtfully
pruned in later antiquity (the Florida). Intellectual vanity led
him to write a hack account of Socrates and his Deity. Finally his
talents found a legitimate outlet in a comic novel about a man’s life
as an ass (the Metamorphoses), a story he plagiarized (perhaps)
from an anonymous Greek text called the Ass. The collection of
Florida looks like the sort of display rhetoric that Greek rhetors
and sophists had to perform for a living.25 But Apuleius did not
write Wctitious speeches or (pseudo-)historical declamations. He
did not write exercise books of rhetoric and no pupils are known. If
his style of writing was ‘sophistic’, i.e. jingly-jangly, ecphrastic,
archaizing, obscure, pretentious, what does this add up to? In any
case he claimed to be a ‘philosopher’. Perhaps we should just call
him an ‘intellectual’.26
Apuleius, like Gellius, had a huge admiration for classical Greek
culture. Contemporary Greece was a place to poke fun at (Meta-
morphoses). If we want to understand his cultural background, we
must place him in the same cultural mould as the other Roman

T. D. Barnes, Tertullian, ch. 14 (whose point is stylistic). At Adv. Valentinia-
nos 5. 1 Tertullian refers positively to the apologist Miltiades as the ‘sophist of the
churches’; Miltiades may have been a sophist before converting and using his talents
for apologetic. Elsewhere he uses the term, if at all, with disapprobation (e.g. De
idololatria 9. 7 as part of a rejection of all traditional teaching). In his training and
inclination Tertullian was simply a rhetor Romanus (P. Steinmetz, Untersuchungen,
J. L. Hilton in S. J. Harrison et al., Apuleius: Rhetorical Works, 123–33.
Thus I cannot agree with S. J. Harrison, Apuleius, that Apuleius should be styled
a ‘Latin sophist’. Harrison is relying on the loose modern—Bowersockian—interpret-
ation of a sophist as a ‘virtuoso rhetor’; but the sense of teaching should always be part
of the deWnition. It is signiWcant that Apuleius keeps the term sophist to refer to the very
diVerent sophists of classical Athens: Fl. 9. 15; 18. 18, 19, 28; De Platone 2. 9.
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 13

authors we have been examining. For Apuleius was particularly

concerned to be known for his knowledge of Greek; that is, the
demonstration that he commanded Greek culture was a key part of
his self-presentation as a master of Latin. There is one passage
where he depends precisely on this for the basis of his personal
identity, and I shall come to it shortly. But the text which most
obviously presents his claim to high culture is the Apology, for
knowledge of both the languages, education, cosmopolitanism, and
intellectual broad-mindedness are the major planks of his defence.
If Latin and Greek were equals on the standard Roman view, a
view which is encapsulated in Romans’ use of the phrase ‘both the
languages’,27 other tongues and cultures were beyond the pale.
Thus Apuleius was free in this speech to impugn his enemies’
barbarian manners (10, 91). He could not have written a Greek
letter they had attributed to him because it was composed in such
‘barbarous language’ (87. 4). It suited his opponent better, who
could not read Greek at all (cf. 30. 11). He himself regards the
Greek classics as maiores meos and promptly produces for the
court—or alleges he did—a scientiWc treatise he had written in
Greek (36. 3). He uses Greek terms—taking care to express them
with a ‘Latin stamp’—because he is breaking new ground in sci-
ence (38). He combines a patriam barbaram (Madauros) with an
eloquentiam Graecam (25. 2), which (as he tells us elsewhere) had
been acquired in Athens (Florida 18. 15–16, 42–3; 20. 4). This
reference to his place of origin as ‘barbarian’ is of course ironic, as
is made plain by the preceding reference to the Scythian wise man,
Anacharsis (Apology 24. 6). As with Fronto when he decides to
write in Greek, Anacharsis is invoked by Apuleius to make it plain
that in his own opinion his Greek is as proWcient as any non-
Greek’s could be, and that his social and educational standing is
every bit as good as that of the legendary sage. This irony is not just
a ploy for the court, for the speech we have is addressed to a
general, reading audience, and has no doubt been tampered with
for the purpose.28 Apuleius does not think his background is
barbarian any more than he believes his opponent’s home is
‘your famous Attic Zarath’ (24. 10).29 He thinks of the barbarian
Cf. below n. 127, and pp. 9, 29. See T. Kotula, ‘Vtraque lingua eruditi’, on
Africa; M. Dubuisson, ‘Vtraque lingua’; N. Horsfall, ‘Doctus sermones’,
L. A. Holford-Strevens, ‘Vtraque lingua’, for limitations.
Clear references to rewriting for publication can be found in Plin. Epp. 1. 20.
6–8, 3. 18. 1, 4. 9. 23; cf. Quint. Inst. 12. 10. 49–57. On this aspect of the Apology see
B. L. Hijmans, ‘Apuleius orator’, 1715–19.
Cf. Fronto fr. 51 (p. 271) illae uestrae Athenae Dorocorthoro (i.e. Reims).
14 Simon Swain

because it is a negation of being a Roman whose culture is assured

through the knowledge of Latin and Greek.30
In the famous preface to his Metamorphoses Apuleius teases
readers by asking who the author of the work is (Quis ille?).31 He
answers by saying that his ‘ancient stock’ is ‘Attic Hymettus and
Ephyrean Isthmus and Spartan Taenarus, fruitful lands preserved
for ever in even more fruitful books’; I take this to refer to a
cultural rather than a family background.32 ‘There’, he continues,
‘I served my stint with the Attic tongue in the Wrst campaigns of
boyhood. Soon afterwards, in the city of the Latins, as a newcomer
to Roman pursuits I took on and cultivated the native speech with
laborious eVort and no teacher to guide me.’ The Wrst sentence in
this section is explained by familiar Roman educational practices.
‘I prefer’, says Quintilian, ‘that a boy should begin by speaking Greek,
because Latin, being in general use, will be imbibed by him even if we do
not want it . . . I do not, however, wish that this principle should be
adhered to so religiously that he should for a long time speak and learn
only Greek, as is commonly done . . . Latin ought to follow at no great
interval and in a short time proceed side by side with Greek. The result
Cf. Claudius’ remark to ‘a certain barbarian’ who is holding forth in Greek and
Latin: ‘since you are trained in both our languages (cum utroque . . . sermone nostro
sis paratus)’ (Suetonius, Claud. 42. 1).
The preface is now the subject of a volume of essays in itself: A. Kahane and
A. Laird, Companion. My comments are designed to exemplify the development of
bilingual politics in the Antonine Empire rather than to engage with the plethora of
Apuleian scholars. The translation below in text is a conXation of versions by
Hanson (Loeb Classical Library) and Harrison and Winterbottom in Kahane and
Laird. For convenience the text (Harrison and Winterbottom; see also Nisbet’s
treatment of cola and clausulae in the same volume) is: At ego tibi sermone isto Milesio
uarias fabulas conseram auresque tuas beniuolas lepido susurro permulceam—modo si
papyrum Aegyptiam argutia Nilotici calami inscriptam non spreueris inspicere. Wguras
fortunasque hominum in alias imagines conuersas et in se rursum mutuo nexu refectas, ut
mireris, exordior. ‘quis ille?’ paucis accipe. Hymettos Attica et Isthmos Ephyraea et
Taenaros Spartiatica, glebae felices aeternum libris felicioribus conditae, mea uetus
prosapia est. ibi linguam Atthidem primis pueritiae stipendiis merui; mox in urbe
Latia aduena studiorum Quiritium indigenam sermonem aerumnabili labore, nullo
magistro praeeunte, aggressus excolui. en ecce praefamur ueniam, siquid exotici ac
forensis sermonis rudis locutor oVendero. iam haec equidem ipsa uocis immutatio desul-
toriae scientiae stilo quem accessimus respondet: fabulam Graecanicam incipimus. lector
intende: laetaberis.
Cf. above, 13, for maiores meos at Apol. 36. 3. For Hymettus as a reference to
Attic oratory see van den Hout, Commentary, 261 on Fronto Ep. Ant. imp. 4. 2,
p. 106. 23. The reference to Corinth (‘Ephyraean Isthmus’) is interesting because of
course modern Corinth was Roman and however much it was Hellenized by the 2nd
c. (cf. below, 31) Greeks were well aware of its history: see e.g. Swain, Hellenism,
339, 347–8 on Pausanias. For the purpose of stressing his cultural aYliations
Apuleius uses an erudite name sanctioned by Latin poetry.
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 15
will be that, as soon as we begin to pay equal attention to both the
languages (linguam utramque), neither one will get in the way of the
other’ (Inst. 1. 1. 12–14).
Tacitus also mentions the early learning of Greek.33 This intro-
duction was consolidated by attendance on a grammaticus Graecus.
Such teachers were hired, of course, and there is perhaps a
reference to this expenditure in the prologue-speaker’s stipendiis.
Next Latin: ‘soon afterwards’ (cf. Quintilian’s ‘at no great interval
and in a short time’) the speaker went to Rome new to ‘Roman
pursuits’ to get to grips with the Latin of the capital’s lawcourts
(the ‘foreign speech of the forum’ in the next sentence) with ‘no
teacher to guide me’, not to learn Latin ab initio.34 The idea of
‘cultivating’ civilized accomplishments at Rome recurs at Fl. 17. 4
in an address to the proconsul of Africa in 163/4.35 And the
language of the city of Rome as a paradigmatic form of Latin is
speciWed again at Met. 11. 28. 6 ‘lawsuits in the Roman language’
(probably) and Fl. 18. 43 (surely).36

Dialogue on Orators 29. 1 at nunc natus infans delegatur Graeculae alicui ancil-
lae. For these Greek nurses cf. Soranus, Gynaecology 2. 19. 15: the wetnurse should
be ‘Greek so the infant nourished by her becomes accustomed to the fairest of
Indigenam sermonem refers to Apuleius’ own Latin. For the antithesis ‘new-
comer’/’native speech’ (aduena studiorum Quiritium indigenam sermonem . . . exco-
lui), cf. Met. 11. 26. 3: Lucius is ‘a newcomer to the shrine (of Isis on the Campus
Martius) but a native of the cult’ ( fani quidem aduena, religionis autem indigena).
semper ab ineunte aeuo bonas artes sedulo colui, eamque existimationem [i.e. the
governor’s correct appreciation of Apuleius’] morum ac studiorum cum in prouincia
nostra tum etiam Romae penes amicos tuos quaesisse me . . . testis es.
There are obvious linguistic links between 1. 1. 4 studiorum Quiritium indigenam
sermonem aerumnabili labore . . . exotici ac forensis sermonis, 11. 28. 6 patrocinia sermo-
nis Romani, and 11. 30. 4 gloriosa in foro . . . patrocinia . . . studiorum meorum laboriosa
doctrina. At Fl. 18. 43 Romanae linguae is paired with atticissabit as speciWc forms
following the couplings Graeco et Latino (38) and Graecum et Latinum (39). In the Met.
contrasts between Latin and Greek are noted as such (4. 32. 6, 9. 39, 11. 17. 3) and
‘Greek’ is always a marked usage (3. 9. 1, 3. 29. 2, 10. 10. 4, 10. 29. 4), not a starting
point. J. N. Adams, ‘ ‘‘Romanitas’’ ’, 191–7 shows that the paradigmatic value of the
Latin of Rome was an idea that only really enjoyed currency in the 1st c. bc; in
the Empire ‘Roman’ in lingustic contexts has no connection with Rome (cf. further
Flobert, ‘Lingua Latina’, 206–8; J. Kramer’s wide-ranging but pertinent Sprachbe-
zeichnungen). But he notes that the Ciceronian passages that express it (Verr. 5. 167;
esp. De orat. 3. 42–4 cum sit quaedam certa uox Romani generis urbisque propria, etc.) are
the basis of Quintilian, Inst. 8. 1. 3 (et uerba omnia et uox huius alumnum urbis oleant, ut
oratio Romana plane uideatur, non ciuitate donata). Apuleius like Quintilian is recalling
the Late Republican viewpoint (pace Adams). He has no technical concern with
dialect: it is a cultural-political assumption of the power of the centre that was, if one
wished to use it, as valid in Apuleius’ day as it had been in Cicero’s.
16 Simon Swain

Next Apuleius links bilingualism with the bicultural subject-

matter of his book. ‘Now in fact this very changing of language
corresponds to the style we have approached, which is like the skill
of jumping from one horse to another: we begin a story that is
Greek in form.’ ‘This very changing of language’ is the speaker’s
successive education in Attic Greek and Roman Latin, his bilin-
gualism. How does it ‘correspond to the style’ of the work? Since
adjectives in -cus could be ethnic (‘a Greek woman’) or ktetic
(‘a Greek yoghurt made in England’) in sense, Latin developed
suYxes to avoid the ambiguity, especially in technical contexts.
The word Graecanicus is one of these.37 Apuleius is writing a
Milesian tale, he says in the Wrst line. He refers of course to the
‘Milesian tales’ of Cornelius Sisenna. These were a translation
from a Greek source. But Apuleius is certainly not coming clean
about the fact that the Metamorphoses is a version of the anonym-
ous Ass. The Ass is a ribald, sexually explicit tale of life in Roman
Greece. It is written in good enough Greek, but not the Atticizing
Greek required for higher, formal literary genres in this period. It
was not the sort of text that a high stylist in Latin would want to
acknowledge in the context of talking up his own Latin and Greek
culture.38 What he means is that his story is Roman but Greek in
form/set in Greece. This is its style and the style recalls, he says,
the scientia of jumping from one horse to another. This expertise
refers to Apuleius’ own biculturalism.39 When he says his
‘changing of language corresponds’ to this style, he is not referring
to the Greek source of his book, but to its typology, which demon-
strates familiarity with Greek while staying carefully within the
bounds of what was sanctioned by the Latin heritage. Roman
bilingualism aYrmed the value of Roman culture through its
M. Dubuisson, ‘Graecus, Graeculus, Graecari’, 319–20 n. 31, referring to
M. Fruyt, Proble`mes me´thodologiques, 61–8, esp. 66–7. Harrison and Winterbottom’s
‘of Greek origin’ is quite wrong.
Given the nature and style of the Ass and its non-idealization of Greece and the
fact the hero is very probably Roman (since he and his brother have diVerent
praenomina: Swain, ‘Hiding Author’, 61), it is diYcult to envisage a Greek writer
from the period of the Second Sophistic. There is one obvious Roman candidate:
Apuleius (an old idea: see H. J. Mason, ‘Fabula Graecanica’, 3 ¼ 220; note also
Mason’s scepticism about Apuleius acknowledging the Ass: 6 ¼ 226, id., ‘The
Metamorphoses’). Cf. and contrast Harrison, Apuleius, 181–3 on the (possibly
pseudonymous) De mundo, which hides the fact it translates a particular text (ps.-
Aristotle —æd Œ
ı) but ensures mention of Aristotelen prudentissimum et doctis-
simum philosophorum et Theophrastum auctorem (§289).
M. Dubuisson, ‘Art de la voltige’, 612, sees desultoria scientia as a ‘désignation
imagée’ for ‘code-switching’; but there is no code-switching in the Met. in the
proper sense of the phrase.
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 17

command of Greek. The Metamorphoses takes on a Greek guise to

show it is Roman; and the speaker proves his knowledge of Greek
to show his standing in Latin. In this regard, not much had
changed since Cicero. This is how Apuleius wishes his identity to
be discovered.

2. c o r n e l i u s f ro n to
Apuleius’ bilingualism was theatrical: no Greek who spoke Latin
would have performed in both languages consecutively, as he
boasts of having done (Fl. 18. 38–43; ‘False Preface’ to De deo
Socratis, fr. 5). Yet the more he shows oV, the more he boasts,
the more worried he seems. Anyone who reads him will notice
immediately that he includes spectacular archaisms in his Latin,
especially in the comic Metamorphoses, but also in the excerpts of
the Florida.40 We know that this ‘goût archaı̈sant’ was shared,
though without anything approaching the contortions of Apuleius,
by Gellius and Fronto. Was Marache, who Wrst promoted the idea
of archaism, right to separate what was going on in Latin from the
classicizing and puristic Atticism of the Greek Second Sophistic?
From the literary point of view, the answer is ‘yes’.41 The pre-
Vergilian and pre-Ciceronian authors who were modish among the
archaizers (if I may use this term) did not enjoy the status of
canonical texts in a way comparable to the Greek classics. Vergil
and Cicero were certainly of huge importance too. Crucially, the
archaizers formed many more new words than they dredged up old
ones.42 So ‘archaism’ seems misleading. For what emerges from
Fronto and Gellius is the importance of knowing the whole of
Latin literature down to Vergil. We might do better to see these
second-century authors as linguistic nationalists whose aim was to
reinvigorate Latin as a language that was capable of change and
innovation but also rightly proud of its ancient pedigree.43 The
extension of this nationalism beyond literary circles is in doubt,
however, and it is diYcult to argue that we are dealing with a
‘movement’ as such. It looks much more like the personal tastes
See the studies of M. Bernhard, Stil; H. Koziol, Stil.
Marache, Critique litte´raire, 110–11. W. D. Lebek’s study of archaizing usages
in the literature of the Republican period is also important.
Marache, Mots nouveaux.
So F. Portalupi, Marco Cornelio Frontone, 21–38; cf. ead., Frontone, Gellio,
Apuleio; see too Steinmetz, Untersuchungen (on Fronto 171–87).
18 Simon Swain

of a limited group of intellectuals dedicated to grammatical and

exegetical researches rather than the ‘high’ end of an extended
linguistic continuum with ramiWcations down to the lower levels,
such as we Wnd in the case of the Atticism of the Greek world. On
the other hand, these intellectuals and grammarians were sensitive
to what was happening in Greek society. Apuleius’ Latin certainly
gave him a distinctive style and the appearance of intellectual
superiority from his command of all Latin literature. He alone of
the archaizers uses the verb atticissare of his Greek (Fl. 18. 43;
‘False Preface’, loc. cit.).44 He would have been fully aware of the
social prestige that linguistic Atticism expressed in the Greek East,
and to this extent he was surely trying to mimic or rival in Latin the
purism of his Greek contemporaries. He must have expected his
readers to approve, if not to follow, his endeavours. The fact that
he was the Wrst Roman litte´rateur of note to make his career in a
provincial environment may also be relevant: Apuleius was as free
from normative pressures as his later contemporary, the even more
contorted Tertullian. But he also had to demonstrate possession of
the highest culture to be taken seriously.
In an earlier study of Cicero’s bilingual practices I have
followed Carol Myers-Scotton’s use of the well-known concept
of ‘markedness’ to try to determine the function in Cicero’s Latin
of individual Greek words and runs of Greek. Unlike the modern
oral correspondents studied by Myers-Scotton, Cicero’s negoti-
ation of a Greek identity is (as I have remarked above) an expres-
sion of his Romanness rather than a genuine biculturalism. For the
most part code-switching into Greek as we see it in his letters is a
(paradoxically) unmarked choice. Cicero naturally uses a limited
quantity of Greek to some addressees in a private context within
and as part of his Latin speech. We have no idea how Apuleius
used Greek in non-public discourse since we have no private
letters. The works he wrote in Greek are obviously a marked
choice: a very clear expression of a Roman’s ability to control
Greek. But for the use of Greek code-switching and longer
passages of Greek in Antonine bilingualism we can turn to
Apuleius’ older contemporary Cornelius Fronto. Fronto’s letters
comprise a mixed bag of private and public correspondence
including especially letters to his pupil Marcus Aurelius Wrst as
Caesar under Antoninus Pius and then as emperor. Several of the
letters are in fact treatises or declamations. There are six letters

Plautus’ use of atticissare (Menaechmi 12), albeit non-linguistic (but cf. PF 26.
7–8 L.), would have been a welcome precedent.
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 19

(and a fragment of a seventh memo) by Fronto entirely in Greek, to

which I shall return. Language is naturally important in the Wve
scenes recorded (or invented) by Gellius.
Fronto taught Marcus rhetoric.45 The relationship of pupil and
master was always overshadowed by that of the client and the
prince. The two men used two codes to speak to one another.
The Wrst is profuse expressions of love and friendship. The second
is problems of health. These occupy much of the correspondence.
They may of course be taken at face value (and often are), but
probably should not be wholesale. Language purity and ability to
change register—to code-switch—into Greek is certainly import-
ant in the Wrst code, love, and it is on this that I shall be concen-
trating here. An example or two will be helpful.46 At Ep. M. Caes.
1. 3 (ad 144–5) Fronto expatiates on the excessiveness of Marcus’
love for him. ‘You wish to run to me, to Xy to me, the peculiar
behaviour of lovers’ (1, p. 3 v.d.H.2). Marcus’ mother is envious of
Fronto. Marcus should be ready to answer those who ask why he
loves Fronto so much. The causes can never be known—there is no
ratio behind it. ‘Let them doubt, discuss, dispute, guess, puzzle
over the origin of our amor as they do about the sources of the Nile’
(10, p. 5. 13–14). In a letter to Fronto during the latter’s consulship
(142) Marcus begins, ‘I surrender: you have won. Beyond question
your loving has beaten all the lovers who ever lived. Take the
crown and let the herald proclaim publicly before your own tribu-
nal this your victory: ‘‘M. Cornelius Fronto, consul, is the winner.
He is crowned in the contest of the Great Games of Love’’ (.
æ ºØ
 æ ø o Æ
 ØŒA†, Æ
FÆØ e IªH Æ H ªºø
 ø )’ (Ep. M. Caes. 2. 5. 1, p. 25. 23–6). Marcus will never
fail in his ‘prothymia’, a Plautine Graecism (hence in the Roman
alphabet) which leads him to make up a Plautine pastiche about
the rival love of Fronto’s wife, Cratia.47 It was not the eloquence
of Fronto’s letter to him, but its huge aVection that makes him feel
thus (2). He then comes to business: ‘that other letter of yours, in
which you indicated why you were putting oV delivering the
speech in which you will praise my Lord’ (i.e. Pius). Marcus took
the letter straight to Pius, who thoroughly enjoyed its ‘superlative
elegance’. The Lord Pius told Marcus that he approved Fronto’s
E. Champlin, Fronto, ch. 8.
Numeration of the letters follows that of van den Hout’s Teubner; translations
are based on Haines’s Loeb. Chronology follows van den Hout 292–4 as modiWed by
the recently corrected date of Fronto’s consulship (W. Eck, ‘Cornelius Fronto’).
On prothymia cf. Marache, Mots nouveaux, 95: ‘Le mot n’est pas senti comme
grec, mais comme plautien.’
20 Simon Swain

reasons in the course of the ‘long conversation we held about

you’ (3).
There is much in this exchange of signiWcance, not least being the
code-switch in §1. There is no need for scepticism about the aVec-
tion between Marcus and Fronto, though the diVerence in status
was far too great to make it equally balanced and some have been too
ready to take the expressions of love at face value. The language of
friendship is well known from the politics of the Late Republic as a
political discourse. This discourse is present in the letters of Fronto
to Marcus, Pius, and Verus.48 Yet there is nothing in the earlier
period to compare with the lovers’ talk used by Marcus and Fronto.
In the present letter the ‘long conversation’ about Fronto ‘no doubt
made your ears keep ringing in the Forum’. No doubt it did: yet
another Plautine comic term (tinnire) reinforces the courtier’s
status relative to the prince’s. The Greek code-switch itself is
complex: it is a joke and also a compliment, but one Marcus can
aVord to make.
Political realities should always be kept in mind. Consider the
following. Love is expressed in Greek at great length in the Greek
erotic letter Fronto sent to Marcus shortly after Marcus took the
name ‘Caesar’ in 139 (Addit. epist. 8, pp. 250–5). Fronto had
whetted Marcus’ appetite for this work by saying that very few of
his compositions pleased him as much, Marcus tells him (Ep.
M. Caes. 3. 9. 2, p. 42. 9–10). Fronto says his letter is a ‘third’
following letters ‘after’ Lysias and Plato (i.e. Socrates) in the
Phaedrus.49 Fronto is c KæH , ‘not a lover’. But he appreciates
Marcus’ beauty better than 

ı, ‘this man’ (2). If Fronto gives
Marcus money, it is a gift; if KŒE
 does, it is payment. You should
know, he continues, what disgrace comes upon you from the fact
that everyone knows ‘he is your erastes’—they suspect you of
B æø, ‘the act’, and call you ‘his eroˆmenos’, but I call you
kalos (5). This evil will stick to young men at the start of a long life
for longer (7). His erotic poems are disgusting. He is like a wild
beast driven on P
ı, ‘by sexual desire’ (8). Tell the other
boys about the Xower which vainly loves the sun: ‘I shall show it
to you, if we go for a walk outside the wall as far as the Ilissus’
D. Konstan, Friendship, for the rosy view in general, with references to other
less amiable scholars.
Van den Hout, Commentary, 561 must be right in contending that Buttmann
and later editors were wrong to take Fronto as saying he had simply sent copies of
the Plato: rather, the phrases Øa ¸ı
ı and Øa —ºø
—referring to the two
earlier letters—mean a ‘cento of Plato’s Phaedrus with additions by Fronto himself ’.
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 21

Fronto’s remarks owe much to those of Plato’s Lysias (Phaedr.

230 e–234 c). He too is a ‘non-lover’. But for Lysias the non-lover
is in fact a sexual partner who is not handicapped by the usual
emotions of lovers. The contrast between this non-lover and the
‘lover’ is theoretical. Now Fronto begins from this; but for him
Marcus’ ‘lover’ is a real person, a real rival, who has composed
obscene poetry for him (not mentioned by Plato). Fronto himself
of course is a real non-lover: no sex for him. In his reply (Addit.
epist. 7, pp. 249–50) Marcus overturns his arguments by insisting
that he is the lover of Fronto (‘erasten tuum’) and sidesteps Fron-
to’s preference for ‘non amantibus’ by telling him he will go on
loving him for ever. He ignores Fronto’s Platonic insinuations and
casts himself in the role of the superior in their relationship. He
rejoices in the triumph of Fronto as his eroˆmenos (2). The triumph
is speciWcally Fronto’s command of Greek, which leads Marcus to
say that Fronto has ‘outstripped those Attici [here ¼ Atticists]
who are so self-satisWed and provocative’. Marcus is Socrates to
Fronto’s Phaedrus (3), another inversion of the pupil–master rela-
tionship. What or whom Fronto is really getting at in the erotic
letter is unclear.50 Among the many other expressions of love
between the two men we should at least mention Ep. M. Caes.
2. 10. 3, p. 30. 13, where Marcus writing to Fronto as consul
Wnishes by calling him mi semper anima dulcissima. This is almost
certainly a female form of address, used between women and to
women. Marcus is suggesting that he wears the trousers.51 As to
Fronto and his erotic letter, it is signiWcant that he appears to raise
a problem about the nature of their love in Greek, which is a typical
use of a diVerent linguistic register to discuss an awkward topic.
This has nothing to do with ‘bilingualism’ as such: it is a very
Roman matter. And it allows Marcus in his reply to praise Fronto
as superior to the Greek Atticists. If the above surmise is right,
Fronto may not have found this entirely satisfactory.
The superiority of Fronto’s language is often on Marcus’ lips
(e.g. Ep. Ant. imp. 1. 4. 2 ‘the elegance of your style . . . you speak
Latin, while the rest of us speak neither Latin nor Greek’, p. 92.
6–7). As to Greek, Fronto himself is conWdent. At Ep. Ant. Pium 8
(pp. 166–7, of c.156/7), where he asks to be excused from his
proconsulship, he tells the emperor as proof of his integrity that
Van den Hout, Commentary, 561, ‘This trivial work should not be taken
seriously’, is an inadequate dismissal of suspicions raised amongst others by
A. Barigazzi, Favorino, 162.
J. N. Adams, ‘Vindolanda’, 120 with n. 195. E. Dickey, Address, 158 misun-
derstands Adams’s point.
22 Simon Swain

he has already arranged for friends from Alexandria to deal with

his Greek correspondence. But this is administrative convenience.
We have in fact one letter in Greek to a Greek speaker on business:
Ad amic. 1. 2, p. 171. Thanks to a recently published inscription
from Side it is clear that the addressee, Apollonides, is Marcus’
and Verus’ ab epistulis Graecis, P. Aelius Apollonides.52 Fronto
asks him to aid Sulpicius Cornelianus (who would go on to be ab
epistulis Graecis under Commodus).53 Language choice is here
pragmatic. Apollonides dealt with the emperors’ Greek, and the
letter concerns a man whose career was heading in the same direc-
tion. Fronto wanted something done for him; hence he wrote in
More interesting than this letter of recommendation are the two
letters in Greek to Marcus’ mother Domitia Lucilla, the letters to
and from the historian and advocate Appian of Alexandria, and
the letter of consolation to Fronto’s sometime enemy the great
Herodes Atticus.
The Wrst letter to Domitia Lucilla is an elaborate apology for the
delay in producing his speech of thanks to the emperor for his
suVect consulship (Ep. M. Caes. 2. 3, pp. 21–4). It was ‘written in
Greek as a compliment to her high standard of education’.55 This
is true on one level. It is also a compliment to Marcus, since Fronto
sends the letter via Marcus (Ep. M. Caes. 2. 2. 8, p. 21. 12–15)
requesting him to correct any ‘barbarism’ in it ‘for you are fresher
from Greek (than I)’.56 He would not want Marcus’ mother to
think he was an ‘opicus’, a term which is used in second-century
authors to signal ignorance of Greek.57 Fronto says he has used
Greek out of ‘shamelessness’ (inpudentia). Certainly the letter
could have been written in Latin. But much of it is an elaborate
discussion of similes (NΠ) oVering excuses for not having writ-
ten before. The vast majority of the Greek code-switches in the
Letters are in fact metalinguistic: Greek remained essential to
grammatical and rhetorical instruction.58 Thus it has a natural
W. Eck, ‘P. Aelius Apollonides’. He was apparently the Wrst to hold this post.
Champlin, Fronto, 29–30; Eck, op. cit.
Eck’s diagnosis of ‘eine besondere Reverenz vor seiner Stellung’ (op. cit. 240)
goes too far.
A. Birley, Marcus, 83; cf. J. Kaimio, Romans and Greek Language, 190, 249–50.
Cf. Cicero, Ad Att. 1. 19. 10.
See below, 38–9.
Examples: Ep. M. Caes. 3. 8. 2, p. 41. 20–4, technical terms, cum ¨
ı locos
K ØØæø tractaremus . . . in hac NŒ  [on this ‘Mischform’, cf. O. Wenskus,
‘Triggering’, 175–8], quam de patre tuo teque depinxi,  Ø H ıŒø ºÆ
Œº. (p. 41. 20–4); Marcus in Ep. M. Caes. 1. 4, pp. 5–8, a run of code-switches,
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 23

role here. But just as it allowed Fronto to praise Marcus’ command

of the other tongue, so he Xatters Domitia by asking her to disre-
gard anything which is barbarous or ‘not fully Attic’ (2. 3. 5. p. 24.
1–3). He compares himself to the wise Anacharsis who could not
‘Atticize fully’, but spoke sense. As we have seen, Apuleius invokes
this sage for similar reasons at Apology 24.
In the second letter, from the end of his consulship (so August
142), Fronto excuses himself from attending Domitia’s birthday
celebration (Ep. M. Caes. 2. 15, pp. 32–3). In his stead he has sent
his wife Cratia. As with the previous letter, he informs Marcus of
what he has done, though this time he does not send the Greek (Ep.
M. Caes. 2. 13, cf. 14, p. 32). Neither letter provides evidence for
the linguistic choice of Roman women.59 What we may note is that
both letters are excuses and suggest (and no more) that the shift
into Greek should be connected with this. It oVers an indirect
method of deXecting criticism and because of this is at the same
time a further admission of inferiority. As has been indicated, the
happy surface layer of Antonine politics should not blind us to
the realities of a courtier’s life in an autocratic regime, however
benevolent. Cratia is presented to Marcus as Domitia’s ‘clienta’:
the word is indeed ‘arresting’.60
I pass on to the Appian letters (Addit. epist. 4–5, pp. 242–8).
Appian of Alexandria the historian tells us himself that he worked
as an advocate at Rome for many years.61 At some point in the 150s
Fronto wrote to Pius for the third time to request an honorary
procuratorship for his long-standing friend (Ep. Ant. Pium 10,
p. 168). Appian was Fronto’s client. In Fronto’s correspondence
including quotations especially from the Odyssey (for the pattern, cf. Swain, ‘Bilin-
gualism in Cicero?’, 158), on which Fronto comments in the next letter, omnia istaec
inter Graecos uersus Latina ita scite alternata sunt a te et interposita, ut est ille in
pyrrhicha uersicolorum discursus, quom . . . (‘like the movements of the variously
coloured performers in the pyrrhic dance . . . ’, 1. 5. 4, pp. 8. 20–9. 3); De eloq.
2. 14, p. 142. 1–3 ÆFÆ  Kd ÆhØ , ØÆŒıØ , < æ
ß >æªŁÆØ, Œº.
Note Apul. Apol. 78–87 on Pudentilla’s epistulam . . . Graecatiorem to her son
about her marriage to Apuleius and the letter to her written in Apuleius’ name in
bad Greek by his enemies. Generalization from this is hazardous; but cf. Juvenal’s
well-known comments at Sat. 6. 187–99 about Roman women using Greek to
express ‘their fears and troubles, their joy and anger . . . their heartfelt secrets’
(tr. Rudd) and for terms of endearment to arouse male lovers; this concerns switch-
ing register in the private domain: Swain, ‘Bilingualism in Cicero?’, 164–6. In
general, Wenskus, ‘Wie schreibt man?’
Champlin, Fronto, 109. It is another Plautine favourite. On the letters to
Domitia note Wenskus, ‘Wie schriebt man?’, 227–30.
Appian, Preface 15. 62 with É. Famerie, Le Latin, 8–13; cf. Champlin,
Fronto, 42.
24 Simon Swain

are two ‘polite but remarkably uninformative letters in Greek’

concerning two slave boys whom Appian had presented to Fronto
and whom Fronto had returned.62 In his letter to Pius Fronto had
stressed Appian’s probitas. The main point of the Greek letters is
that Appian had overstepped the mark by giving Fronto a gift that
was too costly. It is clear from the Wrst letter (Appian to Fronto)
that Fronto had simply returned the slaves. As a social inferior
Appian was due to pay his respects but had feigned illness (‘I could
not see you today either, as owing to gastric trouble last night I have
only just got up’, Addit. epist. 4. 1, p. 242. 13–14). That gave him
time to oVer up written arguments that might be ‘just’ or ‘pedan-
tic’ (
ºÆØŒ).63 He argues from the general behaviour of cities
and gods. With the letter he sent back the slaves and he ends by
demanding that they should not be returned. Fronto replies at
some length and without preamble. His language becomes strong.
The scale of the gift suggests an arrogant and tyrannical attitude on
the part of the receiver and makes him appear greedy (4, 6). Appian
has attempted to secure himself a reputation as ªÆºæø ,
whereas Fronto has been put upon and has lost repute.64 But he
will be ªÆºæø if he does not accept the gift. Exchange should
proceed on an equitable basis and people should do as Fronto does
in ‘sending back exactly what was sent’ (8).
Appian spoke Latin very well. Why Greek? Gifts are compli-
cated matters, especially between social unequals. There is a very
nice example from the 120s of a successful attempt by a social
inferior to foist a gift on a superior. The small town of Forum
Sempronii had decreed a statue to their local bigwig, C. Hedius
Verus. When he read the decree, he refused the honour. On the
base of the statue that was erected later the decurions record that
on the earlier occasion Verus had ‘as it were reproached us with our
feebleness’. They were right. The second time round they ‘did not
send the decree’. Rather, ‘so that you cannot turn it down, the
statue has already been made and is on its way’. It only remained
for Verus to write his own inscription.65 All this is very much in
keeping with Plutarch’s fascinating little essay, —æd ıø Æ. To
suVer dusôpia is to be ‘discountenanced’, and the essay reXects a
particular problem of high imperial society at this time, that of not
62 63
Champlin, loc. cit. Cf. van den Hout, Commentary, 551 ad loc.
Kb b K Æ
ı I
æE æ
CIL 11. 6123 antea . . . (15) honore tantummodo te conten/tum esse rescriberes,
quae res tuam quidem / modestiam inlustraret, nobis uero uelut / segnitiam exprobraret.
igitur statua / decreta, ne quid negare possis, iam comparata / (20) aduehitur . . .
qualem inscriptionem dandam putas, petentibus facito notum.
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 25

being able to say no to superiors, for Plutarch speciWcally Romans,

and also to inferiors who eVectively have one cornered. As to
Fronto and Appian, Greek may seem a strange choice because
the superior is writing in the language of the inferior. But as
Plutarch realized, superiors in an autocratic regime do not have
absolute power. They are caught in perpetual negotiations over
status. The complexity of negotiation between Fronto and Appian
was carried out in Greek not because it gave Fronto the opportun-
ity to use Greek to a Greek, but because writing in Greek oVered a
subtler way of reminding Appian where power lay.
Finally, I turn to Herodes Atticus and the lawsuit in which he
and Fronto were rival advocates in what appears to be Herodes’
prosecution of one Demostratus (who is presumably the same man
who with others attacked Herodes in the 170s).66 Marcus ‘advises’
or, as he then says, ‘asks’ Fronto to ensure he deals with Herodes
honourably (honestissime, Ep. M. Caes. 3. 2. 1, p. 36). This letter
must be from near the beginning of their relationship, since
Marcus describes himself (ironically, of course) as a ‘little boy’
(puerulus), which surely means he is not much more than twenty.67
Fronto writes back to ask for ‘advice’ (Ep. M. Caes. 3. 3,
pp. 36–8). The trial will bring up many unpleasant matters. But
‘if I call him a Greekling and an ignoramus, it won’t be war to the
end’ (3). Fronto is obviously frightened, for he immediately sends
a short note telling Marcus who else will be opposing Herodes.68
Among them is ‘Marcianus noster’, where ‘our’ means from Cirta
like Fronto (Ep. M. Caes. 3. 4, p. 38). Fronto knew full well that
‘this age needs the adviser more than the helper’,69 and the accept-
ance of Marcus’ advice is rammed home in the following two
letters and the Wrst two of the next book. What is going on?
When Fronto went on the attack, he reached for a familiar slur:

For the whole matter see W. Ameling, Herodes, i. 74–6; ii. 30–5; Champlin,
Fronto, 62–3; G. W. Bowersock, Greek Sophists, 92–100 in full Symean mode.
Note also that Herodes had plainly not yet become his teacher: ‘I do not forget
that he was educated in the house of my grandfather P. Calvisius, and I educated
with you’ (p. 36. 20–1).
He shows similar concern much later on when he Wnds out from Marcus that
Lucius Verus, who has requested some of his work and had been sent Pro Demo-
strato as Fronto’s own choice, is likely to be oVended by remarks he had made
about a certain Asclepiodotus. Since the speech had long been in public circulation,
there was nothing to do but promise that Asclepiodotus (perhaps a successful
imperial freedman: Champlin, Fronto, 172 n. 113) would in future be amicissimum
just as Herodes is ‘despite the speech’: Ep. Ant. imp. 3. 4. 1 (p. 102. 17–19), Ep.
Ver. imp. 1. 8. 1 (p. 113. 12–14).
De eloq. 2. 18 (p. 144. 22–3).
26 Simon Swain

‘Greekling’.70 But ‘ignoramus’ (indoctus)? There may be aversion

from Atticist pretensions.71 But Fronto could hardly have believed
the charge. The Wnal chapter in the aVair is the death of Herodes’
neonate (c.144/5) and Marcus’ ‘wish’ that Fronto write to console
him (Ep. M. Caes. 1. 6. 10, p. 13. 14–16). The consolation was
written in Greek (Ep. M. Caes. 2. 1, pp. 16–17). The choice is again
interesting. In political standing Herodes was superior to Fronto
(having been consul ordinarius in 143). The register could reXect
this, or purvey sympathy to Herodes by writing in his own language.
Yet it is a consolation with a sting in the tail. That Herodes is told
not to mourn more than beWts a man of paideia is traditional advice
(though Herodes’ bouts of excessive grieving must have been
known about).72 But Fronto’s main point is to advise the Athenian
to concentrate on loving Marcus. ‘As long as he remains to us—for
I confess and make no secret of the fact that I am your anterastês—
everything else in our case is easily remediable and of far less
importance.’73 Fronto makes it plain that their good relations are
conditional on the existence of Marcus. He does this in Greek.
In Cicero’s letters there are two long continuous passages in
Greek at Ad Atticum 6. 4. 3 and 6. 5. 1–2. These are certainly
humorous in intention and concern the Wnancial practices of a
freedman with a signiWcant Greek name (Philotimos). Plutarch
apparently knew of letters by Cicero to Greeks in Greek.74 That is
as we should expect. In the same way freedmen might have been
spoken to and written to in Greek. In the case of Fronto we have a
fragment he quotes from a memo in Greek to a libertus of Verus
called Charilas (Ep. Ver. imp. 1. 12. 3, p. 116. 16–18). The powerful
freedman of an emperor was a very diVerent creature from any
Greek freedman Cicero had to deal with. Fronto asks this cham-
berlain(?) if it is convenient (hŒÆØæ
) to attend the emperors in the
diYcult situation following the death of Pius.75 He records this in a

Pliny, Ep. 10. 40. 2; Juvenal, Sat. 3. 78, 6. 186. Note that Graeculus is not in
itself pejorative, but takes its tone from the context: Dubuisson, ‘Graecus, Graecu-
lus, Graecari’.
Cf. Marcus’ impolite remarks about Polemon, with Fronto’s reply (Ep. M.
Caes. 2. 10. 1, pp. 29. 19–30. 6; 2. 2. 5, p. 20. 6–8), Marcus on the prouocantis Atticos
(Addit. epist. 7. 2, p. 249. 11), Fronto on the Atticists’ laboriousness(?) (Ep. Ant.
imp. 4. 2. 5, p. 106. 23–4).
Herodes’ grieving: cf. Gellius 19. 12. 2 ex morte pueri (with Philostr. VS
a ƺºÆ ª  Æ E P ÆÆ ŒÆd 

ı ÆŒæH † æÆ (p. 17. 14–15).
Plutarch, Cicero 24.
Chamberlain: cf. Ep. Ver. imp. 1. 7. 1 primum me intromitti in cubiculum iubebas
(p. 112. 2–3).
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 27

letter excusing his non-attendance to Verus in reply to a reproach-

ful, but (as he is keen to stress) aVectionate letter from the prince
(Ep. Ver. imp. 1. 11. pp. 114–15). Verus could aVord to be both:
the courtier himself needed a defensio. The appropriate register to
Verus was Latin; to his freedman, Greek; or rather, it was easier for
Fronto to seek instructions (‘you tell me— 
Ø—as a man of
sense and a friend to me’) from this freedman in Greek without
compromising his status too nakedly.76 This is as much a sign of the
changed times as the composition of letters in Greek to Domitia
For the most part, as I have said, Greek in Fronto is metalin-
guistic. There are in addition a handful of code-switches involving
matters of health or in greetings (Cicero is similar here). But there
is one Wnal matter to be addressed before passing to Gellius. Code-
switches and borrowing are obviously interrelated. Indeed, the
borrowing has been well deWned as ‘a code-switch with a full-
time job’.77 In his Meditations Marcus recalls that Fronto had
taught him that the Roman nobility lacked real aVection
ƒ ŒÆº

Ø . . . P Ææ ÆØ I
ø N ).78 In a letter
to Verus asking him to support the impoverished senator, Gavius
Clarus, Fronto describes him as a man who has a ‘غ

æª Æ
which is perhaps not Roman, for there is nothing I have found
less at Rome . . . than a man genuinely غ
. The reason
why there is not even a Roman word for this virtue must, I suppose,
be that in reality there is no one at Rome who is غ
(Ep. Ver. imp. 1. 6. 7, p. 111. 17–20). Only Marcus is addressed
as غ
æª Æ Łæø  (De fer. Als. 4. 2, p. 234. 13). In another
letter of recommendation, to the proconsul of Africa Lollianus
Avitus on behalf of his fellow-Cirtan Licinius Montanus, Fronto
describes Montanus as ‘worthy, upright, philostorgus . . . since
there is no term for this among the Romans’ (Ad amic. 1. 3. 4,
p. 173. 15–16). If we can trust the terribly diYcult codex of the
letters, Fronto here wrote it in the Latin alphabet. Clearly, to his
pupils Marcus and Lucius Verus, he used the word in Greek as
something that was untranslatable. Before code-switching was
studied properly, it was often thought that switches represented a
speaker’s attempt to plug gaps in the lexicon. This idea has
now been discarded because code-switches in the main duplicate

Van den Hout, Commentary, 285 notes that ‘Fronto cannot have a word with
Charilas himself: Charilas sends him a note (hortante eo).’
P. Gardner-Chloros, ‘Code-Switching’, 102.
Ad se ips. 1. 11.
28 Simon Swain

information and operate alongside synonyms in the matrix lan-

guage. Use of the term غ

æª Æ is, however, a conscious at-
tempt to Wll a hole, and this is why the word in Fronto Xirts with
the status of a borrowing. In recent decades borrowing itself has
come to be viewed as a sociolinguistic process in which each
borrowing will be subject to a varying degree of phonological and
morphological integration.79 It may be suggested in addition that
the Latinization of the word in the letter to Lollianus Avitus felt
right in the public context of a letter of recommendation to a
governor (who was not an ex-pupil). But Fronto’s move to natur-
alize the term went too far: no other Roman uses a word which is so
implicitly critical of Roman practice,80 and which puts Fronto’s
expressions of amor to Marcus in their rightful place.

3. aulus gellius
Fronto shows key symptoms of what has been termed the ‘service
aristocracy’. The idea of a service aristocracy is in this context a
development of Norbert Elias’s classic work on the rise of the
mannered, courtly aristocracies of Europe in the late Middle
Ages.81 In the hands of Veyne and Foucault this was elaborated
into a thesis about the ‘privatization’ of aristocratic life in the High
Roman Empire and its disengagement from real power. As means
of public competition were removed from the nobility, manners
and conduct became increasingly important. Family life and the
aVective marriage relation assumed a crucial role in the noble-
man’s self-fashioning as the places where he must achieve
maximum control of himself. ‘Spiritual exercises’ were the par-
ticular route to ‘le souci de soi’. These exercises were for dedicated
Stoics like Seneca and of course Marcus Aurelius.82 But the cul-
ture of mutual and self-inspection was found among the elites of
East and West. I have argued elsewhere that the Veyne–Foucault
model does not work without modiWcation for the eastern, Greek-
speaking nobilities. For them we can certainly point to a clear
concern with internal and external evaluation of appearance, of
sexuality and marriage, of language; but the context of all this is
the still considerable local political power of their class in the great
Cf. the studies of R. Mougeon and E. Beniak, Linguistic Consequences.
Cf. Champlin, Fronto, 90.
N. Elias, Court Society and Civilizing Process.
P. Veyne, ‘La famille et l’amour’ and ‘The Roman Empire’; M. Foucault, Care
of the Self; P. Hadot, Inner Citadel.
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 29

cities of the East.83 The same is doubtless true of the majority of

the western elites. But the model is attractive for Fronto and
Gellius and anyone else who belonged to the court or its periphery
(and we need to take the idea of a periphery Xexibly, remembering
that we often know very little of individual aspirations and oppor-
tunities or institutional spurs). Thus the intensity of the discourse
of love and aVection between Fronto and Marcus marks it out as a
mannered response to the pressure of an unequal relationship.84
There is also a good deal in the letters on the perfect marriages of
Fronto and Cratia and his daughter and her husband AuWdius
Victorinus and on Fronto’s grandchildren.85 The longest of the
letters concerns the death of one of these (De nepote amisso 2, pp.
235–9) and ends with a ringing self-endorsement of Fronto’s life as
a faithful public servant, a signiWcant combination.86
Language was crucial as one of the primary means of self-
evaluation, external validation, and commentary. It was properly
the sphere of the language professional, the grammarian; but the
basis of his inXuence lay in the wide acceptance of his premisses and
their usefulness in determining social status and social integration.
In Aulus Gellius the grammarian’s interests and the cultural prac-
tices they reXect are presented to a general, educated audience. In
the preface to his book the practice of excerpting, which was the
beginning of the collection, explicitly reXects the activities of the
grammarian (§§2 V.). But the literary motive for writing is empha-
sized immediately: not for Gellius are the ‘witty titles’ ( festiuitates
inscriptionum) of writers of works like his in ‘both the languages’.
The Nights are here located in a bicultural environment, for of the
thirty titles Gellius now mentions nineteen are Greek. He con-
demns these predecessors and rivals for their studied prettiness.
He is rustic with no regard for elegantia; but he does not induce a
feeling of ‘repugnance’ (taedium) like the others—‘especially the
Greeks’—who aimed only at ‘volume’.87 He will stimulate quick
minds to learning, and rescue those who are busy with life ‘from an
ignorance (imperitia) of things and words which is disgraceful and
boorish’ (10–12). His reader is precisely the ‘educated member of
polite society’.88 The rest of the preface is an elaborate captatio
S. Swain, ‘Plutarch’s Moral Program’, 90–6.
That complications may have been felt (above, 23) is not surprising.
See esp. the aVective letter on Fronto petit-Wls, Ad amic. 1. 12, pp. 178–9.
§§8–9, p. 238. 6–25. The tone recalls Fronto’s letters of recommendation: here
he recommends himself.
Taedium: cf. 9. 4. 12, 10. 12. 1.
L. A. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 37 [27] citing §13 of the Preface.
30 Simon Swain

beneuolentiae which culminates with Aristophanes’ call in the Frogs

(354–6, 369–71) for the uncultured to leave while the initiates of the
Muses ‘stir up our all-night revelling’.89 In all this Gellius styles his
reader a member of the in-group who will want to possess the fruits
of ‘both the languages’.
Gellius was an admirer of the great cultural Wgures of his day.
Some of these have professional expertise in grammar (Sulpicius
Apollinaris) or rhetoric (Antonius Julianus) or philosophy (Calve-
nus Taurus, Favorinus), others are over-educated amateurs who
combine high education and occasional teaching with politics
(Fronto, Herodes Atticus). The most appealing chapters of the
Attic Nights are dialogues or staged scenes presenting these char-
acters in discussion of Roman or Greek high culture. This is part of
the artistry of the work. But it is also a genuine reXection of a
culture where continuous evaluation by male peers was the name
of the game. Language looms large in Gellius’ focuses, of course;
and there is a good deal of thought on the relationship between
Romans, classical Greece, and contemporary Greek speakers.
What emerges very strongly from Gellius is a sense of the past as
a repository of correct social behaviour. This is hardly surprising
given the traditions of Roman historiography and the value
accorded to exempla in literature and art. What is new in Gellius
is the convergence of this tradition with linguistic correctness and
the bilingual/bicultural attitudes of Romans to Greece. I begin
with an example from the end of the Attic Nights which places
discussion of these matters in a familiar courtly and mannered
context. The scene is a debate between Favorinus and the jurist
Sextus Caecilius (Africanus), pupil and follower of the great
jurist-politician Salvius Julianus Aemilianus. For anyone investi-
gating Antonine culture, Favorinus has to be a focus. As we shall
see, Favorinus appears in Gellius as an expert on Greek and
Roman culture. He is biculturalism incarnate. Yet as Gellius was
quite aware, Favorinus presented himself Wrst and foremost as a
Hellenist.90 Favorinus came from Arelate in Gaul and we know
little of his background and education other than that he was very
rich.91 All his works were in Greek. His ‘conversion’ to Hellenism
is made explicit in a well-known passage of his Corinthian Oration,
which survives as Dio Chrysostom Or. 37.92 In this witty, ironic,
Cf. n. 105.
Cf. 13. 25. 4, on which see below, 33. Barigazzi, Favorino, 98–148 includes the
Gellian testimonia and fragments for Favorinus with useful comments.
M. Gleason, Making Men, 3–20, 131–58.
On this see the Wne study of J. König, ‘Favorinus’ Corinthian Oration’.
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 31

sarcastic speech he demands that the Corinthians retain his statue.

Greek Corinth was destroyed by the Romans in 146 bc and was
then founded as a Roman colony in 44 by Julius Caesar. In the
Hadrianic period its public epigraphy suddenly turns Greek.93
This may well have to do with Hadrian’s strenuous attempts to
repristinate the modern Greeks, for Corinth was promptly en-
rolled in the Panhellenion, the organization Hadrian set up to
promote classical Greek culture through worship of his own
cult.94 The Hadrianic eVort points to a city that was still strongly
Roman (as we should expect of the administrative capital of pro-
vincia Achaia), and it is this that Favorinus unkindly alludes to
after a panegyric of the classical Greek city.95 He has zealously
pursued Greek culture with greater success than any Roman here-
tofore and any Greek of the present day. He has sacriWced every-
thing ‘for one thing, to seem Greek and to be Greek’ (25). He
deserves a statue in every city, ‘in yours, because though Roman he
has been rendered Greek, as your own country has been’ (26).96
This arrogant claim to be a champion of Hellenic culture was
naturally contested by Greeks.97
For Gellius Favorinus’ Hellenism is not a problem, so long as it
respects Roman culture. At Attic Nights 20. 1 Favorinus disputes
Caecilius’ claim that the Twelve Tables were drawn up in the
‘choicest and most concise language’. To Favorinus they appeared
to be riddled with confusion and laid down punishments that were
either too harsh or too lenient. The cruelty of some punishments is
what particularly exercises him: there is ‘nothing more savage and
divergent from human nature (ab hominis ingenio)’ (19). The attack
focuses on hominis ingenium not for sentimental reasons only, but
because for Gellius’ circle being a human being—humanitas—
refers to the combination of education and civilization in society.98
J. H. Kent, Corinth, 18–19. Roman culture is taken as dominant in Ps.-Julian,
Letters 198 Bidez, which A. J. S. Spawforth, ‘Corinth’, convincingly dates to the 1st
c. ad.
Panhellenion: Swain, Hellenism, 69 n. 7, 75–6; C. P. Jones, ‘Panhellenion’; esp.
A. J. S. Spawforth, ‘Panhellenion’.
Even the panegyric is not free of spite: §18 Corinthian treachery at the Battle of
Salamis (‘I pay no attention to Herodotus’).
 J Iºº Ł, u æ Ææd !æÆ. For the rare Iºº Ø
cf. Philo, Leg. ad Gaium 147, Pollux, Onom. 5. 154 s.v. "æ .
Galen, De opt. doctr. i. 41. 12–42.6 K., De diV. puls. viii. 587. 13 K.; Lucian,
Eunuch; Phrynichus, ¯Œº
ª 218 Fischer; Polemon, On Physiognomy (Script.
physiogn. i. 160–4 Foerster). Philostr. VS 489–92 is neutral.
See 13. 17. 1 ‘humanitatem’ appellauerunt id propemodum, quod Graeci ÆØ Æ
uocant, nos eruditionem institutionemque in bonas artis dicimus. See too Beall, below,
Ch. 8.
32 Simon Swain

Gellius has Caecilius ‘embrace Favorinus with both arms’ and

praise his superlative command of Greek and Roman culture.
With a suspicion of philosophical discourse that is found elsewhere
in the Nights,99 he then bids him depart from his ‘sceptical pro-
cedures’ (i.e. his Academic scepticism, §21), and is presented as
justifying the Laws from Favorinus’ critique, culminating in a
defence of the ‘merciless and inhumane’ punishment of sundering
debtors Wdei gratia (§§47–54). ‘When Sextus Caecilius had said
these and other things to the approval and praise of everyone
present including Favorinus . . . ’ (§55): Gellius allows Favorinus’
Hellenism to be checked by a moral apology for early Roman
For most of the time Favorinus is a revered source of bilingual
knowledge. For example, at 2. 22 he discourses on the Latin and
Greek names for winds before apologizing for delivering an
IŒæÆØ K Ø،، (25). In glossing the comments Gellius writes
quod supra autem dixi K Æ (30): Favorinus and Gellius are fused.
Later in the same book (2. 26) Favorinus and Fronto (in his Wrst
appearance in the Nights) discourse on Latin and Greek terms for
colours. Favorinus is made to say that Latin suVers form a greater
inopia than Greek in names for colours. Fronto defends Latin from
the Greek which ‘you seem to prefer’ with regard to terms for ‘red’
(7, cf. 17). The early borrowing poeniceus, ‘which you called 
in Greek, is ours’, whereas its ı  ı
 spadix (Vergil) is ‘ours
from the Greek’ (§9).101 ‘Therefore, my dear Favorinus, the
Greeks do not have more names for shades of red than we’ (16).
As to green, Vergil was happier ‘to use a well-known Greek term
[i.e. glaucus] than an unusual Latin one [i.e. caerulus]’ (18). Favor-
inus answers in an appropriately courtly manner: ‘Were it not for
you, and perhaps you alone, the Greek language would surely have
stood out in front; but you, my dear Fronto . . . ’, and he is
immediately enabled to explicate two lines of Ennius ‘which
I (previously) could not understand in the slightest’ (20–3).
It is important for Gellius to present Favorinus talking with
authority on Latin. So at the start of book 4 Favorinus squashes
the pretentions of ‘a certain man with a wealth of grammatical
material who was parading triXing matters from the classroom’
and dared to discourse on the word penus. While the man ‘prattles

e.g. 5. 15. 9.
Cf. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 128 [90]. Note 6. 15 for neutral infor-
mation on harsh early punishments (cf. Holford-Strevens, op. cit. 313–14); 6. 18 the
power of oaths in the Hannibalic War; further 7. 14, cf. 11. 18.
Cf. 3. 9. 9.
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 33

away’ (blatiret; another Plautine favourite), Favorinus speaks

‘quietly’.102 He ends by saying, ‘Although I have dedicated myself
to philosophy, I did not neglect to learn things like this. For Roman
citizens speaking Latin it is no less disgraceful not to designate a
thing by its proper term than it is to call a man by another’s name’
(4. 1. 18). There is an important gloss on this comment by Gellius:
‘this is how Favorinus took discussions on common matters like
this from the insigniWcant and the trivial to something much more
useful to hear and learn of, which was not dragged in irrelevantly,
nor for display, but arose from the context and accorded with it’
(§19).103 The explicit political comment turned remarks on the
usage of penus into something of general utility. At 11. 3. 1 Gellius
himself contends that trivial grammatical matters—such as the
usage of pro—‘are extremely important for acquiring a deep know-
ledge of the ancients’ writings and an understanding of the Latin
language’. At 13. 29. 6 he says something similar of Fronto’s
remarks on the meaning of mortales in the annalist (and favourite
Gellian author) Claudius Quadrigarius.104 He had included Fron-
to’s comments ‘lest a fairly thorough consideration of such words
should escape us’. For Gellius detailed linguistic knowledge was
the indispensable basis of culture.
Favorinus as an expert on Latin is the theme of 13. 25 on
manubiae and praeda and the role of synonyms. The setting is
courtly: Trajan’s Forum awaiting ‘his friend the consul who was
trying cases’ (§2). When a man with a reputation for doctrina
asserts that ‘ex manubiis means ex praeda’, Favorinus is made to
say, ‘Even though my principal and almost entire attention has
been given to the literature and arts of Greece, I am not so inatten-
tive to the Latin lexicon, which I study in an occasional and
haphazard manner, that I am unaware of this common interpret-
ation of manubiae, that makes it a synonym of praeda’ (§4). He then
proceeds to reveal his deep familiarity with Cicero and Cato,
backed up by quotations from Homer and Aristophanes to make
general points. The fact that the quotations are to some extent at
least those of Gellius reinforces the point that it is Gellius’ Favor-
inus who is moderating Latin usage.105
As recommended by 7. 11, cf. 6. 17 for Gellius himself; further 8. 14 (Favor-
inus; title only), 9. 2 (Herodes), 13. 20. 5 (Sulpicius Apollinaris), 18. 10. 5 (Calvenus
Taurus). For lack of courtesy in this regard cf. e.g 13. 21. 9 (Valerius Probus prope
inclementer), 14. 5 (wrangling grammarians), 18. 7. 2–3 (Domitius the Madman).
Indidem nata acceptaque.
Quadrigarius: cf. 17. 2 with Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 243 [179–80].
As Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 125 [88] points out, the Frogs is ‘the one
Aristophanic play that Gellius has demonstrably read’.
34 Simon Swain

This emerges explicitly in 14. 1 where Gellius writes up his

notes of a speech delivered by Favorinus against astrology.
The speech had been in ‘brilliant’ Greek. Gellius does not allow
continuous Greek into his Nights with the exception of quoted
passages, only one of which is long.106 At 14. 1 he includes much
direct speech, but it is evidently his. There is virtually no
Greek.107 At §32 Gellius apologizes for the pedestrian style in
which ‘we have touched on these mattters’. And after treating us
to a little more of Favorinus, he adds, ‘In addition to what I heard
Favorinus say, I can recall many testimonies of the ancient
poets . . . ’ (i.e. Pacuvius and Accius, §34). He adds, ‘The
same Favorinus . . . concluded with arguments of this sort . . . ’
(§§35–6). The interweaving of Favorinus and Gellius is manifest
and the quotation of similar thoughts in the old Roman poets
successfully Romanizes a Greek topic. A like apology for a transla-
tion comes at the end of 12. 1 after the rendition of Favorinus’
advice on breastfeeding to a Roman noblewoman. ‘I heard Favor-
inus say this in Greek, and I have reproduced his views, so far as
I can remember them, for the sake of general utility . . . [though]
hardly any Latin eloquence could equal his, and least of all my
slight powers’ (§24). As editors have noted, the Latin translation is
improved by echoes of Ovid.108 Gellius is highly conscious of his
mission to give information by presenting interesting examples
(pr. 16 V.). Here again advice which is suited to Greek—a medical
subject—is purveyed in Latin, though his audience would have
been perfectly capable of reading it in Greek.109 The Romanized
Favorinus is on show also in 14. 2, where he advises Gellius how to
proceed as a judge by aptly quoting a speech of Cato the Elder on
the fact that recourse must be had to character to decide disputes
where the evidence is insuYcient. At 17. 10 Favorinus is allowed to
compare Vergil unfavourably with Pindar (which suggests the
remarks are Favorinus’); but the criticism of what is for Favorinus
an unrevised passage shows why Vergil was in general ‘the most
elegant of poets’.110

Cf. 19. 2. 5 (Aristotle), 16. 3. 7–8, 10 (Erasistratus), and the long 10. 22. 4–23
Cf. 5 ut uerbo ipsius utar, Æıææ
(NB a colloquialism), 23. Gellius
several times quotes snippets of Favorinus in Greek.
Am. 2. 14. 7 at 12. 1. 8, Met. 15. 218 at 12. 1. 9.
Cf. 16. 3 for Favorinus on Erasistratus’ idea of appetite (with Gellius’ own
quotation in Greek of Erasistratus, cf. above, n. 106). For the importance of medical
knowledge to humanitas see 18. 10. 8.
Cf. Valerius Probus’ criticism at 9. 9. 12–17.
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 35

The function of the particular point as a spur to general know-

ledge has been alluded to already regarding the testimonies of
Favorinus and Fronto. Gellius was quite aware that some of his
recollections were boring and pedantic. He countered this by
placing dull information in an arresting or entertaining context—
the routing of an obstreperous grammarian, a boat trip on the star-
studded Saronic gulf, wandering home from the Vatican plain as
the sun set, and so on. Fronto’s discussion of words used mainly in
the singular or the plural attracts another apology: it is indeed ‘on a
trivial matter, but not at variance with the study of the Latin
language’ (19. 8. 2). Although the discussion is exclusively
Roman, the results tell us much about Antonine biculturalism.
Fronto is made to tell his audience to Wnd examples of the forms
he has been discussing in any orator or poet ‘provided they are
from the earlier band (e cohorte . . . antiquiore)’,111 which sort he
glosses as classicus adsiduusque aliquis scriptor, non proletarius (15).
The deWnition of a good ‘classical’ author is expressed in terms of
the old Republican constitutional arrangements as someone who is
‘good-class’ and ‘landowning’, not ‘proletarian’.112 It owes some-
thing to Plautus, Miles Gloriosus 752.113 But the political meaning
should not be ignored, and in three ways. First, intellectuals in the
ancient world tended to be restricted to the wealthy. Second,
grading citizens by class and making clear their duties and obliga-
tions to each other is something dear to Gellius.114 Third, for
Fronto and his like good Latin literature went back a long way
into the Republican period. Antiquity as a basis for sustaining the
idea of Latin’s parity with Greek was as important to Fronto and
Gellius as it had been to Cicero.
Bilingualism is explicit in the last appearance of Fronto in the
Nights, 19. 13. The subject is Fronto’s belief that the Latin word
pumilio should be used for ‘dwarf’ rather than the ‘vulgar and
barbarous’ nanus. Gellius’ teacher Sulpicius Apollinaris corrects
him by informing him portentously that nanus is not barbarous but
Greek. ‘Yet this word would have been given citizenship by you or
established in a Latin colony, if you had deigned to use it, and it
would be very much more acceptable than the low and vulgar
words which Laberius introduced into the Latin language’ (3).

Here antiquior means any one before Julius Caesar, whose De analogia is the
point of departure.
Cf. 6. 13; 16. 10 for Gellius’ interest in these terms.
Proletario sermone nunc quidem, hospes, utere.
See e.g. 2. 2 (fathers and sons), 2. 7 (children), 5. 13 (precedence of obliga-
tions), 12. 4 (Ennius on behaviour of inferiors).
36 Simon Swain

This is not much of a compliment; but Laberius’ use of the word

had stuck in Gellius’ mind.115 The idea of words being given
citizenship is a cliché.116 It is only partly humorous: the power of
Fronto to arbitrate on good Latin is aYrmed.117
Humour is on display again in the marvellous vignette of the
rhetor Antonius Julianus, ‘the public teacher of young men’
(including Gellius himself), and ‘a large number of Greeks’ who
derided Latin poetry (19. 9). The scene is a dinner party at a small
estate ‘near the City’ held by a young man of equestrian rank from
Asia for his friends and teachers, an unpromising mixture. The
man is a Greek who has come to Rome to learn Latin. Julianus asks
for some lyric, and Gellius includes a drinking song to relieve the
‘labour of his sleepless toils’. This is tongue in cheek, of course; but
also sets the scene for the Greeks to attack Julianus as a mere
‘ranter’ of a language devoid of Venus and the Muse. These Greeks
are Latin-speakers: they are ‘not uninterested in our literature’,
and ask Julianus whether there are any delightful poems in Latin
‘barring some of Catullus and Calvus. For those of Laevius are
involved, Hortensius’ lack charm, Cinna’s reWnement, Memmius’
are heavy, and in short all have written work which is unpolished
and discordant’ (§7).118 Julianus, roused to anger, then speaks pro
lingua patria tanquam pro aris et focis, attacks their ‘ditties’, and
proceeds to sing some early Latin epigrams ‘lest you should
condemn us, that is, the Latin Name, for I Ææ
Ø Æ, as if we
were clearly without culture and taste’ (§9). There is plenty of
light-heartedness in all this; but when Gellius says he thinks
‘nothing can be found in Greek or Latin which is more elegant,
more charming, more polished, or more concise’119 than the Latin
poems he quotes, he is being quite serious.
Whether Gellius here records quotations actually delivered or
foisted on his speaker is irrelevant:120 it was he who chose to
publish them in his work. The Preface makes clear what is evident
throughout, that Gellius is a very ‘hands-on’ author who uses

See 16. 7. 10; cf. A. Garcea and V. Lomanto, below, Ch. 2, esp. 50---2.
O. Wenskus, ‘Markieren’, 234–6. On citizenship and Latin cf. Adams,
‘ ‘‘Romanitas’’ ’, 185–8.
Cf. §5 for the hierarchy of the grammarians.
Nam Laeuius inplicata et Hortensius inuenusta et Cinna inlepida et Memmius
dura ac deinceps omnes rudia fecerunt atque absona. On the attitudes here cf.
B. Rochette, Le Latin, 267–9, Fögen, Patrii sermonis egestas, 212–16.
Reading pressius; see A. D. Vardi, ‘Brevity’.
He sometimes claims to have ‘noted down the very words at the time’:
20. 6. 15. But at 12. 13. 17 he congratulates himself on a quotation he prepared
‘before coming to you (i.e. Sulpicius Apollinaris)’.
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 37

others’ material as he wants to purvey a strong moralizing tone and

to promote his belief in the association of antique virtue and
correct Latinity. This attitude is relevant to his control of Greek
material and his comments on it. The Nights contain a fair amount
of Greek (the overall quantity is of course very small), but most of
it is technical terminology or free-standing quotation. There is
virtually no code-switching which is not clearly connected with
grammatical, rhetorical, or philosophical subjects (the most
common type of code-switching in Latin literature).121 Most of
the technical switches are marked as ‘the Greeks say’, vel sim. The
Nights are not private letters: the private scenes Gellius gives us,
however Wctional, are presented to a male public audience.122
Hence code-switching as an unmarked choice as we see it in
Cicero’s private letters was not an option. The sketch of Julianus
certainly shows how relaxed Gellius can be with regard to contem-
porary Greeks; Fronto could never have laughed like this. Gellius
and his fellow-Romans went as students to Greece ‘ad capiendum
ingenii cultum’, which is not ‘in quest of culture’ (Loeb), but
rather ‘to train their intellects’ (1. 2. 1). Gellius had not the
slightest doubt that ‘culture’ was fully available at Rome. The
comparability of Roman and Greek culture is clear from the
same note 1. 2, which is set at a dinner held by Herodes Atticus
in Greece. Herodes is always introduced in the Nights as a consular
or senator, i.e. he is Romanized as well as celebrated for his
knowledge of Greek.123 In this note he demolishes the pretensions
of a pseudo-Stoic who sets himself above ‘all leaders of the Attic
language, the togaed race, and the Latin Name’ (§4). The abuse
accords both cultures equal status.
This belief in comparability is seen especially in Gellius’ prac-
tice of and concerns about translation from Greek.124 His fears of
Cf. 1. 5. 1 a Œ
ł illa ºÆ ŒØÆ (quoting Aeschines, In Tim. 131 a Œ
ÆFÆ ºÆ ŒØÆ), 11. 15. 8 P غø hercle Apollinaris noster . . . ait. Contrast 18.
7. 4 (said by Favorinus) Videtur enim mihi K ØÆ ŁÆØ. Scitote . . . tamen intem-
periem istam, quae ºÆª
º Æ dicitur, non paruis nec abiectis ingeniis accidere, Iººa
r ÆØ  Ø e Ł
æøœŒ et ueritates plerumque fortiter dicere, sed respe-
ctum non habere  ŒÆØæ
F  æ
ı; Favorinus is allowed to code-switch, and
maybe he did do so readily. For technical switching cf. n. 58.
It is worth noting that discussion of women in the Nights remains entirely
traditional: 1. 6; 4. 3, cf. 10. 23, 12. 1, 17. 21. 44, 18. 6; Holford-Strevens, Aulus
Gellius, 308–13.
See 1. 2. 1, 9. 2. 1, 18. 10. 1, 19. 12. 1.
Cf. L. Gamberale, La traduzione, chs. 2–3 on Gellius’ techniques of literary
translation, Fögen, Patrii sermonis egestas, 193–216; [Holford-Strevens, ‘An
Antonine Littétateur’]. For the wider context of Latin translation from Greek
consult A. Traina, ‘Le traduzioni’, G. J. M. Bartelink, Hieronymus.
38 Simon Swain

spoiling the Greek of Favorinus have been mentioned. At 10. 22. 3

he refrains from translating Plato’s words in the Gorgias, for ‘no
Latin speech could aspire to their qualities, much less my own’.125
Elsewhere he oVers a translation of a passage in the Symposium (17.
20. 3, 9; note the false modesty). On the other hand Epictetus is
translated without apology at 19. 1. 15–20,126 and in 19. 11 Gellius
is happy to oVer a verse paraphrase of the famous amatory epigram
attributed to Plato done by ‘a friend of mine,
scens’. Unfortunately the note on his experiences of translating
Plato in book 8 is lost (8. 8). But the various comments on the
problems of and opportunities presented by translating longer
passages or individual words give suYcient indication that Gellius
thought some things were best left in Greek and at the same time
believed that Roman authors like Vergil could translate with real
Xair or could fall Xat.127
It is knowledge of Greek that is crucial. Symptomatic of this is
the development of the word opicus. In origin this was an ethnic, an
early form of Oscus. But a fragment of Cato the Elder makes it clear
that it was used by Greeks to disparage Romans.128 It then de-
veloped the sense of a Roman who failed to understand Greek.
Gellius quotes this usage from Cicero’s freedman, Tiro (13. 9. 4).
Philodemus’ use of the word (in Greek) is comparable.129 This
sense was current among second-century intellectuals (Juvenal,
Terentius Scaurus, Fronto, Marcus, Gellius).130 Gellius calls his
His quotation from Plato is the longest piece of continuous Greek in the Nights.
Similarly 9. 3. 5–6 (a letter attributed to Philip of Macedon). The story of
Arion at 16. 19 is a very free paraphrase of Herodotus; cf. Fronto’s declamation on
the same theme, pp. 241–2, with G. Anderson, below, 108---11.
Cf. 2. 23 (lengthy evaluation of Caecilius Statius’ unsucessful version of
Menander, with adverse judgement on Roman comedy in general, cf. Quint. Inst.
10. 1. 99–100; Fögen, Patrii sermonis egestas, 194–6); 9. 9 (Vergil); 11. 16
ºı æƪ
 , with praise of Greek’s terseness at §9; Fögen 210–11); 16. 8
(I øÆ); 18. 13. 5 (examples of sophismata); 18. 14 (‘absurd’ to invent Latin
terms for hemiolios or epitritos; NB the MSS transliterate, but perhaps Greek script
should be restored; cf. 1. 20. 9); 19. 2. 2 (IŒºÆ
); 20. 5. 13 (ı ).
Cato, De medicina fr. 1 (Pliny, NH 29. 14) nos quoque dictitant barbaros et
spurcius nos quam alios Opicon appellatione foedant. On the development of the ethnic
(Opicus>Opscus>Oscus see O. Skutsch on Ennius, Ann. 291 (pp. 469–70 of his
AP 5. 132. 7 ‘if she is an Opikeˆ and called Flora and cannot sing Sappho’.
Juvenal, Sat. 3. 207; Scaurus, De orthogr., GL vii. 23. 2; Fronto, Ep. M. Caes. 2.
2. 8, p. 21. 15 (cf. above, 22), Marcus ap. Fronto, Ep. M. Caes. 2. 11. 2, p. 31. 6; the
reading at Ep. M. Caes. 3. 6 (p. 39. 19) is very insecure. At Juvenal, Sat. 6. 455 female
language, but not speciWcally Greek, is at issue. The same usage occurs three
centuries later in Sidonius Apollinaris, Ep. 8. 3. 1 (his ‘barbarian transcription’ of
Philostratus’ Apollonius). But in Ausonius, where the word is used several times,
Bilingualism and Biculturalism 39

fellow-students ‘opici’ in jest: ‘why don’t you barbarians . . . ?’,

and at 11. 16. 7 he applies it to a man who had failed to grasp his
explanation of
ºı æƪ
  (cf. §2: the man is ‘ignorant of
Greek language and literature’). This humour is not without sign-
iWcance. In the grammarian Scaurus there is contempt for someone
who cannot follow his explanation of aspirated words in Greek. In
Fronto there is tension, in Marcus self-irony. Gellius’ attitude is
relaxed towards his companions. But the ignorant man was plainly
annoying: he is one of the ‘profane crowd’ to whom Gellius applies
the words of Aristophanes at the end of his Preface. Not to under-
stand Greek was not to belong.

The picture which emerges from Gellius is that of a man who

believed fervently in the association of culture and morality.
Knowledge of language and literature was the key expression of
this. When the grammarian Aelius Melissus published a book
‘within my memory’ with the ‘hugely attractive title’ of On Correct
Language, ‘who would regard himself as qualiWed to speak cor-
rectly and properly unless he had learned Melissus’ correct mean-
ings (proprietates)?’ (18. 6. 1–3). When Melissus had made a
mistake (as he had), who could fail to be disappointed?131 It is in
the nature of grammarians to pronounce on correct speech and
correct spelling (Scaurus’ De orthographia). But the interest of a
wider public in such matters—Gellius’ readers—implies a wide
concern about the role of language. But what role? As has been
remarked, Fronto, Gellius, and Apuleius oVer insuYcient evi-
dence of a widespread linguistic movement. In any case, trying to
look at things in terms of Greek purism is the wrong way to go
about it. Rather, Gellius and the others are concerned to demon-
state their command of all Roman culture and its transmission
through literature. This includes early Latin (the ueteres); but it
certainly does not stop with these authors. Their understanding of
the Latin language in its full development gave them the right in
their own eyes to innovate extensively. We should assume that they
would have been happy for those as cultured and as literary as
themselves to do the same. Tertullian has been seen as one of their
natural heirs in this regard.132 As the Wrst Latin churchman, he

the sense ranges from ‘obsolete’ to ‘indulging in oral sex’: see J. N. Adams,
‘An Epigram’, 100, 109 on the genital alphabet of Ep. 87.
Other good examples of Gellius confronting the experts: 6. 3, 6. 17, 13. 31, 14.
6, 15. 9.
Steinmetz, Untersuchungen, 231, 374.
40 Simon Swain

was trying in part to establish an intellectual Latin lexicon for the

new religion. This lexicon had perforce to contain and naturalize
Greek terminology.133 This is a further stage in the process of
Sprachanschluß that began with Republican authors and was con-
tinued by Fronto, Gellius, and Apuleius. All these men needed
Greek to show they possessed culture. They needed it to enrich
Latin as necessary. They needed it as an alternative register (for
technical subjects, the aVections, awkward or problematical rela-
tions). They needed to be in control of it in an era when the Greek
language was again at the height of its powers.
Favorinus and Marcus Aurelius (Meditations) are the most
striking surviving examples of Latin speakers making extensive
use of Greek at this time. But we should not forget Claudius Aelian
in the early decades of the next century. His two surviving miscel-
lanies, the Varia historia and De natura animalium, not to mention
his Letters of Farmers, would have excited the scorn of Gellius. In
them he makes bold claims for his choice of language (Atticizing
Greek) and his ability to sustain it (Nat. An. pr. ad Wn., epil. ad
Wn.; Letter 20 ad Wn.). Yet Aelian was exceptional. More interest-
ing is evidence for the continuing acceptability of Greek code-
switching in Latin in the same generation from the great jurist
Ulpian.134 Ulpian may have been a descendant of Roman or Italian
merchants. If his family were ‘Greek’, then he is the Wrst writer
from the Greek East whose political choices led him to write in
Latin. Whatever the case, he clearly expects his Latin readers to
know suYcient Greek to understand his switches and, more
importantly, to accept them as normal. There are in fact a very
few examples of code-switches in earlier jurists and a couple
immediately after Ulpian. But Ulpian’s usage is far more exten-
sive, with thirty-eight examples. This should perhaps be
connected with his conscious attempt to promote Roman law in
the new environment of the Constitutio Antoniniana. It may well
show that he was in fact a Greek speaker who failed to appreciate
the constraints on Greek in Latin public discourse (law). It also
shows an appreciation that Greek was a natural part of Latin
speech and that display of a Greek identity, far from being intru-
sive, was a sine qua non of the highest Roman culture. This is
something Gellius’ age understood perfectly.
See esp. Against the Valentinians 6 on the futility of translating Valentinus’
technical terms. Cf. Adv. Praxean 3. 3 ‘si quid utriusque linguae praecerpsi’. For
Tertullian’s innovative graphical procedures to aid Greekless readers see Adv. Val.
6. 2 with J.-C. Fredouille, edn. ii. 216–17.
T. Honoré, Ulpian, 90–2.
Gellius and Fronto on Loanwords
and Literary Models
Their Evaluation of Laberius
A l es sa n dr o Ga r ce a an d Va l er ia L om a nt o

In this chapter we shall focus on ch. 19. 13 of the Noctes Atticae,

where Fronto investigates the origin of the word nanus (§1). In his
analysis, Gellius recalls the linguistic categories of Latinus, Grae-
cus, barbarus, whose theoretical grounds we shall clarify (§2). After
considering the Latin texts where nanus occurs (§3), we shall
speciWcally discuss the case of Laberius, an author on whom Gel-
lius and Fronto have a diVerent opinion. We shall complete our
analysis with the study of the references to Laberius in the Noctes
Atticae (§4).

1. the hesitation of fronto between nanvs

and p v m i l i o (gellius 19. 1 3 . 1–2)
In Noctes Atticae 19. 13 Fronto (test. 9, p. 265. 3–14 v:d:H:2 )
doubts the Latinity of nanus, suspecting it to be a sordidum . . .
uerbum et barbarum. To nanus Fronto prefers the native term
pumilio, which is attested in the works of early writers. As Fronto
is not sure of his choice, he asks his friends, who are waiting with
him to pay the emperor their respects in the salutatio Caesaris:
C. Sulpicius Apollinaris, regarded by Gellius as an outstanding
grammarian, teacher of the future emperor Pertinax in the early
140s (HA Pert. 1. 4), and M. Postumius Festus, an orator of
Numidian origin, equally Xuent in Greek and Latin (cf. CIL vi.
1416 oratorem utraque facundia maximum).

We wish to thank Leofranc Holford-Strevens for discussing a previous version of

this paper.
42 Alessandro Garcea, Valeria Lomanto
1. Stabant forte una in uestibulo Palatii fabulantes Fronto Cornelius et
Festus Postumius et Apollinaris Sulpicius, atque ego ibi adsistens cum
quibusdam aliis sermones eorum, quos de litterarum disciplinis habebant,
curiosius captabam. 2. Tum Fronto Apollinari ‘fac me’ inquit ‘oro, magi-
ster, ut sim certus, an recte supersederim ‘‘nanos’’ dicere parua nimis
statura homines maluerimque eos ‘‘pumiliones’’ appellare, quoniam hoc
scriptum esse in libris ueterum memineram, ‘‘nanos’’ autem sordidum
esse uerbum et barbarum credebam.’
The term pumilio represents a sort of hyperonym for human,
animal, and vegetable varieties of dwarfs. In his Natural History,
Pliny, who had described Conopas as a minimus man and implicitly
Andromeda as a minima woman during the reign of Augustus
(7. 75), notes that there are dwarf kinds (pumiliones) of birds like
hens (10. 156), and, more generally, of all species of animals
(11. 260). Later on, he speaks of the pollard plane called chamae-
platanus, lit. ‘ground-plane’, stunted in height and belonging to
the genus pumilionum (12. 13). Finally, he describes the methods of
making a vine slow to fruit, shrivelled, and knotty, ‘with the
growth natural to dwarfs’ (pumilionum incremento 17. 176). The
use of pumilio with reference to human beings, lacking in Pliny,
occurs in Lucretius’ De rerum natura, which can be identiWed,
according to the present evidence, with the libri ueterum mentioned
by Fronto. While showing that love makes people blind to the
faults of the beloved, the poet quotes some examples of the ancient
topos of euphemistic terms of endearment and, more generally, of
the psychological mechanism of changing the objective reality in
bonam partem (4. 1160–70).1 A squat, dwarWsh woman (pumilio)
appears in the eye of her lover as one of the Graces, as the very soul
of wit: paruula pumilio ‘chariton mia’ ‘tota merum sal’ (4. 1162).
The reference to Lucretius is consistent with Fronto’s ideas on
style, according to which Lucretius is a linguistic model. Using
metaphorical expressions, Fronto conceives his literary theory in
three stages: the genus humile of mutterers (murmurantes), and two
levels of genus sublime, i.e. the lower, represented by the mugitus of
Ennius, Accius, and Lucretius, and the higher, represented by the
tuba of Cato, Gracchus, Cicero, and Sallust (De eloq. 4. 4, p. 148.

See the description of the behaviour of the I cæ KæøØŒ towards the ÆE in
Plato, Rep. 474 d 7–475 a 2 and Ovid’s imitation, Ars 2. 657–62; other examples of
Xattering terms applied to unattractive characteristics are found in the Hellenistic
handbook —æd Iæ
Ø ø by Philaenis (P. Oxy. 2891 fr. 3. 5–9); Theocr. 10. 26–37;
Hor. Serm. 1. 3. 38–67; Asclepiades, AP 5. 210. See R. Verdière, ‘L’euphémisme
Loanwords and Literary Models 43

8–11 v:d:H:2 ).2 Fronto also expresses similar evaluations in a sort

of canon of ueteres who have operated dilectus uerborum. They
should be imitated, because their long-neglected language may
suggest insperata atque inopinata uerba, i.e. unconventional words:
Wherefore few indeed of our old writers have surrendered themselves to
that toil, pursuit, and hazard of seeking out words with especial diligence.
M. Porcius alone of the orators of all time, and his constant imitator C.
Sallustius, are among these; of poets Plautus especially, and most espe-
cially Q. Ennius and his zealous rival L. Coelius, not to omit Naevius and
Lucretius, Accius too, and Caecilius, also Laberius. Besides these, certain
other writers are noticeable for choiceness in special spheres, as Novius,
Pomponius and their like in rustic and jocular and comic words, Atta in
women’s talk, Sisenna in erotics, Lucilius in the technical language of each
art and business. (Ep. M. Caes. 4. 3. 2, pp. 56. 18–57. 4 v:d:H:2 , tr. C. R.
Haines, i. 5.)
The imitation of ancient authors, pursued by Fronto and Gellius3
in order to give new vitality and meaningfulness to the literary
language, must not hinder the perspicuity of communication. Both
the former (ibid. §3, p. 57. 24–7 v:d:H:2 ) and the latter (11. 7. 3)
think that the unsuitable use of archaisms, without clarity or
reWnement, betrays incomplete (semidoctus) or belatedly acquired
learning (OłØÆŁ Æ) respectively. Such inadequate messages should
be replaced by common, even trite, expressions.
Gellius agrees with his master Fronto on the theoretical aspects of
his literary doctrine, but, as we shall see, he makes his own independ-
ent assessment of the authors to be imitated. The case of Laberius,
the Wrst to use the word nanus, is exemplary of this attitude.

2. the categories of l a t i n v s g r a e c v s
barbarvs ( gellius 19. 1 3 . 3 a )
In his answer to Fronto, Apollinaris admits that the word nanus
belongs to the sermo uulgaris. Yet he speciWes that it is not a

See the commentary by A. Pennacini, La funzione dell’arcaismo, 109–11 (mis-
interpreted by M. P. J. van den Hout, Commentary, 350–1) and P. Soverini, ‘Aspetti
e problemi’, 936–7. Fronto also proposes a quadripartite division of the genera
dicendi (gracilis, aridus, sublimis, mediocris), where Lucretius is deWned as sublimis
(De eloq. 1. 2, p. 133. 12 v:d:H:2 ). On the evaluation of Lucretius by Fronto, see
R. Poignault, ‘Lucrèce’, 179–83.
On the theoretical problem of archaism from Caes. Anal. fr. 2 Funaioli to Gell.
1. 10 (the source of this fragment), see V. Lomanto, ‘Cesare e la teoria del-
l’eloquenza’, 57–64; on Fronto, see also Soverini, ‘Aspetti e problemi’, 955–63.
44 Alessandro Garcea, Valeria Lomanto

barbarous word, but a Greek one (< A

): it occurs
in literary works such as Aristophanes’ comedy The Cargo
Boats ( ˇºŒ; fr. 441 Kassel–Austin), and—according to an
etymological principle—its brief extent is consistent with its
small referent.
‘Est quidem’ inquit ‘hoc’ Apollinaris ‘in consuetudine inperiti uulgi fre-
quens, sed barbarum non est censeturque linguae Graecae origine; 
enim Graeci uocauerunt breui atque humili corpore homines paulum
supra terram exstantes idque ita dixerunt adhibita quadam ratione etymo-
logiae cum sententia uocabuli competente et, si memoria’ inquit ‘mihi non
labat, scriptum hoc est in comoedia Aristophanis, cui nomen est  ˇºŒ.’
The Greek origin of nanus is already attested in Varro, LL 5. 119,
where a jar shaped as a bearded dwarf is named nanus cum Graeco
nomine et cum Latino nomine . . . barbatus (see also Fest. 184. 25–7
L., where the Latin name of the same object is pumilio, and CGL ii.
28. 22 bardatus 
 e ŒF
). What is interesting in Apollinaris’
answer is the opposition between uerba Graeca and uerba barbara,
according to what is a conventional antithesis within Greek cul-
ture. The Greeks considered anyone who was not a Greek as a
barbarian, including the Romans (cf. Fest. 32. 14–15 barbari dice-
bantur antiquitus omnes gentes, exceptis Graecis).4 This viewpoint
was adopted by the Romans themselves in ethnic as well as in
linguistic terms. For the former, note Plautus’ description of Nae-
vius as poeta barbarus (Mil. 211);5 for the latter, the contrast
between Graecus and barbarus, the later designating Latin, can
already be found in the expression uortit barbare of Plautus (Trin.
19; Asin. 11) and is still current in Cic. Orat. 160. Here the author
criticizes the reproduction of Greek phonemes in Latin nominal
inXection (in barbaris casibus Graecam litteram adhibere).6
Soon, however, the employment of grammatical Greek patterns
for the description of Latin linguistic structures admitted the
See e.g. H. Diller, ‘Die Hellenen-Barbaren-Antithese’ and E. Lévy, ‘Nais-
sance’. In Greece, the deviations from the standard language are represented in
Plato’s Cratylus as  ØŒ (forms not belonging to Attic) and foreign words not
understandable by Greek speakers (ÆæÆæØŒ). See B. Rochette, ‘Les  ØŒ et les
ÆæÆæØŒa O ÆÆ’, 95–7. Aristotle, in ch. 22 of his Poetics, recommends grandeur
and avoidance of the ordinary in style. These qualities can be achieved by employing
unusual words ( ØŒ): however, their presence in the ºØ must not be excessive, in
order to avoid ÆY تÆ, i.e. surfeit of metaphors, and ÆæÆæØ, i.e. excess of foreign
terms (1458a 18–31). See R. Dupont-Roc and J. Lallot, edn. 357–60.
Cf. PF 32. 15–16. Whereas J. C. Dumont, ‘Plaute’, 70 considers Plautus’ line as
a ‘dérision des préjugés grecs de supériorité’, F. Desbordes, ‘Latinitas’, 38 observes
that Plautus ‘présente le point de vue des Grecs, non pas forcément qu’il l’assume’.
Cf. also Cic. Rep. 1. 58 (Romulus rules over ‘barbarian’ speakers).
Loanwords and Literary Models 45

theory that Latin was a kind of Greek,7 speciWcally a sort of Aeolic

dialect. Both Greek grammarians living and teaching in Rome
(Hypsicrates of Amysos, Philoxenus of Alexandria, Terentius
Tyrannio, Claudius Didymus, L. Ateius Praetextatus Philologus)
and native Latin grammarians (Santra, Clodius Tuscus, Cloatius
Verus) wrote on this subject between the beginning of the Wrst
century bc and the middle of the Wrst century ad.8 Varro, who
criticizes his master Aelius Stilo for systematically explaining
Latin words only out of other Latin words, does not on the other
hand follow the opposite ‘Hellenizing’ explanation. He points out,
however, some speciWc features common to ‘Aeolic’ and Latin:9
(1) the preservation of the Aeolic digamma = in the Latin semi-
consonant /w/ (a phenomenon typical of Cypriot and Pam-
phylian): =Øƺ > uitulus (LL 5. 96), = æÆ > uesper (LL
6. 6), æ
=ØE > prouidere (LL 6. 96); see also Priscian, Inst.,
GL ii. 15. 1–5, who quotes Varro’s opinion (fr. 71 Goetz–
Schöll ¼ 270, pp. 291–2 Funaioli) and Didymus fr. 1, p. 447
Funaioli on the identity of Aeolic = with Latin /w/;
(2) barytonesis, a phenomenon occurring in Asiatic Aeolic:
puteus< Aeolic 

; LL 5. 24–5);
> ı with nasal or labial voiceless consonant (see point 2);
typical of Aeolic and Arcado-Cypriot;
(4) the preservation of ancient  Æ (which excludes the Ionic–Attic
dialect): Aº
> malum (LL 5. 102).
Another similarity between ‘Aeolic’ and Latin is pointed out by
Philoxenus, who notices the absence of the dual in the nominal
inXection of both languages (fr. 323 Theodoridis ¼ Choerobosc.
In Theod., GG iv. 2. 34. 4–9).10 As we can understand from all these
phenomena, the concept of ‘Aeolic’ in these authors is an extended
See M. Dubuisson, ‘Le latin’, 67: ‘on peut considérer comme au moins
probable que l’élaboration de la théorie de l’origine éolienne du latin, indispensable
complément à la légende de l’origine grecque de Rome, fut l’œuvre des grammai-
riens grecs et romains de l’entourage de Pompée, suscités et encouragés par celui-ci’.
See T. Cupaiuolo, La teoria della derivazione, and R. Giomini, ‘Il grammatico
See G. Pascucci, ‘Le componenti linguistiche’, 356–8; F. Cavazza, Studio su
Varrone, 88–97; D. Briquel, ‘La conception du latin’, 1035–7; further observations
in K. Schöpsdau, ‘Vergleiche zwischen Lateinisch und Griechisch’, 117–21.
The fragment of Philoxenus which seems to make a connection between the
weakening of /g/ in Aeolic and the evolution of  -gy-> -iy-> -i- in Latin (fr. 11,
p. 446 Funaioli ¼Etym. Gud. p. 377 Sturz: Ø
 . . . KΠ
 i.e. maiesta-
tis) is not retained in C. Theodoridis’ edn. (Die Fragmente, 49–50), because the
sentence غ
 . . . Ææ `N
ºFØ ªæÆc Øa 
F NHÆ is declared to be a gloss
arising from fr. 542 (dealing with the allographs ªØæ
46 Alessandro Garcea, Valeria Lomanto

one: it is the language of diVerent people who at various times

departed from Latium (Siculi: Varro, LL 5. 101 lepus > º
or entered it (Pelasgi: Varro in Macr. Sat. 1. 7. 28–30; Evander’s
Arcadians, Hercules’ Argei: Varro, LL 5. 21, 45). This hypothesis
is parallel to, and probably convergent with, the annalistic tradition
of the Arcadian origin of Rome, as found in the fragments of Fabius
Pictor (1, p. 2 Funaioli ¼ 1, p. 5 Peter2 ), Cincius Alimentus (p. 2
Funaioli ¼ 1, p. 40 Peter2 ) and Cn. Gellius (2, p. 120 Funaioli ¼ 3,
p. 148 Peter2 ).11
Consequently, Greek and Latin form a pair frequently con-
sidered as a sort of unity, utraque lingua,12 while the word ‘barbar-
ian’ represents a tertium genus, including all other languages. Even
when Greek is incorporated in the domain of peregrinitas, as is the
case with the taxonomy of Quintilian, Inst. 1. 5. 55–8 (where Latin
and foreign words are diVerentiated: §55 uerba aut Latina aut
peregrina sunt), a special relationship between Greek and Latin is
nevertheless underlined. Greek loanwords are so many—Quintil-
ian claims—because Latin is derived from Greek and it also
borrows Greek terms when it lacks its own. The contributions
from diVerent languages, on the other hand, constitute a distinct,
composite ‘barbarian’ group.13
Increasing linguistic awareness among Latin grammarians is
indicated by the fact that, having at Wrst been deWned as a variety
of Greek, Latin eventually becomes the theoretical focus, in relation

See E. Gabba, ‘Il latino come dialetto greco’, 190: ‘È abbastanza chiaro in
primo luogo che la teoria del latino come dialetto eolico è collegata alla partizione
linguistica delle stirpi greche, riferita da Strabone ma certamente derivata dall’in-
dagine dialettologica dell’età alessandrina; in secondo luogo che essa è stata origi-
nariamente elaborata non sulla base di una qualsiasi indagine linguistica, ma come
conseguenza e riXesso di una teoria ‘‘storica’’ largamente accettata, vale a dire
dell’origine ‘‘arcadica’’ di Roma.’ On the role of Evander in the transmission of
the Greek alphabet to the Romans, see A. Garcea, ‘César et l’alphabet’, 159–60.
See M. Dubuisson, ‘Vtraque lingua’; Desbordes, ‘Latinitas’, 37. L. A. Hol-
ford-Strevens, ‘Vtraque lingua doctus’ gives a great number of important examples
of Greek knowledge of Latin as well as Roman knowledge of Greek.
According to Quintilian, Etruscan, Sabine, and Praenestine words can be
considered as Roman ones. Some Gaulish words, such as raeda ‘four-wheeled
travelling-carriage’, used by Cicero (cf. Mil. 28–9; Phil. 2. 58; Att. 5. 17. 1; 6. 1.
25) and petorritum ‘open four-wheeled carriage’, used by Horace (cf. Serm. 1. 6. 104;
Ep. 2. 1. 192), are also well established. Quintilian also mentions the Punic mappa
‘table-napkin’ and the Hispanic gurdus ‘blockhead, dolt’ (see infra, §4 and n. 55). On
this passage, see B. Rochette, ‘Latinitas—peregrinitas’, 104–5 and R. Müller,
Sprachbewußtsein, 44; on petorritum, see Gell. 15. 30, who quotes Varro’s Antiqui-
tates rerum diuinarum (§7: fr. 203 Cardauns ¼ 133, p. 236 Funaioli) in support of the
Gaulish origin of the term.
Loanwords and Literary Models 47

to which all other languages are diVerentiated.14 Thus the tripar-

tite pattern Latinus, Graecus, barbarus, which also occurs in ethnic-
cultural hyperboles,15 is now systematized in the grammatical
tradition, where Latin at all linguistic levels undergoes a triparti-
On the phonographematic level, for example, Diomedes (GL i.
426. 8–10) considers that the sign < z >, designating /z/, has been
introduced from Greek into Latin in order to transcribe both
Greek (e.g. Zenon, Zacynthus) and ‘barbarian’ words (e.g. Mezen-
tius, gaza). Moreover, according to Cassiodorus (in Eutych. GL
vii. 199. 13–15), both Greek (e.g. Halys, Hĕcuba, Hēgio, Hieron,
Hŏmerus, hymen, hōra, Thybris, Phoebus, chorus) and ‘barbarian’
(e.g. Rhenus, Hannibal) forms preserve the original aspiration in
On the morphophonemic level, Varro (fr. 113 Goetz–Schöll ¼ 243,
p. 269 Funaioli) had already classiWed syllables as Greek (e.g.
hymnos, Zenon) or ‘barbarian’ (e.g. gaza) depending on language
of origin.16 Moreover, the norms ruling Latin accent do not apply
to interjections, i.e. marginal elements of lexicon, and loanwords.
But, while a barbarum nomen uel uerbum aliquod peregrinum takes an
arbitrary accent, non-integrated Graeca uerba save their original
accent (cf. Explan. GL iv. 483. 29–34).17
On the morphological level, the tripartition Latinum, Graecum,
barbarum applies to both variable and invariable forms. Priscian’s
Institutiones grammaticae oVer the most systematic treatment of
nominal inXection of barbarian words, according to their ending
in the nominative. He not only lists diVerent typologies (e.g. GL ii.
222. 1–4 on forms ending in -ar: Latin Caesar, Greek nectar,
‘barbarian’ Aspar, Bostar), but also illustrates some peculiarities
of the barbarian terms. For example, commenting on the toponyms
Suthul and Muthul, Priscian prefers to consider them as communia,
rather than neuter, because Punic, like Chaldaean, Hebrew, and
Syriac, lacks this gender (GL ii. 147. 18–148. 3). He adds that
barbarian words end frequently in phonological clusters which

See M. Baratin, La Naissance de la syntaxe, 350–8.
See e.g. Cic. Fin. 2. 49 a quo [sc. Epicuro] non solum Graecia et Italia, sed etiam
omnis barbaria commota est; Diu. 1. 84 si Graeci, si barbari, si maiores etiam nostri;
Juvenal 10. 138 Romanus Graiusque et barbarus induperator; Quint. Inst. 5. 10. 24 nec
idem [sc. mos] in barbaro, Romano, Graeco.
See J. Collart, Varron grammairien, 73–5.
See also Diomedes, GL i. 433. 31–4; [Prisc.] Acc., GL iii. 520. 23–5; Donatus,
Mai. 610. 9–10 Holtz; Cledonius, GL v. 33. 18–20; Jul. Tol. 172. 60–4 Maestre
48 Alessandro Garcea, Valeria Lomanto

are foreign to Latin and Greek and diYcult to adapt to Latin

inXectional classes (GL ii. 148. 7–12: e.g. Abraham, Ioachim, Loth,
Ruth, Iacob, David, Balac). This kind of problem was already
discussed by Varro, who attests to a polemic between Crates and
Aristarchus (LL 8. 64–5). The latter explained the invariability of
the uocabula litterarum, both in Greek and Latin, by their barbar-
ian, Chaldaean, origin (§64 non esse uocabula nostra, sed penitus
barbara). Varro agrees with this opinion in a fragment of his De
antiquitate litterarum (fr. 40 Goetz–Schöll ¼ 1, pp. 183–4 Funaioli):
the characters’ names cannot be adapted to the system of Latin
cases because they reproduce their original form in Chaldaean.
The taxonomy of linguistic units in three species hides their
diVerent contribution to the overall system of the Latin language.
In the vast corpus of the grammatici Latini, only barbarian proper
nouns18 are taken into account and admitted. On the other hand,
barbarian common nouns are generally proscribed as errors in
speech in chapters de uitiis et uirtutibus orationis, where the external

Barbara nomina ending in -al: Adherbal, (H)Annibal, (H)Asdrubal, Hamil-
car, Hiempsal, Mastanabal (Charis. 24. 24–6, 29–32, 44. 6–8 Barwick; Anon. Bob.
14. 8–12 De Nonno; Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 2. 147. 7–8, 214. 8–10, 312. 14–16; [Prisc.]
Acc., GL iii. 523. 8–9; [Probus] Cath., GL iv. 8. 27–9; Phocas, 9. 1, p. 35. 2–3
Casaceli; Sacerdos, GL vi. 473. 24–6; Martyr. GL vii. 187. 11–16); in -ar: Arar,
Aspar, Bostar, Hamilcar (Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 149. 14–150. 6; 222. 1–4; 313. 12–14); in
-co: Sic(c)o, Franco ([Probus], Cath., GL iv. 9. 37–10. 1; Sacerdos, GL vi. 475. 8–9);
in -ēl : Michael, Gabriel, Abel, Nechamel, Daniel, Samuel, Isdrahel (Prisc. Inst., GL
ii. 147. 11–12; 214. 15; 312. 19–20; Sacerdos, GL vi. 473. 27–9); in -es: Tigranes,
Mithridates, Ariobarzanes (Prisc. Nom. 5. 10–13); in -on: Rubicon, Saxon ([Probus],
Cath., GL iv. 9. 12–18; Sacerdos, GL vi. 474. 18–19); in -ul: Suthul, Muthul (Charis.
30. 22, 44. 6–8 Barwick; Anon. Bob. 19. 14–15 De Nonno; Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 147.
18–148. 3; [Probus], Cath., GL iv. 8. 29–30; Sacerdos, GL vi. 473. 26–7); other
forms: Abodlas (Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 42. 15–16); Abraham (Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 148.
7–12); Aizi (Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 205. 6–7); Artabazes ([Probus] Cath., GL iv. 31.
17–18; Sacerdos, GL vi. 481. 25–6); Atax (Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 164. 6–7; 166. 24–167.
2); Balac (Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 148. 10); Berzobim (Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 205. 6–7);
Bocchus (Martyr. GL vii. 172. 6–8); Bogud (Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 146. 18–19; 213.
14–214. 2); Brixo ([Probus] Cath., GL iv. 11. 10–11); David (Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 148.
10); Heriul ([Prisc.] Acc., GL iii. 523. 14); Iacob (Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 148. 9); Iliturgi
(Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 205. 5–6); Ioachim (Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 148. 9); Loth (Prisc. Inst.,
GL ii. 148. 9); Massiua (Martyr. GL vii. 172. 8–11, 4–10); Muluccha (Prisc. Inst.,
GL ii. 201. 15–17; Phocas 5. 2, p. 32. 20–1 Casaceli); Ormizas ([Probus] Cath., GL
iv. 31. 16–17; Sacerdos, GL vi. 481. 23–4); Pharnax (Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 279. 5–8);
Ruth (Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 148. 9); Tanaquil (Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 214. 16); Tharros
([Probus] Cath., GL iv. 22. 25–7); Turia (Cledon., GL v. 41. 24; Phocas 5. 2, p. 32.
20–1 Casaceli); Volux (Prisc. Inst., GL ii. 166. 24–167. 2, 279. 5–6); Zidar ([Probus],
Cath., GL iv. 13. 24). Outside the few examples of barbarolexis, the only ‘barbarian’
common noun quoted in the corpus of grammatici Latini is nap(h)t(h)a(s) ([Probus]
Cath., GL iv. 22. 21–2, 29. 4–6, 30. 15–17; Sacerdos, GL vi. 480. 3–5, 481. 19–21).
Loanwords and Literary Models 49

opposition Latin/barbarian gives way to the internal opposition

Latin/barbarism.19 Quintilian, at Inst. 1. 5. 7–10,20 proposes a
tripartite classiWcation of such phenomena: one type is the ethnic
word (§8), another comes from an insolent or vulgar way of speak-
ing (§9), a third consists in the addition (addictio), omission (omis-
sio), substitution (immutatio), or transposition (transmutatio) of a
letter or a syllable (§10). The Wrst type is exempliWed by loanwords
such as the Gaulish cantus ‘iron tyre of a wheel’, used by Persius 5.
71, and ploxenum ‘carriage body’, used by Catullus 97. 6, casamo
(¼adsectator?), used by Labienus or Cornelius Gallus, and the
Sardinian mastruca ‘heavy cloak’, used by Cic. Scaur. 45h Clark
¼ 45d Olechowska. This last term also occurs among the examples
that Latin grammarians, following Donatus, derive from classical
authors in order to illustrate the phenomenon of barbarolexis.21
They conceive the use of a term which is neither indigenous nor
derived from Greek as a threat to the correct usage of their lan-
guage, i.e. Roman Latin.22 Their examples are given below:
(1) acinaces ‘Persian short sword’ (Hor. Carm. 1. 27. 5; Curt. 4.
15. 30; V.Fl. 6. 701; Tac. Ann. 12. 51);23

See Desbordes, ‘Latinitas’, 39.
See R. Vainio, Latinitas and Barbarisms, 25–6, 87–8, 131.
See Donatus, Mai. 653. 2–4 Holtz; Pompeius, GL v. 284. 20–8; Jul. Tol. 179.
13–18 Maestre Yenes; Consentius, Barb. 2. 6–10, 19. 9–16 Niedermann. Holtz, edn.
of Donatus, 150 comments upon these passages: ‘ce n’est pas n’importe quels mots
barbares qui sont cités, mais uniquement des termes qui ont pour eux l’auctori-
tas . . . Ces exemples sont classiques depuis longtemps . . . ’. See also the deWni-
tions of barbarolexis in Cominianus quoted by Charis. 350. 4–6 Barwick; Diom. GL
i. 451. 30–2; Serv. Mai., GL iv. 444. 7–8; Audax, GL vii. 361. 19–21; Isid. Etym. 1.
32. 2. The Wrst occurrence of the term barbarolexis (cf. TLL ii. 1735. 14–23) is found
in the 3rd-c. grammar attributed to Sacerdos (GL vi. 451. 4–15): according to this
text, ‘if a word—either a Latin or a Greek one—was corrupted by an element from
another language, this was a barbarolexis, a barbarous way of writing the word’
(Vainio, Latinitas and Barbarisms, 91). From Charisius on the term barbarolexis no
longer refers to Greek words. Holtz, edn. of Donatus, 137 rightly observes: ‘Il est
vraisemblable que le sens premier de ÆæÆæØ [i.e. language where foreign words
have penetrated] survit dans barbarolexis ( æÆæ
 ºØ), terme qui lui-même
suppose la linguistique stoı̈cienne.’
As R. Coleman (‘Quintilian 1. 6’, 917) rightly observes, ‘Hellēnismós embraced
certain dialects outside Attic that enjoyed considerable and long established cultural
and political prestige [ . . . ], Latinitas by contrast was identiWed expressly with
Roman Latin.’ This is also the reason why Latin grammarians do not take into
consideration ‘regional’ loanwords, i.e. ‘the transfer of local terms belonging to
other languages into the Latin’ of diVerent areas of the Empire (see J. N. Adams,
Bilingualism, 443).
This word also occurs in a list of peregrina uerba by Consentius (Ars, GL
v. 364. 8–15): Gallic mannus, Persian acinacis and gaza, Punic tubur.
50 Alessandro Garcea, Valeria Lomanto

(2) cateia ‘curved missile’ (Verg. Aen. 7. 741 with DS ad loc.,

V. Fl. 6. 83; Sil. 3. 277; Gell. 10. 25. 2; cf. also Isid. Etym. 18.
7. 7);
(3) dellas ‘reed-grass, sedge’: Augustine, GL v. 496. 10;
(4) magalia ‘huts, tents’ (Hem. Hist. 38; Verg. Aen. 1. 421 with
DS ad loc., Aen. 4. 259 with. Serv. ad loc.; Liv. 41. 27. 12; cf.
also Char. 37. 8–9 Barwick; Isid. Etym. 15. 12. 4);24
(5) mastruca (cf. Isid. Etym. 19. 23. 5).

3. vulgarisms and disdain for laberius

( gellius 19. 13. 3b–5)
Apollinaris’ contrast between Latina and peregrina uerba explains
why Fronto hesitates to use the term nanus without knowing its
origin: he risks making an error of barbarolexis. In his answer,
Apollinaris not only quotes a reference showing the Greek origin
of nanus, but also acknowledges in his friend the right that Pom-
ponius Porcellus had denied to the emperor Tiberius, i.e. that of
conferring Roman or at least Latin citizenship upon every word he
uses. Anyway, nanus is considered a much less vulgar word than
those introduced into the Latin language by Laberius.
Fuisset autem uerbum hoc a te ciuitate donatum aut in Latinam coloniam
deductum, si tu eo uti dignatus fores, essetque id inpendio probabilius,
quam quae a Laberio ignobilia nimis et sordentia in usum linguae Latinae
intromissa sunt.
The theoretical assumption underlying the praise of Fronto by
Apollinaris is that correct linguistic usage must be evaluated
through the criterion of auctoritas, i.e. the warrant of the presti-
gious authors of Latin literature. In comparison with the deWnition
of Latinitas given by Varro (fr. 115 Goetz–Schöll ¼ 268, pp. 289–
90 Funaioli), where the four parameters of natura, analogia, con-
suetudo, auctoritas are mentioned, only the last one (the literary
tradition) is maintained in the Noctes Atticae, to the detriment of
linguistic system and common linguistic habits.25 According to
this theoretical pattern, in the concluding sections of Noctes Atti-
cae 19. 13, an anonymous grammarian is asked by Postumius

See D. Lippi, ‘Magalia’.
On the parameters of Latinitas in Varro and Quintilian, see V. Lomanto, ‘Il
sistema del sermo Latinus’ and Coleman, ‘Quintilian 1. 6’; on their reception by
Gellius, see F. Cavazza, ‘Gellio e i canoni (varroniani?)’ and A. Garcea, ‘Gellio e la
dialettica’, 189–94.
Loanwords and Literary Models 51

whether nanus, commonly26 applied to small mules and ponies, is

correct in Latin, and which authors have made use of it. In his
reply, the anonymous grammarian recalls some lines of Helvius
Cinna (fr. 9, p. 221 Blänsdorf ¼ p. 220 Courtney):
4. Tum Festus Postumius grammatico cuipiam Latino, Frontonis fami-
liari ‘docuit’ inquit ‘nos Apollinaris ‘‘nanos’’ uerbum Graecum esse, tu
nos doce, in quo de mulis aut eculeis humilioribus uulgo dicitur, anne
Latinum sit et aput quem scriptum reperiatur.’ 5. Atque ille grammaticus,
homo sane perquam in noscendis ueteribus scriptis exercitus, ‘si piacu-
lum’ inquit ‘non committitur praesente Apollinare, quid de uoce ulla
Graeca Latinaue sentiam, dicere, audeo tibi, Feste, quaerenti respondere
esse hoc uerbum Latinum scriptumque inueniri in poematis Helui Cin-
nae, non ignobilis neque indocti poetae’, uersusque eius ipsos dixit, quos,
quoniam memoriae mihi forte aderant, adscripsi:
at nunc me Genumana per salicta
bigis raeda rapit citata nanis.27
The example of the poeta nouus Cinna bestows on nanus the status
of a term perfectly integrated in the Latin lexicon, as is the case
with raeda, a word occurring in the same line and considered by
Quintilian (Inst. 1. 5. 57) as Gaulish (see above, §2). Fronto,
however, had doubted the propriety of using nanus not so much
for animals as for people. Gellius seems intentionally to forget
some occurrences of this term:
(1) Propertius 4. 8. 41 nanus (Paris. lat. 8233mg : Magnus ø) et
ipse suos breuiter concretus in artus, but this author is never
quoted in the Noctes Atticae;
(2) Juvenal 8. 32 nanum cuiusdam Atlanta uocamus, but this
author is never quoted in the Noctes Atticae;

Vulgo: see Müller, Sprachbewußtsein, 133: ‘Daß Gellius mit vulgus und vulgo
die Ausdrucksebenen der untadeligen consuetudo sermonis meinen kann, zeigen
mehrere Rechtfertigungen von Wortwendungen . . . ’.
These lines probably belong to a poem in Phalaecian hendecasyllables written
during a journey and perhaps to a verse letter (see K. Deichgräber, ‘Überlegungen’,
67; E. Courtney, The Fragmentary Latin Poets, 220). The syntagm Genumana per
salicta, which has been interpreted by some scholars as an allusion to the Cisalpine
origin of Cinna (see A. Traglia, Poetae noui, 142; T. P. Wiseman, Cinna the Poet,
46–7; L. C. Watson, ‘Cinna and Euphorion’, 100; Courtney, op. cit. 220–1; contra
G. V. Sumner, review of Wiseman, op. cit., 394; G. E. Manzoni, ‘Elvio Cinna’,
18–19), recalls both the salicta of Enn. Ann. 39–40 Vahlen2 ¼ 38–9 Skutsch and
Euphorion’s use of personal and place-names. The Gaulish paroxytone pronuntia-
tion of Cenomă´ni is adapted into Latin Cenomā´ni or Cenómăni: the prosody Gĕnŭ-
mānă may be deemed a licence on Cinna’s part (see A. Grilli, ‘Sul nome’).
52 Alessandro Garcea, Valeria Lomanto

(3) Suetonius Tib. 61. 6 a quodam nano astante mensae inter

copreas, but this author is quoted only twice in Noctes Atti-
cae (9. 7. 3, 15. 4. 4);
(4) Laberius: Gellius (16. 7. 10) himself testiWes that Laberius,
in his mime Anna Peranna (fr. 3 Ribbeck3 ¼ 12 Bonaria ),
was the Wrst to use nanus for pumilio.
This strange forgetfulness is consistent with other pieces of evi-
dence spread in ch. 19. 13: Wrst, Fronto doubts the Latinitas of the
word nanus when it is applied to human dwarfs (§2); secondly,
Apollinaris considers this term as deriving from the variety of
sermo uulgaris and, at the same time, qualiWes many terms that
Laberius introduced in Latin as ignobilia nimis et sordentia (§3);
thirdly, an anonymous grammarian quotes some lines by Cinna
(§5), where nani is referred to animals, rather than Laberius, who
uses nani to refer to human beings. The argumentative structure of
Noctes 19. 13 tries to hide the discrepancy between Gellius and
Fronto in evaluating Laberius: Fronto introduces the mimogra-
pher in the canon of the ueteres who are most expert in dilectus
uerborum; Gellius, while not overturning his master’s judgement,
nevertheless corrects it.

4. laberius ’ lexicon
Gellius acknowledges Laberius’ narrative and descriptive skills. In
10. 17. 2, after reporting that Democritus deliberately blinded
himself to be able to concentrate better on his meditations, Gellius
praises Laberius’ retelling of this episode (72–9 R. ¼ 90–7 B.) for
its reWned construction and its detailed descriptiveness:
Id factum eius [sc. Democriti] modumque ipsum, quo caecitatem facile
sollertia subtilissima consciuit, Laberius poeta in mimo, quem scripsit
Restionem, uersibus quidem satis munde atque graphice factis descripsit.
In general our mimographer’s language is considered to be au-
thoritative on the morphological and syntactical level. In 6. 9
Gellius discusses the vocalism of the reduplicative perfect and
notes that the reduplicative syllable sometimes features the timbre
/ĕ/ as in Greek, e.g. tetuli, while at others the timbre of the root
vowel, e.g. cucurri. Even in this latter type, however, the correct-
ness of non-assimilated forms is vouched for by both archaic and
late Republican authors. Among these, Gellius includes Laberius:
in §§3–4 he quotes two fragments, one from Galli (49–50 R. ¼ 63–4
B.) de integro patrimonio meo centum milia j nummum memordi, and
Loanwords and Literary Models 53

the other from Colorator (27–8 R. ¼ 40–1 B.) itaque leni pruna
percoctus simul sub dentes mulieris j ueni, bis, ter memordit.28 In 1. 7.
12 a line from Gemelli (51 R. ¼ 65 B.) non putaui hoc eam facturum
is inserted among quotations from Plautus, Gaius Gracchus,
Claudius Quadrigarius, and Valerius Antias to justify the invari-
able form of future inWnitive in Cicero, Verr. 2. 5. 167: hanc sibi rem
praesidio sperant futurum.29 When relating a discussion with Sul-
picius Apollinaris on the alternative forms of the genitive of per-
sonal pronouns in 20. 6, Gellius quotes a line from Necyomantia
(62 R. ¼ 81 B.) dum diutius detinetur, nostri oblitus est to show the
correctness of the type nostri uestri as opposed to the type nostrum
Gellius also approves of a number of Laberius’ word-choices.31
In 16. 9. 4 the line from Compitalia (29 R. ¼ 43 B.) nunc tu lentu’s,
nunc tu susque deque fers shows that the Latin syntagm susque deque
ferre is equivalent to the Greek IØÆ
æE .32 In 3. 18 Gellius ques-
tions the meaning of the formula pedarii senatores by contrasting the
interpretation given by Gavius Bassus (fr. 7, p. 490 Funaioli)33 with
that given by Varro (Men. 220 Astbury).34 In §9, he quotes a line
This fragment from Galli is also quoted by Nonius (205 L. ¼ 124. 24–5 M.).
On the reduplicative perfect, see LHSz i. 586–7; for a more detailed discussion, see
F. Bader, ‘Vocalisme et redoublement’, 167–75.
On the invariable future inWnitive, see LHSz i. 618–19, ii. 342–3. For a more
detailed discussion, see V. Bulhart, ‘InWnitiv auf -urum’; M. Leumann, ‘InWnitiv auf
-turum esse’.
On the genitive of personal pronouns, see LHSz i. 464–5.
In our discussion of the words used by Laberius, we shall point out only the
parallel passages drawn from literary texts predating Gellius.
On this syntagm, see LHSz ii. 263; see also A. Otto, Sprichwörter, n. 1723. The
nexus susque deque also occurs in Plautus, Amph. 886 atque id me susque deque esse
habituram putat; Lucilius 110–11 Marx ¼ 3 fr. 8 Charpin uerum haec ludus ibi, susque
omnia deque fuerunt, j susque et deque fuere, inquam, omnia ludus iocusque; Varro, Log.
fr. 65 Bolisani quod si non horum omnium similia essent principia ac postprincipia,
susque deque esset; Cicero, Att. 14. 6. 1 de Octauio susque deque. PF 371. 4 glosses
susque deque as plus minusue.
Gell. 3. 18. 4 Senatores [ . . . ] dicit [sc. Gauius Bassus] in ueterum aetate, qui
curulem magistratum gessissent, curru solitos honoris gratia in curiam uehi, in quo curru
sella esset, super quam considerent, quae ob eam causam ‘curulis’ appellaretur; sed eos
senatores, qui magistratum curulem nondum ceperant, pedibus itauisse in curiam; pro-
pterea senatores nondum maioribus honoribus ‘pedarios’ nominatos.
Ibid. §§5–6 M. autem Varro in satira Menippea, quae  l
ο inscripta est,
equites quosdam dicit pedarios appellatos uideturque eos signiWcare, qui nondum a
censoribus in senatum lecti senatores quidem non erant, sed, quia honoribus populi usi
erant, in senatum ueniebant et sententiae ius habebant. Nam et curulibus magistratibus
functi, si nondum a censoribus in senatum lecti erant, senatores non erant et, quia in
postremis scripti erant, non rogabantur sententias, sed, quas principes dixerant, in eas
54 Alessandro Garcea, Valeria Lomanto

from Stricturae (88 R. ¼ 109 B.) to conWrm that pedarius is to be

preferred to the barbarism pedaneus.35 In 17. 2. 21 Gellius points
out that arrabo, meaning pignus, though used by Claudius Quad-
rigarius (fr. 20, p. 215 Peter2 ), thereafter in sordidis uerbis haberi
coeptus est ac multo uidetur sordidius arra, quamquam arra quoque
ueteres saepe dixerint et compluriens Laberius (152 R. ¼ 125 B.).36
When discussing the words signiWcatione aduersa et reciproca in 9.
12, Gellius includes among the examples provided in §11 the line
from Sorores (86 R. ¼ 104 B.) ecastor mustum somniculosum, where
he assigns to the adjective somniculosum the causative meaning of
‘sleep-inducing’. Such a meaning is also attested in one of Cinna’s
fragments (10, p. 221 Blänsdorf, Courtney) somniculosam ut Poenus
aspidem Psyllus.37
However, Gellius does not always seem to consider Laberius’
selection of suYxes as grammatically correct or semantically clear.
In 3. 12 he disagrees with Nigidius’ proposal (fr. 26, p. 170
Funaioli) to describe the person who is bibendi auidus non only as
bibax, but also bibosus following the model of uinosus. The adjective
bibosus is attested only in Salinator, from which Gellius quotes the
line (80 R. ¼ 99 B.) non mammosa, non annosa, non bibosa, non
procax. Although in this context Laberius’ use of the suYx -ōsus

On the competition between the two suYxes -ārius and -āneus, see W. A.
Baehrens, Appendix Probi, who discusses the following pairs: extraneus/extrarius,
praecidaneus/praecidarius, praesentaneus/praesentarius, proletaneus/proletarius, ripa-
neus/riparius, subitaneus/subitarius, temporaneus/temporarius. In his gloss on pedarius
Festus 232. 6–10 reports the mocking comment by Lucilius (1102 Marx ¼ H fr. 103
Charpin): pedarium senatorem*signiWcat Lucilius*‘agi pes uocem mittere coepit’; qui ita
appellatur, quia tacitus transeundo ad eum, cuius sententiam probat, quid sentiat,
indicat. Pedaneus also occurs in Cic. Att. 1. 19. 9, 1. 20. 4 and Tac. Ann. 3. 65. 2.
On the technical meaning of pedaneus, see A. O’Brien Moore, Senatus, 680–1.
Although Gellius claims that the ueteres usually employed arra, i.e. the apoco-
pated form of the Graecism arrabo (cf. Varro, LL 7. 175 hoc uerbum item a Graeco
IææÆ ), in fact arra became widespread in the language of jurists and of the Church
only after Pliny (NH 29. 21, 33. 28). A. Ernout and A. Meillet (Dictionnaire, s.v.
arra) put down the apocope of arrabo to the frequency of this Graecism—perhaps
mediated by Etruscan—in the language of trade, and especially of procurers: arra
would then be an example of a vulgarism turning into a technical term. On the two
forms, see LHSz i. 382 and E. P. Hamp, ‘arr(h)a’.
Laberius’ line is also quoted by Nonius (254 L. ¼ 172. 26–7 M.). Cinna’s line is
also quoted by Gellius at the end of his analysis (9. 12. 7–12) of the twofold meaning,
both active and passive, of adjectives ending in -ōsus. In addition to the two lines by
Laberius and Cinna, somniculosus also occurs in Fronto, Ep. M. Caes. 4. 12. 4, p. 66.
13–14 v:d:H:2 : hoc unum ex Annalibus sumptum amoris mei argumentum poeticum et
sane somniculosum: see van den Hout, Commentary, 182. somniculosus is attested
much more often with the meaning of ‘sleepy, drowsy’: e.g. Cic. Sen. 36; Sen.
Nat. 5. 11. 1; Mart. 3. 58. 36; Suet. Claud. 39. 1.
Loanwords and Literary Models 55

is motivated by the pursuit of assonance and isosyllabism, Gellius

rightly observes that this suYx is to be joined to nominal stems
only.38 In 11. 15 Gellius’ consideration of the meaning of the suYx
-bundus starts from amorabunda, which occurs in Laberius’ Lacus
Auernus (57 R. ¼ 69 B.) and is called by Gellius uerbum inusitatius
Wctum. In his opinion, the interpretation of amorabunda is doubt-
ful, because according to Caesellius Vindex (pp. 232–6 Vitale)
words ending in -bundus are the same as present participles,
according to Terentius Scaurus (fr. 9, p. 3 Kummrow) they ex-
press simulation, according to Sulpicius Apollinaris they have an
intensifying force.39
Gellius’ reservations, hinted at in 3. 12 and 11. 15, are developed
at length in 16. 7. Here he reproaches Laberius for his excessive
boldness in coining neologisms and questions the correctness of
many of his word-choices; as the capitulum has it:40
Quod Laberius uerba pleraque licentius petulantiusque Wnxit; et quod
multis item uerbis utitur, de quibus, an sint Latina, quaeri solet.
On the basis of purist criteria and apart from any aesthetic evalu-
ations, Gellius identiWes two categories of words which he Wnds
equally blameworthy, namely neologisms and vulgarisms, i.e.
terms that are excluded from the literary tradition although they
are current in living Latin.41
In §§1–3 examples are given of neologisms coined praelicenter,
and for some of them the customary equivalent is also provided:

To the suYx -ōsus Gellius also devotes ch. 4. 9, where he contests Nigidius’
hypothesis (fr. 4, p. 162 Funaioli) that this suYx has a pejorative meaning, and from
adjectives, such as formosus, ingeniosus, oYciosus, he infers that -ōsus indicates the
abundance of a not necessarily negative quality or tendency. On this point, see
LHSz i. 341–2, and A. Ernout, Les Adjectifs; also F. Cavazza, below, Ch. 3, §3.5.
On the Gellian passage, see L. Dalmasso, ‘Aulo Gellio’, 204; M. Carilli,
‘ArtiWciosità’, 22 n. 15; Cavazza, below, Ch. 3, §3.13. On this formation, see
LHSz i. 332, and for a close analysis P. Langlois, ‘Les formations en -bundus’,
and E. Pianezzola, Gli aggettivi verbali in -bundus.
On this chapter, see Dalmasso, ‘Aulo Gellio’, 208–14, 480–4, with abundant
references to glossaries. On the composite character of Laberius’ lexicon, see Carilli,
‘ArtiWciosità’, 24–6, 32–3.
Gellius makes a partially identical distinction in 11. 7. 1, where he Wrst makes a
general condemnation (par . . . delictum) of both neologisms and trite terms, but
then, as if to rectify his strong censure (sed), distinguishes between the two categor-
ies, judging neologisms—by which he means both new coinages and terms which
have long been dismissed (cf. §3)—as more disagreeable and reprehensible (mole-
stius . . . culpatiusque): Verbis uti aut nimis obsoletis exculcatisque aut insolentibus
nouitatisque durae et inlepidae par esse delictum uidetur. Sed molestius equidem culpa-
tiusque esse arbitror uerba noua, incognita, inaudita dicere quam inuolgata et sordentia.
56 Alessandro Garcea, Valeria Lomanto
1. Laberius in mimis, quos scriptitauit, oppido quam uerba Wnxit praeli-
center. 2. Nam et ‘mendicimonium’ dicit et ‘moechimonium’ et ‘adulte-
rionem’ ‘adulteritatem’que pro ‘adulterio’ et ‘depudicauit’ pro ‘stuprauit’
et ‘abluuium’ pro ‘diluuio’ et, quod in mimo ponit, quem Cophinum
inscripsit, ‘manuatus est’ pro ‘furatus est’. 3. Et item in Fullone furem
‘manuarium’ appellat:
‘manuari’ inquit ‘pudorem perdidisti’,
multaque alia huiuscemodi nouat.
In the hapax legomena mendicimonium (150 R. ¼ 137 B.) and
moechimonium (150 R. ¼ 138 B.) the suYx -mōnium, which is
used to derive abstract nouns from nomina personalia designating
social or juridical condition, e.g. matrimonium, testimonium, is
joined to the native word mendicus and to the Graecism moechus
to deWne the condition of the beggar and the adulterer respect-
ively.42 Likewise, adulterio and adulteritas are both derived from
adulter, by means of the unprecedented attachment of two very
productive inXections, -iōn- (150 R. ¼ 122 B.) and -tāt- (150 R. ¼
123 B.) respectively, to the stem.43 In depudicare (150 R. ¼ 128 B.),
a verb derived from pudicus, the preWx de- retains the concrete
privative meaning shown in the likely models or parallels for
depudicare, Plautus’ deartuare (Capt. 641, 672) and Varro’s deuir-
ginare (Men. 409 Astbury).44Abluuium (150 R. ¼ 120 B.) is attested
only in the technical jargon of land-surveyors with the meaning of
‘Xood’ and features a mismatched preWx. Fronto had warned
against the selection of inappropriate preWxes, especially as far as
the compounds of luere and verbs derived from the same root are
concerned (Ad M. Caes. 4. 3. 4, p. 58. 5–13 v:d:H:2 ). With his
reWned linguistic sensitivity, Fronto considers colluere to be Wtting
to mean the act of rinsing one’s mouth, pelluere that of washing the
Xoor, lauere that of wetting one’s cheeks with tears, lauare that of
washing clothes, abluere that of wiping oV dust or one’s sweat,
eluere and elauere that of washing away a stain whether slight or
very stubborn, diluere that of diluting honeyed wine, proluere that
of gargling, subluere that of scraping the hooves of a beast of
burden.45 While manuari (39 R. ¼ 53 B.) occurs uniquely in

The two words are also quoted by Non. 205 L. ¼ 140. 32–3 M. On the suYx
-mōnium, see LHSz i. 297. On the possible parody of juridical language, see Carilli,
‘ArtiWciosità’, 27.
Adulterio is also quoted by Non. 97 L. ¼ 70. 3 M. On the two suYxes, see
LHSz i. 365–6, 272–4.
On the preWx de-, see LHSz ii. 263–4.
Nolim igitur te ignorare syllabae unius discrimen quantum referat. Os ‘colluere’
dicam, pauimentum autem in balneis ‘pelluere’, non ‘colluere’; lacrimis uero genas
Loanwords and Literary Models 57

Laberius’ corpus,46 manuarius (46 R. ¼ 60 B.) occurs elsewhere

but it is employed as a synonym of fur only by Laberius. As an
adjective, it is deWned in the DiVerentiae of Pseudo-Suetonius
(p. 311. 30 ReiVerscheid) quod manu tangitur aut sustinetur, and
occurs in legal language and in Suetonius’ De poetis (p. 20. 1–3
Rostagni), where it refers to the millstones that Plautus was com-
pelled to turn.47 It is not clear how this deWnition can be related to
the use made of manuarius in NA 18. 13. 4. In this chapter Gellius
tells that he has celebrated Saturnalia in Athens with some friends
and that they whiled away the time telling each other riddles. The
right solution to each riddle earned the prize of a sesterce; other-
wise, the penalty of a sesterce had to be paid: hoc aere conlecto quasi
manuario cenula curabatur omnibus, qui eum lusum luseramus.48
Much more numerous are the words in Laberius’ lexicon of
which Gellius disapproves as alien to literary language, a sort of
blemish or a jarring note in a stylistically lofty register. The survey
of such words opens in §4 with catomum (87 R. ¼ 107–8 B.), a term
resulting from the fusion of ή t
and indicating someone who
is heaved onto somebody else’s shoulders to be Xogged:
Neque non obsoleta quoque et maculantia ex sordidiore uulgi usu ponit,
quale est in Staminariis:
tollet bona Wde uos Orcus nudas in catomum.
Undoubtedly the syntagm in catomum had a certain vulgar
Xavour.49 This syntagm also occurs in Fam. 7. 25. 1, where Cicero

‘lauere’ dicam, non ‘pelluere’ neque ‘colluere’; uestimenta autem ‘lauare’, non ‘lauere’;
sudorem porro et puluerem ‘abluere’, non ‘lauare’; sed maculam elegantius ‘eluere’ quam
‘abluere’. si quid uero magis haeserit nec sine aliquo detrimento exigi possit, Plautino
uerbo ‘elauere’ dicam. tum praeterea mulsum ‘diluere’, fauces ‘proluere’, ungulam
iumento ‘subluere’. On this passage, see van den Hout, Commentary, 157–8.
This neologism is also quoted by Non. 205 L. ¼ 141. 1–2 M. On manuari and
manuarius, see Carilli, ‘ArtiWciosità, 27–8.
Plautus . . . propter annonae diYcultatem ad molas manuarias pistori se
locauerat. On the alternative suYxes -ālis (-āris) and -ārius, see LHSz i. 351; see
also Pliny (fr. 17, p. 249 Mazzarino ¼ Dub. serm. fr. 44 Della Casa): aqualium an
potius aquarium dici debeat quaerit Plinius Secundus et putat, ut laterale laterarium,
scutale scutarium, et manuale saxum, manuarium uas, proin aqualis aquarium dici.
Translators and dictionaries assign to the adjective as it occurs in this passage
the meaning of ‘won in a game of dice, at gambling’, which they infer from the
context in which Gellius compares exchanging riddles to playing dice, a kind of
entertainment typical of Saturnalia. But quasi suggests that by means of this com-
parison Gellius intends to associate the money collected through an erudite pastime
with that won by lucky gamesters.
For the numerous emendations proposed to Laberius’ text, see the apparatus
in Bonaria’s edn.
58 Alessandro Garcea, Valeria Lomanto

expresses his fear that Caesar, once returned from his victory at
Munda, would avenge himself on those who had shown sympathy
to Cato, now dead by suicide in Utica, just as a schoolmaster would
cane his undisciplined pupils: magister adest citius quam putaramus:
uereor ne in catomum Catonianos.50 Also the derivative verb cato-
midiare occurs in an informal context in Petronius, 132. 2, where it
means the punishment inXicted on Encolpius by a lady from
Croton: matrona . . . me iubet catomidiari.
The list of words of which Gellius disapproves goes on cadenced
by the anaphora of item in §§5–9, where isolated forms are found
together with quotations of entire lines:
5. Et ‘elutriare lintea’ et ‘lauandaria’ dicit, quae ad lauandum sint data, et
‘coicior’ inquit ‘in fullonicam’,
quid properas? ecquid praecurris Calidoniam?
6. Item in Restione ‘talabarriunculos’ dicit, quos uulgus talabarriones;
7. item in Compitalibus:
malas malaxaui;
8. item in Cacomnemone:
‘hic est’ inquit
‘ille gurdus, quem ego me abhinc menses duos ex Africa
uenientem excepisse tibi narraui.’
9. Item in mimo, qui inscribitur Natalicius, ‘cippum’ dicit et ‘obbam’ et
‘camellam’ et ‘pittacium’ et ‘capitium’:
‘induis’ inquit ‘capitium tunicae pittacium’.
The reasons for Gellius’ censure are not always clear. It can be
pointed out that many of the words he lists are either hapax
legomena or terms attested, in the age before Marcus Aurelius,
only in texts with technical content. Elutriare, which in Laberius
occurs with lintea as its object (150 R. ¼ 130 B.), is used by
Pliny with the same meaning of ‘to wash, to rinse’ in NH 9. 133,
where elutriare is said of the wool to be dyed purple. In NH 14.
114, elutriare refers to the ingredients of the oxymeli, a mixture
consisting mainly of honey and vinegar, and means perhaps ‘to
Wlter, to purify’. Lauandaria (150 R. ¼ 133 B.), in which the
gerundive suYx is joined to the suYx -ārius, is not attested
elsewhere as a neuter plural noun. The other occurrences of

A scrupulous exegesis of both Cicero and Laberius is provided by R. Y. Tyrrell
and L. C. Purser, v. 192, on Epist. 668 ¼ Fam. 7. 25.
Loanwords and Literary Models 59

fullonica (147 R. ¼ 127 B.) as a feminine noun are found only in

technical texts.51 One wonders how vulgarism may apply to Cali-
doniam, the emendation generally accepted for the caldonia read by
the extant manuscripts (148 R. ¼ 176 B.). It may be that Laberius
alludes to the mythical Atalanta, excellent huntress and unequalled
runner, who took part in the hunting of the Calydonian boar.52
Laberius used the vulgar word talabarrio even more sordidly in
the diminutive talabarriunculus (79 R. ¼ 98 B.); neither occurs
elsewhere and their meaning is obscure.53 In the alliterating syn-
tagm malas malaxaui (37 R. ¼ 42 B.), Laberius uses the Graecism
malaxare with a tranferred meaning. The verb malaxare, whose
origin is explained in Varro, LL 6. 96 (ab eo quod illi ƺÆØ nos
malaxare),54 also occurs in Seneca, Ep. 66. 53 an potius optem ut
malaxandos articulos exsoletis meis porrigam? The vulgar character
and foreign origin of gurdus (13 R. ¼ 26 B.) are attested by Quin-
tilian, Inst. 1. 5. 57, where this term is included among examples
of uerba peregrina: ‘gurdos’, quos pro stolidis accipit uulgus, ex
Hispania duxisse originem audiui.55
Cippus (60 R. ¼ 76 B.) appears to be a technical term rather than
a vulgarism. It occurs in Varro, LL 5. 143, with the meaning of
‘boundary stone’ (cippi pomeri stant et circum Ariciam et circum
Romam), and poets use it with the meaning of ‘tombstone’. The
word is found in Lucilius (1255–6 Marx ¼ H fr. 105 Charpin) to
exemplify a sacrilegious robbery: homines nequam, malus ut quar-
tarius, cippos j collegere omnes; in Horace, Serm. 1. 8. 12–13, it
refers to communal graves: mille pedes in fronte, trecentos cippus in
agrum j hic dabat; in Persius 1. 37 it is used with regard to a poet’s
lasting fame: non leuior cippus nunc inprimit ossa? From the latter
meaning, according to Caesar, BG 7. 73. 5, the soldiers’ habit

On fullonica, see LHSz i. 338.
Rolfe retains caldonia, which he relates to cal(i)dus and interprets as a vocative
addressed to either an attendant at the public baths or a ‘quick, hasty’ woman. Julien
accepts the emendation Calidoniam and suggests the translation ‘la chauVeuse’. Our
ignorance of the plot prevents our understanding the word.
J. Knobloch (‘Talabarriunculus’) recognizes in this neologism the juxtapos-
ition of two elements that he relates to barrire and to the Wrst element of the
onomatopoeic taratantara (Enn. Ann. 140 Vahlen2 ¼ 451 Skutsch), dissimilated
as tala. He speculates that the term could be assigned the meaning of ‘kleiner
The Latin verb is modelled on the Greek sigmatic aorist: see LHSz i. 552.
On Quintilian’s testimony, which has long been debated by both literary and
linguistic scholars, see e.g. F. Schöll, ‘Wortforschung’, 313–17, and J. Cousin,
‘Problèmes’, 63–4: both scholars acknowledge the vulgar connotation of gurdus,
but while the former allows its Spanish origin, the latter doubts it.
60 Alessandro Garcea, Valeria Lomanto

derives of calling cippi the network of branches emerging from the

trunks hammered into the ground to defend the camp.56 The elder
Seneca uses cippus with a more generic meaning in Contr. 7. 4. 7 to
designate the stand on which Calvus climbs during trials to make
his threats more telling: inponi se supra cippum iussit—erat enim
paruolus statura. Obba (60 R. ¼ 78 B.) too seems to be a technical
term. It is glossed poculi genus by Nonius (213, 874 L. ¼ 146. 8,
545. 1 M.) and used by Varro, Men. 114 Astbury: dolia atque
apothecas triclinaris {Melicas{ Calenas obbas et Cumanos calices,57
by Pers. 5. 147–8: Veiientanumque rubellum j exhalet uapida laesum
pice sessilis obba?, and by Tert. Apol. 13. 7: quo diVert ab epulo Iouis
silicernium, a simpulo obba, ab haruspice pollinctor? While obba
designates a vessel of above-average quality,58camella (60 R. ¼ 75
B.) indicates a rather rough vessel. It is attested in the literary
language both in Ovid, Fast. 4. 779–80 (tum licet adposita, ueluti
cratere, camella j lac niueum potes) and in several occurrences in
The phrase capitium tunicae pittacium is of doubtful interpret-
ation (61 R. ¼ 77 B.) because the meaning of capitium is multifari-
ous and that of pittacium is very generic. In Varro, LL 5. 131,
capitium seems to designate a sort of brassiere: capitium ab eo quod
capit pectus, and this meaning is conWrmed by two fragments of the
De uita populi Romani (47–8 Riposati) where a number of women’s
garments are listed. The lexicographers, however, assign capitium
a diVerent meaning. Festus 230. 12–13 reports that Stilo (fr. 3,
p. 58 Funaioli) glossed pescia of the Carmen Saliare (fr. 5, p. 6
Blänsdorf) with the phrase capitia ex pellibus agninis facta. Nonius,
Truncis arborum aut admodum Wrmis ramis abscisis atque horum delibratis ac
praeacutis cacuminibus perpetuae fossae quinos pedes altae ducebantur. Huc illi stipites
demissi et ab inWmo reuincti, ne reuelli possent, ab ramis eminebant. Quini erant ordines
coniuncti inter se atque implicati: quo qui intrauerant se ipsi acutissimis uallis induebant.
Hos cippos appellabant.
In the second passage dedicated to the lexeme obba (874 L. ¼ 545. 1–6 M.),
Nonius quotes a fragment from the Menippeae as well as an extract from the Epistula
ad Marullum: utrum meridie an uesperi libentius ad obbas accedas, locus ac tempus
aduentus declarabit.
The name probably derives from the name of the African city of Obba,
mentioned in Livy 30. 7. 10, from where this artefact had spread.
Cf. Petronius, 64. 13: Trimalchio camellam grandem iussit misceri potionesque
diuidi omnibus seruis; 135. 3–4: Oenothea . . . camellam etiam uetustate ruptam pice
temperata refecit. tum clauum, qui detrahentem secutus cum camella lignea fuerat,
fumoso parieti reddidit; 137. 10: infra manus meas camellam uini posuit. According
to Ernout–Meillet, Dictionnaire, s.v. (cf. W. Heraeus, ‘Die Sprache des Petronius’,
80, with abundant evidence) the derivation of camella from the Graecism camera
(ŒÆæÆ) is rendered uncertain by the /ē/ of the Greek form ŒºÆ.
Loanwords and Literary Models 61

in turn, paraphrases capitia with capitum tegmina (870 L. ¼ 542. 23

M.).60 In Celsus 3. 10 the Graecism pittacium, which designates a
remnant of leather or of cloth, means a compress soaked in an
emulsion of vinegar and rose-water to be kept on the forehead as
a remedy for migraine. In Petronius 34. 6 pittacium designates a
label: statim allatae sunt amphorae uitreae diligenter gypsatae,
quarum in ceruicibus pittacia erant aYxa; and in 56. 7 a lottery
ticket: pittacia in scypho circumferri coeperunt.61
In §§10–12 Gellius lists a series of words drawn from three
10. Praeterea in Anna Peranna ‘gubernium’ pro ‘gubernatore’ et ‘planum’
pro ‘sycophanta’ et ‘nanum’ pro ‘pumilione’ dicit; quamquam ‘planum’
pro ‘sycophanta’ M. quoque Cicero in oratione scriptum reliquit, quam
Pro Cluentio dixit. 11. Atque item in mimo, qui Saturnalia inscriptus est,
‘botulum’ pro ‘farcimine’ appellat et ‘hominem leuennam’ pro ‘leui’.
12. Item in Necyomantia ‘cocionem’ peruulgate dicit, quem ueteres ‘aril-
latorem’ dixerunt. uerba Laberi haec sunt:
duas uxores? hercle hoc plus negoti est, inquit cocio;
sex aediles uiderat.
The Graecism gubernius (3 R. ¼ 11 B.) is attested only in late Latin,
in particular Christian Latin, although it may have been common
in nautical parlance in pre-classical times.62 By contrast a few
occurrences of planus (3 R. ¼ 13 B.) are recorded in literary texts.
Gellius himself mentions Cicero, who, in Cluent. 72, calls Staie-
nus, one of his client’s antagonists, a planus improbissimus ‘most
wicked impostor’. The word occurs in Hor. Ep. 1. 17. 58–9, with
the meaning of ‘impostor’: nec semel inrisus triuiis attollere curat j
fracto crure planum. In Petronius 140. 15, planus refers to people
who live by their wits and exploit the gullibility and greed of the
mob: unde plani autem, unde leuatores uiuerent, nisi aut locellos aut
sonantes aere sacellos pro hamis in turbam mitterent? (cf. 82. 2). In
Plin. NH 35. 89, planus refers to a court jester: Apelles was invited
to a banquet by one of Ptolemy’s jesters, who was urged to do so by
the painter’s rivals, aware of the king’s dislike for him; at Ptolemy’s
request, Apelles then portrayed the jester who had invited him:
arrepto carbone extincto e foculo imaginem in pariete delineauit,

In Republican Latin, capitium designated a jacket or shawl that adhered to the
tunic so as to become an appendix to the tunic itself. Eventually, in late and
especially in ecclesiastical Latin, it came to mean the neck-opening of the tunic or
a hood: on the change in meaning, see Dalmasso, ‘Aulo Gellio’, 211–12.
See A. D’Ors, ‘ ØŒØ
See G. Gundermann, ‘Gubernius, gubernus’.
62 Alessandro Garcea, Valeria Lomanto

adgnoscente uoltum plani rege inchoatum protinus. Botulus (801 R. ¼

100 B.) occurs in texts that draw abundantly on slang. In PF 32. 8
the botulus is deWned as a genus farciminis, namely a kind of sausage;
like many words relating to cookery, it may be of Oscan origin.
Tomacula and botuli make up the stuYng of the pig laid, among
countless other courses, on Trimalchio’s table. Since the cook
pretends that he has forgotten to disembowel the pig, Trimalchio
orders him to do so in front of the guests, and suddenly (49. 10) ex
plagis ponderis inclinatione crescentibus tomacula cum botulis eVusa
sunt. A botulus is the subject of Martial’s epigram 14. 72, with
which the poet oVers a friend the sausage that he in his turn had
received as a present: qui uenit botulus mediae tibi tempore brumae, j
Saturni septem uenerat ante dies. Leuenna (801 R. ¼ 101 B.), whose
suYx is apparently of Etruscan origin, is not attested elsewhere.63
Cocio (63 R. ¼ 79 B.) occurs elsewhere only in Petronius (14. 7, 15.
4 and 8), that is in the episode where Encolpius and Ascyltos
manage to recover the stolen tunic in which they had hidden
their money by exchanging an elegant cloak for it.64 Paul glosses
Cocio as a synonym of arillator (19. 1) and suggests a meaningful
paraetymology (44. 15–16): coctiones dicti uidentur a cunctatione,
quod in emendis uendendisque mercibus tarde perueniant ad iusti pretii
The digest of Gellius’ censures ends in §§13–14 with the notice
about a Graecism, emplastrum, very widespread in the technical
jargon of medicine and agriculture. Gellius approves not so much
of its use as of the adherence to the original neuter gender:65
13. Sed enim in mimo, quem inscripsit Alexandream, eodem quidem, quo
uulgus, sed probe Latineque usus est Graeco uocabulo: emplastrum enim
PŁæø, non genere feminino, ut isti nouicii semidocti. 14. Verba
ex eo mimo adposui:
‘quid est ius iurandum? emplastrum aeris alieni’.
The use of emplastrum (1 R. ¼ 9 B.) as a feminine noun is not
attested in texts that either precede or are contemporary with
Gellius. Nor can the nouicii semidocti be identiWed who are held
responsible for the mistake. Perhaps they are the grammarians
of average education with whom Gellius often conducts a polemic.
However, in actual fact many Greek loanwords that came
into Latin through contacts among uneducated speakers show
See W. Schulze, Eigennamen, 283, and Carilli, ‘ArtiWciosità’, 32.
On this term, see LHSz i. 154, and the extensive treatment in Heraeus, ‘Die
Sprache des Petronius’, 56–7.
Cf. Cavazza, below, Ch. 3, §3.17.
Loanwords and Literary Models 63

alterations in both their gender and stem. For instance, Greek

neuters ending in -Æ with stem ending in a dental consonant
have been assimilated in Latin to feminine nouns in -ā- (e.g.
diadema, dogma, schema). Greek masculine and feminine conson-
ant-stems have been included among Latin nouns in -ā- (e.g.
cratera, crepida, lampada). Other such nouns are interpreted as
masculine nouns in -ŏ- (cf. abacus, delphinus, elephantus etc.).66
Gellius concludes the chapter so decidedly critical of Laberius
by pointing out his correctness as far as morphology is concerned,
consistently with his comments in other chapters. His disapproval
is limited to the lexicon, which, on the other hand, is the aspect of
the mimographer’s language that Fronto appreciates. In addition
to some terms that are not attested in texts predating the mid-
second century or are not attested elsewhere (mendicimonium, moe-
chimonium, adulterio, adulteritas, depudicare, manuari, manuarius
with the euphemistic meaning of ‘thief’, lauandaria meaning
‘laundry, washing’, talabarriunculus, gubernius, leuenna), Gellius
censures other words, whose vulgar character is evident either
from other sources (gurdus) or from the structure of the word itself
(catomum and perhaps malaxare). The vulgar connotation of a
number of terms apparently depends, above all, on the character
of their referent (garments: capitium; cooking utensils: obba,
camella; simple food: botulus; people living on the fringe of society:
planus, nanus, cocio), or on their use in the technical jargons of arts
and crafts (abluuium, elutriare, fullonica meaning ‘laundry’, cippus,
emplastrum), or on their generic meaning (pittacium). These words,
however, occur either in technical texts (of land-surveyors, med-
ical doctors, veterinary surgeons), or in literary, even poetic,
works, whose language deliberately draws on folk idioms (Luci-
lius, Varro the satirist, Horace’s Sermones and Epistulae, Persius,
Petronius, Martial).

5. conclusion
Among the vulgarisms mentioned in 16. 7 the most important term
in the light of 19. 13 is nanus, which in the former is only brieXy
criticized, while in the latter it is discussed in detail as to its origin
and use. Gellius’ perspective in the two chapters is not contradict-
ory: nanus is not a uerbum barbarum but a Graecism, it occurs in
Aristophanes and Cinna and therefore has the status of a literary
On this phenomenon, see LHSz i. 453–9.
64 Alessandro Garcea, Valeria Lomanto

word. These remarks, however, do not prevent Gellius from nega-

tively assessing the extension of the use of nanus from small
animals to people of short stature. Gellius and Fronto thus express
two divergent opinions of Laberius: the latter’s appraisal is unre-
servedly positive, the former is critical especially of Laberius’
lexical selections.67 This diVerence in opinion between disciple
and master not only shows that, at least on some occasions, Gellius
gives proof of his independence from Fronto, in spite of his great
admiration for his master. Most of all, such a discrepancy shows
that within a literary movement which is generally considered to be
homogeneous, one can record a variety of positions and that the
love for the ueteres does not necessarily imply an unconditional
approval.68 If 19. 13 reXects a real conversation between Fronto,
Postumius, and Sulpicius Apollinaris, 16. 7 represents a sort of
expansion of the reservations which Fronto had put forward with
regard to one or more of Laberius’ lexical choices. If, on the other
hand, the debate on nanus is Wctitious, the doubt attributed by
Gellius to Fronto could be seen as a trick on Gellius’ part to
make his master in some way share his own perplexity concerning
Laberius’ lexicon.

R. Marache, Critique litte´raire, 158, 232–3 attributes to Fronto and Gellius an
equal admiration for Laberius; by contrast, Müller, Sprachbewußtsein, 149 n. 40
hints at a diVerent evaluation by the two.
On a similar discrepancy between Gellius and Fronto with regard to Vergil,
see A. Garcea, ‘Gellio, il bilinguismo greco-latino’, 194–5. For a recent evaluation of
the archaist movement, see U. Schindel, ‘Archaismus als EpochenbegriV’.
Addendum. Although this chapter is the fruit of joint research, §§1–3 are
attributable to Alessandro Garcea, §§ 4–5 to Valeria Lomanto.
Gellius the Etymologist
Gellius’ Etymologies and Modern Etymology
Fr a nc o Ca v az za

1. introduction
1.1. Students of grammar and etymology have always known
that in antiquity these two disciplines fared unequally. Grammar,
which lent itself more both to theorizing and to direct analysis,
became so systematic that its study depends even now in part on
the ancients; etymology, not an independent science till the nine-
teenth century, was by its nature too technical, too dependent on a
scientiWc rigour unattainable in antiquity, to achieve successes and
stable results and to leave an inheritance for posterity. In conse-
quence, although the Stoics, unjustiWably conWdent in their
methods, proclaimed that there was no word whose etymology
could not be stated (Varro fr. 130 Goetz–Schöll ¼ 265. 125–7,
pp. 281–2 Funaioli), such etymologists as Plato and Varro have
bequeathed us only a few intuitions and guesses, not all without
merit. Quintilian’s substantial mistrust of etymology (Inst. 1. 6.
28–38) is expressed in words that betray the ancient linguists’
discomfort and uncertainty, despite the claim by many etymolo-
gists (whether or not they acknowledged the name) that etymology
discharged the special function of revealing the ueritas of a word
used for example in law or public institutions or religious ritual,
even at times of accounting for sociolinguistic phenomena.
1.2. That, in substance, is the spirit of Varronian etymology (the
most familiar to us), devised by the student of national IæÆØ
ª Æ
in order to investigate primitive Rome and her original institutions.
Clear and well known too is the connection of etymology with
philosophy, not only in the systematic structure of the etymological

Author and translator wish jointly to acknowledge fruitful discussions of this

66 Franco Cavazza

chapters in De lingua Latina, but also in the search for the uerum of
things and the relation between the human mind and reality, for
which the etymological studies of Aristotle may serve as symbol.

2. gellius the etymologist and his sources

2.1. Gellius, heir to a similar intellectual tradition, could not
stand outside it; neither the knowledge nor the premisses for such
an advance were available, even had he been a titan of erudition. As
an etymologist we cannot expect him to do more than continue on
established lines with the methods, procedure, and to a lesser
extent ends already stated. Being the student and devotee of gram-
mar that he was, he is interested in etymology mainly as a means
towards correctness in the use of language. He had already seen
that it provided a key for the interpretation of linguistic facts:
correct spelling, correct expression, correct meaning all came
from the etymology of words. This is the essence of Gellius’
‘etymological thought’, even though, having been brought up on
previous researches, he did not always avoid philosophical schemes
of etymology related to the quest for the uerum, as when he puts
forward etyma, not his own, of soror and frater (13. 10).1
2.2. Gellius, despite some scholars’ opinion to the contrary, is an
independent thinker.2 And Gellius the etymologist is the same as
Gellius the historian, the jurist, the scientist (in the broad sense),
the archaeologist (in the Varronian sense), the philosopher, etc. He
depends on his sources, but has a mind of his own;3 he does not
merely weigh up other people’s ideas, he judges them, Wlters them,
and shows in his selection an individual personality: he aims at
aesthetic beauty, at linguistic correctness. He not only quotes his
sources but corrects them, as he not infrequently does in matters of
philology and literature. Sometimes he names them; at other times
we can identify them with a high degree of probability from his
mode of composition (since consecutive chapters may derive from

I cite Gellius by P. K. Marshall’s edn., but use my own text of books 1–13.
See F. Cavazza, ‘Gellio grammatico’, 259–60 ¼ 85–6 and passim, esp. 273–74 ¼
Gellian source-criticism attracted most interest in the second half of the 19th c.;
I know of no more recent exhaustive or important works in the Weld. Amongst the
chief exponents (cited by Hosius in his edn.) are L. Mercklin, ‘Citiermethode’,
J. Kretzschmer, De Gellii fontibus, and L. L. Ruske, De A. Gellii fontibus (who was
concerned only with part of Gellius’ work), cited below as ‘M.’, ‘K.’, and ‘R.’
Gellius the Etymologist 67

the same source), from other indirect evidence in his work, or by

legitimate conjecture. However, it is those etymologies that cannot
be assigned to his sources, and therefore may be considered his
own, with which I shall be concerned below.
2.3. Gellius has privileged and preferred sources for etymology;4
the most important are Favorinus (K. 104–6; R. 53–61), Sulpicius
Apollinaris (K. 106–8),5 P. Nigidius Figulus (K. 54–8), M. Verrius
Flaccus (K. 68–76; R. 38–40), M. Terentius Varro (K. 44–54; R.
21–33), and Valerius Probus (K. 82–92).6 These stand out clearly
for the abundance of references to their authority and conse-
quently give rise to the most problems relating to Gellius’ ety-
mologies. They plainly suYce, with their doctrina, to cover the
whole range of his interests, except perhaps for legal terms, and are
the main sources both of the etymologies and of the Noctes Atticae
as a whole.
2.4. In addition there are minor sources, mainly jurists but also
amateur etymologists (if the term is permissible for Antiquity),
including minimal sources cited in this context only once; amongst
these we may pick out Gellius’ teacher M. Cornelius Fronto
(K. 103), whose etymologies appear in seven passages, and his
friends and presumed oral sources Julius Celsinus and the poet
Julius Paulus.7
References to named authors, readily located in the respective editions, are
omitted on grounds of space; but I shall normally cite the passages in which
anonymous authors, less easily found, appear.
Cf. J. W. Beck, Sulpicius Apollinaris, 18–50.
Cf. J. Aistermann, De M. Valerio Probo [hereafter ‘Aistermann’], 115–56 (‘De
Probo Gellii auctore’).
Others are the emperor Hadrian (R. 43), Alfenus Varus (K. 65), Annianus
(K. 101), M. Antistius Labeo (K. 66; R. 65–6), Antonius Julianus (K. 101), M.
[immo C.] Asinius Pollio (K. 64, cf. Aistermann 132), Q. Asconius Pedianus (cf. H.
Nettleship, ‘The Noctes Atticae’, 411 ¼ 271), C. Ateius Capito (K. 66; R. 66–7),
Aurelius Opillus (K. 41–2), Calvenus (alias Calvisius) Taurus (R. 50–3), Sex. Cae-
cilius, Caesellius Vindex (K. 95), Ser. Claudius (K. 42–3), Q. Claudius Quadrigarius
(R. 17–19), Cloatius Verus (K. 98), P. Cornelius Scipio minor (R. 14–15), C. Aelius
Gallus (K. 61), Suetonius Tranquillus (R. 43–4), Ser. Sulpicius Rufus (K. 59–60; R.
65), Timaeus (K. 38–9; R. 5), certainly at second hand, Aelius Stilo (K. 41), Gavius
Bassus (K. 99–100; R. 38), Hypsicrates (K. 44), C. Julius Hyginus (K. 77; R. 40–1),
Julius Modestus (R. 38), read directly despite the single quotation, D. Laberius,
Laelius Felix (R. 71, cf. 66), P. Lavinius (K. 100), Masurius Sabinus (K. 79–80; R.
67–70), Q. Mucius Scaevola (K. 40–1; R. 64), perhaps at second hand (presumably
through Masurius Sabinus’ De iure ciuili, cf. R. 64), Neratius, read directly though
cited only once, C. Plinius Secundus (K. 13–15; see M. 641–3 and Beck, ‘Studia’,
5–25, esp. 9–11), M. Porcius Cato (K. 39–40; R. 10–14), Sempronius Asellio
(cf. K. 71), probably through Verrius, Sinnius Capito (K. 61–2), C. Trebatius,
probably at second hand, M. Tullius Cicero (K. 59), M. Tullius Tiro (K. 62–4),
M. Valerius Messala Augur (R. 65), Q. Valerius Soranus (in Varro, Quaest. epistol.),
68 Franco Cavazza

2.5. To these we should add anonymous persons, most of whom

are oral sources; in some cases they are probably Wctitious—not
covers for Gellius himself since he does not accept their etymolo-
gies. They are the intelligentsia of the time.8
2.6. Amongst the 366 etymologies advanced by Gellius,9 some
may be claimed for him in the absence of even hidden evidence for
a source; others, as I shall show, seem not to be original. Clearly,
not all the anonymous etymologies can be assigned to Gellius, in
view of the ancient (and modern) practice of ementiri doctrinam.
Without other evidence, it may be hard to tell what is truly Gellius’
own; take the case of Morta in 3. 16. 11. It has been suggested that
the treatment of some Greek words implies Gellius’ dependence
on Sulpicius Apollinaris (cf. K. 108) or Favorinus, although in
view of his visit or visits to Greece he might have been capable of
expressing his own opinion on the topic. Furthermore, the treat-
ment of homoptota (which more than once is anonymous) may
suggest he is applying a rule laid down by others. Yet it remains
possible, as we shall see, that some etymological comments genu-
inely belong to him and his doctrina. On the other hand, inconsist-
ent in this as in other matters, Gellius does not systematically pass
oV other people’s learning as his own, nor does he on principle hide
his own light under a bushel. We can but draw what inferences we
may on the authorship of, or responsibility for, the etymologies
proposed. It will be understood that a Gellian scholar likes to
think, where he can, that the etymological doctrine is Gellius’
and not another’s.

C. Valgius Rufus (K. 68), Velius Longus (K. 93), who is named in only one passage,
passed on by a doctus amicus, though K. 93 envisages direct use.
Quispiam (2. 21. 6–7), amicus (7. 15. 2–5), (erat) qui (diceret) (12. 14. 3), (fuit) qui
(diceret), homo in libris atque in litteris adsiduus (12. 14. 6), homo (15. 30. 2–3), nebulo
(16. 6. 12), cf. uulgus grammaticorum (2. 21. 6–7), turba grammaticorum nouicia (11.
1. 5), nouicii semidocti (16. 7. 13), commentarii ad ius pontiWcum (16. 6. 13).
This Wgure retains validity despite a degree of approximation. Etymologies of
related words, or words structurally associated by a common derivational mor-
pheme (e.g. -osus, -mentum, -ulentus), are open-ended as covering words not ex-
pressly mentioned. Sometimes no etymology as such is proposed for discussion, but
one is implicit in the discussion itself (e.g. of humanitas in 13. 17). Nevertheless, the
count attests Gellius’ undoubted interest in etymology: relative to his 398 chapters
it shows a ratio of 0.9 etymologies per chapter, which, allowing for miscounts, leads
to the rather high average for a miscellany of one etymology per chapter, proving
Gellius’ interest beyond doubt. The calculation comes from a study I have not had
time to prepare for publication; the list of etymologies, not reproduced here for
reasons of relevance and above all space, is available—though in need of revision and
possible corrections—for any interested party by email from <fcavazza@ipazia.> or <>.
Gellius the Etymologist 69

3. gellius ’ etymologies
3.1. This said, we may now examine certain interesting passages
capable of attribution to Gellius and therefore useful in revealing
him to us as an etymologist in the ancient tradition; granted that he
shows no innovations in method, certain interesting observations,
certain correct proposals, or at least certain good intuitions conWrm
his grammatical competence.10
3.2. In 1. 18. 5, having noted that Varro challenged false ety-
mologies made by L. Aelius Stilo on Stoic principles,11 preferring
in accordance with common Latin practice12 to derive Latin words
from Greek when the sound seemed to match, Gellius remarks that
Varro made a like error in deriving Latin fur from furuus and not
from æ:13
Nonne sic uidetur Varro de fure, tamquam L. Aelius de lepore? Nam quod
a Graecis nunc Œº  dicitur, antiquiore Graeca lingua æ dictus est.
Hinc per adWnitatem litterarum, qui æ Graece, est Latine ‘fur’.
3.2.1. The source is unknown. Hosius (edn. i, p. xxiv) denies
Gellius the credit for discovering Varro’s error. Since the passage
seems to be of legal interest, the source may be a jurist;14 but
although Hosius writes ‘Gellius videtur sua mutuatus esse a iuris-
consulto aliquo’, he may also have used an etymological, that is
to say grammatical source.15 Doubt is unavoidable. However,
See Cavazza, ‘Gellio grammatico’, esp. 269 ¼ 95, on Gellius the etymologist.
SpeciWcally the interpretation of lepus as le(ui)-pes, with false division. Plainly,
too, the ancients paid no attention to the consonantism of their etymologies or even
the vowel-quantities, audible as they still were.
Obviously the Latins could not imagine a common IE origin for Greek and
Latin, but only suppose the more prestigious language to be a superstrate over
another whose literature had a later historical origin, being thus superior both
absolutely and in age.
Varro . . . ‘furem’ dicit ex eo dictum, quod ueteres Romani ‘furuum’ atrum
appellauerint et fures per noctem, quae atra sit, facilius furentur (Gell. 1. 18. 3–4).
So Hosius (edn. i, p. xxiv); but the texts he cites with the Greek etymology are
from late Latinity: cf. D. 47. 2. 1. pr.; the author cited is Paul, who Xourished in the
early 3rd c. ad, hence later than Gellius. In this passage several etymologies are
cited, showing that uncertainty persisted in Paul’s day (from fraus, according to
Masurius Sabinus; from ferre or from Greek, according to others); cf. also J. 4. 1. 2,
which adds to the etymologies mentioned that of Varro cited above from Gellius.
Behind all this there will have been a long etymological tradition whose origin is lost
to us.
Hosius (ibid.) does not consider Cloatius Verus as Gellius’ source because
Gellius does not trust him (NA 16. 12). Indeed he does not; but some correct Greek
etymologies may still have reached him through Cloatius, of whom indeed he
admits (ibid. cap.) that, amidst his errors and absurdities, there were words he
satis commode . . . ad origines linguae Graecae redigit.
70 Franco Cavazza

since some jurists relate furtum to furuum (cf. Labeo, fr. 14, p. 561
Funaioli), others to æ with Gellius, there is no bar on supposing
a juristic source. Unfortunately Masurius Sabinus, whose De furtis
Gellius knows and quotes, does not help us resolve the problem, so
that this conjecture is only a partial solution. But other attestations
of a Greek etymology for fūr, albeit post-Gellian, may be of value
as coming from grammarians,16 and might tell against dependence
on a purely legal source. The grammarians are unlikely to depend
on Gellius; at best he and they have a common source, so that it is
legitimate to think of Probus,17 whether or not (in Gellius’ case)
transmitted through Sulpicius Apollinaris, even in respect of the
phonetic correspondence.18 Be the source legal or grammatical,
such reasoning is admissible only if Gellius is to be denied even a
modicum of authority; moreover, had he depended on a respected
source, he would not assert with his typical modesty (cf. 14. 1. 32,
14. 2. 25) that Varro might be right and that he dare not express a
view in the face of so great an authority.
There is no reason why Gellius’ contacts with the Greek world
should not have enabled him to detect similarities between Greek
and Latin words, and therefore to derive the latter from the
former. If so, he found conWrmation in other authors of a conjec-
ture he had made suo Marte.19 Although Gellius sometimes pre-
sents matter from the same source or on similar subjects in two
successive chapters, no such assistance is available in the present
3.2.2. Gellius’ etymology is correct within the limits of the
ancient perspective: the connection between æ and fūr seems
beyond doubt. J. Pokorny, IEW 128–32 (esp. 129–30) derives
both words from the root *bher-, whose Greek (æø) and Latin
(ferō) descendants are Indo-Europeanist classics; the consonants
are regular, but the vowels require explanation. In the Greek word

Cf. Serv. on Georg. 3. 407, Aen. 2. 18, 9. 348, derived (not very convincingly)
by Hosius from Gellius (cited in Serv. Aen. 5. 738). Cf. too Prisc. GL ii. 11. 19–21.
For Servius’ and Priscian’s dependence on Probus cf. Nettleship, ‘The Noctes
Atticae’, 391 ¼ 248.
Festus, who cites various derivatives of furuus (PF 74. 11–12: Furuum nigrum,
uel atrum. Hinc dicta furnus, Furiae, funus, fuligo, fulgus, fumus), does not help us
here: fur is absent, but silence does not disprove its presence in Verrius, who appears
to be the source for the other passage presenting a phonetic relation between Greek
and Latin (13. 9, esp. §5). Unhelpful too is Val. Max. 2. 4. 5 (furuus ¼ niger); he
shares sources with Gellius, but only for history (cf. Nettleship, ‘The Noctes
Atticae’, 402–3 ¼ 261–2).
On fur and its etymological complex see R. Maltby, Lexicon, 248, whose
account, albeit incomplete, conWrms that Varro’s is the oldest attested.
Gellius the Etymologist 71

the lengthened grade ō is a regular Indo-European Ablaut from the

normal grade e.20 The word, even though not Homeric, is an
archaic root-noun (*bhōr-) of a type that Indo-European languages
tend to eliminate,21 and ought to mean ‘carrier’: the sense of
carrying away what is not one’s own but has been stolen need not
be connected with the form of the word, given that Armenian bur˙n
(<*bhōr-), ‘hand, Wst, force’, has a diVerent sense, so that the Latin
word, even if independent, does not serve to conWrm the sense of
the Greek word as original. Chantraine, Walde–Hofmann,
Ernout–Meillet,22 and others feel obliged to account for the
Latin ū. Despite its widespread acceptance, I am not convinced
by Ernout–Meillet’s notion that the Latin word is indeed a Greek
loan (as Gellius will have it), but via Etruscan,23 which they take to
account both for the initial f- (but IE bh-> Lat. f- is normal, e.g. IE
*bhudh-underlies fundus) and, above all, for ū;24 I concur in
Gernet’s rejection of this theory.25 Ernout–Meillet also entertain
the possibility that Greek and Latin forms both come from a
non-Indo-European word; I disagree for three reasons: (i) the
Even though, like the corresponding long vowel in Latin, it is not conWned to
particular morphological categories, e.g. the nom. sg., but maintained throught the
declension: both æ øæ and fūr fūris illustrate a tendency, especially in Latin
(also found in Germanic, but rare or absent in other IE languages), to generalize the
lengthened grade throughout the paradigm. The nom. sg. is normally asigmatic in
masculines and feminines: cf. A. Ernout, Morphologie, 43–4, who also discusses the
lack of long/short vowel alternation between the nominative and the other cases
(citing monosyllables such as fūr and sōl), but also A. L. Sihler, New Comparative
Grammar, 211, who proposes *fer->*fōrs (sic) >fūr-, for Wnal *rs>rr>r comparing
(obscurely) făr, a neuter derived from the -s- stem *fars, farris (<*far(o)s,
Besides æ, Greek had Œºł, which was early replaced by Œº , found once
in Homer.
P. Chantraine, Dictionnaire, 1238, A. Walde and J. B. Hofmann, LEW i. 569,
A. Ernout and A. Meillet, Dictionnaire, 262–3.
See too A. Ernout, ‘Éléments’, 93 n. 1.
Etruscan lacks o, like Hittite, but retains a, e, i, u: see V. I. Georgiev, Intro-
duction, 235—assuming that this student of Mediterranean and Balkan languages is
right to derive Etruscan from Hittite.
L. Gernet, ‘Notes’, 391–3, sees no reason to regard fūr, even if dialectal, as a
borrowing from Greek: in a loanword, Greek  should not have given f in Italic (in
the broad sense, including Latin) but p(h), assuming no Etruscan mediation, even if
one of the various Latin f-sounds (the spirants G. Bottiglioni, Manuale, 87, calls
‘semiocclusive italiche’, comparing Gk. , Ł, ) corresponds precisely to Greek  in
words derived directly from IE (ferō  æø). In addition, Gernet does not think
that the legal sense of æ/fūr is suYciently explained by reference to æØ in the
sense ‘take (away)’ when theft is not violent but clandestine removal or the thief
is caught red-handed with his loot, himself carrying the corpus delicti. But that is
another question.
72 Franco Cavazza

Indo-European etymology presents no problems phonetic or

semantic, (ii) it is diYcult to imagine a ‘Mediterranean’ language
from which a term of the type and sense of fur could be borrowed,
(iii) in my opinion Alinei’s Continuity Theory must be borne in
mind.26 To be sure Ernout–Meillet do not forget what must be the
true etymology, but treat it as a folk-etymology and therefore
unscientiWc or parascientiWc, so that the verb ferre becomes a factor
of attraction, not a clear example of the original radical. Chantraine
appears to agree on a common Indo-European derivation with
Walde–Hofmann (who, however, show some reservations), given
that the development of Latin ū matches other instances of mono-
syllables such as cur<quor. A development of *ō > ū before r in
monosyllables is also accepted by Sihler,27 albeit from a laryn-
gealist point of view;28 he uses it to show the stability in Latin of
inherited Indo-European long vowels. Walde–Hofmann’s reserva-
tions are due to their allowing the possibility that the Latin word is
a borrowing from Greek. But in the latter case they rightly note
that mediation through Osco-(Samnite)-Umbrian29 or Etruscan
would not be certain, given that ūr < ōr may perfectly well be a
Latin development.
3.3. NA 2. 20. 1, 2, 5, 7–8 run as follows:
1. ‘Viuaria’, quae nunc dicuntur saepta quaedam loca in quibus ferae uiuae
pascuntur, M. Varro in libro de re rustica III. dicit ‘leporaria’ appellari.
2. . . . leporaria . . . te accipere uolo, non ea, quae tritaui nostri dicebant,
ubi soli lepores sint, sed omnia saepta, adWcta uillae quae sunt et habent
inclusa animalia quae pascuntur . . . 5. Sed quod apud Scipionem
omnium aetatis suae purissime locutum legimus ‘roboraria’, aliquot
Romae doctos uiros dicere audiui id signiWcare, quod nos ‘uiuaria’ dici-
mus, appellataque esse a tabulis roboreis, quibus saepta essent . . .
7. Lacus uero aut stagna piscibus uiuis coercendis clausa, suo atque
proprio nomine ‘piscinas’ nominauerunt. 8. ‘Apiaria’ quoque uulgus
dicit loca, in quibus siti sunt aluei apum.

M. Alinei, Origini, i. 365–488 and ii, passim: the Indo-Europeans were Cro-
Magnons, the Wrst, or amongst the Wrst, inhabitants of the Mediterranean, while
other peoples (the Basques and the Etruscans) may be considered bearers of adstrate
languages—not necessarily superstrate, since they did not conquer and settle (let
alone as pioneers) large areas of the Mediterranean.
Cf. Sihler, New Comparative Grammar, 49.
That is, the theory, not proved beyond refutation, that IE long vowels may be
due to a lost laryngeal; thus ō in an IE language may derive from PIE *ō, *oH, or *eH3 .
Oscan and Umbrian too lacked o, or rather their alphabets lacked the sign for o
(whether for graphic or for phonetic reasons, the o sound being closed to the point of
confusion with u), which is u in Old Oscan and Old Umbrian and ú in Late Oscan:
cf. Bottiglioni, Manuale, 13–14, 30–1.
Gellius the Etymologist 73

3.3.1. The passage as presented above appears at Wrst sight to be

the fruit of Gellius’ independent thought and reading. It also
seems to have a certain coherence and connection with the next
two chapters, in which Greek and Latin words are set side by side
(as in §9) with references Wrst to Varro and then Favorinus (stated
to have been present). But this passage appears to stand apart. The
source problem is rather complex, since it is also necessary to
establish whether the chapter derives from a single source or
combines more than one, as sometimes happens in Gellius.
We have in this chapter etymologies for uiuaria, leporaria, robo-
raria, piscinae, and apiaria (besides Varro’s Graecism melissones in
§9). The obvious intuitive etymology of piscina30 may in all prob-
ability be assigned to Varro if only because it can be recovered
from book 3 of De re rustica (3. 17. 2); that book is explicitly also
the source for leporaria and also for melissones in §9. From the same
book, too, will come apiaria: the word is found, along with
ºØH  (and uiuaria) in Colum. 8. 1. 4, where ºÆª

( ¼ leporaria) also appears. That leaves the sources for uiuaria
and Scipio’s roboraria.31 Varro’s treatment of formations in
-ariu(m) and the like make him the indirect source for all similar
instances of declinatio: cf. LL 5. 126, 128, 146, besides 5. 105 and 6.
2, turdarium, precisely amongst the examples of that procedure.
Viuarium is well attested in Pliny and must have been in use for
some time (cf. Hor. Epist. 1. 1. 79), for which reason the etymology
may come from an Augustan grammarian; Hosius (edn. i, p. xxviii)
regards Verrius a possible source for the whole passage. Varro
would then be the ultimate source, mediated (like Scipio) through
Verrius. If, unwilling to accept direct reading of Varro, with the
addition of uiuaria (from Gellius’ own experience of the spoken
language?) and of roboraria, supplied by unknown uiri docti in
Rome whom he had heard directly (cf. §5), we seek a mediator,
we may very well accept Verrius. A slight perplexity is caused by
Gellius’ rare and limited use of the De uerborum signiWcatu,32 and
by the weak support (as even Hosius admits) aVorded by PF 325.
1–6 robum . . . unde et materia . . . dicta est robur. Hinc . . . ro-
busti. Robus quoque in carcere dicitur is locus, quo praecipitatur
However, the etymology is not found earlier; it returns in late Latinity: cf.
Aug. Dialect. 6 (Varro, p. 239. 24–7 Goetz–Schöll ¼ 265. 161–4, pp. 282–3 Funaioli)
and Prisc. GL ii. 80. 15–16.
In his Wfth speech contra Claudium Asellum, as is expressly stated in §6 (fr. 20,
i. 129 Malcovati).
Quoted only in 5. 17. 1, 2 and 5. 18. 2, in two adjacent chapters and always with
reference to book 4 alone.
74 Franco Cavazza

maleWcorum genus, quod antea arcis robusteis includebatur. The pos-

sibility thus remains, however remote, that the etymology of
uiuaria is a proposal of Gellius’ own.
3.3.2. Whoever proposed it, it must be right. Words in -āri-u-s,
-āri-u-m constitute a prominent class of words,33 with a great
future before it in the Romance languages, forming an open class
of derivatives in -ier (French), -ero (Spanish), -aio (Italian).34 Its
origin seems to be Indo-European, even though the derivational
model is not at all secure, and corresponding forms are conWned
to Hittite.35 Latin -ārio- is matched by Oscan -asio-; it might
be derived from thematic formations in -ā (e.g. uiā-sio-), the
subsequently rhotacized -s-being conWrmed by such inXectional
forms as ancient genitives singular like uiās or locatives plural like
*uiāsi, making derivatives in -(i)o-. Adjectivization of the genitive
ending in -sio, Indo-European -syo, must also be considered,
even though it is conWned to stems in -o/e-. The problem remains
open, but would take us too far from our topic.36
3.4. In 3. 16. 11 Gellius writes:
Caesellius . . . Vindex in lectionibus suis antiquis: ‘Tria’ inquit ‘nomina
Parcarum sunt: ‘‘Nona’’, ‘‘Decuma’’, ‘‘Morta’’ ’ . . . Sed homo minime
malus37 Caesellius ‘Mortam’ quasi nomen accepit, cum accipere quasi
Moeram deberet.
3.4.1. Caesellius’ error thus consists in taking Morta as the name
of a Parca and not as generic for all three. The source is not
indicated and the etymology proposed, not found elsewhere,
appears to be Gellius’ own, which also seems to be suggested by
the manner in which he states it. The reference just before (§10) to
Varro, Res diuinae 14 (fr. 132, p. 235 Funaioli), concerns the
etymology of the names Parca, Nona, and Decima, not the passage
as a whole, so that identifying its source is a diYcult problem with
no certain solution. One might think of the emperor Hadrian in the
decree cited in §12, which does not preclude the note’s being
Gellius’ own insertion. But in any case, although citing the true
See F. Gaide, ‘Les dérivés’, who establishes three groups of collective deriva-
tives (words in -arium belonging to the same group as those in -ētum and -ına).
Dialectally (e.g. in romanesco) -aro; there are a few cases of dissimilation, like
armadio <armariu(m), which ought to have been *armaio. This was also due to the
suYx’s wide range of meaning, emphasized by E. W. Nichols, ‘Semantics’, and
after him by M. Fruyt, ‘Métaphore’, esp. 115–16.
Those in Germanic are borrowings; nor are assimilations in loanwords of the
Greek diminutive suYx -%æØ
to Latin -ārium or vice versa relevant.
See LHSz i. 300, with literature there cited.
On the meaning of minime malus see F. Cavazza, ‘Appunti’.
Gellius the Etymologist 75

source last pertains to Gellius’ practice, although the ensuing

quotations may be explained as subsequent additions,38 and al-
though on chronological grounds Hadrian is the only person who
could have cited all the authors previously named, the hypothesis
does not explain why Gellius can claim to have read the texts
quoted in §§1–11 and present his acquaintance with Hadrian’s
decree as a later development. Let it be emphasized once for all
that Gellius’ work, chapter by chapter, is based on his own notes,
even if scattered over time and most importantly whether the mode
of presentation is truthful or a highly artiWcial Wgment. Mercklin
identiWed procedures that recur with incontestable persistence.39
But in our passage, as in others, I am inclined to take Gellius’ word
at face value: he has cited the ancient authors with legi, the decree
with legimus. Variatio apart, he could have read the former to check
the learned emperor’s display; the abundance and precision of the
quotations will thus result from direct reading, particularly as
Gellius reports that Hadrian had relied on the authority of phil-
osophers and physicians, which excludes (if not Varro) Plautus,
Menander, Caecilius, and Caesellius. None of this settles the
source for the etymology of Morta, but leaves the door open to
Gellian authorship40 (though if determined to deny it in all cases,
we may ascribe the etymology to Sulpicius Apollinaris, or even
3.4.2. This etymology appears to be right, though hesitation
may be in order. That Moera is the transliteration of 
EæÆ is
beyond doubt. The connection between Morta and the Greek
word, however, is fraught with diYculty (as shown by Pokorny’s
twofold etymology, IEW 735 and 969): Ernout–Meillet assign
them to a common root, IE *(s)mer-, ‘remember’,41 cf. Lat.
memor and perhaps Morta (<*(s)mert-), and hence ‘provide’, cf.
Gk.  æ
ÆØ (<*(s)mer-iomai), 
EæÆ (<(s)m-), Lat. mereō, ‘I
earn, acquire’, and the Gaulish divine name Ro-smerta. But others,
including Marstrander,42 connect the name (rightly in my opinion)
with the root *mer- of Lat. morior: Mor-ta seems to be a participial
form, cf. Skt. mr. tá-, ‘dead’, from *mr-to´-. Even those who do not
accept this interpretation cannot deny˚ that the word has undergone
the inXuence of morior, mors, mort-u-u-s (with -uu- on the analogy
So M. 655–6, followed by R. 1–3, and Hosius, edn. i, p. xxx.
So too, independently, K. 3–27.
Even Ernout–Meillet (Dictionnaire, 415) appear to accept it as Gellius’ own
Cf. also P. Ramat, ‘L’etimologia’.
Cf. C. Marstrander, ‘Les noms’, 52.
76 Franco Cavazza

of uiuus): Marstrander sees in it an ancient abstract comparable

with porta (root *per-) and multa (an Italic word of uncertain
etymology); this too is not without diYculty, as Ernout–Meillet
note, but I prefer the connection with morior, disagreeing in this
with the last-named scholars, who further suggest the inXuence of
3.5. In 4. 9. 2, 8, 12 Gellius discusses another class of derivatives,
those in -ōsus from a clearly deWned source:
2. Nigidius: ‘Hoc’ inquit inclinamentum semper huiuscemodi uerborum,
ut ‘‘uinosus’’, ‘‘mulierosus’’, ‘‘religiosus’’, signiWcat copiam quandam
immodicam rei, super qua dicitur. Quocirca ‘‘religiosus’’ is appellabatur,
qui nimia et superstitiosa religione sese alligauerat, eaque res uitio assi-
gnabatur . . . 8. Masurius autem Sabinus in commentariis, quos de indi-
genis composuit: ‘ ‘‘Religiosum’’ ’ inquit ‘est, quod propter sanctitatem
aliquam remotum ac sepositum a nobis est; uerbum a ‘‘relinquendo’’
dictum, tamquam ‘‘caerimoniae’’ a ‘‘carendo’’ ’ . . . 12. Quod si, ut ait
Nigidius, omnia istiusmodi inclinamenta nimium ac praeter modum
signiWcant et idcirco in culpas cadunt, ut ‘uinosus’, ‘mulierosus’, ‘moro-
sus’, ‘uerbosus’, ‘famosus’, cur ‘ingeniosus’ et ‘formosus’ et ‘oYciosus’ et
‘speciosus’, quae pariter ab ingenio et forma et oYcio <et specie> incli-
nata sunt, cur etiam ‘disciplinosus’, ‘consiliosus’, ‘uictoriosus’, quae M.
Cato ita aYgurauit, cur item ‘facundiosa’, quod Sempronius Asellio XIII.
rerum gestarum ita scripsit . . . , cur, inquam, ista omnia numquam in
culpam, sed in laudem dicuntur, quamquam haec item incrementum sui
nimium demonstrent? an propterea quia illis quidem, quae supra posui,
adhibendus est modus quidam necessarius?
3.5.1. These are easy, intuitive etymologies, with espressly
cited sources. Nigidius is quite right about the suYx, which indi-
cates that something abounds; he adduces uinosus, mulierosus, and
religiosus. Gellius for his part suggests various correct etymologies
on Nigidian lines: morosus, uerbosus, famosus, whose principal
is implicit (but then stated in §13), and ingeniosus, formosus, oY-
ciosus, speciosus, which he refers to ingenium, forma, oYcium; to
these must be added species (not in the manuscripts but restored,
though in §14 Gellius cites not species but gratia as the basis of gra-
tiosus, which has not appeared before). In this way, too, he inter-
prets Cato’s coinages disciplinosus, consiliosus, uictoriosus, and
Sempronius Asellio’s facundiosa, giving their principals in §14.
The sources are plainly Nigidius (fr. 4, p. 162 Funaioli)
and Masurius Sabinus (fr. 1, p. 357 Mazzarino ¼ 13, i. 75
Dictionnaire, 822; cf. M. Lejeune, ‘Discussions’, 438, who agrees with Ramat,
‘L’etimologia’, in separating Morta from Maurtia (sic <Mauortia), an adjectival
derivative from the name Mars.
Gellius the Etymologist 77

Huschke–Seckel–Kübler),44 two authors of whom Gellius shows

direct knowledge, not only here. Simple as the etymologies are,
Gellius knows how to choose: he cites Sabinus at the semantic
level, but does not appear to accept his etymology.
Furthermore, Gellius rightly observes that this derivational
class is denominative and not deverbative: at 3. 12 (where the
source is not stated) he justly criticizes Nigidius for pairing bibax
with bibosus, incorrectly formed not from a nomen but from a verb.
As an example of correct derivation he cites uinosus, a word cited
by Nigidius at 4. 9. 2, but adds uitiosus ceteraque, quae hoc modo
dicuntur, quoniam a uocabulis, non a uerbo inclinata sunt (3. 12. 3).
Furthermore, in modifying Nigidius’ account Gellius anticipates
modern insistence on considering semantics as well as phonetics
(cf. e.g. 15. 3. 6 cohaerentia uocis), giving due weight to meaning.
Which etymology of religiosus does Gellius accept? From his
criticism of Nigidius’ semantics, he might seem to side with
Sabinus (¼ Ser. Sulpicius) in deriving the word from relinquere
(§10 dies religiosi dicti, quos ex contraria causa propter ominis dirita-
tem relinquimus). But in asserting against Nigidius (§§12–14—not
from the sources cited but on his own account, unless we posit
subsequent addition from some other source) that the excess of a
quality expressed by -ōsus is sometimes a fault and sometimes
laudable, depending on the quality, he seemingly reconnects reli-
giosus with religio (for its various senses see §§3–10). To that extent
Nigidius prevails, unless we will suppose that Gellius expounds
without choosing; elsewhere, though scrupulous in stating various
interpretations (as with indutiae, 1. 25), his regular tendency is to
accept a speciWc solution as probabilior. What interests us, how-
ever, is that Gellius’ etymological discussions take note of poly-
semy; his comments on -ōsus formations need not come from a
source (though cf. Varro, LL 8. 15 declinata . . . ab ingenio inge-
niosi), but may be his own in the wake of Nigidius or indeed Probus
(e.g. for 3. 12, to which add 9. 12, where other words in -ōsus
3.5.2. Words in -ōsus, whose meaning and derivation were
already understood by the ancients and are uncontested now,
This is a diVerent problem, but matters are slightly complicated by a passage
of Macrobius (Sat. 3. 3. 8) that attributes Sabinus’ etymology to Servius Sulpicius
(fr. 14, p. 425 Funaioli; fr. 14, i. 35 Huschke–Seckel–Kübler). A possible solution
(cf. K. 79–80) is that Masurius cited Servius (as on penus in NA 4. 1), so that both
Macrobius and Gellius are right. The only diYculty is that Macrobius is often
dependent on Gellius; however, the existence of exceptions makes this solution
78 Franco Cavazza

have continued to Xourished in the Romance languages.45 The

likeliest-seeming explanation combines morphology and semantics
in an apparently logical and convincing manner: if Lat. uinōsus, as
the ancients already supposed, corresponds to Gk.
N Ø, we
may posit a suYx *we/ont-, with related forms in Hittite
and Indo-Iranian; -Ø would thus come from *-
= - (with
the Indo-European possessive suYx) and -ōsus from -ownts -to-s.
However, since the extension in -to- seems unmotivated, ˚various
other explanations have been proposed (leading to the comparison
with Gk. -), which Ernout Wnds unsatisfactory. Neither way
are the phonetics satisfactory; starting from them, one might
speculatively derive uinōsus from uinōd (abl.) þ -to- (participial)
þs. It may be better to leave the problem to others, being content
to have pointed it out.
3.6. NA 6. 7, on the accentuation of ádfatim, ádmodum, exáduer-
sum, ádfabre, ádprobe, ádprobus, ends (§12):
Idem Liuius in Odyssia ‘praemodum’ dicit, quasi admodum: ‘Parcentes’
inquit ‘praemodum’, quod signiWcat ‘supra modum’, dictumque est quasi
‘praeter modum’, in quo scilicet prima syllaba acui debebit.
3.6.1. Not only does the oral source seem obvious—Gellius cites
the poet Annianus—but we may suppose that Annianus too had an
oral source, namely Probus.46 It is evidence for the initial stress or
‘intensive’ accent of archaic Latin (cf. intentio §5), which many
scholars believe to be demonstrated by known facts of language,
short internal vowels being subjected to either change of timbre or
syncope.47 Clearly, then, the etymological phenomenon known to
the ancient grammarians as compositio (uerborum) is here seen as
leading to the creation of new words no longer felt as compounds,
which behave like simplicia (cf. §10) even though etymologically
they remain compositiones.
The last section, which presents a diVerent case, not concerning
ad-compounds, seems, and not only from its position, to be

Their remote origin, as adjectives denoting abundance, in competition with
forms in -ulentus, was studied by A. Ernout, Adjectifs, 5–9, following M. Leumann
in F. Stolz et al., Lateinische Grammatik, i. 231, cf. 228–9, LHSz i. 341–2. On this
chapter see too A. Garcea and V. Lomanto, above, 54–5.
Cf. Aistermann 118–19, who compares NA 4. 7. M. 675–81 (following H. E.
Dirksen, ‘Die Auszüge’, 37–49 ¼ 28–38), supposes that all Gellius’ oral sources,
chief of whom are Favorinus and Sulpicius Apollinaris, are in fact quoted from a
written text, so that the scenes described by Gellius result from artiWce. In my
opinion this may be true in certain cases but not as an absolute rule.
Cf. e.g. M. Niedermann, Phone´tique, 18–36.
Gellius the Etymologist 79

Gellius’ own addition. The chapter is thus in two parts; the ques-
tion is whether the second begins at §6, with other compounds in
which the long vowel of the second syllable tells against Wxed
accentuation on initial intensive ad, or consists solely of §12. Un-
certain as the source of §§6–11 may be,48 I am inclined to think that
the reference to práemodum, not envisaged in the previous quota-
tions, is Gellius’ own; to be sure the word is said to match admodum
in sense, but on the one hand the equation of prae with praeter may
echo Verrius,49 on the other when the adprime of 6. 7. 7 reappears
in 17. 2. 14 amongst words and phrases from book 1 of Claudius
Quadrigarius, Gellius expressly states that his notes are the result
of his studies and his memory (§§1–2), which may be plausibly said
of this passage too.
3.6.2. Gellius’ etymology is either an apparent parahaplology, so
to speak, or a case of syncope, if praemodum be understood as from
práe[tĕr]mŏdum, or else asserts homosemy of ad, prae, and
praeter¼supra. Since in ancient etymologists dictum quasi normally
indicates derivation, his quasi ‘praeter modum’ points to the former.
The homorrhizy of prae and prae-ter, comparable with in and in-
ter, prope and prop(e)-ter, sub and sub-ter, suggests that Gellius’
etymology (whether or not he understood the concept) is correct,
particularly as the sense is acceptable.
3.7. To explain how in ordinary speech nequitia was given an
incorrect sense Gellius has methodically correct recourse to ety-
mology; in 6. 11. 8 he cites from Varro (LL 10. 81, with a slightly
diVerent text) the words:
Vt ex ‘non’ et ex ‘uolo’ inquit ‘nolo’, sic ex ‘ne’ et ‘quicquam’ media syllaba
extrita compositum est ‘nequam’.
3.7.1. That is to say, the etymology of nequam, ‘worthless’, be-
stows a purely negative connotation on nequitia, such as ‘insigniW-
cance’, in contrast to the sense of ‘skilfulness’ and ‘cunning’ that it
had in Gellius’ own day. On the basis of the preceding chs. 7, 9,
and 10, Josef Aistermann took 6. 11 to be mediated through
Probus; his arguments have varying force.50 In any case, the

If a second source is suggested, it is not by any reWnement in the linguistic
judgement, but only by the new word-class.
Cf. Fest. 224. 6 praepetes aues quidam dici aiunt, quia secundum auspicium
faciant praeteruolantes and cf. Gellius 7. 6 and the equivalence of praepetere with
anteire at Fest. 286. 14–16. Intermediation through Sulpicius Apollinaris is
possible, not that that matters here.
Aistermann 136. Whereas the case for attributing 6. 10 to Probus seems sound,
that for ch. 11 is more doubtful: although Aistermann adduces some repetitions and
80 Franco Cavazza

etymologies, whatever their immediate source, are clearly Varro’s.

That of nolo, accepted by subsequent grammarians (cf. Cornut. fr.
7, p. 179 Mazzarino) down to late antiquity (cf. Maltby, Lexicon,
413), is almost right; that of nequam is (in part) wrong, whereas that
proposed in PF 185. 6 nequam, qui ne tanti quidem est, quam quod
habetur minimi, is correct as to compositio but wrong in the inter-
pretation of quam.51 If Gellius accepts Varro’s etymology, he
shares his error in allowing compositio of nĕ to yield nē.
3.7.2. Nēquitia (also nēqu-iti-ēs) is rightly derived from nequam.
The etymology is easy, intuitive, and correct, which means that it
may be due to Gellius, who implicitly states it. However, obvious
as the etymology is, an interpretation of the word had already been
given, and almost inevitably in error, by Cicero, Tusc. 3. 18 nequi-
tia ab eo (etsi erit hoc fortasse durius, sed temptemus: lusisse putemur,
si nihil sit) ab eo quod nequidquam est in tali homine, ex quo idem
‘nihili’ dicitur. Cicero may, recalling Varro, have lumped nequam
together with nequitia; Gellius may not have known the passage or
else thought it not worth mentioning after Varro. Thus Gellius
may err after and with Cicero without knowing it, or else, as we
have supposed, hit the mark. In any case he does not express
himself clearly on the etymology, but simply, and rightly, connects
nequam with nequitia. He may have been wrong on the origin of
nequam; but a modern etymologist may also wonder whether nequi-
tia stands to malitia as nequiter<nequam to turpiter (for the connec-
tion see Cic. Tusc. 3. 36 turpiter et nequiter).
3.8. In 6. 17. 3, 12 we read:
3. Quis adeo tam linguae Latinae ignarus est, quin sciat eum dici ‘ob-
noxium’, cui quid ab eo, cui esse ‘obnoxius’ dicitur, incommodari et
noceri potest, ut qui habeat aliquem noxae, id est culpae suae con-
scium? . . . 12. . . . si quis . . . uolet non originem solam uerbi istius,
sed signiWcationem quoque eius uarietatemque recensere, ut hoc etiam
Plautinum spectet, adscripsi uersus ex Asinaria [284–5]: . . .
adeo ut aetate—ambo ambobus nobis sint obnoxii
nostro deuincti beneWcio.

textual resemblances between this and other chapters, it is typical of the entire
Noctes Atticae for particular theses to be expressed with speciWc stylemes, whereas
individuals’ utterances are often linked to stereotypical formulae or generic citations
(as already noted by M. 656–8, 696–8).
Nolo, of course, comes from nĕ (not nōn) þuŏlō, which yields *nŏuŏlō (standing
to it as nouos to =
) >nōlō. Nēquam is as Verrius saw a compound of nē þ quam, but
the quam is not the comparative conjunction but the indeWnite quam of quis-quam (in
fact quis underlies both elements), which partly rehabilitates Varro’s etymology.
Gellius the Etymologist 81

3.8.1. The speaker in §3 is one of those anonymous grammarians

of whom Gellius frequently makes fun. He does not accept as the
sole sense that propounded by his interlocutor, ‘culpae suae con-
scius’ (§3), maintaining that the word has several meanings.52 Nor
does he give a clear account of the etymology, despite three state-
ments of his intention to do so (cap., §§1, 12). True, it may be
deduced from the passage of Plautus cited above, where obnoxii
appears to be explained by deuincti: it appears that Gellius wrongly
rejects the obvious and straightforward etymology from ob þ noxa
in favour of ob þ necto, nexus, for the sake of the parallelism uincire
 nectere. Nor is the source evident. As in other passages one may
look to jurists as well as grammarians. Hosius (edn. i, p. xxxvi)
‘suspects’ Verrius, but as he himself admits PF 207. 10, obnoxius
poenae obligatus ob delictum does not help much and seems to stand
halfway between Gellius’ etymology and that (from noxa) of the
grammaticus nebulo, who in his embarrassment goes so far as to say
that it applies to obnoxius and not obnoxie (§5). However, Hosius
does not seem to have recalled the other passage of Festus 180.
25–32, where, on the authority of a jurist, Ser. Sulpicius Rufus
(fr. 4, p. 423 Funaioli ¼ 9, i. 35 Huschke–Seckel–Kübler), obnoxius
seems to be linked to noxa, in the sense culpa, peccatum, and hence
poena: which appears to exclude dependence on Verrius. The
matter is all the more confused by Isidore’s assertion, Etym. 10.
198, obnexus [obnoxius?], quia obligatus est nexibus culpae, on the
face of it a curious synthesis between what we have attributed to
Gellius and what was stated by the nebulo; in essence, Isidore,
while apparently reporting Gellius’ (?) etymology, clearly follows
the deWnition found in Paulus. This suggests Verrius, already
ruled out as a possible source for Gellius; it is precisely in relation
to culpa, which obnoxius does not always imply, that Gellius dis-
agrees with the suggested interpretations and asserts his independ-
ence. Those who deny that he excerpted his own quotations must
think of Probus (¼ Sulpicius Apollinaris?), at least for those from
Vergil, Sallust, Plautus, and Ennius, authors whom, together with
Cicero, Probus often cites in Gellius. But given the overall uncer-
tainty, we prefer to credit the implicit etymology to Gellius him-
self; it will naturally also apply to obnoxiosae, cited in §10, plainly
derived from obnoxius þ ōsus (cf. above, §§3.5–3.5.2), despite the
irregularity (the suYx is normally attached to substantives).

However, in order to bestow coherence on Gellius’ exposition it is necessary to
mistranslate Plaut. Stichus 497, cited in §4; cf. my edn. iii. 215 n. 6.
82 Franco Cavazza

3.8.2. Noxa and noxius, related according to Ernout–Meillet

(Dictionnaire, 435) with nex and noceo, apparently have nothing
to do with obnoxius. The confusions, sometimes due to manuscript
corruption, between nexa(e) and noxa(e) (e.g. CGL iv. 454. 27
nexe conligate, iv. 540. 40 nexa coniuncta ligata; iv. 126. 23, v. 468.
45 noxe ligat(a)e), and between obnexae (Acc. Trag. v. 257 Rib-
beck2) and obnoxae, cause Ernout–Meillet (loc. cit.) to include s.v.
nectō a reference to obnoxius even while preferring another explan-
ation,53 that the ancients connected obnoxius ‘subject (to)’ . . . with
noxa (no doubt noxius assisted the process). Obnoxius, it is argued,
owes its primary sense ‘subjected/exposed (to)’ to a root *nok-
(*no k-),54 also found in the -to- formation nactus, an adjective
related to nancıscor.55 But on the one hand the ‘straightforward’,
quasi-popular etymology of the ancients must have inXuenced the
word’s semantic evolution and its frequency of use in a speciWc
meaning, ‘guilty’, and a particular, namely legal, Weld of refer-
ence,56 so that this use, though in fact a later development,
appeared to be the original sense, derived from noxa, and under-
went expansion in the manner familiar to students of semantics. In
fact, Walde–Hofmann, LEW ii. 155, Wnd the connection between
obnoxius and nancıscor neither formally nor semantically convin-
cing; I concur, not least because the connection felt by the ancients
makes sense. Certaintly the whole group is related to nex (whence
the denominative necō and the o-grade causative noc-e´ye/o-, i.e.
noceō), and the radical *nek-, *nok-, or rather *nek̂-, to judge by
the sat m languages, seems correct for a whole family of words of
which noxa and obnoxius should form part. Walde–Hofmann
(ibid.) also take pains to exclude a link with nectō, for which no
o-grades are attested, so that in the doublets cited above involving
nexae vs. noxae and obnexae vs. obnoxae only the -e- forms will be
correct. None of this aVects Ennius’ and Plautus’ obnoxiosus, in any
event a derivative in -ōsus.
3.9. An interesting passage is 7. 12, an entire chapter with two
etymologies, one of which applies to a word-class:
Seruius Sulpicius iureconsultus uir aetatis suae doctissimus, in libro de
sacris detestandis secundo qua ratione adductus ‘testamentum’ uerbum
For which see ibid. 214–15 n. 4. The present discussion supplements and
partly corrects the commentary, since I now prefer Walde–Hofmann’s explanation
to Ernout–Meillet’s.
Structure and sense require ex hypothesi, in addition to this root, a -s- marking
the desiderative, so that ob-noks-ius is to be interpreted as ‘inclined/subject to’.
Or nancio(r), found only in the grammarians, cf. Prisc. GL ii. 513. 16.
Cf. obnoxios criminum (C. 3. 44. 1), cuiusdam criminis obnoxius (C. 9. 2. 2).
Gellius the Etymologist 83
esse duplex scripserit, non reperio; nam compositum esse dixit a mentis
contestatione. Quid igitur ‘calciamentum’, quid ‘paludamentum’, quid
‘pauimentum’, quid ‘uestimentum’, quid alia mille per huiuscemodi for-
mam producta, etiamne ista omnia composita dicemus? Obrepsisse autem
uidetur Seruio, uel si quis est, qui id prior dixit, falsa quidem, sed non
abhorrens neque inconcinna quasi mentis quaedam in hoc uocabulo si-
gniWcatio, sicut hercle C. quoque Trebatio eadem concinnitas obrepsit.
Nam in libro de religionibus secundo: ‘ ‘‘sacellum’’ est’ inquit ‘locus
paruus deo sacratus cum ara’. Deinde addit uerba haec: ‘ ‘‘Sacellum ex
duobus uerbis arbitror compositum ‘‘sacri’’ et ‘‘cellae’’, quasi ‘‘sacra
cella’’ ’. Hoc quidem scripsit Trebatius; set quis ignorat ‘sacellum’ et
simplex uerbum esse et non ex ‘sacro’ et ‘cella’ copulatum, sed ex ‘sacro’
3.9.1. Obvious as the truth was, Gellius here avoids the traps—
of illustrious Stoic origin at that—into which an amateur etymolo-
gist might no less easily fall. If he knew the passages from the two
authors directly, the refutation is his own. This is likely enough to
be the case, if only for his assertion that the productio in -mentum is
an obvious form of declinatio (understood as ‘derivation’) and his
implication that everyone else is as well aware as he is that sacellum
is the diminutive of sacrum. Contrariwise, if the authors are cited
indirectly, the whole chapter should come from a single source,
given the close relation between the two critiques of etymological
errors involving imaginary compositiones. Who, in those pioneering
times, could collect gross errors in etymology except for a well-
trained grammarian? Hence, if we refused to credit Gellius with
the refutation, we should have to disregard the juridical and reli-
gious theme and seek his source amongst grammarians rather than
legal scholars and practitioners, even though these include Ser.
Sulpicius and C. Trebatius.57 One might have thought of Varro,
had not Donatus on Ter. Ad. 576 reported his assertion (fr. 453,
p. 369 Funaioli) sacellum . . . sacra cella est.58 In the face of this
crass error, Varro’s credit could be saved only by supposing that he
intended not an etymology but a deWnition, since LL 5. 180 sacra-
mentum a sacro shows the word as the basis for a productio in
Interestingly, and curiously, the false etymologies of testamentum known to
us are of juristic origin except for the fantasy in Isid. Etym. 5. 24. 2 testamen-
tum . . . testatoris monumentum, which nevertheless pays its homage to the law: see
J. 2. 10. pr. testamentum ex eo appellatur, quod testatio mentis est, pointing to a
tradition of legal etymology.
Varro’s misinterpretation of sacellum had become standard with the sacral
lawyers; Gellius was the only writer to give a correct account, but amongst the
grammarians there is an echo at Prisc. GL ii. 27. 17, who by listing sacrum sacellum
after labrum labellum shows that he recognized the diminutive.
84 Franco Cavazza

-mentum; if so, he was grievously misunderstood by Ser. Sulpicius.

But Donatus’ evidence seems to condemn Varro unequivocally, at
least for sacellum, so that nothing results from comparing Donatus’
quotation with Varro, LL 7. 84 in aliquot sacris ac sacellis, which
might seem to refute Trebatius in advance and to be Gellius’
source, ultimate or direct. Nor is Festus 422. 15–17 (¼ PF 423. 6)
sacella dicuntur loca dis sacrata sine tecto grounds for attributing to
Verrius the correct etymology of sacellum. If Gellius is to be denied
responsibility for the correction, a plausible source will be one of
his masters in grammar.59 To conclude, Gellius’ good etymo-
logical training—good amidst all the pitfalls of the age—is respon-
sible for the etymology; but it would seem to be his own, based on
observations and considerations arising from his own knowledge.
To be sure, it is elementary and trivial for us, and was easy even for
Gellius, but it was not so easy for those whose misunderstandings
he corrected. His etymologies are correct for both words, and for
all the derivatives in -mentum.
3.9.2. The latter cannot be separated form the neuters in -men,
plainly Indo-European in origin (cf. nouns in -in-, nom. -en, and
forms in -mentum: e.g. agmen and fragmentum). Both types are
highly productive in Romance (-mentum more than -men). But
however probable the extension in -to-, i.e. -men-to-m, the latter
remains unexplained. One might posit a suYx *-mn-to- and com-
pare Greek formations in -Æ (< mn), whose genitive ˚ -Æ
an Erweiterung in -t- and whose plurals˚ in -ÆÆ recall the Latin
neuter plural -menta (-mn-t-a) (?).60 Diminutives in -ellus (also
-illus), another living class˚ in all Latinity down to late times and
inherited by Romance, are now interpreted as coming from various
secondary suYxations, often themselves formed from diminutives:
Hosius (edn. i, p. xxxvii) merely refers the passage to Gellius’ quoted authors
(implicitly crediting the refutations to him?); K. 59, starting from M. 648, proposes
an intermediary for the citations (and the corrections?), but leaves him totally
anonymous. We have no right to think of Fronto, since the attribution to him of
the work De diV. (see GL vii. 523. 26–7 sacellum paruulum aediWcium diis consecra-
tum) is a Renaissance fantasy.
Cf. J. Perrot, Les De´rive´s, 11–30: Latin derivatives in -men and -mentum are
connected with an important, ancient, and well-represented IE group, based on
*-m(e/o)n-, with thematization in *-m(e)no- (cf. Sanskrit and Greek passive parti-
ciples) or with added dental element *-ment-, or on a composite suYx *-mnto->
Lat. -mentum. From *-men- Latin has thus derived two productive neuter types, ˚ one
in -men, the other in -mentum, alive in Romance but not in their original semantic
relation. Cf. too LHSz i. 369–72, and Sihler, New Comparative Grammar, 297, who
envisages two IE suYxes, an -n- stem *-mon- forming nomina agentis (m.) and
nomina actionis (n.), and a secondary derivative  -me =o nt- forming possessive adjec-
tives often substantivized as neuters (cf. Latin abstracts in -mentum).
Gellius the Etymologist 85

their bases are *-(e)l-(e)lo-, *-(e)r-(e)lo-, *-en-(e)lo- (the alveo-

lar lateral liquid l is often regressively assimilated and thus gemin-
ated); of this last a well-known example is bellus <*duenelos, going
back to bonus.61 Ð
3.10. An apparently relevant passage, albeit lost, is 8. 2, of which
we have only the capitulum:
Quae mihi decem uerba ediderit Fauorinus, quae usurpentur quidem a
Graecis, sed sint adulterina et barbara; quae item a me totidem acceperit,
quae ex medio communique usu Latine loquentium minime Latina sint
neque in ueterum libris reperiantur.
3.10.1. The particular interest and importance of this passage lie
in the possibility of crediting etymologies to Gellius in person; far
from depending on his teachers, he is capable in his turn of
informing one of them about the etymologies of certain words.
It is of course impossible, in the absence of the text and any
source (barring Favorinus, in part only), to reconstitute the sub-
ject-matter; nor is it clear whether barbara is a mere synonym for
adulterina or denotes derivation from another language. In the
latter case, the words discussed will not have come from Italic
dialects, if they are recent coinages not found in ancient authors,
even if that could be meant by saying they are minime Latina, since
ancient etymologists had no notion of linguistic aYliations and
(with the exception of Varro) paid little attention to dialectal
variants. Nor will they be Greek, or Gellius would surely have
expressed himself diVerently and indicated their provenance ex-
plicitly. We may therefore suppose they are words from one or
more barbarian languages, but cannot say whether they were also
found in Greek usage. Perhaps they resembled cupsones, to which
we turn next.
3.11. Another capitulum from the lost book 8 (ch. 13) encourages
the notion that Gellius himself was responsible for an etymology:
‘Cupsones’, quod homines Afri dicunt, non esse uerbum Poenicum sed
3.11.1. This aVords us no opportunity for speculation about the
source, unless one thinks of Favorinus.62 But, as in the preceding
Cf. LHSz i. 305–11, with bibliography (on bellus i. 306). For the Latin
consonant groups yiedling -ll- see Sihler, New Comparative Grammar, 209–10.
Where the main topic is etymology or lexicology connected with etymology,
Gellius tends (though it is not an absolute rule) to indicate the relevant source(s) in
the capitulum: besides 8. 2 see e.g. 2. 4, 2. 26, 5. 7, 13. 10, 13. 11, 16. 12. Where he
has authority for an etymology, it is speciWed in the course of the chapter, even
though there are cases in which the primary source is suppressed: at 16. 10. 13, 15
86 Franco Cavazza

instance, the possibility remains open of attributing the etymology

to Gellius, who was not devoid of Greek. Leaving aside the textual
uncertainty,63 we Wnd cupsones in Augustine (Serm. 46. 39, PL 38.
293),64 which seems to support Marshall’s thesis that that is the
correct reading, not eupsones. However, the sense of the word
remains obscure. Augustine is an African writer; either this, or
Gellius’ statement that it is used by Africans, have led some
scholars to make Gellius his compatriot, in a broad and general
sense, as an Afer.65 Baldwin dissents,66 denying the possibility of
African origin for Gellius, whether on this footing or on others; it
would be interesting or even decisive for establishing the origin of
the etymology, which might then be Gellius’ own, but rejection of
Gellian Africitas in no way diminishes the possibility that the
etymological discussion is his own.
Although source-criticism is hampered by the loss of the text,
certain points may be made. As to Favorinus: Greek-speaker as he
was (a plausible Greek etymology is proposed), the next chapter
(8. 14) proves nothing, nor does the recourse to Greek. There is no
more reason to suppose an African source, or to detract in any way
from Gellius’ etymological auctoritas. Moreover, in stating that the
word is not Punic,67 Gellius is correcting an extant opinion (as in

Gellius gives the respective etymologies of proletarii and adsiduus, both stated orally
by Julius Paulus, though of the two interpretations of adsiduus one (ab aere dando)
goes back to Aelius Stilo (fr. 6, p. 59 Funaioli) and had been taken up by others.
The MSS are divided between eupsones (read by Hertz, Hosius, and Rolfe) and
cupsones, for which see P. K. Marshall, ‘Four Lexicographical Notes’, 273, followed
by Marache (edn. ii. 111) and me (edn. iii. 279–80). G. Bernardi Perini also sides
with Marshall (as always except as noted in edn. i. 45–76).
In Numidia . . . muscarium uix inuenitur, in cupsonibus habitant. Here too the
reading is not entirely secure.
Cf. P. Monceaux, Les Africains, 250. The suggestion has never met with much
approval (cf. next n.). It arises not so much from this very weak, not to say irrelevant
evidence, as from the fact that the chief cultural Wgures of the age, Apuleius, Fronto,
and Sulpicius Apollinaris, with the last two of whom Gellius was in close contact,
were of African origin. On Apollinaris’ Carthaginian origin see Beck, Sulpicius
Apollinaris, 3. See too L. A. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 14–15, 83–4 [11–12,
Studies in A. Gell. 6 (though he reads eupsones); so already A. Milazzo, Àulo
Ge`llio, 9–17 ¼ 256–62, locating Gellius’ patria in Rome; Marache, edn. i, p. viii.
A slight indication that Probus is the source is the likelihood that the preceding
chapter, 8. 12, is derived from him (cf. Donatus on Ter. Andr. 55: so Aistermann
139), but although, living in Berytus, he might have acquired some Phoenician, the
argument is very weak, weaker even than that for Favorinus, who is at least named
in 8. 14. cap. As might be expected, Punic words have very little presence in Gellius;
apart from any discussed in 8. 2, the prosody of Hannibāl, Hasdrubāl, and Hamilcār
is treated in 4. 7, expressly taken from Probus’ Epistula ad Marcellum.
Gellius the Etymologist 87

15. 30, though there he cites Varro, perhaps mediated through

Verrius): this may indicate that the word is well known, or that it
had been studied by some lexicographer or etymologist. We shall
therefore credit the etymology to Gellius, whose learning here, as
elsewhere, may come from books (so Baldwin). The Greek etymol-
ogy is correct, if we adopt cupsones and the Maurists’ suggestion
(cited by Migne) that ‘in cupsonibus’ means in rupibus et spelun-
cis,68 supported by Marshall’s highly apposite observation that
Gellius must have derived cupsones from Œ Ø , ‘bend forward’.
3.12. In 10. 5. 1, 3 there is a passage I Wnd particularly interest-
ing, as I indicated in edn. iv. 233:69
‘Auarus’ non simplex uocabulum, sed iunctum copulatumque esse P.
Nigidius dicit in commentariorum undetricesimo. ‘Auarus enim’ inquit
‘appellatur, qui auidus aeris est. Sed in ea copula ‘‘e’’ littera’ inquit ‘detrita
est’ . . . 3. . . . de ‘auaro’ ambigitur: cur enim non uideri possit ab uno
solum uerbo inclinatum, quod est ‘aueo’, eademque esse Wctura, qua est
‘amarus’, de quo nihil dici potest, quin duplex non sit?
3.12.1. As often Gellius does not cite the source of his etymol-
ogy, which is correct as to the derivation from aueo and probably
also the comparison with amārus.70 If we are unwilling to make it
Gellius’ own, attention as always falls on his teachers: but no
evidence accrues, since the DiVerentiae uerborum edited under
Fronto’s name are not his work.71 Furthermore, the meagreness
of the DiVerentiae apart, oral tradition too must be rejected: that
the passage derives directly from Nigidius’ Commentarii (fr. 14,
p. 166 Funaioli) seems to be shown by the preceding chapter, taken
from the same source. Even Gellius’ mode of expression leaves no
doubts. He is not so much of a forger as to use such language for
presenting genuine research of his own; the etymology must be his,
without a precursor. There is a strange recurrence in Isidore
(Etym. 10. 9), who gives Gellius’ etymology for auidus and auarus

TLL s.v., col. 1438. 50–1 oVers no explanation; Latin etymological dictionar-
ies say nothing of the word at all.
‘Dopo aver fatto un’indagine su quelle che appaiono etimologie ‘‘gelliane’’
autonome ci pare di poter aVermare che l’etimologia qui proposta non è mediata da
altri o almeno che Gellio scrive qui dopo una meditazione e una ricerca personale;
e coglie nel segno.’
Ernout–Meillet, Dictionnaire, 25: ‘Comme le remarque déjà Aulu-Gelle, 10, 5,
3, la formation rappelle celle de auārus à côté de aueō; elle n’est pas répresentée
See n. 59; they include locuples (GL vii. 525. 4–5), another word presumed to
result from compositio, which Gellius discusses in this chapter without raising any
objection, and auarus  auidus (which recurs in Non. 710 L. ¼ 442. 9–16 M.).
88 Franco Cavazza

(hinc [sc. ab auendo] et auarus), but concludes with Nigidius’

auarus . . . auidus auri.
3.12.2. Latin words in -ārus are listed in the ever-useful reverse
index of Otto Gradenwitz.72 As said, Gellius’ etymology is correct,
even though it is a mere comparison without the kind of explan-
ation that we moderns should give but cannot expect of an ancient.
Yet these words, few in number, give rise to several diYculties. An
ancient (nor are we any better oV) could Wnd only a few theoretic-
ally comparable words, amārus, auārus, cārus, clārus, (gnārus),
rārus, and uārus; amongst these adjectives Gellius certainly does
not choose ill. SuYce it to indicate the verbal roots to be found in
auārus (aueō<*au-, *auē(i)-, ‘love, favour’), cārus (from a root
*kā-, ‘desire’, with extension in -ro-)73, clārus (a root *kel-,
*k(e )lē/ā-, ‘shout’, accounts for Lat. calō, clāmor, clāmo, clārus),
and (g)nārus (*gˆen-, ‘know’, >*gˆnō-ro, with the Ablaut form *ĝn̄-
ro->gnārus). For rārus, recourse to a root *er-, *er -, or thematic
e ˚
*(e)r-e-, ‘slow, retarded’, yields few certainties and leaves the
word rārus with nothing better than the contrived reconstruction
< *e r -ro´-s. The same extension must be posited for amārus (*om-,
*o m-ro-, ‘raw, bitter’: cf. Skt. amlá-, ‘acid’)74 and uārus (from *uā-,
‘wide apart’, used by itself in this word, but otherwise always with Ð
extensions; cf. Germ. *waþwan-, ‘curve’ > Old Icelandic vo˛ðvi,
‘muscles, esp. the large muscles of the arms and legs’, OHG wado,
‘calf, fetlock’, MHG wade¼ German Wade), e.g. *ua ˘ t-> Latin
uătāx, ‘having deformed feet’, probably related to uārus). Ð In any
event Gellius has chosen well, basing his comparison on the only
homosyllabic word amongst those cited; accounting for -ā- and
reconstructing the suYx *-ro- would be too much to ask of him.
3.13. Our next passage, 11. 15. 6, like those discussed in §§3. 5, 9,
concerns not individual words but word-classes, formations in

See O. Gradenwitz, Laterculi, 511–12. The few relevant adjectives are dis-
cussed in the text.
The Sanskrit forms listed by Pokorny, IEW 515, are unconvincing: where the
initial consonant is not k- but c-, the Collitz–Saussure palatal law requires not -ā- in
the root but -ē-.
Amārus has been discussed by various scholars; against the comparison with
Sanskrit see W. F. Wyatt, Indo-European /a/ 20–1, who sees diYculties in the
uncertainty of the Sanskrit accent, in the -ā- of the Latin word (which needs to be
explained in all these words, not necessarily in the same way; alternation between
long vowel and shwa will be invoked, or laryngeal suYxes by adherents of laryngeal
theory), and also in the initial vowel (Pokorny, IEW 777–8 cites only *om-, which
Wts other languages but not Latin, which requires *am-; Wyatt prefers *om(a)-ro-
as starting-point for IE languages). Gellius’ acuity is further demonstrated by the
contrast with A. Zimmermann, ‘Zu auārus’.
Gellius the Etymologist 89

-bundus, explained (erroneously) by Sulpicius Apollinaris,75 and in

-ulentus, for which (I would suggest) it is Gellius himself who
Hoc enim fuit potius requirendum in istiusmodi Wgurae [sc. the particle or
suYx -bundus] tractatu, sicuti requiri solet in ‘uinulento’ et ‘lutulento’ et
‘turbulento’, uacuane et inanis sit istaec productio, cuiusmodi sunt, quae
Ææƪøª Graeci dicunt, an extrema illa particula habeat aliquid suae
propriae signiWcationis.
3.13.1. Although Gellius may reasonably be credited with the
explanation of these words, we are not given a true etymology,
since the interpretation of -lentus is a problem merely mentioned
but not resolved like that of the other Ææƪøª -bundus. Neverthe-
less, even dividing the word into stem and -lentus is to etymologize,
inasmuch as the question is raised—though not answered—
whether the origin of this productio is such as to give it a particular
meaning. As we have seen, the source for Gellius’ account of words
in -bundus is Sulpicius Apollinaris, as usual orally. But the
reported observation and the comparison between the two suYxes
may perfectly well be Gellius’; one reason is that we lack the
exhaustive explanation to be expected from Apollinaris. However,
Gellius does not give an etymology for -lentus, suggesting that this
productio is an extension of the word, and therefore that we have a
declinatio in the sense of derivation pure and simple. Conversely,
the fact that in §5 Gellius calls -bundus a particula suggests that he
and his source allow semantic autonomy to the suYx, a lexeme in
its own right. Assuming correct use of terminology, formations in
-lentus, only half-etymologized as unexplained productiones, count
as declinationes, whereas (even though the passage as a whole seems
to discuss productiones in general, what the Greeks call ÆæƪøªÆØ)
the fact that every formation in -bundus not only habeat aliquid suae
propriae signiWcationis, but is also deemed a copula with abundare/
abunde, classes it with compositiones uerborum.
3.13.2. The etymology is correct within its limits. Words in
-ulentus (also -ilentus and -olentus after -i-: cf. uiolentus, uinolentus
[earlier uinulentus], sangui(no)lentus) have been studied more
than once. They have no clear counterparts in other languages,
which tells against Szemerényi’s suggestion below. Hence the many
conjectures about their origin.76 It is unclear whether this (not
Cf. Garcea–Lomanto, above, 55.
See e.g. LHSz i. 336, after Ernout, Adjectifs, esp. 98–100, O. Szemerényi,
‘The Latin Adjectives’ (cf. id., Syncope, 147), R. Aitzetmüller, ‘Lateinisch -lentus’,
131–4; cf. my edn. v. 129–32, with further bibliography.
90 Franco Cavazza

particularly rich) adjective-class has a common origin or results

from diVerent suYxes: but overall there seems to be an underlying
suYx -lent-, which remains to be accounted for. Other possibilities
are formations in -en-ont-, a primitive form IE *op-enont- being
dissimilated to -el-ont-> Old Lat. *opelont->*opelent->*opolent-,
whence *opolentus>opulentus, corresponding to Hitt. happinant-,
‘rich’ (so Szemerényi, ‘The Latin Adjectives’ 277–9, and Syncope,
147),77 or fusion of two suYxes, -ul(o)- and -ento- (so Ernout), or
even development of the Indo-European suYx went- (Skt. -vant-,
Gk. = ) into Lat. -ent- (<*ē-went-) or -lent- through processes
of dissimilation, e.g. after stems like uio- or uino- (so various
3.14. NA 12. 3. 1–2, 4 is of particular interest, not least for Latin
historical phonology and the study of Indo-European:
Valgius Rufus in secundo librorum, quos inscripsit de rebus per epistulam
quaesitis, ‘lictorem’ dicit a ‘ligando’ appellatum esse, quod, cum magi-
stratus populi Romani uirgis quempiam uerberari iussissent, crura eius et
manus ligari uincirique a uiatore solita sint, isque, qui ex conlegio uia-
torum oYcium ligandi haberet, ‘lictor’ sit appellatus; utiturque ad eam
rem testimonio M. Tulli uerbaque eius refert ex oratione, quae dicta est
pro C. Rabirio: ‘Lictor’, inquit ‘conliga manus’. Haec ita Valgius (§§1–2).
Then, in refuting Tullius Tiro’s etymology (‘lictor’ a ‘limo’ uel a
‘licio’), Gellius adds (§4):
Si quis autem est, qui propterea putat probabilius esse quod Tiro dixit,
quoniam prima syllaba in ‘lictore’, sicuti in ‘licio’, producta est et in eo
uerbo, quod est ‘ligo’, correpta est, nihil ad rem istuc pertinet. Nam sicut a
‘ligando’ ‘lictor’, et a ‘legendo’ ‘lector’ et a ‘ui[u]endo’ ‘ui[c]tor’ et ‘tuendo’
‘tutor’ et ‘struendo’ ‘structor’ productis, quae corripiebantur, uocalibus
dicta sunt.
3.14.1. As regards lıctor (ı is attested by Gellius and inscrip-
tions) the source seems clearly to be Valgius Rufus himself, nor is
there reason to suppose intermediation through Verrius (cf. PF
103. 1 lictores dicuntur quod fasces uirgarum ligatos ferunt), least of
Á. Pariente, ‘Sobre los compuestos’, esp. 115–16, 123–4, 140 assumes a similar
starting-point but a diVerent process: *poleo (¼polleo without expressive gemin-
ation) >*polens> *oppolens>*oppulentus, which, simpliWed to opulentus, underlay
the entire adjective class, giving rise to a suYx -ulentus.
But Aitzetmüller (n. 76) does not see a direct relation between -went- and
-lent-, which have in common a group -nt- with elative force (reconstructed from
various languages), whereas the possessive sense (‘furnished with’) puts the preced-
ing -l- of the Latin suYx on the same plane as the -w- of the Greek, as already
having that sense, like the -li- of Lat. Wdēlis (cf. M. Leumann, ‘Lat. Laut- u. Form.
1955–1962’, 100).
Gellius the Etymologist 91

all since, though the etymology is the same, the explanation is

diVerent. Problems arise with the other deverbatives. If the pas-
sage of Valgius Rufus and Tiro are allowed to be direct quotations,
the last part of the chapter may be Gellius’ own; dependence on
Varro for so obvious a suYx, on the basis of LL 6. 36 ab lego lectio
et lector, 8. 57 a legendo lector, is not very likely. Only those who
deny all originality to Gellius—even though, as in other cases, he
appears to list a series of examples derived from his own reading—
will think (as not even Aistermann does) of Probus, mediated by
Sulpicius Apollinaris (perhaps even for the quotations); there is no
evidence in favour of such a notion.
3.14.2. Gellius’ etymology is correct inasmuch as the Romans,
perhaps by folk-etymology, associated lictor with ligare; but direct
derivation is impossible. The list of -tor formations that follows is
not only correct in itself, but bears out a law that nomina agentis
have a long stem-vowel even if in the present on which they are
based it is short. This is indeed generally the case, as with the past
pasticiples and frequentatives discussed in 9. 6, provided the Wnal
consonant of the stem is devoiced before the suYx and not origin-
ally voiceless.79 However, it is not absolute: in particular, /i/ is not
lengthened in the past participle or nomen agentis when it is short in
the present.80 Hence, although lıctor could in principle come from
a hypothetical *ligere, this would have to be not the *lıgere implied
by Gellius’ explanation but *lıgere.
3.15. In 13. 9. 5 we have a list of Latin words supposedly derived
from Greek, two of which may be Gellian etymologies:
ueteres nostri non usque eo rupices et agrestes fuerunt, ut stellas hyadas
idcirco ‘suculas’ nominarent, quod o Latine ‘sues’ dicantur; sed ut, quod
Graeci ! æ, nos ‘super’ dicimus, quod illi o Ø
, nos ‘supinus’, quod illi
æ, nos ‘subulcus’, quod item illi o
, nos primo ‘sypnus’, deinde
per ‘y’ Graecae Latinaeque <o> litterae cognationem ‘somnus’: sic, quod
ab illis !, a nobis primo ‘syades’, deinde ‘suculae’ appellatae.
3.15.1. Tiro had asserted (§4; fr. 13, p. 402 Funaioli) that the
ueteres had calqued suculae on !, which they had wrongly

This appears to be a corollary of Lachmann’s much-debated Law, which can
no longer be accepted as a universal principle, but remains a sound observation of
certain facts: see K. Lachmann, In T. Lucr. De rerum nat. libros, 54–5, also my edn.
iv. 185–9 on NA 9. 6, vi. 120–7 on 12. 3. The bibliography is endless; I have taken
account of most of it in the 70-odd pages I devote to the topic in the forthcoming
vol. iii/2 of my Lezioni di indoeuropeistica, §6. 3 V.
This is one of the few certainties in the debate over Lachmann’s Law. Note too
pıstor from pınso, with secondary lengthening before /ns/.
92 Franco Cavazza

derived from o instead of oØ .81 Gellius denies that they had
mistaken the etymology, and credits them for noticing what
appeared to have escaped Tiro, that Greek !- corresponds to
Latin su-; hence ! was Wrst Latinized as syades, then adapted
to give suculae. He would seem to have this etymology from Ver-
rius: see Fest. 394. 13–15 (super) uerum ponitur etiam pro de,
Graeca consuetudine, ut illi dicunt ! æ and above all 390. 11–19
(where Tiro’s explanation is probably faulted); cf. 370. 20–4 sup-
pum antiqui dicebant, quem nunc supinum dicimus ex Graeco, uidelicet
pro aspiratione ponentes <s> litteram. Over suculae < !82 (cf.
Fest. 390. 17) there seems to be no real disagreement between Tiro
and Verrius, since the two relationships o  sues and ! 
suculae are set side by side; at most Tiro’s only explanation for
the initial s of suculae may seem to be the false semantic—not
phonetic—association with sues, whereas Gellius’ source clearly
demonstrates that in the words listed Greek !- corresponds to
Latin su-. The phonetic relations are correct, but having no con-
ception of diachronic comparison, the Romans, including Gellius,
had to envisage the Latin words as straightforwardly derived from
Greek. However, the surviving parallel accounts do not include
subulcus and somnus; they might well have been in Gellius’ source,
but it seems better to suppose them his own additions.
3.15.2. Even phonetically these etymologies are correct within
ancient limitations, some formal inaccuracies apart, given that
forms with a common root do not always correspond. As regards
the two ‘Gellian’ words, I repeat my comments in edn. vii. 130–1:
sŭbulcus is derived from sūs, with short stem-vowel in alternation
with the long (cf. sŭ-cerda) on the pattern of bŭbulcus,83 derived
from bōs, where -bulcus/-fulcus may correspond to ıºÆŒ, even
though caution is needed.84Subulcus and !
æ85 are not an exact
match, but remain valid as regards the Wrst syllable, which is
precisely Gellius’ point here. Inexact, but basically correct, is the
In fact this last is a folk-etymology, whereas !, formed like ºØ, does
indeed seem related to y, ‘sow’; Lat. suculae will be either a semantic calque or an
independent word.
Cf. Cic. ND 2. 111, Arat. fr. 28 Soubiran, Plin. NH. 2. 106. The etymology of
suculae (and !) is taken up by Isid. Etym. 3. 71. 12.
A dialectal variant, with internal -f-, was bufulcus, which remains in Italian
So O. Lagercrantz, ‘Lat. worterklärungen’, 177–81; but see Ernout–Meillet,
Dictionnaire, 74 (s.v. bōs, Wn.), Walde–Hofmann, LEW i. 119, and Chantraine,
Dictionnaire, 1232 (s.v. ºÆ).
From the !- of y þ 
æ, from the root of 
æ, ‘fodder, pasture’, and
æø, ‘I feed’.
Gellius the Etymologist 93

link between o
 and sŏmnus: sypnus is unattested and has every
appearance of being invented by Gellius for the sake of his argu-
ment. The root is *swep-/*sup- (cf. Pokorny, IEW 1048), which in
its verbal form does not survive in Latin (cf. dormio in contrast to
the causative sōpio), but does in *swop-no-, with the normal o-grade
and the suYx -no-,86 while Greek presents the zero grade
*(s)up-no. Immediately after etymologizing somnus, in which he
posits a parallel evolution, Gellius states the etymology that gives
rise to the chapter, suculae<syades< !, a calque (probably
understood as phonetic rather than semantic) or a loan, even if
apparently by a diVerent process from somnus. But Gellius, as we
have already seen, is content here, as the ancients often were, with
Wrst-syllable correspondence, hastening past the false association
of -culae and -.
3.16. In 15. 3. 4–8, on autumo and the preverb au-, Gellius
combines factual observation and criticism of another scholar’s
opinion with an etymological proposal:
Inuenimus . . . in conmentario Nigidiano uerbum ‘autumo’ compositum
ex ‘ab’ praepositione et uerbo ‘aestumo’ dictumque intercise ‘autumo’ quasi
‘abaestumo’, quod signiWcaret ‘totum aestumo’ tamquam ‘abnumero’. Sed,
quod sit cum honore multo dictum P. Nigidii, hominis eruditissimi, auda-
cius hoc argutiusque esse uidetur quam uerius. ‘Autumo’ enim non id
solum signiWcat ‘aestumo’, sed et ‘dico’ et ‘opinor’ et ‘censeo’, cum quibus
uerbis praepositio ista neque cohaerentia uocis neque signiWcatione senten-
tiae conuenit. Praeterea uir acerrimae in studio litterarum diligentiae M.
Tullius non sola esse haec duo uerba [sc. ‘aufugio’ et ‘aufero’] dixisset, si
reperiri posset ullum tertium. Sed illud magis inspici quaerique dignum
est, uersane sit et mutata ‘ab’ praepositio in ‘au’ syllabam propter lenitatem
uocis, an potius ‘au’ particula sua sit propria origine et proinde, ut pleraeque
aliae praepositiones a Graecis, ita haec quoque inde accepta sit.
3.16.1. The passage is preceded by one from Cicero’s Orator
(158) asserting that aufugio and aufero are compounds with the
preposition ab, transformed into au to soften the pronunciation,
and that there are no other instances. Cicero’s ostensibly correct
etymology—I call it so because it has its own logic and (albeit
invented) phonetic principle—does not exceed the limits of his
observation, but also serves, indirectly, to refute Nigidius’ deriv-
ation of autumo from ab(aes)tumo by deminutio of a syllable. Gel-
lius in his justiWed objection makes good use of Cicero’s statement
and also appeals to the meanings of the words discussed. There

The process is *swep-no-, *swop-no-> *sop-no-> som-no-, with regressive
assimilation (cf. O. Szemerényi, Einführung, 41).
94 Franco Cavazza

also seems to be merit in his implicit intuition, inexact but coher-

ent, that Nigidius’ etymology is phonetically unsound, since the
particle ab > au- in au-tumo is not in the required phonological
situation (preceding an f ), unless that is to over-interpret him.
Unfortunately he says nothing else on the etymology of autumo,
leaving us unable to pass a Wnal judgement on his comment, not
least because we lack his analysis of the word: evidently not as
au-tumo, but we do not know whether he considered it a uerbum
Latinum et uetus, or perhaps connected with words in -tumu-s (see
his discussion of aeditumus and similar forms in 12. 10). Specula-
tion apart, Gellius’ hesitation, this time legitimate, about the origin
of au- does not extend to autumo, but only to the two verbs
mentioned by Cicero. His suggestion of a Greek etymology for
au is thus well founded (perhaps the only case in Antiquity: see
below) and seems to counter Cicero’s thesis of euphonic mutation
of ab. We shall return to the etymologies below.
As for the source, here too I prefer to see Gellius as independent.
Not so Hosius (edn. i, p. xlix), who after evaluating other scholars’
conjectures proposes Velius Longus, who lived approximately in
Gellius’ time or a little earlier, in the Wrst half of the second century
ad. He cites the same passage of Cicero (GL vii. 60. 6–10), but does
not mention Nigidius; moreover, the work concerned is De ortho-
graphia. Gellius does cite Velius Longus, but only in 18. 9, for his
commentarius de usu antiquae lectionis, featuring archaic Latin
authors and passages of Homer. But other considerations arise
here, since several problems are rolled into one: the Ciceronian
passage, Nigidius’ etymology of autumo, and the Greek etymology
of au-. It is possible that Cicero was mediated (through Velius
Longus?),87 but Gellius (if we may trust what he writes) has said
legimus in §1, which, used with reference to himself (as usual in the
pluralis maiestatis, cf. e.g. 13. 18. 3 nobis praesentibus), makes
Cicero the immediate source. That would exclude Velius, who
contributes at most the Homeric verses of §8. It is better to suppose
that Gellius read Cicero directly and that the quotation from
Orator is all his own work.
As others have noted, NA 15. 3 reappears almost word for word
in Macrobius (GL v. 600. 17–22 and 637. 19–31 ¼ 15. 14–16, 17 De
Paolis, besides v. 637. 19–31, also incorporating Gell. §8); given his
propensity to quote Gellius, there is no need to posit a common
An alternative source would be Probus, whose concern for euphony is attested
in 13. 21 and who may be Sulpicius’ (or Gellius’) source in 4. 17 (Aistermann
132–4); however, the arguments adduced by Hosius for deriving 2. 17 from him
are unsatisfactory.
Gellius the Etymologist 95

source. The grammarians, well acquainted as they are with the

Ciceronian passage, do not cite further instances (cf. Prisc. GL ii.
18. 14, 39. 3–4, 46. 15–16; so already Quint. inst. 1. 5. 69); there is
no question of adducing Nigidius’ autumo. Hence, although Velius
Longus cites Cicero’s examples too, he need not necessarily be
Gellius’ source, as Hosius would have it; his comparison with 18. 9,
derived from Velius, is insuYcient proof, since there Velius seems
only a partial source, either because he is (in part?) cited indirectly
(perhaps a mere literary device), or because the vague expression
doctores . . . et interpretes uocum Graecarum (§9) seems to exclude
him, unless it is a blind concealing a single source (cf. K. 6 V.). But
then whom do the Greek verses come from? Perhaps from the
anonymous doctores et interpretes or even Gellius himself (know-
ledge of Homer was not a mark of extraordinary erudition; cf. Gell.
15. 6. 1), but despite the above comments they may yet go back
to Velius, who might therefore also be the source for those in
15. 3. 8.88 Even so, Gellius may be credited with the observation
on the nature of au (with reference to Greek), not found in any
previous Latin author. His usual modest tone in making this
suggestion, together with the comparison with other prepositions
supposedly derived from Greek (cf. super in 13. 9. 5), which he
might have observed for himself, may vindicate paternity of the
proposal for him.
In conclusion, although there are no certainties, both the
manner of expression and the structure of the passage bring me
back once again, but more willingly, to Gellius himself.
3.16.2. As for the etymologies, one is not actually present, and
Gellius’ doubt tells against Cicero’s seemingly correct suggestion,
not otherwise disputed in antiquity. For us too the etymology of
autumo is uncertain. One might relate it to autem as nego to nec,
neg-, but without the excessive conWdence of Walde–Hofmann,
LEW i. 88, or rather the authors they cite. Negumo, or rather
negumate for negate in the carmen of the uates Cn. Marcius, cited
by Festus (162. 5–7), gets us nowhere, being (if it ever existed) a
uocabulum Wctum based on autumo. As for au-, Gellius deserves
credit for writing an potius ‘au’ particula sua sit propria origine:
although, like all ancient scholars, he ascribes correspondences
between words with a common Indo-European origin to deriv-
ation from Greek, his intuition, though hesitantly expressed, is
exceptional and well founded. It is not certain that he had in

Gellius’ failure to cite Velius outside the passage quoted does not mean he did
not use him elsewhere.
96 Franco Cavazza

mind Greek Æs (related to Lat. aut, autem), which as even an

ancient might have seen is an independent particle and not a
preverb. In fact the (Aeolic) Greek forms he cites should be ana-
lysed as follows: in ÆPæıÆ , ÆP- comes from *I -=æø, whereas
Ø breaks down as I-= -=Æ
Ø, with uncertainty whether I- is
copulative-intensive (perhaps better) or privative. The examples,
in short, are not correct, but the basic fact remains that au-, or
rather au, has an origin of its own. Ernout–Meillet, Dictionnaire, 2,
write: ‘le au- qui devant f sert de préverbe, dans au-ferō . . . ,
au-fugiō . . . répond à v. irl. ó, ua et à v. pruss. au-, v. sl. u, lit.
au, hitt. u-wa (correlatif), cf. skr. áva et lat. uē-. C’est un mot
diVérent [sc. from ab].’89 Naturally other scholars agree, not so
much on fero, aufero, or fugio, aufugio, as in treating au as an
independent word.90 Gellius’ intuition, besides being valid, is all
the more meritorious for having no ancient counterparts and even
being advanced against the authority of Cicero, whose prestige
erects a barrier for the ancients, and without reference to whom
they did not discuss the subject.91
3.17. In 16. 7. 13 we have a Graecism:
[Laberius] in mimo, quem inscripsit Alexandream, eodem quidem, quo
uulgus, sed probe Latineque usus est Graeco uocabulo: ‘emplastrum’
enim dixit
PŁæø, non genere feminino, ut isti nouicii semidocti.
3.17.1. The correction (emplastrum is etymologically neuter!),92
directed against ignorant innovators, may be ascribed to one of
Gellius’ teachers, for instance Sulpicius Apollinaris, who in
19. 13. 3 cites a Greek word adopted in Latin (nanus), but deemed
vulgar and censurable (contrast our present passage) and also
mentions Laberius. Either then it is Sulpicius who transits and
comments on him orally, or, since the etymology is simple, we may

F. Metzger, ‘Latin uxor’, 171, exploits this diVerence to propose another
etymology for a much-vexed word: ‘we may . . . explain uxor as IE *u-k-sor, in
which u belongs with IE *au(e) ‘‘away’’ (Latin aufero, Skt. avabharati, Latin
aufugio, Got. auþeis, etc.)’.
Walde–Hofmann, LEW i. 79 (cf. 485; less clearly 556), LHSz i. 61, citing Gk.
ÆPØ , ‘retire, retreat’ ¼ I ÆøæE , I ÆŁÆØ (Hesych.), and Pokorny, IEW
72–3, on the root *au-, *aue-, *uē˘-, ‘down, away from’, with congeners in at least
nine Indo-European phyla.Ð Ð
See too Maltby, Lexicon, 1–2, cf. 65, on the (casus) ablatiuus: Sergius (or
Seruius), Explan. in Don., GL iv. 534. 31–535. 1–2 ablatiuus, quod per eum auferre
nos ab aliquo aliquid signiWcemus, ut ‘ab hoc magistro’, 544. 14 ablatiuus ab auferendo
dictus, ‘aufer ab eo’ (cf. Isid. Orig. 1. 7. 32). All this established a tradition and leaves
Gellius in splendid isolation.
Cf. Garcea–Lomanto, above, 62.
Gellius the Etymologist 97

need look no further than Gellius himself. (The word is ancient; it

is attested in Cato, Agr. 39. 2).
3.17.2. The etymology is correct (the word, a medical term, has
entered Romance), as a borrowing from Greek  ºÆæ
; plaus-
ible too seems Gellius’ observation that the feminine emplastra is
incorrect. It may be one of those cases, frequent in the Romance
languages, in which neuters plural, in both everyday words and
technical terms—have been popularly interpreted as feminines
singular, because of the common ending -a (cf. folia> It. foglia,
mirabilia> It. meraviglia).
3.18. In 17. 2. 4, commenting on selected passages of Claudius
Quadrigarius, Gellius presents an etymology by compositio:
‘Ea’ inquit ‘dum Wunt, Latini subnixo animo <ex uictoria inerti consilium
ineunt.’ ‘Subnixo animo>’ quasi sublimi et supra nixo, uerbum bene
signiWcans et non fortuitum; demonstratque animi altitudinem Wduciam-
que, quoniam, quibus innitimur, iis quasi erigimur attollimurque.
3.18.1. Quadrigarius has been read directly; the etymology
seems to be Gellius’ own. Essentially we have an interpretation,
but its etymological connection may be inferred both from Gellius’
need to explain the word and the contrast between this sense of
subnixus, ‘buoyed up, ‘relying on’, and its rare opposite ‘subdued’
(cf. Nonius below), found at Tert. De patientia 4. 3 de homini-
bus . . . seruitute subnixis (subnexis J. J. Scaliger). This is not the
only place where Gellius explains compositiones with a praepositio,
or uses etymology to ascertain the true sense of a word.93 Attempts
have been made to discern a double interpretation, non only from
sub þ nitor, but—given Gellius’ twofold paraetymology, a typical
ancient approximation—from the sup- of supra, and sub- (sub-
limis)94þ nitor, with support from Nonius (652 L. ¼ 405. 23–8
M.), who presents both senses and after inapposite quotations for
the Wrst follows Gellius for the second: subnixum subditum . . .
subnixum sublime, hoc est susum nixum.

Cf. e.g. 2. 17 and obnoxius (6. 17: above, §3.8), deprecor (7. 16), proXigo (15. 5),
and further obesus (19. 7; see below. §3.19). For the two senses, ‘placed under’ and
‘supported’, and for other nuances cf. CGL ii. 465. 45 $
 subnixus; v. 42. 11
(Plac.) subnixus est instructus aliquo auxilio. item subnixus suVultus ex omni parte ¼
100. 17 and 155. 10 and cf. iv. 288. 10; iv. 394. 24 subnixus submisus humilis; 177. 35
subnixus humilis uel subpositus aut incumbens; iv. 177. 26 ¼ 287. 41 ¼ 570. 9 subnexa
(subnixa) subiecta (uel) supposita (subp.) and cf. v. 153. 26 subnexa. subiecta sub-
posita. set melius. suVultam uel subWrmata; v. 419. 22 ¼ 427. 55 subnixis subiunctis.
Sublımis (explained at PF 401. 5–6 with a play on superior and supra) comes
from sub þ lımis (¼lımus, ‘oblique’) and means etymologically ‘rising aslant’, then
generally ‘which raises itself’.
98 Franco Cavazza

Aiming to reproduce the compositio, Gellius explains the sense

‘supported by’ for subnixus by a word of similar though not identi-
cal meaning, sublimis; his use of supra, though not connected with
the word in question, is not etymologically incorrect, given that sub
(sup) and super clearly share a root despite the ancient, that is Indo-
European, opposition between the two senses. For Quadrigarius,
mediation through Probus (or even Sulpicius Apollinaris, his pos-
sible conduit to Gellius) is rendered conceivable by some features
of the discussion, such as the apparent borrowing of §§5–6 from a
peritus antiquitatis (etymology fruniscor < fruor) and of §9 from a
specialist in the lingua castrensis (etymology copiari < copia) who
exhibits the preference of historical and lexical over aesthetic in-
terpretations, of which latter Gellius is not free. The suspicion that
§§5–8, 9 may not be his own might have induced us to credit
Gellius with only one of the Wve etymologies in this chapter; but
such a decision would be highly questionable. Rather, all the
etymologies in the passage should be ascribed to him. Citing
words from Quadrigarius, Gellius writes (§§5–16):
‘<Frunisci>’ rarius quidem fuit in aetate M. Tulli ac deinceps infra
rarissimum, dubitatumque est ab inperitis antiquitatis, an Latinum
foret. Non modo autem Latinum, sed iucundius amoeniusque etiam uer-
bum est ‘fruniscor’ quam ‘fruor’, et ut ‘fatiscor’ a ‘fateor’, ita ‘fruniscor’
factum est a ‘fruor’ . . . 9. . . . ‘<Copiantur>’ uerbum castrense est, nec
facile id reperias apud ciuilium causarum oratores, ex eademque Wgura est,
qua ‘lignantur’ et ‘pabulantur’ et ‘aquantur’ . . . 14. . . . ‘Adprime’ cre-
brius est, ‘cumprime’ rarius traductumque ex eo est, quod ‘cumprimis’
dicebant pro eo quod est ‘inprimis’ . . . 16. . . . Inusitate ‘diurnare’ dixit
pro ‘diu uiuere’, sed ea Wguratione est, qua dicimus ‘perennare’.
3.18.2. Gellius’ etymology of subnixus, from sub-nitor, despite a
somewhat ambiguous interpretation, admittedly of homorrhiza, is
3.18.3. That of fruniscor is correct and, obvious though it is, is
stated here for the Wrst time. It is an archaic (never classical)
doublet of fruor, from which it derives, and resembles a few
verbs with (expressive?) double suYx, -n- þ -ısc-, e.g. conquinisco
or ocquinisco.96 The comparison with fatiscor/fateor is inopportune

Cf.Walde–Hofmann, LEW ii. 171, who rely on Gellius’ quotation from Quad-
rigarius for the Wrst attestation of subnixus.
The etymology of fruor, inseparable from frux, poses the problem that -g- is
absent from the present stem; the IE root is *bhrūg-, with congeners in Germanic
(Pokorny, IEW 173, proposes that *frūgor, whence *frūg-nıscor > frūnıscor, was
supplanted by *frūguor).
Gellius the Etymologist 99

(there is no double suYx) and etymologically false: fatiscor has

nothing to do with fateor, but is related to *fatis, found in ad
fatim>aVatim, and hence to fatigo. The etymologies of copiari,
lignari, pabulari, and aquari, which are found here for the Wrst
time, unstated but implicit in the technical term Wgura (so too
in Wguratione at §16), are correct, though these are obvious deno-
minatives (cf. Prisc. GL ii. 433. 10) of unambiguous meaning
(Gellius adds only that they belong to a special language): that
of copiari reappears, this time explicitly, in Non. 123 L. ¼ 87. 3–6
M. copiatur a copia . . . ut lignantur et pabulantur et aquantur,
obviously derived from Gellius, those of pabulor and aquor
in Prisc. GL ii. 433. 20, 17–18 respectively a pabulo ‘pabulor,
pabularis’; ab aqua ‘aquor, aquaris’. The derivation of cumprime
from a compositio, namely cumprimis, is also correct and obvious,
the basis clearly being primus; so too is that of diurnare, like that of
perennare and other denominative verbs. The former is based not
on diū but on diurnus, which in turn seems to be formed
not directly from dies but from diu-, formed from dies on the
basis of nocturnus (Italian retains in full use the verb soggiornare
<*subdiurnare), the latter on perennis or *perennus as in Anna
Perenna, whence Macrobius (Sat. 1. 12. 6) derives annare and
3.19. In 19. 7. 3 we Wnd an etymology of the relatively rare type
ŒÆ I  æÆØ , explicitly so designated:
‘Obesum’ hic [in Laevius’ Alcestis] notauimus proprie magis quam usitate
dictum pro exili atque gracilento; uulgus enim IŒæø uel ŒÆ I  æÆØ
‘obesum’ pro ‘uberi’ atque ‘pingui’ dicit.
3.19.1. The source for text and meaning is Laevius, read dir-
ectly, but the thoughts on obesus come from Gellius himself, or his
friend Julius Paulus, uir bonus et rerum litterarumque ueterum
inpense doctus (§1), or else Julius Celsinus, another friend of Gel-
lius’, with whom he considers Laevian vocabulary (§2). But it was
Gellius’ custom to note or memorize words or expressions worthy
of consideration and use (cf. M. 695), which was also the case here.
He indicates two opposite senses for obesus (one, the more frequent
and longer-lasting, being ŒÆ I  æÆØ ), each with its own legit-
imacy, the one from etymology, the other from established spoken
usage. The etymology is not expressly stated, but is clearly im-
plied: obēsus is the participle of ob-ĕdo, ‘gnaw’, and that is what
ought in Gellius’ view to establish the word’s correct and original
sense, namely ‘thin’, ‘proprement ‘‘rongé’’ . . . , sens très rare’
(Ernout–Meillet, Dictionnaire, 454). Non. 573 L. ¼ 361. 15 M.
100 Franco Cavazza

follows Gellius and his quotation, but the opposite sense of obesus
appears in PF 207. 8 L.: obesus pinguis, quasi ob edendum factus, an
etymology that casts light on its grammatical and semantic devel-
opment, ob taking on the causal sense. In fact, Laevius’ oddity (a
semantic hapax) apart, the past participle of obĕdo has passed, like
pōtus and prānsus, from passive, ‘gnawn away’, to active, ‘one who
has eaten much, too much’. And that is the sense preserved, albeit
at learned level, in Romance.
3.19.2. It follows that in this case too Gellius has (indirectly)
stated a correct and semantically well-justiWed etymology.
3.20. In 19. 7. 4–5, again concerning a passage of Laevius,
presented as a Xouter of normal usage, we read:
Notauimus . . . quod hostis, qui foedera frangerent, ‘foedifragos’, non
‘foederifragos’ dixit.
3.20.1. Notauimus and our comments on obesus bring us back to
Gellius, Julius Celsinus, and Julius Paulus. Granted that the
etymology is obvious, we may note how Gellius, strangely, com-
ments on a word not only used in classical authors whom he might
have called ueteres,97 as authorities for good language, but on the
evidence considerably commoner than the alternative he lays
before the reader, which indeed is a hapax known from him
alone. The evidence is the Italian fedifrago, found in educated
usage (and in literature from Machiavelli onwards) but not rare
even now, which suggests a tradition behind it.98 It may be less
relevant or noteworthy that he takes a dogmatic position on the
admissibility, in compositio, of syllabic syncope (foed[er]i-), which
ancient etymologists sometimes allowed with a freedom due to the
very methods of ancient etymologizing. Certainly we cannot doubt
that Gellius perceived the word to have been put together by
licensed exception in what I have taken to be the ordinary way
from foed(us) and -fragus, rather than using the rhotacized genitive
stem, with the composition vowel -i- and -fragus, as he would
(rightly) prefer. Ernout–Meillet, Dictionnaire, 243, write: ‘dans le
composé archaı̈que et poétique [but also classical, see above] foedi-
fragus, le thème *bhoido- survit peut-être; mais, en composition, le
latin a souvent des formes de ce genre en face du thème en -es-:
Cic. De oV. 1. 38; deleted by Weidner and some editors, but accepted by
Winterbottom, who takes the word for Ennian, and by the OLD s.v.
To be sure there is a paraetymology from fede, but the association already
existed in antiquity (Varro, LL 5. 86). At all events the formation satisWes a native
speaker’s Sprachgefühl.
Gellius the Etymologist 101

ainsi uulni-Wcus en face de uulnus; cf. homicıda de *homō(n)-’. For

the form see too LHSz i. 389–90, where the link-vowel -i-99 in
foedi-fragus is said to cause the -in- or -er- in -n- and -s- stems to be
suppressed as an unnecessary suYx, so as to produce a ‘Kürzung
des Stammes’.
3.20.2. Such reWnements apart, Gellius’ proposal is correct;
modern linguistic science has found itself obliged to explain the
phenomenon concerned.

4. conclusions
4.1. This study has added nothing to what was known of ancient
etymology; rather, it conWrms the Wndings of ‘Gellio grammatico’
concerning certain characteristics of Gellius as an exponent of the
ars grammatica,100 which make him, within antiquity, a scholar
fully worthy of respect. He shows certain indisputable pecularities
of technique and method, which emerge even from a limited study
such as this, conWned as it is to etymologies for which Gellius
appears to be reponsible, not to all those found within his work;
they are:
(a) dexterity in applying the etymological techniques of his times,
and therefore
(b) good knowledge of the ‘etymological categories’ employed by
ancient grammarians: etymologies Ø (cf. 10. 4, a passage of
Nigidius outside our scope), Graecisms, barbarisms, phenom-
ena of compositio, of declinatio per similitudinem, ŒÆ I  æÆØ ,
paronomasia, and declinatio in the general sense of ‘derivation’;
(c) ability to advance etymologies apparently his own, not merely
to depend on others;101

On this -i- see esp. F. Bader, Formation, 13–30, ‘Apophonie’, esp. 238–41; F.
Cavazza, ‘Gli aggettivi in -ı-tımus’, 581–6. É. Benveniste, Origines, 77 points out
that ‘-i- en Wn de composé peut aussi bien reposer sur *-o-’ (cf. agri-cola).
Gellius’ studies are not conWned to Latin; even in the etymologies attributed
to him there is considerable reference to Greek. That is no surprise, but simply
demonstrates a fair acquaintance with the language. Gellius, the pupil of Favorinus
and Herodes Atticus, was probably in Greece more than once (cf. my edn. i. 17–18;
he attended the Pythian Games of ad 143 or 151) and stayed there for extended
periods (cf. ibid.). This lasting relationship with Greece is symbolized by his very
title, otherwise inexplicable.
Cf. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 183–4 [134–5].
102 Franco Cavazza

(d) ability to correct other etymologists (as with words in -mentum,

above, §3.9);
(e) to choose with judgement between two conXicting options or
(f ) a positive success-rate in hitting the target (see the striking
percentages in the summary table below);
(g) appreciation for the importance of semantics, inseparable from
modern scientiWc etymology: Gellius uses etymology to ex-
plain the exact meaning of words, standing in a long Graeco-
Roman tradition from Platonic sound-symbolism to Varronian
ª Æ and juristic etymology that explains the facinus by
the uerba;
(h) concern for accuracy: Gellius checks what he says; see the
comment of R. Marache, Critique, 311, who after pointing
out that the Attic Nights preserve much on Gellius’ masters
and their opinions adds:
Jamais cependant Aulu-Gelle ne nous transmet un jugement sans le con-
trôler, sans en peser les termes et les raisons. S’il n’est pas l’inventeur de ce
qu’il dit, il sait ce qu’il dit. Il s’appuie presque toujours sur des citations. Il
donne ainsi à son lecteur la possibilité de contrôler ce qu’il avance, de voir
si ce qu’on lui propose est juste ou vraisemblable. Mais il donne d’abord
l’assurance qu’il a fait lui-même ce contrôle et qu’il a une opinion person-
nelle sur la question.
And that is naturally what he also does in the Weld of etymology.
(i) non-amateurishness: once again he demonstrates expert
knowledge of the ars grammatica, as I sought to show in ‘Gellio
4.2. I conclude with a table showing the main words or the
fundamental morphemes of those amongst the Wfty-odd etymolo-
gies studied for which Gellius’ paternity appears to be estab-
lished,102 together with a possible source for those determined a
priori to deny it. The correctness of the etymology must be under-
stood in the light of ancient approximations: thus the phrase uox
Graeca deliberately does not distinguish between actual borrowing
from Greek and common Indo-European derivation.

Owing to this limitation, and to the omission (besides a lost passage discussed
in the text) of etymologies not stated clearly, those left in doubt without a suggestion
(except for au-, a genuine personal intuition), and those relating to verbal or
nominal categories of which only one example is cited, the number of etymologies
does not reach 50, but only 25.
Gellius the Etymologist 103

word type verdict presumed source

1 fur uox Graeca right (Probus?)

2 uiuaria declinatio right (Verrius?)
3 Morta uox Graeca right? (Sulpicius Apoll.,
4 -ōsus declinatio103 right (Probus?)
5 praemodum compositio right (Verrius?)
6 nequitia declinatio right (Probus?)
7 obnoxius compositio wrong (Probus?)
8 -mentum declinatio right (a grammarian?)
9 sacellum declinatio right (a grammarian?)
10 cupsones uox Graeca right (?)
11 auarus declinatio right (?)
12 -lentus declinatio right (?)
13 -tor declinatio right (Probus?)
14 subulcus uox Graeca wrong (Verrius?)
15 somnus uox Graeca right (Verrius?)
16 au- uox Graeca (?) right (?)
17 emplastrum uox Graeca right (Sulpicius Apoll.?)
18 subnixus compositio right (?)
19 fruniscor declinatio right (Sulpicius Apoll.,
20 fatiscor declinatio wrong (Sulpicius Apoll.,
21 copior declinatio right (Sulpicius Apoll.,
22 cumprime declinatio right (Sulpicius Apoll.,
23 diurnare declinatio right (Sulpicius Apoll.,
24 obesus ŒÆ I  æÆØ right (Julius Celsinus?)
25 foedifragus compositio right (Julius Celsinus?)

4.3. A percentage calculation gives a very favourable assessment

of Gellius’ etymologies: out of twenty-Wve discussed only three are
certainly wrong, that is 12% wrong to 88% right. Surveying Greek

The technical meaning of declinatio varies (see F. Cavazza, ‘Come si forma’,
138–41, ‘Due note’, 212–14, ‘L’etimologia classica’, 22–7) from ‘declension’ to
‘derivation’, which is more frequent in ancient etymology, so that in theory a
declinatio may also be a borrowing from the Greek; the term is subjected here to a
useful diVerentiation.
104 Franco Cavazza

and Latin etymological literature as a whole, we can only conclude

that Gellius is among the best etymologists of antiquity. This is
going too far for one who did not write systematically on the
subject and has left us not a minimal but still a limited number of
etymologies; nevertheless, having favourably assessed his etymo-
logical practice, methods, and technical knowledge, we are no less
bound to take a favourable view of the practical results of Gellius’
labours in this Weld of the ancient ars grammatica.
Translated by Leofranc Holford-Strevens
Aulus Gellius as a Storyteller
G ra h am A nder s on

Among students of ancient storytelling Gellius is likely to excite

perhaps the least interest as a narrator in his own right.1 And
among Gellian scholars his storytelling skills are not likely to be
celebrated either.2 The same reasons hold good for scholars of
narrative and scholars of Gellius: his reputation as an individualist
antiquarian tends to distract us from his performance in an activity
which would have been regarded as much humbler3 than the arts of
philological footnoting. But this is the very reason why it is useful
to look at his storytelling techniques. Gellius promises to show us a
routine rather than a gifted performance in a despised line of
Here I examine three facets of his storytelling: the sorts of things
we might like to notice about his choice of tales; how he can be
measured against others in well-known tales which exist in other
variants; and what sort of storytelling he was able to make his own,
as the narrative of grammatical discovery (‘seated one night in the
lamplight . . . ’).

I am grateful for a number of participants’ observations at the seminar discussion,

and for additional references supplied by Dr Holford-Strevens.
For example Gellius rates only a single mention in the author-index of
W. F. Hansen, Ariadne’s Thread (for 5. 14), despite the considerable amount
of popular material in the Noctes Atticae; P. Steinmetz’s detailed and perceptive
discussion (Untersuchungen, 276–91) focuses on anecdote rather than narration as
L. A. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius tends to mention the topic only inciden-
tally e.g. 59–93, 79–80, 246 [43–5, 57–8, 181–2] (in contexts of style, sources, and
historiography respectively). [See also id., ‘An Antonine Littérateur’, §§3.10–11.]
For major new perspectives on popular storytelling, W. F. Hansen, Greek
Popular Literature; id., Ariadne’s Thread.
106 Graham Anderson

1. some aspects of repertoire

In the Noctes Atticae we can notice a sprinkling of the normal tales
and kinds of tales4 that any educated Imperial author would be
expected to know and be inclined to collect or reproduce: anec-
dotes about Alexander the Great (characteristically, his gallantry
with female captives); or Regulus and the Carthaginians; or Fabri-
cius refusing a bribe from the Samnites. Here we have the sort of
material we should expect to Wnd Wlling the exemplum Wles of
Valerius Maximus5 and his like. But even here there are surprises.
The story of Alexander respecting Darius’ wife and daughter is
joined to an instance where Valerius Antias asserts that Scipio
Africanus did not respect a female captive in his custody (7. 8).
We should of course expect Gellius to pay lip service to traditional
exempla uirtutis; but he is just as likely to be interested or titillated
by gossip about the lapses of the great and the good.
In a similar vein, on the subject of Regulus (7. 4), it is not the
famous Wnest hour of the Roman commander calmly returning to
Carthage that Gellius chooses to record: it is rather the Carthagin-
ian tortures when he arrives back, and the divergence between the
accounts of Tubero and Tuditanus as to what these tortures actu-
ally were. Nor are these atrocities used to support Carthaginian
wickedness as opposed to Roman virtue: Gellius will just as readily
cite the sanctity of an oath maintained by Hannibal (6. 18), perhaps
again for the sake of paradox: even the Wgure who represents the
Roman idea of the devil incarnate is still pledged to maintain
universal human values.
Beside the historical exempla we Wnd samples of para-historical
chreia-style anecdotes: there is a variant of ‘what the bishop said to
the actress’, as when Demosthenes tells the courtesan Lais that the
price of folly is too expensive (1. 8):
FÆØ ıæ ø æÆH
ƺØÆ . This is quoted from a philosophical source, Sotion,
and might be supposed to carry a moral message; but again the
suspicion of entertainment or titillatory value may not be wholly
absent. Or we have the words of Scipio Africanus to Sulpicius
Gallus for wearing an eVeminate chirodyta (6. 12). Here we
might detect the typical texture of antiquarian detail and moral
posturing: we have to be reminded of the development of the
Roman dress code, as well as a puritanical prejudice against eVe-
minate mannerisms.
See still J. Bompaire, Lucien e´crivain, 443–68.
On the latter’s approach, C. Skidmore, Practical Ethics, esp. 83–92; W. M.
Bloomer, New Nobility, 59–146 passim.
Aulus Gellius as a Storyteller 107

Other stories are more straightforward to account for: simple

paradox would be enough to explain the inclusion of an extract
from Apion on boy and dolphin (6. 8), though it may tell us
something that Gellius has to go to Apion for it, rather than draw
on more immediate contemporary information, as the Younger
Pliny had done for a very similar tale (Ep. 9. 33); in the latter
case it arises in ordinary dinner conversation. We note a typically
piquant line in unusual anecdote (6. 5), where the actor Polus
acts the part of Sophocles’ Electra while holding the ashes of his
own son as those of Orestes: one thinks of the kind of extreme
situation in the elder Seneca, where an artist paints Prometheus,
using the body of a criminal under torture as his model (Sen.
Contr. 10. 5).
Others turn out unusual in other ways. I cannot think of a close
parallel to the story of Papirius Praetextatus (1. 23): a child attends
the senate with his father: forced by his mother to divulge its
conWdential proceedings, he makes up the subjects that they were
debating—whether a husband should have two wives or a wife two
husbands: for Gellius this is a iucunda historia, but with the typical
taste for old Roman grauitas: sons must learn to take after their
fathers, and not trust secrets even to their own mothers, who have
no proper appreciation of the conWdentiality of the senate.
All this sort of subject-matter, then, we expect, even if the odd
detail or mannerism surprises us, but in each case we should at
least Wnd ourselves asking: ‘Why this tale and not such-and-such
another?’ We might bypass the question altogether and invoke the
miscellanist’s privilege:6 but it should still be worth asking about a
story as lively and ben trovato as 1. 19, the story of Tarquin and the
Sibyl. Gellius tells us that this example occurs in antiquis annalibus,
but does not cite a speciWc source, which may well be his way of
telling us that he does not have the source in front of him. The
story is of interest because it is so obviously a traditional story type,
though neither Hansen nor I can Wnd any very close parallel. There
is no special storytelling technique required to tell it, because the
tale is inherent in the mechanism of the action. We have a typical
folktale rule of three: twice Tarquin refuses to buy the books, and
only the third time does he realize their worth; but the price has
now gone up to 300%. The reason for Gellius’ telling is in the last
sentence: it explains an established custom of antiquarian religious
lore, how the quindecimuiri came to consult the Sibylline Books in
For the miscellanist’s procedures, G. Anderson (1994), 1840–52; A. D. Vardi,
below, Ch. 6.
108 Graham Anderson

the Wrst place. In Gellius we cannot always say ‘the tale’s the thing’
or ‘it’s how you tell it’; often he may be just as interested in
whatever nugget he can attach to it.

2. gellius on two well-known tales:

‘arion and the dolphin’ and
‘ androcles and the lion ’
And so to Gellius’ own performance over two ‘measured miles’. It
is typical of Gellius’ preference to opt for a handling of narrative
material that we should regard as halfway between translation and
paraphrase. The main sequence of events in a clearly stated source
is followed with minimal deviation, but with small expansions,
roundings oV, or other minor adjustments which we can then
attempt to explain. We can do this most eVectively for Gellius’
version of Herodotus 1. 23–4 at Gellius 16. 19, where we are in
a position to compare not only the author’s working with an
extant original, but also with a near-contemporary version by
Gellius’ own philological acquaintance and literary senior Marcus
Cornelius Fronto.7 As Yvette Julien notes, both authors produce
freestanding versions not shaped by any speciWc context, and
hence ideally suited to comparison with their obvious source
and with each other. Although in some sense Gellius was at some
point Fronto’s pupil, there is no compelling evidence of his know-
ledge of the latter’s working of the story,8 as there is none of its use
as an exemplum for the latter’s pupil Marcus Aurelius.9
In the Wrst instance Herodotus tells us that Arion was the most
distinguished musician of his day, and that he was regarded as the
inventor of the dithyramb, which he practised at Corinth itself:
K Æ ŒØŁÆæfiøe H  K ø
P e æ
. This nugget of
information might be important to Herodotus himself (as it is to
us); but from a second-century Roman perspective it is rather less
so: hence we Wnd from Fronto Arion Lesbius . . . cithara et dithy-

Text pp. 241–2 v:d:H:2 . On the relationship, E. Champlin, Antonine Rome,
46–50; Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 131–9 [93–9]. There is valuable and
detailed discussion of the Fronto version in Y. Julien, ‘Histoire d’Arion’, 323–38;
and (succinctly and independently) in M. van den Hout, Commentary, 543–50.
[Resemblances are interpreted by Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 135 n. 26
[96 n. 19] as evidence for Gellius’ use of Fronto; others have argued that Fronto
used Gellius.]
So van den Hout, Commentary, 544 (pace Julien 326), reminding us that it is not
actually a letter at all.
Aulus Gellius as a Storyteller 109

rambo primus (Arion 1, p. 241 v:d:H:2 ) and in Gellius only ‘Vetus’,

inquit (sc. Herodotus), ‘et nobilis Arion cantator Wdibus fuit’ (16. 19.
2). Then Gellius rather trivially chooses to make heavy weather of
his place of origin: for Herodotus the musician is simply
, for Fronto Lesbius. Only Gellius has to explain pon-
is loco et oppido Methymnaeus, terra atque insula omni Lesbius fuit.
As to his home town he belonged to Methymna, as to his homeland and
island he belonged to Lesbos (16. 19. 3).
Then the respective narrators have to explain his relationship to
Periander: for Herodotus (1. 24. 1) the matter is straightforward:
F æ
ı ØÆæ 
Æ Ææa —æØ æfiø. The information
is actually delayed in Fronto, but Gellius oVers a little Xourish of
his own:
Eum Arionem rex Corinthi Periander amicum amatumque habuit artis
This Arion King Periander of Corinth treated as a much-loved friend
because of his skill (16. 19. 4).
Both Latin authors choose to inXate Arion’s successful concert
tour: what was merely KæªÆ
. . . æÆÆ ªºÆ in Herodotus
becomes in Gellius:
auresque omnium mentesque in utriusque terrae urbibus demulsit, in
quaestibus istic et uoluptatibus amoribusque hominum fuit.
he tickled the ears and minds of all in the cities of both countries, and there
he was popular and a source of delight and devotion (16. 19. 6).
Once the hero is on the high seas on the deliberately Corinth-
ian ship, Herodotus is again the simplest: 
f b K H† ºªœ
ıºØ e `æ
Æ KŒƺ Æ Ø a æÆÆ. This is now in
nauique in altum prouecta praedae pecuniaeque cupidos cepisse consilium
de necando Arione.
When the ship was far out at sea, they conspired in their greed for loot and
money to kill Arion (16. 19. 9).
If we thought at Wrst this was purely accidental alliteration,10 we
soon realize that it is not, when we also Wnd
Wdes capere et canere carmen casus illius sui consolabile,

For the diYculties of assessing the phenomenon, L. P. Wilkinson, Golden
Latin Artistry, 25–8.
110 Graham Anderson
to take his lyre and sing a song that would console him for his condition
(16. 19. 12).
Gellius does not produce ornament at every opportunity, but he
is not averse to it either.
Fronto is best at the sense of occasion, with Arion on the poop
and the crew scattered over the ship, in what amounts to a sophistic
performance, complete with his gold-embroidered robe, in con-
trast to Herodotus’ simple AÆ c Œı . Gellius interestingly
retains Herodotus’ detail that Arion sang the carmen, quod
‘orthium’ dicitur (16. 19. 14), which Fronto leaves out: for our
author this is again valuable antiquarian detail. He misses out,
however, on the climactic farewell, with only a uoce sublatissima,
though when the dolphin arrives he does give us a little extra:
Sed nouum et mirum et pium facinus contigit.
But an unexpected, amazing, and dutiful act chanced to take place
(16. 19. 16).
Come the dolphin, Fronto comes into his own:
delphinus excipit, sublimem auehit, naui praeuortit, Taenaro exponit,
a dolphin caught him, carried him aloft, swam ahead of the ship, and put
him ashore at Taenarus (p. 241. 16–17);11
and the brachylogy continues with
Arion inde Corinthum proWciscitur: et homo et uestis et cithara ac uox
from there Arion made his way to Corinth; his voice, his robes, his lyre,
and his voice were all intact (§2, p. 241. 19–20).
By contrast Gellius has a rather feeble incolumique . . . corpore et
ornatu (§16).
So far honours even perhaps: but when we Wnd ourselves back
with Periander, Herodotus is very terse: Periander ! I Ø Æ has
Arion shut away and awaits the arrival of the sailors. All this
amounts to is that Periander Wnds the matter suYciently unusual
to conduct an independent investigation, where of course the
sailors will condemn themselves out of their own mouths. Fronto
gets this exactly right:
rex homini credere, miraculo addubitare:
he believed the man, but was sceptical about the amazing event (p. 241. 22);

To say with van den Hout (547) that ‘here Fronto cuts the story short’ rather
misses the artistic point of the tetracolon.
Aulus Gellius as a Storyteller 111

Gellius by contrast seems to go oV the rails and takes his LCL

translator J. C. Rolfe with him: Regem istaec parum credidisse,
Arionem, quasi falleret, custodiri iussisse (LCL ‘The king did not
believe the story, but ordered that Arion be imprisoned as an
impostor’ 16. 19. 18–19).
Come the hearing itself, as Julien has well shown, Fronto comes
into his own as interested in the judicial proceedings, as we should
expect from his profession as an advocate; Gellius, likewise
with considerable legal background and experience at least by
the time of the redaction of the Noctes Atticae, misses out on the
When we step back far enough from the three versions we can
see that Herodotus’ account is easily the most consistently unvar-
nished and economical, and one can well see why it should Wgure so
prominently in the subliterature of progymnasmata for its value as a
narrative exercise.13 Neither imitator sets out to be extravagant in
his paraphrase. Fronto’s version reXects in a discreetly limited way
the values of a sophistic rhetorical culture: verbal elegance is
carefully calculated, not by any means overdone, nor is Herodotus
necessarily ‘improved’; but the telling is elegant and polished, yet
still in line with its model; archaism is correspondingly re-
strained.14 By comparison, Gellius seems to me at any rate a little
naı̈ve, a little ponderous, a little unimaginative, but perhaps worst
of all despite the runs of alliteration a little colourless as well, and
we should be tempted to add ‘full of missed opportunities’. It is a
workaday eVort, of a competent Latinist going through the
motions. He is a competent enough narrator; but here he can be
compared with two excellent ones. Van den Hout15 suggests that of
Herodotus’ many imitators on this subject ‘only Fronto16 and Gell.
16. 19 try to narrate it in a style that is even simpler than Hero-
dotus’ own version’, and one might agree with the implication that
neither quite succeeds. If we want to see creative or Xamboyant
development of Herodotus, we must certainly look elsewhere: the

Fronto, Arion 2 (Julien 330–3); Gell. 16. 19. 18–23.
Amongst many others, Nicolaus, Progymn. 2. 7 (Rhetores Graeci, i. 271 Walz);
ps.-Liban. Progymn., narr. 29 (viii. 52 Förster).
Not always evident in printed texts: Julien (327) restores possiet on rhythmical
grounds at Arion 1.
Commentary, 544.
I am less convinced than van den Hout (545) that Fronto’s literary ambitions
were very limited, on the strength of a gesture of literary modesty; he himself
eVectively contrasts the rhetorical panache of Fronto’s other excursions into
belles-lettres with the Arion (544).
112 Graham Anderson

prominent account in Plutarch’s Banquet of the Seven Sages 18

(160 e–162 b) combines charm and immediacy, reported in mid-
action at precisely the point where word reaches Periander’s court
itself; still more so is the account in Lucian’s Dialogi Marini
(5 Macleod) where the tale is (not wholly accurately) paraphrased
in the mouth of a dolphin reporting to Poseidon, again close in time
to the event. In neither case has the author set himself the task of
mere ‘retelling’, but of resetting the tale from an unexpected point
of view which considerably enhances the literary opportunities.17
We can do a similar, but less detailed, overview of the version of
Androclus and the lion (5. 14), but not with the same hope of
success. Here the stated source in Apion is lost apart from Gellius’
own version, but there is what seems to be an independent version
of the same event in Aelian’s Natura animalium (7. 48).18 The
diVerences here are again quite minor, and it is clear that Aelian
is treating the matter as a genuine event, just as Apion himself had
done; it is useful to remind ourselves of Aelian’s Italian back-
ground:19 he would have been well enough equipped to have got
the story from Roman oral tradition itself, since the whole of the
circus is supposed to have witnessed the event.
Both narrators agree on the three-year sojourn in Libya by the
runaway; Aelian engagingly adds that Androcles cooked his share
of the lion’s meat, and emphasizes the aspect of xenia in their living
arrangements. DiVerent accounts are oVered of why he had to
leave the lion, and in Aelian it actually kills a leopard meant to
kill him instead. But Aelian slips up on an eyewitness detail sup-
plied by Apion through Gellius: he assumes that the news travels
through the crowd by word of mouth, whereas Gellius preserves
what seems a unique detail: that the story is circulated round the
crowd quickly by means of placards—again a detail to appeal to
Gellius, who prefers a written text of anything. Note too that
Aelian is vague about Androcles’ master—simply a senator, rather
than a proconsul, and about the giver of the show, anonymous in
Aelian; whereas the emperor is present, if not the actual benefactor,
in Gellius. An Italian has no problem with Roman rankings, about
which someone culturally Greek is more likely to be unconcerned.
Other brief versions based on Herodotus include Strabo 13. 2. 4; Ovid, Fasti 2.
83–118; Pliny, NH 9. 28, and Favorinus (Corinth. ¼ ps.-Dion of Prusa Or. 37. 1–4);
those of Hyginus, Fabula 194 and D.S. on Ecl. 8. 55 have access to considerably
diVerent details.
For the folktale tradition, K. Ranke, ‘Androklus’; but of course Gellius sees his
version in relation only to its literary source Apion.
So Philostr. VS 624–5.
Aulus Gellius as a Storyteller 113

But Gellius does have a narrative trump card here: he describes the
lion itself in very great detail in the arena scene itself, and this he
places Wrst: then he has Androclus tell the whole story in Wrst-
person Xashback: altogether much more of a storyteller’s presenta-
tion than the simple curiosity of animal memory we are oVered in
Unfortunately we are less well served by a further Gellian doub-
let. The fable of the Lark and her young can be inferred to come
from a tetrameter account in Ennius’ Saturae, of which the Wnal
moral is actually quoted (2. 29).21 Comparison with the versions in
both Babrius 88 and Avianus 21 show that Gellius is following an
expansive and prolix version, which feels the need to explain why
the bird needs to move her family: normally such a bird times her
nest-building so that her brood will be able to Xy by harvest; but
this year she built it in a Weld sown rather early and so has to have
the Xedgelings alert to when the harvest is to take place. We then
have reported speech of the farmer and the Xedglings on each of the
three occasions, rather than just the concluding speech on the part
of the lark to underline the moral to trust oneself rather than
friends or family. In this version too the father plausibly teams
up with his son, rather than operate single-handed: a plausible
interlocutor is thus made available.

3. gellius on cultural exchanges

By contrast Gellius is in a very diVerent storytelling mode when he
narrates his own personal experiences, either as eyewitness of other
people’s contemporary encounters, or as narrator of his own. Here
the bookishness is of a completely diVerent kind: the traditional
academic/antiquarian subject-matter is there, but the events relat-
ing to it are actually happening in the here and now. We have in the
nature of things next to no control here for Gellius’ narrative: he is
the sole reporter.
The Wrst such encounter is between Herodes Atticus and a
would-be Stoic (1. 2). We can notice this to be much more elabor-
ately written up than the materials so often sparely reported or
paraphrased from annalistic sources. It has the characteristic form
of a discussion leading up to the ipsissima uerba of a quoted text

Cf. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 80 n. 57 [58 n. 48].
[See, however, M. J. Luzzatto, ‘Note su Aviano’, 82–4; L. Del Vecchio and
A. M. Fiore, ‘Fabula in satura’, 59–67.]
114 Graham Anderson

(Arrian’s Epictetus). The lead-in to the conversation actually con-

tains a little ecphrasis of the cool shade aVorded by Herodes’ villa,
although the details could be said to arise naturally out of his
explaining how the party avoided summer and autumn heat. The
sentence-structure of the encounter between Herodes and the
would-be Stoic bore is ambitious and expansive (it might be said
to inXate with the pretensions of the student himself ); Herodes can
then abase himself with grovelling mock-humility before he leaves
Epictetus to do his demolition for him. While the material is stock
and likely to replicate itself naturally in academic situations, one
has a sense that Gellius is both directly engaged with his material
and able to narrate the course of events eVectively. This is not a
stereotypical chreia, but an artistically expanded anecdote capped
with an erudite antiquarian Xourish.
In other instances, however, Gellius may choose to be less
expansive. At its crudest an anecdote purporting to present per-
sonal experience may run as follows (14. 5. 1):
Defessus ego quondam diutina commentatione laxandi leuandique animi
gratia in Agrippae campo deambulabam. Atque ibi duos forte grammati-
cos conspicatus non parui in urbe Roma nominis certationi eorum acerri-
mae adfui, cum alter in casu uocatiuo ‘uir egregi’ dicendum contenderet,
alter ‘uir egregie’.
The arguments are then reported in due detail until (§4):
cum . . . eaque inter eos contentio longius duceretur, non arbitratus ego
operae pretium esse eadem istaec diutius audire clamantes conpugnan-
tesque illos reliqui.
In such episodes we sense Gellius wishing to have the best of both
worlds: to home in on any grammatical debate, since that is in his
own view where the action is; then to aVect contempt of the excess
and misapplied enthusiasm of others. We sense the same sort
of attitude in Lucian’s taking his leave of eminent philosophers
telling ghost stories (Philops. 39), or stopping Lexiphanes’ self-
indulgent parade of hyper-Atticism (Lex. 16). The narrator uses
the story to advertise his own superiority and moderation(!). Yet in
a sense this scenario is not just Gellius’ idea of a story: it is the story
of Gellius’ life, as we say.
Holford-Strevens22 has noted Gellius’ aversion to conventional
visual description and to detailed physical description of the sub-
jects of his anecdotes, and both traits are relevant to his outlook
and technique as a narrator: he sees his own-life experiences
‘Aulus Gellius: The Non-Visual Portraitist’.
Aulus Gellius as a Storyteller 115

through an academic prism where reputation and pretension rather

than their outward manifestation are what seem to matter to him,
and much of the supporting detail of anecdote material is trimmed
down to suit such an emphasis: we can Wnd more of the same
tradition in the tantalizingly brief reminiscences preserved in the
rhetorical exercises of the Elder Seneca, doubtless for similar
We can note too that Gellius’ accounts of encounters with Her-
odes Atticus or Favorinus are quite diVerent in the telling from the
sort of incidents reported in Philostratus’ Lives of the Sophists and
in the sophistic tradition generally, even though the focus of both
sets of tales is often on the same kind of oneupmanship. The closest
we get in Philostratus is that Philagrus of Cilicia oVended the
pupils of the purist Herodes by perpetrating an Œıº
578). Philostratus as usual is interested in the incident because of
its eVect on Philagrus’ temper, and arranges the incident round a
one-liner of Herodes: Philagrus has simply mismanaged his intro-
duction. What he does not bother to tell us is what the Œıº
actually was. In comparable incidents where Herodes or Wgures of
equivalent standing are involved, the word or quotation itself will
take pride of place in the discussion, with the bad manners of the
arrogant challenger to Gellius’ idol a matter of secondary import-
ance. The Wnal arbiter, and the close of the anecdote, will if possible
be a book, where for Philostratus the spoken word is king.
Similarly, if we compare the kind of anecdotes we Wnd in Lucian
on his favourite hobby-horse—attacks on false philosophers, a
standard second-century commonplace23—we Wnd that Gellius
puts such an attack in the mouth of Herodes himself (9. 2), when
a philosophic beggar asks him for money; but he then goes on to
load the anecdote with what we might think of as antiquarian
material: how the Athenians decreed that the names Harmodius
and Aristogeiton could not be used as slave-names, and that names
of disgraced patricians could not be given to patricians of the
same gens.
Sometimes Gellius seems to oVer a measure of spontaneity in
narrating details leading up to his own lexical discoveries, or indeed
in doing down others, as in the story of the books at Brundisium
(9. 4). Gellius comes here as close as he can to making an exciting
story of the discovery of books, only allowing himself one antiquar-
ian observation on the name Brundisium itself, that it was called

e.g. C. P. Jones, Culture and Society, 31–2, though as usual he emphasizes
experience against literary stereotype.
116 Graham Anderson

praepes (‘propitious’) in Ennius. Sometimes he will become elo-

quent in attack on those he thinks he has worsted, as when he
presents his own mock-humility against a reputable Roman gram-
marian, carefully putting his own ignorance of grammar à la mode
with that of Plautus, and dramatizing the tongue-tied fool as ille
oscitans et alucinanti similis . . . At nebulo quidem ille . . . (6. 17.
11–12). Or he will revel at second hand when wrong-headed
detractors outlaw a correct Ciceronian idiom by calling the master
manifestarius (‘caught in the act’), like the adulterer in Plautus
(Bacch. 918), for perpetrating futurum for futuram (1. 7. 3).
One issue which pehaps looms larger than most others in dis-
cussing Gellian storytelling is the line between truth and Wction.
How far did he ‘write up’ his genuine reminiscences in particular,
and construct them into little dramas of his own to embody his
personal preoccupations, or how far do they represent authentic
occurrences?24 This is a problem which faces autobiographical
material in most writers who purport to provide it, perhaps most
obviously in a second-century context in the case of Lucian; but
one might entertain suspicions in literary letter-writing in the case
of the Younger Pliny,25 or in the case of Arrian’s Epictetus.
I suspect that, where Gellius is concerned, and no glaring impossi-
bility or implausibility can be shown, it is very hard to disqualify
the shorter narrative sketches from at least a reasonable basis of
authenticity, though interpolation in the light of further reading
can never be ruled out. What seems obvious is that Gellius projects
himself as so straightforward and simplistic a persona that he
seems incapable of the level of artiWce one can readily credit to a
Lucian or Philostratus. We can also say that the outlook of a
grammarian and bibliophile are quite substantially divergent
from that of a rhetor or sophist, and that Gellius very obviously
falls on the grammatical side of the divide.
To sum up: Gellius selects often quaintly angled stories for
retelling, as miscellanists do; in the actual telling itself he does
not in the main aim at much more than report; but in reminiscence
or purported reminiscence his own enthusiasms begin to emerge.
We should ask how storytelling adds to our total picture of the
nature and guiding principles of Gellius’ activity; and how it
contributes in a broadly educational context.26

Cf. L. A. Holford-Strevens, ‘Fact and Fiction’; id., Aulus Gellius, 64–72 [47–51].
On which A. N. Sherwin-White, Letters, 11–20.
See Morgan, below, Ch. 7.
Aulus Gellius as a Storyteller 117

Gellius is not a gifted storyteller, but rather a testimony to what

happens to narratives at the hands of an erudite collector of curi-
osities from the twilight zone between the grammaticus and the
wider world of higher education. He conspicuously lacks the
sophistic panache of Apuleius, whose Florida cover fairly similar
territory in a brilliantly verbose way; nor is he aZicted with the
clumsy prolixity of a Valerius Maximus.27 His is not the world of
‘did you hear the one about—?’; it is rather the world of ‘you’ll
never guess what book I found this in, here are the author’s exact
words!’ In some respects Gellius is closer to the mental world and
limitations of the Plinys, with the lack of imagination that that
implies, than to the world of sophists so easily found in the Athens
in which he immersed himself.

On the Florida, see now S. Harrison, Apuleius, 89–135; on this aspect of
Valerius, C. J. Carter, ‘Valerius’, 42–5.
Gellius and the Roman Antiquarian Tradition
A n d r e w J. S te v en so n

Ancient Rome was as interested in her past as are historians today

and antiquarian writing was an important written outlet for this
interest. But, while the literary character of Roman historiography
is well known, Roman antiquarian writing and its importance in
the intellectual life of Rome has largely gone unnoticed.1 Antiquar-
ianism in ancient Rome was the scholarly study of the past in all its
aspects. It was a scholarly genre, lacking literary pretension, which
could admit discussions of detail and could cite documentary
evidence, as well as other writers. Other key features of Roman
antiquarianism are the systematic rather than chronological treat-
ment by the antiquarians of their material, and its use of the learned
monograph.2 It can also take in the accumulated baggage of trad-
ition that would be too trivial for ‘history’. It was, then, a sort of
non-Kunstprosa history, possibly more recognizable as ‘history’ to
modern historical scholarship than is ancient historiography. The
indiVerence towards literary style and rhetorical inXuences is one
of several characteristics shared with other scholarly genres and

Notable contributions have been H. Peter’s chapter on ‘Die antiquarischen
Studien und die Curiositas’ (Die geschichtliche Litteratur, i. 108–58), the essays by
A. D. Momigliano on ‘Ancient History and the Antiquarian’ and E. Rawson on
‘Cicero the Historian and Cicero the Antiquarian’, together with the chapter on
antiquarianism in ead., Intellectual Life and A. Wallace-Hadrill, Suetonius. Wallace-
Hadrill rightly stresses the antiquarian background to Suetonius’ biographies, while
Rawson’s Intellectual Life is probably the Wrst work, in English at least, to see
antiquarianism as an intellectual discipline in its own right, which would repay
modern study. In my unpublished thesis (A. J. Stevenson, ‘Gellius’) I attempt to
identify the antiquarian scholars of Rome and those works which contain antiquar-
ian material and which can tell us something of the antiquarian tradition at Rome,
and I develop at greater length the themes introduced here.
E. Rawson, ‘Logical Organisation’, 12 ¼ 324–5 rightly notes that the systematic
organization found in Varro and other scholarly writers of the late Republic repre-
sents a signiWcant intellectual advance on the chronological organization of material.
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 119

juristic writing. Antiquarian writing was also in prose: there was a

close verse relation in aetiological poetry, though the two seem to
have remained largely separate.3

1. the antiquarian tradition at rome

Historiography and antiquarian writing emerged together at Rome
early in the second century bc, and it would seem to be only with
the development of the Kunstprosa of historiography that anti-
quarian writing became recognizable as a distinct mode of enquiry
into Rome’s past. The Wrst antiquarian works seem to have been
produced in the later second century bc by men such as M. Junius
Gracchanus, though the elder Cato’s writings may already have
had some antiquarian content. In the earlier half of the Wrst cen-
tury bc, Aelius Stilo is the most prominent among a number of
shadowy scholars who contributed to antiquarian scholarship. Not
least of Stilo’s contributions was undoubtedly his role in the edu-
cation of Cicero and Varro. Cicero evidently had some sympathy
with antiquarian scholarship, and made use of antiquarian material
on a number of occasions, most notably in the works De re publica
and De legibus, though he never, as far as we know, wrote an
antiquarian work. Varro, however, became the antiquarian scholar
par excellence, and was apparently regarded as such by contempor-
aries and certainly by later scholars. It is worth noting at this point
that there was no Latin word for an antiquarian scholar, and that
those whom I call antiquarians were simply those whose interests
included antiquarianism.
The Varronian oeuvre represented the acme of Roman antiquar-
ian writing. Varro’s most important work was probably the Anti-
quitates rerum humanarum et diuinarum, a systematic study of
Rome and her past, which probably introduced the term antiqui-
tates for antiquarian studies. It was certainly his most important
antiquarian work. His antiquarian scholarship is evident in all his
works, even including the De lingua Latina, but it is the Antiqui-
tates which seem to have formed the most important source for
later antiquarians and other scholars, who copied, commented on,
and epitomized it, to the extent that much of the material circulat-
ing in the antiquarian tradition derived ultimately from this work.

On the chief representatives of Roman antiquarian verse writing, cf. J. F. Miller,
‘Callimachus’. Varro wrote a work entitled Aetia, but it is unclear whether this was
in verse or prose (or both).
120 Andrew J. Stevenson

And Varro’s inXuence continued through the Imperial period: for

all he is doctissimus Romanorum (others may be doctissimi, but only
of their age); and it would seem that he was regarded as the
deWnitive auctoritas on matters concerning public and private life.
The overall impression is of the vast, indeed overwhelming,
inXuence of Varro. As far as we know his works formed the Wrst
complete encyclopaedia of Roman Wissenschaft (which was no
slight achievement). Yet it is unclear whether Varro’s importance
lay in an innovative approach to the study of Rome’s past, in
considerable original research and thought, or simply in being
the Wrst to collect and collate existing research. All three doubtless
contributed: it is unlikely that in compiling his works he did not on
occasion have to add the results of his own research to that con-
tained in his sources. His use of documentary sources tends to
conWrm this; yet there are also occasions when the names of earlier
writers are mentioned along with that of Varro, or are cited by him.
Varro’s dominance of Roman scholarly writing has concealed the
contribution of earlier, contemporary, and later scholars, for the
deWnitive authority of Varro’s name could eclipse that of an inter-
mediary source. The excesses of nineteenth-century Quellen-
forschung have devalued the study of the sources used by ancient
writers, but it is notable that it is often not very diYcult to Wnd a
connection between the antiquarian interests of later scholars
and those of Varro; the one question which is probably impossible
to answer is that of Varro’s relation to his predecessors. It is
quite remarkable that we should have so little of such inXuential
Antiquarian research seems to have thrived at times of crisis or
change: the two major Xowerings of antiquarianism coincided with
the Gracchi and the civil wars of the late Republic down to the
establishment of the Augustan Principate. The works produced in
these periods, but particularly the second, seem to have set the
focus for all subsequent antiquarian writing, just as the consti-
tutional changes in those years largely formed the basis of political
life under the emperors.
Such antiquarian writing was of particular, practical use to
Augustus in that it could provide authoritative precedents and
arguments for the workings of the Principate, though I would
avoid suggesting that the antiquarians wrote proactively with that
aim. Furthermore, interest in antiquarianism continued through-
out the Principate and on into late antiquity, when it shows little
sign of ceasing to be of interest. There is a more or less continuous
thread throughout the Imperial period, linking eras of evident
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 121

interest in antiquarian matters, as represented in, for example, the

works of Ateius Capito, the younger Seneca (whose criticisms
must have had an aim), Suetonius, Aulus Gellius, and Macrobius,
and continued by such men as John Lydus, Isidore, and Petrarch.4
While these Wgures, whose works are known today, now represent
highlights, there is no indication of a waning of interest in anti-
quarian studies between them. Such men as Pliny and Gellius did
not see themselves as somehow ‘rescuing’ knowledge; and the
sense that later writers such as Macrobius and Lydus were rescu-
ing their antiquarian information from oblivion in order to restore
a lost past may be more our perception than theirs. We simply do
not know whether the extracts and information preserved by (say)
Gellius are those which were not well known, perhaps even almost
lost, or part of a common patrimony.
Not only the mere existence of a tradition of antiquarian writing
at Rome, but also its quantity, suggest that antiquarianism was of
interest to many of the educated of all periods. That much anti-
quarian information is found in commentaries such as those of
Servius, in digressions in annalistic histories and in encyclopaedic
works such as Pliny’s Naturalis historia and Gellius’ Noctes Atticae
conWrms that antiquarianism was a central discipline in the intel-
lectual life of Rome. Antiquarianism provided the ‘factual back-
ground’ to public life. It explained institutions, procedures, and
customs: matters which were apparently not within the curriculum
of Roman education. It could also—as, for instance, in the Noctes
Atticae—entertain: when the massive works of, for example, Varro
were condensed, and ‘the best bits’ selected, the result was a digest
of information of general interest.

2. gellius the antiquarian scholar?

The central Wgure in any account of antiquarian studies at Rome
should be Varro. In the mid-Wrst century bc Varro wrote his Anti-
quitates rerum humanarum et diuinarum, which set antiquarian
studies on a Wrm footing at Rome. Varro’s works made him a role
model for later scholars, none of whom ever entirely superseded
him. But what are seen as Varro’s antiquarian works survive only

Indeed it seems likely that further research would show a continuous tradition
of antiquarian studies from Varro through to the antiquaries of the Renaissance and
later. G. Maslakov, ‘Roman Antiquarian Tradition’, looks brieXy at Ausonius’ and
Augustine’s relation to especially Varro.
122 Andrew J. Stevenson

in fragments, which are moreover often extremely brief and give

little idea of the context and none of the works as a whole.
Furthermore, very little of the work of other Roman antiquarian
writers survives. The modern student needs a guide to help him
along the shady and uncertain paths of Roman antiquarian schol-
arship: Gellius is an excellent guide.
In 1883 Henry Nettleship remarked: ‘The name of Gellius is
perhaps most familiarly connected in the minds of modern stu-
dents with the subject of Roman antiquities, social, political and
religious.’ That is, Gellius was an antiquarian. To a certain extent
Nettleship’s essay succeeded in adjusting this view to the beneWt of
Gellius’ notes on language and literature, and indeed Holford-
Strevens all but ignores Gellius’ antiquarian interests.5
To call Gellius an antiquarian scholar would be wrong. But he
was a man with antiquarian interests, and the Noctes Atticae con-
tains much antiquarian material. Gellius is indeed the source of
many of the fragments which we have from earlier antiquarian
writers, particularly of the late Republic and Augustan period,
and he is especially valuable in that he occasionally gives us some
indication of the place of these fragments in their original context.
Unlike the lexicographers (principally Nonius Marcellus), Gellius
uses Varro for the substance of his argument rather than simply for
the exempliWcation of words; and Gellius also preserves more
coherent fragments, with more of Varro’s argument or line of
thought, than do the commentators (notably Servius on Vergil).
Furthermore his Noctes Atticae is essentially a compendium of
miscellaneous information on virtually every subject under the
sun. This means that there is scope for the inclusion of a greater
variety of antiquarian material than we might expect to Wnd in
works of a more limited nature.
Out of the apparent and probably deliberate chaos that is Gel-
lius’ organization of his material it is virtually impossible to pro-
duce an entirely satisfactory table of subjects covered, so
miscellaneous is the collection. Nettleship produced a ‘rough
analysis’, which divided the Noctes Atticae into a number of
broad subject areas, though Gellius would have resisted the im-
position of such a scheme.6 Similarly, it is not always easy to place
into a single category many of the articles (a word I prefer to
H. Nettleship, ‘The Noctes Atticae’, 406 ¼ 266. L. A. Holford-Strevens, Aulus
Gellius, ch. 13, ‘History’, hardly strays beyond a catalogue of historians used by Gellius
and a brief account of ‘Gellius’ Attitude towards Antiquity’ (255–9 [188–91]).
Nettleship, ‘The Noctes Atticae’, 399–413 ¼ 258–74. Cf. Holford-Strevens,
Aulus Gellius, 65 [47], 33–5 [25–6].
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 123

‘chapters’) which make up this patchwork. They are often com-

plex, combining more than one theme: a number of articles contain
antiquarian details, or simply suggest the methods of the antiquar-
ian, without either the lemmata or the subject-matter of those
articles giving any such indication. Taking into account these latter
articles, we Wnd that antiquarian scholarship appears in one form
or another in approximately 120 articles: almost a third of the total.
Distinctions are not always easy, but we can break down Gellius’
antiquarian discussions as follows: the institutions of daily life
(covering such matters as costume, music, shaving, eating, etc.)
are mentioned nearly Wfty times; legal matters on about thirty-Wve
occasions; religious institutions appear some twenty-seven times;
political institutions twenty-two times; military institutions eleven
times; and physical antiquities appear on seven occasions. There is
in addition a quantity of miscellaneous material, which may be
characterized as at least related to antiquarian scholarship: this
includes such matters as the search for good texts, genealogy, an
account of the diVerence between historia and annales, and the
topography of Rome.
The vast majority of Gellius’ articles are comparable (in spirit at
least) to many of those in early editions of, for example, The
Classical Weekly or Quarterly; and both the parts and the whole
bear a marked similarity to the periodical Notes and Queries. This
was Wrst published in 1849 with the subtitle A Medium of Inter-
Communication for Literary Men, Artists, Antiquaries, Genealogists,
etc. Each issue still explains on the inside front cover that ‘It is
devoted principally to English language and literature, lexicog-
raphy, history and scholarly antiquarianism. Emphasis is on the
factual rather than the speculative.’ One would need only to change
the word ‘English’ to ‘Latin’ to get an accurate description of
Gellius’ Noctes Atticae.7 Unlike today’s Notes and Queries, how-
ever, the Noctes Atticae does not for the most part present original
research. Rather Gellius seeks to present a digest of information on
a wide variety of subjects, for the use of gentleman scholars and
those too busy in public life to make a serious study of these
subjects. In short the Noctes Atticae represents a compendium of
the sorts of things with which a man of aVairs in the second century
Taking—entirely at random—vol. 237 (ns 35), no. 1 of Notes & Queries (March
1988), we Wnd contributions on the origins of place-names (cf. Gell. 16. 17), on
corruption and metre in Old English poetry (cf. Gell. 1. 21, 2. 6, 2. 16, 5. 8, 6. 7,
etc.); the use made by (e.g.) Marlowe and Spenser of earlier works, respectively
Justinian’s Institutes and Golding’s translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (cf. Gell. 2.
23); and on Shakespearian epitaphs (cf. Gell. 1. 24).
124 Andrew J. Stevenson

would be expected to be familiar. It is signiWcant for the import-

ance of antiquarianism in the intellectual life of Rome that anti-
quarian topics recur in the Noctes Atticae.

3. the methods of roman antiquarianism

It is surprising how little has as yet been established concerning the
characteristics of Roman scholarship in general. The indications
are that the techniques of antiquarian writing had much in
common with other branches of scholarship, though further
research is needed. Here I introduce some of the characteristic
methods of the Roman antiquarians.8
Most of our evidence for antiquarian methodology and interests
comes from within antiquarian works themselves, but a few
remarks from outside the antiquarian tradition indicate that there
were some commonly accepted ways in which an antiquarian
scholar was expected to go about his business. Yet many of these
comments on antiquarian writing amount to little more than the
perception of antiquarian scholars as being learned men who pur-
sued their studies in an expert, scholarly manner. Seneca’s criti-
cism of the scholar’s emphasis on detail when discussing Cicero’s
De re publica informs us of one characteristic of antiquarian
writing, and it is interesting that, in the De re publica itself, Cicero
is also able consciously to break from what would seem an estab-
lished scholarly method, for, at the start of the discussion of the
res publica, he has Scipio announce his intention not to start at the
very beginning, ‘which is what learned men would do’. Scipio also
says that he will begin his discussion according to the rule ‘which
I believe should be used in discussing anything, if you want to
avoid making mistakes: that the meaning of the name of whatever
is under discussion should be explained.’9 Thus we see one reason
for the widespread use of etymologies by the antiquarians.
From these comments we learn three characteristics of Roman
antiquarian writing: the discussion of speciWc details, rather than
the construction of a general picture; a tendency to explain matters
by looking at the origins of whatever is under discussion; and,
clearly connected with the last, the use of the etymology of the
name of whatever is under discussion as an integral part of an

For a fuller account see the chapter on ‘The Methods and Characteristics of
Roman Antiquarian Writing’ in Stevenson, ‘Gellius’, 127–85.
Sen. Ep. 108. 30–1; Cic. Rep. 1. 38.
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 125

explanation. In addition, we may detect several other features

common to much antiquarian writing: more or less apparent ves-
tiges of the question-and-answer process which seems to have
formed the basis of much ancient scholarship, with a tendency to
present a number of alternative views as the answer; the division
and subdivision of works into separate sections, each with its own
rubric or lemma as a heading; the provision of indexes and lists of
contents; and the acknowledged use of earlier antiquarians, or, in
other words, the propagation of the tradition.

3.1. The Use of Earlier Antiquarians

The clearest sign of a consciousness that the antiquarians were
writing within a pre-existing tradition comes from their naming
of their sources and the giving of references. In virtually all sur-
viving antiquarian writing, from Varro to Lydus (and no doubt, if
one cared to look, beyond), we Wnd the explicit citation by name of
the authors’ (usually antiquarian) sources, often with reference to
book number and occasionally to the part of the book. Macrobius
provides the exception which proves the rule.
This awareness of a tradition in which they were writing is at its
most apparent in the prefaces of Pliny and Gellius. Both include a
list of titles ‘which many other (Greek and Latin) writers devised
for works of this sort’. Similarly, in the preface to his books
De rebus rusticis, Varro also includes a list of some Wfty-two, mainly
Greek writers on agriculture. But Varro presents this as a guide to
further reading.10
Gellius undoubtedly follows Pliny in this (some of the titles given
are the same), and indeed there are further marked similarities
between the two prefaces. For instance, Pliny stresses that he
makes no claims to completeness, adding that ‘I am human and
beset with duties and pursue these studies in my spare time, that is
at night.’ We may compare Gellius, who twice explains the title of
his work from the fact that he did much of the work ‘during the long
winter nights in the land of Attica’. The theme of working at night is
one that recurs in the Noctes Atticae and in much of Latin literature
whenever there is any suggestion of scholarly activity. This may
well be largely rhetoric, though it does betray a certain prejudice:
that the production of scholarly works was somehow secondary to

Gell. pr. 4; Varro, RR 1. 1. 7 (the list follows); Col. 1. 1. 4–15 also lists those
works the reader should consult before involving himself with agriculture.
126 Andrew J. Stevenson

one’s daytime negotium. And indeed the antiquarian scholars usu-

ally appear as amateurs who studied in their spare time.11
Both Pliny and Gellius present their lists of titles in order to
distinguish from them their own works; and it is interesting that
Varro too distinguishes his work on agriculture from those of the
Carthaginian Mago, his translator Cassius Dionysius Uticensis,
and his epitomator Diophanes of Bithynia: Varro’s distinction,
however, is merely one of length.12 Pliny bemoans the mira felicitas
of the titles which Greeks give to their works and distinguishes
what he sees as the more serious titles used by Roman scholars
(Antiquitates, Exempla, Artes for—his—example), though he also
notes that Varro gave striking titles to his satires which—in contrast
to Greek works—contained much interesting information. Gellius
does not make the distinction here between Greek and Roman
festiuitates inscriptionum (‘witty titles’) and even includes in the
list the Naturalis historia.13 But Gellius does not have quite the
same polemical purpose as Pliny—it is elsewhere that he refers to
libri Graeci miraculorum fabularumque pleni, res inauditae, incredu-
lae14—for he is concerned mainly to point out that his title is
unsophisticated and merely descriptive (neither of which it is).
Pliny simply states that he could not be bothered to think up any
witty title.15
This simultaneous adherence to and (at least claimed) diver-
gence from the tradition of one’s predecessors is unlikely to be a
mark of Gellius and Pliny alone. Indeed Wallace-Hadrill, who is
much concerned to set Suetonius against his scholarly background,
points out the contrasts between Suetonius’ works and those of
other ancient biographers.16 As Gellius shows clearly, a writer had
to be fully aware of the tradition in which he was writing in order to

Plin. NH pr. 18; Gell. pr. 4, 10, cf. §§12, 19; 9. 4. 5, 13. 31. 10, 15. 7. 3. Cf.
T. Janson, Latin Prose Prefaces, 97–8, 147–8. Cf. also Cic. Fin. 5. 48.
RR 1. 1. 11. Somewhat later, Priscian shows himself aware of previous writing
on the ars grammatica, in order to distance himself from those earlier works (ep. ded.
1–4: GL ii. 1–2).
Plin. NH pr. 24; Gell. pr. 4–9.
NA 9. 4. 3, though some of the miracula and fabulae he also found in Pliny’s
NH. On Gellius’ view of Pliny, cf. Holford-Strevens, Gellius, 165–6 [121–2].
NA pr. 10; NH pr. 26. Of course, the rhetoric of prefaces is in play here: cf.
Janson, Latin Prose Prefaces, 98–100, 124–41, 145–9. Gellius’ title belongs precisely
among the festiuitates inscriptionum, and indeed has a better claim to be included
there than some, such as Naturalis historia, Antiquae lectiones, and Epistulae morales,
which give a far better idea of the content of these works and which are present in
Gellius’ list.
Wallace-Hadrill, Suetonius, 70.
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 127

take the decision to diverge from it. Given that Macrobius also
diverges from the mainstream of the tradition (by using a continu-
ous dialogue format), it is worth noting here that the preface of the
Saturnalia contains much that is similar to, if not indeed repro-
duced from that of the Noctes Atticae.17

3.2. Indexes and Contents Lists

Another important link between the Noctes Atticae and the Natu-
ralis historia is the table of contents which follows the preface in
each work.18 Both Gellius and Pliny state that this is for the
reader’s convenience: as Friderici noted, such indexes are com-
monly said by their authors to be intended to facilitate the use of
their works.19 Although the Noctes Atticae and Naturalis historia
are rare among surviving Latin literature in preserving such
indexes (rarer still in their being accepted as genuine by modern
scholars), they were clearly not unprecedented in antiquity for, as
Pliny mentions, one Valerius Soranus had, apparently for the Wrst
time in Latin literature, included a list of contents at the beginning
of his ¯  Ø. Soranus seems to belong to Cicero’s youth and is
cited by Varro: so such contents’ lists were not a new feature of
Latin scholarship (the festiuitas of Soranus’ inscriptio places him
clearly in the tradition), although Pliny implies that he is the Wrst to
follow Soranus in this. But an index also appears to have been
included by Columella in his De re rustica, written only a few years
before Pliny’s Naturalis historia. Again it is suggested that this is
for the reader’s convenience, ‘so that, should the need arise, it will
be easy to Wnd what is sought’.20
Since Columella appears as a source for seven books of the
Naturalis historia, Pliny cannot mean that he was the Wrst
since Soranus to include an index (though the authenticity of

Cf. e.g. NA pr. 2–3, 11  Sat. 1. pr. 2–3, 10 respectively.
On this topic and that of §3.3 cf. R. Friderici, De librorum divisione, which
seeks, generally convincingly, to establish the authenticity and the origin of the
division of ancient works into capita, of the provision of lemmata for these capita,
and of the compilation of capitum indices or summaria. See A. D. Vardi, below,
Gell. pr. 25 ut iam statim declaretur quid quo in libro quaeri inuenirique possit;
Plin. NH pr. 33 ut quisque desiderabit aliquid id tantum quaerat, et sciat quo loco
inueniat; Friderici, De librorum divisione, 52–3.
NH pr. 33; Varro, LL 7. 31, 65, 10. 70; id. ap. NA 2. 10. 3, Serv. Aen. 1. 277.
Columella’s index comes at the end of the eleventh book (bk. 12 being added later):
omnium librorum meorum argumenta subieci, ut cum res exegisset, facile reperiri possit,
quid in quoque quaerendum et qualiter quidque faciendum sit.
128 Andrew J. Stevenson

Columella’s index has been doubted). Friderici, noting that Cato’s

De agri cultura may have had an index prefaced to it, argued that
Pliny means that he was the Wrst since Valerius Soranus to place his
index in a separate book. This is convincing, in that it would
explain why there is no suggestion in Columella that the provision
of an index was anything novel, as is the case also for Pliny’s near
contemporary Frontinus, who also provided an index to the con-
tents of each book of his Strategemata.21 Such is the case also of the
full index included in the Compositiones of Scribonius Largus
( Xoruit under Claudius); here also the index is included quo facilius
quod quaeretur inueniatur.
Another index appears at the start of what are commonly known
as the Fabulae of the mythographer Hyginus.22 Some of the better
manuscripts of Suetonius’ De grammaticis et rhetoribus also contain
an index that may well be genuine, as indeed Roth allowed and
ReiVerscheid asserted: the latter presumed that this index was
typical of others which would have been placed at the start of
each section of Suetonius’ De uiris illustribus, suggesting that
their inclusion would have been ex more antiquitatis satis noto.23
Of course I cannot claim that all (if any) of the ‘indexed’ works
just mentioned are antiquarian works, though they are all technical
works, with the exception of Hyginus’ Fabulae. What then of the
antiquarians: were their works indexed? In the absence of their
works we do not know, though we may assume from the silence of
Pliny that Varro’s Antiquitates were not indexed, at least to the
same degree as the Naturalis historia. On the other hand, the
delineation of subjects to be covered appears in Varro, though
here it comes not as a separate entity in the form of an index, but
in the body of the text.

Friderici, De librorum divisione, 56: on p. 55 he suggests that Gellius’ index
should be seen as a separate libellus. We should believe Pliny: he was very interested
in the Wrst appearance or discovery of things. For his use of Columella see NH
19. 68  Col. 11. 3. 53.
H. J. Rose, Hygini Fabulae, p. viii: mihi quidem non ita ueri dissimile uidetur
Hyginum nostrum Antoninorum fere aetate scripsisse. One suspects that the work of
Gellius’ (anonymous) familiaris, which was lent to Gellius and which he charac-
terizes as full of mera miracula, may have had more than a little in common with this
work of Hyginus: NA 14. 6.
C. L. Roth, edn., p. lvii; A. ReiVerscheid, edn. 370. R. P. Robinson, however,
argued (edn. 1 ad loc.) that the index was composed ‘longe post Suetoni aetatem’.
Cf. R. A. Kaster, edn. 41–2: ‘That the lists are authentically Suetonian is
unlikely . . . Yet even if the lists are not Suet.’s work, they are probably
ancient’, giving reasons to suppose them older than Jerome; also Wallace-Hadrill,
Suetonius, 51.
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 129

The clearest instances of this come in the De lingua Latina, at the

start of the Wfth book and at the beginning and end of Book 7,
together with a further recapitulation at the start of Book 8. Thus,
for example, Book 5 is de uocabulis locorum and Book 6 is de uocabulis
temporum, divisions that correspond to two of the four divisions
found in both parts of Varro’s Antiquitates. Within these divisions
there are further subdivisions, and so, at the start of Book 7, Varro
sets out the four divisions of that book, but with the qualiWcation si
quid excedit ex hac quadripertitione, tamen in ea ut comprehendam
(§5). There is a similar account of the contents of the Res rusticae
and this can easily be detected in other works also.24
From the Wrst book of the De uita populi Romani, Nonius pre-
serves Varro’s statement of the order in which he will deal de re
familiari ac partibus, de uictuis consuetudine primigenia and de
disciplinis priscis necessariis uitae. Riposati places this at the head
of a postulated section on ‘condizione giuridiche e domestiche
dell’antica Roma’, but it could well either belong to or resume a
longer summary from the beginning of the work.25 Nonius also
provides what may have been part of Varro’s explanation of the
structure of his Logistoricus, ‘Cato, de liberis educandis’.26 Agahd
noted that Augustine no doubt found the plan of the Antiquitates
rerum diuinarum set out in the Wrst book of that work;27 one may
wonder whether Censorinus’ account of Varro’s distinction of
three periods of history (Nat. 21. 1–5) might not have come from
a similar introductory passage in the Wrst book of (perhaps) the De
gente populi Romani. As the Wrst book of the Res diuinae was
introductory, so was that of the Res humanae and may well have
included a discussion of the division of the work; certainly the
twentieth book, which was introductory to the Wnal hexad de
rebus, contained a recapitulation of the division of the work: et ea
quae ad mortalis pertinent quadrifariam dispertierim: in homines, in
loca, in tempora, in res.28
LL 5. 1, 10, 7. 5, 109–10, 8. 1; RR 1. 5. 3–4. Cf. G. Boissier, Varron, 135–8;
J. E. Skydsgaard, Varro, 92–3.
Non. 792 L. ¼ 494. 9–12 M. ¼ fr. 24 Rip. Cf. B. Riposati, De vita populi
Romani, 132–3. In the ‘serie dei frammenti’ of Book 1 (pp. 91–3) he indeed places
this fragment directly after those assumed to be from the preface.
Non. 718 L. ¼ 447. 35–448. 1 M.: educit enim obstetrix, educat nutrix, instituit
paedagogus, docet magister.
R. Agahd, ‘Rerum divinarum libri’, 15–16.
Non. 131 L. ¼ 92. 11–13 M. ¼ RH 20, fr. 1 Mirsch. This division recurs
throughout Varro’s works, so much so that Boissier found it boring and monoton-
ous (Varron, 136–7). But it means that if one is familiar with one work (or book), one
may more easily Wnd one’s way round another.
130 Andrew J. Stevenson

The inclusion of such indexes was not, however, a unique fea-

ture of antiquarian scholarship: not only are Pliny’s Naturalis
historia and Gellius’ Noctes Atticae not purely antiquarian works,
but, as we have seen, indexes seem also to have been used in
agricultural works and, I may now add, also in grammatical
works: the Ars grammatica of Charisius and the Institutiones gram-
maticae of Priscian contain indexes:29 the epistula dedicatoria of the
latter ends with the familiar note that titulos etiam universi operis
per singulos supposui libros, quo facilius, quicquid ex his quaeratur,
discretis possit locis inveniri (GL ii. 3. 3–4). The concept of provid-
ing an exposition of the most important parts of one’s argument
was far from unknown: as Friderici noted, the partitiones of
speeches provide a clear parallel.30 Rather indexes seem character-
istic of Roman scholarship in general: it might be the case that
such indexes or summaries were more common than has been
presumed, whether provided by the writers themselves or by
librarii. Certainly the repeated emphasis on their practical utility
is no mere rhetoric.

3.3. Rubrics and the Question-and-Answer Process

Clearly such indexes would be most eYcacious in those works
where the individual items included in the index were paralleled
by similar headings, lemmata (‘capita rerum’) or rubrics in the
main body of the text, and these recur in antiquarian writing.
Even where there is no trace in the manuscripts of an ancient
division of the text into sections, each headed by a rubric, the
method is often apparent in the construction of the work, or in
the way that the writer proceeds, or both. This reXects the system-
atic nature of antiquarian scholarship: the organization of the
material to be presented, its categorization, and the subsequent
division and subdivision of the work to reXect those categories are
an important characteristic of Roman antiquarian writing.31
There are traces of what one might call the ‘rubric mentality’
in Pliny’s Naturalis historia: thus, for example, Isager’s study
of Books 33–7 is structured according to the rubrics according
to which Pliny seems to have written.32 But Pliny’s text is not
GL i. 2–6; ii. 3–4.
Friderici, De librorum divisione, 45. Cf. Quint. Inst. 4. 5.
Note also Rawson, ‘Logical Organisation’. Compare Scribonius Largus, who
says (ep. ded. 15) that he has numbered his various compositiones for ease of
J. Isager, Pliny.
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 131

provided with separate rubrics, and an essential diVerence between

the contents lists of Gellius and Pliny is that the latter’s has more of
the character of a summary of the work. Pliny lists the subjects
covered and gives total numbers of res et historiae et obseruationes
(etc.) for each book: these form the main divisions of his material.
Gellius, however, merely presents what now appears to be more
like a table of contents as we know it: he lists the titles of the articles
to be found in each book.
While Gellius’ lemmata can be quite discursive, most of those of
Hyginus consist merely of the name of the subject of each fabula.
In the latter part of the collection, however (Fabulae 224–77), there
is a more pronounced rubric form, comparable to the individual
clauses of Pliny’s index, and in some cases even the subject-matter
would not have been out of place in the Naturalis historia. Possibly
the most ‘Plinian’ are those on who Wrst held games, who dis-
covered something, who founded towns, on large islands, and on
those who invented something (Fabulae 273–7). Invention and
institution are common in antiquarian works. It may be that
Hyginus’ index and lemmata are not merely an attempt to imitate
one characteristic of the scholarly tradition (and hence to give his
Fabulae an air of greater legitimacy), but they also indicate Hygi-
nus’ familiarity with the antiquarian tradition. In Greek we may
compare the `Ø ØÆ  ¯ºº ØŒ and `Ø ØÆ  øÆœŒ of Plutarch, in
which various questions are posed and act as rubrics: the use of
rubrics may also be detected in Plutarch’s other works.33 Perhaps
Varro’s Aetia was constructed along similar lines? On the evidence
of the Digest at least, the works of the jurists also contained rubrics
(as did the laws themselves): these are anyway often not unrelated
to those of the antiquarians.
The systematizing of Roman antiquarianism suggests that such
headings would naturally have found a place in antiquarian works,
and it is notable that Gellius could identify the sections into which
Book 21 of Varro’s Res humanae was divided (NA 13. 13. 5). The
alphabetical order in which Verrius Flaccus arranged his material
reXects a similar systematizing, and it is interesting that Pliny’s
lists of artists are arranged in alphabetical order.34
It is worth noting that indexes and rubrics would be rather more
useful in the context of personal consultation (rather than public
Cf. D. A. Russell, Plutarch, 45–6. The form may go back to Aristotle’s
ºÆÆ. Cf. Roman Questions, tr. H. J. Rose, 49.
NH 33. 155; 34. 85–91; 35. 138–44, 146. Note also the alphabetical order of
Pliny’s discussion of gemstones, NH 37. 138–85. Cf. Isager, Pliny, 75, 103, 113,
132 Andrew J. Stevenson

declamation) of the works, and indeed rubrics would be disruptive

in poetry or historiography. Rather, the use of rubrics in a work
marks out that work as one intended for reference (or alternatively
for dipping into) and also, perhaps, as a scholarly one.35 Works
such as the Noctes Atticae and the Naturalis historia reXect either
an alternative to, or a trend away from, public performance as the
prime means of publication. Similarly, one would imagine that
works such as Varro’s Antiquitates and Verrius Flaccus’ De uer-
borum signiWcatu were singularly ill suited to public declamation,
and indeed they seem to have been designed to be reference works.
Particularly in view of their scale, such works must have had a
limited circulation, which would partly explain their poor survival,
and few could or would aspire to own something like Varro’s
Antiquitates. Atticus may have had a copy; Cicero did not, and
references to the work often suggest that it has been consulted in a
library. We should perhaps not underestimate the extent to which
the libraries of Rome served as reference institutions and to which
works were written for deposition in them. Many of Varro’s works
must have remained largely inaccessible, both in terms of their size
and the restricted number of copies available; this diYculty seems
to have been met by Varro’s own production of epitomes of, for
example, the Antiquitates and the De lingua Latina; similarly Fes-
tus’ epitome of Verrius Flaccus’ De uerborum signiWcatu probably
had a similar purpose, and it is perhaps not entirely irrelevant
that Mommsen also produced an Abriß of his own Römisches
Of course, the division of material under rubrics was a common
feature of much ancient scholarship. Wallace-Hadrill is right to
link it ‘with the basic exercise of Greek and Roman education: the
reading of the literary classics, and their elucidation through a
word by word question and answer exchange between master and
pupil.’37 Not only has each article in the Noctes Atticae its own
rubric following the preface, but within the articles themselves we
can frequently see the clear application of this method: a consider-
able number of articles begin with such phrases as quaeri solitum
est, and many take as their starting point a phrase or word in a
literary work, a law or whatever, although Gellius sometimes
Cf. Friderici, De librorum divisione, 23, 25: facile intelligimus in libris, qui ad
perlegendum scripti erant, lemmata superXua fuisse.
T. Mommsen, Römisches Staatsrecht3; id., Abriß des römischen Staatsrechts.
Wallace-Hadrill, Suetonius, 42–3. Cf. Suet. Tib. 70. 3 for examples of the
quaestiones with which Tiberius used to test grammatici; and Gramm. 11 for a
grammaticus who could ‘solve all quaestiones’.
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 133

disguises his use of this method by only placing at the end of the
article whatever was the stimulus for the point which he has just
The use of this method is by no means unique to Gellius. The
Wrst sentence of Book 10 of Varro’s De lingua Latina, for instance,
ends with the words multi quaesierunt and there are numerous
traces of the question-and-answer process to be found in his
works: Boissier noted that in his works of literary criticism Varro
proceeded by deWnitions and categories.39 There is, however, no
evidence that he broke up his text with separate sub-headings,
though as we have seen he did divide his books into various
sections: how that division was indicated remains unknown.40
In Macrobius’ Saturnalia, despite the dialogue form, it is very
easy to identify where headings might have been placed, had
Macrobius so wished, and indeed several editors have inserted
appropriate rubrics.41 Similarly, it would not be diYcult to supply
suitable lemmata for Pliny’s Naturalis historia. It is, however,
improbable that rubrics would have been removed at some stage
in the transmission of the texts of Macrobius and Pliny; rather one
would expect the medieval copyists to have inserted them. Instead,
this should be seen as a conscious eVort on the part of Pliny and
Macrobius to write continuous prose uninterrupted by headings.
Unlike those of Plutarch, Gellius’ rubrics rarely take the form of a
question, but usually give an abstract of the information presented.
Possibly Gellius was making a related eVort (at least to vary the
style of his articles): one could easily supply a question for many of
his articles (that is where he himself does not), to which he then
provides an answer. Yet the presence of the lemmata in the Noctes
Atticae might suggest that Gellius wrote more ‘traditionally’.42
Wallace-Hadrill has shown how all Suetonius’ works were
dominated by rubrics: these exist in the fragments of the lexico-
graphical works (and here one may compare Verrius Flaccus), but
Typical of examples too numerous to cite in full are NA 2. 19, 3. 18, 13. 3, 22.
H. Berthold, Aulus Gellius, 23 notes that ‘allenthalben wird der Leser einbezogen in
das Fragen und Wissenwollen, in das Suchen . . . und Finden’; he produces lists of
such recurrent phrases (ibid. 73–4, 87–94).
Boissier, Varron, 158.
On the various methods of division available, cf. Friderici, De librorum divi-
sione, 21, 24–5, 27–33, 43.
Cf. e.g. the Dring and Harper edn. of 1694 and the Nisard edn. of 1850. Of
course the dialogue form itself leads to progression by question and answer: the
procedure is at its clearest in Sat. 7. 8–13. Cf. also 7. 16. 1–12.
E. Tuerk, ‘Macrobe’, sees Macrobius as aiming to create a homogenous work,
in terms of both style and content, in contrast to the lack of organization in the NA.
134 Andrew J. Stevenson

also lie behind the arrangement of the antiquarian and biographical

Even within the lives the construction is often around rubrics, topic after
topic, though since this is consecutive prose, the reader is normally spared
the abruptness of a one-word heading at the top of a paragraph. But always
the old method shows through: Suetonius’ thought runs not in consecutive
narrative like a historian’s, nor in developing argument like a philoso-
pher’s, but in word-heading and commentary with instances.43
It is clear, then, that there was a common method: the question-
and-answer process, which seems on occasion at least to have been
developed into the use of rubrics.

3.4. Ancient Antiquarian Research

It is unfortunate that we know little of the preparatory stages
of Roman scholarship: where and how did the authors get their
information?44 In the early days there must have been a combin-
ation of essentially empirical research and the codiWcation of oral
tradition: how else could much of the information have Wrst found
its way into the antiquarian tradition?45 But by the time we get to
Pliny and Gellius, the key preparation was reading, as they make
We know that there were aids to the reading of books and docu-
ments. A fragment of a text survives which may belong to a work De
litteris singularibus of M. Valerius Probus—perhaps the most
important grammarian of the Wrst century, whom Suetonius
includes in the Wnal place of his list of grammatici.46 This is the
so-called De iuris notarum, which is perhaps merely an extract from
the original work: what we have is a list of abbreviations (together
with their expanded forms) as used in various forms of documents.
After a brief introduction, the Wrst section deals with abbreviations
Wallace-Hadrill, Suetonius, 44. It is interesting to note in connection with the
mention of a philosopher’s method that Gellius (NA 14. 1. 2) could discern head-
ings within what the philosopher Favorinus had to say. In the Vitae Caesarum
Suetonius’ rubrics are not always merely notional, but sometimes appear in the
questions which Suetonius seems to have set himself: cf. e.g. Aug. 9, 61. 1; Claud.
22; Galba 3. 1; Dom. 3. 2.
Cf. Rawson, Intellectual Life, 239: ‘To our eyes Roman antiquarianism omit-
ted the essential preparatory stages . . . ’.
Cf. e.g. LL 5. 125, where Varro discusses the use of one sort of table me puero.
Cf. also J. F. Miller, ‘Callimachus’, 402: ‘In general, Ovid’s method of ‘‘research’’
seems to be a combination of scholarly work and recollection.’
Suet. Gramm. 24. On Probus see Schanz–Hosius ii. 734–41; for the texts see
GL iv.
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 135

found in oYcial, historical, and religious writing, the second with

juristic abbreviations found in laws and plebisscita, the third with
those in legis actiones, and the fourth with those found in edicts. The
manuscript breaks oV here, though some further abbreviations (of
legal terminology) are preserved elsewhere.47 It is tempting to
suppose that the De occulta litterarum signiWcatione in epistularum
C. Caesaris scriptura (ascribed to Probus by Gellius) may have
formed part of a larger work, which also included the original of
De iuris notarum: it certainly suggests Probus’ interest in the area.48
Probus was not alone in his writing on this subject: we know of a
work by Suetonius On Signs in Books, which may have been similar,
and Verrius Flaccus also explained some abbreviations.49
Such works on abbreviations were clearly designed to facilitate
the reading of documents: as such material was not commonly part
of the school curriculum, then one may presume it was intended
for the scholar and interested amateur; and the whole work must
have proved a valuable tool for the antiquarian, who consulted
documents. Yet it is strange that such self-evident abbreviations
as SPQR and AVC, and those of praenomina, are included in what
remains of Probus’ work. These might be later interpolations,
though they would also reXect the same desire for completeness
as is found in Pliny’s Naturalis historia.
Pliny claims to have read about two thousand volumina from a
hundred diVerent authors and his nephew makes clear the method:
‘a book was read and he made notes on it and excerpts from it’.
Thus the younger Pliny inherited 160 papyrus rolls Wlled on both
sides with his uncle’s notes.50 This was, of course, a very common
method: Skydsgaard, who devotes most of his discussion of ‘The
Roman Scholar’ to how these excerpts were kept, traces the
method back to the Alexandrians and notes its presence also in
Cicero, Plutarch, Livy, and Dio. And generally, reading often
appears as synonymous with excerpting: as Marache notes in the
introduction to his Budé edition of Gellius, Fronto and Marcus
Aurelius were so aware of this synonymity that they use the ex-
pression legere ex. Nonius’ initial method was similar too: Lindsay

Edited by T. Mommsen in GL iv. 267–76. For other lists of abbreviations,
apparently from late antiquity and the Middle Ages cf. ibid. 277–352.
Gell. 17. 9. Suetonius also refers to Julius Caesar’s use of cipher (Jul. 56. 6).
Cf. Mommsen, GL iv. 267.
On Suetonius cf. p. 281 Roth; Festus explains RR ( ¼ rationum relatarum) at
340. 27–30 L. s.v. R duobus; QRCF ( ¼ Quando Rex Comitiauit Fas) and QSDF ( ¼
Quando Stercus Delatum Fas) 310. 11–25 s.vv.
Plin. Ep. 3. 5. 10, 17; cf. Plin. NH pr. 17.
136 Andrew J. Stevenson

distinguished forty-one separate word-lists, including one from

the Noctes Atticae, Wve compiled directly from various works of
Varro (mainly the satires), and two from what Lindsay regarded as
probably a glossary compiled mainly from Varro, which included
Varro’s Epistulae and the twentieth book of the Res humanae.51
This method is evident also in Varro’s writings: in the De lingua
Latina he has extracted information from separate parts of his own
work, the Antiquitates, and reassembled it in a diVerent form for
the discussion of something else.
Reitzenstein detected a similar modus operandi in Verrius Flac-
cus’ De uerborum signiWcatu (though unlike Nonius, Verrius had
begun to revise his work on a more recognizably alphabetical
basis).52 This has been conWrmed by Strzelecki and Bona. The
latter identiWed three phases in the construction of the De uerborum
signiWcatu: Wrst, the initial conception of the work and basic prep-
aration, in which Verrius collected the works from which he
intended to excerpt the individual glosses; then the reading and
excerpting of those works, including the arrangement of the
glosses according to the alphabetical order of the Wrst letter of
each lemma and the order in which the various works were
examined. The Wnal phase involved the rearrangement of the
glosses already collected, following the alphabetical order of the
Wrst syllable, or, occasionally, preserving a thematic connection
between adjacent glosses.53
It is interesting that this implies some intermediate state and
format in the written work: Bona speaks in terms of ‘index cards’;
Pliny had his 160 papyrus rolls.54 Gellius’ procedure was much the
same, as he tells us: ‘whenever I read a Greek or Latin book, or
heard something worth remembering, I would note down what-
ever took my fancy and place it in a sort of literary store’ (pr. 2).
Plutarch also had his own ‘literary store’: at the start of the De
tranquillitate animi he explains that he has merely cobbled together
material from his notebooks (!
 ÆÆ 264 f).55 It is interesting

Skydsgaard, Varro, 101–16 (he is mainly concerned with the meaning of
commentarii and !
 ÆÆ); R. Marache, edn. i, p. xv; Fronto, Ep. M. Caes. 4.
6. 1 (p. 62. 10–11 v:d:H:2 ); W. M. Lindsay, Nonius, 3. 7–10.
R. Reitzenstein, Verrianische Forschungen, 73 n.3.
W. Strzelecki, Quaestiones Verrianae, 80, 93–103; F. Bona, Contributo, 165–8,
esp. 167.z
Cf. Wallace-Hadrill, Suetonius, 15: ‘Sometimes we get the impression of a
large card-index system at work.’
Cf. NA 9. 4. 5, 12. On the form of these ‘literary stores’ cf. Skydsgaard, Varro,
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 137

that Gellius never refers to his having a book read to him—he

either does his own reading or is the guest of someone who has
laid on a reader as part of the entertainment for his guests—and it is
signiWcant that we often Wnd Gellius at work in or browsing
through the shelves of a library, or in a bookshop.56 As Verrius
Flaccus had intended to do, Gellius then reworked his initial
collection of material, embellishing it considerably. Gellius’ ultim-
ate intention was, of course, diVerent, which perhaps makes it all
the more signiWcant that his initial method was the same.
There is always an attempt to form a literary whole out of these
excerpts: even Gellius and Macrobius do more than simply write
out these excerpts one after another. The Roman antiquarians treat
their sources in a not unsophisticated manner: they show them-
selves clearly able to select from the same source information on
diVerent topics, and to collect information on one topic from
several sources. Gellius is a prime example: he can dismember a
continuous account to provide information on various odds and
ends.57 It is probably this use of their sources which places the
antiquarian scholars above being ‘mere compilers’, a label which
has probably been applied to them precisely because they readily
acknowledge their sources.
Quoting from existing works was naturally common, but it is
worth remembering that somebody must have done the research in
the Wrst place: it is unfortunate that we do not know who. But there
were undoubtedly independent additions made by at least some
scholars to the information contained in the antiquarian tradition.
Such additions are by and large diYcult to detect now, for they are
rarely advertised: the regard for the auctoritas of the ueteres scri-
ptores must have meant that some independent research was sub-
sumed under the name of, say, Varro, whose name lent one’s own
work a degree of auctoritas. For example, Gellius has an extract
from Varro’s ¯NƪøªØŒ/Epistolicae quaestiones, which seems to
have been updated to take account of the institutions of the
Augustan principate (14. 7). Pliny also tells us that he has added
many facts unknown to his predecessors or discovered by subse-
quent experience (pr. 17). Pliny’s standard procedure is to present
what his written sources say, following this with his own observa-
tions; Isager argues that much of what he says concerning works of
art in Rome represents his own contribution. And indeed, Gellius

Libraries: NA 9. 14. 3, 11. 17, 13. 20, 16. 8. 2, 19. 5. 4; cf. 7. 17. Bookshops:
NA 5. 4, 13. 31, 18. 4. Cf. J. E. G. Zetzel, Latin Textual Criticism, 59–65.
For Pliny’s reworking of his notes, cf. Isager, Pliny, 168, 187.
138 Andrew J. Stevenson

reproduces an extract ‘which Pliny said in Book 7 of his Natural

History was not something he had heard or read, but which he
himself knew to be true and had observed’ (9. 4. 13).58
Pliny is probably our best source for autopsy as part of the
antiquarian methodology. But he is not unique and we may, for
example, compare the use of the evidence of statues made by Varro
and Gellius to shed light on ancient shaving habits, and with
Suetonius’ use of a bronze statuette to show that as a child Augus-
tus was called Thurinus.59 There is also evidence for the use of
epigraphic evidence: Varro, Cincius, Verrius Flaccus, Pliny,
Suetonius, Gellius, and Plutarch are among those who noticed
the evidence of inscriptions.60

3.5. Emphasis on Detail

One of the most characteristic features of Roman antiquarianism is
a predilection for detail: it would seem that the antiquarian
scholars of Rome rarely took a general view of whatever they
discussed (discussion rather than narrative is another characteristic
of antiquarian writing); instead they selected matters of detail,
often, it would seem now at least, of obscure or arcane detail.61
Again this is true of the jurists also. It would even seem that the
more obscure, or the more arcane a subject was, the greater was
the antiquarian interest, though we cannot but wonder just how
obscure and arcane these matters remained after the repeated
attention of the antiquarian scholars.
The treatment of topics in detail is particularly evident in the
Noctes Atticae. Gellius has a marked preference for working with
matters of detail, and even when he considers a more general topic,
such as questions of precedence of magistrates or of grammar, he
does so in terms of detail, perhaps only drawing the general point
in a closing sentence. It is signiWcant that Suetonius also has a
delight in detail: as Wallace-Hadrill notes, ‘extraction of the rele-
vant detail is Suetonius’ characteristic method’ and it should be

Ibid. 82, 139, and esp. 160–8.
Plin. NH 33. 26–8; Varro, RR 2. 11. 10; Gell. 3. 4; Suet. Aug. 7. 1.
Cf. A. Stein, Römische Inschriften. Note also the ancient literary ‘falsiWcations’
of inscriptions collected at CIL vi/5. 1*. Some of this alleged autopsy was no doubt
found in pre-existing literary sources: but again we must remember that somebody
must originally have made these observations.
Note that Seneca’s main criticism of antiquarianism (Ep. 108. 30–1) was its
detailed approach in contrast to the wider view of the philosopher.
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 139

noted that such detail generally appears in connection with anti-

quarian subjects.62
Varro explicitly expresses his preference for detail in three frag-
ments from the De uita populi Romani, particularly by comparing
himself to Callicles, the painter of miniatures.63 It is, then, by no
means insigniWcant that the vast majority of Varronian fragments
deal with points of precise detail. For example, from Book 21 of the
Res humanae we have the discussion of only the rights of arrest and
summons of magistrates.64 Yet even if one were to suggest that there
existed in that book a wider, more general discussion of the Roman
magistracies, then it would be signiWcant that it is the detailed
discussion which was preserved in the antiquarian tradition.

3.6. Presentation of Alternative Views

Almost in contrast to the emphasis on detail would seem a charac-
teristic which we Wnd in various forms in a number of antiquarians:
an unwillingness to commit oneself to a particular view or explan-
ation. The accumulation of several explanations can be detected in
Suetonius, Pliny, Verrius Flaccus, Varro, Plutarch’s Roman Ques-
tions, Macrobius, and elsewhere: a statistical analysis of antiquar-
ian vocabulary would probably reveal a greater than average
frequency for words such as sed, autem, or tamen, marking an
alternative explanation. This is undoubtedly at its most apparent
in the Noctes Atticae, to the extent that it almost becomes repetitive
when one reads the whole collection of articles from beginning to
end (which is not how Gellius intended his work to be read).
Berthold sees this reluctance to reach a conclusion as an imper-
fection of the work and identiWes various categories of this: Gellius
may declare himself unWt to give his own verdict, reserve judge-
ment, put oV giving a decision, or hide behind authorities.65
To list all the examples of Gellius’ unwillingness to commit
himself is unnecessary, but there are several points which should
be made. Firstly, this does seem to be a characteristic of Gellius the
man, as well as of Gellius the writer, if we are to believe what he
tells us of himself. This is made clear when he gives, or rather does
not give, his verdict on the case before him in his capacity as a
judge: iuraui, mihi non liquere, atque ita iudicatu illo solutus sum
Wallace-Hadrill, Suetonius, 15, cf. 129.
63 64
Frr. 1–3 Rip. Cf. Boissier, Varron, 169–70. NA 13. 12–13.
Berthold, Aulus Gellius, 23–6. He gives examples of each of these categories.
The principal exceptions are when idiots or those who pretend to learning are
ridiculed: in these cases there is little ambiguity as to Gellius’ views.
140 Andrew J. Stevenson

(14. 2. 25). Secondly, in this he seems to follow not only the

antiquarian tradition but also his mentor Favorinus, who at one
point says Scis enim solitum esse me, pro disciplina sectae quam colo,
inquirere potius quam decernere (20. 1. 9), and indeed Favorinus
often appears in the Noctes Atticae as the questioner.66 Finally, it is
important to notice that often one may infer precisely the opposite
of what Berthold saw as ‘Schülerscheu vor eigenem Urteil’; that is,
rather, the teacher’s attempts to get his students to provide the
answer themselves, or to reach their own decision on a subject.67
On at least two occasions this is made explicit and Gellius tells us
that he has left something unexplained in order to exercise his
readers’ minds.68 Elsewhere he directs his readers towards further
consideration of the matter in hand,69 and we may compare his
account of how Fronto inspired him and others to the studium
lectitandi (19. 8. 6). On occasion, however, Gellius’ desire to dem-
onstrate the thoroughness of his scholarship can pre-empt such
further research, as, for instance, when he includes a variant ety-
mology ‘lest it appear to some critic of these Nights better, simply
because it seemed to have escaped my notice’ (1. 25. 18).
This accumulation of diVerent explanations reappears in most
antiquarian writing (and also in much juristic literature). Della
Corte suggests of Suetonius that he ‘intends to stimulate interest:
he collects the facts—all the facts—and displays them as if in
support of a judgement, but this judgement never becomes expli-
cit, but is entrusted to the readers.’70 This is applicable to a greater
or lesser degree to all the known antiquarians. Remarkably the
idea that the accumulation of facts was all-important is probably
less applicable to Suetonius than it is to others, for as Bradley
noted, if this were the case then we should expect the later lives
to have been longer and more detailed.71 The presence of alterna-
tive explanations can also be detected in Varro, in Verrius Flaccus,
in Pliny, and in Macrobius.72 But generally there is less reticence
The sect is the Academic sceptics: cf. NA 11. 5. 3, 5; L. A. Holford-Strevens,
‘Favorinus’, 207–17.
Berthold, Aulus Gellius, 24. This is, of course, connected with the marked
educational impulse, which may be detected throughout the Noctes Atticae and so is
not an imperfection of the work. See T. Morgan, below, Ch. 7.
NA 12. 6, 19. 14. 5.
NA 2. 22. 31 (unless this is a note to Gellius himself: cf. 3. 3. 8), 6. 3. 55, 7. 8. 4,
17. 6. 11. For a diVerent slant on this theme cf. 15. 9. 11.
F. Della Corte, Svetonio, 160.
K. R. Bradley, Historical Comentary, 16 n. 15.
e.g. Varro, LL 5. 18, 68, etc.; Plin. NH 2. 138–41, 28. 29; PF 82. 16–22
Xaminius camillus (though Paulus at times fails to distinguish between alternative
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 141

in the Saturnalia about the giving of conclusions: this decisiveness

may be due to the dialogue form of the work.73 It is noticeable that
conclusions are more readily reached in the Noctes Atticae when
the discussion is set within the framework of a dialogue.
That Varro was accustomed to oVer more than one explanation
is shown by a comment in Macrobius’ Saturnalia: his a Varrone
praescriptis intellegere possumus id potissimum ab eo probatum quod
ex sua consuetudine in ultimo posuit (3. 4. 3). Gellius agrees when he
presents Varro’s opinions as to the origin of the name of the
constellation Septentriones and adds ex his duabus . . . rationibus
quod posterius est, subtilius elegantiusque est uisum (2. 21. 8–9).74
This is very interesting: not only did Macrobius (or his source)
relay Varro’s alternatives and actually make a decision about which
should be preferred, but that decision is based on what we are led
to believe was Varro’s usual habit: that he usually put his favoured
view last. Is this something that Varro had at some point made
clear, or is it a result of the study of Varro’s works by later scholars?
If the latter, then it is interesting to note that someone must,
however cursorily and for whatever purposes, have looked at Var-
ro’s methods, rather than, as is commonly assumed, only the
results of his scholarship having been used by later generations.
Plutarch provides a useful comparison: in his `Ø ØÆ he usually
presents at least two (often more) alternative answers to his ‘ques-
tion’ and Russell notes that ‘the most favoured solution usually
comes last’. Plutarch may have borrowed this from Varro, though
it seems to be a characteristic of aitiological works: Russell derives
it (ultimately, I might add) from Aristotle and it also recurs in the
aetiological verse of Propertius and Ovid. It is not, however, a
method universally adhered to in the antiquarian tradition.75

4. the interests of roman antiquarianism

Antiquarianism merged easily into grammatical, literary, historical,
and legal scholarship: there was a tendency towards encyclopaedic

explanations); Fest. 152. 28–33 maximum praetorem, 154. 4–5 maiorem consulem;
Macr. Sat. 1. 7. 18–28, 32–3 (both give three alternatives).
Cf. e.g. Macr. Sat. 1. 15. 14–17; also 1. 10. 18, 1. 11. 50.
Cf. Varro, LL 7. 74 (which has only the Wrst explanation!).
Russell, Plutarch, 45. Cf. Prop. 4. 2, 4. 10. 45–8 and, in general, Miller,
‘Callimachus’, 391–2, 411–12. At NA 6. 4 Gellius says the Wrst (of two explanations)
is better.
142 Andrew J. Stevenson

coverage, both in terms of breadth of subjects and of the reference

nature of many works, information being presented as a summary
of facts, with the minimum of narrative. Hence Roman antiquarian
writers were indeed less ‘antiquarian writers’ than ‘writers whose
interests included antiquarian scholarship’.76 The most general
antiquarian subject is simply ‘the past’: other interests of the
Roman antiquarian scholars are merely subdivisions of this.
Hence antiquarianism appears as no less than the scholarly study
of the past in all its aspects. This study was further divided into the
four main subject areas of homines, loci, tempora, and res. Natur-
ally, however, certain aspects lent themselves better to the system-
atic nature of the antiquarian treatment. Indeed certain subjects
seem ‘traditionally’ to have become objects of antiquarian treat-
ment and interest: it almost seems that works on Roman religion
and its institutions, or on the magistracies, were antiquarian by
deWnition. Today, the most evident of the interests of Roman
antiquarianism is the study of the institutions of Roman public
life perfected in Mommsen’s Staatsrecht.
The Roman antiquarian interest in ‘institutions’ extends to two
senses of the word. On the one hand the interest is in ‘an estab-
lished law, custom, usage, practice, organization, or other element
in the political or social life of a people’. On the other hand there is
an interest, and at times this almost appears to be the greater
interest, in ‘the action of instituting or establishing; setting on
foot or in operation’ or, more simply, in the origins of these insti-
tutions.77 (Antiquarian interest is also aroused by any action which
changed customary or ‘instituted’ practices.) This then goes a long
way to explaining the frequent presence of etymologies of words in
Roman antiquarian writing: the origin or original meaning of the
institution’s name is used to reXect its original nature and/or
purpose. As Wallace-Hadrill correctly identiWes ‘institute’ as
‘a favourite antiquarian’s word’, so Rawson does etymology
as ‘that favourite weapon of the antiquarians’.78 In this respect at
least there was a relation between the studies of the antiquarian and
of the grammarian, as well as those of the jurist.

It is perhaps not irrelevant that the library of the Warburg Institute in London
shelves the Noctes Atticae of Aulus Gellius and some works by and on Varro under
encyclopaedias. The dilettantism of Roman scholars was stressed by H. Dahlmann,
‘Der römische Gelehrte’, passim, but esp. 186 ¼ 2.
OED s.v. ‘institution’, deWnitions 6a and 1a.
Wallace-Hadrill, Suetonius, 139 (and cf. his index s.v. ‘institutions’); Rawson,
‘Cicero’, 37 ¼ 65.
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 143

In a sense Varro’s De uita populi Romani is the archetypal

antiquarian work: in the Wrst book Riposati has identiWed sections
on the institutions of the kings (including the tribal and centuriate
division of the people), socio-economic conditions, temples, reli-
gion and the calendar, cult and funerary practice, marriage, and the
houses, foods, domestic equipment, and clothes of the Roman
people in the regal period. In the second book the institutions of
the early Republic, the army, and games, in the third coinage, and
in the fourth luxury appear as additional subjects. All these recur
in later antiquarian writing.79 But should we not take the Anti-
quitates as the archetype? Certainly the name suggests that we
should; and much of the material in the De uita came from it.
But we know too little of precisely what Varro discussed: we do
not even know the titles of the individual books and the fragments
are not always particularly enlightening.
For example, in several of Varro’s works we may detect a section
de hominibus: we have little idea of what the hexad de hominibus of
the Res humanae contained, though Boissier saw the hexad as
eVectively a de uiris illustribus, and indeed we can detect the traces
of such a treatment in the De uita. But it is diYcult to see biog-
raphy and works de uiris illustribus as being antiquarian, though of
course no study of the past could dissociate itself entirely from the
important Wgures of that past. This is, of course, only an assump-
tion and we have no idea of Varro’s approach here. Turning to the
corresponding divisions of the ¯NƪøªØŒ ad Cn. Pompeium and
the Res diuinae, we Wnd that Varro discusses magistrates and
priests respectively. Again, when he discusses ‘men’ in the De
lingua Latina it is the names of magistracies, priesthoods, military
ranks, and of several occupations which are his subject. But Gellius
tells us that the magistracies were discussed in the twenty-Wrst
book of the Res humanae in the hexad de rebus, and there is no
reason to disbelieve him.80 So in the Res humanae, either Varro had
a diVerent idea of what he should discuss de hominibus or he
repeated himself.
The Roman magistracies form a good example of Roman anti-
quarian scholarship. Not only do we possess some fairly coherent
fragments from antiquarian writers dealing with the magistracies,
but we also have some antiquarian-inXuenced passages concerning
magistracies from writers who would not be regarded as antiquar-
ians. Dio’s narrative can assume an antiquarian air, as for instance

Riposati, De uita populi Romani.
Varro, LL 5. 80–94; Gell. 13. 12. 5–6, 13. 13. 4–6.
144 Andrew J. Stevenson

when he digresses on the tribunate, and such is also the case for
Tacitus, for example in his digression on the urban prefecture.81
Besides the magistracies, we can still detect an antiquarian inter-
est in Rome’s other political institutions. The senate was an insti-
tution closely connected to the magistracies, and the apparent
emphasis in the fragments on the senators themselves, rather
than seeing the senate as an institution per se, combined with the
interest in the magistracies suggests that antiquarian writing
reXects much of the interests of the senatorial elite. Suetonius
appears particularly concerned with the maintenance of senatoria
dignitas and similarly the section of the Digest which is de senato-
ribus concentrates on the status and rank of senators and their
families.82 The interest in the privileges and duties of senators
extends to certain aspects of their dress, particularly their foot-
wear: this also reXects the antiquarians’ interest in costume.83
The emphasis on the interests of the senatorial elite is largely
substantiated by antiquarian writing on religion which tends to
concentrate on the priestly colleges, the members of which were
largely drawn from that elite. Yet it may also be merely the acci-
dent of transmission, and indeed Gellius has one article (14. 7)
which presents a range of information about the senate, drawing
(ultimately and indirectly) on Varro’s ¯NƪøªØŒ ad Cn. Pom-
peium: it is interesting to consider that Gellius was not a senator,
and that the ¯NƪøªØŒ was written as an introduction to the
senate and its procedures for one (Pompey) who had never entered
the curia. In what remains of antiquarian writing on the senate
there is also a marked interest in the locations where meetings of the
senate could be held: a similar interest recurs in other areas of
antiquarian interest, such as religious institutions (where temples,
shrines, and similar receive much attention), and points towards a
periegetic tendency of much antiquarian scholarship.84
It is also unclear what Varro meant by loci in the Res humanae: in
the ¯NƪøªØŒ and Res diuinae these are the places where the
senate met and temples, shrines, and other religious places. Pre-
sumably Varro presented what would now be seen as a study of the

Zon. 7. 15 (from Dio bk. 4); Tac. Ann. 6. 11. On antiquarian writing on the
magistracies, cf. Stevenson, ‘Gellius’, 220–81.
Cf. e.g. Suet. Jul. 4. 11, 76. 3; Aug. 35; Nero 15. 2, 37. 3; Vesp. 9. 2; D. 1. 9.
Plin. NH 9. 65 (citing Fenestella); Plut. Quaest. Rom. 76 (282 a–b); Gell. 13.
22; Fest. 128. 3–11 mulleos; Serv. Aen. 8. 458; Lydus, Mag. 1. 7, 17.
Cf. e.g. Gell. 14. 7. 7; Fest. 358. 1–6 religioni; 470. 5–13 senacula; PF 43. 1–4
curia; Varro, De uita populi Romani fr. 70 Rip.; LL 5. 13, 155–6, 6. 46, 7. 10; Serv.
Aen. 1. 446, 7. 153, 11. 235.
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 145

topography and monuments of Rome, as is reXected in the De

lingua Latina, but there must have been considerable duplication
of material with that in the corresponding section of the Res
diuinae, unless Varro had some dividing line which may no longer
be perceived.85 The marked paucity of fragments from these Wrst
two hexads of the Res humanae suggests that Varro’s information
de hominibus and de locis was regarded by later antiquarians as of
lesser importance and not something that should interest them.
It is, however, clear that the rest of the Antiquitates contained
material suitable for antiquarianism. Information on the calendar
reappears throughout antiquarian writing, as does that on magis-
tracies, the senate, the assemblies, the organization of the people in
peace and particularly at war—antiquarian research into the army
and its institutions and customs is particularly frequent86—reli-
gious rites, priesthoods, temples, clothes, foodstuVs, the law, coin-
age, festivals and games, and the theatre. To discuss and list
examples of antiquarian writing on all these subjects would require
more space than the present study allows. It is interesting to note,
however, that within these broad subjects there were items of
particular interest to the antiquarians, or at least those of which
there is more frequent discussion in what we have of their works.
Generally, most interest is displayed in what would seem the
more arcane subjects and in the creation of institutions and
customs. The former is exempliWed by such discussions as those
of tribunician sacrosanctity, of the Xamen Dialis and of augury.
The creation of institutions and customs is found frequently, for
instance in Suetonius, but is perhaps at its clearest in the elder
Pliny, who hardly ever fails to mention the Wrst use or introduction
to Rome of the many things which he discusses.87
Religious institutions are strongly represented in what survives
of Roman antiquarian writing, but we should beware of allotting
too great an importance to this aspect of Roman antiquarianism,
for we owe the survival of most fragments on religion to the
Christian writers, of whom Augustine is particularly important.
While the preservation of these fragments is extremely valuable,
it must be remembered that the Christian interest in the pagan
past has seriously unbalanced the surviving remains of Roman

LL 5. 41–56, 145–65.
Cf. e.g. Varro, LL 5. 87–91, 115–17, 7. 52, 56–8; Gell. 1. 11, 1. 25 (from RH de
bello et pace), 5. 6, 10. 8–9, 10. 25, 16. 4, etc. Cf. Rawson, Intellectual Life, 240–1;
Wallace-Hadrill, Suetonius, 129–31.
On Suetonius cf. Wallace-Hadrill, Suetonius, 77–8, 127, 130 n. 12, 139.
146 Andrew J. Stevenson

antiquarian writing.88 An idea of the range of the antiquarians’, or

at least Varro’s, studies in this Weld may be gained from what
Augustine has to say of the institutions and rites of Roman pagan-
ism and from the edition and commentary on Varro’s Res diuinae
by Burckhart Cardauns. It is, however, worth noting that there is
an emphasis in what survives on the priesthoods, particularly their
various competences, most interest being shown in the Xamen
Dialis, the augurs, fetiales, and the Vestals.
Religious institutions were clearly of greater interest to the
antiquarians than the deities themselves. The section of Varro’s
Res diuinae on the gods (de dis) formed a less important part of the
whole, and we have Augustine’s testimony that this section was
little more than an appendix to the work. Varro’s account was, of
course, inXuenced by the nature of Roman religion: Roman pagan-
ism was not a ‘book religion’ and any religious laws were concerned
more with prescribing practices than belief.89 Similarly, Gellius
seems not to have consulted the Res diuinae, or even the section
on the gods, primarily for information on gods; and in general,
there is little sign of religious piety or superstition in the Noctes
But there is little indication that Varro took any less care when
writing about the gods, and one should presume also that August-
ine’s enumeration of the gods discussed by Varro is probably only
a brief précis of what Varro had written. Varro returned to gods, as
he did to most of the subjects of the Antiquitates, in the De lingua
Latina and discussed the names of several gods and their origins.91
There was then a precedent for antiquarians to discuss the gods,
though probably not theology: besides Varro in the Wrst book of
the Res humanae it would seem to be only Pliny and Macrobius
who had thoughts on theology.92

Maslakov, ‘Roman Antiquarian Tradition’, 101–2 overemphasizes the reli-
gious studies of Roman antiquarianism; he does not note the role played by the
interests of the Christian writers. Moralizing probably should not receive the
emphasis given it by Maslakov either.
CD 6. 3. On the Indigitamenta, libri rituales, libri haruspicum, and libri fulgu-
rales as merely prescribing formulae and rituals cf. Boissier, Varron, 202–3 and
Agahd, edn. of RD 130–4.
Cf. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 286–9 [212–14].
LL 5. 57–74.
Pliny’s thoughts are essentially that it is all nonsense. Cf. NH 2. 14, 17, 143–4,
11. 273, 28. 17, 22–9. See also T. Köves-Zulauf, ‘Plinius’, 193–9. Macrobius (Sat. 1.
17–23) discusses a number of gods, listing their attributes and the origins of their
names: by the 5th c. ad such matters may largely have become the province of
antiquarian research alone. Macrobius’ main purpose, however, is to show that all
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 147

Only twice does Gellius discuss a god per se (5. 12, 13. 23) and in
one of these articles he is as much concerned with the pronunci-
ation and declension of the name as he is with the attributes of
the god. Furthermore, both articles start from the presence of
the gods’ names in prayers. Another article (2. 28) illustrates
the uncertainty at Rome as to which god sacriWce should be oVered
when there is an earthquake: Gellius’ main point is the procedure
of the sacriWce. Gellius’ three other references to gods (all of which
also mention Varro) all present information for which the names
of the gods merely provide supporting evidence.93 It is interest-
ing that in the fragments of the De uita populi Romani Varro
discusses religious matters only in the Wrst book, that on the regal
period; and furthermore the relevant fragments relate to the cult of
the gods. If we were to see gods as having a place in the antiquarian
tradition, then we might expect antiquarian interest to focus on the
early period and more particularly on the attitudes of the ueteres to
the gods and so on the development of their cult.
An interest in games is widespread among the antiquarian
writers, much of this no doubt originating in Books 9 and 10 of
the Res diuinae, which were de ludis circensibus and de ludis scaenicis
respectively, though Suetonius’ Ludicra historia was no doubt
also important for later writers.94 It is unclear how far the anti-
quarians regarded games as religious institutions: they were aware
of their religious origins, but few of the fragments suggests any
deep interest in their religious character, which was by the late
Republic in any case subsumed beneath their value as spectacle.
Certainly, Suetonius in his Caesares is most interested in games as
There was also considerable antiquarian interest in the calendar,
which again had religious origins and retained religious connota-
tions: the existing fragments concentrate on the explanation of dies
atri, dies fasti, dies nefasti, nundinae and so on, and the division of
time, particularly of the day. It is worth noting that these matters

these gods should be seen merely as individual manifestations of one god, Sol.
Outside the section in which he presents these views, it is signiWcant that gods
appear only as the objects of the rites he discusses.
NA 3. 16. 9–11 (on the length of pregnancy), 16. 16. 4 (on the origin of the
name Agrippa), 16. 17. 2 (on the origin of the name of the ager Vaticanus).
We also know of lost works by Varro De actionibus scaenicis, De scaenicis
originibus, De actibus scaenicis, and the Theatrales libri, if this is not a general title
for the previous three, which may in any case represent an epitome or republication
of RD 10. Augustine is again an important source (cf. e.g. CD 6. 7, 7. 21), as is
Tertullian, De Spectaculis.
148 Andrew J. Stevenson

are those which would probably most aVect the elite in practical
terms in that, for example, they governed the working hours of
the senate.95
The problems of the (non-)survival of texts make it diYcult to
be certain, though the indications are that there was less interest in
other institutions. Such is the case for the development of the
equestrian order, most interest being shown by the elder Pliny.
Suetonius documents the reforms of the equestrian order or career
structure introduced by the emperors, as well as the recognitiones
equitum, which are Gellius’ main concern regarding the equestrian
order, and Verrius Flaccus explained a few relevant terms.96
A similar level of interest is evident in the popular assemblies,
most interest being shown by Gellius and Verrius Flaccus, though
the latter referred to Varro’s discussion of praerogatiuae centuriae
in Book 6 of the Res humanae, which would suggest that Varro
dealt with the various comitia and concilia, presumably as exhaust-
ively as he seems to have done other institutions.97 Rawson noted
the antiquarian interest in military institutions, concluding that
‘here the antiquarian tradition is revealed as better than the annal-
istic’: it is interesting and characteristic for antiquarian writing
that military tactics and tales of heroism appear very rarely, and

Varro, LL 6. 3–34 (at 6. 18 he refers the reader to the Antiquitates for further
details: RH 14–19 were de temporibus); De uita populi Romani fr. 18 Rip.; Plut.
Quaest. Rom. 19 (267 f–268 d), 24 (268 b–d), 25 (269 e–270 d), 84 (284 c–f); Suet.
Jul. 40; Aug. 31; Gaius 15, 16. 4, 17. 2; Claud. 11. 3; Nero 55; Dom. 13. 3; Gell. 4. 9.
5, 5. 17, 7. 7. 6–7, 8. 1, 10. 24, 20. 1. 42; also Fest. 186. 23–9 Nonarum, nundinas; PF
33. 26–7 concilium, 28 conciliabulum, 34. 1–3 contio, 12–13 comitiales dies, 36. 21–7
conuentus, 44. 7–8 cum populo agere, 76. 17–19 ferias, 78. 4–5 fastorum libri, 83. 7–8
fastis diebus, 251. 25–6 procalare, 311. 1–5 quandoc rex comitiauit fas, quandoc stercus
delatum fas; Macr. Sat. 1. 14–16, 3. 2. 14. Note also Ovid’s Fasti and L. Cincius’ De
fastis (cited by Macr. Sat. 1. 12). Division of year, month, day: Plin. NH 2. 187–8, 7.
212–15; Plut. Quaest. Rom. 19 (267 f–268 d), 84 (284 c–f); Gell. 3. 2 (citing the book
de diebus in RH); Censorinus, Nat. 20. 2–12 (citing Fenestella, Junius Gracchanus,
Varro, Suetonius, et al.); Macr. Sat. 1. 3, 1. 4. 17–19, 1. 12–13.
Plin. NH 33. 29, 32–6; Suet. Aug. 38–40; Gaius 30. 2; Claud. 6. 1; 25; Vesp. 9.
2; Titus 6. 1; Gell. 4. 12. 2, 4. 20. 11, 6. 22; PF 36. 16–17 conscripti, 71. 18 equestre
aes, 91. 10 hordiarium aes; Fest. 266. 11–15 priuato sumtu.
Gell. 5. 19, 18. 7 (citing Verrius Flaccus), 15. 27 (drawing on juristic sources).
Fest. 290. 27–34 praerogatiuae centuriae, cf. 184. 8–12 niquis sciuit, 264. 17–22
populi, 268. 13–22 prohibere comitia, 326. 17–24 rogatio, 368. 11–18 respici, 372.
20–2 scita plebei, 442. 28–444. 1 scitum populi, 450. 23–452. 22 sexagenarios, 452.
32–5 sex suVragia; PF 33. 26–7 concilium, 34. 1–3 contio, 43. 9 curiata comitia, 47. 3–4
centuriata comitia, 58. 5 contio, 100. 20 in conuentione. Cf. Fest. 277. 2–3 patricios,
citing a work De comitiis by L. Cincius.
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 149

then only if they help explain the name or origin of some custom
or institution of the army.98
But antiquarian scholarship was not limited to public life. There
was also much antiquarian writing on institutions of private life,
such as marriage, funerary practice, shaving, the drinking of wine,
sitting or reclining at table, the use of foodstuVs and domestic
utensils. Again it is the institutions that were central to their inter-
est, rather than any attempt to write a social history of Rome.
Subjects which had no place in Roman historiography, such as
the origins and history of foodstuVs and domestic equipment, also
recur in antiquarian writing. ‘Private life’ happens, however, to be
less well represented in the surviving fragments of the antiquarian
tradition than are such subjects as religious and political institu-
tions, costume, the calendar (which was also a political and religious
institution), coinage, the institutions of the Roman army, and
games of all types, including the theatre.99 We cannot simply dis-
count that the elite of Rome found these aspects of their past
interesting, as many today Wnd their own past interesting. Possibly
antiquarian writing on such private institutions could also serve as
something approaching a handbook of etiquette. It is also possible
that, having produced systematic histories of political and religious
institutions, the antiquarian writers turned their attention to the
institutions of private life, in a spirit of intellectual inquiry: to see
whether, and to what extent the methods which they had developed
(or at least adopted) for political and religious institutions could
also be applied to other areas. The subject of political institutions of
course overlaps considerably with juristic interests in public law;
and the jurists’ lost works on public law must have had much in
common with many antiquarian works.
One further institution which governed life in ancient Rome and
which was of interest to antiquarian scholarship was the civil and

Rawson, Intellectual Life, 240–1; Varro, LL 5. 87–91, 115–17, 7. 56–8; De uita
populi Romani frr. 87–8 Rip.; Gell. 1. 11, 1. 25, 2. 11, 5. 6, 6. 4, 10. 8–9, 10. 25, 11. 1.
6, 16. 10; Fest. 202. 14–204. 19 opima spolia, 294. 3–9 procincta classis, 484. 9–14
turmam; PF 17. 1–2 accensi, 41. 11–12 caduceatores, 67. 15–18 endo procinctu, 96.
28–9 in procinctu, 251. 19–21 procincta classis, 506. 23–8 uelati.
Rawson, Intellectual Life, 240–2, recognized the Roman army and Roman
coinage as ‘a couple of subjects of antiquarian investigation’; Wallace-Hadrill
rightly stresses games, comprehending spectacula, board games, party games, and
children’s games (Suetonius, 126–8, 44) and notes (p. 16) that Suetonius is con-
cerned not with wars and battles fought by his subjects, but with military insti-
tutions. Similarly, Della Corte, Svetonio, 158 sees as characteristic of
antiquarianism, works ‘on the laws’, ‘on the customs of Rome’, ‘on the Roman
calendar’, and ‘on habits’.
150 Andrew J. Stevenson

criminal law. This was, of course, the province of the jurists, but
there were many points of contact between legal and antiquarian
literature, and a considerable proportion of what is today known of
Roman law, particularly its development, comes from antiquarian
writers: as Wieacker notes,
Die rechtshistorisch ergiebigsten erhaltenen Werke sind Varros libri de
lingua latina, A. Gellius’ Noctes Atticae, der Verrius-Auszug des Sex.
Pompeius Festus und dessen Epitomierung durch den Langobarden Pau-
lus Diaconus und die Notae (Siglen) des großen Grammatikers Valerius
Probus, die Compendiosa doctrina des Grammatikers Nonius Marcel-
lus . . . sowie die Vergilkommentare des Grammatikers Servius . . . 100
Gellius refers to reading juristic works (NA 14. 2. 1, 20. 10. 6),
and it is unlikely that such reading would have come as a particu-
larly unpleasant task for him: the scholarly nature of much legal
writing is well known, and it often recorded antiquarian details.
Cicero, in the De oratore, makes Crassus speak of one of the results
of occupation with the ius ciuile being an interest in the antiquitates
(1. 193, cf. Brutus 81); Tacitus has the jurist C. Cassius Longinus
speak of the amor antiqui moris of some of his colleagues (Ann. 14.
43); and the Younger Pliny says of Aristo, quantum antiquitatis
tenet! (Ep. 1. 22. 2; cf. NA 11. 18. 16). Similarly the Digest (and
in particular title 50. 16, de uerborum signiWcatione) contains many
examples of the jurists’ use of etymology to understand the origin
and hence explain the meaning of matters under discussion: we
may compare Quintilian’s reference to jurists quorum summus circa
uerborum proprietatem labor est (Inst. 5. 14. 34). Furthermore, it is
perhaps not insigniWcant that one of the earliest known works of
Roman jurisprudence is Q. Mucius Scaevola’s liber ‹æø , a ‘book of
deWnitions’, the few surviving fragments of which suggest that it
deWned concepts and institutions of law.101
Another aspect of Roman antiquarianism is that it is distinctly
‘Roman’, in that it is remarkably Romanocentric: very little inter-
est is shown in anything outside the city of Rome, and when such
an interest is shown, there is usually some connection with Rome.
This is evident in, for example, Varro’s Antiquitates, as well as his
satires. When Varro mentions in the De lingua Latina some other
towns of Latium, it is only in so far as they were connected with the
stirps Romana (5. 144). This Romanocentricity is perhaps at its
F. Wieacker, Römische Rechtsgeschichte, 101.
Schanz–Hosius ii. 240. Note also the De signiWcatione uerborum quae ad ius
ciuile pertinent of Aelius Gallus (ibid. 597; 2 frr. in O. Lenel, Palingenesia iuris
civilis, i. 1).
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 151

clearest in Lydus’ De magistratibus: although writing in sixth-

century Constantinople to show the continuity between the magis-
tracies, especially the prefecture, of the Byzantines in the age of
Justinian and those of earlier times, it is the magistracies of old
Rome which are his main subject. Lydus’ De mensibus and De
ostentis display similar characteristics and are clearly based on
similar works of earlier Roman writers. The former ‘deals espe-
cially with the ancient Roman calendar and its feasts’, the latter
‘with the origin and progress of the art of divination’, though the
Etruscan and Roman doctrinae were apparently adapted to Byzan-
tine matters.102 As Isager notes, ‘Pliny cites Roman exempla wher-
ever they can be found’ and it is noticeable that when Gellius is
outside Rome he does not discuss antiquarian matters.103
There are no Wrm distinctions between what is antiquarian
subject-matter and what is not. Any aspect of the Roman past
could be written about in an antiquarian manner, though some
aspects, such as political and religious institutions, lent themselves
more than others (accounts of warfare or political intrigue, for
example) to the systematic nature of antiquarian writing. It is
worth noting that at some point a conscious decision must have
been made to identify and treat such subjects separately (from
historiography), and that such a decision must have been in
response to, or in anticipation of a need for information on the
subject in question. And once such a subject had been treated in
this manner, it then became natural for future accounts on the
same and similar subjects to be presented in the same manner. It
is tempting to suggest that Varro may have made that decision.

5. antiquarianism for pleasure:

gellius’ world of antiquarianism
Under Augustus, antiquarian writing turned to the justiWcation of
monarchy, though there was also still an element of elite self-
deWnition, or rather now self-redeWnition. When we turn to the
later periods—the Wrst and second centuries ad, and the age of
Gellius—we may still detect an element of self-deWnition, and
there is still an element of the justiWcation of the monarchy; but
now there is also an element of an interest for interest’s sake. While
antiquarian writing on Rome’s Staatsrecht could still provide a
A. C. Bandy, edn. of Lydus, pp. xxviii, xxix.
Cf. Isager, Pliny, 59–60.
152 Andrew J. Stevenson

useful written tirocinium fori, and that on private life a useful

handbook of etiquette, there appears to be an interest in acquiring
knowledge for its own sake. In addition, there were also social
pressures behind this, as the Noctes Atticae shows clearly. But
antiquarian works were not simply isagogic, to be read, learnt,
and then discarded; rather they provided a valuable reference
tool, made more accessible by their systematic nature.
It is not clear that ancient students of Rome’s past felt quite the
same urgent necessity to establish the relevance of their subject as
sometimes can modern scholars. One thing is clear: not all anti-
quarianism was relevant in the second century ad; nor even for
that matter was everything in Varro’s works relevant to the Wrst
century bc. At least as far as we know. But what should we count as
relevant? If we take the Noctes Atticae as a reXection of second-
century society at Rome—and it was written by a man who wants
us to know, or at least to believe, that he was part of learned society
at Rome in the second century—then we need look no further for
reasons why antiquarian works continued to be produced: there
was an appetite among men of learning, and those who pretended
to learning, for antiquarian information. These men seem also to
have had an appetite for what are apparently trivia, which they
used to entertain each other.
Antiquarian knowledge and trivia on a wide variety of matters
were relevant to the sort of dinner parties which Gellius attended:
need we look for any further relevance? They liked it and found it
interesting: the popularity of antiquarianism could have been quite
superWcial; it need not have had any ulterior motive. Furthermore,
there is little indication that the elite of earlier generations at Rome
were any less interested in antiquarian scholarship for its own sake.
However hard we try to discover the ‘real’ reasons or the ‘true
relevance’ of antiquarian subjects, there will always be some mis-
cellaneous, or even bizarre, material left over. Mirabilia for instance
were of no practical use to anyone—except perhaps the entertainer
or story-teller. Most modern forms of (especially mass) entertain-
ment have little practical use—some indeed owe their success to
their uselessness, to the triviality of their pursuits. Varro and the
elder Pliny might have regarded games of Trivial Pursuits as be-
neath their dignity, but Gellius shows us these games in progress at
a house-party in Athens during the Saturnalia (NA 18. 2, 18. 13).
On one occasion (18. 6. 3) Gellius writes of a work De loquendi
proprietate by Aelius Melissus, saying that ei libro titulus est ingentis
cuiusdam inlecebrae ad legendum (which is highly applicable to the
Noctes Atticae). This is worthy of notice. Gellius could regard a
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 153

work’s title as an enticement to read it and a clever title could

attract the reader. If Gellius could see the eYcacy of such a title,
then this indicates that he—and others like him—were accustomed
to looking through shelves or catalogues of books, and that their
attention could be caught by the title of a work which they would
then buy or more probably read. Put more simply, they had a
choice of what to read, and their decision could be based on
nothing more signiWcant than the work’s title. This stray remark
by Gellius provides a clear picture of a milieu where books were
read at leisure and for pleasure because they were, or at least
sounded, interesting. We do not have to extrapolate very far from
this to reach the parallel conclusion that at least some authors
wrote for such an audience.104
There can be little doubt that antiquarianism could also enter-
tain. (It is, of course, worth noting that entertainment and educa-
tion can be closely related, and the former can contribute to the
eVectiveness of the latter.) There was a social constraint to know
about one’s past: both the constraint and the superWcial nature of
much of this knowledge are well reXected in the contents of the
Noctes Atticae, of Macrobius’ Saturnalia, and also in much surviv-
ing epistolography. Kaster notes that the grammarian Pompeius
is intent on preparing the reader . . . for situations in which he can expect
to be put on his mettle. ‘If anyone asks you’ is a constant refrain, together
with the negative counterpart, ‘Take care lest anyone put a question to you
in this matter.’ You must anticipate the question, How do you prove this?105
Similarly, the Noctes Atticae provides a preparation for the trials
and tribulations of, at least, social, dinner-party chit-chat, if not
public life. One’s knowledge was assumed to be broad-based, as
indeed it would be following the grammarian’s education. Yet we
occasionally encounter the realization that this was not always
adequate. In the De re rustica, Varro says nemo enim omnia potest
scire (2. 1. 2): Varro’s purpose in his writings could be seen as
providing a means by which one could at least Wnd out about
virtually anything. If one’s knowledge were indeed so disjointed
then it is evident that there would be a need for something (books,
lectures, ‘lifelong learning’ of some form) which could provide a
‘unifying relationship’. Gellius’ Noctes Atticae might be seen as a
collection of titbits, the result of an education at the hands of one of
Kaster’s grammarians, but there is also a deeper insight to be
Cf. the book of mera miracula lent to Gellius by a friend who thought he
would Wnd it useful for the Noctes Atticae (NA 14. 6)
R. A. Kaster, Guardians, 165.
154 Andrew J. Stevenson

found in some articles. Gellius’ account of Roman legislation

concerning theft, for example, if rather more concise, does not
diVer in essentials from that of Gaius in his Institutiones.106 It is
surely not unreasonable to suggest that such apparent expertise
may have extended to other areas in the works of other antiquar-
ians, if not of Gellius.
There is a point at which the interest in a subject becomes an
interest for its own sake: the accumulation and deployment of
knowledge for pleasure, as a relaxation. This is stressed by Gellius
throughout the Noctes Atticae. Similarly the participants in the
dialogue of Macrobius’ Saturnalia are supposedly there for their
own enjoyment, and such is also—though to a lesser degree—the
case for Cicero’s dialogues. The dialogue form is of course an
artiWce, a literary device to make the material presented more
palatable. But can we deny all verisimilitude? It is worth noting
that these are not professional seminars, or dialogues at the Fonda-
tion Hardt: the participants are explicitly said to be at leisure. If we
deny that this was a way in which the educated elite might like to
spend their leisure, then we deny the eVectiveness of the literary
device of the dialogue, for the dramatic situation would seem so
unreal that it could not serve its purpose. It is worth noting the
growing importance in the second century of literature which
could entertain: we need compare only one of the major phenom-
ena of the age, the Konzertredner of the Second Sophistic.
Possibly there was also some idea that the past should be kept
alive because it might become relevant. If antiquarian writing on the
magistracies could turn out to be relevant in the second century ad,
might not antiquarian writing on, for example, the calendar? How
the ancient Latins dealt with dowries might have helped provide a
precedent in an intractable lawsuit about a dowry, and so on. These
are the arguments which Gellius might—and does—use to justify
the inclusion of such material in the Noctes Atticae.
Eduard Norden condemned the intellectual world of the second
century ad: he saw the people of the century as old men who
remembered a happier childhood. Norden was too preoccupied
with the idea of the decline of literature in the second century to
see that the varied interests of literary society might be a sign of
intellectual vitality: there may not have been poetae nouelli, but the
popularity of sophistic rhetoric combines with appreciation of
Cicero, Vergil, Ennius, and others. Gellius is as eager to listen to

NA 11. 18. 6–15; Gaius, Inst. 3. 184–202. Similarly, on the legis actio sacra-
mento in rem cf. NA 20. 10. 7, 9  Gaius Inst. 4. 5, 17 respectively.
The Roman Antiquarian Tradition 155

the sophist Favorinus, or the contemporary poet Julius Paulus, as

he is the Ennianista at Puteoli.107
If Vergil and Cicero continued as the mainstay of grammatical
and rhetorical education, why should Varro’s writings not con-
tinue as the reference works which formed the further education
for those in public life? What is perhaps more surprising than the
dominance of Varronian scholarship, is that we hear of no com-
mentaries on Varro. It is interesting in this connection that Gellius
seems to feel little need to explain Varro; for the most part he
simply reproduces relevant extracts. This suggests that the sys-
tematic presentation of Varro’s works with his unrhetorical lan-
guage did away with the obscurities, to the explanation of which in
Vergil’s works the grammarians devoted so much energy, and so
Varro’s works needed little ‘explanation’.
In the second century there was a realization of the intellectual,
linguistic and historical patrimony of the Roman state: quite prob-
ably at least in part a result of, or reaction to, Greek inXuence. This
is very clearly represented by Fronto: the study of old orators,
which he recommends to Marcus Aurelius, is not to enable one
to live, or pretend to live, in the past or to speak in the language of
the past (something which Gellius is strongly against). Rather it
serves two purposes: Wrst, to make Marcus Aurelius aware of the
amplitude of Latin vocabulary available to him, and so to enable
him always to use words which convey his meaning precisely
(something that exercises Gellius too). Secondly, of course, the
study was to extend Marcus’ awareness of his cultural inheritance.
And this is more widely applicable. The second century seems to
have witnessed a desire for self-identiWcation, to set the present in
its historical and cultural context. The impetus for this desire no
doubt came largely from Hadrianic and Antonine policies of con-
solidation and uniWcation. Within the new, uniWed empire which
Hadrian sought to create, and at a time of increasing participation
of Greeks in the administration of Rome, the need for self-
identiWcation of the old elite of Rome may have been felt more
acutely. This is the world in which Aulus Gellius lived and wrote,
and he found antiquarian scholarship a useful, if not essential part
of that world.
E. Norden, Kunstprosa, 345–9. Favorinus: NA passim; cf. Holford-Strevens,
Aulus Gellius, 98–130 [72–92]. Julius Paulus: NA 1. 22. 9, 5. 4, 16. 10. 9, 19. 7.
Ennianista: NA 18. 5.
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Genre, Conventions, and Cultural Programme
in Gellius’ Noctes Atticae

Am i el V ar di

Modern genre theory has taught us how important generic expect-

ations are for the manner in which a literary work is interpreted
and evaluated. ‘We identify the genre to interpret the exemplar’,
says Alastair Fowler in one of the most inXuential studies in this
Weld, and: ‘when we investigate previous states of the type, it is to
clarify meaningful departures that the work itself makes’ since
‘literary meaning works by departing from generic forms’.1 It is
within this theoretical framework that the present paper aims to
highlight and interpret Gellius’ departures from the conventions
of contemporary literary kinds with which his work seems to be
aYliated. But in order that readers may evoke the right set of
generic expectations, they must be provided with a clear indication
of the sort of work they are about to read. Our Wrst task is therefore
to establish the generic aYliation of Gellius’ composition and the
sort of expectations his contemporary readers might have associ-
ated with his literary kind.

1. generic indicators
To help the reader identify the genre of a work from the outset,
generic indications are often embodied in titles and prefaces.2 As
I have suggested elsewhere, whether or not it was in Athens that
Gellius embarked on the making of his book, the title Noctes Atticae
is primarily meant to convey erudition (by evoking Hellenic

A. Fowler, Kinds, 38, 46; also J. Culler, Structuralist Poetics, 145–8.
Fowler, Kinds, 88–105.
160 Amiel Vardi

scholarship and nocturnal toil) and possibly also the plurality of

self-contained items (by the plural form).3 In his preface Gellius
also provides us with a list of representative predecessors of the
kind of composition with which he associates himself. This he does
by way of explaining the title he chooses for his book and contrast-
ing it with the names of several Greek and Latin works which he
feigns to be far more imaginative than his own:
4. Sed quoniam longinquis per hiemem noctibus in agro, sicuti dixi, terrae
Atticae commentationes hasce ludere ac facere exorsi sumus, idcirco eas
inscripsimus noctium esse Atticarum nihil imitati festiuitates inscriptio-
num, quas plerique alii utriusque linguae scriptores in id genus libris
fecerunt. 5. Nam quia uariam et miscellam et quasi confusaneam doctri-
nam conquisiuerant, eo titulos quoque ad eam sententiam exquisitissimos
indiderunt. 6. Namque alii Musarum inscripserunt, alii siluarum, ille
, hic `ƺŁ Æ ŒæÆ, alius ŒÆ æØÆ,4 partim ºØH Æ, quidam lectionis
suae, alius antiquarum lectionum atque alius I ŁæH et item alius !æø .
7. Sunt etiam, qui º
ı inscripserint, sunt item, qui æøÆE, sunt
adeo, qui Æ ŒÆ et  ¯ºØŒH Æ et æ
ºÆÆ et KªØæ ØÆ et ÆæÆØ Æ.
8. Est qui memoriales titulum fecerit, est qui æƪÆØŒ et ææªÆ et
Øƌƺ،, est item qui historiae naturalis, est <qui> Æ 
æ Æ, est praeterea qui pratum, est itidem qui ªŒÆæ
, est qui  ø
scripserit; 9. sunt item multi, qui coniectanea, neque item non sunt, qui
indices libris suis fecerint aut epistularum moralium aut epistolicarum quae-
stionum aut confusarum et quaedam alia inscripta nimis lepida multasque
prorsum concinnitates redolentia. (pr. 4–9.)
This extensive list leaves very little doubt as to the aVected nature
of Gellius’ modesty. He thus employs a conventional feature of
ancient prefaces5 ironically to draw attention to the uniqueness and
ingenuity of his title.6 But Gellius’ list of titles also reveals to us the
kind of compositions he considers to be similar to his own, or even
to belong to the same literary category, as the words in id genus
libris suggest. Though the Latin term genus may refer to what we
should nowadays call ‘genre’, I hesitate to employ this modern
term here since genus was not a strict technical term in antiquity

A. D. Vardi, ‘Why Attic Nights?’, 300–1.
For the reading, see L. A. Holford-Strevens, ‘Analecta Gelliana’, 292–3.
Cf. Plin. NH pr. 24–5; Clem. Str. 6. 2. 1. For the works listed by Gellius, see
P. Faider, ‘Praefatio’, 203–8; Vardi, ‘Why Attic Nights?’, 299–300; for those in
Clement’s list, A. Méhat, Études sur les ‘Stromates’, 99–106. For Gellius’ preface,
see also A. Maréchal, ‘Préface’.
See L. A. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 27–8 [20–1]; Vardi, ‘Why Attic
Nights?’ Note that Pliny, clearly in Gellius’ mind when composing his list of titles,
chose a title that really is as sterilis as his material.
Genre, Conventions, Cultural Programme 161

and could refer to any category of works, whether grouped ad hoc

or generally accepted and sanctioned by literary theorists. In fact,
unlike the poetic genres, for which we have a fairly standard
generic system reiterated in school-books and works of literary
theory, we possess no evidence for an ancient attempt to establish
a systematic classiWcation of prose works of the sort Gellius
writes.7 This, of course, does not mean that Gellius and his con-
temporaries could not have shared a concept of a literary kind
whose deWnition was never formulated and for which they had no
standard tag,8 but of which they could have framed a certain set of
expectations that would inXuence their reading in the same way as
stricto sensu generic conventions would function.
Introducing his list of titles Gellius also provides us with the
unifying element which makes him group his book with these
works: their authors, he says, chose such titles quia uariam et
miscellam et quasi confusaneam doctrinam conquisiuerant. Works of
this sort thus collect knowledge (doctrina), in a variety of Welds, and
in a disorderly manner (or seemingly so). We may note that
throughout his preface Gellius repeatedly ascribes such features
to his own composition (esp. pr. 2, 3, 13), and that further on in the
work we Wnd these key notions evoked again in his descriptions of
some of the writings mentioned in his list of titles. He thus
describes Sotion’s Cornum copiae ( `ƺŁ Æ ŒæÆ, mentioned in
pr. 6) as a librum multae uariaeque historiae refertum (1. 8. 1), and
provides the following explanation for the title of Tiro’s compil-
ation (—Æ ŒÆØ, mentioned in pr. 7):
2. Is libros compluris de usu atque ratione linguae Latinae, item de uariis
atque promiscis quaestionibus composuit. 3. In his esse praecipui uiden-
tur, quos Graeco titulo Æ ŒÆ inscripsit, tamquam omne rerum atque
doctrinarum genus continentis. (13. 9. 2–3.)9
Even more telling is Gellius’ account of a book presented to
him by an anonymous contemporary who thought it contained
material that might suit the Noctes Atticae. The book is said to
be grandi uolumine doctrinae omnigenus, the result of multis et uariis
et remotis lectionibus (14. 6. 1). Without entering the vexed question
of whether the words doctrinae omnigenus hint at Favorinus’

For the difficulty of classifying the Noctes Atticae in ancient generic terms, see
N. Horsfall, ‘Generic Composition’, 130; M. L. Astarita, Cultura, 14, 19–23.
‘Miscellany’, under which Gellius’ book normally goes nowadays, is of course
not an ancient term, and seems to have been first used as a title by Poliziano; see
R. Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship, ii. 45.
Cf. 9. 16. 3 on Pliny’s Libri studiosorum.
162 Amiel Vardi

Æ c Ø
æ Æ,10 we can take this anecdote to indicate that
doctrina and variety constituted two key notions of the expectations
Gellius’ contemporaries would have had of the type of work he was
writing. What Gellius’ friend did not take into account is a criter-
ion of discrimination by which Gellius wants to dissociates himself
from other miscellanists—his collection, he maintains, avoids mere
polymathy and includes only what is either useful or entertaining
(pr. 11–12, 4. 6. cap., 5).11
Gellius normally refers to his work collectively as commentarii,
using the singular for individual chapters.12 The term clearly
bears generic overtones, but it is by no means unequivocal. By
Gellius’ day it could carry the traditional Latin meanings of
‘oYcial records’, ‘a private journal’, and ‘a collection of notes
for private use’ (or a published book posing as such), but also
the variety of meanings of the Greek term !
 ÆÆ (and occa-
sionally also of I
ÆÆ13), with which it has become
associated. It could thus denote ‘a scholarly treatise or textbook’,
‘a commentary’, ‘private memoirs or a collection of private notes
or excerpta’ and hence also ‘a collection of memorable things’.14
In the NA Gellius uses the term to refer to exegetical commen-
taries on both Latin15 and Greek works,16 as well as for scholarly
treatises dedicated to various speciWc issues. In some of these the
word commentarius clearly formed part of the original title of

For a summary of this debate, see Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 116–18
[82–3]. —Æ 
Æ c ƒ
æ Æ features in Gellius’ list of fanciful titles (pr. 8), as also
does `ƺŁ Æ ŒæÆ (pr. 6) which might be hinted at in the words tamquam . . .
copiae cornum further on in the chapter (14. 6. 2). Though at 1. 8. 1–2 he suggests
Cornum copiae as a Latin equivalent to Sotion’s `ƺŁ Æ ŒæÆ, Gellius need not
have had a specific work in mind when referring to this title here or in pr. 6 (cf. Plin.
HN pr. 24), since the title might have been an old and common one (see below,
n. 26).
Cf. 9. 4. 11–12, 10. 12. 4; and see Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 36–44
[27–33]; S. M. Beall, ‘Homo fandi dulcissimus’, 89–90.
Notably five times in the preface (3, 13, 20, 22, 25), but also 1. 23. 2, 1. 24. 1, 9.
4. 5, 13. 7. 6, 18. 4. 11; for the distinction between the finished commentarii or
commentationes, and annotationes, the rudimentary notes taken while compiling the
material, see R. Marache, edn. i, pp. xv f.
See below, n. 18.
F. Bömer, ‘Commentarius’, 210–50, Méhat, Études sur les ‘Stromates’, 106–12.
For commentarii as a private collection of excerpta, see Plin. Ep. 3. 5. 10, 17; further
J. E. Skydsgaard, Varro the Scholar, 102–15.
e.g. Hyginus’ commentary on Vergil, which Gellius often mentions, and
Labeo’s on the XII Tables (1. 12. 18).
e.g. Taurus’ on Plato’s Gorgias (7. 14. 5 cf. 1. 26. 3), and Plutarch’s on Hesiod
(20. 8. 7).
Genre, Conventions, Cultural Programme 163

the work, such as in the case of Nigidius Figulus’ Grammatici

commentarii (cited passim) or the liber commentarius de familia
Porcia mentioned at 13. 20. 17. But when Gellius says, for in-
stance, [Pompeius] M. Varronem familiarem suum rogauit, uti com-
mentarium faceret NƪøªØŒ —sic enim Varro ipse appellat (14. 7.
2, cf. cap.), it is not quite clear whether the word commentarius is
his own manner of indicating the type of this work, or whether it
had already served as the substantive qualiWed by the adjective
in -Œ in Varro’s original title or in some autoreferential prefatory
remark. The same holds for several other instances in which
Gellius refers to scholarly works using the term commentarius as
a substantive qualiWed by an adjectival form, a genitive, or a
de formula, i.e. in the position that the more general liber would
More interesting for our case are a number of instances where
Gellius uses commentarii to refer to works of miscellaneous char-
acter. The term is employed thus in the capitulum of ch. 13. 9 with
reference to Tiro’s —Æ ŒÆØ, a book which, as we have seen,
is later described as dealing with uariis atque promiscis quaestionibus
(§2), and is also mentioned in Gellius’ list of works similar to
his own. He also uses commentarii to translate the title of Xeno-
phon’s `
ÆÆ (14. 3. 5),18 and that of Pamphile’s
 ÆÆ (15. 17. 3), a miscellany which might have been one
of the major models of the Noctes Atticae.19 It is undoubtedly to
works of this type that Gellius’ autoreferential commentarii was
meant to refer: works of a primarily Greek literary kind going back
to Callimachus, Aristoxenus, and Philodemus of Cyrene, which
was probably also familiar to Gellius from the `
ÆÆ of
Favorinus, perhaps also from a similarly named work of Plutarch
(Lampr. no. 125), and one with which Clement associated his

Cf. Gellius’ references to Masurius Sabinus’ commentarii ‘quos de indigenis
composuit’ (4. 9. 8; Bremer, Iurisprudentia ii/1, p. 364), Velius Longus’ commenta-
rius ‘quod fecisset de usu antiquae lectionis’ (18. 9. 4), Aelius Stilo’s commentarius de
proloquiis (16. 8. 2; Funaioli p. 54. 19), and book 8 of Ateius Capito’s Coniectanea
‘qui inscriptus est de iudiciis publicis’ according to 4. 14. 1, but is cited as commen-
tarius de iudiciis publicis in 10. 6. 4 (Bremer ii/1, p. 283).
This form of Xenophon’s title is attested by Ps. DH Rh. 9. 11, but Eustathius
on Il. 13. 126 has !
ÆÆ; see R. Hirzel, Dialog 1. 144 n. 3. For the affinity
between the forms in !
-and in I
-, cf. the title of Persaeus’ doxographic miscel-
lany cited as  $
 ÆÆ ı
، in DL 7. 1, but (probably) as `
in the list of his works at DL 7. 36.
I have no explanation for the fact that only in rendering Pamphile’s title does
Gellius use the singular commentarius instead of the plural that is consistent with the
Greek forms.
164 Amiel Vardi

Stromateis not many years later.20 From what we know of such

productions we can characterize this literary kind as consisting of
collections of isolated and self-contained pieces of knowledge, in a
variety of Welds, and which the author deems worthy of remem-
brance.21 As we have seen, most of the components of this tentative
deWnition Wt in with Gellius’ description of the works with which
he classes his own book in pr. 5, and the principle of memoratu
digna is also evoked in his preface and serves him as a criterion for
what is deemed worthy of inclusion in his collection.22 All this,
I believe, brings us closest to an idea of the kind of compositions
Gellius himself would have classed his book with, and one that is
the least tainted by our modern conceptions of literary typology.
For the sake of convenience, I see no reason why we should not tag
this type of literary prose ‘miscellanies’.
Yet diYculties arise the minute we check this deWnition
against the works mentioned in Gellius’ list of writings similar
to his own. Indeed, if we look at the manner in which modern
scholars deWne the works mentioned in this list, we shall Wnd
not only that they class them under a variety of categories of
literary prose, such as Xorilegia, miscellanea, hand-books, or
encyclopaedias, but also that very often diVerent scholars class
particular works under diVerent categories.23 A literary category
which comprises works such as the Ps.-Aristotelian —æ
Accius’ Didascalica, Seneca’s Epistulae morales, Pliny’s Naturalis
historia, and Gellius’ own Noctes seems too loose for our modern
generic conceptions, and we might well hesitate to ascribe
Gellius’ uariam et miscellam et quasi confusaneam to some of
the works in his list. Indeed, were we obliged to abstract the

e.g. Clem. Str. 1. 182. 3, 3. 110. 3, 5. 141. 4, 6. 1. 1; see further Méhat, Études
sur les ‘Stromates’, 96, 106–12; F. Montanari, DNP s.v. Hypomnema; P. Steinmetz,
Untersuchungen, 278–81.
For this meaning of the Latin commentarii, see TLL s.v. commentarius I. B:
Collectio, congestio rerum locorum uerborum ad memoriam siue scientiam firmandam
augendam facta. For the association of commentarius with memory cf. Vitruv. 1. 1. 4,
and with the notion of ‘collection’ or ‘piling up’, Quint. Inst. 3. 6. 59.
For memoria in Gellius, see S. M. Beall, Civilis Eruditio, 69–72, and below,
215–17. The notion of ‘memory’, etymologically associated with both the Greek and
the Latin term, also finds expression in his presentation of the process of excerpting
and taking notes as a subsidium memoriae (pr. 2). For this notion of the collection as
an aide-me´moire, cf. Clem. Str. 1. 11. 1, 1. 14. 2, 6. 2. 2, and see Marache, edn., i, p.
xv; Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 31 [23].
See e.g. H. Fuchs, RAC s.v. Enzyklopädie; H. Chadwick (tr. J. Engermann),
RAC s.v. Florilegium; S. Fornaro and K. Sallmann, DNP s.v. Enzyklopädie;
H. Krasser, DNP s.v. Buntschriftstellerei.
Genre, Conventions, Cultural Programme 165

distinctive features of such a group we should have probably

ended up with not much more than ‘a collection of more or less
self-contained items of knowledge’, a deWnition that seems far too
wide and would apply to a great part of Imperial prose treatises
(think for instance of Vitruvius, Pausanias, or Diogenes Laertius).
In fact it would apply to whatever may fall under the title commen-
tarius/-i, be it a treatise dedicated to a speciWc type of knowledge,
an exegetical work discussing successive elements of a continuous
text, or a miscellaneous collection of things worthy of remem-
brance. But wide as it may be, it is nevertheless a signiWcant
deWnition, since the three notions of collection, selection, and
itemization appear to characterize a special class of ancient litera-
ture intended, as it often presents itself, for a special class of
readers—those deeming themselves too busy to engage in leisurely
and voluminous reading.
There is, furthermore, very little point in arguing with the
long-dead Gellius about the validity of his generic concepts; it
would be far more useful to contrast his work with those he
lists as belonging to the same kind in order to enhance the special
characteristics of the Noctes Atticae within this group. In
what follows I shall try to delineate these particular traits of
Gellius’ work from four main aspects: the selectivity of the mater-
ial; the range of Welds discussed; the organization, or rather lack
of organization, of this material within the book; and the generic
diversity of the individual chapters. Many of these special charac-
teristics of Gellius’ miscellaneous composition have already
been pointed out, and have served scholars to form their idea of
Gellius’ style and technique, or were regarded as reXecting
his personal tastes and intellectual capacities, or the concerns of
Roman readers of his day. But, as I shall try to show, we can also
consider these traits of Gellius’ miscellany as well-calculated
devices deliberately adopted to serve a programme he set for his
work and a number of cultural ideas he wanted to promote. At the
risk of appearing trendy, I shall maintain they were ideologically

2. selectivity
We can Wrst note that in his list Gellius couples miscellanies
together with what in modern terms would be called encyclopaedic
works. I call ‘encyclopaedic’ works that purport to oVer a system-
atic and comprehensive account of the state of knowledge in a
166 Amiel Vardi

deWned range of subjects.24 These can be compositions covering a

relatively broad range of Welds, such as Varro’s Disciplinae, in nine
books, or the more extensive Artes of Cornelius Celsus,25 but also
encyclopaedic presentations of particular branches of learning,
such as Pliny’s Naturalis historia, which is included in Gellius’
list of titles. Miscellanies like that of Gellius, on the other hand,
purport neither comprehensiveness nor systematic arrangement,
but rather present their readers with a muddled series of isolated
discussions of particular issues belonging to a large variety of
When Gellius published his Noctes Atticae some time around
the middle of the second century ce, miscellanies of this type were
in their heyday. Indeed, if we examine our repertory of ancient
miscellanies, we can note that the great majority of them were
produced from the mid-Wrst century ce on. There are, of course,
earlier examples, dating back at least to the Wfth century bce.26 Yet
since the Wrst century ce works of this sort appear to have enjoyed a
remarkable increase of popularity, and from that time on miscel-
lanies of various types continued to be very common in the
Graeco-Roman world, for which we have ample secondary
evidence as well as a number of extant examples.
Modern scholarship tends to regard this Xourishing of miscel-
laneous collections, together with a similar increase in the produc-
tion of other types of selective compilations of learned material,
such as excerpta, epitomes, and all sorts of compendia, lexico-
graphic, gnomologic, doxographic, or mythographic, as reXecting

Note that the attempt to organize the body of knowledge into a series of
systematic and comprehensive wholes is taken by E. Rawson (‘Logical Organisa-
tion’) as a major development in Roman intellectual history. For a survey of such
works, see M. Fuhrmann, Das systematische Lehrbuch.
Gellius makes no mention of Celsus, but is familiar with Varro’s Disciplinae.
e.g. Hippias’ &ı ƪøª, D–K 86 B 4; R. Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholar-
ship, i. 51–4. Note that Clement quotes Hippias (without specifying a work) as
an authority on the legitimacy of compilatory miscellanies (Str. 6. 15. 1–2; D–K
86 B6). For the Horae of Prodicus, D–K 84 B 1–2; Pfeiffer, op. cit. i. 30–1. Among
the titles of Democritus’ works, Diogenes Laertius lists `ƺŁ  ŒæÆ and
 ÆÆ MŁØŒ under ethical works, `
æÆÆ under physical works, and an
Ø (DL 9. 46–7; no fragments are explicitly referred to any of these). In
the 4th c.: Alcidamas’ Museion; see J. V. Muir (ed.), Alcidamas: The Works and
Fragments (London, 2001), pp. xix f.; L. Radermacher, Artium scriptores (Vienna,
1951), fr. 13 p. 134; Pfeiffer, op. cit. i. 50–1. The earliest works figuring in Gellius’
list are Aristotle’s Peplos, and the Problemata, which probably refers to the Ps.-
Aristotelian collection which he often cites and takes to be genuine (e.g. 19. 4.
1 Problemata physica, 20. 4. 3 —æ
ºÆÆ KªŒŒºØÆ, and passim).
Genre, Conventions, Cultural Programme 167

a cultural moment in which, even among the litterati, mastering all

the knowledge accumulated through the ages in the various discip-
lines of Hellenic research was felt to be beyond the abilities of an
average individual. Such a feeling is indeed expressed by authors
of the early Empire, who often rely on it to explain the need for the
sort of compilatory works they oVer.27 Furthermore, in many such
compilations we Wnd the notions of collection, selection, and brev-
ity associated with expediency, and especially with the needs of
‘busy people’.28 Gellius too presents his book as intended for
homines aliis iam uitae negotiis occupatos (pr. 12), and in this respect,
therefore, we can regard his miscellany as a true representative
of the literary production and the view of learning common in
his day.

3. range of fields
The Noctes Atticae should also be distinguished from another class
of works mentioned in Gellius’ list, such as the Epistulae morales of
Seneca, the Antiquae lectiones of the grammarian Caeselius Vindex,
and the Coniectanea, a title reserved, it seems, to works dealing with
law.29 Though such compositions lay no claim to oVer an inclusive
and systematic account of a branch of knowledge, they are never-
theless dedicated to a speciWc Weld, be it law, grammar, rhetoric, or
philosophy. We also know of similar compilations of uniform
material that does not appertain to one of the traditional disciplines,
such as collections of mirabilia or stories concerning animal behav-
iour, as in Aelian’s medley. Sympotic miscellanies, such as those
of Plutarch and Athenaeus, often centre around issues which
are somehow connected to food and sympotic customs. But since
they also purport to illustrate the kind of topics appropriate for
dinner-table conversation, they tend to encompass a large variety

e.g. Cic. De Or. 1. 81; Val. Max. 1 pr.; Sen. Ep. 88. 37; Tranq. 9. 5; Quint. Inst.
1. 8. 18–21, 10. 1. 37–42; Frontin. Strat. pr. 3; see further D. A. Russell, Plutarch,
42; Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 29 [21]; G. Sandy, Apuleius, 73–91.
e.g. Vitruv. 1. pr. 1, 5. pr. 2–3, 5; Val. Max. 1. pr., 3. 8. ext. 1, 4. 1. 12, 6. 4. pr.;
Plut. Coniug. praec. 138 c; Reg. et imper. apoptheg. 172 e; Frontin. Strat. pr. 1–2;
Polyaenus, Strat. 1. pr. 13, 2. pr. See T. Janson, Latin Prose Prefaces, 152–5;
C. Skidmore, Practical Ethics, 31–4, and for this topos in addresses to the emperor
cf. Hor. Epist. 2. 1. 1–4.
Possibly connected with the technical term coniectio causae. Gellius is our
only source for the title, which he ascribes to books by Ateius Capito and Alfenus
168 Amiel Vardi

of subject-matter.30 And the little we have from Favorinus’

Æ c ƒ
æ Æ also represents a rather broad range of Welds
including, at least, doxography, chronology, and ethnography.31
Gellius’ miscellany inhabits the opposite extremity of this
spectrum. It oVers the widest variety of subjects, covering all the
traditional Welds of KªŒŒºØ
 ÆØ Æ, including some that did not
normally form part of Roman learning, such as music, geometry,
physiology, and other Welds of ‘natural philosophy’, together
with the ever popular matters of antiquarianism, mythography,
and mirabilia.32 As suggested by Maria Laura Astarita, this broad
picture of knowledge goes very well with Gellius’ dislike of the
tendency of professional experts to specialize in limited areas and
thus to eVectuate a diVraction of knowledge into distinct Welds,
which runs against the traditional Roman ideal of a wide general
learning.33 This attitude of Gellius’ is particularly notable at
several points where he decries the attempts of experts to evade
diYcult questions by claiming they do not appertain to their Weld
of expertise, as well as in instances where he praises the wide scope
of learning of the experts he admires.34 We can thus take the fact
that Gellius’ miscellany covers such a wide range of topics from a
variety of disciplines to reXect his objection to the specialized type
of knowledge upheld by the experts, and of his struggle to maintain
the ideal of broad general learning traditionally endorsed by the
Roman elite.35
Yet in none of these areas does Gellius provide the reader with
more than mere glimpses of knowledge, anecdotes, and short

Cf. e.g. Plut. Quaest. conv. 2 pr. (629 c–d); see J. Martin, Symposion, 171,
179–80; A. Lukinovich, ‘Play of Reflections’, 265.
For the range of fields covered in this work, see E. Mensching, Favorin, 29–35;
L. A. Holford-Strevens, ‘Favorinus’, 205–6; Beall, ‘Homo fandi dulcissimus’, 88–92;
M.-L. Lakmann, ‘Favorinus’, 235; cf. his description in the Suda as
ºıÆŁc ŒÆa
AÆ ÆØ Æ . For Gellius’ familiarity with the works of Favorinus, see Holford-
Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 115–16 [81–2].
For the range of fields covered in the NA, see H. Nettleship, ‘Noctes Atticae’;
T. Vogel, ‘De Noctium Atticarum compositione’; Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius,
157–328 [115–235]; Astarita, Cultura, 35–171. For Gellius and the antiquarian
tradition see A. F. Stevenson, above, Ch. 5.
Ibid. 31, 203.
For experts censured for the narrowness of their specialization, see esp. 4. 1.
13–14, 16. 6. 11, 16. 10. 4, 20. 10. 2; praised for their wide learning, e.g. 4. 1. 18, 13.
10. 1, 20. 1. 20; cf. Ath. 1. 1 c. See further Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 297–8
[221]; Astarita, Cultura, 117, 149–51, 171, 203; A. D. Vardi, ‘Gellius against the
Professors’, 45–7; V. Binder, ‘Vir elegantissimi eloquii’, 111–12.
For possible social overtones of this struggle, see R. A. Kaster, Guardians of
Language, 50–60; Vardi, ‘Gellius against the Professors’, 46–50, 53–4.
Genre, Conventions, Cultural Programme 169

discussions of speciWc issues. ‘For what purpose?’ one might ask.

Indeed some modern scholars look down on such collections of bits
and pieces, regarding them as intended only to give the uncultured
some impressive glimpses of learning to talk about in polite soci-
ety.36 Gellius himself says they should be taken only as ‘Wrst-fruits’
(primitiae) or ‘appetizers’ (libamenta), meant to stimulate the
reader to the independent pursuit of further learning (pr. 13). ‘I
ask my readers’, he proceeds, ‘to consider these things written not
so much for the sake of instruction, as for the sake of suggestion,
and so to speak to be contented with a demonstration of a way, that
they may afterwards pursue, if they wish, by Wnding either books
or teachers’ (pr. 17). His mode of presenting mere glimpses of
knowledge thus suits his declared programme since, as he states
in his preface, a primary purpose of the Noctes Atticae is to lure
people of ordinary education, who are by now engaged in the
business of daily life, to devote whatever spare time they have to
broadening their learning, and thus to redeem themselves from
shameful and boorish ignorance (pr. 12; cf. 18. 10. 8). It is, of
course, quite likely that many of his ancient readers never did go
beyond the titbits of knowledge he oVered them, but what Gellius
attempts to do is to yoke even the selectivity characteristic of
ancient miscellanies to his cultural programme.

4. o r d o r e r v m f o r t v i t v s
Whereas diversity of subject-matter characterizes ancient miscel-
lanies from a very early date, works of this kind nevertheless tend
to gather it into more or less homogeneous thematic groups.
Among extant miscellanies we can note this tendency, for instance,
in Athenaeus and Macrobius.37 Even in Plutarch’s &ı
ºÆÆ, which is not as neatly organized,38 book 9 centres
around issues relating to the Muses (9 pr., 736 c) and topics
involving, e.g., hunger and thirst are grouped in successive chap-
ters (6. 1–3; cf. 2. 8–9, 6. 4–6, 9. 8–9). Thematic organization may

e.g. N. Horsfall, JRS 80 (1990), 217; Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 8 [6].
For Athenaeus, see Martin, Symposion, 279–80; J. Wilkins, ‘Dialogue and
Comedy’; C. Jacob, ‘Athenaeus the Librarian’, 103–4. Macrobius’ is the most
schematically disposed sympotic miscellany we possess, and deliberately so, as is
made manifest in his polemic allusion to Gellius’ preface (Sat. 1 pr. 2–3); see
E. Tuerk, ‘Macrobe’, 382–3; Astarita, Cultura, 27–8.
Plut. Quaes. conv. 2 pr. (629 d) &
æ  I ƪªæÆ ÆØ ŒÆd
See Martin, Symposion, 177–9.
170 Amiel Vardi

be easily traced even in miscellanies which explicitly proclaim

disorderliness, such as those of Clement and Solinus.39 We are,
of course, familiar with a similar thematic arrangement in ancient
gnomologia, and collections of exempla and mirabilia,40 as well as in
some Hellenistic poetry books and anthologies. Even in Meleager’s
Stephanos the principle of
،غ Æ allows for homogeneous
sequences of poems and on the larger scale this anthology too
seems to have been arranged in thematically uniWed books.41
Gellius, on the other hand, arranges his discussions of diverse
topics in what looks like a random sequence, with no trace of
regularity or arrangement by subject, discipline, chronology, or
what have you. Indeed, as scholars have often shown, we can detect
signs of deliberate disruption in his arrangement.42 This is not
entirely surprising in a work that professes diversity since irregular
arrangement of the material enhances the impression of a vast
range of topics worth knowing. Yet, since many miscellanies
nevertheless reveal a degree of regularity in the arrangement of
consecutive items, I think we should dwell a little longer on the
reasons that led Gellius to insist on a random arrangement.
Random arrangement of the kind we Wnd in Gellius seems to
have governed one of the most inXuential of ancient miscellanies,
the  '
æØŒa !
 ÆÆ of Pamphile of Epidaurus, composed
during Nero’s reign, cited by Gellius and Diogenes Laertius, and
possibly evoked by Favorinus and several other miscellanists.43 In
her preface, so we learn from Photius’ description of the work, this

Clem. Str. 6. 2. 1 
E  ‰ ı K d   KºŁ
FØ ŒÆd  B§ Ø  B§
Ø, Ø Ææ
Ø b K  I Æ , H &æøÆø E
 øØ ºØH
ŒØºÆØ; Solin. pr. 3–4 Quorum meminisse ita uisum
est, ut inclitos terrarum situs et insignes tractus maris, seruata orbis distinctione, suo
quaeque ordine redderemus. Inseruimus et pleraque differenter congruentia, ut si nihil
aliud, saltem uarietas ipsa legentium fastidio mederetur. For the organization of
Clement’s work, see Méhat, Études sur les ‘Stromates’, 223–46.
Skidmore, Practical Ethics, 35–42.
For the arrangement of Meleager’s anthology, see A. Cameron, The Greek
Anthology, 26–33; K. J. Gutzwiller, Poetic Garlands, 281–322. We now have even
earlier evidence for a thematically homogeneous arrangement of poetry books in the
New Posidippus, which is divided into groups of epigrams devoted to a single theme
separated by titles such as ºØŁØŒ,

ØŒ, ƒ ØŒ, and so on; see Epigrammi, ed.
G. Bastianini and C. Gallazzi, 24–7.
Maréchal, ‘préface’; Marache, edn. i, pp. xvi f.; Holford-Strevens, Aulus
Gellius, 31–6 [24–7]; G. Bernardi-Perini, edn. i. 14. This is one feature of Gellius’
work that his humanist followers did not appreciate; see A. Grafton below, 326.
Gell. 15. 17. 3, 15. 23. 2. See FHG iii 520–2; O. Regenbogen, RE xviii/2
(1949), s.v. Pamphila 1, who considers her influence on Plutarch, Favorinus, Aelian,
Athenaeus, and Sopatros (ibid. 318–26).
Genre, Conventions, Cultural Programme 171

well-educated woman explained that her collection consisted of a

variety of memorable things she had either heard from others or
learned from her own reading (Phot. Bibl. 175, 119b8–27). Of all
these, Photius continues, whatever seemed to her worthy of con-
sideration and remembering, she recorded in her ‘varied notes’
 ÆÆ ıتB) without separating each distinct item into
its appropriate subject, but rather recording them casually and in
the order that she encountered them (
oø NŒB § ŒÆd ‰ ŒÆ

K BºŁ ), and that, so she said, not because she had diYculty in
distinguishing them by type, but because she considered intermix-
ture and variety (e I Æت
ήd c
،غ Æ ) more pleasing
and elegant than thematic homogeneity.44
The charm of variety is also evoked by Aelian and Clement,45
who compare their respective collections to trees dispersed in
orchards or variegated Xowers in a meadow (ºØ ) or a garland
), thus recalling both the tradition of giving miscellanies
metaphorical titles from the Xoral world,46 and the even longer line
of such nomenclature in poetic anthologies. In such collections

،غ Æ is considered a purely aesthetic norm.47 By having
recourse to this aesthetic standard the authors of our miscellanies
reveal that they intend their collections not only to be useful and
instructive, but also to provide their readers with pleasure, a
double intention which characterizes much of the literary produc-
tion of the second and third centuries.48 Gellius too embraces both
intentions, and in contrast to the elder Pliny, who explicitly rejects
any stylistic elements that would render his sterilis materia ‘pleas-
ant to relate or attractive to read’ (NH pr. 12–13), presents his

Photius, Bibl. 175, 119b 27–33 TÆFÆ b  Æ, ‹Æ ºª
ı ŒÆd   ÆPB § ¼ØÆ
Kί, N !
 ÆÆ ıتB ŒÆd
P æe a N Æ !

غE , Iºº
oø  Ø ŒB
§ ŒÆd ‰ ŒÆ
K BºŁ I ƪæłÆØ, ‰
Pd ƺ e 
ıÆ,  ,
e ή r 
 ÆPa غE , K Øæ æ
b ŒÆd ÆæØæ
e I Æت
ήd c

،غ Æ 

Ael. NA, epil. fiH
ØŒ ºfiø B I ƪ ø e K
ºŒe ŁæH ŒÆd c KŒ H ›
ºıª Æ I
ØæŒø ,
d ºØH  Ø Æ j Æ
Æ, ‰
I Łæø H fiø ø H
ººH , T fi Ł E   !A Æ  ŒÆd ØÆ ºÆØ c ıªªæÆ ;
Clem. Str. 6. 2. 1 ¯ b
s fiH ºØH Ø a ¼ Ł
ØŒ ºø I Ł
F Æ ŒI fiH ÆæÆ fiø
H Iξ
æø ı Æ
P ήa r 
ª H (w § ŒÆd ¸ØH 
Ø  ŒÆd  ¯ºØŒH Æ ŒÆd ˚æ Æ ŒÆd — º
ı ı ƪøªa غ
ı ªæłÆ 
); cf. ibid. 4. 4. 1, 7. 111. 1–3, Méhat, Études sur les ‘Stromates’, 339–43.
Janson, Latin Prose Prefaces, 80–3; Vardi, ‘Why Attic Nights?’, 299.
Gutzwiller, Poetic Garlands, 227–36.
Steinmetz, Untersuchungen, 239–95, esp. 275–6; Lukinovich, ‘Play of Reflec-
tions’, 267–8; L. Romeri, ‘¸
’; J. Davidson, ‘Pleasure and Pedantry’; A. D.
Vardi, ‘Book of Verse’, 93.
172 Amiel Vardi

work as intended ad alendum studium as well as ad oblectandum

fouendumque animum, and to oVer his readers only such material
that can ‘render men’s minds more vigorous, their memory better
supported, their eloquence more resourceful, their diction purer,
and the pleasures of their leisure hours more respectable—delectatio
in otio atque in ludo liberalior’ (pr. 16). It is noteworthy that in these
last words it is not pleasure in itself that Gellius designates among
the desired eVects of his work, as is customary in other miscellanies,
but rather the habituation of his readers to Wnd pleasure in learning
per se and to prefer this cultured manner of enjoying their leisure
hours to other, less respectable, joys that otium can provide. Even
the conventional appeal to the pleasure miscellanies claim to oVer is
thus harnessed by Gellius to serve his cultural programme.
Another standard explanation for disarrayed organization is that
it maintains the reader’s interest: ‘The variety of my reading-
matter’, says Aelian, ‘is intended to attract the reader and avoid
the tedium arising from monotony’ (Ael. Nat. An. epil.), and
Solinus explains: Inseruimus et pleraque diVerenter congruentia, ut
si nihil aliud, saltem uarietas ipsa legentium fastidio mederetur (Solin.
pr. 4).49 Though Gellius does not resort to this argument to
explain his insistence on random arrangement, his deep concern
to keep his readers’ interest is manifest throughout his preface.
The closest Gellius himself gets to an explanation of his system
of arrangement comes in the mutilated passage which opens his
*** iucundiora alia reperiri queunt, ad hoc ut liberis quoque meis partae
istiusmodi remissiones essent, quando animus eorum interstitione aliqua
negotiorum data laxari indulgerique potuisset. 2. Vsi autem sumus ordine
rerum fortuito, quem antea in excerpendo feceramus. Nam proinde ut
librum quemque in manus ceperam seu Graecum seu Latinum uel quid
memoratu dignum audieram, ita quae libitum erat, cuius generis cumque
erant, indistincte atque promisce annotabam . . . 3. Facta igitur est in his
quoque commentariis eadem rerum disparilitas, quae fuit in illis annota-
tionibus pristinis, quas breuiter et indigeste et incondite <ex> auditioni-
bus lectionibusque uariis feceramus. (pr. 1–3.)
Gellius’ claim usi autem sumus ordine rerum fortuito, quem antea in
excerpendo feceramus (and the explanation that follows) resembles
Pamphile’s statement that she arranged her material ‰ ŒÆ

Cf. Plin. Ep. 8. 21. 4 (also 2. 5. 7–8, 4. 14. 3, where the argument is that variety
ensures every reader may find something he likes). See further Janson, Latin Prose
Prefaces, 154; Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 31–6 [21–6]; S. M. Beall, ‘Aulus
Gellius 17. 8’, 56.
Genre, Conventions, Cultural Programme 173

K BºŁ . We Wnd the same principle evoked in other miscellanies and

collections, as for instance in the programmatic letter of the younger
Pliny: Collegi non seruato temporis ordine (neque enim historiam
componebam), sed ut quaeque in manus uenerat (Ep. 1. 1. 1).50 We
do not have enough of Pamphile to judge the accuracy of her claim,
but Pliny’s aYrmation has been proven manifestly false,51 and the
details provided by Gellius about the circumstances in which he
encountered some of the topics Wguring in his commentarii cannot
sustain the assumption that he reproduced them in the actual order
in which they occurred to him.52 But there is no need to understand
Gellius’ words so strictly. A no less natural rendering of usi sumus
. . . ordine would be that the haphazard arrangement adopted in
his work is meant to reXect the randomness he experienced in
collecting his material rather than to follow it. This, in turn,
makes perfectly good sense if we assume Gellius wants his own
experience as it is reXected in his book to serve as a model of a life
devoted to learning. And I believe this is exactly what he has
in mind, since, whatever we make of the beginning of the sentence
preceding his explanation of his random arrangement, it clearly
states that he composed his book ‘in order that similar recreation
might be provided for [his] children, whenever they might
have some respite from their aVairs and could relax and gratify
themselves’ (pr. 1). As we have already seen, Gellius wants the
material contained in his book to serve only as a model of learning,
or as ‘a demonstration of a way, that they may afterwards pursue’
as he puts it (pr. 17). We can thus note an analogy between what
he says about the subject matter of his book (i.e. that it is meant
to be taken as a model of knowledge) and the principle of its
arrangement, which is intended to serve as a model of a life of
learning.53 Furthermore, because of the haphazard arrangement of
the material, anyone who reads Gellius’ book consecutively will
experience the same random occurrence of diverse erudite items.

Similarly Plut. Quaest. conu. 2 pr. 
æ  I ƪªæÆ ÆØ ŒÆd
Iºº ‰ ŒÆ
N   qºŁ (629 d).
See A. N. Sherwin-White, The Letters of Pliny, 21–3, 42–51 (with bibliog-
Taken at face value e.g. in Skydsgaard, Varro the Scholar, 103; J. P. Small,
Wax Tablets, 179; contrast J. C. Rolfe’s and Marache’s translations with those of
F. Cavazza and Bernardi-Perini.
See also Astarita, Cultura, 31. Athenaeus too wants his Larensis, the Roman
amateur, committed to learning though burdened with imperial responsibilities, to
serve as a model for his readers (Ath. 1. 2 b ff.; cf. 9. 398 e–939 a); see D. Braund,
‘Learning, Luxury and Empire’, 5–10; but contra T. Whitmarsh, ‘Parasitism’, 308.
174 Amiel Vardi

Gellius thus manages to compel his readers actually to adopt his

model of a varied life of learning if only for the duration of their
But is this the way the work was meant to be read? In 9. 4. 5
Gellius tells us how he read some old collections of mirabilia he
purchased from a bouquiniste in Brundisium: omnis duabus proximis
noctibus cursim transeo.55 On the other hand, the relatively short
and self-contained chapters of Gellius’ collection allow, perhaps
even invite, an interrupted reading. Such a reading would, of
course be convenient for ‘busy people’ trying to squeeze a moment
of reading in the short respites from their daily routine, but it
might also obscure the overall impression one might get from a
consecutive reading. Yet, like most itemized literature of his day,
Gellius’ chapters are short enough for several of them to be read in
a single reading session,56 and the impression of a random occur-
rence of diverse learned items would be maintained from going
through either any sequence of his chapters or a haphazard selec-
tion from them. More interesting is Gellius’ inclusion of a table of
contents at the end of his preface, since this device appears to invite
selective reading of chapters dealing with a speciWc issue. Indeed,
Pliny introduces his table of contents as a mechanism meant to
free his readers from the need to read the entire work through,
and to allow them, instead, to look only for the particular point
they want:
quid singulis contineretur libris, huic epistulae subiunxi summaque cura,
ne legendos eos haberes, operam dedi. tu per hoc et aliis praestabis ne
perlegant, sed, ut quisque desiderabit aliquid, id tantum quaerat et sciat
quo loco inueniat. (Plin. NH pr. 33.)

Pliny’s explanation is particularly relevant here since it is fairly

certain that Gellius took the idea of concluding his preface with a
list of capita rerum directly from Pliny, who was manifestly very

Thus also Astarita, Cultura, 31.
Gellius reports to have bought there books by Aristeas of Proconnesus, Isigo-
nus of Nicaea, Ctesias, Onesicritus, Polystephanus (sic!), and Hegesias. This list
seems to be adapted from Plin. 7. 9–26 and the list of sources to that book, where
Philostephanus’ name is cited properly; see L. A. Holford-Strevens, ‘Fact and
Fiction’, 65–6; Aulus Gellius, 69–71 [50–1]. But the fact that this story is a clear
example of Gellius’ fictionality takes nothing from the validity of this evidence,
since it is the manner in which he would read a miscellany that concerns us.
See Fowler, Kinds, 62–4 for the basic distinction by size of literary kinds which
require more than a single reading session, those whose size corresponds more or
less to one reading session, and those of which one can read several in one session.
Genre, Conventions, Cultural Programme 175

much in his mind when composing the praefatio.57 However, the

device was by no means a novel idea of Pliny’s.58 Pliny himself
mentions that it was already used in the mysterious ¯  Ø of
Valerus Soranus:59 hoc ante me fecit in litteris nostris Valerius
Soranus in libris, quos K
 ø inscripsit (pr. 33). This has led
some scholars to see Pliny as the reintroducer of a device that had
been out of use for almost two centuries. But the evidence shows
otherwise: a table of contents is incorporated at the end of the
dedicatory epistle to the medical treatise of Scribonius Largus
(Compositiones, epist. dedic. 4), there is explicit evidence that
there originally was one at the end of book 11 of Columella’s Res
Rustica (11. 3. 65),60 and it has been suggested that though the
extant capitula librorum opening Valerius Maximus’ collection
are probably not original, the collection did contain some sort of
a table of contents.61 Both Valerius Maximus and Columella were
known to Pliny,62 and he might well also have been acquainted
with his nephew’s friend Frontinus, who oVers a general scheme of
his Strategemata in his preface (1. pr. 2) and a detailed table
of contents at the beginning of each book. The words ante nos
fecit in litteris nostris seem also to indicate that Pliny knew of
Greek examples. In this he might have been thinking of the general
schemes of distribution of material into books customary in the
prefaces of Hellenistic historiographical works,63 or the more
detailed tables of contents sometimes added at the beginnings of

See Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 27 [20].
For ancient ‘tables of contents’, see H. Mutschmann, ‘Inhaltsangabe’;
R. Friderici, De librorum divisione, 43–58; P. Petitmengin, ‘Capitula’; Stevenson,
above, Ch. 5, §3.2; some interesting ideas also in R. Pearse, ‘Capituli: Some Notes
on Summaries, Chapter Divisions and Chapter Titles in Ancient and Medieval
Manuscripts’, a ‘work in progress’ offered at <
For the title, see Friderici, De librorum divisione, 56–7; K.-E. Henriksson,
Büchertitel, 176–7.
i.e. in what looks like the original end of the work before he decided to add
book 12, which deals with the duties of the bailiff’s wife and the preparation and
storage of agricultural products.
Schanz–Hosius ii. 589 n. 1. Our MS traditions sometimes have a table of
contents at the beginning of books in technical and historical works (e.g. Apicius,
Mela, Florus, Josephus AJ; for Latin authors see Petitmengin, ‘Capitula’, 491 n. 3),
but the authenticity of these is not certain.
Val. Max. is listed in Pliny’s bibl. to books 7, 33; Columella in that to books 8,
11, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, and cited passim. Val. Max. is also known to Gellius (9. 11).
e.g. Polyb. 3. 1. 5; Diod. Sic. 1. 4. 6 ff.; DH Ant. Rom. 1. 7–8; Joseph. BJ pr.
7–12 (1. 19–31); App. Praef. 14–15; and the precepts of Lucian, Hist. conscr. 53. See
D. Earl, ‘Prologue-form’, 842–4; J. Irigoin, ‘Titres et sommaires’ 130–1.
176 Amiel Vardi

books64 or at the end of an entire work.65 But lists of ŒºÆØÆ 

ı are also attested in the preface of a rhetorical treatise (DH
Comp. 1) and a little after Pliny’s day also in technical works such
as Aelianus’ Strategemata,66 and the Conica of Apollonius of Perga
(epist. dedic. ad Wn.). It thus appears that from at least the second
century bce on the device was not uncommon in both historio-
graphical and technical Greek and Roman writings.
It is also noteworthy how unanimous our sources are on the
function of this device: it is meant to facilitate the Wnding of
particular issues that might interest the reader, and thus pre-
empt the need to read the entire work through.67 Occasionally, as
in Pliny, it is also speciWcally associated with the needs of the
.68 Indeed, if we think of Pliny for instance, his table of
contents is a very convenient tool, with a title stating the general
subject of each book, and an enumeration of the individual topics
of each chapter listed underneath. Looking for eels? Go quickly
through the general titles of the books till you reach aquatilium
natura in book 9, and then through the contents of that particular
book to Wnd them in chapter 38. But because of Gellius’ random
arrangement, this is a facility his table of contents cannot supply.69
And yet he introduces his table of contents with the same standard
Capita rerum, quae cuique commentario insunt, exposuimus hic uniuersa,
ut iam statim declaretur, quid quo in libro quaeri inuenirique possit.
(pr. 25.)

See a discussion of these æ
ªæÆÆ in Polyb. 11. 1a, with F. W. Walbank,
Commentary, ii. 266.
Polyb. 39. 3. 3; see Walbank, Commentary, iii. 743. Polybius is also among
Pliny’s sources (bibl. to books 4, 5, 6, 8, 31), but Gellius shows no first-hand
knowledge of him (6. 14. 10 probably through Varro; Holford-Strevens, Aulus
Gellius, 247 [182]).
The authenticity of this table of contents, which opens the work, is evidenced
in pr. 7. Aelianus might have adopted the device directly from Frontinus, whom he
Polyb. 11. 1a. 2 æe b 

Ø A e 

ø  Ø !æE Øa 

Scrib. Comp. epist. dedic. 4 quo facilius quod quaeretur inueniatur; Col. 11. 3. 65 ut
cum res exegisset, facile reperiri possit, quid in quoque quaerendum; Ael. Strat. pr. 7 Øa
Ø a I
º Æ æ
ªæÆłÆ a ŒºÆØÆ H I
ØŒ ı ø , ¥ Æ æe B I ƪ ø

F غ
ı e K ªªºÆ 
F ıªªæÆ
 Ø Oº ªø ŒÆÆ
fi ήd
Rs i K Øfi
I ƪ øŁB ÆØ 
ı Þfi Æ ø !æ Œø 
f æ
ı c æ fi; Prisc. Inst. pr. 5 (GL ii. 3.
3–4) quo facilius, quicquid ex his quaeratur, discretis possit locis inueniri. See Petit-
mengin, ‘Capitula’, 504–5.
Ael. Strat. pr. 7; cf. Vitruv. 5. pr. 5.
Pace Small, Wax Tablets, 35; Jacob, ‘Athenaeus the Librarian’, 107–8.
Genre, Conventions, Cultural Programme 177

Quaeri inuenirique is indeed less speciWc than Pliny’s id tantum

quaerat et sciat quo loco inueniat, but for once Gellius’ relish for
grouping synonyms or near-synonyms together might have led
him astray: inueniri had better been left without the quaeri, as
anyone who has had the frustrating experience of looking for
what Gellius says on a particular issue can testify. For this purpose
one would do much better to search the Noctes Atticae by means of
the systematic surveys of its material produced by modern
scholars. But then it was not for scholars that Gellius intended
his book, and the selective manner of reading that a table of
contents allows must serve the reader of a disorderly miscellany
for purposes completely unlike those of readers wishing to consult
a particular point in a systematic exposition of a particular branch
of knowledge, which, as we have seen, is the type of work where
all other examples of ancient ‘tables of contents’ appear.70 Keeping
in mind Gellius’ intended readers and proclaimed programme
I believe, therefore, that his table of contents was designed
less as a search tool to be consulted by those who know what they
are looking for, and more as a general repertory of the topics
discussed in his work. It is thus meant to be read through, to
exhibit the rich variety of material that learning consists of, and
to invite the reader to open the occasional chapter as the fancy takes
him.71 Thus, if we want to vindicate Gellius from the charge
of negligent adherence to the wording of Pliny, we can maintain
that the object to be supplied to his quaeri is not a speciWc issue that
the reader is looking for (Pliny’s ut quisque desiderabit aliquid), but
simply something interesting to read about. If so, in adopting
Pliny’s phraseology, Gellius might have employed an ironic tech-
nique similar to the one we have seen him using while introducing
his list of ‘fanciful’ titles: The echo of his model’s words is meant
to mark the diVerence between what he and Pliny do, or, in terms

See Petitmengin, ‘Capitula’, 500, 503–4. It is tempting to assume a connection
between these ‘tables of contents’ and the definition of divisions and subdivisions
characteristic of the prefaces of systematic and logically organized works; see
Rawson, ‘Logical Organisation’, 12 ¼ 324.
This might explain another Gellian departure from Pliny: whereas the latter’s
table of contents consists of the headings of the issues he discusses, Gellius provides
short summaries of the chapters, of the ‹Ø=‰ type found e.g. in Joseph. BJ pr. 7–12
(1. 19–30) and Ael. Strat. (cf. Columella’s use of the term argumenta to introduce his
table of contents (11. 3. 65); see Mutschmann, ‘Inhaltsangabe’, 102. For the sug-
gestion that Gellius’ collection was intended for the reading of single chapters at
random, see also V. D’Agostino, ‘Aulo Gellio’, 26; cf. Skidmore, Practical Ethics,
48–50; Cavazza, edn. i. 21 n. 11.
178 Amiel Vardi

of genre, it serves Gellius to deWne the type of his own composition

by dissociating it from a predominant near kin and from the class
of systematic treatises in which ancient ‘tables of contents’ nor-
mally appear.72
Before going on to examine the variety of forms Gellius gives his
individual chapters, it is worth dwelling on one more important
aspect of the formal structure of the Noctes Atticae as a whole.
Whether intentionally or not, Gellius’ selective collection of a
broad range of learned material presented as an disarrayed
sequence of self-contained items reXects a view of knowledge
which stands in sharp contrast to the perception of the body of
knowledge as an organic system that modern science shares with
many ancient scholars.73 One might suspect that this fragmented
view of the body of knowledge is embodied in miscellany as a
genre; indeed, discussing the Deipnosophistae, Christian Jacob
maintains that Athenaeus’ manner of handling his material in-
volves a fragmentation of knowledge. But because of Athenaeus’
thematic arrangement of the material, so Jacob continues, he also
takes a step towards its reorganization in a diVerent manner.74 It is
precisely this further step that Gellius’ ordo rerum fortuitus denies
his readers, leaving them with a fragmented and disarrayed view of
knowledge. But is this really how Gellius viewed knowledge, or is
it just an accidental by-product of his insistence on a haphazard
arrangement in presenting his material? On the one hand, it is
important to note that Gellius is not incapable of marking relations
between some of the issues he discusses and of bringing a number

For Gellius’ ambivalent attitude to Pliny the Elder, see Holford-Strevens,
Aulus Gellius, 41, 165–6 [30–1, 121–2]; W. H. Keulen, below, Ch. 9, §3.1.
Contrast e.g. Cic. De orat. 1. 187–8 Omnia fere, quae sunt conclusa nunc artibus,
dispersa et dissipata quondam fuerunt; ut in musicis numeri et uoces et modi; in
geometria lineamenta, formae, interualla, magnitudines; in astrologia caeli conuersio,
ortus, obitus motusque siderum; in grammaticis poetarum pertractatio, historiarum
cognitio, uerborum interpretatio, pronuntiandi quidam sonus; in hac denique ipsa
ratione dicendi excogitare, ornare, disponere, meminisse, agere—ignota quondam omni-
bus et diffusa late uidebantur. Adhibita est igitur ars quaedam extrinsecus ex alio genere
quodam, quod sibi totum philosophi adsumunt, quae rem dissolutam diuulsamque con-
glutinaret et ratione quadam constringeret. See Rawson, ‘Logical Organisation’. It is
characteristic of Gellius that even when he reads Cicero’s De iure ciuili in artem
redigendo, a work which seems to have dealt directly with the process of reducing a
body of knowledge into a system, what interests him is a special usage of superesse (1.
22. 7). Post-Enlightenment science is nowadays claimed no longer to uphold this
view of a systematic body of knowledge, for which see e.g. A. MacIntyre, Three
Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry.
Jacob, ‘Athenaeus the Librarian’, 103–4.
Genre, Conventions, Cultural Programme 179

of items together under a more or less general rule.75 But on the

other hand such interconnections and generalizations are of a very
limited scope and do not form anything like a uniWed system.76
Furthermore, as noted by two other contributors to this volume,
each of them approaching Gellius from a diVerent angle, he seems
much more interested in concrete particular details than in abstract
universals or general rules.77 We certainly cannot detect in the
Noctes a preference for the universal over the particular of the
kind we Wnd, for instance, in Plato’s Symposium and the whole
philosophical tradition from Thales to the Platonic Theory of
Ideas. And Wnally, Gellius’ objection to specialization in depart-
mentalized disciplines seems also to support the view that he really
did not conceive knowledge as a structured system. In contrast to
the vectorial and vertical view of specialized knowledge which is
inWnite in terms of higher and deeper, his might be better imagined
as a two-dimensional continuum, a plane dotted with an inWnite
multitude of items, occasionally meeting to form temporary and
limited categories.

5. diversity in the form and genre of

individual chapters
The multiformity of the Noctes Wnds expression not only in its
material, but also in the formal traits of the individual chapters or
commentarii, and the question of literary kind is thus relevant not
only to the book as a whole, but also to the individual chapters of
which it is comprised. Some of these can be considered chreiai,
others have been tagged hypomnemata and diatribes, many can be
classed as varieties of the dialogue or the symposium.78 Occasion-
ally a chapter will even change its formal features mid-way and
turn from, say, a representation of a learned discussion to a report
of further relevant material the author had hit upon in some book.
Only a few chapters have the form of pure excerpta, and the
e.g. 5. 12. 10  16. 5. 5–7 (noting relation between items); 9. 9 (a number of
items under a general rule). See further Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 33–4
[25–6]; Vardi, ‘Gellius against the Professors’, 44–5.
Cf. Binder, ‘Vir elegantissimi eloquii’, 106–7, 118.
T. Morgan, below, 196---7; Beall, below, 213; cf. also Stevenson, above,
124. Contrast Rawson’s ‘pyramidal structure’ of artes (‘Logical Organisation’,
R. Marache, ‘Mise en scène’; id. edn. i, pp. xxxi–xxxvi; Steinmetz, Untersu-
chungen, 281–7; Beall, Civilis Eruditio, 115–33.
180 Amiel Vardi

authorial ‘I’ has a dominant presence throughout the book. In

many chapters there are further narrative elements such as dra-
matic setting, characterization of the interlocutors, and occasion-
ally even a miniature plot.
This makes the Noctes Atticae unique in ancient literature.
A great part of ancient miscellanies have no dramatic setting at
all, whereas dialogues and sympotic miscellanies normally have
only an overall mise en sce`ne for the entire composition, with the
occasional introduction of a new interlocutor, or a change of ses-
sion or location, which sometimes also entails a turn in the devel-
opment of the conversation.79 There could, however, have been
other miscellanies made up of chapters with distinct formal struc-
tures. As Ewen Bowie once pointed out to me, we might conjecture
the presence of a degree of variety in the presentation of distinct
items in Pamphile’s miscellany. In her preface, so Photius tells us
(Bibl. 175, 119b 18–27), she states that her collection consists of
what she had learnt from her husband, what she heard from the
many distinguished guests who frequented their house, and what
she acquired from her own reading. This might imply a combin-
ation of hypomnemata, excerpta, and dialogues, some of them per-
haps sympotic. But more important is a remark Photius adds
further on in his book report: ‘In passages in which she recalls
what she remembers from previous authors her style shows more
variation’ (ibid. 120a 2–4).80 Let us note that in order to make such
an assertion Photius must have been able to distinguish within the
miscellany between items that were based on Pamphile’s own
reading and what she acquired from others, which might well
imply that the latter type of material was put in the mouths of
personae loquentes, her husband and his guests for instance.81 For
all we know, such a structure might have been present in other
ancient miscellanies too, and we must keep in mind that by the
very nature of our indirect sources on these compositions they are
not likely to preserve information on the formal aspects of such
works, but only on their subject-matter.82

For mise en sce`ne as a generic feature, see Fowler, Kinds, 68.
r  b a H IæÆØ
æø I

ıÆ ºªØ,
§ ŒÆd
£ r 
 ªŒØÆØ › ºª
But in that case it is surprising that Photius should detect more stylistic variety
in what she says in propria persona than in things she puts in the mouths of her
If Gellius were known only from quotations, what should we know about the
nature of his work beyond its containing at least one personal reminiscence (19.
1 cited by Augustine, CD 9. 4)? On the basis of its title, E. Bowie (‘Hadrian,
Genre, Conventions, Cultural Programme 181

Be that as it may, my purpose is not to establish Gellius’ origin-

ality, but to understand why he chose to adopt this particular form
of presenting his learned material. Again, giving pleasure and
maintaining the interest of his readers is a likely answer. And
again we can assume that the narrative elements in Gellius’ chap-
ters are there to serve a programme too. It has long been estab-
lished that the dramatic setting and characters in Cicero’s
dialogues form part of the apparatus he employs to deliver his
message, for which we have Cicero’s own explicit evidence.83
The narrative elements of Gellius’ chapters, on the other hand,
were for many years taken as actual reports of real incidents or as
containing a degree of Wction, yet aiming to achieve verisimilitude
and thus allowing us to consider them as reliable reXections of
x Æ i ª
in Antonine society.84 But owing, perhaps, to
the growing interest in narratology, we have come to understand
the dramatic setting, characterization, and plots of Gellius’ chap-
ters also as narrative techniques devised to serve him in delivering
his message.85 Trendy as this approach might seem, I think there is
strong support for its application to Gellius inasmuch as he was
undoubtedly familiar with Cicero’s discussions of the consider-
ations that underlie the choice of characters and dramatic settings
of his dialogues.86
A notable characteristic of the dramatic settings of Cicero’s
dialogues is that they all take place during public holidays, and as
noted by Stephen Beall, otium is the dramatic setting of almost all
the chapters of the Noctes.87 Such a setting is, of course, very
common in ancient dialogue and sympotic literature and may be
regarded simply as a standard element of the Platonic tradition.

Favorinus, and Plutarch’, 5–6) assumes that there were some reminiscences of an
autobiographical nature in Favorinus’ `
ÆÆ; see also Mensching,
Favorin, 56 n. 44.
See esp. Amic. 4; Att. 13. 12. 3, 13. 16. 1, 13. 19 .5; Q. fr. 3. 5. 1. For formal
aspects of Cicero’s dialogues, R. E. Jones, ‘Characterization’; P. Levine, ‘Cicero and
the Literary Dialogue’; G. Zoll, Cicero Platonis aemulus, 73–124.
See Holford-Strevens, ‘Fact and Fiction’.
For a ‘narratological’ approach to Gellius’ characters and scenes, see, e.g. L. A.
Holford-Strevens, ‘Portraitist’ (Dr Holford-Strevens kindly permitted me to quote
his reaction to the mention of his article in this list: ‘I no more knew that I was being
narratological than M. Jourdain knew he was speaking prose!’); Beall, ‘Aulus
Gellius 17. 8’; Vardi, ‘Gellius against the Professors’. For a similar approach to
Athenaeus, Braund, ‘Learning, Luxury and Empire’; Wilkins, ‘Dialogue and
Comedy’, 24–5.
See A. Gaos Schmidt, ‘El plan rector’, esp. 123 ¼ edn. i, p. xxviii.
Beall, Civilis Eruditio, 34–9.
182 Amiel Vardi

Yet the Greek attitude to leisure was very diVerent from that of the
Romans, who had to accommodate it with an ideology that privil-
eges oYcium and hence also negotium (cf. Gell. 11. 16. 7). There-
fore the fact that the appropriate use of otium forms part of the
conversation in some of Cicero’s dialogues and is addressed in
propria persona in his speeches Pro Archia and Pro Sestio,88
makes it clear that his choice of these occasions as a dramatic
setting for his dialogues is designed to present learned conversa-
tion as a model for the occupation appropriate for a gentleman’s
otium.89 The same is certainly also true of Gellius, who declares
that a primary aim of his book is to entice homines aliis iam uitae
negotiis occupatos to dedicate whatever spare time they have to the
pursuit of learning. And again Gellius sets his own life as a model
for this, stating he devoted to study every spare hour he could steal
from his daily business (pr. 12) and promising to continue doing so
for the rest of his life (pr. 23).
We can also note how careful Gellius is to represent the activities
of an otium litteratum, such as private reading or educated conver-
sation, not only as digniWed and worthwhile, but also as an enjoy-
able occupation for one’s leisure. Consider, for instance, his setting
for a conversation between two philosophers: ‘when we were all
with Favorinus at Ostia. And we were walking along the shore in
springtime, just as evening was falling’ (18. 1. 2; cf. 1. 2. 2, 19. 7. 2).
Even traditional generic settings such as the locus amoenus or the
pleasures of the symposium are thus invoked by Gellius to suit one
of the professed goals of his book: to make his readers’ spare-time
pleasures more suitable for a gentleman.
But compared with other dialogue literature and sympotic mis-
cellanies, the independent settings of Gellius’ chapters allow him
to present his learned discussions as taking place on a large variety
of occasions, at dinners, in public libraries and book-shops, at the
bed-side of a sick friend, while waiting for the salutatio in the
vestibule of the imperial palace, on board ship, in classrooms and
theatres, or simply while taking a stroll. By now we can surmise
that these settings are there not only for ornament or to entertain
the reader, nor merely to recall the conventions of the Platonic
dialogue, but also to illustrate the variety of opportunities that the
busy people to whom his book is addressed can nevertheless take
advantage of to engage in intellectual pursuits. Furthermore,
whereas Cicero sets his dialogues on occasions of otium aVorded

Sest. 138–9; Arch. 16; cf. Off. 2. 4, 3. 1-4; De orat. 2. 22–4; Hort. fr. 6–7 Grilli.
For otium litteratum in Cicero, J.-M. André, L’Otium, 279–334.
Genre, Conventions, Cultural Programme 183

by public holidays, Gellius’ scenes are also set in the intervals of

spare time within the daily routine and even on occasions on which
one can indulge in a short learned conversation and fulWl one’s
social duties simultaneously, as for instance while travelling,
waiting for the salutatio, or attending a sick friend. Again this
recalls the way he depicts his own experience of acquiring know-
ledge per omnia semper negotiorum interualla, in quibus furari otium
potui (pr. 12), and we can also note how suitable his self-contained
items of knowledge presented in short reading-units (his chapters)
are for such stolen free moments.
Authors living closer to Gellius’ day, particularly the younger
Pliny and Fronto, seem to have taken leisure quite seriously and we
consequently Wnd in them a relatively large variety of otium oppor-
tunities.90 As beWts a gentleman, many of these are devoted to
reading, writing, and learned conversation. But whereas Pliny
and Fronto are not insensible to the joys of, say, hunting, riding,
or grape-picking,91 such divertissements have no place in the
Noctes Atticae, which presents intellectual activities as the only
respectable occupation for a gentleman’s otium. The same pre-
occupation with the intellectual world is also manifest in Gellius’
choice of interlocutors, where he is much closer to the Greek
tradition of, say, Plutarch, Lucian, or Athenaeus, whose main
characters are always the  ÆØı
Ø, than to the dialogues of
Cicero, whose dramatis personae are for the most part members of
the senatorial elite distinguished by the authority and prestige won
in political activity and the courts of law. Almost all Gellius’
interlocutors are men of letters, students, teachers, or what we
might term ‘professional intellectuals’, and the few who are not
are represented as having intellectual interests. Indeed if we com-
pare Gellius with, say, the younger Pliny, Juvenal, Fronto, or
Apuleius, it is amazing how little he has to say about contemporary
politics and military aVairs, about legacies and real-estate business,
even about his own experience in court, which is only mentioned as
the starting point of intellectual discussions. Similarly Erucius
Clarus, the city prefect, is represented merely as a uir morum et
litterarum ueterum studiossimus (13. 18. 2) seeking an answer from
Esp. Plin. Ep. 1. 3. 3, 1. 9, 2. 2. 3, 9. 32; Fro. Fer. Als. 3 (pp. 227–33 v. d.
Hout2 ). See further A.-M. Guillemin, Pline, 14–16; J.-M. André, ‘Le de Otio de
Fronton’; J. P. Toner, Leisure, 25–32; Vardi, ‘Book of Verse’, 88–9.
e.g. Plin. 5. 6. 46 (with Sherwin-White, The Letters of Pliny, 330), 5. 18. 2, 9.
10. 1, 9. 15. 3, 9. 36; Fronto, Ep. M. Caes. 4. 5. 3, 4. 6. 1–2 (pp. 61–3 v. d. Hout2 );
contrast Gell. 10. 25. 1 (contemplating sedens in reda; cf. 11. 3. 1) and 20. 8. 1 (a jolly
celebration of the uindemia, but Gellius tells us only of the learned conversation).
184 Amiel Vardi

Sulpicius Apollinaris the grammarian, and a uir consularis and

governor of Crete who comes with his father to visit Taurus at
2. 2. 1 is introduced just by virtue of his relations with the eminent
intellectual. We can notice the same focusing on aspects of intel-
lectual life in Gellius’ miniature plots. I have recently tried to show
this regarding the recurrent scene in which arrogant experts are
exposed and put to public ridicule.92 Other Gellian plot structures
seem to reXect his ideas concerning, for instance, the right manner
of teaching, intellectual authority versus independent critical
judgement, the proper degree and suitable occasions for the appli-
cation of one’s learning in everyday life, the etiquette of learned
conversation, and the constraints of hierarchies both within the
intellectual circle and between intellectuals and people whose
social standing derives from parenthood, rank, or oYce.
But to return to the manner in which the formal diversity of
Gellius’ individual chapters reXects on the Noctes as a whole, I shall
conclude this study with an examination of an important plot we
Wnd embedded in the entire work and of the manner he depicts one
principal character—himself. As we have seen, Gellius often pre-
sents his own experience as a model for a life of learning. But the
dominant presence of the author’s ‘I’ in his chapters does more
than that. It also provides us with an autobiography, which may be
more or less accurate, but is manifestly partial and focused on his
intellectual life alone. Furthermore, the details of this intellectual
autobiography, which modern scholars are eager to reconstruct,
are scattered randomly among his chapters without any consider-
ation of chronology or a sense of development from his early school
years to his mature life. It is important to note that Gellius could
have presented his self-contained items of knowledge in an ordo
rerum fortuitus (for one or more of the reasons adduced above)
while still setting these items within a consecutive framework of a
diachronic biography. The idea might not have occurred to him,
but whether deliberately or not, the result is that his readers are
presented with a fragmented and disarrayed autobiography. One
key notion of intellectual biographies that such an arrangement
obscures is that of progression in learning93 and, though I admit
I am getting speculative here, this seems to suit the delineation
of Gellius’ view of knowledge ventured on above. If the body of
Vardi, ‘Gellius against the Professors’.
Admittedly, the notion of progression in learning is not common in ancient
bioi, but it finds its place e.g. in Cicero’s self-presentations, and its importance in a
career is prominent in authors concerned with education such as Quintilian and
Genre, Conventions, Cultural Programme 185

knowledge is indeed conceived as an unsystematic amalgam of

isolated items, the diachronic order in which these items are ac-
quired becomes irrelevant and there is no room for the notion of
progression in learning, only of its accumulation.94
Turning from these abstract conceptions back to social ones, we
can note that the absence of the notion of progression in a biog-
raphy also entails a renunciation of the idea of a career. Since
Gellius’ narration does not involve the world of negotium, it is of
course not a civic or political career that we are missing. Within the
intellectual world we have indeed seen that Gellius’ view of learn-
ing also involves the renunciation of specialization and therefore of
the career of a professional expert. But with Favorinus and Herodes
Atticus around, yet another career-centred manner of life comes to
mind, that of the contemporary sophists. Like Gellius, they too
seem to privilege the pursuit of general rather than specialized
knowledge, but the notion of a career is central to their manner
of life, which involves progression in terms of rhetorical and per-
formative technique, of gaining public acclaim, of attracting large
retinues of pupils, and of mastering the art of manipulating civic
privileges and honours. Philostratus’ Bioi of the sophists are thus
dotted with anecdotes marking the pitfalls and climaxes of such a
career,95 and Lucian’s Somnium provides an example of yet an-
other traditional constituent of career stories—the turning point.96
Though Gellius too is not devoid of competitiveness and rather
likes portraying himself having the upper hand in intellectual
confrontations, he does not present any of these incidents as a
signiWcant moment in an intellectual career. We might associate
this with the fact that from schooldays to maturity Gellius prefers
to place himself in the position of a sectator of the great luminaries
of his day, never as one of them. But more important is that the
renunciation of a career is quintessential to the idea of amateurism,
which modern scholars like to associate with Gellius’ ideal of
learning whether in the neutral or the pejorative sense of the
term. Therefore, though I should hesitate to suggest that Gellius
deliberately chose to present his autobiography in a disarrayed and
fragmented manner in order to mark his renunciation of an intel-
lectual career, it seems safe to assume that had the notion of career

Cf. MacIntyre, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry, 149–50.
See G. Anderson, Philostratus, 44–53.
For Lucian’s presentation of paideia as a career, cf. Rhet. praec., Merc. cond.;
and see further G. Anderson, Lucian, 165; S. Swain, Hellenism and Empire, 308–12.
186 Amiel Vardi

formed part of his view of intellectual life he would not have

adopted this way of presenting it.

To conclude, Gellius’ handling of the generic conventions of

ancient miscellanies seems to indicate that his book is about intel-
lectuals and intellectual life no less than it is a source of learned
information for those wishing to appear as such. This, in turn,
conforms with the interests of at least part of the tradition of
ancient miscellanies, as it is represented, for instance, in Plutarch
and Athenaeus97 and more generally with the concerns of second-
century Greek society, in which, as Simon Swain has shown,
paideia became the distinctive feature of the elite.98 On the other
hand, Gellius’ view of learning and intellectual life preserves some
distinctly Roman ideas of the gentleman-scholar, in which he
seems much indebted to Cicero. Many of these ideas are also
expressly evoked in Gellius’ preface, and though we tend to sus-
pect ancient prefatory propositions because of their conventional
nature, it appears that Gellius manages to adapt both the conven-
tional components Wguring in his preface and the conventions of
his literary kind to serve his declared goals and cultural pro-

G. Anderson, ‘Athenaeus’, 2183–4.
Swain, Hellenism and Empire, esp. 139–45, 308–29.
Educational Values
T er es a M o r g a n

The idea that the aim of Noctes Atticae is either education or ethics
has often been raised and almost as often dismissed. Miscellanists,
it has been pointed out, nearly always claim that their works are
useful, but in comparison with bona Wde educational writers, Gel-
lius is sketchy and unsystematic, having little or nothing to say
about the process or its precise content. As a work of ethics, Noctes
Atticae has crippling defects: ‘we miss Wrm guidance on ethical
choices likely to confront the reader’, says Holford-Strevens; in the
middle of a philosophical discussion, Gellius wanders oV into
antiquarianism; he raises questions he cannot answer, and: ‘If we
take Gellius’ protestations seriously, we shall be dismayed by the
yawning gulf between them and his practice.’1
In the terms in which it has been expressed, this is true enough.
Gellius does not oVer a full or systematic discussion of either ethics
or education. But in what follows I shall argue that there is room
for a broader deWnition of both subjects and that on this deWnition,
Noctes Atticae is both an educational and an ethical work.
It is safe to assume that most ethics in Gellius’ world was not
done in the style of high philosophy: theoretical, systematic,
exhaustive, and exact. (Not much of what philosophers wrote can
claim all those qualities, either.) People doubtless learnt, as they
still learn, ethical precepts, questions, and ways of thinking from
family, friends, and acquaintances, from the forum, the theatre,
the palace, and the barracks. And from literature, including plays,
mimes, epics, histories—anything that could be heard or read in
public or private. Like language, ethics could be picked up anyhow
L. A. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 1st edn. 31–3 (reconsidered in 2nd edn.
41–6) with useful bibliography at n. 75. R. Marache, Critique litte´raire, argues
that Favorinus regarded the liberal arts as adornment of the human spirit (255–7)
and practically good, but says he cannot see the moral point of most of the work
(261–3, 265); G. Maselli, Lingua, 81 points out the miscellaneous nature of Gellius’
188 Teresa Morgan

and sorted out later. Like language, it is unlikely that most people
felt the need for a theoretical grasp of ethics before practising it,
and most people probably never did grasp it as a system, even
supposing it was one. Ethics, in most people’s everyday lives, was
(and is) an incorrigibly unsystematic aVair. (This is not to say that
it has no logic at all: I think most people’s ethics do have some logic
to them, and I shall try to show that Gellius’ have.)
Teaching ethics was not the main aim of much of the literature
which found itself being read that way.2 But some works do clearly
have an ethical agenda. Didactic poetry, fables, collections of
gnomic quotations, works like the Book of Proverbs, the Sermon
on the Mount, and the Instruction of Ankhsheshonq are explicitly
ethical. They are also typically unsystematic, anecdotal, and any-
thing but exhaustive, to the point where it seems plausible to
suggest that the typical form of ancient Greek, Roman, and Near
Eastern ethical literature outside the realms of serious philosophy
was miscellaneous. This complements the unsystematic nature of
everyday ethical education I sketched above. To those of us who
have been educated in ethics as a branch of philosophy it still seems
very odd, but in the second half of the chapter I shall come back to
why it might in fact be highly functional. For now, we can say that
being a miscellany does not debar Noctes Atticae from being a work
of ethics. That does not prove it is one, but I shall try to show that
its content is also ethical.
Since even works of ethical theory by philosophers cannot be
divorced from the teaching of ethics themselves,3 ethical works are
by deWnition educational works of a kind. Miscellanies, too, usu-
ally claim to be educational in the broadest sense that they are
useful.4 (Not always, however, which makes it more likely that
we can trust Gellius when he does say so.) So it should not be
controversial to say that in a broad sense, Gellius is writing educa-
tionally. But in that broad a sense, so are many ancient authors.
Can we say that Noctes Atticae is meant to be educational in any
more precise and interesting sense?5

T. Morgan, Literate Education, chs. 3–4; cf. R. Lamberton, Homer, 22–31,
S. F. Bonner, Education in Ancient Rome, 240–4.
Attempts to do this have been discredited in recent years (so B. Williams,
Ethics, 72–4).
Plin. NH. pr. 12–16, Val. Max. 1 pr., Clem. Strom. 6. 2. 2 are among those who
claim to be useful; Athenaeus’ Deipnosophists and Plutarch’s miscellanies among
those that do not.
Given his wealth and devotion to the cultured life, it is surprising how few
authors Gellius cites (fewer than Quintilian recommends that children should read
Educational Values 189

I think we can. The preface makes a number of programmatic

statements. Gellius begins by saying that he is writing for his
children, to entertain them when they are relaxing from business
(§1). The fact that they are already grown up, or will be when they
read this, does not mean that he is not still trying to educate them.
This is one of the expanded senses in which a work can be educa-
tional, and not a particularly controversial one: we accept that
philosophers may be engaged in an educational process with
adult pupils, so why not Gellius?
Gellius explains that he has selected items quae aut ingenia
prompta expeditaque ad honestae eruditionis cupidinem utiliumque
artium contemplationem celeri facilique compendio ducerent aut
homines aliis iam uitae negotiis occupatos a turpi certe agrestique
rerum atque uerborum imperitia uindicarent (pr. 12). He calls these
primitias quasdam et quasi libamenta ingenuarum artium (pr. 13),
which implies that he hopes readers will go on to learn more by
themselves. Not to know this material, he says, is si non inutile, at
quidem certe indecorum, a common sentiment in educational texts
from elementary writing exercises upwards.6 Short of announcing
himself as a teacher, it is hard to see how Gellius could have made
it clearer that he regards this as at least partly an educational work.
There are good reasons why Gellius does not call himself a teacher.
Although education was highly valued in both the Greek and
Roman worlds, teachers, on the whole, were not. To deWne oneself
as a professional was to segregate oneself from the majority of the
educated upper class. On the other hand, it was normal for a wide
range of family, friends, and relations to take an informal interest
in the education of upper-class children. Pliny and Jerome are
among those who have left letters of guidance to parents or chil-
dren themselves about their education.7 Historically, young men
were lent to family friends and connections to learn how to behave
in public life. By announcing that his work is for the education of
at 1. 8. 5–12, 10. 1. 46–131). At lower social levels, papyrological evidence indicates
that the educational reading and copying of authors was highly selective, a few
authors and passages recurring widely across place and time (Morgan, Literate
Education, 100–19). It would be natural to assume that wealthier children (and
adults) read much more widely, and some evidently did. But perhaps fewer than
we assume: Gellius, and also Fronto, Apuleius, and Favorinus display reading
patterns much closer to those of their provincial cousins. The main diVerence is
that they seem to have read more widely in some central authors, notably Vergil.
P. Bouriant 1, Papyri from Mons Epiphanius II 615; Hagedorn–Weber,
Plin. Ep. 4. 13; Jerome, Ep. 107, 128; see T. Morgan, ‘Assessment’, 16–17;
H.-I. Marrou, Education, pt. 3, ch. 1, sect. ‘Family Education’, 232–4.
190 Teresa Morgan

his sons, then publishing it for the ediWcation of a wider public,

Gellius positions himself in the ranks of responsible Roman fathers
in a line from Cato the Elder.
Gellius emphasizes that his miscellany is going to include
material on grammar, dialectics, geometry, and law (pr. 13). Gram-
mar and geometry are staples of education above the most basic
level; philosophy and law, the classic higher education of wealthy
Romans. (It is striking that Gellius does not mention rhetoric here,
though he will include some stories about orators. Perhaps, like
other late Wrst-and second-century authors, he feels that rhetoric
is awkwardly placed in an era where serious deliberative oratory, at
least at Rome, is dead and forensic oratory compromised. It is
noticeable that even Fronto and Herodes Atticus are praised for
their general culture rather than speciWcally for their rhetoric.)
Apart from these programmatic statements, Noctes Atticae is
scattered with ideas which can be paralleled in educational
writings. In particular, though Gellius gives no indication that he
knows Quintilian’s recent Institutio Oratoria, the two share a
number of concerns. Gellius takes an interest in eugenics. At
12. 1 he has Favorinus tell a woman to breastfeed her own baby,
to make sure the baby does not imbibe another woman’s inferior
qualities.8 He censures children who eat and sleep too much: they
will not develop properly (4. 19). Like Quintilian, he believes that
natural talent plays a crucial, if not decisive, role in education, and
that having a good memory is particularly important.9 He quotes
Philip’s letter to Aristotle, in which Philip says that Alexander is
lucky to have been born in Aristotle’s lifetime, presumably because
he wants him to have the best possible education (9. 3).10 And like
Quintilian, Gellius regards the liberal arts as not just agreeable, but
useful, in both public and private life.11
It has been pointed out that if education is Gellius’ aim, a lot of
his material looks pretty unimproving.12 Could he not, at least,
have come up with a more suitable opening chapter? NA 1. 1
reports how Pythagoras worked out the height of Hercules, by

Cf. Ps.-Plut. De lib. educ. 3 c.
NA 5. 3; cf. Quint. Inst. 1 pr. 26, 1. 3. 1, Ps.-Plut. De lib. educ. 9 e, and for
the importance of memory in the NA S. M. Beall, below, 215---17.
At 7. 10 he reports Taurus as complaining, formulaically, that young men are
less keen on education than they used to be.
By not specifying that he expects his readers to be political rulers, Gellius
avoids Quintilian’s problem that he is, in theory, educating an entire class of orators
to rule, in a state where only one person rules at a time.
Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 40–1 [30].
Educational Values 191

taking the length of a foot in the stadium at Olympia, traditionally

paced out by the hero, and comparing it with the length of a foot in
other stadia. Hercules, he deduced, was taller than other men in
the same proportion as the course at Olympia was longer than
other courses. Now why is this either good or useful to know? It
is curious and erudite, which makes it a neat gobbet for dinner-
party conversation, and as such socially useful. It shows that
mathematics has a function beyond counting your revenue and
calculating your taxes, a point which Quintilian also makes against
the prejudices of other litterati (Inst. 1. 10. 34–49). But beyond
that, Gellius appears simply to be telling us that it is educational—
it is the kind of thing that is worth knowing. Why? Because it is the
kind of thing that people in his circle do know. And that, as I hope
to show by the end of the chapter, is not only an educational but an
ethical statement.
Noctes Atticae is clearly not intended to show systematically how
to acquire a conventional literate education. But if we look more
closely at the grammatical, mathematical, rhetorical, philosoph-
ical, and legal material, we can see Gellius making what one might
call a meta-educational argument: he is trying to show us why
education is worth having. Four reasons recur: it is enjoyable,
social, useful, and moral. And Gellius makes a considerable eVort
to show that these qualities (in variable proportions) are true of
even the driest technical material.
To judge by the zest with which Gellius reports numerous
disputes and points of grammar, he regards grammar as intrinsic-
ally interesting and entertaining. More surprisingly, perhaps,
grammar is a sociable activity: grammatical points are often pre-
sented as debates between rivals or put-downs of outsiders by
Gellius’ friends. At 2. 26. 1 we Wnd Gellius accompanying Favor-
inus on a visit to Fronto, who is laid up with the gout. Other
learned men are present, and a discussion develops about colours
and words for them. Another occasion (4. 1) Wnds Favorinus and
friends among a group of scholars and others in the entrance hall of
the Palatine palace, waiting to oVer salutatio to the emperor. An
ignorant grammarian starts an impromptu lecture on nouns, and
Favorinus takes him up, entertaining his friends, leading the topic
round to a moralizing conclusion, and making a fool of the gram-
marian to everyone else’s satisfaction. Another grammarian is the
victim of what Gellius reports as a lepidissima altercatio with
Favorinus about words with double meanings (8. 14). On a less
adversarial note, Gellius remembers Taurus’ philosophical
dinners in Athens, when all the guests had to bring an interesting
192 Teresa Morgan

topic for discussion. Stories like these show that for Gellius (as
nowadays), belonging to a group is one of the prime rewards of
education, all the better when the group can have fun at the
expense of people less learned, wise, or virtuous than themselves.
Grammar teaches other things too. It explains oddities of lan-
guage, and shows how Latin has changed since the time of the
earliest widely read authors—important to know in a culture
where to speak and write correctly is so important. Gellius tells
several stories about people who made themselves look foolish by
misunderstanding or misusing the language.13 But Gellius does not
by any means approve of all grammarians and their works. On
several occasions he defends favourite authors against critics who
accuse them of misusing language.14 This is an unusual attitude to
take in an educational context, perhaps because most of what we
hear about grammar comes from the pens of professionals. It im-
plies, though, a shrewd observation about the relationship between
education and culture. Grammarians were among the chief pre-
servers of the texts and status of canonical authors. But by anato-
mizing and criticizing them, they must have made them less
palatable to many readers, especially children—just as great poetry
is made less attractive to schoolchildren nowadays by being treated
with literary criticism. Worse, grammarians undermine the author-
ity of great authors by suggesting that they can make mistakes.
Highly as he values grammar, Gellius never forgets that it is
poets, orators, philosophers, and historians who make his cultural
world the rich one that it is, and that enjoying them is the main
point of education.
Still, grammar has its uses, and even beyond the literary sphere.
It can help to elucidate laws (11. 17) and explain religious practices
(5. 12). It can rule that to be religiosus is not a ‘great’ or absolute
virtue, on the basis of the grammatical formation of the word.15
Last but not least, Gellius is interested in the comparison of Greek
and Latin words and the relationships between them. He occasion-
ally records Greek origins for Latin words, and notes that both
languages contain barbarisms (8. 2, 13. 6). He talks about the
diYculties of translation, and compares Greek and Latin words

NA 1. 10, 6. 17, 8. 10, 11. 7. 3–6.
Cicero, 1. 7, 12. 2; Ennius, 12. 2; Quadrigarius and Lucilius, 1. 16; Vergil, 2. 6,
2. 16, 7. 6, 9. 10; Catullus, 7. 16.
NA 4. 9; Gellius raises the interesting question whether there are any ambigu-
ous words, but in two chapters where he discusses it (11. 12, 12. 9) comes to
diVerent conclusions; cf. 5. 12. 9–10, 9. 12, 16. 5. 6–7, 19. 7. 3.
Educational Values 193

for colours, for instance—and concludes that in some cases, Latin

is better equipped (2. 26).
This is part of Gellius’ interest in comparing Latin with Greek
culture in general, and since this comparison is a point of interest
among educational writers, it is worth reviewing brieXy. He begins
with what looks like a conventional move (1. 2): he has left Italy for
Greece in search of culture. But, and here he departs from conven-
tion, apparently not because Greek culture is better. Writing in
Greece and no doubt generally speaking Greek, he prefers to write
in Latin. He is capable of making conventional statements about
the superiority of Greek culture: at 2. 23 he says that Latin comedy
is less interesting than its Greek models and at 13. 27 that a line of
Vergil less good than one of Homer’s. But at other times, Latin
poets compare well with Greek. Ennius rivals Euripides at 11. 4; at
9. 9. 3–4 Vergil is praised as a translator of Homer and other poets,
and even improves on Theocritus. More often still, Gellius refers
to Greek and Latin literature as if they were a seamless garment. In
this, he is close to Quintilian and seems to have made a little
progress over writers of the previous two centuries, who found it
hard to be unequivocally proud of Latin literature other than
The educational value of philosophy, and sometimes even rhet-
oric, are as evident in Noctes Atticae as that of grammar. Being a
rhetorician, in his view, goes with authority and wisdom, two obvi-
ously socially functional, not to mention ethical qualities. Early on
he says that a true orator speaks like Odysseus, uirum sapienti
facundia praeditum, uocem mittere ait non ex ore, sed ex pectore,
quod scilicet non ad sonum magis habitumque uocis quam ad senten-
tiarum penitus conceptarum altitudinem pertineret . . . (1. 15. 3).
Elsewhere, he praises the wisdom of Demosthenes (10. 19. 3) and
the auctoritas and grauitas of the rhetorician Castricius, whom
Hadrian admired for his mores atque litteras (13. 22. 1). When the
rhetorician Antonius Julianus analyses a syllogism about debts of
money and debts of gratitude in Cicero’s Pro Cn. Plancio, he
teaches his audience something not only about language, but also
about Roman social and economic relations. Since this is Rome,
rhetoric is also a tool of social competition, and among those whom
Gellius praises for putting people down with a quick or clever
word are Hortensius (1. 5. 3), Demosthenes (1. 8), and Cicero
(12. 12).
The most important thing about rhetoric is that it should be
eVective, to the point that at 6.3 Gellius spends Wfty-Wve sections
showing why, despite the criticism of Tullius Tiro that it is not
194 Teresa Morgan

technically correct, Cato’s successful speech in defence of the

Rhodians is Wrst-class rhetoric. An anecdote about Demosthenes
and Philip (2. 27) shows that rhetoric has the power to make people
see things they have not realized before. Demosthenes describes
how Philip has suVered one injury and mutilation after another in
pursuit of conquest and ignores them all, bringing home to the
Athenians, as almost nothing else he said was able to do, just how
dangerous Philip was. All these stories act protreptically, to show
why rhetoric is worth studying—though the diVerence between
the opportunities open to Cicero or Demosthenes and those open
to Fronto or Herodes are tactfully ignored.
If good rhetoric is both morally and socially responsible and
eVective, philosophy is far more so. Almost all the philosophical
anecdotes Gellius records have some kind of moral point—indeed,
as has often been pointed out, other branches of philosophy appear
rather rarely, and Gellius is rather dismissive of them. The only
time he suggests that philosophy may not be for everyone, and that
too much of it may not be a good thing, is when he is recording two
philosophical disputes about the nature of vision and whether the
voice is corporeal (5. 15–16). The much admired Taurus is known
to us as a Platonist who wrote on cosmogony and commentated on
the Timaeus, but no hint of this comes through in Gellius, who is
interested only in Taurus’ moral ideas. Democritus is defended by
Gellius (10. 12), but we hear nothing about his natural philosophy,
only that he put out his own eyes in order to sharpen his mind
(10. 17).16
About moral philosophy, though, and also the social ideas and
behaviour of philosophers, Gellius is enthusiastic. He reports what
philosophers have to say about endurance (12. 5), fate and nature
(13. 1), and the dangers of public life (13. 28). He admires the way
Pythagoreans share their goods and form a societas inseparabilis
(1. 9. 12), Aristotle’s shrewdness in ruling the Lyceum (13. 5), the
wisdom of Solon as a lawmaker (2. 12), and the care with which
philosophers have considered in what circumstances, if any, it is
possible to bend or break the law (1. 3. 9). He is interested in
diVerent philosophers’ views about crime and punishment (7. 14),
anger (1. 26), friendship (8. 6), and obedience (2. 7). He also
pictures philosophy as an enjoyable and sociable activity, like
grammar, whose practitioners meet not only to talk but to eat,
drink, and relax together. At 10. 22. 24 he sums up his view of
philosophy: uirtutum omnium disciplina est . . . in publicis simul et
But is this a moral or a cautionary tale, or both?
Educational Values 195

priuatis oYciis excellit ciuitatesque et rempublicam, si nihil prohibeat,

constanter et fortiter et perite administrat . . . Philosophy teaches
one how to live; it makes good citizens, in both public and private
life. Gellius could hardly make it clearer why he thinks a philo-
sophical education is worth having.
A training in the law is a traditional part of Roman education,
whether it takes the form of memorizing the Twelve Tables,
following an experienced orator in his court appearances, or,
increasingly through the Imperial period, studying at some centre
of legal expertise. Noctes Atticae, however, is not designed to
promote the study of contemporary law, just as it is not con-
cerned—or concerned not—to draw a clear picture of contempor-
ary political life and how a man of culture might Wt into it. Most of
Gellius’ stories about the law, as about men and women in public
life in general, are historical anecdotes which illustrate the moral
role of the law in society. He comments approvingly, for instance,
that early Romans were frugal both by law and training (2. 24). We
hear how censors punish people for bad manners (4. 20) as well as
for neglecting their land or their public horse (6. 22),17 and how the
aediles once Wned the daughter of Appius Claudius Caecus for
arrogance (10. 6). In the course of a chapter on theft laws, Gellius
remarks that he should not pass over quam caste autem ac religiose a
prudentissimis uiris quid esset ‘furtum’ deWnitum sit (11. 18. 19).
Theft, on this deWnition, includes even thinking about stealing
something (§§23–4). It is clear that for Gellius, the moral force of
the law is one of its most important aspects. The majority of other
laws Gellius cites relate to the family: laws about marriage and
dowries (1. 6, 4. 3), pregnancy (3. 16), children (2. 15), adoption
(5. 19), adultery (10. 23), and slaves (4. 2, 6. 4). There is nothing
very surprising about this, since family law made up an important
division of Roman law, but it suggests that he thinks the family is
one of the arenas in which a good life is lived.
I have suggested that for Gellius, the life and pastimes of an
educated Roman are variously enjoyable, social, useful, and moral.
By presenting Noctes Atticae as educational, and making a feature
of grammar, dialectics, geometry, and law, he shows why a con-
ventional education is worth having: it leads to the kind of life that
it is desirable for an upper-class Roman to live. And this brings me
to my second claim. In what sense, if any, can this be called an
ethical work?

Gellius approves of people taking their share of responsibility for the state and
cites Solon’s law about it at 2. 12.
196 Teresa Morgan

Since Plato attributed it to Socrates in the Republic (352 d), the

deWning question of ethical enquiry has been, how should one live?
Gellius is obviously not conducting a systematic philosophical
enquiry into this question from Wrst principles.18 He never even
raises it in so many words. But it is impossible to read his notes,
quotes, and anecdotes without stumbling constantly over value
judgements: who and what is right and wrong, good and bad,
more and less laudable. Good and bad ways to live are implicit in
almost every chapter. This might mean no more than that authors
commonly have ethical views which tend to inform their works,
and we can excavate them if we like. Can we go further and say that
Gellius has an ethical project? If he does, what is it? In the absence
of a programmatic statement we cannot be sure of the Wrst, but his
statement of educational intent in the prologue, coupled with his
pervasive moral language, makes a highly suggestive combination.
And we can, I think, say that the reasons why Gellius has been
thought in the past not to have an ethical project, do not hold. We
have seen that being partial, anecdotal, and miscellaneous is no bar
to being an ethical text. A number of interesting ideas brought
forward by modern moral philosophers may help us understand
why it is a positive advantage.
In recent years, a number of philosophers have been independ-
ently crystallizing their objections to a cluster of ideas inherited
from Plato via Kant, which among other things characterized
ethical actors as rational agents, making detached choices, on
objective grounds, in favour of things which could ideally be
defended as universal goods, on the metaphysical basis that there
is such a quality as good-in-itself in which good things partake.19
(This is a broad-brush characterization of many subtly diVerent
positions, of course, but I hope not unrecognizable.) These
scholars do not follow another current trend, which is to downplay
the role of individuals in constructing societies: they all want to
believe that ethical actors exist. But in comparison with previous
writers, they think that people act on rather diVerent principles.
Ideas from two philosophers are particularly helpful as we try to
understand ancient miscellaneous ethical texts. In Situating the
Self, Seyla Benhabib argues that we should see ourselves not as
detatched rational intelligences, but as embedded and embodied in
our social contexts and individual histories. Our judgements and

Cf. A. D. Vardi, above, 179.
Williams, Ethics, 197, 201; S. Benhabib, Situating the Self, 3–5; P. Singer,
Practical Ethics, 2–4, 314–35.
Educational Values 197

decisions are aVected by the way we see ourselves and our environ-
ment, and becoming an ethical actor is a process of growth based
on intuitions interacting with the world around us.20 Benhabib
sees women, living mostly outside the mainstream of Western
intellectual history, as having a stronger sense of this kind of
identity than men. For the same reason, women are more attuned
than men to stories and examples as ways of explaining the nature
of the world and how we should live.21 ‘How one should live’ is not
for women a metaphysical question with an answer which theoret-
ically works for everyone, or even a whole class of people. It is a
practical, individual, context-dependent question, with no rules,
but with a wealth of stories and examples of how other people have
lived, to give us ideas and guidance.
I suspect that this way of approaching ethics is not so much
distinctive to women as true of most people outside philosophical
elites, and it may explain why stories, histories, chreiai, and collec-
tions of often mutually contradictory maxims are all widespread
forms of ethical text. Most people probably do not look for advice
to a system of ideas that coheres in the abstract, and they do not
expect detailed instructions for every moment they live. On the
other hand, it is certainly not true that every human experience and
situation is totally diVerent from anything that ever happened
before. A collection of stories of behaviours and attitudes that
worked well in particular situations gives a reader a repertoire of
ideas to add to other kinds of advice and experience: examples,
analogies, and horrible warnings, things to bear in mind, cast aside
as irrelevant, adapt to one’s own situation, or take over wholesale.
It is as easy to imagine many of Gellius’ stories working like that,
as it is hard to imagine them adding up to a philosophical theory.
And if it sounds like a recipe for social chaos, it is not, because in
practice, in ethics as in most other things, most people are not
radical individualists, and tend to follow the example of those
around them, modifying it only marginally to suit their own cir-
cumstances. A society coheres by being made up of many overlap-
ping ethical communities whose individuals have much, if not
everything, in common in the way they interpret precedents and
the way they behave.
In Natural Goodness, Philippa Foot pursues another idea which
may also be helpful here. She argues that moral evil is ‘a kind of
natural defect’ and that what makes a human being good, like a
plant or an animal, is doing or being what one is meant to do or be;
20 21
Benhabib, Situating the Self, 5–8. Ibid. 14.
198 Teresa Morgan

‘human defects and excellencies are . . . related to what human

beings are and what they do.’22 Being good means being good of
one’s kind. Justice, for instance, is a virtue because we are social
animals and justice is necessary to keep us living together in
As philosophical theories, both Benhabib’s and Foot’s ideas are
open to criticism. It is hard to see how Benhabib avoids relativism,
or explains how, if the way we think is even partly determined by
environment, there are such things as reliable ethical intuitions.
Foot also has diYculty avoiding relativism, and seems to assume
that it is not too hard to discern what it is natural for human beings
to be and do, while many of us would think that from our (or
Romans’) position within a highly developed and complex society,
what is natural to human beings is a formidably complex, if not
irrecoverable question. But what each of them puts forward is
an important intuition about the way most people think. Most
people think in concrete, situational, biographical terms. For
most people, being good probably does mostly mean being good
of one’s kind: being a good mother, or farmer, or senator; doing
what it makes sense for you to do, and quite likely your neighbour
and possibly your patron too, though quite possibly not your
emperor or your wife or slave, and certainly not some abstract
being in unidentiWed circumstances in a theoretical world.
If such common intuitions are an unsatisfactory basis for a
philosophical argument, it does not matter, because hardly anyone
thinks in terms of arguments, let alone lets them govern everyday
life. To identify and understand a sub-philosophical ethical text,
what we need are ordinary intuitions. These two intuitions to-
gether help us to understand how Gellius’ ethics, and those of
other miscellanies, work.
What Gellius understands as a good life, I suggest, is one in
which he and his friends are able to live in accordance with their
birth, education, and interests; one in which they can Xourish in
the future in a way which is connected to their past and their sense
of potential; in fact, they want to be able to be good of their kind.
Gellius does not worry about presenting a complete set of precepts
for every social group; on the other hand, he does not exclude the
possibility of others’ being good of their kind in diVerent ways—
women, for example.23
Gellius has been written oV as an ethicist because reformation of
manners is not his aim.24 This too, I think, is a misunderstanding
22 23
P. Foot, Natural Goodness, 5–9, 15. NA 6. 1, 7. 7, 13. 4.
Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 43 [34].
Educational Values 199

of what ethical texts do. Some radical and anti-social texts, and
groups, certainly aim to change things (one thinks of the Essenes or
some early Christians). More probably aim to teach people to
function in the world as it is, and present themselves as uncontro-
versial. Presenting oneself as uncontroversial might also be a rhet-
orical ploy, of course, to cover a degree of innovation. Either way,
the fact that Gellius does not claim to be saying anything original,
and may well not be, does not mean this is not an ethical text.
What, then, can we say about Gellius’ ethics? We can tell a good
deal about the kind of people with whose good life he is concerned,
by the stories he tells. Emperors appear in them only rarely, but
aristocrats and the well-to-do down to Gellius’ own relatively
modest level are everywhere. Women and slaves make occasional
appearances. Educated men from east and west belong to the same
group, but there is also a strong sense of the boundary between
Romans and foreigners, even if it is mainly expressed through
stories of past wars. Male, free, Roman, educated, wealthy, not
necessarily high-born but a touch snobbish: this Wts what we know
of Gellius’ own background and it would make sense if it were also
his target audience.
For such people, the good life is not lived in isolation. They
belong, principally and simultaneously, to three types of group:
the Roman state, friendship groups, and families. In this Gellius
diVers, for instance, from Epictetus, who claims the whole world
for his context, or early Christians, who are mainly interested in
their immediate social context and the Kingdom of Heaven.25
Noctes Atticae abounds in stories which show the importance of
the state. A favourite type is the story of great men who sank their
political diVerences for the common good, like Aemilius Lepidus
and Fulvius Flaccus, when they were elected censors together
(12. 8. 5–6), or Ti. Sempronius Gracchus when he had an oppor-
tunity to imprison L. Scipio Asiaticus (6. 19), or Gaius Fabricius
when Cornelius RuWnus was a candidate for the consulship (4. 8).
Then there are the stories of heroic military exploits in the state’s
defence: Horatius Cocles and T. Manlius Torquatus are here,
along with L. Sicinius Dentatus the ‘Roman Achilles’, Atilius
Regulus, Valerius Corvinus, Q. Caedicius, and highlights of the
careers of such as P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus and Q. Caecilius
Metellus Numidicus. Famous generals like Africanus or
C. Fabricius are remembered for embodying Romanitas oV the
battleWeld too, as on the occasion when a group of grateful
Epict. 1. 9. 1–7, 2. 10. 3–4, 3. 24. 9–10; W. A. Meeks, Origins, ch. 3.
200 Teresa Morgan

Samnites oVered Fabricius a large sum of money in return for his

many acts of kindness to them. Fabricius, passing his hands over
his ears, eyes, nose, mouth, throat, and genitals, replied proudly
that as long as he could restrain all these organs, he had no need of
money (1. 14).
The importance of having friends shines through the work, with
its many reminiscences of the times Gellius spent in the circles of
Apollinaris, Taurus and Favorinus, Fronto and Herodes Atticus.
It is among groups of friends that otium is enjoyed, literature and
philosophy discussed, conversation honed, opinions forged, and
people improve themselves and show that they are higher than the
animals (pr. 16). We may suspect that patronage must have fea-
tured as largely as friendship in Gellius’ own life, but he has very
little to say about it, evidently not regarding it as one of the
deWning features of a good group. When he does mention it, he
emphasizes the honour in which patrons and clients should hold
each other, rather than contracts, favours, or obligations, putting
himself in a distinguished tradition of clients who have presented
clientela as far as possible as a form of amicitia. At 5. 13 he records a
discussion about the honour in which various groups of people
ought to be held. The participants agree that parents hold the
highest honour, followed by wards, clients, guests, and other rela-
tions by blood and marriage. At 12. 4 he quotes with high approval
some verses of Ennius on how one should behave to a higher-
ranking friend, and glosses them by saying that such a man should
be tactful, courteous, modest, faithful, restrained and proper in
speech, knowledgeable, and trustworthy with secrets: in other
words, hardly distinguishable from any good friend.
Members of Gellius’ group are expected to have families, but
despite addressing his work to his sons, he is not very interested in
families as social groups, though he does admire lines like the
Scipiones or the Porcii which have many famous members. Several
stories about fathers and sons are really about how you behave to
another man in public when he happens to be related to you.26
Marriage is a means of improving one’s political or social status
(2. 15); in itself it is neither good nor bad (1. 6), but a bad one will
teach you endurance, which is useful in life in general (1. 17).
Women can contribute to the fame of a family by bearing excep-
tional children, or by being the objects of conspicuous chivalry like

NA 2. 2. At 1. 23, the emphasis is on the fact that father and son share a public
life which is closed to the wife and mother; at 2. 7, interestingly, sons are not obliged
to obey their fathers just because they are their fathers.
Educational Values 201

that of P. Scipio Africanus to an unnamed Spanish woman, or

Alexander the Great towards Darius’ wife (7. 8. 3).27 Gellius
seems to have some interest here in minimizing conXicts between
public and private spheres of life; he does it by indicating that
men’s main existence is on the public side of it. Interestingly, he
also argues, though perhaps with less than absolute conviction
(1. 3. 14–20), that if it comes to a clash between the public interest
and one’s friends, friendship comes Wrst.
If the state, groups of friends and to a lesser extent one’s family
are the spheres within which Gellius imagines people living good
lives, he has a much weaker sense of metaphysical context. He
includes Chrysippus’ views on Fate and Providence (7. 1–2) and
says that Time brings evil deeds to light (12. 11). He shares the
view common in wisdom literature that what goes around, comes
around: bad advice will somehow eventually ruin the giver (4. 5).
He quotes, with approval, Pericles as saying that one ought to help
one’s friends, but only as far as the gods allow (1. 3. 20), and
Metellus as saying that we should not expect the gods to be more
indulgent to us than our parents when we do wrong (1. 6. 8). He
observes that to the Romans, oaths are sacred (6. 18. 1), and reports
that Valerius Corvinus had divine help when he defeated the leader
of the Gauls in 349 bce (9. 11). He is conventionally pious, but that
Gellius has any strong personal sense that his ethics are divinely
ordained seems unlikely.
The real guarantor of ethics for Gellius is the social group itself.
The eVect of his carefully selected stories of Roman history is to
tell us not just that some Romans have been good generals, good
politicians, or good men, but that you can take your moral bearings
from looking at the Roman past, which implies that what good
Romans do is good. Gellius knows, and his readers know, that
there are other stories of Roman history to be told, but because
they are suppressed here, being good, being Roman, and being a
good Roman are eVectively equated.
Within this framework, Gellius uses a wide vocabulary of praise
and blame. Among the qualities he praises are friendship, duty,
self-control, endurance, modesty, temperance, bravery, frugality,
wisdom, masculinity, resilience, good manners, nobility, loyalty,
attachment, self-respect, dignity, tact, obedience, anger, reconcili-
ation, pleasure, courtesy, faithfulness, restraint, propriety, keeping

Few women, unsurprisingly, appear in their own right: notably Acca Larentia,
Gaia Taracia (7. 7), and Artemisia (10. 18); also Roman women as a group (11. 6).
Cf. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 308–13.
202 Teresa Morgan

conWdences, and ‘virtue’ itself. Among those he censures are theft,

adultery, avarice, arrogance, fastidiousness, and neglect of duty.
I have set these down in no particular order because it is impos-
sible to establish that they have any order within the work. But
there are various ways we can classify them, which do tell us a little
more about the ethical landscape of Gellius’ world. For a start,
some come up more often than others. The commonest, and pre-
sumably the most important to Gellius (they come up three times
or more) are frugality, bravery, obedience, and group solidarity.28
We hear, for instance, that early Romans were frugal by both law
and training (2. 24), that one who has much needs much (9. 8) and
that it is better to lack much and desire less (13. 24), and that
repeated bravery made Rome the power she is.
Some virtues are described as always good, while others depend
on circumstances. Duty, self-control, endurance, modesty, tem-
perance, bravery, civic involvement, group solidarity, frugality,
masculinity, resilience, nobility, loyalty, self-respect, dignity,
tact, appropriate behaviour, truthfulness, and morality in war are
always good. Among the things which are not always good are
wealth, friendship, obedience, anger, conciliatoriness, pleasure,
courtesy, modesty, faithfulness, restraint, and conWdentiality.
Very few of these terms tell us speciWcally what to do or not
to do. We should not lie, steal, or commit adultery—and that is
about it. A great many, however, tell us how to do things: they are
executive virtues, like courage, self-control, courtesy, loyalty, tact,
endurance, obedience, resilience, restraint, and so on. It is worth
noting that all the virtues which come up most often are in this
class: apart from that one should not lie, steal, or adulter, how one
behaves is evidently more important to Gellius than precisely
what one does. It is also worth noting that apart from obedience,
all the virtues which come up most often are ones which are always
A high proportion of Gellius’ virtues are relational: you have to
have someone to practise them on. Tact, courtesy, loyalty, attach-
ment, duty, civic involvement, and obedience are good examples.
The perfect poorer friend of 12. 4 needs a richer friend, the
chivalrous general of 7. 8 a helpless female, the good Roman
Rome. (Self-control, self-respect, endurance, and temperance
are examples of those which one could practise equally well in

Marache, Critique litte´raire, 273–80 identiWes frugality, loyalty, and dignity as
paradigmatic of ancient Romans; dignity is not often praised in so many words
(though often implied); bravery is.
Educational Values 203

solitude.) There is a high correlation between circumstantial and

relational virtues, which suggests that right behaviour often
depends on who you are and how you relate to others.
We can put these observations together to draw a picture of a
world in which a good life is sometimes a matter of individual
choice and self-discipline, but where the groups, large and small,
that people live in are more important. Within groups, there are
a few things which no one should do—lie, steal, or commit
adultery—but absolute demands are few, and more common are
stronger and weaker norms, which guide rather than dictating
behaviour. Most ethics are executive, where what matters is not
what you do but how you do it. This makes it possible for people to
hold many diVerent positions in the group, but the same prin-
ciples. The fact that some absolute virtues are not relational, but
that group solidarity is one of them, suggests that in Gellius’ moral
world individuals and groups exist in some tension, each claiming
priority. Philosophers have faced this problem before, but not
being a serious philosopher, Gellius does not try to solve the
tensions he expresses.
Nothing in this world is expressed as a straightforward demand,
human or from a higher power, and even Gellius’ few moral
absolutes are expressed by stories or put in the mouths of philoso-
phers. Instead of telling his readers outright to take part in public
life, Gellius recommends Solon’s law about it (2. 12). He indicates
that theft is absolutely condemned by discussing only what the
punishment should be (11. 18). The message is not, you must
behave like this, but, if you want to belong to this group, this is
how we behave (though, as Gellius observes at 6. 12, even our
customs change).
Such a text might represent the ethical complexities of Gellius’
own life or world-view, but would it work as an educational text?
Could any reader take such a jumble of praise and blame, maxims
and examples, and work out how to behave from it, or even have his
existing ideas meaningfully reinforced or eVectively challenged?
The fact that so many ethical texts are as disorganized as this one
strongly suggests that there must be a way of using them eVec-
tively. And here the insights of Benhabib and Foot may give us a
clue. Clearly these texts do not work by trying to provide exhaust-
ively for the situations of all possible readers: that approach would
either produce a rigidly narrow set of commandments or an inWnite
quantity of material. They do not explicitly legislate for any par-
ticular community. If readers are to make sense of the material,
they must be bringing something to it themselves—identifying
204 Teresa Morgan

material and imposing an order which makes sense to them.

I suggest that we imagine every reader as a key which unlocks the
text in a unique way. He brings to it his own history, circum-
stances, hopes, and expectations; he brings his understanding of
himself, his environment and the relationship between them;
he brings a willingness to take the ethics of this particular text
seriously; he takes from it whatever strikes him as helpful, challen-
ging, reassuring, or improving. There are guidelines implicit in the
text—it would be hard to read it and conclude that treason, theft,
or self-indulgence are acceptable—but within limits, every reader,
on every reading, could take away something diVerent.
We now begin to see why ethical miscellanies might be highly
socially functional. They are capable of guiding readers to a
degree, by deWning the subjects they should be thinking about.
By including some ideas and not others, some ideas more often
than others, and more diverse judgements on some ideas than
others, they create not a system, but as it were a constellation of
possibilities by which individuals and groups can navigate. By
presenting themselves in the form of stories, exempla, precepts,
chreiai, and sayings, they tell us that these values go with the
society, or the social group, whose stories, and so on, they are.
This creates an eVective tautology: being a good member of the
group is the same as being a good member of the group, because
goodness means by deWnition being good of one’s kind. Finally,
these texts make it possible for any number of people to feel that
they belong to the same society, by using the same ethical material,
while living any number of diVerent lives.
This, Wnally, is why I think it is fair to regard Gellius as having
an ethical agenda. As we have seen, he presents not a philosophical
theory, but a far from incoherent map of an ethical landscape in
which at least people of a certain fairly elastic social stratum can
operate as good Romans. Some features of this landscape are more
important than others, and there is more than one pathway
through it, but that is part of what makes it work. It allows people
to live diVerent lives without losing their shared identity, and it
provides a handbook of ethics which is certainly of his choosing,
but which, he can claim, is drawn from Roman society and Graeco-
Roman culture themselves.
It is notable that nearly all Gellius’ stories about historical
heroes are about Romans, with the occasional adopted hero such
as Alexander. Committed as he is to the equal status of Greek and
Latin literature in the creation of a cultural and ethical community,
when it comes to historical exemplars he is much less ready to
Educational Values 205

admit foreigners. Is this patriotism, or bending to the prejudice of

his likely readership, or an assertion that since Rome is the most
powerful state, it must have the most moral leaders? Perhaps
something of all these. What is less clear is whether he would
expect only Roman readers to accept Roman role-models—how
far this is a community-speciWc ethical work—or indeed,
who would count as a ‘Roman reader’. Perhaps in a century in
which Aelius Aristides could describe the walls of the city as
conterminous with the ends of the earth,29 Gellius is deliberately
enclosing everyone in the same fold, and making Roman ethics
everyone’s ethics.
Every surviving miscellany with an ethical dimension is likely to
be subtly diVerent in emphasis. Gellius makes more of a feature of
the state and loyalty to it than does Epictetus; he is concerned with
a good quality of life where fables tend to concentrate on just
getting by. Valerius Maximus is more interested in the gods,
Seneca and Marcus Aurelius in the role of the emperor, to give
just a few examples. But all these, and others, also have areas of
overlap which make it easy to imagine readers of them all (some of
them the same readers, too) being able to operate, within their
diVerent social groups, in the same state. And that trick, of being
both speciWc and general, both Xexible and inclusive, is part of
what makes this such a successful work.

Aelius Aristides, To Rome, 61; cf. Dio, Or. 1. 42.
Gellian Humanism Revisited
S t e p he n M . B ea ll

Scholarship has its seasons: criticism of Aulus Gellius is no excep-

tion. Faithfully copied in the Middle Ages and imitated in the
Renaissance, Gellius fell on hard times towards the end of the
nineteenth century, when he was dismissed as an ‘insipid’ anti-
quarian, ‘devoid of imaginative power’.1 The mid-twentieth cen-
tury saw a curious reaction, in which he was portrayed as a kind of
Roman Shaftesbury: a miscellanist with a partially concealed, but
earnest philosophical agenda.2 More recent scholarship has oVered
other, somewhat divergent accounts of his intentions and charac-
ter. Nevertheless, we still Wnd ourselves asking, what was Aulus
Gellius ‘all about’? Can we identify a set of core values or attitudes
that motivated and informed his work? What, if any, relevance do
these values have today?

1. marache’ s humanisme gellien

One of the Wrst scholars to tackle these questions directly was René
Marache, the late editor of the Budé Nuits Attiques and the author
of several studies on Gellian topics.3 It was Marache who coined
the term ‘Gellian humanism’ to designate a complex of judgements

H. Nettleship, ‘Noctes Atticae’, 414–15 ¼ 276; cf. R. Ohl, ‘Literateur’, 99 and
passim. E. Yoder, ‘Classical Scholar’, 293–4, is somewhat more generous. On
Gellius’ more positive reception in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, see L. A.
Holford-Strevens, below, Ch. 10, A. Grafton, below, Ch. 12, H. Baron, ‘Aulus
Gellius in the Renaissance’, and S. Beall, Civilis eruditio, 209–37.
For an overview of this strand of Gellian scholarship, see L. A. Holford-
Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 42 n. 75 [33 n. 75]. Its chief exponent, after R. Marache
(discussed below), was H. Berthold; see e.g. his ‘Interpretationsprobleme’, esp.
See the appreciation by M. L. Astarita, ‘Un evoluzione’, 173–5.
Gellian Humanism Revisited 207

about the ‘good life’ and the kind of learning most conducive to it.4
The key to Gellius’ programme, as Marache described it, is the

P ØŒØ, quoted from Heracleitus in pr.
12.5 This implies a rejection of all so-called knowledge that appeals
to one’s curiosity, but has no ‘use’ in the conduct of life. Thus
puriWed, Gellian erudition is the very antithesis of pedantry and
aVectation of learning; what counts is to know how to live and to
live accordingly. Marache added that this equation of ‘true’ know-
ledge with ‘the wisdom of life’ can be traced, by way of popular
philosophy, back to Socrates;6 it resonates as well with the golden
age of Roman antiquity, which Gellius so much admired.7 In Wne,
Gellius’ ideal is fundamentally ‘humanist’ because man, or human
moral agency, is the measure of all things.8
Recent critics, however, have not found Marache’s arguments for
the ‘doctrine of limitation’ and the ‘primacy of morality’ altogether
convincing. Leofranc Holford-Strevens put the problem most
succinctly: if we take Marache’s Gellian loci at face value, ‘we
shall be dismayed by the yawning gulf between them and his prac-
tice.’9 At times, Gellius himself seems aware of self-contradiction.
In one chapter, for example, he introduces a list of miracula with a
curious disclaimer: haec inuiti meminimus, quia pertaesum est (10. 12.
1; cf. 9. 4. 12).10 Perhaps we can make allowance for a few such
‘involuntary’ digressions, but the Nights contain many other things
that have little to do with the conduct of life. This prompts us to
ask, again with Holford-Strevens, whether Gellius’ professions of
utility were ‘conventional clichés that took away the need to devise
a guiding principle, and whose mechanical repetition dulled the
perception of conXict or neglect’.11
While this view remains attractive, two elements of Marache’s
thesis cannot, in my opinion, be entirely dismissed. The Wrst is the

4 5
Marache, Critique litte´raire, 249. Edn. i, p. xxiv.
Ibid., pp. xxvii f., ‘Mise en scène’, 85, Critique litte´raire, 261–2.
Edn. i, pp. xxx f., Critique litte´raire, 249, 273–86.
Critique litte´raire, 256; edn. i, p. xxiv. Marache’s understanding of ‘humanism’
is somewhat broader than Gellius’ deWnition of humanitas (13. 17), although the
latter also has an ethical component; cf. R. Kaster, ‘ ‘‘Humanitas’’ and Roman
Education’, esp. 6–7.
Aulus Gellius, 1st edn. 32. Marache himself seems to have been conscious of
this diYculty: ‘en dépit de lui-même il [Gellius] reste un érudit qui dit du mal de
l’érudition, et tomberait sous le coup de sa propre théorie, si la foi en la vertu
rédemptrice de l’antiquité ne le sauvait’ (edn. i, p. xxxvi, cf. Critique litte´raire,
I use the corrected OCT text of P. K. Marshall (Oxford, 1990).
Aulus Gellius, 42 [32].
208 Stephen M. Beall

idea that a ‘Socratic’ theme runs through the Attic Nights,

investing the entire work, such as it is, with a philosophical quality.
The second element—which is related to the Wrst—is the assump-
tion that, for Gellius, certain kinds of learning are more ‘useful’
and valuable than others because they improve one’s quality of
life.12 In these two respects, I believe, Marache tapped into the
complicated thinking of our author, and so points the way to a
modiWed, but still coherent notion of ‘Gellian humanism’.

2. sympotic philosophy
We may begin, then, with the Wrst of Marache’s intuitions, and
follow the ‘Socratic’ thread in the Attic Nights. If Marache himself
eventually lost this thread, it is because he focused his later work
on popular philosophy or ‘diatribe’ (la diatribe), in which Cynic
and Stoic themes predominate.13 The error is understandable; in
several chapters, Gellius evinces an interest in Stoic ethics and
cosmology (1. 2, 7. 1, 7. 2, 12. 5, 17. 19, 19. 1), and he claims to
have paid frequent visits to the famous Cynic Peregrinus ‘Proteus’
(12. 11. 1; cf. 8. 3. cap.). Nevertheless, it stands to reason that his
primary allegiance was not to the Stoa, but to the ‘Academy’.14 He
was, after all, a pupil of L. Calvenus Taurus, himself a disciple of
Plutarch (1. 26. 4). While in Athens, Gellius studied the Platonic
dialogues in some detail, and (as H. A. S. Tarrant has shown) some-
times reXects the subtle commentaries of his teacher.15 Gellius also
presents himself as a sectator and intimate of the philosopher-
orator Favorinus of Arles (14. 2. 11). Favorinus evidently
regarded himself as an ‘Academic’ in the sceptical tradition of the
school (cf. 20. 1. 9),16 and made the life and character of Socrates a
particular object of study (2. 1. 3).17 These two Wgures, then,

Critique litte´raire, 258–66.
Marache’s concept of ‘diatribe’ was inXuenced by A. Oltramare, Les Origines
de la diatribe romaine (Lausanne, 1926); see ‘Mise en scène’, 89 n. 20, and edn. i,
pp. xxvii–xxx.
That is, to the Academici of his day, especially in the line of Plutarch; the
school itself had evidently ‘disintegrated’. See D. N. Sedley, OCD3 , s.v. Academy.
‘Platonic Interpretation’, esp. 177–87.
See A. M. Ioppolo, ‘The Academic Position of Favorinus’, esp. 188–96, and
Holford-Strevens, ‘Favorinus’, 207–17, esp. 213–17 on the disagreements between
Academics and Pyrrhonians.
Ioppolo, ‘Academic Position of Favorinus’, 212 n. 110; see also J. Opsomer,
‘Favorinus versus Epictetus’, esp. 28–9.
Gellian Humanism Revisited 209

provided Gellius with a double claim to aYliation with the ‘So-

cratic’ enterprise, as mediated by the Academy.
This aYliation is important. For as Marache demonstrated,
Gellius owed as much to the ambience and dramatic repertory of
philosophy as to its doctrinal content. Not only did he adapt the
formal elements of ‘diatribe’ literature (the chreia, memoir, and
informal sermon) to the chapters of the Attic Nights,18 but he also
appropriated an important vehicle of the Academic tradition: the
erudite banquet or symposium.19 Gellius indicates the importance
of this genre by giving Taurus himself, on two occasions, the role
of symposiarch (7. 13, 17. 8); the topics discussed are, not surpris-
ingly, reminiscent of Plutarch’s Quaestiones sympoticae.20 Gellius,
however, seems especially interested in the setting and ‘ground
rules’ of the philosophic feast. We learn, for example, that Taurus
served a very simple meal, consisting of beans and gourds (17. 8.
2). In 7. 13, Gellius spends nearly half the chapter describing the
‘fee’ for admission to Taurus’ dinners: his young guests had to
bring their own ‘sweetmeats’ in the form of intellectual puzzles for
discussion (§12). Delicacies of this sort, Gellius notes, represent a
healthy alternative to the kind enjoyed at most banquets (§2); they
also help to stimulate the mind when it has been mellowed by
drinking (§4). Throughout, Gellius seems as much concerned
with the ‘how’ of these symposia as with the ‘what’.
This double focus, I believe, enables him to adapt the philo-
sophical banquet to his own purposes. If what counts is not so
much the content of these conversations as the ‘respectable’ mode
of entertainment they represent, all similar banquets become
‘philosophical’. We note, for example, the similarity between
Taurus’ pot-luck feasts (7. 13. 2)21 and the Saturnalia that Gellius
and his fellow Romans celebrated in Athens (18. 2. 1–6; cf. 18. 13.
1–6). Here, too, the entertainment consisted mainly of brain-
teasing quaestiunculae. In a list of the topics featured at such
gatherings (18. 2. 6), Taurus’ captiones are inserted into a broader

Edn. i, pp. xxxi–xxxvi; ‘Mise en scène’, 86–8.
Edn. i, xxxii f.; ‘Mise en scène’, 85.
See Beall, ‘Aulus Gellius 17. 8’, 58–9; Marache, ‘Mise en scène’, 85. Gellius
himself hints at the connection at 7. 13. cap. with the expression quaestiunculae
[Editorial note: This is US English for E
I e ı
ºH . There seems to
be no British equivalent; ‘to take pot luck’ is to have whatever one’s hosts are
preparing for themselves. When in 1967 a translation was needed for Ter. Eun.
540 in Eduard Fraenkel’s Oxford seminar, an Australian participant volunteered
‘Dutch shout’. L.A.H.-S.]
210 Stephen M. Beall

context, which includes the investigation of ‘rare and unusual

words’ and of oddities in verbal syntax. As Iancu Fischer noted,
the whole list gives us a fair summary of the Attic Nights.22 It is
remarkable, then, that Gellius feels obliged to justify these parties
with a bon mot from the venerable Stoic Musonius Rufus: ‘to relax
one’s mind is like losing it’ (18. 2. 1). Evidently, he wants to
emphasize that these early experiments in ‘good clean fun’ (hone-
stae sermonum inlectationes, 18. 2. 1; cf. honesta alea, 18. 13. 1) had a
philosophical foundation. This fusion of philosophy and respect-
able polymathy also characterizes his post-graduate dinners. On
one occasion, we Wnd him reclining with Favorinus, the ‘philoso-
pher’, as he ponders a Latin etymology (3. 19. 1). On another, he is
the guest of the ‘poet’ Julius Paulus, who, like Taurus, feeds his
tablemates with vegetables and fruit (19. 7. 1).23 At table, distinc-
tions of genre and profession are blurred; what counts, as Muso-
nius would say, is to stimulate the mind while keeping one’s head.
Marache’s thesis, then, receives some paradoxical support from
Gellius’ banquet scenes. Philosophy does indeed furnish a general
model of inquiry in the Attic Nights. It appears most signiWcantly,
however, in its convivial, Plutarchan guise, which is expanded to
include all the artes ingenuae. This model does not exclude a certain
ascetical commitment, symbolized by Taurus’ pot of beans. In the
last analysis, however, this discipline more closely resembles the
‘mindfulness diet’ of aZuent Californians than the Stoic method of
training for hard times. One episode, perhaps, best illustrates the
relationship in Gellius between ‘sympotic’ philosophy and moral
diatribe. At an elegant dinner in the home of Herodes Atticus, a
young Stoic advertises his learning and moral convictions to the
annoyance of all present (1. 2. 3–5). Herodes rebukes him with a bit
of authentic diatribe, borrowed from Epictetus (§§8–12). The occa-
sion shows that moral philosophy has its place—provided that it
occurs in aid, rather than to the detriment, of a pleasant dinner.

3. the elegant gadfly

We should not be too quick, however, to limit Gellius to the
status of philosophical ‘couch potato’. For as Marache observed,

In D. Popescu’s translation, p. lxix n. 2.
Compare also Favorinus’ table discourse on winds (2. 22) and a conversation
about oysters hosted by ‘the poet Annianus’ (20. 8). At 19. 9. 9–10, the rhetor
Antonius Julianus assumes the veil of Socrates to defend Latin elegy.
Gellian Humanism Revisited 211

Favorinus provides a diVerent link to the Socratic tradition by

showing how the homme bien élevé should conduct himself
in public.24 Not only his good manners, but also his profession of
Academic Ø (20. 1. 9) made Favorinus an ideal dialogue
partner (2. 26, 20. 1) and even referee (18. 1. cap.). These qualities
also enabled him to challenge, in Socraticum modum, the preten-
sions of self-inXated ‘experts’ in other Welds, including grammar
(4. 1. cap.). As Marache noted, we Wnd Gellius imitating his
mentor’s behaviour in a similar encounter, in which he challenged
a professor to deWne the word obnoxius (6. 17).25 Gellius maintains
that he posed the question non hercle experiundi uel temptandi
gratia, sed discendi magis studio et cupidine (§1). The Socratic para-
digm, now applied to grammar, is Wrmly in place.26
One wonders, of course, to what extent Favorinus’ scepticism
was a convenient rhetorical strategy; he could argue any side of any
question, while remaining free of limiting and compromising
philosophical commitments. As I have suggested elsewhere,27 Gel-
lius may have adopted a similar strategy in his self-presentation in
the Attic Nights. What remains to be seen, however, is whether, as
Alain Michel suggested, Gellius adopted a ‘Pyrrhonian’ method in
his approach to philosophy and other subjects.28 This would help
to explain his handling, or rather non-handling, of controversial
questions such as the extent of one’s obligation to help a friend in
trouble (1. 3) or to obey an order (1. 13). He also relates that while
serving as judge extraordinary, he recused himself from a morally
ambiguous case (14. 2. 25)—in spite of contrary advice from
Favorinus himself.29 For each of these problems, Gellius sets out
alternative opinions and explores their dialectical weaknesses,
just as Favorinus, at Ostia, pointed out a Xaw in the Aristotelian
critique of Stoicism (18. 1. 12–13). The solution, however, remains
‘up for grabs’. In more speculative contexts, as Tarrant has

Critique litte´raire, 253–7.
‘Mise en scène’, 88; cf. NA 16. 6. 1–12. Gellius is somewhat more peevish, but
no less ironic at 15. 9. 7. A Socratic persona is also attributed to Sulpicius Apollin-
aris (18. 4. 1).
Compare also the uerecunda mediocritas of an unnamed friend (7. 15. 5) and the
placidity of Favorinus towards the irascible Domitius (18. 7. 4). In praise of this
virtue, Gellius invokes the authority of Q. Metellus Numidicus (7. 11).
Beall, ‘Favorinus’, 101–4.
‘Rhétorique et philosophie’, 40–3.
It is noteworthy that Favorinus, while giving Gellius some direction on the
point at issue, incidentally proposed several other questions about which ‘there is
disagreement’ (§§12–19).
212 Stephen M. Beall

suggested,30 Gellius seems to adopt the ‘sceptical’ strategy of

setting out contradictory opinions and then dismissing them as
irrelevant. Thus his commentaries on the nature of voice and
vision (5. 15, 5. 16) end with the Ennian line, philosophandum est
paucis, nam omnino haud placet.31 Finally, Gellius seems to relish
opportunities to defend what appear, at Wrst glance, to be ‘unten-
able’ positions, namely the absence of any obligation to obey one’s
father (2. 7. 6), the reasonableness of Solon’s law against political
neutrality (2. 12; cf. 20. 1), and Chrysippus’ stern portrait of justice
(14. 4). These passages may reXect Favorinus’ method, so congen-
ial to the orator, of arguing utramque in partem.32
While it is true, as Amiel Vardi points out,33 that Gellius would
have disagreed with true Pyrrhonians about the status of grammar
and the other liberal arts, we nonetheless Wnd indications of a
sceptical attitude in his treatment of these subjects, as well. For
example, after summarizing Varro’s case for linguistic anomaly
(2. 25), he notes that the great Roman argued just as forcefully
for analogy (§§10–11). Another chapter relates an argument
between two grammarians about the correct vocative form of
egregius (14. 5): is it egregi or egregie? After stating both cases in
some detail, Gellius walks away, like a true sceptic, from this
‘pointless’ contest (§4). A number of other chapters in the Nights
pit authorities against each other; even Gellius’ heroes come in
for occasional contradiction.34 In this way, perhaps, he meant
to encourage his readers to ‘question authority’—including his
own (6. 3. 55, 7. 2. 2).35 Elsewhere he more or less tactfully
indicates mistakes committed by the venerable Nigidius (4. 9),
Hyginus (7. 6), and Cornelius Nepos (15. 28. cap.).36 In a few
Tarrant, ‘Platonic Interpretation’, 190–1.
Likewise, his survey of views on pleasure ends with Taurus’ sharp dismissal of
hedonism (9. 5. 8). Leofranc Holford-Strevens (pers. comm.) compares Gell. 15. 9.
7 with S.E. PH 3. 280–1, on sceptics’ deliberate use of weak arguments.
This practice is the basis of Galen’s attack on Favorinus in De optima doctrina;
see Ioppolo, ‘The Academic Position of Favorinus’, esp. 188. Gellius’ infamis
sententia at 2. 7. 6 recalls Favorinus’ infames materiae (17. 12. 1); Favorinus is
actually cited at NA 2. 12. 5, and may be the source of the whole passage.
A. Vardi, ‘Gellius against the Professors’, 45.
Varro in particular receives this treatment; he is set up against Opilius (1. 25),
Soranus (2. 10), Accius (3. 11), Ateius Capito (14. 7), and with Capito against Junius
(14. 8). See also Cato against Masurius Sabinus (5. 13), Chrysippus against his
various detractors (7. 2), and the extended dialogues in which Favorinus is refuted
by Fronto (2. 26) and Sextus Caecilus (20. 1).
Gellius explicitly challenges the auctoritas of Verrius Flaccus at 17. 6. 4.
Also Valerius Antias (6. 19. 8), Cloatius Verus (16. 12), and Caesellius Vindex
(18. 11. 1). Like Favorinus (3. 1. 14), however, he also shows himself willing to give
a faltering authority the beneWt of the doubt (1. 18. 6).
Gellian Humanism Revisited 213

places, Wnally, Gellius leaves a question unresolved (7. 14. 9, 16. 3.

9, 17. 3. 5), or explicitly invites his readers to decide for themselves
(6. 3. 55, 17. 6. 11).
Thus it is plausible that the sceptical and Socratic posture of
Favorinus, like the sympotic arrangements of Taurus, became
paradigmatic for the Attic Nights. By questioning common and
authoritative opinions, and by ‘inquiring rather than deciding’ in a
signiWcant number of situations, Gellius can distinguish himself
from the dogmatic and self-conWdent ‘experts’ he so frequently
derides. He can also draw his readers into a virtual dialogue, with
the potential for further inquiry—one of the stated aims of the
preface (§§17–18). His only condition is that they too should take
the time to ‘weigh’ the evidence (et rationes rerum et auctoritates
hominum pensitent, §18). Gellius does not, of course, refrain from
judgement in what he considers ‘obvious’ matters—just as Favor-
inus embraced plausible views on the Plautine canon (3. 3. 6) and
Roman etymology (3. 19. 3–5). Nor is he completely averse to
taking a moral position. In certain chapters, indeed, there emerge
the outlines of a Gellian ‘rule of life’, notably regarding friendship
(12. 4), self-reliance (2. 29), good faith (6. 18), and (above all) the
evils of drunkenness and gluttony (15. 8. 1; cf. 6. 16. 6, 15. 2, 15.
12, 15. 19, 19. 2). Nevertheless, his moralia lack a dogmatic foun-
dation; they might be described as practical, conventional, and
‘platform-independent’.37 And like the sceptics of his time
(whether Pyrrhonian or Academic), he was content ‘to conform
to the customs, laws and institutions of his country, and to follow
his natural tendencies and dispositions . . . ’.38 Thus the Attic
Nights are unimpressive as an example of ‘diatribe’, but they do
anticipate the secular conservatism of neo-classical sceptics such as
Bacon, Montaigne, and Charron.39

See also T. Morgan, above, Ch. 7.
P. Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?, 145.
A Gellian allusion (cf. NA 13. 17), and something of our author’s moral
temper, is found in Bacon’s essay ‘Of Goodness, and Goodness of Nature’ (13);
see B. Vickers, Oxford World’s Classics edn. 167. On Montaigne’s aYnity with
Gellius, see C. Magnien-Simonin, ‘Montaigne et Aulu-Gelle’, esp. 15–18, and
M. J. Heath, below, 308–17. For Charron, see De la Sagesse 3. 14. 4, citing with
approval Gellius’ (or rather Favorinus’) dissertation on mother’s milk (NA 12. 1);
another Gellian echo occurs in 3. 4. 12 (on taking part in public divisions; cf. NA 2.
12). Moral sentiments similar to Gellius’ are also audible in e.g. 3. 39–40 (on food,
drink, and clothing); on the other hand, Charron’s estimate of memory (1. 17 ¼
Lennard 1. 15; cf. 1. 15. 6–9, not translated) is rather diVerent from Gellius’
(NA 13. 8).
214 Stephen M. Beall

4. h o n es t a e r v d i ti o
Taurus and Favorinus, then, indicate two ways in which Gellius
could ‘formally’ identify with the Socratic philosophical tradition,
as mediated by the Academy. The Plutarchan symposium became
a model of relaxed scholarly investigation, while the Socratic irony,
questioning, and suspension of judgement exempliWed by Favor-
inus may have inXuenced his general investigative method. It
appears, after all, that the currents of philosophy run deep in
Gellius—though not as much, perhaps, from the Cynic and Stoic
sources emphasized by Marache.
It remains to be seen, however, whether there is also some truth in
Marache’s contention that a ‘humanistic’ principle informed the
content of the Attic Nights: speciWcally, that the work was designed
to be ‘useful’ for the conduct of life. His argument is based mainly
on scattered remarks in Gellius about the sort of thing one should
not study: ‘amazing’ people, places, and events (14. 6. 3, 9. 4. 7–12),
racy historical anecdotes (7. 8. 4), minutiae of the physical sciences
(5. 15, 5. 16), and even the Wner points of speculative philosophy (10.
22. 24).40 These incidental remarks resonate with Gellius’ claim in
the preface (§12) that he has conWned himself ‘to those (items)
which, by furnishing a quick and easy short cut, might lead active
and alert minds to a desire for respectable learning (honesta eruditio)
and the contemplation of the useful arts (utilium artium contempla-
tio)’.41 Here Gellius seems indeed to be a polymath with a diVer-
As we have seen, however, critics have been reluctant to accept
these statements at face value; they appear both conventional and
insincere, given the actual contents of the collection. On the other
hand, Gellius insists rather strongly upon the ‘utility’ of his
work, to which he adverts at various points throughout the Nights
(pr. 2, 11–13; 14. 6. 5; cf. 1. 4. 1, 9. 4. 12). Could his ancient readers
have been so hypnotized by these clichés that they did not hold
him, to some degree, accountable for them? Perhaps we can escape
this impasse by shifting our focus from the idea of ‘useless’ know-
ledge and by looking instead at the things Gellius regards as
important. We might also begin with one of our author’s more
candid moments, in pr. 16:

Marache, Critique litte´raire, 259–62; edn. i, pp. xxiv f.
Here, as elsewhere, slightly adapted from the Loeb translation of J. C. Rolfe
(Cambridge, Mass., 1946).
Gellian Humanism Revisited 215
Quae porro noua sibi ignotaque oVenderint, aequum esse puto, ut sine
uano obtrectatu considerent, an minutae istae admonitiones et pauxillulae
nequaquam tamen sint uel ad alendum studium uescae uel ad oblectan-
dum fouendumque animum frigidae, sed eius seminis generisque sint, ex
quo facile adolescant aut ingenia hominum uegetiora aut memoria admi-
niculatior aut oratio sollertior aut sermo incorruptior aut delectatio in otio
atque in ludo liberalior.
Here Gellius seems almost to admit that his work does, in many
places, resemble other miscellanies in all their ‘frigidity’. Thus he
dispenses with Greek tag lines, and oVers a more comprehensive
and speciWc statement of his values. This statement has two
themes. The Wrst is the ‘cultivation’ of the intellect (ad fouendum
animum), later speciWed as the development of one’s ability to
think, remember, and communicate (ingenia uegetiora, memoria
adminiculatior, oratio sollertior, sermo incorruptior). The second
theme is that mental culture should be pleasurable (ad oblectandum
animum); among all the diversions available to a well-born Roman,
this kind of delectatio is more becoming to a ‘free man’ (delectatio in
otio atque in ludo liberalior). As we shall see, these themes can be
understood as two sides of the same coin: a man enjoys his own
being more honourably and more ‘freely’ to the extent that he takes
the trouble to ‘cultivate’ himself, especially in those capacities
which deWne him as a man and citizen.

5. memoria adminicvlatior
This, then, is the notion of scholarly worth or value to which
Gellius commits himself at the outset of his work. But do we Wnd
it elsewhere in the Nights? To answer this question, we may
concentrate Wrst on the sub-theme of a ‘better-stocked’ or ‘more
serviceable’ memory (memoria adminiculatior). This could well be
a cliché, since memory-training was important at all levels of
Roman education.42 Gellius, however, represents it as a lifelong
occupation, appropriate even for the gentleman at leisure. It can be
practised in a solitary carriage ride (10. 25. 1), or after dinner, in
friendly company; thus Gellius and his comrade Julius Celsinus
Numida would stroll together and rack their brains for ‘rhetorical
Wgures or some new, striking use of words’ for ‘future use by
ourselves’ (19. 7. 2). Moreover, Gellius insists that the Nights
originated as a subsidium memoriae (pr. 2), consisting of things he
See T. Morgan, Literate Education, 250–1.
216 Stephen M. Beall

had read or heard that were ‘worth remembering’ (memoratu digna,

ibid.) and ‘useful to remember’ (usui meminisse, pr. 11; cf. 17. 2. 1).
In Gellius’ mind, then, there is a clear relationship between the
exercise of memory and the ‘utility’ he extols in the preface. But
what is the connection?
Good memory was clearly a social asset, and could prove handy
in a wide range of situations. For example, Gellius once solved a
procedural question with his instant recollection of a passage from
Varro (13. 13). Likewise, Antonius Julianus could oVer on-the-
spot advice on Wre-prevention—alas, too late for the inhabitants of
a nearby building (15. 1). Memory also had a role in ‘self-help’ and
moral improvement. Gellius follows Afranius in making Wisdom
the daughter of Experience and Memory (13. 8. 1–3); accordingly,
he recommends that we pause occasionally to reXect on the ‘acts
and events’ of our lives. When he also urges us to memorize the
words of Panaetius on prudence (13. 28. 2), of Ennius on friend-
ship (12. 4. 3), or of another ancient writer on gluttony (15. 8. 1), he
reXects the ancient belief that words, deeply planted in the
memory, have the power to change attitudes and conduct. Last,
but not least, memory plays an important role in Gellius’ career as
a writer. In composing the Nights, he often indicates his reliance on
memory (1. 3. 10, 6. 16. 4, 7. 2. 2, 10. 3. 9, 14. 1. 2, 17. 2. 2). As we
have seen, not only facts and quotables, but also Wgures and words
(19. 7. 2) make up his ‘literary storehouse’ (quasi quoddam litte-
rarum penus, pr. 2). It is not surprising, then, that unusual words
that constitute the object of study in one Gellian chapter turn up as
uerba insperata in others (e.g. penus itself, explained in 4. 1; cf.
soloecon, explained in 5. 20, and used at 17. 2. 11).
Gellius is not content, however, with a purely ‘instrumental’
approach to memory. He regards it not only as a tool or repository
to be employed for ulterior ends, but also as a faculty to be ‘nur-
tured’ (uegetanda) for its own sake (17. 2. 1). He does so in part
because, as he points out in 19. 7, the exercise of memory is a
pleasant way to Wll one’s spare time (his nos inter uiam uer-
borum . . . adnotatiunculis oblectabamus, §12).43 At such moments,
in fact, it keeps the mind from slipping into a kind of vacant
stupidity. And so, when the trivialities of daily life overwhelm
him, Gellius searches his memory for the names of ancient darts,
swords, and boats (10. 25. 1).44 In short, his references to the use
Cf. M. Pugliarello, ‘Disparilitas e memoria’, 104: ‘Se le annotationes sono state
prese ad subsidium memoriae, i commentarii sono memoriarum delectatiunculae.’
Cf. 18. 12. 10, where Gellius produces, again from memory, a list of old
deponent verbs.
Gellian Humanism Revisited 217

and exercise of memory indicate two distinct but, in practice,

interrelated notions of value or ‘utility’. On the one hand, a well-
stocked memory furnishes the material required for polite conver-
sation and literary projects. On the other, it is almost intrinsically
valuable as a source of pleasure and a hedge against the tedium of
daily life; it is the mark of a higher sort of intellect.45 As it turns
out, this twofold approach to memory replicates the programme
outlined in the preface, which combines the cultivation of socially
useful faculties with delectatio liberalior. Thus we begin to see a
certain consistency in the shape of Gellian culture.

6. oratio sollertior, sermo incorrvptior

We may now inquire whether the same approach characterizes a
second and larger element of Gellius’ programme: ‘more eVective
eloquence’, which includes ‘purer diction’. This, too, was the
ordinary object of a Roman liberal education, which involved
long years with the grammaticus and rhetor. Another cliché, per-
haps? Gellius’ choice of terms, however, is instructive. Both adjec-
tives, sollers, with its overtones of linguistic pragmatism, and
incorruptus, suggesting a moral or aesthetic view of language,
anticipate his complicated approach to the entire subject.
A typical fault of professional grammarians, according to Gel-
lius, was to be more concerned with the formal categories of
language than with meaning. We have seen that he had little
time for arguments over the ‘correct’ vocative of egregius (14. 5),
just as Favorinus was mystiWed by the ‘expert’ who could state the
gender of penus, but could not say what it means (4. 1). Likewise
Nigidius, whom Gellius praises for his ‘clever’ theory on the
natural origin of pronouns (10. 4. 4), is also condemned for ‘laugh-
able’ attempts to regularize Latin morphology and orthography
(13. 26. 2). For Gellius, the bottom line in language is communi-
cation. This serves, somewhat paradoxically, as a justiWcation
for his researches into pre-classical lexicography and etymology.
He is especially interested in the phenomenon of semantic change.
Humanitas, for example, had by Gellius’ day lost its associations
with intellectual culture (13. 17). A similar shift had occurred
in other value-charged words, such as leuitas and nequitia (6. 11)
and elegans (11. 2). Elsewhere he notes the gradual confusion of

On Gellius’ claim to a kind of moral superiority for himself and other students
of the artes liberales, cf. Kaster, ‘ ‘‘Humanitas’’ and Roman Education’, esp. 8–9.
218 Stephen M. Beall

near-synonyms, such as uanus and stolidus (18. 4), uitium and

morbus (4. 2), and mendacium dicere and mentiri (11. 11). Gellius
takes a dim view of this kind of change: it is due to the ‘temerity’ of
people who use words without understanding them. The result is a
specious and faulty system of communication: uidemur magis
dicere quod uolumus, quam dicimus (16. 5. 1; cf. 16. 13. 1). The
implication is that some of these slips can be corrected. For
guidance, we may refer to classical authors, qui proprie atque signate
locuti sunt (13. 25. 32, cf. 1. 20. 8, 3. 14. 20, 6. 11. 2, 17. 1. 1). In a
pinch, etymology reveals the true and original ratio of a word (6.
17. 1, 16. 5. 4, 16. 14. 3, 16. 17. cap.), and so controls its use.46
Nevertheless, following Favorinus (1. 10), Gellius condemns
archaism when it clearly inhibits communication. An example of
‘senseless’ archaism would be the advocate who described his
adversary as a bouinator (‘shuZer’), to the mystiWcation of all
present (11. 7. 7; cf. 16. 9. 2). Gellius avoids such excesses in his
own prose; above all, he wants to be understood.
Nevertheless, his pragmatic stance appears, in the end, incapable
of sustaining his classicism—as one of his contemporaries was
quick to point out (16. 10. 7–8, cf. 5. 21. 7). Another kind of
argument is necessary, which makes the study of the ancient
language virtually an end in itself. Something of the sort is indi-
cated in Favorinus’ remarks to the incompetent grammarian of 4. 1.
Referring to his own interest in grammar, Favorinus says, ‘this
information, although I had devoted myself to philosophy, I yet
did not neglect to acquire; since for Roman citizens speaking
Latin it is no less disgraceful not to designate a thing by the proper
term than it is to call a man by the wrong name’ (§18). In other
words, a thorough knowledge of Latin is part of the ‘indelible
character’ of a Roman citizen, not only at work but also at leisure.
This assertion echoes the preface, where Gellius proposes a certain
level of knowledge of both ‘things and words’ (cf. pr. 2) as a
minimum requirement for the ‘man educated for citizenship’ (uir
ciuiliter eruditus, pr. 13).47 The civic metaphor occurs in a diVerent
form in a conversation between three notable savants, Fronto,
Festus Postumius, and Sulpicius Apollinaris (19. 13). Fronto
Elsewhere, Gellius uses the origin of a word to illuminate some part of its
current meaning (3. 19, 12. 14, 15. 3, 16. 12). Etymology is especially helpful
in distinguishing synonyms (e.g. uestibulum and atrium, 16. 5. 5–10; festinare
and properare, 16. 14. 4–5). See too F. Cavazza, above, Ch. 3.
The same justiWcation is given for learning medical terminology: existimaui
non medico soli, sed omnibus quoque hominibus liberis liberaliterque institutis turpe esse
ne ea quidem cognouisse (18. 10. 8).
Gellian Humanism Revisited 219

wonders whether nani, the current word for ‘pygmies’, is ‘really’

Latin. Apollinaris replies that the word is admittedly (quidem)
vulgar, but is not barbarous and is registered (censetur) as Greek.
‘Nevertheless’, he says to Fronto, ‘this word would have been given
citizenship by you, or established in a Latin colony, if you had
deigned to use it’ (§3). The personiWcation of words, to the extent
that they acquire a consular patron, may strike us as bizarre. Never-
theless, it shows how closely Gellius associated Latinitas with
This association, as I have indicated elsewhere, helps to explain
Gellius’ fascination with the comparison of Greek and Latin vo-
cabulary.48 In one of these essays in comparison, however, we Wnd
another signiWcant (and familiar) metaphor. When Favorinus
remarks on the relative paucity of words for colours in Latin, Fronto
replies, Non proinde inopes sumus, ut tibi uidemur (2. 26. 7).49 He then
conjures a host of ancient shades, such as rutilus and spadix (both
varieties of red). These words had quite disappeared even from
erudite speech, but Fronto and Gellius evidently regarded them as
permanent assets of the Latin language—a source of credit when,
as in this case, there was insuYcient cash on hand. Indeed, Gellius
appears to collect and savour words (e.g. 11. 3. 1) with the same
zeal that some of our contemporaries collect Roman coins. In
Gellius, however, words have the status of a national treasure,
and it is the sacred duty, as well as the diverting pastime, of the
uir ciuiliter eruditus to know and to protect his linguistic birthright.

7. the s cholarly life

Thus there appears to be something in Marache’s contention that
Gellian ‘utility’ goes beyond the usual meaning of the term. We
may think of it as one aspect of a complex cultural ideal: through the
exercise of memory and the study of language, among other things,
Gellius invites his reader to a ‘higher’ and ‘more respectable’
manner of life. His characterization of this life, however, is also
rather complex. In pr. 12, as we have seen, Gellius indicates that he
has composed the Nights with the hope of leading ‘active and alert
minds to a desire for respectable learning (honesta eruditio) and the

See Beall, ‘Aulus Gellius 17. 8’, 62–3; on aemulatio Graecorum in translation,
see id., ‘Translation’, esp. 217–19.
On the ‘poverty’ of Latin as a literary topos, see T. Fögen, Patrii sermonis
egestas, esp. 180–220; cf. S. Swain, above, p. 9.
220 Stephen M. Beall

contemplation of the useful arts (utilium artium contemplatio)’. Here

the themes of ‘utility’ and ‘respectability’ are intertwined with
‘contemplation’ and even ‘desire’ (cupido). The satisfaction of this
desire, as we have seen and as Gellius soon makes clear (pr. 19),
entails a kind of uoluptas or delectatio, which is nevertheless insep-
arable from labor. Thus he banishes from his Nights all ‘those who
have found neither pleasure nor labour in reading, inquiring,
writing and taking notes, who have never spent wakeful nights in
such employments, who have never improved themselves by dis-
cussion and debate with rival followers of the same Muse’.50
This simultaneous emphasis on pleasure and toil would seem
paradoxical, were it not for another group of metaphors whose
import is less obvious. For Gellius, a taste for learning is some-
thing to be ‘nourished’ or ‘fed’ (ad alendum studium, pr. 16), so that
one’s intellectual capacities can ‘mature’ (adolescant, ibid.). These
organic metaphors, to which we may add that of cultus (pr. 11, 1. 2.
1, 10. 22. 2, 19 .8. 1, cf. 19. 12. 7–10; litterarum cultu, 14. 6. 1) and
uegetus (ingenia uegetiora, pr. 16; memoriae uegetandae gratia, 17. 2.
1; cf. 10. 17. 1),51 add up to the Gellian notion of ‘integral human
Xourishing’. For Gellius did not regard amateur scholarship
merely as an agreeable diversion and a ‘respectable’ employment
of one’s time. For him, it was something like life itself.
Thus the preface concludes with the promise, sadly not fulWlled,
of a sequel to the Attic Nights: ‘as much longer life as the gods’ will
shall grant me, and as much respite as is given me from managing
my aVairs and attending to the education of my children, every
moment of that remaining and leisure time I shall devote to col-
lecting similar brief and entertaining memoranda’ (pr. 24). Gellius,
it seems, attributed fully a third, and perhaps the best third, of his
‘quality of life’ to these studia in otio. He appears to have been a
responsible man who performed the oYces of citizen, family man,
and friend with care, perhaps even with a certain scrupulosity. Yet
we feel he would have appreciated the inscription on a sundial in
 zæÆØ Ł
Ø ƒŒÆ ÆÆØ ƃ b  ÆPa
ªæÆØ ØŒ  ÆØ ˘H¨I ºª
ıØ æ


Cf. Gellius’ emphasis on cura and disciplina in connection with authentic
humanitas; see Kaster, ‘ ‘‘Humanitas’’ and Roman Education’, 7.
Agricultural metaphors are common in the educational literature of antiquity;
see Morgan, Literate Education, 255–9.
G. Pfohl, Griechische Inschriften, 161.
Gellian Humanism Revisited 221
Six hours of toil are quite enough;
those that come after spell LIVE!
Gellius ‘lived’ in his scholarly leisure, and so prayed that his body
would not outlast the work of ‘writing and note-taking’ he had
begun as a young man in Athens (pr. 24).
If, then, we are looking for a single formula that captures the
‘humanism’ of the Attic Nights, we probably come closest to the
truth with delectatio in otio atque in ludo liberalior. As Gellius saw
it, a ‘free man’ is deWned by his pleasures—nil cum Wdibus graculost,
nihil cum amaracino sui (pr. 19). In his leisure time, moreover, a
man lives and acts for himself, and becomes an end in himself.
This, as Irving Babbitt maintained, distinguishes authentic ‘hu-
manism’ from its ‘humanitarian’ counterfeits, both ancient and
modern.53 Finally, if Renaissance humanism was predicated
upon man’s potential for communion with the divine, Gellius
anticipated even this idea in a programmatic quotation from Aris-
tophanes (pr. 21, from Ra. 354–6, 369–71):
E æ
‹Ø Æ Øæ
ØH  ºªø j ª fi  c ŒÆŁÆæØ
j ª Æ ø ZæªØÆ 
ıH  r  Kæı . . .
!E  I ª æ 
º c
ŒÆd Æ ı Æ a æÆ, ÆQ B §  æ
ıØ "
§ .
All evil thought and profane be still; far hence, far hence from our choirs
Who knows not well what the Mystics tell, or is not holy and pure of heart;
Who ne’er has the noble revelry learned, or danced the dance of the Muses
high . . .
. . . But ye, my comrades, awake the song,
The night-long revels of joy and mirth, which ever of right to our feast
The motif of nocturnal ‘revels’ seems a bit exotic, given our
author’s insistence on order and temperance. But it does express
the momentary exaltation we all experience, perhaps during our
own solitary lucubrations, when ‘some knotty or troublesome
topic’ (pr. 13) is suddenly resolved, and the true shape of antiquity
is disclosed.
To conclude this assessment of Marache’s humanisme gellien,
I shall borrow a page from Isaiah Berlin’s famous essay on Tolstoy,
The Hedgehog and the Fox (3–4). A fragment from the work of
Archilochus reads, ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog
I. Babbitt, Literature and the American College, 5–12.
B. B. Rogers, edn. 57; cited in J. C. Rolfe’s Loeb edn.
222 Stephen M. Beall

knows one big thing.’ Berlin observed that among intellectuals

there are ‘foxes’, who are captivated by the inWnite variety of
things, and ‘hedgehogs’, who relate everything to a single, central
vision. Gellius, it is safe to say, was a fox. If Marache sometimes
failed to grasp the true bent of Gellius’ mind, it was because he
tried to make him a hedgehog, by interpreting the Attic Nights
according to master-ideas such as the ‘primacy of morality’ and the
‘doctrine of limitation’. Nevertheless, even a fox might attempt to
account for his life and interests; above all, he would try to convey,
by example and illustration, the pleasures of being a fox. Gellius
may defy our scholarly categories, but he expresses, perhaps better
than most ancient writers, the full range of the artes ingenuae and
their power to delight, improve, and elevate the mind. In an age in
which academic humanists are obliged to justify themselves in
increasingly narrow terms, Aulus Gellius, a fox among hedgehogs,
is delightful company indeed.
Gellius, Apuleius, and Satire on
the Intellectual
W y t s e K eu len

The present study aims to compare Gellius’ and Apuleius’ tech-

niques of characterizing and satirizing certain types of intellectuals
in the light of Greek and Roman literary traditions familiar to both
authors, and to place this in the context of second century polem-
ics. Both Gellius and Apuleius give literary shape to a theme which
is popular in their age: the satire on the (pseudo-)intellectual.
Their individual treatment of this theme may seem very diVerent,
in line with the diVerent genre and scope of their respective literary
works. Still, a comparison of Gellius’ Attic Nights and Apuleius’
Metamorphoses may reveal some common threads that inform us
about issues that both authors were concerned with and responded
to. Gellius and Apuleius, both admirers of Plutarch, use ‘Socratic’
motifs in their satirical representations of intellectuals. They were
both Romans who shared a characteristically Roman sense of satire
and wit. They both lived in an age in which satire was thriving,
especially satire on the intellectual tendencies of the time. This
entails another important question: being representative intellec-
tuals of their age, to what extent did Gellius and Apuleius satirize
themselves? How can we use Gellius’ criticism of intellectuals to
recognize self-satire in Apuleius, and vice versa?

I thank Dr Stephen M. Beall, Dr Stephen Harrison, Dr Maaike Zimmerman, and

the editors of the present volume for their comments, which helped to improve the
form and content of this chapter.
224 Wytse Keulen

1. gellius , apuleius , and their

intellectual world

1.1. Fronto, Gellius, and Apuleius

Did Apuleius know Gellius and Fronto, just as Gellius and Fronto
knew each other from intellectual meetings in Rome? In the works
of Fronto and Gellius there is no mention of Apuleius, nor does
Apuleius mention either of them. Still, Apuleius probably
belonged to the same network of men of culture who dominated
literary life and society in Rome, in which Fronto, the emperor’s
teacher of rhetoric, played such a prominent role. Fronto and
Apuleius, both Africans who became famous in Rome,1 are con-
nected through their acquaintance with the proconsul Lollianus
Avitus; Apuleius’ praise of him is reminiscent of Frontonian doc-
trine.2 Gellius and Apuleius were possibly acquainted through
their studies in Athens, where they could have met as Taurus’
pupils. Perhaps Gellius and Apuleius met again in Rome, as guests
of Apuleius’ African compatriot Fronto.3 Both Gellius and Apu-
leius proudly parade their erudition and laborious studies in their
literary works,4 which reveal many shared interests. In Noctes
Atticae 19. 9, Gellius’ teacher of rhetoric Antonius Julianus recites
four early Latin love epigrams by three relatively obscure poets, to
prove that Roman erotic poetry can compete with the Greek ac-
complishments in that Weld; in his Apology (9), Apuleius mentions
the same three poets, and in the same order, but without quoting
them.5 It is possible that the young man mentioned by Gellius
(19. 11) as author of a Latin translation of an epigram of Plato, was

For Apuleius’ claim to a literary reputation in Rome cf. Flor. 17. 4, with
V. Hunink, Florida, 173–4 ad loc.; on Apuleius’ ‘Roman period’ see K. Dowden,
‘Apuleius’ Roman Audience’, 424–5; S. J. Harrison, Apuleius, 6 n. 22.
Cf. Apul. Apol. 24. 1, 94. 3, 95. 6; see E. Champlin, Fronto, 31–2.
L. A. Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 22–3 [16–17]; Dowden, ‘Apuleius’
Roman Audience’, 429; G. Sandy, ‘West meets East’.
Gell. pr. 12; Apul. Flor. 18, 20; see A. Vardi, ‘Why Attic Nights?’, 301.
See Vardi, ‘An Anthology’, on the much-debated issue of the relationship
between Gellius’ list and that of Apuleius.
See H. Dahlmann, Ein Gedicht des Apuleius?; S. J. Harrison, ‘Apuleius Eroti-
cus’, 88–9; Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 23 n. 59 [17 n. 57]; Vardi, ‘An Anthol-
ogy’, 148 n. 5.
Satire on the Intellectual 225

1.2. Plutarch and the Erudite Symposium

Although we cannot prove that Gellius and Apuleius knew each
other, they can obviously be compared as sophisticated and
successful Latin authors from the same period, sharing the same
intellectual and cultural background. Gellius and Apuleius are
both interesting witnesses to the intellectual world of the second
century, and can be fruitfully studied in juxtaposition to get a
glimpse into this world. Both pay homage to their intellectual
pedigree by mentioning Plutarch at the outset of their works of
sophisticated entertainment, Gellius’ Attic Nights (1. 1. 1), and
Apuleius’ Metamorphoses (1. 2. 1).7 The young aristocrat Lucius,
the satirical alter ego of the author Apuleius and both narrator and
protagonist of the Metamorphoses, uses his family connection with
Plutarch in order to present himself as a distinguished intellectual,
participating in the excellent cultural tradition founded by Plu-
tarch.8 As scholars have observed, this was a genuine strategy of
intellectuals in Apuleius’ time.9 Plutarch’s standing in Antonine
culture is similarly honoured by Gellius, whose interest in him as a
source of information and a teacher of morality is obvious through-
out his work; notably, Plutarch’s name is the Wrst word of the
opening chapter of the Attic Nights.10 For both Gellius and Apu-
leius, Plutarch was an authority in his own right, as he would be for
centuries afterwards.11
The Plutarchan background partly explains the aYnity shared
by Gellius and Apuleius with the literary form of the sophisticated
Gell. 1. 1. 1 Plutarchus in libro, quem de Herculis, quantum inter homines fuit,
animi corporisque ingenio atque uirtutibus conscripsit, scite subtiliterque ratiocinatum
Pythagoram philosophum dicit in reperienda modulandaque status longitudinisque eius
praestantia. Apul. Met. 1. 2. 1 Thessaliam—nam et illic originis maternae nostrae
fundamenta a Plutarcho illo inclito ac mox Sexto philosopho nepote eius prodita gloriam
nobis faciunt—eam Thessaliam ex negotio petebam; cf. 2. 3. 3 familia Plutarchi
ambae prognatae sumus.
For Lucius’ characterization as a man of culture in the Metamorphoses see
H. J. Mason, ‘The Distinction’, 137, 141; Harrison, Apuleius, 216–17;
W. H. Keulen, ‘Swordplay—Wordplay’, 161–2. For references to Lucius’ doctrina
cf. Met. 3. 15. 4, 11. 15. 1 ipsa, qua Xores, . . . doctrina; 11. 30. 4 studiorum meorum
laboriosa doctrina.
In IG ii2. 3814 the 3rd-c. sophist Nikagoras called himself —º
ı ŒÆd
ı غ
ø Œª

. See C. P. Jones, Plutarch and Rome, 11–12; Mason, ‘The
Distinction’, 138; W. H. Keulen, ‘Lucius’ Kinship Diplomacy’, 261 n. 3.
See further Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 283 [209]. Cf. also 1. 26. 4
(Gellius quotes Taurus) Plutarchus noster, uir doctissimus ac prudentissimus; 4. 11.
11 Plutarchus . . . homo in disciplinis graui auctoritate.
See D. A. Russell, Plutarch, especially 6–7, 143–4; L. A. Holford-Strevens,
‘The Non-Visual Portraitist’, 104–5.
226 Wytse Keulen

symposium, or quaestiones conuiuales, which inspired both authors

in their use of dramatic settings and character depiction. Both
Gellius’ Attic Nights and Apuleius’ Metamorphoses, and especially
the programmatic Wrst book of the latter, depict dialogue scenes of
vivid intellectual exchange, in which the exposure of impostor
Wgures plays a central role.12 Plutarch’s moral writings, including
his Table Talk, form an invaluable frame of reference to understand
and judge Apuleius’ literary use of the symposium and his technique
of portraying immoral character types in the Metamorphoses.13 Both
Lucius and other characters from the Metamorphoses, such as
Socrates, who appear as dubious storytellers in degraded sympo-
sium situations, seem to suVer from the very moral ailments of
which Lucius’ pretended ancestor wished to cure his readers,
such as curiosity (
ºı æƪ
 ; cf. Gell. 11. 16) and superstition
Æ). Moreover, the form of quaestiones conuiuales was
not only a viable literary genre, associated with the authority of
Plutarch,14 but it also deWned the meetings of the intellectual
world of Fronto and Gellius,15 to which Apuleius too may have

2. socrates and socratic dialogue:

exposure and satire

2.1. Sophistic Personae and Sophisticated Views

Both Gellius and Apuleius are aware of the venerable Socratic
tradition behind the literary form of the sympotic debate and the
theme of exposure and irony, and show this awareness by allusions
to the Platonic dialogue as a literary model.16 Interestingly, Gellius
points out that in a Platonic dialogue the author may introduce
On Gellius’ familiarity with Plutarch’s Quaestiones conuiuales (‘Table Talk’)
and his use of the form of the ‘erudite symposium’ as a dramatic setting for several
scenes in his miscellany Attic Nights see S. M. Beall, ‘Aulus Gellius 17.8’, 58–9.
Apuleius himself wrote a miscellany called Quaestiones conuiuales: see below, n. 56.
See Keulen, ‘Lucius’ Kinship Diplomacy’, 263–4.
On Plutarch’s use of the symposium as a literary genre see J. Mossman,
‘Plutarch’s Dinner’, 119–27.
See Champlin, Fronto, 48–9.
For explicit allusions to Platonic (Socratic) dialogue cf. Gell. 4. 1. cap. Sermo
quidam Fauorini philosophi cum grammatico iactantiore factus in Socraticum modum;
10. 22; 18. 4. 1 (cited below). Such Platonic allusions also underline the Wctional
element of the Gellian scenes; see Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 69, 83 [50, 61].
The parody of philosophical dialogue in the Wrst book of the Met. is illustrated by
the appearance of a character called Socrates (1. 6–19), and by the comic homage to
Satire on the Intellectual 227

personae who are not to be imitated or taken seriously (persona . . .

non grauis neque idonea, 10. 22. 1), or indeed of unsound character
(non proba, 10. 22. 24), but still feature as the mouthpiece of
authorial ideas and opinions.17 The reader, then, is encouraged to
Wnd truths behind the words of sophists or other morally dubious
interlocutors featuring in such a written dialogue.
This remark by Gellius tells us something about the attitude he
expected of the readers of his own ‘erudite dialogues’. Gellius’
educated readership was obviously not only familiar with the liter-
ary form of the Socratic dialogue, but also prepared to look actively
behind the masks of sophist-like interlocutors to learn truths that
originated from the author. Apuleius’ intended reader, not very
diVerent in attitudes and judgements, would be able to see through
an ambiguous persona like Lucius, who is a morally dubious charac-
ter, but at the same time alter ego and mouthpiece of the author
Apuleius.18 In the Socratic dialogue framing the Wrst inset tale of the
Met., both Lucius and his sceptic interlocutor appear as comic
Wgures (cf. e.g. 1. 2. 5 exerto cachinno), who voice sophisticated
ideas about accepting or rejecting Wction, which are programmatic
for the novel, and which a second-century reader would possibly
identify with opinions of the author. Moreover, these ideas are
phrased in a terminology that would remind the reader of the con-
temporary scholarly debate about rejecting or approving speech.19
In a similar way, in the Attic Nights, the grammarian Domitius
Insanus is apparently exposed—as many grammarians are in Gel-
lius’ Socratic dialogues—as a ridiculous Wgure (18. 7. 1–2, 4), but
then, in a kind of role reversal, sharply criticizes word-hunting
as a second-rate activity from a moral-philosophical standpoint,
attacking both the hero of the Nights, Favorinus, and the very
essence of the literary pursuit in which Gellius and his admired
teachers are engaged throughout the Nights.20 A contemporary

the opening of the Phaedrus, one of the most famous Platonic dialogues in Apuleius’
time (1. 18. 8, 1. 19. 7–8).
Similarly D.L. 3. 52; see H. A. S. Tarrant, ‘Platonic Interpretation’, 178–86.
For Lucius as an ambiguous Wgure, being both the target of the hidden
author’s satire and the mouthpiece for his ideas on Wction, see Keulen, ‘Sword-
play—Wordplay’, 169–70.
Cf. Met. 1. 2. 5 tam absurda tamque immania; 1. 3. 2 crassis auribus . . . respuis;
1. 20. 1 respuebat. For the rhetorical-stylistic terminology cf. Fronto, Ep. M. Caes.
3. 16. 1 (p. 47. 21–2 v:d:H:2 ); De eloqu. 4. 8 (p. 150. 10–11 v:d:H:2 ); De orat. 14
(p. 159. 15–16 v.d. H:2 ); Gell. 11. 16. 4, 15. 25. 1 (absurdus), 15. 9. 3 (immanis), 13.
21. 12 (respuent . . . aures).
For the irony in the reversal of roles in Gell. 18. 7 see S. M. Beall, ‘Homo fandi
dulcissimus’, 92.
228 Wytse Keulen

reader would probably not identify Domitius’ criticism with Gel-

lius’ own views, but would still recognize in the words of this
comic persona an intelligent criticism that Gellius would be pre-
pared to encounter in discussions with rival intellectuals. More-
over, both Lucius and Domitius Insanus may also embody a
certain amount of self-satire on the part of the authors Gellius
and Apuleius (see below, §3.2).

2.2. The Figure of Socrates

In addition, Gellius and Apuleius share a fascination with the
character, appearance, and gestures of the Wgure of Socrates.21
No doubt, Gellius and Apuleius were aware of the signiWcance of
Socrates as a paradigm for intellectual self-presentation and role-
playing in their age.22 In both the Attic Nights and in the Meta-
morphoses we Wnd a visual homage to the historical Socrates by
means of his characteristic gesture of covering the head before
beginning to speak.23 Both the Gellian and the Apuleian Socrates
(the Wctional character from Met. 1) embody satire and irony.
Gellius explicitly mentions Socrates’ name as the model of the
techniques of exposure and irony followed by Gellius’ revered
teachers to unmask sham experts:24
Cum iam adulescentuli Romae praetextam et puerilem togam mutassemus
magistrosque tunc nobis nosmet ipsi exploratiores quaereremus, in
Sandaliario forte apud librarios fuimus, cum ibi in multorum hominum
coetu Apollinaris Sulpicius, uir in memoria nostra praeter alios doctus,

Although the Socrates in Apul. Met. 1. 6–19 is a Wctive character, featuring in
the novel’s Wrst inserted tale, he still bears many signiWcant traits of the historical
Socrates (see W. H. Keulen, ‘Comic Invention’, 110 n. 5). In Met. 10. 33. 3, the
narrator refers to the historical Socrates as diuinae prudentiae senex.
See M. W. Gleason, Making Men, 151: ‘those who aspired to the status of
philosopher were acutely conscious of the need to harmonize their self-presentation
with the great paradigms of the philosophic pantheon.’ On Apuleius’ assimilation of
his activities to famous Greek paradigms, especially Plato and Socrates, see
G. Sandy, The Greek World of Apuleius, 183–4.
Gell. 19. 9. 9 (Gellius quotes his teacher Antonius Iulianus) permittite mihi,
quaeso, operire pallio caput, quod in quadam parum pudica oratione Socraten fecisse
aiunt; Apul. Met. 1. 6. 4 et cum dicto sutili centunculo faciem suam iam dudum
punicantem prae pudore obtexit; 1. 7. 1 capite uelato (cf. Gell. 19. 9. 10 capite
conuelato). In Plato’s Phaedrus (237 a), Socrates covers his head before he starts
his Wrst speech on eros, using a Socratic technique of concentration (see K. J. Dover
on Ar. Nub. 735 KªŒÆºıł
For the signiWcance of Socrates for the Attic Nights as the archetype of the true
philosopher who exposes the false expert see S. M. Beall, above, 208–9; for his
inXuence on Favorinus see id., ‘Homo fandi dulcissimus’, 91.
Satire on the Intellectual 229
iactatorem quempiam et uenditatorem Sallustianae lectionis inrisit inlu-
sitque genere illo facetissimae dissimulationis, qua Socrates ad sophistas
utebatur.25 (18. 4. 1.)
The Socrates who appears in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses book 1 is
also a Wgure who mocks, teases, and jokes (e.g. Met. 1. 7. 4 cauil-
lum . . . dicacitas; 1. 12. 4 inlusit aetatulam; 1. 18. 6 subridens), but
he rather behaves like a buVoon on a comic stage, revealing traits of
a Cynic philosopher, and becoming an object of ridicule himself.26
In the Attic Nights, Socrates is depicted as an example of
temperance and strength (2. 1).27 By contrast, the Socrates in
Apuleius’ Metamorphoses 1 appears as a self-indulgent hypochon-
driac. Just like the Gellian Socrates, the Apuleian Socrates is
characterized as completely immobile at the outset. Whereas the
Gellian Socrates is standing all the time to train his physical
endurance (NA 2. 1. 2), the Apuleian Socrates is sitting on the
ground, expressing with his posture his complete lack of endur-
ance and an almost deliberate suVering from bad health (Met. 1. 6.
1). Whereas the Gellian Socrates deliberately stands to strengthen
his body against any chance demands upon its endurance (2. 1.
1 fortuitas patientiae uices), the Apuleian Socrates seems too weak
to give up his sitting position, and prefers to retain this position to
express his submission to fortune (1. 6. 4–1. 7. 1). Whereas the
Gellian Socrates has the reputation of abstinence, the Apuleian
Socrates indulges in food, wine, sex, and cheap entertainment
(Gell. 2. 1. 5 a uoluptatum labe cauisse  Apul. Met. 1. 7. 5 dum
uoluptatem . . . consector).28 Whereas the Gellian Socrates stands
out for his fortitude (Gell. 2. 1. 3 fortitudine), the Apuleian Socra-
tes almost continuously reveals symptoms of weakness and disease
(Met. 1. 6. 1 paene alius lurore, ad miseram maciem deformatus; cf. 1.
18. 7, 1. 19. 1).
Thus, at Wrst sight, Gellius’ and Apuleius’ representations of
the Wgure of Socrates seem diametrically opposed. In the Attic
For the terminology of exposure and irony in the dialogue scenes of the Attic
Nights cf. also 6. 17. 2, 17. 3. 2, 18. 4. cap., 9, 19. 1. 8 (illudere); 1. 21. 4 (ridere). See
also A. D. Vardi, ‘Gellius against the Professors’, 51 with n. 63, who collects
instances of laughter as the response of those present at an exposure, e.g. 16. 6. 12
facetias nebulonis hominis risi; 19. 10. 14 cum id plerique prolixius riderent.
For a detailed analysis of the Apuleian Socrates as a satirical Wgure who reXects
the comic ambiguity of the Metamorphoses see Keulen, ‘Comic Invention’, esp.
See Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 110 [80] with further references.
Cf. also Apul. Met. 1. 8. 1 uoluptatem Veneriam; contrast, however 1. 11. 4
insolita uinolentia, which is perhaps a humorous allusion to the historical Socrates’
230 Wytse Keulen

Nights, Socrates features as the archetype of the philosopher, the

role model of Gellius’ admired teachers; in Metamorphoses book 1,
he appears as the anti-philosopher. The contrast seems almost
deliberate, but at the same time it draws our attention to a topic
that was of central interest to both Gellius and Apuleius. This
topic is satire on the sham philosopher, which was popular not
only with the Greek authors of the Imperial age (especially
Lucian), but also with their Latin contemporaries Fronto, Gellius,
and Apuleius. The Apuleian Socrates appears to be symbolic of
such satire, as he resembles the stereotype of the pseudo-philoso-
pher, with ragged cloak and all, a stereotype that we encounter in
all three Antonine Roman writers.29
By representing his Socrates with an emaciated body and a pale
skin, Apuleius follows a literary tradition of satire on intellectual-
ism, a tradition that goes back to Aristophanes’ Clouds.30 The
popularity of the stereotype of the false philosopher symbolized a
general concern of his age, a deep concern about the prevalence of
teachers who engaged in higher education without displaying any
inclinations or qualities considered relevant for those who should
be an intellectual and moral example to their pupils.31 Signi-
Wcantly, in his Apology (4. 10; 22), Apuleius even applies to himself
the very stock features that deWne the satirical portrayal of Socrates
in the Metamorphoses, like pallor, emaciation, and a philosopher’s
regulation outWt, in order to characterize himself as a philoso-
pher.32 Thus he is able to turn a well-known instrument of satirical
attack into a form of self-parody.
Met. 1. 6. 1 scissili palliastro semiamictus; for the stereotype cf. Met. 11. 8. 3 Nec
ille deerat, . . . qui pallio baculoque et baxeis et hircino barbitio philosophum Wngeret.
In the age of Fronto, Gellius, and Apuleius, the pallium was associated with the
cloak of the hypocritical philosopher; cf. Apul. Flor. 7. 10; 9. 9; Gell. 9. 2. 4 Video
barbam et pallium, philosophum nondum uideo; 13. 8. 5 Nihil . . . Weri posse indignius
neque intolerantius . . . quam quod homines ignaui ac desides, operti barba et pallio,
mores et emolumenta philosophiae in linguae uerborumque artes conuerterent. See van
den Hout, A Commentary, 323 on Fronto, De eloqu. 1. 4 (p. 135. 7 v.d. H:2 ); Keulen,
‘Comic Invention’, 114 n. 16, 119 n. 26.
With his representation of Socrates, Apuleius pays homage to the earliest
portrait known to us of the philosopher Socrates, his caricature in Clouds (cf. 103
TæØH Æ); see Keulen, ‘Comic Invention’, 111. This portrait corresponds to the
Greek stereotype of the intellectual, which ridicules his wasted appearance; see
P. Zanker, The Mask of Socrates, 32–3.
For the great concern about teachers with dishonest motives in Gellius’ time,
see Tarrant, ‘Platonic Interpretation’, 173. For the topos of exposing the sham
philosopher see Vardi, ‘Gellius against the Professors’, 43–4 with nn. 14 and 17.
Cf. Gell. 13. 24. 2 Graecae istorum praestigiae, philosophari sese dicentium umbrasque
uerborum inanes Wngentium.
See Keulen, ‘Comic Invention’, 111 n. 8, 114 n. 16
Satire on the Intellectual 231

2.3. The Satire on Intellectualism

Deep feelings of distrust against pseudo-intellectuals were not an
exclusive characteristic of the age of Fronto, Gellius, and Apuleius,
nor were they merely part of a literary tradition with a Greek origin.
They also embody a fundamentally Roman attitude of scepticism
towards people who pretend to be philosophers, which the Romans
expressed through the genre of satire, a genre they held to be their
own. Although the Attic Nights is generically speaking not a work of
satire, it nevertheless reveals this Roman characteristic: Gellius’
interest in Varro’s Menippean Satires is not merely focused on
Latin idiom, but also embraces Varro’s humour and sympotic wit,
which does not exclude a particular sense of self-irony.33
Both Apuleius and Gellius, then, are interested in the theme of
exposing the sham philosopher, which was both an actual issue of
their age and a literary topos, going back to Aristophanes’ Clouds.
Moreover, satirizing and mocking pseudo-philosophers belonged
to a characteristically Roman outlook that both Antonine authors,
full of reverence for the Roman past, would be likely to share. It is
also likely that both authors, who were highly sophisticated and
had read Aristophanes, were aware of the Greek literary origins of
the literary topos of mocking the sham intellectual. What is more,
for Roman Antonine authors such as Apuleius and Gellius, the
stock elements of satirical attacks on personae non gratae seemed to
have been so familiar and well worn that they could also be used in
certain witty forms of self-portrayal (as we see in Apuleius’ Apol-
ogy), which displayed a self-conscious sense of humour.
Apuleius’ and Gellius’ shared interest in the satire of intellec-
tualism and their indebtedness to Aristophanes will now be illus-
trated in more detail. Just as Strepsiades becomes an initiate in the
mysteries of the Socratic æ
, so the Apuleian Socrates
initiates his friend Aristomenes into a secretive dialogue that will
turn him from a sceptic into a superstitious believer in the super-
natural. Socrates’ language of mystic initiation and his gestures
reveal his superstitious fear that others may overhear their conver-
sation about a religious subject that is strictly taboo. His behaviour
creates an atmosphere of initiation, calling for a mystic silence that
is required for the revealing of things of a higher order:

For the traditionally Roman suspicion of pseudo-intellectuals and the links
with the Menippean satire see J. C. Relihan, Ancient Menippean Satire, 54–9 on
Gellius, esp. 54; see also p. 69, where he quotes Gellius’ anecdote of the braggart
scholar who claimed to understand Varro’s Menippeans (Gell. 13. 31. 1–3).
232 Wytse Keulen
At ille digitum a pollice proximum ori suo admouens et in stuporem
attonitus ‘tace, tace’ inquit et circumspiciens tutamenta sermonis:
‘parce’, inquit, ‘in feminam diuinam, nequam tibi lingua intemperante
noxam contrahas.’ (Met. 1. 8. 2.)
The initiation performance of this Socrates, which serves as an
introduction to his fantastic stories about the witch Meroe, echoes
the care of the Platonic Socrates to take a good look round before
starting a philosophical discussion, to make sure no ‘non-initiate’ is
listening (Plat. Theaet. 155 e  `ŁæØ b æØŒ
H  Ø H
Iıø ! ÆŒ
fi ). In the tradition of Clouds, which parodied the
Platonic analogy between philosophical-rhetorical instruction and
mystic initiation,34 Apuleius’ Metamorphoses introduces a charac-
ter with the signiWcant name Socrates, a superstitious outcast
Wgure who seems to represent the negative aspects of intellectual-
ism such as exclusiveness and arrogance.35
A similar type of behaviour is displayed in the main story by the
protagonist Lucius, who shares many interests and inclinations
with the Socrates of the Wrst inset tale.36 In his diatribe against
scepticism, Lucius uses the invective technique of representing his
opponent as an ignorant fool. Confuting the sceptic’s incredulity,
Lucius tries to live up to his philosophical credentials (1. 2. 1 a
Plutarcho), and strikes a rather pedantic tone, as if he were the
superior intellectual. He phrases belief in the incredible in terms of
an intellectual process for which not everyone is intelligent
enough.37 Contrasting the wrong beliefs of ordinary mortals
(1. 3. 3 prauissimis opinionibus) with the genuine perception of the
one who uses his senses accurately, and using a singular address
(si . . . accuratius exploraris . . . senties), Lucius assumes a didac-
tic-philosophical stance. His attack on those stubborn folk who do
not believe the things that lie beyond the grasp of the human mind
(1. 3. 2–3) echoes Socrates’ attack on non-intellectuals in Plat.
Theaet. 155 e cited above (cf. also Soph. 246 a–b). There Socrates
calls ‘non-initiates’ (the Apuleian Socrates behaves similarly, as we
have seen above) those who think nothing exists beyond what they
can grasp in their two hands (cf. 1. 3. 3 supra captum cogitationis).
See Sommerstein on Clouds 140; of Dover on 143 ıæØÆ; P. Green, ‘The
Abuses of Intellectualism’.
Cf. Socrates’ reference to Aristomenes’ ignorance in 1. 6. 4 Aristomene, . . . ne
tu fortunarum lubricas ambages et instabiles incursiones et reciprocas uicissitudines
See Keulen, ‘Comic Invention’, 108–9, with further references.
Cf. 1. 3. 2 crassis auribus, 1. 3. 3 minus hercule calles; see Keulen, ‘Swordplay—
Wordplay’, 162.
Satire on the Intellectual 233

Theaetetus agrees and calls such persons ‘stubborn and obstinate’

 . . . ŒÆd I Ø
ı; cf. 1. 3. 2 obstinato corde).
Lucius’ arrogance and exclusive stance characterize him as a
comic Wgure, resembling contemporary targets of satire. Both in
his arrogant posing as the superior intellectual and in his stance of
superstitious credulity, resembling Stoic philosophers (1. 4. 2, 1.
20. 3, 2. 15. 1), he exposes himself as a pseudo-philosopher.38
His arrogant and exclusive stance of the intellectual resembles
Gellius’ portrayal of a young loquacious and self-proclaimed
Stoic philosopher, who during an after-dinner conversation
immoderately praises his own philosophy and boasts of his own
intellect (1. 2. 4).39 Strikingly, Lucius’ behaviour is not unlike that
of his spiritual father Apuleius in his Apology, who poses as the
superior intellectual throughout the work, while denigrating his
opponents as ignorant fools.
Just like Apuleius, Gellius employs the topic of exclusion for the
comic characterization of persons exposed as would-be intellec-
tuals in the debate-scenes of his Attic Nights. In 19. 10. 14, a
grammarian, who is at a loss in a discussion with Fronto about
the word praeterpropter, resorts to a mechanism of exclusion in
an unsuccessful attempt to save himself from an embarrassing
Et grammaticus sudans multum ac rubens multum, cum id plerique
prolixius riderent, exsurgit et abiens: ‘Tibi’, inquit, ‘Fronto, postea uni
dicam, ne inscitiores audiant ac discant.’
At the same time, the topic of exclusion as a marker for satire on
intellectualism draws our attention to a curious paradox within
Gellius’ own work, a paradox that seems also relevant for Apu-
leius, who strikingly resembles his alter ego Lucius (see above).
With a signiWcant remark in his preface (20), Gellius reveals his
anxiety to protect his writings from the profestum et profanum
uolgus, a ludo musico diuersum (‘the profane and uninitiate throng,
For Lucius’ characterization as a pseudo-philosopher and a comparison with
Greek contemporary parallels (Lucian) see Keulen, ‘Swordplay—Wordplay’, esp.
162, 165.
Cf. 1. 2. cap. quendam iactantem et gloriosum adulescentem, specie tantum philo-
sophiae sectatorem. 1. 2. 4 praeque se uno ceteros omnes . . . rudes esse et agrestes
praedicabat. [ . . . ] asseuerabat nulli esse ulli magis ea omnia explorata, comperta
meditataque (cf. Apul. Met. 1. 3. 3 Quae si paulo accuratius exploraris, . . . compertu
euidentia . . . senties). For the conceited behaviour of the professionals that Gellius
puts to shame in the Attic Nights and the connection with the contemporary Greek
quarrel between the new sophists and philosophers, see Vardi, ‘Gellius against the
Professors’, 52 with n. 68.
234 Wytse Keulen

averse to the Muses’ play’), which apparently reveals an elitist

attitude not unlike that of some characters put to shame in the
Attic Nights.40 However, as it is likely that Gellius anticipated
possible charges of intellectualism himself, we should not overlook
the possibility that he made this remark with a certain sense of
irony. It may not be a coincidence that his programmatic statement
of excluding the ‘uninitiated’ from his elite audience is tactically
backed up by a quotation from Aristophanes, the archetypical
satirist of exclusive intellectual movements.41

3. lucius the sophist

In the previous part, we have observed that Gellius and Apuleius
not only share an interest in ‘Socratic’ motifs in their satirical
representations of intellectuals, but also appear to turn the same
satire on themselves. The third part of this article focuses on the
intriguing Wgure of Lucius in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses, investi-
gating further characteristics that correspond to certain personal-
ities from Gellius’ Attic Nights, and thus may reveal in Lucius’
characterization possible dimensions of contemporary satire. It
also explores whether this kind of satire implies certain repercus-
sions for Gellius and Apuleius themselves, being intellectuals who
represent the typical tastes of their own time. Gellius’ criticism of
sophistic rivals not only turns out to reveal a certain self-conscious
irony about his position as an author of a miscellany, but also helps
us to recognize forms of self-satire in Apuleius through his Wctional
alter ego Lucius.
The close identiWcation of the narrator Lucius, who also poses as
the writer of this text,42 with the concrete author Apuleius, is a
much-discussed theme in Apuleian studies,43 although few studies

However, the diVerence should be noted that whereas the grammarian of 19.
10 is covering his retreat, having been happy enough to parade his learning while it
seemed superior, Gellius himself, in his preface, is warning oV those who are not
interested in his kind of learning.
The quotation is from the parabasis of Frogs, vv. 354–6, 359–61.
Cf. e.g. 1. 1. 1 papyrum . . . calami inscriptam; 10. 2. 1 sed ut uos etiam legatis,
ad librum profero; 10. 7. 4 sed quae plane comperi, ad istas litteras proferam. See D. van
Mal-Maeder on 2. 12. 5 historiam magnam et incredundam fabulam (edn. 215–16).
On the deliberate association between Lucius and the author Apuleius in the
Metamorphoses (cf. 11. 27. 9 Madaurensem) see R. Th. van der Paardt, ‘The
Unmasked I’; J. L. Penwill, ‘Ambages reciprocae’, 15–16; on various parallels be-
tween Lucius and Apuleius see P. Junghanns, Erzählungstechnik, 14; Harrison,
Apuleius, 10, 217–18 (with references). See below, n. 75.
Satire on the Intellectual 235

pay attention to its in my view most important aspect, that of

humour and satire. Lucius, who notably speaks in the Wrst person,
truly appears as the satirical alter ego of Apuleius, who lends traits
and concerns of his own to his hero, but nevertheless makes him
the object of his satire.44
A recent study of Apuleius calls Lucius the ‘sophistic protagon-
ist’ of the Metamorphoses, whose characterization as a well-edu-
cated, ambitious young sophist in the making seems to justify the
deWnition of the Metamorphoses as ‘a sophist’s novel’.45 In my
view, the satirical dimension in Lucius’ characterization, which
we may call ‘sophistic’, can be further explored by comparing him
with certain types of intellectuals attacked by Apuleius’ contem-
porary Gellius. Indeed, Lucius strikingly resembles the declaimer
of the type Philostratus identiWes with the Second Sophistic, as he
emerges as a bilingual show-orator and a professional sophist who
earns money with his rhetoric,46 not unlike some contemporary
rhetoricians that Gellius includes as targets of derision in his
Nights.47 Again, parallels emerge with Apuleius: Vardi (‘Gellius
against the Professors’, 42 n. 5) compares sophista ille I Æ ı
who makes some embarrassing mistakes concerning the dates of
Carneades and Panaetius while publice disserens (17. 21. 1), with the
performance of Lucius’ spiritual father Apuleius, whom he calls ‘a
contemporary sophist’ engaging in similar public declamations,
and making similar mistakes.
Just like the guide to the easy road to rhetoric satirized in
Lucian’s Teacher of Rhetoric, Lucius personiWes an eVeminate,
honey-sweet, and ear-soothing sing-song rhetoric.48 He reveals
himself as a sophisticated performer, stunning his audience with
See above, n. 18.
See Harrison, Apuleius, 215–16. For scepticism about the links between Apu-
leius and the Greek Second Sophistic see the review of Harrison by S. Swain,
‘Apuleius Sophista’; see also Swain, above, 11–12.
For Lucius’ bilingualism cf. Met. 1. 1. 4 linguam Attidem . . . merui . . . mox
Quiritium indigenam sermonem . . . excolui. Lucius more than once demonstrates his
superb command of the sermo Quiritium; a good example is his performance as a
brilliant orator at his mock-trial in 3. 1–12. At the novel’s end, Lucius’ successful
rhetorical activities in Rome even become his source of income (11. 28. 6 quaesticulo
forensi nutrito per patrocinia sermonis Romani; 11. 30. 2 stipendiis forensibus bellule
Cf. Gell. 17. 5. 3 rhetoricus quidam sophista, utriusque linguae callens, haut sane
ignobilis ex istis acutulis et minutis doctoribus qui  ،
appellantur; 17. 21. 1.
1. 1. 1 aures . . . tuas beniuolas lepido susurro permulceam; 1. 1. 3 Hymettos
Attica; 1. 1. 6 ipsa uocis immutatio; see W. H. Keulen, comm. 16–19 (‘1.2.2 EVemi-
nate style and ‘‘singing’’ performance’). For the Roman ambivalence towards aures
permulcere, cf. Titus Castricius’ warning, quoted by Gellius, that the ear-pleasing
236 Wytse Keulen

an unrestrained use of archaisms and neologisms, and becoming

the embodiment of those qualities that contemporary satire
mocked in sophists.49

3.1. Miracula Graecanica: Lucius, Apion, and Pliny the Elder

3.1.1. Polymathy
In the prologue and in other metanarrative statements, Lucius
poses as an eloquent entertainer in performance, who seduces his
audience with his enchanting voice.50 At the same time, he mani-
fests himself as the polymathic writer of a work of Wction of Greek
origin, containing a variety of stories designed to startle and enter-
tain the audience (1. 1. 2 ut mireris):
At ego tibi sermone isto Milesio uarias fabulas conseram auresque tuas
beniuolas lepido susurro permulceam, modo si papyrum Aegyptiam argu-
tia Nilotici calami inscriptam non spreueris inspicere. (1. 1. 1.)
Come, let me join various tales for you in this Milesian conversation, and
let me beguile your ears into approval with a charming whispering, at least
if you will not disdain to take a look at Egyptian pages written with the
cleverness of a Nilotic pen.
Fabulam Graecanicam incipimus. Lector intende: laetaberis. (1. 1. 6.)
We begin a Grecian story. Reader, pay attention: you will be delighted.
The symposium-like context of storytelling and conversation
(sermo) evoked by the prologue is connected with allusions to
miscellaneous learning and Egyptian lore.51 Lucius’ behaviour as

sound of a well-modulated phrase has the danger of confounding our judgement of

the sense of the speech (11. 13). For the satire on sophistic bel-canto rhetoric (see
Gleason, Making Men, 121–30), cf. Lucian, Rhet. praec. 11–17, possibly reXecting a
more general tendency of this period (cf. e.g. Hadrian of Tyre, Philostr. VS 589),
which is illustrated by Lucius.
Archaisms: cf. e.g. Met. 1. 1. 5 prosapia; 1. 6. 5 aerumnae; 1. 16. 2 exanclasti; see
M. Bernhard, Stil, 130–5; Harrison, Apuleius, 17 n. 68 with further references.
Neologisms: cf. e.g. 1. 10. 2 coronalibus; 1. 12. 1 (with an archaic ring) naturalitus;
Bernhard, Stil, 138–43. For the contemporary satire on over-enthusiastic users of
archaic language cf. e.g. Lucian, Lex. 17, 20; Demonax 26; Gell. 1. 10, 11. 7.
Cf. also 9. 14. 1 fabulam denique bonam, prae ceteris suaue comptam, ad auris
uestras adferre decreui. In my view, we may safely identify the speaking voice in the
Prologue with the narrator Lucius, as many scholars nowadays do. For a collection
of essays dealing with this much-debated question and other issues related to the
Apuleian Prologue, see A. Kahane and A. Laird (eds.), Companion to the Prologue.
Notably, the sermo referred to in the Apuleian prologue is a sermo Milesius:
according to some scholars, this phrase alludes to the narrative framework of
Aristides’ غØÆŒ
d ºª
Ø as a miscellaneous collection of short stories narrated
Satire on the Intellectual 237

a character in the story often seems to look forward to the collector

of miscellaneous stories evoked by the narrating voice of the pro-
logue, as he appears to be a sophisticated and highly curious young
man, whose travelling around seems closely connected with his
taste for the unusual and the spectacular.52 This inclination of
Lucius is aptly illustrated with the passage in which he compares
himself to Odysseus, and observes that his adventurous life as an
ass has made him multiscius:
nam et ipse gratas gratias asino meo memini, quod me suo celatum teg-
mine uariisque fortunis exercitatum, etsi minus prudentem, multiscium
reddidit.53 (Met. 9. 13. 5.)
The keyword for Lucius’ sophistic characterization is multiscius,
which is explicitly distinguished from prudens in this passage. The
portrayal contains an inversion of a Greek dictum known from

P ØŒØ (DK 22 B 40, quoted by
Gell. pr. 12; cf. Aeschylus fr. 390 Radt, › æØ N,
P › ºº
). The adjective multiscius is almost exclusively
Apuleian.54 Apuleius never uses it of himself. However, he signi-
Wcantly uses two of Wve instances in descriptions of Greek sophists
from the Wfth century bc with whom he is keen to compare
himself.55 Moreover, their shared interest in miscellaneous learn-
ing forms one of the many signiWcant links between Lucius and
Apuleius. Apuleius not only manifests himself as a polymath
throughout his Florida and Apology, but is also known to have
written other works of a miscellaneous nature.56

during sympotic conversations; see H. Lucas, ‘Zu den Milesiaca’, 24; B. E. Perry,
The Ancient Romances, 95; T. Hägg, The Novel, 188; for a diVerent view see
Harrison, ‘The Milesian Tales’, 65. For Gellius’ and Apuleius’ shared interest in
the literary form of the erudite symposium, see above, §1.2, and nn. 12, 56. For the
connection between polymathy and a sympotic context cf. e.g. Gell. 2. 22. 25–6.
Cf. 1. 2. 6 sititor alioquin nouitatis . . . non quidem curiosum; 2. 6. 5 ex uoto
diutino poteris fabulis miris explere pectus with van Mal-Maeder ad loc. (edn. 134–5).
For an extensive discussion of this passage and its literary sources see
E. J. Kenney, ‘In the Mill with Slaves’, 167–70.
See B. L. Hijmans et al., edn. of book 9, p. 132.
Cf. Flor. 9. 24 (on Hippias) Quis autem non laudauit hominem tam numerosa arte
multiscium, totiugi scientia magniWcum, tot utensilium peritia daedalum?; 18. 19 Pro-
tagora, qui sophista fuit longe multiscius et cum primis rhetoricae repertoribus perfa-
cundus. The other two instances are used of Apollo (Flor. 3. 9 coma intonsus et genis
gratus et corpore glabellus et arte multiscius) and of Homer (Apol. 31. 5 Homerum,
poetam multiscium uel potius cunctarum rerum adprime peritum). Cf. Gell. 5. 10. 3
Protagoram, sophistarum acerrimum.
For Florida as a title of a miscellany see Vardi, ‘Why Attic Nights?’, 299 n. 7.
A lost specimen of the genre of miscellany is Apuleius’ Quaestiones conuiuales;
238 Wytse Keulen

Lucius’ characterization as a writer of a miscellaneous book full

of marvels, who has learnt many things but not acquired much
wisdom, comes very close to Gellius’ portrayals of the polymathic
writers Apion and Pliny the Elder. Although Gellius quotes and
uses both authors as sources of information, he makes it more or
less clear that he considers them as sophistic producers of marvels,
who merely wish to impress their audience with their miscellan-
eous collections of trivia.57 The most striking parallels can be
drawn between Lucius and Apion, whom Gellius quotes as the
author of an Aegyptiaca, ‘Wonders of Egypt’ (5. 14. 4, 6. 8. 4), a
title revealing a similar interest in incredible stories, symbolized by
the geographical reference to Egypt, to that in the programmatic
statement of the Apuleian Prologue, 1. 1. 1 papyrum Aegyptiam
argutia Nilotici calami inscriptam.58 Gellius’ reference to Apion’s
miscellaneous learning seems to insinuate that his erudition was
multa, but did not amount to multum, and should probably not be
taken as a compliment:
Apion, qui ‘Plistonices’ appellatus est, litteris homo multis praeditus
rerumque Graecarum plurima atque uaria scientia fuit. (5. 14. 1.)
The nearest that Gellius comes to this elsewhere in the Nights is in
his comment on Pliny the Elder, who, just like Lucius, combines
extensive and miscellaneous learning with the aim of pleasing the
ears of the audience:
In his libris (sc. Studiosorum) multa uarie ad oblectandas eruditorum
hominum aures ponit. (9. 16. 3.)
Notably, in 9. 4. 13 (quoted below), Gellius explicitly puts Pliny’s
writings on a par with a collection of Greek wonder-tales, which he
found in a number of shabby, remaindered books at Brundisium
(§3): Erant autem isti omnes libri Graeci miraculorum fabularumque
pleni, res inauditae, incredulae. One of these books could have
been a text like Apuleius’ Metamorphoses, or even the Greek

Harrison, Apuleius, 30–1. For the contemporary popularity of the genre of miscel-
lany see also A. D. Vardi, above, Ch. 6.
For Apion as a boastful sophist who sought employment through self-
advertisementcf. Gell. 5. 14. 3 fortassean uitio studioque ostentationis sit loquacior—
est enim sane quam in praedicandis doctrinis sui uenditator; see Holford-Strevens,
Aulus Gellius, 61 [50]. Apion called himself —ºØ
Œ, ‘Supreme Champion’
(Gell. 5. 14. 1); Tiberius called him, as Pliny reports (NH pr. 25), cymbalum
mundi. For Gellius’ critical views on Apion and Pliny, see Holford-Strevens, Aulus
Gellius, 41, 157, 165–6 [30–1, 115, 121–2]. Another swollen-headed sophist was
Varus (Philostr. VS 540).
See Keulen, comm. 65–6.
Satire on the Intellectual 239

æØ.59 Against this background, Lucius, Apion, and
Pliny the Elder appear as fellow writers of a less respectable
genre, that of Unterhaltungsliteratur.60 From the perspective of a
Gellius, Lucius is a clearly negative representative of a genre such
as pursued by Apion and Pliny, and exempliWed by the collections
of trivia and marvels—especially the Greek ones—from which
Gellius is at pains to distinguish his own miscellany.61 According
to Gellius’ programmatic statement, his own work does not aim at
a quantity of learning, but is conWned to ‘useful knowledge’:
Ego uero, cum illud Heracliti Ephesii uiri summe nobilis uerbum cordi
haberem, quod profecto ita est

P ØŒØ;62 ipse quidem
uoluendis transeundisque multis admodum uoluminibus . . . , exercitus
defessusque sum, sed modica ex his eaque sola accepi, quae . . . (pr. 12.)

3.1.2. Autopsy and Fiction

Another shared feature revealing the close aYnity between Lucius
and Gellius’ portrayals of Apion and Pliny is their use of autopsy to
back up their incredible stories. The ancients considered an eye-
witness account more credible than hearsay;63 the topic was of
interest to both Gellius (5. 14. 4, 6. 8. 4, 9. 4. 13) and Apuleius
(Flor. 2. 3; Met. 1. 4. 2). However, such conWrmations of autopsy
had become commonplace in paradoxography, and could therefore
be interpreted as a marker of Wction. In Gellius’ and Apuleius’
time, resorting to autopsy had become a topic of satire: in the
The Greek Æ
æØ are preserved only in a summary by Photius (Bibl.
cod. 129), who attributes them to Loukios of Patrai, the protagonist of the novel.
Scholars now generally agree this work to be the common source of both the extant
Greek epitome (the  ˇ
 transmitted amongst Lucian’s works) and Apuleius’
Metamorphoses. See Harrison, Apuleius, 218; Keulen, ‘Comic Invention’, 131 n. 50.
See F.-F. Lühr, ‘Res inauditae, incredulae’; G. Schepens and K. Delcroix
‘Ancient Paradoxography’ (on Gellius, 410–25).
For Gellius’ criticism of contemporary miscellanies in his programmatic pref-
ace see Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 27–8 [20–1]; cf. pr. 5 (implicit criticism of
heterogeneous nature of works as betrayed by their titles, amongst them Pliny’s
Naturalis Historia) Nam quia uariam et miscellam et quasi confusaneam doctrinam
conquisiuerant, eo titulos quoque ad eam sententiam exquisitissimos indiderunt; §11
(criticism of writers of miscellany, especially the Greeks) Namque illi omnes et
eorum maxime Graeci multa et uaria lectitantes, in quas res cumque inciderant, ‘alba’
ut dicitur ‘linea’ sine cura discriminis solam copiam sectati conuerrebant, quibus in
legendis ante animus senio ac taedio languebit, quam unum alterumue reppererit, quod
sit aut uoluptati legere aut cultui legisse aut usui meminisse. Contrast, however, the
positive view of miscellany in 13. 9. 2–3.
For the omission of Heracliti before Ephesii in V see Holford-Strevens, Aulus
Gellius, 36 n. 51 [27 n. 47]. For Heracleitus’ dictum see above, 237.
See Russell’s notes on Dio Chrys. Or. 7. 1 and 12. 71 (with references);
Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 166 [122].
240 Wytse Keulen

prologue to True History (1. 3), Lucian mocks Ctesias of Cnidos’

use of the autopsy topos,64 and emphasizes that he himself did not
see the true facts that he is going to recount (VH 1. 4). Explicit
references to eyewitness accounts, then, may function to unmask
the inventor of untrue stories. In view of Gellius’ portrayals of
Apion and Pliny as miracle-mongers, his emphasis on the fact that
they claim to be eyewitnesses of the miraculous things they recount
should probably be interpreted ironically:
hoc autem, quod in libro Aegyptiacorum quinto scripsit, neque audisse
neque legisse, sed ipsum sese in urbe Roma uidisse oculis suis conWrmat.65
(5. 14. 4.)
Libitum tamen est in loco hoc miraculorum notare id etiam, quod Plinius
Secundus, uir in temporibus aetatis suae ingenii dignitatisque gratia auc-
toritate magna praeditus, non audisse neque legisse, sed scire sese atque
uidisse in libro naturalis historiae septimo scripsit. (9. 4. 13.)
In a similar way, Lucius is exposed as a cheap miracle-monger,
when he backs up his programmatic anecdote of an amazing per-
formance by a sword-swallower by assuring emphatically that he
himself witnessed this miraculous spectacle with his own eyes in
Athens at the Stoa Poikile.66
Et tamen Athenis proxime et ante Poecilen porticum isto gemino obtutu
circulatorem aspexi equestrem spatham praeacutam mucrone infesto
deuorasse . . . (Met. 1. 4. 2.)
On the level of the story, Lucius’ obvious intention with this anec-
dote is to prove to the sceptic interlocutor that the impossible
is possible. However, on a diVerent level, his recourse to the eye-
witness account invites the reader to unmask Lucius’ untrust-
worthy persona, and to take a sceptical position towards his
authenticating and autobiographical stance, both in his anecdote
and in the narrative as a whole.
See P. von MöllendorV, Auf der Suche, 53–4 n. 62.
Gell. 6. 8. 4 Verba subscripsi ` ø
, eruditi uiri, ex Aegyptiacorum libro
quinto, quibus delphini amantis et pueri non abhorrentis consuetudines, lusus, gesta-
tiones, aurigationes refert eaque omnia sese ipsum multosque alios uidisse dicit: `Pe 
Æs r 
. . .
For the programmatic meaning of this episode and the signiWcant use of
juggling imagery (circulator, praestrigiator) as a metaliterary reference to ‘sophistic’
rhetoric, see Keulen, ‘Swordplay—Wordplay’, 167–8. Gellius frequently uses such
metaphors to expose the ‘sophistic’ qualities of intellectuals and their writings,
notably Pliny (10. 12. 6 His portentis atque praestrigiis a Plinio Secundo scriptis non
dignum esse cognomen Democriti puto); cf. also the grammaticus praestigiosus (8. 10.
cap.); 7. 15. 2 homo in doctrinis quasi in praestigiis miriWcus; 13. 24. 2 Graecae istorum
praestigiae (cited fully above, n. 31).
Satire on the Intellectual 241

3.2. Lucius, Apuleius, and Gellius: Three of a Kind?

In Lucius’ characterization, then, we Wnd an accumulation of
elements that Gellius would attribute to intellectuals he is anxious
to distinguish himself from: he is a Greek collector of Egyptian
marvels, an ambitious polymath, and an ear-pleasing word-jug-
gler. At the same time, Gellius’ pains to distinguish his work from
the sort of trivia he found in Brundisium (9. 4), or in Pliny’s or
Apion’s work, or in a friend’s rival miscellany (14. 6),67 reveal a
certain ironic consciousness of his own position as a miscellanist.
The fact that he explicitly professes to have abjured polymathy,
and claims for his Nights a status or utility superior to that of his
competitors, indicates that he anticipated the charge of being an
Apion or a Pliny himself. There is a fundamental paradox in the
way Gellius distinguishes himself from the polymaths to whom
he owes a great deal for his own work. It cannot be denied
that he follows them in his choice of genre, and that his predeces-
sors provided him with a considerable amount of information.68
With his Attic Nights, he too provides us with a literary
source of marvels, and this made him vulnerable to contemporary
We could perhaps explain this paradox in terms of competition
for literary immortality. No doubt, Gellius’ ambition was not to
be ranked with an Apion, a Seneca, or a Pliny, whom he credited
merely with a temporary fame and a reputation of a transitory
nature. With his Attic Nights, Gellius may have aspired to be-
come more than just ‘the most learned man of his age’ (cf.
the malicious tone directed at Pliny in 9. 4. 13 in temporibus
aetatis suae). He probably preferred to be ranked with a Cato, a
Varro, or a Cicero, who were authorities in their own right, and
had acquired an undisputed position in the curriculum of Roman

14. 6. 1 Homo nobis familiaris . . . dat mihi librum grandi uolumine doctrinae
omnigenus, ut ipse dicebat, praescatentem, quem sibi elaboratum esse ait ex multis et
uariis et remotis lectionibus, ut ex eo sumerem, quantum liberet rerum memoria
dignarum. The homo familiaris is often identiWed with Favorinus; on this issue see
Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 116–18 [82–3]; Beall, ‘Homo fandi dulcissimus’,
101–2, who concludes: ‘the coincidence is too obvious to be dismissed entirely;
second-century readers would reasonably have counted Favorinus among Gellius’
negative precedents.’
See Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 40–1 [30–1].
See Beall, ‘Aulus Gellius 17.8’, 60; id., ‘Homo fandi dulcissimus’, 89–90: ‘By the
late second century, to write a miscellany was a risky business. It had become a well-
worn genre, to judge from the variety of titles cited by Gellius himself (praef. 5–9).’
242 Wytse Keulen

In spite of such legitimate motivations, Gellius may well have

been aware of the aforementioned paradox in his work.70 It was a
paradox he shared with other intellectuals of the age, notably
Apuleius. As we have observed above, both Gellius and Apuleius
reveal the paradox of satirizing certain intellectual inclinations in
other (Wctional) characters featuring in their works, which never-
theless turn out to resemble their own tendencies. The most telling
example of this paradox is Lucius versus Apuleius. Lucius is the
mirror of second-century satire on the intellectual: he combines
the ambitious bilingual rhetorician, the arrogant philosopher, the
polymathic sophist, and the enthusiastic archaist satirized by,
among others, Gellius and Lucian. In Lucius, unavoidably, Apu-
leius not only satirizes the intellectual world he grew up in, but also
satirizes himself as a typical exponent of this world. Another
typical exponent was Gellius. If we compare Lucius with some
Wgures created by Gellius, we Wnd that the kind of satire embodied
by Apuleius’ alter ego works for Gellius as well. Gellius also shared
a sense of humour and a taste for satire with his contemporary
Roman Apuleius, a kind of self-irony that seems to have belonged
to the intellectual culture of their age.71 Two instances from the
Nights may illustrate this.
In a passage discussed earlier, the grammarian Domitius Insa-
nus severely criticizes the philosopher Favorinus for his word-
hunting (18. 7. 3), and even cites the venerable Cato to back up
his diatribe:
‘Nulla . . . prorsus bonae salutis spes reliqua est, cum uos quoque, philo-
sophorum inlustrissimi, nihil iam aliud quam uerba auctoritatesque uer-
borum cordi habetis. ( . . . ) Ego enim grammaticus uitae iam atque
morum disciplinas quaero, uos philosophi mera estis, ut M. Cato ait,
‘‘mortualia’’; glosaria namque conligitis et lexidia, res taetras et inanes et
friuolas, tamquam mulierum uoces praeWcarum.’

Although Gellius probably did not openly share this criticism,

directed at the man who embodies the intellectual values of his
Attic Nights, he was presumably aware of the fact that some scenes

For a diVerent view on the amount of self-awareness we may expect of Romans
see Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 41 [31].
I am strongly indebted here to the views put forward by Beall, ‘Homo fandi
dulcissimus’, 102. See also Gleason, Making Men, 151 on Favorinus’ fundamental
irony and self-consciousness about the various roles he played while performing as
an intellectual.
Satire on the Intellectual 243

in his work asked for such criticism. A second-century reader may

also have agreed with Domitius, for as Beall well observes, ‘it
strikes us as odd that Gellius should invoke the authority of a
philosopher when dealing with a question obviously pertaining to
grammar’ (cf. Gell. 2. 26, 3. 19).72 Gellius not only recognized this
paradox, but also exploited it to create the ironical role-reversal in
18. 7, featuring the comic Wgure of Domitius Insanus as the
mouthpiece of the sharp criticism that Gellius himself anticipated
or actually encountered in the lively contemporary intellectual
In another scene from the Nights, Gellius even features himself
as a character who forms the target of intellectual attack. In one of
his anecdotes about his student life, during a lecture on Plato’s
Symposium, his master of philosophy Taurus exposes the young
Gellius as a kind of sophist, calling him a rhetoriscus (‘young
rhetorician’) in class (17. 20. 4):
Haec uerba ubi lecta sunt, atque ibi Taurus mihi: ‘heus’ inquit ‘tu,
rhetorisce’,—sic enim me in principio recens in diatribam acceptum
appellitabat existimans eloquentiae unius extundendae gratia Athenas
uenisse— . . . 73

With this anecdote, Gellius this time gives himself the unexpected
role of the young charlatan exposed by the professional, not
unlike the arrogant Stoic exposed by Herodes Atticus in 1. 2.74
Taurus’ remarks, like Domitius’ tirade, should not be completely
identiWed with Gellius’ own judgements about himself. Neverthe-
less, these vivid vignettes show that Gellius not only appreciated
the negative light in which his own literary activities could
be viewed, but even used such views for his own purposes of
literary play. Just as Apuleius represents his satirical alter ego
Lucius as a young ear-pleasing sophist, who became the writer
of his autobiography, Gellius represents his younger self as a
rhetoriscus, who seems only interested in rhetoric and language

Beall, ‘Homo fandi dulcissimus’, 89.
Cf. 1. 9. 10–11 ‘Est etiam . . . pro Iuppiter! qui Platonem legere postulet non
uitae ornandae, sed linguae orationisque comendae gratia, nec ut modestior Wat, sed ut
lepidior.’ Haec Taurus dicere solitus, nouicios philosophorum sectatores cum ueteribus
Pythagoricis pensitans.
See above, n. 39.
244 Wytse Keulen

and not in true philosophy.75 For this young sophist Gellius,

enticing the ear with well-modulated phrases is more important
than penetrating to a philosophical content.76 Satire and irony are
essential to this form of self-presentation,77 and also imply that
there is some truth in Taurus’ characterization of the young Gel-
lius, who later became the mannerist Gellius, the author of the
Attic Nights.78

4. conclusion
Gellius and Apuleius lived in an age marked by a lively intellectual
debate, in which rival intellectuals, both Greek and Roman,
deWned their own superior status by exposing their adversaries as
‘sophists’ as a deprecatory term, in the same vein as ‘impostor’,
‘pseudo-philosopher’, ‘bad linguist’, or ‘shallow expert’. Gellius’
and Apuleius’ literary works seem widely separated by generic
boundaries: the Metamorphoses are not a miscellany, and the
Attic Nights are not a satirical novel. Yet both works are permeated
with similar topics and ideas, and reveal a shared literary and
intellectual pedigree. Following the literary tradition of the So-
cratic dialogue, and paying homage to Plutarch as their shared
intellectual ancestor, both Gellius and Apuleius wrote sympotic
dialogue scenes with the exposure of fraudulent pretensions and
unsound doctrines as an important underlying theme. Their so-
phisticated Roman audience was prepared to look behind the
masks of the literary personae featuring in their works, and to
recognize authorial views and allusions to the contemporary intel-
lectual debate. Neither Apuleius nor Gellius considered or called
himself a sophist: Apuleius proudly calls himself a philosophus
Platonicus; Gellius, being much more modest, manifests himself
as a serious Roman scholar whose literary eVorts rise above the
There is a striking similarity between Gell. 17. 20. 4 ‘heus . . . tu, rhetorisce’
and Apul. Met. 2. 10. 2, where Photis mockingly calls Lucius a scholasticus: ‘heus tu,
scolastice’, ait, ‘dulce et amarum gustulum carpis’.
Cf. 17. 20. 7 Haec admonitio Tauri de orationis Platonicae modulis non modo non
repressit, sed instrinxit etiam nos ad elegantiam Graecae orationis uerbis Latinis adfe-
utandam. See too Plut. De aud. 9 (Mor. 42 e).
See Beall, ‘Homo fandi dulcissimus’, 104, who mentions the important role of
sophistic role-playing, which Gellius may have learned from his teacher Favorinus,
and who also points to the programmatic aim of literary entertainment of the Nights:
delectatio in otio atque in ludo liberalior (pr. 16).
For Gellius as a representative of the 2nd-c. stylistic tendency of mannerism
see Holford-Strevens, Aulus Gellius, 48–64 [35–46] (‘Language and Style’).
Satire on the Intellectual 245

miscellaneous works of rival polymaths. Yet both Roman authors

share a taste for satire and paradoxical self-irony, which serves
their aim of literary entertainment. Both Apuleius in his Meta-
morphoses, and, in a much less extreme and more indirect way,
Gellius in his Attic Nights, stage literary personae whom their
readers are sometimes invited to expose as inventive polymaths,
over-enthusiastic archaists, arrogant sophists, or second-rate
word-collectors. At the same time, these personae embody charac-
teristics that rival intellectuals could very well use against Gellius
and Apuleius themselves, since these characteristics form topics of
a Werce contemporary intellectual debate, from which neither Gel-
lius nor Apuleius could have been excluded. Both Gellius and
Apuleius, then, gave new literary shapes to the traditional theme
of ‘satire on the intellectual’, shapes that both reXect the lively
intellectual world of Antonine Rome and reveal undeniable con-
nections with the contemporary Greek Second Sophistic.79

Lucius’ Greek identity is essential also in this respect (cf. Harrison, Apuleius,
216); for the links between Gellius and the Greek Second Sophistic see Vardi,
‘Gellius against the Professors’, 42 n. 5; on 52 n. 68, Vardi observes that the
exposure of the ambitious Stoic in 1. 2 is signiWcantly staged in Attica. See above,
n. 39, and sect. 3, with nn. 45–9.
This page intentionally left blank
This page intentionally left blank
Recht as een Palmen-Bohm and Other Facets
of Gellius’ Medieval and
Humanistic Reception
L eo f r a n c H o l f o r d -St r ev en s

A full reception history of Gellius after the fall of the Western

Empire remains to be written; the pages dedicated to the subject by
Hertz in his great edition (ii, pp. xxii–li), though they pre-date
thorough appreciation of the part played by indirect sources in
medieval authors’ knowledge of the classics, have still been rather
supplemented than replaced. The following remarks are intended
as contributions to that history, in particular to the enhancement of
Gellius’ standing as an auctor.

1. the wood of the palm-tree

Ancient authors were not always received whole, or even in large
part; to take a notorious example, Bede did not know Macrobius’
Saturnalia, beyond the abridgement of 1. 12–15 called the Dispu-
tatio Cori [sic] et Praetextati. As a miscellanist Gellius lent himself
more than most to excerpting; a striking case is aVorded by an
individual chapter that is found transmitted in the most unex-
pected company.
In NA 3. 6 Gellius, following Aristotle and Plutarch, declares
that the reason for awarding wreaths of palm to athletic victors was
palm-wood’s resistance to pressure; since on the one hand this
crown had long been transferred from the agon of sporting contests
to the agonia of martyrdom, on the other the palm was the type of
the Xourishing righteous and had been strewn before Christ on his
entry into Jerusalem, this chapter proved so congenial to church-
men that it was suVered to accompany excepts from Doctors of the
Church on the characteristics of the tree. For the sake of moral
paraenesis, which occupies a greater place in the practice of
250 Leofranc Holford-Strevens

religious as of philosophical teaching than systematic and original

thought,1 Gellius was thus made to serve a faith he had not deigned
to notice.

1.1. The Direct Tradition

Gellius, Noctes Atticae 3. 6
1. Per hercle rem mirandam Aristoteles in septimo problematorum et
Plutarchus in octauo symposiacorum dicit.2 2. ‘Si super palmae’ inquiunt
‘arboris lignum magna pondera inponas, ac tam grauiter urgeas oneresque,
ut magnitudo oneris sustineri non queat, non deorsum palma cedit, nec
intra Xectitur, sed aduersus pondus resurgit et sursum nititur recuruatur-
que.’ 3. ‘Propterea’ inquit Plutarchus ‘in certaminibus palmam signum
esse placuit uictoriae, quoniam ingenium ligni eiusmodi est, ut urgentibus
opprimentibusque non cedat.’
Codicum in orthographia errores consulto omisi Per om. R spatio
relicto rem mirandam CP: remirandam VR ac: at Rac tam
Flor. Val-Gell., recc.: tamen VCPR oneris: arboris oneris R
intra VCPR: in terra Flor. Val.-Gell. (in terram S)
Such is the text preserved by the twelfth-and thirteenth-century
manuscripts of the direct tradition, VCPR, and the Valerio-
Gellian Xorilegium, compiled in the eleventh century; the latter
in §2 preserves tam for the tamen of the former but changes intra
(‘inwards’, into a concave proWle) to in terra, which in turn was
syntactically adjusted in the oldest manuscript (S ¼ Cambridge,
Trinity College R 16. 34, c.1100) to in terram.

1.2. The Florilegium Vetus

However, there are two older witnesses to this chapter, Trier,
Stadtbibliothek 2500 (olim Sammlung Ludwig XII. 3), c.840, fo.
73v , hereafter Tre(virensis),3 which may have originated at Reims,

Cf. T. Morgan, above, Ch. 7; S. M. Beall, above, Ch. 8.
Arist. fr. 229 Rose ¼ 733 Gigon; Plut. Quaest. conu. 8. 4. 5 (724 e–f) Ø Ø
Ææa ÆFÆ  Æ ŒÆd  d ıŒe "æfiø e ºº
 ªaæ º
Æ øŁ K ØŁd æ Øfi,
P Œø ŁºØ
K  øØ , Iººa Œıæ
FÆØ æe 
P Æ 

u æ I ŁØ
c ŒÆd æd 
f IªH  KØ  
b ªaæ ! IŁ  Æ ŒÆd ƺƌ Æ Ø Œ
ıØ Œ 
ƒ  Kææø ø

 c ÆŒØ

E ÆØ Iººa ŒÆd 
E æ
ÆØ K Æ æ
ÆØ (Aristotle is not mentioned).
A. Borst, Reichskalender, i. 143–6 (MS c 2), cf. A. von Euw and J. Plotzek,
Handschriften der Sammlung Ludwig, iii. 145–53; C. de Hamel and R. Nolden, ‘Die
Recht as een Palmen-Bohm 251

but at any rate by 876 was at Laon,4 and Valenciennes, Bibliothè-

que municipale 174, c.890, fo. 41r , hereafter Val(entianensis), from
Saint-Amand (in Hucbald’s hand?).5 In Tre, the chapter is
followed by three texts on the palm-tree:
Est etiam . . . rursus attollit (Ambrose, Exameron 3. 13. 55. CSEL 32.
Nec immerito . . succrescit (Gregory, Moralia in Hiob 19. 27. 49, CSEL
143A. 995), together with a few lines adapted from 19. 27. 48 (CSEL 143A.
Palma dicta . . . conWteantur agnoscant (Isidore, Etym. 17. 7. 1 þ 6. 18.
13–15),6 plus the words s{c}anctumque Ineo .cXrisma conWteantur and some
extracts from the Liber glossarum.
Val has only Gellius, one sentence from Ambrose, no Gregory, and
Isidore down to 6. 18. 14 infantum [sic etiam Tre] qui at the end of
the page; fo. 41v contains an extract from Jordanes’ Historia
Romana 85 (p. 9. 30–p. 10. 2 Mommsen).
It is evident that both draw on an early Xorilegium on the palm-
tree that I shall call F(lorilegium)V(etus). Collation of the Gellian
text against that of the modern editors shows that FV gave the
ET CAP  VI’, to which was attached the book-number of
Plutarch, omitted in the text; it summarized the content as res

neuerworbene Beda-Handschrift’. I am grateful to Elizabeth Teviotdale for this last

reference, and for help in tracing the MS (no. 121 in Bede, De temporum ratione, ed.
C. W. Jones, 160).
Where c.870 Martin the Irishman appended to Bede, DTR 5, in Berlin, SBB,
MS Lat. 130 ¼ Phillipps 1832 (no. 18 Jones, p. 149) an extract from Gell. 3. 2. 1–6,
the book being misnumbered libro IIIIo as in the extracts considered below; see
P.Gautier Dalché, ‘Deux lectures’, 127–30, who postulates as source a commentary
by Eriugena. To Laon or its environs, as internal references show, belongs the letter
written by one A. to Master E. in the 870s (MGH ep. 6. 186. 3–4, from Leiden UB,
MS Voss. O 88, fo. 24r ) et Terentium mittite aut Agellium noctium atticarum aut
Philonis Iudei historiam. Another Carolingian scholar, Dunchad of Reims, quotes
Agellius in septimo commentario Noctium Atticarium, capitulo xxiiii (NA 6. 14. 10,
1–2) on Mart. Cap. 4. 327, v. 12 ¼ p. 151. 10 Dick (pp. 15–16 Lutz); but the note on
4. 331 ¼ p. 153. 14 (p. 18 Lutz) need not be Gellian. NA 3. 1. 6 is exploited in the
Ps.-Byrhtferth gloss on Bede, DTR 8 (PL 90. 326–7; Auxerre, c.900).
See Borst, Reichskalender, i. 153–4 (MS c 8); cf. Catalogue ge´ne´ral des manuscrits
des bibliothe`ques publiques de France: De´partements, xxv (Paris, 1894), 263–4; Jones
157 (no. 87).
At 17. 7. 1 for quia manus uictricis ornatus, nascatur, nucales FV has qua manus
uictrix ornata, nascitur, mucales (this with the direct tradition); at 6. 18. 13–14 for
dies palmarum, hunc it has palmarum dies, eum (this with T) and omits in eo. After Val
drops out, for accederent, §15 hoc, competentibus Tre has accesserint, hac, plebi ‘ bus· .
252 Leofranc Holford-Strevens

admiranda de ligno palmae, and spelt per ercle, aristotiles, and

urgueas.7 However, it retained tam, and also the adverb intra.

1.3. The  Florilegium

At §2 in terram, read by S, also stood in the  Xorilegium perhaps
created by William of Malmesbury (d. 1143?)8 and certainly
exploited by him in his Polyhistor and also by John of Salisbury
(c.1115–80); in addition, its contents are divided between two
twelfth-century manuscripts both now in the Bodleian Library,
Oxford, namely Rawlinson G 139, coventionally called K,9 and
Lat. class. d. 39 ¼ L.10 Our chapter is cited by William (in abbre-
viated form), Polyhistor, p. 66 Ouellette, hereafter Malm(esbu-
riensis), and by John, Policraticus 5. 6 (i. 303 Webb), hereafter
Saris(beriensis); it also appears in K fo. 152v . The underlying text
may be reconstructed as follows.
Per herculem rem mirandam Aristotiles in septimo Problematorum et
Plutarcus in octauo Simposiacorum dicunt. ‘si super palme’ inquiunt
‘arboris lignum magna inponas pondera, ac tantum grauiter urgeas oneres,
ut magnitudo oneris sustineri non queat, non deorsum cedit, nec in terram
Xectitur sed aduersus pondus resurgit et sursum nititur recuruaturque.
‘Propterea’ inquit Plutarchus ‘in certaminibus palma est signum uictorie,
quoniam ligni ingenium eiusmodi est ut urgentibus opprimentibusque
non cedat.’
Per herculem om. Saris. admirandam Saris. probleumatum
Saris. pultarcus K simposiacorum K: simph Malm.: memo-
rabilium Saris. ac . . . nec] non Malm. in terram] iter K (unde
inter cod. Pupiensis) aduersus pondus resurgit et om. Malm. in-
quit Plutarchus om. Malm. pultarcus inquit K in certaminibus
palmam signum esse placuit uictorie K: in certaminibus palma est signum
uictorie Malm: placuit palmam signum esse uictoriae in certaminibus
Saris. ligni ingenium] lignum Malm. eiusmodi] huiusmodi

In addition Tre explains in the upper margin the hard words Gellius had not
used: C$—ˇCIˇ˝ .i. c̄uiuium ex quo C$M—ˇC'`˚ˇC .i. c̄uiui(alis)
j —ˇ´¸˙` .i. questio ł propositio unde —ˇ´¸˙`+'jˇ˝ .i. questiuncula,
misspells symphosiacorū, adds a sidenote Cur placuerit palmam signum esse uictorie˛,
and in Isidore has insigne˛ 17. 7. 1 where Val has rightly insigne.
See R. M. Thomson, William of Malmesbury, 189–98.
The extracts from K, together with its text of Cicero, De oYciis, were copied
into MS Poppi, Bibl. Com. Rilliana 39 (s. xii); see Thomson, William, 195 with
n. 31.
Olim London, Sion College, Arc. L. 40. 2/L. 21.
Recht as een Palmen-Bohm 253

John of Salisbury being a widely read author, his In terram was

brought to light by Christopher Coler, Parergorum liber singularis,
74: ‘Sarisberiensis habet in terram pro intrà. nescio quàm benè.’
This was cited by J. F. Gronovius in his posthumous edition of
1687, who rightly added ‘Et videtur alterum scitius, nam intra est
in sese’; that is to say, as Rolfe renders it, the wood is ‘made
concave’. Nevertheless the Russian translator Afanasij Ivanov
rendered John’s reading (k zemlě),11 which J. H. Onions, ‘Notes
on Gellius’, 78 took for the original text, on the assumption that
int̃rã (misprinted intrā) had lost its tittles en route; he of course did
not know that such a corruption would have had to antedate the
ninth century.

1.4. The Florilegium Nouum

Meanwhile, the texts of FV had been incorporated into a longer
catena, which I call F(lorilegium)N(ouum), represented by
Troyes, Bibliothèque municipale 1926, s. xiimed , fo. 97v , hereafter
Aug(ustobonensis), and Vatican City, BAV Reg. lat. 223, s. xiiex ,
fo. 86v , herafter Reg(inensis); Ambrose comes Wrst, then Gregory
and Isidore, both much abridged, followed by Gellius; next comes
a sentence from elsewhere in Isidore, Splene ridemus. felle irasci-
mur. corde sapimus. iecore amamus. quibus iiii elementis constantibus
integrum est animal (Etym. 11. 1. 127), and after that quotations,
not all faithful, from Bede, In cantica canticorum 3. 4. 11 (CCSL
119B. 262), Solinus 33, p. 149 Mommsen, and Gregory, Homi-
liarum in euangelia libri duo 2. 34. 11, 12 (CCSL 141. 309. 258–70,
312, 336–55). Aug here adds a Carolingian text, Bernard the
Deacon, Capitularium 6. 77, i. 935 Baluze,12 before joining Reg
in citing Augustine, Super Genesim ad litteram 6. 13 (CSEL 28/1.
188. 3–7); various other passages of the same author follow, most
but not all common to both manuscripts, including Augustine, De
baptismo 4. 1. 1 (CSEL 51. 223). An abridgement of this catena
appears in the Excepciones [¼Excerptiones, a common medieval
conXation] Roberti de Braci (hereafter Bra) contained in London,
British Library, MS Royal 8 D viii (written between the founda-
tion of Lanthony Priory in 1136 and the canonization of Edward
the Confessor in 1161) at fo. 119rb , where our chapter follows
excerpts from Cassian’s Collationes and precedes Augustine, De
baptismo 4. 1. 1. The text runs:

M. Mignon reads ‘intra’ but translates ‘jusqu’à terre’.
Cf. PL 78. 341: ‘Caroli et Ludouici’.
254 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
Agellius Lignum palme impositis ponderibus renititur ideoque eam
signum uictorie esse uoluerunt per ercle mirandam rem aristotiles in
septimo problematum et plutarchus in octauo simphoniacorum dicit. Si
super palme˛ inquiunt arboris lignum magna pondera imponas, ac tam
grauiter urgeas oneresque ut magnitudo oneris sustineri non queat non
deorsum palma cadit nec infra Xectitur sed aduersus pondus resurgit et
sursum nititur recuruaturque propterea inquit plutanus in certaminibus
palmam signum placuit esse uictorie˛ quoniam ingenium ligni huiusmodi
est ut urgentibus opprimentibusque non cedat.
eam] eı̄ Aug percle Aug mirandam] iurandam Reg ari-
stotiles] aritotiles Bra problematorum] problematum AugReg:
probleumatum Bra) plutarchus] plutr.a‘ r· chus Bra sinphonia-
corum] sinphoniachorum Bra non queat Bra: nequeat
AugReg queat in rasura Bra plutarchus] ita et in ordine et
contra Bra: plutarcus Aug: plutanus Reg ingenium] ‘ i uirtus· Aug:
uirtus et ingenium Bra
Here too intra has caused trouble, being corrupted into infra. This
latter is also found in MS Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale
II. I. 72 (s. xv), and in Erasmus, Adagia 1. 3. 4;13 it was proposed
by Daniel Wilhelm Triller of Merseburg in a letter to Christian
Falster dated 12 June 1722,14 and adopted by Marache from chi-
merical ‘edd.’

1.5. Other Quotations

The chapter does not appear in the Florilegium Gallicum, which
leaps from 2. 29 to 5. 10, nor in the Florilegium Angelicum, which
draws only on books 9–20; however, it was excerpted independ-
ently of  in MS B (no later than 1198) of Radulphus de Diceto’s
Abbreuiationes Chronicorum:15
[mg. Agellius lib. iii cap. quinto] Si super palme arboris lignum magna
pondera imponas ac tam grauiter urgeas oneresque ut magnitudo oneris
sustineri non queat, non deorsum palma cedit nec intra Xectitur sed
aduersus pondus resurgit et sursum nititur recuruatur. Propterea inquit
Opera omnia, II i. 316, without comment. F. Weiss renders ‘inwendig
(abwärts)’, H. Berthold in his selective translation (194) ‘und sie läßt sich auch
nicht niederbeugen’.
Copenhagen, Det kongelige Bibliotek, E don. var. 6, 2o , p. 7, rejecting John of
Salisbury’s in terram: ‘Nil nos mutandum censemus; si quid tamen, putem: nec
infra Xectitur; quod de palma verum.’ Falster himself in his Gellian lexicon ‘Noctes
Ripenses’, MS E don. var. 4, 2o , p. 663, s.v. palma, writes ‘lego, introXectitur’, cf.
‘Specimen’, 141.
British Library, Cotton Claudius E iii, fo. 13v ; ed. W. Stubbs, i. 51 n. 3. On
Radulphus’ excerpts see P. K. Marshall et al., ‘Clare College MS. 26’, 373–4.
Recht as een Palmen-Bohm 255
plutarcus in certaminibus palmam signum esse placuit uictorie quoniam
ingenium ligni eiusmodi est ut urgentibus opprimentibusque non cedat.
tam] sequitur litura duarum litterarum, nimirum en eiusmodi] ejus-
dem perperam Stubbs in editione Radulphi
It was also excerpted in the twelfth-century MS Cambridge, St
John’s College 91 (D 16), otherwise known as MS J of Quintilian,
which at vol. i, fo. 72v , under the heading De palma mirabile ;
habetur Dictum, reproduces (in a later but still twelfth-century
hand) NA 3. 6 with tamen for tam, neris by haplography for oneris,
and interXectitur for intra Xectitur,16 but otherwise correctly as far
as quoniam, then continues signi [sic] eiusmodi etc. before running
without a break into 6. 13. In the Quattrocento 3. 6 is found in the
Gellian epitome Venice, BNM lat. XIV. 216 (4630), fo. 6r ;17 BAV,
Chigi L VII 248, fo. 184v ,18 Vat. lat. 11189, fo. 87va ;19 Pavia,
Biblioteca Universitaria, Aldini 367, fo. 39r .20
Also in BL Harley 2768, Naples BN V. B. 6, BAV Urb. lat. 1174 (all s. xv);
note too intus Xectitur Pesaro, Bibl. Oliveriana 37 (with sensim for sursum); irata
Xectitur Munich, BSB Clm. 5359.
It begins: Aristotiles in vij problematum rem per hercle mirandam et Plutarchus in
viij symphosiacorum dicit, with the marginal note Nota de uiribus palme, then con-
tinues as in standard texts but with the two variants uictorie placuit and ingenium
eiusmodi lignum [sic].
Aulus Gelius in iiij [sic] libro Noctium Atticarum. j [mg propterea inquit] Plu-
tarchus in Certaminibus palmam signum esse placuit uictorie˛ quoniam ingenium eius-
modi lignum [cf. n. 17] est ut urgentibus opprimentibusque non cedat.
Rem mirandam Aristoteles viio problematum dicit. Si super palme arboris lignum
magna pondera ı¯ponas et grauiter urgeas honeresque, ut magnitudo honeris sustineri non
queat: non deorsum palma cedit: nec intra Xectitur: sed aduersus pondus resurgit et
sursum nititur recuruaturque. The MS is a commonplace-book bearing the arms of
Cardinal Marco Barbo, a magniWcent collection deserving publication. Besides
numerous quotations from Gellius and other ancient authors, there are more
modern exempla: fo. 35rb---va His [the well-known fable of the bundle of sticks] simile
est illud Caroli malatestae principis prudentissimi qui aliquando posita congerie ligno-
rum in igne sese ac fratres habunde calefaciebat, postea ignem per thalamos cuiusque
diuidens nemo se calefacere poterat, per hoc docens eos una debere conuiuere; 48ra Blasius
Parmensis uir aetate nostra in philosophia et astrologia doctissimus atque acutissimus
cum preuidisset se ab equi pondere periturum, equos omnes uelut uite sue hostes fugiebat,
adeo ut si quo eum ire oporteret iter pedibus conWceret. Verum nec sic infortunium euitari
potuit. Nam apud patriam urbem philosophiam docens cum uisitandi cuiusdam discipuli
sui causa in hospitium quoddam publicum cui equus ligneus insigne esset accessisset,
cumque prae foribus colloqueretur, equus uetustate nimia consumptus cecidit in caput
eius eumque suo pondere ac ruina oppressit. The subject of this tale is Biagio Pelacani,
d. 1416, known as doctor diabolicus (Naples, Bibl. Naz. Vittorio Emanuele III, MS
VIII G. 74 (paper, s. xiv–xv), Xyleaf, cit. P. O. Kristeller, Iter, i. 428.)
Ex A. Gellio de ui et natura Palme arboris. Per hercle rem mirandam Aristoteles
in vijo problematum et Plutarchus in viij simphosicorum scribit Si super palmæ inquit
arboris lignum magna pondera imponas ac tam grauiter urgeas oneresque ut magnitudo
256 Leofranc Holford-Strevens

1.6. From Wood to Tree

The corruptions in terra(m) and infra, which have each had their
champions in modern times, seem to indicate not only semantic
interference from deorsum, but failure to recognize that the subject
is timber, not the living tree.21 This failure, already implicit in the
construction of FV and FN, becomes explicit in Guibert of Tour-
nai (below, §3.1), and was frequent in the Renaissance; it recurs in
Erasmus’ Parabolae siue similia:
Vt palmae arboris ramus, imposito onere non deXectitur in terram caete-
rarum more, sed renititur et ultro aduersus sarcinae pondus erigit sese, ita
uiri fortis animus quo plus negociis premitur. quoque magis seuit fortuna,
hoc est erectior.22
whence it passed into Alciato’s Emblemata (Pl. 10. 1) and (despite a
false reference to Pliny) Paolo Giovio’s Imprese.23 In consequence,
when we Wnd it in Gysbertus Longolius’ translation of Plutarch,
Natural Questions 32, from a Greek text now lost:
Cur inter omnes arbores sola palma contra impositum onus assurgit?
Vtrum quod ignea et spirabilis facultas, qua maxime pollet, quum tentatur
et irritatur, sese exercens magis et magis erigit? An quoniam pondus ramos
subito urgens, aerem omnem qui in his est, oppressum cedere retro cogat,
qui deinde resumptis paulo uiribus, aduersum onus acrius rursus instat?
An molles et tenerae uirgae impetum non sustinentes, quum onus quiescit,
paulatim se erigunt, et speciem, quasi contra illud assurgant, praebent?24
we may suspect that it is due not to Plutarch, but to the translator’s
love of Ciceronian fullness, which compelled the addition of detail
not present in the original.25

oneris sustineri non queat: non deorsum palma cedit nec intra Xectitur: sed aduersus
pondus resurgit et sursum nititur recuruaturque Propterea inquit Plutarchus in certa-
minibus palmam signum esse placuit uictorie˛ quoniam ingenium huiuscemodi ligni est ut
urgentibus prementibusque non cedat. The readings are mostly those of Bussi’s ed. pr.,
which has Symphosicorum and eiuscemodi (Jenson gives eiusmodi).
Timber is speciWed (lignum) as at Plut. Mor. 734 e, cf. Strabo 15. 3. 10; careless
reading might overlook the fact at Xen. Cyrop. 7. 5. 11, Thphr. HP 5. 6. 1, Plin. NH
16. 223.
Opera omnia, I v. 302, no. 3295.
See V. Woods Callahan, ‘Andrea Alciato’s Palm Tree Emblem’, who considers
the origins, development, and afterlife of this emblem; cf. Paolo Giovio, Dialogo
dell’imprese militari e amorose, ed. M. L. Goglio, 89–90; G. de Tervarent, Attributs
et symboles, cols. 295–7; A. Henkel and A. Schöne, Emblemata, col. 192.
Quoted from ‘Plutarchi de causis naturalibus’, in Opuscula, ed. Henricus
Stephanus, iii. 275; cf. F. H. Sandbach in the Loeb Moralia, xi. 214–16.
See Sandbach 142 and 214–15 n. 2.
Pl. 10.1. Emblem of the palm-tree, from Omnia Andreae Alciati .V.C.
emblemata (Paris, 1608), 231
258 Leofranc Holford-Strevens

Ex. 10.1. Original text and melody of Anke van Tharaw, stt. 6–7, from
Heinrich Albert, Fünffter Theil der Arien (Königsberg, 1642), no. 21

So far, the burden has still been imposed by human hand; but in
the famous seventeenth-century song published by Heinrich
Albert,26 ‘Anke van Tharaw’, stt. 6–7 (see Ex. 10. 1), the agency
becomes Nature herself:

H. Albert, FünVter Theil der Arien, no. 21, ‘Aria incerti Autoris’ (¼ com-
poser). Nor is the poet named; the 18th-c. tradition that the words were written by
Simon Dach for the wedding of Johann Portatius and Anna Neander (a pastor’s
daughter from Tharau, now Vladimirovo, whose statue now stands before the
Dramos teatras at Klaipėda), is denied by W. Ziesemer, edn. of Dach, ii. 393–4,
who attributes them to Albert himself, but defended by I. Ljungerud, ‘Ehren-
Rettung’. At pp. 71–6 Ljungerud discusses the palm-tree (a device in the Portatius
arms, p. 49), which was also used as a symbol of sexual desire (cf. Plin. NH. 13.
34–5). The text, written in Samland (Zemland) dialect, is nowadays sung in High
German to a melody by Friedrich Silcher (1789–1860); whereas in J. G. Herder’s
original adaptation v. 11 was rendered word for word ‘Recht als ein Palmenbaum
über sich steigt’, it now begins more idiomatically ‘So wie’, as in the chapter-
heading of Berthold’s translation, 194.
Recht as een Palmen-Bohm 259
Recht as een Palmen-Bohm äver söck stöcht/
Je mehr en Hagel on Regen anföcht.
So wardt de Löw’ ön onß mächtich on groht/
Dörch Kryhtz/ dörch Lyden/ dörch allerley Noht.
Or in Longfellow’s free translation, ‘Annie of Tharaw’:
As the palm-tree standeth so straight and so tall,
The more the hail beats, and the more the rains fall,—
So love in our hearts shall grow mighty and strong,
Through crosses, through sorrows, through manifold wrong.

2. gellius and pseudo-gellius

Like other ancient authors, Gellius is sometimes cited without
acknowledgement in the Middle Ages and, in the very same text,
credited with matter that he did not write; I return below to an
instance inadequately treated in a previous article.

2.1. The Palm-Tree in a Franciscan Sermon

Some years ago I discussed an echo of NA 3. 6, as refashioned by
John of Salisbury, in an Easter Monday sermon on the text ReXo-
ruit caro mea (Ps. 27: 7 Vulg.) attributed to St Bonaventure
(c.1217–74) and printed in the ninth and least satisfactory volume
of the Quaracchi edition, noting that the true author appeared to be
Guibert of Tournai (c.1200–84),27 and expressing some scepticism
about the integrity of the editors’ text.28 This scepticism did not go
far enough. The text is presented in three parts:
‘Sermo’ (pp. 281–6): an editorial conXation of two sermons for
Easter Sunday (not Monday) on the Resurrection (one of them
itself conXated from two diVerent reportationes), resulting in a very
Wne sermon that unfortunately was never preached;
‘Collatio’ (pp. 286–8): another sermon by Guibert;29
‘Schema’ (pp. 288–9): said to be of a sermon preached by Bona-
venture at Toulouse,30 but matching Guibert’s part in the ‘Sermo’.
J. B. Schneyer, Repertorium, i. 607, Bonaventure nos. 215–16; ii. 296, Guibert
no. 179.
Holford-Strevens, ‘Gellius among the Friars Minor’.
Schneyer, Repertorium, no. 180. The editors Wnd it only in Hi (where it
appears as a collatio) and Au4 (where it is a new sermon, but much abbreviated);
in fact it is present in Tu, but preceding Guibert 179 instead of following. It also
appears after 179 in Au1---3 Va, and independently (so ibid. vi. 276, no. 31) in Turin,
Bib. Univ. I D 10.
‘Sermo fratris Bonaventurae in Conventu Tolosae’, from Milan, Bibl.
Ambrosiana A 11 sup., fo. 117r---v ¼ Fidelis a Fanna, Ratio novae collectionis, 113
260 Leofranc Holford-Strevens

I have now examined the passage that concerns us in eight

manuscripts,31 including the four (indicated by asterisks) from
which the Quaracchi editors, or Claraquenses, concocted the text
of the ‘Sermo’:
Au(gustobonensis)1 ¼ Troyes, Bibliothèque municipale 775,
s. xiii–xiv, fos. 74ra ---75vb ;
Au(gustobonensis)2 ¼ Troyes, Bibliothèque municipale 823,
s. xiii, fos. 256ra ---258rb ;
Au(gustobonensis)3 ¼ Troyes, Bibliothèque municipale 1778,
s. xiii, fos. 133va ---136va ;

Au(gustobonensis)4 ¼ Troyes, Bibliothèque municipale 2052,
s. xiv, fos. 109vb ---111vb ;32
Tu(ders) ¼ Todi, Biblioteca comunale L. Leonj 140, s. xiv, fos.
320v ---325r ;33
Va(ticanus) ¼ Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vat. lat. 11444,
s. xiv, fos. 107va ---110vb .
These manuscripts, of which Au1 and Au3 expressly ascribe their
contents to Gilbert, carry essentially the same text (recension A).
All four Augustobonenses come from Clairvaux.
Hi(lariensis) ¼ Wilhering, Stiftsbibliothek IX 36, s. xiv, fos.
99v ---101v ;34 the same sermon, but in a diVerent reportatio (recen-
sion B).35

(under ‘Dominica Resurrectionis’), no. 220, also found without the heading in Paris,
BNF lat. 14595, fos. 42r ---43r ; both s. xiv.
Schneyer, Repertorium, ix. 324, no. 42 also cites Prague, Státnı́ knihovna České
republiky I. G. 10 (s. xiv–xv) ¼ J. Truhlář, Catalogus, i. 120–1, no. 284. Enquiries
after this MS made before and after the Xood of August 2002 have not been answered.
Catalogue ge´ne´ral des manuscrits des bibliothe`ques publiques des de´partements, ii
(Paris, 1855), 320, 342, 744, 885–6, citing a ghostly Parisian edn. of 1518 in conse-
quence of two errors: the Bodleian catalogue of 1684, i. 290, misdated 8o T 34 Th,
Guibert’s reprinted Sermones ad omnes status (Paris, 1513), to ‘1518’; the Histoire
litte´raire de la France, xix (Paris, 1838), 139, mistook them for the Sermones de
dominicis et festis in these MSS. Cf. J. G. Bougerol, Les Manuscrits franciscains, 54,
82, 229, 298, nos. 775bk, 823bo, 1778bm, 2052ap.
L. Leònij, Inventario, 50, no. 140, ‘Miscellanea . . . Il codice era del convento
di Todi, e di frate Andrea di Todi, che lo ebbe da frate Francesco di Todi nel 1419.’
The Quaracchi editors wrongly cite fo. 349v .
O. Grillnberger, in Handschriften-Verzeichnisse, ii. 17: ‘Sermones Guillelmi’.
The Quaracchi editors wrongly cite fo. 31. Microfilm kindly provided by Hill
Museum and Manuscript Library, Saint John’s University, Collegeville, MN.
As we have seen, Hi appends Guibert 180 as a collatio to 179; it also reports and
expounds in both texts a prothema ‘Cognouerunt Dominum in fractione panis’
(Luke 24: 35).
Recht as een Palmen-Bohm 261

Ba(sileensis) ¼ Basel, Universitätsbibliothek B X 4, s. xiv

(c.1300), fos. 42v (¼ pt: 2, fo: 29v )---44v (31v ).36 A diVerent
sermon, in a section ascribed to Bonaventure by a late hand.
In the edition, a subdiuisio on the Xowers and trees that the
reXowered Xesh resembles ends as follows (ix. 284; italics original):
Floruit etiam ut palma per dotem impassibilitatis, quae attribuitur palmae.
Unde Aristoteles in septimo libro Problematum dicit: ‘si super palmae
arboris lignum magna pondera imponas ac tam graviter urgeas oneresque,
ut magnitudo oneris sustineri non queat, non deorsum palma cedit nec
intra Xectitur, sed adversus pondus resurgit et sursum nititur recurvatur-
que.’ Et Plutarchus philosophus, magister Traiani imperatoris, in octavo
libro Memorabilium: ‘Propterea, inquit, placuit, palmam signum esse
victoriae in certaminibus, quoniam ligni huius ingenium est, ut urgentibus
opprimentibusque non cedat.’ Et ideo merito Xore impassibilitatis illa caro
Xoruit, quae tam nobiliter triumphavit; Psalmus: Iustus ut palma Xorebit,
sicut cedrus Libani multiplicabitur. Sicut enim in cedro soliditas partium
resistit sectioni aut divisioni, sic habitus gloriae impassibilitatis resistit in
corporibus gloriWcatis, ne qualitates elementares agant aut discussionem
complexionis aut divisionem partium corporis.
This represents the text of recension A, partly corrected from
Xoruit etiam ut palma per dotem impassibilitatis, quae attribuitur palme.
Vnde Ari. in vij li. probleumatum dicit si super palme arboris lignum
magna pondera inponas ac tantum grauiter urgeas honeres ut magnitudo
honeris sustineri non queat, non deorsum cedit nec in terram Xectitur sed
aduersus pondus resurgit et sursum nititur recuruaturque. et plucarius
philosophus, magister Traiani imperatoris, in viij li. Memorabilium pro-
pterea inquit placuit palmam signum esse uictorie in certaminibus quo-
niam ligni huius ingenium est ut urgentibus opprimentibusque non cedat
et ideo merito Xore inpassibilitatis illa caro Xoruit que tam nobiliter
triumphauit Ps Iustus ut palma Xorebit, sicut cedrus libani multiplica-
bitur; Sicut enim in cedro soliditas partium resistit sectioni seu diuisioni,
sic habitus gloriae inpassibilitatis resistit in corporibus gloriWcatis, ne
qualitates elementares agant aut discrasiam complectionis aut diuisionem
partium corporis.37

G. Meyer and M. Burckhardt, Die mittelalterlichen Handschriften, ii. 466–73 at
For comparison, Hi reads: Quarto Xoruit ut Xos palme in qua inmarcessibilitas
signiWcatur. vnde dicit philosophus in vijo problematum quod palma lignum est et si
super lignum arboris palme pondus inponas non cedit nec Xectitur. sed contra resurgit et
eleuatur unde in hoc datur intelligi dos inpassibilitatis quia corpus Christus [sic: xp̄c̄]
resurrexit sicut palma contra pondus se erigit et extollit; Ba: Quarto Xoruit ut palma
propter gloriosi trophei triumphatiuam potestatem/ et hoc propter dotem inpassibilitatis.
Bene enim per palmam signiWcatur triumphatiua potestas gloriosi trophei/ nam/ ad
262 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
dotem] dote Va problematum] probleumatum Au14 dicit om.
Va inponas] ponas Va tantum om. Va: tam Claraquenses
Gellium secuti honeres] honores Auuv 1 Va: oneresque Claraquenses
Gellium secuti non queat] nequeat Au4 non2 ] aut
Au4 deorsum] þ palma Claraquenses Gellium secuti cedit]
tendit Tu in terram] intra Claraquenses Gellium secuti in] ad
Va et] etiam Tu plucarius Au23 : lucarius TuVamg : lucarius an
lucanus incertum Au1 : lucanus Au4 : lieteuius Vaordo philosophus
om. Va Traiani om. Au4 signum esse] esse signum Va: lignum
esse cett. urgentibus opprimentibusque] opprimentibus urgentibus
que Au4 caro] ½½caro ita male scriptum ut paene caio legas caro
Au2 Ps(almus)] sc. 91. 13 Vulg. Xorebit] Xo. Au34 : hucusque
Va sicut . . . multiplicabitur] &c Au4 sectioni] sestioni
Au1 aut1 ] a˛ (¼ autem) j aut Au3 : seu Au4 diuisioni] diuisions
[diōns] sic Au2 ne]: nec Au4 aut discrasiam . . . corporis om.
Au4 discrasiam] sc. ıŒæÆ Æ : discussionem Claraquenses propter
inscitiam aut2 ] a’ (¼ aut) Au1 complectionis Au1 : completio-
nis Au23 : complesionis Tu
That John is the source is indicated by memorabilium instead of
symposiacorum, by the word-order of placuit palmam signum [or li-
gnum] esse uictorie in certaminibus, and probably by huius (cf. John’s
huiusmodi); it is conWrmed by the description of Plutarch as magister
Traiani imperatoris, for the very book of the Policraticus from which
the Gellian passage is taken begins with the Institutio Traiani.

2.2. More Falsa Gelliana

In the same sermon (p. 285) an anecdote concerning Alexander the
Great, based on the Collatio Alexandri et Dindimi, is ascribed to
Gellius but in fact taken from John of Salisbury, Policraticus 4. 11
(i. 267 Keats-Rohan),38 attached to one about Plato from Policra-
ticus 4. 4. 55–8 (i. 242–3 Keats-Rohan).39 The Quaracchi text gives:

litteram ut dicit ysidorus palma est arbor/ victoria/ et manus victorum seu victoris seu
triumphatoris adornatur/ cum ea/ vnde et pueri ebreorum triumphatori mortis cum ramis
palmarum obuiauerunt/ clamantes Osanna Wlio dauid benedictus qui venit &c per
itaque signiWcatur in Christo dos inpassibilitatis quia palma est arbor/ nobilis et
insignis/ sempiterne pulchritudinis/ et uigoris/ conseruans folia sua tempore hyemis et
estatis/ truncus etiam eius valde solidus est/ et conpactus et inputribilis Wrmitatis/ vnde
corpus illud domini gloriosum/ et gloriWcatum vltra putrescere ledi vulnerari et pati non
potest/ Christus enim resurgens ex mortuis vltra non moritur &c.
Reused in Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum historiale 4. 66 ¼Speculum maius, iv.
135 (a notoriously dishonest edition).
A. S. Riginos, Platonica, 82–3, no. 28, knows no previous source, but cites Rep.
566 b, 567 d; cf. Cic. Tusc. 5. 58. It reappears in Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum
doctrinale 5. 7, 7. 30, ed. cit. ii. 407–8, 578.
Recht as een Palmen-Bohm 263
Tertio debemus Xorere per iustitiam; unde Canticorum secundo [Cant.
2: 1]: Ego Xos campi et lilium convallium.—Flos campi omnibus accessibilis
iustitia est, quae est omnibus communis, ut possint pauperes accedere ad
superiores. Non sunt Xores campi quidam pontiWces et praelati, sed verius
pompiWces et Pilati, tot habentes circa se cum fustibus et gladiis [Matt.
26: 55]. Aliquod grande Xagitium perpetrasse putandi sunt qui ita diligen-
ter custoditi sunt, sicut refert Historia gentium, Platonem Dionysio ty-
ranno Siciliae dixisse: ‘Quantum Xagitium commisisti, quia cum tanta
diligentia custodiris?’ Et isti non sunt Xos campi, non horti. Sed nunquid
isti sunt lilia convallium? Non; sed vepres montium ad pauperes
impugnandos. Sed utinam quotquot pauperes impugnant recolant illud
Auli Gellii, Noctium Atticarum, quod Alexander Magnus ultimum littus
Oceani devicerat et venerat expugnare insulam Fragmariae. Qui miserunt
ei litteram in haec verba: Divitias non habemus, quarum cupiditate nos
debeas expugnare; esca nobis est pro divitiis, pro cultibus et auro vilis et
rara vestis; antra nobis duplicem usum praestant: tegumentum in vita,
sepulturam in morte. Quem locum habet vindicta, ubi nulla fuit iniuria?
his motus Alexander nullam ratus victoriam, si eorum turbaret quietem,
eos in pace dimisit. Et utinam ita facerent qui pauperes opprimunt!
This combines, sometimes skilfully, the readings of the two repor-
tationes. Recension A has:
De tercio cant. ij ego Xos campi et lilium conuallium. Xos campi omnibus
est accessibilis. Iustitia est que est omnibus communis ut possint pauperes
accedere ad superiores. non sunt Xores campi quidam pontiWces et prelati
sed uerius pompiWces et pylati tot habentes satellites circa se cum fustibus
et gladiis ut non uideantur Xores campi sed orti diligentissime custoditi.
aliquod grande Xagitium perpetrasse putandi sunt qui ita diligenter custo-
diti sunt, sicut refert historia gentium platonem dyonisio tyranno sicilie
respondisse. non sunt similiter lilia conuallium sed uepres montium ad
pauperes inpugnandos. sed utinam quotquot pauperes inpugnant recolant
illud agellii noctium atticarum, cum Alexander Magnus ultimum litus
Occeani perlustrasset debellare uolebat insulam Bragmanorum. qui mise-
runt ei epistolam in haec uerba: ‘diuicias non habemus, quarum cupiditate
nos debeas expugnare; esca nobis est pro diuiciis, pro cultibus et auro uilis
et rara uestis. antra nobis duplicem usum prestant, tegumentum in uita,
sepulturam in morte. quem locum habet uindicta, ubi nulla Wt iniusticia?’
hiis motus Alexander nullam ratus uictoriam si eorum turbaret quietem
eos in pace dimisit.
ij] 7 Va accessibilis1 ] þ etAu4 est] þ virtus Au1-4 omnibus
om. Au123 : est Au4 possint om. Va pauperes] pauper
Va ad] sicut Va non sunt . . . prelati] sed non quidam pon-
tiWces et prelati sunt Xores campi Au4 sed . . . pylati om.
Au3 Va pompiWces] pontiWces Au2 tot om. Au4 habentes]
þ tot Va cum fustibus et gladiis] etc. Au4 ut] quod
Va campi om. Au4 diligentissime] -mi Va: diligenter
264 Leofranc Holford-Strevens
Au4 custoditi1 ]þ sunt Au13 Tu: þ sicut Va aliquod . . . re-
spondisse om. Au4 aliquod] a d Au1 Tu: ad Au2 grande om.
Va putandi] ½½perpetrandiputandi Va ita] ı̃ Va hystoria
Au13 Tu: ystoria Au2 Va gentium] gencium Au12 : gentilium Au3 :
om. Va dyonisio] dionisio Va sicilie respondisse] re-
spondisse scicilie Tu similiter om. Au4 ad . . . dimisit] etc.
Au4 inpugnandos] þ{ Au2 agellii] agelli Va noctium]
notum Va atticarum cum om. Va in ordine, add. mg cum om.
Tu occeani Au2 : octeani Au1 : oceani Au3 Va uolebat] uoluit
Tu insulam] per insulam Au2 qui (que Au2 , qui j q. Va) mi-
serunt ei epistolam in haec uerba Au123 Tu diuicias] diuitias
Va esca] exca Va diuiciis] diuitis Va rara] þ nobis
Tu habet]: habeat Tu uindicta] uicdicta Va Wt] sit
Au2 iniusticia] þ{ Au2 hiis] et hiis Au3 uictoriam] uici-
toriam Va

In recension B the text runs (underlining as in Hi):

Tertio debemus Xorere per iustitiam; unde can. [blank]. ego Xos campi et
lilium convallium. Xos campi signiWcat iustitiam quia sicut Xos campi
omnibus communiter sic iustitia omnibus communis esse dicitur. et
utinam haberent hanc iustitiam prelati et pontiWces. sed multi sunt qui
melius possent dici pilati quem prelati. quia causas pauperum ad se
admittunt. et isti sunt Xores orti non campi. legimus enim in historiis
antiquis de platone qui uidens dyonisium tyrannum cicilie dixit ‘quantum
Xagitium commisisti, quia cum tanta diligentia custodiris?’ is ipse timuit
eum: et isti non sunt Xores campi non orti. sed numquid sunt ipsi lilia
conuallium? non, sed uepres montium quia pauperes uulnerant. legimus
in agellio quod alexander ultimum litus occidentale deuicerat et uenerat
expugnare insulam fragmariae. qui scripserunt ei: Diuicias non habemus,
quarum cupiditate nos debeas expugnare; esca nobis pro diuiciis, pro cultu
½½7 ca tenuis et rara et prope nulla uestis; antra nobis usum duplicem
prestant, tegumentum in uita, et in morte sepulturam. quem locum habet
uindicta, ubi nulla fuit iniuria?’ et cum ille hoc audisset arbitratus est quod
si illos inquietaret non multum tenderet in uictoriam et gloriam eius et
recessit. et utinam ita facerent illi qui pauperes opprimunt.
The Quaracchi editors, who had failed to trace the source of either
passage, were no more successful with another passage from Hi,
also on p. 285:
Legitur de quodam philosopho, cui cum irrogarentur convicia,
dixit: ‘Didicisti maledicere, et ego, teste conscientia, didici maledicta
This too comes from John, Policraticus 3. 14 (i. 222 Keats-Rohan
¼ i. 224 Webb): Quid Xenofon? Tu, inquit, cuidam didicisti
Recht as een Palmen-Bohm 265

maledicere et ego teste conscientia didici maledicta contemnere.40 The

chreia was combined by Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum historiale 3.
67,41 with a reference to Gellius 14. 3:
Actor. De xenofonte refert agellius quod quidam putauerunt inter ipsum
et platonem fuisse rancores et discordias, quia magis assequutus est famam
et palmam eloquencie quam omnes alii socratis discipuli post platonem; et
inter pares semper uidetur esse quedam emulatio. Huius dicitur esse illa
sententia, quam sibi maledicenti respondit: tu, inquit, male dixisti, ego
consciencia teste didici maledicta contempnere.
Walter Burley, De vita et moribus philosophorum, c. 32 (‘Xeno-
phon’), having mentioned the rivalry with Plato, by an easy mis-
reading ascribes the anecdote to Gellius:
Agellius de Xenophonte sic ait: Cum quidam ei malediceret sic respondit:
Tu studium tuum ad maledicendum dedisti, ego uero, consciencia teste,
didici maledicta contempnere (p. 150 Knust).
Likewise at c. 30 (‘Socrates’), following a reference to the notori-
ous matrimonial problems mentioned by Gellius in 1. 17. 1–3,
Burley writes:
Item ut ait Agellius Wlios habebat ex Xantippe Socrates matri similes
sibique moribus ualde dissimiles, discolos [sc. ıŒº
ı] et inquietos, et
tamen cum illis paciWce uixit (p. 118 Knust).42

3. fragmentary manuscripts
The rest of this chapter is devoted to sidelights on the manuscript
tradition as evidence for Gellius’ diVusion, beginning with scraps
of manuscripts salvaged from the wreck of time.

3.1. Fragmentum Egmondanum

In Brussels, Koninklijke Bibliotheek van België/Bibliothèque
Royale de Belgique (KBR), item 60 in the fragment-collection
MS IV 625 comprises a bifolium that alone survives from the
Cf. 8. 15 (ii. 346 Webb) and the passages cited by E. WölZin in his edition of
‘Caecilius Balbus’, pp. 16, 31, 39; on p. 31 a similar tale is ascribed to Aristippus, for
which see I A 72–3 Giannantoni, 91 A–C Mannebach.
Ed. cit. iv. 108; but I cite from Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 287, fo.
57v , kindly brought to my attention by Professor Nigel Palmer (in which the book is
numbered 4). Gellian passages in Vincent are noted by Hertz, ed. mai. ii, pp. xl f.,
M. Manitius, ‘Gellius bei Vinzenz von Beauvais’.
Cf. Sen. Ep. 104. 27 with Arist. Rhet. 2. 15, 1390b 29–31, Plut. Cat. mai. 20. 4
266 Leofranc Holford-Strevens

Gellian portion of a manuscript in which the Noctes Atticae (prob-

ably books 9–20) originally followed Cicero’s Tusculanae Disputa-
tiones down to 3. 36 nequiter facere; the latter text is preserved in
the Bibliotheek der Rijksuniversiteit Leiden as Codex Lipsiensis
30, which bears above the title the words Liber Abbatis Stephani
and at the end, in the hand of its Wfteenth-century corrector, the
note: Particula prima tercij libri et quartus et quintus libri tuscula-
narum questionum totidem sunt enim libri hic deWciunt. [Xourished
signature and ornament] Sequitur A. Gellius noctium Atticarum sed
incompletus. Sunt enim in toto libri decem et nouem.43 It is natural to
identify these remnants with the manuscript of Gellius and the
Tusculans that along with many other books entered the abbey
library of Sint Adalbert at Egmond under its Wfth abbot Stephen or
Steppo (r. 1057–1105).44
Although the library stamp and shelf-mark (together with an
older marking ‘Mss. divers 3547’) appear on the recto of the
smooth side, the text of the manuscript, which I hereby designate
E(gmondanus), begins on the recto of the hairy side (Pl. 10. 2) with
14. 2. 19 eodemq(ue) intempore (Marshall ii. 435. 17). It has been
trimmed with the loss of up to Wve or six letters at the end of each
line on this face, in which the preserved text ends at §25 cognouisset
(sic, see below; 436. 6–7) and the beginning of each line on the
verso, which resumes at -nasse (436. 7) and ends with 14. 3. 2
sectatorum (437. 3). The conjunct leaf begins with 14. 8. 2 cclviiii
(445. 13, where Marshall adopts Strzelecki’s IIII); the last word
of chapter and book, plebiscitum, is followed by the heading
book-number and the capitula of book 15 down to the page-turn

For the Gellian fragment see Richard H. Rouse at Marshall et al., ‘Clare
College MS. 26’, 378 n. 50; cf. id. in L. D. Reynolds (ed.), Texts and Transmission,
134; it was again brought to my notice by Barbara Haggh-Huglo and Michel Huglo.
For the readings of Cod. Lips. 30 see H. Deiter, ‘Ein Tusculanen-codex’.
Recorded in a partial catalogue (UB Leiden, B.P.L. 611, fos. 144r ---148r )
compiled in 1530 and Wrst published by H. van Wijn, Huiszittend Leeven, i.
316–33; identiWed with Cod. Lips. 30 by H. G. Kleyn, ‘De catalogus’, 150 n. 10.
Cf. W. Lampen, ‘Catalogus’, 31, 56 (no. 62); id., ‘De boekenlijst’, 82. Munk Olsen,
L’Étude, i. 197, C. 205 objects that ‘l’écriture semble pourtant trop évoluée pour que
le ms. puisse remonter à la seconde moitié du xie siècle’; however, J. P. Gumbert,
‘Wanneer werkte C?’, 188–91, groups it with MSS copied at Egmond in Abbot
Stephen’s time. An is accepted by Rouse (n. 43), whose obit of 1083 for
Stephen follows the error of Johannes a Leydis, Chronicon Egmundanum, ed.
A. Matthaeus, 15, corrected in Matthaeus’ own note, pp. 188–9. Two other items
from Abbot Stephen’s reign survive at Leiden: Lampen no. 56, Angelomus and
Williramus on the Song of Songs ¼ B.P.L.130, and no. 73, Lucan ¼ Burm. Q 1. B.
Pl. 10.2. First page in text order of Fragmentum Egmondanum (Brus-
sels, Royal Library of Belgium, MS IV 625/60 fo. 2r: Gellius 14. 2. 19–25),
with Germanic legal term uadio instead of suadeo in l. 7 (§21). Copyright
Royal Library of Belgium
268 Leofranc Holford-Strevens

at 15. 5. cap. insci-jteque (451. 19), after which the text continues to
the end of the verso at 15. 14. cap. metellus (460. 24).45
Alas, E contributes no reading both true and new; its chief claim
to virtue is the correct coniectatoria at 14. 3. 1 (436. 25–6) as in the
Valerio-Gellian Xorilegium (present in 14. 2. 21–5, 14. 3. 1–2).
Nevertheless, it is of interest as complicating the stemma of
books 9–20, in which Marshall Wnds three families, F,
ª (XOPGvN), and  (QZ); the alternative view makes F a contam-
ination of ª with proto-.46
E agrees, always in truth, with Fª against  at:
14. 2. 21 Turio (435. 25)
14. 2. 23 petit (436. 3)
14. 2. 26 est (436. 19)47
14. 3. 1 mutue˛ (also Q2 ; 436. 25)
14. 8. 2 tribunis (445. 16; FON only)
15. 4. cap. ignobili (450. 11)48
15. 6. cap. erratum (452. 26)
15. 8. cap. cum (454. 18)
Cf. 15. 6 cap. secundum (432. 26), Fª rightly secundo, om. .
When E sides with  against Fª it is in error at 14. 2. 25
cognouisset (436. 6–7), 14. 8. 2 ad sensum (445. 15, though strictly
speaking this is a matter of interpretatio); but at 14. 2. 26 fecissent
for fecisset (436. 16), as a lectio diYcilior, is likely to be right.49 At
14. 2. 20 (435. 18) E doubtless agrees in truth with F against ª,
for huiuscemodi is far more frequent in Gellius than huiusmodi;
at 14. 3. 2 exsenophontis (437. 1 Xenophontis) is based on
exenophontis Fac Y.50

As in other MSS a new chapter XII is begun at 15. 11. cap. item, the subse-
quent chapter-numbers being raised in accordance.
L. Gamberale, ‘Note’, 49–55; so Bernardi Perini, edn. i. 29; Cavazza, having
concurred at edn. i. 46, has doubts at iii, p. ix. On Marshall’s theory (though not
always in his practice), the agreement of F with either ª or  yields the reading of the
hyparchetype (the Xorilegium being in any case independent); on Gamberale’s that
of Fª proves nothing, that of F only that the variant is of Carolingian date.
(Marache, edn. ii, p. x cannot be right in assigning F to ª simpliciter.)
The extent of the trim appears to require est not et.
Having in his ed. mai. adopted ’s ignobile, Hertz repented in the ed. min. alt. of
Read by editors before Marshall, it has been reinstated by Bernardi Perini; so
too in Cato (fr. 206 Malcovati ¼ 186 Sblendorio Cugusi). See LHSz ii. 433–4.
At §1 E preserves Qui de xenophontis, corrupted in some MSS to Quid e(x)
Recht as een Palmen-Bohm 269

Finally, E’s peculiar errors apart from the aforementioned secun-

14. 2. 21 uadio52 (435. 24 suadeo), utar (24 utare), m̄dii53 (M. ¼ Marci)
14. 2. 23 duos (436. 2 duo; also v)
14. 2. 25 ita om. (9)
14. 2. 26 accipi (also Q1 ; 12 accepi); either res or ges(sissent) omitted by
haplography (14);54 [gelliu]s quam tyrius cum tyroni uir melior esset [tyriu]s
(16–17 Gellius cum Turio ni uir melior esset Gellius quam Turius)55
14. 3. 1 quosdam motus (quosdam Z; 23–4 motus quosdam)
14. 8. 2 sententia (16 sententiam), uinii (Iunii)
15. 3 cap. quam (449.6 quae), tertia (7 an in), ista eo (8 ista P, ista haec rell.),
debent (debeat)
15. 7 cap. diuirausti (22 diui Augusti)
15. 8 cap. cenarium (454.17 cenarum), luxuria (18 luxuriae), obprobatione
(also Z; obprobratione)
15. 11 cap. exigujendis (457. 7 exigendis); rethoricam et (9 rhetoricam)
15. 13. cap. ex (459. 2 a).56

3.2. Other Fragments

No better than E are the excerpts in the twelfth-century manu-
script KBR 10615–729 (Hertz’s ‘Br’),57 fo. 230vb , immediately
following Guy d’Amiens’s Carmen de Hastingae proelio,58 and
comprising 14. 5 whole, 15. 2. 7 expers . . . compulerit, 15. 4. 3
concurrite factus est. In 14. 5 it agrees in truth with Fª against  at §2
egregi (439. 25), us (31), ea (440. 1), quoniam (4), appellabatur (11),
§3 tenet (17; tenent ), §4 oppositu (19; -to , -tione PG); in truth
with FPX2 Gv against the rest of ª and the Valerio-Gellian Xori-
legium at §4 duceretur (440. 25); in error with FONQ at §2 u (440. 8).
At 14. 2. 19 (435. 18) Marshall’s uideantur is a misprint inherited from Hosius;
E, like the other MSS, reads uideatur.
A Germanic legal term meaning ‘I pledge myself’; cf. English ‘wed’, ‘wage’,
‘gage’ respectively from Old English, Norman French, and francien; also e.g. Dutch
wedden, German wetten, ‘bet’.
For medii (cf. Chassant 54)? But it is abundantly evident that the scribe did not
understand this passage.
The previous line ends with duo; after the trim the text resumes with sent,
evidently preceded by either [gessis] or [ressis].
The spelling ty-here and in ll. 18, 19 is paralleled in various other MSS
including F.
The preceding et (7) appears to have been squeezed into the word-space
between dn̄r and ex.