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Pliny on syphillis

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Pliny on syphillis

Postby rkday » Fri Apr 02, 2010 10:54 am

Hi all,

I'm trying to translate Pliny, Letters 6.24, since this is apparently important evidence for the existence of sexually transmitted diseases in antiquity, but I can't quite figure out one or two lines.

The Latin text:

C. PLINIUS MACRO SUO S.

1 Quam multum interest quid a quoque fiat! Eadem enim facta claritate vel obscuritate facientium aut tolluntur altissime aut humillime deprimuntur. 2 Navigabam per Larium nostrum, cum senior amicus ostendit mihi villam, atque etiam cubiculum quod in lacum prominet: 'Ex hoc' inquit 'aliquando municeps nostra cum marito se praecipitavit.' 3 Causam requisivi. Maritus ex diutino morbo circa velanda corporis ulceribus putrescebat; uxor ut inspiceret exegit; neque enim quemquam fidelius indicaturum, possetne sanari. 4 Vidit desperavit hortata est ut moreretur, comesque ipsa mortis, dux immo et exemplum et necessitas fuit; nam se cum marito ligavit abiecitque in lacum. 5 Quod factum ne mihi quidem, qui municeps, nisi proxime auditum est, non quia minus illo clarissimo Arriae facto, sed quia minor ipsa. Vale.

My translation (aiming for literal rendering rather than English idiom):

"How greatly the kind of thing which is done by each one is different! For the same deeds, by the fame or obscurity of those doing them, are either raised most highly or humbled most lowly. I was sailing through the Larian sea, when a rather old friend offered his villa to me, and even the room which jutted out into a lake: "From here, he said 'at some time, our citizen threw herself off with her husband." I asked the cause. The husband, because of a long illness, was festering with ulcers around the parts of the body which ought to be covered; the wife examined so that she might observe; for nobody was going to indicate more faithfully, whether it could be healed. She saw, she despaired, she urged him to die, and she herself a companion of death, was indeed a leader and an example and a necessity; for she bound herself to the husband and threw herself into the lake. Which fact not even to me, who is a citizen, has been heard except recently, not because it is less than the very famous deed of Arria, but because she herself is unimportant."

And a more idiomatic translation:

"How greatly things differ when done by different people! For the same deeds, by the fame or obscurity of those doing them, are either raised most highly or humbled most lowly. I was sailing through the Larian sea, when a rather old friend offered his villa to me, and said when we came to the room which jutted out into a lake: "From here, once, a citizen of ours threw herself off with her husband." I asked the cause. The husband, because of a long illness, was festering with ulcers around the private parts; the wife examined so that she might observe them; for nobody was going to indicate more faithfully, whether it could be healed. She saw, she despaired, she urged him to die, and she herself, a companion in death, was indeed a leader and an example and a necessity; for she bound herself to the husband and threw herself into the lake. Even I, a citizen, had not heard of that deed until recently, not because it is a lesser deed than the very famous one of Arria, but because the woman herself was unimportant."

I'm pretty sure I have the sense right, but a few points are confusing me:

I'm not sure what "etiam" is doing in "atque etiam cubiculum quod in lacum prominet".

I'm not sure what "mihi" is doing in the last sentence - it almost seems like a dative of agent.

While I think my rendering of "neque enim quemquam fidelius indicaturum, possetne sanari" gets the sense, I'm not sure what 'indicaturum' is grammatically - is it just an adjective modifying quemquam, or is it a periphrastic with an implied verb? It occurs to me that, because I do less prose comp than I should, I'm not sure how I'd render "was going to indicate" in this context (i.e. what, in the context of a past narrative, will happen in the future [from the point of view of the past]) - any reminders?
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Re: Pliny on syphillis

Postby modus.irrealis » Tue Apr 06, 2010 1:13 am

Hi,

rkday wrote:I'm not sure what "etiam" is doing in "atque etiam cubiculum quod in lacum prominet".

I just read it as "even", something like "going so far as a room that jutted out over the lake" -- I'm assuming that such a room would have been as desirable back then as it is today.

I'm not sure what "mihi" is doing in the last sentence - it almost seems like a dative of agent.

That's what I see it as, here with the perfect participle -- see A&G §375.

While I think my rendering of "neque enim quemquam fidelius indicaturum, possetne sanari" gets the sense, I'm not sure what 'indicaturum' is grammatically - is it just an adjective modifying quemquam, or is it a periphrastic with an implied verb? It occurs to me that, because I do less prose comp than I should, I'm not sure how I'd render "was going to indicate" in this context (i.e. what, in the context of a past narrative, will happen in the future [from the point of view of the past]) - any reminders?

One thing is that I read "uxor ut inspiceret exegit; neque enim quemquam fidelius indicaturum, possetne sanari" as "the wife demanded to look at it; for [she said] no one would..." so the implied verb is "esse" and the whole thing is indirect discourse implied by the "exegit" -- note how "quemquam" is in the accusative. So yes, it's the future periphrastic tense.

That's also how, I believe, you would say "was going to indicate", as "erat (or maybe fuit) indicaturus", but with the nominative of course if it's a separate sentence.
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