Hor. Sat. II. vii. hard sentence.

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hlawson38
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Hor. Sat. II. vii. hard sentence.

Post by hlawson38 » Wed Jul 05, 2017 9:37 am

Context: Davus the slave continues his philosophical interrogation of Horace.
tune mihi dominus, rerum imperiis hominumque
tot tantisque minor, quem ter vindicta quaterque
inposita haud umquam misera formidine privet?
Translation: While you are master to me, aren't you the [fearful] subordinate to so many authorities [minor...imperiis]? Even though you have been given your freedom papers [vindicta . . . imposita] three or four times yourself, nothing ever takes away your wretched dread [ of those who rank you].

I am in much doubt about this sentence. Have I got the correct relationship of minor and imperiis? I'm also in doubt about vindicta ... imposita, which I have translated as "given your freedom papers". I wanted to read it as "commissioned to office yourself", but I couldn't find any authority for that.

I am beginning to wonder if this satire is meant to mock pretended mastery of a philosophical system by one who actually possesses only a few half-understood catch phrases. Elsewhere in the poem Davus explains that he's learned all about stoicism from a friend, the doorkeeper at another mansion. Mockery and irony can be hard for one struggling to get the literal meaning.
Hugh Lawson

Hylander
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Re: Hor. Sat. II. vii. hard sentence.

Post by Hylander » Wed Jul 05, 2017 2:16 pm

This is indeed difficult. Having looked at the context, here's how I understand it.

It's a question. The basic question is tune mihi dominus? "Are you my master?"

rerum imperiis hominumque tot tantisque minor, "you, [who are] less than so many and so great dominations by things and men", i.e., you, who are dominated by so many things and men. tot tantisque imperiis is ablative of comparison with minor.

quem ter vindicta quaterque inposita haud umquam misera formidine privet -- "you, whom the rod [even if] placed on your head three or four times, should never deprive of miserable fear."

The subjunctive privet can be explained as the verb of a relative clause of characteristic: "you, who are such that . . . "

The rod was placed on the head of a freed slave to symbolize his/her manumission.

ter quaterque is an idiom meaning an innumerable number of times.

The thrust of this is that Horace too is a slave -- a slave to his own social anxieties, and he will never be able to undergo manumission or be liberated from these anxieties. Horace is as much a slave to his anxieties as Davus is to Horace -- actually, the suggestion is that Horace is more a slave than Davus. At least Davus can undergo manumission from his literal slave status, while Horace will never be able to free himself (figuratively) from his anxieties.

I don't think this mocks pretended mastery of philosophy. Rather, it's a mockery of Horace himself, out of the mouth of his slave, taking advantage of the liberty allowed slaves at the winter solstice (libertate Decembri) to say whatever they pleased. It's grounded in the Stoic idea, which Davus has absorbed, that irrational passions enslave men and men should attempt to free themselves from them.
Last edited by Hylander on Wed Jul 05, 2017 7:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.

hlawson38
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Re: Hor. Sat. II. vii. hard sentence.

Post by hlawson38 » Wed Jul 05, 2017 6:03 pm

Thanks for the hard work, Hylander. I have to put your comments in my basket inscribed "For further study."
Hugh Lawson

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