Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Point of Honor
This reminds me of a few epigrams by the ancient Latin poet Martial (who was from Bilbilis in Spain, by the way), especially 6.88:
This morning, Caecilianus, I accidentally greeted you by your real name and I didn't say 'my Lord'. You ask me how much my excessive freedom of speech cost me? It took a hundred small coins from me.
Mane salutavi vero te nomine casuMartial is referring to the sportula, or gift which patrons gave to clients who attended the morning levee.
nec dixi dominum, Caeciliane, meum.
quanti libertas constet mihi tanta requiris?
centum quadrantes abstulit illa mihi.
In the life of St. Teresa of Avila (also from Spain) written by herself we read about similar important nuances in forms of address (37.10, tr. K. Kavanaugh and O. Rodriguez):
But just for the titles of address in a letter there's need for a university chair, so to speak, to lecture on how it's to be done. For sometimes you have to leave a margin on this side of the page, sometimes on the other; and someone who's not usually addressed as magnifico must be addressed as illustrious.