Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Wounds In Front and In Back

Many thanks to E.J. Moncada for the following comments on wounds:
    "When Anthony, the orator, pleading for Aquilius, suddenly tears the habit of the accused and exhibits the [frontal] wounds he had received in fighting for his country, the Roman people cannot resist the spectacle, but absolve the criminal." Urquhart. Comment on Classical Learning. (Apparently from Quint. Inst. Orat. II. xv. 7., hence my addition of frontal.)

    Is (Sicinius Dentatus) pugnasse in hostem dicitur centum et viginti proeliis, cicatricem aversam nullam, adversas quinque et quadraginta tulisse. Aul. Gell. Noct. Attic. II. 21. 2. (Enough body space for such?)

    Sallust writes of leader Sertorius as having many scars on his breast (adversis cicatricibus). Loc. cit. II. 27.

    Ausonius has kind words for Thrasybulus (Lacedemonian) who fell fighting most bravely: That thou receivest seven gashes all in front... (Excipis adverso quod pectore vulnera septem)... Epigram XLIII (From Anth. Pal. VII. 229). Related epigrams: Dioscorides AG VII, 329 and Hegemon, AG VII, 435.

    One, Cleonnis --"and though he had received many wounds, he had got them all in front, thus providing the fullest proof that he had given way before no one of his foes." But, as a matter of fact, Cleonnis, so wounded, is arguing with Aristomenes (who emerged from the same battle unwounded) for the need of valor. After listening to both sides, the judges voted for Aristomenes (so, lack of wounds not necessarily a sign of cowardice). Diod. Sic. Frag. VIII. 12. 2.

    Petrarch (anachronistic here but assuredly a classical soul) in a letter to F.M. (?) writes: "No one chooses for a captain someone with a sword wound on his back."

    Bassus on the Spartan dead at Thermopylae: When Hades receives the boat load of 300 men aboard, all slain in war, he cries, "id' os pali prosthia panta,/ traumata, kai sternois deris enesti monois..." See again how every wound is frontal and the mark of battle is nowhere but on the breast. (As I typed this it occurred to me how easily (and incorrectly) one might think 'sternois' here might have some derivative connection with English (naval) 'stern.') A.G. IX. 279. Someone termed this a "wretched epigram, but I don't rightly recall who. Since I used to read the Gow and Page A.G. before settling in with Loeb, they might have been the commentators.

    M. Manlius had received twenty three wounds on the front of his body (XXIII cicatrices adverso corpore exceperat). Pliny, HN, VII. 28.103.

    BUT MY FAVORITE is Quintilian's account about Pomponius showing a wound on his face which he had received in the rebellion of Sulpicius and which he boasted he had received while fighting for Caesar and thereupon Gaius Caesar (cousin of the father of C. Julius Caesar) retorted,"You should never look round when you're running away." Quint. VI. iii. 75.

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