Saturday, November 30, 2013


A Contest over the Length of a Syllable Revisited

Dear Dr. Gilleland,

About two months ago I had the good fortune of stumbling on your blog, and I wanted to thank you for assembling such a consistently appealing set of texts. I browse at random, non servato temporis ordine, using the archives.

Today I looked at "A contest over the length of a syllable" (Nov.8). A few points in the text had me scratching my head, and I thought I'd share what I found. Line 6 of the poem isn't metrical at present: correcting semper to super is easy, and it's printed that way in at least one text I found through Google books. But I wondered what exactly the dispute between Philelphus and Timotheus was about. The following epigram by Latomus says Lis super accentus Graeci ratione: accent rather than length. This is nice because Philelphus seems to have married for the sake of having someone teach him accents: uxorem duxit, quae Graecae elocutionis magistra, quotidiano usu Atticorum accentuum, inepto sed docili coniugis ori dulcedinem instillaret.

I don't think the translation has the details of the bet right: "You won, and declaring that you could not buy a beard for the amount of the wager,..." But Timotheus didn't put up any money, and why would Philelphus buy a beard? It should be "you refused him the opportunity (posse) of redeeming his beard for the same amount, when you won": after losing, Timotheus offered a sum identical (eadem) to the one Philelphus first wagered, if only he could keep his beard.

It looks as if a new translation of Jovius's work has just appeared in the I Tatti library.

Best wishes,
David Petrain

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