Friday, January 17, 2014
Aulus Gellius 1.5.3: Asyndetic, Privative Adjectives
But when Sulla was on trial, and Lucius Torquatus, a man of somewhat boorish and uncouth nature, with great violence and bitterness did not stop with calling Hortensius an actor in the presence of the assembled jurors, but said that he was a posturer and a Dionysia—which was the name of a notorious dancing-girl—then Hortensius replied in a soft and gentle tone: "I would rather be a Dionysia, Torquatus, yes, a Dionysia, than like you, a stranger to the Muses, to Venus and to Dionysus."The last three words of Hortensius' retort are a neat example of a series of asyndetic, privative adjectives. "Asyndetic" means not joined by conjunctions, and "privative" means altering the meaning of a term from positive to negative.
sed cum L. Torquatus, subagresti homo ingenio et infestivo, gravius acerbiusque apud consilium iudicum, cum de causa Sullae quaereretur, non iam histrionem eum esse diceret, sed gesticulariam Dionysiamque eum notissimae saltatriculae nomine appellaret, tum voce molli atque demissa Hortensius "Dionysia," inquit "Dionysia malo equidem esse quam quod tu, Torquate, ἄμουσος, ἀναφρόδιτος, ἀπροσδιόνυσος."
Update: Reading further in the same work, I find another example of the same construction at 1.9.8 (tr. Rolfe with his footnote):
Having thus expressed himself about Pythagoras, my friend Taurus continued: "But nowadays these fellows who turn to philosophy on a sudden with unwashed feet,1 not content with being wholly 'without purpose, without learning, and without scientific training,' even lay down the law as to how they are to be taught philosophy.
1 Proverbial for "without preparation."
haec eadem super Pythagora noster Taurus cum dixisset: "Nunc autem," inquit, "isti qui repente pedibus inlotis ad philosophos devertunt, non est hoc satis quod sunt omnino ἀθεώρητοι, ἄμουσοι, ἀγεωμέτρητοι, sed legem etiam dant qua philosophari discant."
Labels: asyndetic privative adjectives