Sunday, May 22, 2016


A Rural Retreat

Jerome, Letters 43.3 (to Marcella; tr. F.A. Wright):
Therefore, as to-day we have traversed a great part of life's journey through rough seas, and as our barque has been now shaken by tempestuous winds, now holed upon rugged rocks, let us take this first chance and make for the haven of a rural retreat. Let us live there on coarse bread and on the green-stuff that we water with our own hands, and on milk, country delicacies, cheap and harmless. If thus we spend our days, sleep will not call us away from prayer, nor overfeeding from study. In summer the shade of a tree will give us privacy. In autumn the mild air and the leaves beneath our feet point out a place for rest. In spring the fields are gay with flowers, and the birds' plaintive notes will make our psalms sound all the sweeter. When the cold weather comes with winter's snows, I shall not need to buy wood: whether I keep vigil or lie asleep, I shall be warmer there, and certainly as far as I know, I shall escape the cold at a cheaper rate. Let Rome keep her bustle for herself, the fury of the arena, the madness of the circus, the profligacy of the theatre, and—for I must not forget our Christian friends—the daily meetings of the matrons' senate.

quapropter, quia multum iam vitae spatium transivimus fluctuando et navis nostra nunc procellarum concussa turbine, nunc scopulorum inlisionibus perforata est, quam primum licet, quasi quendam portum secreta ruris intremus. ibi cibarius panis et holus nostris manibus inrigatum, lac, deliciae rusticanae, viles quidem, sed innocentes cibos praebeant. ita viventes non ab oratione somnus, non saturitas a lectione revocabit. si aestas est, secretum arboris umbra praebebit; si autumnus, ipsa aeris temperies et strata subter folia locum quietis ostendit. vere ager floribus depingitur et inter querulas aves psalmi dulcius decantabuntur. si frigus fuerit et brumales nives, ligna non coemam: calidius vigilabo vel dormiam, certe, quod sciam, vilius non algebo. habeat sibi Roma suos tumultus, harena saeviat, circus insaniat, theatra luxurient et, quia de nostris dicendum est, matronarum cotidie visitetur senatus.
I wonder if "de vestris" or "de vostris" might be read for "de nostris," i.e. "your female friends," not "our Christian friends." On the matron's senate see "Aelius Lampridius", Life of Elagabalus 4.3-4 (tr. David Magie):
He also established a senaculum, or women’s senate, on the Quirinal Hill. Before his time, in fact, a congress of matrons had met here, but only on certain festivals, or whenever a matron was presented with the insignia of a "consular marriage"—bestowed by the early emperors on their kinswomen, particularly on those whose husbands were not nobles, in order that they might not lose their noble rank. But now under the influence of Symiamira absurd decrees were enacted concerning rules to be applied to matrons, namely, what kind of clothing each might wear in public, who was to yield precedence and to whom, who was to advance to kiss another, who might ride in a chariot, on a horse, on a pack-animal, or on an ass, who might drive in a carriage drawn by mules or in one drawn by oxen, who might be carried in a litter, and whether the litter might be made of leather, or of bone, or covered with ivory or with silver, and lastly, who might wear gold or jewels on her shoes.

fecit et in colle Quirinali senaculum, id est mulierum senatum, in quo ante fuerat conventus matronalis, sollemnibus dumtaxat diebus et si umquam aliqua matrona consularis coniugii ornamentis esset donata, quod veteres imperatores adfinibus detulerunt et iis maxime quae nobilitatos maritos non habuerant, ne innobilitatae remanerent. sed Symiamira facta sunt senatus consulta ridicula de legibus matronalibus: quae quo vestitu incederet, quae cui cederet, quae ad cuius osculum veniret, quae pilento, quae equo, quae sagmario, quae asino veheretur, quae carpento mulari, quae boum, quae sella veheretur, et utrum pellicia an ossea an eborata an argentata, et quae aurum vel gemmas in calciamentis haberent.

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