Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Patagus Morbus

J.N. Adams, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982; rpt. 1993), has an appendix on the Vocabulary Relating to Bodily Functions (pp. 231-250). One of the bodily functions discussed is farting (pp. 249-250). In his discussion Adams doesn't mention a fragment of Plautus (fab. inc. 62 Goetz) preserved by Macrobius, Saturnalia 5.19.11:
me<di>cum habet patagus morbus aes.

medicum Bücheler: mecum ω
patagus Canter (pet- A): p(a)eagus ω
Robert A. Kaster, in his Loeb Classical Library edition of Macrobius, Saturnalia, Vol. II: Books 3-5 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011), p. 439, translates the fragment thus (with footnote on p. 438):
The disease of flatulence79 is healed by bronze.

79 Plautus' patagus = Gk. patagos, which denotes a range of harsh sounds, including the clatter of arms, the crash of thunder, and the rumbling of flatulence (LSJ9 s.v.).
For the meaning "rumbling caused by flatulence" Liddell-Scott-Jones s.v. πάταγος cite HP.VM22, i.e. Hippocrates, On Ancient Medicine 22.7 (tr. Mark J. Schiefsky):
All that produces wind and flatulent colic in the body is apt to bring about noise and rumbling in the hollow and spacious parts such as the belly and the chest: for if the wind does not fill up a part so as to come to rest, but is able to shift its place and move about, this necessarily gives rise to both noise and evident movements.

ὅσα δὲ φῦσάν τε καὶ ἀνειλήματα ἀπεργάζεται ἐν τῷ σώματι, προσήκει ἐν μὲν τοῖσι κοίλοισι καὶ εὐρυχωώρέσιν, οἷον κοιλίῃ τε καὶ θώρηκι, ψόφον τε καὶ πάταγον ἐμποιεῖν· ὅ τι γὰρ ἂν μὴ ἀποπληρώσῃ οὕτως ὥστε στῆναι ἀλλ’ ἔχῃ μεταβολάς τε καὶ κινήσιας, ἀνάγκη ὑπ’ αὐτῶν ψόφον καὶ καταφανέας κινήσιας γίνεσθαι.
Lewis and Short define patagus as simply "a sort of disease." In the quotation from Plautus, aes perhaps means copper rather than bronze. Copper was an ingredient in ancient medical prescriptions, although not (so far as I know) as a remedy for flatulence. A slightly more literal translation of the fragment from Plautus might be:
Flatulence, a disease, has copper as a physician.


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