Friday, December 15, 2017


A Double Acrostic

Brent D. Shaw, Sacred Violence: African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 39-40 (spacing and punctuation altered):
An eight-line Latin poem in hexameters was set up at the fortified site, boasting of Sammac's power.87 In hiring a poet to create this little Latin display piece, Sammac was not so much vaunting his own status as he was advertising his loyalty to the state and his connections to certain powerful persons. Yet another one of the fanciful literary tours-de-force typical of the more spectacular gymnastic poetics of the age, the poem is a double acrostic. The first letters and the last letters of each line, when read vertically, spelled out the name of the place: PRAEDIUM SAMMACIS, The Great Domain of Sammac.
Praesidium aeternae firmat prudentia paciS,
Rem quoque Romanam fida tuta undique dextrA,
Amni praepositum firmans munime monteM,
E cuius nomen vocitavit nomine PetraM.
Denique finitimae gentes deponere bellA
In tua concurrunt cupientes foedera, SammaC,
Ut virtus comitata fidem concordet in omnI
Munere, Romuleis semper sociata triumfiS.

The wisdom of eternal peace makes strong this fort.
With sure loyalty it guards Rome's power on all sides;
set high above the river, it guards the mountains with its walls
by which it continually proclaims its name of Petra: "The Rock."
All the neighboring peoples, ceasing from their wars,
wish to rush into alliance with you, Sammac,
so that your virtue, adorned with loyalty, is strong in its
every duty, always allied with the victories of Rome's sons.
87 ILS 9351 = CLE 1916 (Ighzer Amokrane); see S. Gsell, "Une inscription d'Ighzer-Amokrane," CRAI (1901), p. 176; Gsell (1902), p. 21 = Scripta Varia (1981), p. 114, no. 1; Lengrand (1994), pp. 159–61.
On ancient acrostics in general, see Edward Courtney, "Greek and Latin Acrostichs," Philologus 134 (1990) 3-13.

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