Wednesday, July 24, 2019


A Curse

Seneca, Medea 20-21 (spoken by Medea about Jason; tr. John G. Fitch):
May he wander through unknown cities in want,
in exile, in fear, hated and homeless...

     per urbes erret ignotas egens
exul pavens invisus incerti laris...
A.J. Boyle ad loc.:
egens exul pauens inuisus/Needy, exiled, afraid, hated: cf. Ag. 991-2, inops egens...exul inuisa, 'Helpless, needy...exiled, hated,' applied by Aegisthus to Electra. Asyndetic lists of adjectives, nouns, and verbs are found frequently in both Senecan tragedy (see e.g. 45, 123, 207-8, 390, 395, 679 below, HF 32, 1260, Tro. 578, Pho. 34, 223, 264-5, Pha. 923, 939, Oed. 13, Ag. 45, 112, Thy. 216) and the early republican tragedians: see e.g. the list at Acc. Med. s. Arg., frag. x, 405 Klotz: exul inter hostis exspes expers desertus uagus, 'exiled among foes, hopeless, helpless, deserted, wandering'—also Enn. Alex. frag. xvii, 40 Jocelyn, Med. Ex. frag. 9, 6 Boyle (2006), Pac. Atal. frag. vii, 52 Klotz, Per. frag. xx, 301 Klotz, Acc. Eur. frag. x, 349 Klotz. Asyndetic writing is a feature of Roman literature from its inception: Livius, Od. frag. 27 Blänsdorf: uestis pulla purpurea ampla, 'a robe dark, purple, wide'; Naevius, BP frag. 37 Blänsdorf: urit uastat populatur, rem hostium concinnat, 'burns, wastes, ravages, the enemies' affairs disrupts.' For Greek precedents, see Fitch ad HF 32—to which I add Eur. Hec. 810-11 (re exile). Euripides' Medea has just two adjectives in asyndeton when describing her statelessness (Med. 255). For the curse of exile, cf. Medea's curse on Jason at Apollon. 4.385-7, Hypsipyle's on Medea at Ov. Her. 6.162 (erret inops exspes, caede cruenta sua, 'May she wander helpless, hopeless, bloodied by her murders'), and Ovid's on Ibis at Ib. 113 (exul inops erres alienaque limina lustres, 'May you wander exiled, helpless, and haunt other men's doors'). For similar asyndeton in a modern adaptation, see the description of Jason by Jeffers' Medea as 'helpless, friendless, mateless, childless' in the finale to his play (Med. Act II, p. 80).

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