Friday, September 13, 2019


Servius Mangled in Translation

Servius on Vergil, Aeneid 1.448 (from Georg Thilo's edition, p. 146, because I don't have access to the editio Harvardiana):
AEREA vel quod aes magis veteres in usu habebant, vel quod religioni apta est haec materies, denique flamen Dialis aereis cultris tondebatur: [aut quia vocalius ceteris metallis, aut quia medici aere quaedam vulnera curant, aut dicit quia veteres magis aere usi sunt] aut certe aerea saecula significantur: nam ut Hesiodus dicit, tempore quo haec gesta sunt aereum saeculum fuit.    NEXAEQVE AERE TRABES multi 'nixae' legunt, non 'nexae', iuxta Varronem qui ait trisulcae fores, pessulis libratae, dehiscunt, graves atque innixae in cardinum tardos turbines. quidam trabes aeneas putant ipsum templum χαλκίοικον significari. versus sane ipse hypermetros est.
A "translation" of this passage recently appeared on the World Wide Web (reproduced here with the translator's note):
BRONZE, or rather what was used as money by the ancients, or what was appropriate for religion, and then the Flamen Dialias was trimmed with a bronze knife: [or because more tuneful than other metals, or because doctors cured some wounds with bronze, or he says (this) because the ancients were more used to bronze] or at least the ages of bronze are signified: for, as Hesiod says, the time that this happened was the age of bronze.    AND ITS ROOF-BEAMS WERE LINKED WITH BRONZE. Many read "heavy", not "linked", according to Varro who said, "The three-fold doors, from bolts released, they open, and in pushing on the hinge the slow heavy rotation."[2] Which beam Aeneas thought meant the temple itself was that "made of bronze" (i.e. of Athena). The verse obviously is in hypermeter.

[2] I really couldn't construe this correctly.
Screen image:

The worst of the several howlers in this translation is the confusion of the adjective aeneas (brazen, of bronze) with the proper name Aeneas.

A friend of mine kindly offered the following accurate version:
AEREA, either because the ancients used bronze more widely, or because this material is appropriate for religious purposes; thus the hair of the Flamen Dialis was cut with bronze knives [or because it was more sonorous than other metals, or because doctors tended certain wounds with bronze, or he says that the ancients made more use of bronze] or at any rate the Bronze Ages are denoted: for, as Hesiod says, the time at which these events occurred was the Age of Bronze.    NEXAEQVE AERE TRABES: Many read "resting upon" [nixae], not "plated with" [nexae], with Varro, who said, "The triple doors, released by bolts, open wide, heavy and resting upon slowly revolving pivots". Some think that the "bronze lintel" means that the temple itself was a "shrine of bronze". The line is obviously hypermetric.
On the passage itself see Arthur F. Stocker, "Servius Servus Magistrorum," Vergilius 9 (1963) 9-15 (at 12). Stocker said of Servius in general:
The Latin is easy, well within the capabilities of anyone who can read Vergil himself.
The quotation from Varro is fragment 577 of his Menippean Satires (in Raymond Astbury's Teubner edition). For Hesiod, cf. Works and Days 150-151.


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