Sunday, August 09, 2020


Prayers for an End to the Plague

Livy 3.7.7-3.8.1 (tr. Aubrey de Sélincourt):
The Senate, despairing of human aid, turned the people to their prayers, bidding them go with their wives and children and supplicate heaven for a remission of their sorrows. It was an official command, but no more than what each was impelled to do by his own distress: every shrine was packed; in every temple women lay prostrate, their hair sweeping the floor, praying the angry gods to grant them pardon and to put an end to the plague. It may be that the prayers were granted; in any case, the sickly season was now over, and from this time, little by little, those in whom the disease had run its course began to recover.

inopsque senatus auxilii humani ad deos populum ac vota vertit. iussi cum coniugibus ac liberis supplicatum ire pacemque exposcere deum, ad id quod sua quemque mala cogebant auctoritate publica evocati omnia delubra implent. stratae passim matres, crinibus templa verrentes, veniam irarum caelestium finemque pesti exposcunt. inde paulatim, seu pace deum impetrata seu graviore tempore anni iam circumacto, defuncta morbis corpora salubriora esse incipere.
R.M. Ogilvie ad loc.:
7.7. inops ... auxilii humani: cf. Tacitus, Hist. 2.16.3 (Fletcher).

7.7-8. iussi: the two past participles in asyndeton (iussi ... evocati) are harsh and not, I think, exactly paralleled elsewhere in L. iussos (Ver.), on the other hand, with a plural understood from populum, is impossible with deos so near at hand. The reverse corruption is found at 4.7.3 (usos N, usi sunt Ver.). It is probably best to punctuate, with Madvig and Luterbacher, ...vertit: iussi ... deum. ad id ... .

supplicatum ire: a rhetorical elaboration of a bare fact. L. indulges his fancy, painting a graphic scene of public prayer. For stratae matres cf. Tacitus, Hist. 1.63; for crinibus verrere, a symbol of the meekest supplication, cf. especially Apuleius, Metam. 6.2. pacem or veniam exposcere belongs to religious phraseology (1.16.3, 3.5.14, 4.30.10, 7.2.2, 44.44.4; cf. Catullus 64.203; Virgil, Aeneid 3.261; Val. Max. 1.1.1; and a plant prayer in Prec. Herb. 6).

8.1. seu ... seu: so also D.H. 9.60.7.

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