Monday, October 25, 2021


A Kind of Smell Peculiar to the Man

Erasmus, Adages I viii 77 (tr. R.A.B. Mynors, with his note):
77 Aliter catuli longe olent, aliter sues
Dogs and hogs smell very different

In Plautus, in the Epidicus, we find an unattractive but most expressive image: Dogs and hogs smell very different. The words signify that one man is distinguished from another, not by his clothes but by some inborn quality, special and peculiar to each individual, which shines out (to look no further) in his face and the look in his eye and discriminates easily between free man and slave, well-born man and peasant, good man and rascal. This is, as it were, a kind of smell peculiar to the man, by which if you have a keen nose you can tell what he is like. Martial is thinking of it in book six, when he says:
A thousand arts she did essay
And thought that she had saved the day:
But let her try what tricks she will,
Thais smells of Thais still.
Here belongs the remark of an advocate quoted by Quintilian: 'He does not have even the face of a man of free birth.' The speaker was himself extremely hideous, and counsel for the other party threw it back at him, saying he was quite right; he who did not have a free man's face could not be free-born.

From Plautus Epidicus 579, the title of the play not given till 1523; illustrated from Martial 6.93.11-12 and Quintilian 6.3.32. Otto 361

Aliter catuli longe olent, aliter sues

Apud Plautum legitur in Epidico sordidior quidem metaphora, sed tamen ad rem significandam apta: Aliter catuli longe olent, aliter sues. Quo dicto significatum est non veste dignosci hominem ab homine, verum inesse nativum quiddam genuinum ac proprium in unoquoque, quod in ipso vultu oculisque eluceat, quo liberum a servo, generosum a rustico, probum ab improbo facile discernas. Atque hic est hominis veluti peculiaris quidam odor, quo deprehenditur, si quis modo sit sagaci nare. Huc allusit Martialis libro VI:
Cum bene se tutam per fraudes mille putavit,
Omnia cum ferit, Thaida Thais olet.
Huc pertinet etiam illud cujusdam apud Fabium: Ne faciem quidem liberi hominis habet. Quod cum a quodam esset dictum deformi specie, retorsit adversarius affirmans recte dictum eum non esse liberum, cui non sit facies liberalis.

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