salvēte iterum, amīcī! alia fābula nōbīs legenda est. Today we’ll look at the one from Cursus Secundus, where young Caius Lollius is trying to decide how to take care of his mother now that Vesuvius has erupted, his father has died, and he has suddenly gained patria potestās at age 17. We saw the story in this post from early January:
Let’s take a paragraph or so at a time and consider the cultural implications:
Cāius Lollius, paucīs ante diēbus quam sacrāmentum dīceret, cum mātre in cēnāculō Vipsāniī Lolliaeque sollicitus sedēbat. anxius enim erat Cāius quod sibi nihil pecūniae erat. “quō modō,” sē rogābat, “mātrem cūrāre possum? ō dī magnī, quaesō, mihi auxilium date!”
We might ask questions like these:
- Why are Caius and his mom staying with his sister and her husband anyway?
- What is a cēnāculum like?
- How is it different from, say, a domus or a vīlla rūstica?
- How rich can you be and still live in a cēnāculum?
- Since cēnācula are found in īnsulae, how do the various residents of such a building interact with each other?
- Is it like the relationships among same-building residents in a large American city?
- For that matter, in a world without electricity, is it better to have a cēnāculum on a lower floor, or on a higher floor?
- How do you get stuff (like furniture) up the stairs, and how do you dispose of waste?
- Is it culturally authentic to say cēnāculō Vipsāniī Lolliaeque in any case?
- Would a Roman think cēnāculō Vipsāniī, since Lollia is (legally) part of Vipsanius’ property like the table and the servants?
- Or was Lollia married to Vipsanius sine manū? If so, she’s still part of the Lollius familia.
- Why is it Caius’ job to mātrem cūrāre? Can’t she cūrāre herself? Or can’t Lollia do it?
- Why does Caius pray as he does?
- What specific dī does he have in mind, and what types of auxilium might he be looking for?
- Does he expect the dī just to give him auxilium, or does he expect a quid-pro-quo exchange?
- If the latter, what would he need to give them?
Now let’s examine the next bit:
“mī fīlī,” rogāvit māter anxia, “cūr tam sollicitus es?”
“ō māter,” respondit ille trīstis, “quid facere dēbeō? quō modō ego, quī nihil pecūniae habeō, tē cūrāre possum?”
quae, verbīs fīliī audītīs, respondit, “nesciō, mī fīlī. tibi suādēre nōn possum. fortasse autem ille Lucius Valerius, amīcus tuus –”
“minimē, māter, nōlī plūra dīcere! mē pudet hanc rem Luciō meō patefacere! cīvis enim Rōmānus sum, et patre meō mortuō, patria potestās mihi est. mē nōn decet sportulās beneficiave ita quaerere!”
We might ask questions like these:
- In this part, why does Caius’ mood change so suddenly?
- Why does he, in essence, tell his mom to shut up? Is that appropriate?
- Why does he make such a big deal about patria potestās?
- Why does he use such a loaded – and untranslatably Roman – concept as nōn decet or pudet in response to a simple (and perfectly reasonable) suggestion to ask his friend for help?
- Why do Romans use ille and other demonstratives to refer to people this way? After all, English speakers don’t normally say “that George Washington” or “that Aunt Sadie” in similar contexts?
And now let’s look at the next bit:
“mī Caī,” molliter respondit māter, “cūr tam īrātus es? ōlim pater tuus ē cēnāculō nostrō exiit ut sportulam quaereret. ōlim patrōnus eius, ille Mānius Valerius, quī tē tamquam filium dīligēbat, pecūniam lūdī magistrō dedit ut tē in ludō acciperet. ōlim –”
“haec omnia bene cognōvī, māter cārissima,” respondit Cāius trīstis, “sed dignitās patrī meō cūrae minimae erat, mihi tamen cūrae maximae. nōn pudēbat patrem sportulās quaerere, sed mē maximē pudet. perīre mālō quam sportulās accipere, praesertim ab amīcō veterrimō.”
Here we might ask questions like these:
- Why does Maccia bring up the relationship between pater tuus and patrōnus eius, ille Mānius Valerius?
- Why does she mention that Valerius loved Caius tamquam fīlium?
- Why does she mention the money Valerius paid the teacher?
- Why does Caius talk about dignitās in response to this?
- For that matter, why does he feel that his father didn’t care about dignitās?
- Is he right?
- If so, why didn’t Lollius care about dignitās?
- Is dignitās important to Romans from all social classes, or is it more important to the wealthy?
- Why does pudet show up again? It’s obviously really important to Caius!
- Why does Caius include that phrase, praesertim ab amīcō veterrimō?
- Is this a typically Roman attitude?
- And if so, how can it be reconciled with the bonds of friendship that, we believe, often existed between patrōnus and cliēns?
- Does Caius really mean he’d rather die than take a handout? Or is he being hyperbolic?
- In either case, why is this prideful self-sufficiency so important to him?
- And how would another Roman man (say, for example, Lucius or Cnaeus) react to this series of statements?
- Would he be sympathetic with Caius, or irritated by him?
- Would it make a difference if the other Roman man was also relatively poor, like Caius?
And now let’s look at the last bit:
subitō tamen Cāius cōnsilium optimum cēpit. “dī immortālēs!” laetus exclāmāvit, “mea māter, nōlī timēre! etiamsī mē pudet sportulās petere, mē haud pudet mīlitāre! nōnne mīlitēs Rōmānī sunt virī maximae dignitātis? nōnne mīlitibus semper est sat pecūniae cibīque?”
“ō mī fīlī, num mīles fierī vīs? nōnne perīculōsissimum est mīlitāre? quaesō, mī fīlī –”
“tacē, māter,” respondit ille. “dī enim ipsī, audītīs precibus meīs acceptīsque vōtīs, hoc cōnsilium mihi dedērunt! ex hōc cēnāculō discēdō, centūriōnem quaesītum!”
quibus verbīs dictīs, Cāius ex īnsulā celeriter discessit ut centūriōnem quaereret. māter tamen, lacrimāns rīdēnsque, in cēnāculō sōla manēbat. multīs lacrimīs effūsīs multīsque precibus adhibitīs, deōs ōrābat ut fīliō suō parcerent.
Here we might ask questions like these:
- Why does Caius make the connection between dignitās and being a soldier? Is that a typically Roman connection, or typical for a young man from his (relatively low) social status?
- How might Caius’ military experience, as a common mīles, be different from that of his friend Lucius, who will become a tribūnus mīlitum?
- To what extent are these differences in experience parallel to the different experiences of enlisted soldiers and officers in today’s armies?
- The American army, for example, has the whole procedure of Officer Candidate School for promising NCO’s; is there a similar system in the Roman army?
- If not, what does that say about the Roman attitudes regarding leadership and social class, as compared with American attitudes?
- Is Maccia’s fear for Caius’ safety typical or atypical for a Roman mother in this situation?
- To what extent would any parent in any society be apprehensive about a child joining the military?
- Does it make a difference that the Roman world in A.D. 80 is relatively peaceful?
- Might Maccia know about the recent unrest in Judea and Syria?
- And if so, might that make a difference in her response?
- Why does Caius suddenly make reference to precibus and vōtīs? What’s the difference, in any case?
- Why does he give credit to the gods for his sudden cōnsilium optimum? And how do these precibus and vōtīs relate to the big, untranslatable concepts of pietās and dignitās that we’ve been exploring since the beginning of Cursus Primus?
- Who is this mysterious centurion anyway, and why is he in Naples?
- Do centurions normally get to go to Italy on leave? What about common mīlifēs?
- Is it usual or unusual for Roman citizens from Italy to be recruited as a mīles at this time period?
- How did the Roman army change its recruitment procedures over time?
- And how do these procedures compare with those of the American army today (or the army of a Tres Columnae participant’s native country)?
- Why is Maccia described as lacrimāns rīdēnsque at the end of the story?
- Is her response typical for a Roman, or for a Roman woman?
- Is it “universally” typical for mothers of young men who have decided to become soldiers?
- What gods might she be praying to, and what vōta might she be offering?
Tune in next time when we’ll actually construct a story around a rather different, more peaceful cultural topic … but one that involves some intriguing animals….