Building a Story, Part IV

salvēte iterum, sodālēs! In this post, we’ll finally reach the climax of the story we’ve been building. Just to recap what we have so far:

prope culīnam est cēnāculum minimum, ubi Rīdiculus mūs cum familiā habitat. Rīdiculus est mūs maximae calliditātis. cotīdiē ē cēnāculō suō audāx ambulat; cotīdiē cibum quaerit et invenit; cotīdiē incolumis revenit. Ferōx enim, canis Valeriī, est amīcus Rīdiculī; Ferōx Rīdiculum capere nōn vult.

in vīllā tamen proximā, ubit Flavius Caesō habitat, quoque habitat Sabīna mustēla. Sabīna Rīdiculum capere et ēsse valde vult. cotīdiē, ubi Rīdiculus cibum ad cēnāculum suum refert, Sabīna īrātissima susurrat, “istum mūrem necāre volō! istum mūrem caedere volō! istum mūrem cōnsūmere volō! istīus mūris ossa exspuere volō! nōnne hic est diēs optimus? nam dominus meus, ille Flavius Caesō, ipse in domō Valeriī hodiē cēnat. nōnne iste mūs cibum capere vult? et nōnne ego quoque cēnāre possum?”

Sabīna igitur ē peristyliō exit. Sabīna per postīcum ambulat et angiportum intrat. mustēla per angiportum ad domum Valeriī rēpit. Sabīna callida domum clam intrat et ad triclīnium tacitē rēpit.

intereā Valerius et Flavius triclinium intrant. Lollius et aliī clientēs quoque intrant. omnēs in lectō recumbunt et cēnam exspectant.

Caelia, uxor Valeriī, et Maccia, uxor Lolliī, cum Ausōniā, Flaviī uxōre, quoque triclinium intrant. Caelia in sellā sedet. Maccia in sellā sedet. Ausōnia tamen iuxtā marītum recumbit. “heus!” susurrat Maccia. “quid facit ista fēmina?” “nōlī tē vexāre, mea Maccia,” respondet Caelia. “nam in urbe Romā fēminae iuxtā marītōs in lectīs recumbere solent.”

“fortasse tālēs rēs in urbe Romā accidunt,” respondit Maccia attonita, “sed in hāc urbe nōn decet –”

And that’s where we left off earlier. And now to continue:

subitō Gallicus, coquus Valeriī, per iānum intrat. Milphiō quoque intrat. Milphiō gustātiōnem in mēnsā pōnit. in gustātiōne sunt multae olīvae, multae …

(I’m reminded by the Wikipedia article that Romans loved pickled leeks, carrots, parsnips, and cauliflower, and that upper-class Romans preferred pureed lentils to the fava beans and chickpeas that were normally eaten by the poor. Not sure how much single-use vocabulary I really want to include here! But in the course of writing this post, I’ve been in touch with our potential illustrator, who wanted some guidance for a particular scene. Now I know that the pureed lentils, the bread, and the snails – along with the little pointy spoon called cochlear that Romans ate snails with – will be important plot elements.)

in gustātiōne sunt multae olīvae et lentēs in …

(which word for bowl? Lewis & Short suggest catīnus, used by both Varro and Horace for a food-serving vessel)

in gustātiōne sunt multae olīvae et lentēs in catīnō argenteō. in gustātiōne sunt …

(what do they call snails again? Oh, that’s right, coclea, which is why the spoon is cochlear)

in gustātiōne sunt cocleae et carōtae et …

(Onion? bulbus.  And what’s that word for pickling that Ovid uses? condiō.)

… et bulbī condītī. “nōnne gustātiō optima est?” omnēs hospitēs exclāmant. Valerius Gallicum valdē laudat. omnēs hospitēs plaudunt.

Flavius Caesō mēnsam īnspicit. “nōnne lentēs Aegyptiae sunt? heus! mē valdē dēlectant lentēs!” Flavius Caesō panem …

(I want to say, “dips it,” but he’ll drop it first, by accident. So…)

Flavius Caesō panem sumit. “ecce puls optima!” inquit.  Flavius tamen panem forte in pavīmentō …

(drops! Of all the words not to remember! Lewis & Short suggests dēmittere. And besides, forte is so adverbial that it should go next to the verb anyway, isn’t it?)

Flavius tamen panem in pavīmentō forte dēmittit. “heus! quam …

(clumsy! Lewis & Short suggests crassus, but … I know! neglegēns!  Flavius would never call himself crassus!)

“heus! quam neglegēns sum!” inquit. “heus, puer, fer plūs panis!” Milphiō ē triclīnliō exit et panem in culīnā quaerit.

subitō Rīdiculus panem in pavīmentō cōnspicit. “heus! mē valdē dēlectat panis!” mūs susurrat. Rīdiculus per triclinium currit. mūs panem in pavīmentō petit.

“ēheu! mūs est in triclīniō!” exclāmat Ausōnia. “euge! istum mūrem capere possum!” inquit Sabīna. mustēla quoque per triclīnium currit. mustēla mūrem in pavīmentō petit.  “heus! quid accidit?” omnēs hospitēs exclāmant perterritī.  “quid accidit?” Milphiō in līmine rogat.

ēheu! Milphiō mustēlam nōn videt. servus ….

(trips! Of all the words to forget! L&S suggests supplantō)

pedēs nōn iam sunt in pavīmentō! Milphiō supplantat

(or is it sē supplantat? is it transitive or instransitive?)

et in mēnsā cadit. mēnsa per āera volat! panis per āera volat! olīvae et lentēs per āera volant! catīnus ad caput Flaviī , cochlear ad oculum Ausōniae volat!  “ēheu!  moritūrī estis vōs!” exclāmant hospitēs perterritī.

“ēheu!” exclāmat Flavius. “quid facere possum?”  Valēria tamen per iānuam celeriter currit. Caeliōla et Lūcius quoque celeriter intrant. Valēria …

(which words to use for catching, here? L&S suggest several, with slightly different shades of meaning. So let’s use them, and then let’s explore those shades of meaning after we read!)

Valēria catīnum et mēnsam ex āere captat. Caeliōla mustēlam capessat. mustēla īrāta puellam mordēre temptat. Caeliōla Sabīnam īrāta verberat. Lūcius cochlear ex āere comprehendit. Rapidus panem comprehendit et ad cēnāculum suum celeriter currit.

“līberōs īnsolentissimōs!” exclāmat Flavius Caesō. “num triclīnium in mediā cēnā intrāre audētis? num mustēlam meam tangere audēs? ō puellās impiās! nōnne vehementer vapulāre dēbētis?”

“mī Flāvī,” respondet Valēria attonita, “cūr nōs pūnīre vīs? nōnne tē et uxōrem servāre temptāmus?”

Caesō tamen īrātus, “tacē, puella īnsolēns!” exclāmat. “nōnne pater tuus tē in servitūtem vēndere dēbet?  et servum ignāvum! ubi est panis? et cūr supplantās? nōnne maximē vapulāre dēbēs? nōnne in …

(what’s that word for salt mines? Or mines in general?)

nōnne in metalla vēnīre dēbēs?”

Valērius attonitus surgit. “mī Flavī –” Ausōnia autem quoque surgit et marītum vituperat.

“tacē, marīte stultissime,” interpellat Ausōnia īrāta. “num nihil vidēs? num nihil intellegis? hae puellae piissimae vītam tuam servant. hic puer fortissimus vītam meam servat. nōnne istam mustēlam tuam pūnīre dēbēs? nam propter mustēlam ille servus supplantat et haec omnia per āera volant. propter līberōs tamen catīnus tē, cochlear mē nōn percutiunt. fortasse tū puellās et puerum castīgās, ego tamen valdē laudō quod mē servant.”

Flavius Caesō attonitus nihil respondet. “fortasse,” Maccia susurrat, “ego quoque iuxtā marītum recumbere dēbeō.” Caelia rīdet sed nihil dīcit. cēterī hospitēs Valēriam et Lūcium et Caeliōlam valdē laudant.

intereā Rapidus panem per iānuam suam trahit. “mea Impigra, mea uxor,” exclāmat. “nōnne cēnam optimam tibi ferō?”

“ō marītum stultissimum!” respondet Impigra īrāta. “nōnne tē cum familiā tuā necāre temptās? sī panis in pavīmentō cadit, nōnne in pavīmentō per tōtam cēnam manet? nonne post cēnam triclīnium est vacuum? nōnne mediā nocte panem petere potes?”

“rēctē dīcis, mea uxor,” susurrat Rīdiculus. “nōnne nōmen aptissimum habeō?”

quid respondētis, amīcissimī? Of course, this is an early draft, and the story could easily be improved with some careful editing. But what do you think of

  • the overall plot?
  • the characters?
  • the situation?
  • the use of old, familiar vocabulary?
  • the introduction of new vocabulary?
  • the cultural elements (food, gender roles, and of course the roles of children)?
  • the Cultural elements of social class, dignitās, and pietās, and the literary allusions in the names of Sabina and Ridiculus?

What, if anything, would you suggest that we change or improve about the story? And what do you think about the process as I modeled it for you?  Could your students follow a similar process?  Or could you, if you’re a Latin learner yourself?

Tune in tomorrow, when we’ll start taking the story apart to examine these elements more closely.

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ah, snails… I can give you proverbs and sayings about snails when the time comes, too! And an awfully good story about Aesop the annoying servant offering his master a single lentil for supper, ha ha…

    For tripping and stumbling, labi is good – if you have passive forms already (perhaps not?)…

    As for sending people off to punishment, “ad molas” is always good, too!

    The husband-and-wife mouse pair reminded me of the famous husband-and-wife wolf pair in the notorious story about the Lupus who comes home empty-handed, much to the disappointment of Lupa – but in this case, the Lupus tries to blame the whole thing on feminine trickery (you know if Lupa had anything to say about it, she would note that some masculine foolishness was also involved, ha ha):
    Nūtrix minātur Puerum plōrantem: nī taceat, sē Lupō illum trāditūram. Lupus praeteriēns id forte audit et spē praedae manet ad forēs. Puer tandem, obrēpente somnō, silescit. Regreditur Lupus in silvās, iēiūnus et inānis. Lupa obviam illī habēns sciscitātur ubi sit praeda. Cui gemebundus Lupus: “Verba (inquit) mihi data sunt. Puerum plōrantem abiicere Nūtrix minābātur, sed fefellit.”

    I’ll confess that it is hard for me to get used to the animals having names; it’s just not a style I’m much accustomed to in Latin. I forgot who Rapidus was – but then I realized you probably meant Ridiculus there. I think I would prefer the name of the animal rather than the name, or if it has a name, to have them together Ridiculus ille mus, maybe, or something like that… but that could just be me; you should get feedback from other readers about that! If you are going for Roman authenticity, though, I’m not sure that naming the animals fits with their animal storytelling tradition – but it has become so strongly a part of our storytelling tradition that I can see why it has a strong appeal (when retelling Aesop’s fables in English for my Myth-Folklore class, the students almost always give them names).

    In Sanskrit animal stories, by the way, the animals have wonderful proper names – so it’s not just an ancient-versus-modern thing. Both in the ancient Hindu and Buddhist animal fables, there are some delightful animal names – “talking names,” as it were: Golden-Wing, Short-Tail, and so on. Being able to compare and contrast between different storytelling traditions is very illuminating about that question: do the animals get their own proper names like people, or just their species name? For whatever reasons, the traditions of ancient India liked giving proper names to the animals, while with the Romans and the Greeks it is far less common practice. It is the famous exceptions that prove the rule, so to speak – like Xanthus and Balius, the famous talking horses of Achilles in Homer, or Alexander’s famed Bucephalus.

    • I’ll look forward to those snails and lentils at the proper time.
      As for labi, I am very seriously considering introducing verba deponentia from the beginning, before verba passiva. IIRC, the JACT Reading Greek textbook introduces middle-voice verbs very early … long before passives. Of course, middle-voice verbs are quite common in Greek, but then deponents are quite common in Latin!

      I considered a threat of “in malam crucem” or “in malam rem” too – can you tell that I love Plautus? But Caeso didn’t seem like quite the right character to make that particular threat. “ad molas” would work well from him, though.

      It’s interesting that the Sanskrit tradition does include animal names! That would be a great cross-cultural Comparison to address when we bring out the unnamed-animal fables from the Greco-Roman tradition.

  2. salve, Iustine! Finally catching up with all the stories. Lots of action here; I will try to work on it with some students on Tuesday.

    Don’t you have a double negative with num? (I always mentally translate num as “you don’t …. do you?”) “You don’t see nothing, do you?” seems wrong here. nihil vides, nonne? re vera, nihil vides, nihil intellegis!

    Could Valeria really catch a bowl and a table? (I know the table isn’t huge; has our potential illustrator been instructed to draw it small?) patella is also a good word for a small dish to serve food in, and has the nice anatomical derivative. It seems amazing that the children could rush in AFTER the slave has slipped and still have time to catch things before they hit their elders …
    I think that SUPPLANTO is a transitive verb (to trip someone up), so wouldn’t be quite right here. You could go with se supplantat (a bit awkward, I think), or mustela/mus servum supplantat (gets under the sole of his foot, planta); but I like the idea of LABITUR, or even CADIT.
    I’m glad that you’re introducing the patria potestas, which is something my students are always intrigued and horrified by. Did you mean to say that he thought he OUGHT TO sell her into slavery or just that he COULD?

  3. salve atque tu, Anna,
    I’m glad you’ve had a chance to catch up on the stories. Grātiās maximās, ut semper, for your excellent and perceptive comments.
    1) Perhaps we should reword that whole question: utrum nihil vidēs? an nihil intellegis? Not a great set of alternatives for Flavius Caeso! 🙂
    2) We have to think of mēnsa as the tray-like tabletop, since Milphio is carrying it in. That will be clear from some introductory work. Maybe she should catch the mēnsa and shield Ausonia with it?
    3) I envision 2 doors to the triclīnium. The children are spying, as children often do, through the one that leads to the ātrium, while Milphio comes in the door from the kitchen. Ausonia and Flavius Caeso happen to be on the couch closest to the ātrium door. You’re right about the timing, though. Perhaps the children sneak in to listen more closely to the conversation?
    4) You’re quite right about supplantō, which I will replace with lābitur in the “real” version of the story.
    5) I think Flavius C. is so angry that he doesn’t know what he’s saying … so, like a good Roman, he threatens everybody there (slave, if I owned you, I’d sell you to the salt-mines; girl, how dare you save my wife? If I were your daddy, I’d sell you into slavery). You’re quite right about the patria potestas issue. Of course, like many men in patriarchal cultures, Flavius C. is terrified of his wife … in fact, as it turns out, she has a lot more money than he does, and they were married sine manū So his threats are rather empty … but Milphio and Valeria don’t know that! Nor do they really know how Valerius will respond to his guest’s demand.
    Hope your students have fun with the story this week! 🙂

  4. Doesn’t the story say that he brings in the gustatio and puts it on the mensa (rather than carrying in the mensa)? I couldn’t find an example of mensa meaning tray, though I know it can mean a “course”. He must have carried it in on something, but I don’t know what to call that something! Of course there is plenty of stuff flying through the air already, if you decide just to forget about the table … 🙂

    • Yes, it does say that! As I read the story again, I’m reminded of my thought.
      1. Milphio has already brought in the gustatio and put it on the mensa.
      2. Flavius C. asks for bread.
      3. Milphio goes to get the bread. Gustatio is still on mensa.
      4. Milphio trips over Sabina and Ridiculus, landing on the mensa (the open end of the lecti presumably faces toward the kitchen).
      5. This sends the mensa and contents flying.
      But it probably does make sense for Valeria just to catch the bowl, rather than the tabletop. I’ll make a clearer revision before TC goes live.
      et grātiās tibi maximās iterum propter auxilium!

  5. […] a series of posts beginning with this one, continuing with this one and this one, and ending with this one,  and then analyzed the story extensively, with a lot of feedback from […]


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