Another Animal Story

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Yesterday, I promised you a story that

raises interesting issues of identity and community, as well as friendship and loyalty, and it even touches on that quintessentially Roman concept of pietās. And yet most of the characters aren’t human! 🙂

You may have been wondering how that could happen! This is actually the first in a pair of stories; you’ll soon find its sequel available at if you’re interested in finding out how it ends. It comes from Lectiō XVI of Cursus Primus of the Tres Columnae project, a point when we have “paused,” so to speak, to consolidate a bunch of relatively new grammatical concepts, especially the following:

  • what Romans called the optātīvus – the present subjunctive used in what many current Latin teachers would call a “volitive” construction;
  • dative nouns, including what’s sometimes called the “double dative;” and
  • what the Romans called the inpersōnālis, which many current Latin teachers would call the “impersonal passive.”

We’re also pausing to focus on Roman practices of marriage and childbirth, and on the underlying perspectives that are revealed by these practices and their associated products. And our participants should be ready for a really deep, meaningful Virtual Seminar on these topics. We’ll look at the way this psssage might relate to the Virtual Seminar in the next few days; today, by contrast, I mainly wanted to share it with you and give you the chance to start thinking about it.

So here we go:

Trux est canis fortissimus quī vīllam fundumque Caeliō custōdit. Caelius Trucī cibum aquamque cotīdiē dat. Trux tamen trīstis est, quod sōlus agrōs custōdit. “heu! vae!” sēcum putat, “utinam coniugem habeam! quam misera est vīta mea! nēmō enim mē amat, nēmō mē cūrat. nam Caelius mē semper iubet pecus custōdīre, Vipsānia ē vīllā exīre. Prīma et Secunda aliquandō mihi pilam iactant, saepe tamen mē neglegunt. et iste Cnaeus semper mē vexat. vae! heu! mē taedet officiōrum meōrum et familiae meae! utinam ex hāc vīllā effugiam! utinam nē reveniam!”

Trux trīstis et īrātus per agrōs ambulat. nihil audit Trux, quod tam trīstis et īrātus est. Fortūnāta bōs Trucem cōnspicit et, “salvē, mī amīce,” mūgit. Trux tamen nihil audit, nihil respondet. “num quis mē salūtāre solet?” sēcum putat. Maximus taurus, marītus Fortūnātae, quoque Trucem salūtat et “quid agis, mī dulcissime?” mūgit. Trux tamen trīstis et īrātus nihil audit, nihil respondet.

ovēs in prātō pascuntur et “heus! Trux noster!” bālant. “laetissimī tē salūtāmus quod nōs dīligenter custōdīre solēs!” Trux tamen īrātus et trīstis nihil audit, nihil respondet. “num omnēs amīcī mē neglegunt?” sēcum putat. “fortasse mē decet in silvā sōlum perīre, quod nēminī cordī sum!”

iam Trux per agrōs in clīvō montis Vesuviī currit. “vae! heu!” sēcum identidem susurrat. “nēmō mē amat, nēmō mē cūrat.” subitō tamen vōcem suāvem audit et attonitus cōnsistit. aliquis enim ē silvā proximā “salvē, lupe fortissime, quid agis?” vōce suāvissimā et blandissimā susurrat.

Trux “heus! quis mē appellat?” attonitus rogat et ad silvam contendit. in silvā stat lupa formōsa et pulchra. Trux “au! au!” lātrat, “abī, lupa! nōnne lupī odiō dominō meō sunt? tē nōn oportet fīnēs meōs aggredī!”

Lupa tamen vōce blandissimā, “mī amīce,” respondet, “quid dīcis? fīnēs tuōs haud aggredior. haud inimīca, haud hostis tibi sum. nōmen enim mihi Lupa est – et nōnne tū es lupus fortissimus? sōla sum, ut vidēs, et marītum fortissimum quaerō. nōnne tū es lupus fortissimus et optimus? nōnne mihi marītō optimō esse vīs?”

Trux attonitus, “ēhem!” sēcum susurrat, “utrum canis sum, an lupus fortissimus? istī hominēs, quī mē neglegere solent, semper mē canem appellant. pecus quoque mē canem appellat. ego tamen sānē haud cordī hominibus, haud cordī pecorī sum.”

Trux Lupae appropinquat et “Lupa mea,” susurrat, “laetissimus tē salūtō. fortasse lupus sum fortissimus; istī autem hominēs mē canem Molossicum appellāre solent. mē fallit, et condiciōnem vēram maximē dubitō.”

Lupa vōce blandissimā “mendācissimī igitur sunt istī hominēs!” exclāmat. “certē lupus optimus et fortissimus es! nōnne tē taedet istōrum hominum? nōnne tē taedet boum et ovum? nōnne līber esse quam servus māvīs? et nōnne mē uxōrem dūcere cupis?”

Trux avidus, “hercle!” lātrat, “vērum dīcis!” et per silvam cum Lupā celeriter currit. Lupa tamen clam rīdet et, “canem stultissimum, sed cēnam aptissimum!” sibi susurrat!

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • First, I suppose I should ask how we did with incorporating the “newer” grammatical forms and concepts I listed above. Is there too much, not enough, or just the right amount of “newer” stuff?
  • Then I’m wondering what you think of Trux as a character. He’s deliberately ambiguous, so it’s OK if you can’t make up your mind! 🙂
  • I also wonder what you think of the minor animal characters – Fortunata, Maximus, and the sheep in particular. They’re all important in other Tres Columnae stories (especially Fortunata, as you may recall if you’ve been reading this blog for a while – and if you haven’t, you may want to check out this story at the Tres Columnae project, in which Fortunata plays a most important role).
  • Of course, I’m very interested to know what you think of Lupa … especially at the end of the story! Are she and her fellow wolves really planning to eat Trux for dinner? Or do they have a more elaborate plan? You’ll find out in the next day or so when the sequel appears on the Tres Columnae website, but feel free to speculate in the meantime.
  • If you’re familiar with the animal fable tradition, you may see some echoes of it – and some interesting inversions as well. If you’re not familiar with fables, or if you think they’re “only for children,” please take a look at our friend Laura G’s Bestiaria Latina Zoo, an amazingly comprehensive collection of Latin animal fables – and even some descriptions of animals. Either way, what do you think of the ways we’ve employed the animal fable tradition in this story?
  • If you’ve read our previous posts about Virtual Seminars, you might even have some ideas about questions we might ask to get the conversation going. (One strand, of course, might be the relationships between our characters and the animal fable tradition.) Please feel free to share them! 🙂
  • Do you think that our animal stories are only “for” a certain age group, or are they “for” everybody? Or do they perhaps have different purposes for different audiences?

Tune in next time for your responses, our comments, and a quick look at the Virtual Seminar that might accompany this story in the “fully formed” version of the Tres Columnae project. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!

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