Female Voices, III

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! Today we continue with our series of posts featuring a new story from the Tres Columnae project that develops the characters of Caelia Valeriī and Vipsānia Caeliae, important female characters who, until now, haven’t had much to do in the stories we’ve shared. If you read yesterday’s post, you know that Vipsānia, concerned about her son Cnaeus’ terrible attitude and behavior, has come to Herculaneum to visit her sister-in-law Caelia. She’s hoping for some good advice … or possibly a magic formula for success … and she was briefly distracted by a local jewel shop. (Before we get any nasty comments about Vipsānia, I must tell you that the model for her distraction is what happens to me in … lots of stores! Especially when there are sales! 🙂 And no, I am not a matrōna Rōmāna; it’s impossible for me both for biological and ethnic reasons.)

Anyway, as we pick up today, Vipsānia has (reluctantly) listened to her long-suffering ancilla Dulcissima, who reminded her she could stop at the store after she talked with Caelia. We’ll pick up with the last paragraph we shared yesterday and continue with the story:

Vipsānia cum ancillīs celeriter ad domum Valeriī ambulat. Dulcissima tamen “dominam stultissimam et impiam!” sibi susurrat. “nōnne iste puer multō plūris est quam gemmae?”

Milphiō, servus Valeriī, forte per iānuam prōgreditur. “mihi necesse est pavimentum verrere, quod sordidissimum et foedissimum est hoc pavimentum!” sēcum putat. Milphiō Vipsāniam cōnspicātur et, “salvē, domina!” exclāmat. “heus!num immemor sum?” sēcum putat. “num domina mea adventum Vipsāniae exspectat?”

Vipsānia, “nōnne domina tua mē accipere potest, quamquam mē nōn exspectat?” Milphiōnī respondet. Milphiō Vipsāniam per iānuam dūcit et Caeliam quaerit. Dulcissima et Fēlīcissima, ancillae Vipsāniae, domum Valeriī quoque ingrediuntur. Vipsānia in ātriō sedet; ancillae prope dominam stant.

Milphiō Caeliam in peristȳliō invenit et, “domina mea, domina mea, illa Vipsānia Caeliī domum vīsitat. tē enim in ātriō nunc exspectat!” Caelia “quid dīcis, Milphiō?” respondet, “num Vipsānia Caeliī, uxor frātris meī? num Vipsānia iter longum iam facit? num mē sine nūntiō iam vīsitat?” et Milphiō, “quaesō, ignōsce mihi, domina – Vipsānia tamen tē in ātriō exspectat.”

Caelia, “heus! fēminam impudentem!” susurrat. tum ad Milphiōnem sē vertit et, “Milphiō, ad culīnam festīnā! Gallicō nostrō haec mandāta fer: necesse est eī prandium dignum parāre.” Milphiō celeriter ad culīnam contendit; Caelia īrāta ad ātrium ambulat.

Vipsānia Caeliam cōnspicātur et lacrimīs sē trādit. Caelia attonita, “Vipsānia mea, cūr lacrimās? quid agis?” rogat et Vipsāniam amplectitur. Vipsānia tamen plūrimās lacrimās effundit! maximē flētur et lūgētur! Dulcissima et Fēlīcissima attonitae et immōtae stant. “quid facere dēbēmus?” sēcum putant. “cūr domina sē rīdiculam reddere vult?”

tandem Vipsānia lacrimās retinēre potest. “vae! heu!” exclāmat, “quid facere possum? quid facere dēbeō?”

Caelia, immemor īrārum, Vipsāniae sōlācium praebēre temptat. “Vipsānia mea, Vipsānia mea,” identidem susurrat, “quid est? cūr flētur et lacrimātur?”

Vipsānia tandem sē colligit et “ō Caelia mea, quam benigna es!” respondet. “quaesō, tē amābō, ignōsce mihi! vae mihi! quam misera sum, quod iste fīlius meus pessimē et impiē sē gerit! quaesō, tē amābō, mihi cōnsilium optimum dā! fīlius enim tuus semper optimē et piē sē gerit! nēmō umquam Lūcium tuum vituperat, nēmō castīgat. nōnne tibi sunt artēs magicae? nōnne cantūs? et nōnne hās artēs mihi patefacere potes?”

Caelia attonita sēcum rīdet. tandem, “ō Vipsānia mea, Vipsānia mea,” respondet. “haud mihi sunt artēs magicae, haud mihi sunt cantūs, et haud mihi est puer quī semper optimē sē gerit! haec pauca tamen tibi patefacere possum. nōnne tamen nōs oportet in prandiō haec commemorāre?”

Vipsānia libenter cōnsentit, et Caelia, “heus! Gallicus!” exclāmat. “nōnne prandium iam parātum est?”

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • If you were Caelia, how would you have responded to the unexpected arrival of your sister-in-law?
  • Does it seem that their previous relationship has been cordial or a bit strained?
  • What would you like to know about their previous relationship?  And would you like to write it yourself, or have us do it?
  • How would you have responded to the outpourings of tears?
  • Do you suppose Vipsania’s tears are genuine, manipulative, or perhaps a bit of both?
  • Do you think Caelia is being kind or stupid (or perhaps a bit of both) when she comforts Vipsania?
  • How do you suppose the servī et ancillae feel about the whole situation?
  • What advice do you suppose Caelia will give Vipsania? Will it be good advice, or will she take an opportunity to embarrass and humiliate Vipsania?
  • What specific misbehaviors of Cnaeus’ might Vipsania mention to Caelia? Might there be some that she doesn’t mention, simply because they’re too humiliating?
  • And whether her advice is sarcastic or sincere, how do you suppose it will compare with parenting advice today?

Tune in next time for Part III of the story, in which we’ll find the answers to some of these questions … and raise a few others. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus!


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  1. […] blog post for Part I of the story, and Wednesday’s post for Part II, in which Vipsānia impulsively visits her sister-in-law (unannounced and uninvited!) […]

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