Servi et Ancillae, II

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we’ll begin our exploration of the lives of Roman servī et ancillae with household servants in town, but we won’t confine ourselves to them. In today’s post, we’ll venture away from domus Valeriī, traveling up the slopes of Mount Vesuvius to vīlla Caeliī, where we’ll interact a bit with Caelius’ servī et ancillae. If you’ve been a very faithful reader of both the blog and the Version Alpha Wiki site, you’ve met a number of Caelius’ servants, including:

Ūtilis vīlicus, introduced here and featured in today’s story;

Planēsium nūtrīx, also introduced here and featured in the famous story of Cnaeus and the cow and its sequel; and

Dulcissima et Fēlīcissima, ancillae Vipsāniae, featured in our recent story of Vipsānia’s trip to Pompeii.

Ūtilis and Planēsium have a child named Pertināx, who will be important later … in fact, he begins to be important in today’s story. And it turns out that Caelius, a practical man, has a special (and rather horrible) plan for his vīlicus today … even though he presents it as a great reward or opportunity.

My face-to-face students are always intrigued at the difficult position of a vīlicus. After all, he is still a servus, so he can still be beaten by his master (and, in fact, he might be beaten not only for his own failures but for those of the servī he supervises). Yet he also has the right to beat the other servī … and the obligation, if his master orders him to. I think this difficult position resonates for some of my students, especially when they feel their loyalties are divided between the “adult world” and the “peer world.” Anyway, today is not a good day to be Ūtilis, as we’ll see in today’s story from Lectiō XVIII:

Caelius in tablīnō vīllae sedet et ratiōnēs īnspicit. subitō “heus!” exclāmat. “Ūtilis! ubi es? tibi hūc festīnandum est!”

Ūtilis in agrō proximō servōs īnspicit. vīlicus vōcem dominī audit et “heus! servī! vōs oportet strēnuē labōrāre!” exclāmat. Ūtilis per vīllam festīnat dominum salūtātum.

Caelius, “mī Ūtilis,” inquit, “quid agis?” et vīlicus attonitus, “bene valeō, domine,” Caeliō respondet. tum dominus, “mī Ūtilis,” inquit, “quid agit servulus meus, ille verna Pertināx?”

“Pertināx, domine, fīlius meus?” rogat Ūtilis. “nōnne trēs annōs nātus est ille? nōn iam labōrāre potest, sed mox–”

“certē, trēs nātus annōs, et fīlius … tuus,” respondet Caelius. “nōnne tē oportet mandātīs meīs pārēre?”

“mī domine,” exclāmat Ūtilis perterritus, “num aliquid –?”

“ō Ūtilis, Ūtilis, cūr dominum benignum timēs?” Caelius rīdet. “tibi nōn poenās, sed praemium offerō. nōnne Dulcissima et Fēlīcissima, ancillae meae, sunt pulcherrimae?”

“certē pulcherrimae, domine, sed quid –?”

“tacē, Ūtilis, et audī! Dulcissimam hodiē ad tē mittō cubitātum, tum Fēlīcissimam, tum Dulcissimam, tum Fēlīcissimam – nōnne rem intellegis? mihi enim opus est multōrum servulōrum fortium et fidēlium, et tū es fortissimus et fidēlissimus omnium servōrum meōrum. nunc abī, et mitte hūc Fēlīcissimam! vernās fortēs et fidēlēs mihi praebē!”

Ūtilis attonitus et sollicitus ē tablīnō ēgreditur. Planēsium suum arcessit, cui rem tōtam nārrat.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

  • This is obviously a delicate issue … especially in places (like my own face-to-face location) where the legacy of slavery (and slave-owners’, um, “use” of their “property”) is still highly charged.
  • But to give a full picture of the Roman experience, I think we certainly need to address it to some degree, at some point.
  • Is this the right time and place to address it … approximately 2/3 of the way through a fast-paced Latin I course, or near the end of a slower one?
  • Or should we wait until later?
  • And do we get the point of Caelius’ plan across without too many horrible details?
  • And if you were Planesium, how would you react?  You can actually find out her reaction … and the connection with poor little Pertinax … in this story on the Version Alpha Wiki site.

Tune in next time, when we’ll consider stories of even more unfortunate servī et ancillae … nameless, faceless ones who toil in truly horrible circumstances. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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  1. […] look at this story from Lectiō XVIII, next in sequence after the one in Wednesday’s post about servī et ancillae.  (You can also find it at this link at the Version Alpha Wiki site if you’d like.) […]

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