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[30arg] Whether the word petorritum, applied to a vehicle, is Greek or Gallic.

THOSE who approach the study of letters late in life, after they are worn out and exhausted by some other occupation, particularly if they are garrulous and of only moderate keenness, make themselves exceedingly ridiculous and silly by displaying their would-be knowledge. To this class that man surely belongs, who lately talked fine-spun nonsense about petorrita, or “four-wheeled wagons.” For when the question was asked, what form of vehicle the petorritum was, and from what language the word came, he falsely described a form of vehicle very unlike the real one; he also declared that the name was Greek and interpreted it as meaning “flying wheels,” 1 maintaining that pelorritum was formed by the change of a single letter from pelorrotum, and that this form was actually used by Valerius Probus.

When I had got together many copies of the Commentaries of Probus, I did not find that spelling in them, and I do not believe that Probus used it anywhere else. For petorritum is not a hybrid word derived in part from the Greek, but the entire word belongs to the people across the Alps; for it is a Gallic word. It is found in the fourteenth book of Marcus Varro's Divine Antiquities, where Varro, speaking of petorritum, says 2 that it is a Gallic term. 3 He also says that lancea, or “lance,” is not a Latin, but a Spanish word.

[p. 127]

1 Making a hybrid word, from πέτομαι, “fly,” and rota. See crit. note 1.

2 Frag. 108, Agahd.

3 Gellius is right; petorrita, like several other words connected with horses and carriages, is borrowed from the Gallic. In Celtic, as also in Oscan and Umbrian, Latin qu is represented by p; hence petor or petora = quattuor.

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