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[9arg] The very neat reply of Antonius Julianus to certain Greeks at a banquet.

A YOUNG man of equestrian rank from the land of Asia, gifted by nature, well off in manners and fortune, with a taste and talent for music, was celebrating the anniversary of the day on which he began life by giving a dinner to his friends and teachers in a little country place near the city. There had come with us then to that dinner the rhetorician Antonius Julianus, a public teacher of young men, who spoke in the Spanish manner, 1 but was very eloquent, besides being well acquainted with our early literature. When there was an end of eating and drinking, and the time came for conversation, Julianus asked that the singers and lyre-players be produced, the most skilful of both sexes, whom he knew that the young man had at hand. And when the boys and girls were brought in, they sang in a most charming way several odes of Anacreon and Sappho, as well as some erotic elegies of more recent poets that were sweet and graceful. But we were especially pleased with some delightful verses of Anacreon, written in his old age, 2 which I noted down, in order that sometimes the toil and worry of this task of mine might find relief in the sweetness of poetical compositions:

[p. 381]

Shaping the silver, Hephaestus,
Make me no panoply, pray;
What do I care for war's combats?
Make me a drinking cup rather,
Deep as you ever can make it;
Carve on it no stars and no wains;
What care I, pray, for the Pleiads,
What for the star of Bootes?
Make vines, and clusters upon them,
Treading them Love and Bathyllus,
Made of pure gold, with Lyaeus.
Then several Greeks who were present at that dinner, men of refinement and not without considerable acquaintance also with our literature, began to attack and assail Julianus the rhetorician as altogether barbarous and rustic, since he was sprung from the land of Spain, was a mere ranter of violent and noisy speech, and taught exercises in a tongue which had no charm and no sweetness of Venus and the Muse; and they asked him more than once what he thought of Anacreon and the other poets of that kind, and whether any of our bards had written such smooth-flowing and delightful poems; “except,” said they, “perhaps a few of Catullus and also possibly a few of Calvus; for the compositions of Laevius were involved, those of Hortensius without elegance, of Cinna harsh, of Memmius rude, and in short those of all the poets without polish or melody.”

Then Julianus, filled with anger and indignation, spoke as follows in behalf of his mother tongue, as if for his altars and his fires: “I must indeed grant you [p. 383] that in such licentiousness and baseness you would outdo Alcinus 3 and that as you outstrip us in the pleasures of adornment and of food, so you do also in the wantonness of your ditties. But lest you should condemn us, that is, the Latin race, as lacking in Aphrodite's charm, just as if we were barbarous and ignorant, allow me, I pray, to cover my head with my cloak (as they say Socrates did when making somewhat indelicate remarks), and hear and learn that our forefathers also were lovers and devoted to Venus before those poets whom you have named.”

Then lying upon his back with veiled head, he chanted in exceedingly sweet tones some verses of Valerius Aedituus, an early poet, and also of Porcius Licinus and Quintus Catulus; and I think that nothing can be found neater, more graceful, more polished and more terse than those verses, either in Greek or in Latin:

The verses of Aedituus are as follows: 4

When, Pamphila, I try to tell my love,
What shall I ask of you? Words fail my lips,
A sudden sweat o'erflows my ardent 5 breast;
Thus fond and silent, I refrain and die.
And he also added other verses of the same poet,
no less sweet than the former ones: 6
[p. 385]
O Phileros, why a torch, that we need not?
Just as we are we'll go, our hearts aflame.
That flame no wild wind's blast can ever quench,
Or rain that falls torrential from the skies;
Venus herself alone can quell her fire,
No other force there is that has such power.
He also recited the following verses of Porcius Licinus: 7
O shepherds of the lambs, the ewes' young brood,
Seek ye for fire? Come hither; man is fire.
Touch I the wood with finger-tip, it burns;
Your flock's a flame, all I behold is fire.
The verses of Quintus Catulus were these: 8

My soul has left me; it has fled, methinks,
To Theotimus; he its refuge is.
But what if I should beg that he refuse
The truant to admit, but cast it out?
I'll go to him; but what if I be caught?
What shall I do? Queen Venus, lend me aid.

1 Cf. facundia rabida iurgiosaque, § 7.

2 Poetae Lyrici Graeci, iii., p. 298, Bergk4.

3 Probably (see crit. note) another form of Alcinous, King of the Phaeacians. He is not represented by Homer as “licentious and base,” but that opinion arose at a later time. Cf. Horace, Epist. i. 2. 28 ff.

4 Frag. 1, Bährens.

5 Subidus occurs only here, and its meaning is not certain It seems to be connected with the verb subo, “burn with love,” but some regard it as the opposite of insubidus, “foolish, stupid,” in which case it might be translated “conscious” The alliteration and assonance in this epigram are noteworthy.

6 Frag. 2, Bährens.

7 Frag. 5, Bährens.

8 Frag. 1, Bährens.

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