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THE jurist Alfenus, a pupil of Servius Sulpicius and a man greatly interested in matters antiquarian, [p. 105] in the thirty-fourth book of his Digests and the second of his Miscellanies, says: 1 “In a treaty which was made between the Roman people and the Carthaginians the provision is found, that the Carthaginians should pay each year to the Roman people a certain weight of argenti puri puti, and the meaning of puri puti was asked. I replied,” he says, “that putus meant very pure,' just as we say novicius for novus (new) and propicius for proprius (proper), when we wish to augment and amplify the meaning of novus and proprius.” Upon reading this, I was surprised that Alfenus should think that the relation of purus and putus was the same as that of novicius and novus; for if the word were puricius, then it would indeed appear to be formed like novicius. It was also surprising that he thought that novicius was used to imply amplification, since in fact novicius does not mean “more new,” but is merely a derivative and variant of novus. Accordingly, I agree with those who think that putus is derived from puto and therefore pronounce the word with the first syllable short, not long as Alfenus seems to have thought it, since he wrote that putus came from purus. Moreover, the earlier writers used putare of removing and pruning away from anything whatever was superfluous and unnecessary, or even injurious and foreign, leaving only what seemed useful and without blemish. For that was the meaning of putare, “to prune,” as applied to trees and vines, and so too as used of accounts. 2 The verb puto itself also, which we use for the purpose of stating our opinion, certainly means nothing else than that in an obscure and difficult matter we do our best, by cutting away and lopping [p. 107] off false views, to retain what seems true and pure and sound. Therefore in the treaty with Carthage silver was called putum, as having been thoroughly purified and refined, as free from all foreign matter, and as spotless and whitened by the removal from it of all impurities. But the expression purum putum occurs, not only in the treaty with Carthage, but also in many other early writings, including the tragedy of Quintus Ennius entitled Alexander, 3 and the satire of Marcus Varro called δὶς παῖδες οἱ γέροντες, 4 or Old Men are Children for a Second Time.
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