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CAN´TICUM

CAN´TICUM The grammarian Diomedes (p. 491, Keil) says: “Latinae comoediae duobus tantum membris constant, diverbio et cantico;” and he adds, “in canticis una tantum debet esse persona, aut si duae fuerint, ita debent esse, ut ex occulto una audiat, nec colloquatur, sed secum, si opus fuerit, verba faciat.” Hence it has been commonly supposed, on this authority, that the cantica were lyric monologues, sung to the music of the flute, while the diverbia were simply recited. But this hypothesis is at variance with another statement of the same grammarian, “in Latinis fabulis plura sunt cantica quae canuntur:” for lyrical monologues take a very subordinate place in most Roman comedies, and in some do not appear at all. Ritschl (Rhein. Mus. 26.599-637 =Opusc. 3.1-54) showed by a careful examination of the scenes to which the letters C (canticum) and DV (diverbium) are prefixed in certain MSS. of Plautus, that while the, diverbia are always written in iambic senarians, we must distinguish between two kinds of cantica: (1) those which are written in lyric metres, i. e. anapests, cretics, and bacchiacs; and (2) those which are composed in trochaic or iambic septenarians. The latter, marked in some copies of Terence with the sign M.M.C. (=modi mutati cantici), were delivered melodramatically, with a musical accompaniment; the former were sung to a sort of recitative. Taking these two kinds together, the cantica usually form a larger part of the play than the diverbia, and they appear to have been the better adapted to the taste of the Roman public, for there are instances in which, where the Greek original is in iambics, the Latin adaptation is written in septenarians. There is no doubt that cantica of both kinds occurred also in tragedies: cf. Cic. Tusc. 1.44, 107, “cum tam bonos septenarios fundat ad tibiam.” According to Livy (7.2), Livius Andronicus introduced the custom that the cantica should be sung by a young slave standing near the flute-player, while the actor accompanied his singing with the proper gesticulation. Whatever may be the historical value of this statement, it seems certain that in Livy's own time this was the practice; one which naturally led before long to the development of the pantomime. There are many indications that favourite cantica, like airs in modern operas, were sung separately at musical entertainments (Suet. Jul. 84; Tac. Ann. 13.15).

[A.S.W]

hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 7, 2
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 84
    • Tacitus, Annales, 13.15
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 1.44
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