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Letter LXIII: ad familiares 9.20

Rome, early part of Aug., 46 B.C.

scurram velitem: the scurra was the professional wit and diner-out, whose object in life was to secure a good dinner, and whose stock in trade was flattery, wit, and buffoonery, -- the character which has been immortalized by Terence in the person of Phormio, and by Plautus in Peniculus. The veles was a skirmisher. Therefore a scurra veles would be a wit who carried on a guerilla warfare, taking a shot at every one and everything about him. The comparison is made more apt by the fact that in these very letters (e.g. Ep. LXI. 7) Cicero has been threatening to dine with Paetus whether he wishes him or not. The opportunity of the scurra at a dinner came with the secunda mensa, when the company gave itself up to conversation and jest, but the mala (apples), which were brought on at this point, lent themselves as ready missiles to be used against the jester. In a similar way, to the volley of wit which Cicero had aimed at Paetus in his letters Paetus replies with mala (raillery). Upon the military metaphor, cf. quas ego, etc., Ep. V. 1n.

in ista loca: to Paetus's villa near Naples.

promulside: cf. Ep. LXI.8n.

ad ovum: eggs were commonly included in the promulsis, or first course at dinner.

assum vitulinum : a favorite article of food in the second course, or cena proper, where the substantial dishes were served.

ad hanc insolentiam (sc. venimus), to the extravagance in vogue at present (or here).

habebas, had money; the verb is used absolutely.

plura praedia, although you have never had more estates. Cf. Ep. LXI.7n. 2.

ὀψιμαθεῖς: Horace's seri studiorum (Sat. 1.10.21), whose late and superficial acquisition of knowledge upon a subject only increased their insolent conceit. Cf. Aul. Gel. 11.7. Cicero's newly acquired knowledge had come from Hirtius and Dolabella. Cf. Ep. LXI. 7.

Verrium, Camillum: men noted as connoisseurs in dinner-giving. Camillus was a prominent real-estate lawyer; cf. Fam. 5.20.3.

etiam Hirtio: cf. cenitare, Ep. LXI.7n.

sine pavone: cf. Ep. LXII.3n.

tamen: the position is colloquial. Cf. Plaut. Capt. 393istuc ne praecipias, facile memoria memini tamen”. Cf. also Plaut. Capt. 187, 404; Rud. 569, etc.

bonos viros: the Optimates. See bonorum virorum, Ep. XVI.2n.

perofficiose et peramanter: cf. Intr. 77.

salutatio : a good illustration of the colloquial use of a noun in -tio. Cf. Intr. 75. In this day's programme no mention is made of law practice or public business, although in earlier days Cicero has told us that he was compelled by press of business to forego even the siesta which all Romans were supposed to take at midday. The ordinary life of a prominent Roman included the ientaculum, the salutatio, the day's business, the prandium, at midday, the siesta, the daily exercise, the bath about 3 P.M. (to the last two Cicero refers in inde corpori, etc.), and the cena.

si me amas: cf. Ep. XLII.3n. and Intr. 100.

comedim: this archaic form leads Böckel to regard bona tua comedim as a quotation from some old poet. Perhaps, however, the form survived in popular speech, and was used here to heighten the humorous effect.

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46 BC (1)
hide References (5 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (5):
    • Cicero, Letters to his Friends, 5.20.3
    • Plautus, Rudens, 2.7
    • Plautus, Captivi, 1.2
    • Plautus, Captivi, 2.3
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 11.7
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