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VI

[6arg] On the Enigma.


THE kind of composition which the Greeks call “enigmas,” some of our early writers called scirpi, or “rushes.” 1 An example is the enigma composed of three iambic trimeters which I recently found— very old, by Jove! and very neat. I have left it unanswered, in order to excite the ingenuity of my readers in seeking for an answer. The three verses are these:
I know not if he's minus once or twice,
Or both of these, who would not give his place,
As I once heard it said, to Jove himself.
He who does not wish to puzzle himself too long will find the answer 2 in the second book of Varro's Latin Language, addressed to Marcellus. 3

[p. 385]

1 Apparently so called from the involved pattern of plaited rushes.

2 The answer is Terminus. Once minus and twice minus = thrice (ter) minus. In the cella of Jupiter on the Capitolium, or possibly in the pronaos, there was a terminal cippus, representing Terminus, who refused to be removed from his original site.

3 Fr. 55. G. & S.

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load focus Introduction (John C. Rolfe, 1927)
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  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), PRAECO
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), RESTITUTO´RIA ACTIO
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