Two differences between the spoken Latin of the lower classes in Rome and that of the educated were the former's disregard of an initial h (e.g., ortus for hortus) and the pronunciation of aspirated consonants as simple ones (e.g., triumpus/or triumphus). Uneducated people who rose socially would naturally try to change their speech habits, but they were apt to overcorrect and apply an initial h where it had no place or wrongly aspirate a consonant. Such a person was Catullus' Arrius, who has been plausibly identified with an ambitious advocate and politician mentioned by Cicero.
"Chommoda" dicebat, si quando "commoda" vellet dicere, et "insidias" Arrius "hinsidias," et turn mirifice sperabat se esse locutum, cum quantum poterat dixerat "hinsidias." credo, sic mater, sic semper avunculus eius, 5
sic maternus avus dixerat atque avia. hoc misso in Syriam requierant omnibus aures: audibant eadem haec leniter et leviter, text C. Valerii Catulli Carmina, ed. R. A. B. Mynors (Oxford Classical Text, 1958)
meter elegiac couplet [§m2]
chommoda | dice|bat || si | quando | commoda | vellet dicer(e) et | insidi|as || Arrius | hinsidi|as if. Catullus .gives two examples of Arrius' faulty pronunciation, chommoda (= commoda;'commodum -1 n. advantage) and hinsidias (= insidias; insidiae -arum f.pl. ambush); si quando (whenever (lit., if ever)) is followed by the subjunctive, vellet, to express repeated action; Arrius -i m.; hinsidias is in apposition [§g 52] to insidias.
3 turn anticipates cum in 1. 4 (lit., then ... when ...) and need not be translated; take mirifice (wonderfully) with esse locutum, which is part of the acc.+inf. [§gio] after sperabat.
4 quantum poterat as much (i.e., with as much emphasis) as he could.
5f. sic in this way is repeated for emphasis; avunculus -I m. maternal uncle; eius is to be taken with each noun, his mother, etc.; maternus maternal; avus -I m. grandfather; avia -ae f. grandmother.
7 hoc misso in Syriam abl. absolute [§g 49], trans, when he was sent to Syria (Syria -ae f.); requierant (= requieverant [§095]; requiesco -ere) had taken repose, trans, got a rest; omnibus dat. of reference [§G32].
8 audibant = audiebant; eadem haec these same [sounds]; leniter smoothly; leviter lightly.
nec sibi postilla metuebant talia verba, cum subito affertur nuntius horribilis, 10
Ionios fluctus, postquam illuc Arrius isset, iam non Ionios esse, sed Hionios.
<-: Catullus Carmina 84
9 sibi (dat. of reference [§g 3a] for themselves) can be left untranslated; postilla afterwards.
10 subito suddenly; affertur historic pres. [§g6o] of affero -ferre bring; horribilis terrible, spine-chilling.
1 if. Within the acc.+inf. [§gio] after affertur nuntius, the postquam clause has its verb, isset (= iisset), in the subjunctive [§g85]; Ionios fluctus Ionian waves (fluctus -us m.)—the reference is to the Ionium mare (modern Adriatic), which Arrius would have crossed in going to Greece on his way to Syria; iam non no longer.
Catullus and Caesar
Catullus was a contemporary of Gaius Iulius Caesar. His father and Caesar wéré on friendly terms, but that didn't restrain the poet from writing two short poems attacking Caesar in the coarsest terms and accusing him and his associate Mamurra of sexual and other abnormalities; A third poem> in the form of a single elegiac couplet, expresses Catullus' complete indifference to the man who was one of the two most powerful figures in Rome at the time.
Nil nimium studeo, Caesar,tibi velle placere, : nec scire utrum sis albus an ater homo, Carmina 93
:, I am not particularly keen to want to please you, Caesar, nor to know whether you are white or black.
The, expression ''not to know whether you are white or black" was proverbial and indicated utter disinterest in the person concerned.
In his biography of Caesar, Suetonius (c. a.d. 60-c, 130) tells us that despite thèse insults, Catullus was forgiven after he apologized.
Although Caesar had not concealed the fact that he had suffered a lasting slur from Catullus' verses about Mamurra, he invited the poet to dinner on the same day as the latter apologized, and he continued his previous:friendly relations with Catullus'father.
Suetonius Iulius 73
The dinner party must have been quite a lively affair.
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