Dental Hygiene in the Provinces

The Rome of Catullus' day attracted people from other lands bordering on the Mediterranean. If these newcomers were to be accepted in Roman society, they would have been obliged to abandon at least some of their provincial habits. Here Catullus gives advice to a man from Celtiberia in central Spain whose constantly smiling face could be interpreted as betraying an odd practice of his native land.

Egnatius, quod candidos habet dentes, renidet usque quaque. si ad rei ventum est subsellium, cum orator excitat fletum, renidet ille; si ad pii rogum fili lugetur, orba cum flet unicum mater, 5

renidet ille, quidquid est, ubicumque est, quodcumque agit, renidet: hunc habet morbum, neque elegantem, ut arbitror, neque urbanum. quare monendum est te mihi, bone Egnati, text C. Valerii Catulli Carmina, ed. R. A, B. Mynors

(Oxford Classical Texts, 1958) meter limping iambic [§m 10]

Egna|tius | quod || can|didos | habet | dentes reni|det us|que || qua|que s(i) ad | rei | ventum (e)st

1 Egnatius (-(i)l m.) is known only from this and another poem of Catullus;

quod because; candidus white; dens dentis m. tooth. 2f. renideo -ere lit., smile back (at), trans, smile; usque quaque everywhere; take rei with subsellium a defendant's (reus -I m.) bench (subsellium -(i)i n.); ventum est impers. construction, lit,, it has been come (i.e., by Egnatius), trans, he has come; orator dratdris m. speaker; fletus -us m. weeping; the scene is a court of law—advocates of the day tried to play upon the emotions of the court, hence fletum.

4 ad pii rogum fill at the funeral pyre (rogus -i m.) of a dutiful son—cremations were conducted publicly and in the open.

5 lugetur lit., it is mourned (lugeo -ere), another impers. construction, but since the mourning would have been general, trans, there is mourning; orbus bereaved; unicus -i m. [her] only son, but to avoid repetition, trans, [her] only boy.

6 quidquid whatever; ubicumque wherever.

7 quodcumque whatever; morbus -1 m. disease.

8 elegans (elegantis) refined; ut + ind. as; arbitror -ari think; urbanus polite.

9 quare wherefore, trans, so; monendum est te mihi impers. use of the gerundive [§g8o], which would normally be expressed as tu mihi monendus es, lit., you are needing to be warned by me, i.e., I must warn you; bone Egnati voc. [my] good Egnatius—a condescending expression.

si urbanus esses aut Sabinus aut Tiburs 10

aut pinguis Umber aut obesus Etruscus aut Lanuvinus ater atque dentatus aut Transpadanus, ut meos quoque attingam, aut quilubet, qui puriter lavit dentes, tamen renidere usque quaque te nollem: 15

nam risu inepto res ineptior nulla est.

nunc Celtiber es: Celtiberia in terra,

10 Lines 10-15 are a category 1 conditional sentence relating to the present [§g 94], hence the imperfect subjunctives esses and nollem (1.15), trans, if (si) you were ... I would not want ...; urbanus here a city [man], i.e., a person born and raised in Rome, which was often referred to simply as urbs (the city) (cf. Ovid Tristia 1.3.2, page 132, and elsewhere); Sabinus -I m. a Sabine—the Sabines lived in an area northeast of Rome; Tiburs Tlburtis m. a Tiburtine—Tibur was a town northeast of Rome but south of the Sabines.

11 pinguis Umber ¡tout Umbrian (Umber UmbrI m.)—Umbria was north of Rome on the Adriatic coast; obesus Etruscus fat (obesus, a stronger word than pinguis) Etruscan (Etruscus -I m.)—Etruria was northwest of Rome.

12 Lit., a dark (ater) and well-toothed (dentatus) Lanuvian (Lanuvinus -I m.), trans, a dark Lanuvian with good teeth—Lanuvium was a town south of Rome.

13 Transpadanus -1 m. a Transpadane, i.e., someone from north of the Padus (modern Po), the largest river in northern Italy; meos my [own people]—Catullus came from Verona, north of the Po; attingo -ere touch on.

14 quilubet anyone; puriter cleanly—the point of the adverb becomes clear when Egnatius' own practice is revealed; lavo -are (-ere) wash.

16 risu inepto abl. of comparison [§G42] than foolish laughter (risus -us m.)— Egnatius' beaming smile is so pronounced that it can be called a laugh; ineptior compar. of ineptus.

17 nunc as tt' is; Celtiber Celtiber! m. a Celtiberian; Celtiberia in terra in the Celtiberian land.

i8f. The antecedent of quod is hoc (what... with this (instrumental abl. [§G47])); quisque each person; meio -ere (perf. minx!) urinate; sibi dat. of reference [§G32] with defiricare (defrico -are), lit., rub for himself, but trans, rub his ...; mane adv. in the morning; deritem trans, teeth (sg. for pi. [§g53]); russam ... ginglvam red gums (sg. for pi. [§G53]; gingiva -ae f.). 2o£ ut introduces an adverbial clause of result [§g84]; quo ... expolitior ... hoc ... amplius ... a proportional comparison, lit., by what [degree] the more polished (expolitior compar. of expolitus) this [degree] the greater amount (amplius amplidris n.), trans, the more polished... the greater amount...; istepron.adj, that; vester = tuus [§G53], trans, of yours; dens trans, by plural as above; te ... bibisse acc.+inf. after praedicet (praedico -are declare), whose subject is dens, trans, they (i.e., the teeth) declare that you have drunk; lotium -(i)l n. urine—to make Egnatius' practice more disgusting, Catullus says that he drinks his urine rather than simply using it as a rinse.

quod quisque minxit, hoc sibi solet mane dentem atque russam defricare gingivam, ut, quo iste vester expolitior dens est, 20

hoc te amplius bibisse praedicet loti.

<s Catullus Carmina 39


Habent sua fata libelli.

The meaning usually given to these words is Little books have their own destinies, and this is how they would be interpreted without any context. Taken in this way, the words could be used as a motto for the school of modern literary criticism that claims complete autonomy for any piece of writing without reference to an author's intentions or the period in which it was written.

However, the author had a different meaning in mind. The sentence comes from an obscure Roman grammarian of the second century a.d., who, rather eccentrically, wrote in verse. In discussing the'reception his book might have, he wrote this:

Forsitan hunc aliquis verbosum dicere librum non dubitet; forsan multo praestantior alter pauca reperta putet, cum plura invenerit ipse; deses et impatiens nimis haec obscura putabit: pro captu lectoris habent sua fata libelli.

TeRBNTIANUS MaURUS I282ff. Perhaps someone would not hesitate to pronounce this hook wordy; perhaps another person, much superior [to the first], would consider little [in it] original, since he himself has been more creative (lit., has devised more [things]); a lazy and impatient person will think these [parts of the book] too obscure. Books succeed or fail (lit., have their own destinies) according to the ability of the reader. (The diminutive libellus is used for metrical considerations; the lines are hexameters.)

The first three words of the final line are crucial to what the author intended.

Terentianus Maurus wrote nothing else of a memorable nature.

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