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The point of honour is sometimes placed on a whimsical object. There is an epigram of Lucilius in the Anthology, on the subject of one Diophon, who being condemned to the punishment of crucifixion, died of envy at seeing the cross of another criminal taller than his own :
Μακρoτέρω σαυρώ ταυρούμενον άλλον εαυτού
“Ο φθόνερος Διοφών εγγύς ιδών ετάκη.
Martial's epigrams on the Saturnalian hospitalities, throw much light on the state of manners, and of natural history at this time. In this latter respect, they often illustrate Pliny:
Mollis in æquorea quæ crevit spina Ravenna
Lib. xiii. epig. 21. Pliny mentions in more passages than one the pleasantness and prolific character of the gardens at Ravenna.
The splendour or plainness of the exterior should be proportioned to the much or little worth of the interior; as illustrated by the following epigram on an ivory coffer :
Hos nisi de flava loculos implere moneta
Lib. xiv. epig. 12.
The vicissitudes of fashion in the arrangement of the table are not unhappily touched upon in the following question of Martial :
Claudere quæ coenas lactuca solebat avorum,
Lib. xii. epig. 14.
Martial also gives us an account of what was called a many-match lamp :
Illustrem cum tota meis convivia flammis,
Totque geram myxas, una lucerna vocor,
In the thirteenth epigram of Catullus, there is much humour in the following description of empty-pursed poverty leaving ample room for spiders to spin their cobwebs. The poet has been furnishing his friend with a copious list of requisites, which, if he bring with him, he will be sure of a good supper :
Hæc si, inquam, attuleris, venuste noster,
The following allusion to the meat and drink of the gods, with their acceptance of more humble fare from their sacrificers, is in the true spirit of epigram, and highly complimentary to the poet's friend :
Miraris, docto quod carmina mitto Severo,
Ad cænam quod te, docte Severe, vocem ?
Martial, lib. xi. epig. 58.
Martial, in another epigram, points out a pleasant invention of the ancients, in drinking as many glasses of wine as there were letters in the names of their mistresses. This is the earliest mode of toasting; and the practice served as a comment on the sober or Bacchanalian character of the lover. If he were a lover also of wine, he would of course pay his addresses to a lady with a long name. What a train of admirers would the Wilhelmina's and the Theodosia’s have in these our days!.
Nævia sex cyathis, septem Justina bibatur;
Quinque Lycas, Lyde quattuor, Ida tribus.
Et, quia nulla venit, tu mihi, Somne, veni.
Some of the commentators, on the word Somne, tell us it was the custom of the poets to invoke sleep, and instance Ovid and Statius. What of it? there seems no particular point in that, or at least a very blunt one. The Delphin editor says, that to propitiate sleep, they tossed off the last Mercury, as the god presiding over that blessing, which Sancho characterises as wrapping a man round like a blanket. But this was not a case of the last cup. The meaning of the poet seems to be, that having no mistress, he will regulate his drinking to five cups, the number of letters in the word Somne. By this he purposes to declare his moderation ; the number being exactly a mean between the shortest and the tallest lady toasted by the rest of the party. It may also be considered, that if any one at table were to attempt to force him beyond his stint, and to drink the president of sleep by his proper and longer name of Mercurius, he would tell them plainly, he had rather go to sleep than drink any more. But not of his opinion was a modern humourist. company where the guests took it into their heads to revive this ancient custom, he, like Martial, having no lady to toast, declared that he would drink to Somnus in the nominative case; and filled six successive bumpers accordingly,
Eubulus, in Athenæus, screws down the jollity of the wise man at the sticking-place of three glasses :
Τρείς γαρ μόνους κρατήρας έγκεραννύω
A Greek proverb fixes, not the stirrup cup, but the dozing cup, at either three or five:
*Η πέντε πίν, ή τρία πιν, ή μη τέτταρα.
For this alternative, and the accompanying prohibition, the long established good luck of odd, and the bad luck of even numbers, will account. Plutarch also discusses this important question.
MISCELLANEOUS ETYMOLOGIES, AND PECULIAR
MEANINGS AND USAGES OF WORDS.
The word prologium is defined in Festus, principium, proloquium. Pacuvius is given as the authority. “ Quid est? nam me examinasti prologio tuo.” Προλόγιον is the diminutive of Φρολόyos, as égódov of todos. Prologium has been supposed to be the argument, prologus the spoken introduction to a play: but the fact seems to be, that the former was the old word, indicating brevity, in time superseded by the latter, generally applied without reference to length. We use the words Prologue and Preface as the Romans did, in modern English: the former for a poetical, the latter for a prose introduction : but Shakspeare and his contemporaries used Prologue in both senses, and for introduction in general.
The surname of Brutus, which signifies senseless or void of reason, was first assumed by the deliverer of Rome, as a shift of policy to cover his patriotic design.
Barbatus signifies bearded. It afterwards obtained the secondary meaning of simple or silly, in reference to the dotage of grey-beards; and the less offensive sense of old-fashioned, as when the kings who governed Rome, as well as their people, wore their beards unshorn.