The World's My Oyster, Which I with pen will open.

Suasoriae 3.1-7

  06, 2016 16:08


III. Agamemnon deliberates whether or not he should make a sacrifice of Iphigenia: For Calchas said sailing would otherwise be not fitting to the divine law

[1] 【ARELLIUS FUSCUS the Father】 God poured the water (= created the sea) with no other intention but that everyday shouldn't go as prayed; Nor is it a fate only of the sea: aren't the stars under the same condition as well? At one time, as the rain is denied, they (=stars) burn up the ground, and miserable farmers collect burned seeds; this at times is the rule for a whole year. At another, the clear sky is hidden and every day weighs down the sky with clouds; the ground sinks and the earth doesn’t retain what has been entrusted to it. At another, the courses of stars are uncertain and the duration (of night?) varies; the sun doesn’t oppress too much, nor does the rains fall beyond obligation. Whatever was made rough by heat and whatever flew away by excessive rain are moderated with each other in turns.

Whether nature has arranged thus, or whether the moon conducts (them) by its course, as they report
if the moon is full of its light and its shinning horns equally waxes, it prohibits rains; or if, when clouds have occurred, the moon shows its dirtier orb, it doesn’t finish raining † until it gives back its light  or whether it is not actyally an authority of the moon but the wind, which seizes the seasons, has that; it is whatever of these which made the sea safe for the adulterer beyond a divine law.

(One might say,) “But I won’t be able to punish the adulteress (=Helen).” Safety of a chaste woman is prior. I was pursuing the adulterer (=Paris) so that I would not (have to) fear something concerning the virginity of the woman (=Helen). When Troy is conquered, I would spare young girls of the enemy; even Priam’s girls as well (shall) fear nothing.

(i.e. I always hold chastity of women to the maximum priority; thus Helen must be taken back to keep her chastity but, prior to that, Iphigenia, a chaste woman, must be kept safe.)


Besides I invoke you, immortal gods, "Will you open the sea in this way?" I'd rather you would obstruct. You won't even sacrifice sons of Priam. Description of the storm here. We haven't committed a parricide, but we are suffering from these things. What on earth is this sacred rite, to kill a virgin at the temple of virgin goddess? She would be more willing to have her as priestess than as victim.

【CORNELIUS HISPANUS】 The tempests are dangerous and the seas are fierce; but I haven't committed parricide as yet. If the god ruled them by his divine will, the very seas would be closed to adulterers.

【MARULLUS】If the path to the war is not given to us, we would return (home) to our children.

【ARGENTARIUS】Again we return to the destined misfortune (=evil fate) of our family: sons of a brother die due to an adulterer. I wouldn't like to return (to that fate) at such a price. But Priam wages war for his adulterous son.

[3] Divisio. FUSCUS divided this suasoria thus: namely he said, "even if otherwise it is not possible to sail, we must not do that (=parricide)." And he discussed thus: namely he said, "we must not do that, because it would be homicide, because it would be parricide, and because more would be paid than be saught: an adulterer would be saught while Iphigenia would be devoted; adultery would be punished while parricide would be committed." Then he said that, even if he were not to sacrifice, he would sail; for this was the delay of nature, namely of the sea and the winds. (He said that) The will of the gods cannot be understood by men.

CESTIUS carefully divided this (argument): for he said, "the gods do not interpose their will in human affairs." "If they do interpose it, their will is not understood by men." "Even though it can be understood, the fate cannot be withdrawn (=changed)." "If there doesn't exist the fate, the future is unknown." "If there exists, the future cannot be changed."

[4] SILO POMPEIUS said that we mustn't believe in augury even if there were some kind of certain ways of prophecy: "Why, then, Calchas asserts (so) if he doesn't know (the divine will)? First, he thinks he knows (it)." Here he spoke the common place against all who pretend to have the knowledge. (He said,) "Secondly, he is angry with you; he is unwilling to be a soldier; he is seeking for himself a trust of everyone in such a great testimony."

In the description, which I placed in this suasoria as the first one, FUSCUS ARELLIUS wanted to imitate some verses of Virgil. However, he saught (a chance?) for a very long time and inserted (them) in the material, which was almost opposing (in themes) and certainly didn't need (them). For he said of the moon, "
if the moon is full of its light and its shinning horns equally waxes, it prohibits rains; or if, when the moon, seized by clouds, shows its dirtier orb, it doesn’t finish raining † until it returns its (lunar?) period †.

[5] However, how much more simply and happily Virgil said those things!
       When first the moon collects its returning fires,
       if it grasps the dark air by its dimmed horns,
       most powerful rain will be prepared for farmers and the sea.

and again:
       If... / the clear moon will goes through the sky with unbeaten horns. 
However, FUSCUS used to draw a lot from Virgil so that he would win favour for it with Maecenas*1. Truly he used often to say that he had pleased (Maecenas) in some Virgilian description for the benefit. Thus, in this very suasoria, he said: "Why did this man (=Calchas) please (the god) in his ministry (=augury)?" "Why did the god choose this mouth?" "Why does the god choose this breast as the most powerful one which he fills up with such divine power?" He said that he had imitated the Virgilian (phrase) plena deo, 'a woman who is filled with the god.'

[6] However, my friend Gallio used to put this (phrase) very suitably. I remember that we visited Messala together after listening to (a declamation of) Nicetes. Nicetes had pleased Greeks very much by his rush of words. Messala asked Gallio how Nicetes had seemed to him; Gallio said, "(Nicetes was) a woman who is filled with the god." Whenever he listened to one of those declaimers, whom rheorical students called 'hot ones,' he used to say at once, "a woman who is filled with the god." Messala himself ever used to ask him (=Gallio), when he came home after listening to a man unknown to him, in no other way but to say, "(He was) a woman who is filled with the god, wasn't he?" Therefore it (=the phrase) was already so familiar to him that it even falls (out of his mouth) against his will.


[7] When, in the presense of Caesar, there was a mention of Haterius' talent, he (=Gallio), having slipped into the habit, said, "He (=Haterius) also was a woman who is filled with the god." Then (Caesar) asked (him) what it wanted to be (=what it meant), he referred to a Virgilian verse and (explained) how he once let it (=the phrase) fall*2 at the house of Messala and that he could never have helped letting it fall afterwards. Tiberius, a Theodorian himself, used to be offended by Nicetes' talent; thus he was pleased with Gallio's story.

Moreover, Gallio used to say that it (= his story / the phrase) had pleased his friend Ovid Naso very much; that thus he (=Ovid) had done what he had often done in many other Virgilian verses, for the sake of not plagiarising but borrowing openly, with an intention that it would be acknowledged.
       I am carried hither and thither, alas, as a woman who is filled with the god.

Now, as you want, shall I return to FUSCUS and satisfy you with his descriptions? But I will satisfy (you) especially with ones (=descriptions) which he put in a similar treatment of this matter*3, when he said that knowledge of the future is not granted (to anyone) at all.

*1 Maecenati imputaret ("he would win favour for it with Maecenas") : 
*2 hoc sibi excidisset (
"he let the phrase fall") : 
*3 in simili huius tractatione (
"in a similar treatment of this matter") :

  •   06, 2016 16:08
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