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Sarcophagus of Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus with an inscription in Saturnians.

The Saturnian , also Saturnian verse ( Latin versus saturnius and in ancient sources sometimes versus faunius " faunical meter ") is an ancient verse form of the Latin metric . It is considered an originally Italian meter, but an early Greek influence is believed to be possible.

The Odusia of Livius Andronicus (a Latin adaptation of the Odyssey ) and the epic Bellum Poenicum by Gnaeus Naevius are considered to have been written in Saturnians . Only fragments of both works have survived. The sentences of the censor (312 BC) Appius Claudius Caecus and inscriptions in the tomb of the Scipions are further examples . With other scattered inscriptions, the classification as Saturnians is controversial. In total there are fewer than 200 surviving examples.

According to Ennius , the Saturnian in the epic was replaced by the dactylic hexameter , which was also characteristic of the genus in the Greek epic. The meter of the grave inscriptions became the elegiac distich .

Problem of the Saturnian

The "problem of the Saturnian" is described in classical philology as the fact that, strictly speaking, absolutely nothing certain can be said about this form of verse and that this situation is not new, but apparently already existed in antiquity. The details are not known or are controversial:

  • Name: It is unclear whether and from when the term was interpreted as a terminus technicus , which at first was possibly a derogatory term for an ancient verse.
  • Origin: It is unclear and controversial whether it is of autochthonous Italian, Greek origin or the Greek-influenced transformation of an Indo-European original form.
  • Verse principle: It is disputed whether the underlying verse principle is accentuating (the syllable stress is decisive) or quantitating (the syllable length is decisive, as in the Greek and then in the classical Latin metric), or whether there is a mixed form.
  • Meter vs. Versatility: The metric deviations of the traditional examples are so great that it is not clear whether it was a fixed meter from which the authors of the traditional texts would have deviated, or whether it was more of a versatility or a kind of construction principle is for a group of similar meter measures. In addition, "Saturnians" was generally used as a collective term for "ancient verse", at least in late antiquity.

In his article on the ancient sources of the conceptual history, Kruschwitz describes the chronological development as follows:

The starting point is the well-known passage in the Proömium of the seventh book of the Annales of Ennius:

scripsere alii rem
versibus, quos olim Fauni vatesque canebant
“Others have written about it
in measurements that once brought fauns and seers to lecture. "

According to today's view, this represents a polemical swipe at the Bellum Punicum des Naevius, whose meter is to be devalued as ancient by quos olim Fauni vatesque canebant , similar to the way something is described today as "ancient" or "antediluvian" in the sense of "out of date" without meaning that the object in question actually originates from antiquity or from the time before the Flood (the age of the fauns and seers was similarly far back and half mythical for Ennius).

In the following, however, one seems to have taken Ennius' utterance literally, from which the view arose that the Saturnian was firstly a very archaic and secondly a cultic-sacred meter. Neither is supported by tradition, since the oldest evidence of the Saturnian is just 100 years older than the Annales of Ennius and the use seems to have been mainly epic and epigram. It should also be noted that the term versus or numerus saturnius or faunius does not appear here explicitly.

Varro then vigorously expands the short passage of Ennius in his book De lingua latina and writes:

Fauni dei Latinorum, ita ut et Faunus et Fauna sit; hos versibus, quos vocant Saturnios, in silvestribus locis traditum est solitos fari futura, a quo fando Faunos dictos. Antiqui poetas vates appellabant a versibus viendis, ut de poematis cum scribam ostendam.
“Fauns are latin gods, and there are both faunus and fauna; these are said to have spoken in metered proportions called Saturnians in wooded regions (fari) ; Derived from the word fari , they were called Fauni . The old poets were called vates , derived from the fact that they "wind verses" (a versibus viendis) , as I want to show when I am going to write my book De poematis . "

Here the obvious polemics in the quotation of Ennius are completely ignored, the reference to time is taken at face value and the Ennius passage is used as evidence of the manners and customs of the times of the fauns and seers. The “Saturnian verse” appears as a term here for the first time (versibus, quos vocant Saturnios) .

In one passage in the letters of Horace reference is made to this Saturnian verse (now again derogatory), but it remains unclear whether Horace is referring to the works of Naevius and Livius Andronicus, which he cited earlier in the same text, or whether he generally speaks of a coarse rural (since pre-Greek) Latin metric:

Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit et artis intulit agresti Latio, sic horridus individuelle defluxit numerus Saturnius, et grave virus munditiae pepulere; sed in longum tamen aevum manserunt hodieque manent vestigia ruris.
“Greece has now been subjugated; but it subjugated itself to its rough conqueror and brought him the arts to rural Latium. Gradually that awkward Saturnian meter disappeared, and cleanliness drove out bad dirt; but they remained for a long time and still last even today, the traces of peasant unflavor. "

Kruschwitz concludes from the context that the second, more general meaning should be assumed here.

The first surviving verse doctrine that deals with the Saturnian in more detail is a Liber de metris ascribed to Caesius Bassus , a poet of the 1st century . The author is a supporter of the derivation theory, which wants to derive all meters from the (Greek) iambic trimeter and dactylic hexameter , accordingly he sees in the Saturnian an originally Greek meter that was mutilated beyond recognition by the metric lack of understanding of the Latin authors it is difficult to find valid examples at all:

“It is important to talk about the Saturnian; Our compatriots believed that it was a product of the Italian landscape, but they are mistaken. Because it was used by the Greeks in various ways and in many ways, not only by the comedians, but also by the tragedians. Our old poets, however, in order to clearly express what is obvious, used it without observing the law and maintaining uniformity in such a way that the verses agree with each other, but - apart from the fact that they formed very bumpy verses - they also did Sometimes too short, sometimes too long verses interspersed, so that I can hardly find a verse in Naevius that I could cite as an example. "

And he continues:

"But of all these verses, which are quite uneven and extremely unsuitable for demonstration, the best one is the one that the Meteller wrote about Naevius, whose poetry provoked them a few times ..."

He then quotes the verse that is repeated as the standard example of the Saturnian in the following times:

Malum dabunt Metelli Naevio poetae

He gives the following interpretation:

"This Saturnian consists of the posterior phalanx of the iambic septary and a phallic meter ."

This metrical interpretation is still the first of the two basic schemes underlying the examples of Saturnians, each consisting of two kola separated by diheresis . The metric scheme of the first basic form is:

× - ×  | × -  ‖ —◡  | × -

thus a catalectic iambic quaternar and an ithyphallicos . The two secondary hereses are also known as Korsch's dihereses . The scheme of the second form is the same in the first colon, while the second can be interpreted as a Reizian colon :

× - ×  | × -  ‖ × - × -

The problem with these schemes is that, just as Caesius Bassus noted, there is hardly a verse that realizes them completely, but there are numerous inconsistent examples, so that the validity of the underlying abstraction becomes questionable.

Other metrics such as Terentianus Maurus (2nd / 3rd century) and Marius Plotius Sacerdos (3rd century) essentially repeat what Caesius Bassus said.

In Atilius Fortunatianus other hand, is responsible for the theory of Italian origin of Saturniers (mid 3rd century.):

“The Saturnian meter was first used in Italy. It was named after Saturnia , the oldest city in Italy. "

He also gives an example of a Saturnian

summas opes qui regum regias refregit

an, a verse that is not found in Caesius Bassus, so Atilius Fortunatianus seems to have resorted to other sources.

In the fourth century the Saturnian is treated more or less extensively in the writings of some grammarians. For example, Marius Victorinus used the term versus faunius for the first time . With Flavius ​​Sosipater Charisius , "Saturnier" appears as a generic name for old meters. He also says that in the age of Saturnus the Saturnian was used as the solemn end of the sententiae , i.e. as a kind of rhetorical clause or, according to others, it was the verse used in the apotheosis of the Latin king Saturnus. Similarly, Diomedes Grammaticus writes that saturnium in honorem dei Naevius invenit that the Saturnian was invented by Naevius in honor of God. He also gives the astonishingly simple interpretation of the Saturnian as a hypermetric iambic senar . And Flavius ​​Mallius Theodorus at the turn of the 4th to the 5th century gives a similar metric scheme as his predecessors, namely the catalectical iambic dimeter and the trochaic tripody .

Finally, there are two passages by Maurus Servius Honoratius that refer to the Saturnian. The one in the Georgica comment:

nam hoc est 'versibus incomptis ludunt', id est carminibus Saturnio metro compositis, quod ad rhythmum solum vulgares componere consuerunt
"Because this 'they joke in simple verses', ie in songs that are written in Saturnian meter, which ordinary people used to compose alone ad rhythmum ."

The meaning of the unclear ad rhythmum componere was used as evidence for an accenthythmic interpretation of the Saturnian. The second position can be found in De centum metris , where Servius then gives a conventional, purely quantitative indication of the Saturnian meter.

The approach of an accenthythmic interpretation of the Saturnian was developed by Wallace Martin Lindsay . The interpretation of the material handed down on the assumption that the verses are based on an accentuating principle provides metrizations that appear much more regular, but it is difficult to assume that such a significant change could have remained uncommented or not except for a dubious late antique Servius passage . that a correct, accentuating presentation of the old verses could have been completely forgotten within a relatively short time. Kruschwitz starts from a quantitative interpretation of the Saturnian and Boldrini describes the accenthythmic interpretation briefly as "failed", which is probably the opinion of the majority. Still, the last word may not have been spoken.

The Saturnian offers the procedure popularly practiced by modern metrics in the succession of Paul Maas , to put the writings of ancient metrics in the background and to reconstruct ancient meter measures as far as possible from the traditional poetic texts, precisely because of the inconsistencies and inconsistencies already established by the ancient grammarians numerous deviations (if the Saturnian ever existed as a fixed meter) considerable difficulties. The "problem of the Saturnian" must therefore continue to be regarded as unsolved despite numerous modern studies.

That did not prevent the attempt to recognize the problematic Saturnian in inscriptions in other Italian languages ​​( Faliski , Oskish , Umbrian and the language of the Paeligni ) or to relate him to a hypothetical Proto-Indo- European meter, as in John Vigorita and ML West.


Individual evidence

  1. Peter Kruschwitz: The ancient sources for the Saturnian verse. In: Mnemosyne. Fourth Series Vol. 55, No. 4 (2002), pp. 465-498.
  2. Ennius Annales 7, 206 f .. Ed. Otto Skutsch: The annals of Q. Ennius. Clarendon Press, Oxford 1985, ISBN 0-19-814448-2 .
  3. ^ Translations of the quotations from Kruschwitz.
  4. After Skutsch's reconstruction, the other fragment, Cum neque Musarum scopulos quisquam superarat / Nec dicti studiosus erat, [fuit Romanus homo] ante hunc, refers to Ennius himself. Cf. Skutsch: Annals. 1985, p. 374.
  5. Varro De lingua latina 7.36.
  6. Horace Epistulae 2, 1, 53-75
  7. Horace Epistulae 2, 1, 156-160
  8. Kruschwitz: The ancient sources on the Saturnian verse. In: Mnemosyne. Fourth Series Vol. 55, No. 4 (2002), p. 471 f.
  9. ^ Caesius Bassus Liber de metris . In: Heinrich Keil : Grammatici Latini. Vol. 6. Scriptores artis metricae. Teubner, Leipzig 1874, p. 265 f ..
  10. ^ Boldrini: Prosody and Metrics of the Romans. Stuttgart & Leipzig 1999, p. 86 f.
  11. ^ Theodor Korsch: De versu Saturnio. Moscow 1869.
  12. ^ Terentianus Maurus: De metris v. 2497-2524. In: H. Keil: Grammatici Latini. Vol. 6. Leipzig 1874, p. 399 f.
  13. ^ Marius Plotius Sacerdos Artis grammaticae liber III In: H. Keil: Grammatici Latini. Vol. 6. Leipzig 1874, p. 531 f.
  14. ^ Atilius Fortunatianus Ars . In: H. Keil: Grammatici Latini. Vol. 6. Leipzig 1874, p. 293 f ..
  15. ^ Marius Victorinus Artis grammaticae liber III . In: H. Keil: Grammatici Latini. Vol. 6. Leipzig 1874, pp. 138-140.
  16. Flavius ​​Sosipater Charisius Artis grammaticae liber IV . In: H. Keil: Grammatici Latini. Vol. 1. Leipzig 1857, p. 288 f.
  17. ^ Diomedes Grammaticus Ars grammatica . In: H. Keil: Grammatici Latini. Vol. 1. Leipzig 1857, p. 512.
  18. Flavius ​​Mallius Theodorus De metris . In: H. Keil: Grammatici Latini. Vol. 6. Leipzig 1874, p. 594.
  19. ^ Servius: Commentary on Georgica 2,385 .
  20. ^ Maurus Servius Honoratius De centum metris . In: H. Keil: Grammatici Latini. Vol. 4. Leipzig 1864, p. 466.
  21. ^ WM Lindsay: The Saturnian Meter. In: American Journal of Philology Vol. 14 (1893) No. 2, pp. 139-170 and No. 3, pp. 305-334 .
  22. ^ Boldrini: Prosody and Metrics of the Romans. Stuttgart & Leipzig 1999, p. 86.
  23. John Vigo Rita: Indo-European Comparative Metrics. Dissertation University of California, Los Angeles 1973.
  24. ^ ML West: Indo-European Meter. In: Glotta 51 (1973), pp. 161-187.