THE THIRD ECLOGUE AND THE ROMAN COMIC SPIRIT BY H. MACL. CURRIE Dic mihi, Damoeta, cuium pecus? an Meliboei ? The word cuium in this, the opening line of the poem 1), was common in the early comedians but by Virgil's day had become obsolete in formal Latin. At an early period it must have been considered odd in this context for it gave rise to a parody (quoted in Donatus' life of Virgil): Dic mihi, Damoeta, cuium pecus anne Latinum ? non, uerum Aegonis, nostri sic rure loquuntur. Thus, at its very beginning, ipso in limine, a certain note is struck in Virgil's poem, a note which would have its own special resonances and reverberations for a Roman listener, possibly recal- ling (amongst other things) the comedies of Plautus and Terence. This and the second Eclogue are apparently of early date, both being mentioned by their opening lines in Eclogue 5, 85-7. Theo- critus 4 and 5 manifestly lie behind Eclogue 3. In Theocritus 4 a cowherd, Corydon, and a goatherd, Battus, have a conversation which, while friendly enough in general, contains some harsh teasing (3) and sarcastic remarks (7 ff.). In Theocritus 5 the tone is
Mnemosyne – Brill
Published: Jan 1, 1976
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