Commenting on Vergil's hysteron proteron

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  • This article was downloaded by: [Aston University]On: 17 January 2014, At: 15:42Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH,UK

    Symbolae Osloenses:Norwegian Journal of Greekand Latin StudiesPublication details, including instructions forauthors and subscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/sosl20

    Commenting on Vergil'shysteron proteronEgil Kraggerud aa Dept. of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art andIdeas , University of OsloPublished online: 30 Jul 2012.

    To cite this article: Egil Kraggerud (2012) Commenting on Vergil's hysteron proteron ,Symbolae Osloenses: Norwegian Journal of Greek and Latin Studies, 86:1, 118-144,DOI: 10.1080/00397679.2012.700179

    To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00397679.2012.700179

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  • COMMENTING ON VERGILS HYSTERON PROTERON

    EGIL KRAGGERUDDEPT. OF PHILOSOPHY, CLASSICS, HISTORY OF ART AND IDEAS,

    UNIVERSITY OF OSLO

    The author presents a sizable sample of examples (40) that have been labelledhysteron proteron (h.p.) by commentators on Vergil, in order to discuss thecriteria underlying the use of the term and - not less importantly - to analysehow this alleged h.p. functions in its context. The interpretations offered willtry to grasp the individual variations and not least to examine how theexamples are embedded in their context. A basic tenet is that tense, mode andaspect must be taken into due account. Very few, if any, of the authorsexamples should in his view be treated as true cases of h.p. in futurecommentaries.

    According to age-old school lore1, the figure of speech called hysteron pro-teron (h.p.) 2 can be ascertained when what should come last, is put first,as Moriamur et in media arma ruamus (A. 2. 353).3 This ubiquitousexample functions almost as a synonym for h.p., not unlike Vergilsfamous quos ego (A. 1. 135) which is just an easy way of saying aposiopesis.A. 2. 353, however, has less legitimacy as a standard example of a certainfigure of speech and is on the whole of limited value as a key to under-standing the phenomenon we are about to discuss.

    Here I will concentrate on the most well-known form of h.p. discussedin commentaries, the one having two coordinate verbs (or verb forms)juxtaposing two activities mentioned in an order somehow - logically orchronologically - at odds with the natural and expected one.4 With abroader scope than is usual in running commentaries I want to ask:How do the two parts of a so-called h.p. relate to one another and tothe context at large? Especially this latter issue is even today all toooften ignored or downplayed as if an interpretative approach were oflittle relevance. H.p. is far from existing in vacuo, however; it is affectedby the context which in turn is affected by it in various ways. I thereforewant to take into account how a supposed h.p. both contributes to and iscoloured by the situation. The traditional treatment of the h.p. has at timeshttp://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00397679.2012.700179

    Symbolae Osloenses 86, 2012

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  • been rather barren, even myoptic, as a simple either - or discussion. Inshort, there has been too little interpretation in depth.5 Our mainconcern should be: What has the poet achieved by it or what does hewant to express by deviating from a straightforward order and from themore usual ways of expressing things.

    As to my terminology: For the sake of brevity I often call the first part(i.e. moriamur) simply 1, the second part (in media arma ruamus) 2in line with Vergils own word order without implying anything in theway of temporal sequence. In the quotations the two relevant verbs (orverb forms) will be highlighted in semi-bold.

    As to my examples:6 I restrict myself mainly to cases that have beenlabelled h.p. in the scholarly literature, i.e. in the most important commen-taries of the 20th century (or thereafter) and in some monographical treat-ments (cf. the bibliography). I will only now and then be referring to olderinterpretations. Further examples could no doubt have been adduced as aresult of a systematic search, but I hope that I have not missed anythingessential for establishing a fairly representative survey.7

    As to restricting h.p. to two verbal forms (most often finite forms): thisdoes not imply that I do not recognize as h.p. cases where two nouns arejuxtaposed in an illogical order. No doubt some of the same factors arevalid for those cases as well.8

    The modern discussion of Vergils style got an important starting pointat the beginning of the 20th century with the appendices of EduardNorden (1903). He dealt with h.p. as part of his Anhang II 2.9 It wascommendable that Norden did not place h.p. under figures of speech inthe traditional way, but treated the phenomenon as part of sentence struc-ture (Periodik)10 introducing the relevant section by putting Vergils h.p.in this historical perspective: Aus dem Streben Vergils nach parataktischerSatzfgung zu erklren ist auch die in solcher Hufigkeit sonst kaum nach-weisbare zeitliche Umkehrung der Begriffe . But Nordens new andimportant syntactical approach was only in part satisfactory and commen-tators were justly reluctant to accept Nordens opinion of the high fre-quency of h.p. One cannot escape the impression that Norden hasgreatly overrated the frequency of the phenomenon. To judge from hisexamples from the Sixth Book one would expect it to occur morethan once every 100 lines in the Aeneid. Norden was partly anticipatedby T.E. Page (1894)11 whose short notice on h.p. has been very influentialfor more than a century, not least owing to the proliferation of his views

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  • through his useful and widely disseminated commentaries. A fruitful ideaemanating from Page and later commentators, but none the less not alwaysfully exploited, is that h.p. is a special variant of the so-called Theme andVariation which is in itself a hall-mark of Vergils paratactic style. Thisview also plays an important part in the discussions of McDevitt (1967)often referred to in the following.12

    A. H.p. based on false interpretations or interpolation.

    1. A. 22. 774499 ipse urbem repeto et cingor fulgentibus armis.For this example,see my detailed discussion in the article Further Textual Issues in theAeneid (2. 749; 5. 300; 9. 539) above.

    2. A. 66. 1188-1199 Redditus his primum terris tibi Phoebe sacravit/ remigiumalarum posuitque immania templa.This is Nordens clearest example of a temporal reversal (zeitlicheUmkehrung): Erst baut er [Daedalus] den Tempel, in dem erdann die Flgel dediziert, a h.p. with truly ample time marginbetween 1 and 2 provided Nordens view is tenable, that is. I cannotexclude the possibility that some early readers may have read thelines like him, i.e. = *postquam immania templa posuit, remigiumalarum sacravit. But a different view is more probable: The lines areembedded in the passage 14-33a with the account of Daedalus safetouchdown on the acropolis at Cumae which is the aition for thetemple of Apollo. For one thing Daedalus serves as a sort of paradigm:like Aeneas his first preoccupation is to revere and thank the god. Thereader is halted by an ecphrasis bridging the arrival of Aeneas and hismeeting with the Sibyl, Apollos priestess.A straightforward and natural way to understand 18-19, then, is thatDaedalus offers his thanks to Apollo immediately after his descent bydedicating the wings to the god with a religious ceremony appropriatefor the occasion. I therefore believe that Butler (1920) p. 89 who heldthis view was right in his indirect criticism of Norden: The dedicationof the wings to Phoebus would be immediate and need not wait for thecompletion of the temple.A famous example of a dedication without a sanctuary being at hand isthe aition for Romes first temple: Romulus carried the spolia opimataken from the chieftain of Caenina and brought them to Capitoliumibique ea cum ad quercum pastoribus sacram deposuisset, simul cum dono

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  • designavit templo Iovis finis cognomenque addidit deo (Livy 1. 10. 5). It isnot to be excluded that Vergil was influenced by this account owing tothe recent publication of Livys first pentad around 27 B.C.13

    3. A. 77. 662244-662255 Pars pedes ire parat campis, pars arduus altis/ pulverulentusequis furit; omnes arma requirunt.This linguistically extraordinary sentence is taken in the following wayby Goold (2000): Some make ready to march over the plains on foot,some, mounted on high steeds, storm amid clouds of dust: all cry outfor arms. (my italics) According to this interpretation there are notonly two groups of warriors - infantry and cavalry - but also twostages in their deployment: Whereas the foot-soldiers are preparingthemselves to start their march over the fields the horsemen arealready galloping off in the dust they are whirling up. Only then weare made aware that they have not the weapons needed.14 Moreover,furere does not mean storm, dahinjagen or anything in that vein,nor does it imply that the horsemen are already traversing the fieldsat full speed.15 Furere, with more than fifty occurrences in Vergilmeans rage (for whatever reason that may be), a rage often manifest-ing itself outwardly in more or less uncontrolled manners. In this caseman and horse alike are characterized by their furious and impatientstate. The horses are trampling everywhere while the men are in bois-terous search of arms before being ready to leave the assembly area.Both foot-soldiers and horsemen are still in the same stage of prep-aration before setting off over the fields as an army on the move. Hors-fall is essentially correct here in stressing rage as the primary meaning.So also this h.p. vanishes into thin air on closer inspection.

    B. Actions not yet realized or not at all.

    1. G. 44. 110066b-110088 Tu regibus alas/ eripe; non illis quisquam cunctantibusaltum/ ire iter aut castris audebit vellere signa.According to Biotti (1994) this h.p., consisting of two infinitives,emphasizes the flight as the main action (altum ire iter). That velleresigna is prior to ire iter is clear enough, but in the first place thepoet deals with actions that are to be prevented and therefore donot come to fruition (non /ire audebit), secondly we have a dis-junctive statement (aut cf. below on 9. 486) whereby the second partstresses that even the initial step towards the flight was prevented.

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  • Accordingly this example is no proper h.p. which it would have beenin ordinary past narrative like e.g. *ausi sunt ire altum iter et vellerecastris signa. Neither Mynors, Thomas nor Erren has anything onh.p. here.16

    2. A. 11. 552244-552266 Troes te miseri, ventis maria omnia vecti,/ oramus: prohibeinfandos a navibus ignis,/ [526] parce pio generi et propius res aspicenostras.Austin draws the correct conclusion that it is misleading to use theterm h.p. whereby he phrases his reading of 526 thus: the importantpoint [is] put first (parce pio generi) and then an explanatory17 phraseappended paratactically, making a single welded unit. It is relevantto point out, however, that we have to do with a tricolon expressingthree aspects of the same prayer: 1. warding off attack - this is a sign ofleniency 2.) showing mercy and 3) taking a closer look at the cause ofthe Trojans whereby we should mark the difference between impera-tives (connected with the future) and preterite verb forms. It wouldhave been a different thing altogether to say *Dido pepercit Troianiset propius res eorum aspexit, in which case 2 would have signalled asecond phase after she had shown mercy. In the case of imperativesno such feeling of priority arises. 2 is accordingly in this examplesimply a variation of 1.

    3. A. 22. 335522b-335533 succurritis urbi/ [353] incensae: moriamur et in mediaarma ruamus.All Nordens examples except this one is paraphrased by means of aLatin perf. part. pass. (in most cases in the form of an abl. abs.) repre-senting the proteron part (2). This exception, his first example, surprisesus by not having a basic zeitliche Umkehrung in the paraphraseruentes moriamur. This seems eo ipso to exclude succession in time,but he does not expatiate on this. Austin (1964) is in agreement withNorden, but refrains from calling it a h.p.: Virgil has put the impor-tant thing first, appending an explanatory clause by parataxis instead ofsubordination.18 McDevitt (1967, 316) starts from these interpret-ations but finds them unsatisfactory. He forcefully argues that thelogical and proper time-sequence is reversed. Accordingly it wouldhave been legitimate to use the term h.p., but later in the samearticle (319f.) he deals sensibly enough with this example under theheading General and Particular: Aeneas and his men are in a hopelesssituation and therefore in media arma ruamusmeans in reality the same

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  • as moriamur.19 It is not easy to harmonize McDevitts two readings ofv. 353. In my view he does not attach enough importance to the exhor-tative mood. If one says *mortui sunt (or better: occiderunt) et in mediaarma ruerunt (in prose better: irruerunt) it would bemeaningless. If fut.simpl. had been used in ordinary speech like *moriemur et in mediaarma ruemus the reversal of the expected order would tacit...