text published  in: Hermes 123, 1995, 382-4

In the middle part of Florida 9, Apuleius glorifies his literary talents, extolling the variety of genres he practices, as well as his originality of style and language, in Greek as well as in Latin.

This self-glorification is preceded by an extensive description of the ancient Greek sophist Hippias, which serves both as comparison and contrast. Hippias is said to have been famous for having made with his own hand all the things he wore: his clothes, his belt, his shoes and even a ring. Moreover, Apuleius adds, Hippias felt no shame in publicly declaring to have manufactured his own oil flask and strigil.

Both objects are described in a painstakingly detailed manner. I give the text of Helm1 and a tentative translation:

'...qui magno in coetu praedicauit, fabricatum semet sibi ampullam quoque oleariam, quam gestabat, lenticulari forma, tereti ambitu, pressula rutunditate, iuxtaque honestam strigileculam, recta fastigatione cymulae, flexa tubulatione ligulae, ut et ipsa in manu capulo moraretur et sudor ex ea riuulo laberetur.'

'...who in a large assembly declared that he had also made the oil flask he wore, in the form of a lentil, with smooth outlines and of somewhat flattened roundness; furthermore a fine little strigil, with straight tapering of the 'small sprout' and curved grooving of the blade; (made) in such a way that it could be kept in hand by its handle and that the sweat could pour out from it through the channel.'

The description contains a number of rare words (i.a. lenticularis, pressulus, strigilecula, fastigatio, tubulatio) and exquisite combinations (i.a. flexa tubulatione ligulae), underlining the novelty and specialty of the objects themselves. But whereas we get a good impression of the oil flask, there is a problem with the strigil.

The text in the main MS (F) reads as follows: recta fastigatione cylaulae (or c laule in φ). Cylaulae is a hapax and does not seem to make much sense. Accordingly, editors have had recourse to various emendations. Hildebrandt was at a loss2: after briefly mentioning the variant clausulae, found in less important MSS, and Oudendorp's emendation syllabam, he hesitatingly suggests labridae. The word is formed from a hypothetical accusative labrida, by analogy of forms like craterae and Salaminae. However, it is not made at all clear what labridae should mean.3

Helm has proposed cymulae. This emendation is printed in modern editions4, but remains highly unsatisfactory, as already appears from the rather misleading translations of the phrase given by Vallette ('à tige droite d'un bout à l'autre') and Augello ('a stelo dritto da una parte all'altra'). Cymula cannot simply be taken as 'handle'. The OLD s.v. explains it as an architectural term for a 'small moulding'. On an object such as a strigil this might be taken as referring to the junction of blade and handle, but there is no parallel for this usage.5 In addition, it would leave recta unexplained, and would break the balance between the elements recta fastigatione c. and flexa tubulatione ligulae, which seem to refer to the two main parts of the instrument.

Elsewhere, cymula is explained as botanical term for a 'tender sprout' (cf. TLL IV,1590,1-2 and 1587,3ff). But in the present context this hardly makes sense.

To solve the problem we should first examine the nature of the object referred to by Apuleius. Hippias' strigil is apparently a very special instrument. This may already be seen in the structure of the text as a whole: it is the last item in his list of the clever sophist's objects, which are all noteworthy in that they are 'hand made'. The strigil is given further prominence by the elaborate and linguistically striking description: its two parts are indicated in a twofold periphrasis of three words each. In addition, the uncommon nature of the strigil seems to be explicitly referred to in the final detail: its feature of draining off the sweat through a small channel.6

It might just be possible to retain cylaulae of F and take it as 'of a groove-like pipe', of Gr. kulon (normally denoting a groove above the upper eyelid; cf. LSJ s.v. kula) and aulos. Admittedly, this remains rather awkward, but it seems hardly worse than the editors' emendations up to now.

There may be yet a better solution. If we read coelaulae, the picture becomes clear and complete, the meaning then being: 'of a hollow pipe'. This reading is already hesitantly given as a separate lemma in TLL III,1410,29ff7, but seems to have remained unnoticed up to now. As a compound, it is not attested elsewhere, no more than cylaulae. But its derivation from the fairly common Greek words koilos and aulos would be much simpler.

In addition, some paleographical arguments might be adduced: in Greek texts, forms on kul- and koil- are sometimes confused8. Greek words, whether transliterated or not (Apuleius has a taste for both), are often messed up in our Latin MSS. Since this goes even for the most common Greek words or derivations9, it comes as no surprise if a rare compound such as this has led to mistakes. Finally, emending y in oe in a foreign word would require only a minimal change in the text of the MS.10

With coelaulae the text would make perfect sense. The special nature of Hippias' strigil, already apparent in the construction of the section and the choice of vocabulary, comes out at once: the 'hollow pipe' provides a perfect channel to lead off the sweat from the body. Although its form cannot be determined exactly,11 it may surely be considered to have been a real improvement on the more common strigils with plain, solid shaft.



* The research for this paper was made possible by support from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). I thank Prof. E.J. Kenney (Cambridge), Prof. J.H. Brouwers (Nijmegen), Dr E.M. Moormann (Roma) and Dr S.T.A.M. Mols (Nijmegen) for their help and useful comments.

1. Apulei Madaurensis Opera quae supersunt, vol.II,fasc.2 Florida, recensuit Rudolf Helm, Leipzig 1959, p.12,20ff.

2. 'Quid ex hac voce emendandum sit, frustra adhuc quaero.'

3. Should we suppose a derivation from Lat. labrum (brim, lip or edge)? I could not find any Greek or Latin word *labris. Or is the rare labrus (=pele­kus) meant here?

4. In addition to Helm's own edition, these are the texts of P. Vallette (Budé) and G. Augello (UTET). However, Augello remains doubtful: 'Ma cymulae è parola così rara che fa dubitare della sua corretta presenza'.

5. The OLD seems to have reconstructed this sense of cymula on the basis of the Apuleian passage exclusively. There is some evidence for another word, cymatium, used as an architectu­ral term in this sense; cf. TLL IV,1587,40. But here too, no examples are given of its usage in relation to instruments.

6. I interpret riuulus as 'small channel' rather than 'small stream'; cfr OLD s.v.. However, the latter sense is equally attested for Apuleius and might also be approp­riate here: '...that the sweat could pour out from it in a small stream.'

7. It is added: 'si recte conicitur', but no further source for the suggestion is given.

8. Cf. especially LSJ s.v. kula 2, referring to koila as a frequent V.L. of kula.

9. In the passage discussed here, the common ampullam (an old Latin deminu­tive of amphora) is wrongly spelled as ampollam in both F and φ. Even the common in coetu, is wrongly given by F and φ as inc ptu. In MSS which do read in coetu, such as v, the combination coe- here may have contri­buted to wrong readings for coelaulae.

10. Perhaps the spelling c laule of φ bears a trace of the reading proposed here.

11. To mention a few details: it may have contained a small 'receptaculum' at the bottom, or it may have been left open. The rivulus mentioned in the text may have stretched all along the shaft, or just along its upper part. The difference in breadth between the upper and lower part of the shaft, indicated by fastigatio, may have been great or small. For some archeological evidence on the various forms of ancient strigils, see: Ch. Daremberg, Edm. Saglio, Dictionnaire des antiquités Grecques et Romaines, IV, 1532-4; further RE s.v. strigilis.

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