literary backgrounds of Mos. 75-149
text published in: A.P. Orbán, M.G.M. van der Poel (edd.), Ad litteras. Latin studies in honour of J.H. Brouwers, Nijmegen 2001, 163-176;
the numerous works of Decius Magnus Ausonius there are not many that have found
widespread favour among scholars and readers.
Most tend to regard his extensive literary output
as the result of a lifelong devotion to studies, primarily aimed at parading
erudition and writing skills, but showing little inspiration or genuine poetic
genius. Indeed, puzzling poems such as the Griphus
trinarii numeri and the Cento
nuptialis, or poems touching upon religious themes,
or the rather tiresome chains of portraits depicting towns, emperors, or
relatives of the poet, are not easy to appreciate as works of art in their own
notable exception, however, is formed by the poem Mosella, which has been hailed by many as one of the most precious
creations of late Latin poetry. Its moderate length (only 483 lines), variety of
themes and motifs, exquisite imagery, and its `romantic' appeal have no doubt
contributed to this general praise. The poem is probably too complex ever to
become a bestseller, but some separate and easily accessible editions have
become available in several languages,
while the scholarly literature on the poem has grown to considerable
poem was written during Ausonius' long stay at the court in Trier, where he had
been appointed as the personal tutor of prince Gratianus.
The date of composition of the poem is generally considered to be the year 371.
For all its beauty and variety, the poem confronts readers with countless
problems, concerning not just the interpretation of individual passages or the
identification of specific elements or names occurring in the text, but even the
general aim of the poem.
a consequence, the Mosella has led to
several, sometimes conflicting interpretations. For example, the poem has been
presented as a work of mostly political relevance, intended to please the
emperor. The idealizing portrait of the countryside, and the jubilant
descriptions of villas, baths, and other buildings could even seem to support
the building policy of the emperor, who planned to develop the area around
Trier. On a very different note, the poem has also been
interpreted as far removed from reality, to such an extent that it seems to
refer only to itself as text.
extremes are, perhaps, to be avoided. The poem is obviously more than a piece of
propaganda (Ausonius is too much a man of culture and a scholar for that), or a
postmodern exercise in textual self-referentiality (Ausonius is, after all, a
poet belonging to antiquity). Most readers will settle for what may be seen as a
compromise: the Mosella is above all a
literary creation, celebrating the local river in highly traditional terms. The
poem combines a great number of venerable poetical genres, such as epic and
didactic poetry, hymns, travel poems, city poems, effectively creating a new
genre of its own, that of the `river poem'.
The work is literally crammed with references to earlier Roman poets, notably
Virgil, Ovid, and Statius,
but Ausonius' conscious imitatio and aemulatio
have resulted in a poem that [>p165] can be considered a work of art that is not devoid
of personal and even original features.
of the poem's characteristics occur in an important section on various species
of fish that live in the Mosella.
This long passage has surprised many readers, who generally experience some
difficulty in understanding it, if only for the zoological details it presents.
One of its literary backgrounds even seems to have escaped attention until now.
passage in question extends from line 75 to 149 (forming almost one seventh of
the whole work), and comes at an early stage of the poem. In fact, it is
preceded only by three other sections: (1) the brilliant opening section (1-22),
where the poet carefully introduces readers to the landscape, mentioning the
river only in line 22; (2) a rather obligatory `praise of the river' in the
tradition of hymnic poetry (23-54); and (3) a minute description of the riverbed
with its pebbles and grasses moving along with the streaming water (55-74). The
last passage is often excerpted or quoted, as it shows considerable poetic
talent, for which Ausonius has been widely given credit.
is an easy transition from stones and other objects in the river to the fish
that swim in the water (74-5). The highlighted tiring effect on human eyes (intentos
tamen usque oculos errore fatigant... pisces) further ties up with the
By immediately referring to the various species of fish in the river which are
too numerous to be listed completely (77-81), Ausonius clearly signals to his
experienced readers that a catalogue
of fish is to follow shortly. After calling in the help of a Naiad as his guide
(82-4), he then actually starts the catalogue.
first member is the capito, the
`chub', which receives three lines. It is worthwhile to
consider the pieces of information specified by the poet: two general points (it
is scaly, and it can be seen on the sand) are immediately followed by some
detailed ones concerning the texture of its flesh: [>p166 ] it is soft
and thick on the fishbones, and it must be served within six hours.
there are brief references to the salar `trout', the boneless rhedo
(more difficult to identify),
and the umbra `grayling' (88-90). The barbus
`barbel' receives more attention in a passage of six lines. With a traditional apostrophe, the fish is directly addressed by the poet (tuque...),
which enhances the liveliness and brings some variety in the text. Four rather
complex lines are devoted to its origin in another river (the Saar), and two to
its development: with age it does not get worse, like all other living beings,
but better. The detail seems puzzling at first sight, but can only refer to its
gastronomical qualities: its taste gets better as it ages.
there are two rather long sections, of nine lines each, dealing with the salmo
`salmon' (97-105) and the mustela,
probably the `lamprey' (106-14). The salmon is noted for its red flesh, its
broad tail moving in the water, and its scales. Some culinary details easily
come in here: the salmon is fit for tables where one does not know what to
choose (dubiae facturus fercula cenae 102), apparently a compliment to its
widely beloved taste, and the fish can be kept for a long time without going
bad. The portrait ends with some touches on the appearance of the fish, with
spots on the head and a large flabby belly. The last element may well be
gastronomical again, since such a belly promises much and rather fat meat. The
picture on the mustela first
highlights its origin in the Danube and its transfer to the Moselle with human
aid (4 lines). Details on the fish itself mainly concern its colour (black,
yellow and blue), but also include a remark on the fatness of part of its flesh
next portrait, that of the perca
`perch' (115-9) is even exclusively focused on gastronomical qualities: it is
called delicias mensarum (115) and
compared to sea fish and mullets. The taste is strong and the flesh is
conveniently divided between bones,
a picture that seems to aim at making the reader's mouth water.
contrast, the lucius `pike' (120-4) is
merely ridiculed for its `Roman' name, and earns some disparaging comments: it
lives in swamps and is served not on tables of connoisseurs but only in cheap
taverns (feruet fumosis olido nidore
popinis 124), places from which our poet obviously distances himself. The tinca
`tench', alburnus `bleak', and alausa
`shad' (125-7) are mentioned almost in passing, with just a few details
suggesting that these species too are fit only for consumption by the common
the sarius `salmon-trout' (128-30) and
gobio `gudgeon' (131-4), the catalogue
gradually draws towards its close. It has been noticed that the syntax is rather
loose here ( a main verb is lacking in 131-4), and the poet may have hastened on
We do read, however, that the gudgeon is agreeably fat and round, which seems to
qualify it for use in the kitchen.
as a climax of the whole catalogue appears the silurus
`sheat-fish'. In an exalted portrait of no fewer than fifteen lines (135-149)
the fish is hailed as an impressive `river-dwelling dolphin', gently gliding
through the calm water, admired by all nature, and causing no harm or large
The picture of the impressive fish rounds off the catalogue of fish, which is
confirmed by the following lines (cf. multiplicasque
satis numerasse cateruas 151), after which follows a series of `scenes along
the waterside', starting with some details about viticulture and trade (152-68).
After the great stress on the river as a provider of excellent fish for human
consumption, it is surely no coincidence that the area is presented as producing
wine as well.
catalogue of fish is carefully embedded in the structure of his Mosella.
It was already pointed out that the catalogue smoothly followed the passage
55-74 about the clear water allowing a view of the riverbed, and is followed
itself in a natural manner by the section on viticulture.
the poem as a whole it appears to be quite well-ordered: having introduced the
river itself and everything that it contains [>p168] within
its stream, the poet then, so to speak, moves to the surface of the water and
the shores, adding numerous details of all that happens around the water. There
follow sections on e.g. playing satyrs and Naiads, optical illusions on the
water, fishermen, and buildings and luxurious villas (150-349). Finally, the
poem is concluded with another catalogue, now one of tributaries (349-80),
some further tributes to the river and a rather autobiographically coloured
section functioning as a sphragis of
the poet (381-471).
inner structure of Ausonius' catalogue of fish has been carefully devised too. A
total of fifteen fish are discussed, with a clear variation between longer and
shorter sections, species that are exquisite or less commendable, renowned or
less well-known. An intriguing suggestion about the underlying structure of the
catalogue was proposed by Dräger 1997, 456-8. His graphical presentation of the
section, based on the number of Latin lines devoted to each species, clearly
results in the picture of a fish. The
section, then, would be almost a technopaegnion
of `Hellenistic' colour. The idea is all the more convincing since plays on
numbers, notably on the number 'seven',
occur throughout in the poem.
if the section is well embedded in the poem as a whole and shows a clear inner
structure, we may still wonder why Ausonius chose to include it at all. For, one
might object, the detailed catalogue is hardly essential in the picture of the
Moselle and even distracts attention from the river itself.
obvious answer is that almost every element in the poem does exactly the same.
Since little indeed can be said about a river (for what else is it but a stream
of water?) anything that is somehow related to the Moselle will do to add to its
praise. So the fish that are caught here commend their natural habitat, and the
details about their physical beauty, gastronomical qualities, or interesting
properties make excellent sense: it must be a superb river that brings forth
such fine species. The zoological theme enables the poet to expand on what now
seems a commendable quality of the river. More prosaically, it provides him with
some suitable `content' to fill up his poem.
scholars have gone further and have attributed a deeper, symbolic significance
to the fish. For instance, according to Martin, the [>p169] various species contain a political message: `il
y a des poissons nobles, des poissons bourgeois, des poissons plébéiens - et
puis au-dessus d'eux il y a l'imposant silure, sorte de poisson-roi, ou de
poisson-empereur, authentique souverain de ce monde aquatique'.
One wonders whether the Roman emperor will have felt quite happy if he had been
related to `sheat-fish', even though it is said to be peaceful and innocuous. It
would perhaps be wisest for a poet in court to avoid symbolism of this kind.
significance of the section is to be found, again, not on the political but on
the literary level. By presenting his complimentary details about the fish in
the form of a catalogue, Ausonius
clearly signals that what he is doing is more than showing off erudition and
ichthyological expertise or playing a game of political allegory: he is actually
inserting his work in the venerable tradition of epic and didactic poetry, where
catalogues had been a standard element for over a thousand years. The choice of the literary device itself conveyed an
obvious message to the ancient readers: they are dealing with a piece of learned
a learned poet creating literature must ultimately rely on facts. So it is
relevant to ask what sources Ausonius used for his observations on fish.
readers will feel tempted by the idea that Ausonius simply studied the Moselle
himself in a direct way. After all, he lived in Trier himself and must have had
plenty of time to make personal observations in the region. However appealing
this idea may be, however natural it may seem to us in our post-romantic age, it
need not apply to the Roman poet, who may well have done his work at a desk in
his study rather than near the riverside.
is of course impossible to establish with certainty what species did or did not
occur in the Moselle in Ausonius' time, if only because of the changes in
climate and environment
which must have affected the population of fish. But some elements in the
catalogue actually raise suspicion, notably the silurus. This fish is recorded to become as long as three meters and
weigh up to 150 kilograms.
It is pretty hard to imagine [>p170] such a huge fish in the small Moselle. Today, it
seems to occur only in Eastern Europe.
a matter of fact, Ausonius' wealth of detail about the fish was met with some
skepticism and disbelief in his own days. There is a telling testimony by
Symmachus in a teasing letter to Ausonius.
After stating that the Mosella enjoys
wide circulation and politely complaining that he has not been sent a
personal copy, he briefly discusses the veracity of the poem. In what seems a
rather ironical twist, Symmachus argues that he would not believe everything, if
he were not certain that Ausonius cannot lie even in a poem. Then he continues:
donc avez-vous découvert, aussi variées de noms que de couleurs, aussi différents
par la grosseur que par le goût, ces bandes de poissons de rivière qu'au-delà
des dons de la nature la palette de votre poème a enluminées? Et cependant
maintes fois reçu à votre table, j'admirais bien d'autres poissons qu'on nous
servait alors au repas du palais, sans que jamais j'en aie rencontré de ce
genre. Comment sont donc nés dans votre livre ces poissons qui n'étaient pas
dans vos plats?'
disbelief is unmistakable: Ausonius' poetical description went beyond nature,
and the fish described by him were not even to be found at his own table.
modern commentators also feel a little uneasy about Ausonius' fish and reckon
with secondary influences of some kind. Some try to save Ausonius' reputation as
an observer of nature, suggesting that the species that did not occur in the
Moselle were to be found in the larger Rhine area,
or point to possible influences of polychrome Nile mosaics that were so popular
it may be more profitable to look for some literary antecedents of fish,
particularly since Roman literature presents quite a number of passages on fish.
As a connoisseur of literature, Ausonius may be expected [>p171] to have known all of
the relevant texts. To mention one or two examples, he may have enjoyed
Juvenal's fourth satire about a rhombus
or Martial's series of epigrams in the Xenia
dealing with various species.
Perhaps the most interesting predecessor is a poem by Ovid on fish, the Halieutica.
In this fragmentary text (of which 134 lines have been preserved), Ovid mentions
many fish. His list includes a number of species that also occur in Ausonius'
catalogue: the mustela (Hal. 43), the umbra
(111-2), the perca (113) and
Some other details (the mention of frogs) and the explicit judgments on the
fish, whether positive or negative, seem to confirm the relevance of this model
to Ausonius, and hence in turn of Ovid's literary models.
there are great differences too. First, Ovid's text deals with marine fish. More
importantly, his perspective is rather different, since he concentrates on the
proper means to catch fish, adding many particulars about their natural means of
defence and habitat.
is, however, a particular quality in Ausonius' text that can bring us a little
further. From a close reading of the descriptions above, it appeared that the
poet specifies a rather limited number of details: the size and colour of the
fish, their anatomical properties and their origin in other rivers. But no doubt
the most striking element is their culinary and gastronomical qualities. We find
quite explicit particulars of this kind on the capito,
barbus, salmo, perca, and lucius,
and some less conspicuous but clearly similar ones on the rhedo,
mustela, tinca, alausa and gobio,
that is: on ten out of fifteen fish, two thirds of the whole catalogue.
gastronomical comments have often surprised, or even embarrassed, readers who
considered them as rather less suitable in a lofty poem like the Moselle. Perhaps because of this, it has escaped scholarly
attention that for this element too, there is a distinct and respected literary
on fine food
this, we have to look in a rather remote corner of Greek literature, to the
remains of a poetical work by Archestratus of Gela of the 4th century B.C. His
work, called Hedupatheia, must have
been a striking piece of poetry, that mainly deals with fish.
Even a quick glance at the 62 extant fragments, mainly preserved by Athenaios,
shows his consistent culinary stand: Archestratus tells us how fish should be
prepared and cooked and where they can be found or bought. His book may properly
be called a cookery book in verse. Compared with the rather heavy style of
cooking in the more famous Roman book by Apicius, Archestratus advocates an
appealingly `light' and low-fat style. One sample may suffice here:
the tail of the female tuna -- and I'm talking
of the large female tuna whose mother city is Byzantium. Then slice it
and bake all of it properly, simply sprinkling it lightly with salt and brushing
it with oil. Eat the slices hot, dipping them into a sharp brine. They are good
if you want to eat them dry, like the immortal gods in form and stature. If you
serve it sprinkled with vinegar, it will be ruined.'
intention of the Hedupatheia is not
entirely clear, but most likely it was meant to be recited during symposia of
the elite. Occasional touches of irony [>p173] suggest that the work has
some parodic tendencies, but Archestratus' poem nonetheless represents a side
branch of ancient didactic poetry.
identifying Greek names for fish involves additional uncertainties, an exact
comparison with Ausonius cannot possibly be made.
But even here we need not even expect close parallels, if only because of the
geography: the river Mosella and the
Mediterranean sea are different environments. Moreover, as a poet striving after
aemulatio of his models, Ausonius
would select different species rather than directly copy them from his model.
the absence of specific links in the Mosella to the Hedupatheia,
it might seem dubious whether Ausonius knew the Greek poem in the first place.
There are, however, two intermediate texts in the Roman tradition which Ausonius
must have known well, that must have bridged the wide gap in time and place. In
the early 2nd century B.C. the great poet Ennius made an adaptation in Latin
hexameters of Archestratus' didactic poem, in a version entitled Hedyphagetica.
Ennius took over some details, as well as the general pattern of his model,
specifying places where to find or buy a fish, its properties and qualities for
use at the table.
`minor' work by Ennius is still largely neglected by scholars,
which is somewhat surprising, because we actually know something about it and
even possess a precious 11 line-fragment of his text,
that may be compared to the Greek original.
Ausonius' familiarity with Ennius' poetry seems beyond doubt, even though he
generally preferred classical poets like Vergil and Ovid.
More specifically, two of the fish in Ennius' lines also occur in Ausonius'
poem: the mustela (1) and the umbra
second, important Roman text brings us even closer to Ausonius. For the lines of
Ennius' Hedyphagetica have been
preserved in a text from the 2nd century A.D., the Apology
In this brilliant self-defence against a charge of magic, there is a rather
longer section in which fish are the key issue (c.29-41). The speaker had been
criticized for his great interest in fish, which he allegedly collected for
magical purposes. In his elaborate reply to this charge, he then adduces many
authorities to prove his innocence. Among them is the great Ennius and his poem
with the various species of fish. To underscore his point, Apuleius then quotes
a significant passage of 11 lines (Apol.
39) in court.
speaking, it is most likely that Ausonius knew Apuleius' text. Confirmation of
this may be found in the very passage of the Mosella
which contains the fish catalogue. In line 133 Ausonius uses the adjective ouiparus,
which is a rare word that has been coined by none other than Apuleius, as he
tells us himself with some pride in Apol.
It may be added that in the Apology
this passage comes at less than a page before the quotation from Ennius.
Ausonius obviously knew Apuleius' text, and may even have had a copy at his
disposal. If his library did not contain a copy of Ennius' works, he will, at
least, have read these 11 lines of didactic poetry on fish.
conclusion, the presentation of fish in the catalogue of the Mosella
owes a great deal to a marginal, almost forgotten tradition in ancient didactic
poetry, the subgenre of `poetry on good food' of which the Greek Archestratus
was the founder. Ausonius may have known his Hedupatheia
either directly or indirectly through the Latin adaption of Ennius. It seems
certain that he had some knowledge of Ennius' text through its presence in
in advance, the erudite Ausonius may be credited with a profound knowledge of
the entire Greco-Roman literary tradition. Through the element of fish we now
can get a grip on a facet of the literary background of the Mosella
which until now has remained undetected.
the Mosella everything seems - in the
end - to be literature. The catalogue of fish perfectly exemplifies this,
combining as it does the traditional device of a catalogue with echoes of
passages on fish in different genres of Roman poetry. Even the apparently
awkward or inappropriate gastronomical elements do not clearly reflect real life
or personal experience. They rather seem to have been included in the text in
order to represent a small, but well-established literary tradition that can be
traced back to the 4th century B.C. The Mosella
epitomizes the whole of Greek and Roman poetry in only 483 lines. It does so
even more completely than readers have been inclined to think.
It is with great pleasure that I dedicate this article to prof. J.H.
Brouwers. From my very first day at the university of Nijmegen, he has
promoted my Latin studies whenever and wherever he could. Prof. Brouwers
showed himself an immensely loyal and reliable 'Doktorvater', and his
incessant, kind support has been a great help for me throughout the years.
It is with pride that I call him my teacher.
The standard edition is R.P.H. Green,
The works of Ausonius, Oxford
1991; on which is based: R.P.H. Green,
Decimi Magni Ausonii opera, Oxford
1999 (OCT). A convenient edition in two volumes is: Ausonius, with an
English translation by Hugh G. Evelyn
White, (Loeb nrs. 96 and 115).
See notably Ausonius, Mosella,
herausgegeben und in metrischer Übersetzung vorgelegt von Bertold K. Weis, Darmstadt 1994 (2nd impr.); and Ausone, La
moselle, édition, introduction et commentaire par Charles-Marie Ternes,
Paris 1972. A recent Dutch translation is: Ausonius, De Moezel, vertaald door Patrick Lateur,
Amsterdam 2000. On the Internet, some material is available too. See e.g. a pagina
Ausonii at www.restena.lu/cul/LIBELLUS/ausonius.html.
Among recent contributions may be mentioned Paul Dräger,
`Alisontia: Eltz oder Alzette? Der Nebenflußkatalog und ein unentdecktes
Strukturprinzip in Ausonius' Mosella', in: Gymnasium
104, 1997, 435-61; Ornella Fuoco,
`Tra rivelazione e illusione. La natura nella Mosella di Ausonio', in: BStudL
23, 1993, 329-58; E.J. Kenney,
`The Mosella of Ausonius', in G&R 31, 1984, 190-202; S. Georgia
Nugent, `Ausonius' "late-antique" poetics and
"post-modern" literary theory, in: Ramus 19, 1990, 26-50; R. Martin,
`La Mosella de Ausone est-elle un poème politique?', REL 63, 1985, 237-53; Luca Mondin,
`Dieci anni di critica Ausoniana (1984-1993)', in: BStudL 24, 1994, 191, esp. 228-40; Stephan Schröder, `Das Lob des Flusses als strukturierendes Moment
im Moselgedicht des Ausonius', in: RhM
141, 1998, 45-91.
On Ausonius and his career see Hagith Sivan,
Ausonius of Bordeaux. Genesis of a
Gallic aristocracy, (Routledge) London/ New York 1993; further A.D. Booth,
`The academic career of Ausonius', Phoenix
36, 1982, 329-43. General notes may be found in most articles on Ausonius,
and in handbooks as Michael Von
Albrecht, Geschichte der römischen
Literatur, Bd.2, (DTV) München 1994, esp. 1047-54.
See Green 1991, 456.
Discussion, meanwhile, continues. For instance, J.F. Drinkwater
`Re-dating Ausonius' war poetry' in: AJPh
120, 1999, 443-52 proposes 375 as the year of composition and publication of
For such interpretations cf. e.g. Ch.-M. Ternes
`Paysage réel et coulisse idyllique dans la Mosella d'Ausone' in: REL
48, 1970, 376-97; and R. Martin
`La Moselle d'Ausone est-elle un poème politique?', in: REL
63, 1985, 237-53.
Striking elements in the poem are its strong stress on visual effects (and
illusions) and an intriguing un-classical sense of nature. For the latter
notably Fuoco 1993 and C. Newlands,
`Naturae mirabor opus: Ausonius' challenge to Statius in the Mosella', in: TAPA 118, 1988, 403-19, esp.418.
Lewis and Short s.v. redo `a kind
of fish without bones', which comes dangerously close to the notorious
definitions like `unidentified fish', with which lexicographers have so
often plagued their readers. The rhedo
may be the `rudd' or the `burbot' (Green
Green 1991, 477 notes that the
last phrase would be true of many fish, and states that the sentence is a
weak sequel to 116-7. But in defence of Ausonius it may be remarked that the
lines show a careful construction and strong alliteration and assonance of -s,
which was already dominant in 115-7 and here is perhaps reminiscent of
kitchen sounds like frying or sizzling in a pan (cf. line 127 stridentesque focis). The detail of the meat lying on the bones is
not meant to be zoologically informative, but to suggest that the fish is
almost `ready for consumption'.
There is a surprising comparison `a
contrario' of the whale in the Atlantic Ocean, that, on coming ashore,
causes high waves and `frightens the mountains'. The silurus
then seems quite innocent: in a neat turn it is qualified as nostrae
mitis ballena Mosellae (148).
The fish catalogue would then have to be analyzed as consisting of twice
seven fishes, plus one extra fish, the impressive silurus,
that is, indeed, different from all others. For one thing, the picture of
the silurus contains not a single
The earliest example is, of course, the catalogue of ships in Iliad 2. Further material may readily be found in studies and
commentaries on individual catalogues. For some studies of Roman examples,
cf. e.g. Vincent Hunink, Lucan's
Bellum Civile Book III, a commentary; Amsterdam 1992, 105 on Lucan
Nowadays, nothing is left of the cristal-clear water hailed by Ausonius,
since pollution has taken its toll. On a visit to the region in 1997, I
found there was an official ban on swimming in parts of the river.
This is, of course, a parody and the text deals with one fish only; see
Emily Gowers, The loaded table, Representations of food in Roman literature,
Oxford 1993; 202-11. In Juvenal 5 there is a dinner-party with fish too; see
For full details see: P. Ovidii
Nasonis Halieuticon, ed. Filippo Capponi,
[2 vols.], Leiden 1972, a commentary of 615 pages. For Ovidius' Greek
sources (Nikandros, Aristoteles) and later texts (Oppianus), see
introduction by Capponi, 1-28.
Ovid's poem in this respect seems to be more closely followed by Oppianus' Halieutica,
a Greek didactic poem in five books on fishing, composed under the regime of
Marcus Aurelius. Oppianus too focuses on the means to catch fish, and so on
manners to overcome their natural shrewdness; cf. Capponi,
Of the five other fish, the salar
was no doubt best known for its taste, for which it is still loved today;
the alburnus is listed between two
fish eaten by the common people; and the sarius'
fame, mentioned by the poet, was no doubt based on its culinary virtue too.
This leaves just the umbra and the
silurus as fish without any
gastronomical implication whatsoever. But the silurus is in many ways a case apart in the catalogue, see above,
n.23. As far as the umbra is
concerned, the point allows for an explanation: given its name the poet
cannot resist a little game on `visual perception' again (effugiensque oculos celeri leuis umbra natatu). He thus takes up a
central motif in the poem; cf. above with n14.
See now also: Archestratos of Gela, Greek
culture and cuisine in the fourth century BC, edited with tanslation and
commentary by S. Douglas Olsen
and Alexander Sens, Oxford
2000. A convenient English version is: Archestratus, The
life of luxury, translated with introduction and commentary by John Wilkins
and Shaun Hill, Totnes 1994.
For some rather general parallels, cf. Fr. 16 (moray, often confused with
the lamprey, according to Wilkins/Hill
1994, 54); 20 (grey-fish); 51 (Nile perch). We do not know, of course, what
other species were discussed in the parts of the Hedupatheia
that have gone lost.
For example, it is left unmentioned in Gowers
1993. A rare example of scholarly interest is: C. Fucarino, `Ennio buongustaio. L'arte culinaria come metafora
del mutamento civile', in: Annali del
liceo classico G. Garibaldi di Palermo, 1991-93, 189-203.
For the text (Var. 34-44 Vahlen; Hedyph. Warmington) see: E. Courtney,
The fragmentary Latin poets,
Oxford 1993, Ennius Fr.28. Further discussion in: Peter Kruschwitz, `Überlegungen zum Text der Hedyphagetica des
Ennius', in: Philologus 142, 1998,
In Ennius' text both fish are further specified as sea fish: (mustela marina; umbramque
marinam), but this is only natural given the Mediterranean context. The
two fishes in question do not correspond with the Greek fishes mentioned in
Archestratus' Fr.56. Ennius' adaptation appears to be rather free.
. For text and commentary see Apuleius of Madauros, Pro se de magia (Apologia), edited with a commentary by Vincent Hunink, Amsterdam 1997. For
(...) de solis piscibus haec uolumina
a me conscripta, (...) quibus membris et causis discrerit natura uiuiparos
eorum et ouiparos ─
ita enim Latine appello quae Graeci ζåoτόκα et íoτόκα
The Apuleian origin of ouiparus is
duly noted by Green 1991, 479,
but he has not observed the link with the Ennius fragment in Apol.
39. Neither is Archestratus mentioned by Green
here (or, for that matter, other commentators of the Mosella). Only once in his large volume, Green refers to Archestratus: p. 608-9 on the occasion of Ep.
3, a 51 line poem on fish, in which the influence of Archestratus is
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