Praefatio ad Distichorum Catonis Librum Alterum

The prefatory poem to the second book of the Disticha Catonis is a wonderful example of an ad fontes style of education. Want to know about agriculture? Read Virgil. Pharmacology? Macer. War? Lucan. Love? Ovid. Of course, if you want to know about how live should be lived, read the distichs.

Of particular interest in Scaliger’s 1605 edition is the relationship between his Greek translation and Planudes’ earlier one. In attempt at cultural adjustment, Planudes replaced the Latin auctores with Greek poets. Agriculture? Not Virgil, but Hesiod. And so on. Scaliger, never one to give Planudes much latitude in these translations, comments on this practice with typical criticism. He writes:

Prologum hunc totum retexuit Planudes, dum nomina Latinorum poetarum nominibus Graecorum commutare vult. Nos ad verbum omnia expressimus, neque vel latum unguem a Latinis discessimus. Planudea fere omnia absurda.

Planudes recasts this entire prologue wishing to exchange the names of the Latin poets with the names of Greek ones. I have translated the whole thing to the letter and have not moved a bit from the Latin. Planudes’ take is almost entirely absurd.

Telluris si forte velis cognoscere cultus,
Virgilium legito, quod si mage nosse laboras
Herbarum vires, Macer has tibi carmine dicet,
Corporis ut cunctos possis depellere morbos.
Si Romana cupis & civica noscere bella,
Lucanum quaeras, qui Martis praelia dixit.
Si quis amare velis, vel discere amare legendo,
Nasonem petito, sin autem cura tibi haec est,
Ut sapiens vivas, audi quae discere possis,
Per quae semotum vitiis deducitur aevum.
Ergo ades: & quae sit sapientia, disce legendo.

Ἔργα γεωπονίης εἰ σ’ εἰδέναι ἵμερος αἱρεῖ,
Βιργίλιον δίζευ. Βοτανῶν δὲ δαήμεναι ἀκμὰς
Εἰ ποθέεις, ταύτας Μάκρου κλείουσιν ἀοιδαὶ,
Ὥσκε δύναιο νόσον μελέων ἀπὸ πᾶσαν ἀμῦναι.
Εἰ δ’ ἐθέλεις Ῥώμης, ἐμφύλους τ’ ἴδμεν ἀγῶνας,
Λουκανὸν ζήτησον, ὃς Ἄρεος εἶπεν ἀέλθους.
Εἰ δὴ ἐρᾷν καὶ ἕρωτι μαθητεύειν προβέβουλας,
Νάσωνος πάρα ταῦτα μάθοις· Εἰ δ’ αὐτὸ μεριμνᾷς,
Πῶς σοφὸς ὤν διάγοις, κλύθι μοῦ, ἵνα ταῦτα διδαχθῇς,
Πάντα, δἰ ὧν ζωὴν κακίης δίχα πᾶσαν ἀνύσης.
Δεῦρ’ ἄρα, καὶ τί πέλει σοφίη μαθὲ νῦν, τάδ’ ἀναγνούς.

From Scaliger’s 1605 Opuscula Diversa, Graeca et Latina. p. 14 (

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