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What Does Lucilius Mean by Saturae?

James Faulkner

University of Michigan

            Modern editors and commentators (Marx; Cichorius 63–98; Warmington; Krenkel; Christes and Garbugino) have assumed that the 30 known books of Lucilian poetry all circulated under the title Saturae. With a new analysis of the transmission of the fragments, this paper contends that only books 1–20 formed the Saturae. I will further argue that the designation alluded to "pork legislation" (leges saturae). While this proposition has been rejected by most scholars (e.g. Coffey 17; Courtney 7–8), it explains the political and legal preoccupations of this subset of the corpus (cf. Goh), and in turn has implications for Lucilius' reception by later authors, who seem to have read exclusively from these Saturae.

            First, I will reconstruct the history of Lucilius' text, starting with our most productive source, the lexicographer Nonius Marcellus. In the schema set forth by Lindsay (7–10), Nonius regularly cites fragments from books 1–20 under the title Saturae, whereas those from books 26–30 are accompanied only by bare book numbers. Lindsay also demonstrated that the two collections were consulted separately in the compilation of Nonius' dictionary. I argue that these separate editions form a salient division in the broader circulation of the Lucilian corpus. The obvious grounds for such an organization is metrical: books 1–20 are hexameters, 21/2–25 elegaics, 26–29 a combination of iambo-trochaic meters, 30 hexameters again. My contention, however, is that only the first division (1–20) is original to the poet, and the metrical groupings in the latter books are owed to the intervention of posthumous editors, of whom we know at least three: Vettius Philocomus (Suet. De Gramm. 2.3), Laelius Archelaus (ibid.), and Valerius Cato (Anon. apud Hor. Serm. 1.10).

            In a reassessment, I find that authors of the first century BCE exclusively quote Lucilian hexameters, a fact which may be due to the literary tastes of that era and only assumes familiarity with the first part of the corpus; late grammarians alone cite from the polymetrics (books 21–30). Apparent exceptions to this hypothesis depend on mistaken conjectures. For instance, modern editions situate programmatic lines in a "proem" leading book 26, yet these fragments are confected out of problematic quotations from Cicero and Pliny without book identifications. They would be placed more properly with those incertae sedis (pace Breed 71) or, as I argue, tentatively at the beginning of book 1 instead (cf. the preface to the Saturae of Persius). We may note too that, out of hundreds of quotations, no grammatical source cites the latter books as Saturae save a single—and almost certainly interpolated—instance in ps.-Probus (ad Verg. Ecl. 6.31). The attendant conclusion is that only the hexametric books 1–20 were published by the poet proper as Saturae and became widely read, while the rest of the collection was loosely compiled after his death.

            Finally, I will challenge traditional interpretations of the title Saturae by suggesting that these "mélanges" (Courtney 7) were legal as well as gustatory. Festus (416.13–25 L) and Diomedes (GLK 1.486) derive the generic label from the following: Saturae as "combo platters," "food stuffings," and finally "pork legislation." In order to illustrate the last definition, Diomedes quotes from an episode in the opening book of Lucilius' Saturae (= fr. 48 Marx) where a lex satura abetted Scipio Aemilianus, the poet's confidant. For the contemporary audience, this controversial lawmaking practice, banned shortly after the publication of the Saturae, was the topical brand of satura. The "Saturae" thus played upon other subverted expectations in book 1—e.g. gods qua senate squabbling in the trial of Lupus—which marked a departure from Lucilius' satiric predecessor, Ennius. On my reconstruction, the title complemented the poet's recusatio of high hexameter by advertising earthier contents, including politics. This accounts for the work's movement away from the cosmic origins promised in the first line (= Varr. DLL 5.17).

Delivery time: 20 minutes.

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