Kevin B. Muse (University of Wisconsin Milwaukee)
In Aeneid 8 Evander tells Aeneas that the god Saturn gave Latium its name because he "had hidden" there after his overthrow by Jupiter (Aen. 8.322-3): Latiumque uocari / maluit, his quoniam latuisset tutus in oris. This etymology of Latium can help unlock the meaning of pivotal lines within the “Roman passage” of Lycophron’s Alexandra. About to tell of Aeneas’ exploits in Latium, Cassandra addresses her homeland in an apostrophe (1230-1): οὐδ’ ἄμνηστον, ἀθλία πατρίς, / κῦδος μαρανθὲν ἐγκατακρύψεις ζόφω̣. “Nor, my miserable fatherland, / will you hide your renown, withered away in darkness” (text and trans. Hornblower 2015). The verb ἐγκατακρύψεις likely alludes to Latium and the story of Saturn’s concealment there. That the poet would pun on the etymology of Latium is not surprising, since two lines later Cassandra uses the famous Greek etymology of the city of Rome, from ῥώμη, “strength,” to refer to Aeneas’ descendants Romulus and Remus (1232-3: τοιούσδ’ ἐμός τις σύγγονος λείψει διπλοῦς / σκύμνους λέοντας, ἔξοχον ῥώμη̣ γένος), and proceeds to tell of Aeneas’ founding of Latium’s thirty strongholds (1236-80). Moreover, Cassandra’s term for darkness, ζόφος, used only here in the poem, has two basic connotations in epic: the gloom of the underworld (Od. 11.155, Hes. Th. 729) and the region of the West (Il. 12.240, Od. 10.190, 13.241). In the context of Trojan resettlement in Italy, ζόφος is the West, i.e., Hesperia, which, as Anchises recalls, is where Cassandra foretells the Trojans will find their Itala regna (Aen. 3.185-7). Thus Cassandra is providing the coordinates of Troy’s rebirth. Troy will rise again in Latium, where it will not hide its glory, in the sunset region of Hesperia, where Romulus and Remus will found the city of Rome. How did the author of the Roman passage of the Cassandra come by the derivation of the name of Latium from the story of Saturn’s concealment there? If the Roman passage is an interpolation of the Augustan age or later (West 1983, 1984; Horsfall 2005), Vergil or a Roman antiquarian source may seem most likely. But that the story originated with a Greek writer is also possible, and not inconsistent with the common view that the poem was composed in the second century BCE (Hornblower 2015, 2018). The etymology of Latium from Latin latere can be traced to Ennius’ translation of Euhemerus’ Sacred History (Lact. Div. Inst. 1.14.11-12 = Euhemerus T 58, Winiarczyk 1991). Although the etymology has been taken to be Ennius’ addition to Euhemerus’ narrative (Wyniarczyk 2013), it is possible that Ennius found in Euhemerus or elsewhere an equivalent Greek etymology of Latium from λαθεῖν. The latter is later attested by the historian Herodian in his version of the story of Kronos’ concealment in Italy (Ab Excessu Divi Marci 16.1-2). Other Greek authors known for etymologizing and deep interest in Italy and Rome, such as Timaeus of Tauromenium (see Baron 2013), a major source for Lycophron (Hornblower 2015, 2018), are also conceivable sources of the etymology.