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Plutarch's Romane Questions With dissertations on Italian cults, myths, taboos, man-worship, aryan marriage, sympathetic magic and the eating of beans

Plutarch's Romane Questions
With dissertations on Italian cults, myths, taboos,
man-worship, aryan marriage, sympathetic magic and the
eating of beans
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Author: Plutarch
Title: Plutarch's Romane Questions With dissertations on Italian cults, myths, taboos, man-worship, aryan marriage, sympathetic magic and the eating of beans
Release Date: 2018-07-15
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Plutarch's Romane Questions. Translated
A.D. 1603 by Philemon Holland, M.A., Fellow of
Trinity College, Cambridge. Now again edited
by Frank Byron Jebons, M.A., Classical
Tutor to the University of Durham
With Dissertations on Italian
Cults, Myths, Taboos, Man-
Worship, Aryan Marriage
Sympathetic Magic
and the Eating
of Beans

Decorative mark

LONDON. MDCCCXCII. PUBLISHED BY DAVID NUTT
IN THE STRAND

{v}

PREFACE.

On the whole, with the proper qualifications, Plutarch's Romane Questions may fairly be said to be the earliest formal treatise written on the subject of folk-lore. The problems which Plutarch proposes for solution are mainly such as the modern science of folk-lore undertakes to solve; and though Plutarch was not the first to propound them, he was the first to make a collection and selection of them and give them a place of their own in literature. On the other hand, though Plutarch's questions are in the spirit of modern scientific inquiry, his answers—or rather the answers which he sets forth, for they are not always or usually his own—are conceived in a different strain. They are all built on the assumption that the customs which they are intended to explain were consciously and deliberately instituted by men who possessed at least as much culture {vi}and wisdom as Plutarch himself, or the other philosophers who busied themselves with this branch of antiquities. This assumption, however, that the primitive Italians or the pro-ethnic Aryans shared the same (erroneous) scientific and philosophical views as the savants of Plutarch's day, is an unverified and improbable hypothesis. The Aryans were in the Stone Age, and had advanced only to such rudimentary agriculture as is possible for a nomad people. If, therefore, we are to explain their customs, we must keep within the narrow circle which bounds the thought and imagination of other peoples in the same stage of development. Plutarch, however, in effect asks himself, "If I had instituted these customs, what would my motives have been?" and in reply to his own question he shows what very learned reasons might have moved him; and also, quite unconsciously, what very amiable feelings would in reality have governed him; for, if he ascribes to the authors of these customs the learning of all the many books which he had read, he also credits them with a kindliness of character which belonged to himself alone. Thus, to go no further than {vii}the first of the Romane Questions, viz., What is the reason that new-wedded wives are bidden to touch fire and water? Plutarch first gives four high philosophical reasons, which he may have borrowed, but concludes with one which we may be sure is his own: "Or last of all [is it] because man and wife ought not to forsake and abandon one another, but to take part of all fortunes; though they had no other good in the world common between them, but fire and water only?"

That this, like the rest of Plutarch's reasons, is fanciful, may not be denied, but would not be worth mentioning, were it not that here we have, implicit, the reason why no modern translation could ever vie with Philemon Holland's version of the Romane Questions. It is not merely because Philemon's antiquated English harmonises with Plutarch's antiquated speculation, and by that harmony disposes the reader's mind favourably towards it; but in Philemon's day, England, like the other countries of Western Europe, was discovering that all that is worth knowing is in Greek. The universal respect felt for Greek in those days, even by schoolmasters (Holland was himself {viii}Head-master of Coventry Free School), is still apparent to those who read this translation. But things are now so changed that the English language of to-day cannot provide a seemly garb for Plutarch's ancient reasonings. To say in modern English that "five is the odd number most connected with marriage," is to expose the Pythagorean doctrine of numbers to modern ridicule. But when Philemon says, "Now among al odde numbers it seemeth that Cinque is most nuptial," even the irreverent modern cannot fail to feel that Cinque was an eminently respectable character, whose views were strictly honourable and a bright example to other odde numbers. Again, Philemon's insertion of the words "it seemeth" makes for reverence. The insertion is not apologetic; nor does it intimate that the translator hesitates to subscribe to so strange a statement. Rather, it summons the reader to give closer attention to the words which are about to follow—words of wisdom such as is to be found nowhere else but only in the fountain of all knowledge, Greek. Insertions and amplifications are indeed characteristic of Philemon as a translator. But, though his style is florid, it is lucid; his amplifications {ix}make the meaning clearer to the English reader, and, as a rule, only state explicitly what is really implied in the original. Sometimes (e.g., towards the end of R. Q. 6) he does enlarge on the text beyond all measure; sometimes, again, defective scholarship leads him to ascribe things to Plutarch which Plutarch never said (e.g., in R. Q. 5, ταῦτα τρόπον τινὰ τοῖς Ἑλληνικοις ἔοικεν does not mean "this may seeme in some sort to have beene derived from the Greeks"); and sometimes he is mistaken as to the meaning of a word (e.g., ἔνοχος in R. Q. 5). On the other hand, where the text is corrupt, he sees and says what the meaning really is; and Hearne's verdict that Holland had "an admirable knack in translating books" does not go beyond the mark. Indeed, it does not do justice to Philemon, for it hardly prepares us to learn that, in the infancy of the study of Greek in England, Philemon threw off, among other trifles, translations of all the Moralia of Plutarch, the whole of Livy, the enormous Natural History of Pliny, Suetonius, Ammianus Marcellinus, the Cyropdia of Xenophon, and Camden's Britannia. Southey is more just to the assiduous labours of a life of study carried to the age of eighty-five, when he {x}calls Philemon "the best of the Hollands." But the most discerning criticism of Holland, as "translator generall in his age" (Fuller), is contained in Owen's epigram on Holland's translation of the Natural History, that he was both plenior and planior than Plinius.

To judge from the Romane Questions, Philemon must have used as his text the edition of 1560-70, Venet., for he evidently avails himself of Xylander's emendations of the Aldine editio princeps, 1509-19. One cannot, however, be quite certain on this point, for the title-page of Holland's translation of the Moralia runs: "The Philosophie, commonly called the Morals, written by the learned philosopher Plutarch of Chaeronea, translated out of Greek into English, and conferred with Latin and French." Now the Latin translation must have been Xylander's; and the only edition of the text used by Holland may have been that of H. Stephens, with which Xylander's Latin translation and notes were published. The French with which Philemon conferred was of course that of Jacques Amyot, who had already translated Plutarch's Lives in 1559, and followed up that translation with one of {xi}the Moralia in 1574. Philemon's translation of the Morals appeared in 1603 ("revised and corrected" in 1657).

The Morals in general and the Romane Questions in particular have received little attention from commentators. The only notes I have succeeded in getting hold of, besides those of Xylander and Reiske (complete edition of Plutarch, Lips., 1774-82), are some by Boxhorn (in the fifth volume of the Thesaurus of Grvius, 1696), which includes one sensible remark (quoted p. xxxii. below), and those by Wyttenbach (Oxford, 1821), which, if I had looked at them before instead of after writing my Introduction, would have provided me with a good many classical references that, as it is, I have had to put together myself.

{xiii}

INTRODUCTION.

I. The Subject of the "Romane Questions" and of this Introduction.

The "fashions and customes of Rome," which prompted Plutarch's questions, are directly or indirectly associated with the worship of the gods, while the solutions which he suggests contain occasionally myths. It is not, however, all Roman gods, cults, and myths that are discussed by Plutarch: he limits himself, on the whole, to those which are purely Roman, or rather purely Italian. This limitation is not accidental, and it is significant. It does not indeed appear that Plutarch designed to confine himself thus: the fact seems rather to be that, long before his time, the Romans had borrowed the myths, the ritual, and the gods of Greece, and that Plutarch, as a Greek, found nothing strange or unintelligible in the resemblances {xiv}which the Roman ritual of his day bore to the religion of his native land. It was the points of difference which caught his attention.

And here we must note a further limitation of the subject of the Romane Questions and of this Introduction. Surprise and inquiry are excited not by the familiar, but by the unusual; so Plutarch's attention was arrested not by customs which, though purely Italian, were universal in Italy, e.g., the practice of covering the head during worship, but by fashions for which he could find no analogy or parallel in the stage of religion with which alone he was acquainted. In such isolated customs, out of harmony with their surroundings, modern science sees "survivals" from an earlier stage of culture; and it is as survivals that they will be treated in this Introduction. Now, the stage of religion with which Plutarch was familiar, and in which he could find no analogies for those "fashions and customes," was polytheism; and if those practices are survivals, they must be survivals from a stage of religion earlier than polytheism.

Here, however, a difficulty meets us. If the teaching of the Solar Mythologists be true, the {xv}Aryans, having a mythology, were already polytheists: much more, therefore, must the Italians have been polytheists from the beginning. I am sorry to say that I cannot meet this difficulty: I can only frankly warn the reader that it exists. But in an Introduction which professes to confine itself to myths and cults which are purely Italian, it is impossible to discuss Solar Mythology, for the simple reason that there is no such thing in existence as an Italian solar myth, or indeed Nature-myth of any kind. The only story which is seriously claimed as a Nature-myth is that of Hercules and Cacus. Cacus, a monster or giant, stole some cows from Hercules, and hid them in his cave. Hercules discovered them, according to some accounts, by the aid of Caca, the sister of Cacus, according to other accounts, by the lowing which the cows in the cave set up when Hercules went by with the rest of his

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