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The Roman and Greek Questions, By Plutarch

The Roman and Greek Questions, By Plutarch

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The Roman and Greek Questions, by Plutarch, tr. Frank Cole Babbitt, [1936], at sacred-texts.com The Roman Questions and The Greek Questions of Plutarch Translated by Frank Cole Babbitt Originally published in Plutarch's Moralia, volume IV, pp. 1-249. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, The Loeb Classical Library. [1936]Scanned, Proofed and Formatted by John Bruno Hare at sacred-texts.com, September2008. This work is in the public domain in the United States because the copyright holder, the author, was a US Citizen, and the copyright was not renewed in atimely fashion at the US Copyright Office. Furthermore, the verso does not havethe copyright notice which was required by US copyright law at the time.The Roman and Greek Questions, by Plutarch, tr. Frank Cole Babbitt, [1936], at sacred-texts.com[p. 1] THE ROMAN QUESTIONS (QUAESTIONES ROMANAE)[p. 2] 
INTRODUCTIONTHE Roman Questions is an attempt to explain one hundred and thirteen Roman customs, the majority of which deal with religious matters. The treatise is one of three similar compilations of which two have been preserved and one, the Quaestiones Barbaricae (No. 139 in Lamprias's list), has been lost. Plutarch possessed agreat desire to know the reason why: besides the many discussions of a similarsort contained in the Symposiacs (Table Talk), there is extant a discussion of Physical Causes, and the titles of other writings of the same sort have been preserved for us in Lamprias's list of Plutarch's writings. [*a]The Greek title, which means "causes", is twice mentioned by Plutarch himself inthe Lives, [*b] and we might call it "The Reasons Why." In nearly every case atleast two and often more reasons are given; of these presumably not more than one can be right. Thus the other explanations will embody the results of Plutarch's researches on the matter or his own quaint speculations. Consequently the book, which is an important source for Roman[p. 3]customs, especially for religious customs, has been of the greatest service to students of early Roman religion, a field in which so little is certain and whichprovides (even as it provided for Plutarch) such glorious opportunities for speculation that it has been somewhat overtilled in recent years. Anyone interestedin such matters may observe the trend of this scholarship if he will examine F.B. Jevons' reprint of Holland's translation of the Roman Questions (London, 1892); or better, H. J. Rose, The Roman Questions of Plutarch, a New Translation with Introductory Essays and a Running Commentary (Oxford, 1924). Professor Rose might, indeed, have improved his translation by consulting some good Greek lexicon; but the essays and the commentary are very valuable, for they contain, amongother matters of interest, a discussion of Plutarch's sources and of early Romanreligion; the commentary is fortified with abundant references to ancient writers and to modern scholars. It is a scholarly work and the most important contribution to the study of the Roman Questions since Wyttenbach.This treatise could hardly have been written by a person ignorant of Latin. Plutarch in his Life of Demosthenes, chap. ii., modestly disavows any profound knowledge of Latin; yet he had read a considerable amount in the language and had spent some time in Rome. Hence he was quite able to use Latin works in compiling the Roman Questions. Some Roman writers he mentions by name, especially Varro, andVerrius Flaccus, an antiquarian of the Augustan age. Livy is specifically citedbut twice in the Moralia, once in the present work and once in De Fortuna Romanorum; yet he is referred[p. 4]to no less than twelve times in the Lives, most of these citations being in theMarcellus and the Camillus. Perhaps Plutarch's more exact acquaintance with Livy, if lie ever acquired this, dates from a time later than the period during which he was engaged in the compilation of the Roman Questions.Other Roman authorities are mentioned occasionally, such as Cato the Elder, Nigidius Figulus, Antistius Labeo, Ateius Capito, and Fenestella; but no doubt theyand others are used in accounts introduced by such expressions as "they say," "some say," "the story is told," and the like. Some of these references have, in fact, been traced by scholars to their originals. It has been remarked of Cicerothat any statement found in that author's works appears, or has appeared, elsewhere. The same affirmation might be made of Plutarch with some confidence. Unlesshe specifically testifies to oral tradition or hearsay, we may be certain thathis facts, like Cicero's, are drawn from his extensive reading.
Critics lay stress on a few mistakes which Plutarch made in interpreting Latin (these will be found noted in Rose and in Hartman), but against them must be setthe unnumbered instances in which he is right. He did not, however, have to depend wholly on Latin writers, for he undoubtedly had at hand the Roman Antiquitiesof Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1st cent. B.C.) and the works of Juba, [*a] thescholarly king of Mauretania, who as a youth had been brought to Rome in 46 B.C.to grace the triumph of Julius Caesar. Juba became greatly interested in Roman[p. 5]customs, and wrote a book in which he paralleled them with the customs of otherpeoples.Many of the matters discussed in the Roman Questions are to be found treated elsewhere in Plutarch's work, particularly in the Roman Lives. The Lives of Romulusand of Numa are especially rich in parallel passages; for very many of the Roman customs were thought to go back to the earliest period of Roman history.The book was probably published after the death of Domitian in A.D. 96, though this is a not quite certain inference from the text (276 E). The work is No. 138in Lamprias's catalogue of Plutarch's works. The MS. tradition (on which see J.B. Titchener, University of Illinois Studies, ix., 1924) is good.Footnotes^2:a (149) Aitiai tun periferomenun Stuikun; (160) Aitiai kai topoi; (161) Aitiai allagun; (167) Aitiai gynaikun.^2:b Life of Romulus, chap. xv. (26 E); Life of Camillus, chap. xix. (133 E).^4:a Muller, Frag. Hist. Gram. iii. 465-484.The Roman and Greek Questions, by Plutarch, tr. Frank Cole Babbitt, [1936], at sacred-texts.com[p. 6] [p. 7] THE ROMAN QUESTIONS1-9.1. WHY do they bid the bride touch fire and water?Is it that of these two, being reckoned as elements or first principles, fire ismasculine and water feminine, [*a] and fire supplies the beginnings of motion and water the function of the subsistent element or the material?Or is it because fire purifies and water cleanses, and a married woman must remain pure and clean?Or is it that, just as fire without moisture is unsustaining and arid, and waterwithout heat is unproductive and inactive, [*b] so also male and female apart from each other are inert, but their union in marriage produces the perfection oftheir life together?Or is it that they must not desert each other, but must share together every sort of fortune, even if they are destined to have nothing other than fire and wate

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