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BRIEF MENTION ANCIENT ANAGRAMS In a recent book on the Christian poet Aurelius Prudentius Clemens, Martha Malamud makes the interesting suggestion that the closing line of his Hamartigenia conceals an anagram: lux immensaalios et temporavincta coronis glorificent,me poena levis clementeradurat. Let boundless light and foreheads bound with crowns bring glory to some; as for me, may a light punishmentburnme gently. She rearranges the last four words to read as follows: Aurelio Prudente se clamante, "Aurelius the Prudent proclaiming himself." Before turning to this particular anagram, we need to ask a much more basic question. Did ancient poets play this game at all? Malamud refers to the centos of Ausonius and Proba and the pattern poems of Optatianus Porfyrius as the "background" against which "we must set the poetry of Prudentius" (41). This is a highly misleading perspective. On the one hand, acrostichs, anacyclica, figure poems, and the like were already popular in the Hellenistic age.2 To judge from an epigram in which Martial sharply attacked such exercises as pedantic tours de force (specifying palindromes and anacyclica), they enjoyed a vogue in early imperial Rome.3 On the other, the great bulk of late antique poetry was not in the least influenced by these traditions. There is no justification for invoking a late antique mentality uniquely or innately disposed to "the overt and radical manipulation of language." There is in any case an important respect in which the sort of anagram Malamud postulates is rather different from most verbal parlour games. Even when incorporated in passing in a long poem, an
'Malamud, Poetics of Transformation 44-46. 2For a succinct overview of all such "Spielerei" see Gardthausen, Griechische Palaeographie II 60-68; in Callimachus and His Critics ch. 2.2, I hope to have shown that the earliest figure poems date from the late rather than early Hellenistic age. 3Mart. 2.86, with the useful explanatory paraphrase in Sullivan, Martial 74-75.
American Journal of Philology 116(1995) 477-484 ? 1995 by The Johns Hopkins University Press
acrostich is easy to spot,4 and figure poems (in the shape of altars and organs) cannot be missed. As for etymological puns, if the similarity between form and meaning is not immediately obvious (lucus a non lucendo), they fail. Some word games do not catch the eye so readily. Isopsepha, for example, as written by their best-known practitioner, Leonides of Alexandria, in the form of epigrams, consist of a distich or quatrain in which the letters are treated as numbers and added up so that the totals of each line or couplet come to the same.5 Or anacyclica, like the following couplet by Nicodemus of Heraclea,
t6e rInqvEX6ritq, to ool ()aog iXKalvaVv'06vaooeiE
at&a0cov, (AP 6.314) boXtLX?v Eav6voag VEY?yxCv
which scans just as well when read backwards (a&Tgajov'eavUoag ...).6 Nonetheless, such virtuosity was not left to be discov6oXLXr1V. ered by chance; isopsepha and anacyclica are normally equipped with headings or notes explaining what they are. For example, an isopsephic encomion by Dioscoros of Aphrodito is actually so entitled in the auand the numerical totals thor's autograph copy (io6Wi?nT])a EyxWotXla), written against each line.7 Moreover, the virtuosity is a purely surface epiphenomenon; it adds nothing to the sense of the poem, and if the casual reader misses it, he misses only virtuosity. But if Malamud's anagram were accepted, it would add considerably more to the conclusion of Prudentius' poem than (say) an acrostich. Anagrams as we play the game today (for example, in crossword puzzles) are normally posed overtly and explicitly as riddles, with clues to guide us, not concealed in a poem without warning (as in the alleged example in Prudentius) on the assumption that readers will be on the lookout. It is true that medieval vernacular poets were fond of working their names into poems through anagrams and cryptograms, but there are always clues or a pointer in the context. The most complicated and elaborate are those of Guillaume de Machaut, but he "diligently points
4For a recent survey on the use of acrostichs in ancient poetry see Courtney, "Acrostichs"; see also Cameron, Callimachus and His Critics ch. 2.2. 5For full details see Page, Further Greek Epigrams 504-11. 6For other examples see Cameron, Greek Anthology 123. 7MacCoull, "An Isopsephistic Encomium."
out the lines which contain his name (and which often make no sense in their context)."8 A recent book by Fred Ahl claims to detect many anagrams in Roman poetry.9 But almost all the cases that carry any conviction at all are etymological associations of one sort or another: e.g., Verg. Aen. 8.322-33, LATIUmque vocari I maluit, his quoniam LATUIsset in oris. The reader is clearly encouraged to look for the meaning of the name here, scarcely an anagram as we understand the term, since it is the very similarity of the words that is held to justify connecting them. Nowadays the better the anagram, the more cunningly it disguises rather than suggests its other face. In inscriptional acrostichs the reader is helped out by some such device as marking the relevant letters in red, or spacing them out in some way. 0 The last two lines of the epitaph of T. Aelius Faustus actually tell the reader to look for his signum in an acrostich: ut signuminvenias,quod erat dum vita maneret, selige litterulasprimase versibusocto. (CLE1814.7-8)
The versus intexti worked into the poems of Optatianus Porfyrius were picked out in gold letters in the copy Porfyrius himself sent the emperor Constantine. Furthermore, in order to achieve these effects, Porfyrius had to start by engineering exactly the same number of letters in every line, so that his poem formed a perfect square grid. Naturally, this alone prepares the reader to search for hidden verses. The familiar case of ROMA/AMOR, though it could be classified as an anagram, is more importantly a palindrome, another standard and (of course) easily identified type of word game. Yet another type is the spelling out of words (often obscene) syllable by syllable in epigrams: e.g., PE DI CA RE in Priapea 67.1-2:" PEnelopesprimamDIdonisprimasequatur et primamCAdmisyllabaprimaREmi.
bei Machaut"; 8Kooper, "Artand Signature"228-29; Hoepffner,"Anagramme Kane, Piers Plowman55, 68-70. 47-48. 9Ahl, Metaformations '?See Cameron,"Filocalusand Melania." "See Buchheit,Studien82-87, with many examples.
Yet again, there is always some (often as here very heavy-handed) pointer in the context to encourage the reader to look for the hidden word. Another interesting case is an epigram by the Neronian poet Rufinus, in which (on the transmitted text) a girl is told to put on a garland the poet has sent her and cease to be haughty. There is no indication why the garland should have this effect. More than half a century ago A. M. Harmon pointed out that the initial letters of the first four flowers in the garland together with the whole of the last one (capitalized below) spell xQaviov, "skull," a memento mori:12
T' Av?Ot6vTl, EoTlKQivov, Po6Y1 T? x&tXv, VOTEzQT xca N6axLoooc 6y6og, xai xvavavyIs "ION.
Denys Page dismissed this as "an ingenious but improbable notion,"13 nor indeed was Harmon able to explain why putting on this garland (Tcarza oTeVptaE'v1, line 5) should change the girl's behaviour. In ancient times, to send a girl a garland to wear was in effect to invite her to a symposium,'4 hardly the way to improve her behaviour. On the basis of a similar epigram where a boy is told to "consider the narcissus" (oxe~cat vaQxLaoov) and abandon his haughtiness, I suggest the minimal correction oxpcaLtEvr. '5 The girl is not being told to put on the garland, but to consider it, reflect on its lesson. Flowers are the ultimate symbol of the transience of beauty, and when in addition their initial letters spell "skull," a beautiful girl might well reflect on the proximity of the grave and treat her admirer a little better. My purpose is less to insist on the emendation than to show that without some such pointer, there is no reason why the reader should pause to search for a hidden meaning. Different though all these ways of hiding words behind the surface of texts are, the one feature they share is the provision of a pointer in the context or the structure of the text. The implication is that it would not otherwise occur to readers to look behind the surface. When we bear in mind that throughout antiquity texts were written with little or
'2Harmon, "Say It with Flowers." 13Page, Rufinus 97. 14Robin Nisbet in a lecture once characterized the garland as the "black tie of the ancient world." 15Epigrammatum Anthologia Palatina III, ed. E. Cougny (Paris 1890) IV.67, emended and explained in Cameron, Greek Anthology 234-36.
no punctuation and often even no word division, it is easy to understand this need for a pointer or clue of some sort. Readers of Ahl's book have to keep asking themselves how much of their persuasiveness his examples owe to the modern distinction (of which I too have gratefully availed myself) between upper- and lower-case letters. Do ancient texts offer any true anagrams? There is a suggestive chapter in Artemidorus' dreambook (4.23) where the word avayQaRtacXot6og is used, not of the perfect anagram, but for transposition of letters in a very general sense: "neither transposing syllables, nor reovUXal3g OVTE moving or adding letters" (oi?Te fETa0VTxeg &aeXo6vEg fi Earlier interpreters (among whom he names a y&Qai&aTa). rQ@oo(0v?VEg certain Aristandros) mention avayQa[?[taTLo[;og as one possible way of interpreting dreams that cannot be made to yield sense any other way. Amusingly enough (he adds), having done this they never quote any examples. Artemidorus himself is very sceptical: only use it on the dreams of others unless you want to deceive yourself (Freud of course was more receptive to such methods). The word avayQatta itself seems not to be used in this sense. The entry avaycQa,atcoqt6g in LSJ offers some examples that look promising, anagrams on the names of Ptolemy and Arsinoe Philadelphos, but there is a catch. The sources cited are both twelfth-century Byzantine: Tzetzes and Eustathius. Eustathius quotes a whole series of what he calls avayxa[t[tlaTtoLtoL (45.45-46.9 = I 74 van der Valk). One or two are ancient. For example, the identity of "Ha and aig was read into Homer (II. 21.6, fIQact 6' "HQO / rtiiva nxg6ooe S3a0Eav EQvxXEtev)by as allegorizing interpreters early as the fifth century. We find it reflected in Plato's Cratylus (404b-c): it was "because of his concern with meteorology that Zeus concealed Hera's name in the word for air" (?T?ETeQo"Hacv dOv6ttoasv ixlxgutt6oevog).16 But most &aecta Koytbv.. . .v are no more than trivial examples of metathesis purporting to reveal the read meaning of words: X6oog and 6X?og, &x@aand xaea, &aQexr and eaccti, ()Xkvaog and 4ctXaiog, oXiyog and Xoiyog. Many are surely Byzantine rather than ancient.17 Tzetzes claims that Lycophron won fame at the court of Philadelphus less because of his poetry than because of his anagrams. His
'6Buffiere, Mythes d'Homere 106-10. See too a passage of Philo preserved in Armenian (trans. Lamberton in Homer the Theologian 50-51); Julian Or. 4.136-37. '7"Anagrammatismus species veriloquii est, quae apud Byzantinos tantum vigebat neque apud antiquos grammaticos reperitur" (van der Valk ad loc.).
two examples are 'Agctvo6 = "HQas 'iov, a piece of flattery designed to = ano that the was "Hera's queen suggest nosegay," and hTokeXaicog 5.7 Here have the we familiar kXyEL Scheer). (Schol. Lyc. p. 'EiXttog motif of the king's honey-sweet speech (West on Hesiod, Theog. 83), in this case concealed within Ptolemy's very name. It may be doubted whether this is really a quotation from Lycophron, but even if it is, surely from a riddle propounded in and for itself, not concealed in a poem where it might be missed by inattentive readers. The syntax of
ajt6 ?xXLTOgXeyeL is peculiar, nor do the words fit any obvious metrical
pattern. Even in its own terms there are problems with Malamud's anagram. It is at once too ambitious and yet not successful enough. It would be one thing if (say) the last two words could be rearranged to give something simple like "Prudentius Clemens" or "Clemens scripsit," especially if the concealed words fitted the original metre and syntax. But the plausibility-and certainly the decipherability-of an anagram is in inverse proportion to its complexity. How could anyone be expected to recognize a four-word anagram in the ablative absolute construction? And why those four words? It will be noticed that Malamud arbitrarily excludes the first word of the clause from her anagram. Having done that, she then abandons the original syntax and repunctuates after instead of before the me: "Thus the entire last line, when the anagram is set forth, reads: glorificent me: Aurelio Prudente se clamante, 'let them glorify me: Aurelius the Prudent proclaiming himself.'" But what of the preceding line? The natural rhetoric of the sentence forces the reader to pause at glorificent, and prepare for a sharp contrast between the fate of alios and me: "may light and foreheads bound with crowns glorify others, while I...." lux immensaalios et temporavincta coronis glorificent,me poena levis clementeradurat. Do we just forget about the fate of the martyrs once the anagram has been detected? There are three further problems. First, there is a (to me) uncomfortable conflict between the surface conclusion of the poem (in which the poet sees himself as too much of a sinner to hope for paradise; that is for martyrs alone) and the anagrammatic conclusion, in which he boastfully proclaims his name. Second, Prudentius, not Prudens, is his
name. An anagram has to be perfect; near misses win no cigar. Third, his diacritical name, the one of the three by which he was known in contexts where one name alone was used, must have been the last, Clemens.18 It would therefore be more than merely odd if this were the one name missing in the anagram. Malamud might perhaps reply that this is covered by the original text, and it is certainly intriguing that original text and anagram together come so close to all three of the poet's names. But even so, clementer in itself lends no support to the postulated anagram. Malamud characterized clementer as a "failed signature" in the text read straight (that is, without anagram). But "failed" surely goes too far. Given the deeply religious conclusion of the poem, the suggestion of the poet's name (his diacritical, be it noted) is enough, the more so because conclusions were the traditional place for a sphragis.19Then there is the role it plays in the final clause, an adverb qualifying the poet's own punishment, an etymological pun harmonising to perfection with the religious context. Prudentius hopes that in the life to come he will be treated with the clemency his name suggests. To my mind, this is a dignified and appropriate personal touch on which to close.
BIBLIOGRAPHY in Ovidand OtherClassical Ahl, E Metaformations: Soundplayand Wordplay
Poets. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985. Buchheit, V. Studien zum Corpus Priapeorum. Zetemata 28. Munich: Beck, 1962. Buffiere, F Les mythes d'Homere et la pensee grecque. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1956. Cameron, Alan. Callimachus and His Critics. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.
. TheGreekAnthology: FromMeleagerto Planudes.Oxford:Clarendon
Press, 1993. . "Filocalus and Melania." CP 87 (1992) 140-44. '8See my detaileddiscussionof polyonomyand diacritical namesin "Polyonomy: The Case of PetroniusProbus." '9See Kranz'swell-known study "Sphragis."
. "Polyonomy in the Late Roman Aristocracy: The Case of Petronius Probus." JRS 75 (1985) 164-82. Courtney, E. "Greek and Latin Acrostichs." Philologus 134 (1990) 3-13. Gardthausen, V. Griechische Palaeographie. Vol. II. 2d ed. Leipzig: Veit, 1913. Harmon, A. M. "Say It with Flowers." CP 22 (1927) 219-20. Hoepffner, E. "Anagramme und Ratselgedichte bei Guillaume de Machaut." Zeitschrift fur Rom. Philologie 30 (1906) 401-13. Kane, George. Piers Plowman: The Evidence for Authorship. London: University of London/Athlone Press, 1965. Kooper, E. S. "Art and Signature and the Art of the Signature." In Court and Poet, edited by G. S. Burgess, 228-29. Liverpool: F Cairns, 1981. Kranz, W. "Sphragis: Ichform und Namensiegel als Eingangs- und Schlussmotiv antiker Dichtung." RhM 104 (1961)3-46, 97-124. Reprinted in Studien zur antiken Literatur und ihrem Fortwirken, 27-78. Heidelberg: Winter, 1967. Lamberton, R. Homer the Theologian: Neoplatonist Allegorical Readings and the Growth of the Epic Tradition.Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986. MacCoull, L. S. B. "An Isopsephistic Encomium on Saint Senas by Dioscorus of Aphrodito." ZPE 62 (1986) 51-53. Malamud, Martha A. The Poetics of Transformation:Prudentius and Classical Mythology. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1989. Page, D. L. The Epigrams of Rufinus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978. . Further Greek Epigrams. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Sullivan, J. P. Martial, the Unexpected Classic: A Literary and Historical Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
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