The Dark Serpent

A Note on Lucretius DRN 3.658

in Mnemosyne
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After reviewing current suggestions for improving the text of Lucr. 3.658, this article argues for accepting Marullus’ serpentem and emending line-final utrumque to et atro. These proposals, the author contends, significantly improve the syntax of a corrupt line that nevertheless has been retained unaltered in several recent texts of the Epicurean poet. As various parallels show, the newly suggested ater is a particularly appropriate term for characterizing the menacing serpent of Lucretius’ poem.

The Dark Serpent

A Note on Lucretius DRN 3.658

in Mnemosyne


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Kenney 1984166-167ad loc.


For Nicoll’s position see Nicoll 1970. For Bailey’s see Bailey 1947 335. Bailey’s earlier oct (1922) obelizes utrumque instead. More recently Flores 2002 and Smith-Rouse 1992 also retain the paradosis.


Kenney 1984167. It is worth remarking that even interpreters who attempt to retain utrumque acknowledge its difficult ambiguity. The Smith-Rouse Loeb for example which retains the paradosis comments that “[t]he meaning of utrumque is uncertain” (1992 238). Ernout (1978 110) who also refuses any emendation states similarly that “la phrase est très embarrassée.”


Giussani 189780.


See Heinze 1897143. Richter’s proposal (1974 48-50) serpentis caudam e procero corpore truncam is open to the same objection: why should Lucretius focus on slicing up the tail alone? Addressing Giussani’s proposal Kenney (1984 167) also objects that “truncum entails an awkward reference for the abl. phrases.”


For these proposals see Müller 1975118 and 336.


See Heinze 1897143where he suggests that 642-656 “nachträglich eingelegt sind.”


Bailey 1947335.


Smith-Rouse 1992239.


Leumann-Hofmann-Szantyr 1965117 (§ 78). Methner (1915 49) presents a slightly more complex view in which he traces the origins of the ablativus qualitatis to both the ablativus modi and ablativus limitationis: “Der abl. qual. ist teils auf einen ursprünglichen Instrumentalis der begleitenden Umstände zurückzuführen teils durch eine Enallage eines Nomens mit dazugehörigem abl. limitationis zu erklären . . .”


Kenney 1984167.


See Lachmann 1850b19 for discussion of this error where he shows that it occurs in both directions with u appearing for o and o appearing for u at several points in both manuscripts.


See the comments of Mynors (1990ad G. 1.129 on atris): “‘deadly’; when applied to venena (G. 2.130 A. 2.221 Ovid. ep. 9.115) it retains much of its original sense but is easily transferred to the vipers whose black venom turns the victim black (3.430 Hor. carm. 3.4.17) and even (G. 4.407) to the tigress. Juv. 5.91 echoes our phrase.” For Lucretius’ influence on Virgil’s Georgics more generally see Gale 2000 and Hardie 2007 114-117.


Kenney 1984167.


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