Gout, Beasts, and Other Metaphorical Punishments in ap 11.226-231

in Mnemosyne
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The reference to retributive gout in 11.229 serves as a semiotic hinge between two sets of interdependent poems in what may be a coherent Ammianic sequence (ap 11.226-231). Ammianos’ approval of gout as a just punishment in 11.229 establishes themes of retribution and somatic torment that are elaborated in 11.230-231, riddling epigrams that express the hope that their target will endure repeated execution on the cross (11.230) and then in the arena (11.231). The torturous executions hoped for in 11.230-231 are further contextualized by analogous references to mythic and fabulistic punishments in an adjacent set of poems by the same author (11.226-228). When these epigrams are considered in light of the retributive nature and metaphorical implications of gout, their wit and substance can be better appreciated.


A Journal of Classical Studies


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Nisbet 2003b, 160 and 212 (“a punning skoptic vendetta”); cf. Swain (2007, 161 and n. 146) who accused Nisbet of having “pursued more of a vendetta against Polemon than Ammianus.” Philostratos includes several lurid anecdotes about Polemon’s gout (vs §532-533, 537, 543; with Gleason 1995, 21-54).


Gourevitch 1984, 236-241, 245-247; Porter and Rousseau 1998, 13-21; cf. Pseudo-Hedylus’ quip in 11.414 that ‘the daughter of limb-relaxing Bacchus and limb-relaxing Aphrodite is limb-‘relaxing’ Gout (ποδάγρα).’ Although ‘gout’ was a capacious category in antiquity, one whose core identification with atraumatic arthritic pain would encompass many discrete conditions in modern medical diagnostics, its literary depiction and its metaphorical implications were remarkably persistent and stable across time, space, genre, and language.


Williams 1978, 254-261. As Most (1992, 409-410) reminds us in his seminal discussion of dismemberment in Neronian and Flavian literature, “every represented torment of the human body implies a reflection on what it means to be a human being: and the more radical the former, the more urgent the latter.” On somatic obsessions during the Second Sophistic, see Bowersock 1969, 69-73; Whitehorne 1977 and esp. Freisenbruch 2007, who surveys the trivialized rhetoric of somatic anxiety in the correspondences of Fronto, Marcus Aurelius, and Aelius Aristides.


Porter and Rousseau 1998, 211-247.


Hengel 1977, 46-63 and 77-83. On crucifixion as a debasing punishment reserved for slaves, aliens, and other marginalized groups, see Cic. Verr. 2.5.14 and 162, Clu. 187; Val. Max. 8.4.2; and Suet. Dom. 10 (with Garnsey 1970, 124-127).


Holt 2001, 130-131; Coleman 2006, 91-92. Once reserved for non-citizens, crucifixion and other summa supplicia were inflicted on non-elite citizens beginning in the late second century ce (Garnsey 1970, 126-127).


Garnsey 1970, 124-126; see also Suet. Div. Cl. 14 and Ulpian Dig. 48.13.7.


Rimell 2009, 40.


Nisbet 2003b, 136; also mentioned as possibility by Kirstein 2002, 130. In extraordinary cases, those condemned ad bestias were subjected to forcible (and fatal) sexual assault by an animal (Coleman 2006, 62-65; e.g. Mart. Spect. 6 and Apul. Met. 10.34.3).


Hangel 1977, 31. Ammianos elsewhere displays an awareness of Roman discourse on contemporary themes: e.g. 11.97-98 which alludes to Nero’s Domus Aurea consuming all of Rome; cf. Mart. Spect 2, although the figure is so widespread that we need not assume a specific reference.


Coleman 2006, 92; e.g. in Martial Spect. 9, a Caledonian bear dispatches the criminal who plays the role of crucified Laureolus: nuda Caledonio sic uiscera praebuit urso / non falsa pendens in cruce Laureolus (3-4); cf. ciliv 9983a.


Krevans 2007, 135-136; poetic libri were often segmented by only a subtle paragraphos mark tucked unobtrusively beneath the first letters of each new poem—and this was often only added by a subsequent hand (Hutchinson 2008, 15–17). Latin libri tended to be substantially more distributed and “marked up” than their Greek counterparts (Hutchinson 2008, 22–23); cf. Martial’s purposeful segmentation of his Xenia and Apophoreta by tituli, which he claims will grant his wearied readers the editorial license to select individual poems while skipping others (13.8; 14.373-378).


Rimell 2009, 25.


Kyle 1998, 168.


Cameron 1993, 19-22 and 85.


Clauss (1997) appropriated Nabokov’s memorable description of aleatoric wordplay in “The Vane Sisters” for the title of his article on a Vergilian acrostic.


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