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DOI 10.15731/AClass.064.# 1 ACTA CLASSICA LXIV (2021) 1–5 ISSN 0065–1141 SYMMETRICAL WORDPLAY IN THE FIRST BOOK OF MANILIUS’ ASTRONOMICA Tetsufumi Takeshita Kyoto University Marcus Manilius’ Astronomica is one of the earliest extant astrological treatises. Consisting of five books, the work dates at least partly from the reign of Augustus and thus the poet belongs to the last generation of Latin literature’s Golden Age.1 While the didactic poem attracted little attention until the later twentieth century, especially among English-speaking scholars,2 recent scholarship has shed fresh light on the Augustan poet’s literary contributions. Focusing on Manilius’ fondness for the deliberate arrangement of words, this note suggests a further example of wordplay in the didactic poem. Manilius has been shown to employ more than one form of wordplay. One such is the acrostic, the technique of forming a word from the first letters of successive lines of a poem.3 Already occurring in the last book of the Iliad,4 acrostics are more typically found among Hellenistic poets such as Aratus, in whose Phaenomena Jacques discovered the famous λεπτή acrostic. 5 Manilius imitates Aratus’ poem in the first book of the Astronomica, particularly regarding the catalogue of constellations (Man. 1.255–531). The 1 A.E. Housman’s Augustus-Tiberius theory is challenged by Flores 1960. On the chronological problems of the Astronomica, see also Volk 2009:137–61. 2 Housman’s splendid edition did not gain the poem a general readership, no doubt due to the fact that it was written in Latin, as Goold rightly notes with regret (Goold 1959:95). On recent Manilian scholarship, see Hübner 1984:132–35. A brief survey of the editorial history from the twentieth century onward is given by Volk 2009:2–3. 3 The most detailed examination of Manilius’ use of the acrostic is by Colborn 2015:113–21; see also Gale 2019. For a general discussion of Greek and Latin acrostic, see Vogt 1967; Courtney 1990; Damschen 2004; Kwapisz et al. 2013. 4 Il. 24.1-5. On this λευκή acrostic and its intentionality, see Korenjak 2009. 5 [Λ]επτὴ μὲν καθαρή τε περὶ τρίτον ἦμαρ ἐοῦσα / εὔδιός κ’ εἴη, λεπτὴ δὲ καὶ εὖ μάλ’ ἐρευθὴς / πνευματίη, παχίων δὲ καὶ ἀμβλείῃσι κεραίαις / τέτρατον ἐκ τριτάτοιο φόως ἀμενηνὸν ἔχουσα / ἢ νότῳ ἄμβλυνται ἢ ὕδατος ἐγγὺς ἐόντος. ‘If slender and clear about the third day, she will bode fair weather; if slender and very red, wind; if the crescent is thickish, with blunted horns, having a feeble fourth-day light after the third day, either it is blurred by a southerly or because rain is in the offing.’ (Aratus Phaen. 783–87, tr. Kidd 1997); see Jacques 1960; Kidd 1997:445–46. 2 most interesting example occurs in lines 796-99, in which a proper name in the vocative case is spelled by the initial letters of the subsequent lines (Man. 1.796–99):6 ... et Claudi magna propago, Aemiliaeque domus proceres, clarique Metelli, et Cato fortunae victor, fictorque sub armis miles Agrippa suae, Venerisque ab origine proles Iulia. Here is the great line of Claudius; the leading members of the Aemilian house, and the famed Metelli. Here are Cato and Agrippa, who proved in arms the one the master, the other the maker of his destiny; and the Julian who boasted descent from Venus.7 Another technique was pointed out by MacGregor, in which the poet repeats the same words at regular intervals: in Man. 5.161–70, for instance, the word ille is deliberately and regularly repeated four times.8 While MacGregor considers this ‘tetractys pattern’ to be evidence of Pythagorean sources in the Astronomica, it seems more likely that this rhythmical wordpatterning reflects the lively movement of children born under Lepus, an extra-zodiacal constellation rising with Gemini. Like acrostics, the technique belongs to Hellenistic literary aesthetics and shows that Manilius was not only well acquainted with ludic word-arrangement, but also keen to apply it in his poem. While scholars have tended to concentrate on word-patterning at the start of verses, an examination of word arrangements at verse ends also yields an instance of symmetrical wordplay in the Astronomica that has thus far gone unnoticed. In the first book, Manilius describes the structure of the universe. After a brief doxography on the origins of the universe (Man. 1.118–254), he enumerates the constellations. Having listed the twelve...


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