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Of Hernias and Wine-Jugs: Catalepton 12

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Readings of Catalepton 12 have typically focussed on two details: the assertion that Noctuinus, in marrying one daughter of Atilius, is getting the other as well (6-8), and that, in wedding Atilia, Noctuinus is 'wedding an hirnea'. Virtually all interpreters take hirnea in a transferred sense, referring either to an 'hernia', supposedly used by a visual analogy for the bride-to-be's pregnancy (whence the detail of the 'second daughter') or, more usually, to hirnea in the sense of 'wine-jug': this is then explained, as before, as a metaphor for the bride's pregnancy, or, in the most widely adopted view, as referring to Atilius' habitual insobriety, which is like a second daughter to him, and which Atilius is taking on by marrying Atilia. Following up some brief remarks of Bücheler, it is argued here that Catalepton 12 only makes sense in terms of content, literary background, and ancient medical opinion, if hirnea (a widely attested alternative spelling of hernia) is understood to refer literally to an hernia or rupture, which Atilius will suffer by having to meet the sexual demands of both daughters of Atilius.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Classics and Ancient History, University of Sydney, NSW 2006 Australia;, Email: lindsay.watson@arts.usyd.edu.au

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/content/journals/10.1163/156852507x195420
2008-04-01
2016-12-04

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