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Violets and violence: two notes

  • Howard Jacobson (a1)
Abstract

Servius was surely not the first to show discomfort with Vergil's choice of the word violaverit. Observing that the simile in lines 67–8 derives from Homer (Il. 4.141), he seems to be apologizing for Vergil when he explains that the poet's violaverit translates Homer's νι⋯νη. And discomfort there should be. The notion of ‘tainting, spoiling, damaging, defiling’ that violare should carry seems out of place both for the ivory-image and for the picture of the beautiful girl. Modern commentators have been no less troubled than Servius. Unwilling, however, to see Vergil as blindly enslaved to Homer, they have offered another explanation: violare here is tied to the violentia of her lover Turnus. ‘Vergil connects the violentia of Turnus with the staining of the ivory in the simile used to describe Lavinia's blush.’ should like to add a third explanation for Vergil's choice of violare.

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The Classical Quarterly
  • ISSN: 0009-8388
  • EISSN: 1471-6844
  • URL: /core/journals/classical-quarterly
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