Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Spirited: Description of Sempronia

The description of Sempronia is one of my favorite points in the Bellum Catilinae. I decided that I would post it here, which I meant to do quite a while ago before I go back and finish posting the rest of Sallust's preamble (chapters 1-4).

Sed in iis erat Sempronia, quae multa saepe virilis audaciae facinora conmiserat. Haec mulier genere atque forma, praeterea viro atque liberis satis fortunata fuit; litteris Graecis et Latinis docta, psallere et saltare elegantius, quam necesse est probae, multa alia, quae instrumenta luxuriae sunt. Sed ei cariora semper omnia quam decus atque pudicitia fuit; pecuniae an famae minus parceret, haud facile discerneres; lubido sic accensa, ut saepius peteret viros quam peteretur. Sed ea saepe antehac fidem prodiderat, creditum abiuraverat, caedis conscia fuerat; luxuria atque inopia praeceps abierat. Verum ingenium eius haud absurdum: posse versus facere, iocum movere, sermone uti vel modesto vel molli vel procaci; prorsus multae facetiae multusque lepos inerat.
But among them was Sempronia, who often with manly boldness commits many crimes. This woman was sufficiently fortunate in birth and bodily beauty in addition to in husbands and children; [she is] learned in Greek and Latin, instrumental music, and dancing more than is elegant for a proper woman, with many other things which are instruments of luxury. But everything was always more dear to her than honor and modesty; you would have not at all easily decided that she was spearing money or fame less; in this way with desire being incited in this way in order that she seek men than be sought by them. But previously, she often betrayed trust, denied a loan, was aware of murder, and rushed headlong into ruin through extravagance and poverty. But her innate intelligence is not absurd: She is able to compose verses, to make jokes, to use conversation either with modesty, or with gentleness, or with boldness; in short, she is characterized by many witticisms and much grace.
I really love this description of Sempronia. She sounds fabulous.

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