19 febrero, 2006

Longè fugit, that is, Hit and Run

Reading the amusing Variarum Lectionum libri tres (1566) of Lipsius, the Cinquecento equivalent of a modern blog on Classical readings, in chapter 1.17 we find a quotation from the fragmentary Menippean Satires of Varro. The title of the satyra is Longe fugit qui suos fugit, that is, “he must run far who runs from his own people”, and Lipsius, having exhaustively treated and emended the quotation taken from it, at the end comments the title as well, determining after heedful considerations that it must have been a proverb in Varro’s time:

Siquid tamen diuinando assequi possumus, videtur titulus hic olim prouerbij & vulgati alicuius dicti locum habuisse, & sententiam aut hanc aut similem continuisse, Longè fugit, qui suos fugit. Id est, Longè fugiat oportet, qui suos & genus humanum fugere possit: quocumque enim te contuleris, semper tui similes, tuae cognationis, id est, homines inuenturus es.

And in fact, it does sound familiar to us as a proverb. We have already read it somewhere, and not only read, but, incidentally, even published it. It must be in the Adagia of Erasmus, and if so, then it was classified as a proverb more then a generation before Lipsius’ deliberations.

A quick search in the Adagia CD of Studiolum unveils that this adage was in fact included in the monumental collection of Erasmus. Not in its last authorized version of 1536 however, but in the enlarged edition of 1574, to which a complete second volume of adagia was added, collected from and by various authors under the spell of the Erasmian opus magnum. Thus Lipsius, writing eight years before the publication of this addendum, can be discharged from the accusal of plagium. This proverb is included here in the section Adagiorum centuria of Gilbertus Cognatus as Adage 1274, with a reference to Varro:

Longè fugit, qui suos fugit. Refertur à Nonio, in Eruum, in Conuenire. hic titulus est prouerbialis satyrae Varronis: Longè fugit, qui suos fugit. Quae adagio non uidetur abludere à Terentiana in Phormio. Ita fugias, ne praeter casam. id est, domum, ut tutissimum cuique perfugium: quò cum peruenisti, fugiendi finem facere debes.

Then it was Cognatus who plagiarized Lipsius. But wait: in the same second volume we also find another occurrence of the same adage, this time in the section of the adages collected by Hadrianus Turnebus:

Longè fugit, qui suos fugit. Titulus prouerbialis satyrae Varronis, non multum abludens ab illa adagione Terentij: Ita fugias, ne praeter casam. quod est, ut ne nimium longè. nam ad casam, id est, domum ubi tutissimum cuique perfugium est, cùm peruenisti, fugiendi finem facere debes. Idem Aduers. 15. cap. 5.

Turnebus here refers to his own Adversariorum libri XXX, first published in 1530, where we read in the chapter cited:

Refertur & à Nonio titulus prouerbialis satyrae Varronis, longè fugit qui suos fugit: quae adagio non videtur abludere a Terentiana: Ita fugias ne praeter casam: quod est, ita fugias, vt nimium longè. nam ad casam, id est, domum, vbi tutissimum cuique perfugium est, cùm peruenisti, fugiendi finem facere debes.

This passage was therefore the ultimate – and unnamed – source not only to Cognatus, but also to Lipsius, who in chapter 1.21 of the Variae Lectiones remembered the late Turnebus (1512-1565) with full reverence as “magni ingenij & doctrinae vir”. Obviously, he had a reason to run far.