Scrofa

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Sed quis e portu potius Italico prodit ac de suillo pecore expedit? tametsi Scrofam potissimum de ea re dicere oportere cognomen eius significat. cui Tremelius, ‘Ignorare,’ inquit, ‘videre, cur appeller Scrofa. itaque ut etiam hi propter te sciant, cognosce meam gentem suillum cognomen non habere, nec me esse ab Eumaeo ortum. avus meus primum appellatus est Scrofa, qui quaestor cum esset Licinio Nervae praetori in Macedonia provincia relictus, qui praeesset exercitui, dum praetor rediret, hostes, arbitrati occasionem se habere victoriae, impressionem facere coeperunt in castra. avos, cum cohortaretur milites ut caperent arma atque exirent contra, dixit celeriter se illos, ut scrofa porcos, disiecturum, id quod fecit. nam eo proelio hostes ita fudit ac fugavit, ut eo Nerva praetor imperator sit appellatus, avus cognomen invenerit ut diceretur Scrofa.
(Varro, De Re Rustica 2.4.1-2)

“But who sails forth from harbour, and preferably from an Italian harbour, to discourse about swine?* I need hardly ask, for that Scrofa should be chosen to speak on that subject this surname of his indicates.” “You seem,” said Tremelius in reply, “not to know why I have the nickname Scrofa. That these gentlemen, too, may learn the reason while you are being enlightened, you must know that my family does not bear a swinish surname, and that I am no descendant of Eumaeus.** My grandfather was the first to be called Scrofa. He was quaestor to the praetor Licinius Nerva, in the province of Macedonia, and was left in command of the army until the return of the praetor.*** The enemy, thinking that they had an opportunity to win a victory, began a vigorous assault on the camp. 2 In the course of his plea to the soldiers to seize arms and go to meet them, my grandfather said that he would scatter those people as a sow scatters her pigs; and he was as good as his word. For he so scattered and routed the enemy in that battle that because of it the praetor Nerva received the title of Imperator, and my grandfather earned the surname of Scrofa.****

* The other speakers are “half-Greek” (2.1.2). Now a genuine Italian is to speak of swine. And who more fittingly than one who bears a name Scrofa, which also means “brood-sow”?
** The swineherd of Odysseus (Odyss., 14.22) who received and fed his master on his return.
*** This cannot refer to the year 167 B.C., in which Nerva was praetor (Livy, 45.44); and it is possible that it occurred in 142 B.C., during a revolt in Macedonia.
**** But Macrobius (Saturn., 1.6) gives a different story: His slaves had stolen and killed a neighbour’s sow, and had hidden it under his wife’s bed. When the house was searched, he swore that he had no other sow in the house than the one under the bed-clothes, where his wife was lying.

(tr. William Davis Hooper, revised by Harrison Boyd Ash; with their notes)

 

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