Monday, June 29, 2009

But at least they don't paint themselves blue any more

Brad DeLong passes along this tidbit:
Caesar, in writing home, said of the Britons, “They are the most ignorant people I have ever conquered. They cannot be taught music.”
Would Handel have disagreed?

Alas, DeLong's update suggests that a better rendering of the source (Cicero writing to Atticus, 4.16.7), as this by Shackleton-Bailey, is less amusing:
... A letter from my brother contains some quite extraordinary things about Caesar's warm feelings towards me, and is corroborated by a very copious letter from Caesar himself. The result of the war against Britain is eagerly awaited, for the approaches to the island are known to be 'warded with wondrous massy walls.' It is also now ascertained that there isn't a grain of silver on the island nor any prospect of booty apart from captives, and I fancy you won't expect any of them to be highly qualified in literature or music!
Walsh's new Oxford translation has "sliver of silver," but does silver come in slivers? "Grain" seems more plausible.

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