In the course of editing an article on Aulus Gellius (who sounds like an interesting fellow I should investigate further), I came across this quote from the remarkable scholar and editor Leofranc Holford-Strevens (“Aulus Gellius,” in Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 211: Ancient Roman Writers, p. 33): “Aware that in the wrong hands the use of archaic words often creates obscurity, Gellius relates in 1.10 that Favorinus rebuked a young man who affected obsolete usages because he admired antiquity for its moral excellence: he should live by ancient morals but use present-day words.” I’ve put Gellius’s Latin below the cut for those who can read it

Incidentally, Gellius also has the distinction of an oddly nativized French name, Aulu-Gelle. As I pointed out to Marie-Lucie in an e-mail, “all other people named Aulus Something-or-other keep Aulus in French (Aulus Plautius, Aulus Cornelius Celsus, etc. etc.)”; she replied, “perhaps when saying the name the scholars first said Aulus-Gelle as one word, adapting the end only (as with single names like Antoine, Apulée, Pétrone, Térence) but soon the -s was lost before consonants by a regular French rule, hence the pronunciation Aulu-Gelle reflected in the spelling. Others named Aulus X were probably less well-known and came into French texts later, at a time when Latin names were preserved as such if they didn’t already have a French form.” Makes sense to me.

Quibus verbis compellaverit Favorinus philosophus adulescentem casce nimis et prisce loquentem.

FAVORINUS philosophus adulescenti veterum verborum cupidissimo et plerasque voces nimis priscas et ignotas in cotidianis communibusque sermonibus expromenti: “Curius,” inquit, “et Fabricius et Coruncanius, antiquissimi viri, et his antiquiores Horatii illi trigemini, plane ac dilucide cum suis fabulati sunt neque Auruncorum aut Sicanorum aut Pelasgorum, qui primi coluisse Italiam 1 dicuntur, sed aetatis suae verbis locuti sunt; [2] tu autem, proinde quasi cum matre Euandri nunc loquare, sermone abhinc multis annis iam desito uteris, quod scire atque intellegere neminem vis quae dicas. Nonne, homo inepte, ut quod vis abunde consequaris, taces? [3] Sed antiquitatem tibi placere ais, quod honesta et bona et sobria et modesta sit. [4] Vive ergo moribus praeteritis, loquere verbis praesentibus atque id, quod a C. Caesare, excellentis ingenii ac prudentiae viro, in primo De Analogia libro scriptum est, habe semper in memoria atque in pectore, ut tamquam scopulum, sic fugias inauditum atque insolens verbum.”


  1. David Marjanović says

    Aulus Plautius, Aulus Cornelius Celsus, etc. etc.

    Well, there aren’t many ceteri, are there? It’s one of the rarer names, in my unquantified impression only surpassed by Gnaeus and Kaeso.
    …BTW, I finally discovered this where people tried to summon me several times. I agree that it’s GIGO; the dating method, however (which is not the same as the method for reconstructing the topology of the tree), has nothing to do with grottoclonology (© Justin B. Rye). It’s straight from molecular divergence dating and lacks all the obvious problems, for instance it’s very far from assuming a uniform mutation rate. Still, it needs calibration points (the more, the better), and the origin of Romanian is a bad choice.
    Jim, whoever that is, claimed that Grimm’s Law was influential in paleontology. I have no idea what he’s talking about. ~:-| What I can say, however, is that Darwin explicitly imported the tree model from historical linguistics.

  2. Interesting post! A Google Books search on “Aulugellius” yields several hits from the 17th and 18th centuries, such as in Le grand dictionnaire géographique et critique (1737). The name of A. Gellius appears to have suffered mutilation during transmission during the Middle Ages, when he was generally known as Agellius. I wonder various expansions of this spelling by humanists, attempting to restore the original form, existed along side each other, and Aulu-Gelle shook out of the mess. “Aulugellius” may have been made French as “Aulugelle”, and then subsequently patched up as “Aulu-Gelle.” Or worse yet, is Aulugellius–found mostly in French works–a Latinization of “Aulu-Gelle”? The spelling Aulu-Gelle also reminds me of “Jésuchrist” for the name whose spoken form was evolving into Modern [ʒezykri]. This spelling was also not uncommon between the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. The debates in print by early humanists on the proper form of the name of Aulus Gellius must surely be found somewhere on Google Books. I hope one of Language Hat’s readers will do us the favor of searching them out. It would be interesting to find out the identity of the “Savans” referred to in the following book’s entry for Aulu-Gelle: http://books.google.com/books?id=oD9JAAAAcAAJ&pg=RA3-PT210&dq=agellius+aule+gelle&hl=fr&sa=X&ei=siAGUbbfKeXq2QX8pID4CA&ved=0CDQQ6AEwAA.

  3. odamaki: perhaps try that entry’s apparent source, Le Nain de Tillemont’s Histoire des empereurs et autres princes.

  4. David Marjanović says


    Immediately reminded me of Spanish Jesucristo, which gives 17.4 million ghits, the first being from Wikipedia:
    Jesús de Nazaret, también conocido como Jesús, Cristo o Jesucristo, es la figura central del cristianismo y una de las figuras más influyentes de la cultura …

  5. Just found this possibly relevant quote in Rodney M. Thomson, William of Malmesbury (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2003), pp. 189–90: “Gellius was not a common author in early Europe. In the ninth century his work was known, in part, to Lupus of Ferrières, but in the late twelfth century a sizeable group of (mostly English) literati was familiar with it, and it passed into several well-known florilegia. Surviving manuscripts of the Noctes Atticae confirm the impression that between these centuries Gellius seems to have suffered almost complete oblivion.” Lupus of Ferrières is apparently Lupus Servatus.

  6. Well, there aren’t many ceteri, are there?
    Aulus Gabinius, Aulus Hirtius, Aulus Atilius Calatinus, Aulus Cornelius Cossus Arvina, Aulus Postumius Albus Regillensis… I dunno, how many is many?

  7. J.W. Brewer says

    They can say what they want about you, Hat, but anyone who likes Leofranc Holford-Strevens is alright in my book.

  8. What… what do they say about me?

  9. Huh: Francisco García Jurado, in “La peculiar fortuna de Aulo Gelio en la modern literatura argentina” (Argos 32 [2009]:45–63), points out the surprising influence of Gellius on 20th-century Argentine writers. In particular, Cortázar, in Rayuela (Hopscotch), quotes a translation of Gellius (a section on the supposed etymology of persona) as chapter 148, and García Jurado suggests that the idea of reading the chapters of the book in any order the reader chooses may have come to Cortázar from Gellius’s “estructura no lineal.”

  10. “suggests”? If it can’t be demonstrated conclusively, this sounds like utter codswallop! Many works have a non-linear structure.

  11. “No era improbable este conocimiento, dada la cultura interminable de Cortázar.”

  12. Considering how few Roman praenomina there are, the fact that one can only come up with five or ten Auluses is a pretty good indication of its rarity.

  13. If it can’t be demonstrated conclusively, this sounds like utter codswallop!
    Really? So no one should ever suggest anything they can’t prove conclusively? Is that a rule you yourself follow?
    Many works have a non-linear structure.
    Now? Sure. In 1963, when Hopscotch was published? Not so much. I refer you to the reaction at the time, which did not exhibit any air of been-there-done-that regarding the structure. And if you’re so sure he didn’t get it from Gellius (despite the fact he quotes Gellius in the book itself), what would you say was a likelier source?

  14. “So no one should ever suggest anything they can’t prove conclusively?”
    I never said that. I said that THIS sounded like codswallop, if it couldn’t be demonstrated.
    “Now? Sure.”
    No, in classical antiquity. Gellius’s work is a miscellany, not a work of narrative fiction, and there are many miscellanies. It doesn’t even make sense to say it has a “non-linear” structure, any more than, say, Disraeli’s “Curiosities of Literature”. It’s just a bunch of gobbets. I don’t think the two works are comparable, and the idea of a miscellany is so general that citing Gellius is entirely unnecessary–typical sledgehammer academia.

  15. marie-lucie says

    Lupus of Ferrières
    What a mishmash of languages! He was a Frank, so his first name was Wolf, although he must have been baptized as Lupus, the name he naturally used in his Latin writings (the ancestor of French was not used in writing at the time). He is known in French as Loup de Ferrières, a wholly French name, but de Ferrières refers to the location of the abbey that he was head of and is not actually part of his own name. His Latin name Lupus Servatus (the second word being a nickname as was the custom at the time) is known in French as Loup Servat. He is not the only instance of the first name Loup, there are several French villages called Saint-Loup (not after him, since he did not become a saint). Even now, I don’t know of any men or boys with the first name Loup, but Jean-Loup (alongside Jean-Paul, Jean-Pierre, Jean-Marc, Jean-Yves and many other Jean-X’s) is not unknown.
    Is there a “Saint Wolf” known in English? “Saint Lupus” would not sound right since “lupus” in English is only known as the name of a disfiguring disease. In French, le lupus and le loup ‘wolf’ are quite distinct.
    The toponym Ferrières (and the variants Ferrière and La Ferrière) is quite common in France and indicates a place where there were iron mines and an iron industry in ancient times (le fer = ‘iron’).

  16. J.W. Brewer says

    Wikipedia sez: “Numerous communes of France are named Saint-Loup;[5] they commemorate several venerable early saints with the Latinized Germanic name of Lupus (“wolf”): besides Saint Loup de Sens, venerated in Champagne, Île-de-France and Picardy there are Saint Loup de Troyes, Saint Loup de Bayeux, one of the early Bishops of Bayeux; and — more locally venerated — Saint Loup de Limoges, Saint Loup de Soissons and Saint Loup de Châlons-en-Champagne. A number of the communes called Saint-Loup in the west of France are not easily connected with a specific Saint Loup.” AFAIK, none of these saints were well-known enough outside France to have a standard Anglicized version of their name (wikipedia does call some of them “St. Lupus” which is not unacceptably weird as saint-names go — it just means it’s in that category of saints’ names sufficiently weird that virtually no one in Anglophone will baptize their children with it, cf. Polycarp), but I expect there are plenty of Anglo-Saxon, Welsh, Cornish, etc. saints of the same era who don’t have standard Gallicized versions of their names.

  17. marie-lucie says

    JWB, thank you for researching the Saint-Loups. For many centuries sainthood was conferred locally by popular opinion rather than through painstaking investigation by the Papacy, so there are scores of local “saints” whose names were given to churches or even just shrines and the villages around them but who never received official recognition. In France one occasionally encounters people who are named for one of those local saints. For instance, in my elementary school there was a girl named Céronne, after the patron saint of the village of Sainte-Céronne, itself named after an unofficial female “saint” from the early days of Christianity that I had never heard of until I consulted Wikipedia.fr just before writing this.

  18. marie-lucie says

    JWB: I am not referring to “Gallicization” of obscure saints’ names. The baptismal name “Lupus” (all baptisms being performed or recorded in Latin for centuries) could have been back-translated into English as “Wolf”, undoubtedly the original Frankish name of the man discussed here.

  19. marie-lucie – I think he was only saying that there is no anglicization of the name, just like there might be no gallicization of some early english folk-saint unknown in france. If there were an english equivalent of the *name* Wolf, (not the animal) it could be translated, but there isn’t, and “Wolf” has never been an acceptable christian name in English, (it would do for a pagan name, though) so the latin name stands.

  20. Darwin explicitly imported the tree model from historical linguistics.
    This tidbit alone is a powerful reason for not banishing historical linguistics to some obscure and irrelevant blind alley.

  21. “Wolf” has never been an acceptable christian name in English
    What about the Sermo Lupi ad Anglos?

  22. You’re right, wikipedia has a handful of anglo-saxon characters named Wulf-something, like the Wulfstan of the Sermo Lupi ad Anglos. Although he apparently went by “Lupus”, so I don’t know where that leaves us.

  23. Trond Engen says

    I’ve been wondering if all those holy Wolfs could be reminiscent of pre-Christian cult, only later turned into legends of holy men.

  24. Whose cult, do you suppose? The franks, romans, or gauls? If it was as wide-spread as the town-names suggests, it might show up in passing in some contemporary record, like in sermons denouncing it…

  25. Trond Engen says

    Whose cult, do you suppose? The franks, romans, or gauls?
    Is there a major Celtic god associated with the wolf? Lugus to Saint Leu to Saint Loup with some additional alteration? But these are local saints, and their origins might even be local totemistic worship.

  26. Trond Engen says

    I’ll add that this is purely speculative. It’s not a position I’m willing to defend against logical reasoning or real knowledge.

  27. J.W. Brewer says

    And Pope Leo the Great must not have been a historical figure but a mythologized relic of some pagan lion cult. St. Lupus of Troyes, btw, is said by wikipedia to have become Bishop of Troyes circa 426 in succession to a fellow named Ursus (apparently not a saint although there are other early French saints named Ursus), so we’ve got enough totem animals to form a Cub Scout den. (One of the more prominent early French saints is St. Denis/Dennis, whose proper Latin name was the unequivocally pagan Dionysius.)

  28. Trond Engen says

    Having read up on the various holy canines, I don’t think all of them can be apocryphal, but a legend of one holy bishop Wolf could well have spread and merged with folk beliefs.

  29. David Marjanović says

    Pelasgorum, qui primi coluisse Italiam 1 dicuntur

    Italy, too? Not just Greece?

    That would be interesting.

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