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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A study of the versification of the African carmina latina epigraphica Rae, Lyn MacCrostie


This thesis presents a study of the metrics and prosody of the carmina latina epigraphica from the Roman provinces of North Africa, the purpose of which is to test the prevailing but unsubstantiated view that these carmina exhibit especially poor versification, and that in them can be observed a chronological decline in quality of versification. A representative corpus of dated carmina latina epigraphica africana is established, the inscriptions are subjected to an analysis of their metrics and prosody, and conclusions are drawn concerning the nature, extent and chronology of their deviation from classical standards of versification. The corpus of inscriptions has four introductory chapters, which form Part II of the study. The first describes the criteria according to which the texts have been chosen. The second, third and fourth present three premises on which analysis and interpretation of their versification are based; these concern the authorship of the carmina, the educational background of the authors, and the linguistic milieu in which they were composed. The core of the thesis is Part III, which comprises the texts of eighty-six dated carmina, analyses of their versification and commentaries on several features of their composition. Observations are offered regarding: the nature and possible causes of unclassical metric and prosodic phenomena; the extent to which an author deviates from literary norms, and the effect of his errors on a quantitative reading of the poem; a brief assessment of each author's understanding of and competence in the composition of classical quantitative verse; the graphic disposition of the text and its effect on the reader's recognition and recitation of the poetic content. Conclusions drawn from the data compiled in Part III include the following. Unclassical metric features characteristic of the corpus include the combination of different meters in one poem, the composition of hypermetric and hypometric lines and the intermixture of prose with lines of verse. Such phenomena are found in about one-half the texts. Prosodical irregularities fall into two main types: those that can be considered classical (ascribable to an author's application of classical licences); and those that are errors, most of which are attributable to the intrusion of certain unclassical phonological features of an author's everyday speech. Prosodical errors occur in about three-quarters of the texts. Four main observations are offered regarding the distribution of errors in the corpus. The extent to which individual authors adhere to literary norms varies widely; the majority of versifiers, however, have adhered sufficiently well that their works can be read quantitatively without serious hindrance. The presence of metric deviations in a poem carries no chronological significance, for these are fairly evenly distributed throughout the corpus; a general chronological decline in adherence to classical prosody is discernible from the first century to the fifth, with a reverse in the decline seen in poems dated to the last three centuries of the period. The presence in the corpus of several poems of unsound versification of very early date and of poems of sound versification of very late date proves that the practice of some scholars of dating otherwise undatable carmina according to their quality of versification is unsafe. Pagan authors tend to adhere slightly more closely than their Christian counterparts to classical metrics and prosody. Poems of reasonably sound metrics and prosody tend to be inscribed in such a way as to facilitate the reader's recognition and recitation of their poetic content, while poems of poor quality of versification tend to be inscribed haphazardly. Appendix I provides full scansion of each carmen. Appendix II lists initia carminum.

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