Lucan’s Civil War

In response to:

Roman Grand Guignol from the January 18, 1990 issue

To the Editors:

Regarding the discussion concerning Lucan’s statement “suffecit omnibus unda” I would like to offer an alternative explanation. The verb “sufficio -ficere -feci -fectum” has the meaning of being sufficient when it is intransitive, but as a transitive verb its meaning may be to lay a foundation for, to dip, to tinge, to dye, to drench. Cicero writes “lanam medicamentis sufficere” which is to dip wool in the dye. In Georgics II 190–191 we read “…multoque fluentis/sufficiet Baccho vitis,…” The Loeb Library translates it as “streaming with the rich flood of Bacchus.”

It seems to me that it makes infinitely more sense to say “he cast his helmet away and drenched everyone” than the alternative “everyone had his fill” which is absurd.

José L. Campos
Kalamazoo, Michigan

To the Editors:

Surely suffecitque omnibus unda at Lucan 9. 510 means: “Cato satisfied them all by the way in which he used the water.”

Cato is subject of the verb as he is of the first verb in the verse. Unda is ablative and parallel to the ablative ira that ends the preceding verse. This makes sense. To construe unda as nominative subject of suffecit makes no sense.

William M. Calder III
Oldfather Professor of the Classics
The University of Illinois
Urbana, Illinois

Hugh Lloyd-Jones replies:

I am not attracted by the interpretation of Dr. Campos, which would seem to require omnes in place of omnibus. Professor Calder’s translation, on the other hand, gives vigorous sense and may well be right, though when he says that “to construe unda as nominative subject of suffecit makes no sense” he goes too far. J.D. Duff in the Loeb Edition translates, “there was water enough for all,” and he may well be right.