A Disarming Hug

January 21st. Apparently it is National Hugging Day: a day that ’embraces hugging’ (or so the organisers say).

Whatever next?

There are a great many hugs and passionate embraces in Latin literature.

Among my most favourite Roman hugs, however, I would have to list the double embrace of which Phaedrus tells in his fable Soror ad fratrem (Phaedr. 3.8):

Praecepto monitus saepe te considera.
Habebat quidam filiam turpissimam,
idemque insignem pulchra facie filium.
Hi speculum, in cathedra matris ut positum fuit,
pueriliter ludentes forte inspexerunt.
Hic se formosum iactat; illa irascitur
nec gloriantis sustinet fratris iocos,
accipiens (quid enim?) cuncta in contumeliam.
Ergo ad patrem decurrit laesura inuicem,
magnaque inuidia criminatur filium,
uir natus quod rem feminarum tetigerit.
Amplexus ille utrumque et carpens oscula
dulcemque in ambos caritatem partiens,
“Cotidie” inquit “speculo uos uti uolo,
tu formam ne corrumpas nequitiae malis,
tu faciem ut istam moribus uincas bonis.”

In  Christopher Smart‘s beautifully dated translation:

The Brother and Sister

Warn’d by our council, oft beware,
And look into yourself with care.
There was a certain father had
A homely girl and comely lad.
These being at their childish play
Within their mother’s room one day,
A looking-glass was in the chair,
And they beheld their faces there.
The boy grows prouder as he looks;
The girl is in a rage, nor brooks
Her boasting brother’s jests and sneers,
Affronted at each word she hears:
Then to her father down she flies,
Arid urges all she can devise
Against the boy, who could presume
To meddle in a lady’s room.
At which, embracing each in turn,
With most affectionate concern,
“My dears,” he says, “ye may not pass
A day without this useful glass;
You, lest you spoil a pretty face,
By doing things to your disgrace;
You, by good conduct to correct
Your form, and beautify defect.”

Winning at parenting – with a hug, as imagined two thousand years ago.

About Peter Kruschwitz

Berliner. Classicist. Scatterbrain.
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One Response to A Disarming Hug

  1. Reminds me of how we used to tease each other as children and teens. Our parents somehow always managed to calm the troubled waters!

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