Book 1. iv. 12-15. Old Latin alphabet (cont)







For the Latin text follow link – Cambridge, Trinity College MS R.9.10 f.6r

“Salvius the schoolmaster”

Isidore describes Salvius as a ‘ludi magister’ though ‘magister’ might mean a jurist, and in fact the Roman jurists did contribute to the later development of Roman letters and forms.

Among their number was the noted Salvius Julius (Lucius Octavius Cornelius Publius Salvius Iulianus Aemilianus) who was widely known in his own time, as in ours, simply as ‘Julian the Jurist’.  He was (to quote Smith’s Dictionary of Classical Biography and Mythology)  “an eminent Roman jurist who flourished under Hadrian and the Antonines.” (2ndC AD).

Another possible candidate is one whose name is omitted from the shorter, American version of Smith’s three-volume work. This was the Salvius who served as librarian to Cato’s friend Atticus, and who is mentioned for that reason in a number of Cato’s letters.  E.O. Winstedt’s translation of the Letters mentions, in addition to that librarian (e.g. Vol.II p. 200) another (ibid. p.348) who was Hortensius’ freedman (not slave).  Slaves and freedmen were commonly entrusted with children’s education so neither is an impossibility but, of the two, the former is certainly the less unlikely.

The emperor  Marcus Didius Salvius [or Severus] Julianus [portrait shown above, left] is also an unlikely figure in this context. He is remembered chiefly for having won the  Roman Empire at auction after the Pretorian Guard offered it for sale following their assassination of the Emperor Pertinax in 193 AD. This ‘Salvius’ was emperor for just nine weeks; sentenced to death by his successor, Septimus Severus.

Nor is it probable that Isidore would confuse a schoolmaster of the Roman era with a fellow-Christian and near-contemporary, the Salvius better known as Polemius.

But the puzzle deepens when one considers that the name appears not as ‘Salvius’ but as ‘Salvitius’ in a copy of the Etymologies now in Trinity College, Cambridge.

(detail) Cambridge, Trinity College MS R.9.10 f.6r

‘Salvitius’ is rare, but not  unattested.  It is found in papyri recovered from the Fayyum and dated to the 4thC, and may have been more common at about that time.  Two place-names in Europe are posited as being derived from it:   Savoisy and Selvazzano Dentro near Padua. The data from the papyri.

For discussion of the early Latin alphabet, its origins and development see comments and references included in the previous post.[HERE]

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