SEMPER ALIQVID NOVI AFRICAM ADFERRE: PHILOLOGICAL AFTERTHOUGHTS ON THE PLINIAN RECEPTION OF A PRE-ARISTOTELIAN SAYING

Italo Ronca

Abstract


1. Four years ago Prof. Van Stekelenburg wrote in this journal (December 1988, pp.114-
120) a short but stimulating article on the saying "Ex Africa semper aliquid noui". It was the
first attempt, as far as I know, at tracing the pedigree of a popular saying, which goes back to
a Greek tradition predating Aristotle and was first transmitted in Latin by Pliny the Elder
(Natura/is Historia 8.17.42). Prof. Van Stekelenburg's article gives a bird's-eye view of the
more than bimillenary history of the proverb, its early forms and successive adaptations, as
well as its practicaJ applications down to the present time. It surveys a variety of texts with
great concision, focusing on the turning points in the long history of the reception and aiming
particularly at establishing when the modern adaptation of Pliny's recorded form was first
introduced (circumstantial evidence seems to point to the 17th or 18th century: p.120). It
takes, however, for granted the reliability of the received texts and does not discuss dubious
metrical forms (as in the Greek transmission) or contextual ambiguities (as in the case of
Pliny); nor does it address the intriguing question of the Erasmian reception. In brief, there is
still a wide scope to be covered in the ground just broken by my learned colleague from
Stellenbosch.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/37-3-4-830

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