Monday, February 19, 2007

An Ancient Way of 'Giving One's Two Cents'?

We’re all familiar with the idea of a person’s ‘two cents’. Someone pontificates on a given topic, and rounds it off with something like, ‘Well, those are my two cents, anyway.’ I’m wondering if I’ve come across an ancient way of expressing a similar sentiment.

Toward the end of Book 1 of Macrobius’ Saturnalia, Symmachus proposes that everyone present at their discussion tell of what they have noticed to be exceptional de Maronis ingenio. Here are his words:

reliquos omnes qui adestis impense precatus sim, ut quid vestrum quisque praecipuum sibi adnotaverit de Maronis ingenio, velut ex symbola conferamus.

Symbola can mean a contribution of money to a feast, so perhaps we could loosely paraphrase Symmachus’ proposal as, ‘I would ask all the rest of you here to give us your two cents concerning what you have noticed to be outstanding in Vergil’s talent.’

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