1.1 Quī nāvālī proeliō dīmicātūrī sunt, ante in portū et in tranquillō marī flectunt gubernācula, rēmōs trahunt, ferreās manūs et uncōs praeparant, dispositumque per tabulāta mīlitem—pendente gradū et lābente vestīgiō—stāre firmiter assuēscunt, ut, quod in simulācrō pugnae didicerint, in vērō certāmine nōn pertimēscant. 1.2 Ita et ego, quī diū tacuī (silēre quippe mē fēcit, cui meus sermō supplicium est), prius exercērī cupiō in parvō opere et velutī quandam rūbīginem linguae abstergēre, ut venīre possim ad historiam lātiōrem. 1.3 Scrībere enim disposuī—sī tamen Dominus vītam dederit, et sī vituperātōrēs meī saltem fugientem mē et clausum persequī dēsierint—ab adventū Salvātōris usque ad nostram aetātem, id est, ab Apostolīs, usque ad huius temporis faecem, quōmodo et per quōs Chrīstī ecclēsia nāta sit et adulta, persecūtiōnibus crēverit, et martyriīs corōnāta sit, et, postquam ad Chrīstiānōs prīncipēs vēnerit, potentiā quidem et dīvitiīs māior, sed virtūtibus minor facta sit. Vērum haec aliās. Nunc quod imminet explicēmus.

    This brief work is a kind of exercise to get back in the habit of writing after a long period of enforced silence, and prefatory to a contemplated larger history of the Church.

    Quī nāvālī proeliō etc. Jerome compares his Life of Malchus to practicing for a naval battle, with a particular focus on the marines. The closest parallel for this metaphor is in Ambrose, de Officiis (1.10.32–3). Comparisons of a literary enterprise to a non-military voyage by sea are more standard.

    Quī = (illī) quī.

    dīmicātūrī sunt < dīmicō (1), “to fight”; the First Periphrastic Conjugation, i.e. future active participle + sum (AG 195).

    ante: adverb, not preposition; “before” (the battle), “first.”

    flectunt gubernācula, rēmōs trahunt: < gubernāculum -ī n., “steering-oar, tiller.” Chiasmus with homoeoteleuton.

    ferreās manūs et uncos: “grappling irons and hooks” (LS manus II.L); accusative plural.

    dispositumque per tabulāta mīlitem ... stāre firmiter assuēscunt = (et) assuēscunt mīlitem dispositum per tabulāta ... stare firmiter. < asseuēscō -ere, “to make accustomed” (transitive); < tabulātum -ī n., “platform,” “deck” (of a ship). mīlitem: singular for plural, “the soldiery,” “the soldiers.” pendente gradū et lābente vestīgiō: ablative absolutes: “with a foot hanging (in the air) and with slipping footstep”; the soldiers have to get used to fighting on a moving deck. < vestigīum -(i)ī n., “footprint”; here the sole of the foot, and thus the foot.

    quod ... didicerint: perf. subj. in relative clause of characteristic (AG 535). quod = (illud) quod, the direct object of nōn pertimēscant.

    nōn pertimēscant: pres. subj. in purpose clause; the negative is normally nē, but ut ... non can occur when the negative is closely associated with a particular word (here pertimēscant).


    silēre ... mē fēcit, cui ... supplicium est = (is) cui meus sermō supplicium est mē fēcit silēre. < supplicium: “torment, anguish, distress” (LS II). faciō + infinitive can mean “cause (someone) to do (something)”; the usage becomes common in LL (DMLBS facere 9).

    The reference is probably to Pope Siricius, who in 385 had driven Jerome from Rome. 

    rūbīginem: < rūbīgō -inis f., “rust.” linguae: probably genitive. The tongue “stands for the capacity to write and is described as a tool used for battle which, in order to be efficient, needs to be cleared from its rust or other patina” (Gray).

    abstergēre < abstergeō -ēre, “to wipe off”; depends on cupiō.

    latiōrem < latus -a -um, “having a wide scope, far-ranging” (OLD 5.a); possim: pres. subj. in a purpose clause. Jerome, as we shall see, was planning a full history of the Church.


    disposuī: “I intended,” (DMLBS disponere 5), perf. indic. in the apodosis of a disguised condition (AG 523). Jerome never completed the project outlined here, though he did write his De viris illustribus, a series of Christian and pagan biographies.

    sī tamen ... dederit, et sī ... dēsierint: perf. subj. in the protasis of a future less vivid condition (AG 514.B.2.b.). < dēsinō, dēsinere, dēs(i)ī or dēsīvī, dēsitum, “to leave off, desist.” sī tamen: “provided that” (Gray). vituperātōrēs saltem fugientem mē et clausum: “my detractors, who persecute me even as I am a fugitive and confined” (Gray); saltem here adds emphasis, like vel. Jerome had left Rome and was in a monastery in Bethlehem because of the hostility provoked by his advocacy of sexual abstinence.

    id est, ab Apostolīs: “that is, from (the time of) the Apostles”; Jerome is speaking loosely, since the time of the Apostles came about thirty years after the birth of Christ.

    faecem: < faex faecis f., “the dregs” (of wine); "scum." The word is used metaphorically in CL for low status and immoral people, but its application by Jerome to his own age is striking.

    quōmodo ... nāta sit ... crēverit ... corōnāta sit ... vēnerit ... facta sit: perf. subj. in an indirect question. persecūtiōnibus crēverit: “the paradox that persecution increases, rather than diminishes, the number of Christians is a commonplace” (Gray). potentiā quidem et dīvitiīs māior: sc. facta sit.

    explicēmus: hortatory subjunctive (AG 439).

    core vocabulary

    nāvālis -e: pertaining to ships; naval; subst., navalia, ium, n., dock, docks, dockyard, naval arsenal; naval equipments (> navis)

    dīmicō dīmicāre dīmicāvī dīmicātus: to struggle, fight

    portus portūs m.: port, harbor; refuge, haven, place of refuge

    tranquillus -a -um: calm, still; subst., tranquillum, i, n., a calm; calm weather

    flectō flectere flēxī flexus: to bend, curve, bow; turn, curl; persuade, prevail on, soften

    gubernāculum -ī n.: a helm, steering rope, tiller (> guberno, steer)

    rēmus rēmī m.: oar

    ferreus -a -um: made of iron

    uncus -ī m.: hook

    praeparō -parāre -parāvī -parātus: to make ready beforehand, prepare, equip, make preparations

    dispōnō dispōnere dispōsuī dispōsitus: to place, arrange, distribute; (late) to settle, determine (+ acc. and inf.)

    tabulātum -ī n.: a planking; floor, deck of a ship; platform, story (> tabula)

    pendeō pendēre pependī: to hang, hang down

    lābor labī lapsus sum: to glide, slip

    firmiter : steadfastly, immovably, fixedly

    assuēscō assuescere assuēvī assuētum: to grow accustomed to

    simulācrum simulācrī n.: likeness, image, statue

    certāmen certāminis n.: contest, competition; battle, combat, struggle; rivalry; (matter in) dispute

    pertimēscō pertimēscere pertimuī: to be very afraid

    sileō silēre siluī: to be slient; (transitive) be silent about

    rubigō rubiginis f.: rust; blight

    abstergeō -ēre abstersī abstersum: to wipe clean

    historia -ae f.: a narrative of past events, history

    dominus dominī m.: master, lord

    vituperātor -ōris m.: hostile critic, detractor

    saltem: at least, at any rate

    persequor persequī persecūtus sum: to follow up, pursue; overtake; attack; take vengeance on; accomplish

    adventus adventūs m.: arrival, approach; visit, appearance, advent; ripening; invasion, incursion

    salvātor -ōris m.: a saviour, preserver

    apostolus -ī m.: apostle

    faex faecis f.: grounds, sediment, lees, dregs

    Christus -ī m.: Christ

    ecclēsia -ae f.: an assembly of the people; church

    adolēscō adolescere adolēvī adultus: grow up, mature, reach manhood, peak; become established/strong; grow, increase

    persecūtiō -ōnis f.: a chase, pursuit; prosecution, persecution

    martyrium -iī n.: martyrdom

    corōnō coronāre coronāvī coronātus: to crown (as a victor or ruler)

    Chrīstiānus -a -um: Christian

    potentia potentiae f.: power, force

    vērum: but indeed, but yet, yet, but

    aliās: at another time, some other time, at other times

    immineō imminēre: overhang, be imminent (+ dat.)

    explicō explicāre explicāvī/explicuī explicātus/explicitus: to untangle; extricate; unfold, explain

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