"lis est de tribus capellis" meaning

Arthur Lebedeff

Senior Member
Russian
Hey, guys. Do you have any idea what does this words "lis est de tribus capellis" mean?

Some context from the book:
The ludicrous disproportion between such harangues and their occasions puts me in mind of the advocate in Martial who thunders about all the villains of Roman history while meantime lis est de tribus capellis — This case, I beg the court to note, Concerns a trespass by a goat. My poor father, while he spoke, forgot not only the offence, but the capacities, of his audience. All the resources of his immense vocabulary were poured forth.
(From "Surprised by joy" by C.S. Lewis)
 
  • Scholiast

    Senior Member
    saluete omnes!

    C. S. Lewis' book in question is an autobiographical account of his own upbringing and early adult life. This comes from the second chapter, where he describes inter alia the way in which his (widowed) father brought up, and sometimes disciplined, Lewis and his brother.

    In Chapter One, readers have been introduced to his father, who was very well-read, and a noted orator. When rebuking his sons (whom he never beat) for whatever boyish indiscretions or misdeeds, he would sometimes do so in rhetorical and literary terms and at length (i.e. 'harangue' them) out of proportion to the gravity of their delicts. This is the 'ludicrous disproportion' in the first sentence.

    I forget the Martial passage in question, and have not my text to hand: but clearly, Lewis is thinking of an Epigram in which Martial mocks a pompous barrister for his exaggerated rhetoric in a case that is substantially trivial—a lis ('lawsuit') de tribus capellis ('concerning [nothing more important than] three goats'].

    de tribus capellis, incidentally, fits perfectly into the Latin hendecasyllable meter. (Cross posted with Agró).

    Σ
     
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    Agró

    Senior Member
    Spanish-Navarre

    Scholiast

    Senior Member
    saluete de nouo!

    Yes, Agró has pinpointed Martial's distich.* But JQA's translation rather misses the point of the contrast between the first line and the second, as non de vi... &c. means 'It's not a question of violence or bloodshed or poisoning...'.

    Σ

    *Edit: when first posted, Agró's quotation from Martial gave only the first two lines, which he has now supplemented.
     
    Last edited:

    Arthur Lebedeff

    Senior Member
    Russian

    Arthur Lebedeff

    Senior Member
    Russian
    saluete omnes!

    C. S. Lewis' book in question is an autobiographical account of his own upbringing and early adult life. This comes from the second chapter, where he describes inter alia the way in which his (widowed) father brought up, and sometimes disciplined, Lewis and his brother.

    In Chapter One, readers have been introduced to his father, who was very well-read, and a noted orator. When rebuking his sons (whom he never beat) for whatever boyish indiscretions or misdeeds, he would sometimes do so in rhetorical and literary terms and at length (i.e. 'harangue' them) out of proportion to the gravity of their delicts. This is the 'ludicrous disproportion' in the first sentence.

    I forget the Martial passage in question, and have not my text to hand: but clearly, Lewis is thinking of an Epigram in which Martial mocks a pompous barrister for his exaggerated rhetoric in a case that is substantially trivial—a lis ('lawsuit') de tribus capellis ('concerning [nothing more important than] three goats'].

    de tribus capellis, incidentally, fits perfectly into the Latin hendecasyllable meter. (Cross posted with Agró).

    Σ
    Thank you a lot!
     
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