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The University of Tasmania's Motto
The University's motto is often described in University literature as being taken from 'an undistinguished poem by Claudian, a Roman poet of the 4th century'. I decided to look into this unflattering description.

The relevant poem is  Panegyricus dictus Mallio Theodoro Consuli. Let's take this slowly and creep up on the motto. Who was the subject of the poem, Flavius Mallius Theodorus?
The subject
Mallius Theodorus was a Christian possibly from Milan, and first appears in the public record as an advocate in the prætorian court in AD 376. From 377 to 380 he served as governor of an African province, governor of Macedonia, recalled to Rome as the emperor's magister epistularum (Secretary of State), and then as comes sacrarum largitonum (Tax Commissioner). In 382 he was made prætorian prefect of Gaul including maritime Atlantic and river trade, and Britain.

When this appointment terminated he left public office and devoted himself to rural pursuits near Milan and writing, translating Greek authors into elegant Latin. Amongst many others, Claudian mentions his discourses on 'why the seven planets strive backwards towards the East doing battle with the firmament' (the retrograde motion), 'whether color is a property of matter or whether objects deceive our sight and owe their colors to reflected light' (Newton made a reputation on this), 'how the moon causes the ebb and flow of tides' and 'all the lore of Socrates'. He wrote a book titled De Metris (Of Measure). St Augustine of Hippo dedicated his book titled De Beata Vita (Of Blessed Life) to Mallius Theodorus.

In 397 he returned to office under the great Vandal general Stilicho and emperor Honorius as prætorian prefect (governor) for Italy, Africa, Slovenia, Croatia, Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily. Claudian's poem celebrates the climax of his career by appointment as one of the two consuls for the year AD 399. By the way, this dating system hadn't been invented yet and was not to come into common use until 1000 years later.

The subject of the poem was a versatile person, working variously in philosophy, law, management, politics, accounting, science, industry, and agriculture. Mallius Theodorus is a good choice to be associated with the University of Tasmania with its wide span of degrees.
The poet
Claudius Claudianus (aka Claudian) was a pagan Greek, born in Egypt about 370. By 394 he was in Rome and shortly afterwards was installed in the entourage of Stilicho at the imperial court at Milan.

Claudian is described as the last of the great classical Latin poets. Edward Gibbon [Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter XXX] states that you won't find sublime inspiration in Claudian, but 'He was endowed with the rare and precious talent of raising the meanest, of adorning the most barren, and of diversifying the most similar topics; his colouring, especially in descriptive poetry, is soft and splendid; and he seldom fails to display, and even to abuse, the advantages of a cultivated understanding, a copious fancy, and easy and sometimes forcible expression, and a perpetual flow of harmonious versification.' From Gibbon this is substantial praise.

He died during or soon after 404. It has been suggested that he died during his honeymoon, from evidence of his last extant poem. Web surfers will know the significance of Error 404, and might therefore consider Claudian as the patron poet of Web surfing.

As poet laureate it was his job to produce poems for official occasions, and he fulfilled an entertainment role similar to that of musicians of Bach's and Mozart's time. Most of his longer works are of this type. Or you could think of them as press releases and Claudian as press secretary to Stilicho. However there are also about 50 minor poems and epigrams, which generally are much more fun to read. Some examples: De birro castoreo (Castor's old overcoat), Nilus (River Nile), Magnes (Magnetism), In sphæram Archimedis (Zeus' thoughts on Archimedes' armillary), De torpedine (Electric Ray).

He says that he started writing poetry in Latin only after his move to Italy, and to have achieved the recognition of a great classical poet is a triumph both for him and for Roman multiculturalism. He was also given the signal honour of having his statute erected in the Forum of Trajan by the joint emperors Honorius and Arcadius. Astonishingly, the inscription on the base survives to the present. Claudian, too, is a versatile poet choice for the University of Tasmania.
The poem
This is a panegyric (praise poem) in dactylic hexameters written and delivered in 399 (an ancient press release). Our sustained interest in panegyrics these days has virtually vanished, except in over-the-top national anthems such as Advance Australia Fair, God Save the Queen and America. This is probably the reason for the poem being called 'undistinguished', though it is has been called the best of Claudian's panegyrics. The poem recites the career of Mallius and the reasons for regarding him as admirable. The motto words ingeniis patuit campus appear on line 262 of the poem (meter was important, not rhyme):

[261] crescite virtutes fecundaque floreat aetas. [alt: crescant for crescite]
[262] ingeniis patuit campus certusque merenti
[263] stat favor ornatur propriis industria donis.
[264] surgite sopitae quas obruit ambitus artes.

Here is a translation by M. Platnauer for the same few sentences [Claudian Vol I, William Heinemann, 1976, ISBN 0-434-99135-X]:

Grow, ye virtues; be this an age of prosperity!
The path of glory is open to the wise; merit is sure of its reward;
industry is dowered with the gifts it deserves.
Arts, arise from the slumber into which depraved ambition has forced you!
The motto
'The path of glory lies open to the wise', is not instantly recognizable as the University's motto. The traditional translation in the University of Tasmania is 'The field (campus) is open to (patuit) talent (ingeniis)'. The proposer of the motto (Professor Dunbabin) gave the translation 'There is a fair field for talent'. Let's look at how the words actually parse (patuit is slightly ambiguous but without major change of meaning):   NOUN  2nd Declension Dative Plural Neuter
ingenium, ingeni(i)  
nature, innate quality; natural disposition/capacity; character; talent     VERB  2nd Conjugation Perfect Active Indicative [approximately: was verb-ed]
pateo, patere, patui -  
stand open, be open; extend; be well known; lie open, be accessible     VERB   3rd Conjugation Perfect Active Indicative       
patesco, patescere, patui -  
be opened/open/revealed; become clear/known; open; extend, spread    NOUN  2nd Declension  Nominative Singular Male                    
campus, campi  
level field/surface; open space for action/battle/games; sea; scope

Campus had figurative senses such as 'battlefield' and 'scope' as well as literal senses, probably developing from the Campus Martius (a field on the banks of the River Tiber, literally the Field of Mars), where the Romans practiced military skills. Ingenium means inborn talent, but persons made good like Mallius and Claudian would have been considered to have talent. We use talent, intelligence and potential more interchangeably in modern English.

So strictly speaking, the motto should be translated as 'The field/space/scope has opened to [a person with] talents/character'. Fits the context in the poem, and the poet's intent. Mallius has gone as high as he can go. Note the tense of the verb. Not exactly what the University sometimes quotes as 'The field is open to persons with talent'.

Some colloquial translations invert the subject (campus) and object (ingenium), allowing 'Brains win!'. Even Professor Weaver's facetious 1977 and 1992 'The engineers have done their best with the University site' is not far from a plausible 'The University has made the rifle range accessible' (substitute the Newnham fields or the Mooreville Road paddocks to your taste). It is good for a motto to be ambiguous and Delphic.

In summary, the University's motto has a good provenance from respected people and a poem that deserves better description than 'undistinguished'. Let me finish by suggesting that the motto could be updated just a tiny bit as 'There is scope for talent'.

   In the interests of brevity I have generally omitted the qualifiers maybe and probably, unless the data is really dubious.
   Note that classical Latin used the same letter for consonant V and vowel U; however I have kept the U/V as usually encountered in modern texts. There was only one letter case, mostly like modern caps, but again I have used minuscules with initial capitalization because this will be easier to read. However this is why the motto is almost always shown on the University's logo with V where you might expect U. The anglicized personal names are spelt as they are normally written in modern English.
   Although I take full responsibility for this brief article, I gratefully acknowledge the help of Rhonda Ewart, Paul Gallivan and Cathy Fyfe.  
   Alternative spelling 'Manlius'. The Vat. Lat. 2809 MSS [12th c] has "incipit de consulatu manlii theodori" while the Antverpiensis MSS 17 1 [14th c] has "de consulatu Malli Theodori". Both sources were copied long after AD 399.
Some online resources for the curious
   The poem itself in Latin. Note however that all the punctuation is modern and suspect; grammatical punctuation was not invented until the 15th & 16th centuries.
   See Biblotheca Augustana for more information about Claudian but note: AppleMac et Netscape his paginis optimum visum dant. Cave Gatem et Exploratorem! See also Claudii Claudiani Opera Latina.
   See Notre Dame for online help in translation of words or its parent site Whitaker's Words (download the dictionary and program). See also Latin Grammar.
   The University of Tasmania's description of its arms and motto (scroll half-way down the page). Also see my history of the logo and other schools which use similar words.

© Copyright  2001  AHJ Sale
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