Posted by Richard on  UTC 2020-07-29 09:25

A recent article in Nature Scientific Reports, 'Persistent warm Mediterranean surface waters during the Roman period', joins the chorus of scientific evidence which demonstrates irrefutably that our present day puny global warming (CAGW) has still a long way to go before we reach the balmy temperatures of the Roman Warm Period – you know, the period without glaciers in Europe that allowed Hannibal to cross the Alps with his elephants; go on, you've heard of it, that mild patch that followed the even warmer Minoan Warm Period, which laid the foundations of European civilisation, a civilisation that managed to scrape by without thermal underwear, woolly hats and rubber boots, preferring instead a light scrap of cloth at most, worn off the shoulder. How they must have suffered!

Here is that period in graphical form:

FoS image, size 708x416

Comparison of the sea surface temperature records from Sicily Channel (thick dark blue line, Mg/Ca), Alboran Sea (thick light blue line), Minorca Basin (thick red line) and Aegean Sea (thick dark and light green lines) expressed as SST anomalies in relation with the reference period from 750 BCE to 1250 CE. The grey bands show the main climate events documented in the Mediterranean basin and discussed in the text (e.g. Roman Period).
See the source for a full explanation of these plots. [Click to open a larger version in a new browser tab.]

In Switzerland we are currently having the few warm days that generally arrive around this time of year (a.k.a 'high summer'), the period from around mid-July until mid-August being known in the temperate northern hemisphere as the 'dog-days'.

The term came from Sirius, the 'dog star', the bright, glittering star in the constellation of Canis Major, which in ancient times was prominent in the night skies in this period. Canis Major is the hunting dog associated with the constellation of Orion. The heavens have moved on since then, so that Sirius now appears around the beginning of September. The dog-days is, of course, a season beloved by climate alarmists.

Although we are grateful to the scientists from Italy and Spain who carried out this research, a superficial reading of the Roman elegiast Tibullus (55 BC?-18 BC?) would have told us that the Roman Warm Period was indeed quite warm – particularly in that sizzling time then, when Sirius was glittering in the night sky.

We know almost nothing about Tibullus, just like his fellow 'Roman Elegiasts' Propertius and Catullus. Putting it as delicately as we can, their common characteristic seems to have been a permanent state of arousal, probably due to the bracing ventilation within the toga.

These bisexual alley cats all had their favourite women though, women whose immortality is assured for as long as Latin poets are read: Tibullus had his Delia, Propertius his Cynthia and Catullus his Lesbia. All are now dust, all obscure, but all immortal.

Tibullus comes to mind now in particular because he was fond of the imagery of the dog-days, which he uses on several occasions in his poems.

Iam modo iam possim contentus vivere parvo
Nec semper longae deditus esse viae,
Sed Canis aestivos ortus vitare sub umbra
Arboris ad rivos praetereuntis aquae.

[1.1 25]

Just let me be able to live happily with little, not always be addicted to long journeys, but escape the summer risings of the dog-star's heat in the shade of a tree by a stream of passing water.

He was also a devotee of Priapus. The empire was littered with imaginative and uninhibited statues, way-stones and altars to Priapus, the god of well ventilated male members. Tibullus even managed to combine his two obsessions in one poem: [Close your eyes, children, for a moment]

'Sic umbrosa tibi contingant tecta, Priape,
Ne capiti soles, ne noceantque nives:
Quae tua formosos cepit sollertia? certe
Non tibi barba nitet, non tibi culta coma est,
Nudus et hibernae producis frigora brumae,
Nudus et aestivi tempora sicca Canis.'

[1.4 1]

'May the sheltering shade be yours, Priapus, and your head never harmed by sun or snow: what talent of yours captivates lovely boys? certainly your beard is not glossy, your hair uncombed, naked you poke out in the winter frost, naked too in summer, in the time of the dry dog-star.'

[You can open your eyes now, children.]

As we read in the first poem, Tibullus finds that the worst thing to do during the dog-days is to go on a long journey. Here he is again on this theme:

Tu, puero quodcumque tuo temptare libebit,
Cedas: obsequio plurima vincet amor.
Neu comes ire neges, quamvis via longa paretur
Et Canis arenti torreat arva siti,
Quamvis praetexens picta ferrugine caelum
Venturam anticipet imbrifer arcus aquam.

[1.4 39]

You oblige your boy's every wish, pandering wins love many victories. You cannot refuse, however long the road he wants to take, even when the dog-star bakes the parched fields, even when the rainbow paints the dark sky, ahead of the coming storm.

Tibullus returns to thoughts of bucolic bliss with his Delia, though his readers wonder how long this life of rustic labour will last after the object of his desire, a Roman girl used to the finer things in life, has split her first nail in the horny-handed service of her poet.

Rura colam, frugumque aderit mea Delia custos,
Area dum messes sole calente teret,
Aut mihi servabit plenis in lintribus uvas
Pressaque veloci candida musta pede;
Consuescet numerare pecus, consuescet amantis
Garrulus in dominae ludere verna sinu.

[1.5 21]

I'll till my fields and Delia will watch over the produce, watch over the harvest threshed under the blazing sun or watch over the grapes in the brimming vats, the glistening must pressed by agile feet.

Tibullus' understanding of weather and climate is about as defective as that of the modern climatologist – certainly the Swiss sort. He racks his brain to work out why it is that, when Italy and the other Meditarrenean countries are baked dry in the dog-days, much of Egypt is under water:

Qualis et, arentes cum findit Sirius agros,
Fertilis aestiva Nilus abundet aqua?

[1.7 21]

Or how Sirius cracks the baked fields, while the waters of the fertile Nile overflow in summer?

The final allusion to the dog-days comes in a group of poems which are of uncertain authorship – they are possibly by Tibullus, or possibly not. Your author does not really understand this text – that much will be clear to anyone reading his translation – but is comforted by the fact that Tibullan specialists do not seem to understand it either.

Vos tenet, Etruscis manat quae fontibus unda,
unda sub aestiuum non adeunda Canem,
nunc autem sacris Baiarum proxima lymphis,
cum se purpureo uere remittit humus.

[3.5 1]

You remain, where the water flows from Etruscan springs, (do not go there when under the summer dog-star) a near equal of the sacred waters of Baiae, now when the earth is covered with springtime purple.

So for the next few weeks in the temperate lands of the northern hemisphere keep your toga flouncy, put water in your wine, avoid long journeys and look after that statue – ahem – lurking in the bushes in your garden or perched proudly on your mantlepiece.

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