I am assisting someone working on Bonifaccio’s work on dance, and the following quote from Lucian (The Dance) came up, here with my translation attempt (only on the Latin part) and notes to the same:

Italian and Latin text: Et is Samosatense, facendo come vn compendio delle lodi del ballo: Saltatio ergo erit omnium elegantissima, quae & mentem acuat, & corpus exerceat, spectatores oblectet, multas res priscas homines¹ doceat,² tibiis, cymbalis, numeroso carminum³ concentu animum,⁴ quantum⁵ ad oculos, & aures attinet, ex aequo demulcens.

Dancing therefore is wholly true elegance, and it can sharpen the mind, and exercise the body, delighten the onlookers, teach men² [of] things [from] ancient [times]; with flutes, cymbals and a variety of songs [fill] the soul with harmony; as much to the eyes as to the ears it belongs; from these equally it is soothing.⁶

1 Or ‘folk’, if you prefer; that option is, though, slightly inaccurate.
2 Note that doceō takes a double accusative.
3 Is this mediaeval or later Latin? If so, carminum would rather be the nominative, vocative or accusative.
4 The ending here was very tricky, so I would suggest another consultation on this. I have interpreted animum as the direct object and concentū as a sort of instrumental ablative.
5 This I have interpreted as an adverb.
6 As with 4, this was tricky. I do believe more context might help, but I will try to make consultations on this.

My questions are these:

  1. Is my translation on point?
  2. Have I solved the problematic points adequately, ɔ: n.  4 on concentū animum and n. 6 on the final phrase (‘from these equally it is soothing’)?

2 Answers 2


omnium elegantissima: The form of omnium is genitive plural, dependent on the superlative: 'most elegant of all.'

acuat…exerceat…oblectet…doceat: Note that these 4 verbs are subjunctive. The construction could be the so-called relative clause of characteristic, which is generalizing and can be used to talk about the characteristics of a broad class: 'that sort of dancing will be most elegant of all that sharpens…exercises…delights…teaches.' Alternatively, the relative clause could be causal: 'dancing will be most elegant of all, inasmuch as it sharpens…exercises…delights…teaches.' Without looking at what comes before this excerpt, it's hard to say which of these is correct.

tibiis…animum: The ablatives tibiis, cymbalis, and concentu are all ablatives of means with the present participle demulcens, and animum is the direct object of that participle. The verb demulceo can mean not only 'soothe' but also 'entrance,' which fits the Greek text that is the source of this excerpt (see below): 'entrancing the mind by means of flutes....'

numeroso carminum concentu: This all goes together, with numeroso modifying concentu. Especially given the context, numerosus should more properly refer to the rhythmical nature of the playing rather than its variety (one definition of the adjective is 'rhythmical'). The form carminum has to be genitive plural here and depends on concentu: 'rhythmical playing of songs.'

quantum...attinet: 'as far as the eyes and ears are concerned' or 'as far as regards the eyes and ears.' This is a pretty standard classical phrase.

ex aequo: This too is pretty standard. It's adverbial, modifying demulcens, and means 'equally,' 'to an equal extent,' or the like.

I would translate the excerpt as something like this:

Therefore, that sort of dancing will be most elegant of all that [or 'Therefore dancing will be most elegant of all, inasmuch it'] both sharpens the mind and exercises the body, delights the people who watch it, and teaches people many things from days of yore, entrancing the spirit, as far as regards the eyes and ears, with flutes, cymbals, and rhythmical playing of songs to an equal extent.

As you noted at the beginning of your question, the excerpt is from Lucian of Samosata. Here's the original Greek text of the relevant section (Περὶ ὀρχήσεως 72) and my rough literal translation:

πῶς οὖν οὐ παναρμόνιόν τι χρῆμα ὄρχησις, θήγουσα μὲν τὴν ψυχήν, ἀσκοῦσα δὲ καὶ τὸ σῶμα, τέρπουσα δὲ τοὺς ὁρῶντας, διδάσκουσα δὲ πολλὰ τῶν πάλαι ὑπ᾽ αὐλοῖς καὶ κυμβάλοις καὶ μελῶν εὐρυθμίᾳ καὶ κηλήσει διά τε ὀφθαλμῶν καὶ ἀκοῆς;

How then is dancing not some all-harmonious thing, sharpening the mind, exercising the body, delighting those who see it, and teaching many things of the ancients to the music of flutes and cymbals, and to the rhythmical movement of limbs, and to enchantment through both the eyes and the ears?

  • 2
    ‘Ex aequo’ as synonym for ‘simul’ or ‘eodem tempore’ seems problematic to me. Why not simply ‘equally’?
    – Batavulus
    Commented Feb 15, 2021 at 18:51
  • 1
    I took ex to refer to all that had been mentioned previously, as is reflected in cnread’s translation, too. And by the way, @cnread, you gave me more than I asked for, so thank you very much for that!
    – Canned Man
    Commented Feb 15, 2021 at 20:13
  • 3
    I thoroughly revised this answer, after giving it some more thought (esp. in light of Batavulus's comment) and taking a peek at the original Greek text that is the source.
    – cnread
    Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 7:57

A. The translation of ex aequo demulcens will have to takes its cue from mentem acuat, and to a lesser extent 'exercises...' 'delights...' 'teaches...' Perhaps translate as
'stimulates the mind...- equally soothing' (the soul, eyes, ears) or as
'excites the mind...- equally calming'
B. concentu carminum etc for a modern audience draws attention to all aspects of being present at a live performance.
Numerosus, concentus, both have connotations of number and also musicality (as cnread observes). Translate as
'With flutes, with cymbals, with the symphonic concert of songs...'
or as
'With flutes, with cymbals, with the harmonious symphony of songs...'

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