V 99 WHEN IN ROME
Milan, Ferrara, Turin, & Aquilloye,
Capne, Brundis vexés par gent Celtique,
Par le Lyon & phalange aquilee,
Quant Rome aura le chef vieux Britanique.
Milan, Ferrara, Turin and Acqui Statiellea,
Capri, Brindisi vexed by the Celtic people,
By Lyon/the Lion and his eagle phalanx,
By the marigold pad and the aqillegia spur,
When Rome will have the old Governor of Britain.
The Northern cities of Milan and Ferrara were, incidentally, the sources of the oldest known Tarot card decks. Northern Italy was home to Celts and Ligurians (and some immigrant Norman brigands).
Line 2. Capne is difficut to place. Certainly ‘Cap Ne’ does not exist. The Isle of Capri is off the South West coast of Italy and Brindisi is on the South East coast, both vulnerable to sea attacks. The British ousted the French from Capri in May 1807, after which it was set to become another Gibraltar but the French won Capri back in 1808, later returning it to the Bourbons of Naples.
Alternatively, Capne is the old Principality of Capua. In ancient days it was a major city and frequently war-torn.
Lines 2 and 3 contain the letters of the name Publius Helvius Pertinax Augustus excepting that we need add two more of the letter ‘s’ for complete closure.
(See the end comments in the Article on ‘Malachy’s Popes’)
The Utrecht Du Rosne parallel edition of 1557 spells Celtiques with a final ‘s’. If this had been ‘gents Celtiques’ we would be all the way home. Maybe that was Nostredame’s original intent, the extra ‘s’ being a normal option at the time including in the singular i.e. adding no meaning and left unpronounced/unheard during print dictation.
Pertinax, sometime Roman Governor of Britain who was born in Alba Pompeia, became the Roman Emperor for 3 months in 193 AD at the age of 67. The previous Emperor, Commodus, was murdered by a Praetorian prefect for being unaccomodating over bonuses. The Emperor’s favoured the all-Latin Praetorian Guards then killed Pertinax, a famous disciplinarian in Britain. Five emperors were crowned in that year, four failing within a few months.
The Celtic people could, I suppose, be the troublesome Britons of Brittannia and/or the original Celtic inhabitants of Alba Pompeia (Alba, Piedmont). This location was recognized as a Roman town when Consul Strabo built a road through from Acqui Statiellea to Turin.
Line 3, fancifully OF ‘Lyon’ could be the marigold’s disc and ‘phalange aquilee’ could be the aqillegia’s spurs. This would certainly be a poetic reference appropriate to Southern England/Southern Europe. More literally this is Lyons, a most ancient Roman city of France.
Or else the lion is the Emperor, and his imperial phalanx the Praetorian Guards. Today this lion would probably be England and the eagle phalanx could possibly mean America.
OF ‘Par’ can mean very, extremely, as well being an expression of means or manner. It also has the meanings by, through, in the direction of and in the manner of (as per).
Line 4, OF ‘Quant’ could well be ‘quand’, when, but in old Occitan it actually meant ‘how’.
This line is a time-marker (193 AD) and the whole Quatrain seems an obscure history lesson as to how Pertinax came to be Emperor at a time when Rome/Italy was vexed by the problem of the Britons/Celts in Brittannia. It does not mention how the urge to discipline his underlings finished him off: the motto may be ‘what worked with the Britons fails at Rome’, the complement of ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’.
Nigel Raymond Offord © 2012