[TH.] Reserate clausos regii postes laris.
o socia thalami, sicine adventum viri
et expetiti coniugis vultum excipis?
quin ense viduas dexteram atque animum mihi
restituis et te quidquid e vita fugat
[PH.] eheu, per tui sceptrum imperi,
magnanime Theseu, perque natorum indolem
tuosque reditus perque iam cineres meos,
permitte mortem.
[TH.] causa quae cogit mori?
[PH.] si causa leti dicitur, fructus perit.
[TH.] nemo istud alius, me quidem excepto, audiet.
[PH.] aures pudica coniugis solas timet.
[TH.] effare: fido pectore arcana occulam.
[PH.] alium silere quod voles, primus sile.
[TH.] leti facultas nulla continget tibi.
[PH.] mori volenti desse mors numquam potest.
[TH.] quod sit luendum morte delictum indica.
[PH.] quod vivo.
[TH.] lacrimae nonne te nostrae movent?
[PH.] mors optima est perire lacrimandum suis.
(Seneca, Phaedra 863-881)


[TH.] [To slaves] Unbar the closed doors of the royal house. [The interior scene is revealed, with Phaedra holding Hippolytus’ sword] O consort of my marriage bed, is this how you respond to your man’s arrival, the face of your long-missed spouse? Why not uncouple your hand from the sword, restore my spirit to me, and explain whatever it is that drives you from life?
[PH.] Alas! By your sceptred power, great-souled Theseus, by the promise of our sons, by your own return, and by my ashes soon to be, let me decide on death.
[TH.] What cause compels your death?
[PH.] If the cause is told, the profit of my death is lost.
[TH.] No one else will hear it but me.
[PH.] A chaste woman fears her husband’s ears above all.
[TH.] Speak out: I shall hide your secret in my faithful heart.
[PH.] If you want another to keep a secret, first keep it yourself.
[TH.] You will be given no opportunity for death.
[PH.] If someone wants to die, death is always in reach.
[TH.] Let me know the offence that needs to be punished by death.
[PH.] The fact that I live.
[TH.] Do my tears not move you?
[PH.] To die mourned by loved ones is the best of deaths.

(tr. John G. Fitch)


Εἰς τὸ τέλος, ἐν ὕμνοις· ψαλμὸς τῷ Ἀσάφ, ᾠδή, πρὸς τὸν Ἀσσύριον.
γνωστὸς ἐν τῇ Ἰουδαίᾳ ὁ θεός, ἐν τῷ Ἰσραὴλ μέγα τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ. καὶ ἐγενήθη ἐν εἰρήνῃ ὁ τόπος αὐτοῦ, καὶ τὸ κατοικητήριον αὐτοῦ ἐν Σιών· ἐκεῖ συνέτριψεν τὰ κράτη τῶν τόξων, ὅπλον καὶ ῥομφαίαν καὶ πόλεμον· ἐκεῖ συνκλάσει τὰ κέρατα. διάψαλμα. φωτίζεις σὺ θαυμαστῶς ἀπὸ ὀρέων αἰωνίων. ἐταράχθησαν πάντες οἱ ἀσύνετοι τῇ καρδίᾳ· ὕπνωσαν ὕπνον αὐτῶν, καὶ οὐχ εὗρον οὐδὲν πάντες οἱ ἄνδρες τοῦ πλούτου ταῖς χερσὶν αὐτῶν. ἀπὸ ἐπιτιμήσεώς σου, ὁ θεὸς Ἰακώβ, ἐνύσταξαν οἱ ἐπιβεβηκότες τοὺς ἵππους. σὺ φοβερὸς εἶ, καὶ τίς ἀντιστήσεταί σοι ἀπὸ τῆς ὀργῆς σου; ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ ἠκόντισας κρίσιν, γῆ ἐφοβήθη καὶ ἡσύχασεν, ἐν τῷ ἀναστῆναι εἰς κρίσιν τὸν, θεόν, τοῦ σῶσαι πάντας τοὺς πρᾳεῖς τῇ καρδίᾳ. διάψαλμα. ὅτι ἐνθύμιον ἀνθρώπου ἐξομολογήσεταί σοι, καὶ ἐνκατάλιμμα ἐνθυμίου ἑορτάσει σοι. εὔξασθε καὶ ἀπόδοτε Κυρίῳ τῷ θεῷ ἡμῶν· πάντες οἱ κύκλῳ αὐτοῦ οἴσουσιν δῶρα τῷ φοβερῷ καὶ ἀφαιρουμένῳ πνεύματα ἀρχόντων, φοβερῷ παρὰ τοῖς βασιλεῦσι τῆς γῆς.
(Psalms 76 (75))

In finem. in laudibus. psalmus Asaph. canticum ad Assyrios.
notus in Iudaea Deus; in Israel magnum nomen eius, et factus est in pace locus eius, et habitatio eius in Sion. ibi confregit potentias arcuum, scutum, gladium, et bellum. illuminans tu mirabiliter de montibus aeternis; turbati sunt omnes insipientes corde. dormierunt somnum suum, et nihil invenerunt omnes viri divitiarum in manibus suis. ab increpatione tua, Deus Iacob, dormitaverunt qui ascenderunt equos. tu terribilis es, et quis resistet tibi? ex tunc, ira tua. de caelo auditum fecisti iudicium: terra tremuit et quievit cum exsurgeret in iudicium Deus ut salvos faceret omnes mansuetos terrae, quoniam cogitatio hominis confitebitur tibi et reliquiae cogitationis diem festum agent tibi. vovete, et reddite Domino, Deo vestro; omnes qui in circuitu eius affertis munera terribili, et ei qui aufert spiritum principum, terribili apud reges terrae.
(tr. Jerome)

Unto the end. In praises. A psalm for Asaph. A canticle to the Assyrians.
In Judea God is known; his name is great in Israel, and his place is in peace, and his abode in Zion. There hath he broken the powers of bows, the shield, the sword, and the battle. Thou enlightenest wonderfully from the everlasting hills. All the foolish of heart were troubled. They have slept their sleep, and all the men of riches have found nothing in their hands. At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, they have all slumbered that mounted on horseback. Thou art terrible, and who shall resist thee? From that time, thy wrath. Thou hast caused judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth trembled and was still when God arose in judgment to save all the meek of the earth, for the thought of man shall give praise to thee and the remainders of the thought shall keep holiday to thee. Vow ye, and pay to the Lord, your God; all you that are round about him bring presents to him that is terrible, even to him who taketh away the spirit of princes, to the terrible with the kings of the earth.

(tr. Douay-Rheims)


Paul Cézanne, Énée recontre Didon à Carthage (ca. 1875)

Tum sic reginam adloquitur cunctisque repente
improvisus ait: ‘coram, quem quaeritis, adsum,
Troïus Aeneas, Libycis ereptus ab undis.
o sola infandos Troiae miserata labores,
quae nos, reliquias Danaum, terraeque marisque
omnibus exhaustos iam casibus, omnium egenos,
urbe, domo socias, grates persolvere dignas
non opis est nostrae, Dido, nec quidquid ubique est
gentis Dardaniae, magnum quae sparsa per orbem.
di tibi, si qua pios respectant numina, si quid
usquam iustitiae est, et mens sibi conscia recti,
praemia digna ferant. quae te tam laeta tulerunt
saecula? qui tanti talem genuere parentes?
in freta dum fluvii current, dum montibus umbrae
lustrabunt convexa, polus dum sidera pascet,
semper honos nomenque tuum laudesque manebunt,
quae me cumque vocant terrae.’ sic fatus, amicum
Ilionea petit dextra laevaque Serestum,
post alios, fortemque Gyan fortemque Cloanthum.
(Vergil, Aeneid 1.594-612)

Then thus he addresses the queen, and, unforeseen by all, suddenly speaks: ‘I, whom you seek, am here before you, Aeneas of Troy, snatched from the Libyan waves. O you who alone have pitied Troy’s unutterable woes, you who grant us—the remnant left by the Greeks, now outworn by every mischance of land and sea, and destitute of all—a share in your city and home, to pay you fitting thanks, Dido, is not in our power, nor in theirs who anywhere survive of Trojan race, scattered over the wide world. May the gods, if any divine powers have regard for the good, if there is any justice anywhere—may the gods and the consciousness of right bring you worthy rewards! What happy ages bore you? What glorious parents gave birth to so noble a child? While rivers run to ocean, while on the mountains shadows move over slopes, while heaven feeds the stars, ever shall your honour, your name, and your praises abide, whatever be the lands that summon me!’ So saying, he grasps his dear Ilioneus with the right hand, and with the left Serestus; then others, brave Gyas and brave Cloanthus.

(tr. Henry Rushton Fairclough, revised by George P. Goold)


Καὶ οἵδε μὲν προσηκόντως τῇ πόλει τοιοίδε ἐγένοντο· τοὺς δὲ λοιποὺς χρὴ ἀσφαλεστέραν μὲν εὔχεσθαι, ἀτολμοτέραν δὲ μηδὲν ἀξιοῦν τὴν ἐς. τοὺς πολεμίους διάνοιαν ἔχειν, σκοποῦντας μὴ λόγῳ μόνῳ τὴν ὠφελίαν, ἣν ἄν τις πρὸς οὐδὲν χεῖρον αὐτοὺς ὑμᾶς εἰδότας μηκύνοι, λέγων ὅσα ἐν τῷ τοὺς πολεμίους ἀμύνεσθαι ἀγαθὰ ἔνεστιν, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον τὴν τῆς πόλεως δύναμιν καθ᾿ ἡμέραν ἔργῳ θεωμένους καὶ ἐραστὰς γιγνομένους αὐτῆς, καὶ ὅταν ὑμῖν μεγάλη δόξῃ εἶναι, ἐνθυμουμένους ὅτι τολμῶντες καὶ γιγνώσκοντες τὰ δέοντα καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις αἰσχυνόμενοι ἄνδρες αὐτὰ ἐκτήσαντο, καὶ ὁπότε καὶ πείρᾳ του σφαλεῖεν, οὐκ οὖν καὶ τὴν πόλιν γε τῆς σφετέρας ἀρετῆς ἀξιοῦντες στερίσκειν, κάλλιστον δὲ ἔρανον αὐτῇ προϊέμενοι. κοινῇ γὰρ τὰ σώματα διδόντες ἰδίᾳ τὸν ἀγήρων ἔπαινον ἐλάμβανον καὶ τὸν τάφον ἐπισημότατον, οὐκ ἐν ᾧ κεῖνται μᾶλλον, ἀλλ᾿ ἐν ᾧ ἡ δόξα αὐτῶν παρὰ τῷ ἐντυχόντι αἰεὶ καὶ λόγου καὶ ἔργου καιρῷ αἰείμνηστος καταλείπεται. ἀνδρῶν γὰρ ἐπιφανῶν πᾶσα γῆ τάφος, καὶ οὐ στηλῶν μόνον ἐν τῇ οἰκείᾳ σημαίνει ἐπιγραφή, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν τῇ μὴ προσηκούσῃ ἄγραφος μνήμη παρ᾿ ἑκάστῳ τῆς γνώμης μᾶλλον ἢ τοῦ ἔργου ἐνδιαιτᾶται. οὓς νῦν ὑμεῖς ζηλώσαντες καὶ τὸ εὔδαιμον τὸ ἐλεύθερον, τὸ δ᾿ ἐλεύθερον τὸ εὔψυχον κρίναντες, μὴ περιορᾶσθε τοὺς πολεμικοὺς κινδύνους. οὐ γὰρ οἱ κακοπραγοῦντες δικαιότερον ἀφειδοῖεν ἂν τοῦ βίου, οἷς ἐλπὶς οὐκ ἔστιν ἀγαθοῦ, ἀλλ᾿ οἷς ἡ ἐναντία μεταβολὴ ἐν τῷ ζῆν ἔτι κινδυνεύεται καὶ ἐν οἷς μάλιστα μεγάλα τὰ διαφέροντα, ἤν τι πταίσωσιν. ἀλγεινοτέρα γὰρ ἀνδρί γε φρόνημα ἔχοντι ἡ μετὰ τοῦ μαλακισθῆναι κάκωσις ἢ ὁ μετὰ ῥώμης καὶ κοινῆς ἐλπίδος ἅμα γιγνόμενος ἀναίσθητος θάνατος.
(Thucydides, Hist. 2.43)

Such were these men, and they proved worthy of their city. The rest of us may pray for a safer outcome, but should demand of ourselves a determination against the enemy no less courageous than theirs. The benefit of this is not simply an intellectual question. Do not simply listen to people telling you at length of all the virtues inherent in resisting the enemy, when you know them just as well yourselves: but rather look day after day on the manifest power of our city, and become her lovers. And when you realize her greatness, reflect that it was men who made her great, by their daring, by their recognition of what they had to do, and by their pride in doing it. If ever they failed in some attempt, they would not have the city share their loss, but offered her their courage as the finest contribution they could make. Together they gave their lives, and individually they took as their reward the praise which does not grow old and the most glorious of tombs — not where their bodies lie, but where their fame lives on in every occasion for speech and ceremony, an everlasting memory. Famous men have the whole earth as their tomb. Their record is not only the inscription on gravestones in their own land, but in foreign countries too the unwritten memorial which lives in individual hearts, the remembrance of their spirit rather than their achievement. You should now seek to emulate these men. Realize that happiness is freedom, and freedom is courage, and do not be nervous of the dangers of war. The unfortunate, with no hope of improvement, have better reason to husband their lives than those who risk reversal of fortune if they live on and have the most to lose should they fail. To a man with any pride cowardice followed by disaster is more painful than a death which comes in the vigour of courage and the fellowship of hope, and is hardly felt.

(tr. Martin Hammond)


Nec coiere pares. alter vergentibus annis
in senium longoque togae tranquillior usu
dedidicit iam pace ducem, famaeque petitor
multa dare in vulgus, totus popularibus auris
impelli, plausuque sui gaudere theatri,
nec reparare novas vires, multumque priori
credere fortunae. stat magni nominis umbra;
qualis frugifero quercus sublimis in agro
exuvias veteres populi sacrataque gestans
dona ducum nec iam validis radicibus haerens
pondere fixa suo est, nudosque per aëra ramos
effundens trunco, non frondibus, efficit umbram;
et quamvis primo nutet casura sub Euro,
tot circum silvae firmo se robore tollant,
sola tamen colitur.
(Lucan, Bell. Civ. 1.129-143)

The two rivals were ill-matched. The one was somewhat tamed by declining years; for long he had worn the toga and forgotten in peace the leader’s part; courting reputation and lavish to the common people, he was swayed entirely by the breath of popularity and delighted in the applause that hailed him in the theatre he built; and trusting fondly to his former greatness, he did nothing to support it by fresh power. The mere shadow of a mighty name he stood. Thus an oak-tree, laden with the ancient trophies of a nation and the consecrated gifts of conquerors, towers in a fruitful field; but the roots it clings by have lost their toughness, and it stands by its weight alone, throwing out bare boughs into the sky and making a shade not with leaves but with its trunk; though it totters doomed to fall at the first gale, while many trees with sound timber rise beside it, yet it alone is worshipped.

(tr. James Duff Duff)


This is part 2 of 2. Part 1 is here.

“Quo didicisse, nisi hoc fermentum et quae semel intus
innata est rupto iecore exierit caprificus?”
en pallor seniumque! o mores, usque adeone
scire tuum nihil est nisi te scire hoc sciat alter?
“at pulchrum est digito monstrari et dicier ‘hic est.’
ten cirratorum centum dictata fuisse
pro nihilo pendes?” ecce inter pocula quaerunt
Romulidae saturi quid dia poemata narrent.
hic aliquis, cui circum umeros hyacinthina laena est,
rancidulum quiddam balba de nare locutus
Phyllidas, Hypsipylas, vatum et plorabile siquid,
eliquat ac tenero subplantat verba palato.
adsensere viri: nunc non cinis ille poetae
felix? non levior cippus nunc inprimit ossa?
laudant convivae: nunc non e manibus illis,
nunc non e tumulo fortunataque favilla
nascentur violae? “rides” ait “et nimis uncis
naribus indulges. an erit qui velle recuset
os populi meruisse et cedro digna locutus
linquere nec scombros metuentia carmina nec tus?”
(Persius, Sat. 1.24-43)

[INTERLOCUTOR] What’s the point of studying, if this yeast, this wild fig tree*,  once it’s taken root inside, can’t rupture the liver and burst out?
[POET] So that’s why you are so pale and decrepit! Appalling! Is your knowledge so worthless unless someone else knows that you know it?
[INTERLOCUTOR] But it’s splendid to be pointed out and to hear people say: “That’s him!” Is it worth nothing to you to be the dictation text of a hundred curly-headed boys?
[POET] Look—the sons of Romulus, stuffed full, are enquiring over their cups what’s new from divine poesy. At this point, someone with a hyacinth wrap around his shoulders, snorting and lisping some nauseating stuff, filters his Phyllises and Hypsipyles**, the typical tear-jerking stuff of bards, tripping up the words on the roof of his delicate mouth. The great men nod in approval. Are your poet’s ashes not blissful now? Does the tombstone not rest more lightly on his bones now? The guests applaud: will violets not spring from those remains, from that tomb and from that blessed ash now?
[INTERLOCUTOR] You’re mocking me, he says, and letting your nostrils sneer too much. Is there anyone who would disown the desire to earn the praise of the people?—or, when he’s produced compositions good enough for cedar oil***, to leave behind him poetry which has nothing to fear from mackerels or incense****? 

* The wild fig tree was renowned for the power of its roots to dislodge stones.
** Two inconsolable heroines.
*** Cedar oil was used to preserve books.
**** A reference to the traditional fate of bad poetry (cf. Cat. 95.9, Hor. Ep. 2.1.269-270): to be used as wrapping paper by shopkeepers.

(tr. Susanna Morton Braund, with her notes)


This is part 1 of 2. Part 2 is here.

O curas hominum! o quantum est in rebus inane!
“quis leget haec?” min tu istud ais? nemo hercule.
“nemo?” vel duo vel nemo. “turpe et miserabile.” quare?
ne mihi Polydamas et Troiades Labeonem
praetulerint? nugae. non, si quid turbida Roma
elevet, accedas examenve inprobum in illa
castiges trutina nec te quaesiveris extra.
nam Romae quis non—a, si fas dicere—sed fas
tum cum ad canitiem et nostrum istud vivere triste
aspexi ac nucibus facimus quaecumque relictis,
cum sapimus patruos. tunc tunc—ignoscite (nolo,
quid faciam?) sed sum petulanti splene—cachinno.
scribimus inclusi, numeros ille, hic pede liber,
grande aliquid quod pulmo animae praelargus anhelet.
scilicet haec populo pexusque togaque recenti
et natalicia tandem cum sardonyche albus
sede leges celsa, liquido cum plasmate guttur
mobile collueris, patranti fractus ocello.
tunc neque more probo videas nec voce serena
ingentis trepidare Titos, cum carmina lumbum
intrant et tremulo scalpuntur ubi intima versu.
tun, vetule, auriculis alienis colligis escas,
articulis quibus et dicas cute perditus “ohe”?
(Persius, Sat. 1.1-23)

[POET] “How troubled is humanity! How very empty is life!”
[INTERLOCUTOR] Who’ll read that?
[POET] Are you talking to me? No one, for God’s sake.
[POET] Perhaps one or two.
[INTERLOCUTOR] That’s disgraceful and pathetic.
[POET] Why’s that? Because Polydamas and the Trojan dames* might prefer Labeo** to me? Rubbish! If muddled Rome disparages something, don’t step in to correct the faulty balance in those scales and don’t search outside yourself. The reason? Is there anyone at Rome who doesn’t—oh, if only I could say it—but I may, when I look at our grey heads and that gloomy life of ours and everything we’ve been doing since we gave up our toys, since we started sounding like strict uncles. Then, then—excuse me (I don’t want to, I can’t help it), but I’ve got a cheeky temper—I cackle.
We shut ourselves away and write some grand stuff, one in verse, another in prose, stuff which only a generous lung of breath can gasp out. And of course that’s what you will finally read to the public from your seat on the platform, neatly combed and in your fresh toga, all dressed in white and wearing your birthday ring of sardonyx, after you have rinsed your supple throat with a liquid warble, in a state of enervation with your orgasmic eye. Then, as the poetry enters their backsides and as their inmost parts are tickled by verse vibrations, you can see huge Tituses*** quivering, both their respectable manner and their calm voice gone. What, you old reprobate, do you compose morsels for other people’s ears, morsels which would make even you, with your joints and skin decayed, say, “Enough!”?

* I.e. his critics: an allusion to Hom. Il. 22.99-130 where Hector fears criticism from Polydamas and the Trojan men and women. “Dames” is a sneer at the alleged Trojan ancestry of some of the Roman elite.
** Attius Labeo was a poet under Nero who translated Homer’s Iliad.
*** Titus designates an ordinary Roman.

(tr. Susanna Morton Braund, with some of her notes)

In te, si in quemquam, dici pote, putide Victi,
id quod verbosis dicitur et fatuis.
Ista cum lingua, si usus veniat tibi, possis
culos et crepidas lingere carpatinas.
Si nos omnino vis omnes perdere, Victi,
hiscas: omnino quod cupis efficies.
(Catullus 98)

Against you if against anyone, rot-breath Vettius,
the complaints about gaping chatterers can be laid.
With that furred tongue of yours you could, had you occasion,
lick assholes, or the soles of peasants’ boots.
If you want to destroy us all totally, Vettius, you just need to
open wide: you’ll score a complete success.
(tr. Peter Green)