Pharsalia

pharsalia2

This is part 1 of 3. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

Ergo utrimque pari procurrunt agmina motu
irarum; metus hos regni, spes excitat illos.
hae facient dextrae, quidquid nona explicat aetas,
ut vacet a ferro. gentes Mars iste futuras
obruet et populos aevi venientis in orbem
erepto natale feret. tunc omne Latinum
fabula nomen erit; Gabios Veiosque Coramque
pulvere vix tectae poterunt monstrare ruinae
Albanosque lares Laurentinosque penates,
rus vacuum, quod non habitet nisi nocte coacta
invitus questusque Numam iussisse senator.
non aetas haec carpsit edax monimentaque rerum
putria destituit: crimen civile videmus
tot vacuas urbes. generis quo turba redacta est
humani! toto populi qui nascimur orbe
nec muros inplere viris nec possumus agros;
urbs nos una capit. vincto fossore coluntur
Hesperiae segetes, stat tectis putris avitis
in nullos ruitura domus, nulloque frequentem
cive suo Romam sed mundi faece repletam
cladis eo dedimus, ne tanto in corpore bellum
iam possit civile geri. Pharsalia tanti
causa mali. cedant, feralia nomina, Cannae
et damnata diu Romanis Allia fastis.
tempora signavit leviorum Roma malorum,
hunc voluit nescire diem.
(Lucan, Bell. Civ. 7.385-411)

Therefore the armies rushed forward, each inspired with the same passionate ardour, the one eager to escape a tyranny, the other to gain it. These hands will bring it to pass that, whatever the ninth century* unfolds, it shall be free from warfare. This battle will destroy nations yet unborn; it will deprive of their birthtime and sweep away the men of the generation coming into the world. Then all the Latin race will be a legend; dust-covered ruins will scarce be able to indicate the site of Gabii and Veii and Cora, the houses of Alba and the dwellings of Laurentum—a depopulated country, where no man dwells except the senators who are forced to spend one night there by Numa’s law which they resent**. It is not the tooth of time that has wrought this destruction and consigned to decay the memorials of the past: in all these uninhabited cities we see the guilt of civil war. How far reduced are the numbers of the human race! All the people born on earth cannot supply inhabitants for town or country; a single city contains us all. The corn-fields of Italy are tilled by chained labourers; the ancient roof-tree is rotten and ready to fall, but none dwell beneath it; Rome is not peopled by her own citizens but swarms with the refuse of mankind, and we have sunk her so low, that civil war, for all her many inmates, is no longer possible. Pharsalia is the cause of so great a mischief. The fatal names of Cannae and of Allia, cursed long ago by the Roman Calendar, must give place to Pharsalia. Rome has marked the date of lighter calamities, but has decided to ignore this day.

* Lucan lived in the ninth century from the foundation of Rome. The lack of men in that age was due, he says, to the slaughter of Pharsalia.
** The Roman consuls had to be present at Alba for the celebration of the Latin Festival.

(tr. James Duff Duff, with his notes)

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