civil war

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

Pro tristia fata!
aëra pestiferum tractu morbosque fluentes
insanamque famem permissasque ignibus urbes
moeniaque in praeceps laturos plena tremores
hi possunt explere viri, quos undique traxit
in miseram Fortuna necem, dum munera longi
explicat eripiens aevi, populosque ducesque
constituit campis, per quos tibi, Roma, ruenti
ostendat quam magna cadas. quae latius orbem
possedit, citius per prospera fata cucurrit?
omne tibi bellum gentes dedit, omnibus annis
te geminum Titan procedere vidit in axem;
haud multum terrae spatium restabat Eoae,
ut tibi nox, tibi tota dies, tibi curreret aether,
omniaque errantes stellae Romana viderent.
sed retro tua fata tulit par omnibus annis
Emathiae funesta dies. hac luce cruenta
effectum, ut Latios non horreat India fasces,
nec vetitos errare Dahas in moenia ducat
Sarmaticumque premat succinctus consul aratrum,
quod semper saevas debet tibi Parthia poenas,
quod fugiens civile nefas redituraque numquam
Libertas ultra Tigrim Rhenumque recessit
ac, totiens nobis iugulo quaesita, vagatur
Germanum Scythicumque bonum, nec respicit ultra
Ausoniam, vellem, populis incognita nostris.
(Lucan, Bell. Civ. 7.411-436)

O cruel destiny! Air fatal to inhale, and epidemic disease; maddening famine, cities consigned to the flames, and earthquakes that could bring to ruin populous cities—all these might be glutted by the men whom Fortune drew from every quarter to premature death, snatching away the gifts of long ages even while she displayed them, and arraying nations and chiefs upon the battle-field; by them she wished to show to collapsing Rome, what greatness fell with her. What city ever possessed a wider empire, or ran more quickly from success to success? Each war added nations to Rome; each year the sun saw her move forward towards either pole; a small part of the East excepted, night, and day from beginning to end, and all the sky revolved for Rome, and the stars in their courses saw nothing that was not hers. But the fatal day of Pharsalia reversed her destiny and undid the work of all the past. Thanks to that bloody field, India dreads not the Roman rods, no Roman consul arrests the nomad Dahae and makes them dwell in cities, or leans on the plough* in Sarmatia with his robe looped up; it is owing to Pharsalia that Parthia still owes us stern retribution, and that Freedom, banished by civil war, has retreated beyond the Tigris and the Rhine, never to return; often as we have wooed her with our life-blood, she wanders afar, a blessing enjoyed by Germans and Scythians, and never turns an eye on Italy: would that our nation had never known her!

* In ancient times it was the business of the consul to trace out with the plough the limits of a colony planted in a conquered country. The Dahae were nomads who wandered over the plains to the East of the Caspian.

(tr. James Duff Duff, with his note)

2 thoughts on “Funesta”

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