Vulturis ut primum laevo fundata volatu
Romulus infami complevit moenia luco,
usque ad Thessalicas servisses, Roma, ruinas.
de Brutis, Fortuna, queror. quid tempora legum
egimus aut annos a consule nomen habentes?
felices Arabes Medique Eoaque tellus,
quam sub perpetuis tenuerunt fata tyrannis.
ex populis qui regna ferunt sors ultima nostra est,
quos servire pudet. sunt nobis nulla profecto
numina: cum caeco rapiantur saecula casu,
mentimur regnare Iovem. spectabit ab alto
aethere Thessalicas, teneat cum fulmina, caedes?
scilicet ipse petet Pholoën, petet ignibus Oeten
immeritaeque nemus Rhodopes pinusque Mimantis,
Cassius hoc potius feriet caput? astra Thyestae
intulit et subitis damnavit noctibus Argos:
tot similes fratrum gladios patrumque gerenti
Thessaliae dabit ille diem? mortalia nulli
sunt curata deo. cladis tamen huius habemus
vindictam, quantam terris dare numina fas est:
bella pares superis facient civilia divos,
fulminibus manes radiisque ornabit et astris
inque deum templis iurabit Roma per umbras.
(Lucan, Bell. Civ. 7.437-459)
Ever since Romulus founded his city by the flight of a vulture on the left, and peopled it with the criminals of the Asylum, down to the catastrophe of Pharsalia, Rome ought to have remained in slavery. I have a grudge against Fortune on the score of the Bruti*. Why did we enjoy a period of lawful government, or years named after the consuls? Fortunate are the Arabs and Medes and Eastern nations, whom destiny has kept continuously under tyrants. Of all the nations that endure tyranny our lot is the worst, because we blush for our slavery. In very truth there are no gods who govern mankind: though we say falsely that Jupiter reigns, blind chance sweeps the world along. Shall Jupiter, though he grasps the thunderbolt, look on idly from high heaven at the slaughter of Pharsalia? Shall he forsooth aim his fires at Pholoe and Oeta, at the pines of Mimas and the innocent forest of Rhodope, and shall Cassius, rather than he, strike Caesar down ? He brought night upon Thyestes and doomed Argos to premature darkness; will he then grant daylight to Pharsalia that sees the guilt as great, of so many swords wielded by brothers and fathers? Man’s destiny has never been watched over by any god. Yet for this disaster
we have revenge, so far as gods may give satisfaction to mortals: civil war shall make dead Caesars the peers of gods above; and Rome shall deck out dead men with thunderbolts and haloes and constellations, and in the temples of the gods shall swear by ghosts.
* He refers to the Brutus who expelled the Tarquins.
(tr. James Duff Duff, with his note)