Degeneres

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Actum Romanis fuerat de rebus, et omnis
indiga servitii fervebat litore plebes:
erupere ducis sacro de pectore voces.
‘ergo pari voto gessisti bella, iuventus,
tu quoque pro dominis, et Pompeiana fuisti,
non Romana manus? quod non in regna laboras,
quod tibi, non ducibus, vivis morerisque, quod orbem
adquiris nulli, quod iam tibi vincere tutum est,
bella fugis quaerisque iugum cervice vacanti
et nescis sine rege pati. nunc causa pericli
digna viris. potuit vestro Pompeius abuti
sanguine: nunc patriae iugulos ensesque negatis,
cum prope libertas? unum fortuna reliquit
iam tribus e dominis. pudeat: plus regia Nili
contulit in leges et Parthi militis arcus.
ite, o degeneres, Ptolemaei munus et arma
spernite. quis vestras ulla putet esse nocentes
caede manus? credet faciles sibi terga dedisse,
credet ab Emathiis primos fugisse Philippis.
vadite securi; meruistis iudice vitam
Caesare non armis, non obsidione subacti.
o famuli turpes, domini post fata prioris
itis ad heredem. cur non maiora mereri
quam vitam veniamque libet? rapiatur in undas
infelix coniunx Magni prolesque Metelli,
ducite Pompeios, Ptolemaei vincite munus.
nostra quoque inviso quisquis feret ora tyranno
non parva mercede dabit: sciat ista iuventus
cervicis pretio bene se mea signa secutam.
quin agite et magna meritum cum caede parate:
ignavum scelus est tantum fuga.’ dixit, et omnes
haud aliter medio revocauit ab aequore puppes
quam, simul effetas linquunt examina ceras
atque oblita favi non miscent nexibus alas
sed sibi quaeque volat nec iam degustat amarum
desidiosa thymum, Phrygii sonus increpat aeris,
attonitae posuere fugam studiumque laboris
floriferi repetunt et sparsi mellis amorem:
gaudet in Hyblaeo securus gramine pastor
divitias servasse casae. sic voce Catonis
inculcata viris iusti patientia Martis.
(Lucan, Bell. Civ. 8.253-293)

The cause of Rome was as good as lost, and all the rabble, at a loss for want of a master, swarmed upon the shore. But utterance came with a rush from the sacred breast of Cato: “It seems then, soldiers, that you too fought with the same desire as others, in defence of tyranny—that you were the troops of Pompey, and not of Rome. You no longer suffer in order to set up a tyrant; your life and death belong to yourselves, not to your leaders; there is no one for whom you gain the whole world, and now you may safely conquer for yourselves alone. Yet now you desert the ranks; you miss the yoke when your neck is relieved, and you cannot endure existence without a tyrant. But you have now a quarrel worthy of brave men. Pompey was suffered to make full use of your life-blood : now, when freedom is in sight, do you refuse to fight and die for your country? Out of three masters Fortune has spared but one. Shame on you! The court of Egypt and the bow of the Parthian soldier have done more for the cause of lawful government. Depart, degenerate men, neglectful alike of Ptolemy’s gift and your own weapons. Who would suppose that your hands were ever stained with bloodshed? Caesar will take your word for it that you were quick to turn your backs to him, and first in the flight from Philippi in Thessaly. Go and fear not: if Caesar be your judge, you, who were not subdued by battle or siege, have deserved to have your lives spared. Base slaves! Your former master is dead, and you welcome his heir. Why do you not seek to earn a greater reward than mere life and pardon? Seize the hapless wife of Magnus and daughter of Metellus, and carry her over the sea; lead captive the sons of Pompey; and so outdo the gift of Ptolemy, Also, whoever bears my head to the hated tyrant will receive no small reward for his gift. By the price of my head your troops will learn that they did well to follow my standard. Rouse up therefore, commit a mighty crime, and gain your reward. Mere flight is the crime of cowards.” By this speech he recalled all the ships from mid-sea. Even so, when the swarm deserts the cells that have hatched their young, they forget the comb; their wings are no longer intertwined, but each bee flies independently and plays truant, ceasing to suck the bitter thyme; but, if the sound of Phrygian brass rebukes them, at once in alarm they stop their flight and go back to their task of bearing pollen, and renew their love of scattered honey; the shepherd on the meadow of Hybla is relieved, and rejoices that the wealth of his cottage is safe. Thus by Cato’s words the resolution to endure lawful warfare was impressed upon his men. (tr. James Duff Duff)

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