Mosaic from El Djem (ancient Thysdrus), Tunesia, ca. 220-250 AD

[N]os nudi [f]iemus.
bibere venimus.
ia[m] multu[m] loquimini.
nos tres tenemus.

silentiu[m] dormiant tauri.

(Tunis, Musée National du Bardo, 3361)

We’re going to be (= drink ourselves?) naked.
We’re here to drink.
You’re all talking a lot.
We may get called away.
We’re having three [glasses].

Silence! Let the bulls sleep.

(tr. by anonymous)



O tu qui servas armis ista moenia,
noli dormire, moneo, sed vigila!
dum Hector vigil extitit in Troia,
non eam cepit fraudulenta Graecia.
Prima quiete dormiente Troia
laxavit Sinon fallax claustra perfida.
per funem lapsa occultata agmina
invadunt urbem et incendunt Pergama.
vigili voce avis anser candida
fugavit Gallos ex arce Romulea;
pro qua virtute facta est argentea
et a Romanis adorata ut dea.
nos adoremus celsa Christi numina:
illi canora demus nostra iubila!
illius magna fisi sub custodia,
haec vigilantes iubilemus carmina!
divina mundi, rex Christe, custodia,
sub tua serva haec castra vigilia.
[tu murus tuis sis inexpugnabilis,
sis inimicis hostis tu terribilis!]
te vigilante nulla nocet fortia,
qui cuncta fugas procul arma bellica.
tu cinge nostra haec, Christe, munimina,
defendens ea tua forti lancea.
[sancta Maria, mater Christi splendida,
haec cum Iohanne theoticos impetra,
quorum hic sancta venerantur pignora
et quibus ista sunt sacrata limina.]
quo duce, victrix est in bello dextera
et sine ipso nihil valent iacula.
fortis iuventus, virtus audax bellica,
vestra per muros audiantur carmina,
et sit in armis alterna vigilia,
ne fraus hostilis haec invadat moenia.
resultet echo: ‘comes eia, vigila!’
per muros, ‘eia!’, dicat echo: ‘vigila!’
(Canto delle scolte modenesi)

O you who guard those walls with arms,
do not sleep, I warn you, keep watch!
While Hector kept watch in Troy
the Greeks did not take it by treachery.
While Troy lay sleeping in the peace of early morning
Synon the traitor unlocked the bolts that betrayed it.
The forces hidden within were lowered down by rope,
they stormed the city, and burned Pergamon.
A white bird—a goose—with watchful cry
put the Gauls to flight from the heights of Rome.
For this virtuous deed its image was made in silver
and was adored as a goddess by the Romans.
Let us worship the lofty power of Christ;
to Him let us offer our sweet-sounding hymns of joy.
Reliant on His great protection, let us sing
these songs of praise to Him as we keep watch!
Christ, king of the world, hold
these watchful camps in Your divine protection!
Be an impregnable wall for Your followers,
be a terrible enemy to Your foes,
through Your vigilance no force can harm us,
for You put all weapons of war to flight.
Surround these our defences, Christ,
protecting them with Your powerful lance.
Holy Mary, splendid mother of Christ,
with John intercede for these things, mother of God,
for Your holy relics are venerated here
and to them his church is dedicated.
Under His leadership our hands are victorious in war
and without Him our spears have no force.
Young men who are strong, daring and brave in battle,
let your songs be heard throughout the walls!
And may the watches change with arms at the ready
lest the treacherous enemy storm these defences.
May the echo resound: ‘Comrades, hail, keep watch!’
Throughout the walls: ‘Hail’, may it echo: ‘Keep watch!’
(tr. Peter Godman)



Huc usque, me miseram!
rem bene celaveram
et amavi callide.
res mea tandem patuit,
nam venter intumuit,
partus instat gravide.
hinc mater me verberat,
hinc pater improperat,
ambo tractant aspere.
sola domi sedeo,
egredi non audeo
nec inpalam ludere.
cum foris egredior,
a cunctis inspicior,
quasi monstrum fuerim.
cum vident hunc uterum,
alter pulsat alterum,
silent, dum transierim.
semper pulsant cubito,
me designant digito,
ac si mirum fecerim.
nutibus me indicant,
dignam rogo iudicant,
quod semel peccaverim.
quid percurram singula?
ego sum in fabulo
et in ore omnium.
ex eo vim patior,
iam dolore morior,
semper sum in lacrimis.
hoc dolorem cumulat,
quod amicus exulat
propter illud paululum.
ob patris sevitiam
recessit in Franciam
a finibus ultimis.
sum in tristitia
de eius absentia
in doloris cumulum.

(Carmina Burana 126)

Until now, poor wretched me,
I’d concealed things well,
and loved cunningly.
Finally, my secret’s out,
for my belly’s swollen up,
showing I’m pregnant and soon due.
On one side my mother beats me,
on the other my father yells at me,
both of them are hard on me.
All alone I sit at home;
I daren’t go out
and amuse myself in public.
If I go outdoors,
everybody looks at me
as if I were a monster.
When they see my belly,
one pokes the other,
and they’re silent till I’ve gone past.
People always nudge each other,
point at me with a finger
as if I’d performed a marvel;
Criticize me with nodding heads,
think I should be burnt on the pyre,
just because I’ve sinned once.
Why should I tell each little thing?
I’m the subject of a story;
I’m in everybody’s mouth.
Because of him I suffer this abuse.
I’m so miserable I’m dying.
I’m always in tears.
And this adds to my troubles,
that my lover’s gone off
because of that trifle.
On account of his father’s rage,
he’s taken off to France
right out of the country.
I’m lonesome
because of his absence.
What a pile of trouble I’ve had!
(tr. Anne L. Klinck)



Δοκεῖ δὲ ἡ τοῦ Νηλέως θυγάτηρ ἀσελγὴς γενέσθαι καὶ ὑπό τινος τῶν βαρβάρων φθαρῆναι. τῷ δὲ Νηλεῖ τοῦ θεοῦ εἰπόντος τὴν θυγατέρα δείξειν, ὅπου δεῖ κτίζειν, ἀποβάντων αὐτῶν εἰς Μίλητον ἀνασυραμένην τοὺς μηροὺς εἰπεῖν· “τίς θέλει μοι συνουσιάσαι;” συνεὶς δὲ ὁ πατὴρ αὐτῆς τὸ λόγιον ἐκεῖ κατῴκησε.
(Scholia in Lycophronem, Alex. 1385)

The daughter of Neleus seems to have become licentious, and to have been corrupted by someone of the barbarians. When a god said that the daughter would point out to Neleus where it was necessary to found [a settlement], they went away to Miletus, and she, revealing her thighs, said: “Who wants to have sexual intercourse with me?” The father, having understood her declaration, founded the colony there. (tr. Ann Suter)


Francis Davis Millet, Thesmophoria, 1894-97
Francis Davis Millet, Thesmophoria (1894-97)

Θεσμοφορία ἑορτὴ Ἑλλήνων μυστήρια περιέχουσα, τὰ δὲ αὐτὰ καὶ Σκιρροφορία καλεῖται‎. ἤγετο δὲ κατὰ τὸν μυθωδέστερον λόγον, ὅτι‎, ὅτε‎ ἀνθολογοῦσα ἡρπάζετο ἡ Κόρη ὑπὸ τοῦ Πλούτωνος, τότε κατ‎’ ἐκεῖνον τὸν τόπον Εὐβουλεύς τις συβώτης ἔνεμεν ὗς καὶ συγκατεπόθησαν τῷ χάσματι τῆς Κόρης‎· εἰς οὖν τιμὴν τοῦ Εὐβουλέως ῥιπτεῖσθαι τοὺς χοίρους εἰς τὰ χάσματα τῆς Δήμητρος καὶ τῆς Κόρης‎. τὰ δὲ σαπέντα τῶν ἐμβληθέντων εἰς τὰ μέγαρα κάτω ἀναφέρουσιν ἀντλήτριαι καλούμεναι γυναῖκες καθαρεύσασαι τριῶν ἡμερῶν καὶ καταβαίνουσιν εἰς τὰ ἄδυτα καὶ ἀνενέγκασαι ἐπιτιθέασιν ἐπὶ τῶν βωμῶν‎· ὧν νομίζουσι τὸν λαμβάνοντα καὶ τῷ σπόρῳ συγκαταβάλλοντα εὐφορίαν ἕξειν‎. λέγουσι δὲ καὶ δράκοντας κάτω εἶναι περὶ τὰ χάσματα, οὓς τὰ πολλὰ τῶν βληθέντων κατεσθίειν‎· διὸ καὶ κρότον γίνεσθαι, ὁπόταν ἀντλῶσιν αἱ γυναῖκες καὶ ὅταν ἀποτιθῶνται πάλιν τὰ πλάσματα ἐκεῖνα, ἵνα ἀναχωρήσωσιν οἱ δράκοντες, οὓς νομίζουσι φρουροὺς τῶν ἀδύτων‎. τὰ δὲ αὐτὰ καὶ Ἀρρητοφόρια καλεῖται καὶ ἄγεται τὸν αὐτὸν λόγον ἔχοντα περὶ τῆς τῶν καρπῶν γενέσεως καὶ τῆς τῶν ἀνθρώπων σπορᾶς‎. ἀναφέρονται δὲ κἀνταῦθα ἄρρητα ἱερὰ ἐκ‎ στέατος τοῦ σίτου κατεσκευασμένα, μιμήματα δρακόντων καὶ ἀνδρείων σχημάτων‎. λαμβάνουσι δὲ κώνου θαλλοὺς διὰ τὸ πολύγονον τοῦ φυτοῦ‎. ἐμβάλλονται δὲ καὶ εἰς τὰ μέγαρα οὕτω καλούμενα ἄδυτα ἐκεῖνά τε καὶ χοῖροι, ὡς ἤδη ἔφαμεν, καὶ αὐτοὶ διὰ τὸ πολύτοκον εἰς σύνθημα τῆς γενέσεως τῶν καρπῶν καὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων οἷον χαριστήρια τῇ Δήμητρι, ἐπειδὴ τοὺς Δημητρίους καρποὺς παρέχουσα ἐποίησεν ἥμερον τὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων γένος‎. ὁ μὲν οὖν ἄνω τῆς ἑορτῆς λόγος ὁ μυθικός, ὁ δὲ προκείμενος φυσικός‎. Θεσμοφορία δὲ καλεῖται, καθότι θεσμοφόρος ἡ Δημήτηρ κατονομάζεται τιθεῖσα νόμους ἤτοι θεσμούς, καθ’ʼ οὓς τὴν τροφὴν πορίζεσθαί τε καὶ κατεργάζεσθαι ἀνθρώπους δέον‎.
(R-Scholia to Lucian, Hetairikoi Dialogoi 2.1)

The Thesmophoria is a festival of the Greeks that includes mysteries and is also called the Skirrophoria. It was celebrated according to the more mythical account because, when Kore was snatched by Plouton as she was gathering flowers, a certain swineherd named Eubouleus was tending pigs in the same place and they were swallowed up by Kore’s chasm. Therefore in honour of Eubouleus piglets are thrown into the chasms belonging to Demeter and Kore. And the rotting [remains] of them, after they have been thrown down into the megara (lit. ‘great halls’), are brought up by women called ‘drawers’, who have stayed pure for three days and who go down into the aduta (‘innermost sanctuaries’) and, after they have brought them up, set them on the altars. They believe that whoever takes some of these and mixes them in with his seed-corn will get an abundant crop. They also say that there are snakes down in the chasms, which eat much of what is thrown down. And on that account they clap their hands, whenever the women draw [up the rotted piglets] and whenever they put the moulded objects back again, in order that the snakes, which they consider guards of the aduta, might move away. These same things are also called Arrhetophoria and are celebrated in the same fashion for the birth of the seed and the engendering of human beings. And also brought up there [or ‘on this occasion’] are holy objects which cannot be named, which are prepared from dough made of grain and resemble snakes and male forms. And they get pine-branches because the plant is so productive [of fruit]. Those things and the piglets (these too because of their fertility) are thrown into the socalled megara, the aduta, as we said already, to symbolize the generation of crops and of men, as thank-offerings, as it were, to Demeter, since by supplying her crops she civilized the human race. The account of the festival given above is the mythical one, but the one just mentioned is the natural explanation. It is called the Thesmophoria because Demeter bears the name Thesmophoros, since she establishes laws and rites (thesmoi), in accord with which men must work and get their nourishment. (tr. Colin Austin & Stuart Douglas Olson)


Arnold Böcklin, Der Krieg, 1896
Arnold Boecklin, Der Krieg, 1896

Tristes nunc populi, Christe redemptor,
pacem suppliciter cerne rogantes,
threnos et gemitus, cerne dolorem,
maestis auxilium desuper affer.

dire namque fremens, en, furor atrox
gentis finitimae arva minatur
saeve barbarico murmure nostra
vastari, perminens ut lupus agnum.

defensor quis erit, ni prius ipse
succurras miserans, auctor Olympi?
humano generi crimina parcas,
affectos venia dones amare.

Abram praesidio perculit olim
reges quinque tuo, conditor aevi,
haud multis pueris nempe parentem
prostratis reducens hostibus atris.

Moyses gelidi aequora ponti
confidens populum torrida carpens
deduxit, refluens undaque hostem
extemplo rapiens occulit omnem.

trecentisque viris Amalecitas
deiecit Gedeon iussus adire,
oppressum populum vindice ferro
liberavit ope fretus opima.

haec tu, cunctipotens, omnia solus,
in cuius manibus sunt universa,
in te nostra salus, gloria in te,
occidis iterum vivificasque.

maior quippe tua gratia, Iesu,
quam sit flagitii copia nostri,
contritos nec enim maestaque corda,
clemens, vel humiles spernere nosti.

salva ergo tua morte redemptos,
salva suppliciter pacta petentes,
disrumpe frameas, spicula frange,
confringe clipeos bella volentum.

iam caelum gemitus scandat amarus,
iam nubes penetret vox lacrimarum
vatum, contritio plebis anhela;
salvator placidus, iam miserere.

(Anonymous, Tempore belli hymnus in supplicatione)

Christ Redeemer, Your people are sorrowful,
see how they in supplication beg for peace,
hear their groans and lamentations, mark their anguish,
bring succour to the afflicted from on high.

For, lo, raging fearfully the cruel fury
of the neighboring people threatens to destroy
our fields, savagely, with barbarian roar,
like the wolf that slays the lamb.

Who will be our protector, Lord of Olympus,
if You don’t come to our aid first in Your pity?
Forgive the human race its transgressions,
grant Your love to those You touch with Your grace.

With Your assistance Abraham once smote
five kings, o creator of the universe,
overthrowing the malicious foe and
returning to but few children their father.

Moses, relying on You, led his people
through the dried up waters of the frigid sea,
and the waves, flowing back, forthwith
dragged off and covered every enemy.

Gideon too, ordered to attack the Amalekites
with three hundred men, defeated them
with his vengeful sword and freed his oppressed people,
relying on Your ample support.

All this You did alone, omnipotent one,
You who hold the universe in Your hands.
In You lies our salvation, in You our glory,
whether you kill us or bring us back to life.

For Your grace, Jesus, is greater
than the multitude of our sins:
merciful one, You know not how to scorn
the remorseful, the despairing or the humble.

So save those whom by Your death You have redeemed,
save those who beg You to keep Your promises,
shatter the spears, crush the arrowheads,
and break the shields of those who lust for war.

Let our bitter plaint ascend to heaven,
let the tearful voice of the prophets and
the breathless repentance of your people penetrate
the clouds; peaceful saviour, have pity on us!

(tr. David Bauwens)



Ἐγὼ γέρων μέν εἰμι,
νέων πλέον δὲ πίνω·
κἂν δεήσῃ με χορεύειν,
Σειληνὸν ἐν μέσοισι
μιμούμενος χορεύσω
σκῆπτρον ἔχων τὸν ἀσκόν·
ὁ νάρθηξ δ’ οὐδέν ἐστιν.
ὁ μὲν θέλων μάχεσθαι
παρέστω καὶ μαχέσθω.
ἐμοὶ κύπελλον, ὦ παῖ,
μελίχρουν οἶνον ἡδὺν
ἐγκεράσας φόρησον.
ἐγὼ γέρων μέν εἰμι,
<νέων πλέον δὲ πίνω>
(Anacreontea 47)

I am an old man, but I drink more than the youngsters; and if I have to dance, I shall imitate Silenus and dance in the middle of the ring, with my wine-flask as my support since my fennel-stick is useless. If anyone wants a fight, let him come over here and fight. Mix the sweet honied wine and bring me the cup, boy. I am an old man, but I drink more than the youngsters. (tr. David A. Campbell)



[Σαπφὼ τὸ μὲν γένος] ἦν Λεσβία, πόλεως δὲ Μιτ]υλήνης, [πατρὸς δὲ Σκαμ]άνδρου, κα[τὰ δέ τινας Σκα]μανδρωνύ[μου· ἀδελφοὺς δ’]ἔσχε τρεῖς, [Ἐρ]ίγυιον καὶ Λά]ριχον, πρεσβύ[τατον δὲ Χάρ]αξον, ὃς πλεύσας ε[ἰς Αἴγυπτον] Δωρίχαι τινι προσε[νεχθε]ὶς κατεδαπάνησεν εἰς ταύτην πλεῖτα. τὸν δὲ Λάριχον <νέον> ὄντα μᾶλλον ἠγάπησεν. θυγατέρα δ’ἔσχε Κλεΐν ὁμώνυμον τῇ ἑαυτῆς μητρί. κ[α]τηγόρηται δ’ ὑπ’ ἐν[ί]ω[ν] ὡς ἄτακτος οὖ[σα] τὸν τρόπον καὶ γυναικε[ράσ]τρια. τὴν δὲ μορφὴν [εὐ]καταφρόνητος δοκεῖ γε[γον]ένα[ι κα]ὶ δυσειδεστάτη[[ν]], [τ]ὴν μὲν γὰρ ὄψιν φαιώδης [ὑ]πῆρχεν, τὸ δὲ μέγεθος μικρὰ παντελῶς. τὸ δ ́αὐτὸ [συ]μβέβηκε καὶ περὶ τὸν […..]ν ἐλάττω [..] γεγον<ότ>α [ ……………]..ην
(P. Oxy. 1800 fr. 1)

Sappho was a Lesbian by birth, of the city of Mytilene. Her father was Scamander or, according to some, Scamandronymus, and she had three brothers, Erigyius, Larichus and Charaxus, the eldest, who sailed to Egypt and associated with one Doricha, spending large sums on her; Sappho was more fond of the young Larichus. She had a daughter Cleis, named after her own mother. She has been accused by some of being irregular in her ways and a woman-lover. In appearance she seems to have been contemptible and quite ugly, being dark in complexion and of very small stature. The same is true of (Alcaeus ?) who was smallish . . . (tr. David A. Campbell)