Vilius argentum est auro, virtutibus aurum.
‘o cives, cives, quaerenda pecunia primum est;
virtus post nummos!’ haec Ianus summus ab imo
prodocet, haec recinunt iuvenes dictata senesque
laevo suspensi loculos tabulamque lacerto.
est animus tibi, sunt mores, est lingua fidesque,
sed quadringentis sex septem milia desunt:
plebs eris. at pueri ludentes: ‘rex eris’ aiunt,
‘si recte facies’: hic murus aëneus esto
nil conscire sibi, nulla pallescere culpa.
Roscia, dic sodes, melior lex an puerorum est
nenia, quae regnum recte facientibus offert,
et maribus Curiis et decantata Camillis?
isne tibi melius suadet, qui ‘rem facias, rem,
si possis, recte, si non, quocumque modo rem,’
ut propius spectes lacrimosa poëmata Pupi,
an qui Fortunae te responsare superbae
liberum et erectum praesens hortatur et aptat?
(Horace, Ep. 1.1.52-69)

Of less worth than gold is silver, than virtue gold. “O citizens, citizens, money you first must seek; virtue after pelf.” This rule the Janus arcade proclaims from top to bottom; this is the lesson the old as well as the young are singing, “with slate and satchel slung over the left arm.” You have sense, you have morals, eloquence and honour, but there are six or seven thousands short of the four hundred*; you will be in the crowd. Yet boys at play cry; “You’ll be king, if you do right.”** Be this our wall of bronze, to have no guilt at heart, no wrongdoing to turn us pale. Tell me, pray, which is better, the Roscian law or the children’s jingle which offers a kingdom to those who “do right” — a jingle once trolled by the manly Curii and Camilli? Does he advise you better, who bids you “make money, money by fair means if you can, if not, by any means money,” and all that you may have a nearer view of the doleful plays of Pupius; or he who, an ever present help, urges and fits you to stand free and erect, and defy scornful Fortune ?

* Enrolment in the equites implied a fortune of 400,000 sesterces.
** The Scholiast gives the verse, which children sang in their game, thus:
réx erit quí recte faciet; quí non faciet, nón erit.
There is a pun in rex and recte.

(tr. Henry Rushton Fairclough, with some of his notes)




Accipe nunc, victus tenuis quae quantaque secum
adferat. in primis valeas bene; nam variae res
ut noceant homini credas, memor illius escae,
quae simplex olim tibi sederit: at simul assis
miscueris elixa, simul conchylia turdis,
dulcia se in bilem vertent stomachoque tumultum
lenta feret pituita. vides, ut pallidus omnis
cena desurgat dubia? quin corpus onustum
hesternis vitiis animum quoque praegravat una
atque adfigit humo divinae particulam aurae.
alter ubi dicto citius curata sopori
membra dedit, vegetus praescripta ad munia surgit.
hic tamen ad melius poterit transcurrere quondam,
sive diem festum rediens advexerit annus,
seu recreare volet tenuatum corpus, ubique
accedent anni, tractari mollius aetas
imbecilla volet: tibi quidnam accedet ad istam
quam puer et validus praesumis mollitiem, seu
dura valetudo inciderit seu tarda senectus?
(Horace, Serm. 2.2.70-88)

Now listen to how simple eating brings
us all so many and such wondrous things!
First is good health because it’s manifest—
as you recall plain fare you could digest—
that it’s quite dangerous when foods collide.
Whenever you combine the boiled with fried,
or shellfish with a thrush, the sweet will turn
to bile, and clogging phlegm makes stomachs churn.
Don’t people at a ‘dinner served with doubt’
appear quite pale as they are coming out?
Moreover, overkill of yesterday
that drags a body down will also weigh
upon a soul and bury what’s divine
within the ground. If someone can combine
nursing his limbs and falling off to sleep
without delay, he’ll rise alert and keep
up with his obligations, even though
occasionally he may try to go
for something better if the passing year
brings feasting, or his wasting’s so severe
that he intends to fix his malnutrition,
or, as time flies by, his frail condition
in old age requires gentler care.
But as for you, if you are forced to bear
enfeeblement from aging and disease,
how will you bolster your infirmities
once you have blown your youthful, healthy days?
(tr. A.M. Juster)


salviati parcae
Francesco Salviati, Tre Parche

Laetus in praesens animus quod ultra est
oderit curare et amara lento
temperet risu; nihil est ab omni
parte beatum.

abstulit clarum cita mors Achillem,
longa Tithonum minuit senectus,
et mihi forsan, tibi quod negarit,
porriget hora.

te greges centum Siculaeque circum
mugiunt vaccae, tibi tollit hinnitum
apta quadrigis equa, te bis Afro
murice tinctae

vestiunt lanae: mihi parva rura et
spiritum Graiae tenuem Camenae
Parca non mendax dedit et malignum
spernere vulgus.

(Horace, Carm. 2.16.25-40)

The mind that is happy for the present should refuse to worry about what is further ahead; it should dilute bitter things with a mild smile. Nothing is happy in every respect. An early death overtook the famous Achilles; a protracted old age wasted Tithonus away; it may be that time will offer me what it has denied to you. All around you a hundred herds of Sicilian cattle low; you have a whinnying mare just right for the four-horse chariot; you wear woollen clothes dyed twice over in African crimson. To me the Thrifty One* that does not belie her name has given a small estate, a slight puff of inspiration from the Graeco-Roman Muse, and a scorn for the resentful mob.

* One of the Parcae, or Fates.

(tr. Niall Rudd)




Filius Aesopi detractam ex aure Metellae,
scilicet ut deciens solidum absorberet, aceto
diluit insignem bacam: qui sanior ac si
illud idem in rapidum flumen iaceretve cloacam?
Quinti progenies Arri, par nobile fratrum
nequitia et nugis pravorum et amore gemellum
luscinias soliti inpenso prandere coëmptas,
quorsum abeant? sani ut creta, an carbone notati?
(Horace, Serm. 2.3.239-246)

Aesopus’’ son took a splendid pearl from Metella’’s
Ear-lobe, and dissolved it in vinegar, clearly
Intending to swallow a million straight: was that
Saner than hurling it into the flood, or the sewer?
Quintus Arrius’’ sons, equally famous brothers,
Twins in waste and wickedness, loving depravity,
Used to eat highly-priced nightingales for lunch:
How should we list them? With chalk, sane, or with charcoal?”
(tr. Tony Kline)



Si quis eum servum, patinam qui tollere iussus
semesos pisces tepidumque ligurrierit ius,
in cruce suffigat, Labeone insanior inter
sanos dicatur. quanto hoc furiosius atque
maius peccatum est: paulum deliquit amicus,
quod nisi concedas, habeare insuavis: acerbus
odisti et fugis ut Rusonem debitor aeris,
qui nisi, cum tristes misero venere Kalendae,
mercedem aut nummos unde unde extricat, amaras
porrecto iugulo historias captivus ut audit.
(Horace, Serm. 1.3.80-89)

If a man were to nail his slave to a cross for eating
Left-over fish and cold sauce from the dish he’’d been told
To remove, sane men would call him madder than Labeo.
Well how much greater and more insane a fault is this:
When your friend has committed some slight offence,
That you’’d be thought ungracious not to have pardoned,
You hate him savagely, and shun him as Ruso is shunned
By his debtor. When the unhappy Kalends come, if he can’’t,
Poor wretch, rustle up principal or interest from somewhere,
He has to expose his throat, and listen to those sad Histories!
(tr. Tony Kline)

Octavius Ruso acerbus faenerator fuisse traditur, idem scriptor historiarum, ad quas audiendas significat solitum fuisse cogere debitores suos, quibus scilicet talia audire poena gravissima erat. hoc enim significat ‘porrecto iugulo’.
(Porphyrius, Comm. in Hor. Serm. 1.3.86)

Octavius Ruso is said to have been a rigid moneylender and also a writer of histories. Horace means that he used to force his debtors to listen to these histories – and for them this was no doubt a very cruel punishment. That is what he means by ‘to expose his throat’. (tr. David Bauwens)



Cur me querelis exanimas tuis?
nec dis amicum est nec mihi te prius
obire, Maecenas, mearum
grande decus columenque rerum.

a! te meae si partem animae rapit
maturior vis, quid moror altera,
nec carus aeque nec superstes
integer? ille dies utramque

ducet ruinam. non ego perfidum
dixi sacramentum: ibimus, ibimus,
utcumque praecedes, supremum
carpere iter comites parati.

(Horace, Carm. 2.17.1-12)

Why do you worry me to death with your grumbling? It is not the gods’ will or mine that you should die first, Maecenas, you who are the greatest glory and keystone of my existence. If some force snatches away you, who are part of my soul, before me, ah, what do I care for the other part, no longer equally loved, and, though surviving, no longer a whole person? That day will drag both of us down to death. I have sworn a solemn oath and will not break it: we will go, yes, we will go, whenever you take the lead; we are ready to set out on the final journey as comrades together. (tr. Niall Rudd)



O noctes cenaeque deum, quibus ipse meique
ante Larem proprium vescor vernasque procaces
pasco libatis dapibus. prout cuique libido est,
siccat inaequales calices conviva solutus
legibus insanis, seu quis capit acria fortis
pocula, seu modicis uvescit laetius. ergo
sermo oritur, non de villis domibusve alienis,
nec male necne Lepos saltet, sed, quod magis ad nos
pertinet et nescire malum est, agitamus: utrumne
divitiis homines an sint virtute beati,
quidve ad amicitias, usus rectumne, trahat nos
et quae sit natura boni summumque quid eius.
(Horace, Serm. 2.6.65-76)

O heavenly night-time dinners, when I and my friends
Eat beside my own Lar, and feed jostling servants
On left-over offerings. Each guest drinks as he wishes
Large glasses or small, free from foolish rules, whether
He downs the strong stuff, nobly, or wets his whistle
In more carefree style. And so the conversation starts.
Not about other men’’s houses in town, their country
Villas, or whether Lepos dances well or not: no,
We talk about things one should know, that matter more:
Whether it’s wealth or character makes men happier:
Whether self-interest or virtue make men friends:
And the nature of the good, and its highest form.
(tr. Tony Kline)