Multa diuque tuli; vitiis patientia victa est;
cede fatigato pectore, turpis amor!
scilicet adserui iam me fugique catenas,
et quae non puduit ferre, tulisse pudet.
vicimus et domitum pedibus calcamus amorem;
venerunt capiti cornua sera meo.
perfer et obdura! dolor hic tibi proderit olim;
saepe tulit lassis sucus amarus opem.
ergo ego sustinui, foribus tam saepe repulsus,
ingenuum dura ponere corpus humo?
ergo ego nescio cui, quem tu conplexa tenebas,
excubui clausam servus ut ante domum?
vidi, cum foribus lassus prodiret amator,
invalidum referens emeritumque latus;
hoc tamen est levius, quam quod sum visus ab illo—
eveniat nostris hostibus ille pudor!
quando ego non fixus lateri patienter adhaesi,
ipse tuus custos, ipse vir, ipse comes?
scilicet et populo per me comitata placebas;
causa fuit multis noster amoris amor.
turpia quid referam vanae mendacia linguae
et periuratos in mea damna deos?
quid iuvenum tacitos inter convivia nutus
verbaque conpositis dissimulata notis?
dicta erat aegra mihi—praeceps amensque cucurri;
veni, et rivali non erat aegra meo!
his et quae taceo duravi saepe ferendis;
quaere alium pro me, qui queat ista pati.
iam mea votiva puppis redimita corona
lenta tumescentes aequoris audit aquas.
desine blanditias et verba, potentia quondam,
perdere—non ego nunc stultus, ut ante fui!
(Ovid, Am. 3.11a)

I’ve endured too much, too long: my patience is defeated
by her offences: heart dead with weariness, vile love!
There’s no doubt I’m free now and have slipped my chain,
and what I wasn’t ashamed to bear, I’m ashamed I bore.
I’ve won and love is tamed, trampled under my feet:
at last true horns have appeared on my head.
Endure it and stand firm! This pain in the end will help you:
often bitter medicine brings strength to the weary.
So why did I endure it, so often shut out from your gate,
laying my delicate body on the hard floor?
So why did I keep watch, for him you held in your arms,
like a slave outside your closed door?
I saw, when your lover appeared weary, at your door,
found wanting, and his body all exhausted:
but it’s still worse that I was seen by him—
let that shame happen to my enemies!
When did I not cling patiently to your side,
your true guardian, your lover, friend?
And of course you pleased people through my friendship:
my love was the reason for your many lovers.
What, shall I say now, of your vile lies, your idle tongue,
and the gods perjured to harm me?
What of the silent nods of youths at parties,
and the deceptive words of secret messages?
They told me she’s ill—I ran, in a hurry, a madman:
I arrived, and she wasn’t too ill for my rival!
I’m hardened by this: by things unsaid I’ve often suffered:
find someone instead of me, who can endure it.
Now my vessel’s crowned with votive wreaths
calmly braving the ocean’s swelling waves.
Leave off your flatteries and your once powerful words,
forget them—now I’m not the fool I used to be!
(tr. Tony Kline)



Iam stabant Thebae, poteras iam, Cadme, videri
exilio felix: soceri tibi Marsque Venusque
contigerant; huc adde genus de coniuge tanta,
tot natos natasque et, pignora cara, nepotes,
hos quoque iam iuvenes; sed scilicet ultima semper
exspectanda dies hominis, dicique beatus
ante obitum nemo supremaque funera debet.
(Ovid, Met. 3.131-137)

Thebes has been founded now, and even though
an exile still, you might seem fortunate
in having Mars and Venus as your in-laws,
Cadmus; nor is this all, for in addition
are offspring worthy of your noble wife,
your sons and daughters, the pledges of your love,
and grandsons too, already grown to manhood.
But “fortunate”? A judgment best reserved
for a man’s last day: call no one blest, until
he dies and the last rites are said for him.
(tr. Charles Martin)


Maria Callas as Medea

Non ego te imploro contra taurosque virosque,
utque tua serpens victa quiescat ope;
te peto, quem merui, quem nobis ipse dedisti,
cum quo sum pariter facta parente parens.
dos ubi sit, quaeris? campo numeravimus illo,
qui tibi laturo vellus arandus erat.
aureus ille aries villo spectabilis alto,
dos mea, quam, dicam si tibi “redde,” neges.
dos mea tu sospes, dos est mea Graia iuventus.
i nunc, Sisyphias, inprobe, confer opes!
quod vivis, quod habes nuptam socerumque potentes,
hoc ipsum, ingratus quod potes esse, meum est.
quos equidem actutum—sed quid praedicere poenam
attinet? ingentes parturit ira minas.
quo feret ira sequar. facti fortasse pigebit;
et piget infido consuluisse viro.
viderit ista deus, qui nunc mea pectora versat.
nescio quid certe mens mea maius agit.
(Ovid, Her. 12.195-212)

I do not implore you to go forth against bulls and men, nor ask your aid to quiet and overcome a dragon; it is you I ask for,—you, whom I have earned, whom you yourself gave to me, by whom I became a mother, as you by me a father. Where is my dowry, you ask? On the field I counted it out—that field which you had to plough before you could bear away the fleece. The famous golden ram, sightly for deep flock, is my dowry—the which, should I say to you “Restore it!” you would refuse to render up. My dowry is yourself—saved; my dowry is the band of Grecian youth! Go now, wretch, compare with that your wealth of Sisyphus! That you are alive, that you take to wife one who, with the father she brings you, is of kingly station, that you have the very power of being ingrate—you owe to me. Whom, hark you, I will straight—but what boots it to foretell your penalty? My ire is in travail with mighty threats. Whither my ire leads, will I follow. Mayhap I shall repent me of what I do—but I repent me, too, of regard for a faithless husband’s good. Be that the concern of the god who now embroils my heart! Something portentous, surely, is working in my soul! (tr. Grant Showerman, revised by G.P. Goold)



Ecce anus in mediis residens annosa puellis
sacra faciet Tacitae (nec tamen ipsa tacet),
et digitis tria tura tribus sub limine ponit,
qua brevis occultum mus sibi fecit iter;
tunc cantata ligat cum fusco licia plumbo
et septem nigras versat in ore fabas,
quodque pice adstrinxit, quod acu traiecit aëna,
obsutum maenae torret in igne caput;
vina quoque instillat: vini quodcumque relictum est,
aut ipsa aut comites, plus tamen ipsa, bibit.
“hostiles linguas inimicaque vinximus ora”
dicit discedens ebriaque exit anus.
(Ovid, Fast. 2.571-582)

Lo, an old hag, seated among girls, performs rites in honour of Tacita (“the Silent Goddess”), but herself is not silent. With three fingers she puts three lumps of incense under the threshold, where the little mouse has made for herself a secret path. Then she binds enchanted threads together with dark lead, and mumbles seven black beans in her mouth; and she roasts in the fire the head of a small fish which she has sewed up, made fast with pitch, and pierced through and through with a bronze needle. She also drops wine on it, and the wine that is left over she or her companions drink, but she gets the larger share. Then as she goes off she says, “We have bound fast hostile tongues and unfriendly mouths.” So exit the old woman drunk. (tr. James George Frazer, revised by George Patrick Goold)


Fighting men friends

Sit tibi coniugii nox prima novissima vitae:
Eupolis hoc periit et nova nupta modo.
utque coturnatum periisse Lycophrona narrant,
haereat in fibris fixa sagitta tuis.
aut lacer in silva manibus spargare tuorum,
sparsus ut est Thebis angue creatus avo.
perque feros montes tauro rapiente traharis,
ut tracta est coniunx imperiosa Lyci.
quodque suae passa est paelex invita sororis,
excidat ante pedes lingua resecta tuos.
conditor ut tardae, laesus cognomine, Myrrhae,
urbis in innumeris inveniare locis.
inque tuis opifex, vati quod fecit Achaeo,
noxia luminibus spicula condat apis.
fixus et in duris carparis viscera saxis,
ut cui Pyrrha sui filia fratris erat.
ut puer Harpagides referas exempla Thyestae,
inque tui caesus viscera patris eas.
trunca geras saevo mutilatis partibus ense,
qualia Mamertae membra fuisse ferunt.
utve Syracosio praestricta fauce poëtae,
sic animae laqueo sit via clausa tuae.
nudave derepta pateant tua viscera pelle,
ut Phrygium cuius nomina flumen habet.
saxificae videas infelix ora Medusae,
Cephenum multos quae dedit una neci.
Potniadum morsus subeas, ut Glaucus, equarum,
inque maris salias, Glaucus ut alter, aquas.
utque duobus idem dictis modo nomen habenti,
praefocent animae Cnosia mella viam.
sollicitoque bibas, Anyti doctissimus olim
imperturbato quod bibit ore reus.
nec tibi, si quid amas, felicius Haemone cedat:
utque sua Macareus, sic potiare tua.
vel videas quod, iam cum flammae cuncta tenerent,
Hectoreus patria vidit ab arce puer.
sanguine probra luas, ut avo genitore creatus,
per facinus soror est cui sua facta parens.
ossibus inque tuis teli genus haereat illud,
traditur Icarii quo cecidisse gener.
utque loquax in equo est elisum guttur acerno,
sic tibi claudatur pollice vocis iter.
(Ovid, Ibis 529-570)

May the first night of your marriage be the last
of your life: so Eupolis and his new bride died.
And as they say the tragedian Lycophron ended,
may an arrow pierce you, and cling to your entrails.
Or be torn apart and scattered in the woods by your kin,
as Pentheus at Thebes, grandson of the serpent, Cadmus.
May you be caught by a raging bull, dragged over wild
mountains, as Lycus’s imperial wife Dirce was dragged.
May your severed tongue lie there, before your feet,
as Philomela, her own sister’s unwilling rival, suffered.
And like dull Myrrha’s author, Cinna, harmed by his name,
may you be found scattered about throughout the city.
And may that artisan, the bee, bury his venomous
sting in your eye, as he did to the Achaean poet.
And, on the harsh cliff, may your entrails be torn
like Prometheus, whose brother’s daughter was Pyrrha.
May you follow Thyestes’ example, like Harpagus’s son,
and, carved in pieces, enter your father’s gut.
May the cruel sword maim your trunk, and mutilate
the parts, as they say Mamertas’s limbs were maimed.
Or may a noose close the passage of your breath
as the Syracusan poet’s throat was stopped.
Or may your naked entrails be revealed by stripping
your skin, like Marsyas who named a Phrygian river.
Unhappy, may you see Medusa’s petrifying face,
that dealt death to many of the Cephenes.
Like Glaucus, be bitten by the horses of Potniae,
or like the other Glaucus, leap into the sea’s waves.
Or may Cretan honey choke your windpipe, like one
who had the same name as the two I’ve mentioned.
May you drink anxiously, where Socrates, wisest of men,
accused by Anytus, once drank with imperturbable lips.
Nor may you be happier than Haemon in your love:
or may you possess your sister as Macareus did his.
Or see what Hector’s son, Astyanax, saw from his
native citadel, when all was gripped by flames.
May you pay for infamies in your offspring, as for his grandfather,
that father’s son, by whose crime his sister became a mother.
And may that kind of weapon cling to your bones, with which
they say Ulysses, the son-in-law of Icarius, was killed.
And as that noisy throat was crushed in the wooden Horse,
so may your vocal passage be closed off with a thumb.
(tr. Tony Kline)


Jacques-Louis David, Sapho, Phaon et l'Amour, 1809
Jacques-Louis David, Sapho, Phaon et l’Amour (1809)

Tu mihi cura, Phaon; te somnia nostra reducunt—
somnia formoso candidiora die.
illic te invenio, quamvis regionibus absis;
sed non longa satis gaudia somnus habet.
saepe tuos nostra cervice onerare lacertos,
saepe tuae videor supposuisse meos;
oscula cognosco, quae tu committere lingua
aptaque consueras accipere, apta dare.
blandior interdum verisque simillima verba
eloquor et vigilant sensibus ora meis.
ulteriora pudet narrare, sed omnia fiunt,
et iuvat, et siccae non licet esse mihi.
(Ovid, Her. 15.123-134)

You, Phaon, are my care; you, my dreams bring back to me—dreams brighter than the beauteous day. In them I find you, though in space you are far away; but not long enough are the joys that slumber gives. Often I seem with the burden of my neck to press your arms, often to place beneath your neck my arms. I recognise the kisses – close caresses of the tongue – which you were wont to take and wont to give. At times I talk sweet nothings, and utter words that seem almost the waking truth, and my lips keep vigil for my senses. Further I blush to tell, but all takes place; I feel the delight, and it is impossible for me to stay dry. (tr. Grant Showerman, revised by G.P. Goold and again by Thea S. Thorsen)


Sebastian Münster, Janus, 1550
Sebastian Münster, Janus (1550)

Dixerat: et vultu, si plura requirere vellem,
difficilem mihi se non fore pactus erat.
sumpsi animum, gratesque deo non territus egi,
verbaque sum spectans plura locutus humum:
“dic, age, frigoribus quare novus incipit annus,
qui melius per ver incipiendus erat?
omnia tunc florent, tunc est nova temporis aetas,
et nova de gravido palmite gemma tumet,
et modo formatis operitur frondibus arbor,
prodit et in summum seminis herba solum,
et tepidum volucres concentibus aera mulcent,
ludit et in pratis luxuriatque pecus.
tum blandi soles, ignotaque prodit hirundo
et luteum celsa sub trabe figit opus:
tum patitur cultus ager et renovatur aratro.
haec anni novitas iure vocanda fuit.”
quaesieram multis; non multis ille moratus
contulit in versus sic sua verba duos:
“bruma novi prima est veterisque novissima solis:
principium capiunt Phoebus et annus idem.”
(Ovid, Fast. 1.145-164)

Thus spake the god*, and by a look promised that, were I fain to ask him more, he would not grudge reply. I plucked up courage, thanked the god composedly, and with eyes turned to the ground I spoke in few: “Come, say, why doth the new year begin in the cold season? Better had it begun in spring. Then all things flower, then time renews his age, and new from out the teeming vine-shoot swells the bud; in fresh-formed leaves the tree is draped, and from earth’s surface sprouts the blade of corn. Birds with their warblings winnow the warm air; the cattle frisk and wanton in the meads. Then suns are sweet, forth comes the stranger swallow and builds her clayey structure under the lofty beam. Then the field submits to tillage and is renewed by the plough. That is the season which rightly should have been called New Year.” Thus questioned I at length; he answered prompt and tersely, throwing his words into twain verses, thus: “Midwinter is the beginning of the new sun and the end of the old one. Phoebus and the year take their start from the same point.”

* Janus.

(tr. James George Frazer, revised by George Patrick Goold)