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)


Guercino, Giove lanciando un fulmine, ca. 1645
Guercino, Giove lanciando un fulmine (ca. 1645)

Forsitan ut quondam Teuthrantia regna tenenti,
sic mihi res eadem vulnus opemque feret,
Musaque, quam movit, motam quoque leniet iram;
exorant magnos carmina saepe deos.
ipse quoque Ausonias Caesar matresque nurusque
carmina turrigerae dicere iussit Opi.
iusserat et Phoebo dici, quo tempore ludos
fecit, quos aetas aspicit una semel.
his precor exemplis tua nunc, mitissime Caesar,
fiat ab ingenio mollior ira meo.
illa quidem iusta est, nec me meruisse negabo—
non adeo nostro fugit ab ore pudor—
sed nisi peccassem, quid tu concedere posses?
materiam veniae sors tibi nostra dedit.
si, quotiens peccant homines, sua fulmina mittat
Iuppiter, exiguo tempore inermis erit;
nunc ubi detonuit strepituque exterruit orbem,
purum discussis aëra reddit aquis.
iure igitur genitorque deum rectorque vocatur,
iure capax mundus nil love maius habet.
tu quoque, cum patriae rector dicare paterque,
utere more dei nomen habentis idem.
(Ovid, Trist. 2.19-40)

Perhaps, like Telephus* who ruled the Teuthrantian land,
the same weapon will both wound and cure me,
and the Muse who stirred the anger also calm it:
song often influences the great gods. Caesar himself
ordered the mothers and daughters of Italy
to chant the hymns to turreted Ops**.
He did the same for Apollo at the Secular Games
those that each age sees only once.
Merciful Caesar, I plead these as my precedents:
let my skill soften your anger.
It’s justified indeed: I don’t deny I deserve it—
shame hasn’t completely fled my cheeks—
But unless I’ve sinned, how can you forgive?
My fate has given you the chance for mercy.
If Jupiter hurled his lightning, every time men sinned,
it wouldn’t be long before he was weapon-less.
When he’s thundered, and scared the world with noise,
he scatters the rain-clouds and clears the air.
So it’s right to call him the father and ruler of the gods,
it’s right the wide world owns nothing greater than Jove.
You also, since you’re called father and ruler of the land,
should follow the ways of the god with the same title.

* King of Teuthrantia in Mysia, son of Hercules and the nymph Auge. He was suckled by a deer on Mount Parthenius. He was wounded and healed by the touch of Achilles’s spear at Troy.
** The goddess of agricultural abundance, goddess of plenty. Identified with Cybele by the Romans, who wore a turreted crown. Ovid may refer to Augustus’s rededication of her temple on the Palatine after it was destroyed by fire and re-built in 3 AD.

(tr. Tony Kline, with some of his notes)



Omnia sunt hominum tenui pendentia filo
et subito casu quae valuere ruunt.
divitis audita est cui non opulentia Croesi?
nempe tamen vitam captus ab hoste tulit.
ille Syracosia modo formidatus in urbe
vix humili duram reppulit arte famem.
quid fuerat Magno maius? Tamen ille rogavit
submissa fugiens voce clientis opem,
cuique viro totus terrarum paruit orbis
[indigus effectus omnibus ipse magis.]
ille Iugurthino clarus Cimbroque triumpho,
quo victrix totiens consule Roma fuit,
in caeno Marius iacuit cannaque palustri
pertulit et tanto multa pudenda viro.
ludit in humanis divina potentia rebus
et certam praesens vix feret hora fidem.
‘litus ad Euxinum’ si quis mihi diceret ‘ibis
et metues arcu ne feriare Getae’,
‘i, bibe’ dixissem ‘purgantes pectora sucos
quicquid et in tota nascitur Anticyra.’
sum tamen haec passus nec, si mortalia possem,
et summi poteram tela cavere dei.
tu quoque fac timeas et quae tibi laeta videntur,
dum loqueris, fieri tristia posse puta.
(Ovid, Ep. ex Pont. 4.3.35-58)

All human affairs hang by a slender thread; chance on a sudden brings to ruin what once was strong. Who has not heard of Croesus’s wealth ? Yet of a truth he was captured and received his life from an enemy. He who but now was dreaded in the city of Syracuse, scarce kept hunger at bay by a lowly calling. What was mightier than Magnus*? Yet in his flight he asked with humble voice a client’s aid. The man whom the whole world obeyed [himself came to feel need more than any]. He who was famed for his triumphs over Jugurtha and the Cimbri, under whom as consul Rome was so often victorious, lay, Marius though he was, in the slime and marsh grass, enduring many things shameful for so great a man. Divine power plays with human affairs, and sure trust can scarce be placed in the present hour. If anybody had said to me, “You shall go to the Euxine shore and you shall fear wounds from a Getic bow,” I would have said, “Go, drink a potion that clears the brain—everything that Anticyra** produces.” Yet have I suffered this. Though I might have guarded against the weapons of mortals, yet I could not protect myself against those of a supreme god. See that you too feel afraid and remember that what seems happiness to you has power, while you speak, to change into sorrow.

* Pompey. After the battle of Pharsalus he fled to Egypt where he was treacherously slain.
** Anticyra produced an abundance of hellebore which was much used as a cure for insanity.

(tr. Arthur Leslie Wheeler, with his notes)



This is part 3 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Non bene conducti vendunt periuria testes,
non bene selecti iudicis arca patet.
turpe reos empta miseros defendere lingua;
quod faciat magni, turpe tribunal, opes;
turpe tori reditu census augere paternos,
et faciem lucro prostituisse suam.
gratia pro rebus merito debetur inemptis;
pro male conducto gratia nulla toro.
omnia conductor solvit; mercede soluta
non manet officio debitor ille tuo.
parcite, formosae, pretium pro nocte pacisci;
non habet eventus sordida praeda bonos.
non fuit armillas tanti pepigisse Sabinas,
ut premerent sacrae virginis arma caput;
e quibus exierat, traiecit viscera ferro
filius, et poenae causa monile fuit.
nec tamen indignum est a divite praemia posci;
munera poscenti quod dare possit, habet.
carpite de plenis pendentes vitibus uvas;
praebeat Alcinoi poma benignus ager!
officium pauper numeret studiumque fidemque;
quod quis habet, dominae conferat omne suae.
est quoque carminibus meritas celebrare puellas
dos mea; quam volui, nota fit arte mea.
scindentur vestes, gemmae frangentur et aurum;
carmina quam tribuent, fama perennis erit.
nec dare, sed pretium posci dedignor et odi;
quod nego poscenti, desine velle, dabo!
(Ovid, Am. 1.10.37-64)

It is not honour for witnesses to make false oaths for gain, nor for the chosen juror’s purse to lie open for the bribe. ‘Tis base to defend the wretched culprit with purchased eloquence; the court that makes great gains is base; ’tis base to swell a patrimony with a revenue from love, and to offer one’s own beauty for a price. Thanks are due and deserved for boons unbought; no thanks are felt for love that is meanly hired. He who has made the hire pays all; when the price is paid he remains no more a debtor for your favour. Spare, fair ones, to ask a price for your love; a sordid gain can bring no good in the end. ‘Twas not worth while for the holy maid to bargain for the Sabine armlets, only that arms should crush her down*; a son once pierced with the sword the bosom whence he came, and a necklace was the cause of the mother’s pain**. And yet it is no shame to ask for presents from the rich; they have wherefrom to give you when you ask. Pluck from full vines the hanging clusters; let the genial field of Alcinous yield its fruits! He who is poor counts out to you as pay his service, zeal, and faithfulness; the kind of wealth each has, let him bring it all to the mistress of his heart. My dower, too, it is to glorify the deserving fair in song; whoever I have willed is made famous by my art. Gowns will be rent to rags, and gems and gold be broke to fragments; the glory my songs shall give will last for ever. ‘Tis not the giving but the asking of a price, that I despise and hate. What I refuse at your demand, cease only to wish, and I will give!

* The Vestal Tarpeia asked as the price of her treason what the Sabines had on their left arms, meaning their armlets of gold, but was crushed beneath the shields they carried there.
** Knowing that the Fates had decreed his death in case he went, Eriphyle, for a necklace, caused her husband Amphiaraus to be one of the seven against Thebes, and was slain by Alcmaeon, her son.

(tr. Grant Showerman, with his notes)



This is part 2 of 3. Part 1 is here.

Stat meretrix certo cuivis mercabilis aere,
et miseras iusso corpore quaerit opes;
devovet imperium tamen haec lenonis avari
et, quod vos facitis sponte, coacta facit.
sumite in exemplum pecudes ratione carentes;
turpe erit, ingenium mitius esse feris.
non equa munus equum, non taurum vacca poposcit;
non aries placitam munere captat ovem.
sola viro mulier spoliis exultat ademptis,
sola locat noctes, sola licenda venit,
et vendit quod utrumque iuvat, quod uterque petebat,
et pretium, quanti gaudeat ipsa, facit.
quae Venus ex aequo ventura est grata duobus,
altera cur illam vendit et alter emit?
cur mihi sit damno, tibi sit lucrosa voluptas,
quam socio motu femina virque ferunt?
(Ovid, Am. 1.10.21-36)

‘Tis the harlot stands for sale at the fixed price to anyone soe’er, and wins her wretched gains with body at the call; yet even she calls curses on the power of the greedy pander, and does because compelled what you perform of your own will. Look for pattern to the beasts of the field, unreasoning though they are; ’twill shame you to find the wild things gentler than yourself. Mare never claimed gift from stallion, nor cow from bull; the ram courts not the favoured ewe with gift. ‘Tis only woman glories in the spoil she takes from man, she only hires out her favours, she only comes to be hired, and makes a sale of what is delight to both and what both wished, and sets the price by the measure of her own delight. The love that is to be of equal joy to both—why should the one make sale of it, and the other purchase? Why should my pleasure cause me loss, and yours to you bring gain—the pleasure that man and woman both contribute to? (tr. Grant Showerman)


Jean-Jacques le Barbier, L'Amour sur un arbre lançant ses traits, 1806
Jean-Jacques le Barbier, L’Amour sur un arbre lançant ses traits (1806)

This is part 1 of 3. Part 2 is here.

Qualis ab Eurota Phrygiis avecta carinis
coniugibus belli causa duobus erat,
qualis erat Lede, quam plumis abditus albis
callidus in falsa lusit adulter ave,
qualis Amymone siccis erravit in agris,
cum premeret summi verticis urna comas—
talis eras; aquilamque in te taurumque timebam,
et quidquid magno de Iove fecit amor.
nunc timor omnis abest, animique resanuit error,
nec facies oculos iam capit ista meos.
cur sim mutatus, quaeris? quia munera poscis.
haec te non patitur causa placere mihi.
donec eras simplex, animum cum corpore amavi;
nunc mentis vitio laesa figura tua est.
et puer est et nudus Amor; sine sordibus annos
et nullas vestes, ut sit apertus, habet.
quid puerum Veneris pretio prostare iubetis?
quo pretium condat, non habet ille sinum!
nec Venus apta feris Veneris nec filius armis—
non decet imbelles aera merere deos.
(Ovid, Am. 1.10.1-20)

Such as was she who was carried from the Eurotas in Phrygian keel to be cause of war to her two lords; such as was Leda, whom the cunning lover deceived in guise of the bird with gleaming plumage; such as was Amymone,* going through thirsty fields with full urn pressing the locks on her head—such were you; and in my love for you I feared the eagle and the bull, and what other form soever love has caused great Jove to take. Now my fear is all away, and my heart is healed of straying; those charms of yours no longer take my eyes. Why am I changed, you ask? Because you demand a price. This is the cause that will not let you please me. As long as you were simple, I loved you soul and body; now your beauty is marred by the fault of your heart. Love is both a child and naked: his guileless years and lack of raiment are sign that he is free. Why bid the child of Venus offer himself for gain? He has no pocket where to put away his gain! Neither Venus nor her son is apt at service of cruel arms—it is not meet that unwarlike gods should draw the soldier’s pay.

* Sent by her father Danaus for water, she attracted Neptune.

(tr. Grant Showerman, with his note)



This is part 3 of 3. Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.

Nil equidem inquiram, nec quae celare parabis
insequar, et falli muneris instar erit.
si tamen in media deprensa tenebere culpa,
et fuerint oculis probra videnda meis,
quae bene visa mihi fuerint, bene visa negato —
concedent verbis lumina nostra tuis.
prona tibi vinci cupientem vincere palma est,
sit modo ‘non feci!’ dicere lingua memor.
cum tibi contingat verbis superare duobus,
etsi non causa, iudice vince tuo!
(Ovid, Am. 3.14.41-50)

For my part I’’ll not enquire, not seek to know what you hide, and treat deception as a gift. But if I catch you in the guilty act, and your shame’’s visible to my eyes, deny I’’ve really seen what I’’ve really seen.– I’’ll accept your words and not my sight. It’’s easy for you to win the palm if I want to be beaten, just remember to say the words: ‘’I didn’’t!’’ While you succeed in winning with those two words, though you’’ve no case, you’’ll conquer the judge too! (tr. Tony Kline)