Nicolas Poussin, La continence de Scipion, 1640
Nicolas Poussin, La continence de Scipion (1640)

Quartum et vicesimum annum agens Scipio, cum in Hispania Carthagine oppressa maioris Carthaginis capiendae sumpsisset auspicia, multosque obsides, quos in ea urbe Poeni clausos habuerant, in suam potestatem redegisset, eximiae inter eos formae virginem aetatis adultae, et iuvenis et caelebs et victor, postquam comperit illustri loco inter Celtiberos natam, nobilissimoque gentis eius Indibili desponsam, arcessitis parentibus et sponso inviolatam tradidit. aurum quoque, quod pro redemptione puellae allatum erat, summae dotis adiecit. qua continentia ac munificentia Indibilis obligatus Celtiberorum animos Romanis applicando meritis eius debitam gratiam rettulit.
(Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia 4.3.1)

When Scipio was in his twenty-fourth year he had caputred Carthage in Spain and so taken auspices for the capture of the greater Carthage. He had brought many hostages into his power, whom the Carthaginians had kept shut up in the former city, among them a girl of adult age and exceptional beauty. Learning that she was born in an exalted station among the Celtiberi and betrothed to Indibilis, the noblest of that nation, Scipio, a young man, unmarried, and a victor, summoned her parents and fiancé and handed her over inviolate. He even added the gold which had been brought for the girl’s ransom to the amount of her dowry. Bound by such continence and generosity, Indibilis attached the hearts of the Celtiberi to Rome and so made due repayment to his benefactor. (tr. David Roy Shackleton Bailey)



Caduca nimirum et fragilia puerilibusque consentanea crepundiis sunt ista quae vires atque opes humanae vocantur. adfluunt subito, repente dilabuntur, nullo in loco, nulla in persona stabilibus nixa radicibus consistunt, sed incertissimo flatu Fortunae huc atque illuc acta quos sublime extulerunt improviso recursu destitutos profundo cladium miserabiliter immergunt. itaque neque existimari neque dici debent bona quae, ut inflictorum malorum amaritudine desiderium sui duplicent, <…>
(Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia 6.9 ext. 7)

Frail and fragile surely and like children’s toys are the so-called power and wealth of humankind. Suddenly they stream in, abruptly they fall apart, in no place or person do they stand on fixed or stable roots, but driven hither and thither by Fortune’s fickle breeze they forsake those they have raised aloft in unexpected withdrawal and lamentably plunge them into an abyss of disaster. Therefore they should neither be thought nor called good things that in order to double the bitterness of inflicted evils by craving for their return * * * (tr. David Roy Shackleton Bailey)


Giuseppe Crespi - Brutus Kissing the Earth (1725)
Giuseppe Crespi, Brutus Kissing the Earth (1725)

Quo in genere acuminis in primis Iunius Brutus referendus est: nam cum a rege Tarquinio, avunculo suo, omnem nobilitatis indolem excerpi, interque ceteros etiam fratrem suum, quod vegetioris ingenii erat, interfectum animadverteret, obtunsi se cordis esse simulavit, eaque fallacia maximas virtutes suas texit. profectus etiam Delphos cum Tarquinii filiis, quos is ad Apollinem Pythium muneribus et sacrificiis honorandum miserat, aurum deo nomine doni clam cavato baculo inclusum tulit, quia timebat ne sibi caeleste numen aperta liberalitate venerari tutum non esset. peractis deinde mandatis patris, Apollinem iuvenes consuluerunt quisnam ex ipsis Romae regnaturus videretur. at is penes eum summam urbis nostrae potestatem futuram respondit qui ante omnes matri osculum dedisset. tum Brutus, perinde atque casu prolapsus, de industria se abiecit, terramque, communem omnium matrem existimans, osculatus est. quod tam vafre Telluri impressum osculum urbi libertatem, Bruto primum in fastis locum tribuit.
(Valerius Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia 7.3.2)

In this sort of sharpness Junius Brutus deserves particular mention. He noticed that his uncle king Tarquin was picking out all men of promise among the nobility and that among others his own brother had been put to death because of his lively intelligence. He therefore pretended to be dull of intellect and veiled his great abilities by that deception. Leaving too for Delphi with Tarquin’s sons, whom the king had sent to honour Pythian Apollo with gifts and sacrifices, he took some gold for the god as a gift secretly hidden in a hollow stick, fearing that it would not be safe for him to venerate the heavenly deity with an open donation. After attending to their father’s commissions, the young men consulted Apollo as to which among them seemed likely to be king in Rome. The god replied that supreme power in our city would lie with him who was the first to give his mother a kiss. Then Brutus purposely threw himself on the ground as though by an accidental stumble and kissed it, reckoning it to be the common mother of all kings. That kiss so craftily impressed on Earth gave freedom to the city and the first place in the Fasti to Brutus. (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey)