Martial, Epigrams. Book 8. Bohn's Classical Library (1897)
VALERIUS MARTIALIS, TO THE EMPEROR DOMITIANUS, CAESAR AUGUSTUS, GERMANICUS, DACICUS, GREETINGS.
All my books, Sire, to which you have given renown, that is, life, are dedicated to you; and will for that reason, I doubt not, be read. This, however, which is the eighth of my collection, has furnished more frequent opportunities of showing my devotion to you. I had consequently less occasion to produce from my own invention, for the matter supplied the place of thought; yet I have occasionally attempted to produce variety by the admixture of a little pleasantly, that every verse might not inflict on your divine modesty praises more likely to fatigue you than to satisfy me. And though epigrams, addressed even to the gravest persons and to those of the highest rank, are usually written in such a manner that they seem to assume a theatrical licence of speech, I have nevertheless not permitted these to speak with any such freedom. Since, too, the larger and better part of the book is devoted to the majesty of your sacred name, it has to remember that it ought not to approach the temples of gods without religious purification. That my readers also may know that I consider myself bound by this obligation, I have determined to make a declaration to that effect at the commencement of the book in a short epigram:
My book, as you are about to enter the laurel-wreathed palace of the lord of the world, learn to speak with modesty, and in a reverent tone. Retire, unblushing Venus; this book is not for you. Come you to me, Pallas, you whom Caesar adores.
Janus, the author and parent of our annals, when he recently beheld the conqueror of the Danube, thought it not enough to have several faces,1 and wished that be had more eyes; then, speaking at once with his different tongues, he promised the lord of earth and divinity of the empire an old age four times as long as that of Nestor. We pray you, father Janus, that you would give the promised term in addition to your own immortality.2
"Five books had been enough; six or seven are surely too many: why, Muse, do you delight still to sport on? Be modest and make an end. Fame can now give me nothing more: my book is in every hand. And when the stone sepulchre of Messala 3 shall He ruined by time, and the vast marble tomb of Licinus4 shall be reduced to dust, I shall still be read, and many a stranger will carry my verses with him to his ancestral home." Thus had I concluded, when the ninth5 of the sisters, her hair and dress streaming with perfumes, made this reply: Can you then, ungrateful, lay aside your pleasant trifling? Can you employ your leisure, tell me, in any better way? Do you wish to relinquish my sock for the tragic buskin, or to thunder of savage wars in heroic verse, that the pompous pedant may read you with hoarse voice to his class, and that the grown-up maiden and ingenuous youth may detest you? Let such poems be written by those who are most grave and singularly severe, whose wretched toilings the lamp witnesses at midnight. But do you season books for the Romans with racy salt; in you let human nature read and recognise its own manners. Although you may seem to be playing on but a slender reed, that reed will be better heard than the trumpets of many.
What a world of people, ye gods, is collected at the Roman altars, offering up prayer and vows for its ruler! These, Germanicus, are not the joys of men only; it seems to me that the gods themselves are celebrating a festival.
You have given so many rings to young ladies, Macer, that you have none left for yourself.1
There is nothing more hateful than the antique vases of old Euctus. I prefer cups made of Saguntine clay. When the garrulous old man boasts the pedigrees of his smoky silver vessels, he makes even the wine seem musty with his talk. "These cups belonged to the table of Laomedon; to obtain which Apollo raised the walls of Troy by the sound of his lyre. With this goblet fierce Rhoecus rushed to battle with the Lapitha; you see that the work has suffered in the struggle. This double vase is celebrated for having belonged to the aged Nestor; the doves upon it have been worn bright by the thumb of the hero of Pylos. This is the tankard in which Achilles ordered wine to be prepared for his friends with more than ordinary copiousness and strength. In this bowl the beauteous Dido drank the health of Bitias, at the entertainment given to the Phrygian hero." When you have done admiring all these trophies of ancient art, you will have to drink Astyanax in the cups of Priam.1
Is this pleading causes, Cinna? Is this speaking eloquently, to say nine words in ten hours? Just now you asked with a loud voice for four more clepsydra.1 What a long time you take to say nothing, Cinna!
Although, Janus, you give birth to the swiftly-rolling years, and recall with your presence centuries long past; and although you are the first to be celebrated with pious incense, saluted with vows, and adorned with the auspicious purple and with every honour; yet you prefer the glory, which has just befallen our city, of beholding its god return in your own month.
Hylas, the blear-eyed, lately offered to pay you three quarters of his debt; now that he has lost one eye he offers you half. Hasten to take it; the opportunity for getting it may soon pass, for if Hylas should become blind, he will pay you nothing.
Bassus has bought a cloak for ten thousand sesterces; a Tyrian one of the very best colour. He has made a good bargain. "Is it then," you ask, "so very cheap?" Yes; for he will not pay for it.
The Rhine now knows that you have arrived in your own city; for he too hears the acclamations of your people. Even the Sarmatian tribes, and the Danube, and the Getae, have been startled by the loudness of our recent exultations. While the prolonged expressions of joy in the sacred circus greeted you, no one perceived that the horses had started and run four times. No ruler, Caesar, has Rome ever so loved before, and she could not love you more, even were she to desire it.
Do you ask why I am unwilling to marry a rich wife? It is because I am unwilling to be taken to husband by my wife. The mistress of the house should be subordinate to her husband, for in no other way, Priscus, will the wife and husband be on an equality.
I bought what you called a fool for twenty thousand sesterces. Return me my money, Gargilianus; he is no fool at all.
That your tender Cilician fruit trees may not suffer from frost, and that too keen a blast may not nip your young plants, glass frame-works, opposed to the wintry south winds, admit the sunshine and pure light of day without any detrimental admixture. But to me a cell is assigned with unglazed windows, in which not even Boreas himself would like to dwell. Is it thus, cruel man, that you would have your old friend live? I should be better sheltered as the companion of your trees.
While the newly-acquired glory of the Pannonian campaign is the universal theme of conversation, and while every altar is offering propitious sacrifices to our Jupiter on his return, the people, the grateful knights, the senate, offer incense; and largesses from you for the third time enrich the Roman tribes. These modest triumphs, too, Rome will celebrate; nor will your laurels gained in peace be less glorious than your former triumphs in war, inasmuch as you feel assured of the sacred affection of your people. It is a prince's greatest virtue to know his own subjects.
You, Cyperus, who were long a baker, now plead causes, and are seeking to gain two hundred thousand sesterces. But you squander what you get, and even go so far as to borrow more. You have not quitted your former profession, Cyperus: you make both bread and flour.
I pleaded your cause, Sextus; having agreed to do so for two thousand sesterces. How is it that you have sent me only a thousand? "You said nothing," you tell me; "and the cause was lost through you." You ought to give me so much the more, Sextus, as I had to blush for you.
If, Cirinius, you were to publish your epigrams, you might be my equal, or even, my superior, in the estimation of the reading public; but such is the respect you entertain for your old friend, that his reputation is dearer to you than your own. Just so did Virgil abstain from the style of the Calabrian Horace, although he was well able to excel even the odea of Pindar, and so too did he resign to Varius the praise of the Roman buskin, although he could have declaimed with more tragic power. Gold, and wealth, and estates, many a friend will bestow; one who consents to yield the palm in genius, is rare.
Cinna wishes to seem poor; and is poor.
Though you write two hundred verses every day, Varus, you recite nothing in public. You are unwise, and yet you are wise.
Phosphorus (Morning Star), bring back the day; why do you delay our joys? When Caesar is about to return, Phosphorus, bring back the day. Rome implores you. Is it that the sluggish wain of the tame Bootes is carrying you, that you come with axle so slow? You should rather snatch Cyllarus from Leda's twins; Castor himself would to-day lend you his horse. Why do you detain the impatient Titan? Already Xanthus and Aethon long for the bit, and the benign parent of Memnon is up and ready. Yet the lingering stars refuse to retreat before the shining light, and the moon is eager to behold the Ausonian ruler. Come, Caesar, even though it be night: although the stars stand still, day will not be absent from your people when you come.
You invite me, Gallicus, to partake of a wild boar; you place before me a home-fed pig. I am a hybrid, Gallicus, if you can deceive me.
I seem to you cruel and too much addicted to gluttony, when I beat my cook for sending up a bad dinner. If that appears to you too trifling a cause, say for what cause you would have a cook flogged?
If I chance in my timid and slender book to make any request of you, grant it, unless my pages are too presumptuous. Or, if you do not grant it, Caesar, still permit it to be made; Jupiter is never offended by incense and prayers. It is not he who fashions divine images in gold or marble, that makes them gods, but he who offers supplications to them.
You have seen me very ill, Oppianus, only once: I shall often see you so.1
The huntsman on the banks of the Ganges, looking pale as he fled on his Hyrcanian steed, never stood in fear, amid the Eastern fields, of so many tigers as your Rome, O Germanicus, has lately beheld. She could not even count the objects of her delight. Your arena, Caesar, has surpassed the triumphs of Bacchus among the Indians, and the wealth and magnificence of the conquering deity; for Bacchus, when he led the Indians captive after his chariot, was content with a single pair of tigers.
He who makes presents to you, Gaurus, rich and old as you are, says plainly, if you have but sense and can understand him, "Die!"
Say, toga, rich present from my eloquent friend, of what flock were you the ornament and the glory? Did the grass of Apulia and Ledaean Phalantus1 spring up for you, where Galaesus irrigatea the fields with waters from Calabria? Or did the Tartessian Guadalquivir, the nouriaher of the Iberian fold, wash you, when on the back of a lamb of Hesperia? Or has your wool counted the mouths of the divided Timavus,2 of which the affectionate Cyllarus, now numbered with the stars, once drank? You it neither befitted to be stained with Amyclaean dye, nor was Miletus worthy to receive your fleece. You surpass in whiteness the lily, the budding flower of the privet, and the ivory which glistens on the hill of Tivoli.3 The swan of Sparta and the doves of Paphos must yield to you; and even the pearl fished from the Indian seas. But though this be a present that vies with new-born snows, it is not more pure thin its giver Parthenius. I would not prefer to it the embroidered stuffs of proud Babylon, decorated with the needle of Semiramis; I should not admire myself more if dressed in the golden robe of Athamas, could Phrixus give me his Aeolian fleece.4 But oh what laughter will my worn-out ragged cloak excite, when seen in company with this regal toga!
He who writes distichs, wishes, I suppose, to please by brevity. But, tell me, of what avail is their brevity, when there is a whole book full of them?
The spectacle which is now presented to us on Caesar's arena, was the great glory of the days of Brutus. See how bravely the hand bears the flames. It even enjoys the punishment, and reigns in the astonished fire! Scaevola himself appears as a spectator of his own act, and applauds the noble destruction of his right hand, which seems to luxuriate in the sacrificial fire; and unless the means of suffering had been taken away from it against its will, the left hand was still more boldly preparing to meet the vanquished flames. I am unwilling, after so glorious an action, to inquire what he had done before; it is sufficient for me to have witnessed the fate of his hand.
You make a pretty confession about yourself Dento, when, after taking a wife, you petition for the rights of a father of three children.1 But cease to importune the emperor, and return, though a little behind time, to your own country; for, after so long seeking three children far away from your deserted wife, you will find four at home.
A gentle dove, eliding down through the silent air, settled in the very lap of Aretulla as she was sitting. This might have seemed the mere sport of chance, had it not rested there, although undetained, and refused to depart, even when the liberty of flight was granted it. If it is permitted to the affectionate sister to hope for better things, and if prayers can avail to move the lord of the world, this bird is perhaps come to you from the dwelling of the exile in Sardinia, to announce the speedy return of your brother.
You send me, Paulus, a leaf from a Praetor's crown, and give it the name of a wine-cup. Some toy of the stage has perhaps recently been covered with this thin substance, and a dash of pale saffron-water washed it off. Or is it rather a piece of gilding scraped off (as I think it may be) by the nail of a cunning servant from the leg of your couch? Why, it is moved by a gnat flying at a distance, and is shaken by the wing of the tiniest butterfly. The flame of the smallest lamp makes it flit about, and it would be broken by the least quantity of wine poured into it. With some such crust as this the date is covered, which the ill-dressed client carries to his patron, with a small piece of money, on the first of January. The bean of Egypt produces filaments less flexible; and lilies, which fall before an excessive sun, are more substantial. The wandering spider does not disport upon a web so fine, nor does the hanging silk-worm produce a work so slight. The chalk lies thicker on the face of old Fabulla; the bubble swells thicker on the agitated wave. The net which enfolds a girl's twisted hair is stronger, and the Batavian foam which changes the colour of Roman locks is thicker. With skin such as this the chick in the Ledaean egg is clothed: such are the patches which repose upon the senator's forehead. Why did you send me a wine-cup, when you might have sent me a small ladle, or a spoon even? But I speak too grandly; when you might have sent me a snail-shell; or in a word, when you might have sent me nothing at all, Paulus?
You say that you have a piece of plate which is an original work of Mys. That rather is an original, in the making of which you had no hand.
Since you are so well matched, and so much alike in your lives, a very bad wife, and a very bad husband, I wonder that you do not agree.
Smile, Caesar, at the miraculous pyramids of Egyptian kings; let barbarian Memphis now be silent concerning her eastern monuments. How insignificant are the labours of Egypt compared to the Parrhasian palace! 1 The god of day looks upon nothing in the whole world more splendid. Its seven towers seem to rise together like seven mountains; Ossa was less lofty surmounted by the Thessalian Pelion. It so penetrates the heavens, that its pinnacle, encircled by the glittering stare, is undisturbed by thunder from the clouds below, and receives the rays of Phoebus before the nether world illumined, and before even Circe2 beholds the face of her rising father. Yet though this Palace, Augustus, whose summit touches the stars, rivals heaven, it is not so great as its lord.
When you have given up to Caietanus his bond, do you imagine that you have made him a present of ten thousand sesterces? "He owed me that sum," you say. Keep the bond, Polycharmus, and lend Caietanus two thousand.1
He who makes presents with persevering attention to one who can make a return for his liberality, is perhaps angling for a legacy, or seeking some other return. But if any one perseveres in giving to the name which alone remains after death and the tomb, what does he seek but a mitigation of his grief? It makes a difference whether a man is, or only wishes to seem, good. You are good, Melior, and Fame knows it, in that you anxiously prevent with solemn rites the name of the buried Blaesus from perishing: and what you profusely give from your munificent coffers to the observant and affectionate company of notaries to keep his natal day, you bestow purely on Blaesus' memory. This honour will be paid you for many a year, as long as your life shall last, and will continue to be paid after your death.
There was previously no place that could accommodate the feasts and ambrosial entertainments of the Palatine table. Here you can duly quaff the sacred nectar, Germanicus, and drain cups mixed by the hand of your Ganymede. May it be long, I pray, before you become the guest of the Thunderer; or, if you, Jupiter, are in haste to sit at table with Domitian, come hither yourself!
O Priapus, guardian, not of a garden, nor of a fruitful vine, but of this little grove, from which you were made and may be made again, I charge you, keep from it all thievish hands, and preserve the wood for its master's fire. If this should fall short, you will find that you yourself are but wood.
Athenagoras says he is sorry that he has not sent me the presents which he usually sends in the middle of December. I shall see, Faustinus, whether Athenagoras is sorry; certainly Athenagoras has made me sorry.
If a larger sportula has not attracted you to those who are more favoured by fortune, as is usually the case, you may take a hundred baths, Matho, from my sportula.1
Fabius buries his wives, Chrestilla her husbands; each shakes a funeral torch over the nuptial couch. Unite these conquerors, Venus, and the result will then be that Libitina will carry them both off together.
I admonish you, Titullus, enjoy life; it is already late to do so; it is late, even, to begin under the schoolmaster. But you, miserable Titullus, are not even enjoying life in your old age, but wear, out every threshold with morning calls, and all the forenoon are covered with perspiration, and slobbered with the kisses of the whole city. You wander through the three forums,1 in face of all the equestrians, the temple of Mars, and the colossus of Augustus; you are running about everywhere from the third to the fifth hour.2 Grasp, accumulate, spare, and hoard as you will, you must leave all behind you. Though the splendid coffer be pale3 with closely packed silver coins, though a hundred pages of kalends4 be filled with your debtors' names, yet your heir will swear that you have left nothing, and, whilst you are lying upon your bier or on, the stones, while the pyre stuffed with papyrus is rising for you, he will insolently patronise your weeping eunuchs; and your sorrowing son, whether you like it or not, will caress your favourite the very first night after your funeral.
Priscus Terentius, my dear Flaccus, is restored to me from the coast of Sicily; let a milk-white gem mark this day. Let the contents of this amphora, diminished by the lapse of a hundred consulships,1 flow forth, and let it grow brighter, turbid as it now is, strained through the purifying linen.2 When will a night so auspicious cheer my board? When will it be mine to be warmed with wine so fitly quaffed? When Cytherean Cyprus shall restore you, Flaccus, to me, I shall have equally good reason for sucn indulgence.
How great is your innocent simplicity, how great the childish beauty of your form, youthful Cestus, more chaste than the young Hippolytus! Diana might covet your society, and Doris desire to bathe with you: Cybele would prefer to have you all to herself instead of her Phrygian Atys. You might have succeeded to the couch of Ganymede, but you, cruel boy, would have given kisses only to your lord. Happy the bride who shall move the heart of so tender a husband, and the damsel who shall first make you feel that you are a man!
Part of your face is clipped, part shaven, part has the hair pulled out. Who would think that you have but one head?
Crispinus does not know to whom he gave his Tyrian mantle, when he changed his dress at the bath, and put on his toga. Whoever you are that have it, restore to his shoulders, I pray you, their honours; it is not Crispinus, but his cloak, that makes this request. It is not for every one to wear garments steeped in purple dye; that colour is suited only to opulence. If booty and the vicious craving after dishonourable gain possess you, take the toga, for that will be less likely to betray you.
Asper loves a damsel; she is handsome certainly, but he is blind. Evidently then, such being the case, Asper loves better than he sees.
Great as is reported to have been the feast at the triumph over the giants, and glorious as was to all the gods that night on which the kind father sat at table with the inferior deities, and the Fauns were permitted to ask wine from Jove; so grand are the festivals that celebrate your victories, O Caesar; and our joys enliven the gods themselves. All the knights, the people, and the senate, feast with you, and Rome partakes of ambrosial repasts with her ruler. You promised much; but how much more have you given! Only a sportula was promised, but you have set before us a splendid supper.
Whose workmanship is displayed in this cup? Is it that of the skilful Mys, or of Myron? Is this the handiwork of Mentor, or yours, Polycletus? No tarnish blemishes its brightness, its unalloyed metal is proof against the fire of the assayer. Pure amber radiates a less bright yellow than its metal; and the fineness of its chasing surpasses the carving on snowy ivory. For the work is not inferior to the material; it surrounds the cup, as the moon surrounds the earth, when she shines at the full with all her light. Embossed on it is a goat adorned with the Aeolian fleece of the Theban Phrixus; 1 a goat on which his sister would have preferred to ride; a goat which the Cinyphian shearer would not despoil of his hair, and which Bacchus himself would allow to browse on his vine. On the back of the animal sits a Cupid fluttering his golden wings; and a Palladian flute made of the lotus seems to resound from his delicate lips. Thus did the dolphin, delighted with the Methymnaean Arion, convey his melodious rider through the tranquil waves. Let this splendid gift be filled for me with nectar worthy of it, not by the hand of a common slave, but by that of Cestus. Cestus, ornament of my table, mix the Setine wine; the lovely boy and the goat that carries him both seem to be thirsty. Let the letters in the name of Instantius Rufus determine the number of the cups that I am to drink; for he is the donor of this noble present. If Telethusa comes and proffers me her promised entertainment, I shall confine myself Rufus, for the sake of my mistress, to the third part of the letters in your name;3 if she delays, I shall indulge in seven cups; if she disappoints me altogether, I shall, to drown my vexation, drain as many cups as there are letters in both your name and hers.
Caedicianus, I lent my barber (a young man, but skilled in his art even beyond Nero's Thalamus, whose lot it was to dip the beards of the Drusi) to Rufus, at his request, to make his cheeks smooth for once. But, at Rufus's orders, he was so long occupied in going over the same hairs again and again, consulting the mirror that guided his hand; cleaning the akin, and making a tedious second attack on the locks previously shorn, that my barber at last returned to me with his own beard full grown.
Most beautiful of all women that are or have been, but most worthless of all that are or have been, oh! how I wish, Catulla, that you could become less beautiful, or more chaste.
Although you make so many liberal donations, and promise even to exceed them, O conqueror of many leaders, as well as conqueror of yourself, you are not loved of the people, Caesar, for the sake of your bounties, but your bounties are loved by the people for your sake,
Loud as are the roarings heard through the trackless regions of Massylia, when the forest is filled with innumerable raging lions, and when the pale shepherd recalls his astonished bulls and terrified flock to his Punic huts, so loud were terrific roarings lately heard in the Roman arena. Who would not have thought they proceeded from a whole herd? There was, however, only one lion, but one whose authority the lions themselves would have respected with trembling, and to whom Numidia, abounding in variegated marble, would have given the palm. Oh what majesty sat upon his neck, what beauty did the golden shade of his arched neck display as it bristled! How apt for large hunting spears was his broad chest, and what joy did he feel in so illustrious a death! Whence, Libya, came so noble an ornament to your woods? From the car of Cybele? Or, rather, did your brother, Germanicus, or your father himself send down the mighty animal from the constellation of Hercules? 1
As the age of our ancestors yields to our own, and as Rome has grown greater with her ruler, you wonder that genius like that of the divine Virgil is nowhere found among us, and that no poet thunders or wars with so powerful a clarion. Let there be Maecenases, Flaccus, and there will be no want of Virgils; even your own farm may furnish you with a Maro. Tityrus had lost several acres in the neighbourhood of poor Cremona, and was sadly mourning over the loss of his sheep. The Tuscan knight1 smiled on him, repelled harsh poverty from his door, and bade it quickly take to flight "Accept," said he "a portion of my wealth, and be the greatest of bards; nay, you may even love my Alexis." That most beautiful of youths used to stand at his master's feasts, pouring the dark Falernian with hand white as marble, and to present him the cup just sipped with his rosy lips; lips which might have attracted the admiration of Jupiter himself. The plump Galatea, and Thestylis, with her ruddy cheeks burnt by the harvest sun, vanished from the memory of the inspired bard. Forthwith he sang of Italy, and "Arms and the man,"----he, whose inexperienced strain had scarcely sufficed to lament a gnat.3 "Why need I mention the Varii3 and Marsi,4 and other poets who nave been enriched, and to enumerate whom would be a long task? Shall I, then, be a Virgil, if you give me such rifts as Maecenas gave him? I shall not be Virgil; but I shall be a Marsus.5
Picens had three teeth, which he coughed out all together one day, as he was sitting at the place destined for his tomb. He collected in his robe the last fragments of his decayed jaw, and buried them under a heap of earth; His heir need not collect his bones after his death; Picens has already performed that office for himself.
Seeing that your cloak, Artemidorus, is so thick, I might justly call you Sagaris.1
Do you see this fellow, who has but one eye, and under whose scowling forehead yawns a blind cavity for the other? Do not despise that head; none was ever more acquisitive; nor were even the fingers of Autolycus more sticky. Be cautious how you make him your guest, and watch him closely, for on such occasions he makes one eye do the duty of two. The anxious servants lose cups and spoons; and many a napkin is warmed in the secret folds of his dress. He knows how to catch a cloak as it fells from the arm of a neighbour, and often leaves the table doubly clad. He even feels no remorse in robbing the slumbering slave of his lighted lamp. If he fails to lay hands on anything belonging to others, he will exercise his thievish propensity on his own servant, and steal his slippers from him.
If you had been shorter by a foot and a half, Claudia, you would have been about the same height as the colossus on the Palatine mount.1
Charinus is pale and bursting with envy; he rages, weeps, and is looking for a high branch on which to hang himself; not, as formerly, because I am repeated and read by everybody, or because I am circulated with elegant bosses, and anointed with oil of cedar, through all the nations that Rome holds in subjection; but because I possess in the suburbs a summer country-house, and ride on mules which are not, as of old, hired. What evil shall I imprecate on him, Severus, for his envy? This is my wish: that he may have mules and a country-house.
Picens writes epigrams upon the back of his paper, and then complains that the god of poetry turns his back upon him.
Aulus loves Thestylus, and yet he is not less fond of Alexis; perhaps be is also growing fond of my Hyacinthus. Go, now, and resolve me whether my friend Aulus loves poets themselves, when he loves what the poets hold dearest.
For the purpose of asking and exacting presents, Clytus, your birth-day falls eight times in one year; and you count, I think, only three or four first days of months that are not anniversaries of your coming into the world. Though your face is smoother than the polished stones of the dry shore; though your hair is blacker than the mulberry ready to fall; though the soft delicacy of your flesh surpasses the feathers of the dove, or a mass of milk just curdled; and though your breast is as full as that which a virgin reserves for her husband, you already, Clytus, seem to me to be an old man; for who would believe that Priam and Nestor had as many birth-days as you? Have some sense of moderation, and let there be some limit to your rapacity; for if you still carry on your joke, and if it is not enough for you to be born once a year, I shall not, Clytus, consider you born at all.
Here, where the temple dedicated to returning Fortune glistens resplendent far and wide, was formerly a spot of ground of great celebrity. Here Domitian, graced with the dust of the Sarmatian1 war, halted, his countenance radiating with glory. Here, with locks wreathed with bays, and in white garb, Rome saluted her general with voice and gesture. The great merits of the spot are attested by the other monuments with which it has been honoured; a sacred arch is there erected in memory of our triumphs over subdued nations. Here two chariots 2 number many an elephant yoked to them; the prince himself cast in gold, guides alone the mighty team. This gate, Germanicus, is worthy of your triumphs; such an entrance it is fit the city of Mars should possess.
Give to the emperor, you Muses, sacred incense and victims on behalf of your favourite Silius. See, the prince bids the twelve fasces return to him in the consulship of his son, and the Castalian abode of the poet resound with the rod of power knocking at his door. O Caesar, chief and only stay of the empire, still one thing is wanting to the wishes of the rejoicing father,----the happy purple and a third consul in his family. Although the senate gave these sacred honours to Pompey, and Augustus to his son-in-law,1 whose names the pacific Janus thrice ennobled,2 Silius prefers to count successive consulships in the persons of his sons.
Your slave, Caecilianus, has not yet announced to you the fifth hour,1 and yet you are already come to dine with me; although, too, the fourth hour has but just been bawled to adjourn the bail-courts,2 and the wild beasts3 of the Floral Games are still being exercised in the arena. Run, Callistus, hasten to call the still unwashed attendants; let the couches be spread; sit down, Caecilianus. You ask for warm water; but the cold is not yet brought; the kitchen is still closed, and the fires not yet lit. You should surely come earlier; why do you wait for the fifth hour? You have come very late, Caecilianus, for breakfast.
He who has seen the orchards of the king of Corcyra, will prefer the garden of your country-house, Entellus. That the malicious frost mar not nip the purple clusters, and the icy cold destroy the gifts of Bacchus, the vintage lives protected under transparent stone; carefully covered, yet not concealed. Thus does female beauty shine through silken folds; thus are pebbles visible in the pellucid waters. What is not nature willing to grant to genius? Barren winter is forced to produce the fruits of autumn.
You admire, Vacerra, only the poets of old, and praise only those who are dead. Pardon me, I beseech you, Vacerra, it I think death too high a price to pay for your praise.
Great as is the placidity, equally great is the eloquence of the quiet Nerva; but his modesty restrains his powers and his genius. When he might with large draughts have drained the sacred fountain of the muses, he preferred to keep his thirst within bounds; he was content to bind his inspired brow with a modest chaplet, and not to crowd all sail for fame. But whoever is acquainted with the verses of the learned Nero, knows that Nerva is the Tibullus of our day.
Ten years ago, Postumianus, you sent me at the time of the winter solstice1 four pounds of silver. Next year, when I hoped for a larger present (for presents ought either to stand at the same point or to grow larger), there came two pounds, more or less. The third and fourth years brought still less. The fifth year produced a pound, it is true, but only a Septician pound.2 In the sixth year it fell off to a small cup of eight unciae; 3 next year came half a pound of silver scrapings in a little cup. The eighth year brought me a ladle of scarcely two ounces; the ninth presented me a little spoon, weighing less than a needle. The tenth year can have nothing less to send me; return, therefore, Postumianus, to the four pounds.
My little book, though not yet adorned with the purple, or polished with the keen filing of pumice, you are in haste to follow Arcanus, whom beautiful Narbo, the native town of the learned Votienus,1 recalls to uphold her laws and the annual magistracy; and, what should equally be an object of your wishes, that delightful spot, and the friendship of Arcanus, will at once be yours. How I could wish to be my book!
Instantius, than whom no one is reputed more sincere in heart, or more eminent for unsullied simplicity, if you wish to give strength and spirit to my muse, and desire of me verses which shall live, give me something to love. Cynthia made sportive Propertius a poet; the fair Lycoris was the genius of Gallus. The beautiful Nemesis gave fame to the wit of Tibullus; while Lesbia inspired the learned Catullus. Neither the Pelignians, nor the Mantuans, will refuse me the name of a bard, if I meet with a Corinna or an Alexia.
You are now a gladiator; you were previously an oculist You used to do as a doctor what you now do as a gladiator.
A Lingonian Gaul, fresh arrived, returning late at night to his lodging, through the Covered and Flaminian ways, struck his toe violently against some obstacle, dislocated his ankle, and fell at full length on the pavement. What was the Gaul to do, how was be to get up? The huge fellow had with him but one little slave, so thin that he could scarcely carry a little lamp. Accident came to the poor fellow's assistance. Four branded slaves were carrying a common corpse, such as poor men's pyres receive by thousands. To them the feeble attendant, in a humble tone, addressed his prayer, entreating that they would carry the dead body of his master whithersoever they pleased. The load was changed, and the heavy burden crammed into the narrow shell, and raised on their shoulders. This gentleman, Lucanus, seems to me one out of many of whom we may justly say, "Mortue Galle."1
"Tell me, Marcus, tell me the truth, I pray; there is nothing to which I shall listen with greater pleasure." Such is your constant prayer and request to me, Gallicus, both when you recite your compositions, and when you are pleading the cause of a client. It is hard for me to deny your request: hear then what is as true as truth itself. You do not hear truth with pleasure, Gallicus.
Liber, dearest object of care to all your friends; Liber, worthy to live in ever-blooming roses; if you are wise, let your hair ever glisten with Assyrian balsam, and let garlands of flowers surround your head; let your pure crystal cups be darkened with old Falernian, and your soft couch be warm with the caresses of love. He who has so lived, even to a middle age, has made life longer than was bestowed on him.
Games, such as the victory gained over the giants in the Phlegraean plains, such as your Indian triumph, O Bacchus, would have deserved, Stella has exhibited in celebration of the triumph over the Sarmatians; and such is his modesty, such his affection, he thinks these too insignificant. Hermus, turbid with gold cast up from its depths, or Tagus which murmurs in the Hesperian regions, would not be sufficient for him. Every day brings its own gifts; there is no cessation to the rich series of largesses, and many a price falls to the lot of the people. Sometimes playful coins come down in sudden showers; sometimes a liberal ticket bestows on them the animals which they have beheld in the arena. Sometimes a bird delights to fill your bosom unexpectedly, or, without having been exhibited, obtains a master by lot, that it may not be torn to pieces. Why should I enumerate the chariots, and the thirty prizes of victory, which are more than even both the Consuls generally give? But all is surpassed, Caesar, by the great honour, that your own triumph has you for a spectator.
All your female friends are either old or ugly; nay, more ugly than old women usually are. These you lead about in your train, and drag with you to feasts, porticoes, and theatres. Thus, Fabulla, you seem handsome, thus you seem young.
You revive among us, Caesar, the wonders of our venerable forefathers, and suffer not ancient customs to expire, for the games of the Latian arena are renewed, and valour contends with the natural weapon, the hand. Thus, under your rule, the respect for the ancient temples is preserved, and the fane where Jupiter was worshipped of old is still honoured by you. Thus, while you invent new things, you restore the old: and we owe to you, Augustus, both the present and the past.
Gellia swears, not by the mystic rites of Cybele, nor by the bull that loved the heifer of Egypt, nor indeed by any of our gods and goddesses, but by her pearls. These she embraces; these she covers with kisses; these she calls her brothers and sisters; these she loves more ardently than her two children. If she should chance to lose these, she declares she could not live even an hour. Ah! how excellently, Papirianus, might the hand of Amicus Serenus1 be turned to account!
While the crowd presents to you, Augustus, its humble supplications, we too, in offering to our ruler our poor verses, know that the divinity can find time equally for public affairs and the Muses, and that our garlands also please you. Uphold your poets, Augustus; we are your pleasing glory, your chief care and delight. It is not the oak 2 alone that becomes you, not the laurel 3 of Phoebus; we will wreathe for you a civic crown of ivy.
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2008. This file and all material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
Greek text is rendered using unicode.
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