Ovid 43 BC - 17 AD 60
1 About Me 8
2 Education
3 Philosophy
4 Politics
5 News
6 Travel
7 Sports
8 Funding
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2 February 16 32.5 0.
3 March 15 32.4 0.
4 April 18 34.7 0.
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Page Data
Body Pages 183.4 Time 2:32:50
Chapters 107
Pages per chapter 1.7
Translator's Note .3 0.
Introduction 2.3 0.
1 1 Kalends 8.3 0.
2 3 .8 0.
3 5 Nones .1 0.
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5 10 .1 0.
6  11 Carmentalia 4.5 0.
7 13 Ides 1.1 0.
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14 24 Regifugium 6.3 0.
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17 23 Vinalia 1.4 0.
18 25 Robigalia 1.5 0.
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0 - Translator's Note.
Ovid’s numerous references throughout the Fasti to the rising and setting of stars and constellations, further detailed in the relevant index entries, have been checked using a computer-based astronomical program (Redshift 4) set to Rome in 8AD. The Kalends, Nones, Ides, and major Festivals of each month are identified in the headings against the relevant days.
1 - Introduction
I’ll speak of divisions of time throughout the Roman year, Their origins, and the stars that set beneath the earth and rise. Germanicus Caesar, accept this work, with a calm face, And direct the voyage of my uncertain vessel: Not scorning this slight honour, but like a god, Receiving with favour the homage I pay you. Here you’ll revisit the sacred rites in the ancient texts, And review by what events each day is marked. And here you’ll find the festivals of your House, And see your father’s and your grandfather’s name: The prizes they won, that illustrate the calendar, That you and your brother Drusus will also win. Let others sing Caesar’s wars: I’ll sing his altars, And those days that he added to the sacred rites. Approve my attempt to tell of your family honours, And banish the apprehension from my heart. Be kind to me, and you’ll empower my verse: My wit will stand or fall by your glance. My page trembles, judged by a learned prince, As if it were being read by Clarian Apollo. We know the eloquence of your skilful voice, Taking up civil arms for anxious defendants: And we know, when your efforts turn to poetry, How copiously the river of your genius flows. If it’s right and lawful, a poet, guide the poet’s reins, So beneath your auspices the whole year may be happy. When Rome’s founder established the calendar He determined there’d be ten months in every year. You knew more about swords than stars, Romulus, surely, Since conquering neighbours was your chief concern. Yet there’s a logic that might have possessed him, Caesar, and that might well justify his error. He held that the time it takes for a mother’s womb To produce a child, was sufficient for his year. For as many months also, after her husband’s funeral, A widow maintains signs of mourning in her house. So Quirinus in his ceremonial robes had that in view, When he decreed his year to an unsophisticated people. Mars’ month, March, was the first, and Venus’ April second: She was the mother of the race, and he its father. The third month May took its name from the old (maiores), The fourth, June, from the young (iuvenes), the rest were numbered. But Numa did not neglect Janus and the ancestral shades, And therefore added two months to the ancient ten. Yet lest you’re unaware of the laws of the various days, Know Dawn doesn’t always bring the same observances. Those days are unlawful (nefastus) when the praetor’s three words May not be spoken, lawful (fastus) when law may be enacted. But don’t assume each day maintains its character throughout: What’s now a lawful day may have been unlawful at dawn: Since once the sacrifice has been offered, all is acceptable, And the honoured praetor is then allowed free speech. There are those days, comitiales, when the people vote: And the market days that always recur in a nine-day cycle. The worship of Juno claims our Italy’s Kalends, While a larger white ewe-lamb falls to Jupiter on the Ides: The Nones though lack a tutelary god. After all these days, (Beware of any error!), the next day will be ill-omened. The ill-omen derives from past events: since on those days Rome suffered heavy losses in military defeat. Let these words above be applied to the whole calendar, So I’ll not be forced to break my thread of narrative.
1 - 1 1 Kalends.
See how Janus appears first in my song To announce a happy year for you, Germanicus. Two-headed Janus, source of the silently gliding year, The only god who is able to see behind him, Be favourable to the leaders, whose labours win Peace for the fertile earth, peace for the seas: Be favourable to the senate and Roman people, And with a nod unbar the shining temples. A prosperous day dawns: favour our thoughts and speech! Let auspicious words be said on this auspicious day. Let our ears be free of lawsuits then, and banish Mad disputes now: you, malicious tongues, cease wagging! See how the air shines with fragrant fire, And Cilician grains crackle on lit hearths! The flame beats brightly on the temple’s gold, And spreads a flickering light on the shrine’s roof. Spotless garments make their way to Tarpeian Heights, And the crowd wear the colours of the festival: Now the new rods and axes lead, new purple glows, And the distinctive ivory chair feels fresh weight. Heifers that grazed the grass on Faliscan plains, Unbroken to the yoke, bow their necks to the axe. When Jupiter watches the whole world from his hill, Everything that he sees belongs to Rome. Hail, day of joy, and return forever, happier still, Worthy to be cherished by a race that rules the world. But two-formed Janus what god shall I say you are, Since Greece has no divinity to compare with you? Tell me the reason, too, why you alone of all the gods Look both at what’s behind you and what’s in front. While I was musing, writing-tablets in hand, The house seemed brighter than it was before. Then suddenly, sacred and marvellous, Janus, In two-headed form, showed his twin faces to my eyes. Terrified, I felt my hair grow stiff with fear And my heart was frozen with sudden cold. Holding his stick in his right hand, his key in the left, He spoke these words to me from his forward looking face: ‘Learn, without fear, what you seek, poet who labours Over the days, and remember my speech. The ancients called me Chaos (since I am of the first world): Note the long ages past of which I shall tell. The clear air, and the three other elements, Fire, water, earth, were heaped together as one. When, through the discord of its components, The mass dissolved, and scattered to new regions, Flame found the heights: air took a lower place, While earth and sea sank to the furthest depth. Then I, who was a shapeless mass, a ball, Took on the appearance, and noble limbs of a god. Even now, a small sign of my once confused state, My front and back appear just the same. Listen to the other reason for the shape you query, So you know of it, and know of my duties too. Whatever you see: sky, sea, clouds, earth, All things are begun and ended by my hand. Care of the vast world is in my hands alone, And mine the governance of the turning pole. When I choose to send Peace, from tranquil houses, Freely she walks the roads, and ceaselessly: The whole world would drown in bloodstained slaughter, If rigid barriers failed to hold war in check. I sit at Heaven’s Gate with the gentle Hours, Jupiter himself comes and goes at my discretion. So I’m called Janus. Yet you’d smile at the names The priest gives me, offering cake and meal sprinkled With salt: on his sacrificial lips I’m Patulcius, And then again I’m called Clusius. So with a change of name unsophisticated antiquity Chose to signify my changing functions. I’ve explained my meaning. Now learn the reason for my shape: Though already you partially understand it. Every doorway has two sides, this way and that, One facing the crowds, and the other the Lares: And like your doorkeeper seated at the threshold, Who watches who goes and out and who goes in, So I the doorkeeper of the heavenly court, Look towards both east and west at once. You see Hecate’s faces turned in three directions, To guard the crossroads branching several ways: And I, lest I lose time twisting my neck around, Am free to look both ways without moving.’ So he spoke, and promised by a look, That he’d not begrudge it if I asked for more. I gained courage and thanked the god fearlessly, And spoke these few words, gazing at the ground: ‘Tell me why the new-year begins with cold, When it would be better started in the spring? Then all’s in flower, then time renews its youth, And the new buds swell on the fertile vines: The trees are covered in newly formed leaves, And grass springs from the surface of the soil: Birds delight the warm air with their melodies, And the herds frisk and gambol in the fields. Then the sun’s sweet, and brings the swallow, unseen, To build her clay nest under the highest roof beam. Then the land’s cultivated, renewed by the plough. That time rightly should have been called New Year.’ I said all this, questioning: he answered briefly And swiftly, casting his words in twin verses: ‘Midwinter’s the first of the new sun, last of the old: Phoebus and the year have the same inception.’ Then I asked why the first day wasn’t free Of litigation. ‘Know the cause,’ said Janus, ‘I assigned the nascent time to business affairs, Lest by its omen the whole year should be idle. For that reason everyone merely toys with their skills, And does no more than give witness to their work.’ Next I said: ‘Why, while I placate other gods, Janus, Do I bring the wine and incense first to you?’ He replied: ‘So that through me, who guard the threshold, You can have access to whichever god you please.’ ‘But, why are joyful words spoken on the Kalends, And why do we give and receive good wishes?’ Then leaning on the staff he gripped in his right hand, He answered: ‘Omens attend upon beginnings.’ Anxious, your ears are alert at the first word, And the augur interprets the first bird that he sees. When the temples and ears of the gods are open, The tongue speaks no idle prayer, words have weight.’ Janus ended. Maintaining only a short silence I followed his final words with my own: ‘What do the gifts of dates and dried figs mean’, I said, ‘And the honey glistening in a snow-white jar?’ ‘For the omen,’ he said, ‘so that events match the savour, So the course of the year might be sweet as its start.’ ‘I see why sweet things are given. Explain the reason For gifts of money, so I mistake no part of your festival.’ He laughed and said: ‘How little you know of your age, If you think that honey’s sweeter to it than gold! I’ve hardly seen anyone, even in Saturn’s reign, Who in his heart didn’t find money sweet. Love of it grew with time, and is now at its height, Since it would be hard put to increase much further. Wealth is valued more highly now, than in those times When people were poor, and Rome was new, When a small hut held Romulus, son of Mars, And reeds from the river made a scanty bed. Jupiter complete could barely stand in his low shrine, And the lightning bolt in his right hand was of clay. They decorated the Capitol with leaves, not gems, And the senators grazed their sheep themselves. There was no shame in taking one’s rest on straw, And pillowing one’s head on the cut hay. Cincinnatus left the plough to judge the people, And the slightest use of silver plate was forbidden. But ever since Fortune, here, has raised her head, And Rome has brushed the heavens with her brow, Wealth has increased, and the frantic lust for riches, So that those who possess the most seek for more. They seek to spend, compete to acquire what’s spent, And so their alternating vices are nourished. Like one whose belly is swollen with dropsy The more they drink, they thirstier they become. Wealth is the value now: riches bring honours, Friendship too: everywhere the poor are hidden. And you still ask me if gold’s useful in augury, And why old money’s a delight in our hands? Once men gave bronze, now gold grants better omens, Old money, conquered, gives way to the new. We too delight in golden temples, however much We approve the antique: such splendour suits a god. We praise the past, but experience our own times: Yet both are ways worthy of being cultivated.’ He ended his statement. But again calmly, as before, I spoke these words to the god who holds the key. ‘Indeed I’ve learned much: but why is there a ship’s figure On one side of the copper as, a twin shape on the other?’ ‘You might have recognised me in the double-image’, He said, ‘if length of days had not worn the coin away. The reason for the ship is that the god of the sickle Wandering the globe, by ship, reached the Tuscan river. I remember how Saturn was welcomed in this land: Driven by Jupiter from the celestial regions. From that day the people kept the title, Saturnian, And the land was Latium, from the god’s hiding (latente) there. But a pious posterity stamped a ship on the coin, To commemorate the new god’s arrival. I myself inhabited the ground on the left Passed by sandy Tiber’s gentle waves. Here, where Rome is now, uncut forest thrived, And all this was pasture for scattered cattle. My citadel was the hill the people of this age Call by my name, dubbing it the Janiculum. I reigned then, when earth could bear the gods, And divinities mingled in mortal places. Justice had not yet fled from human sin, (She was the last deity to leave the earth), Shame without force, instead of fear, ruled the people, And it was no effort to expound the law to the lawful. I’d nothing to do with war: I guarded peace and doorways, And this,’ he said, showing his key, ‘was my weapon.’ The god closed his lips. Then I opened mine, Eliciting with my voice the voice of the god: ‘Since there are so many archways, why do you stand Sacredly in one, here where your temple adjoins two fora? Stroking the beard falling on his chest with his hand, He at once retold the warlike acts of Oebalian Tatius, And how the treacherous keeper, Tarpeia, bribed with bracelets, Led the silent Sabines to the heights of the citadel. ‘Then,’ he said, ‘a steep slope, the one by which you Now descend, led to the valleys and the fora. Even now the enemy had reached the gate, from which Saturn’s envious daughter, Juno, had removed the bars. Fearing to engage in battle with so powerful a goddess, I cunningly employed an example of my own art, And by my power I opened the mouths of the springs, And suddenly let loose the pent-up waters: But first I threw sulphur intro the watery channels, So boiling liquid would close off that path to Tatius. This action performed and the Sabines repulsed, The place took on its secure aspect as before. An altar to me was raised, linked to a little shrine: Here the grain and cake is burnt in its flames’ ‘But why hide in peace, and open your gates in war?’ He swiftly gave me the answer that I sought: ‘My unbarred gate stands open wide, so that when The people go to war the return path’s open too.’ I bar it in peacetime so peace cannot depart: And by Caesar’s will I shall be long closed.’ He spoke, and raising his eyes that looked both ways, He surveyed whatever existed in the whole world. There was peace, and already a cause of triumph, Germanicus, The Rhine had yielded her waters up in submission to you. Janus, make peace and the agents of peace eternal, And grant the author may never abandon his work. Now for what I’ve learned from the calendar itself: The senate dedicated two temples on this day. The island the river surrounds with divided waters, Received Aesculapius, whom Coronis bore to Apollo. Jupiter too shares it: one place holds both, and the temples Of the mighty grandfather and the grandson are joined.
1 - 2 3
What prevents me speaking of the stars, and their rising And setting? That was a part of what I’ve promised. Happy minds that first took the trouble to consider These things, and to climb to the celestial regions! We can be certain that they raised their heads Above the failings and the homes of men, alike. Neither wine nor lust destroyed their noble natures, Nor public business nor military service: They were not seduced by trivial ambitions, Illusions of bright glory, nor hunger for great wealth. They brought the distant stars within our vision, And subjected the heavens to their genius. So we reach the sky: there’s no need for Ossa to be piled On Olympus, or Pelion’s summit touch the highest stars. Following these masters I too will measure out the skies, And attribute the wheeling signs to their proper dates. So, when the third night before the Nones has come, And the earth is drenched, sprinkled with heavenly dew, You’ll search for the claws of the eight-footed Crab in vain: It will plunge headlong beneath the western waves.
1 - 3 5 Nones.
Should the Nones be here, rain from dark clouds Will be the sign, at the rising of the Lyre.
1 - 4 9
Add four successive days to the Nones and Janus Must be propitiated on the Agonal day. The day may take its name from the girded priest At whose blow the god’s sacrifice is felled: Always, before he stains the naked blade with hot blood, He asks if he should (agatne), and won’t unless commanded. Some believe that the day is called Agonal because The sheep do not come to the altar but are driven (agantur). Others think the ancients called this festival Agnalia, ‘Of the lambs’, dropping a letter from its usual place. Or because the victim fears the knife mirrored in the water, The day might be so called from the creature’s agony? It may also be that the day has a Greek name From the games (agones) that were held in former times. And in ancient speech agonia meant a sheep, And this last reason in my judgement is the truth. Though the meaning is uncertain, the king of the rites, Must appease the gods with the mate of a woolly ewe. It’s called the victim because a victorious hand fells it: And hostia, sacrifice, from hostile conquered foes. Cornmeal, and glittering grains of pure salt, Were once the means for men to placate the gods. No foreign ship had yet brought liquid myrrh Extracted from tree’s bark, over the ocean waves: Euphrates had not sent incense, nor India balm, And the threads of yellow saffron were unknown. The altar was happy to fume with Sabine juniper, And the laurel burned with a loud crackling. He was rich, whoever could add violets To garlands woven from meadow flowers. The knife that bares the entrails of the stricken bull, Had no role to perform in the sacred rites. Ceres was first to delight in the blood of the greedy sow, Her crops avenged by the rightful death of the guilty creature, She learned that in spring the grain, milky with sweet juice, Had been uprooted by the snouts of bristling pigs. The swine were punished: terrified by that example, You should have spared the vine-shoots, he-goat. Watching a goat nibbling a vine someone once Vented their indignation in these words: ‘Gnaw the vine, goat! But when you stand at the altar There’ll be something from it to sprinkle on your horns.’ Truth followed: Bacchus, your enemy is given you To punish, and sprinkled wine flows over its horns. The sow suffered for her crime, and the goat for hers: But what were you guilty of you sheep and oxen? Aristaeus wept because he saw his bees destroyed, And the hives they had begun left abandoned. His azure mother, Cyrene, could barely calm his grief, But added these final words to what she said: ‘Son, cease your tears! Proteus will allay your loss, And show you how to recover what has perished. But lest he still deceives you by changing shape, Entangle both his hands with strong fastenings.’ The youth approached the seer, who was fast asleep, And bound the arms of that Old Man of the Sea. He by his art altered his shape and transformed his face, But soon reverted to his true form, tamed by the ropes. Then raising his dripping head, and sea-green beard, He said: ‘Do you ask how to recover your bees? Kill a heifer and bury its carcase in the earth, Buried it will produce what you ask of me.’ The shepherd obeyed: the beast’s putrid corpse Swarmed: one life destroyed created thousands. Death claims the sheep: wickedly, it grazed the vervain That a pious old woman offered to the rural gods. What creature’s safe if woolly sheep, and oxen Broken to the plough, lay their lives on the altar? Persia propitiates Hyperion, crowned with rays, With horses, no sluggish victims for the swift god. Because a hind was once sacrificed to Diana the twin, Instead of Iphigeneia, a hind dies, though not for a virgin now. I have seen a dog’s entrails offered to Trivia by Sapaeans, Whose homes border on your snows, Mount Haemus. A young ass too is sacrificed to the erect rural guardian, Priapus, the reason’s shameful, but appropriate to the god. Greece, you held a festival of ivy-berried Bacchus, That used to recur at the appointed time, every third winter. There too came the divinities who worshipped him as Lyaeus, And whoever else was not averse to jesting, The Pans and the young Satyrs prone to lust, And the goddesses of rivers and lonely haunts. And old Silenus came on a hollow-backed ass, And crimson Priapus scaring the timid birds with his rod. Finding a grove suited to sweet entertainment, They lay down on beds of grass covered with cloths. Liber offered wine, each had brought a garland, A stream supplied ample water for the mixing. There were Naiads too, some with uncombed flowing hair, Others with their tresses artfully bound. One attends with tunic tucked high above the knee, Another shows her breast through her loosened robe: One bares her shoulder: another trails her hem in the grass, Their tender feet are not encumbered with shoes. So some create amorous passion in the Satyrs, Some in you, Pan, brows wreathed in pine. You too Silenus, are on fire, insatiable lecher: Wickedness alone prevents you growing old. But crimson Priapus, guardian and glory of gardens, Of them all, was captivated by Lotis: He desires, and prays, and sighs for her alone, He signals to her, by nodding, woos her with signs. But the lovely are disdainful, pride waits on beauty: She laughed at him, and scorned him with a look. It was night, and drowsy from the wine, They lay here and there, overcome by sleep. Tired from play, Lotis rested on the grassy earth, Furthest away, under the maple branches. Her lover stood, and holding his breath, stole Furtively and silently towards her on tiptoe. Reaching the snow-white nymph’s secluded bed, He took care lest the sound of his breath escaped. Now he balanced on his toes on the grass nearby: But she was still completely full of sleep. He rejoiced, and drawing the cover from her feet, He happily began to have his way with her. Suddenly Silenus’ ass braying raucously, Gave an untimely bellow from its jaws. Terrified the nymph rose, pushed Priapus away, And, fleeing, gave the alarm to the whole grove. But the over-expectant god with his rigid member, Was laughed at by them all, in the moonlight. The creator of that ruckus paid with his life, And he’s the sacrifice dear to the Hellespontine god. You were chaste once, you birds, a rural solace, You harmless race that haunt the woodlands, Who build your nests, warm your eggs with your wings, And utter sweet measures from your ready beaks, But that is no help to you, because of your guilty tongues, And the gods’ belief that you reveal their thoughts. Nor is that false: since the closer you are to the gods, The truer the omens you give by voice and flight. Though long untouched, birds were killed at last, And the gods delighted in the informers’ entrails. So the white dove, torn from her mate, Is often burned in the Idalian flames: Nor did saving the Capitol benefit the goose, Who yielded his liver on a dish to you, Inachus’ daughter: The cock is sacrificed at night to the Goddess, Night, Because he summons the day with his waking cries, While the bright constellation of the Dolphin rises Over the sea, and shows his face from his native waters.
1 - 5 10
The following dawn marks the mid-point of winter. And what remains will equal what has gone.
1 - 6 11 Carmentalia.
Quitting his couch, Tithonus’ bride will witness The high priest’s rite of Arcadian Carmentis. The same light received you too, JuturnaTurnus’ sister, There where the Aqua Virgo circles the Campus. Where shall I find the cause and nature of these rites? Who will steer my vessel in mid-ocean? Advise me, Carmentis, you who take your name from song, And favour my intent, lest I fail to honour you. Arcadia, that’s older than the moon (if we believe it), Takes its name from great ArcasCallisto’s son. From there came Evander, though of noble lineage on both sides Nobler through the blood of Carmentis, his sacred mother: She, as soon as her spirit absorbed the heavenly fire, Spoke true prophecies, filled with the god. She had foretold trouble for her son and herself, And many other things that time proved valid. The mother’s words proved only too true, when the youth Banished with her, fled Arcady and his Parrhasian home. While he wept, his mother said: ‘Your fortune must Be borne like a man (I beg you, check your tears). It was fated so: it is no fault of yours that exiles you, But a god: an offended god expelled you from the city. You’re not suffering rightful punishment, but divine anger: It is something in great misfortune to be free of guilt. As each man’s conscience is, so it harbours Hope or fear in his heart, according to his actions. Don’t mourn these ills as if you were first to endure them: Such storms have overwhelmed the mightiest people. Cadmus endured the same, driven from the shores of Tyre, Remaining an exile on Boeotian soil. Tydeus endured the same, and Pagasean Jason, And others whom it would take too long to speak of. To the brave every land is their country, as the sea To fish, or every empty space on earth to the birds. Wild storms never rage the whole year long, And spring will yet come to you (believe me).’ Encouraged by his mother’s words, Evander Sailed the waves and reached Hesperian lands. Then, advised by wise Carmentis, he steered His boat into a river, and stemmed the Tuscan stream. She examined the river bank, bordered by Tarentum’s shallows, And the huts scattered over the desolate spaces: And stood, as she was, with streaming hair, at the stern, And fiercely stopped the steersman’s hand: Then stretching out her arm to the right bank, She stamped three times, wildly, on the pine deck: Evander barely held her back with his hand, Barely stopped her leaping swiftly to land. ‘Hail, you gods of the land we sought’ she cried, ‘And you the place that will give heaven new gods, And you nymphs of the grove, and crowds of Naiads! May the sight of you be a good omen for me and my son, And happy be the foot that touches that shore! Am I wrong, or will those hills raise mighty walls, And from this earth all the earth receive its laws? The whole world is one day promised to these hills: Who could believe the place held such fate in store? Soon Trojan ships will touch these shores, And a woman, Lavinia, shall cause fresh war. Pallas, dear grandson, why put on that fatal armour? Put it on! No mean champion will avenge you. Conquered Troy you will conquer, and rise from your fall, Your very ruin overwhelms your enemy’s houses. Conquering flames consume Neptune’s Ilium! Will that prevent its ashes rising higher than the world? Soon pious Aeneas will bring the sacred Penates, and his Sacred father here: Vesta, receive the gods of Troy! In time the same hand will guard the world and you, And a god in person will hold the sacred rites. The safety of the country will lie with Augustus’ house: It’s decreed this family will hold the reins of empire. So Caesar’s son, Augustus, and grandson, Tiberius, Divine minds, will, despite his refusal, rule the country: And as I myself will be hallowed at eternal altars, So Livia shall be a new divinity, Julia Augusta.’ When she had brought her tale to our own times, Her prescient tongue halted in mid-speech. Landing from the ships, Evander the exile stood On Latian turf, happy for that to be his place of exile! After a short time new houses were built, And no Italian hill surpassed the Palatine. See, Hercules drives the Erythean cattle here: Travelling a long track through the world: And while he is entertained in the Tegean house, The untended cattle wander the wide acres. It was morning: woken from his sleep the Tyrinthian Saw that two bulls were missing from the herd. Seeking, he found no trace of the silently stolen beasts: Fierce Cacus had dragged them backwards into his cave, Cacus the infamous terror of the Aventine woods, No slight evil to neighbours and travellers. His aspect was grim, his body huge, with strength To match: the monster’s father was Mulciber. He housed in a vast cavern with deep recesses, So hidden the wild creatures could barely find it. Over the entrance hung human arms and skulls, And the ground bristled with whitened bones. Jupiter’s son was leaving, that part of his herd lost, When the stolen cattle lowed loudly. ‘I am recalled” he said, and following the sound, As avenger, came through the woods to the evil cave, Cacus had blocked the entrance with a piece of the hill: Ten yoked oxen could scarcely have moved it. Hercules leant with his shoulders, on which the world had rested, And loosened that vast bulk with the pressure. A crash that troubled the air followed its toppling, And the ground subsided under the falling weight. Cacus at first fought hand to hand, and waged war, Ferociously, with logs and boulders. When that failed, beaten, he tried his father’s tricks And vomited roaring flames from his mouth: You’d think Typhoeus breathed at every blast, And sudden flares were hurled from Etna’s fires. Hercules anticipated him, raised his triple-knotted club, And swung it three, then four times, in his adversary’s face. Cacus fell, vomiting smoke mingled with blood, And beat at the ground, in dying, with his chest. The victor offered one of the bulls to you, Jupiter, And invited Evander and his countrymen to the feast, And himself set up an altar, called Maxima, the Mightiest, Where that part of the city takes its name from an ox. Evander’s mother did not hide that the time was near When earth would be done with its hero, Hercules. But the felicitous prophetess, as she lived beloved of the gods, Now a goddess herself, has this day of Janus’ month as hers.
1 - 7 13 Ides.
On the Ides, in Jove’s temple, the chaste priest (the Flamen Dialis) Offers to the flames the entrails of a gelded ram: All the provinces were returned to our people, And your grandfather was given the name Augustus. Read the legends on wax images in noble halls, Such titles were never bestowed on men before. Here Africa named her conqueror after herself: Another witnesses to Isaurian or Cretan power tamed: This makes glory from Numidians, that Messana, While the next drew his fame from Numantia. Drusus owed his death and glory to Germany – Alas, how brief that great virtue was! If Caesar was to take his titles from the defeated He would need as many names as tribes on earth. Some have earned fame from lone enemies, Named from a torque won or a raven-companion. Pompey the Great, your name reflects your deeds, But he who defeated you was greater still. No surname ranks higher than that of the Fabii, Their family was called Greatest for their services. Yet these are human honours bestowed on all. Augustus alone has a name that ranks with great Jove. Sacred things are called august by the senators, And so are temples duly dedicated by priestly hands. From the same root comes the word augury, And Jupiter augments things by his power. May he augment our leader’s empire and his years, And may the oak-leaf crown protect his doors. By the god’s auspices, may the father’s omens Attend the heir of so great a name, when he rules the world.
1 - 8 0
When the third sun looks back on the past Ides, The rites of Carmenta, the Parrhasian goddess, are repeated. Formerly the Ausonian mothers drove in carriages (carpenta) (These I think were named after Evander’s mother). The honour was later taken from them, so every woman Vowed not to renew their ungrateful husband’s line, And to avoid giving birth, unwisely, she expelled Her womb’s growing burden, using unpredictable force. They say the senate reproved the wives for their coldness, But restored the right which had been taken from them: And they ordered two like festivals for the Tegean mother, To promote the birth of both boys and girls. It is not lawful to take leather into her shrine, Lest the pure hearths are defiled by sacrifice. If you love ancient ritual, listen to the prayers, And you’ll hear names you’ve never heard before. They placate Porrima and Postverta, whether sisters, Maenalian goddess, or companions in your exile: The one thought to sing of what happened long ago (porro), The other of what is to happen hereafter (venturum postmodo).
1 - 9 16
Radiant one, the next day places you in your snow-white shrine, Near where lofty Moneta lifts her noble stairway: Concord, you will gaze on the Latin crowd’s prosperity, Now sacred hands have established you. Camillus, conqueror of the Etruscan people, Vowed your ancient temple and kept his vow. His reason was that the commoners had armed themselves, Seceding from the nobles, and Rome feared their power. This latest reason was a better one: revered Leader, Germany Offered up her dishevelled tresses, at your command: From that, you dedicated the spoils of a defeated race, And built a shrine to the goddess that you yourself worship. A goddess your mother honoured by her life, and by an altar, She alone worthy to share great Jupiter’s couch.
1 - 10 17
When this day is over, Phoebus, you will leave Capricorn, And take your course through the sign of the Water-Bearer.
1 - 11 23
Seven days from now when the sun sinks in the waves, The Lyre will no longer shine in the heavens.
1 - 12 24
After Lyra vanishes into obscurity, the fire that gleams At the heart of the Lion will be sunk in the sea at dawn. I have searched the calendar three or four times, But nowhere found the Day of Sowing: Seeing this the Muse said: ‘That day is set by the priests, Why are you looking for moveable days in the calendar?’ Though the day of the feast’s uncertain, its time is known, When the seed has been sown and the land’s productive.’ You bullocks, crowned with garlands, stand at the full trough, Your labour will return with the warmth of spring. Let the farmer hang the toil-worn plough on its post: The wintry earth dreaded its every wound. Steward, let the soil rest when the sowing is done, And let the men who worked the soil rest too. Let the village keep festival: farmers, purify the village, And offer the yearly cakes on the village hearths. Propitiate Earth and Ceres, the mothers of the crops, With their own corn, and a pregnant sow’s entrails. Ceres and Earth fulfil a common function: One supplies the chance to bear, the other the soil. ‘Partners in toil, you who improved on ancient days Replacing acorns with more useful foods, Satisfy the eager farmers with full harvest, So they reap a worthy prize from their efforts. Grant the tender seeds perpetual fruitfulness, Don’t let new shoots be scorched by cold snows. When we sow, let the sky be clear with calm breezes, Sprinkle the buried seed with heavenly rain. Forbid the birds, that prey on cultivated land, To ruin the cornfields in destructive crowds. You too, spare the sown seed, you ants, So you’ll win a greater prize from the harvest. Meanwhile let no scaly mildew blight its growth, And let no bad weather blanch its colour, May it neither shrivel, nor be over-ripe And ruined by its own rich exuberance. May the fields be free of darnel that harms the eyesight, And no barren wild oats grow on cultivated soil. May the land yield rich interest, crops of wheat And barley, and spelt roasted twice in the flames.’ I offer this for you, farmers, do so yourselves, And may the two goddesses grant our prayers. War long gripped mankind: the sword was more useful Than the plough: the ox yielded to the warhorse: Hoes were idle, mattocks made into javelins, And heavy rakes were forged into helmets. Thanks to the gods, and your house, under your feet War has long been bound in chains. Let the ox be yoked, seed lie beneath ploughed soil: Peace fosters Ceres, and Ceres is child of Peace.
1 - 13 27
On this sixth day before the approaching Kalends, A temple was dedicated to the Dioscuri. Brothers of the divine race founded it For those divine brothers, by Juturna’s lakes.
1 - 14 30
My song has led to the altar of Peace itself. This day is the second from the month’s end. Come, Peace, your graceful tresses wreathed With laurel of Actium: stay gently in this world. While we lack enemies, or cause for triumphs: You’ll be a greater glory to our leaders than war. May the soldier be armed to defend against arms, And the trumpet blare only for processions. May the world far and near fear the sons of Aeneas, And let any land that feared Rome too little, love her. Priests, add incense to the peaceful flames, Let a shining sacrifice fall, brow wet with wine, And ask the gods who favour pious prayer That the house that brings peace, may so endure. Now the first part of my labour is complete, And as its month ends, so does this book.
2 0
2 - Introduction
January is done, and the year advances with my song. As the second month runs, so let the second book. For the first time, my verses, sail with more canvas, Your theme, I recall, has been slight till now. I found you ready enough servants of love, When I toyed with poetry in my first youth, Now I sing of sacred rites and calendar days: Who’d have thought it would lead to this? Here’s my soldiering: I bear the weapons I can, My right hand isn’t useless for every service. If I can’t hurl the javelin with a mighty throw, Nor sit astride a war-horse’s back, No helmet on my head, no sharp sword slung, (Any man can be handy with those weapons) Still I promote your titles with a dutiful heart, Caesar, and your progress towards glory. Come, then, and cast your eye on my gift awhile, If pacifying enemies leaves you a moment free. The fathers of Rome called purification februa Many things still indicate that meaning for the word. The high priests ask the King and the Flamen For woollen cloths, called februa in the ancient tongue. When houses are cleansed, the roasted grain and salt, The lictor receives, are called by the same name. The same name too is given to the branch, cut from a pure Tree, whose leaves wreathe the priests’ holy brows. I’ve seen the priest’s wife (the Flaminica) ask for februa, And at her request she was given a branch of pine. In short anything used to purify our bodies, Had that title in the days of our hairy ancestors. The month is so called, because the Luperci Cleanse the earth with strips of purifying hide, Or because the time is pure, having placated the dead, When the days devoted to the departed are over. Our ancestors believed every sin and cause of evil Could be erased by rites of purification. Greece set the example: she considered the guilty Could rid themselves of sins by being purified. Peleus cleansed Patroclus, and Acastus Peleus From the blood of Phocus, by Haemonian waters. Medea, drawn through the air by bridled dragons, Was undeservedly welcomed by trusting Aegeus. Alcmaeon said to Achelous: ‘Absolve my sin’, And he did absolve that son of Amphiarus. Ah! Too facile, to think the dark guilt of murder Could be washed away by river water! Yet (lest you err, through ignorance of their old order) Though January is the first month, and was before, February that follows was once last in the ancient year. And your worship, Terminus, closed the sacred rites. The month of Janus came first, being the entrance (janua): This month was last, sacred to the last rites of the dead. Afterwards the Decemvirs are thought to have brought together These months that had been parted by a wide interval of time.
2 - 1 1 Kalends
January is done, and the year advances with my song. As the second month runs, so let the second book. For the first time, my verses, sail with more canvas, Your theme, I recall, has been slight till now. I found you ready enough servants of love, When I toyed with poetry in my first youth, Now I sing of sacred rites and calendar days: Who’d have thought it would lead to this? Here’s my soldiering: I bear the weapons I can, My right hand isn’t useless for every service. If I can’t hurl the javelin with a mighty throw, Nor sit astride a war-horse’s back, No helmet on my head, no sharp sword slung, (Any man can be handy with those weapons) Still I promote your titles with a dutiful heart, Caesar, and your progress towards glory. Come, then, and cast your eye on my gift awhile, If pacifying enemies leaves you a moment free. The fathers of Rome called purification februa Many things still indicate that meaning for the word. The high priests ask the King and the Flamen For woollen cloths, called februa in the ancient tongue. When houses are cleansed, the roasted grain and salt, The lictor receives, are called by the same name. The same name too is given to the branch, cut from a pure Tree, whose leaves wreathe the priests’ holy brows. I’ve seen the priest’s wife (the Flaminica) ask for februa, And at her request she was given a branch of pine. In short anything used to purify our bodies, Had that title in the days of our hairy ancestors. The month is so called, because the Luperci Cleanse the earth with strips of purifying hide, Or because the time is pure, having placated the dead, When the days devoted to the departed are over. Our ancestors believed every sin and cause of evil Could be erased by rites of purification. Greece set the example: she considered the guilty Could rid themselves of sins by being purified. Peleus cleansed Patroclus, and Acastus Peleus From the blood of Phocus, by Haemonian waters. Medea, drawn through the air by bridled dragons, Was undeservedly welcomed by trusting Aegeus. Alcmaeon said to Achelous: ‘Absolve my sin’, And he did absolve that son of Amphiarus. Ah! Too facile, to think the dark guilt of murder Could be washed away by river water! Yet (lest you err, through ignorance of their old order) Though January is the first month, and was before, February that follows was once last in the ancient year. And your worship, Terminus, closed the sacred rites. The month of Janus came first, being the entrance (janua): This month was last, sacred to the last rites of the dead. Afterwards the Decemvirs are thought to have brought together These months that had been parted by a wide interval of time.
2 - 2 2
When the next sun looses the jewelled yoke From his bright horses, before he sinks in the western waves, Looking up at night towards the stars, someone will say: ‘Where is the Lyre, that shone brightly last night?’ And searching for the Lyre, he will see that the Lion’s back Has also plunged suddenly into the wide waters.
2 - 3 3
The Dolphin that you saw lately, studded with stars, Will escape your gaze on the following night: He was a happy go-between in love’s intrigues, Or he carried the Lesbian lyre and its master. What land or sea does not know of Arion? He could hold back the running waters with his singing. Often the wolf seeking a lamb was halted by his voice, Often the lamb stopped, in fleeing the ravening wolf. Often hare and hounds rested in the same covert, And the deer on the rock stood still near the lioness, And the chattering crow perched with Pallas’ owl, Without a quarrel, and the dove united with the hawk. They say that Diana has often stood entranced at your music, Tuneful Arion, as if it were played by her brother’s hand. Arion’s fame had filled the cities of Sicily, And charmed the Italian shores with the sound of his lyre: Travelling back from there, he boarded a ship Carrying with him the wealth won by his art. Unhappy one, perhaps you feared the wind and waves, But the sea, in truth, was safer for you than your ship. Since the steersman stood there with naked blade, And the rest of that crew of conspirators were armed. Why draw that blade? Seaman, steer the wandering vessel: That weapon is not appropriate in your hands. Trembling with fear, Arion said: ‘I don’t plead for life, But let me take up my lyre and play a little.’ They granted it, laughing at the delay. He took the wreath That might have graced your tresses, Phoebus: Put on his robe, twice-stained with Tyrian purple: And, plucked by his thumb, the strings gave out their music, Such a melody as the swan’s mournful measures, When the cruel shaft has transfixed its brow. At once, he plunged, fully clothed into the waves: The water, leaping, splashed the sky-blue stern. Then (beyond belief) they say a dolphin Yielded its back to the unaccustomed weight. Sitting there, Arion gripped the lyre, and paid his fare In song, soothing the ocean waves with his singing. The gods see good deeds: Jupiter took the dolphin And ordered its constellation to contain nine stars.
2 - 4 5 Nones.
Now I wish for a thousand tongues, and that spirit Of yours, Homer, you who celebrated Achilles, While I sing the sacred Nones in alternating verse. This is the greatest honour granted to the calendar. My wit deserts me: the burden’s beyond my strength, This special day above all I am to sing. Why did I wish, foolishly, to lay so great a task On elegiac verse? This was a theme for the heroic stanza. Sacred Father of the Country, this title has been conferred On you, by the senate, the people, and by us, the knights. Events had already granted it. Tardily you received Your true title, you’d long been Father of the World. You have on earth the name that Jupiter owns to In high heaven: you are father of men, he of gods. Romulus, give way: Caesar by his care makes your walls Mighty: you made such as Remus could leap across. Tatius, and the little towns of Cures and Caenina, Knew you: under this Leader all the sun sees is Roman. You owned a little patch of conquered land: Caesar possesses all beneath Jupiter’s heavens. You raped married women: under Caesar they are ordered To be chaste: you permitted the guilty your grove: he forbids them. Force was acceptable to you: under Caesar the laws flourish. You had the title Master: he bears the name of Prince. Remus accused you, while he pardons his enemies. Your father deified you: he deified his father. Already Aquarius shows himself to the waist, And pours the gods flowing nectar mixed with water, And you who shrink from the north wind, be pleased, A softer breeze is blowing from the West.
2 - 5 9
Five days later, the Morning Star has lifted its brightness From the ocean waves, and these are the first days of spring. But don’t be misled: cold days are still in wait for you, Departing winter leaves sharp traces behind.
2 - 6 11
On the third night, you will see straight away That the Bear Keeper Bootes’ feet have emerged. Callisto was one of the Hamadryads, among The sacred band of the huntress Diana. She laid her hand on the goddess’ bow, saying: ‘Bear witness, bow I touch, to my virginity.’ Cynthia praised the vow: ‘Keep faith with that And you will be first among my companions.’ She’d have kept her vow, if she’d not been beautiful: She was wary of men, but sinned with Jupiter. Phoebe had hunted many creatures through the woods, And was returning home at noon, or shortly after. As she reached a grove (a dense grove dark with holm-oak With a deep fount of cool water at its centre), She said: ‘Arcadian virgin, let’s bathe here in the woods.’ The girl blushed at the false title of virgin. Diana spoke to the nymphs, and they undressed. Callisto was ashamed, and gave bashful signs of delay. Removing her tunic, her swollen belly Gave clear witness to the burden she carried. The goddess spoke to her, saying: ‘Daughter of Lycaon, Oath-breaker, leave the virgin band, do not defile pure waters.’ Ten times the moon completed her full orb, When she, thought to be virgin, became a mother. Juno, wounded, raged, and altered the girl’s form. What would you? Jupiter had ravished her against her will. And seeing in his victim a shameful animal face, Juno said: ‘Let Jupiter enjoy her embraces now!’ She who had been loved by highest Jove, Roamed the wild mountains as a shaggy she-bear. The boy she conceived furtively was adolescent When the mother met the child she had born. She reared, wildly, and growled, as if she knew him: Growling was his mother’s only mode of speech. The boy, unknowing, would have pierced her with his sharp spear, But they were both caught up into the heavenly mansions. They shine as neighbouring constellations: first the Bear, Then the Bear-keeper takes shape behind her back. Still, Juno, Saturn’s daughter, rages and begs grey Tethys Never to wash the Maenalian Bear with her waters.
2 - 7 13 Ides.
The altars of rustic Faunus smoke, on the Ides. There, where the island breaks Tiber’s waters. This was the day when three hundred and six Of the Fabii fell to Veientine weapons. A single family assumed the burden and defence of the city: Their strong right arms volunteered their swords. Noble soldiers they marched from the one camp, And any one of them was fitted to be the leader. The nearest way was the right hand arch of Carmentis Gate Let no one go that way: it is unlucky. Tradition says that the three hundred Fabii passed through: The gate is free of blame, but is still unlucky. When they had quickly reached the rushing Cremera, (It was flowing darkly with winter rain) They pitched their camp there, and with naked swords Broke the Etruscan ranks with their valour, Just like Libyan lions attacking the herds Scattered over the fields, far and wide. The enemy fled, receiving the wounds of shame In their backs: the earth red with Tuscan blood. So again, and as often, they fall. When open victory Was denied them, they set armed men in ambush. There was a plain, bounded by hills and forests, Where the mountain creatures could make a lair. The enemy left a few men and a scattering of cattle In its midst, the rest of their army hid in the thickets. Look, as a torrent swollen by rain and snow That the warm West wind has melted, flows Over the cornfields and roads, not as normal, Enclosed by the margins of its banks, So the Fabii, widely deployed, filled the valley, Felling whatever they saw, filled with no other fear. Where are you rushing to, noble house? Don’t trust the enemy: Noble simplicity, beware of treacherous blades! Valour is destroyed by fraud: the enemy leap out Into the open plain, and take the ground on all side. What can a few brave men do against thousands? What help remains for them in time of danger? As a wild boar driven far from the deep woods By the hounds, scatters the swift pack with roaring maw, But is soon killed, so they do not die un-avenged, Dealing and receiving wounds alternately. One day sent all the Fabii to war: All that were sent to war, one day destroyed. Yet we might think that the gods themselves took council, To save the seed of the Herculean house: For a boy too young to bear weapons Was left behind of all the Fabian house, No doubt so that you, Maximus, might be born To save the state, one day, by your delaying.
2 - 8 14
Three constellations lie together, Corvus the Raven, Hydra, and Crater, the Cup, between the two. On the Ides they’re hidden at twilight, but risen the following night. I’ll tell why the three as so closely linked together. It happened that Phoebus prepared a solemn feast for Jove, (This tale of mine will not take long to tell): ‘Go, my bird,’ he said, ‘so nothing delays the sacred rites, And bring a little water from the running stream.’ The Raven caught up a gilded Cup in his claws, And flew high into the air on his way. There was a fig tree thick with unripe fruit: The Raven tried it with his beak: but it wasn’t fit to eat. Forgetting his orders, it’s said he perched by the tree, To wait till the fruit should sweetly ripen. When at last he’d taken his fill, he grasped a long Water-Snake In his black talons, and returned to his master with a lying tale: ‘This snake caused my delay, it blocked the running water: It prevented the stream’s flow, and my errand.’ ‘Will you add to your fault with lies,’ said Phoebus, And cheat the god of prophecy with words? As for you, you’ll drink no cool water from the springs, Until the ripened figs cling to the trees.’ So he spoke, and as an eternal reminder of this ancient tale, Snake, Bird and Cup, as constellations, gleam side by side.
2 - 9 15 Lupercalia.
This third morning after the Ides sees the naked Luperci, And the rites of two-horned Faunus enacted. Pierian Muses, tell the origin of the rites, And where they were brought from to our Latin home. They say the ancient Arcadians worshipped Pan The god of cattle, he of the mountain heights. Mount Pholoe was witness, and the Stymphalian waters, And Ladon that runs its swift course to the sea: The ridges of the Nonacrine grove circled with pines: High Tricrene, and the Parrhasian snows. Pan was the god of cattle there, and the mares, He received gifts for guarding the sheep. Evander brought his woodland gods with him: There where Rome stands there was merely a site. So we worship the god, and the priest performs The rites the Pelasgians brought in the ancient way. Why, you ask, do the Luperci run, and since it’s their custom, This running, why do they strip their bodies naked? The god himself loves to run swiftly on the heights, And he himself suddenly takes to flight. The god himself is naked, and orders his servants naked, Since anyway clothes were not suited to that course. They say the Arcadians had their land before the birth Of Jove, and their race is older than the moon. They lived like beasts, lives spent to no purpose: The common people were crude as yet, without arts. They built houses from leafy branches, grass their crops, Water, scooped in their palms, was nectar to them. No bull panted yoked to the curved ploughshare, No soil was under the command of the farmer. Horses were not used, all carried their own burdens, The sheep went about still clothed in their wool. People lived in the open and went about nude, Inured to heavy downpours from rain-filled winds. To this day the naked priests recall the memory Of old customs, and testify to those ancient ways. But why Faunus, especially, shunned clothing, Is handed down in an old tale full of laughter. By chance Tirynthian Hercules was walking with Omphale, His mistress, and Faunus saw them from a high ridge. He saw and burned. ‘Mountain spirits,’ he said, ‘No more of your company: she will be my passion.’ As the Maeonian girl went by her fragrant hair streamed Over her shoulders, her breast was bright with gold: A gilded parasol protected her from warm sunlight, One Herculean hands, indeed, held over her. Now she came to Bacchus’ grove, and Tmolus’ vineyard, While dew-wet Hesperus rode his dusky steed. She entered a cave roofed with tufa and natural rock, And there was a babbling stream at its entrance. While her attendants were preparing food and wine, She clothed Hercules in her own garments. She gave him thin vests dyed in Gaetulian purple, Gave him the elegant zone that had bound her waist. The zone was too small for his belly, and he unfastened The clasps of the vests to thrust out his great hands. He fractured her bracelets, not made for such arms, And his giant feet split the little shoes. She took up his heavy club, and the lion’s pelt, And those lesser weapons lodged in their quiver. So dressed, they feasted, and gave themselves to sleep, Resting on separate couches set next to one another, Because they were preparing to celebrate the rites Of the discoverer of the vine, with purity, at dawn. It was midnight. What will unruly love not dare? Faunus came through the dark to the dewy cave, And seeing the servants lost in drunken slumber, Had hopes of their master also being fast asleep. Entering, as a reckless lover, he roamed around, Following his cautious outstretched hands. He reached the couches spread as beds, by touch, And this first omen of the future was bright. When he felt the bristling tawny lion-skin, However, he drew back his hand in terror, And recoiled, frozen with fear, as a traveller, troubled, Will draw back his foot on seeing a snake. Then he touched the soft coverings of the next couch, And its deceptive feel misled him. He climbed in, and reclined on the bed’s near side, And his swollen cock was harder than horn. But pulling up the lower hem of the tunic, The legs there were bristling with thick coarse hair. The Tirynthian hero fiercely repelled another attempt, And down fell Faunus from the heights of the couch. At the noise, Omphale called for her servants, and light: Torches appeared, and events became clear. Faunus groaned from his heavy fall from the high couch, And could barely lift his limbs from the hard ground. Hercules laughed, as did all who saw him lying there, And the Lydian girl laughed too, at her lover. Betrayed by his clothing: so the god hates clothes That trick the eye, and calls the naked to his rites. Add Roman reasons, my Muse, to foreign ones, And let my charger race his own dusty course. A she-goat was sacrificed to cloven Faunus, as usual, And a crowd had been invited to the scanty feast. While the priests prepared the entrails, on willow spits, The sun being then at the zenith of it course, Romulus and his brother, and a shepherd boy, Exercised their naked bodies on the sunlit plain: Trying the strength of their arms in sport, With levers, javelins, or hurling heavy stones. A shepherd shouted from the heights: ‘Romulus, Remus, Thieves are driving the bullocks off through the wasteland.’ It would have taken too long to arm: they took opposite Directions: and meeting them Remus re-took their prize. Returning he drew the hissing entrails from the spits, Saying: ‘No one but the victor shall eat of these.’ As he said, so he and the Fabii did. Romulus returned, Unsuccessful, finding the empty table and bare bones. He laughed and grieved that Remus and the Fabii, Should have conquered, where his own Quintilii could not. The tale of that deed endures: they run stark naked, And the success achieved enjoyed a lasting fame. You might also ask why that cave is called the Lupercal, And the reason for giving the day such a name. Silvia, a Vestal, had given birth to divine children, At the time when her uncle held the throne. He ordered the infants taken and drowned in the river: What was he doing? One of the two was Romulus. Reluctantly his servants obeyed the sad command (Though they wept) and took the twins to the appointed place. It chanced that the Albula, called Tiber from Tiberinus Drowned in its waves, was swollen with winter rain: You could see boats drifting where the fora are, And there in the vale of the Circus Maximus. When the servants arrived there (since they were Unable to go further), one of them said: ‘How alike they are, how beautiful each of them is! Yet of the two this one is the more vigorous. If nobility is seen in the face, unless I’m wrong, I suspect that there’s some god within you – Yet if some god were the author of your being, He’d bring you aid at such a perilous time: Your mother would surely bring help if she could, Who has borne and lost her children in one day: Born together, to die together, pass together beneath The waves!’ He finished and set them down. Both squalled alike: you’d have thought they knew. The servants returned with tears on their cheeks. The hollow trough, where the boys were laid, floated On the water, how great a fate the little ark carried! It drifted onwards towards a shadowy wood, And gradually settled where the depth lessened. There was a tree: traces remain, which is now called The Rumina fig, once Romulus’ fig tree. A she-wolf, newly delivered, (miraculously!) found the abandoned twins, Who would have thought the creature would not harm them? Far from harming them she helped them: and a wolf fed those Whom their kin would have allowed to perish. She stayed, caressed the tender infants with her tail, And licked their bodies with her tongue. You might know they were sons of Mars: without fear They sucked her teats, and the milk not meant for them. She gave her name to the place: and the place to the Luperci. The nurse has a great reward for the milk she gave. Why shouldn’t they be named from the Arcadian peak? Lycaean Faunus has temples in Arcadia. Bride, why linger? No potent herb, or prayer Or magic spell can make you a mother: Be patient under the blows of a fruitful hand, And soon your husband’s father will be a grandfather. For there was a day when harsh fate decreed Wives rarely gave their mates gifts from their womb. Romulus (since it was when he ruled) cried: ‘What was the use of raping the Sabine women, If that wrong has brought war instead of strength? It would have been better if our sons were unwed.’ A grove below the Esquiline Hill, untouched For many years, was sacred to great Juno. When they had gathered there, husbands and wives Bowed their knees, alike, in supplication, And suddenly the tree tops moved and trembled, And the goddess spoke strange words in her grove: ‘Let the sacred he-goat pierce the Italian wives’. The crowd stood, terrified, at the troubling words. There was an augur (his name is lost with the years, But he had lately arrived, an exile from Tuscany), He killed a he-goat and, at his command, the wives Offered their backs, to be beaten by thongs from its hide. When the moon renewed her horns in her tenth orbit, The husband became a father, and the wife a mother. Thanks be to Lucina! Goddess you took that name From the grove (lucus), or as yours is the source of light (lucis). Gracious Lucina, spare women heavy with child, I beg you, And bring the ripe burden tenderly from the womb. When this day dawns, no longer trust the winds: The breezes are faithless at this season: The gales are fickle, and for six days the door Of the Aeolian cavern stands open wide. Now nimble Aquarius of the tilted urn, is hidden: Pisces, you next receive the sky-borne horses. They say that you and your brother (for you glitter Together as stars) mounted two gods on your backs. Dione, once, fleeing from dreaded Typhon, When Jupiter took up arms to defend the heavens, Came to Euphrates with the little Cupid, And sat by the brink of the waters of Palestine. Reeds and poplars grew by the banks, And willows too gave hope of shelter there. While she hid, the grove rustled in the wind: She turned pale with fear, and thought enemies nearby. So, holding the child in her lap, she cried: ‘Help, you Nymphs, and aid two divine beings!’ She leapt in, without delay. Twin fishes bore her: For which, a worthy gift, they were made stars. And so the pious Syrians hold it wrong to serve them At their table: their mouths are not defiled with fish.
2 - 10 17
The next day is not notable, but the third is Quirinus’, (He was Romulus before), who is so called Either because a spear was curis among the ancient Sabines, (By his spear that warlike god won his place among the stars), Or because the Quirites gave their name to their king, Or because he united the city of Cures to Rome. For when the father, lord of weapons, saw the new walls And the many wars waged with Romulus’ hands, He said: ‘Jupiter, Roman power possesses strength: It doesn’t need the services of my people. Return the son to his father. Though one is dead, The one who remains is enough for himself and Remus. You said to me: “There’ll be one you’ll raise To the azure sky.” Let Jupiter keep his word.’ Jupiter nodded his agreement. Both the poles trembled At his nod, and Atlas shifted the weight of the sky. There’s a place the ancients called the She-goat’s Marsh: You chanced to be judging the people there, Romulus. The sun vanished, and rising clouds obscured the sky, And a heavy shower of torrential rain fell. Then it thundered. Then the sky was split by lightning: All fled, and the king rose to the stars behind his father’s horses. There was mourning, senators were falsely charged with murder, And perhaps that belief might have stuck in people’s minds, But Julius Proculus was travelling from Alba Longa, With the moon shining, and having no need of a torch, When suddenly the hedge to his left moved and shook: So that he drew back a step, his hair bristling. It seemed to him that Romulus, handsome, more than human, And finely dressed, stood there, in the centre of the road, Saying: ‘Prevent the Quirites from mourning me, And profaning my divinity by their tears: Let the pious crowds bring incense and propitiate The new god Quirinus, and cultivate their father’s art of war.’ So he commanded and vanished into thin air: Proculus gathered the people and reported the command. Temples were built for the god, the hill named for him, And on certain days the ancestral rites are re-enacted. Learn too why this day is called the Feast of Fools. The reason for it is trivial but fitting. The earth of old was farmed by ignorant men: Fierce wars weakened their powerful bodies. There was more glory in the sword than the plough: And the neglected farm brought its owner little return. Yet the ancients sowed corn, corn they reaped, Offering the first fruits of the corn harvest to Ceres. Taught by practice they parched it in the flames, And incurred many losses through their own mistakes. Sometimes they’d sweep up burnt ash and not corn, Sometimes the flames took their huts themselves: The oven was made a goddess, Fornax: the farmers Pleased with her, prayed she’d regulate the grain’s heat. Now the Curio Maximus, in a set form of words, declares The shifting date of the Fornacalia, the Feast of Ovens: And round the Forum hang many tablets, On which every ward displays its particular sign. Foolish people don’t know which is their ward, So they hold the feast on the last possible day.
2 - 11 21 Feralia.
And the grave must be honoured. Appease your fathers’ Spirits, and bring little gifts to the tombs you built. Their shades ask little, piety they prefer to costly Offerings: no greedy deities haunt the Stygian depths. A tile wreathed round with garlands offered is enough, A scattering of meal, and a few grains of salt, And bread soaked in wine, and loose violets: Set them on a brick left in the middle of the path. Not that I veto larger gifts, but these please the shades: Add prayers and proper words to the fixed fires. This custom was brought to your lands, just Latinus, By Aeneas, a fitting promoter of piety. He brought solemn gifts to his father’s spirit: From him the people learned the pious rites. But once, waging a long war with fierce weapons, They neglected the Parentalia, Festival of the Dead. It did not go unpunished: they say from that ominous day Rome grew hot from funeral fires near the City. I scarcely believe it, but they say that ancestral spirits Came moaning from their tombs in the still of night, And misshapen spirits, a bodiless throng, howled Through the City streets, and through the broad fields. Afterwards neglected honour was paid to the tombs, And there was an end to the portents, and the funerals. But while these rites are enacted, girls, don’t marry: Let the marriage torches wait for purer days. And virgin, who to your mother seem ripe for love, Don’t let the curved spear comb your tresses. Hymen, hide your torches, and carry them far From these dark fires! The gloomy tomb owns other torches. And hide the gods, closing those revealing temple doors, Let the altars be free of incense, the hearths without fire. Now ghostly spirits and the entombed dead wander, Now the shadow feeds on the nourishment that’s offered. But it only lasts till there are no more days in the month Than the feet (eleven) that my metres possess. This day they call the Feralia because they bear (ferunt) Offerings to the dead: the last day to propitiate the shades. See, an old woman sitting amongst the girls performs the rites Of Tacita, the Silent (though she herself is not silent), With three fingers, she sets three lumps of incense Under the sill, where the little mouse makes its secret path: Then she fastens enchanted threads together with dark lead, And turns seven black beans over and over in her mouth, And bakes the head of a sprat in the fire, mouth sewn up With pitch, pierced right through with a bronze needle. She drops wine on it too, and she or her friends Drink the wine that’s left, though she gets most. On leaving she says: ‘We have sealed up hostile mouths And unfriendly tongues’: and the old woman exits drunk. You’ll ask at once, who is the goddess Muta?: Hear of what I’ve learned from the old men. Jupiter, overcome with intense love for Juturna, Suffered many things a god ought not to bear. Now she would hide in the woods among the hazels, Now she would dive into her sister waters. The god called the nymphs who lived in Latium, And spoke these words in the midst of their throng: ‘Your sister is an enemy to herself, and shuns a union With the supreme god that would benefit her. Take counsel for both: for what would delight me greatly Would be a great advantage to your sister. When she flees, stop her by the riverbank, Lest she plunges her body into the waters.’ He spoke: all the nymphs of the Tiber agreed, Those too who haunt your spaces, divine Ilia. There was a naiad, named Lara: but her old name Was the first syllable twice-repeated, given her To mark her failing. Almo, the river-god often said: ‘Daughter, hold your tongue,’ but she still did not. As soon as she reached the pools of her sister Juturna, She said: ‘Flee these banks’, and spoke Jupiter’s words. She even went to Juno, and showing pity for married women Said: ‘Your husband loves the naiad Juturna.’ Jupiter was angered, and tearing that tongue from her mouth That she had used so immoderately, called Mercury to him: ‘Lead her to the shadows: that place is fitting for the silent. She shall be a nymph, but of the infernal marshes.’ Jove’s order was obeyed. On the way they reached a grove: Then it was they say that she pleased the god who led her. He prepared to force her, with a glance instead of words She pleaded, trying to speak from her mute lips. Heavy with child, she bore twins who guard the crossroads, The Lares, who keep watch forever over the City.
2 - 12 22.
The next day has its name, Caristia, from our dear (cari) kin, When a throng of relations gathers to the family gods. It’s surely pleasant to turn our faces to the living, Once away from our relatives who have perished, And after so many lost, to see those of our blood Who remain, and count the degrees of kinship. Let the innocent come: let the impious brother be far, Far from here, and the mother harsh to her children, He whose father’s too long-lived, who weighs his mother’s years, The cruel mother-in-law who crushes the daughter-in-law she hates. Be absent TantalidesAtreusThyestes: and MedeaJason’s wife: Ino who gave parched seeds to the farmers: And Procne, her sister, Philomela, and Tereus cruel to both, And whoever has gathered wealth by wickedness. Virtuous ones, burn incense to the gods of the family, (Gentle Concord is said to be there on this day above all) And offer food, so the robed Lares may feed from the dish Granted to them as a mark of esteem, that pleases them. Then when moist night invites us to calm slumber, Fill the wine-cup full, for the prayer, and say: ‘Health, health to you, worthy Caesar, Father of the Country!’ And let there be pleasant speech at the pouring of wine.
2 - 13 23 Terminalia.
When night has passed, let the god be celebrated With customary honour, who separates the fields with his sign. Terminus, whether a stone or a stump buried in the earth, You have been a god since ancient times. You are crowned from either side by two landowners, Who bring two garlands and two cakes in offering. An altar’s made: here the farmer’s wife herself Brings coals from the warm hearth on a broken pot. The old man cuts wood and piles the logs with skill, And works at setting branches in the solid earth. Then he nurses the first flames with dry bark, While a boy stands by and holds the wide basket. When he’s thrown grain three times into the fire The little daughter offers the sliced honeycombs. Others carry wine: part of each is offered to the flames: The crowd, dressed in white, watch silently. Terminus, at the boundary, is sprinkled with lamb’s blood, And doesn’t grumble when a sucking pig is granted him. Neighbours gather sincerely, and hold a feast, And sing your praises, sacred Terminus: ‘You set bounds to peoples, cities, great kingdoms: Without you every field would be disputed. You curry no favour: you aren’t bribed with gold, Guarding the land entrusted to you in good faith. If you’d once marked the bounds of Thyrean lands, Three hundred men would not have died, Nor Othryades’ name be seen on the pile of weapons. O how he made his fatherland bleed! What happened when the new Capitol was built? The whole throng of gods yielded to Jupiter and made room: But as the ancients tell, Terminus remained in the shrine Where he was found, and shares the temple with great Jupiter. Even now there’s a small hole in the temple roof, So he can see nothing above him but stars. Since then, Terminus, you’ve not been free to wander: Stay there, in the place where you’ve been put, And yield not an inch to your neighbour’s prayers, Lest you seem to set men above Jupiter: And whether they beat you with rakes, or ploughshares, Call out: “This is your field, and that is his!”’ There’s a track that takes people to the Laurentine fields, The kingdom once sought by Aeneas, the Trojan leader: The sixth milestone from the City, there, bears witness To the sacrifice of a sheep’s entrails to you, Terminus. The lands of other races have fixed boundaries: The extent of the City of Rome and the world is one.
2 - 14 24 Regifugium.
Now I have to tell of the Flight of the King: The sixth day from the end of the month has that name. Tarquin the Proud held the last kingship of the Roman people, A man of injustice, but powerful in might. He had taken cities, and overthrown others, And made Gabii his, by base trickery. For the youngest of his three sons, Sextus, clearly a child Of Tarquin, entered the midst of his enemies in the still of night. They drew their swords: he said: ‘Don’t kill the unarmed! That’s what my brother, and father, Tarquin, desire, He who lacerated my back with a cruel scourge.’ So he could make his plea, he had suffered a beating. There was a moon: seeing a youth they sheathed their swords And saw the scars on his back when he drew back his robe. They even wept, and begged to fight with them in the war: The cunning youth complied with the unwary men. Once in place he sent a friend to ask his father To show him the means of destroying Gabii. Below lay a garden full of fragrant plants, Where a gentle stream of splashing water cut the soil: There Tarquin the Proud received his son’s secret message, And then slashed the heads of the lilies with a stick. When the messenger returned and spoke of the broken flowers, The son said: ‘I understand my father’s orders.’ He killed Gabii’s chief citizens, without delay, And surrendered the walls, now naked of leaders. See, a dreadful sight, a snake appeared between the altars, And snatched the entrails from the dead fires. The oracle of Phoebus was consulted: it replied: ‘He who first kisses his mother will win.’ Not understanding the god, each of the throng Believing it, quickly ran to kiss his mother. Wise Brutus pretended to be foolish, to be safe From your snares, dread Tarquin the Proud: Throwing himself down he kissed Mother Earth, Though they thought he had stumbled and fallen. Meanwhile the Roman standards ringed Ardea, And the city endured a long lingering siege. While they were idle, and the enemy feared to fight, They enjoyed themselves in camp: the soldiers at ease. Young Tarquin entertained his friends with food and wine, And among them the king’s son spoke out: ‘While Ardea troubles us with this sluggish war, And stops us bearing our weapons to our fathers’ gods, How is the marriage bed served? And are we As dear to our wives as they are to us?’ Each praised his own: in their eagerness dispute raged, And tongues and hearts grew heated with much wine. Then Tarquinius who took his famous name from Collatia Rose, and said: ‘Words are not needed: trust in deeds! Night still remains: take horse and head for the City!’ The words pleased them: the horses were bridled, And carried off their masters. They first sought The royal palace: there was no guard at the door. See, they found the king’s daughters-in-law, garlands Round their necks, keeping vigil over the wine. From there they swiftly sought Lucretia, Before whose couch were baskets of soft wool. By a scant light her servants were spinning their yarn, Amongst them the lady spoke with a quiet voice: ‘The cloak our hands have made (hurry now, girls, hurry!) Must be sent to the master straight away. What news is there? Since you hear more of things: How much more of the war do they say is left to run? Perverse Ardea, after this you’ll be conquered and fall, You resist your betters, who force our husbands’ absence. If only they return! But mine is thoughtless, And rushes everywhere with his drawn sword. I faint, I die, as often as the image of my warrior Comes to mind, and chills my heart with cold.’ She ended in tears, letting fall the stretched yarn, And buried her face in her lap. It became her: becoming, were her modest tears, And her face was a worthy equal to her heart. Her husband cried out: ‘Fear not, I come!’ She revived, And hung, a sweet burden, on her husband’s neck. Meanwhile the royal youth, Sextus, caught furious fire, And raged about, captured by blind love. Her form please him, her white skin and yellow hair, And added to that her grace, owing nothing to art: Her voice and speech pleased him, her incorruptibility, And the less his hope, the more he desired her. Now the bird had sung that heralds the dawn, When the young men took their way back to camp. Meanwhile the image of the absent one captivated His stunned senses. In memory, she pleased more and more. ‘She sat so, was dressed so, so spun her yarn, So her hair spilled loose about her neck, That was her look: those were her words, That was her colour, her form, her lovely face.’ As the flood subsides after a great gale, But the waves heave from the dying wind, So though the presence of that pleasing form was absent, Love remained, which its presence had given form. He burned, and driven by the goad of sinful love, He plotted force and deceit to an innocent bed. He said: ‘The issue is doubtful: we’ll dare extremes! Let her beware! God and fate favour the bold. By daring we took Gabii as well.’ So saying, He strapped on his sword, and mounted his horse. Collatia’s bronze gate received the young man As the sun was preparing to hide its face. An enemy entered Collatinus’s home, as a friend: He was welcomed courteously: he was of their blood. How her mind was deceived! Unknowingly, The wretched woman prepared a meal for her foe. The meal was done: the hour demanded rest: It was night, and the whole house was without light: He rose, and drew his sword from his gilded scabbard, And, chaste wife, he entered your bedroom. As he touched the bed, the king’s son said: ‘Lucretia I have a blade, and I, a Tarquin, speak!’ She said nothing: she’d no voice or powers of speech Nor any capability for thought in her whole mind. But she trembled like a little lamb, caught straying From the fold, brought low by a wolf’s attack. What could she do? Fight? In battle a woman loses. Cry out? But the sword in his right hand restrained her. Fly? His hands pressed down hard on her breast, A breast that had never been touched by a stranger’s hand. The hostile lover pursues her with prayers, bribes, threats, But prayers and bribes and threats cannot sway her. He said: ‘My accusation will rob you of your life: The adulterer will bear false witness to adultery: I’ll kill a slave, they’ll say you were caught with him.’ Overcome by fear for her reputation, the girl was conquered. Why, rejoice, victor? This victory will destroy you. Alas, how a single night cost you your kingdom! Now day had dawned: she sat with hair unbound, Like a mother who must go to her son’s funeral. She called her aged father and her loyal husband From the camp, and both came without delay. Seeing her condition, they asked why she mourned, Whose rites she prepared, what ill had befallen her? She was silent for a long time, and hid her face in her robe Out of shame: her tears flowed in a running stream. Her father here, her husband there comforted her tears And begged her to tell, wept, and trembled in blind fear. Three times she tried to speak, three times desisted, And a fourth time, gaining courage, still couldn’t raise her eyes. She said: ‘Must I owe this to a Tarquin too? Must I speak, Speak, poor wretch, my shame from my own mouth?’ What she could, she told. The end she suppressed: She wept, and a blush spread over a wife’s cheeks. Her husband and her father forgave her being forced: She said: ‘I deny myself the forgiveness that you grant.’ Then she stabbed herself with a blade she had hidden, And, all bloodied, fell at her father’s feet. Even then she took care in dying so that she fell With decency, that was her care even in falling. See, the husband and father throw themselves on her body, Regardless of appearances, grieve for their mutual loss. Brutus approached, and at last, with spirit, belied his name, Snatching the weapon from the dying body, Holding the blade dripping with noble blood, Fearlessly he uttered these menacing words: ‘I swear by this chaste blood, so courageous, And by your spirit that will be a divinity to me, I will be revenged on Tarquin the Proud and his lost brood. I have concealed my virtue for too long.’ At these words, lying there, she moved her sightless eyes, And seemed to witness the speech by a stirring of her hair. They carried her to her funeral, a woman with a man’s courage, And tears and indignation followed after her. The gaping wound was seen. Brutus, with a shout, Gathered the Quirites, and told of the king’s evil act. Tarquin the Proud and his children fled, a consul took up the rule For the year: That day was the last day of kingship. Am I wrong, or has the swallow come, herald of the Spring: Does she not fear lest winter should turn back, return again? Often, Procne, you’ll complain that you’ve been too swift, And your husband, Tereus, rejoice in the cold you feel.
2 - 15 27 Equirria.
Now two nights of the second month remain, And Mars urges on his chariot’s swift horses. The day has retained the name Equirria, From the horse races the god views on his Fields. Rightly you’re here, Gradivus, Marching God: your season Demands its place, the month marked by your name is near.
2 - 16 28
We’ve reached harbour: the book ends with the month: Now, from here, my vessel can sail through other waters.
3 - Introduction
Come Mars, God of War, lay aside your shield and spear: A moment, from your helmet, free your shining hair. What has a poet to do with Mars, you might ask? The month I sing of takes its name from you. You see, yourself, fierce wars waged by Minerva: Is she less free to practice the noble arts for that? Take time to set aside you lance and follow Pallas’ Example: and find something to do while unarmed. You were unarmed then, as well, when the Roman Priestess captivated you, so you could seed this City. Silvia, the Vestal, (why not begin with her?) Sought water at dawn to wash sacred things. When she came to where the path ran gently down The sloping bank, she set down the earthenware jar From her head. Weary, she sat on the ground and opened Her dress to the breeze, and composed her ruffled hair. While she sat there, the shadowy willows, melodious birds, And the soft murmur of the water made her sleepy. Sweet slumber slyly stole across her conquered eyes, And her languid hand fell, from supporting her chin. Mars saw her, seeing her desired her, desiring her Possessed her, by divine power hiding his theft. She lost sleep, lay there heavily: and already, Rome’s founder had his being in her womb,. Languidly she rose, not knowing why she rose, And leaning against a tree spoke these words: ‘I beg that what I saw in vision in my sleep Might be happy and good. Or was it too real for sleep? I thought I was tending the Trojan flame, and the woollen band Slipped from my hair, and fell down, in front of the sacred fire. From it, strange sight, at once, two palm trees sprang: One of the trees was taller than the other, And covered all the world with its heavy branches, Touching the topmost stars with its crown. See, my uncle, Amulius, wielding an axe against the trees, The thought terrified me, and my heart shuddered with fear. A woodpecker, bird of Mars, and a she-wolf defended The twin trunks: by their help both palm-trees were saved.’ She spoke, and weakly lifted the brimming pitcher: She had filled it while she told of her vision. Meanwhile Remus and Quirinus were growing, And her belly swelled with the divine burden. When only two signs remained for the shining god To travel before the complete year had run its course, Silvia became a mother. They say the images of Vesta Covered their eyes with their virgin hands: The altar of the goddess certainly trembled when her priestess Gave birth, and the fearful flame sank to its own ashes. When Amulius, knew of this, a man scornful of justice, (Since he overcame his own brother and took his power) He ordered the twins drowned in the river. The water shrank From the crime: and the boys were left there on dry land. Who doesn’t know that the children were fed on milk From a wild creature, and a woodpecker often brought them food? Now should I forget you, Larentia, nurse of such a nation, Nor, poor Faustulus, the help that you gave. I’ll honour you when I speak of the Larentalia, And the month approved of by the guardian spirits. The children of Mars were eighteen years old, And fresh beards grew below their yellow hair: These brothers, the sons of Ilia, gave judgement When asked, to all farmers and masters of herds. They often returned pleased with the blood of robbers They’d spilt: driving the stolen cattle back to their fields. Hearing their origin, their spirits rose at their father’s divinity, And they were ashamed to be known only among a few huts. Amulius fell, struck through by Romulus’ sword And the kingdom was returned to their old grandfather. Walls were built, which it would have been better For Remus not to leap, small though they were. Now what was once woodland and the haunt of cattle, Was a City, and the founder of the eternal City said: ‘Arbiter of War, from whose blood I am thought to spring, (And to confirm that belief I shall give many proofs), I name the first month of the Roman year after you: The first month shall be called by my father’s name.’ The promise was kept: he called the month after his father. This piety is said to have pleased the god. And earlier, Mars was worshipped above all the gods: A warlike people gave him their enthusiasm. Athens worshipped Pallas: Minoan CreteDiana: Hypsipyle’s island of Lemnos worshipped Vulcan: Juno was worshipped by Sparta and Pelops’ Mycenae, Pine-crowned Faunus by Maenalian Arcadia: Mars, who directs the sword, was revered by Latium: Arms gave a fierce people possessions and glory. If you have time examine various calendars. And you’ll find a month there named after Mars. It was third in the Alban, fifth in the Faliscan calendar, Sixth among your people, Hernican lands. The position’s the same in the Arician and Alban, And Tusculum’s whose walls Telegonus made. It’s fifth among the Laurentes, tenth for the tough Aequians, First after the third the folk of Cures place it, And the Pelignian soldiers agree with their Sabine Ancestors: both make him the god of the fourth month. In order to take precedence over all these, at least, Romulus gave the first month to the father of his race. Nor did the ancients have as many Kalends as us: Their year was shorter than ours by two months. Greece, defeated had not yet transmitted her arts To the conquerors, her people eloquent but not brave. He knew the arts of Rome, then, who fought well: He was fluent, who could hurl the javelin, then. Who knew the Hyades or Pleiades, the daughters Of Atlas, or that there were two poles in the sky: Knew that there are two Bears, the Sidonians steering By Cynosura, the Greek sailor noting Helice: That the signs Apollo, the Sun, travels in a whole year, His sister Diana’s Moon-horses cross in a month? The stars then ran their course, freely, unobserved Each year: yet everyone held them to be gods. They couldn’t touch the heaven’s gliding Standards, Only their own, and it was a great crime to lose them. Theirs were of straw: But the straw won a reverence As great as you see the eagles share today. A long pole carried the hanging bundles (maniplos), From which the private soldier takes his name (maniplaris). So, untaught and lacking in science, each five-year lustre That they calculated was short by two whole months. A year was when the moon returned to full for the tenth time: And that was a number that was held in high honour: Because it’s the number of fingers we usually count with, Or because a woman produces in ten months, Or because the numerals ascend from one to ten, And from that point we begin a fresh interval. So Romulus divided the hundred Senators into ten groups, And instituted ten companies of men with spears, And as many front-rank and javelin men, And also those who officially merited horses. He even divided the tribes the same way, the Titienses, The Ramnes, as they are called, and the Luceres. And so he reserved the same number for his year, It’s the time for which the sad widow mourns her man. If you doubt that the Kalends of March began the year, You can refer to the following evidence. The priest’s laurel branch that remained all year, Was removed then, and fresh leaves honoured. Then the king’s door is green with Phoebus’ bough, Set there, and at your doors too, ancient wards. And the withered laurel is taken from the Trojan hearth, So Vesta may be brightly dressed with new leaves. Also, it’s said, a new fire is lit at her secret shrine, And the rekindled flame acquires new strength. And to me it’s no less a sign that past years began so, That in this month worship of Anna Perenna begins. Then too it’s recorded public offices commenced, Until the time of your wars, faithless Carthaginian. Lastly Quintilis is the fifth (quintus) month from March, And begins those that take their names from numerals. Numa Pompilius, led to Rome from the lands of olives, Was the first to realise the year lacked two months, Learning it from Pythagoras of Samos, who believed We could be reborn, or was taught it by his own Egeria. But the calendar was still erratic down to the time When Caesar took it, and many other things, in hand. That god, the founder of a mighty house, did not Regard the matter as beneath his attention, And wished to have prescience of those heavens Promised him, not be an unknown god entering a strange house. He is said to have drawn up an exact table Of the periods in which the sun returns to its previous signs. He added sixty-five days to three hundred, And then added a fifth part of a whole day. That’s the measure of the year: one day The sum of the five part-days is added to each lustre.
3 - 1 1 Kalends.
If it’s right for the secret promptings of the gods To be heard by poets, as it’s rumoured they may, Tell me, Gradivus, Marching God, why women keep Your feast, you who are apt to be served by men.’ So I spoke. And Mars answered, laying aside his helmet, But keeping his throwing spear in his right hand: Now am I, a god used to warfare, invoked In pursuit of peace, and I’m carried into new camps, And I don’t dislike it: I like to take on this function, Lest Minerva think that she alone can do so. Have what you seek, labouring poet of Latin days, And inscribe my words in your memory. Rome was little, if you wish to trace its first beginnings, But still in that little, there was hope of all this. The walls already stood, too cramped for its future people, But then thought too large for its populace. If you ask where my son’s palace was, See there, that house made of straw and reeds. He snatched the gifts of peaceful sleep on straw, Yet from that same low bed he rose to the stars. Already the Roman’s name extended beyond his city, Though he possessed neither wife nor father-in-law. Wealthy neighbours rejected poor sons-in-law, And hardly thought I was the origin of the race. It harmed the Romans that they lived in cattle-byres, Grazed sheep, and owned a few acres of poor soil. Birds and beasts each mate with their own kind, And even a snake has another with which to breed: Rights of intermarriage are granted to distant peoples: Yet none wished to marry with the Romans. I sympathised, Romulus, and gave you your father’s spirit: “Forget prayers,” I said, “Arms will grant what you seek.” He prepared a feast for the god, Consus. Consus will tell you The rest of what happened that day when you sing his rites. Cures was angered, and all who endured that same wrong: Then a father fist waged war on his sons-in-law. The ravished women were now almost mothers, And the war between the kinfolk lingered on, When the wives gathered to the call in Juno’s temple: Among them, my daughter-in-law dared to speak: “Oh, all you ravished women (we have that in common) We can no longer delay our duties to our kin. The battle prepares, but choose which side you will pray for: Your husbands on this side, your fathers are on that. The question is whether you choose to be widows or fatherless: I will give you dutiful and bold advice.” She gave counsel: they obeyed and loosened their hair, And clothed their bodies in gloomy funeral dress. The ranks already stood to arms, preparing to die, The trumpets were about to sound the battle signal, When the ravished women stood between husband and father, Holding their infants, dear pledges of love, to their breasts. When, with streaming hair, they reached the centre of the field, They knelt on the ground, their grandchildren, as if they understood, With sweet cries, stretching out their little arms to their grandfathers: Those who could, called to their grandfather, seen for the first time, And those who could barely speak yet, were encouraged to try. The arms and passions of the warriors fall: dropping their swords Fathers and sons-in-law grasp each other’s hands, They embrace the women, praising them, and the grandfather Bears his grandchild on his shield: a sweeter use for it. Hence the Sabine mothers acquired the duty, no light one, To celebrate the first day, my Kalends. Either because they ended that war, by their tears, In boldly facing the naked blades, Or because Ilia happily became a mother through me, Mothers justly observe the rites on my day. Then winter, coated in frost, at last withdraws, And the snows vanish, melted by warm suns: Leaves, once lost to the cold, appear on the trees, And the moist bud swells in the tender shoot: And fertile grasses, long concealed, find out Hidden paths to lift themselves to the air. Now the field’s fruitful, now’s the time for cattle breeding, Now the bird on the bough prepares a nest and home: It’s right that Roman mothers observe that fruitful season, Since in childbirth they both struggle and pray. Add that, where the Roman king kept watch, On the hill that now has the name of Esquiline, A temple was founded, as I recall, on this day, By the Roman women in honour of Juno. But why do I linger, and burden your thoughts with reasons? The answer you seek is plainly before your eyes. My mother, Juno, loves brides: crowds of mothers worship me: Such a virtuous reason above all befits her and me.’ Bring the goddess flowers: the goddess loves flowering plants: Garland your heads with fresh flowers, and say: ‘You, Lucina, have given us the light of life’: and say: ‘You hear the prayer of women in childbirth.’ But let her who is with child, free her hair in prayer, So the goddess may gently free her womb. Now who will tell me why the Salii carry Mars’ Celestial weapons, and sing of Mamurius. Teach me, nymph, who serves Diana’s lake and grove: Nymph, Egeria, wife to Numa, speak of your actions. There is a lake in the vale of Aricia, ringed by dense woods, And sacred to religion from ancient times. Here Hippolytus hides, who was torn to pieces By his horses, and so no horse may enter the grove. The long hedge is covered with hanging threads, And many tablets witness the goddess’s merit. Often a woman whose prayer is answered, brow wreathed With garlands, carries lighted torches from the City. One with strong hands and swift feet rules there, And each is later killed, as he himself killed before. A pebble-filled stream flows down with fitful murmurs: Often I’ve drunk there, but in little draughts. Egeria, goddess dear to the Camenae, supplies the water: She who was wife and counsellor to Numa. The Quirites were too prompt to take up arms, And Numa quietened them with justice, and fear of the gods. So laws were made, that the stronger might not take all, And traditional rights were properly observed. They left off being savages, justice superseded arms, And citizens were ashamed to fight each other: Those who had once been violent were transformed, on seeing An altar, offering wine and salted meal on the warm hearths. See, the father of the gods scatters red lightning through The clouds, and clears the sky with showers of rain: The forked flames never fell thicker: The king was fearful, the people filled with terror. The goddess said: ‘Don’t be so afraid! Lightning Can be placated, and fierce Jupiter’s anger averted. Picus and Faunus, each a deity native to Roman soil, Can teach you the rites of expiation. But they won’t Teach them unless compelled: so catch and bind them.’ And she revealed the arts by which they could be caught. There was a grove, dark with holm-oaks, below the Aventine, At sight of which you would say: ‘There’s a god within.’ The centre was grassy, and covered with green moss, And a perennial stream of water trickled from the rock. Faunus and Picus used to drink there alone. Numa approached and sacrificed a sheep to the spring, And set out cups filled with fragrant wine. Then he hid with his people inside the cave. The woodland spirits came to their usual spring, And quenched their dry throats with draughts of wine. Sleep succeeded wine: Numa emerged from the icy cave And clasped the sleepers’ hands in tight shackles. When sleep vanished, they fought and tried to burst Their bonds, which grew tighter the more they struggled. Then Numa spoke: ‘Gods of the sacred groves, if you accept My thoughts were free of wickedness, forgive my actions: And show me how the lightning may be averted.’ So Numa: and, shaking his horns, so Faunus replied: ‘You seek great things, that it’s not right for you to know Through our admission: our powers have their limits. We are rural gods who rule in the high mountains: Jupiter has control of his own weapons. You could never draw him from heaven by yourself, But you may be able, by making use of our aid.’ Faunus spoke these words: Picus too agreed, ‘But remove our shackles,’ Picus added: ‘Jupiter will arrive here, drawn by powerful art. Cloudy Styx will be witness to my promise.’ It’s wrong for men to know what the gods enacted when loosed From the snare, or what spells they spoke, or by what art They drew Jupiter from his realm above. My song will sing Of lawful things, such as a poet may speak with pious lips. The drew you (eliciunt) from the sky, Jupiter, and later Generations now worship you, by the name of Elicius. It’s true that the crowns of the Aventine woods trembled, And the earth sank under the weight of Jove. The king’s heart shook, the blood fled from his body, And the bristling hair stood up stiffly on his head. When he regained his senses, he said: ‘King and father To the high gods, if I have touched your offerings With pure hands, and if a pious tongue, too, asks for What I seek, grant expiation from your lightning,’ The god accepted his prayer, but hid the truth with deep Ambiguities, and terrified him with confusing words. ‘Sever a head,’ said the god: the king replied; ‘I will, We’ll sever an onion’s, dug from my garden.’ The god added: ‘Of a man’: ‘You’ll have the hair,’ Said the king. He demanded a life, Numa replied: ‘A fish’s’. The god laughed and said: ‘Expiate my lightning like this, O man who cannot be stopped from speaking with gods. And when Apollo’s disc is full tomorrow, I’ll give you sure pledges of empire.’ He spoke, and was carried above the quaking sky, In loud thunder, leaving Numa worshipping him. The king returned joyfully, and told the Quirites What had happened: they were slow to believe his words. ‘It will surely be believed,’ he said, ‘if the event follows My speech: listen, all you here, to what tomorrow brings. When Apollo’s disc has lifted fully above the earth, Jupiter will grant me sure pledges of empire.’ The left, doubtful, considering it long to wait, But setting their hopes on the following day. The ground was soft at dawn, with a frost of dew: When the crowd gathered at the king’s threshold. He emerged, and sat in the midst on a maple wood throne. Countless warriors stood around him in silence. Phoebus had scarcely risen above the horizon: Their anxious minds trembled with hope and fear. The king stood, his head covered with a white cloth Raising his hands, that the god now knew so well. He spoke as follows: ‘The time is here for the promised gift, Jupiter, make true the words of your pledge.’ As he spoke, the sun’s full disc appeared, And a loud crash came from the depths of the sky. Three times the god thundered, and hurled his lightning, From cloudless air, believe what I say, wonderful but true. The sky began to split open at the zenith: The crowd and its leader lifted their eyes. Behold, a shield fell, trembling in the light breeze. The sound of the crowd’s shouting reached the stars. The king first sacrificed a heifer that had never known The yoke, then raised the gift from the ground, And called it ancile, because it was cut away (recisum) All round, and there wasn’t a single angle to note. Then, remembering the empire’s fate was involved, He thought of a very cunning idea. He ordered many shields cut in the same shape, In order to confuse the eyes of any traitor. Mamurius carried out the task: whether he was superior In his craft or his character it would be hard to say. Gracious Numa said to him: ‘Ask a reward for your work, You’ll not ask in vain of one known for honesty.’ He’d already given the Salii, named from their leaping (saltus), Weapons: and words to be sung to a certain tune. Mamurius replied: ‘Give me glory as my prize, And let my name be sounded at the song’s end.’ So the priests grant the reward promised for his Ancient work, and now call out ‘Mamurius’. Girl if you’d marry, delay, however eager both are: A little delay, at this time, is of great advantage. Weapons excite to war, war’s bad for those married: The omens will be better when weapons are put away. Now the girded wife of the peak-capped Flamen Dialis Has to keep her hair free from the comb.
3 - 2 3
When the third night of the month initiates its rising, One of the two fishes (Pisces) will have vanished. There are two: one near to the South Wind, the other To the North Wind: each taking a name from its wind.
3 - 3 5
When AuroraTithonus’ bride, shall have begun To shed dew from her saffron cheeks at the fifth dawn, The constellation, whether you call it Arctophylax, Or dull Bootes, will have been sinking, fleeing your sight. But even the Grape-Gatherer will not yet have escaped you: The origin of that star-name also can be swiftly told. It’s said that hairy Ampelus, son of a nymph and satyr, Was loved by Bacchus, among the Ismarian hills: The god entrusted him with a vine, trailing from an elm’s Leafy boughs, and the vine takes its name from the boy’s. While on a branch rashly picking the shining grapes. He fell: but Liber raised the fallen youth to the stars.
3 - 4 6
When the sixth sun climbs Olympus’ slopes from ocean, And takes his way through the sky behind winged horses, All you who worship at the shrine of chaste Vesta, Give thanks to her, and offer incense on the Trojan hearth. To the countless titles Caesar chose to earn, The honour of the High Priesthood was added. Caesar’s eternal godhead protects the eternal fire, You may see the pledges of empire conjoined. Gods of ancient Troy, worthiest prize for that Aeneas Who carried you, your burden saving him from the enemy, A priest of Aeneas’ line touches your divine kindred: Vesta in turn guard the life of your kin! You fires, burn on, nursed by his sacred hand: Live undying, our leader, and your flames, I pray.
3 - 5 7 Nones.
The Nones of March are free of meetings, because it’s thought The temple of Veiovis was consecrated today before the two groves. When Romulus ringed his grove with a high stone wall, He said: ‘Whoever takes refuge here, they will be safe.’ O from how tenuous a beginning the Romans sprang! How little that crowd of old are to be envied! But so the strange name won’t confuse you, unknowingly, Learn who this god is, and why he is so called. He is the young Jupiter: see his youthful face: Then see his hand, holding no lightening bolt. Jove carried his lightning bolts after the Giants dared Their attempt on the heavens: at first he was unarmed. Ossa blazed with his new fires, and Pelion higher than Ossa, And Olympus rooted to the solid earth. A she-goat stands there too: they say the Cretan nymphs Nursed the god: and she gave her milk to the infant Jove. Now I’m called on to explain the name. Farmers call Stunted grain vegrandia, and what’s feeble vesca. If that’s the meaning, why should I not suspect That the shrine of Veiovis is that of Little Jupiter? Now when the stars glitter in the dark-blue sky, Look up: you’ll see the head of Gorgonian Pegasus. It’s said he leapt from the fecund neck of dead Medusa, His mane drenched with her blood. As he glided above the clouds, beneath the stars, The sky was his earth, wings acted instead of feet, And soon he champed indignantly on the fresh bit, So that his light hoof created Helicon’s Aonian spring. Now he enjoys the sky, that his wings once sought, And glitters there brightly with his fifteen stars.
3 - 6 8
As soon as night falls you will see the Cretan Crown: Through Theseus’ crime Ariadne was made a goddess. She’d already happily exchanged that faithless spouse for Bacchus, She who’d given the ungrateful man the thread to follow. Delighting in her wedded fate, she said: ‘Why did I weep Like a country-girl, his faithlessness has been my gain?’ Meanwhile Bacchus had conquered the straight-haired Indians, And returned with his riches from the Eastern world. Among the captive girls, of outstanding beauty, One, the daughter of a king, pleased Bacchus intensely. His loving wife wept, and treading the curving shore With dishevelled hair, she spoke these words: ‘Behold, again, you waves, how you hear my complaint! Behold again you sands, how you receive my tears! I remember I used to say: “Perjured, faithless Theseus!” He abandoned me: now Bacchus commits the same crime. Now once more I’ll cry: “Woman, never trust in man!” My fate’s repeated, only his name has changed. O that my life had ended where it first began. So that I’d not have existed for this moment! Why did you save me, Liber, to die on these lonely sands? I might have ceased grieving at that moment. Bacchus, fickle, lighter than the leaves that wreathe Your brow, Bacchus known to me in my weeping, How have you dared to trouble our harmonious bed By bringing another lover before my eyes? Alas, where is sworn faith? Where the pledges you once gave? Wretched me, how many times must I speak those words? You blamed Theseus and called him a deceiver: According to that judgement your own sin is worse. Let no one know of this, let me burn with silent pain, Lest they think I deserved to be cheated so! Above all I wish it to be hid from Theseus, So he may not joy in you as a partner in crime. I suppose your fair lover is preferred to a dark, May fair be the colouring of my enemies! Yet what does that signify? She is dearer to you for that. What are you doing? She contaminates your embrace. Bacchus, be true, and do not prefer her to a wife’s love. I am one who would love my husband for ever. The horns of a gleaming bull captivated my mother. Yours, me: but this is a love to be praised, hers shameful. Let me not suffer, for loving: you yourself, Bacchus, Never suffered for confessing your desire to me. No wonder you make me burn: they say you were born In fire, and were snatched from the flames by your father. I am she to whom you used to promise the heavens. Ah me, what a reward I suffer instead of heaven!’ She spoke: Liber had been listening a long while To her complaint, since he chanced to follow closely. He embraced her, and dried her tears with kisses, And said: ‘Together, let us seek the depths of the sky! You’ll share my name just as you’ve shared my bed, Since, transmuted, you will be called Libera: And there’ll be a memory of your crown beside you, The crown Vulcan gave to Venus, and she to you.’ He did as he said, and changed the nine jewels to fire: Now the golden crown glitters with nine stars.
3 - 7 14 Equirria.
When he who, with his swift chariot, brings bright day Has raised his disc six times, and immersed it again, You will see horse races again on the Campus, That grassy plain that Tiber’s winding waters wash. But if by chance it’s flooded by overflowing waves, The dusty Caelian Hill will accept the horses.
3 - 8 15 Ides.
The happy feast of Anna Perenna is held on the Ides, Not far from your banks, Tiber, far flowing river. The people come and drink there, scattered on the grass, And every man reclines there with his girl. Some tolerate the open sky, a few pitch tents, And some make leafy huts out of branches, While others set reeds up, to form rigid pillars, And hang their outspread robes from the reeds. But they’re warmed by sun and wine, and pray For as many years as cups, as many as they drink. There you’ll find a man who quaffs Nestor’s years, A woman who’d age as the Sibyl, in her cups. There they sing whatever they’ve learnt in the theatres, Beating time to the words with ready hands, And setting the bowl down, dance coarsely, The trim girl leaping about with streaming hair. Homecoming they stagger, a sight for vulgar eyes, And the crowd meeting them call them ‘blessed’. I fell in with the procession lately (it seems to me worth Saying): a tipsy old woman dragging a tipsy old man. But since errors abound as to who this goddess is, I’m determined not to cloak her story. Wretched Dido burned with love for Aeneas, She burned on the pyre built for her funeral: Her ashes were gathered, and this brief couplet Which she left, in dying, adorned her tomb: AENEAS THE REASON, HIS THE BLADE EMPLOYED. DIDO BY HER OWN HAND WAS DESTROYED. The Numidians immediately invaded the defenceless Realm, and Iarbas the Moor captured and held the palace. Remembering her scorn, he said: ‘See, I, whom she So many times rejected, now enjoy Elissa’s marriage bed.’ The Tyrians scattered, as each chanced to stray, as bees Often wander confusedly, having lost their Queen. Anna, was driven from her home, weeping on leaving Her sister’s city, after first paying honour to that sister. The loose ashes drank perfume mixed with tears, And received an offering of her shorn hair: Three times she said: ‘Farewell!’ three times lifted And pressed the ashes to her lips, seeing her sister there. Finding a ship, and companions for her flight, she glided Away, looking back at the city, her sister’s sweet work. There’s a fertile island, Melite, near barren Cosyra, Lashed by the waves of the Libyan sea. Trusting in The king’s former hospitality, she headed there, Battus was king there, and was a wealthy host. When he had learned the fates of the two sisters, He said: ‘This land, however small, is yours.’ He would have been hospitable to the end, Except that he feared Pygmalion’s great power. The corn had been taken to be threshed a third time, And a third time the new wine poured into empty vats. The sun had twice circled the zodiac, and a third year Was passing, when Anna had to find a fresh place of exile. Her brother came seeking war. The king hated weapons, And said: ‘We are peaceable, flee for your own safety!’ She fled at his command, gave her ship to the wind and waves: Her brother was crueller than any ocean. There’s a little field by the fish-filled streams Of stony Crathis: the local people call it Camere. There she sailed, and when she was no further away Than the distance reached by nine slingshots, The sails first fell and then flapped in the light breeze. ‘Attack the water with oars!’ cried the captain. And while they made ready to reef the sails, The swift South Wind struck the curved stern, And despite the captain’s efforts swept them Into the open sea: the land was lost to sight. The waves attacked them, and the ocean heaved From the depths, and the hull gulped the foaming waters. Skill is defeated by the wind, the steersman no longer Guides the helm, but he too turns to prayer for aid. The Phoenician exile is thrown high on swollen waves, And hides her weeping eyes in her robe: Then for a first time she called her sister Dido happy, And whoever, anywhere, might be treading dry land. A great gust drove the ship to the Laurentine shore, And, foundering, it perished, when all had landed. Meanwhile pious Aeneas had gained Latinus’ realm And his daughter too, and had merged both peoples. While he was walking barefoot along the shore That had been his dower, accompanied only by Achates, He saw Anna wandering, not believing it was her: ‘Why should she be here in the fields of Latium?’ Aeneas said to himself: ‘It’s Anna!’ shouted Achates: At the sound of her name she raised her face. Alas, what should she do? Flee? Wish for the ground To swallow her? Her wretched sister’s fate was before her eyes. The Cytherean hero felt her fear, and spoke to her, (He still wept, moved by your memory, Elissa): ‘Anna, I swear, by this land that you once knew A happier fate had granted me, and by the gods My companions, who have lately found a home here, That all of them often rebuked me for my delay. Yet I did not fear her dying, that fear was absent. Ah me! Her courage was beyond belief. Don’t re-tell it: I saw shameful wounds on her body When I dared to visit the houses of Tartarus. But you shall enjoy the comforts of my kingdom, Whether your will or a god brings you to our shores. I owe you much, and owe Elissa not a little: You are welcome for your own and your sister’s sake.’ She accepted his words (no other hope was left) And told him of her own wanderings. When she entered the palace, dressed in Tyrian style, Aeneas spoke (the rest of the throng were silent): ‘Lavinia, my wife, I have a pious reason for entrusting This lady to you: shipwrecked, I lived at her expense. She’s of Tyrian birth: her kingdom’s on the Libyan shore: I beg you to love her, as your dear sister.’ Lavinia promised all, but hid a fancied wrong Within her silent heart, and concealed her fears: And though she saw many gifts given away openly, She suspected many more were sent secretly. She hadn’t yet decided what to do: she hated With fury, prepared a plan, and wished to die avenged. It was night: it seemed her sister Dido stood Before her bed, her straggling hair stained with her blood, Crying: ‘Flee, don’t hesitate, flee this gloomy house!’ At the words a gust slammed the creaking door. Anna leapt up, then jumped from a low window To the ground: fear itself had made her daring. With terror driving her, clothed in her loose vest, She runs like a frightened doe that hears the wolves. It’s thought that horned Numicius swept her away In his swollen flood, and hid her among his pools. Meanwhile, shouting, they searched for the Sidonian lady Through the fields: traces and tracks were visible: Reaching the banks, they found her footprints there. The knowing river stemmed his silent waters. She herself appeared, saying: ‘I’m a nymph of the calm Numicius: hid in perennial waters, Anna Perenna’s my name.’ Quickly they set out a feast in the fields they’d roamed, And celebrated their deeds and the day, with copious wine. Some think she’s the Moon, because she measures out The year (annus): others, Themis, or the Inachian heifer. Anna, you’ll find some to say you’re a nymph, daughter Of Azan, and gave Jupiter his first nourishment. I’ll relate another tale that’s come to my ears, And it’s not so far away from the truth. The Plebs of old, not yet protected by Tribunes, Fled, and gathered on the Sacred Mount: The food supplies they’d brought with them failed, Also the stores of bread fit for human consumption. There was a certain Anna from suburban Bovillae, A poor woman, old, but very industrious. With her grey hair bound up in a light cap, She used to make coarse cakes with a trembling hand, And distribute them, still warm, among the people, Each morning: this supply of hers pleased them all. When peace was made at home, they set up a statue To Perenna, because she’d helped supply their needs. Now it’s left for me to tell why the girls sing coarse songs: Since they gather together to sing certain infamous things. Anna had lately been made a goddess: Gradivus came to her And taking her aside, spoke these words: You honour my month: I’ve joined my season to yours: I’ve great hopes you can do me a service. Armed, I’m captivated by armed Minerva, I burn, and have nursed the wound for many a day. Help us, alike in our pursuits, to become one: The part suits you well, courteous old lady.’ He spoke. She tricked the god with empty promises. And led him on, in foolish hope, with false delays. Often, when he pressed her, she said: ‘I’ve done as you asked, She’s won, she’s yielded at last to your prayers.’ The lover believed her and prepared the marriage-chamber. They led Anna there, a new bride, her face veiled. About to kiss her, Mars suddenly saw it was Anna: Shame and anger alternating stirred the hoodwinked god. The new goddess laughed at her dear Minerva’s lover. Nothing indeed has ever pleased Venus more. So now they tell old jokes, and coarse songs are sung, And they delight in how the great god was cheated. I was about to neglect those daggers that pierced Our leader, when Vesta spoke from her pure hearth: Don’t hesitate to recall them: he was my priest, And those sacrilegious hands sought me with their blades. I snatched him away, and left a naked semblance: What died by the steel, was Caesar’s shadow.’ Raised to the heavens he found Jupiter’s halls, And his is the temple in the mighty Forum. But all the daring criminals who in defiance Of the gods, defiled the high priest’s head, Have fallen in merited death. Philippi is witness, And those whose scattered bones whiten its earth. This work, this duty, was Augustus’ first task, Avenging his father by the just use of arms.
3 - 9 16
When the next dawn has revived the tender grass, Scorpio’s pincers will be visible.
3 - 10 17 Liberalia.
There’s a popular festival of Bacchus, on the third day After the Ides: Bacchus, favour the poet who sings your feast. I’ll not speak about Semele: you’d have been born defenceless, If it hadn’t been that Jupiter brought her his lightning too. Nor will I tell how the mother’s labour was fulfilled In a father’s body, so you might duly be born their son. It would take long to tell of the conquered Sithonians, And the Scythians, and the races of incense-bearing India. I’ll be silent about you too, Pentheus, sad prey to your own mother, And you Lycurgus, who killed your own son in madness. Lo, I’d like to speak of the monstrous Tyrrhenians, who Suddenly became dolphins, but that’s not the task of this verse. The task of this verse is to set out the reasons, Why a vine-planter sells his cakes to the crowd. Liber, before your birth the altars were without offerings, And grass appeared on the stone-cold hearths. They tell how you set aside the first fruits for Jupiter, After subduing the Ganges region, and the whole of the East. You were the first to offer up cinnamon and incense From conquered lands, and the roast entrails of triumphal oxen. Libations derive their name from their originator, And cake (liba) since a part is offered on the sacred hearth. Honey-cakes are baked for the god, because he delights in sweet Substances, and they say that Bacchus discovered honey. He was travelling from sandy Hebrus, accompanied By Satyrs, (my tale contains a not-unpleasant jest) And he’d come to Mount Rhodope, and flowering Pangaeus: With the cymbals clashing in his companions’ hands. Behold unknown winged things gather to the jangling, Bees, that follow after the echoing bronze. Liber gathered the swarm and shut it in a hollow tree, And was rewarded with the prize of discovering honey. Once the Satyrs, and old bald-headed Silenus, had tasted it, They searched for the yellow combs in every tree. The old fellow heard a swarm humming in a hollow elm, Saw the honeycombs, but pretended otherwise: And sitting lazily on his hollow-backed ass, He rode it up to the elm where the trunk was hollow. He stood and leant on the stump of a branch, And greedily reached for the honey hidden inside. But thousands of hornets gathered, thrusting their stings Into his bald head, leaving their mark on his snub-nosed face. He fell headlong, and received a kick from the ass, As he shouted to his friends and called for help. The Satyrs ran up, and laughed at their father’s face, While he limped about on his damaged knee. Bacchus himself laughed and showed him the use of mud: Silenus took his advice, and smeared his face with clay. Father Liber loves honey: its right to offer its discoverer Glittering honey diffused through oven-warm cakes. The reason why a woman presides isn’t obscure: Bacchus stirs crowds of women with his thyrsus. Why an old woman, you ask? That age drinks more, And loves the gifts of the teeming vine. Why is she wreathed with ivy? Ivy’s dearest to Bacchus: And why that’s so doesn’t take long to tell. They say that when Juno his stepmother was searching For the boy, the nymphs of Nysa hid the cradle in ivy leaves. It remains for me to reveal why the toga virilis, the gown Of manhood, is given to boys on your day, Bacchus: Whether it’s because you seem to be ever boy or youth, And your age is somewhere between the two: Or because you’re a father, fathers commend their sons, Their pledges of love, to your care and divinity: Or because you’re Liber, the gown of liberty And a more liberated life are adopted, for you: Or is it because, in the days when the ancients tilled the fields More vigorously, and Senators worked their fathers’ land, And ‘rods and axes’ took Consuls from the curving plough, And it wasn’t a crime to have work-worn hands, The farmers came to the City for the games, (Though that was an honour paid to the gods, and not Their inclination: and the grape’s discoverer held his games This day, while now he shares that of torch-bearing Ceres): And the day seemed not unfitting for granting the toga, So that a crowd could celebrate the fresh novice? Father turn your mild head here, and gentle horns, And spread the sails of my art to a favourable breeze. If I remember rightly, on this, and the preceding day, Crowds go to the Argei (their own page will tell who they are). The Kite star turns downwards near The Lycaonian Bear: on this night it’s first visible. If you wish to know who raised that falcon to heaven, It was when Saturn had been dethroned by Jupiter: Angered, he stirred the mighty Titans to battle, And sought whatever help the Fates could grant him. There was a bull, a marvellous monster, born of Mother Earth, the hind part of which was of serpent-form: Warned by the three Fates, grim Styx had imprisoned him In dark woods, surrounded by triple walls. There was a prophecy that whoever burnt the entrails Of the bull, in the flames, would defeat the eternal gods. Briareus sacrificed it with an adamantine axe, And was about to set the innards on the flames: But Jupiter ordered the birds to snatch them: and the Kite Brought them, and his service set him among the stars.
3 - 11 19 Quinquatrus.
After a one day interval, the rites of Minerva are performed, Which take their name from the sequence of five days. The first day is bloodless, and sword fights are unlawful, Because Minerva was born on that very day. The next four are celebrated with gladiatorial shows, The warlike goddess delights in naked swords. Pray now you boys and tender girls to Pallas: He who can truly please Pallas, is learned. Pleasing Pallas let girls learn to card wool, And how to unwind the full distaff. She shows how to draw the shuttle through the firm Warp, and close up loose threads with the comb. Worship her, you who remove stains from damaged clothes, Worship her, you who ready bronze cauldrons for fleeces. If Pallas frowns, no one could make good shoes, Even if he were more skilled than Tychius: And even if he were cleverer with his hands Than Epeus once was, he’ll be useless if Pallas is angry. You too who drive away ills with Apollo’s art, Bring a few gifts of your own for the goddess: And don’t scorn her, you schoolmasters, a tribe So often cheated of its pay: she attracts new pupils: Nor you engravers, and painters with encaustics, Nor you who carve the stone with a skilful hand. She’s the goddess of a thousand things: and song for sure: If I’m worthy may she be a friend to my endeavours. Where the Caelian Hill slopes down to the plain, At the point where the street’s almost, but not quite, level, You can see the little shrine of Minerva Capta, Which the goddess first occupied on her birthday. The source of the name is doubtful: we speak of ‘Capital’ ingenuity: the goddess is herself ingenious. Or is it because, motherless, she leapt, with a shield From the crown of her father’s head (caput)? Or because she came to us as a ‘captive’ from the conquest Of Falerii? This, an ancient inscription claims. Or because her law ordains ‘capital’ punishment For receiving things stolen from that place? By whatever logic your title’s derived, Pallas, Shield our leaders with your aegis forever.
3 - 12 23 Tubilustria.
The last day of the five exhorts us to purify The tuneful trumpets, and sacrifice to the mighty god. Now you can turn your face to the Sun and say: ‘He touched the fleece of the Phrixian Ram yesterday’. The seeds having been parched, by a wicked stepmother’s Guile, the corn did not sprout in the usual way. They sent to the oracle, to find by sure prophecy, What cure the Delphic god would prescribe for sterility. But tarnished like the seed, the messenger brought news That the oracle sought the death of Helle and young Phrixus: And when citizens, season, and Ino herself compelled The reluctant king to obey that evil order, Phrixus and his sister, brows covered with sacred bands, Stood together before the altar, bemoaning their mutual fate. Their mother saw them, as she hovered by chance in the air, And, stunned, she beat her naked breasts with her hand: Then, with the clouds as her companions, she leapt down Into serpent-born Thebes, and snatched away her children: And so that they could flee a ram, shining and golden, Was brought, and it carried them over the wide ocean. They say the sister held too weakly to the left-hand horn, And so gave her own name to the waters below. Her brother almost died with her, trying to help her As she fell, stretching out his hands as far as he could. He wept at losing her, his friend in their twin danger, Not knowing she was now wedded to a sea-green god. Reaching the shore the Ram was raised as a constellation, While his golden fleece was carried to the halls of Colchis.
3 - 13 26
When the Morning Star has three times heralded the dawn, You’ll find the daylight hours are equal to those of night.
3 - 14 30
When, counting from that day, the shepherd has four times penned The sated kids, and the grass four times whitened with fresh dew, Janus must be adored, and with him gentle Concord, And the Safety of Rome, and the altar of Peace.
3 - 15 31
The Moon rules the months: this month’s span ends With the worship of the Moon on the Aventine Hill.
4 0
4 - Introduction
‘Kindly mother of the twin Cupids, favour me!’ I said. She glanced back towards her poet: ‘Why do you Need me?’ she said. ‘Surely, you sing greater themes. Have you some old wound lingering in your heart?’ ‘Goddess, ‘ I replied, ‘you know my wound.’ She laughed, And the sky immediately cleared in her direction. ‘Hurt or whole have I ever deserted your cause? You were always my intent and my labour. As was fitting in my youth, innocently I played, And now my horses sweep out a wider field: From ancient texts I sing the days and reasons, And the star-signs that rise and set, beneath the Earth. I’ve reached the fourth month, where you’re most honoured, And you know, Venus, both month and poet are yours.’ The goddess, moved, touching my brow lightly With Cytherean myrtle, said: ‘Finish what you’ve begun.’ I was inspired, and suddenly knew the origins of days: Sail, my boat, while you can, while the breezes blow. If there’s any part of the calendar that might stir you, Caesar, in April you’ll find what should interest you. This month you inherit from a mighty lineage, Yours by adoption into a noble house. When Romulus established the length of the year, He recognised this, and commemorated your sires: And as he granted first place among months to fierce Mars, Being the immediate cause of his own existence, So he granted the second month to Venus, Tracing his descent from her through many generations: Searching for the roots of his race, unwinding the rolls Of the centuries, he came at last to his divine kin. He couldn’t be ignorant that Electra daughter of Atlas Bore Dardanus, that Electra had slept with Jove. From Dardanus came Ericthonius, and from himTros: He in turn produced Assaracus, and Assaracus Capys. Next was Anchises, with whom Venus Didn’t disdain to share the name of parent. From them came Aeneas, whose piety was seen, carrying Holy things, and a father as holy, on his shoulders, through the fire. Now at last we come to the fortunate name of Iulus, Through whom the Julian house claims Teucrian ancestors. Postumus was his, called Silvius among the Latin Race, being born in the depth of the woods. He was your father, LatinusAlba followed Latinus: Epytus was next to take your titles Alba. Epytus gave his son Capys a Trojan name, And the same was your grandfather Calpetus. When Tiberinus ruled his father’s kingdom after him, It’s said he drowned in a deep pool of the Tuscan river. But before that he saw the birth of a son Agrippa, And a grandson Remulus, who was struck by lightning. Aventinus followed them, from whom the place and the hill Took their name. After him the realm passed to Proca. He was succeeded by Numitor, brother to harsh Amulius. Ilia and Lausus were then the children of Numitor. Lausus fell to his uncle’s sword: Ilia pleased Mars, And bore you Quirinus, and your brother Remus. You always claimed your parents were Mars and Venus, And deserved to be believed when you said so: And you granted successive months to your race’s gods, So your descendants might not be in ignorance of the truth. But I think the month of Venus took its title From the Greek: she was named after the sea-foam. Nor is it any wonder it was called by a Greek name, Since the land of Italy was Greater Greece. Evander had reached here with ships full of his people: Alcides had arrived, both Greek by race. (A club-bearing guest fed his cattle on Aventine grass, And one of the great gods drank from the Albula): Ulysses, the Neritian leader, also arrived: witness The Laestrygones, and the shore that bears Circe’s name. Telegonus’s walls were already standing, and the walls Of damp Tibur, constructed by Greek hands. Halaesus had come, spurred by the fate of the Atrides, Halaesus from whom the Faliscan country derives its name. Add to this, Antenor, who advised the Trojans to make peace, And Diomedes, the Oenid, son-in-law to Apulian Daunus. Aeneas arrived later, after Antenor, bringing his gods To our country, out of the flames of Ilium. He had a comrade, Solymus, from Phrygian Ida, From whom the walls of Sulmo take their name, Cool Sulmo, my native place, Germanicus. Ah me, how far that place is from Scythia’s soil! And I, so distant – but Muse, quell your complaints! Holy themes set to a gloomy lyre are not for you. Where does envy not reach? Venus, there are some Who’d grudge you your month, and snatch it away. They say Spring was named from the open (apertum) season, Because Spring opens (aperit) everything and the sharp Frost-bound cold vanishes, and fertile soil’s revealed, Though kind Venus sets her hand there and claims it. She rules the whole world too, and truly deserves to: She owns a realm not inferior to any god’s, Commands earth and heaven, and her native ocean, And maintains all beings from her source. She created the gods (too numerous to mention): She gave the crops and trees their first roots: She brought the crude minds of men together, And taught them each to associate with a partner. What but sweet pleasure creates all the race of birds? Cattle wouldn’t mate, if gentle love were absent. The wild ram butts the males with his horn, But won’t hurt the brow of his beloved ewe. The bull, that the woods and pastures fear, Puts off his fierceness and follows the heifer. The same force preserves whatever lives in the deep, And fills the waters with innumerable fish. That force first stripped man of his wild apparel: From it he learned refinement and elegance. It’s said a banished lover first serenaded His mistress by night, at her closed door, And eloquence then was the winning of a reluctant maid, And everyone pleaded his or her own cause. A thousand arts are furthered by the goddess: and the wish To delight has revealed many things that were hidden. Who dares to steal her honour of naming the second month? Let such madness be far from my thoughts. Besides, though she’s powerful everywhere, her temples Crowded, doesn’t she hold most sway in our City? Venus, Roman, carried weapons to defend your Troy, And groaned at the spear wound in her gentle hand: And she defeated two goddesses, by a Trojan judgement, (Ah! If only they hadn’t remembered her victory!) And she was called the bride of Assaracus’s son, So that mighty Caesar would have Julian ancestors. No season is more fitting for Venus than Spring: In spring the earth gleams: in spring the ground’s soft, Now the grass pokes its tips through the broken soil, Now the vine bursts in buds through the swollen bark. And lovely Venus deserves the lovely season, And is joined again to her darling Mars: In Spring she tells the curving ships to sail, over Her native seas, and fear the winter’s threat no longer.
4 - 1 1 Kalends.
Perform the rites of the goddess, Roman brides and mothers, And you who must not wear the headbands and long robes. Remove the golden necklaces from her marble neck, Remove her riches: the goddess must be cleansed, complete. Return the gold necklaces to her neck, once it’s dry: Now she’s given fresh flowers, and new-sprung roses. She commands you too to bathe, under the green myrtle, And there’s a particular reason for her command (learn, now!). Naked, on the shore, she was drying her dripping hair: The Satyrs, that wanton crowd, spied the goddess. She sensed it, and hid her body with a screen of myrtle: Doing so, she was safe: she commands that you do so too. Learn now why you offer incense to Fortuna Virilis, In that place that steams with heated water. All women remove their clothes on entering, And every blemish on their bodies is seen: Virile Fortune undertakes to hide those from the men, And she does this at the behest of a little incense. Don’t begrudge her poppies, crushed in creamy milk And in flowing honey, squeezed from the comb: When Venus was first led to her eager spouse, She drank so: and from that moment was a bride. Please her with words of supplication: beauty, Virtue, and good repute are in her keeping. In our forefather’s time Rome lapsed from chastity: And the ancients consulted the old woman of Cumae. She ordered a temple built to Venus: when it was done Venus took the name of Heart-Changer (Verticordia). Loveliest One, always look with a benign gaze On the sons of Aeneas, and guard their many wives. As I speak, Scorpio, the tip of whose raised tail Strikes fear, plunges down into the green waves.
4 - 2 2
When the night is past, and the sky is just beginning To redden, and the birds, wet with dew, are singing, And the traveller who’s been awake all night, puts down His half-burnt torch, and the farmer’s off to his usual labours, The Pleiades will start to lighten their father’s shoulders, They who are said to be seven, but usually are six: Because it’s true that six lay in the loving clasp of gods (Since they say that Asterope slept with Mars: Alcyone, and you, lovely Celaeno, with Neptune: MaiaElectra, and Taygete with Jupiter), While the seventh, Merope, married you, Sisyphus, a mortal, And repents of it, and, alone of the sisters, hides from shame: Or because Electra couldn’t bear to watch Troy’s destruction, And so her face now is covered by her hands.
4 - 3 4 Megalesian Festival of Cybele.
Let the sky turn three times on its axis, Let the Sun three times yoke and loose his horses, And the Berecyntian flute will begin sounding Its curved horn, it will be the Idaean Mother’s feast. Eunuchs will march, and sound the hollow drums, And cymbal will clash with cymbal, in ringing tones: Seated on the soft necks of her servants, she’ll be carried With howling, through the midst of the City streets. The stage is set: the games are calling. Watch, then, Quirites, and let those legal wars in the fora cease. I’d like to ask many things, but I’m made fearful By shrill clash of bronze, and curved flute’s dreadful drone. ‘Lend me someone to ask, goddess.’ Cybele spying her learned Granddaughters, the Muses, ordered them to take care of me. ‘Nurslings of Helicon, mindful of her orders, reveal Why the Great Goddess delights in continual din.’ So I spoke. And Erato replied (it fell to her to speak about Venus’ month, because her name derives from tender love): ‘Saturn was granted this prophecy: “Noblest of kings, You’ll be ousted by your own son’s sceptre.” The god, fearful, devoured his children as soon as Born, and then retained them deep in his guts. Often Rhea (Cybele) complained, at being so often pregnant, Yet never a mother, and grieved at her own fruitfulness. Then Jupiter was born (ancient testimony is credited By most: so please don’t disturb the accepted belief): A stone, concealed in clothing, went down Saturn’s throat, So the great progenitor was deceived by the fates. Now steep Ida echoed to a jingling music, So the child might cry from its infant mouth, in safety. Some beat shields with sticks, others empty helmets: That was the Curetes’ and the Corybantes’ task. The thing was hidden, and the ancient deed’s still acted out: The goddess’s servants strike the bronze and sounding skins. They beat cymbals for helmets, drums instead of shields: The flute plays, as long ago, in the Phrygian mode.’ The goddess ceased. I began: ‘Why do fierce lions Yield untamed necks to the curving yoke for her?’ I ceased. The goddess began: ‘It’s thought their ferocity Was first tamed by her: the testament to it’s her chariot.’ ‘But why is her head weighed down by a turreted crown? Is it because she granted towers to the first cities?’ She nodded. I said ‘Where did this urge to cut off Their members come from?’ As I ended, the Muse spoke: ‘In the woods, a Phrygian boy, Attis, of handsome face, Won the tower-bearing goddess with his chaste passion. She desired him to serve her, and protect her temple, And said: “Wish, you might be a boy for ever.” He promised to be true, and said: “If I’m lying May the love I fail in be my last love.” He did fail, and in meeting the nymph Sagaritis, Abandoned what he was: the goddess, angered, avenged it. She destroyed the Naiad, by wounding a tree, Since the tree contained the Naiad’s fate. Attis was maddened, and thinking his chamber’s roof Was falling, fled for the summit of Mount Dindymus. Now he cried: “Remove the torches”, now he cried: “Take the whips away”: often swearing he saw the Furies. He tore at his body too with a sharp stone, And dragged his long hair in the filthy dust, Shouting: “I deserved this! I pay the due penalty In blood! Ah! Let the parts that harmed me, perish! Let them perish!” cutting away the burden of his groin, And suddenly bereft of every mark of manhood. His madness set a precedent, and his unmanly servants Toss their hair, and cut off their members as if worthless.’ So the Aonian Muse, eloquently answering the question I’d asked her, regarding the causes of their madness. ‘Guide of my work, I beg you, teach me also, where She Was brought from. Was she always resident in our City? ‘The Mother Goddess always loved Dindymus, Cybele, And Ida, with its pleasant streams, and the Trojan realm: And when Aeneas brought Troy to Italian fields, the goddess Almost followed those ships that carried the sacred relics. But she felt that fate didn’t require her powers in Latium, So she stayed behind in her long-accustomed place. Later, when Rome was more than five centuries old, And had lifted its head above the conquered world, The priest consulted the fateful words of Euboean prophecy: They say that what he found there was as follows: ‘The Mother’s absent: Roman, I command you: seek the Mother. When she arrives, she must be received in chaste hands.’ The dark oracle’s ambiguity set the senators puzzling As to who that parent might be, and where to seek her. Apollo was consulted, and replied: ‘Fetch the Mother Of all the Gods, who you’ll find there on Mount Ida.’ Noblemen were sent. Attalus at that time held The Phrygian sceptre: he refused the Italian lords. Marvellous to tell, the earth shook with long murmurs, And the goddess, from her shrine, spoke as follows: ‘I myself wished them to seek me: don’t delay: send me, Willingly. Rome is a worthy place for all divinities.’ Quaking with fear at her words, Attalus, said: ‘Go, You’ll still be ours: Rome claims Phrygian ancestry.’ Immediately countless axes felled the pine-trees Those trees pious Aeneas employed for his flight: A thousand hands work, and the heavenly Mother Soon has a hollow ship, painted in fiery colours. She’s carried in perfect safety over her son’s waves, And reaches the long strait named for Phrixus’ sister, Passes fierce Rhoetum and the Sigean shore, And Tenedos and Eetion’s ancient kingdom. Leaving Lesbos behind she then steered for the Cyclades, And the waves that break on Euboea’s Carystian shoals. She passed the Icarian Sea, as well, where Icarus shed His melting wings, giving his name to a vast tract of water. Then leaving Crete to larboard, and the Pelopian waves To starboard, she headed for Cythera, sacred to Venus. From there to the Sicilian Sea, where BrontesSteropes And Aemonides forge their red-hot iron, Then, skirting African waters, she saw the Sardinian Realm behind to larboard, and reached our Italy. She’d arrived at the mouth (ostia) where the Tiber divides To meet the deep, and flows with a wider sweep: All the Knights, grave Senators, and commoners, Came to meet her at the mouth of the Tuscan river. With them walked mothers, daughters, and brides, And all those virgins who tend the sacred fires. The men wearied their arms hauling hard on the ropes: The foreign vessel barely made way against the stream. For a long time there’d been a drought: the grass was dry And scorched: the boat stuck fast in the muddy shallows. Every man, hauling, laboured beyond his strength, And encouraged their toiling hands with his cries. Yet the ship lodged there, like an island fixed in mid-ocean: And astonished at the portent, men stood and quaked. Claudia Quinta traced her descent from noble Clausus, And her beauty was in no way unequal to her nobility: She was chaste, but not believed so: hostile rumour Had wounded her, false charges were levelled at her: Her elegance, promenading around in various hairstyles, And her ready tongue, with stiff old men, counted against her. Conscious of virtue, she laughed at the rumoured lies, But we’re always ready to credit others with faults. Now, when she’d stepped from the line of chaste women, Taking pure river water in her hands, she wetted her head Three times, three times lifted her palms to the sky, (Everyone watching her thought she’d lost her mind) Then, kneeling, fixed her eyes on the goddess’s statue, And, with loosened hair, uttered these words: “ Kind and fruitful Mother of the Gods, accept A suppliant’s prayers, on this one condition: They deny I’m chaste: let me be guilty if you condemn me: Convicted by a goddess I’ll pay for it with my life. But if I’m free of guilt, grant a pledge of my innocence By your action: and, chaste, give way to my chaste hands.” She spoke: then gave a slight pull at the rope, (A wonder, but the sacred drama attests what I say): The goddess stirred, followed, and, following, approved her: Witness the sound of jubilation carried to the stars. They came to a bend in the river (called of old The Halls of Tiber): there the stream turns left, ascending. Night fell: they tied the rope to an oak stump, And, having eaten, settled to a tranquil sleep. Dawn rose: they loosed the rope from the oak stump, After first laying a fire and offering incense, And crowned the stern, and sacrificed a heifer Free of blemish, that had never known yoke or bull. There’s a place where smooth-flowing Almo joins the Tiber, And the lesser flow loses its name in the greater: There, a white-headed priest in purple robes Washed the Lady, and sacred relics, in Almo’s water. The attendants howled, and the mad flutes blew, And soft hands beat at the bull’s-hide drums. Claudia walked in front with a joyful face, Her chastity proven by the goddess’s testimony: The goddess herself, sitting in a cart, entered the Capene Gate: Fresh flowers were scattered over the yoked oxen. Nasica received her. The name of her temple’s founder is lost: Augustus has re-dedicated it, and, before him, Metellus.’ Here Erato ceased. There was a pause for me to ask more: I said: ‘Why does the goddess collect money in small coins?’ She said: ‘The people gave coppers, with which Metellus Built her shrine, so now there’s a tradition of giving them.’ I asked why people entertain each other at feasts, And invite others to banquets, more than at other times. She said: ‘It’s because the Berecynthian goddess by good luck Changed her house, and they try for the same luck, by their visits.’ I was about to ask why the Megalesia are the first games Of the City’s year, when the goddess (anticipating) said: ‘She gave birth to the gods. They yielded to their mother, And she was given the honour of precedence.’ Why then do we call those who castrate themselves, Galli, When the Gallic country’s so far from Phrygia?’ ‘Between green Cybele and high Celaenae,’ she said, ‘Runs a river of maddening water, called the Gallus. Whoever drinks of it, is crazed: keep far away, all you Who desire a sound mind: who drinks of it is crazed.’ ‘They consider it no shame to set a dish of salad On the Lady’s table. What’s the reason?’ I asked. She replied: ‘It’s said the ancients lived on milk, And on herbs that the earth produced of itself. Now they mix cream cheese with pounded herbs, So the ancient goddess might know the ancient food.’
4 - 4 5 Nones.
When the stars have vanished, and the Moon unyokes Her snowy horses, and the next dawn shines in the sky, He’ll speak true who says: ‘On this day long ago The temple of Public Fortune was dedicated on the Quirinal.’
4 - 5 6
It was the third day of the games (I recall), and a certain Elderly man, who was sitting next to me at the show, said: ‘This was the day when Julius Caesar crushed proud Juba’s treacherous army, on the shores of Libya. Caesar was my leader, under whom I’m proud To have been a tribune: he ordered me so to serve. I won this seat in war, and you in peace Because of your role among the Decemvirs.’ We were about to speak again when a sudden shower Parted us: Libra balanced there shed heavenly waters.
4 - 6 9
But before the last day completes the spectacle, Orion with his sword will have sunk in the sea.
4 - 7 10
When the next dawn gazes on victorious Rome, And the fleeing stars have given way to the Sun, The Circus will be thronged with a procession of many gods, And horses swift as the wind will compete for the winner’s prize.
4 - 8 12 Games of Ceres.
Next, the Games of Ceres, there’s no need to say why: Obvious: the bounteous promise and gifts of the goddess. The bread of primitive humans was made of plants, That the earth produced without being asked: They sometimes plucked wild grasses from the turf, Sometimes tender leaves from the treetops made a meal. Later the acorn was known: its discovery was fine, Since the sturdy oak offered a rich horde. Ceres was first to summon men to a better diet, Replacing their acorns with more nourishing food. She forced bulls to bow their necks to the yoke: So the deep-ploughed soil first saw the light. Copper was prized then, iron was still hidden: Ah! If only it could have been hidden forever. Ceres delights in peace: pray, you farmers, Pray for endless peace and a peace-loving leader. Honour the goddess with wheat, and dancing salt grains, And grains of incense offered on the ancient hearths, And if there’s no incense, burn your resinous torches: Ceres is pleased with little, if it’s pure in kind. You girded attendants lift those knives from the ox: Let the ox plough, while you sacrifice the lazy sow, It’s not fitting for an axe to strike a neck that’s yoked: Let the ox live, and toil through the stubborn soil. Now, this part requires me to tell of a virgin’s rape: You’ll recognise much you know, but part is new. The Trinacrian land took its name from its shape: It runs out in three rocky capes to the vast ocean. It’s a place dear to Ceres. She owns, there, many cities, Among them fertile Enna, with its well-ploughed soul. Cool Arethusa gathered together the mothers of the gods: And the yellow-haired goddess came to the sacred feast. Her daughter, Persephone, attended by girls, as ever, Wandered barefoot through Enna’s meadows. In a shadow-filled valley there’s a place, Wet by the copious spray from a high fall. All the colours of nature were displayed there, And the earth was bright with hues of various flowers. On seeing it she cried: ‘Come here to me, my friends, And each carry back, with me, a lapful of flowers.’ The foolish prize enticed their girlish spirits, And they were too busy to feel weary. One filled baskets woven from supple willow, Another her lap, the next loose folds of her robe: One picked marigolds: another loved violets, And one nipped the poppy-heads with her nails: Some you tempt, hyacinth: others, amaranth, you delay: Others desire thyme, cornflowers or clover. Many a rose was taken, and flowers without name: Proserpine herself plucked fragile crocuses and white lilies. Intent on gathering them, she gradually strayed, And none of her friends chanced to follow their lady. Dis, her uncle saw her, and swiftly carried her off, And bore her on shadowy horses to his realm. She called out: ‘Oh, dearest Mother, I’m being Carried away!’ and tore at the breast of her robe: Meanwhile a path opened for Dis, since his horses Can scarcely endure the unaccustomed daylight. When her crowd of friends had gathered their flowers, They shouted: ‘Persephone, come for your gifts!’ But silence met their call: they filled the hills with their cries, And sadly beat their naked breasts with their hands. Ceres was startled by their grief (she’d just now come from Enna), And cried instantly ‘Ah me! Daughter, where are you?’ She rushed about, distracted, as we’ve heard The Thracian Maenads run with flowing hair. As a cow bellows, when her calf’s torn from her udder, And goes searching for her child, through the woods, So the goddess groaned freely, and ran quickly, As she made her way, Enna, from your plains. There she found marks of the girlish feet, and saw Where her familiar form had printed the ground: Perhaps her wandering would have ended that day, If wild pigs hadn’t muddied the trail she found. She’d already passed Leontini, the river Amenanas, And your grassy banks, Acis, on her way: She’d passed Cyane, the founts of slow Anapus, And you, Gelas, with whirlpools to be shunned. She’d left OrtygiaMegara and the Pantagias, And the place where the sea receives Symaethus’ waves, And the caves of Cyclopes, scorched by their forges, And the place who’s name’s derived from a curving sickle, And HimeraDidymeAcragas and Tauromenium, And the Mylae, that rich pasture for sacred cattle. Next she reached CamerinaThapsus, and Helorus’ Tempe, And where Eryx stands, ever open to the Western winds. She’d crossed PeloriasLilybaeum and Pachynum, Those three projecting horns of her land. Wherever she set foot, she filled the place with sad cries, Like the bird mourning for her lost Itys. Alternately she cried: ‘Persephone!’ and ‘My daughter’, Calling and shouting both the names in turn, But Persephone heard not Ceres, nor the daughter Her mother, and both names by turns died away: If she spied a shepherd or farmer at work, Her cry was: ‘Has a girl passed this way?’ Now the colours faded, and the darkness hid Everything. Now the wakeful dogs fell silent. High Etna stands above vast Typhoeus’ mouth, Who scorches the earth with his fiery breath: There the goddess lit twin pine branches as torches: And since then there are torches handed out at her rites. There’s a cave, its interior carved from sharp pumice, A place not to be approached by man or beast: Reaching it she yoked serpents to her chariot, And roamed the ocean waves above the spray. She shunned the Syrtes and Zanclaean Charybdis, And you, hounds of Scylla, wrecking monsters, Shunned the wide Adriatic, and Corinth between two seas: And so came to your harbour, country of Attica. Here she sat for the first time, mournfully, on cold stone: That stone the Athenians named the Sorrowful. She lingered many days under the open sky, Enduring both the moonlight and the rain. Every place has its destiny: What’s now called Ceres’ Eleusis was then old Celeus’ farm. He was bringing acorns home, and berries he’d picked From the briars, and dry wood for the blazing hearth. His little daughter was driving two she-goats from the hill, While confined in his cradle was a sickly son. ‘Mother!’ the girl said (the goddess was moved By that word mother) ‘Why are you alone in the wilderness?’ The old man stopped too, despite his heavy load, And begged her to shelter under his insignificant roof. She refused. She was disguised as an old woman, her hair Covered with a cap. When he urged her she replied: ‘Be happy, and always a father! My daughter’s been Stolen from me. Ah, how much better your fate than mine!’ She spoke, and a crystal drop (though goddesses cannot weep), Like a tear, fell on her warm breast. Those tender hearts, The old man and the virgin girl, wept with her: And these were the righteous old man’s words: ‘Rise, and don’t scorn the shelter of my humble hut, And may the lost daughter you mourn be safe and sound.’ The goddess said: ‘Lead on! You’ve found what could persuade me’ And she rose from the stone and followed the old man. Leading, he told his follower, how his son was sick Lying there sleepless, kept awake by his illness. About to enter the humble house, she plucked A tender, sleep-inducing, poppy from the bare ground: And as she picked it, they say, unthinkingly, she tasted it, And so, unwittingly, eased her long starvation. And because she first broke her fast at nightfall, Her priests of the Mysteries eat once the stars appear. When she crossed the threshold, she saw all were grieving: Since they’d lost hope of the child’s recovery. Greeting the mother (who was called Metanira) The goddess deigned to join her lips to the child’s. His pallor fled, his body suddenly seemed healthier: Such power flowed out of the goddess’ mouth. There was joy in the house, in the father, mother And daughter: those three were the whole house. They soon set out a meal, curds in whey, Apples, and golden honey on the comb. Kind Ceres abstained, and gave to the boy Poppy seeds in warm milk to make him sleep. It was midnight: silent in peaceful slumber, The goddess took Triptolemus on her lap, Caressed him with her hand three times, and spoke Three spells, not to be sounded by mortal tongue, And she covered the boy’s body with live embers On the hearth, so the fire would purge his mortal burden. His good, fond, foolish mother, waking from sleep, Crying: ‘What are you doing?’ snatched him from the coals, To her the goddess said: ‘Though sinless, you’ve sinned: My gift’s been thwarted by a mother’s fear. He will still be mortal, but first to plough, And sow, and reap a harvest from the soil.’ Ceres spoke, and left the house, trailing mist, and crossed To her dragons, and was carried away in her winged chariot. She left Sunium’s exposed cape behind, and Piraeus’ safe harbour, And all that coast that lies towards the west. From there she crossed the Aegean, saw all the Cyclades, Skimmed the wild Ionian, and the Icarian Sea, And, passing through Asia’s cities, sought the long Hellespont, And wandered her course, on high, among diverse regions. Now she gazed at incense-gathering Arabs, now Ethiopians, Beneath her Libya now, now Meroe and the desert lands: Then she saw the western rivers, Rhine, Rhone, Po, And you, Tiber, parent of a stream full of future power. Where, now? Too long to tell of the lands she wandered: No place on earth remained unvisited by Ceres. She wandered the sky too, and spoke to the constellations Those near the chilly pole, free of the ocean waves: ‘You Arcadian stars (since you can see all things, Never plunging beneath the watery wastes) Show this wretched mother, her daughter, Proserpine!’ She spoke, and Helice answered her in this way: ‘Night’s free of blame: Ask the Light about your Stolen daughter: the Sun views, widely, things done by day.’ The Sun, asked, said: ‘To save you grief, she whom you seek Is married to Jupiter’s brother, and rules the third realm.’ After grieving a while, she addressed the Thunderer: And there were deep marks of sorrow in her face: ‘If you remember by whom I conceived Persephone, Half of the care she ought to be shown is yours. Wandering the world I’ve learnt only of her wrong: While her ravisher is rewarded for his crime. But Persephone didn’t deserve a thief as husband: It’s not right to have found a son-in-law this way. How could I have suffered more, as captive to a conquering Gyges, than now, while you hold the sceptre of the heavens? Well, let him escape unpunished, I’ll suffer it, un-avenged, If he returns her, amending his old actions by the new.’ Jupiter soothed her, excusing it as an act of love, ‘He’s not a son-in-law who’ll shames us,’ he said, ‘I’m no nobler than him: my kingdom’s in the sky, Another owns the waters, another the empty void. But if your mind is really so set against alteration, And you’re determined to break firm marriage bonds, Let’s make the attempt, but only if she’s kept her fast: If not, she’ll remain the wife of her infernal spouse.’ The Messenger God had his orders, and took flight for Tartarus, And, back sooner than expected, told what he’d clearly seen: ‘The ravished girl,’ he said ‘broke her fast with three seeds Concealed in the tough rind of a pomegranate.’ Her gloomy mother grieved, no less than if her daughter Had just been taken, and was a long time recovering even a little. Then she said: ‘Heaven’s no place for me to be, either: Order that I too may be received by the Taenarian vale.’ And so it would have been, if Jupiter hadn’t promised, That Persephone should spend six months each year in heaven. Then, at last, Ceres recovered her countenance and spirits, And set garlands, woven from ears of corn, on her hair: And the tardy fields delivered a copious harvest, And the threshing-floor barely held the heaped sheaves. White is fitting for Ceres: dress in white clothes for Ceres’ Festival: on this day no one wears dark-coloured thread.
4 - 9 13 Ides.
Jupiter, titled the Victor, keeps the Ides of April: A temple was dedicated to him on this day. And if I’m not wrong, on this day too, Liberty Began to occupy a hall worthy of our people.
4 - 10 14
On the next day, you sailors, seek safe harbours: The westerly wind will blow mixed with hail. Be that as it may, it was on this day, a day of hail, That a Caesar, armed, clashed shields at Modena.
4 - 11 15 Fordicidia.
When the third day after the Ides of April dawns, You priests, offer a pregnant (forda) cow in sacrifice. Forda is a cow in calf and fruitful, from ferendo (carrying): They consider fetus is derived from the same root. Now the cattle are big with young, and the ground’s Pregnant with seed: a teeming victim’s given to teeming Earth. Some are killed on Jupiter’s citadel, the Curiae (wards) Get thirty cows: they’re drenched with plenty of sprinkled blood. But when the priests have torn the calves from their mother’s womb, And thrown the slashed entrails on the smoking hearth, The oldest Vestal burns the dead calves in the fire, So their ashes can purge the people on the day of Pales. In Numa’s kingship the harvest failed to reward men’s efforts: The farmers, deceived, offered their prayers in vain. At one time that year it was dry, with cold northerlies, The next, the fields were rank with endless rain: Often the crop failed the farmer in its first sprouting, And meagre wild oats overran choked soil, And the cattle dropped their young prematurely, And the ewes often died giving birth to lambs. There was an ancient wood, long untouched by the axe, Still sacred to Pan, the god of Maenalus: He gave answers, to calm minds, in night silence. Here Numa sacrificed twin ewes. The first fell to Faunus, the second to gentle Sleep: Both the fleeces were spread on the hard soil. Twice the king’s unshorn head was sprinkled with spring water, Twice he pressed the beech leaves to his forehead. He abstained from sex: no meat might be served At table, nor could he wear a ring on any finger. Dressed in rough clothes he lay down on fresh fleeces, Having worshipped the god with appropriate words. Meanwhile Night arrived, her calm brow wreathed With poppies: bringing with her shadowy dreams. Faunus appeared, and pressing the fleece with a hard hoof, From the right side of the bed, he uttered these words: ‘King, you must appease Earth, with the death of two cows: Let one heifer give two lives, in sacrifice.’ Fear banished sleep: Numa pondered the vision, And considered the ambiguous and dark command. His wife, Egeria, most dear to the grove, eased his doubt, Saying: ‘What’s needed are the innards of a pregnant cow,’ The innards of a pregnant cow were offered: the year proved More fruitful, and earth and cattle bore their increase.
4 - 12 16
Cytherea once commanded the day to pass more quickly, And hurried on the Sun’s galloping horses, So this next day young Augustus might receive The title of Emperor sooner for his victory in war.
4 - 13 17
And when you see the fourth dawn after the Ides, The Hyades will set in the sea at night.
4 - 14 Cerialia.
When the third dawn from the vanishing of the Hyades Breaks, the horses will be in their stalls in the Circus. So I must explain why foxes are loosed then, Carrying torches fastened to scorched backs. The land round Carseoli’s cold, not suited for growing Olives, but the soil there’s appropriate for corn. I passed it on the way to my native Pelignian country, A small region, yet always supplied by constant streams. There I entered, as usual, the house of my former host: Phoebus had already unyoked his weary horses. My host used to tell me of many things, including this, As a preparation for my present work: ‘In that plain,’ he said (pointing at the plain), A thrifty peasant woman and her sturdy husband had a small Plot, he tilled the land himself, whether it needed ploughing, Or required the curving sickle or the hoe. They would sweep the cottage, set on timber piles, She’d set eggs to hatch under the mother hen’s feathers, Or collect green mallows or gather white mushrooms, Or warm the humble hearth with welcome fire, And still worked her hands assiduously at the loom, To provision them against the threat of winter cold. She had a son: he was a playful child, Who was already twelve years old. In a valley, he caught, in the depths of a willow copse, A vixen, who’d stolen many birds from the yard. He wrapped his captive in straw and hay, and set fire To it all: she fled the hands that were out to burn her: In fleeing she set the crops, that covered the fields, ablaze: And a breeze lent strength to the devouring flames. The thing’s forgotten, but a relic remains: since now There’s a certain law of Carseoli, that bans foxes: And they burn a fox at the Cerialia to punish the species, Destroyed in the same way as it destroyed the crops.
4 - 15 20
Next dawn when Memnon’s saffron-robed mother, With her rosy horses, comes to view the wide lands, The sun leaves the Ram, Aries, leader of the woolly flock, Betrayer of Helle, and meets a nobler victim on leaving. Whether it’s Jupiter the Bull, or Io the Heifer’s hard to tell: The front of the creature appears: the rest’s concealed. But whether the sign’s a bull or whether it’s a heifer, It enjoys that reward for its love, against Juno’s wishes.
4 - 16 21 Parilia.
The night has gone: dawn breaks. I’m called upon to sing Of the Parilia, and not in vain if kindly Pales aids me. Kindly Pales, if I respect your festival, Then aid me as I sing of pastoral rites. Indeed, I’ve often brought ashes of a calf, and stalks Of beans, in chaste purification, in my full hands: Indeed, I’ve leapt the threefold line of flames, And the wet laurel’s sprinkled me with dew. The goddess, moved, blesses the work: my ship Sets sail: may favourable winds fill my sails. Go, people: bring fumigants from the Virgin’s altar: Vesta will grant them, Vesta’s gift will purify. The fumigants are horse blood and calf’s ashes, And thirdly the stripped stalks of stringy beans. Shepherd, purify your sated sheep at twilight: First sprinkle the ground with water, and sweep it, And decorate the sheepfold with leaves and branches, And hide the festive door with a trailing garland. Make dark smoke with pure burning sulphur, And let the sheep bleat, in contact with the smoke. Burn male-olive wood, and pine, and juniper fronds, And let scorched laurel crackle in the hearth. Let a basket of millet keep the millet cakes company: The rural goddess particularly loves that food. Add meats, and a pail of her milk, and when the meat Is cut, offer the warm milk, pray to sylvan Pales, Saying: ‘Protect the cattle and masters alike: And drive everything harmful from my stalls. If I’ve fed sheep on sacred ground, sat under a sacred tree, While they’ve unwittingly browsed the grass on graves: If I’ve entered a forbidden grove, or the nymphs And the god, half-goat, have fled at sight of me: If my knife has pruned the copse of a shady bough, To fill a basket of leaves for a sick ewe: Forgive me. Don’t count it against me, if I’ve sheltered My flock, while it hailed, in some rustic shrine, Don’t harm me for troubling the pools. Nymphs, Forgive, if trampling hooves have muddied your waters. Goddess, placate the springs, and placate their divinities On our behalf, and the gods too, scattered in every grove. Let us not gaze on Dryads, or on Diana bathing, Nor on Faunus, as he lies in the fields at noon. Drive off disease: let men and beasts be healthy, And healthy the vigilant pack of wakeful dogs. May I drive back as many sheep as dawn revealed, Nor sigh returning with fleeces snatched from the wolves. Avert dire famine: let leaves and grass be abundant, And water to wash the body, water to drink. May I press full udders, may my cheeses bring me money, May the wicker sieve strain my liquid whey. And let the ram be lusty, his mate conceive and bear, And may there be many a lamb in my fold. And let the wool prove soft, not scratch the girls, Let it everywhere be kind to gentle hands. Let my prayer be granted, and every year we’ll make Huge cakes for Pales, Mistress of the shepherds.’ Please the goddess in this way: four times, facing east, Say these words, and wash your hands with fresh dew. Then set a wooden dish, to be your mixing bowl, And drink the creamy milk and the purple must: Then leap, with nimble feet and straining thighs Over the crackling heaps of burning straw. I’ve set forth the custom: I must still tell of its origin: But many explanations cause me doubt, and hold me back. Greedy fire devours all things, and melts away the dross From metals: the same method cleans shepherd and sheep? Or is it because all things are formed Of two opposing powers, fire and water, And our ancestors joined these elements, and thought fit To touch their bodies with fire and sprinkled water? Or did they think the two so powerful, because they contain The source of life: denied to the exile, it makes the new bride? I can scarce believe it, but some consider it refers To Phaethon, and to Deucalion’s flood. Some say, too, that once when shepherds struck Stones together, a spark suddenly leapt out: The first died, but the second set fire to straw: Is that the basis for the fires of the Parilia? Or is the custom due rather to Aeneas’ piety, To whom the fire gave safe passage, in defeat? Or is this nearer the truth, that when Rome was founded, They were commanded to move the Lares to their new homes, And changing homes the farmers set fire to the houses, And to the cottages, they were about to abandon, They and their cattle leaping through the flames, As happens even now on Rome’s birthday? That subject itself is matter for a poet. We have come To the City’s founding. Great Quirinus, witness your deeds! Amulius had already been punished, and all The shepherd folk were subject to the twins, Who agreed to gather the men together to build walls: The question was as to which of them should do it. Romulus said: ‘There’s no need to fight about it: Great faith is placed in birds, let’s judge by birds.’ That seemed fine. One tried the rocks of the wooded Palatine, The other climbed at dawn to the Aventine’s summit. Remus saw six birds, Romulus twelve in a row. They stuck to the pact, and Romulus was granted the City. A day was chosen for him to mark out the walls with a plough. The festival of Pales was near: the work was started then. They trenched to the solid rock, threw fruits of the harvest Into its depths, with soil from the ground nearby. The ditch was filled with earth, and topped by an altar, And a fire was duly kindled on the new-made hearth. Then, bearing down on the plough handle, he marked the walls: The yoke was borne by a white cow and a snowy ox. So spoke the king: ‘Be with me, as I found my City, Jupiter, Father Mavors, and Mother Vesta: And all you gods, whom piety summons, take note. Let my work be done beneath your auspices. May it last long, and rule a conquered world, All subject, from the rising to the setting day.’ Jupiter added his omen to Romulus’ prayer, with thunder On the left, and his lightning flashed leftward in the sky. Delighted by this, the citizens laid foundations, And the new walls were quickly raised. The work was overseen by Celer, whom Romulus named, Saying: ‘Celer, make it your care to see no one crosses Walls or trench that we’ve ploughed: kill whoever dares.’ Remus, unknowingly, began to mock the low walls, saying: ‘Will the people be safe behind these?’ He leapt them, there and then. Celer struck the rash man With his shovel: Remus sank, bloodied, to the stony ground. When the king heard, he smothered his rising tears, And kept the grief locked in his heart. He wouldn’t weep in public, but set an example of fortitude, Saying: ‘So dies the enemy who shall cross my walls.’ But he granted him funeral honours, and couldn’t Hold back his tears, and the love he tried to hide was obvious. When they set down the bier, he gave it a last kiss, And said: ‘Farewell, my brother, taken against my will!’ And he anointed the body for burning. Faustulus, and Acca Her hair loosened in mourning, did as he did. Then the as yet unnamed Quirites wept for the youth: And finally the pyre, wet by their tears, was lit. A City arose, destined (who’d have believed it then?) To plant its victorious foot upon all the lands. Rule all, and be ever subject to mighty Caesar, And may you often own to many of that name: And as long as you stand, sublime, in a conquered world, May all others fail to reach your shoulders.
4 - 17 23 Vinalia.
I’ve spoken of Pales’ festival, I’ll speak of the Vinalia: There’s only a single day between the two. You prostitutes, celebrate the divine power of Venus: Venus suits those who earn by your profession. Offer incense and pray for beauty and men’s favour, Pray to be charming, and blessed with witty words, Give the Mistress myrtle, and the mint she loves, And sheaves of rushes, wound in clustered roses. Now’s the time to crowd her temple near the Colline Gate, One that takes its name from a Sicilian hill: When Claudius took Arethusian Syracuse by force, And captured that hill of Eryx, too, in the war, Venus moved to Rome, according to the long-lived Sibyl’s Prophecy, preferring to be worshipped in her children’s City. Why then, you ask, is the Vinalia Venus’ festival? And why does this day belong to Jupiter? There was a war to decide whether Turnus or Aeneas Should be Latin Amata’s son-in-law: Turnus begged help From Etruscan Mezentius, a famous and proud fighter, Mighty on horseback and mightier still on foot: Turnus and the Rutuli tried to win him to their side. The Tuscan leader replied to their suit: ‘My courage costs me not a little: witness my wounds, And my weapons that have often been dyed with blood. If you seek my help you must divide with me The next wine from your vats, no great prize. No delay is needed: yours is to give, mine to conquer. How Aeneas will wish you’d refused me!’ The Rutulians agreed. Mezentius donned his armour, And so did Aeneas, and addressed Jove: ‘The enemy’s pledged his vine-crop to the Tyrrhenian king: Jupiter, you shall have the wine from the Latin vines!’ The nobler prayer succeeded: huge Mezentius died, And struck the ground, heart filled with indignation. Autumn came, dyed with the trodden grapes: The wine, justly owed to Jupiter, was paid. So the day is called the Vinalia: Jupiter claims it, And loves to be present at his feast.
4 - 18 25 Robigalia.
When six days of April remain, The Spring season will be half-over, And you’ll look for Helle’s Ram in vain: The rains will be your sign, when the Dog’s mentioned. On this day, returning to Rome from Nomentum, A white-robed throng blocked my road. A priest was going to the grove of old Mildew (Robigo), To offer the entrails of a dog and a sheep to the flames. I went with him, so as not to be ignorant of the rite: Your priest, Quirinus, pronounced these words: ‘Scaly Mildew, spare the blades of corn, And let their tender tips quiver above the soil. Let the crops grow, nurtured by favourable stars, Until they’re ready for the sickle. Your power’s not slight: the corn you blight The grieving farmer gives up for lost. Wind and showers don’t harm the wheat as much, Nor gleaming frost that bleaches the yellow corn, As when the sun heats the moist stalks: Then, dreadful goddess, is the time of your wrath. Spare us, I pray, take your blighted hands from the harvest, And don’t harm the crop: it’s enough that you can harm. Grip harsh iron rather than the tender wheat, Destroy whatever can destroy others first. Better to gnaw at swords and harmful spears: They’re not needed: the world’s at peace. Let the rural wealth gleam now, rakes, sturdy hoes, And curved ploughshare: let rust stain weapons: And whoever tries to draw his sword from its sheath, Let him feel it wedded there by long disuse. Don’t you hurt the corn, and may the farmer’s Prayer to you always be fulfilled by your absence.’ He spoke: to his right there was a soft towel, And a cup of wine and an incense casket. He offered the incense and wine on the hearth, Sheep’s entrails, and (I saw him) the foul guts of a vile dog. Then the priest said: ‘You ask why we offer an odd sacrifice In these rites’ (I had asked) ‘then learn the reason. There’s a Dog they call Icarian, and when it rises The dry earth is parched, and the crops ripen prematurely. This dog is set on the altar to signify the starry one, And the only reason for it is because of the name.’
4 - 19 28 Floralia.
When Aurora’s left Tithonus, kin to Phrygian Assaracus, And raised her light three times in the vast heavens, A goddess comes framed in a thousand varied garlands Of flowers: and the stage has freer license for mirth. The rites of Flora also stretch to the Kalends of May: Then I’ll speak again, now a greater task is needed. Vesta, bear the day onwards! Vesta’s been received, At her kinsman’s threshold: so the Senators justly decreed. Phoebus takes part of the space there: a further part remains For Vesta, and the third part that’s left, Caesar occupies. Long live the laurels of the Palatine: long live that house Decked with branches of oak: one place holds three eternal gods.
5 - Introduction 0
You ask where I think the name of May comes from? Its origin’s not totally clear to me. As a traveller stands unsure which way to go, Seeing the paths fan out in all directions, So I’m not sure which to accept, since it’s possible To give different reasons: plenty itself confuses. You who haunt the founts of Aganippian Hippocrene, Those beloved prints of the Medusaean horse, explain! The goddesses are in conflict. Polyhymnia begins, While the others silently consider her speech. ‘After the first Chaos, as soon as the three primary forms Were given to the world, all things were newly re-configured: Earth sank under its own weight, and drew down the seas, But lightness lifted the sky to the highest regions: And the sun and stars, not held back by their weight, And you, you horses of the moon, sprang high. But Earth for a long time wouldn’t yield to Sky, Nor the other lights to the Sun: honours were equal. One of the common crowd of gods, would often dare To sit on the throne that you, Saturn, owned, None of the new gods took Ocean’s side, And Themis was relegated to the lowest place, Until Honour, and proper Reverence, she Of the calm look, were united in a lawful bed. From them Majesty was born, she considers them Her parents, she who was noble from her day of birth. She took her seat, at once, high in the midst of Olympus, Conspicuous, golden, in her purple folds. Modesty and Fear sat with her: you could see All the gods modelling their expression on hers. At once, respect for honour entered their minds: The worthy had their reward, none thought of self. This state of things lasted for years in heaven, Till the elder god was banished by fate from the citadel. Earth bore the Giants, a fierce brood of savage monsters, Who dared to venture against Jupiter’s halls: She gave them a thousands hands, serpents for legs, And said: “Take up arms against the mighty gods.” They set to piling mountains to the highest stars, And to troubling mighty Jupiter with war: He hurled lightning bolts from the heavenly citadel, And overturned the weighty mass on its creators. These divine weapons protected Majesty well, She survived, and has been worshipped ever since: So she attends on Jove, Jove’s truest guardian, And allows him to hold the sceptre without force. She came to earth as well: Romulus and Numa Both worshipped her, and so did others in later ages. She maintains fathers and mothers in due honour, She keeps company with virgins and young boys, She burnishes the lictor’s rods, axes, and ivory chair, She rides high in triumph behind the garlanded horses.’ Polyhymnia finished speaking: Clio, and Thalia Mistress of the curved lyre, approved her words. Urania continued: all the rest were silent, And hers was the only voice that could be heard. ‘Once great reverence was shown to white hair, And wrinkled age was valued at its true worth. The young waged work of war, and spirited battle, Holding to their posts for the sake of the gods: Age, inferior in strength, and unfit for arms, Often did the country a service by its counsel. The Senate was only open to men of mature age, And Senators bear a name meaning ripe in years. The elders made laws for the people, and specific Rules governed the age when office might be sought: Old men walked with the young, without their indignation, And on the inside, if they only had one companion. Who dared then to talk shamefully in an older man’s Presence? Old age granted rights of censorship. Romulus knew this, and chose the City Fathers From select spirits: making them the rulers of the City. So I deduce that the elders (maiores) gave their own title To the month of May: and looked after their own interests. Numitor too may have said: “Romulus, grant this month To the old men” and his grandson may have yielded. The following month, June, named for young men (iuvenes), Gives no slight proof of the honour intended.’ Then Calliope herself, first of that choir, her hair Unkempt and wreathed with ivy, began to speak: ‘Tethys, the Titaness, was married long ago to Ocean, He who encircles the outspread earth with flowing water. The story is that their daughter Pleione was united To sky-bearing Atlas, and bore him the Pleiades. Among them, Maia’s said to have surpassed her sisters In beauty, and to have slept with mighty Jove. She bore Mercury, who cuts the air on winged feet, On the cypress-clothed ridge of Mount Cyllene. The Arcadians, and swift Ladon, and vast Maenalus, A land thought older than the moon, rightly worship him. Evander, in exile from Arcadia, came to the Latin fields, And brought his gods with him, aboard ship. Where Rome, the capital of the world, now stands There were trees, grass, a few sheep, the odd cottage. When they arrived, his prophetic mother said: “Halt here! This rural spot will be the place of Empire.” The Arcadian hero obeyed his mother, the prophetess, And stayed, though a stranger in a foreign land. He taught the people many rites, but, above all, those Of twin-horned Faunus, and Mercury the wing-footed god. Faunus half-goat, you’re worshipped by the girded Luperci, When their strips of hide purify the crowded streets. But you, Mercury, patron of thieves, inventor Of the curved lyre, gave your mother’s name to this month. Nor was this your first act of piety: you’re thought To have given the lyre seven strings, the Pleiads’ number.’ Calliope too ended: and her sisters voiced their praise. And so? All three were equally convincing. May the Muses’ favour attend me equally, And let me never praise one more than the rest.
5 - 1 1 Kalends.
Let the work start with Jove. The star of her who tended Jove’s cradle is visible on the night of the first: The rainy sign of Olenian Capella, the ‘she-goat’, rises: Placed in the sky for the gift of milk to him. Amalthea, the naiad, famous on Cretan Ida, Hid Jupiter amongst the woods, they say. She owned a she-goat noted among the Dictaean flocks, With lofty horns curved over its back, The beautiful mother of two kids, With udders such as Jove’s nurse should have. It gave milk to the god, but broke a horn On a tree, and was shorn of half its charm. The nymph lifted the horn, then wrapped it In fresh herbs, and carried it to Jove, full of fruit. When he’d gained the heavens, occupied his father’s throne, And none was greater than unconquered Jove, He made his nurse a star, and her horn of plenty That still keeps its mistress’ name, stars as well. The Kalends of May saw an altar dedicated To the Guardian Lares, with small statues of the gods. Curius vowed them: but time destroys many things, And the long ages wear away the stone. The reason for their epithet of Guardian, Is that they keep safe watch over everything. They support us, and protect the City walls, And they’re propitious, and bring us aid. A dog, carved from the same stone, used to stand At their feet: why did it stand there with the Lares? Both guard the house: both are loyal to their master: Crossroads are dear to the god, and to dogs. Both the Lar and Diana’s pack chase away thieves: And the Lares are watchful, and so are dogs. I looked for statues of the twin gods, But they’d fallen with the weight of years: The City has a thousand Lares, and Spirits Of the Leader, who gave them to the people, And each district worships the three divinities. Why say this here, when the month of August Rightfully owns that subject of my verse? For the moment the Good Goddess is my theme. There’s a natural height that gives its name to a place: They call it The Rock: it’s the bulk of the Aventine. Remus waited there in vain, when you, the birds Of the Palatine, granted first omens to his brother. There the Senate founded a temple, hostile To the sight of men, on the gently sloping ridge. It was dedicated by an heiress of the ancient Clausi, Who’d never given her virgin body to a man: Livia restored it, so she could imitate her husband And follow his lead in everything.
5 - 2 2
When Hyperion’s daughter puts the stars to flight, Raising her light, behind her horses of dawn, A cold north-westerly will smooth the wheat-tips, White sails will put out from Calabrian waters. And when shadowy twilight leads on the night, No part of the whole herd of Hyades is unknown. The radiant head of Taurus glitters with seven flames, That Greek sailors named the Hyades, from ‘rain’ (hyein): Some think they nursed Bacchus, others believe They’re the granddaughters of Tethys and old Ocean. Atlas was not yet standing there, his shoulders weighed By Olympus, when Hyas, known for his beauty, was born: Aethra, of Ocean’s lineage, gave birth to him And the nymphs at full term, but Hyas was born first. When the down was new on his cheeks, he scared away The frightened deer, in terror, and a hare was a good prize. But when his courage had grown with his years, he dared To close with wild boar and shaggy lionesses, And while seeking the lair of a pregnant lioness, and her cubs, He himself was the bloodstained victim of that Libyan beast. His mother and his saddened sisters wept for Hyas, And Atlas, soon doomed to bow his neck beneath the pole, But the sisters’ love was greater than either parent’s: It won them the heavens: Hyas gave them his name. ‘Mother of the flowers, approach, so we can honour you With joyful games! Last month I deferred the task. You begin in April, and pass into May’s span: One claims you fleeing, the other as it comes on. Since the boundaries of the months are yours, And defer to you, either’s fitting for your praise. This is the month of the Circus’ Games, and the victors’ palm The audience applauds: let my song accompany the Circus’ show. Tell me, yourself, who you are. Men’s opinions err: You’ll be the best informant regarding your own name.’ So I spoke. So the goddess responded to my question, (While she spoke, her lips breathed out vernal roses): ‘I, called Flora now, was Chloris: the first letter in Greek Of my name, became corrupted in the Latin language. I was Chloris, a nymph of those happy fields, Where, as you’ve heard, fortunate men once lived. It would be difficult to speak of my form, with modesty, But it brought my mother a god as son-in-law. It was spring, I wandered: Zephyrus saw me: I left. He followed me: I fled: he was the stronger, And Boreas had given his brother authority for rape By daring to steal a prize from Erechtheus’ house. Yet he made amends for his violence, by granting me The name of bride, and I’ve nothing to complain of in bed. I enjoy perpetual spring: the season’s always bright, The trees have leaves: the ground is always green. I’ve a fruitful garden in the fields that were my dower, Fanned by the breeze, and watered by a flowing spring. My husband stocked it with flowers, richly, And said: “Goddess, be mistress of the flowers.” I often wished to tally the colours set there, But I couldn’t, there were too many to count. As soon as the frosted dew is shaken from the leaves, And the varied foliage warmed by the sun’s rays, The Hours gather dressed in colourful clothes, And collect my gifts in slender baskets. The Graces, straight away, draw near, and twine Wreaths and garlands to bind their heavenly hair. I was first to scatter fresh seeds among countless peoples, Till then the earth had been a single colour. I was first to create the hyacinth, from Spartan blood, And a lament remains written on its petals. You too, Narcissus, were known among the gardens, Unhappy that you were not other, and yet were other. Why tell of Crocus, or Attis, or Adonis, son of Cinyras, From whose wounds beauty springs, through me? Mars too, if you’re unaware, was brought to birth By my arts: I pray unknowing Jupiter never knows it. Sacred Juno grieved that Jupiter didn’t need Her help, when motherless Minerva was born. She went to Ocean to complain of her husband’s deeds: Tired by the effort she rested at my door. Catching sight of her, I said: “Why are you here, Saturnia?” She explained what place she sought, and added The reason. I consoled her with words of friendship: She said: “My cares can’t be lightened by words. If Jove can be a father without needing a wife, And contains both functions in a single person, Why should I despair of becoming a mother with no Husband, and, chaste, give birth though untouched by man? I’ll try all the drugs in the whole wide world, And search the seas, and shores of Tartarus.” Her voice flew on: but my face showed doubt. She said: “Nymph, it seems you have some power.” Three times I wanted to promise help, three times my tongue Was tied: mighty Jupiter’s anger was cause for fear. She said: “Help me, I beg you, I’ll conceal the fact, And I’ll call on the powers of the Stygian flood as witness.” “A flower, sent to me from the fields of Olenus, Will grant what you seek,” I replied, “unique, in all my garden. He who gave it to me said: ‘Touch a barren heifer with this, And she’ll be a mother too.’ I did, and she was, instantly.” With that, I nipped the clinging flower with my thumb, Touched Juno, and as I touched her breast she conceived. Pregnant now, she travelled to Thrace and the northern shores Of Propontis: her wish was granted, and Mars was born. Mindful of his birth that he owed to me, he said: “You too must have a place in Romulus’ City.” Perhaps you think I only rule over tender garlands. But my power also commands the farmers’ fields. If the crops have flourished, the threshing-floor is full: If the vines have flourished, there’ll be wine: If the olive trees have flourished, the year will be bright, And the fruit will prosper at the proper time. If the flower’s damaged, the beans and vetch die, And your imported lentils, Nile, die too. Wine too, laboriously stored in the vast cellars, Froths, and clouds the wine jars’ surface with mist. Honey’s my gift: I call the winged ones who make Honey, to the violets, clover and pale thyme. I carry out similar functions, when spirits Run riot, and bodies themselves flourish.’ I admired her, in silence, while she spoke. But she said: ‘You may learn the answer to any of your questions.’ ‘Goddess’, I replied: ‘What’s the origin of the games?’ I’d barely ended when she answered me: ‘Rich men owned cattle or tracts of land, Other means of wealth were then unknown, So the words ‘rich’ (locuples) from ‘landed’ (locus plenus), And ‘money’ (pecunia) from ‘a flock’ (pecus), but already Some had unlawful wealth: by custom, for ages, Public lands were grazed, without penalty. Folk had no one to defend the common rights: Till at last it was foolish to use private grazing. This licence was pointed out to the Publicii, The plebeian aediles: earlier, men lacked confidence. The case was tried before the people: the guilty fined: And the champions praised for their public spirit. A large part of the fine fell to me: and the victors Instituted new games to loud applause. Part was allocated To make a way up the Aventine’s slope, then steep rock: Now it’s a serviceable track, called the Publician Road.’ I believed the shows were annual. She contradicted it, And added further words to her previous speech: ‘Honour touches me too: I delight in festivals and altars: We’re a greedy crowd: we divine beings. Often, through their sins, men render the gods hostile, And, fawning, offer a sacrifice for their crimes: Often I’ve seen Jupiter, about to hurl his lightning, Draw back his hand, when offered a gift of incense. But if we’re ignored, we avenge the injury With heavy penalties, and our anger passes all bounds. Remember Meleager, burnt up by distant flames: The reason, because Diana’s altar lacked its fires. Remember Agamemnon: the same goddess becalmed the fleet: A virgin, yet still she twice avenged her neglected hearth. Wretched Hippolytus, you wished you’d worshipped Venus, When your terrified horses were tearing you apart. It would take too long to tell of neglect punished by loss. I too was once neglected by the Roman Senate. What to do, how to show my indignation? What punishment to exact for the harm done me? Gloomily, I gave up my office. I ceased to protect The countryside, cared nothing for fruitful gardens: The lilies drooped: you could see the violets fade, And the petals of the purple crocus languished. Often Zephyr said: ‘Don’t destroy your dowry.’ But my dowry was worth nothing to me. The olives were in blossom: wanton winds hurt them: The wheat was ripening: hail blasted the crops: The vines were promising: skies darkened from the south, And the leaves were brought down by sudden rain. I didn’t wish it so: I’m not cruel in my anger, But I neglected to drive away these ills. The Senate convened, and voted my godhead An annual festival, if the year proved fruitful. I accepted their vow. The consuls Laenas And Postumius celebrated these games of mine. I was going to ask why there’s greater Wantonness in her games, and freer jests, But it struck me that the goddess isn’t strict, And the gifts she brings are agents of delight. The drinker’s brow’s wreathed with sewn-on garlands, And a shower of roses hides the shining table: The drunken guest dances, hair bound with lime-tree bark, And unaware employs the wine’s purest art: The drunken lover sings at beauty’s harsh threshold, And soft garlands crown his perfumed hair. Nothing serious for those with garlanded brow, No running water’s drunk, when crowned with flowers: While your stream, Achelous, was free of wine, No one as yet cared to pluck the rose. Bacchus loves flowers: you can see he delights In a crown, from Ariadne’s chaplet of stars. The comic stage suits her: she’s never: believe me, Never been counted among the tragic goddesses. The reason the crowd of whores celebrate these games Is not a difficult one for us to discover. The goddess isn’t gloomy, she’s not high-flown, She wants her rites to be open to the common man, And warns us to use life’s beauty while it’s in bloom: The thorn is spurned when the rose has fallen. Why is it, when white robes are handed out for Ceres, Flora’s neatly dressed in a host of colours? Is it because the harvest’s ripe when the ears whiten, But flowers are of every colour and splendour? She nods, and flowers fall as her hair flows, As roses fall when they’re scattered on a table. There’s still the lights, whose reason escaped me, Till the goddess dispelled my ignorance like this: ‘Lights are thought to be fitting for my day, Because the fields glow with crimson flowers, Or because flowers and flames aren’t dull in colour, And the splendour of them both attracts the eye: Or because the licence of night suits my delights, And this third reason’s nearest to the truth.’ ‘There’s one little thing besides, for me to ask, If you’ll allow,’ I said: and she said: ‘It’s allowed.’ ‘Why then are gentle deer and shy hares Caught in your nets, not Libyan lionesses?’ She replied that gardens not woodlands were her care, And fields where no wild creatures were allowed. All was ended: and she vanished into thin air: yet Her fragrance lingered: you’d have known it was a goddess. Scatter your gifts, I beg you, over my breast, So Ovid’s song may flower forever.
5 - 3 3
In less than four nights, Chiron, the semi-human Joined to the body of a tawny horse, reveals his stars. Pelion is a mountain facing south in Haemonian Thessaly: The summit’s green with pines, the rest is oak. Chiron, Philyra’s son, lived there. An ancient rocky cave Remains, inhabited once, they say, by that honest old one. He’s thought to have exercised those hands, that one day Sent Hector to his death, in playing on the lyre. Hercules visited him, most of his labours done, Only the last few tasks remaining for the hero. You could have viewed Troy’s twin fates, together: One the young scion of Aeacus, the other Jove’s son. Chiron received young Hercules hospitably, And asked him the reason for his being there. He replied, as Chiron viewed his club and lion-skin, saying: ‘The man is worthy of these weapons, the weapons of the man!’ Nor could Achilles, daringly, restrain his hands, From touching that pelt shaggy with bristles. While the old one handled the arrows, encrusted with poison, A shaft fell from the quiver and lodged in his left foot. Chiron groaned, and drew its blade from his body: Hercules, and the Thessalian youth groaned too. Though the Centaur himself mixed herbs culled From Pagasean hills, treating the wound with ointments, The gnawing venom defied his remedies, and its evil Penetrated his body, to the marrow of his bones. The blood of the Lernean Hydra fused with The Centaur’s blood, giving no chance for aid. Achilles, drenched in tears, stood before him as before A father, just as he would have wept for Peleus dying. Often he caressed the feeble fingers with loving hands, (The teacher had his reward for the character he’d formed), And he kissed him, often, and often, as he lay there, cried: ‘Live, I beg you: don’t leave me, dear father!’ The ninth day came, and you, virtuous Chiron, Wrapped your body in those fourteen stars.
5 - 4 5
Curved Lyra would follow Centaurus, but the path’s Not clear: the third night will be the right time.
5 - 5 6
Scorpio’s mid-part will be visible in the sky When we speak of the Nones dawning tomorrow.
5 - 6 9 Lemuria.
When Hesperus, the Evening Star, has shown his lovely face Three times, from that day, and the defeated stars fled Phoebus, It will be the ancient sacred rites of the Lemuria, When we make offerings to the voiceless spirits. The year was once shorter, the pious rites of purification, februa, Were unknown, nor were you, two-faced Janus, leader of the months: Yet they still brought gifts owed to the ashes of the dead, The grandson paid respects to his buried grandfather’s tomb. It was May month, named for our ancestors (maiores), And a relic of the old custom still continues. When midnight comes, lending silence to sleep, And all the dogs and hedgerow birds are quiet, He who remembers ancient rites, and fears the gods, Rises (no fetters binding his two feet) And makes the sign with thumb and closed fingers, Lest an insubstantial shade meets him in the silence. After cleansing his hands in spring water, He turns and first taking some black beans, Throws them with averted face: saying, while throwing: ‘With these beans I throw I redeem me and mine.’ He says this nine times without looking back: the shade Is thought to gather the beans, and follow behind, unseen. Again he touches water, and sounds the Temesan bronze, And asks the spirit to leave his house. When nine times he’s cried: ‘Ancestral spirit, depart,’ He looks back, and believes the sacred rite’s fulfilled. Why the day’s so called, and the origin of the name, Escapes me: that’s for some god to discover. Mercury, son of the Pleiad, explain it to me, by your Potent wand: you’ve often seen Stygian Jove’s halls. The caduceus-bearer came, at my prayer. Learn then, The reason for the name: the god himself revealed it. When Romulus had sunk his brother’s spirit in the grave, And justice was done to the over-hasty Remus, The wretched Faustulus, and Acca with streaming hair, Sprinkled the calcined bones with their tears. Then at twilight they returned home grieving, And flung themselves on the hard couch, just as it lay. The bloodstained ghost of Remus seemed to stand By the bed, speaking these words in a faint murmur: ‘Behold, I who was half, the other part of your care, See what I am, and know what I was once! If the birds had signalled the throne was mine, I might have been highest, ruling over the people, Now I’m an empty phantom, gliding from the fire: That is what remains of Remus’ form! Ah, where is Mars, my father? If you once spoke The truth, it was he who sent us the she-wolf’s teats. The rash hand of a citizen undid what the wolf saved. O how gentle she was in comparison! Savage Celer, wounded, may you yield your cruel spirit, And bloodstained as I am, sink beneath the earth. My brother never wished it: his love equals mine: He offered, at my death, all he could, his tears. Beg him by your weeping, by your nurturing, To signal a day of celebration in my honour.’ They stretched out their arms at this, longing to embrace him, But the fleeting shade escaped their clutching hands. When the phantom fleeing dispelled their sleep, They both told the king of his brother’s words. Romulus, complying, called that day the Remuria, When reverence is paid our buried ancestors. Over time the harsh consonant at the beginning Of the name, was altered into a soft one: And soon the silent spirits were called Lemures too: That’s the meaning of the word, that’s its force. And the ancients closed the temples on these days, As you see them shut still at the season of the dead. It’s a time when it’s not suitable for widows or virgins To wed: she who marries then won’t live long. And if you attend to proverbs, then, for that reason too, People say unlucky women wed in the month of May. Though these three festivals fall at the same time, They are not observed on three consecutive days.
5 - 7 11
You’ll be disappointed if you look for Boeotian Orion, On the middle of these three days. I must sing of those stars. Jupiter, and his brother who rules the deep ocean, Were journeying together, with Mercury. It was the hour when yoked oxen drag back the plough, And the lamb kneels down to drink the full ewe’s milk. By chance, an old man, Hyrieus, farmer of a tiny plot, Saw them, as he stood in front of his meagre dwelling: And spoke to them: ‘The way’s long, little of day is left, And my threshold’s welcoming to strangers.’ He stressed his words with a look, inviting them again: They accepted his offer, hiding their divinity. They entered the old man’s cottage, black with smoke: There was still a flicker of fire in yesterday’s log. He knelt and blew the flames higher with his breath, And drew out broken brands, and chopped them up. Two pots stood there: the smaller contained beans, The other vegetables: each boiling beneath its lid. While they waited, he poured red wine with a trembling hand: The god of the sea accepted the first cup, and when He’d drained it, he said: ‘Let Jupiter drink next.’ Hearing the name of Jupiter the old man grew pale. Recovering his wits, he sacrificed the ox that ploughed His meagre land, and roasted it in a great fire: And he brought out wine, in smoke-streaked jars, That he’d once stored away as a young boy. Promptly they reclined on couches made of rushes, And covered with linen, but still not high enough. Now the table was bright with food, bright with wine: The bowl was red earthenware, with cups of beech wood. Jupiter’s word was: ‘If you’ve a wish, ask it: All will be yours.’ The old man said calmly: ‘I had a dear wife, whom I knew in the flower Of my first youth. Where is she now, you ask? An urn contains her. I swore to her, calling On you gods, “You’ll be the only wife I’ll take.” I spoke, and kept the oath. I ask for something else: I wish to be a father, and not a husband.’  The gods agreed: All took their stand beside The ox-hide – I’m ashamed to describe the rest – Then they covered the soaking hide with earth: Ten months went past and a boy was born. Hyrieus called him Urion, because of his conception: The first letter has now lost its ancient sound. He grew immensely: Latona took him for a friend, He was her protector and her servant. Careless words excite the anger of the gods: He said: ‘There’s no wild creature I can’t conquer.’ Earth sent a Scorpion: its purpose was to attack The Goddess, who bore the twins, with its curved dart: Orion opposed it. Latona set him among the shining stars, And said: ‘Take now the reward you’ve truly earned.’
5 - 8 12
But why are Orion and the other stars rushing to leave The sky, and why does night contract its course? Why does bright day, presaged by the Morning Star, Lift its radiance more swiftly from the ocean waves? Am I wrong, or did weapons clash? I’m not: they clashed, Mars comes, giving the sign for war as he comes. The Avenger himself descends from the sky To view his shrine and honours in Augustus’ forum. The god and the work are mighty: Mars Could not be housed otherwise in his son’s city. The shrine is worthy of trophies won from Giants: From it the Marching God initiates fell war, When impious men attack us from the East, Or those from the setting sun must be conquered. The God of Arms sees the summits of the work, And approves of unbeaten gods holding the heights. He sees the various weapons studding the doors, Weapons from lands conquered by his armies. Here he views Aeneas bowed by his dear burden, And many an ancestor of the great Julian line: There he views Romulus carrying Acron’s weapons And famous heroes’ deeds below their ranked statues. And he sees Augustus’ name on the front of the shrine, And reading ‘Caesar’ there, the work seems greater still. He had vowed it as a youth, when dutifully taking arms: With such deeds a Prince begins his reign. Loyal troops standing here, conspirators over there, He stretched his hand out, and spoke these words: ‘If the death of my ‘father’ Julius, priest of Vesta, Gives due cause for this war, if I avenge for both, Come, Mars, and stain the sword with evil blood, And lend your favour to the better side. You’ll gain A temple, and be called the Avenger, if I win.’ So he vowed, and returned rejoicing from the rout. Nor is he satisfied to have earned Mars that name, But seeks the standards lost to Parthian hands, That race protected by deserts, horses, arrows, Inaccessible, behind their encircling rivers. The nation’s pride had been roused by the deaths Of the Crassi, when army, leader, standards all were lost. The Parthians kept the Roman standards, ornaments Of war, and an enemy bore the Roman eagle. That shame would have remained, if Italy’s power Had not been defended by Caesar’s strong weapons. He ended the old reproach, a generation of disgrace: The standards were regained, and knew their own. What use now the arrows fired from behind your backs, Your deserts and your swift horses, you Parthians? You carry the eagles home: offer your unstrung bows: Now you no longer own the emblems of our shame. Rightly the god has his temple, and title twice of Avenger, And the honour earned has paid the avowed debt. Quirites, celebrate solemn games in the Circus! Though that stage scarcely seems worthy of a mighty god.
5 - 9 13
You’ll catch sight of the Pleiades, the whole throng together, When there’s one night still left before the Ides. Then summer begins, as I find from reliable sources, And spring’s tepid season comes to an end.
5 - 10 14
The day before the Ides is marked by Taurus lifting His starry muzzle. The sign’s explained by a familiar tale. Jupiter, as a bull, offered his back to a Tyrian girl, And carried horns on his deceptive forehead. Europa grasped his hair in her right hand, her drapery In her left, while fear itself lent her fresh grace. The breeze filled her dress, ruffled her blonde hair: Sidonian girl, like that, you were fit to be seen by Jove. Often girlishly she withdrew her feet from the sea, Fearing the touch of the leaping billows: Often the god knowingly plunged his back in the waves, So that she’d cling to his neck more tightly. Reaching shore, the god was no longer a bull, Jupiter stood there, without the horns. The bull entered the heavens: you, Sidonian girl, Jove Impregnated, and now a third of the world bears your name. Others say the sign is Io, the Pharian heifer, Turned from girl to cow, from cow to goddess. On this day too, the Vestals throw effigies made of rushes, In the form of men of old, from the oak bridge. Some accuse our ancestors of a wicked crime, Putting to death men over sixty years of age. There’s an old story, that when the land was ‘Saturnia’, Jove, prophetically, said something like this: ‘Throw two people into the Tuscan river, As a sacrifice to the sickle-bearing Ancient.’ Until Tirynthian Hercules came to our fields, The sad rite was performed each year, as at Leucas: He threw Quirites of straw into the water: And now they throw effigies in the same way. Some think that the young men used to hurl Feeble old men from the bridges, to steal their votes. Tell me the truth, Tiber. Your shores pre-date the City, You should know the true origin of the rite. Tiber, crowned in reeds, lifted his head from mid-stream, And opened his mouth to speak these words, hoarsely: ‘I saw this place when it was grassland, without walls: Cattle were scattered grazing on either bank, And Tiber whom the nations know and fear, Was disregarded then, even by the cattle. Arcadian Evander is often named to you: A stranger, he churned my waters with his oars. Hercules came here too, with a crowd of Greeks, (My name was Albula then, if I remember true) Evander, hero from Pallantium, received him warmly, And Cacus had the punishment he deserved. The victor left, taking the cattle, his plunder from Erythea With him, but his friends refused to go any further. Most of them had come from deserted Argos: They established their hopes, and houses, on our hills. Yet sweet love for their native land often stirred them, And one of them, in dying, gave this brief command: “Throw me into the Tiber, that carried by Tiber’s waves My spiritless dust might journey to the Inachian shore.” That funeral duty laid on him, displeased his heir: The dead stranger was buried in Italian ground, And a rush effigy thrown into the Tiber instead, To return to his Greek home over the wide waters.’ Tiber spoke, entering a moist cave of natural stone, While you, gentle waters, checked your flow.
5 - 11 15 Ides.
Come, MercuryAtlas’ famous grandson, you whom A Pleiad once bore to Jove, among the Arcadian hills, Arbiter of war and peace to gods on high, and those below: You who make your way with winged feet: who delight In the sounding lyre, and the gleaming wrestling: You through whose teaching the tongue learnt eloquence: On the Ides, the Senate founded for you, a temple facing The Circus: since then today has been your festival. All those who make a living trading their wares, Offer you incense, and beg you to swell their profits. There’s Mercury’s fountain close to the Capene Gate: It’s potent, if you believe those who’ve tried it. Here the merchant, cleansed, with his tunic girt, Draws water and carries it off, in a purified jar. With it he wets some laurel, sprinkles his goods With damp laurel: those soon to have new owners. And he sprinkles his hair with dripping laurel too, And with that voice, that often deceives, utters prayers: ‘Wash away all the lies of the past,’ he says, ‘Wash away all the perjured words of a day that’s gone. If I’ve called on you as witness, and falsely invoked Jove’s great power, hoping he wouldn’t hear: If I’ve knowingly taken the names of gods and goddesses, In vain: let the swift southerlies steal my sinful words, And leave the day clear for me, for further perjuries, And let the gods above fail to notice I’ve uttered any. Just grant me my profit, give me joy of the profit I’ve made: And make sure I’ll have the pleasure of cheating a buyer.’ Mercury, on high, laughs aloud at such prayers, Remembering how he himself stole Apollo’s cattle.
5 - 12 20
But, I beg you, Mercury, to respond to a better prayer, And tell me when Phoebus enters Gemini, the Twins. He said: ‘When you see as many days remaining In the month as the labours Hercules completed.’ ‘Tell me,’ I replied, ‘the origin of the sign.’ The god explained its origin, eloquently: ‘The Tyndarides, brothers, one a horseman, the other A boxer, raped and abducted Phoebe and her sister Hilaira. Idas, and Lynceus, his brother, prepared to fight, and claim Their own, both sworn to be Leucippus’ sons-in-law. Love urges one set of twins to demand restitution, The other to refuse it: each fights for a common cause. The Oebalids could have escaped by taking flight, But it seemed dishonourable to conquer by their speed. There’s a spot clear of trees, a good place for a fight: They took their stand there (its called Aphidna). Pierced in the chest by Lynceus’ sword, a wound He’d not expected, Castor fell to the ground. Pollux rushed to avenge him, and with his spear Ran Lynceus through, where neck meets shoulder. Idas attacked him then, and was only repulsed by Jove’s Lightning, yet without, they say, his weapon being torn from him. And the heights of heaven were opening for you, Pollux, when you cried: ‘Father, hear my words: That heaven you grant me alone, share between us: Half will be more, then, than the whole of your gift.’ He spoke, and redeemed his brother, by their changing Places alternately: both stars aid the storm-tossed vessel.
5 - 13 21 Agonia.
Turn back to January to learn what the Agonia are: Though they’ve a place in the calendar here as well.
5 - 14 22
Tonight the stars of Erigone’s dog set: the origin Of the constellation’s explained elsewhere.
5 - 15 23 Tubilustrium.
The next dawn belongs to Vulcan: they call it Tubilustria: when trumpets he makes are purified.
5 - 16 24
The next date’s marked by four letters, QRCF, which, interpreted, Signify either the manner of the sacred rites, or the flight of the king.
5 - 17 25
I’ll not neglect you either, Fortuna Publica, of a powerful nation, To whom a temple was dedicated on this following day. When the sun’s been received by Amphitrite’s rich waters, You’ll see the beak of Jove’s beloved tawny eagle.
5 - 18 26-27
The coming dawn will hide Bootes from your sight, And next day the constellation of Hyas will be seen.
6 0
6 - Introduction
The reason for this month’s name’s also doubtful: Choose the one you please from those I offer. I sing the truth: but some will say I lied, Believing no deity was ever seen by mortal. There is a god in us: when he stirs we kindle: That impulse sows the seeds of inspiration. I’ve a special right to see the faces of the gods, Being a bard, or by singing of sacred things. There’s a dense grove of trees, a place masked From every sound, except the trickle of water. There I considered the origin of the month Just begun, and was thinking about its name. Behold I saw the goddesses, but not those Hesiod saw, That teacher of farming, following his Ascraean flock, Nor those Priam’s son, Paris, judged in moist Ida’s Valleys: though one of them was there. One of them, her own husband’s sister: Juno, it was (I knew her) who stands in Jove’s temple. I shivered, and betrayed myself by speechless pallor: Then the goddess herself dispelled the fear she’d caused, Saying: ‘O poet, singer of the Roman year, Who dares to tell great things in slender measures, You’ve won the right to view a celestial power, By choosing to celebrate the festivals in your verse. But so you’re not ignorant or led astray by error, June in fact takes its name from mine. It’s something to have wed Jove, and to be Jove’s sister: I’m not sure if I’m prouder of brother or husband. If you consider lineage, I was first to call Saturn Father, I was the first child fate granted to him. Rome was once named Saturnia, after my father: This was the first place he came to, exiled from heaven. If the marriage bed counts at all, I’m called the Thunderer’s Wife, and my shrine’s joined to that of Tarpeian Jove. If his mistress could give her name to the month of May, Shall a similar honour be begrudged to me? Or why am I called queen and chief of goddesses? Why did they place a golden sceptre in my hand? Shall days (luces) make up the month, and I be called Lucina from them, yet not name a month myself? Then I would repent of having loyally shed my anger Against the race of Electra and the house of Dardanus. I had twin cause for anger: I grieved at Ganymede’s abduction, And my beauty was scorned by that judge, on Ida. I would repent of not favouring Carthage’s walls, Since my chariot and my weapons are there: I would repent of having granted Rome rule of Sparta, And of Argos, Mycenae, and ancient Samos: And of old Tatius, and the Faliscans who worship me, Whom I allowed to fall prey to the Romans. But let me not repent, no race is dearer to me: here I’m worshipped: here I occupy a shrine with my dear Jove. Mavors himself said to me: ‘I entrust these walls To you. You’ll have power in your grandson’s city.’ His words are fulfilled: I’m worshipped at a hundred altars, And my month is the not the least of my honours. Nevertheless not merely Rome does me that honour, But the neighbouring townsmen treat me the same. Look at the calendar of wooded Aricia, Of the Laurentines, and my own Lanuvium: They’ve a month of June. Look at Tiber, And the sacred walls of the goddess at Praeneste: You’ll read of Juno’s month. Romulus didn’t found them: But Rome, it’s true, is the city of my grandson.’ Juno ended. I looked back: Hebe, Hercules’ wife, Stood there, with youthfulness in her look. She said: ‘If my mother commanded me to leave heaven, I wouldn’t stay, against my mother’s will. And I won’t argue now about the name of the month: I’ll persuade and act the petitioner’s role, I’d prefer to maintain my rights by prayer alone. Perhaps you’ll take my side yourself. My mother occupies the golden Capitol, and shares The summit shrine, as is right, with Jove himself. While all my glory comes from the month’s name, My only honour, one with which they tease me. What harm, Roman, in your granting the name Of a month to Hercules’ wife: posterity agreeing? This land owes me something too, because of my great Husband: here he drove the cattle he captured, Here Cacus, badly protected by his father’s gift of fire, Stained the Aventine earth with his blood. But back to my point. Romulus organised the people, Dividing them into two parts, according to age: One was ready to give advice, the other to fight: One decided on war, while the other waged it. So he decreed, and divided the months likewise: June for the young (iuvenes): the month before for the old.’ She spoke. And in the heat of the moment they might have Quarrelled, and anger disguised true affection: But Concord came, her long hair twined with Apollo’s laurel, A goddess, and the dear care of our pacific leader. When she’d told how Tatius and brave Romulus, And their two kingdoms and people had merged, And fathers- and sons-in-law made a common home, She said: ‘The month of June gets its name from Their union (iunctus).’ So three reasons were given. Goddesses, forgive me: it’s not for me to decide. Leave me, equally. Troy was ruined by judging beauty: Two goddesses can harm, more than one may delight.
6 - 1 1 Kalends.
Carna, the first day’s yours. Goddess of the hinge: She opens the closed, by her power, closes the open. The story of how she gained the powers she has is obscured By time, but you’ll still learn of it from my verse. There’s an ancient grove of Alernus near the Tiber: And the priests still make sacrifices there. A nymph was born there (men of old called her Cranaë) Who was often sought in vain by many suitors. She used to hunt the land, chasing wild beasts with spears, Stretching her woven nets in the hollow valleys. She’d no quiver, yet considered herself Apollo’s Sister: nor need you, Apollo, have been ashamed of her. If any youth spoke words of love to her, She gave him this answer right away: ‘There’s too much light here, it’s too shameful In the light: if you’ll lead to a darker cave, I’ll follow.’ While he went in front, credulously, she no sooner reached The bushes than she hid: and was nowhere to be found. Janus saw her, and the sight raised his passion. He used soft words to the hard-hearted nymph. She told him to find a more private cave, Followed him closely: then deserted her leader. Foolish child! Janus can see what happens behind him: You gain nothing: he looks back at your hiding place. Nothing gained, as I said, you see! He caught you, hidden Behind a rock, clasped you, worked his will, then said: ‘In return for our union, the hinges belong to you: Have them as recompense for your maidenhead.’ So saying he gave her a thorn (it was white-thorn) With which to drive away evil from the threshold. There are some greedy birds, not those that cheated Phineus of his meal, though descended from that race: Their heads are large, their eyes stick out, their beaks Fit for tearing, their feathers are grey, their claws hooked. They fly by night, attacking children with absent nurses, And defiling their bodies, snatched from the cradle. They’re said to rend the flesh of infants with their beaks, And their throats are full of the blood they drink. They’re called screech-owls, and the reason for the name Is the horrible screeching they usually make at night. Whether they’re born as birds, or whether they’re made so By spells, old women transformed to birds by Marsian magic, They still entered Proca’s bedroom. Proca was fresh Prey for the birds, a child of five days old. They sucked at the infant’s chest, with greedy tongues: And the wretched child screamed for help. Scared at his cry, the nurse ran to her ward, And found his cheeks slashed by their sharp claws. What could she do? The colour of the child’s face Was that of late leaves nipped by an early frost. She went to Cranaë and told her: Cranaë said: ‘Don’t be afraid: your little ward will be safe.’ She approached the cradle: the parents wept: ‘Restrain your tears,’ she said, ‘I’ll heal him.’ Quickly she touched the doorposts, one after the other, Three times, with arbutus leaves, three times with arbutus Marked the threshold: sprinkled the entrance with water, Medicinal water, while holding the entrails of a two-month sow: And said: ‘Birds of night, spare his entrails: A small victim’s offered here for a small child. Take a heart for a heart, I beg, flesh for flesh, This life we give you for a dearer life.’ When she’d sacrificed, she placed the severed flesh In the open air, and forbade those there to look at it. A ‘rod of Janus’, taken from a whitethorn, was set Where a little window shed light into the room. After that, they say, the birds avoided the cradle, And the boy recovered the colour he’d had before. You ask why we eat greasy bacon-fat on the Kalends, And why we mix beans with parched grain? She’s an ancient goddess, nourished by familiar food, No epicure to seek out alien dainties. In ancient times the fish still swam unharmed, And the oysters were safe in their shells. Italy was unaware of Ionian heath-cocks, And the cranes that enjoy Pigmy blood: Only the feathers of the peacock pleased, And the nations didn’t send us captive creatures. Pigs were prized: men feasted on slaughtered swine: The earth only yielded beans and hard grains. They say that whoever eats these two foods together At the Kalends, in this sixth month, will have sweet digestion. They also say that the shrine of Juno Moneta was founded On the summit of the citadel, according to your vow, Camillus: Before it was built, the house of Manlius had protected Capitoline Jove against the Gallic weapons. Great Gods, it would have been better, if he’d fallen, In defence of your throne, noble Jupiter! He lived to be executed, condemned for seeking kingship: That was the crown long years granted him. This same day is a festival of Mars, whose temple By the Covered Way is seen from beyond the Capene Gate. You too, Tempest, were considered worthy of a shrine, After our fleet was almost sunk in Corsican waters. These human monuments are obvious. If you look For stars too, great Jove’s eagle, with curved talons, rises.
6 - 2 2
Next light summons the Hyades, the horns on Taurus’ Brow, and then the earth’s soaked with heavy rain.
6 - 3 3
When two dawns are past, and Phoebus has risen twice, And the crops have twice been wet by the dewfall, On that day, they say, during the Tuscan War, Bellona’s Shrine was consecrated, she who always brings Rome success. Appius was responsible, who, when peace was denied Pyrrhus, Saw clearly with his mind, though deprived of sight. A little open space looks down on the heights of the Circus From the temple, there’s a little pillar there of no mean importance: The custom is to hurl a spear from there to declare war, When it’s been decided to take up arms against kings and nations.
6 - 4 4
The rest of the Circus is protected by Hercules the Guardian, The god holds the office due to the Sibylline oracle. The day before the Nones is when he takes up office: If you ask about the inscription, Sulla approved the work.
6 - 5 5 Nones.
I asked whether I should assign the Nones to Sancus, Or Fidius, or you Father Semo: Sancus answered me: ‘Whichever you assign it to, the honour’s mine: I bear all three names: so Cures willed it.’ The Sabines of old granted him a shrine accordingly, And established it on the Quirinal Hill.
6 - 6 6
I have a daughter (may she outlive me, I pray) In whom I’ll always be happy, while she’s safe. When I wished to give her away to my son-in-law, I asked which times were fit for weddings, which were not: Then it was pointed out to me that after the Ides of June Was a good time for brides, and for bridegrooms, While the start of the month was unsuitable for marriage: For the holy wife of the Flamen Dialis told me: ‘Till the calm Tiber carries the sweepings from the shrine Of Ilian Vesta, on its yellow waves to the sea, I’m not allowed to comb my hair with a toothed comb, Nor to cut my nails with anything made of iron, Nor to touch my husband, though he’s Jove’s priest, And though he was given to me by law for life. Don’t be in a hurry. Your daughter will be better wed, When Vesta’s fire gleams on purified earth.’
6 - 7 0
On the third dawn after the Nones, it’s said that Phoebe Chases away Arcturus, and the Bear’s free of fear of her ward. Then I recall, too, I’ve seen games, named for you Smooth-flowing Tiber, held on the turf in the Field of Mars. The day’s a festival for those who tug at dripping lines, And hide their bronze hooks under little strands of bait.
6 - 8 0
The Mind has its own goddess too. I note a sanctuary Was vowed to Mind, during the terror of war with you, Perfidious Carthage. You broke the peace, and astonished By the consul’s death, all feared the Moorish army. Fear had driven out hope, when the Senate made their vows To Mind, and immediately she was better disposed to them. The day when the vows to the goddess were fulfilled Is separated by six days from the approaching Ides.
6 - 9 9 Vestalia.
Vesta, favour me! I’ll open my lips now in your service, If I’m indeed allowed to attend your sacred rites. I was rapt in prayer: I felt the heavenly deity, And the happy earth shone with radiant light. Not that I saw you, goddess (away with poets’ lies!) Nor were you to be looked on by any man: But I knew what I’d not known, and the errors I’d held to were corrected without instruction. They say Rome had celebrated the Parilia forty times, When the goddess, the Guardian of the Flame, was received In her shrine, the work of Numa, that peace-loving king, (None more god-fearing was ever born in Sabine lands.) The roofs you see of bronze were roofs of straw then, And its walls were made of wickerwork. This meagre spot that supports the Hall of Vesta Was then the mighty palace of unshorn Numa. Yet the form of the temple, that remains, they say, Is as before, and is shaped so for good reason. Vesta’s identified with Earth: in them both’s unsleeping fire: Earth and the hearth are both symbols of home. The Earth’s a ball not resting on any support, It’s great weight hangs in the ether around it. Its own revolutions keep its orb balanced, It has no sharp angles to press on anything, And it’s placed in the midst of the heavens, And isn’t nearer or further from any side, For if it weren’t convex, it would be nearer somewhere, And the universe wouldn’t have Earth’s weight at its centre. There’s a globe suspended, enclosed by Syracusan art, That’s a small replica of the vast heavens, And the Earth’s equidistant from top and bottom. Which is achieved by its spherical shape. The form of this temple’s the same: there’s no angle Projecting from it: a rotunda saves it from the rain. You ask why the goddess is served by virgins? I’ll reveal the true reason for that as well. They say that Juno and Ceres were born of Ops By Saturn’s seed, Vesta was the third daughter: The others married, both bore children they say, The third was always unable to tolerate men. What wonder if a virgin delights in virgin servants, And only allows chaste hands to touch her sacred relics? Realize that Vesta is nothing but living flame, And you’ll see that no bodies are born from her. She’s truly a virgin, who neither accepts seed Nor yields it, and she loves virgin companions. I foolishly thought for ages that there were statues Of Vesta, later I learnt there were none beneath her dome: An undying fire is concealed with the shrine, But there’s no image of Vesta or of fire. The earth’s supported by its energy: Vesta’s so called from ‘depending On energy’ (vi stando), and that could be the reason for her Greek name. But the hearth (focus) is named from its fire that warms (fovet) all things: Formerly it stood in the most important room. I think the vestibule was so called from Vesta too: In praying we address Vesta first, who holds first place. It was once the custom to sit on long benches by the fire, And believe the gods were present at the meal: Even now in sacrificing to ancient Vacuna, They sit and stand in front of her altar hearths. Something of ancient custom has passed to us: A clean dish contains the food offered to Vesta. See, loaves are hung from garlanded mules, And flowery wreaths veil the rough millstones. Once farmers only used to parch wheat in their ovens, (And the goddess of ovens has her sacred rites): The hearth baked the bread, set under the embers, On a broken tile placed there on the heated floor. So the baker honours the hearth, and the lady of hearths, And the she-ass that turns the pumice millstones. Red-faced Priapus shall I tell of your shame or pass by? It’s a brief tale but it’s a merry one. Cybele, whose head is crowned with towers, Called the eternal gods to her feast. She invited the satyrs too, and those rural divinities,  The nymphs, and Silenus came, though no one asked him. It’s forbidden, and would take too long, to describe the banquet Of the gods: the whole night was spent drinking deep. Some wandered aimlessly in Ida’s shadowy vales, Some lay, and stretched their limbs, on the soft grass. Some played, some slept, others linked arms And beat swift feet threefold on the grassy earth. Vesta lay carelessly, enjoying a peaceful rest, Her head reclining, resting on the turf. But the red-faced keeper of gardens chased the nymphs And goddesses, and his roving feet turned to and fro. He saw Vesta too: it’s doubtful whether he thought her A nymph, or knew her as Vesta: he himself denied he knew. He had wanton hopes, and tried to approach her in secret, And walked on tiptoe, with a pounding heart. Old Silenus had chanced to leave the mule He rode by the banks of a flowing stream. The god of the long Hellespont was about to start, When the mule let out an untimely bray. Frightened by the raucous noise, the goddess leapt up: The whole troop gathered, and Priapus fled through their hands. The people of Lampsacus sacrifice this animal to him, singing: ‘Rightly we give the innards of the witness to the flames.’ Goddess, you deck the creature with necklaces of loaves, In remembrance: work ceases: the empty mills fall silent. I’ll explain the meaning of an altar of Jove the Baker That stands on the Thunderer’s citadel, more famous For name than worth. The Capitol was surrounded By fierce Gauls: the siege had already caused a famine. Summoning the gods to his royal throne, Jupiter said to Mars: ‘Begin!’ and he quickly replied: ‘My people’s plight is surely unknown, A grief that needs a voice of heartfelt complaint. But if I’m to tell a sad and shameful tale in brief, Rome lies under the feet of an Alpine enemy. Jupiter, is this the Rome that was promised power Over the world! Rome, the mistress of the earth? She’d crushed the neighbouring cities, and the Etruscans: Hope was rampant: now she’s driven from her home. We’ve seen old men, dressed in embroidered robes Of triumph, murdered in their bronze-clad halls: We’ve seen Ilian Vesta’s sacred pledges hurried From their place: some clearly think of the gods. But if they look back at the citadel you hold, And see so many of your homes under siege, They’ll think worship of the gods is vain, And incense from a fearful hand thrown away. If only they’d an open field of battle! Let them arm, And if they can’t be victorious, let them die. Now without food, and dreading a cowardly death, They’re penned on their hill, pressed by a barbarous mob.’ Then Venus, and Vesta, and glorious Quirinus with auger’s staff And striped gown, pleaded on behalf of their Latium. Jupiter replied: ‘There’s a common concern for those walls. And the Gauls will be defeated and receive punishment. But you, Vesta, mustn’t leave your place, and see to it That the bread that’s lacking be considered plentiful. Let whatever grain is left be ground in a hollow mill, Kneaded by hand, and then baked in a hot oven.’ He gave his orders, and Saturn’s virgin daughter Obeyed his command, as the hour reached midnight. Now sleep had overcome the weary leaders: Jupiter Rebuked them, and spoke his wishes from holy lips: ‘Rise, and from the heights of the citadel, throw down Among the enemy, the last thing you’d wish to yield!’ They shook off sleep, and troubled by the strange command, Asked themselves what they must yield, unwillingly. It seemed it must be bread: They threw down the gifts Of Ceres, clattering on the enemy helms and shields. The expectation that they could be starved out vanished. The foe was repulsed, and a bright altar raised to Jove the Baker. On the festival of Vesta, I happened to be returning By the recent path that joins the New Way to the Forum. There I saw a lady descending barefoot: Astonished, I was silent and stopped short. An old woman from the neighbourhood saw me: and telling Me to sit, spoke to me in a quavering voice, shaking her head: ‘Here, where the forums are now, was marshy swamp: A ditch was wet with the overflow from the river. That lake of Curtius, that supports the altars un-wet, Is solid enough now, but was a pool of water once. Where processions file through the Velabrum to the Circus, There was nothing but willow and hollow reeds: Often some guest returning over suburban waters, Sang out, and hurled drunken words at the boatmen. That god, Vertumnus, whose name fits many forms, Wasn’t yet so-called from damning back the river (averso amne). Here too was a thicket of bulrushes and reeds, And a marsh un-trodden by booted feet. The pools are gone, and the river keeps its banks, And the ground’s dry now: but the custom remains.’ So she explained it. I said: ‘Farewell, good dame! May whatever of life remains to you be sweet.’ I’d already heard the rest of the tale in boyhood, But I won’t pass over it in silence on that account. Ilus, scion of Dardanus, had founded a new city (Ilus was still rich, holding the wealth of Asia) A sky-born image of armed Minerva was said To have fallen on the hillside near to Troy. (I was anxious to see it: I saw the temple and the site, That’s all that’s left there: Rome has the Palladium.) Apollo Smintheus was consulted, and gave this answer From truthful lips, in the darkness of his shadowy grove: ‘Preserve the heavenly goddess, and preserve The City: with her goes the capital of empire.’ Ilus preserved her, closed in the heights of the citadel. The care of it descended to his heir Laomedon. Priam failed to take like care: so Pallas wished it, Judgement having gone against her beauty. They say it was stolen, whether by Diomede, Or cunning Ulysses, or taken by Aeneas: The agent’s unknown, but the thing’s in Rome: Vesta guards it: who sees all things by her unfailing light. How worried the Senate was, when Vesta’s temple Caught fire: and she was nearly buried by her own roof! Holy fires blazed, fed by sinful fires, Sacred and profane flames were merged. The priestesses with streaming hair, wept in amazement: Fear had robbed them of their bodily powers. Metellus rushed into their midst, crying in a loud voice: ‘Run and help, there’s no use in weeping. Seize fate’s pledges in your virgin hands: They won’t survive by prayers, but by action. Ah me! Do you hesitate?’ he said. He saw them, Hesitating, sinking in terror to their knees. He took up water, and holding his hands aloft, cried: ‘Forgive me, holy relics! A man enters where no man should. If it’s wrong, let the punishment fall on me: Let my life be the penalty, so Rome is free of harm.’ He spoke and entered. The goddess he carried away Was saved by her priest’s devotion, and she approved. Now sacred flames you shine brightly under Caesar’s rule: The fire on the Ilian hearths is there, and will remain, It won’t be said that under him any priestess disgraced Her office, nor that she was buried alive in the earth. So the unchaste die, being entombed in what they Have violated: since divine Earth and Vesta are one. This day Brutus won his title from the Galician foe, And stained the soil of Spain with blood. Surely sadness is sometimes mixed with joy, Lest festivals delight the crowd’s hearts completely: Crassus, near the Euphrates, lost the eagles, his army, And his son, and at the end himself as well. The goddess said: ‘Parthians, why exult? You’ll send The standards back, a Caesar will avenge Crassus’ death.’
6 - 10 10
But once the violets are stripped from the long-eared mules, And the rough millstones are grinding the grain again, The sailor at the stern says: ‘We’ll see the Dolphin, When day is put to flight and night comes on.’
6 - 11 11 Matralia.
Now you complain, Phrygian Tithonus, abandoned by your bride, And the vigilant Morning Star leaves the Eastern waters. Good mothers (since the Matralia is your festival), Go, offer the Theban goddess the golden cakes she’s owed. Near the bridges and mighty Circus is a famous square, One that takes its name from the statue of an ox: There, on this day, they say, Servius with his own Royal hands, consecrated a temple to Mother Matruta. Bacchus, whose hair is twined with clustered grapes, If the goddess’ house is also yours, guide the poet’s work, Regarding who the goddess is, and why she excludes (Since she does) female servants from the threshold Of her temple, and why she calls for toasted cakes. Semele was burnt by Jove’s compliance: Ino Received you as a baby, and nursed you with utmost care. Juno swelled with rage, that Ino should raise a child Snatched from Jove’s lover: but it was her sister’s son. So Athamas was haunted by the Furies, and false visions, And little Learchus died by his father’s hand. His grieving mother committed his shade to the tomb. And paid the honours due to the sad pyre. Then tearing her hair in sorrow, she leapt up And snatched you from your cradle, Melicertes. There’s a narrow headland between two seas, A single space attacked by twofold waves: There Ino came, clutching her son in her frenzied grasp, And threw herself, with him, from a high cliff into the sea. Panope and her hundred sisters received them unharmed, And gliding smoothly carried them through their realm. They reached the mouth of densely eddying Tiber, Before they became Leucothea and Palaemon. There was a grove: known either as Semele’s or Stimula’s: Inhabited, they say, by Italian Maenads. Ino, asking them their nation, learned they were Arcadians, And that Evander was the king of the place. Hiding her divinity, Saturn’s daughter cleverly Incited the Latian Bacchae with deceiving words: ‘O too-easy-natured ones, caught by every feeling! This stranger comes, but not as a friend, to our gathering. She’s treacherous, and would learn our sacred rites: But she has a child on whom we can wreak punishment.’ She’d scarcely ended when the Thyiads, hair streaming Over their necks, filled the air with their howling, Laid hands on Ino, and tried to snatch the boy. She invoked gods with names as yet unknown to her: ‘Gods, and men, of this land, help a wretched mother!’ Her cry carried to the neighbouring Aventine. Oetaean Hercules having driven the Iberian cattle To the riverbank, heard and hurried towards the voice. As he arrived, the women who’d been ready for violence, Shamefully turned their backs in cowardly flight. ‘What are you doing here,’ said Hercules (recognising her), ‘Sister of Bacchus’ mother? Does Juno persecute you too?’ She told him part of her tale, suppressing the rest because of her son: Ashamed to have been goaded to crime by the Furies. Rumour, so swift, flew on beating wings, And your name was on many a lip, Ino. It’s said you entered loyal Carmentis’ home As a guest, and assuaged your great hunger: They say the Tegean priestess quickly made cakes With her own hands, and baked them on the hearth. Now cakes delight the goddess at the Matralia: Country ways pleased her more than art’s attentions. ‘Now, O prophetess,’ she said, ‘reveal my future fate, As far as is right. Add this, I beg, to your hospitality.’ A pause ensued. Then the prophetess assumed divine powers, And her whole breast filled with the presence of the god: You’d hardly have known her then, so much taller And holier she’d become than a moment before. ‘I sing good news, Ino,’ she said, ‘your trials are over, Be a blessing to your people for evermore. You’ll be a sea goddess, and your son will inhabit ocean. Take different names now, among your own waves: Greeks will call you Leucothea, our people Matuta: Your son will have complete command of harbours, We’ll call him Portunus, Palaemon in his own tongue. Go, and both be friends, I beg you, of our country!’ Ino nodded, and gave her promise. Their trials were over, They changed their names: he’s a god and she’s a goddess. You ask why she forbids the approach of female servants? She hates them: by her leave I’ll sing the reason for her hate. Daughter of Cadmus, one of your maids Was often embraced by your husband. Faithless Athamas secretly enjoyed her: he learned From her that you gave the farmers parched seed. You yourself denied it, but rumour confirmed it. That’s why you hate the service of a maid. But let no loving mother pray to her, for her child: She herself proved an unfortunate parent. Better command her to help another’s child: She was more use to Bacchus than her own. They say she asked you, Rutilius, ‘Where are you rushing? As consul you’ll fall to the Marsian enemy on my day.’ Her words were fulfilled, the Tolenus Flowed purple, its waters mixed with blood. The following year, Didius, killed on the same Day, doubled the enemy’s strength. Fortuna, the same day is yours, your temple Founded by the same king, in the same place. And whose is that statue hidden under draped robes? It’s Servius, that’s for sure, but different reasons Are given for the drapes, and I’m in doubt. When the goddess fearfully confessed to a secret love, Ashamed, since she’s immortal, to mate with a man (For she burned, seized with intense passion for the king, And he was the only man she wasn’t blind to), She used to enter his palace at night by a little window: So that the gate bears the name Fenestella. She’s still ashamed, and hides the beloved features Under cloth: the king’s face being covered by a robe. Or is it rather that, after his murder, the people Were bewildered by their gentle leader’s death, Their grief swelling, endlessly, at the sight Of the statue, until they hid him under robes? I must sing at greater length of a third reason, Though I’ll still keep my team on a tight rein. Having secured her marriage by crime, Tullia Used to incite her husband with words like these: ‘What use if we’re equally matched, you by my sister’s Murder, I by your brother’s, in leading a virtuous life? Better that my husband and your wife had lived, Than that we shrink from greater achievement. I offer my father’s life and realm as my dower: If you’re a man, go take the dower I speak of. Crime is the mark of kingship. Kill your wife’s father, Seize the kingdom, dip our hands in my father’s blood.’ Urged on be such words, though a private citizen He usurped the high throne: the people, stunned, took up arms. With blood and slaughter the weak old man was defeated: Tarquin the Proud snatched his father-in-law’s sceptre. Servius himself fell bleeding to the hard earth, At the foot of the Esquiline, site of his palace. His daughter, driving to her father’s home, Rode through the streets, erect and haughty. When her driver saw the king’s body, he halted In tears. She reproved him in these terms: ‘Go on, or do you seek the bitter fruits of virtue? Drive the unwilling wheels, I say, over his face.’ A certain proof of this is Evil Street, named After her, while eternal infamy marks the deed. Yet she still dared to visit her father’s temple, His monument: what I tell is strange but true. There was a statue enthroned, an image of Servius: They say it put a hand to its eyes, And a voice was heard: ‘Hide my face, Lest it view my own wicked daughter.’ It was veiled by cloth, Fortune refused to let the robe Be removed, and she herself spoke from her temple: ‘The day when Servius’ face is next revealed, Will be a day when shame is cast aside.’ Women, beware of touching the forbidden cloth, (It’s sufficient to utter prayers in solemn tones) And let him who was the City’s seventh king Keep his head covered, forever, by this veil. The temple once burned: but the fire spared The statue: Mulciber himself preserved his son. For Servius’ father was Vulcan, and the lovely Ocresia of Corniculum his mother. Once, performing sacred rites with her in the due manner, Tanaquil ordered her to pour wine on the garlanded hearth: There was, or seemed to be, the form of a male organ In the ashes: the shape was really there in fact. The captive girl sat on the hearth, as commanded: She conceived Servius, born of divine seed. His father showed his paternity by touching the child’s Head with fire, and a cap of flames glowed on his hair. And Livia, this day dedicated a magnificent shrine to you, Concordia, that she offered to her dear husband. Learn this, you age to come: where Livia’s Colonnade Now stands, there was once a vast palace. A site that was like a city: it occupied a space Larger than that of many a walled town. It was levelled to the soil, not because of its owner’s treason, But because its excess was considered harmful. Caesar countenanced the demolition of such a mass, Destroying its great wealth to which he was heir. That’s the way to censure vice, and set an example, When the adviser himself does as he advises.
6 - 12 13 Ides.
The next day has no features worth your noting. On the Ides a temple was dedicated to Unconquered Jove. Now I must tell of the lesser Quinquatrus. Help my efforts, yellow-haired Minerva. ‘Why does the flautist wander widely through the City? Why the masks? Why the long robes?’ So I spoke, And so Tritonia, laying down her spear, answered me. (Would I could relay the learned goddess’ very words!): ‘Flautists were much employed in your fathers’ days, And they were always held in high honour. The flute was played in shrines, and at the games, And it was played at mournful funerals too: The effort was sweetened by reward. But a time came That suddenly ended the practice of that pleasant art. The aedile ordered there should be no more than ten Musicians accompanying funeral processions. The flute-players went into exile at Tibur. Once Tibur itself was a place of exile! The hollow flute was missed in the theatre, at the altars: No dirge accompanied the funeral bier. There was one who had been a slave, at Tibur, But had long been freed, worthy of any rank. He prepared a rural banquet and invited the tuneful Throng: they gathered to the festive table. It was night: their minds and vision were thick with wine, When a messenger arrived with a concocted tale, Saying to the freedman: “Dissolve the feast, quickly! See, here’s your old master coming with his rod.” The guests rapidly stirred their limbs, reeling about With strong wine, staggering on shaky legs. But the master cried: “Away with you!” and packed The laggards into a wagon lined with rushes. The hour, the motion, and the wine, brought on sleep, And the drunken crowd dreamed they were off to Tibur. Now they re-entered Rome through the Esquiline, And at dawn the cart stood in the middle of the Forum. To deceive the Senate as to their class and number, Plautius ordered their faces covered with masks: And introduced others, wearing long garments, So that female flautists could be added to the crew: And their return best hidden, in case they were censured For coming back contrary to their guilds’ orders. The ruse succeeded, and they’re allowed their new costume, On the Ides, singing merry words to the ancient tunes.’ When she’d instructed me, I said: ‘It only remains For me to learn why the day’s called the Quinquatrus.’ She replied: ‘There’s my festival of that name in March, And that guild is one of my creations. I first produced the music of the long flute, By piercing boxwood with spaced holes. The music pleased: but I saw the swollen cheeks Of my virginal face reflected in the water. I said: “ I don’t value my art that highly, away My flute”: and threw it to fall on the turf by the river. Marsyas the satyr found it, and marvelled at first Not knowing its use: but found his breath produced a note: And worked it now by breathing now by fingering. He soon boasted of his skill among the nymphs: And challenged Phoebus: trounced by Phoebus he was hanged: And his skin was flayed from his limbs. I’m the true creator and inventor of this music. That’s why the guild keeps my holy days.
6 - 13 15
The third day comes, when you, Thyone of Dodona, Stand with the Hyades on the brow of Agenor’s Bull. It’s the day, Tiber, when you send the sweepings of Vesta’s Shrine down the Tuscan waters, to the sea.
6 - 14 16
Spread your sails to the west wind, mariners, if you trust The breeze, tomorrow it blows fair over your waters.
6 - 15 17-18
But when the Sun, the father of the Heliades, has dipped his rays In the waves, and the quiet stars have circled the twin poles, Orion will lift his mighty shoulders above the earth: And the next night the Dolphin will be seen. Once it saw the Volscians and Aequians fleeing Over your plains, Mount Algidus: And you Tubertus triumphing famously over your neighbours Rode as victor, in a chariot drawn by snow-white horses.
6 - 16 19
Now twelve days are left to the end of the month, But you must add another day to that number: The sun departs the Twins, and the Crab flames red: Pallas begins to be worshipped on the Aventine.
6 - 17 20
Now Laomedon, the wife of your son, Tithonus, rises, and rising Drives away the night, and the black hoar-frost flees the meadows. A shrine is said to have been dedicated to Summanus, whoever He is, when you, Pyrrhus, were a terror to the Romans.
6 - 18 21
When that day’s sun has been received by Galatea, in her Father’s waves, and the whole world is sunk in quiet sleep, The young man blasted by his grandfather’s lightning, rises, Ophiucus, stretching out his hands circled by twin snakes. Phaedra’s passion is known: and Theseus’ wrong: When over-credulous he condemned his son. The pious, but doomed youth, was travelling to Troezen: When a bull parted the waters in its path. Fear seized the startled horses: their master restrained them In vain, and they dragged him over crags and harsh stones. He fell from the chariot and, limbs tangled in the reins, Hippolytus’ wounded body was carried along, Till he gave up his spirit, to Diana’s great anger. ‘There’s no need for grief,’ said Aesculapius: I’ll restore the pious youth to life, free of wounds, And sad fate will yield to my skill.’ Quickly he took medicines from an ivory casket, (They had once been of aid to Glaucus’ shade, When a seer went down to cull the herbs he’d noted, One snake having been healed by another snake), He touched his breast three times, three times spoke Words of healing: the youth lifted his head from the ground. Hippolytus hid in his own sacred grove, in the depths Of Diana’s woods: he is Virbius of the Arician Lake. But Clotho, the Fate, and Dis both grieved: she, that a life-thread Had been re-spun, he that his realm’s rights had been curtailed. Jupiter, fearing the example set, directed his lightning At one who employed the power of too great an art. Phoebus, you complained: but Aesculapius is a god: be reconciled To your father Jove: he himself did for you what he forbids to others.
6 - 19 22
Caesar, however much you rush to conquer, I’d not have you march if the auspices are bad. Let Flaminius and the shores of Lake Trasimene Be your witness, the just gods often warn by means of birds. If you ask the hour of that ancient, and reckless disaster, It was on the tenth day from the end of the month.
6 - 20 23
The next day’s better: Masinissa defeated Syphax, And Hasdrubal fell by his own sword.
6 - 21 24
Time slips by, and we age silently with the years, There’s no bridle to curb the flying days. How swiftly the festival of Fors Fortuna’s arrived! June will be over now in seven days. Quirites, come celebrate the goddess Fors, with joy: She has her royal show on Tiber’s banks. Hurry on foot, and others in swift boats: It’s no shame to return home tipsy. Garlanded barges, carry your bands of youths, Let them drink deep of the wine, mid-stream. The people worship her, because they say the founder Of her shrine was one of them, and rose from humble rank, To the throne, and her worship suits slaves, because Servius Was slave-born, who built the nearby shrines of the fatal goddess.
6 - 22 26
See, returning from the suburban shrine, a drunken Worshipper hailing the stars with words like these: ‘Orion your belt is hidden today, and perhaps will be tomorrow, But after that it will be visible to me.’ And if he wasn’t tipsy he’d have said The solstice will fall on that same day.
6 - 23 27
Next day the Lares are granted a sanctuary in the place Where endless wreaths are twined by skilful hands. The same day owns to the temple of Jupiter the Stayer, That Romulus founded of old in front of the Palatine.
6 - 24 29
When as many days of the month are left as there are named Fates, A temple was dedicated to you, Quirinus of the striped gown.
6 - 25 30
Tomorrow the Kalends of July return: Muses put the final touch to my work. Pierides, tell me, who placed you with Hercules Whose stepmother Juno unwillingly conceded it? So I spoke, and Clio replied: ‘Behold the monument To famous Philip, from whom chaste Marcia descends, Marcia whose name derives from sacrificial Ancus Marcius, And whose beauty equals her nobility. In her, form matches spirit: in her Lineage, beauty and intellect meet. Don’t think it shallow that I praise her form: We praise the great goddesses in that way. Caesar’s aunt was once married to that Philip: O ornament, O lady worthy of that sacred house!’ So Clio sang. Her learned sisters approved: And Hercules agreed, and sounded his lyre.