Statius, Silvae Book 1
Translated by D. A. Slater
Formatted and with notes by C. Chinn
I. The equestrian statue of Domitian
WHAT ponderous mass is this that, magnified to twice the size by the giant
surmounting figure, stands as if with the Roman Forum in its clasp? Has the work
dropped down completed from the sky? or did the finishing of it in the
foundries of Sicily leave the hands of Brontes and of Steropes wearied out?1
5 or have Athenian masters2 fashioned thee for us, Germanicus,
in such guise as was thine when the Rhine, and the Dacian,3 panic-stricken
in his mountain fastnesses, saw thee but yesterday curb thy charger?
Go to now, let the legend of the elder days marvel at the immemorial fame
of the Dardan horse,4 for the building of which the holy heights
10 of Dindymus and of Ida5 shrank stripped of their leafy pines.
This charger Troy could not have admitted, though her walls were rent in a breach;
nor mingled crowd of boys and unwedded maidens,
nor even Aeneas nor great Hector6 could have brought it in.
Aye, and laden with death, with merciless Achaeans was the horse of Epeus;7
15 to this the gentleness of his rider lends winning graces. Sweet it is to see
that countenance clouded with the scars of war, yet wearing promise of gentle peace.
But think not the statue fairer than the man; like form, like grace,
like goodliness has he. Mars towers not higher after the battle
on the Thracian steed that exults to bear his giant bulk,
20 and swiftly with steaming flanks gallops by the river side,
and his mighty breathing makes Strymon8 roll down the swifter.
The place is worthy of the work; on one side our war-weary Founder’s
open gates, who first by the grace of his adopted son pointed
to our Emperors and Gods the path to Olympus.
25 From thy countenance he learns how much greater is thy clemency in war;
for thou art not fain to vent thy rage even on the madness of strange peoples,
but to Cattians9 and Dacians dost allow a charter. Hadst thou been chief,
Caesar’s son- in-law10 and Cato11 had bowed and come to terms with Caesar.
Upon his broad flanks from this side the Julian halls,12
30 from that the proud Basilica of warlike Paulus13 looks down;
behind thee thy father’s temple and mild-eyed Concord.14
Thou thyself, thy head encircled by the unbroken air,
dost outsoar and outshine the temples, seeming to watch and see
whether the new pile on the Palatine,15 scorning the flames, rises more lovely
35 than the old;16 whether the Trojan fire still keeps secret watch;
whether Vesta now approves her handmaids whom reform has purged;17
thy right hand bids war to cease; thy left the Tritonian maid18
burdens not, but holding out Medusa’s severed neck,
rouses, as with a goad, the mettle of thy charger.
40 Nowhere has the goddess a happier resting-place, not even on her father’s hand.
That breast is a breast that can unravel the cares of the whole world
and the cloak that falls flowing from thy shoulders is one to fashion
which Temese19 has yielded all her ore. Thy side fears nothing though the sword
be at rest—a sword as huge as the blade with which great Orion20
45 menaces the winter nights and strikes fear into the stars.
The horse, emulous of his rider’s gallant air uplifts his head
more eagerly and makes as if to break into career.
The mane stands stiff upon his neck; the shoulders thrill
as with life; broad his flanks and able to bear
50 that mighty spur; the brazen hoofs planted on no sod
of barren earth, but upon the hair of captive Rhine.
The charger of Adrastus21 had trembled to behold him,
and the horse of Leda’s son is afraid in the temple hard by
at the sight. He shall never obey but one master’s rein ;
55 never a change of bridle for him; to one star alone shall he be true.
Scarce can the earth support him; the ground gasps and faints
beneath such a burden,—a burden not of iron or of bronze,
but of godhead,—though everlasting the pedestal that upholds it;
so strong it might have supported the peaks of a mountain charged upon it,
60 and had endured the grinding pressure of Sky-bearer Atlas.22
No long delay was there either. The very presence of our God23
lightened the task. The workers, bent upon their labour,
marvelled to find unusual power in their hands. Huge cranes creaked
with the strain. Ceaselessly over the seven hills of Mars
65 went the din, drowning the wandering noises of mighty Rome.
Even the Warden of the spot,24 whose hallowed chasm
and legend-haunted pools preserve the record of his name,
marked the myriad beat of bronze, felt the Forum bellow at the brutal
stroke, and forthwith uplifted his countenance, grisly and mouldering
70 yet full of awe; his brow hallowed with the well-won oak- leaves.
At first he trembled at the flashing brilliancy, the giant port,
of this mightier steed; and thrice in terror plunged his
erected head in the chasm ; anon, in joy at beholding our Prince,
‘All hail,’ he cried, ‘scion and sire of mighty Gods;
75 from afar have I heard the fame of thy godhead. To-day, to-day is my marsh
blessed and hallowed, now that it is granted me to see
thee and thy deathless glory in thy home hard by.
Once alone did counsel and contrivance of mine save
Rome. Thou art Jove’s champion; thou art the conqueror of Rhine;
80 thou hast checked cursed sedition, and in stubborn warfare subdued
a mountain people slow to make peace. Hadst thou been born
in my day, though I had quailed, thou hadst essayed to plunge
into the pit, but Rome would have caught thee by the bridle-reins’
Henceforth let the steed give place that over against the temple of our Lady
85 of Latium stands in Caesar’s forum, the steed which men say Lysippus
hazarded for the lord of Pella, and which anon in amazement bore on its back
a sculptured Caesar.25 With straining eyes scarce
couldst thou discern how far below this it falls.
None so dull but when he has seen both will count
90 the horses as ill-matched as their riders.
Neither stormy winter nor Jove’s triple lightnings,
not the armies of the Aeolian prison-house26 nor the lingering years
does this statue dread. It shall stand as long as heaven and earth, as long as
the date of Rome endures. Hither, in the silent night-time,
95 when gods love to visit earth, thy kindred
shall glide down from heaven to thy embrace,
sister and brother, father and son shall assemble.
On thy neck alone shall all these heavenly visitants fall.
From the nation and our noble senate is this gift.
100 May it be for ever thine. Ah, an Apelles27 were fain to paint thee;
the old Attic master in a fresh temple to mould thee to
the semblance of Elean Jove.28 Soft Tarentum29 and rugged Rhodes,30
in scorn of her sculptured sun-god, would rather have
pictured the starlike brightness of thine eyes.
105 Yet be constant: love thou thy earth: inhabit in person
the temples we dedicate to thee. Let not the heavenly court delight thee,
but live, live happy to see thy sons’ sons offer incense to this thy statue.
II. The marriage of Stella and Violentilla.
WHY did the hills of Rome ring with that solemn music?
For whom, Paean,31 dost thou take up the plectrum anew and hang
among the tresses on thy shoulders the sounding ivory? Hark, from afar,
from murmurous Helicon the Muses are journeying.32 From their nine torches
5 they shake the ritual flame for the joining of the bridal;
and pour forth a wave of song from the Pierian springs.33
Amongst them pert-faced Elegy34 draws near,
prouder than her wont, and courts and counsels the Nine,
her limping35 foot stealthily hidden, and fain would be thought
10 a tenth Muse and goes undetected in their midst.
The mother of Aeneas36 with her own hand leads the bride,—whose eyes
are downcast and a winsome blush of shame upon her cheek;—
with her own hand she prepares bridal rite and bridal bed, with Latin girdle
dissembles her godhead, and makes her countenance and brow
15 and hair less lovely, rejoicing to give way before the bride.
Ah, now I know what day this is, and what the occasion of this solemnity.
It is of thee, Stella,37 of thee that these gods sing in chorus. Fling wide thy doors.
It is for thee that Phoebus and Euhan and the winged lord of Tegea bring chaplets38
from bowery Maenalus,39 while the fond Loves and Graces cease not
20 to pelt thee with countless flowers and to sprinkle thee with
a cloud of fragrance as thou claspest thy longed-for lady snowy-white.
And now roses, and now lilies and violets shower
on thy brow, as thou shelterest that fair face.
And so the day was there for which the Fates had set up a snow-white
25 skein,—the day whereon the nuptials of Stella and Violentilla must
be noised abroad before all. Away with Care and Fear!
Truce to sly shafts of sidelong satire! Let Rumour
hold her peace. The old unbridled love has yielded to law and taken
the bit in his mouth. The whispers of the people are at an end,
30 and now Rome has seen the caresses it had talked about so long.
But thou, Stella, art spellbound still, although the promise of such happiness
is thine! Still at thy sighs and vows! Still afraid of the bliss kind heaven
has granted! Truce, sweet minstrel, truce to thy sighing!
Is she not thine? Her bower stands wide, and with steps unchecked
35 thou mayest go to and fro. No warder forbids, no law,
no shame. At length have thy fill of the embrace thou hast sought,
—’tis thine,—and dream with her of the loveless nights of old.
Nay, for that matter, the prize was worth the quest, though Juno had enjoined
on thee the labours of Hercules, and the Fates constrained thee to battle
40 with monsters of Hell; yea, though thou hadst been swept through the Cyanean surf.
For her it had been meet ordeal to run the race at Pisa, quaking all the while
to think of the terms and to hear Oenomaus thundering behind.40
Though thou hadst been the presumptuous shepherd who sat on
Dardan Ida,41 or though thou hadst been he whom the kindly Dawn
45 caught up and bore off in her car, yet thou hadst not had so fair a prize.
But now, while the crowd surges round the gates, while hall
and threshold ring with the beat of many a wand,
let the merry Muse even here tell what has bestowed
on the bard, beyond his hope, the joy of this bridal. Time is ours
50 to hold due debate, and the poet’s home is skilled to listen.
It happened on a day, in the milk-white region of the cloudless sky,
that gentle Venus was resting in her bower. The night had just fled.
Her Thracian lord42 had released her from his rugged embrace.
About the pillars of the bed thronged the boy Loves,
55 asking what torches she bade them bear, what hearts transfix.
Would she have them riot on land or sea, or embroil the
Olympians, or still keep torturing the Lord of the thunder?43
With heart and will still unresolved, weary on her
couch she lay, where the witnesses of guilt, the Lemnian’s toils,
60 stole upon and surprised that lawless passion of old;44
when out of the crowd of winged Cupids one,
on whose mouth the fire burned fiercest, in whose hands
was a never-erring shaft, gently murmured with boyish lips,
while his quivered brothers kept still silence:
65 ‘Mother,’ he said, ‘ thou knowest how my hand has never failed
in the fray. Kindled to love is every god or man whom thou hast given up
to me. Yet suffer thyself at last to be moved, mother,
by tears and praying hands, yea and by the vows and entreaties of men:
for we are not fashioned of unyielding adamant:
70 thy children are we. A lover there is,45 of Latin blood, and scion
of a lordly stock, whom Nobility recognized with joy
as her own son, and gave him at his birth a name borrowed
from our empyrean, in prescience of his starlike beauty.
Relentlessly of old with every arrow from my quiver I pierced him,—such
75 was thy pleasure,—and, as he staggered I drove shaft upon shaft through him.
Eagerly Ausonian46 mothers sought him for their daughters,
yet I tamed and overcame him, and made him bear a great
lady’s yoke, and for long years sue on in hope.
But her, as thou badest, I lightly touched, sparing to strike,
80 with the tip of my torch, and grazed her with a strengthless shaft.
From that day (I am the amazed witness of it), how fierce the fire
that broods in his lovesick heart, what force of my onset he sustains
night and day! Never, mother, have I beset another so fiercely,
and again and again driven my arrows home.
85 I saw Hippomenes47 in those merciless lists run his eager
course; yet even at the goal he paled not so.
I saw Leander48 swimming the strait. Sturdy were his arms
as oars, and I praised his strength and often lighted him upon his way;
yet his fire, that warmed even the heartless sea, was not so fierce
90 as thine, young lover, who hast surpassed all passion of old days.
I myself have marvelled that thou hast outlasted such a fever of love,
and have strengthened thy heart and dried with my soft wings thy
streaming tears. How often has Apollo chid me that his bard
should go thus sorrowful!49 Mother, grant him at last
95 the bride he loves. He is our comrade and loyally
bears our standard. He might have sung the travail of war,
doughty deeds of heroes and blood-drenched battlefields.50
But he vowed his lyre to thee and chose rather to be the poet
of love and to twine our myrtle leaves among his bays.
100 His song is of young lovers’ slips and his own wound that
is not of yesterday: oh, what devotion to the Paphian51 power is his,
mother! It is he that mourned the fate of our dove.’52
He ended and clung caressingly about his mother’s soft neck;
his nestling feathers warmed her breast.
105 She answered and frowned not on his gaze of entreaty:
‘It is a great reward, and seldom vouchsafed even to the heroes of my choice,
that this poet-lover seeks. Marvelling at the glory of her beauty
(and the renown of her forefathers and the fame of her house
rivalled her loveliness) I myself took her in my arms at her birth
110 and cherished her in my bosom: my hands were never weary
of smoothing brow and neck, and with rich ointments
shaping her tresses. Now she has sprung up into a lovely
reflection of me. See even from afar the building of her tresses,
the beauty of her queenly brow. Consider how much taller
115 she is than the mothers of Latium: even as Latonia53
towers above her nymphs and I among the Nereids.54
She is worthy to have been born like me from
the blue waters, and to sit in my car of pearl;
aye, and had she been suffered to ascend to the starry sky
120 and enter these bowers, even ye Loves had been perplexed.
Though I have lavished on her rich revenues, yet her mind is greater
than her wealth. I am sad that the Seres55 are niggardly,
and the groves they despoil too scanty: that the pearls of Clymene
are failing and the tears of the poplar sisters suffice us not:56
125 that too few are the fleeces that blush with Sidonian purple,57
and rare the crystals that freeze out of the immemorial snows.
For her I have bidden Hermus and Tagus pour down their golden ooze58
(such store is not enough to array her worthily), for her Glaucus
and Proteus59 and every Nereid to bring the necklets of the Indies.
130 Hadst thou seen her, Phoebus, in the fields of Thessaly,
Daphne had roamed secure:60 if on Naxos beach
she had stood by Theseus’ couch, Euhan too
had left Ariadne forlorn and fled to her.61
And had not Juno with endless plaints softened my heart,
135 for her the Lord of heaven had even now disguised him as winged bird
or horned bull, or else in very gold come down to woo her.62
Yet she shall be given, my son and prime dignitary, to him for whom
thou seekest her, though often sadly she cries that for no second lord
will she bear the yoke. Of herself at last, I know it, she is yielding
140 and in turn has melted to her lover.’ So Venus said and rose,
fair as a star, and crossed her proud threshold,
and called to her yoke her Amyclaean swans.63
Love harnessed them and sat him on the jewelled pole, and drove his mother
rejoicing through the clouds. Full soon they descried the Trojan towers
145 of Tiber.64 A lordly mansion opened its glistening halls,
and gladly the swans perched dapping on the gleaming threshold.
The home was worthy of a goddess, fair as the stars they had left.
Marble of Libya and of Phrygia was there and the hard green stone
of Laconia; there was patterned onyx and blocks that matched
150 the deep sea, and porphyry that often moves envy in
Oebalian purple and in masters of the vats of Tyre.65
The architraves hung poised on many a column, the
woodwork glistened with the abundance of Dalmatian metal.66
The cool shade streaming from immemorial trees banished
155 the sun’s rays, and little springs ran crystal-clear in channels of marble.
Nature keeps not here her changing seasons : Midsummer is cool
and Winter warm ; the mansion turns and controls the year at its own will.
Glad was gentle Venus to see the palace of her great
fosterling, and rejoiced as if from the deep sea she were
160 come to Paphos, to bower in Idalium or shrine at Eryx.67
Then to her daughter, as she rested, alone, upon her couch, she spoke:
‘Why dost thou ever dally thus? Why so shamefaced and unmated?
What limit shall there be, lady, my delight among the daughters of Latium,
what limit to thy fealty and thy faith? Wilt thou never bow thee
165 to a husband’s yoke? Tears less bright will soon be upon thee.
Let not thy beauty be idle: enjoy these fleeting gifts.
Not for this did I give thee all that loveliness, that proud brow
and my own spirit, that thou shouldst pass through the years unmated,
as though I loved thee not. It is enough and more than enough that thou hast
170 flouted thy lovers of old. Why, here indeed is one whose
whole heart is thine: comely he is and noble, and he worships
and he loves thee above all: what man is there in Rome,
what maid that knows not this scholar-poet’s songs?
Soon, too, thou shall see him uplift the twelve rods (so may the grace
175 of our Lord of Ausonia68 still be with him!), and that before
his day. Assuredly even now he has opened the gates of Cybele,69
and it is his to read the strains of the Sibyl of Cyme.70
Soon the Father of Latium, whose thoughts it is granted me
to foreknow, will give him, young though he be, the purple robe
180 and the ivory seat,71 and suffer him to celebrate (no common honours
these!) the plundering of Dacia and his laurels newly-won.72
Come then, be thou his bride: let not thy youth languish.
All nations and all hearts with nuptial torch I couple.
Birds and flocks and tribes of savage beasts disown
185 me not. The sky itself melts at my will to wed
with earth, as the clouds break into showers. Thus it is
that the life of the world and all things after their kind are renewed.
Whence had Troy’s renown been born again; whence he who snatched
the gods from the fire, had I not wedded a Phrygian lord?73
190 Aye, whence had Tuscan Tiber revived the stock of my own luli?
Who had founded the towers of sevenfold Rome,
the crown of Latian sway, had I not suffered the Dardan
priestess,74 unforbidden, to steal the war-god’s love?’
With these words Venus charmed her, and in the secrecy of her heart
195 breathed a thought of the glory of wedlock. His gifts and his entreaties,
his tears and his sleepless sighs at her gates—these now came back to her:
and how the minstrel’s Asteris75 had been proverbed throughout Rome;
at morning and at evening and before the feast always the name of Asteris
sounded louder than once the hue and cry for Hylas.76 At last she began
200 to unbend her hard heart to kindness, and at last to account herself cruel.
Blessings on thy bridal, gentlest of all the bards of Latium!
for thou hast traversed the hard path and finished thy troublous task
and made the haven. Even so the River, that with
heart on fire fled from the midst of Pisa to win
205 an alien bride, draws through his channel underseas
a stainless flood, at last to struggle forth and drink with panting lips
of the Sicilian spring: the Nymph marvels at the sweet kisses
and dreams not that her lover has come to her under the sea.77
How bright a day then dawned, Stella, to cheer thee by the bright grace
210 of Heaven! With what joy thy heart throbbed when
thy lady’s brow softened and she granted thee the bliss
of her love! Thou didst seem to tread on air and roam through
the bright sky. A colder rapture had the shepherd
on the Spartan shore when Helen came to the Trojan barque;78
215 Thessalian Tempe saw not such a light on Peleus’ brow,
when Chiron reared his horse-part erect and marked Thetis
drawing near to the Haemonian strand.79 How long seemed the stars
to tarry! How slow Aurora to appease the yearnings of the bridegroom!80
But when from afar Leto’s son,81 lord of all minstrels,
220 and Semeleian Euhan82 knew that Stella’s bridal was at hand,
from Ortygia and from Nysa they hurried with their eager companions.83
The Lycian hills, the bowers of cool Thymbra and Parnassus rang84
again as Phoebus came: and at Euhan’s coming Pangaea and Ismarus
and the shores of Naxos,85 that saw his wooing, echoed the song.
225 Then they passed the doors they loved and gave to their comrade
bard, the one a lyre, the other the tawny skin of a spotted deer,
the one his wands, the other the quill to strike the lyre: and one bound
the poet’s brow with bays and one with Ariadne’s crown.
Scarce was the day abroad, when already auguries of bliss
230 were vouchsafed and both homes were astir with a festal company.
The gates were green with leafage, and the crossways bright
with fire, and all that is noblest in great Rome kept festival.
Every great office was there and all the retinues thronged the threshold:
and gay robes hedged about with the folk in mean attire;
235 on this side knights, and on this, mingling and struggling with the youthful throng,
the long-robed matrons. There are blessings for both, but in the crowd
more envy the bridegroom. Hymen86 has been standing long since
in the gateway, seeking to greet their espousals with a new song,
to bewitch the minstrel’s heart. And Juno87 honours the knot that
240 binds them, and Concord with twofold flambeau hallows their union.
Such was that day: of the night let Stella sing. But shamefast methinks
was the bride as Ilia, the bride of Mars, when overcome
by treacherous sleep she lay down on the river bank.
Lavinia was not so coy when beneath the gaze of Turnus
245 the scarlet flamed on her snow-white cheeks;88
nor Claudia so stainless when, proved a maiden
by the movement of the barque, she gazed upon the people.89
Now must the comrades of the Nine, the slaves of the tripod, vie with
one another in divers strains. Come, bards inspired, with garlands
250 and ivy on your brows according as each is of power to make the rapturous lyre
obey him. But, above all, come ye who filch away the last beats from the great Hexameter;
sing ye a song worthy of this merry bridal. This day Philetas90 himself would have sought
the privilege of singing, and Cos approved his choice; old Callimachus,91 too,
and Propertius in his Umbrian grotto;92 Ovid defying e’en the gloom of Tomi,93
255 and Tibullus,94 whose only wealth was the fire that twinkled upon his hearth.
Assuredly it is not a love for poetry alone, or a single motive
that gives birth to my lay. My Muse, Stella, is like unto and
close knit to thine. Kindred spirits, we revel oftentimes at
like altars, and at the fountains of song slake a common thirst.
260 And as for thee, lady, at thy birth my own Parthenope95 took thee
to her embrace: a tottering child thou wast already the delight and glory
of our land. So let that Euboic city be exalted to the glowing
skies and Sebethos exult in his fair fosterling.96
Let them not be outdone by the pride of the Lucrine Naiads97 in their
265 teeming grottos, or of the calm retreat of Pompeian Sarnus.98
Soon let a noble offspring be born of ye to Latium,
to govern camp and courts and make merry songs.
Let Cynthia99 be kind and bless the tenth month with early fruit.
Only may the birth-goddess be merciful and the pledge wound not the parent tree!
270 Spare, child, that delicate frame, those swelling breasts;
and when Nature has moulded thy brow in secret,
may’st thou be born much like thy father, like thy
mother more. But for thee, fairest of all the daughters
of Italy, at last thou hast a worthy master and lord:
275 cherish the bond he sought so long to knit; so may thy beauty
never diminish; so may thy young brows keep the bloom of youth
for many a year, and that loveliness be slow to fade into decay.
III. The villa of Manlius Vopiscus at Tibur.
IF any has been privileged to see at Tibur100 the cool retreat of eloquent Vopiscus,101
if any the twin dwellings, betwixt which the Anio102 flows dividing:
if any has known those neighbouring banks united, and the
pavilions that vie with one another in sheltering their master,—
5 on such a one the fierce denizen of leafy Nemea103 has
never looked, nor the sultry star of Sirius snarled;104
such winter’s cool is in the dwelling; so persistently does the shade defeat
the sun, that through the sweltering season of Pisa’s games it is temperate ever.
Venus herself with dainty hands (it is a joy even to write
10 the tale!) has bedewed his house with chrism of fairy essences
and charmed it with her tresses, and left therein a balmy
fragrance and bidden her winged Loves never flee away.
O day never to be forgotten ! O joys treasured in my
heart! O eyes tired with gazing on so many marvels!
15 How kindly the natural spirit of the soil! How fair before ever
handicraft touched them the beauty of these happy haunts ! Nowhere has
Nature shown so opulent a fancy. Over the swift stream the deep woods
brood; each leaf is mirrored in the shifting picture;
the reflection travels unchanged down the long river reaches.
20 Even Anio (believe and marvel!), though up stream and down
stream his bed be rocky, here curbs his angry flood and stills his
murmuring eddies, as though afraid to ruffle the poetic
days and songful nights of tranquil Vopiscus.
Both banks are within the bound of home, unsevered by
25 the gentle stream. On this shore and on that stand sentinel towers,
not foreign to each other or fretting that the stream is a barrier between them.
Go to now,—let legend boast the Sestian inlets and the Swimmer
of the Strait;105 or tell of the dolphin steeds that bold youth outdid.106
Here is unending peace: here no storms have any charter
30 nor ever seethes the surge. Over the waters eyes and voices—
nay, well nigh hands—may meet. Is it thus that the returning tide estranges
Chalcis from the mainland;107 thus that the Bruttian shore
beholds Sicanian Pelorus severed from it by the waters?108
What shall be the prelude and the heart of my song? Where shall I make
35 an end? The gilded beams, the Moorish lintels on every hand;
the patterned veins of lustrous marble, the fountain-fairies that
haunt every room,—shall these move me to wonder? Now this way
and now that my eyes and my thoughts are allured. Shall the sacred grove
of aged oaks be my theme? The hall that looks upon the shallows
40 below, or the chamber that regards the silent woods,
where is the stillness of rest secure and night unruffled by the wind
or but such murmurs as woo dreams in the darkness?
or shall my song be of the steaming baths high uplifted
upon the grassy bank and the fires piled on the cool marge?
45 or how the River is harnessed to the glowing furnaces and laughs
to see the nymphs panting with the heat from his stream beside them?
Pictures and handiwork of men of old and many a breathing
bronze I saw. It were hard to recount the statues of ivory and
of gold, the precious stones worthy to grace the hand;
50 and all that in silver first or in bronze statuettes the artist
hand assayed, that was hereafter to shape giant statues also.
While my eyes wandered and I gazed upon the scene, my foot was set
upon wealth and I never knew it. Light streamed from above:
tiles bright as the bright sky fixed the eye upon the ground,
55 where decked with all manner of skill the earth smiled,
and with brede of strange shapes outdid the illusions of the Unswept Floor.109
My feet trembled. Why marvel now at the roofs,
here connecting, there parting in triple measured chambers;
or at the tree cherished in the heart of the home,
60 that over roof and lintel climbs into the clear air—
that were doomed under any other master to be felled by the cruel axe?
Even now some nymph of gliding stream it may be or of oaken grove, though Vopiscus
know it not, shall by her death loose from it the burden of years that have known no curtailment.
Shall my song tell of the feast spread now on this bank, now on that?
65 of the white pools; of the springs deep down in the river-channels;
of the Marcian conduit110 gliding aslant through the Anio,
and speeding in daring leaden duct under his flood, to see
if it be only the river of Elis that can be lured on
a lover’s path under the Ionian wave to a haven in Sicily?111
70 In those caves Anio himself finds rest; yes, he forsakes his source,
and when in the secret night he has put off his sea-blue garments,
stretches himself upon the springing moss, or into the deep
pool plunges his huge bulk, and with rhythmic stroke
claps against the glassy waters. In yonder shade Tiburnus rests;
75 there Albula is fain to wash her sulphurous tresses.112
A bower like this might lure, from Egeria, forest Phoebe,113
rob cold Taygetus of his Dryad bands,114
and charm Pan from the Lycean woods.115
Nay, but that the Tirynthian temple116 gives other oracle,
80 the very Praenestine Sisters had changed their house for this.117
Ah, praise no more the twice-yielding orchards
of Alcinous and the tall trees ever fruitful.118
Hills of Telegonus, fields of Laurentine Turnus, give place!119
Give place, ye Lucrine homes, ye shores of murderous
85 Antiphates:120 ye treacherous hills of glassy Circe,
beset of old with yelping Dulichian wolves;121 proud steeps
of Anxur; homes granted to kindly Caieta by her Phrygian
foster-son, and the beach of Antium that will call back Vopiscus
in the rainy winter at the shortening of the days.122
90 Yes, this is a place for the grave broodings of your
well-schooled mind; this is a shelter for your fruitful leisure;
your noble and unruffled virtue,—temperate splendour,
chaste delights,—a home for which even the old man
of Gargettus123 had left his garden and forsaken Athens.
95 This were worth seeking through Aegean storms,
beneath the snow-laden Hyades and the Olenian star.124 Yes; though
the ship had to double the Cape of Malea and steer a course over the
Sicilian surges.125 Why seems beauty less beautiful when it is at our doors?
Here do the fauns of Tibur and even Alcides and Catillus,126
100 sung by a mightier lyre, delight in thy minstrelsy;
whether it be thy fancy to vie with Pindar’s127 strains;
or whether thou dost to vigorous heroics attune thy lay;
or whether thou wouldst wield thy hurtling missile, the lampoon, charged with
biting venom ; or whether it be some sparkling letter of no less carefully polished wit.
105 Worthy art thou of the wealth of Midas and of Croesus,128 worthy of all
the treasure of the East. Be thy bliss the wealth of the mind! Hermus through
thy well-watered fields should have poured his yellow stream
and Tagus his sands of gold.129 So mayst thou enjoy
thy lettered ease; so, with a heart unclouded and serene,
110 mayst thou overstep the limit of a Nestor’s years!130
IV. The restoration to health of Rutilius Gallicus
YES, ye are real, ye gods; Clotho131 the spinner is not deaf to prayer;
gentle Astraea132 does look upon the good; she has come back reconciled to Jove,
and Gallicus133 discerns the full radiance of the stars he wellnigh despaired of.
Indeed and indeed our Lord God Germanicus134 is, beyond gainsaying,
5 dear to high heaven! Fortune was abashed to rob his rule
of so great a viceroy. Erect once more are the shoulders that, next to his,
bear that Atlantean load.135 Gallicus has shaken off the deadly toils
of decay: and for a fresh term of years puts on a more vigorous prime.
Therefore right eagerly let the companies that worship the city standard,136
10 the laws, that oftentimes fly to thy bosom, sire, to protest against
the confusion of the courts,—and the cities of our dominion in all the world,
that invoke thy verdict upon their distant plaints, vie with one another
in gladness. In its turn let the hill we live on shout for joy.
Let every murmur of sadder news be hushed.
15 He lives and long shall live,—his youth renewed,—in whose hands
is placed the kindly sway of an untroubled Rome,
nor shall Fate cause the fresh Aeon to put on so black a reproach,
nor the altar of Tarentus137—once more upreared—thus offend.
But for me,—not upon Phoebus,—though save for him my lyre
20 were dumb,—nor upon the Aonian Nine,138 with Pallas added to their number,
nor upon kindly fosterling of Tegea or of Dirce will I call.139
Be thou my aid as thou art my theme. Give me fresh strength, fresh
courage. Not without inspiration from heaven art thou so great,
and hast given such glory to our gown, such wisdom and
25 shrewd counsel to our courts. Though inspired Pimplea
slake not my minstrel thirst and no draught from conspiring
Pirene be vouchsafed to me;140 rather let me drink deep
of the wells of thy music, whether in melodious prose thy tale
is told, or whether the sweet stream of thy eloquence
30 is broken in to discipline and obeys our canons.
Come then, since to Ceres141 we yield gifts of her own bestowing, and
to Bacchus his own unwatered wine; and since Diana, though rich
in booty, yet in all her temples welcomes the spoil, and the Lord of war
the captured sword; do not thou, Gallicus, though thy eloquence
35 is greater, though mighty thou art and rich in flowing speech, scorn
to be hymned by a lowlier lyre. The nomad moon is surrounded
by stars, and humble fountains pay their tribute to the ocean.
What rich reward for thy worth a nation’s anxious love
doth pay thee! What sorrow I read that day in the eyes of knight
40 and senator, and commoners not wont to mourn the great!
Such fear came not upon the prosperous Senate at the passing of Numa,142
nor on the noble knights when Pompey fell, nor on women at Brutus’ death.143
This is the secret of that sorrow: Thou wast loath to hear the dismal clank
of fetters; and fain to spare the rod, to shun the path prescribed by high
45 dignity, to abate much of the power of the sword, to deign
to regard the entreaties of the lowly and the prayers of the suppliant,
to restore justice to the Courts, to maintain the magistrates in their seats,
to temper might with right. This is the path to nobility of soul.
Thus it comes that awe of the ruler is mingled with love till awe trusts love.
50 In itself, too, the relentless harshness of Fate startled all men;—
the cavalier suddenness of the peril, the very rapidity
of the disease. Not with old age was the blame
(for scarce was thy sixtieth year past),
but the strain of toil and the sway of the strong mind over
55 the body, and sleepless cares,—thy task beloved,—for the Caesar
of their worship. Thus came the treacherous lethargy to steal over
thy weary limbs and with it a deadening indifference to life.
Then the god who, nigh unto the heights of the Alpine ridge,
with his holy name of Apollo hallows the sacred groves, too long,
60 alas, careless of his great foster-son, had regard unto him,
and forestalling delay cried aloud:144—’My son, lord of Epidaurus,145
up now, and hasten blithely with me. ‘Tis ours (seize we the chance)
to heal a man of renown. Grasp we and hold the spindles that
are straining his thread to the breaking- point. Fear not the blackening
65 thunderbolt.146 Jupiter, ere we entreat him, will praise our skill.
‘Tis no low-born life I seek to save, but a favourite of heaven.
In few words, while we approach his home, I will tell you
the story. He is himself the pedigree of his family, and sheds a lustre back
upon his forefathers. Not that his lineage is hidden; but the parent light is outshone
70 by the radiance that follows after, and rejoices to yield to so great a descendant.
His first excellence in peace was that eloquence, for which he was renowned
and honoured. Anon in countless camps teas he disciplined.
East and West? over broad expanse of sea and land in every
clime, he fought in sworn fealty to Caesar, never suffered
75 to unbend in tranquil peace and to unbelt his sword.
Great Galatia dared to provoke him—aye, and me too,—
to war,147 and for nine harvest-tides fear was upon Pamphylia
and bold Pannonia, upon dread Armenia’s crafty archers
and upon the Araxes that at last had brooked a Roman bridge.148
80 What need to recount how twice he ruled and held sway over
great Asia?149 Thrice and four times she would fain have him for Master,
but the Records and high Magistracy of Rome, oft promised to him,
called him back. What need to rehearse the wonder of Africa’s tribute
and allegiance?150 Why praise the triumph-spoils sent to Rome in years
85 of peace, so rich an offering as even be who had assigned the task
durst not expect? There is joy at Trasymene and on the Alps,
and among the souls of them that fell at Cannae. And first the shade
of mangled Regulus himself claims without disguise a special meed.151
Time would fail me to tell of thy battles in the North; of insurgent Rhine,
90 of captured Veleda’s entreaties152 and, latest and greatest triumph,
Rome placed in thy hands (to govern) while the destruction
of the Dacians was going on, when Gallicus, the chosen,
took up the leadership of our great chief, and Fortune marvelled not.153
This is the man, if these reasons have weight enough, whom we, my son,
95 from the harsh Ruler of the underworld will rescue now. The renowned lord
of Latium sues for his life, yes, and has earned the boon. Not in vain did
the children of Rome the other day, clad in the purple, sing their lay to my praise.
If there be any simples in the health-giving cave of Chiron the Centaur;154
if any store of thine be hidden in that domed temple on Trojan Pergamus;
100 if aught of power spring from the healing sands of bountiful Epidaurus,
or balm of blooming dittany flourish under the shade
of Cretan Ida, or froth and foam of snake;—
and I will add my own cunning to thine and lavish every drug
that I learned in Arabia’s fragrant plains
105 or gathered, a shepherd, on Amphrysian lawns.’155
He ended, and they came to Gallicus. Listlessly they found his
limbs outstretched, and laboured his breath: when each girded himself
like a true leech and eagerly did guide and readily obey,
until with divers drugs they overcame the destroying sickness
110 and scattered the deadly cloud, the treacherous lethargy.
He himself helped his divine helpers and, too strong for plague to master,
clutched at deliverance. Not so swift was the healing of Telephus
by the Thessalian’s skill, or of the grisly wounds
of shrinking Atrides by Machaon’s simples.156
115 What place can there be for thought or vow of mine amid this gathering
of the senate and the nation? Yet I call the stars on high and the Lord
of Thymbra,157 father of poetry, to witness, what fear was mine
each day, each night, as ceaselessly I haunted the gate,
with ear and eye alert to catch every sign.
120 Even as in a furious tempest the little boat
fast-bound to some great ship bears its part
of the raging billows and tosses in the same gale.
Twine now, ye sisters, gaily twine a snow-white
skein. Let none tell the tale of his past years.
125 This day shall be his birthday. Worthy art thou, Gallicus, to outlive
the patriarchs of Troy, to number more years than the dust of the Sibyl,
to outlast Nestor’s mouldering antiquity.158 Poor as I am, how can censer of mine
make intercession for thee? It were not enough that Mevania should empty
her valleys or the meadows of Clitumnus furnish me with their snow-white
130 bulls.159 Yet, time and again, amid such lordly offerings has a single turf,
a handful of meal, with scant salt besprinkled, won grace from the gods.160
V. The Baths of Claudius Etruscus
NOT at Helicon’s gates does my tuneful lute sound with solemn rapture;
not on the Muses do I call, who so often have wearied their godhead for me.
Phoebus and Bacchus, from my song I set you free;
and do thou too, winged Lord of Tegea,161 keep mute the melodious
5 tortoise shell! Other gatherings my music summons.
It is enough to lure forth the Naiad-queens of the fountains,
and the Lord of gleaming fire,162 still wearied, and still ruddy from
his Sicilian smithy. Truce for awhile to the guilty strife of Thebes;163
for my loved companion I fain would sing a lighter strain.
10 Fill cup upon cup, my lad,164—why so careful to count the measure?—
and string the laggard lyre. Sorrow and Care, begone,
while I sing of the bright rock, and the jewelled baths;
while my muse in wanton ivy and ribbons wreathed—all sober leafage
put away—sounds a sportive measure for Etruscus.165
15 Come, goddesses of ocean, turn hitherward your looks out of the waters
and bind your sea tresses with clusters of soft ivy-berries,
unrobed as when you rise from the deep pools
and torment the love-sick Satyrs with your beauty.
Not unto you would I call, who have stained with guilt the honour
20 of your waves. Banished far hence be the treacherous streams
of Salmacis, forlorn Oenone, too, and her grief-parched
fountain, and she that filched from Hercules his foster-son.166
Ye rather, denizens of Latium and the Seven Hills,
ye that haunt the Tiber and with fresh waves swell his flood;
25 ye that delight in headlong Anio, in the Maiden Water
that is fain to welcome the swimmer, and in Marcia that draws down the cool
of Marsian snows;167 all ye whose travelling wave swells along ducts
of tall masonry and over countless arches passes on its airy way.
Yours is the work that I assay to sing; yours the home my mild lay
30 celebrates. Never in other grottos have you found a costlier bower.
Venus herself guided her husband’s168 hand and gave him
fresh cunning; and that no mean flame might fire his furnaces,
herself kindled there under the torches of the winged Loves.
Here neither Thasos nor the sea-stone of Carystus finds place:
35 the onyx pines afar, the snake-stone, too, is outcast and sorrowful.169
Nothing is here but gleaming porphyry quarried from Numidia’s tawny rocks;
nothing but the stone that, in the deep caves of Phrygian Synnas,
Attis has flecked with glistening drops of his own blood,
and marble of a deeper purple than fine linen dyed at Tyre.170
40 Scarce is room found for blocks from the Eurotas, where that long
green line picks out the Synnas-stone.171 Gay is each threshold,
gay and bright the ceilings; the gables shine with glass of many hues
to produce a picture and characters of life. The very fire marvels
to enfold such store of riches, and tempers its tyranny.
45 Everywhere is a glory of light, for the untiring sun pours in all his beams
and finds himself scorched, the rogue, by a heat not his own.
Nothing common is there nor mean. Nowhere will you mark bronze
of Temese.172 From silver into silver pours and plunges
the blithe wave, poised upon the gleaming edge,
50 spellbound by its own loveliness and loath to pass.
Without is the dark-blue river sparkling on the snow-white
verge, bright and clear from lowest depth to surface.
Whom might it not tempt to fling off his sluggish raiment
for a plunge in the flood? Rather had Cytherea173 have sprung from these waters;
55 clearer here hadst thou, Narcissus, gazed on thine own beauty.174
Here would swift Hecate fain bathe though espied.175
And shall I now tell of the floors laid there upon the earth,
soon to hear the pulsing ball, as the vapour finds its way through
the house and the vaults upheave the penetrating heat?
60 Not though a guest came fresh from the beaches of Baiae176 will he
scorn all this loveliness. Nay, let me be suffered to compare the little with
the great, not even he who is fresh from the baths of Nero would be loath
here once more to sweat. Blessings, Claudius, on thy brilliant taste
and cunning thought! May thy works grow old with thee,
65 and thy star learn to rise again to a livelier splendour.
VI. The Emperor’s Saturnalia
HENCE Father Phoebus and Pallas the austere!
Away ye Muses, keep ye holiday;
at the new year we will call you back.
But come hither to me, Saturn, thy chains struck off;
5 and come December flushed with many a bumper!177
Come wanton Quips and laughing Jollity!
Be with me while I sing the glad feast-day
of blithe Caesar and the midnight revel.178
Scarce was the dawn rising anew, when
10 sweetmeats rained from the awnings.179
Such was the dew shed by the breeze of the morning.
All the wealth of the nut-groves of Pontus,
all the spoils of the rich slopes of Edom;
the fruits of the trees of god-fearing Damascus,
15 the figs that ripen early on the canes
of Ebusea are lavished in generous showers.180
Luscious cakes, dainty cates,
pears from Ameria not spoiled by the sun;
mustcake and teeming dates—so thick you cannot
20 see the palm—showered down.181
Not stormy Hyades nor angry Pleiades182
hurl such rains upon the earth,
as the storm that with fair-weather hail
lashed the people in the theatre of Rome.
25 Ah, let Jupiter above marshal his clouds throughout
the world, and menace the broad plains with storm,
if only our Jupiter in Rome183 sheds such showers upon us!
But lo ! through all the tiers, beautiful
to behold in bright raiment a fresh people,
30 as numerous as the seated commons!184
Vessels of dainties, napery snow-white,
cates yet richer they bring anew;
while others pour bumpers of languorous wine:
you would think every man of them a Ganymede.185
35 The circle of noble and grave and the clans
that wear the gown thou feastest alike.
But although so many houses banquet on thy bounty,
Annona186 for all her pride has no part in the festival.
Go to now, hoary Eld;187 compare with our day
40 the days of love’s youth, and the golden time!188
Wine flowed not so freely then;
crops forestalled not the tardy autumn.
At one board feast all ranks, knight and
senator, children and women and commons alike;189
45 freedom has relaxed awe.
Thou190 too, moreover—what God would brook
to find such leisure or grant such pledge?—
thou, too, hast feasted with us.
Now prince and pauper, whoe’er he be,
50 can boast himself an Emperor’s guest.
Amid the clamour and the strange delicacies
the pleasant show flies swiftly by.
See, women, novices and strangers to battle—
see, how untiringly they assay the weapons of men!191
55 You would think that this was some wild combat of
Thermodon’s daughters on the banks of Tanais or barbarous Phasis.192
Then in turn come forth the bold battalions of dwarfs,
whom Nature from their birth cramped
and bound once for all into a knotted lump.193
60 These join in battle and deal wounds; see,
with Lilliputian hands they menace each his fellow with death;
while Father Mars and murderous Valour,
and the cranes, ere in random raid they pounce,
marvel at the courage of the pygmies.194
65 Then, as the shades of night are approaching,
what riot waits upon the shower of good cheer!
Hither come maidens not difficult to win;195
here is all that in the theatres wins favour
and applause for skill or comeliness.
70 In one company buxom Lydian beauties clap their hands,
here is tumult of the cymbals and the jingling music of Spain;196
here are Syria’s noisy troups; here the common folk of the theatre;
here they whose trade is to barter
their cheap sulphur for scraps of glass.
75 Amid the riot, with sudden swoop,
as from the stars, fall in clouds the birds
of holy Nile and wintry Phasis, and those
on which the Numidians prey in the rainy south.197
No hands are left to seize them; the armfuls of spoil
80 hamper those who would gather fresh largess still.
Myriad voices are raised to heaven in praise
of the Prince’s carnival. With affectionate
enthusiasm they salute their Lord; this measure
of liberty—and this alone—Caesar forbade.198
85 Scarce was dark night climbing the sky,
when from the midst of the arena, up through
the gathering gloom, soared a ball of fire,199
brighter than the radiance of Ariadne’s crown.200
The sky blazed with light; banished
90 was the power of midnight;
banished was sluggish sleep;
and dull repose fled to other cities at the sight.
Who can recount the spectacle and the licence
of jollity, or who the revel, the unbought
95 feast, the rivers of generous wine?
I faint, I fail; and heavy with thy Naxian,201
drag myself at last away to sleep.
For how many years shall this day be handed down!
Never, never shall it be blotted out by time.
100 As long as the hills of Latium endure, as long as Father Tiber flows,
as long as thy city shall remain and that Capitol
which thou hast restored to the world, the memory shall live.
1 Two of the three divine Cyclopes (the third is Arges) who assist Vulcan, the god of fire, in his smithy.
2 I.e. the great artists of Classical Athens.
3 Domitian conducted military campaigns against the Germans (across the Rhine) and in Dacia, the area north of the Danube.
4 I.e. the Trojan Horse.
5 Two mountains near Troy.
6 Two great Trojan heroes.
7 The Trojan Horse again. The Achaeans inside it are the Greeks.
8 A river in Thrace, where the war god Mars is supposed to live.
9 A Germanic tribe.
10 Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, or Pompey the Great, was Julius Caesar’s great rival in the Roman civil war of 49-46 BCE. At one time Pompey had been married to Caesar’s daughter Julia.
11 Marcus Porcius Cato was a staunch conservative in the Roman Senate and a steadfast enemy of Caesar.
12 The Basilica Julia, begun by Julius Caesar and completed by Augustus, was located along the southern edge of the forum.
13 The Basilica Aemilia (which formed the northern edge of the Forum) was built by the famous general Aemilius Paullus in the second century BCE.
14 The Temple of Concord was located at the western edge of the Forum.
15 The Palatine Hill was located to the south of the Forum. During the Imperial Period the house of the emperor was located on it.
16 This is an allusion to the great fire in Rome in 64 CE, while Nero was emperor.
17 The Vestal Virgins were caretakers of the sacred fire of Rome (which represented the hearth of the city). Domitian is said to have carried out a brutal purge of the Vestals who had been accused of having sexual relations.
18 The goddess Minerva.
19 A place often associated with mining in myth. We cannot precisely locate it.
20 A giant hunter.
21 Adrastus’ horse Arion was of divine origin and extremely fast.
22 In ancient myth Atlas was a Titan who was forced to hold up the sky.
23 I.e. the emperor.
24 The Lacus Curtius was a small pool in the Forum that the Romans venerated. According to one story a Sabine hero named Mettius Curtius fell into the pool and it thereafter went by his name. The “Warden” here is Curtius.
25 This is a reference to an equestrian statue of Caesar in the forum he built nearby. Evidently the statue originally depicted Alexander the Great (“the lord of Pella”) but had its head replaced by one depicting Caesar.
26 I.e. the winds. Aeolus supposedly kept the winds imprisoned until needed.
27 A famous Greek painter.
28 An allusion to Phidias and his famous statue of Zeus (Jove) at Olympia.
29 A city in southern Italy, evidently famous for a statue of Artemis.
30 An island in the Aegean Sea, famous for its colossal statue of Apollo.
32 Helicon is a mountain in Boeotia where the Muses were supposed to live.
33 A region near Mount Olympus, another place often inhabited by the Muses.
34 Elegy is a form of poetry whose topic is often love. Here Elegy is personified as a goddess/Muse.
35 Ancient poetry was comprised of lines with a set number of metrical units called “feet.” Since elegaic poetry had one hexameter line (6 feet) and one pentameter line (5 feet), it was often thought to “limp” along.
36 Venus is Aeneas’ mother.
37 Lucius Arruntius Stella was a patron (and friend) of Statius as well as the epigrammatic poet Martial.
38 Apollo, Bacchus, and Mercury, respectively.
39 A region in Arcadia, frequented by Mercury.
40 The allusion here is to the chariot race between Oenomaus and Pelops for the hand of Hippodamia.
41 A mountain near Troy.
42 Mars (Venus’ lover).
43 Venus was notorious for stirring up erotic trouble among the gods, even with Jove (the “lord of thunder” here).
44 The “Lemnian” here is Venus’ husband Vulcan, the god of fire. Vulcan (who was by most accounts lame), annoyed with his wife’s infidelity, devised a trap whereby he concealed an unbreakable net in his and Venus’ bed. When Venus and Mars began carrying on in the bed, Vulcan released the net, binding the two. Vulcan then displayed the naked pair for the rest of the gods to see. Ultimately Venus and Mars were released, due to the intervention of the other gods.
45 I.e. Stella.
46 I.e. Italian or Roman.
47 Sometimes known as Melanion, Hippomenes challenged the supposedly unbeatable Atalanta to a footrace and won. The prize was her hand in marriage.
48 A young man from Abydus who every night would swim across the Hellespont to be with his girlfriend Hero.
49 Apollo, as the god of music, would naturally patronize a poet like Stella.
50 I.e. Stella seems to have been interested in writing epic poetry.
51 Paphos is a Greek island often associated with Aphrodite/Venus.
52 Venus’ theromorph was the dove.
53 I.e. Diana, the goddess of, among other things, the hunt.
54 Literally “daughters of Nereus,” the Nereids were sea-Nymphs. Since Venus is thought to have been born out of the sea, it is natural that she would associate with them.
55 Literally “silk people.” The reference is perhaps to traders in luxury goods from the Far East.
56 Clymene was the mother of Phaethon, and the “poplar sisters” refer to Phaethon’s sisters. These sisters in their grief for Phaethon’s demise were transformed into poplars and their tears into amber. The idea here is of course that no material luxury (like amber) can distract the noble soul of Violentilla. The reference to the pearls is obscure.
57 The red/purple dye from the murex shellfish (usually found near Sidon and Tyre) was particularly valuable.
58 Two rivers well-known for their gold content.
59 Two shape-shifting sea gods.
60 Apollo famously chased the nymph Daphne until in desperation she appealed to her father for help and was transformed into a laurel tree.
61 Ariadne, having been abandoned by her lover Theseus, was rescued by Bacchus, who made her his mistress.
62 These are allusions the amatory adventures of Jove with the mortal women Leda, Europa, and Danae, and to his wife Juno’s consequent anger.
63 Venus’ chariot is drawn by swans from Amyclae, a city near Sparta.
64 According to legend Rome was founded by descendants of Aeneas.
65 These are references to various kinds of marble and valuable stone used in the construction of the houses of wealthy Romans.
66 Probably gold.
67 All places associated with Venus.
68 I.e. the emperor.
69 This allusion is unclear.
70 Apparently Stella held a religious office in which he was allowed to consult the so-called Sybilline books, a collection of oracles pertaining to the future of Rome.
71 I.e. Stella will be elected consul.
72 Stella somehow took part in Domitian’s triumph following his Dacian campaign.
73 I.e. Mars.
74 The Vestal Virgin Ilia, who was the mother of Romulus and Remus. Mars was the father.
75 Evidently a pseudonym Stella used for Violentilla in his writings.
76 One of Hercules’ beloveds. He was greatly lamented when he disappeared.
77 The allusion here is to the myth of Alpheius and Arethusa. It is another tale of erotic pursuit.
78 This is an allusion to the passion of Paris for Helen, and the beginning of the Trojan War.
79 This is an allusion to the marriage of the mortal Peleus to the goddess Thetis.
80 This is an allusion to the passion of the goddess Aurora for the mortal Tithonus.
83 Ortygia, also known as Delos, is an island in the Aegean Sea associated with Apollo. Nysa is a mountain in the east associated with Bacchus.
84 Places associated with Apollo.
85 Places associated with Bacchus.
86 The god of marriage.
87 The goddess of marriage (and wife of Jove).
88 Lavinia was a Latin princess whom Aeneas eventually married. She was evidently in love with the Rutulian prince Turnus, however.
89 Claudia was a famous Roman matron who, after her chastity was called into question, helped retrieve a boat carrying a cult image of Cybele that had been stuck on a sand bank. This act proved her chastity.
90 A Greek poet of the Hellenistic period.
91 Perhaps the most famous Greek Hellenistic poet.
92 Propertius was a prominent Roman elegaic poet. Umbria is a region of Italy north of Rome.
93 Ovid was a very famous Roman poet. He was exiled by the emperor Augustus to Tomi on the Black Sea for reasons that remain unclear.
94 Another Roman elegaic poet.
95 Statius means by “my own Parthenope” his home town of Naples.
96 These place names again refer to Naples.
97 The Lucrine Lake is located in Campania in Italy.
98 The Samus was a river near the Campanian city of Pompeii.
99 I.e. Diana, in her guise as the goddess of childbirth.
100 An Italian town about 20 miles from Rome.
101 Not much is known about this friend of Statius.
102 A river in central Italy.
103 This refers to the constellation of the Nemean lion, which was killed by Hercules.
104 The star Sirius was thought to herald the heat of summer.
105 The “Sestian straight” refers to the Hellespont. The “swimmer” is Leander, who swam across the Hellespont every night to be with his beloved Hero.
106 Arion was a poet who, having been thrown overboard by pirates, was rescued by dolphins.
107 The city of Chalcis on the island of Euboea is very close to the mainland.
108 Cape Pelorus on Sicily is right adjacent to the toe of Italy.
109 This was a famous floor mosaic that depicted the leftovers and waste from a sumptuous dinner party.
110 The famous Marcian aqueduct.
111 The Alpheus river, which supposedly had a subterranean course for some of its length. According to myth the river god Apheus was in love with the nymph Arethusa.
112 Tiburnus was the mythical founder of Tibur. Albula is a like near Tibur, here personified.
113 Egeria is a water goddess who served Phoebe (the goddess Diana).
114 Tagytus is a mountain near Sparta, and Dryads are wood-nymphs.
115 Pan is a woodland god.
116 I.e. a temple to Hercules.
117 There was a Temple of Fortuna at Praeneste (to the east of Rome). Who the “sisters” are is unclear. Perhaps they were priestesses.
118 Alcinous was king of the Phaeacians, who lived in a kind of earthly paradise.
119 Tusculum and Ardea, respectively.
120 Baiae and Formiae, respectively.
121 Circeii. The “Dulichian wolves” refers to Odysseus’ men, who were transformed into animals by the goddess Circe.
122 Anxur, Caieta, and Antium are all Italian towns.
123 The Greek philosopher Epicurus.
124 Two constellations that signified winter.
125 The strait of Messina between Italy and Sicily.
126 Alcides is Hercules; Catillus was a founder of Tibur.
127 Pindar was a very famous Greek poet who wrote at the very beginning of the Classical Period.
128 Two legendary eastern kings, notable for their wealth.
129 Two rivers known for their gold content.
130 Nestor, one of the characters in the Iliad, is reputed to have lived for many generations.
131 One of the three Fates who determine when people die.
132 A goddess of justice.
133 Gaius Rutlilius Gallicus had a highly successful political career under the emperors Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. By 89 BCE he was appointed City Prefect, the position he held when this poem was written. He died by 92 CE.
134 I.e. Domitian.
135 I.e. Gallicus’ responsibilities are like burden of Atlas.
136 As City Prefect Gallicus commanded four cohorts of soldiers in Rome.
137 Located in the Campus Martius.
138 The Muses.
139 Minerva, Mercury, and Bacchus, respectively.
140 Two places associated with the Muses.
141 Goddess of agriculture.
142 The legendary lawgiver and second king of Rome.
143 Pompey was a powerful Roman politician in the Late Republic. The Brutus mentioned here is the legendary founder of the Republic.
144 Apollo addresses his son Aesculapius, the god of healing.
145 A Greek town associated with a great sanctuary of Aesculapius.
146 As a mortal, Aesculapius had raised the dead with his skill, thus provoking the wrath of Jupiter.
147 Gallicus was a legate in Galatia early in his career. In 279 BCE Gauls from that region attacked Delphi, one of Apollo’s shrines.
148 This apparently a list of Gallicus’ military accomplishments in east and west.
149 As proconsul.
150 He conducted a census of Africa.
151 Here Statius lists a series of famous Roman defeats by way of contrasting the success of Gallicus to them.
152 Again references to Gallicus’ military exploits.
153 As City Prefect, Gallicus essentially ran the Roman state while Domitian was away on campaign in Dacia.
154 A mythical creature famous for his arts of healing.
155 Apollo is listing a series of exotic places that were known for healing herbs and plants.
156 Two Trojan War exempla. Telephus was a Mysian king who was wounded by, and later healed by, Achilles (“the Thessalian”). Machaon was the healer for the Greek army at Troy, and he treated both Agamemnon and Menelaus (either of whom could be referred to by “Atrides”).
158 All examples of very long life.
159 Metaphors for extravagant sacrifice.
160 I.e. the performance of a simple sacrifice.
163 Statius is alluding to his epic poem the Thebaid, from the writing of which is proposing to take a break.
164 An imaginary servant serving the poet his wine.
165 Claudius Etruscus. He is mentioned here and at Silvae 3.3.
166 Three examples of water-nymphs who seduced young men into their pools.
167 Two aqueducts. The “Maiden” is the Aqua Virgo.
169 Types of marble and precious stones that have been excluded in the construction of Etruscus’ bath.
170 Various other kinds of marble and precious stone.
171 Yet more marble.
172 An Italian town famous for copper production.
174 Narcissus was a mythical young man renowned for his beauty. He fell in love with his own reflection in a pool.
175 Hecate is another name for Diana. For a mortal to see her bathing was often the cause of his demise.
176 A resort area on the Bay of Naples.
177 The Saturnalia, as a midwinter festival, occured in December. Saturn, the father of Jupiter and former lord of the gods, was conceived of as ruling over a Golden Age to which the Saturnalia hearkened back.
178 Revelry and jesting were characteristic of the Saturnalia.
179 The setting here is evidently the Flavian amphitheater, or Colosseum. Somehow various kinds of treats are being poured down upon the crowd.
180 Exotic places that provide some of the sweets for the Roman crowd.
181 More exotic places and their produce.
182 Constellations associated with bad weather.
184 An interesting conceit: there are as many waiters to serve the people as there are people to be served.
185 The legendary cupbearer of the gods.
186 The goddess of the grain supply.
187 Old Age.
188 Statius now refers to the mythical Golden Age, ruled by Saturn, in which no work was required for people to enjoy the fruits of the earth.
189 Another feature of the Saturnalia was social leveling: all classes of society were allowed to interact on an equal basis for the duration of the festival. By some accounts slaves were also allowed to participate.
191 Women gladiators, perhaps an unusual spectacle.
192 The female gladiators are here compared to the mythical Amazons.
193 Another apparently unusual gladiatorial combat.
194 Statius’ description, somewhat grotesque to modern sensibilities, shows just how dystopic the Saturnalia could be. The point here is that many social norms are overturned.
195 Evidently prostitutes.
196 Various forms of exotic music.
197 Another (almost overly generous) distribution of food.
198 A wonderful paradox. In the freedom of the festival the people want to hail their master. And it is this (free) gesture that the master forbids them to do (because it makes them less free)!
199 Evidently come kind of giant lantern.
200 A constellation.
201 I.e. Bacchus.