Statius, Silvae Book 4
Translated by D. A. Slater
Formatted and with notes by C. Chinn
I. Domitian’s Seventeenth Consulship
WITH happy omens doth our Emperor, the conqueror of Germany,
add yet again the purple unto his eight consulships twice told
and inaugurates once again a glorious year.1 With the new sun he rises
and with the great lights, more radiant still than they and mightier
5 than the Morning Star in the East. Joy to the laws of Latium,
joy to the chairs of state!2 Let Rome more proudly lift her seven hills
heavenwards, and beyond the rest let Evander’s mount exult.3
Again the rods, again the twelve axes4 have scaled the Palatine and broken
Caesar’s rest. The Senate rejoice that their prayer has been heard
10 and that they have overcome their Ruler’s modesty.
Even Janus5 himself, the almighty renewer of the dateless years,
lifts up his head and from both his thresholds gives thanks;
Janus, whom thou hast fastened in bonds of peace6 (Peace his neighbour)7
and bidden him lull all wars to rest and swear allegiance to the statutes
15 of the new forum. From both his gates he uplifts hands
of entreaty and with twofold voice he cries:
‘All hail, great father of the world, who makest ready with me to renew
the ages; fain would thy city ever behold thee thus in my month; thus it is
meet that the years should begin their march, and fresh aeons make their
20 entry. Grant to our records this bliss continually. Let thy shoulders
many a time be robed in the purple folds and the trappings
wrought in haste for thee by thine own Minerva’s hands.8
Seest thou, how the temples break into a new and strange radiance;
how the fire leaps higher on the altars; how even my mid-winter stars
25 grow warm in honour of thee and thy haviour? Knights and commons
and purple senators rejoice,9 and every office draws a lustre from
the sunshine of thy consulate. Tell me, was there a magic such as this
in the year just past? Speak, royal Rome, and do thou, age-long Time,
review our records with me. Rehearse not petty histories,
30 but theirs only whom our Caesar may deign to surpass.
Thrice and ten times in the gliding years did Augustus wield the axes,10
but he entered late on his career of service: thou in early manhood
hast outstripped thy forefathers. And how oft thou dost refuse,
how oft forbid the proffer! Yet wilt thou yield, and to the suppliant
35 senate promise many a return of the day. The long tale is still to tell.
Thrice, yea, and four times as oft shall Rome be blessed in granting
thee this office. Thou and I will inaugurate yet another Aeon;11
thou shalt reconsecrate the altar of the aged sire.
Only accept the triumph, and a thousand trophies shall be thine.
40 Still is Bactra, still is Babylon to be yoked with fresh tribute:
no laurels are yet won from India to lay in the lap of Jove:
not yet are the Seres, and not yet the Arabs thy suppliants: not yet hath
the whole year its guerdon: ten months still yearn for a title from thee.’12
Thus Janus, and willingly closed his gates and was gone.
45 Then all the gods opened their portals and gave signs and tokens
in the glad sky: and royal Jupiter confirmed to thee, sire,
enduring youth and years as many as his own.
II. Thank you to Domitian for dinner
THE royal feast of Sidonian Dido is sung by him
who brought the great Aeneas to the Laurentine fields;13
the banquet of Alcinous is celebrated in deathless verse
by him who sang the return over the broad seas of Ulysses outworn:14
5 but I,—to whom Caesar has even now for the first time
granted to enjoy the bliss of that holy banquet, and to rise up
from an Emperor’s table,—how shall I sound my vows upon the lyre;
how avail to pay my thanks? Nay, though my brow be bound
and blessed with the fragrant bays of Smyrna and of Mantua,15 not even so
10 shall my strains be worthy. I seemed to be feasting in the heart
of heaven with Jove, taking from the Trojan’s16 hand
immortal wine. Barren are the years of my past.
This is the beginning of my days, this the threshold of life.
Ruler of the world, great father of the conquered globe,
15 hope of mankind, darling of the gods, can it be that I behold thee as I recline?
Is it thou? And dost thou suffer me to see thy face, thy face hard by
at the board over the wine, and must I not rise up to do thee homage?
Noble is the hall and spacious, not glorified with a hundred columns,
but with so many as might bear up the gods in heaven,
20 were Atlas discharged. The neighbouring palace of the Thunderer17
is amazed at thine. The gods rejoice that thou hast thy home in
as fair a seat as their own. Hasten not to ascend to the great sky.
So spacious is the pile; more enlarged than the plain is the career
of thy vast hall, clasping and closing within it wide space of sky,
25 unsurpassed save by its lord. He fills the place
and his mighty presence makes its delight. There, as in rivalry,
gleams the marble of Libya and of Ilium; resting upon syenite18
are slabs of Chian19 and blocks of sea-grey stone:20
and Luna21 is there, pressed into the service only to support the columns.
30 So high the vault above, the weary sight can scarce strain
to the roof: you might think it the ceiling of the golden heavens.
Such was the palace wherein Caesar bade the nobles of the stock
of Romulus and the knights in their array take their places together at
a thousand tables for the feast: and Ceres in person with robes upgirt
35 and Bacchus toiled in their service.22 Amid such plenty glided of old
the wheels of heaven-born Triptolemus:23 so bountifully did Lyaeus24
overshadow bare hills and temperate fields with the cluster-laden vine.
But not upon the feast, not upon the slabs of Moorish
citron-wood set on pillars of ivory, not upon the long array
40 of henchmen,—on him, on him alone had I eyes to gaze.
Calm was his countenance; with a quiet majesty he tempered
the brightness and gently abated the blazoned pomp of his grandeur:
yet the radiance he sought to hide shone out upon his brow.
Even the barbarian foeman and nations that knew him not
45 might in such splendour have recognized their monarch.
Even so, when he has stabled his steeds, Gradivus reclines
in Rhodope’s chill valleys;25 so Pollux resting from the lists
at Therapnae lays down his glistening limbs;26
so Euhan on the banks of Ganges amid the wild ecstasy of his Indians;27
50 so grim Alcides returning from his perilous labours
rejoiced to rest his bulk upon the lion-skin.28
‘Tis not enough : these words, Sire, paint not thy looks.
Nay, but when the king of heaven comes to the ends of the Ocean,
and feasts with the Ethiopians, with overflowing ooze of hallowed nectar
55 on his countenance, it is in such guise he bids the Muses rehearse
their mystic song, and Phoebus acclaim the triumph of Pallene.29
Oh, may the gods, that often listen, men say, attentively to the entreaties
of the humble, grant thee, I pray, to outlast twice and three times thy aged
father’s span of years. Unassailable be the gods you have sent to the skies.
60 Bestow shrines: but inhabit still a home on earth! Often mayst thou open
the temple gates to a new year and greet Janus with new lictors:30
often with garlanded victims renew the quinquennial rites!
When thou didst bid me to the bright feast and hallowed joy
of thy board, then after many a year such a light shone
65 upon me as long ago beneath the hills of Trojan Alba,31
when I sang, now of the Dacian fray and now of the battles on the
Rhine,32 and thy hands set upon my head the golden crown of Pallas.
III. The Domitian Road
WHAT means the clash of stubborn flint
and ponderous steel that fills the stony Appian33
where it neighbours the sea?
Not from Libyan hordes, I know, comes the turmoil.
5 No alien chief, whose warfare keeps faith with no man,
is restlessly harrying the Campanian lands;34
nor is a Nero bridling the rapids, hewing down
hills, and filling up discoloured marshes.35
He who with courts of law and justice
10 has encircled the warlike threshold of Janus;36
he who to chaste Ceres gives back
her long lost fields and temperate acres;37
he who suffers not men to be unsexed;38
the censor who will not have grown youths stand in dread
15 of punishment for their comeliness;
he who restores the Thunderer to his Capitol
and makes Peace dwell in her own shrine;39
he who consecrates a temple to his father’s race
and hallows the Flavian sway;40—
20 this is his handiwork. In anger at the roads that
delayed his people and the plains that checked their
goings to and fro, he puts an end to the long circuits
of old, re-lays the track and makes firm the heavy sand.
It is his pleasure to bring the home of the
25 Euboic Sibyl,41 the Gauran bay,42 and sultry
Baiae43 nearer to the Seven Hills.
Here of old the traveller, moving slow in his
carriage, with one wheel foundered, hung
and swung in balanced torture, while the churlish
30 soil swallowed his wheels, and in mid land
the Latins shuddered at the ills of sea-voyaging.
No swift journeying was theirs: while the
suppressed ruts clogged and checked their going,
and the tired nags, fretting at their burden,
35 under the high yoke crawled upon their way.
But now what was a whole day’s journey
is become scarce two hours’ travel.
No barque, no straining bird
of the air will make better speed.
40 The first task was to prepare the furrow,44
to open a track and with deep digging hollow out
the earth ; the next in other wise to re-fill
the caverned trench, and prepare a lap on which
the convex surface of the road might be erected,
45 lest the ground should sink or the spiteful earth
yield an unstable bed for the deep-set blocks:
then, with close-knit revetments on this side and on that,
and with many a brace, to gird the road.
What a multitude of hands wrought together at the work!
50 These felled the forest and stripped the hills;
those made smooth the beams and the rocks with steel:
these bound the stones together and wove fast
the work with baked bricks and dingy pumice;
others with might and main dried the thirsty pools
55 and drained off afar the lesser rivulets.
Such toilers might have hollowed Athos and
shut in sad Helle’s moaning flood with a bridge not
of boats.45 It had been short work for them—
did not heaven warn them from the way—
60 to make Ino’s Isthmus unite,46 not part, two seas.
Shores and nodding woods are all astir,
and far through the heart of the cities resounds the crash;
the echo, breaking on this side and on that,
is tossed from vine-clad Massicus to Gaurus.47
65 Peaceful Cyme marvels at the tumult;
sluggish Savo and the marshes of Liternum are amazed.48
Soon Vulturnus49 with yellow locks,
and far-streaming ooze of moisture
on his sedge-crowned heads, arose and
70 leant on the vast span of the Emperor’s bridge.
Hoarse from his lips surged a cry:
‘Hail, kind founder of my lands, how hast thou
curbed, within the straight course thou enjoinest,
me, who overflowed of old the pathless valleys
75 and knew nor bank nor bound?
Now I, that was so grim and terrible,
and aforetime scarce brooked the hesitating barques,
bear to-day a bridge and am become a thoroughfare.
The flood that was wont to rend the land and whirl
80 the forest (ah, shame!) is henceforth but a river.
Yet am I grateful: the reward is worth the thraldom;
for it is at thy bidding, and under thy rule that I have
yielded; and men will read of thee as my
strong disposer and lord for ever of my banks.
85 And now thou honourest me with a sumptuous dike
and sufferest me not to go neglected, but dost banish
afar barren soil and foul reproach, that my stream
may not be defiled with dust or charged with mud,
when I am lost in the depths of the Tyrrhene sea50—
90 such is Cinyphian Bagrada51 that between his silent banks
goes winding through the fields of Carthage;—
nay, but so clear shall be my hurrying waters,
that their pure flood shall rival the still sea,
and challenge the stream of neighbouring Liris.’52
95 So said the River: and ere he ended,
a long reach of marble roadway had arisen.
For gateway at its fair threshold stood an arch
that shone with the trophies of our warrior Lord
and all the wealth of Ligurian53 mines,
100 huge as the rainbow that spans the cloudy sky.
There under swiftly the traveller turns,
leaving Appia54 to sigh that she is flouted.
Swifter forthwith and more eager is the journeying;
forthwith even the horses delight in the speed,
105 as when the arms of the rowers tire
and the breezes first begin to fan the sails.
Come therefore all ye that under the Eastern skies
keep true fealty and allegiance to the Roman Father:
come, for the path is easy, and resort to us!
110 Come fast you Eastern laurels!
No bar is there to your desire, nought to delay.
Whoso at daybreak leaves the Tiber55
may sail the Lucrine56 at nightfall.
Hist! Who is this that I descry at the far limits
115 of the new way, where Apollo points out old-world
Cumae?57 White is her hair and white her snood.
Is my sight duped? Or is it the laurel-crowned Sibyl of Chalcis
who is even now approaching from her hallowed cave?58
Yield we, my lyre! Let thy notes be hushed: a holier minstrel
120 is lifting up her voice: we must silence our strains.59
See how her neck sways: see how she revels far and wide
over the new-built track; her presence fills
the road. Then thus with maiden lips she speaks:
‘Did I not say, River and Plains, be patient,
125 for by heaven’s grace there will surely come one
that with a road and lofty bridges will make easy
to the traveller rank woodland and quaking sand?
Behold the god!60 He it is whom Jupiter commands
to rule as his vice-gerent over the happy world.
130 No worthier Sovereign has taken up the sway,
since under my guidance Aeneas, in his eager quest
for the future, threaded the prophetic woods
of Avernus61 and then went his way.
He is a friend to peace: he is terrible in battle;
135 yes, and he is kinder and mightier than Nature.
Were he lord of the starry sky, India would be watered
with bountiful showers, there would be bubbling springs
in Libya, and summer warmth on Haemus.62
‘Hail, lord of men and father of gods to be,
140 whose godhead I foresaw and founded.
No longer seek out my words with the appointed
litanies of the Fifteen63 and pore over them in the
mouldering scroll: nay, that thou mayest have help,
listen to my song as I stand revealed;
145 I have seen the linked yean of service
that the shining Sisters64 are weaving for thee:
great is the tale of centuries that awaits thee:
beyond the span of thy sons and thy sons’ sons
shall thou wear thy youth unbroken;
150 to the peaceful eld that Nestor, so men say, attained,
to the years that hoary Tithonus reckoned,
and that I asked of my Delian lover.65
Already the snowy North has sworn allegiance to thee;
soon the East shall yield a noble triumph.
155 By the path of Euhan66 and errant Hercules
thou shall ascend beyond the stars and the flaming sun,
past source of Nile and snows of Atlas;
rejoicing in every meed of renown,
thou shall disdain the laurell and the car.
160 As long as the altar-fire of Troy endures and the
Tarpeian Sire67 still thunders in his re-born temple; aye,
until this road comes to be older than the time-worn Appian
and sees thee still sovereign over all the world.’
IV. Letter to Vitorius Marcellus
SWIFTLY, my Letter, you must cross the Euboic plains68 and linger not.
Set forth upon your way where now the far-famed Appia69 shoots out
into a new road70 and a firm bank keeps fast the quaking sand.
Then when you have come hot-foot to the towers of Romulus,71
5 hasten to the right shore of tawny Tiber,
where Sea-fight Lake72 is shut fast behind the Tuscan
ridge and city parks fringe the stream.
There you will see Marcellus, pre-eminent in looks
and gallantry. By his lofty stature you will know him.
10 First give him in prose the greeting of every day.
Then forget not to repeat this message in metre.
‘Now spring with its showers is past, and, passing, frees earth
and the whirling sky. The snarling dogstar73 makes the heavens burn:
thinned now are the throngs in towered Rome.
15 Some in hallowed Praeneste74 and some in Diana’s cool boskage75
take shelter; these upon shaggy Algidus and those in bowered Tusculum,
while others court the cool freshness of Anio and Tibur’s woods.76
What more temperate land steals you now away from the roar
of Rome? Under what sky are you baffling the summer sun?
20 And what of Gallus,77 my friend too, but most chiefly yours
beyond all others?—and who shall decide whether for worth or for wit
to praise him most?—Is he spending the summer on the Latian coast,
or returns he to the towers of quarried Luna and his
Tuscan home?78 If he is nigh and at your side,
25 my name, I know, is not far from your discourse.
Yes, that is why both my ears are ringing.
Now, while in wanton Hyperion’s79 grip burns
the glowering lion’s mane,80 you too must banish care
from your breast and steal away from unremitting toil.
30 Even the Parthian unbends his bow and hides
his murderous quiver.81 The charioteer bathes in Alpheus
the steeds that have sweated in the lists at Elis.82 My lyre, too,
is faint and I unstring it. For strength finds spur and sustenance
in timely rest, and, valour rises more valorous from repose.
35 So from singing of Briseis Achilles came forth deadlier
to battle, and laid aside the lute to burst upon Hector.83
You, too, by a brief spell of ease, will secretly be kindled
to fresh fire and go forth exultant to your wonted task.
Assuredly the fray of Law is not raging now;
40 it is a sluggish and a tranquil time; the return of the harvest-tide
has emptied the courts. The accused are not now crowding your halls:
your clients are not now entreating you with cries to come forth.
The spear is at rest, the emblem of the Hundred,84
before whom your eloquence rings conspicuous,
45 already of a high renown beyond your years.
Happy are you in your pursuits, for neither the garlands
of Helicon nor the peaceful laurels from Parnassus’ peak delight you.85
Your wits are strong, your spirit, braced for high employ,
is patient of success and failure alike. We the while solace
50 our leisured life with song: the windy joys of fame are
our ambition. And so, lured by the desire of sleep to this voluptuous
shore, where in an Ausonian86 haven Parthenope,87
the stranger, found shelter, see, with feeble hands I strike upon
my puny lyre. For sitting here at the threshold of Maro’s88 shrine,
55 I still take courage and pour forth a lay to my master’s grave.
But if Fate grants your life for long years to run,—and grant
she must, and may it please the godhead of our lord of Latium,
whom it is your study to honour above the Thunderer,89
and who is crowning your consulate with fresh office
60 and charges you to restore Latina’s90 slanting track,—
You, it may be, will go forth to bridle the legions of Ausonia;
the nations of the Rhine or the shores of gloomy Thule91
are your charge to guard, or else the Danube or the grim threshold
of the Caspian pass. For your worth is not the power
65 of eloquence alone. A martial frame is yours, and limbs
that might with a struggle don ponderous armour. If you should march
on foot over the plain, you have a crest that will nod above them all;
or if the jingling bridle be in your hands, the most fiery-tempered charger
will be as meek as a bondslave to your bidding. We, with singing the deeds
70 of others, are drifting to old age: you, a hero in battles of your own,
will yourself do deeds for others to sing and set a high pattern before
the boy Geta,92 whose warrior grandsire is already asking of him worthy
exploits and grants him knowledge of triumphs his own kindred have won.
Up, boy, up! Man though thy father be, quick and overtake him,
75 thou, as blessed in his valour as in thy mother’s lineage.
Even now Fame, the sorceress, in her Tyrian purple,93 with happy omens fosters
thee for herself, and radiantly promises thee all the great offices of State.’
This lay, Marcellus, I pen to you here on the Chalcidic94
shore, where Vesuvius jets forth diminished fury,
80 spouting his columned fires in rivalry with Sicily.95
‘Tis strange—but true. When the crops grow again, and the
desolate fields are green once more, will mankind hereafter believe
that cities and peoples lie imprisoned beneath, and that the fields
of their forefathers perished by a like fate? Even now the peak still
85 menaces death. Far be that ruin from your beloved Teate!96
May such fury never possess the Marrucinian hills!97
Now, if haply you would know what theme my muse assays,
the Thebaid, my argosy, has weathered her Tyrian98 voyage
and at last has furled her sails in the longed-for haven.
90 On the peaks of Parnassus and in Helicon’s groves she has
flung upon the ritual fire due incense, and the entrails of a virgin heifer:
now upon the tree of offerings she hangs my fillets, while about
my discrowned brow a fresh chaplet twines with strange caress:
now I assay to tell the tale of Troy and of great Achilles,99 but the
95 archer-god bids me to another task and points to the doughtier deeds
of Ausonian majesty. Thither my desire this long while beckons,
only fear plucks me back. Can my shoulders bear the load?
Will not my back bend beneath the ponderous burden?
Tell me, Marcellus, is the task for me? Dare I trust to the perils
100 of the Ionian a bark that has known no such formidable seas?
And now farewell! Let there be no waning of your love
for the poet who is bound heart and soul to you, for Tirynthius,100
too, stinted not his friendship. So will you outstrip the fame
of loyal Theseus101 and of him who round towered Troy
105 dragged mangled Hector to solace his dead friend.102
V. Lyric Ode to Septimius Severus
HAPPY in the glory of my narrow domain,
where ancient Alba worships her Teucrian gods,103
I salute Severus104 the eloquent and the brave with a greeting
that is sounded on unwonted strings.
5 At last surly Winter has been overwhelmed by the sun
on high and has fled to the Parrhasian105 North:
at last the icy gusts have melted into warm zephyrs
and sunshine is upon land and sea.
Spring rules everywhere: the trees are tressed
10 with the leafage of another year: the birds sing
their plaints anew and the fresh songs that
in mid-winter’s hush they have devised.
A thrifty soil, a sleepless hearth, a roof-tree
blackened with smoke of many a lamp:
15 these are my solace, these and a wine taken from the jar
almost before it has had time to ferment.
Not in my fields bleat a thousand woolly flocks:
nor lows the cow to her pleasant paramour.
If ever I sing, it is alone, and nought but the dumb field
20 protests against its master’s voice.
Yet, next to my native home, this land
has my heart; here it is that the
warrior-queen of battle crowned
my strains with Caesar’s chaplet,106
25 when with all your heart strongly you strove
to have your comrade safe from the welcome ordeal,
trembling as Castor trembled at every note
in the din of the Bebrycian lists.107
Can it be that far Leptis on the distant Syrtes is indeed
30 your birthplace?108 Why, soon she will yield Indian
harvests and rob fragrant Sheba
of her priceless cinnamon.
Who would not think that beloved Septimius had planted
his baby steps on each of the seven hills of Romulus?
35 Who would think that as a weanling child
he had not drunk of Juturna’s109 rill?
Nor strange such worth: in your boyhood
you knew not the waters of Africa,
but sailed into Ausonian110 havens, and swam,
40 our adopted kinsman, in Tiber’s pools.
Then among sons of the Senate, content
with the narrow purple,111 you grew out of
boyhood, by noblesse of disposition
achieving boundless tasks.
45 No trace of Carthage112 in your speech or in your bearing:
no alien heart is yours: Italy, Italy is your motherland.
Whereas in Rome and amid Roman knights
are men fitted to be the foster-sons of Libya.
In the hum of the courts cheerily rings out
50 your voice: not to be bought is that eloquence;
that sword sleeps in the scabbard,
save when friends bid you draw.
But oftener your delight is in the tranquil fields,
either in the home of your father on Veientine
55 soil,113 or above bowers of the
Hillmen or in old-world Cures.114
There you shall rehearse more themes
in prose: but between-whiles forget me not;
and in those shy recesses make
60 your coy lyre ring again.
VI. The “Hercules At-The-Table” of Novius Vindex
ONE day as I was idly loitering at sundown in
the broad Enclosure,115 a truant from my task, for the fit
was not upon me, I was borne off to feast with generous
Vindex;116 and still in my inmost heart lives unforgotten
5 the memory of that night. It was not idle cheer
that regaled us, dainties fetched from divers climes
and vintages old as the Public Charter Chest.117
Wretched indeed are they whose delight is to tell the flavour
of the pheasant from the crane of Thrace; what goose has the richest vitals;
10 why the Umbrian boar has less breed about him than the boar
of Tuscany; and on what shore the succulent oyster finds his softest bed.118
The feast of reason was ours and talk from the heart
of Helicon,119 with merry jests, that lured us to sit out
the mid-winter night and banish gentle sleep from our eyes,
15 until Castor’s brother-twin120 peeped out from his Elysian home
and Dawn mocked the feast of yesternight. Ah, honest night;
and would that then as once in Tiryns two moons had been joined in one!121
A night to be marked with sea-pearls from Erythraean deeps;122
a night to treasure long and the spirit of it to live for evermore!
20 There it was and then that I learnt so well those thousand shapes
of classic ivory and bronze, and waxen forms so shrewdly
counterfeited they seemed upon the brink of speech. For where
will you find the peer of Vindex to discern in classic work
a master’s hand, or to name the artist of an unsigned piece?
25 Vindex alone can say which bronzes were fashioned with sleepless
care by cunning Myro: which marble was conjured into life by the chisel
of industrious Praxiteles;123 what ivory carving took the last touches from the man
of Pisa’s finger;124 what breathing bronze was cast by Polycletus;125
what line reveals even at a distance the hand of bygone Apelles?126
30 Whenever he lays down the lute, it is thus that Vindex makes holiday;
this is the passion that lures him from the grottos of the Muses.
Amid his treasures, guardian and god of his temperate board,
was a Hercules that with deep delight took my heart captive,
and with long gazing I could not satisfy my sight,
35 such a majesty was in the work, such a power was framed
within those narrow confines: the god, the god was there! Aye,
he vouchsafed himself, Lysippus,127 to thine eyes, a dwarf to the eye,
a giant to the mind. And though that wondrous stature be confined
within a foot’s space, yet look the figure up and down
40 and you will be fain to cry: ‘That is the breast that crushed
the ravager of Nemea;128 those the arms that swung
the fatal club and snapped the Argo’s oars!’129
It is not bulk: tiny is the form that has this wizard power!
What subtlety, what skill was in the cunning master’s hand,
45 that had the power as well to conceive in his mind
a colossal statue as to fashion an ornament for the table.
Never could the Telchines130 in the caves of Ida131 have devised in tiny
bronze so dainty a counterfeit,—no nor brawny Brontes,132 nor he
of Lemnos,133 who makes radiant the gleaming armour of the gods.
50 Nor is his presentment repulsive and unsuited to the easy moods
of feasting. That is the Hercules at whom the house of frugal
Molorchus134 marvelled; that the Tegean priestess beheld in Alea’s
groves;135 that rose from the cinders on Oeta to the sky,136
and sipped his nectar with joy while Juno still frowned.137
55 The very air of heartfelt jollity invites to the feast.
One hand holds his brother’s languorous cup,138 the other
still grips the club. And see, a rugged seat upbears him,
a rock with the Nemean lion’s skin for covering.
Inspired is the work, and worthy has been its lot. Once the lord
60 of Pella139 possessed it to be the worshipful deity of his
joyous board, and bore it, his companion, East and West.
In the hand that but now had crowned and uncrowned kings
and overthrown great cities, blithely would he clasp it.
From this Hercules he would seek courage for the morrow’s fray:
65 to Hercules he would tell, a conqueror ever, his gorgeous victories,
whether he had won from Bromius140 the credit of putting the Indians
in chains, or with strong spear burst the gates of Babylon,
or overwhelmed in battle Pelasgian141 liberty and the land
of Pelops.142 Of all the long array of his triumphs men say
70 he sought excuse only for one—the overthrow of Thebes.143
And when Fate snapped the thread of achievement and the king
drank the deadly wine, heavy as he was with the dark shades
of death, he was afraid at the changed countenance of the god
he loved and the bronze that at that last feast broke into sweat.144
75 Thereafter the priceless treasure fell to the Nasamonian145
king; aye, and Hannibal of the dread right hand, in the pride
of his faithless sword poured libations to the God of Valour,
who, for all that, hated a master drenched with Italian blood
and menacing with fell fires the towers of Romulus;146
80 yes, hated him even when he vowed Him banquets and the
bounty of Lenaeus,147 and sighed to follow in his accursed camp;
but most when with sacrilegious flames he destroyed His own
fanes, defiling hearth and shrine of innocent Saguntum148
and kindling in her people a noble frenzy.
85 Then after the passing of the Phoenician leader the princely bronze
fell into no common hands. Now the trophy adorned the feasts
of Sulla,149 accustomed as it was to enter into the homes
of the great, and happy in the pedigree of its masters.
To-day,—if gods deign to read the hearts and souls
90 of men,—though neither court nor kingly purple surround thee,
yet white and stainless, lord of Tiryns,150 is thy master’s soul.
An old-world loyalty is his, a heart true for all time to friendship
once vowed. Vestinus151 is my witness, who even in the heyday
of youth yet vied with his great forefathers. It is his spirit that Vindex
95 breathes night and day, and lives ever in the arms of that noble shade.
Here then, Alcides,152 bravest of all gods, is welcome repose
for thee. Not on war and proud battle thou gazest
but upon lyre and fillet and song-loving bays.
Vindex in ceremonial lays shall tell in what strength
100 thou didst strike terror into the halls of Ilium and of Thrace,
into snowy Stymphalos and the rainy hills of Erymanthus:
what manner of foeman thou wast to the owner of the Spanish
herds and to the Egyptian potentate of the altar merciless;
he shall tell how thou didst pierce and plunder the halls of Death,
105 and leave the daughters of Libya and of Scythia in tears.153
Neither the Emperor of Macedon154 nor savage Hannibal
nor the rude voice of savage Sulla could ever have hymned thee
in such strains. Thou, assuredly, Lysippus, who didst devise the
masterpiece, wouldst not have chosen to find favour in other eyes than his.
VII. Lyric Ode to Vibius Maximus
LONG since thou hast had thy fill, bold Erato,155
of the broad plain; take truce awhile now with the
travail of heroes, and within narrower circles
confine thy high emprise.
5 And thou, O Pindar,156 prince of the lyric throng,
grant me for a brief space the charter of a new
measure, if in Latin numbers I have
hallowed thy Thebes.157
It is for Maximus158 that I would refine my song.
10 Now I must gather a chaplet of the virgin
myrtle, and now a deeper thirst
craves a purer draught.
When wilt thou come back to thy loved Latium
from the Dalmatian hills, where the miner returns to the
15 light pale from the sight of Dis159 and sallow as the gold
that he has unearthed?
See, I that am the child of a nearer clime
yet linger not in slothful Baiae’s160 languorous
haven, nor with the bugler
20 known to Hector’s battles.161
Without thee a numbness takes my song.
Even Thymbra’s lord162 comes slower than is his wont:
and lo, at the first turning-point in the race
my Achilles163 stands still.
25 For it is through thy faithful counsel that my Thebaid,
kept long under the discipline of the file,
now with ambitious string aspires to prove the joys of
the Mantuan’s164 fame.
Still we pardon thee for lingering, inasmuch as with
30 a goodly scion thou hast stablished thy lonely hearth.
O day of gladness! we hail the advent of
a second Maximus.
Childlessness we must shun with every effort.
Close in pursuit presses the heir with hostile vows,
35 and (fie upon him, fie!) prays that an early death may
overtake his kind friend.
The childless man is laid in earth without a tear,
while his greedy survivor, the usurper of the home,
stands ready to pounce upon the spoils of death, counting the cost
40 even of the funeral fire.
Long live the noble babe! Be it his to tread
the path open to few, that he may grow up
like his sire and challenge his
grandsire’s doughty deeds.
45 Thou shall tell thy child how thou didst
carry thy sword to Orient Orontes,165
leading the eagles of thy squadron under
favour of Castor;166
he, how he followed Caesar’s lightning course
50 and laid upon the fugitive Sarmatae167 the bitter
terms that they should live beneath
one clime and one only.
But first let him learn in boyhood the arts whereby them
dost trace back all the world’s antiquity and dost
55 give us again the style of terse Sallust168 and the foster-
son of the Timavus.169
VIII. Congratulations to Julius Menecretes
FLING wide the gates of the gods, Parthenope,170 festoon the temples,
and fill them with fumes of frankincense and smoke from the throbbing
entrails of the sacrifice; for, behold, a third scion swells the progeny
of famed Menecrates.171 The goodly host of thy magnates is increasing
5 to solace thee for the havoc wrought by the fury of Vesuvius.
And let not Naples alone besiege the festal altars in gratitude for this
relief: the kindred haven also, and the land beloved of gentle Dicarcheus172
must twine chaplets for their shrines, aye, and the Surrentine173 shore
dear to the god of the flowing bowl,174 the shore of the child’s
10 mother’s sire,175 around whom his little grandsons throng:
see, they are vying who shall copy his features in their own.
Joy, too, to that mother’s brother in the glory of his Libyan lance,176 and to
Polla177 who counts these babes her own and gathers them to her gracious
bosom! Blessings on thee, Menecrates, who givest so many bright hopes
15 to thy country for her service to thee. Thrilled with the sweet turmoil
is thy home in which the cry of joy has sounded for so many heirs.
Away with sullen Envy! let her begone far hence and turn elsewhere her
jealous thoughts! Unto these little ones a white Fate has promised old age
and a glory of long lived worth; and Apollo, their father’s friend, his bays.
20 So the omen is fulfilled! Thou hadst by gift from the most honoured ruler
of Ausonian178 Rome those glad privileges he grants to the fathers of three
children; and now, behold, Lucina179 hath come thrice, and to thy loyal house
returned anew. Even so, I pray, may thy house endure,—
a fruitful tree and never changing since the consecration of the gift.
25 Joy to thee, that more than once thy stock has been blessed with a
man-child: but to a young father a daughter too must bring bliss,—
fitter unto sons are valorous deeds, but sooner of the daughter will
grandsons be born to thee,—and such a daughter as that Helen who planted
baby steps between her Spartan brothers;180—so fair a child and worthy
30 even then of the lists in her mother’s land; fair as the bright sky, when on a
clear night two stars approach their beams and the moon shines between them.
And yet, rare friend, bitterly must I cry out upon thee;
wroth too am I, as wroth as a man may be with those he loves.
Was it right that only from common rumour the news
35 of thy great joy should reach me? And when for the third time
a newborn babe was wailing in thy home, came there not
in haste forthwith a herald scroll to bid me heap festival-fires
upon the altars, and wreathe the lyre and deck the lintel;
to bid draw forth a jar of old smoke-begrimed Alban181
40 and mark the day with song? But if, a laggard and a delayer,
I chant my vows only now, thine is the guilt and thine
the shame. But further press my plaint I cannot. For see,
how joyously thy children cluster round about thee and shelter
their sire. With such an array whom wouldst thou not vanquish?
45 Gods of our land, whom under high omens the fleet
of Abas182 bore over the sea to the Ausonian shore,
and thou, Apollo, leader of that far-exiled folk,
upon whose dove, still perched on her left shoulder,
Eumelis183 gazes with loving worship:
50 and thou, Ceres, our Lady of Eleusis,184 to whom we, thy votaries,
in headlong course silently without ceasing brandish the torch:
and ye, Tyndaridae,185 whom neither awe-inspiring Taygetus,
Lycurgus’ hill, nor wooded Therapnae, have worshipped more fervently;186
guard ye for our country this family and home. Stricken with years
55 and divers agonies is our city: let there still be champions to help her
with voice and with store, to keep her name green and to guard her.
Let them learn gentleness from their gentle father, and from their
grandsire splendour and bounty:—from both the love of radiant Virtue.
For surely such lineage and such store vouch that the maid, when first the
60 marriage torch is kindled, shall come a bride to a princely home, and that
these boys—if but unvanquished Caesar’s godhead be partial to true worth—
shall tread, ere their boyhood is past, the threshold of the senate of Romulus.
IX. Hendecasyllabic Jokes to Plotius Grypus
A BOOK for a book!187 Why, Grypus,188
this is indeed a jest. But the jest will have
a better flavour if now you make me some
return. For a joke, friend Grypus, ceases
5 to be a joke, if you carry it too far.
Look you, we can sum the reckoning.
My volume was as gay as purple and
new parchment and a pair of bosses could make it:—
it cost me a pretty penny besides my pains!
10 Yours to me is all mouldy and moth-eaten;
such dry pages as are sometimes moistened with Libyan
olives, or else are charged with pepper or with incense
from the Nile, or reek of anchovies from Byzantium!
Even the contents are not your own wit: not the
15 thunderous eloquence you hurled at the
three courts in your prime; not your speeches
to the Hundred,189 before Germanicus190 set you
to direct and guide our corn ships,
and to control the post on all our roads; no,
20 but the drowsy musings of old Brutus,191 that you’ve
picked up for a song,—for a clipped coin or two of
his mad Majesty Caligula,192—out of some poor devil of a
bookseller’s pack. Call this a gift? Couldn’t you possibly
muster a cap stitched together from the snippings
25 of tunics? or towels, or unbleached napkins?
A paper-book, or dates from Thebes, or figs from
Caria?193 Never a roll of plums or of
bullaces in a revolving case? Nor
dried-up lamp-wicks? Nor leeks with
30 their jackets off? Nor even eggs?
Fine flour? Coarse meal?
Never a slimy snail-shell that had been
far over the Cinyphian194 plains?
Rank lard or scraggy ham?
35 Nor sausages? Nor stinking Wurst?
Nor cheese? Nor salt? Nor fish-pickle?
Nor cakes of green saltpetre?
Nor raisin-wine with the grapes left in it?
Or must, with the sweet lees boiled and thickened?
40 How ungenerous to refuse me noisome
tapers, a knife, a starveling notebook!
Could you not send me some tinned raisins?
Or a few dishes turned in the potteries of Cumae?195
Or just one set—truce to your fears!—
45 one set of spotless pans and pots?
But no, with your nicely calculating scales,
like a fair dealer, you risk no change, but give me
the same weight you got. But tell me: when I’ve
brought you a dyspeptic greeting at peep of day,
50 are you to give me greeting at my house in turn?
Or when you’ve feasted me on the fat of the land,
are you to expect as good a dinner back?
Grypus, you have raised my choler: but farewell!
only do not with your usual wit
55 send me back again today a gibe for a gibe.
1 Domitian’s 17th consulship was for 95 CE.
2 The “curule chair” was one of the symbols of the Roman magistrate.
3 I.e. the Palatine Hill. According to myth Evander was an Arcadian king who lived on the site of Rome before the city was founded.
4 The fasces (axes surrounded by bundles of rods) were another symbol of Roman Republican magistrates.
5 God of the new year (hence “January”).
6 The doors of the Temple of Janus in Rome were closed during times of peace. The Temple was located in one of the imperial fora north of the old Roman Forum.
7 There was a Temple of Pax (Peace) nearby the Temple of Janus.
8 Minerva was, among other things, the goddess of weaving.
9 The three divisions of Roman society are mentioned here: upper class Senators; middle class Equites (Knights); and the Plebs (Commons).
10 Augustus, the first Roman emperor, held the consulship 13 times.
11 The Secular games were supposed to take place every 100-110 years, thereby representing a saeculum or age of Rome. Domitian held the Secular Games in 88 CE.
12 Statius catalogs various Eastern peoples who were supposedly under Rome’s sway.
13 Vergil in Aeneid Books 1 and 2 narrated a feast held by Dido, queen of Carthage, for Aeneas, the last surviving hero of Troy.
14 Homer in Odyssey Books 8-12 narrates a grand feast given by Alcinous, king of Phaeacia, for Odysseus/Ulysses.
15 References by way of birthplaces to Homer and Vergil respectively.
16 Ganymede, cupbearer of the gods, was a Trojan youth abducted by Jove.
17 The Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline (Domitian’s palace is on the Palatine).
18 An Egyptian stone.
19 Chios is an island in the Aegean Sea.
20 A blue stone from Carystus on Euboea, an island in Greece.
21 A marble from Etruria.
22 Here Ceres (the goddess of grain) stands for food and Bacchus (the god of wine) stands for drink.
23 A grain god associated with Ceres.
25 The war god Mars (Gravidus) was said to dwell in Thrace, where the Rhodope river may be found.
26 Pollux was a famous horseman of myth. Therapne refers to his association with Sparta.
27 Bacchus (Euhan) is frequently associated with various Eastern peoples.
28 Hercules (Alcides) wore the skin of the Nemean lion (he killed the lion as the first of his famous labors).
29 Here Statius indirectly alludes to the end of Iliad Book 1 when Zeus returned to Olympus after feasting among the Ethiopians. Back on Olympus the Muses sang and Apollo played his lyre during a feast. Pallene refers to the location of Zeus’ victory over the giants.
30 I.e. Statius prays that Domitian will hold the consulship again.
31 Alba Longa was city founded by Aeneas’ son Ascanius and was a precursor to Rome. Statius won a prize at a poetry contest held there.
32 Refers to a (lost) poem by Statius on Domitian’s military campaigns.
33 The Appian Way was a very famous road running southward from Rome.
34 The bustle of building of the road is compared to Hannibal’s occupation of southern Italy during the Second Punic War.
35 The emperor Nero was notorious for his extravagant building projects.
36 The temple of Janus in the imperial forum north of the old Roman Forum.
37 Domitian evidently passed legislation ordering the return of grain farming to certain lands used for other agricultural purposes.
38 Domitian past a law forbidding the practice of making young men into eunuchs.
39 Domitian rebuilt the destroyed Temple to Jupiter on the Capitoline, and finished a Temple of Peace begun by his father Vespasian.
40 Flavius is Domitian’s family name. This phrase probably refers to the imperial cult.
42 Mount Gaurus is near Puteoli.
43 A resort town on the Bay of Naples.
44 What follows is a fairly detailed account of Roman road construction.
45 During his invasion of Greece in 480 BCE the Persian King Xerxes, in order to ease the passage of his army, built a pontoon bridge across the Hellespont and dug a canal across the neck of Mount Athos in Greece.
46 The Isthmus of Corinth is referred to here.
47 Two coastal mountains along the path of the new road.
48 Respectively, and town, a river, and a swamp along the path of the new road.
49 A river (and, here, god) along the path of the new road.
50 The part of the Mediterranean into which the Vulturnus flows.
51 A silty river in north Africa.
52 A nearby river (to the north of the Vulturnus).
53 Liguria is in northern Italy.
54 The Appian Way.
55 In Rome.
56 A lake in Campania. Statius is perhaps overstating the speed with which one could travel on the new road.
57 There was a famous Temple of Apollo at Cumae.
58 The Sibyl was the priestess of Apollo at Cumae.
59 Because Apollo is the patron of poets.
60 I.e. Domitian.
61 A lake in Campania that was supposedly the site of an entrance to the Underworld.
62 I.e. in Thrace.
63 The officials who guarded the so-called Sibylline Books, a collection of oracles supposedly pertaining to Rome’s future.
64 The Fates, who determine the length of mortals’ lives.
65 Three examples of extremely long lives. Nestor lived for several generations of men. Tithonus was given eternal life by his lover Aurora. The Sibyl herself was given long life by Apollo (“my Delian lover”).
67 The Temple to Jupiter on the Capitoline.
68 I.e. the area around the Bay of Naples.
69 The Appian Way, which led south from Rome.
70 The Domitian Way, see previous poem.
71 I.e. Rome.
72 An artificial lake originally built by Augustus for a mock naval battle. The location is disputed.
73 Sirius, often associated with the heat of summer.
74 A hill-resort near Rome.
75 Near Aricia, south of Rome.
76 Three areas southeast of Rome.
77 Some mutual friend, not otherwise known.
78 Two references to Etruria, the region to the north of Rome.
79 I.e. the sun.
80 The constellation Leo.
81 The Parthians were an eastern people (and implacable enemy of the Romans) known for their skill at archery.
82 References to the Olympic games.
83 A reference to Achilles’ withdrawal from and return to battle in the Iliad.
84 Marcellus was evidently a member of the centumviral court, which was concerned with property suits.
85 Helicon and Parnassus are two Greek mountains often associated with poetry.
86 I.e. Italian.
88 I.e. Vergil.
90 The Latin Way, across Latium.
91 An island representing the far reaches of the earth.
92 Marcellus’ son.
93 The Phoenician city of Tyre produced an expensive purple dye that became a symbol of luxury.
94 I.e. the area around the Bay of Naples.
95 I.e. Mount Etna.
96 Marcellus’ home town, on the east coast of Italy.
97 Also refers to Marcellus’ home region.
98 Because Cadmus, the founder of Thebes, was originally from Phoenicia.
99 A reference to Statius’ incomplete epic poem, the Achilleid.
101 Theseus’ loyalty to his friend Perithous was such that he followed him to the Underworld.
102 Achilles mutilated Hector’s corpse because Hector had killed Achilles’ friend Patroclus.
103 Alba Longa (where Statius had a house) was the city where Romulus and Remus were supposed to have born. The founders of the city were Trojans (Teucrians) descended from Aeneas.
104 Septimius Severus was either born in or had ancestors from Libya in north Africa. He is possibly related to the later emperor Septimius Severus.
105 I.e. connected with the constellation Callisto.
106 Refers to Statius’ victory in a poetic contest at the Alban Games.
107 According to the story of Jason and the Argonauts, Castor encouraged his brother Pollux to engage in a boxing match with the fearsome King Amycus of the Berybricians. Severus is compared to Castor, Statius to Pollux.
108 Severus was from Lepcis Magna in Libya, near the two Syrtes Rivers.
109 A nymph associated with Latium.
110 I.e. Italian.
111 I.e. the narrow purple stripe on the toga representing the equestrian order.
112 A north African city.
113 In Etruria, north of Rome.
114 Two Sabine tribes who lived near Rome in ancient times.
115 The Saepta in the Campus Martius, where voting used to take place during the Republic.
116 Nonius Vindex, a poet and art collector.
117 The Fasti, or list of consuls from time immemorial.
118 This list of exotic and decadent foods is meant to contrast with Vindex’ good taste.
119 A mountain in central Greece associated with poetry.
120 The constellation Gemini.
121 Tiryns, a city in Greece, was according to some traditions the birthplace of Hercules (other traditions name Thebes as his birthplace). Jupiter seduced Alcmena (Hercules’ mother) and, to increase his pleasure, lengthened the night unnaturally.
122 A white stone was used to mark significant days on the calendar. The use of a pearl for this purpose makes the day discussed here even more significant.
123 Myron and Praxiteles were famous Greek sculptors.
124 I.e. Phidias, perhaps the most famous Greek sculptor of all.
125 Another famous sculptor.
126 A famous Greek painter.
127 Yet another well-known sculptor.
128 A reference to Hercules’ first labor when he killed the deadly Nemean lion.
129 Hercules was known for his famous club. Also, when on the Argonauts’ expedition, he famously rowed the Argo by himself. He was so strong he broke the oars he was using.
130 Mythical dwarves and craftsman. Their mention here recalls the prologue to Callimachus’ Aetia.
131 A mountain near Troy.
132 One of the great Cyclopes who forged thunderbolts for Jupiter.
134 A poor man who once welcomed Hercules into his house.
135 Auge, one of Hercules’ lovers.
136 Hercules, in great pain before his death, placed himself on a pyre atop Mount Oeta in Greece. He subsequently became a god.
137 Juno always persecuted Hercules out of anger at Jupiter’s infidelities.
138 Bacchus. He is called Hercules’ brother because (1) his mother too was a mortal seduced by Jupiter and (2) he also was from Thebes.
139 Alexander the Great.
140 Bacchus, often associated with Eastern lands.
141 I.e. Greek.
142 The Peloponnesus in southern Greece.
143 Because Hercules was from Thebes.
144 Alexander died (possibly of poison) after an extended drinking-bout. The statuette of Hecules here provides Alexander with an omen of his impending doom by “sweating.”
146 According to tradition Hannibal (who was not in fact a king) hated Rome because (1) the Romans defeated Carthage in the first Punic war decades earlier and (2) one of the defeated Carthaginian generals was Hannibal’s father.
147 I.e. wine (Lenaeus refers to Bacchus).
148 A city in Spain, loyal to Rome during the Second Punic War. It was destroyed by Hannibal.
149 L. Cornelius Sulla, a famous Roman general and ultimately dictator. He was known for his ruthlessness.
151 Probably a mutual friend of Statius and Vindex.
153 The preceding is a list of some of Hercules’ adventures. Vindex apparently either did or will compose a poem about them.
154 Alexander the Great.
155 One of the Muses.
156 A famous Greek poet who wrote odes in praise of athletes and politicians.
157 A reference to Statius’ own Thebaid. Pindar was from Thebes.
158 A man of Dalmatian descent. Not much is known about him.
159 The god of the Underworld.
160 A city on the Bay of Naples.
161 A reference to Misenus, a squire of Hector’s, who gave his name to Misenum, a city on the Bay of Naples.
163 A reference to Statius’ own Achilleid.
165 A river in Syria.
166 I.e. with good fortune.
167 A people who lived near the Caspian Sea.
168 A historian known for his striking literary style.
169 This reference is obscure.
171 A friend of Statius and son-in-law of Pollius Felix, another of Statius’ friends.
173 Surrentum, another nearby town.
175 Pollius Felix.
176 Evidently Pollius won some military distinction in north Africa.
177 Pollius’ wife.
179 Goddess of childbirth.
180 The point here seems to be that Menecrates’ daughter will be as attractive to suitors of good families as Helen was.
181 Wine was aged by smoke in a room above the hearth.
182 A legendary figure from the island of Euboea in Greece, from where settlers came to the Bay of Naples.
183 A Neopolitan divinity.
184 Ceres, the goddess of grain, was associated with the Greek town of Eleusis, where her famous mysteries took place.
185 Castor and Pollux, sons of Tyndareus, a king of Sparta.
186 Three topographical references to Sparta.
187 This poem was composed in the context of the Saturnalis, a midwinter festival characterized by revelry and gift-giving. Statius apparently gave Grypus a fine book for a present, and in return got a shabby one.
188 Not otherwise known.
189 The centumviral court, concerned with property issues.
191 Either philosophical or oratorical works by M. Brutus, the well-known conservative politician of the Late Republic.
192 A proverbial phrase for debased currency. Interestingly it is not clear that Caligula actually ever did this.
193 In Asia Minor.
194 I.e. North African.
195 Evidently a cheap type of pottery.