Liber Latinus

Latin in translation

Cicero Fam. 7.10: legi tuas litteras ex quibus intellexi


legi tuas litteras ex quibus intellexi te Caesari nostro valde iure consultum videri. est quod gaudeas te in ista loca venisse, ubi aliquid sapere viderere. quod si in Britanniam quoque profectus esses, profecto nemo in illa tanta insula peritior te fuisset. verum tamen (rideamus licet; sum enim a te invitatus) subinvideo tibi ultro etiam accersitum ab eo, ad quem ceteri non propter superbiam eius sed propter occupationem aspirare non possunt.

sed tu in ista epistula nihil mihi scripsisti de tuis rebus, quae me hercule mihi non minori curae sunt quam meae. valde metuo ne frigeas in hibernis. quam ob rem camino luculento utendum censeo (idem Mucio et Manilio placebat), praesertim qui sagis non abundares. quamquam vos nunc istic satis calere audio; quo quidem nuntio valde me hercule de te timueram. sed tu in re militari multo es cautior quam in advocationibus, qui neque in Oceano natare volueris studiosissimus homo natandi neque spectare essedarios, quem antea ne andabata quidem defraudare poteramus. sed iam satis iocati sumus.

ego de te ad Caesarem quam diligenter scripserim, tute scis, quam saepe, ego; sed me hercule iam intermiseram, ne viderer liberalissimi hominis meique amantissimi voluntati erga me diffidere. sed tamen iis litteris, quas proxime dedi, putavi esse hominem commonendum. id feci; quid profecerim, facias me velim certiorem et simul de toto statu tuo consiliisque omnibus; scire enim cupio quid agas, quid exspectes, quam longum istum tuum discessum a nobis futurum putes.

sic enim tibi persuadeas velim, unum mihi esse solacium qua re facilius possim pati te esse sine nobis, si tibi esse id emolumento sciam; sin autem id non est, nihil duobus nobis est ‘stultius, me, qui te non Romam attraham, te, qui non huc advoles. una me hercule nostra vel severa vel iocosa congressio pluris erit quam non modo hostes, sed etiam fratres nostri Haedui. qua re omnibus de rebus fac ut quam primum sciam.

aut consolando aut consilio aut re iuvero.

Cicero to Trebatius. Rome, December 54 BC.

I have read your letter, from which I learnt that our friend Caesar thinks you are a formidable lawyer. It’s something to be glad about that you’ve arrived in places where you appear somewhat knowledgeable. If you’d gone on to Britain too, you would have found nobody more expert in that great island. Be that as it may (I’m free to laugh, as you invited me to), I’m a bit jealous that you were summoned by the man whom others can’t hope to approach, not because he is haughty, but because he is so busy.

But you said nothing in your letter to me about your affairs, and, by God, they don’t concern me any less than my own. I am very afraid that you’ll freeze in the winter; this is why I propose the use of a nice bright fireplace. Muncius and Manilius concur with my advice, especially on the ground that you don’t have a great many cloaks. But now I hear that things are pretty hot for you over there! This news certainly alarmed me on your account. But you’re far more cautious as a soldier than as a lawyer, not wanting to swim in the ocean, passionate swimmer as you are, and not wanting to watch the British chariots, although before we could never cheat you out of going to watch even the blindfolded gladiators!

But that’s enough joking. You know yourself how earnestly I’ve written to Caesar about you; only I know how often. But I have ceased, so it doesn’t look like I distrust the kindness of one so gracious and so fond of me. But in my last letter I thought he needed some reminding. So I did. Please let me know what effect this had, and at the same time tell me about your general position and all your plans. For I very much want to know how you are getting on, your expectations, how long you think your absence from us will last.

Please assure yourself that the one consolation allowing me to easily bear your absence is that I know it will benefit you. But if that isn’t the case, nothing is stupider than us two: me for not dragging you back to Rome, you for not hurrying way back here. By God, one meeting between us, whether serious or jovial, will be worth not just more than the enemy, but more than our brothers the Haedui. So let me know all these things as soon as possible.

‘By comfort or by counsel or by some means, I shall help you.’

Martial 9.87: Septem post calices Opimiani

Septem post calices Opimiani
Denso cum iaceam triente blaesus,
Affers nescio quas mihi tabellas
Et dicis ‘Modo liberum esse iussi
Nastam—servolus est mihi paternus—:
Signa.’ Cras melius, Luperce, fiet:
Nunc signat meus anulus lagonam.

After seven cups of Opimian wine,
when I lie stammering from my heavy drinking,
You bring me some document or other,
And you say: ‘Oh, I’ve just given Nasta his freedom,
he was a slave of my father — sign here.’
Tomorrow is better for that, Lupercus:
For now, I’ll just put my seal on this bottle.

Livy, Proem 10

hoc illud est praecipue in cognitione rerum salubre ac frugiferum, omnis te exempli documenta in inlustri posita monumento intueri: inde tibi tuaequae rei publicae quod imitere capias, inde foedum inceptu, foedum exitu, quod vites.

Here in acquiring knowledge of the past, it is particularly salutary and fruitful for you to behold lessons of every type as if laid out on a brilliant memorial: from that you may take what to copy for yourself and your republic; from that you may shun that which is detestable in the beginning, and detestable in the conclusion.

Horace, Epistulae, 1.10.34-50

Cervus equum pugna melior communibus herbis
pellebat, donec minor in certamine longo
imploravit opes hominis frenum que recepit;
sed postquam victor violens discessit ab hoste,
non equitem dorso, non frenum depulit ore.
sic qui pauperiem veritus potiore metallis
libertate caret, dominum vehet improbus atque
serviet aeternum, quia parvo nesciet uti.
cui non conveniet sua res, ut calceus olim,
si pede maior erit, subvertet, si minor, uret.
Laetus sorte tua vives sapienter, Aristi,
nec me dimittes incastigatum, ubi plura
cogere quam satis est ac non cessare videbor,
imperat aut servit collecta pecunia cuique,
tortum digna sequi potius quam ducere funem.
Haec tibi dictabam post fanum putre Vacunae,
excepto quod non simul esses, cetera laetus.

The stag was better at fighting than the horse, which he drove out of their common pasture, until the loser in the long contest begged for the help of humans and accepted the bridle. But after that, in impetuous triumph, the horse left his enemy, and did not throw the rider off his back, or the bridle from his mouth. In the same way, one who, in fear of poverty, lacks freedom―which is preferable even to quarries of precious metals―will carry their master in their impudence, and forever be a slave, because they do not know what to do with small means.

Just as for the person whose affairs do not suit them, so when shoes are too big, they trip, and when they are too small, they chafe. Aristius, if you are happy with your lot, you will live wisely, and you will not let me off unpunished when I seem to gather more than enough and not rest. Collected money is either for the master or the slave, but would better follow than lead the rope. I am dictating this to you behind Vacuna’s crumbling shrine, happy in every respect, except that you are not with me.

Vergil, Georgics, 4.228-235

Si quando sedem angustam servataque mella
thesauris relines, prius haustu sparsus aquarum
ora fove fumosque manu praetende sequaces.
Bis gravidos cogunt fetus, duo tempora messis,
Taygete simul os terris ostendit honestum
Pleas et Oceani spretos pede reppulit amnes,
aut eadem sidus fugiens ubi Piscis aquosi
tristior hibernas caelo descendit in undas.

Now if you were to unseal their narrow home, and the honey guarded in their treasure-house,
First rinse your mouth by drinking water,
and spread trailing smoke about with your hand.
The abundant produce is gathered twice; the time of harvest is twofold:
Once at the same time as Taygete the Pleiad shows her noble face to the world,
And repels with her foot the spurned the ocean-torrents,
And once when, fleeing gloomily the constellation of the watery fish,
She sinks from from the sky into the wintery waves.

Horace Carmina 3.6.1-4

Delicta maiorum inmeritus lues,
Romane, donec templa refeceris
aedisque labentis deorum et
foeda nigro simulacra fumo.

You atone for the sins of your forefathers,
O guiltless Roman, til you have restored each temple
And every smouldering sanctuary of the gods,
And filthy-black from smoke, the statues.

Asiatic Speaking Style

A few weeks ago I posted this passage from Petronius’ Satyricon. In it, the character Ganymedes makes reference to an ‘Asiatic’ speaking style, which hardly makes sense without some context and explanation. The relevant sentences are these:

In curia autem quomoda singulos vel pilabat tractabat, nec schemas loquebatur sed derectum. Cum ageret porro in foro, sic illius vox crescebat tanquam tuba. Nec sudavit unquam nec expuit, puto eum nescio quid Asiadis habuisse.

Oh, but how he used to hammer them in the Senate-house, every single one, and never with extravagant figures of speech, always straightforward. Then whenever he used to speak in the forum, how his voice would swell just like a trumpet! Never any sweating or spitting—I guess he had a touch of the Asiatic speaking style.

In Ganymedes’ nostalgia about his friend and orator Safinius, it is not entirely clear what characterises the ‘Asiatic style’, a concept which briefly became relevant during the Golden Age of Latin after being imported from Greek oratory. The style consists of a development from, and is mentioned in contradistinction to, the ‘Attic style’, and is named after the Hellenestic-period orators from Asia Minor with whom it is associated. The Attic style was known for being narrower, more austere, more technical, and more traditional; the newer Asiatic style exhibited more wordplay, emotion, and rhythm. Although we have essentially no examples of the true Asiatic style, the Attic-Asiatic dichotomy in Greek rhetoric was used to describe and assess Latin orators.

The chief Latin sources on these contrasting styles are Cicero’s De Oratore (55) and Orator ad Brutum (46). The following passage from Orator may hint at what Petronius means when he says that Safinius’ voice would ‘swell like a trumpet’, quite apart from volume:

Apud alios autem et Asiaticos maxime numero servientes inculcata reperias inania quaedam verba quasi complementa numerorum…Tertium est, in quo fuerunt fratres illi Asiaticorum rhetorum principes Hierocles et Menecles minime mea sententia contemnendi. Etsi enim a forma veritatis et ab Atticorum regula absunt, tamen hoc vitium compensant vel facultate vel copia. Sed apud eos varietas non erat, quod omnia fere concludebantur uno modo.[1]

Among others, especially the Asiatics, one would, being entirely a slave to rhythm, find whatever words can be stuffed into the empty parts of the sentence as if to fill up the metre…A third fault in composition is to be found in the speeches of those leaders of the Asiatic style, the brothers Hierocles and Menecles, who are by no means contemptible in my view. For although they stray from true form and from the structures of Atticism, nevertheless they compensate this vice by the richness and fertility of their language. But there is no variety in either of them, and they finish all their sentences in nearly the same way.

The passage evinces the fact that ‘Cicero sich niemals zu einer runden Verurteilung der Asianer herbeigelassen.’[2] But Cicero, himself labelled an Asiatic speaker, had every reason to criticise the style: as a contender for the title of ‘Roman Demosthenes’, the second-best orator in history, he had an Attic standard to live up to. One can detect a certain irony in Cicero’s condemnation of concludebantur uno modo when he himself was notorious for ending sentences with esse videatur, so much so that it became a caricature.

The esse videatur ending bears directly on the distinction between the Attic and Asiatic styles. The Asiatic style was associated with the use of a prose rhythm, especially the end of clauses and sentences (clausulae); this is what Cicero alludes to in the excerpt above. The principle of quantitative rhythm operates here in much the same way as metre does in Latin poetry, although orators preferred not to use verse patterns. An effective rhythm could provoke spontaneous applause.[3] The esse videatur ending is a resolved version of (– ∪ – ǀ – ×), giving Cicero an Asiatic flavour not only with respect to his unus modus but also his cadence.

This prose rhythm, then, is perhaps a part of Ganymedes’ trumpet simile: the patterns of a clausula’s cadence in speech of the Asiatic style would have a certain melody about it. And indeed Cicero’s rhythm ‘seems to have become a standard which many authors followed more or less consciously’.[4] In a broader sense, Silver Latin would suggest that there was an ‘Asian victory in the west’[5] and that the Atticist style fell out of favour. We can therefore hardly be surprised that a Silver Age orator such as Safinius (albeit fictional) would be employing such a style.

[1] Cic. Orat. LXIX/230-1
[2] Wilamowitz-Möllendorff, U. v. 1900 ‘Asianismus und Atticismus’ Hermes 1-52, 3
[3] Cic. Or. 214
[4] Powell, J. G. F. 2012 ‘Latin Prose-Rhythm’, in Hornblower, A., Spwaforth, A. and Eidinow, E. (eds.) Oxford Classical Dictionary (4th ed.) 1224
[5] Winterbottom, M. 2012 ‘Asianism and Atticism’ in Hornblower, A., Spwaforth, A. and Eidinow, E. (eds.) Oxford Classical Dictionary (4th ed.) 184

Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.692-733

“Praebuimus longis” Pentheus “ambagibus aures”
inquit “ut ira mora vires absumere posset.
Praecipitem famuli rapite hunc cruciataque diris
corpora tormentis Stygiae demittite nocti.”
Protinus abstractus solidis Tyrrhenus Acoetes
clauditur in tectis; et dum crudelia iussae
instrumenta necis ferrumque ignesque parantur,
sponte sua patuisse fores lapsasque lacertis
sponte sua fama est nullo solvente catenas.

Perstat Echionides. Nec iam iubet ire, sed ipse
vadit, ubi electus facienda ad sacra Cithaeron
cantibus et clara bacchantum voce sonabat.
Ut fremit acer equus, cum bellicus aere canoro
signa dedit tubicen, pugnaeque adsumit amorem,
Penthea sic ictus longis ululatibus aether
movit, et audito clamore recanduit ira.

Monte fere medio est, cingentibus ultima silvis,
purus ab arboribus, spectabilis undique campus.
Hic oculis illum cernentem sacra profanis
prima videt, prima est insano concita cursu,
prima suum misso violavit Penthea thyrso
mater. “Io, geminae” clamavit “adeste sorores!
ille aper, in nostris errat qui maximus agris,
ille mihi feriendus aper.” Ruit omnis in unum
turba furens; cunctae coeunt trepidumque sequuntur,
iam trepidum, iam verba minus violenta loquentem,
iam se damnantem, iam se peccasse fatentem.

Saucius ille tamen “fer opem, matertera” dixit
“Autonoe! moveant animos Actaeonis umbrae.”
Illa, quis Actaeon, nescit dextramque precantis
abstulit: Inoo lacerata est altera raptu.
Non habet infelix quae matri bracchia tendat,
trunca sed ostendens deiectis vulnera membris
“adspice, mater!” ait. Visis ululavit Agaue
collaque iactavit movitque per aera crinem
avulsumque caput digitis complexa cruentis
clamat “io comites, opus haec victoria nostrum est!”
Non citius frondes autumni frigore tactas
iamque male haerentes alta rapit arbore ventus,
quam sunt membra viri manibus direpta nefandis.
Talibus exemplis monitae nova sacra frequentant
turaque dant sanctasque colunt Ismenides aras.

Then Pentheus said: “We have lent our ears to these rambling stories, such that anger can take away its strength by delay. Snatch this man right away, slaves, and send him down to the Stygian night after racking his body with terrible torture!” At once, Acoetes the Tyrian was dragged out and shut away in a dungeon. And while they were preparing the cruel instruments of death, the sword and the fire, as instructed, all by themselves, the doors opened up; and all by themselves, the chains, so they say, fell away from the prisoner’s arms, without anyone unfettering them.

Pentheus persists, and does not order anyone to go, but he himself proceeds himself to where Cithaeron, chosen for the performance of sacral rites, was resounding with songs and the bright voices of worshippers. As a keen horse snorts when the trumpeter of war gives the signal with resounding brass, and he takes eagerness for battle, so the air, stung by long cries, stirred Pentheus, and his anger glowed white as he heard the uproar.

In the middle of the wild mountain, bordered by forests, there a plain which is free from trees, in view from every side. Here, as Pentheus was spying on the sacral rites with blasphemous eyes, his mother was the first to see him, the first to be roused onto him in a mad rush, the first to violate her own Pentheus with a hurled staff. “O, twin sisters,” he cried, “come! There is a huge boar, wandering through our fields—that boar I must strike.” The whole raging throng rush upon him alone; from all sides the women mass together to persue the anxious man—anxious now, and now speaking less vehement words, now condemning himself and confessing that he has done wrong.

Wounded, he nonetheless says: “Bring help, aunt Autonoë! May the ghost of Actaeon move your heart.” She does not know who Actaeon is, and tears his right arm from him as he begs her: the other arm is mutilated by Ino’s snatching. The wretched man has no arms to reach out to his mother, but he says “look, mother!” showing the mangled wounds where his limbs were torn away. “Mother, see!” he says. On seeing them, Agave howls and tosses head and shakes her hair and, grasping his head in the bloodied fingers which tear it off, she cries: “O companions, my deed is our victory!” No more quickly than how leaves on lofty trees, touched by autumn cold and now slightly clinging, are snatched by the wind, are the man’s limbs rent by those impious hands.

Warned by such an examples, the Theban women celebrate the new rites and burn incense and keep sacred altars.

Petronius Satyricon 44f

Dixit illa Ganymedes: “narratis quod nec ad caelum nec ad terram pertinet, cum interim nemo curat, quid annona mordet. Non me hercules hodie buccam panis invenire potui. Et quomodo siccitas perseverat. Iam annum esuritio fuit. Aediles male eveniat, qui cum pistoribus colludunt ‘Serva me, servabo te.’ Itaque populus minutus laborat; nam isti maiores maxillae semper Saturnalia agunt. O si haberemus illos leones, quos ego hic inveni, cum primum ex Asia veni. Illud erat vivere. Simila si siligine inferior esset, laruas sic istos percolopabant, ut illis Iupiter iratus esset. Sed memini Safinium: tunc habitabat ad arcum veterem, me puero, piper, non homo. Is quacunque ibat, terram adurebat. Sed rectus, sed certus, amicus amico, cum quo audacter posses intenebris micare. In curia autem quomoda singulos vel pilabat tractabat, nec schemas loquebatur sed derectum. Cum ageret porro in foro, sic illius vox crescebat tanquam tuba. Nec sudavit unquam nec expuit, puto eum nescio quid Asiadis habuisse. Et quam benignus resalutare, nomina omnium reddere, tanquam unus de nobis. Itaque illo tempore annona pro luto erat, Asse panem quem emisses, non potuisses cum altera devorare. Nunc oculum bublum vidi maiorem. Heu heu, quotidie peius. Haec colonia retroversus crescit tanquam coda vituli. Sed quare nos habemus aedilem trium cauniarum, qui sibi mavult assem quam vitam nostram? Itaque domi gaudet, plus in die nummorum accipit, quam alter patrimonium habet. Iam scio, unde acceperit denarios mille aureos. Sed si nos coleos haberemus, non tantum sibi placeret. Nunc populus est domi leones, foras vulpes. Quod ad me attinet, iam pannos meos comedi, et si perseverat haec annona, casulas meas vendam. Quid enim futurum est, si nec dii nec homines huius coloniae miserentur? Ita meos fruniscar, ut ego puto omnia illa a diibus fieri. Nemo enim caelum caelum putat, nemo ieiunium servat, nemo Iovem pili facit, sed omnes opertis oculis bona sua computant. Antea stolatae ibant nudis pedibus in clivum, passis capillis, mentibus puris, et Iovem aquam exorabant. Itaque statim urceatim plovebat: aut tune aut nunquam: et omnes redibant udi tanquam mures. Itaque dii pedes lanatos habent, quia nos religiosi non sumus. Agri iacent—”.

“Oro te” inquit Echion centonarius “melius loquere. ‘Modo sic, modo sic’ inquit rusticus; varium porcum perdiderat. Quod hodie non est, eras erit: sic vita truditur.”

And Ganymedes said: “You go on talking about things that matter not to heaven or earth, and all the while, nobody cares about cost of living pressures! God, I can’t even get a mouthful of bread these days. Oh, and how the drought goes on. There’s been famine for a year now. Damn the politicians, they’re in the pocket of the bakers. ‘You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’, and ordinary folk come off worse. Because the jaws of the upper classes are always holding some carnival. I only wish I had the sort of money I found here when I first come out from Asia! That was the life. If the flour was at all inferior, they beat up those ghosts to put the fear of God in them. I remember Safinius, he used to live by the old arch back when I was a boy. More of a peppercorn than a person, he used to scorch the ground wherever he went! But he was an honest guy, truthful, a good friend. You wouldn’t be afraid to play scissors-paper-rock with him in the dark. Oh, but how he used to hammer them in the Senate-house, every single one, and never with extravagant figures of speech, always straightforward. Then whenever he used to speak in the forum, how his voice would swell just like a trumpet! Never any sweating or spitting—I guess he had a touch of the Asiatic speaking style. And how kindly he would greet you in return and reply to you with your name, rather like one of us would. So at that time the cost of living was dirt-cheap. You could buy a loaf of bread for a dollar, and when you ate it, you couldn’t get through it even together with your better half! Nowadays I see bulls’ eyes bigger than a loaf of bread. My, my, things are just getting worse every day. This town is going downhill like a heifer’s tail! And then why do we have a three-fig aedile who cares more for a penny than our lives? Why, he just sits grinning at home, raking in more money in a day than others get in an inheritance. I happen to know where he got a thousand in gold. If we had balls, he wouldn’t be so pleased with himself. Nowadays people are lions indoors and foxes in public. As for me, I’ve already had to sell all my rags just to feed myself, and if the cost of living stays as it is, I’ll have to sell my little cottages. Whatever will happen if neither gods nor men take pity on this town? As I may be happy with my kids, I think all these things come from the gods. Because nobody believes that heaven is really heaven, nobody observes fasts, nobody cares a trifle for Jupiter, but everyone just sits there counting their own goods. Back in the day, matrons would go up the hill in bare feet, loose hair, pure hearts, and would pray to Jupiter for rain. And what do you know, it starts raining by the bucketful at once, then or never, and they would all come back wet as drowned rats. Well that’s why the gods have stuffed their ears now, we’ve gotten unreligious. And the fields lie barren—”

“Oh please, don’t be so gloomy,” said Echion, the clothes dealer. “There’s ups and there’s downs, as the old peasant said when he sold his spotted pig. What we don’t have today, we’ll have tomorrow: so we trudge through life.”

Aetna 43-64

temptauere (nefas) olim detrudere mundo
sidera captiuique Iouis transferre gigantes
imperium et uicto leges inponere caelo.
his natura sua est aluo tenus: ima per orbes
squameus intortos sinuat uestigia serpens.
construitur magnis ad proelia montibus agger,
Pelion Ossa premit, summus premit Ossan Olympus.
iam coaceruatas nituntur scandere moles,
impius et miles metuentia comminus astra
prouocat, infestus cunctos ad proelia diuos
prouocat admotis per inertia sidera signis.
Iuppiter et caelo metuit dextramque coruscam
armatus flamma remouet caligine mundum.
incursant uasto primum clamore gigantes.
hinc magno tonat ore pater geminantque fauentes
undique discordi sonitum simul agmine uenti;
densa per attonitas rumpuntur fulmina nubes,
atque in bellandum quae cuique potentia diuum
in commune uenit; iam patri dextera Pallas
et Mars laeuus erat, iam cetera turba deorum
stant utrimque tuens; ualidos tum Iuppiter ignis
increpat et uictor proturbat fulmine montes.

The giants — what sacrilege! — once tried to thrust down the stars from the sky,
and to capture Jupiter, transfer his sovereignty,
and to impose their laws on conquered heaven.
Their nature is human, all to the belly; to the bottom, through coils,
a scaly serpent spools spirals of the soles of their feet.
From great mountains, a battle bulwark is heaped;
Ossa presses upon Pelion, Olympus’s summit presses upon Ossa.
They strive now to scale the mounds, heap on heap,
irreverent, challenge the fearful stars to close combat,
deranged, challenge all the gods to pitched battle,
the soldiers moving their battle-standard through ranks of benumbed constellations.
Jupiter fears for heaven,
and takes the sky from sight with fog,
his hand glistering and wielding flame.
The giants begin the assault with a monstrous shout.
Now the father of gods thunders in a deep voice
and all around the warring wind musters,
redoubles the sound at once with its gust.
Thunderbolts flare thick through stricken cloud
and whatever battle-strength any god has,
it comes to them all.
Now at her father’s right was Pallas, Mars at his left;
Now the rest of the gods crowd, standing guard at either side;
Then Jupiter sounds his candescent fire,
the vanquisher kindles lightening at the mountains.


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