Liber Latinus

Latin in translation

Painting on a wall at Pompeii

A bronze water-jar has disappeared from this shop. Anybody who returns it will be given 65 sesterces; if he gives over the thief, from whom we can save our property, 84 sesterces.

Late C2nd or early C1st BC.

A decree of L Aemilius Paulus

L AIMILIUS L F INPEIRATOR DECREIVIT | UTEI QUEI HASTENSIUM SERVEI | IN TURRI LASCUTANA HABITARENT | LEIBEREI ESSENT AGRUM OPPIDUMQU | QUOD EA TEMPESTATE POSEDISENT | ITEM POSSIDERE HABEREQUE | IOUSIT DUM POPLUS SENATUSQUE | ROMANUS VELLET ACT INCASTREIS | A D XII K FEBR

Lucius Aemilius, son of Lucius, commander in chief, decreed that the slaves of the people of Hasta, dwelling in the tower at Lascuta, be free. He ordered that they possess and retain, at the pleasure of the Roman people and Senate, the land and the town which they possessed at that time. Done at camp, 19 January.

Bronze plate near Gades, 189 BC.

Horace, Odes, 3.30

Exegi monumentum aere perennius
regalique situ pyramidum altius,
quod non imber edax, non aquilo impotens
possit diruere aut innumerabilis
annorum series et fuga temporum.
non omnis moriar multaque pars mei
vitabit Libitinam; usque ego postera
crescam laude recens, dum Capitolium
scandet cum tacita virgine pontifex.
dicar, qua violens obstrepit Aufidus
et qua pauper aquae Daunus agrestium
regnavit populorum, ex humili potens,
princeps Aeolium carmen ad Italos
deduxisse modos. sume superbiam
quaesitam meritis et mihi Delphica
lauro cinge volens, Melpomene, comam.

I have completed a monument more lasting than bronze
And loftier than the kingly position of the pyramids,
Which not corrosive rain, nor the unbridled North Wind,
Nor the countless series of the years
Nor flight of time can destroy.
I shall not wholly die, and a large part of me
Will elude Libitina, Goddess of Death: continually I will grow,
Newly in the esteem of posterity, so long as
The priest climbs the Capitol with the silent virgin.
Where violent Aufidus roars
And where Daunus, lacking water, ruled over rustic peoples
I shall be spoken of as a powerful leader, from humble beginnings,
Who brought Aeolian verse to Italian metres. Accept your well-earnt pride,
Melpomene, and, if you would,
Crown my hair with Delphic laurel.

An inscription at Pompeii

C·QUINCTUS·C·F·VALGUS
M·PORCIUS·M·F·DUOVIR
QUINQ·CONOLIAI·HONORIS
CAUSSA·SPECTACULA·DE·SUA
PEQ·FAC·COER·ET·COLONEIS
LOCUM·IN·PERPETUOM·DEDER

Gaius Quinctius Valgus, son of Gaius, and Marcus Porcius, son of Marcus, the duoviri in the fifth year, saw to the institution of shows at their own expense for the colony for its honour, and gave the place to the colonists for all time.

Inscription found at the ampitheatre at Pompeii, c. 100–80 BC.

Cic. Mur. 23-27

et quoniam mihi videris istam scientiam iuris tamquam filiolam osculari tuam, non patiar te in tanto errore versari ut istud nescio quid quod tanto opere didicisti praeclarum aliquid esse arbitrere. Aliis ego te virtutibus, continentiae, gravitatis, iustitiae, fidei, ceteris omnibus, consulatu et omni honore semper dignissimum iudicavi; quod quidem ius civile didicisti, non dicam operam perdidisti, sed illud dicam, nullam esse in ista disciplina munitam ad consulatum viam. omnes enim artes, quae nobis populi Romani studia concilient , et admirabilem dignitatem et pergratam utilitatem debent habere.

summa dignitas est in eis qui militari laude antecellunt; omnia enim quae sunt in imperio et in statu civitatis ab his defendi et firmari putantur; summa etiam utilitas, si quidem eorum consilio et periculo cum re publica tum etiam nostris rebus perfrui possumus. gravis etiam illa est et plena dignitatis dicendi facultas quae saepe valuit in consule deligendo, posse consilio atque oratione et senatus et populi et eorum qui res iudicant mentis permovere. quaeritur consul qui dicendo non numquam comprimat tribunicios furores, qui concitatum populum flectat, qui largitioni resistat. non mirum, si ob hanc facultatem homines saepe etiam non nobiles consulatum consecuti sunt, praesertim cum haec eadem res plurimas gratias, firmissimas amicitias, maxima studia pariat. quorum in isto vestro artificio, Sulpici, nihil est.

primum dignitas in tam tenui scientia non potest esse; res enim sunt parvae, prope in singulis litteris atque interpunctionibus verborum occupatae. deinde, etiam si quid apud maiores nostros fuit in isto studio admirationis , id enuntiatis vestris mysteriis totum est contemptum et abiectum. posset agi lege necne pauci quondam sciebant; fastos enim volgo non habebant. erant in magna potentia qui consulebantur; a quibus etiam dies tamquam a Chaldaeis petebatur . inventus est scriba quidam, Cn. Flavius, qui cornicum oculos confixerit et singulis diebus ediscendis fastos populo proposuerit et ab ipsis his cautis iuris consultis eorum sapientiam compilarit. itaque irati illi, quod sunt veriti ne dierum ratione pervolgata et cognita sine sua opera lege agi posset, verba quaedam composuerunt ut omnibus in rebus ipsi interessent.

cum hoc fieri bellissime posset: ‘fundus Sabinus meus est.’ ‘immo meus,’ deinde iudicium, noluerunt. ‘Fundus’ inquit ‘qui est in agro qui sabinus vocatur.’ satis verbose; cedo quid postea? ‘eum ego ex iure Quiritium meum esse aio.’ quid tum? ‘inde ibi ego te ex iure manum consertum voco.’ quid huic tam loquaciter litigioso responderet ille unde petebatur non habebat. transit idem iuris consultus tibicinis Latini modo. ‘Vnde tu me’ inquit ‘ex iure manum consertum vocasti, inde ibi ego te revoco.’ praetor interea ne pulchrum se ac beatum putaret atque aliquid ipse sua sponte loqueretur, ei quoque carmen compositum est cum ceteris rebus absurdum tum vero in illo: ‘Suis utrisque superstitibus praesentibus istam viam dico; ite viam.’ praesto aderat sapiens ille qui inire viam doceret. ‘redite viam.’ eodem duce redibant. haec iam tum apud illos barbatos ridicula, credo, videbantur , homines, cum recte atque in loco constitissent, iuberi abire ut, unde abissent, eodem statim redirent. isdem ineptiis fucata sunt illa omnia: ‘Quando te in iure conspicio ‘et haec : ‘anne tu dicas qua ex causa vindicaveris?’ quae dum erant occulta, necessario ab eis qui ea tenebant petebantur; postea vero pervolgata atque in manibus iactata et excussa, inanissima prudentiae reperta sunt, fraudis autem et stultitiae plenissima. nam, cum permulta praeclare legibus essent constituta, ea iure consultorum ingeniis pleraque corrupta ac depravata sunt.

And since you seem to prize your knowledge of the law, as if it were your little daughter, I will not allow you to remain in error, believing that whatever it is you have so thoroughly learnt is at all distinguished. I have always thought you worthy of the consulship, and of all honour, because of your other virtues: temperance, dignity, justice, good faith, and all the others. But as for having learnt civil law: I will not say it is wasted effort, but I will say that in that discipline, no way is made to the consulship. For all arts which can win over the devotion of the Roman people for us should have both an admirable grandeur and a pleasing utility.

The highest dignity is in those who excel in military glory. For they are supposed to defend and secure everything in the empire and constitution of the State. There is also a great utility in them, since it is through their counsel and danger that we can enjoy public things and our private things. The ability to speak well is also impressive and full of dignity, and it has often been effective in consular elections to be able to move, with wisdom and oratory, the minds of the senate and the people and those who decide on matters. They look for a consul who, from time to time, can restrain the madness of the tribunes, who can prevail upon the people when they are agitated, who can resist corruption.

It is unremarkable if men often accede to the consulship, despite not being of noble birth, on account of their abilities—especially when it brings them much gratitude, the strongest friendships, the greatest enthusiasm for him. Of these things, Sulpicius, there is none in your profession!

First of all, there can be no dignity in such a narrow expertise. For they are always small matters, mostly to do with singular letters and punctuation. And then, even if there was some wonder in your discipline, in the time of our ancestors, now it is only disdained and disregarded as your mysteries have been divulged. It used to be that only a few knew whether something could legally be done, because commoners did not have access to court documents. Counsel had a lot of power: even court dates were asked of them, as if from soothsayers. And a certain clerk was found who could trick the wary, Gnaeus Flavius, who displayed court documents for the people to learn by heart each day, and robbed this learning from the most careful lawyers. So they were angry, because they feared that people could act legally without their assistance now that their daily procedures had been publicised and understood, and accordingly they put together a certain form of words so that they would have to be involved in every cause.

Where it could have been done perfectly well with: ‘The Sabine farm is mine.’ ‘No it is mine.’ Then a trial. But they reject this. ‘The farm,’ says he, ‘which lies in the land called Sabine.’ That is wordy enough—so what next? ‘I affirm that it is mine by the law of Roman citizens.’ What then? ‘I then summon thee in an action for possession.’

The man from whom the farm was sought did not know how to reply to somebody so loquaciously litigious. The same lawyer goes across and, like a Latin flautist, he says: ‘Whence thou summoned me by action for possession, thence I resummon thee.’

Meanwhile lest he should think himself fine and fortunate enough to speak of his own accord, a formula is also composed for the Praetor, which is absurd in other respects, and especially: ‘With each of them alive and present, I declare that that is the path; go upon that path.’ And that wise man was there to show them the way back. ‘Return upon that path.’ They returned with the same guide. This would all have seemed ridiculous to full-grown men, I suppose: that men, when they have stood rightly in their place, should be ordered to depart, so that they would turn back and return immediately to the place they had left. Everything was embellished with that same silliness. ‘When I behold thee at law’, and this: ‘But sayest thou whence cometh thy claim of right?’ And so long as all this remained a mystery, people had to seek out those who understood it. But after these things were publicised and spread and investigated, it was found that there was no sense in them, and they were full of frauds and foolishness. For although much is settled admirably by the law, much of it has been distorted and corrupted by clients’ clever lawyers.

Cicero Fam. 7.10: legi tuas litteras ex quibus intellexi

M. CICERO S. D. TREBATIO ROMAE AUC 701

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.