Ovid: Ex Ponto
quid tibi cum Ponto?
what have you to do with Pontus?
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2003 All Rights Reserved
This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
- Book EII.I:68 To Germanicus: The Triumph
- Book EII.II:1-38 To Messalinus: His Error
- Book EII.II:39-74 To Messalinus: The Time Is Propitious
- Book EII.II:75-126 To Messalinus: His Request
- Book EII.III:1-48 To Cotta Maximus: On Friendship
- Book EII.III:49-100 To Cotta Maximus: The Disclosure
- Book EII.IV:1-34 To Atticus: Literary Friendship
- Book EII.V:1-40 To Salanus: An Abortive Poem
- Book EII.V:41-76 To Salanus: Praise of Germanicus
- Book EII.VI:1-38 To Graecinus: An Answer To His Reproof
- Book EII.VII:1-46 To Atticus: His Constant Grief
- Book EII.VII:47-84 To Atticus: Courage Conquers All
- Book EII.VIII:1-36 To Cotta Maximus: Imperial Likenesses
- Book EII.VIII:37-76 To Cotta Maximus: His Prayer
- Book EII.IX:1-38 To Cotys of Thrace: Mutual Advantage
- Book EII.IX:39-80 To Cotys of Thrace: His Request
- Book EII.X:1-52 To Macer: Early Travels Together
- Book EII.XI:1-28 To Rufus: His Wife’s Uncle
Book EII.I:68 To Germanicus: The Triumph
as well, where the south wind’s breath barely comes.
I never thought any sweetness could be mine in Scythia,
but this land’s less hateful to me now than it was before.
At last the clouds of care are driven off: I see
a fragment of clear sky: I’ve cheated fate.
Even if Caesar doesn’t wish me any joy,
he should still wish this one joy on us all.
The gods, so as to be worshipped in joyous piety,
order sadness laid aside on their feast days too.
In short, though it’s madness to dare confess it
I’d still enjoy this happiness if he forbids it.
When Jupiter delights the fields with needed rain,
stubborn weeds will grow among the crops.
I too, a useless plant, feel the fertilising power,
and am often benefited despite his will.
The delights of Caesar’s heart are mine too, as far
as my powers allow: that House can’t be a private one.
Thanks to you, Fame, though I’m imprisoned
among the Getae, I’ve seen the glorious triumph.
Your report told me how countless peoples
recently gathered to gaze on the leader’s face:
and Rome whose vast walls compass the wide world,
scarcely had room to hold her many guests.
You told me how the sun shone brightly,
by heaven’s power, and the day matched
the faces of the crowd, though, for days before,
a cloudy southerly poured down endless rain,
and how the victor made warlike gifts to the heroes,
honouring them in a mighty voice, how,
wearing embroidered robes, glorious insignia,
he first scattered incense on the sacred fires
purely to placate his father’s Justice,
which always occupies a temple in his heart,
how he heard happy omens of applause as he went
and the stones were red with dew-wet roses:
silver fascimiles of conquered walls were carried
before him, barbarian towns with defeated men,
rivers, mountains and battles in thick forests,
mingled piles of shields and spears,
the buildings of the Roman forum gilded
by the gold of trophies, glittering in the sun,
and so many captive chieftains, chained by the neck,
they were almost enough to form an enemy host.
Most of them were granted life and pardon,
among them Bato, high chieftain of the war.
Why should I fail to believe the divine anger could lessen
towards me, when I see the gods merciful to an enemy?
Germanicus, the same news informed me,
that floats of townships rolled on in your name.
Those towns were not well-enough defended against you,
despite massive walls, armaments, and clever placing.
May the gods grant you long life, you’ll do the rest,
so long as there’s time enough to show your worth.
I pray it will come about: a poet’s oracle’s worth something,
since the god gave a favourable answer to my prayer.
You too with garlanded horses, will be seen to climb
the Tarpeian Rock in victory, by a happy Rome:
your father will see his son’s mature honours,
feeling the joy that he has felt at his own.
Mark my prophetic words to you even now,
you, greatest of youths in war or peace.
I’ll tell of that triumph also perhaps in verse
if only my lifespan equals my misfortunes,
and I don’t stain Scythian arrows with my blood
before, and no fierce Getan steals my life with a sword.
If your laurels are dedicated in the temple while I live,
you’ll say that both my prophecies have come true.
Book EII.II:1-38 To Messalinus: His Error
He who honoured your House from his earliest years,
Ovid, driven to the Black Sea’s sinister left-hand shore,
gives you the greeting, Messalinus, he once offered
face to face, from this land of unconquered Getae.
Alas if, having read the name, your expression
is not what it once was, and you hesitate to read on!
Read, don’t banish my words with my self:
my verse is allowed to exist in your city.
I had the power to touch the bright stars with my hand,
nor did I join Enceladus’s mad faction,
taking up arms against the gods of the world,
nor as the rash hand of Diomedes did,
have I aimed my spear at any divine power.
My offence is grave but it’s one that has only
ventured to destroy me, not cause greater sin.
I can only be called unwise and cowardly:
those are the proper terms for my behaviour.
I confess it’s right you too were resistant to my
entreaties, after I’d deserved Caesar’s anger:
such is your loyalty to all the Julian clan,
you’re hurt if you think any of them are hurt.
But even if you take up arms and threaten me
with cruel wounds you won’t make me afraid.
Sometimes temple violators seek sanctuary at the altar,
not fearing to seek the help of the god they’ve injured.
Some might say it isn’t wise. I admit it.
But my ship doesn’t sail through calm waters.
Let others seek safety: the most wretched fate’s
the safest, since fear of a worse one is absent.
Driven by the foaming sea, stretching out our arms
we snatch at thorns and harsh rocks with our hands:
the bird, with quivering wings, in fear of the hawk
dares to seek human protection in its weariness,
and a doe won’t hesitate to trust herself to a nearby house
when she’s running in terror from the hostile hounds.
Book EII.II:39-74 To Messalinus: The Time Is Propitious
Kindest of men, allow my tears an audience, I beg you,
don’t close a harsh door against my anxious voice,
show favour, carry my words to the gods of Rome,
be ambassador for my request, take up my cause:
though no case with my name on is a good one.
Now I’m almost buried, now I’m ill and frozen
at least: if I’m saved at all, I’ll be saved by you.
Now let that influence, the love of an eternal prince
wins for you, exert itself on behalf of the weary.
Now let the shining eloquence of your house appear,
with which you’ve benefited anxious defendants.
Your father’s fluent tongue lives in both you sons,
and that asset has found its proper heirs.
I don’t ask that it should try to defend me: the case
of an accused who’s confessed is not defensible.
Yet see if you might apologise for my actions
given the source of my error, or whether it’s better
not to try anything like that. The wound is such
that, since it can’t be healed, I think it’s safer not to touch it.
Tongue, be silent! Nothing more is to be told.
I wish to be able to bury my own ashes.
So speak your words as if no error ever misled me,
so that I can enjoy the life he granted me:
and when he’s calm and that expression’s tranquil
that, as it changes, alters the empire and the world,
ask that I might not be a worthless prize for the Getae,
and to grant a gentler land for my wretched exile.
It’s a good time for petitions. He’s safe and sound, and sees
that your powers, Rome, which he fashioned, are sound.
His wife, is well, and keeps the sacred bed intact:
his son, Tiberius, extends the Roman Empire:
Germanicus, by his courage, is greater than his years,
and Drusus’ energy is no less than his nobility.
Add that the younger women, the loyal granddaughters,
the granddaughter’s sons, and the rest of his House are whole.
Book EII.II:75-126 To Messalinus: His Request
Then there’s the triumph over Paeonia, there are
raised arms in mountainous Dalmatia lowered in peace:
Illyria, a servant now, throwing down her weapons,
and not refusing to set her head beneath Caesar’s foot.
Tiberius himself appeared in his chariot, calm-faced,
his forehead wreathed with Apollo’s Daphnian laurel.
His loyal sons worthy of their father and the names granted
them, followed him, attended by you two brothers,
like the Twins of the neighbouring temple
whom divine Julius views from his lofty shrine.
Messalinus does not deny the supreme place
of joy, to those before whom all must yield,
whatever’s left concerns battles of affection,
in these he’ll take second place to no man.
He’ll celebrate this day above all others, on which
the laurel of merit’s rightly set on an honoured brow.
O happy are those allowed to see the triumph,
and savour the general’s godlike countenance!
But instead of Caesar’s face I see the Sarmatians,
a land without peace and waves bound by ice.
Yet if you hear this, if my voice reaches so far,
let your influence, your charm alter my place of exile.
Your father wishes this, if his eloquent shade still feels,
he whom I cultivated from my earliest youth.
And your brother so wishes, though perhaps he fears
that attention to my affairs might harm you.
All your House asks it, nor can you deny
that I too was once one of your followers.
Surely my genius, that I feel I used wrongly,
was often approved, except for the Ars Amatoria.
Nor is my life, if you except its recent sins,
able to bring shame on your House.
May the sanctuaries of your race flourish,
may the gods above and the Caesars protect you:
only beg that merciful deity, who’s rightly angered with me,
to move me far from the savagery of Scythian lands.
I know it’s difficult, but virtue aims for the heights,
and the thanks for such a service will be greater.
it’s no cannibal, no Antiphates, who’ll hear your words,
but a calm and merciful father, inclined to pardon,
who often thunders without the flash of lightning,
who’s indeed sad himself when he’s ordered something sad,
and for whom to exact punishment is to punish himself,
though his mercy was defeated by my offence,
and his anger was forced to display its full strength.
Since I’m a whole world apart from my country,
I can’t throw myself before the god himself,
Be the priest: carry my request to the god you worship,
while adding words of your own to my prayers.
But only try it if you think it won’t be harmful to me.
Forgive me. I’m a shipwrecked man, afraid of every sea.
Book EII.III:1-48 To Cotta Maximus: On Friendship
Maximus, whose name is equalled by your bright virtues,
you, who don’t allow your nature to be altered by fame,
cherished by me to the last day of my life –
for how does this state differ from death? –
by not turning away from a friend in need,
you perform an act rarer than any in this age.
It’s shameful to say, yet, if we confess the truth,
the crowd values friendship by its usefulness.
Their first care’s for expediency, not honour,
and their loyalty stands or falls by Fortune.
You won’t easily find one in a thousand
who considers virtue to be its own reward.
If right action doesn’t gain a prize, it fails
to impress, and doing good for free is regretted.
Only what’s profitable is dear: take hope of gain
from a greedy mind, and no one’s sought after.
Now everyone desires his return, and counts,
with anxious fingers, what will be of use to himself.
That goddess of friendship, who was once revered,
sells herself, intent on gain, like a prostitute.
So I marvel the more that you’re not swept away
as well, by the force of common vice, that torrent of water.
There’s only love for those whom fortune follows:
but when she’s stormy everyone takes flight.
Look at me, once fortified with many friends,
while the favouring breeze swelled my sails:
now the wild seas are tumultuous with the tempest,
I’m abandoned on a shattered boat in mid-ocean:
while others didn’t even wish to be seen to know me,
only two or three brought help when I was banished.
You were the chief. You were fit to be their leader
not companion, not to find an exemplar but to be one.
You, who accept the exile only made a mistake,
delight in virtue and duty for their own sake.
Goodness, in your judgement, is free of reward:
sought for itself, unaccompanied by outward benefit.
You think it’s wrong to drive a friend away who’s wretched,
or prevent him being one because he’s been unlucky.
It’s kinder to support his weary chin with only a finger,
than to push the swimmer’s face beneath the clear wave.
and think, that to live this life of mine is like death.
how far distant is my death from those Stygian waters?
and my offence was not without a touch of madness.
You too should receive, as you are doing, the praise due
to mighty heroes, and bring what help you can to the fallen.
Book EII.III:49-100 To Cotta Maximus: The Disclosure
If I know you well, if you’re still as you
used to be, and your courage has not lessened,
the more Fortune rages, the more you resist her,
taking care, rightly, lest she overwhelm you:
and you fight well when your enemy fights well.
So, I’m helped and injured by the same thing.
Doubtless you consider it shameful, dearest boy,
to become a friend of the goddess on her sphere.
You’re loyal, and seeing that that sails of the broken boat
are not as you wish, you still raise them such as they are.
The boat’s so shattered it’s thought it must soon founder,
but the wreckage is still supported on your shoulders.
It’s true your anger was justified at first, no milder
than his, who was justifiably offended by me.
The pain that distressed great Caesar’s feelings,
you swore immediately that you felt it too.
Yet they say that when you heard the cause
of my disaster, you groaned aloud at my error.
Then your letters began to bring me comfort,
bringing hope that the wounded god might be softened.
Then the constancy of long friendship moved you,
that began for me before you were born: and at birth
you were the friend, to me, that you became to others,
because I gave you the first kisses in your cradle.
Since I’ve honoured your House from my earliest years,
that makes me an old responsibility of yours.
That father of yours, with an eloquence
in the Latin tongue not inferior to his lineage,
first urged me to grant my verse a public
hearing: he was the guide to my talent.
Nor, I contend, could your brother recall
the moment of my first service to him.
But it was you I was attached to before all others,
so that our friendship was as one whatever came.
the tears as they fell from our sad cheeks:
when you asked whether the rumour was true
that brought the evil news of my offence,
I wavered, doubtfully, between confession and denial
my trembling revealing the signs of my fear,
and, like the snow the rainy south wind melts,
welling tears ran down my terrified cheeks.
So you, recalling this, knowing that my sin
could be buried if my first error were forgiven,
you think of your old friend in his misfortunes
and help me by bandaging my wounds.
In return, if I had the chance to choose freely, I’d ask
a thousand blessings on you, for showing such true worth.
But if I’m only to echo your own vows, I’ll pray
for your mother’s well-being, after Caesar’s.
I recall you used to ask that of the gods, first of all,
when you made the altars rich with incense.
Book EII.IV:1-34 To Atticus: Literary Friendship
you who, in my opinion, should not be doubted.
Do you still think of your wretched friend at all,
or has your love played its part, and weakened?
The gods are not so harsh to me that I’d believe,
or think it reasonable, that you’ve forgotten me already.
Your image is always in front of my eyes,
and I seem to see your features in my mind.
I remember many deep talks you and I had,
and more than a few hours of playful fun.
Often hours of lengthy talk passed swiftly,
often the day was briefer than my words.
Often you listened to a freshly made poem,
a new Muse was submitted to your criticism.
I considered the public pleased, if you praised:
that was the sweet prize of the critic’s affection.
More than once I’ve edited it, on your advice,
so my work might be smoothed by a friendly file.
The streets, the squares, all the porticoes, saw us
together: and the amphitheatre, in adjoining seats.
In short our love, was always as great, dearest friend,
I can’t believe it would vanish from your heart,
though you drank deep of Lethe’s care-dispelling waters.
Sooner will the longest days occur in winter,
and summer nights be swifter than December’s,
the marigold out-scent the rose of Paestum,
than forgetfulness of what we were shall possess you.
No part of my fate can be so devoid of brightness.
Take care that this faith of mine is not called
false, and my credulity pure foolishness,
and defend your old comrade, with constant loyalty,
as best you can, and as long as I’m not a burden.
Book EII.V:1-40 To Salanus: An Abortive Poem
I send words composed in elegiac measure, Ovid
to Salanus, prefaced by my wish for his good health.
I hope it may be so, and to prove the omen true,
I pray that you’re safe to read this, my friend.
Your sincerity, something almost extinct in this age,
requires me to make such prayers, on your behalf,
for though I was only slightly acquainted with you,
they say you were grieved by my exile:
and, reading my verses sent from the Black Sea,
your approval helped, regardless of their worth:
and you wished that Caesar’s anger towards me
might be eased, a wish he would allow, if he knew.
Such a kind prayer, because of that nature of yours,
and none the less pleasing to me for that.
It’s possible you’re the more moved by my ills,
learned friend, due to the circumstances that apply here.
Believe me, you’ll hardly find a place, anywhere on earth,
that takes less delight in the fruits of Augustan peace.
Yet you read this verse composed amid fierce battles,
and having read it, approve it with favourable words,
and you praise my genius, that runs in a meagre vein,
and you make a mighty river of a little stream.
Indeed, your endorsement’s gratifying to my spirit,
even if it’s hard for you to imagine the wretched being pleased.
As long as I undertake poems on humble themes
my talent’s sufficient for the slender content.
Lately, when news of a great triumph arrived,
I dared to undertake a work of some substance.
The gravity and splendour of the thing sank my attempt,
I couldn’t support the weight of what I’d started.
What’s praiseworthy in it is the willingness to oblige:
the rest of the material was stillborn.
If by any chance that work has come to your notice,
I ask that it might enjoy your protection.
Let my thanks to you, who’d do this even if I didn’t
ask it, add to it their slight crowning touch.
I don’t deserve your praise, but you have a heart
that’s pure as milk or the un-trodden snow:
you admire others, when you’re to be admired
yourself, your art and eloquence aren’t hidden.
Book EII.V:41-76 To Salanus: Praise of Germanicus
You’re accustomed to share the Prince of Youth’s studies,
that Caesar who made a name for himself in Germany.
You’ve been Germanicus’s companion from his earliest years,
a friend of old, pleasing by talent as well as character.
Your prior speech gave forward impetus to his:
he has you to elicit his words, from your own.
When you cease, and the mortal mouth is still,
and the room is quiet for a little while,
the youth, worthy of his Julian name, rises,
As he stands there, silent, with an orator’s face and bearing,
his graceful appearance creates the expectation of learned speech.
Then when the pause is over, and the celestial lips have opened,
you’d swear the gods are accustomed to speak in that fashion,
and say: ‘This is eloquence appropriate to a Prince’:
there’s such nobility in his use of words.
Though you please him, your head among the stars,
you still think to acquire an exiled poet’s writings.
Truly, there’s harmony between kindred spirits,
and everyone maintains allegiance to their calling:
the labourer loves the farmer, the soldier the maker
of cruel war, the sailor the master of the swaying ship.
You too, studiously, make a study of the Muses,
and, skilfully, you approve my skill.
Our work is different, but it flows from the same fountain:
we are both practitioners of the liberal arts.
and yet the love is bound to be in us both:
as your eloquence gives my poetry vigour,
so beauty flows from me into your words.
So you’re right to think verse borders on your studies,
and the rites of mutual service should be kept.
For that reason I pray the friend who values you,
may do so to the last moment of your life,
and he, who holds the reins of the world, succeed:
which is the people’s prayer and mine as well.
Book EII.VI:1-38 To Graecinus: An Answer To His Reproof
Ovid, who used to be present in person, Graecinus,
greets you sadly in verse, from Black Sea waters.
This is an exile’s voice: letters grant me a tongue,
and I’d be dumb if I weren’t allowed to write.
You reprove your foolish friend’s sins, as you ought,
and tell me the ills I endure are less than I earned.
You say true, but it’s too late to reprove my fault:
don’t speak bitter words to the defendant who’s confessed.
I needed the warning when I could have rounded Ceraunia,
all sails standing, so might I have avoided the cruel reefs.
Now I’m shipwrecked what use is it to learn
what course my boat should have taken?
Rather an arm should be extended to the tired swimmer,
and don’t regret supporting his chin with your hand.
That you do: I pray you will do too: that your wife and mother
your brothers and all your household might be well,
as you always pray, aloud, with all your heart,
that all your actions might be approved of by the Caesars.
It would be wrong if you brought no kind of help
to your old friend in such a wretched state,
it would be wrong to retreat, and not stand firm,
it would be wrong to abandon a ship in distress,
wrong to side with chance, surrender a friend to fate,
and deny he’s yours unless he’s fortunate.
admired by previous ages, to be admired by those to come,
for whom the whole theatre echoes with applause.
You too deserve a name amongst such heroes,
protecting your friend in the hardest times.
You deserve it, and since you earned praise by loyalty,
my thanks for your help will never fall silent.
Believe me, if my poetry’s not destined to die,
you’ll often be on the lips of our posterity.
Only see that you stay loyal to the weary, Graecinus,
and let that impulse endure for lengths of time.
Though you do, I’ll still row despite the following wind,
there’s no harm in setting spurs to the galloping horse.
Book EII.VII:1-46 To Atticus: His Constant Grief
Atticus, my letter, sent from among the barely
pacified Getae, wishes first of all to greet you.
Next follows the desire to hear how you are,
and whether, however you are, you care about me.
I don’t doubt you do, yet real dread of misfortune
often causes me to suffer baseless fears.
Forgive me, please, excuse excessive dread.
The shipwrecked sailor even fears calm water.
The fish that’s been hurt by a treacherous barb
thinks there’s a bronze hook in all its food.
Often a lamb flees the sight of a distant dog,
thinks it’s a wolf, avoiding true help in error.
The wounded limb shrinks from a gentle touch,
and a vain shadow instils fear in the nervous.
So, pierced by Fortune’s iniquitous arrows,
I only conceive sad thoughts in my mind.
It’s clear to me now that fate, keeping its first course,
will always keep pursuing its familiar track:
the gods are watching in case anything’s conceded to me
in kindness, and I think it’s scarcely possible to cheat fate.
Fortune takes care to destroy me, she who used
to be fickle, constant now, and sure to harm me badly.
Believe me, if I’m known to you as a truth-sayer,
(in my position how could one be a liar)
you’d count ears of wheat faster, by Cinyphus,
or thyme plants flowering on the heights of Hybla,
birds flying through the air on quivering wings,
or know how many fish swam in the sea,
before you’d have the total of my sufferings
that I’ve endured on land, endured mid-ocean.
There’s no harsher race in the world than the Getae,
yet even they’ve groaned at my troubles.
If I tried to record it all in autobiographical verse,
a whole Iliad could be made from my misfortune.
I’m not afraid because I think I need to fear you
whose love has granted me a thousand proofs,
but because every wretched thing is fearful, and because
the door of happiness has long been closed to me.
Now my grief’s become a habit, and as falling water
carves out a stone with its constant dripping,
so I’m hurt by continual blows of Fortune,
until I’ve hardly room for a new wound.
The ploughshare’s not worn thinner by steady use,
nor the Appian Way more hollowed by the wheel’s rim,
than my heart’s trampled by this run of misfortunes,
and I’ve found nothing that can bring me help.
Book EII.VII:47-84 To Atticus: Courage Conquers All
Fame in the liberal arts is sought by many of us:
unhappily I’ve perished through my own gifts.
My life before was free of fault, and passed without stain:
but that’s brought me no aid in my misery.
Often a serious fault’s pardoned by the intercession
of friends: all kindness has been silent on my account.
Some, in trouble, are assisted by being present in person:
I was absent when this great storm overwhelmed my life.
Who wouldn’t dread even the silent wrath of Caesar?
Bitter words were added to my punishment.
The season can lighten exile: I, driven out to sea,
Ships often find the winter waves calm,
the seas were no stormier for Ulysses’.
Friends’ true loyalty might have eased my troubles:
but a treacherous crowd enriched themselves with my spoils.
Location makes exile milder: there’s no sadder
land than this beneath either starry pole.
It’s something to be near the borders of your own country:
The furthest lands, the ends of the world, hold me.
Caesar, your laurel should offer peace even to exiles:
Black Sea earth is open to hostile neighbours.
It’s sweet to spend time cultivating the fields:
barbarian foes allow no ground to be ploughed.
Body and mind are helped by a temperate climate:
perpetual cold chills the Sarmatian coastline.
There’s a harmless pleasure in fresh water:
I drink marsh water mixed with brine.
Everything’s lacking. Yet courage conquers all:
It even causes the body to acquire strength.
To support the burden you must strive with head unbowed,
if you allow your strength to falter you will fall.
The hope too that time might soften the prince’s wrath,
warns me against aversion to life, losing heart.
And you give no small comfort to me,
whose loyalty’s been tested by my troubles.
Please hold to what you’ve started, don’t desert the ship
at sea, defend me and your decision in one.
Book EII.VIII:1-36 To Cotta Maximus: Imperial Likenesses
those that you’ve sent me Cotta Maximus: the gods:
and Livia is there, joined with her Caesars, so that
your gift could be complete, as it ought to be.
Fortunate silver, more blessed than any gold,
that was recently coarse metal, is now divine.
By granting me riches, you wouldn’t have given me more
than the triple deities you’ve sent to these shores.
It’s something to gaze at gods, and consider them present,
and be able to speak with them as if with the truly divine.
As much as you could achieve it, I’ve returned home,
no longer in a far land, safe as before in the midst of the city.
I see the faces of the Caesars, as I once did:
I scarcely had any hope of this in my prayers:
I salute, as I used to salute, the heavenly power.
Even if you offered me return, I think you could do
nothing greater. What do my eyes miss but the Palace?
That place would be worthless without Caesar.
As I gaze at him I seem myself to be seeing Rome:
since he embodies the features of the fatherland itself.
Am I wrong or is the expression in his portrait one of anger,
is his face somehow grim and menacing?
Spare me, hero mightier in virtues than
the vast world, reign in your justified revenge.
Please, spare me, undying glory of our age,
lord of the earth that you make your care.
In the name of the fatherland, dearer to you than yourself,
and the gods who are never deaf to your prayers,
and your bed-mate who alone is equal to you,
and to whom your grandeur is no burden,
and your son, like you the model of virtue,
who can be seen from his character to be yours,
who make great strides under your command,
ease my sentence the least amount, reduce it,
and grant me a place of exile far from the Scythian foe.
Book EII.VIII:37-76 To Cotta Maximus: His Prayer
And you, the Caesar closest to Caesar, if it’s allowed,
let your godhead not be hostile to my prayers,
So may fierce Germany be dragged, a slave
with fear-struck face, before your triumphant horses:
those of the Cumean Sybil, and you be long a son.
You too, fitting wife for a mighty husband,
give a sympathetic ear to a suppliant’s prayers.
May your husband prosper, your grandsons and their sons,
your good daughters-in law, and their daughters.
May the Elder Drusus whom cruel Germany snatched
from you, be the only one of your race to fall.
May Tiberius soon drive behind snow-white steeds,
the avenger of his brother’s death, clothed in purple.
O, kindest gods, assent to my timorous prayers.
Let it benefit me to have deities present here.
When Caesar arrives the gladiator exits safely
from the arena: his appearance is no small aid.
I’m aided too, by seeing your faces, as much as I can,
now that three deities have entered a single house.
Happy are those who see the reality, not phantoms,
and see the gods’ true features, face to face.
Since hostile fate has begrudged me that,
I cherish the forms and portraits art created,
so men might know the gods the deep heavens
conceal, and worship Jupiter through Jupiter’s image.
So have a care that your likenesses, that are here with me
and always will be, aren’t situated in a hateful region.
Sooner shall my head be severed from my neck,
sooner will I let my eyes be gouged from their sockets,
than I lack you, by your being taken from me, O powers
of the State: you’ll be the altar and refuge of my exile.
I’ll embrace you when I’m surrounded by Getic weapons,
and I’ll follow you as my eagles, and my standards.
Either I’m deceiving myself, mocked by excess
of longing, or hope of a more appropriate exile’s here.
The portrait’s features grow less and less severe,
and the head seems to nod at my words.
I pray my timid heart’s presentiments prove true,
that the god’s anger lessens, even if it’s just.
Book EII.IX:1-38 To Cotys of Thrace: Mutual Advantage
Cotys, descendant of kings, the line of whose nobility
reaches as far back as the name of Eumolpus,
if ready rumour has already reached your ears,
that I inhabit part of a country near to yours,
kindest of youths, hear the voice of the suppliant,
and, since you can, bring what help you can, to an exile.
Fortune has surrendered me to you – I don’t complain
of her in doing so – in this one thing she isn’t hostile to me.
Welcome my shipwreck on a gentle shore:
don’t let the waves prove safer than the land.
Believe me, it’s a regal action to aid the fallen,
it’s appropriate for as great a hero as yourself.
It’s fitting to your rank: that great as it is
can scarcely be equal to your spirit.
Power is never active in a better cause
than in not letting such prayers be made in vain.
That brilliant lineage of yours urges it,
it’s a work of that nobility born of the gods.
Eumolpus the famous founder of your race,
and Ericthonius his ancestor advise it.
You and the gods have this in common, both of you
are accustomed to offer help when your suppliants ask.
Would there be any reason for the divine to be granted
its usual honour, if the gods lacked the will to help?
If Jupiter turned deaf ears to our prayers, why should
a fallen victim die, in front of Jupiter’s temple?
If the sea didn’t offer calm waters for my journey
why should I offer Neptune incense in vain?
Why should Ceres receive the entrails of a pregnant sow
if she left unfulfilled the prayers of labouring farmers?
The sacrificial goat won’t offer its throat to long-haired Bacchus,
if grape juice doesn’t flow under the trampling feet.
It’s because he plans for his country so well,
that we ask Caesar to control the reins of Empire.
Advantage, then, makes god and humans great,
by their support and their mutual assistance.
You too, O Cotys, son worthy of your father
should benefit one who’s within your camp.
Book EII.IX:39-80 To Cotys of Thrace: His Request
It’s fitting for a man to take delight in saving man,
and there’s no better way of winning support.
Who does not curse Antiphates, a king of cannibals?
Who disapproves of generous Alcinous’s character?
no Phalaris who burnt the inventor in his invention:
but one fierce in war, never knowing defeat when armed,
yet never desiring bloodshed once peace was made.
Moreover constant study of the liberal arts
civilises the character, and inhibits cruelty.
No king’s been better equipped in them,
or given more time to the gentler arts.
Your poetry’s a witness, so that, if you hid your name,
I’d deny it was composed by a youth of Thrace:
and Bistonia’s land is made proud of your skill,
so that Orpheus might not be the only poet there.
Just as you have the courage, when events demand it,
to take up arms and stain your hands with enemy blood,
just as you’ve learned to hurl javelins with a flick of the wrist,
and guide the flight of your galloping horse,
so when ample time’s been given to your father’s arts,
and their military task happens to be dormant,
in order that your leisure time’s not lost in idle sleep,
you take the Muses’ path to the bright stars.
This creates something of a bond between you and me:
each is a follower of the same sacred rites.
Poet to poet I stretch out my arms in asking
that your land should protect me in my exile.
I didn’t come to Pontus, guilty of murder,
no lethal poison was mixed by my hand:
no fraudulent document convicted my ring
of printing a false seal on its linen ties.
I’ve done nothing that the law forbids to be done:
yet a weightier offence of mine’s to be confessed here.
And don’t ask, what it is, I wrote a stupid ‘Art of Love’:
that prevents my hands from ever being clean.
Did I sin further? Don’t seek to know,
so my guilt can hide beneath my ‘Art’ alone.
Whatever it is, my judge’s anger was moderate,
who took nothing from me, except my native earth.
Since I’m bereft of that now, let your nearness offer me
the power to live in safety in this place I hate.
Book EII.X:1-52 To Macer: Early Travels Together
Macer, do you guess at all from the image printed
in the wax, that Ovid writes these words to you?
If the ring is not a witness to its master,
do you recognise the letters shaped by my hand?
Or is recognition denied you by passing time,
so your eyes cannot recall the ancient signs?
You’re allowed to forget hand and seal,
so long as your love for me hasn’t vanished.
You owe it to long years of friendship,
to the fact that my wife’s no stranger to you,
to the studies you employed more wisely than I did,
and, as is proper, you’re not incriminated by ‘Art’.
You sing whatever immortal Homer left unsung,
so the Trojan War won’t lack the final touch.
Master Ovid, without much prudence, passing on
the art of love, sadly won the prize for his teaching.
Still, there are rites common to all poets,
though each follows a different path:
I think you’ll remember it, though we’re
far apart, and desire to ease my situation.
We gazed at splendid cities of Asia, with you as guide:
Sicily, with you as guide, was revealed to my eyes.
We saw Etna’s flames illuminate the sky,
eruptions of the giant under the mountain,
Not far from there the nymph, Arethusa, escaping
the Elean river, runs hidden beneath the waves, even now.
There I passed the greater part of the quickly gliding year.
Ah, how different that place is to this land of the Getae!
And that was only a part of what we both saw,
while you made the paths joyful for me!
Whether we cut the blue wave in a painted boat,
or drove along in a swift-wheeled carriage,
the road often seemed short with changing talk,
and more words than inches if you numbered them.
Often the day was too short for our discourse,
and the long hours of summer days failed us.
It’s something to have feared the dangers of the sea,
together, and offered our mutual prayers to the ocean gods,
and to have done things together on occasion,
and afterwards be able to recall innocent laughter.
When these thoughts come to you, though I’m absent,
I’ll be in front of your eyes as if you just now saw me.
And, for my part, though I live beneath the celestial pole,
that always stands high above the flowing waters,
I see you in the only way I can, in my mind,
and often speak to you beneath the frozen axis.
You’re here, unwittingly, many times present though absent,
and you come, at my command, from mid-city to the Getae.
Repay me in turn, and, since yours is a happier land,
keep me there forever in your remembering heart.
Book EII.XI:1-28 To Rufus: His Wife’s Uncle
Ovid, the author of the unfortunate Ars Amatoria
sends you this effort, Rufus, rushed off in a hurry,
so that though we’re separated by a whole world’s
width, you can still know that I remember you.
I’d sooner come to forget my own name,
than let your loyalty be driven from my heart:
and I’ll return this spirit to the vacant air,
before my thanks for your services fail.
I call those tears a great service that flowed
over your face when mine was dry, rigid with pain:
I call your solace of a grieving mind great service,
when you granted it to me and to yourself.
My wife’s to be praised spontaneously, for herself,
yet she’s the better for your advice. And the sort
I’m pleased to say is what you are to my wife.
She tries to be not unlike you in honesty,
and proves by her life that she’s of your blood.
So that which she would have done without urging
she completes more fully with you as sponsor also.
The spirited horse which races for the prize,
itself, runs more strongly still if you urge it on.
Besides you execute the wishes of an absent man
with faithful care, and no burden you carry annoys you.
Oh, since I’ve not the power, may the gods show
gratitude! As they will do if they see your acts of loyalty:
May you long have strength as well to maintain that character,
Rufus, the greatest glory of Fundi’s earth.
The End of Ex Ponto Book II