Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2004 All Rights Reserved
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- Book III: Introduction
- Book III: March 1: Kalends
- Book III: March 3
- Book III: March 5
- Book III: March 6
- Book III: March 7: Nones
- Book III: March 8
- Book III: March 14: The Equirria
- Book III: March 15: Ides
- Book III: March 16
- Book III: March 17: The Liberalia
- Book III: March 19: The Quinquatrus
- Book III: March 23: The Tubilustria
- Book III: March 26
- Book III: March 30
- Book III: March 31
Book III: Introduction
Come Mars, God of War, lay aside your shield and spear:
A moment, from your helmet, free your shining hair.
What has a poet to do with Mars, you might ask?
The month I sing of takes its name from you.
You see, yourself, fierce wars waged by Minerva:
Is she less free to practice the noble arts for that?
Take time to set aside you lance and follow Pallas’
Example: and find something to do while unarmed.
You were unarmed then, as well, when the Roman
Priestess captivated you, so you could seed this City.
Silvia, the Vestal, (why not begin with her?)
Sought water at dawn to wash sacred things.
When she came to where the path ran gently down
The sloping bank, she set down the earthenware jar
From her head. Weary, she sat on the ground and opened
Her dress to the breeze, and composed her ruffled hair.
While she sat there, the shadowy willows, melodious birds,
And the soft murmur of the water made her sleepy.
Sweet slumber slyly stole across her conquered eyes,
And her languid hand fell, from supporting her chin.
Mars saw her, seeing her desired her, desiring her
Possessed her, by divine power hiding his theft.
She lost sleep, lay there heavily: and already,
Rome’s founder had his being in her womb,.
Languidly she rose, not knowing why she rose,
And leaning against a tree spoke these words:
‘I beg that what I saw in vision in my sleep
Might be happy and good. Or was it too real for sleep?
I thought I was tending the Trojan flame, and the woollen band
Slipped from my hair, and fell down, in front of the sacred fire.
From it, strange sight, at once, two palm trees sprang:
One of the trees was taller than the other,
And covered all the world with its heavy branches,
Touching the topmost stars with its crown.
See, my uncle, Amulius, wielding an axe against the trees,
The thought terrified me, and my heart shuddered with fear.
A woodpecker, bird of Mars, and a she-wolf defended
The twin trunks: by their help both palm-trees were saved.’
She spoke, and weakly lifted the brimming pitcher:
She had filled it while she told of her vision.
Meanwhile Remus and Quirinus were growing,
And her belly swelled with the divine burden.
When only two signs remained for the shining god
To travel before the complete year had run its course,
Silvia became a mother. They say the images of Vesta
Covered their eyes with their virgin hands:
The altar of the goddess certainly trembled when her priestess
Gave birth, and the fearful flame sank to its own ashes.
When Amulius, knew of this, a man scornful of justice,
(Since he overcame his own brother and took his power)
He ordered the twins drowned in the river. The water shrank
From the crime: and the boys were left there on dry land.
Who doesn’t know that the children were fed on milk
From a wild creature, and a woodpecker often brought them food?
Now should I forget you, Larentia, nurse of such a nation,
Nor, poor Faustulus, the help that you gave.
I’ll honour you when I speak of the Larentalia,
And the month approved of by the guardian spirits.
The children of Mars were eighteen years old,
And fresh beards grew below their yellow hair:
These brothers, the sons of Ilia, gave judgement
When asked, to all farmers and masters of herds.
They often returned pleased with the blood of robbers
They’d spilt: driving the stolen cattle back to their fields.
Hearing their origin, their spirits rose at their father’s divinity,
And they were ashamed to be known only among a few huts.
Amulius fell, struck through by Romulus’ sword
And the kingdom was returned to their old grandfather.
Walls were built, which it would have been better
For Remus not to leap, small though they were.
Now what was once woodland and the haunt of cattle,
Was a City, and the founder of the eternal City said:
‘Arbiter of War, from whose blood I am thought to spring,
(And to confirm that belief I shall give many proofs),
I name the first month of the Roman year after you:
The first month shall be called by my father’s name.’
The promise was kept: he called the month after his father.
This piety is said to have pleased the god.
And earlier, Mars was worshipped above all the gods:
A warlike people gave him their enthusiasm.
Athens worshipped Pallas: Minoan Crete, Diana:
Hypsipyle’s island of Lemnos worshipped Vulcan:
Juno was worshipped by Sparta and Pelops’ Mycenae,
Pine-crowned Faunus by Maenalian Arcadia:
Mars, who directs the sword, was revered by Latium:
Arms gave a fierce people possessions and glory.
If you have time examine various calendars.
And you’ll find a month there named after Mars.
It was third in the Alban, fifth in the Faliscan calendar,
Sixth among your people, Hernican lands.
The position’s the same in the Arician and Alban,
And Tusculum’s whose walls Telegonus made.
It’s fifth among the Laurentes, tenth for the tough Aequians,
First after the third the folk of Cures place it,
And the Pelignian soldiers agree with their Sabine
Ancestors: both make him the god of the fourth month.
In order to take precedence over all these, at least,
Romulus gave the first month to the father of his race.
Nor did the ancients have as many Kalends as us:
Their year was shorter than ours by two months.
Greece, defeated had not yet transmitted her arts
To the conquerors, her people eloquent but not brave.
He knew the arts of Rome, then, who fought well:
He was fluent, who could hurl the javelin, then.
Who knew the Hyades or Pleiades, the daughters
Of Atlas, or that there were two poles in the sky:
Knew that there are two Bears, the Sidonians steering
By Cynosura, the Greek sailor noting Helice:
That the signs Apollo, the Sun, travels in a whole year,
His sister Diana’s Moon-horses cross in a month?
The stars then ran their course, freely, unobserved
Each year: yet everyone held them to be gods.
They couldn’t touch the heaven’s gliding Standards,
Only their own, and it was a great crime to lose them.
Theirs were of straw: But the straw won a reverence
As great as you see the eagles share today.
A long pole carried the hanging bundles (maniplos),
From which the private soldier takes his name (maniplaris).
So, untaught and lacking in science, each five-year lustre
That they calculated was short by two whole months.
A year was when the moon returned to full for the tenth time:
And that was a number that was held in high honour:
Because it’s the number of fingers we usually count with,
Or because a woman produces in ten months,
Or because the numerals ascend from one to ten,
And from that point we begin a fresh interval.
So Romulus divided the hundred Senators into ten groups,
And instituted ten companies of men with spears,
And as many front-rank and javelin men,
And also those who officially merited horses.
He even divided the tribes the same way, the Titienses,
The Ramnes, as they are called, and the Luceres.
And so he reserved the same number for his year,
It’s the time for which the sad widow mourns her man.
If you doubt that the Kalends of March began the year,
You can refer to the following evidence.
The priest’s laurel branch that remained all year,
Was removed then, and fresh leaves honoured.
Then the king’s door is green with Phoebus’ bough,
Set there, and at your doors too, ancient wards.
And the withered laurel is taken from the Trojan hearth,
So Vesta may be brightly dressed with new leaves.
Also, it’s said, a new fire is lit at her secret shrine,
And the rekindled flame acquires new strength.
And to me it’s no less a sign that past years began so,
That in this month worship of Anna Perenna begins.
Then too it’s recorded public offices commenced,
Until the time of your wars, faithless Carthaginian.
Lastly Quintilis is the fifth (quintus) month from March,
And begins those that take their names from numerals.
Numa Pompilius, led to Rome from the lands of olives,
Was the first to realise the year lacked two months,
Learning it from Pythagoras of Samos, who believed
We could be reborn, or was taught it by his own Egeria.
But the calendar was still erratic down to the time
When Caesar took it, and many other things, in hand.
That god, the founder of a mighty house, did not
Regard the matter as beneath his attention,
And wished to have prescience of those heavens
Promised him, not be an unknown god entering a strange house.
He is said to have drawn up an exact table
Of the periods in which the sun returns to its previous signs.
He added sixty-five days to three hundred,
And then added a fifth part of a whole day.
That’s the measure of the year: one day
The sum of the five part-days is added to each lustre.
Book III: March 1: Kalends
‘If it’s right for the secret promptings of the gods
To be heard by poets, as it’s rumoured they may,
Tell me, Gradivus, Marching God, why women keep
Your feast, you who are apt to be served by men.’
So I spoke. And Mars answered, laying aside his helmet,
But keeping his throwing spear in his right hand:
Now am I, a god used to warfare, invoked
In pursuit of peace, and I’m carried into new camps,
And I don’t dislike it: I like to take on this function,
Lest Minerva think that she alone can do so.
Have what you seek, labouring poet of Latin days,
And inscribe my words in your memory.
Rome was little, if you wish to trace its first beginnings,
But still in that little, there was hope of all this.
The walls already stood, too cramped for its future people,
But then thought too large for its populace.
If you ask where my son’s palace was,
See there, that house made of straw and reeds.
He snatched the gifts of peaceful sleep on straw,
Yet from that same low bed he rose to the stars.
Already the Roman’s name extended beyond his city,
Though he possessed neither wife nor father-in-law.
Wealthy neighbours rejected poor sons-in-law,
And hardly thought I was the origin of the race.
It harmed the Romans that they lived in cattle-byres,
Grazed sheep, and owned a few acres of poor soil.
Birds and beasts each mate with their own kind,
And even a snake has another with which to breed:
Rights of intermarriage are granted to distant peoples:
Yet none wished to marry with the Romans.
I sympathised, Romulus, and gave you your father’s spirit:
“Forget prayers,” I said, “Arms will grant what you seek.”
He prepared a feast for the god, Consus. Consus will tell you
The rest of what happened that day when you sing his rites.
Cures was angered, and all who endured that same wrong:
Then a father fist waged war on his sons-in-law.
The ravished women were now almost mothers,
And the war between the kinfolk lingered on,
When the wives gathered to the call in Juno’s temple:
Among them, my daughter-in-law dared to speak:
“Oh, all you ravished women (we have that in common)
We can no longer delay our duties to our kin.
The battle prepares, but choose which side you will pray for:
Your husbands on this side, your fathers are on that.
The question is whether you choose to be widows or fatherless:
I will give you dutiful and bold advice.”
She gave counsel: they obeyed and loosened their hair,
And clothed their bodies in gloomy funeral dress.
The ranks already stood to arms, preparing to die,
The trumpets were about to sound the battle signal,
When the ravished women stood between husband and father,
Holding their infants, dear pledges of love, to their breasts.
When, with streaming hair, they reached the centre of the field,
They knelt on the ground, their grandchildren, as if they understood,
With sweet cries, stretching out their little arms to their grandfathers:
Those who could, called to their grandfather, seen for the first time,
And those who could barely speak yet, were encouraged to try.
The arms and passions of the warriors fall: dropping their swords
Fathers and sons-in-law grasp each other’s hands,
They embrace the women, praising them, and the grandfather
Bears his grandchild on his shield: a sweeter use for it.
Hence the Sabine mothers acquired the duty, no light one,
To celebrate the first day, my Kalends.
Either because they ended that war, by their tears,
In boldly facing the naked blades,
Or because Ilia happily became a mother through me,
Mothers justly observe the rites on my day.
Then winter, coated in frost, at last withdraws,
And the snows vanish, melted by warm suns:
Leaves, once lost to the cold, appear on the trees,
And the moist bud swells in the tender shoot:
And fertile grasses, long concealed, find out
Hidden paths to lift themselves to the air.
Now the field’s fruitful, now’s the time for cattle breeding,
Now the bird on the bough prepares a nest and home:
It’s right that Roman mothers observe that fruitful season,
Since in childbirth they both struggle and pray.
Add that, where the Roman king kept watch,
On the hill that now has the name of Esquiline,
A temple was founded, as I recall, on this day,
By the Roman women in honour of Juno.
But why do I linger, and burden your thoughts with reasons?
The answer you seek is plainly before your eyes.
My mother, Juno, loves brides: crowds of mothers worship me:
Such a virtuous reason above all befits her and me.’
Bring the goddess flowers: the goddess loves flowering plants:
Garland your heads with fresh flowers, and say:
‘You, Lucina, have given us the light of life’: and say:
‘You hear the prayer of women in childbirth.’
But let her who is with child, free her hair in prayer,
So the goddess may gently free her womb.
Now who will tell me why the Salii carry Mars’
Celestial weapons, and sing of Mamurius.
Teach me, nymph, who serves Diana’s lake and grove:
Nymph, Egeria, wife to Numa, speak of your actions.
There is a lake in the vale of Aricia, ringed by dense woods,
And sacred to religion from ancient times.
Here Hippolytus hides, who was torn to pieces
By his horses, and so no horse may enter the grove.
The long hedge is covered with hanging threads,
And many tablets witness the goddess’s merit.
Often a woman whose prayer is answered, brow wreathed
With garlands, carries lighted torches from the City.
One with strong hands and swift feet rules there,
And each is later killed, as he himself killed before.
A pebble-filled stream flows down with fitful murmurs:
Often I’ve drunk there, but in little draughts.
Egeria, goddess dear to the Camenae, supplies the water:
She who was wife and counsellor to Numa.
The Quirites were too prompt to take up arms,
And Numa quietened them with justice, and fear of the gods.
So laws were made, that the stronger might not take all,
And traditional rights were properly observed.
They left off being savages, justice superseded arms,
And citizens were ashamed to fight each other:
Those who had once been violent were transformed, on seeing
An altar, offering wine and salted meal on the warm hearths.
See, the father of the gods scatters red lightning through
The clouds, and clears the sky with showers of rain:
The forked flames never fell thicker:
The king was fearful, the people filled with terror.
The goddess said: ‘Don’t be so afraid! Lightning
Can be placated, and fierce Jupiter’s anger averted.
Picus and Faunus, each a deity native to Roman soil,
Can teach you the rites of expiation. But they won’t
Teach them unless compelled: so catch and bind them.’
And she revealed the arts by which they could be caught.
There was a grove, dark with holm-oaks, below the Aventine,
At sight of which you would say: ‘There’s a god within.’
The centre was grassy, and covered with green moss,
And a perennial stream of water trickled from the rock.
Faunus and Picus used to drink there alone.
Numa approached and sacrificed a sheep to the spring,
And set out cups filled with fragrant wine.
Then he hid with his people inside the cave.
The woodland spirits came to their usual spring,
And quenched their dry throats with draughts of wine.
Sleep succeeded wine: Numa emerged from the icy cave
And clasped the sleepers’ hands in tight shackles.
When sleep vanished, they fought and tried to burst
Their bonds, which grew tighter the more they struggled.
Then Numa spoke: ‘Gods of the sacred groves, if you accept
My thoughts were free of wickedness, forgive my actions:
And show me how the lightning may be averted.’
So Numa: and, shaking his horns, so Faunus replied:
‘You seek great things, that it’s not right for you to know
Through our admission: our powers have their limits.
We are rural gods who rule in the high mountains:
Jupiter has control of his own weapons.
You could never draw him from heaven by yourself,
But you may be able, by making use of our aid.’
Faunus spoke these words: Picus too agreed,
‘But remove our shackles,’ Picus added:
‘Jupiter will arrive here, drawn by powerful art.
Cloudy Styx will be witness to my promise.’
It’s wrong for men to know what the gods enacted when loosed
From the snare, or what spells they spoke, or by what art
They drew Jupiter from his realm above. My song will sing
Of lawful things, such as a poet may speak with pious lips.
The drew you (eliciunt) from the sky, Jupiter, and later
Generations now worship you, by the name of Elicius.
It’s true that the crowns of the Aventine woods trembled,
And the earth sank under the weight of Jove.
The king’s heart shook, the blood fled from his body,
And the bristling hair stood up stiffly on his head.
When he regained his senses, he said: ‘King and father
To the high gods, if I have touched your offerings
With pure hands, and if a pious tongue, too, asks for
What I seek, grant expiation from your lightning,’
The god accepted his prayer, but hid the truth with deep
Ambiguities, and terrified him with confusing words.
‘Sever a head,’ said the god: the king replied; ‘I will,
We’ll sever an onion’s, dug from my garden.’
The god added: ‘Of a man’: ‘You’ll have the hair,’
Said the king. He demanded a life, Numa replied: ‘A fish’s’.
The god laughed and said: ‘Expiate my lightning like this,
O man who cannot be stopped from speaking with gods.
And when Apollo’s disc is full tomorrow,
I’ll give you sure pledges of empire.’
He spoke, and was carried above the quaking sky,
In loud thunder, leaving Numa worshipping him.
The king returned joyfully, and told the Quirites
What had happened: they were slow to believe his words.
‘It will surely be believed,’ he said, ‘if the event follows
My speech: listen, all you here, to what tomorrow brings.
When Apollo’s disc has lifted fully above the earth,
Jupiter will grant me sure pledges of empire.’
The left, doubtful, considering it long to wait,
But setting their hopes on the following day.
The ground was soft at dawn, with a frost of dew:
When the crowd gathered at the king’s threshold.
He emerged, and sat in the midst on a maple wood throne.
Countless warriors stood around him in silence.
Phoebus had scarcely risen above the horizon:
Their anxious minds trembled with hope and fear.
The king stood, his head covered with a white cloth
Raising his hands, that the god now knew so well.
He spoke as follows: ‘The time is here for the promised gift,
Jupiter, make true the words of your pledge.’
As he spoke, the sun’s full disc appeared,
And a loud crash came from the depths of the sky.
Three times the god thundered, and hurled his lightning,
From cloudless air, believe what I say, wonderful but true.
The sky began to split open at the zenith:
The crowd and its leader lifted their eyes.
Behold, a shield fell, trembling in the light breeze.
The sound of the crowd’s shouting reached the stars.
The king first sacrificed a heifer that had never known
The yoke, then raised the gift from the ground,
And called it ancile, because it was cut away (recisum)
All round, and there wasn’t a single angle to note.
Then, remembering the empire’s fate was involved,
He thought of a very cunning idea.
He ordered many shields cut in the same shape,
In order to confuse the eyes of any traitor.
Mamurius carried out the task: whether he was superior
In his craft or his character it would be hard to say.
Gracious Numa said to him: ‘Ask a reward for your work,
You’ll not ask in vain of one known for honesty.’
He’d already given the Salii, named from their leaping (saltus),
Weapons: and words to be sung to a certain tune.
Mamurius replied: ‘Give me glory as my prize,
And let my name be sounded at the song’s end.’
So the priests grant the reward promised for his
Ancient work, and now call out ‘Mamurius’.
Girl if you’d marry, delay, however eager both are:
A little delay, at this time, is of great advantage.
Weapons excite to war, war’s bad for those married:
The omens will be better when weapons are put away.
Now the girded wife of the peak-capped Flamen Dialis
Has to keep her hair free from the comb.
Book III: March 3
When the third night of the month initiates its rising,
One of the two fishes (Pisces) will have vanished.
There are two: one near to the South Wind, the other
To the North Wind: each taking a name from its wind.
Book III: March 5
When Aurora, Tithonus’ bride, shall have begun
To shed dew from her saffron cheeks at the fifth dawn,
The constellation, whether you call it Arctophylax,
Or dull Bootes, will have been sinking, fleeing your sight.
But even the Grape-Gatherer will not yet have escaped you:
The origin of that star-name also can be swiftly told.
It’s said that hairy Ampelus, son of a nymph and satyr,
Was loved by Bacchus, among the Ismarian hills:
The god entrusted him with a vine, trailing from an elm’s
Leafy boughs, and the vine takes its name from the boy’s.
While on a branch rashly picking the shining grapes.
He fell: but Liber raised the fallen youth to the stars.
Book III: March 6
When the sixth sun climbs Olympus’ slopes from ocean,
And takes his way through the sky behind winged horses,
All you who worship at the shrine of chaste Vesta,
Give thanks to her, and offer incense on the Trojan hearth.
To the countless titles Caesar chose to earn,
The honour of the High Priesthood was added.
Caesar’s eternal godhead protects the eternal fire,
You may see the pledges of empire conjoined.
Gods of ancient Troy, worthiest prize for that Aeneas
Who carried you, your burden saving him from the enemy,
A priest of Aeneas’ line touches your divine kindred:
Vesta in turn guard the life of your kin!
You fires, burn on, nursed by his sacred hand:
Live undying, our leader, and your flames, I pray.
Book III: March 7: Nones
The Nones of March are free of meetings, because it’s thought
The temple of Veiovis was consecrated today before the two groves.
When Romulus ringed his grove with a high stone wall,
He said: ‘Whoever takes refuge here, they will be safe.’
O from how tenuous a beginning the Romans sprang!
How little that crowd of old are to be envied!
But so the strange name won’t confuse you, unknowingly,
Learn who this god is, and why he is so called.
He is the young Jupiter: see his youthful face:
Then see his hand, holding no lightening bolt.
Jove carried his lightning bolts after the Giants dared
Their attempt on the heavens: at first he was unarmed.
Ossa blazed with his new fires, and Pelion higher than Ossa,
And Olympus rooted to the solid earth.
A she-goat stands there too: they say the Cretan nymphs
Nursed the god: and she gave her milk to the infant Jove.
Now I’m called on to explain the name. Farmers call
Stunted grain vegrandia, and what’s feeble vesca.
If that’s the meaning, why should I not suspect
That the shrine of Veiovis is that of Little Jupiter?
Now when the stars glitter in the dark-blue sky,
Look up: you’ll see the head of Gorgonian Pegasus.
It’s said he leapt from the fecund neck of dead Medusa,
His mane drenched with her blood.
As he glided above the clouds, beneath the stars,
The sky was his earth, wings acted instead of feet,
And soon he champed indignantly on the fresh bit,
So that his light hoof created Helicon’s Aonian spring.
Now he enjoys the sky, that his wings once sought,
And glitters there brightly with his fifteen stars.
Book III: March 8
As soon as night falls you will see the Cretan Crown:
Through Theseus’ crime Ariadne was made a goddess.
She’d already happily exchanged that faithless spouse for Bacchus,
She who’d given the ungrateful man the thread to follow.
Delighting in her wedded fate, she said: ‘Why did I weep
Like a country-girl, his faithlessness has been my gain?’
Meanwhile Bacchus had conquered the straight-haired Indians,
And returned with his riches from the Eastern world.
Among the captive girls, of outstanding beauty,
One, the daughter of a king, pleased Bacchus intensely.
His loving wife wept, and treading the curving shore
With dishevelled hair, she spoke these words:
‘Behold, again, you waves, how you hear my complaint!
Behold again you sands, how you receive my tears!
I remember I used to say: “Perjured, faithless Theseus!”
He abandoned me: now Bacchus commits the same crime.
Now once more I’ll cry: “Woman, never trust in man!”
My fate’s repeated, only his name has changed.
O that my life had ended where it first began.
So that I’d not have existed for this moment!
Why did you save me, Liber, to die on these lonely sands?
I might have ceased grieving at that moment.
Bacchus, fickle, lighter than the leaves that wreathe
Your brow, Bacchus known to me in my weeping,
How have you dared to trouble our harmonious bed
By bringing another lover before my eyes?
Alas, where is sworn faith? Where the pledges you once gave?
Wretched me, how many times must I speak those words?
You blamed Theseus and called him a deceiver:
According to that judgement your own sin is worse.
Let no one know of this, let me burn with silent pain,
Lest they think I deserved to be cheated so!
Above all I wish it to be hid from Theseus,
So he may not joy in you as a partner in crime.
I suppose your fair lover is preferred to a dark,
May fair be the colouring of my enemies!
Yet what does that signify? She is dearer to you for that.
What are you doing? She contaminates your embrace.
Bacchus, be true, and do not prefer her to a wife’s love.
I am one who would love my husband for ever.
The horns of a gleaming bull captivated my mother.
Yours, me: but this is a love to be praised, hers shameful.
Let me not suffer, for loving: you yourself, Bacchus,
Never suffered for confessing your desire to me.
No wonder you make me burn: they say you were born
In fire, and were snatched from the flames by your father.
I am she to whom you used to promise the heavens.
Ah me, what a reward I suffer instead of heaven!’
She spoke: Liber had been listening a long while
To her complaint, since he chanced to follow closely.
He embraced her, and dried her tears with kisses,
And said: ‘Together, let us seek the depths of the sky!
You’ll share my name just as you’ve shared my bed,
Since, transmuted, you will be called Libera:
And there’ll be a memory of your crown beside you,
The crown Vulcan gave to Venus, and she to you.’
He did as he said, and changed the nine jewels to fire:
Now the golden crown glitters with nine stars.
Book III: March 14: The Equirria
When he who, with his swift chariot, brings bright day
Has raised his disc six times, and immersed it again,
You will see horse races again on the Campus,
That grassy plain that Tiber’s winding waters wash.
But if by chance it’s flooded by overflowing waves,
The dusty Caelian Hill will accept the horses.
Book III: March 15: Ides
The happy feast of Anna Perenna is held on the Ides,
Not far from your banks, Tiber, far flowing river.
The people come and drink there, scattered on the grass,
And every man reclines there with his girl.
Some tolerate the open sky, a few pitch tents,
And some make leafy huts out of branches,
While others set reeds up, to form rigid pillars,
And hang their outspread robes from the reeds.
But they’re warmed by sun and wine, and pray
For as many years as cups, as many as they drink.
There you’ll find a man who quaffs Nestor’s years,
A woman who’d age as the Sibyl, in her cups.
There they sing whatever they’ve learnt in the theatres,
Beating time to the words with ready hands,
And setting the bowl down, dance coarsely,
The trim girl leaping about with streaming hair.
Homecoming they stagger, a sight for vulgar eyes,
And the crowd meeting them call them ‘blessed’.
I fell in with the procession lately (it seems to me worth
Saying): a tipsy old woman dragging a tipsy old man.
But since errors abound as to who this goddess is,
I’m determined not to cloak her story.
Wretched Dido burned with love for Aeneas,
She burned on the pyre built for her funeral:
Her ashes were gathered, and this brief couplet
Which she left, in dying, adorned her tomb:
AENEAS THE REASON, HIS THE BLADE EMPLOYED.
DIDO BY HER OWN HAND WAS DESTROYED.
The Numidians immediately invaded the defenceless
Realm, and Iarbas the Moor captured and held the palace.
Remembering her scorn, he said: ‘See, I, whom she
So many times rejected, now enjoy Elissa’s marriage bed.’
The Tyrians scattered, as each chanced to stray, as bees
Often wander confusedly, having lost their Queen.
Anna, was driven from her home, weeping on leaving
Her sister’s city, after first paying honour to that sister.
The loose ashes drank perfume mixed with tears,
And received an offering of her shorn hair:
Three times she said: ‘Farewell!’ three times lifted
And pressed the ashes to her lips, seeing her sister there.
Finding a ship, and companions for her flight, she glided
Away, looking back at the city, her sister’s sweet work.
There’s a fertile island, Melite, near barren Cosyra,
Lashed by the waves of the Libyan sea. Trusting in
The king’s former hospitality, she headed there,
Battus was king there, and was a wealthy host.
When he had learned the fates of the two sisters,
He said: ‘This land, however small, is yours.’
He would have been hospitable to the end,
Except that he feared Pygmalion’s great power.
The corn had been taken to be threshed a third time,
And a third time the new wine poured into empty vats.
The sun had twice circled the zodiac, and a third year
Was passing, when Anna had to find a fresh place of exile.
Her brother came seeking war. The king hated weapons,
And said: ‘We are peaceable, flee for your own safety!’
She fled at his command, gave her ship to the wind and waves:
Her brother was crueller than any ocean.
There’s a little field by the fish-filled streams
Of stony Crathis: the local people call it Camere.
There she sailed, and when she was no further away
Than the distance reached by nine slingshots,
The sails first fell and then flapped in the light breeze.
‘Attack the water with oars!’ cried the captain.
And while they made ready to reef the sails,
The swift South Wind struck the curved stern,
And despite the captain’s efforts swept them
Into the open sea: the land was lost to sight.
The waves attacked them, and the ocean heaved
From the depths, and the hull gulped the foaming waters.
Skill is defeated by the wind, the steersman no longer
Guides the helm, but he too turns to prayer for aid.
The Phoenician exile is thrown high on swollen waves,
And hides her weeping eyes in her robe:
Then for a first time she called her sister Dido happy,
And whoever, anywhere, might be treading dry land.
A great gust drove the ship to the Laurentine shore,
And, foundering, it perished, when all had landed.
Meanwhile pious Aeneas had gained Latinus’ realm
And his daughter too, and had merged both peoples.
While he was walking barefoot along the shore
That had been his dower, accompanied only by Achates,
He saw Anna wandering, not believing it was her:
‘Why should she be here in the fields of Latium?’
Aeneas said to himself: ‘It’s Anna!’ shouted Achates:
At the sound of her name she raised her face.
Alas, what should she do? Flee? Wish for the ground
To swallow her? Her wretched sister’s fate was before her eyes.
The Cytherean hero felt her fear, and spoke to her,
(He still wept, moved by your memory, Elissa):
‘Anna, I swear, by this land that you once knew
A happier fate had granted me, and by the gods
My companions, who have lately found a home here,
That all of them often rebuked me for my delay.
Yet I did not fear her dying, that fear was absent.
Ah me! Her courage was beyond belief.
Don’t re-tell it: I saw shameful wounds on her body
When I dared to visit the houses of Tartarus.
But you shall enjoy the comforts of my kingdom,
Whether your will or a god brings you to our shores.
I owe you much, and owe Elissa not a little:
You are welcome for your own and your sister’s sake.’
She accepted his words (no other hope was left)
And told him of her own wanderings.
When she entered the palace, dressed in Tyrian style,
Aeneas spoke (the rest of the throng were silent):
‘Lavinia, my wife, I have a pious reason for entrusting
This lady to you: shipwrecked, I lived at her expense.
She’s of Tyrian birth: her kingdom’s on the Libyan shore:
I beg you to love her, as your dear sister.’
Lavinia promised all, but hid a fancied wrong
Within her silent heart, and concealed her fears:
And though she saw many gifts given away openly,
She suspected many more were sent secretly.
She hadn’t yet decided what to do: she hated
With fury, prepared a plan, and wished to die avenged.
It was night: it seemed her sister Dido stood
Before her bed, her straggling hair stained with her blood,
Crying: ‘Flee, don’t hesitate, flee this gloomy house!’
At the words a gust slammed the creaking door.
Anna leapt up, then jumped from a low window
To the ground: fear itself had made her daring.
With terror driving her, clothed in her loose vest,
She runs like a frightened doe that hears the wolves.
It’s thought that horned Numicius swept her away
In his swollen flood, and hid her among his pools.
Meanwhile, shouting, they searched for the Sidonian lady
Through the fields: traces and tracks were visible:
Reaching the banks, they found her footprints there.
The knowing river stemmed his silent waters.
She herself appeared, saying: ‘I’m a nymph of the calm
Numicius: hid in perennial waters, Anna Perenna’s my name.’
Quickly they set out a feast in the fields they’d roamed,
And celebrated their deeds and the day, with copious wine.
Some think she’s the Moon, because she measures out
The year (annus): others, Themis, or the Inachian heifer.
Anna, you’ll find some to say you’re a nymph, daughter
Of Azan, and gave Jupiter his first nourishment.
I’ll relate another tale that’s come to my ears,
And it’s not so far away from the truth.
The Plebs of old, not yet protected by Tribunes,
Fled, and gathered on the Sacred Mount:
The food supplies they’d brought with them failed,
Also the stores of bread fit for human consumption.
There was a certain Anna from suburban Bovillae,
A poor woman, old, but very industrious.
With her grey hair bound up in a light cap,
She used to make coarse cakes with a trembling hand,
And distribute them, still warm, among the people,
Each morning: this supply of hers pleased them all.
When peace was made at home, they set up a statue
To Perenna, because she’d helped supply their needs.
Now it’s left for me to tell why the girls sing coarse songs:
Since they gather together to sing certain infamous things.
Anna had lately been made a goddess: Gradivus came to her
And taking her aside, spoke these words:
You honour my month: I’ve joined my season to yours:
I’ve great hopes you can do me a service.
Armed, I’m captivated by armed Minerva,
I burn, and have nursed the wound for many a day.
Help us, alike in our pursuits, to become one:
The part suits you well, courteous old lady.’
He spoke. She tricked the god with empty promises.
And led him on, in foolish hope, with false delays.
Often, when he pressed her, she said: ‘I’ve done as you asked,
She’s won, she’s yielded at last to your prayers.’
The lover believed her and prepared the marriage-chamber.
They led Anna there, a new bride, her face veiled.
About to kiss her, Mars suddenly saw it was Anna:
Shame and anger alternating stirred the hoodwinked god.
The new goddess laughed at her dear Minerva’s lover.
Nothing indeed has ever pleased Venus more.
So now they tell old jokes, and coarse songs are sung,
And they delight in how the great god was cheated.
I was about to neglect those daggers that pierced
Our leader, when Vesta spoke from her pure hearth:
Don’t hesitate to recall them: he was my priest,
And those sacrilegious hands sought me with their blades.
I snatched him away, and left a naked semblance:
What died by the steel, was Caesar’s shadow.’
Raised to the heavens he found Jupiter’s halls,
And his is the temple in the mighty Forum.
But all the daring criminals who in defiance
Of the gods, defiled the high priest’s head,
Have fallen in merited death. Philippi is witness,
And those whose scattered bones whiten its earth.
This work, this duty, was Augustus’ first task,
Avenging his father by the just use of arms.
Book III: March 16
When the next dawn has revived the tender grass,
Scorpio’s pincers will be visible.
Book III: March 17: The Liberalia
There’s a popular festival of Bacchus, on the third day
After the Ides: Bacchus, favour the poet who sings your feast.
I’ll not speak about Semele: you’d have been born defenceless,
If it hadn’t been that Jupiter brought her his lightning too.
Nor will I tell how the mother’s labour was fulfilled
In a father’s body, so you might duly be born their son.
It would take long to tell of the conquered Sithonians,
And the Scythians, and the races of incense-bearing India.
I’ll be silent about you too, Pentheus, sad prey to your own mother,
And you Lycurgus, who killed your own son in madness.
Lo, I’d like to speak of the monstrous Tyrrhenians, who
Suddenly became dolphins, but that’s not the task of this verse.
The task of this verse is to set out the reasons,
Why a vine-planter sells his cakes to the crowd.
Liber, before your birth the altars were without offerings,
And grass appeared on the stone-cold hearths.
They tell how you set aside the first fruits for Jupiter,
After subduing the Ganges region, and the whole of the East.
You were the first to offer up cinnamon and incense
From conquered lands, and the roast entrails of triumphal oxen.
Libations derive their name from their originator,
And cake (liba) since a part is offered on the sacred hearth.
Honey-cakes are baked for the god, because he delights in sweet
Substances, and they say that Bacchus discovered honey.
He was travelling from sandy Hebrus, accompanied
By Satyrs, (my tale contains a not-unpleasant jest)
And he’d come to Mount Rhodope, and flowering Pangaeus:
With the cymbals clashing in his companions’ hands.
Behold unknown winged things gather to the jangling,
Bees, that follow after the echoing bronze.
Liber gathered the swarm and shut it in a hollow tree,
And was rewarded with the prize of discovering honey.
Once the Satyrs, and old bald-headed Silenus, had tasted it,
They searched for the yellow combs in every tree.
The old fellow heard a swarm humming in a hollow elm,
Saw the honeycombs, but pretended otherwise:
And sitting lazily on his hollow-backed ass,
He rode it up to the elm where the trunk was hollow.
He stood and leant on the stump of a branch,
And greedily reached for the honey hidden inside.
But thousands of hornets gathered, thrusting their stings
Into his bald head, leaving their mark on his snub-nosed face.
He fell headlong, and received a kick from the ass,
As he shouted to his friends and called for help.
The Satyrs ran up, and laughed at their father’s face,
While he limped about on his damaged knee.
Bacchus himself laughed and showed him the use of mud:
Silenus took his advice, and smeared his face with clay.
Father Liber loves honey: its right to offer its discoverer
Glittering honey diffused through oven-warm cakes.
The reason why a woman presides isn’t obscure:
Bacchus stirs crowds of women with his thyrsus.
Why an old woman, you ask? That age drinks more,
And loves the gifts of the teeming vine.
Why is she wreathed with ivy? Ivy’s dearest to Bacchus:
And why that’s so doesn’t take long to tell.
They say that when Juno his stepmother was searching
For the boy, the nymphs of Nysa hid the cradle in ivy leaves.
It remains for me to reveal why the toga virilis, the gown
Of manhood, is given to boys on your day, Bacchus:
Whether it’s because you seem to be ever boy or youth,
And your age is somewhere between the two:
Or because you’re a father, fathers commend their sons,
Their pledges of love, to your care and divinity:
Or because you’re Liber, the gown of liberty
And a more liberated life are adopted, for you:
Or is it because, in the days when the ancients tilled the fields
More vigorously, and Senators worked their fathers’ land,
And ‘rods and axes’ took Consuls from the curving plough,
And it wasn’t a crime to have work-worn hands,
The farmers came to the City for the games,
(Though that was an honour paid to the gods, and not
Their inclination: and the grape’s discoverer held his games
This day, while now he shares that of torch-bearing Ceres):
And the day seemed not unfitting for granting the toga,
So that a crowd could celebrate the fresh novice?
Father turn your mild head here, and gentle horns,
And spread the sails of my art to a favourable breeze.
If I remember rightly, on this, and the preceding day,
Crowds go to the Argei (their own page will tell who they are).
The Kite star turns downwards near
The Lycaonian Bear: on this night it’s first visible.
If you wish to know who raised that falcon to heaven,
It was when Saturn had been dethroned by Jupiter:
Angered, he stirred the mighty Titans to battle,
And sought whatever help the Fates could grant him.
There was a bull, a marvellous monster, born of Mother
Earth, the hind part of which was of serpent-form:
Warned by the three Fates, grim Styx had imprisoned him
In dark woods, surrounded by triple walls.
There was a prophecy that whoever burnt the entrails
Of the bull, in the flames, would defeat the eternal gods.
Briareus sacrificed it with an adamantine axe,
And was about to set the innards on the flames:
But Jupiter ordered the birds to snatch them: and the Kite
Brought them, and his service set him among the stars.
Book III: March 19: The Quinquatrus
After a one day interval, the rites of Minerva are performed,
Which take their name from the sequence of five days.
The first day is bloodless, and sword fights are unlawful,
Because Minerva was born on that very day.
The next four are celebrated with gladiatorial shows,
The warlike goddess delights in naked swords.
Pray now you boys and tender girls to Pallas:
He who can truly please Pallas, is learned.
Pleasing Pallas let girls learn to card wool,
And how to unwind the full distaff.
She shows how to draw the shuttle through the firm
Warp, and close up loose threads with the comb.
Worship her, you who remove stains from damaged clothes,
Worship her, you who ready bronze cauldrons for fleeces.
If Pallas frowns, no one could make good shoes,
Even if he were more skilled than Tychius:
And even if he were cleverer with his hands
Than Epeus once was, he’ll be useless if Pallas is angry.
You too who drive away ills with Apollo’s art,
Bring a few gifts of your own for the goddess:
And don’t scorn her, you schoolmasters, a tribe
So often cheated of its pay: she attracts new pupils:
Nor you engravers, and painters with encaustics,
Nor you who carve the stone with a skilful hand.
She’s the goddess of a thousand things: and song for sure:
If I’m worthy may she be a friend to my endeavours.
Where the Caelian Hill slopes down to the plain,
At the point where the street’s almost, but not quite, level,
You can see the little shrine of Minerva Capta,
Which the goddess first occupied on her birthday.
The source of the name is doubtful: we speak of
‘Capital’ ingenuity: the goddess is herself ingenious.
Or is it because, motherless, she leapt, with a shield
From the crown of her father’s head (caput)?
Or because she came to us as a ‘captive’ from the conquest
Of Falerii? This, an ancient inscription claims.
Or because her law ordains ‘capital’ punishment
For receiving things stolen from that place?
By whatever logic your title’s derived, Pallas,
Shield our leaders with your aegis forever.
Book III: March 23: The Tubilustria
The last day of the five exhorts us to purify
The tuneful trumpets, and sacrifice to the mighty god.
Now you can turn your face to the Sun and say:
‘He touched the fleece of the Phrixian Ram yesterday’.
The seeds having been parched, by a wicked stepmother’s
Guile, the corn did not sprout in the usual way.
They sent to the oracle, to find by sure prophecy,
What cure the Delphic god would prescribe for sterility.
But tarnished like the seed, the messenger brought news
That the oracle sought the death of Helle and young Phrixus:
And when citizens, season, and Ino herself compelled
The reluctant king to obey that evil order,
Phrixus and his sister, brows covered with sacred bands,
Stood together before the altar, bemoaning their mutual fate.
Their mother saw them, as she hovered by chance in the air,
And, stunned, she beat her naked breasts with her hand:
Then, with the clouds as her companions, she leapt down
Into serpent-born Thebes, and snatched away her children:
And so that they could flee a ram, shining and golden,
Was brought, and it carried them over the wide ocean.
They say the sister held too weakly to the left-hand horn,
And so gave her own name to the waters below.
Her brother almost died with her, trying to help her
As she fell, stretching out his hands as far as he could.
He wept at losing her, his friend in their twin danger,
Not knowing she was now wedded to a sea-green god.
Reaching the shore the Ram was raised as a constellation,
While his golden fleece was carried to the halls of Colchis.
Book III: March 26
When the Morning Star has three times heralded the dawn,
You’ll find the daylight hours are equal to those of night.
Book III: March 30
When, counting from that day, the shepherd has four times penned
The sated kids, and the grass four times whitened with fresh dew,
Janus must be adored, and with him gentle Concord,
And the Safety of Rome, and the altar of Peace.
Book III: March 31
The Moon rules the months: this month’s span ends
With the worship of the Moon on the Aventine Hill.
The End of Fasti Book III