A few weeks ago, I happened to open the other Loeb volume I have on Horace’s works and my eyes fell upon his fifth satire: “A Journey to Brundisium.” As I began reading, I was totally taken in by the diary-like description which was so telegraphic that it almost seemed surreal, as sketches of the journey came into focus then vanished. Adding to the dreamlike quality were fleeting events that seemed disconnected and illogical. And like a dream, the poem ended abruptly:
Brundisium longae finis chartaeque viaeque est,
as if the dreamer had been suddenly jolted awake without getting to find out what happened next.
After my first reading, I didn’t see anything I would call satyrical about the poem. Obviously I had no idea what Horace considered satyrical; so I did some digging. I learned that Horace modelled many of his satires on the works of Gaius Lucilius, who lived from 180 to 103 BC. Apparently, for Lucilius, a satire was largely autobiographical and an opportunity to talk about the follies of society and friends, about religion and literature, even, as in today’s selection, about travel. Thus it is that “A Journey to Brundisium,” I am told by the Loeb translator H.R. Fairclough, closely follows Lucilius, who wrote of a journey south from Rome in his third book. You can read what fragments there remain of his poem here, which is an on-line copy of the Loeb book, Remains of Old Latin:
This is all well and good, but it is still difficult for me to see the satire in what Horace did. Satire relies on wit, expertly sharpened à la Daily Show or à la Colbert Report. Could it be that the knife-edge of Horace’s wit has dulled, even rusted away over the centuries? I mean: isn’t there more to “A Journey to Brundisium” than just the journey? For that, we’d need heaps of information. All I can offer for now is the supposed fact that Horace was part of the embassy that Octavian sent to Brundisium to make terms with Marcus Antonius in the year 38 BC. Beyond that, I haven’t much to add. It will be up to you to see the humor of the contest of wit between an ex-slave and the scurra [jester] Sarmentus, the description of some bureaucrat in his overly-fine toga, the fire in the kitchen, and poor horny Horace, suffering from some kind of conjunctivitis, waiting in vain for a prostitute and having to settle for the release of a wet dream that leaves his night clothes a mess.
Because we’re dealing with a two-thousand year old satire, any translation must necessarily fall short. (Imagine replaying a Colbert Report in the year 4014!) Take these unusually terse lines for example:
hoc iter ignavi divisimus, altius ac nos
praecinctis unum: minus est gravis Appia tardis.
Broken down these lines become (with the observation that ac means ‘than’ following a comparison like altius):
This trip [we] lazy [ones] divide [into stops].
[The ones who are] more highly than us girded up
[just] one [stop]. Less is it serious
the Appian [Way] to the slow [ones].
The difficult-to-translate part is the way Horace refers to the travelers hurrying along bare-legged with their garments cinched up, toga hems mud-free. Maybe a praecinctus was a rather humorous way of describing someone hell-bent-for-leather, which a few centuries from now will seem just as obscure in meaning.
These lines are difficult, too:
Cocceius Capitoque simul Fonteius, ad unguem
factus homo, Antoni non ut magis alter amicus.
Cocceius and at the same time Capito Fonteius, a man made
to the fingernail, so that to Antony [there is] no other friend greater.
Ad unguem factus refers to the old ‘trick’ of craftsmen who go over a polished area to detect any unevenness, any imperfection with their fingernail. For anyone who has fashioned something out of wood, metal, or stone, the finger is better than the eye. So a man, ad unguem factus must be perfect indeed. As for Antoni non ut magis alter amicus, the trick is to supply not only ut sit but also to understand that Antony’s friends must meet high standards; otherwise they are not his friends. I find this an odd thought. Is this a criticism of Anthony? Is it of Capito Fonteius as well? Someone seems way too picky here. I’ll leave it up to you to decide who.
Another problem line is:
hic oculīs ego nigra meīs
colyriā lippus illinere.
This must mean
Here [in] my eyes I blear-eyed with black colyria to smear.
Besides the fact that colyrium is plural, suggesting that there were several ointments that Horace used for his eyes, and that lippus must mean that Horace had pink eye or some kind of conjunctivitis, there is the problem of illinere, which is an infinitive. There is no conjugated verb. This fact hasn’t seemed to bother any of the commentators I could find online. What is it I don’t know about this sentence that I should know? Finally after much searching, I find in The Works of Horace (Vol II), printed in London in 1753 for the assigns of Joseph Davidson, this line translated as:
Having got an Inflammation in my Eyes, I was obliged
to annoint them here with black Ointment, as usual.
This would certainly take care of the infinitive illinere, but where is ‘was obliged’? Is it understood? Hic ego lippus debeo/debui meis oculis colyria nigra illinere? The same book, in an attempt to reorder the phrase in Latin, inserts the word cœpi [I began]:
Hic ego lippus cœpi illinere nigra collyria oculis meis.
Obviously, Horace has bequeathed us an exceptionally telegraphic sentence. Perhaps it should be translated:
Here: me pink-eyed, smearing my eyes with black collyria.
To help the reader further understand this poem, I’ve made a map of the journey and have indicated the Latin names as well as the Italian names of each place mentioned. Wouldn’t it be fun to go to go to Italy and retrace Horace’s footsteps? There are however two small problems with such a trip: No one knows where the Villa Trivici was. Scholars are unsure whether Trivici refers to a village or to a person. Likewise, because Horace stated that he couldn’t include the name of one of the towns, because such a name wouldn’t fit the meter he was using (hexameter), no one knows now where it was that the people sold water but baked excellent bread. We’ll just have to settle for the fact that this town and the villa Trivici are somewhere on the road from Benevento to Canosa. [Click to enlarge.]
By the way, according to scholar Tenney Frank [1876-1939], the meter also caused another problem. The Heliodorus mentioned in the poem is really Apollodorus. Apparently, Apollodorus can’t be stuffed into a hexametric straight-jacket. Instead, clever Horace changed the name to Heliodorus, which, because Apollo often refers to the sun, points to the same person. Who was Apollodorus? He was chosen by Julius Caesar to be Octavian’s teacher and happened to become, according to another scholar Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff [1848-1931], “the founder of the classical school of Augustan poetry” [quoted in Tenney Frank’s 1920 “Notes and Discussions,” pg. 393 in Classical Philology, Vol. 15]. Very witty of Horace, but then you have to be as smart as Tenney Frank to see the chuckle in the phrase
rhetor comes Heliodorus,
Graecorum longe doctissimus:
Aricia welcomed me with modest lodging
coming from Great Rome.
My companion: the Rhetor Heliodorus,
most learned of Greeks.
From there: Forum Appi, overcrowded with ships
and vile innkeepers.
We wimps divided the trip in two, the ones more
gung-ho than us: one.
Appia for the slowpokes is less of a pain.
Here because of the
water, which is the worst, I declare a stomach war,
waiting, not being
cool at all, for my dining friends. Now night prepares
to draw its shadows
over the earth and pour stars upon the heavens.
Then the boys rudely hollered at the boatmen, the
boatmen at the boys,
“Heave to!” “You’re putting on three hundred?” “Ahoy!
While coin is being asked for, the mule tied up,
a whole hour goes by.
Evil gnats and swamp frogs drive off sleep as the boatman,
awash in vappa,
sings back and forth with the mule driver about some girl
no longer around.
But tired the mule driver starts to fall asleep; so
the lazy boatman
ties a stone to the mule’s rope, having sent her to graze.
Now he’s snoring on his back.
Day was already here. We don’t feel the boat moving,
until some fool jumps up
and with a willow stick clobbers head and backside
of boatman and mule.
Not until the fourth hour are we put ashore
with a hubbub.
We wash our faces and hands in your clear water,
Lunch. Then we crawl three miles and come upon Anxur,
atop far-shining rocks.
Here the best, Maecenas, would come and Cocceius,
sent on great affairs,
legates each one used to bringing together friends
Here I, with my vision gummed up, line my eyes with
Meanwhile Maecenas arrives and Cocceius and
A man “made to the nail,” as he’s to Antony
a friend no greater.
Fundi, under Praetor Aufidius Luscus,
we left willingly,
madly laughing at the scribe’s perks: purple toga,
broad stripes, and coal pan.
Tired, we stayed in Formiae next, with Murena
offering a home,
Capito vittles. The next dawn broke most pleasing,
for at Senuessa,
Plotius and Varius meet up and Vergil,
a spirit more dazzling
the earth has not borne the like. Who else is there more
devoted than I?
What embracing there was and how much happiness!
There is nothing sane
about me meeting up with a joyful friend.
The next country house
nearby the Campanus bridge offered a roof and
with wood and salt. Then in time they set down the mule
packs in Capua.
Maecenas goes to play, I to sleep and Vergil,
for playing ball is
an enemy to the blear-eyed and to the one
raw with stomach pains.
From here: Cocceius’ most bountiful villa
welcomes us, which is
above the inns at Caudium. Now briefly I’d
like you, Muse, to tell
me of the fight between the buffoons Sarmentus
and Messius Cicirrus,
of which father each is born, and the beef each has.
Famous is the clan
of Messius the Oscan; known is the mistress
of that Sarmentus.
Arisen from these great ones, they came to the fight.
Up first, Sarmentus.
“I say, you seem to be created like a horse.”
We laughed and that one,
Messius, nodded his head with “I accept that.”
“Ah, were your forehead,”
he said, “not with its horn cut out! How will you so
disfigured make threats?”
(for an unsightly scar had deformed the left side
of his bristly brow.)
His Campanian sickness and his face he joked
about much, asking
him to dance the “Cyclops-Shepherd” dance, saying
there was need neither
for mask nor the tragic actor’s high-heeled boots.
Cicirrus had much
to say about this. He asked whether he’d already
given his slave’s chain
out of some votive offering to the Lares,
now that he was a scribe.
Then he asked why he had ever fled—so thin and
so tiny—for whom
one pound of flour would have been enough. Amused
we went on dining.
From here: we head directly for Beneventum,
where an eager host
almost burned up, turning scrawny doves on the fire,
for a flame astray,
having slipped down from the fire, sped through the old kitchen
to lick the roof top.
There you’d’ve seen starved guests grab their dinner, the scared
help dousing the fire.
Apulia starts to spread out the mountains I know,
scorches, which we would have never scrambled over
had not the nearby
Villa Trivici welcomed us—not without smoke
that made us weep from
a furnace that burned damp branches leaves and all!
It’s here really stupid me waits until midnight
for some lying girl.
But sleep carries me off, eager for sex, and dreams
with impure visions
spatter my night clothes and my upturned belly.
From here: for twenty-four miles we are dragged along
by wagons and are
set to stay in a little village, which can’t be
named in verse, much easier by signs:
here water, cheapest of things, is sold, but the bread
is by far the loveliest;
to the next stop, the smart traveler usually carries
some on his shoulder,
for at Canusium it’s gritty, the water’s
not worth more than the urn:
it’s a place long ago founded by brave Diomedes.
From here: Varius,
sad, his friends weeping, leaves. From there we arrive at
Rubi beat, having
made a rain-spoiled trip. The next Day: better weather.
The road, worse up to
the walls of fish-filled Barium. From there: Gnatia,
built by angry Lymphs,
gave us a laugh and some fun, for the place wanted
to persuade us that
incense, without any flame, would liquidify
at the sacred doorway.
Let Apella the Jew, believe that, but not I,
for I have learned that
the gods lead unconcerned lives. Even if nature
does something amazing,
it just what bored gods drop down from heaven’s high roof.
The end of the road and a very long story.
[translation © 2014 by James Rumford]
Pārōchus is the Greek word for coparius: one who furnished traveling magistrates with beds, hay, salt.
erepsemus is a syncopated form of the pluperfect subjunctive < ērēpo, -psi
culex -icis is gnat but I wonder whether it does not mean mosquito here.
vappa is tasteless wine, probably here the cheapest one could have bought
cerebrosus is hare-brained and passionate. It comes from cerebrum. I guess ‘brainy’ didn’t have the same meaning back in Rome.
scurra is a buffoon or a jester. It also gives us our word ‘scurrilous’ after a rather long trip from Etruscan to Latin to English.
morbus campanus is thought to be some warty growth on the forehead which left a scar when removed.
Atābulus was a burning wind blowing in Apulia.
culina is kitchen and seems to have the same force as cuisine does in French.
vēnit means ‘is for sale’ and comes from vēneo (also vaeneo), īvi or ii, itum.
lympha is a water nymph.
limine sacro is the theshold of, scholars presume, a temple where, in this particular case, frankincense (tūs, tūris, neuter) melts without fire.
In Prose ::
Aricia ‹me egressum magnā Romā› hospitio modico accepit; comes rhetor Heliodorus Graecorum longe docticissimus.
Inde Forum Appi, nautis atque cauponibus malignis differtum.
[Nos] hīc iter ignavi divissimus. Altius ac nos praecinctis [iter] unum! Appia tardis minus gravis est. Hic ego propter aquam, quod [aqua] deterrima erat, bellum ventri indico, comites cenantıs haud animo aequo expectans.
Iam nox umbras terris inducere et signa caelo diffundere parabat. Tum pueri nautis, nautae pueris conoscia ingerer[unt]: “Huc appelle!” “Trecentos inseres.” “Ohe! Iam satis est.” Dum aes exigitur, dum mula ligatur, hora tota abiit. Culices mali ranaeque palustres somnos avertunt, ut nauta vappā multā prolutus, amicam absentam cantat—atque viator certātim. Viator tandem fessus dormire incipit ac nauta piger ‹retinacula mulae pastum missae› saxo religat supinusque stertit.
Iamque dies aderat. [Nos] cum lintrem procedere nil sentimus, donec unus cerebrosus prosilit ac caput lumbosque mulae nautaeque fuste saligno dolat.
Hora demum quarta vix exponimur.
Ora manūsque lymphā tuā, Fērōnia, lavimus. Tum [nos] pransi, milia tria rēpīmus atque ‹Anxus saxis late candentibus impositum› subīmus.
Huc Maecenas venturus erat—atque Cocceius optimus, de rebus magnis missi, uterque legati, soliti amicos aversos componere. Hic ‹ego lippus› occulis meis collyriā nigrā illinere [debui]. Interea Maecenas advenit atque Cocceius, simulque Fonteius Capito, homo ad unguem factus, ut alter amicus magis non [sit] Antoni.
[Nos] Fundos, Aufidio Lusco Praetore, libenter linquimus, [nos] insani praemia scribae ridentes—praetextam et clavum latum vatillumque prunae.
In urbe Mamurrarum deinde lassi manemus, Murena domum praebente, Capitone culinam [praebente]. Postera lux multo gratissima oritur. Namque Plotius et Varius Vergiliusque [in] Sinuessae [nos] occurrunt, neque terra qualıs ‹candidiores animae› tulit, neque quis alter me sit devinctior. O qui complexus et quanta gaudia fuerunt! Nil ego sanus amico iucundo contulerim.
Villula quae proxima Ponti Campano [est] tectum praebuit, et pārōchī, quae debent, ‹ligna salemque› [praebuerunt].
Hinc muli clitellas [in] Capuae tempore ponunt. Maecenas lusum it; ego Vergiliusque dormitum [iimus], namque ‹ludere pila› lippis et crudis inimicum [est].
Hinc ‹villa plenissima Coccei›, quae est super cauponas Caudi, nos recipit.
Nunc velim [tu], [o] Musa, mihi paucis pugnam Sarmenti scurrae Messique Cicirri memores, et quo patre natus est uterque litis contulerit. Genus Messi Osci clarum [est]. Domina Sarmenti exstat. [Illi] ab his maioribus orti ad pugnam vener[unt].
Prior Sarmentus: “Dico te equi feri similem esse.”
Ridemus, et ipse Messius, [dicit] “Accipio,” et caput movet.
“O tua frons ‹cornu exsecto› ni foret,” inquit. “Quid faceres, cum [tu] sic mutilus minitaris?
At cicatrix foeda illi frontem saetosam oris laevi turpaverat. In morbem Campanum, in faciem permulta iocatus, [Missius] rogabat uti ‘pastorem-cyclopa’ saltaret. Nil illi larvā aut cothurnis tragicis opus esse.
Cicirrus multa ad haec [dixit]. Quaerebat, catenamne ex voto Laribus donasset. Quod scriba esset, nilo[minus] ius dominae [eius] deterius esse. Denique rogabat, cur umquam fugisset, cui ‹sic gracili tamque pusillo› una libra farris satis foret. Illam cenam iucundē prorsus producimus.
Hinc [viā] rectā Beneventum tendimus, ubi hospes sedulus paene arsit dum turdos macros in igni versat. Nam, Vulcano per culinam veterem dilapso, flamma vaga properabat tectum summum lambere. Videres convivas avidos servosque timentıs tum cenam rapere atque omnis restinguere velle.
Ex illo, Apulia incipit montıs notos mihi ostentare—[montes] quos Atābulus torret et quos numquam erepsemeus, nisi villa vicina Trivici nos recepisset, non sine fumo lacrimoso, camino ramos udos cum foliis urente.
Hic ego stultissimus puellam mendacem usque ad mediam noctem exspecto. Somnus tamen ‹[me] veneri intentum› aufert. Tum somnia visu immundo vestem nocturnam ventremque supinum maculant.
Hinc milia quattuor et viginti [in] raedis rapimur, mansuri oppidulo, quod versu non est dicere. Signis perfacile est [dicere]. Hic aqua, vilissima rerum, vēnit, sed panis longe pucherrimus, ut viator callidus soleat [in] umeris [itinera] ultra portare. Nam [panis] Canusi [est] lapidosus, [Canusium] qui locus non [est] aquae ditior urnā, a Diomede forti olim est conditus. Hinc Varius maestus amicis flentibus discedit.
Inde [nos] fessi Rubos pervenimus, utpote ‹iter longum et imbri corruptius factum› carpentes. Postera tempestas melior [erat, sed] via peior usque ad moenia Bari piscosi [erat].
Dein Gnatia, lymphis iratis exstructa, risūsque iocosque dedit, dum [Gnatia] [nos] persuadere cupit tura sine flammā [in] limine sacro liquescere. Apella Iudaeus credat, non ego, namque dedici deos aevum securum agere, nec, si natura quis miri faciat, deos tristıs ex tecto alto caeli demittere.
Brundisium finis chartae longaeque viaeque est.
Original Satire ::
Egressum magnā me accepit Aricia Romā
hospitio modico; rhetor comes Heliodorus,
Graecorum longe doctissimus: inde Forum Appi,
differtum nautis, cauponibus atque malignis.
hoc iter ignavi divisimus, altius ac nos
praecinctis unum: minus est gravis Appia tardis.
hic ego propter aquam, quod erat deterrima, ventri
indico bellum, cenantıs haud animo aequo
Iam nox inducere terris
umbras et caelo diffundere signa parabat.
tum pueri nautis, pueris convicia nautae
ingerer: “huc appelle!” “trecentos inseris.” “ohe,
iam satis est.” dum aes exigitur, dum mula ligatur,
tota abit hora. mali culices ranaeque palustres
avertunt somnos, absentem ut cantat amicam
multā prolutus vappā nauta atque viator
incipit ac missae patum retinacula mulae
nauta piger saxo religat stertitque supinus.
iamque dies aderat, nil com procedere lintrem
sentimus, donec cerebrosus prosilit unus
ac mulae nautaeque caput lumbosque saligno
Quarta vix demum exponimur hora.
ora manusque tuā lavimus, Feronia, lymphā.
milia tum pransi tria repimus atque subimus
impositum saxis late candentibus Anxur.
huc venturus erat Maecenas optimus atque
Cocceius, missi magnis de rebus uterque
legati, aversos soliti componere amicos.
hic oculis ego nigra meis colyria lippus
illinere. interea Maecenas advenit atque
Cocceius Capitoque simul Fonteius, ad unguem
factus homo, Antoni non ut magis alter amicus.
Fundos Aufidio Lusco praetore libenter
linquimus, insani ridentes praemia scribae,
praetextam et latum clavum prunaeque vatillum.
in Mamurrarum lassi deinde urbe manemus,
Murena praebente domum, Capitone culinam.
postera lux oritur multo gratissima: namque
Plotius et Varius Sinuessae Vergiliuque
occurrunt, animae qualis neque candidiores
terra tulit, neque quis me sit devinctior alter.
o qui complexus et gaudia quanta fuerunt!
nil ego contulerim iucundo sanus amico.
Proxima Campano ponti quae villula, tectum
praebuit, et parochi, quae debent, ligna salemque.
hinc muli Capuae clitellas tempore ponunt.
lusum it Maecenas, dormitum ego Vergiliusque:
namque pila lippis inimicum et ludere crudis.
hinc nos Coccei recipit plenissima villa,
quae super est Caudi cauponas.
Nunc mihi paucis
Sarmenti scurrae pugnam Messique Cicirri,
Musa, velim memores, et quo patre natus uterque
contulerit litis. Messi clarum genus Osci;
Sarmenti domina exstat: ab his maioribus orti
ad pugnam venere. prior Sarmentus: “equi te
esse feri similem dico.” ridemus, et ipse
Messius “accipio,” caput et movet. “o tua cornu
ni foret exsecto frons,” inquit, “quid faceres, cum
sic mutilus minitaris?” at illi foeda cicatrix
saetosam laevi frontem turpaverat oris.
Campanum in morbum, in faciem permulta iocatus,
pastorem saltaret uti Cyclopa rogabat:
nil illi larvā aut tragicis opus esse cothurnis
multa Cicirrus ad haec: donasset iamne catenam
ex voto Laribus, quaerebat; scriba quod esset,
nilo deterius dominae ius esse; rogabat
denique, cur umquam fugisset, cui satis una
farris libra foret, gracili sic tamque pusillō.
prorsus iucunde cenam producimus illam.
Tendimus hinc recta Beneventum; ubi sedulus hospes
paene macros arsit dum turdos versat in igni;
nam vaga per veterem dilapso flamma culinam
Volcano summum properabat lambere tectum.
convivas avidos cenam servosque timentıs
tum rapere atque omnis restinguere velle videres.
Incipit ex illo montıs Apuliā notōs
ostentare mihi, quos torret Atabulus et quos
numquam erepsemus, nisi nos vicina Trivici
villa recepisset, lacrimoso non sine fumō
udos com foliis ramos urente caminō.
hic ego mendacem stultissimus usque puellam
ad mediam noctem exspecto: somnus tamen aufert
intentum veneri; tum immundō somnia visū
nocturnam vestem maculant ventremque supinum.
Quattuor hinc rapimur viginti et milia raedis,
mansuri oppidulo, quod versū dicere non est,
signis perfacile est: vēnit vilissima rerum
hic aqua; sed panis longe pulcherrimus ultra
callidus ut soleat umeris portare viator.
nam Canusi lapidosus (aquae non ditior urna),
qui locus a forti Diomede est conditus olim.
flentibus hinc Varius discedit maestus amicis.
Inde Robos fessī pervenimus, utpote longum
carpentes iter et factum corruptius imbri.
postera tempestas melior, via peior ad usque
Bari moenia piscosi. dein Gnatia lymphīs
iratīs exstructa, dedit risusque iocosque,
dum flammā sine tura liquescere limine sacrō
persuadere cupit. credat Iudaeus Apella,
non ego: namque deos didici securum agere aevum,
nec, si quid miri faciat natura, deos id
tristıs ex altō cali demittere tectō.
Brundisium longae finis chartaeque viaeque est.
:: Latin books by James Rumford ::
For all 102 odes purchase Carpe Diem, Horace De-Poetized, for $11.50 at
For a Latin translation of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer at $12, click here:
To find out more about Carpe Diem go to the blog of March 26, 2015;
for more about Pericla Thomae Sawyer, go to the blog of November 22, 2016.