Get out your history books on Rome. Dust them off and read of Rome’s victories: the defeat of Antony and Cleopatra at Actium, the triumph over Pompey, the capture of the Libyan Jugurtha, and the destruction of Carthage. Of course, if this were two thousand years ago, I’d be asking you to dust off an amphora of delicious Caecuban wine—famous in the first century BC but made no more—to celebrate!
In this short poem (actually a sequel to Epode I), Horace hails Caesar Augustus’ victory at Actium over Mark Antony and Cleopatra, describing Antony as emancipatus feminae, a man who sold himself to a woman. Horace symbolizes their unsavory liaison in two words: turpe conopium: ‘a vile mosquito net’ as if to suggest the two make love amidst their troops behind a see-through, gauze-like curtain.
[ The Battle of Actium, Neroccio de'Landi & his workshop, 1475–1480 ]
Horace does such a good job describing certain events at Actium that many believe that Horace witnessed the battle. Horace tells how Antony’s ships were situated in the harbor and how the Galatians (the same people St. Paul wrote to) deserted Antony for Augustus. He even talks of seasickness and asks Maecenas, his patron, “When will we drink to this victory?” Did that mean, when we get back? While it is interesting to imagine a thin (my take) poet of a man ‘embedded’ in the forces of Caesar Augustus, there is no hard evidence to prove that he was there.
There is so much to say about this short poem: the battles, the personages, the Egyptiany word conopium, etc., etc. Nevertheless, I am going to limit myself to perhaps the most trivial of observations: vertērunt is read verterunt in this passage:
at huc frementes verterunt bis mille equos
But here they turned two thousand whinnying horses
Why verterunt instead of vertērunt? The simple answer is that the meter demands it:
at hūc fremēntēs vērterūnt bīs mīll’equōs
The complicated answer is, well, complicated. Most scholars say that Horace can turn vertērunt into verterunt because that is the way the word was pronounced in the olden days. How lame is that? What did they mean ‘olden days’? What did archaic Latin sound like? Why did the vowels change? Were there other changes I should be aware of? Why would Horace know these older forms? Were these forms still used in reciting ancient songs? Did using such an older form make his poem sound as pretentious as the use of ’twas or ‘twere? would in modern English poetry? To answer this, I had to delve into some rather old dusty books.
So, how did the early Romans say verterunt? According to Wallace Martin Lindsay (The Latin Language, 1894, pg. 531), they said both -ērunt and -erunt. Not very helpful. Equally unhelpful to me were further examples which he drew from the netherworld of Old Indian. Old Indian and Sanskrit were the favorite hunting grounds of 19th-century scholars, for Sanskrit was, until the decipherment and classification of Hittite was achieved in the first quarter of the 20th century, the oldest written Indo-European language. Old Indian and Sanskrit afforded scholars a glimpse of the language spoken by a small tribe of individuals who would later spread out over Europe, Central Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent.
So, not wanting to go that route, I turned to Wikipedia, which told me that in Old Latin, -eront or -erom became the classical -ērunt. The old forms are proven by Latin inscriptions, and recreated by scholars based on other early Indo-European languages such as Greek and Italic dialects such as Oscan and Umbrian.
Oscan and Umbrian sound a heck of a lot closer to Latin than Old Indian. What do these two Italic dialects say about the third person plural perfect form? Not very much, as far as I could tell looking through the few grammar books at the University of Hawai‘i library.
I did find a bit more about -ērunt/-erunt in a marvelous little book on poetry written in 1922 by the same Dr. Lindsay mentioned above. This book was entitled Early Latin Verse. On page 181, Lindsay writes that the relation between the two forms is obscure. He adds that -erunt (from an earlier -isont) blended with another third person plural verb ending, -ēre, to produce -ērunt:
Mīlitēs equōs vertēre /Mīlitēs equōs vertērunt.
As to what effect the old-fashioned -erunt had on Horace’s listeners is anyone’s guess…and my guess is that it sounded Plautine—reminiscent of that great playwright’s style. I suppose -erunt would have had the same effect as a Shakespearian “spake” would have bristling in the midst of a modern poem.
Gosh! To think that the length of a vowel meant that much to the Roman ear!
I do have to say, however, that I sure hope that Horace didn’t goof up. I mean, did he ignore the meter? I didn’t see enough examples of the Old Latin form being used by other Augustine authors. In fact, I didn’t find any examples. Oh well. All is not lost. I did learn something about antique Latinity.
[I decided after much thought to turn lines 27–32 into questions, ignoring the punctuation suggested by 500 years of editors!]
When will I, happy with
Caesar the victor, drink
Caecuban stored for feasts
with you, blessed Maecenas,
so welcoming to Jove,
at your lofty palace,
the lyre playing a song
mixed with the flutes, the lyre
Doric, the flutes foreign,
as when, not long ago,
Neptune’s lord, driven from
the sea, fled his burned ships,
having threatened Rome with
the chains which he,
friend to lying slaves,
had pulled off of them.
having sold out to Cleopatra
(you coming after
will deny it!),
is a Roman soldier.
wall-stakes and weapons
yet is capable of serving
Cleo’s shriveled eunuchs,
while the sun god
looks down upon,
in amongst the military insignia,
their dirty little mosquito net.
But then, two thousand Gauls,
singing of Caesar,
turned their horses away,
snorting their anger,
and the sterns of their enemy ships,
having been chased to the left,
are hiding in port.
Are you delaying
[the triumphal parade],
the golden chariots
and the unyoked bulls?
No such leader
did you bring back
from the Jugurthine War,
for whom Valor built
Defeated on land and sea,
has our foe exchanged
a purple for a mourning cloak?
Or is he about to go
to Crete, famous
for a hundred cities,
on winds not his own?
Or does he head
for the Syrtes,
vexed by south winds?
Or is he being carried away
on an uncertain sea?
Bring bigger cups, boy,
and wines from Chia and Lesbos.
Or measure us out
to hold in the seasickness.
Worry and fear over
it’s a joy to let go
with sweet Bacchus.
translation © 2014 by James Rumford
Rewritten in Prose
Quando repostum Caecubum ad festās dapēs
victōre laetus Caesare
Quando [ego,] Caesare victōre laetus,
‹Caecubum ad dapēs festās repos[i]tum›
DEcquando vinum Cæcubum ad solemnes epulas
reservatum, lætus ego ob victoriam Augusti,
Caecubum: Nomen vini aestimati quod, dicitur, album erat.
Vinum in Agris Pomptinis apud Amyclas (hodie apud
victore: hic victor est Caesar Augustus, qui habuit victoriam
de Antonio et Cleopatra.
tecum sub altā—sīc Iovi grātum—domō,
beate Maecēnas, bibam
sub domō altā tecum, [o] beate Maecenas—
sīc grātum Iovi—
Dpotabo tecum, O felix Mæcenas, in æaedibus
magnificis, canente cum fistulis citharâ,
sic Iovi gratum: Helenius Acro dicit Iovem auctorem
sonante mixtum tībiīs carmen lyrā,
hāc Dōrium, illīs barbarum,
lyrā carmen tibiīs mixtum sonante—
hāc [lyrā] Dōrium [est], illīs [tībiīs] barbarum—
Dhâc Dorium modum, illis Phrygium? Sanè
ita placet Jovi.
Dorium: Secundum Acronem, unum ex septem
barbarum: Phrygum Asiae Minoris. Secundum
Acronem unum ex septem nominibus sonorum
et unum ex tribus musicae generibus.
ut nūper, actus cum fretō Neptūnius
dux fūgit ustīs navibus,
ut nūper, cum dux Neptūnius, navibus
ustīs, [ex] fretō actis, fūgit—
DHaud jam pridem sic fecimus, quando
Neptunius Imperator freto Siculo pulsus
Neptunius dux: Sextus Pompeius, qui ab Agrippa in
anno 36 a.C.n. apud Naulochum (urbem in
litore septentrionali Siciliae) superatus est et ex
mari (freto) actus. Horatius irridet Pompeio, qui
se ducem Neptunium appellabat.
minātus Urbi vincla, quae dētraxerat
‹servīs amīcus› pérfidis?
[quī] urbi vincla, quae [ille] amīcus
servīs perfidīs dētraxerat, minātus erat.
Dpost incensas naves; minatus vicivus injicere
catenas, quas detraxerat servis infidelibus.
servis amicus perfidis: in tempore belli Siciliani (37-36
a.C.n.), Pompeius servos (erga dominos priores
perfidos) ad arma vocavit.
Rōmānus, ēheu,—posterī nēgabitis—
Mīles Rōmānus, ēheu,—[vos] posterī
Romanus (eheu nepotes haud credetis) mulieris
factus manciaium, miles portat
Romanus: id est, Antonius et milites sui
emancipatus feminae: feminae datus, id est, sub
fert vallum et arma mīles et spadōnibus
servire rūgosīs potest, eunuchs, wrinkly
vallum et arma fert et spadōnibus
rūgosīs servire potest,
Dpalum atque arma, nec erubescit servire
spadonibus: eunuchis, castratis; circum Cleopatram
erant multi castrati. Horatius de spadonibus
Cleopatrae scribit in carmine I:37:7ff: regina . . .
contaminato cum grege turpium morbo virorum
(id est: regina cum grege contaminato [ab]
morbo virorum turpium).
interque signa turpe mīlitaria
sol aspicit cōnōpium. mosq. net, canopy
solque signa mīlitaria inter
cōnōpium turpe aspicit.
DInterque vexilla bellica (proh fœdam rem!).
Sol videt conopium.
sol: credo solem esse deum solis Aegyptiorum: Ra
conopium: conopeum, genus retis (net) contra culices
(mosquitos, gnats). Atque κουνούπι significat culex.
Dicitur ‘canopy’ verbi originem esse. Ex nomine
civis Canopi quae in litore Aegyptae apud
Alexandrinam erat. Hodie ruinae Canopi sunt apud
Abu Qir (ابو قیر). Canopus erat nomen navis magistri
Regis Menelai qui mortuus est ibique sepultus.
Canopus, in tempore Horatii, civis turpis erat.
at huc frementēs / verterunt bis mille equōs
Galli, canentēs Caesarem, groaning
At huc Gallī, Caesarem canentēs,
bis mille equōs frementēs verterunt,
DAd hoc Spectaculum Galli indignantes,
Augustum inclamando, converterunt
duo millia equorum;
at huc: vel ad hoc vel at hunc
frementes: stridentes, irati hinnentes
verterunt: non vertērunt. In vetere linguā Latinā,
duae formae huius temporis preteriti erant:
-erunt cum e brevi et -ērunt cum ē longo.
Propter metrum (quod est iambicum), formā
antiquā utitur Horatius. Syllabas longas in hoc
colore scripsi: a; breves a. (mille equos legitur
Galli: Gallograeci, Galatae. Ante proelium Actii
(anno 31 a.C.n.), Amyntas, rex Gallograecorum
(Galatarum) in Phrygia colentium, factionem
Antonii reliquit et ad Caesarem iit.
hostilliumque navium portū latent
puppēs sinistrorsum citae.
puppēsque navium hostilium,
sinistrorsum citae, [in] portū latent.
Det puppes navium hostium ad sinistram
fugientes in portu delitescunt.
citae: (ex cieo) motae, actae. In proelio Actii, naves
Antonii portum relinquere non potuerunt quod
naves Octavii (Augusti) portum intercludebant.
‘Puppes sinistrorsum citae’ significat aut posteriores
partes navium vel naves sinistram versus actae.
Antonius sciebat se victorem prolii non futurum;
igitur in portu latebat, occasionem aucupans cum
iō Triumphe, tū moraris aureōs
currūs et intactās bovēs?
Iō Triumphe, tū currūs aureōs
et bovēs intactās morāris?
DIo triumphe, tu retardas auratos
currus et juvencas integras.
intactas boves: [secundum Ludovicum Dezprez] “vel
tauri vel jugo nondum subditas immolabat.”
iō Triumphe, nec Iugurthīnō parem
bellō reportāstī ducem,
Iō Triumphe, [tū] nec ducem parem
ex bellō Iugurthīnō reportā[va]stī,
DIo triumphe, non revexisti Imperatorem
talem seu in bello Jugurthino,
Iugurthino: Iugurtha erat successor Micipsae, regis
Numidiae. Bellum Iugurthinum (113-106 a.
C.n.)erat bellum longum in quo Romani
Iugurtham et copias eius vicerunt.
parem ducem: Africanum, vide infra.
neque Africānum, cui super Carthāginem
virtūs sepulcrum condidit.
neque Africānum, cui [erat] virtūs
[quae] sepulcrum super Carthāginem condidit.
Dseu in Africano eum cui sua virtus
tumulum erexit super Carthaginem.
Africanum: est Publius Cornelius Scipio iunior, qui
ob magnam victoriam de Hannibale “Africanus”
terrā marique victus hostis pūnicō scarlet
lūgubre mūtāvit sagum. cloak
Hostis, terrā marique victus,
sagum lūgubre pūnicō mūtāvit.
DHostis superatus in terrâ et mari
sagulum purpureum mutavit lugubre.
victus: id est Antonius
punico: purpureo, rubri
mutavit: sagum lugubre [sago] punico mutavit =
in sagum lugubre ex sago punico mutavit.
Verbum muto plures sensus habet: change,
alter, improve, vary, shift, etc.Vide Horatii
carmen II:16: quid terras alio calentis sole
mutamus? (cur in terras alio sole calentes
aut ille centum nōbilem Crētam urbibus
ventīs ītūrus nōn suīs
Ille—aut Crētam, centum urbibus
nōbilem, ventīs nōn suīs, ītūrus—
DNunc ille vel in Cretam centum
urbibus claram fugit adversis ventis;
centum nobilem Cretam urbibus: Homerus Cretam
“centum urbibus nobilem” (τη ἐκατόμπολισ
exercitātās aut perit Syrtīs Notō,
aut fertur incertō mari.
aut Syrtīs Notō exercitātās petit—
aut [in] mari incertō fertur.
Dvel ad Syrtes Austro vexatas; vel
errat anceps per maria.
Syrtis: pars periculousa in Lybico mari
Noto: vento meridionali
capāciorēs adfer huc, puer, scyphōs
et Chia vina aut Lesbia:
[O] Puer, scyphōs capāciorēs et
vina Chia aut Lesbia huc adfer
DFamule, huc affer cyathos majores,
et vina Chia, vel Lesbia;
et Chia vina aut Lesbia: id est vina ex in mari
Aegaeo insulis Chia et Lesbia.
vel quod fluentem nauseam coerceat check
mētire nobis Caecubum” measure out
nobis metire—vel Caecubum, quod
nauseam fluentem coerceat.
Dquin potius infunde nobis Cæcubum,
quod reprimat nauseam fluitantem.
nauseam: ex ναυσία (ναυς, id est: navis), in
nave aeger, morbidus.
cūram metumque Caesaris rerum iuvat
dulci Lyaeō solvere. care & fear
Iuvat rerum metumque Caesaris
Lyaeō dulci solvere!
DCertè decet abstergere solicitudinem
ac formidinem pro rebus Augusti
bibendo suave vinum.
Lyaeo: Baccho; Lyaeus (ex λυω: solvo) est is qui
curas solvit, qui animos relaxat.
:: 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.