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  • Times and their reasons, arranged in order through the Latin year,
  • and constellations sunk beneath the earth and risen, I shall sing.
  •   Germanicus Caesar, receive this work with tranquil countenance,
  • 5and guide my timid vessel's course. Don't turn away from a modest
  • honour; see, it is to you that this act of duty is vowed; give it your
  • godlike blessing and support. You will rediscover rituals dug out of
  • ancient records, and how each day has deserved to be marked out. You
  • 10will find there also festivals belonging to your own house; often your
  • father, often your grandfather will be your reading matter. The prizes
  • they bear, adorning the painted calendars, you too will bear, with
  • Drusus your brother.
  •   Let others sing of Caesar's wars: we sing Caesar's altars, and all the
  • 15days he added to the sacred list. Give me your blessing as I try to
  • make my way through the praises of your family, and shake the trem-
  • bling fear out of my heart. Grant me your gentleness, and you'll have
  • given strength to my song; by your regard my talent both stands and
  • falls.
  •   Ready to undergo the judgement of a learned prince, my page
  • 20shakes as if dispatched for the god of Claros to read. For we have
  • experienced the eloquence of your polished speech when it has taken
  • up arms in defence of trembling citizens on trial. We know too how
  • great is the flow of your talent when its power has been directed to our
  • 25own arts. If it is lawful and right, as a bard yourself control a bard's
  • reins,* so that under your auspices the whole year may proceed and
  • prosper.

  • When the city's founder was setting the times in order, he ordained
  • that in his year there should be twice five months. Yes, Romulus, you
  • 30were better acquainted with weapons than with stars, and conquering
  • your neighbours was a greater concern. And yet, Caesar, there is also
  • a logic that may have prompted him, and he does have a way to defend
  • his mistake. The time it takes till a baby emerges from the mother's
  • 35womb is what he decided was enough for a year. For the same number
  • pg 2of months from her husband's funeral, a wife maintains the signs of
  • mourning in her widowed home.
  •   This, then, the care of trabea-wearing Quirinus saw, when he was
  • giving rules for the year to the unlearned peoples. Mars had the first
  • Link 40month, Venus the second—she the origin of the race, he the founder's
  • father. The third came from the old men, the fourth from the name of
  • the young; the throng that follows was marked off by number.* But
  • Numa overlooks neither Janus nor the ancestral shades, and placed
  • two months before the ancient ones.

  • 45However, lest you be unaware of the rules of the different days, not
  • every Light-bringer has the same function. Nefastus will be the day
  • during which the three words* are unspoken; fastus, the day during
  • which legal business will be allowed. And don't imagine that its rules
  • 50persist throughout the day: what's going to be fastus now was nefastus
  • this morning. For as soon as the entrails have been given to the god,
  • all utterance is permitted, and the honoured praetor has freedom to
  • speak. There is also the day when it's lawful to pen the People in the
  • enclosures;* there is also the day which returns on every ninth
  • rotation.*
  •   55The worship of Juno claims the Ausonian Kalends; on the Ides
  • a bigger white ewe-lamb falls to Jupiter; the Nones have no god to
  • protect them. The day that follows each of them (take care not to get
  • it wrong) will be a black one. The omen results from what happened,
  • 60for on those days Rome suffered grim losses when Mars withdrew his
  • favour. These points apply throughout the whole calendar, but I shall
  • state them only once; otherwise I should be forced to break the
  • sequence of my subject matter.

  • [1 January] See, Germanicus—Janus announces a lucky year for you,
  • Link 65and is here at the start of my song. Two-headed Janus, origin of the
  • quietly gliding year, you who alone of the gods above see your own
  • back, be present to bless our rulers, by whose labour the fruitful earth
  • has peace secure, the sea has peace; be present to bless your Fathers and
  • 70the People of Quirinus, and with your nod unbolt the shining temples.
  •   The day dawns prosperous: be propitious all, with tongue and
  • heart. Now good words on a good day must be spoken. Let ears be
  • free from lawsuits, let mad disputes forthwith be absent. Malicious
  • tongue, put off your business!
  • pg 3  75Do you see how the sky is bright with fragrant fires, how the
  • Cilician spike* crackles on the lighted braziers? The flame strikes the
  • gold of the temples with its own brightness, and scatters a flickering
  • glow on the height of the building. In spotless garments the proces-
  • 80sion goes to the Tarpeian heights, and the People itself is coloured to
  • match its festal day. And now new fasces go in front, new purple
  • gleams, new weight is felt on the bright ivory.* The bullocks, inno-
  • cent of toil, which Faliscan grass has fattened on its plains, offer their
  • 85necks to be struck. When Jupiter from his citadel looks out over the
  • whole earth, he has nothing to gaze on but what belongs to Rome.
  •   Greetings, happy day, and always come back better, worthy to be
  • observed by a People with power over everything.

  • 90Yet what god shall I say you are, double-formed Janus? For Greece
  • has no deity equivalent to you. Reveal, at the same time, the reason
  • why you alone of the heavenly ones see both what is behind and what
  • is in front.
  •   When I had taken up my writing-tablets and was turning these
  • questions over in my mind,* the house seemed brighter than it was
  • 95before. Then holy Janus, amazing in his double appearance, suddenly
  • presented his pair of faces to my eyes. I was terrified; I felt that my
  • hair had stood on end in fear; my heart was frozen with a sudden
  • chill. He held a staff in his right hand and a key in his left, and he
  • 100uttered these words to me from his front-facing mouth:
  •   'Put aside your fear, industrious bard of the days. Learn what you
  • seek, and take in my words with your mind. The ancients—for I'm
  • a primitive phenomenon—used to call me Chaos.* See of how far
  • 105a time I sing the history! The bright air here and the three elements
  • that remain, fire, water, earth, used to be just one heap. When once
  • this mass separated, because of discord in its parts, and broke apart
  • and went off into new homes, flame sought the height, a nearer place
  • 110caught air, and earth and sea settled in the middle region. At that time
  • I, who had been a round mass and a bulk without form, resorted to
  • a shape and limbs appropriate to a god. Even now, small indication of
  • my once chaotic shape, what's in front and behind in me appears the
  • same.
  •   115'Hear the second reason for the shape you've asked about, so you
  • may know this and my function together. Whatever you see all round,
  • sky, sea, clouds, lands, everything is closed up and opened by my
  • pg 4hand. The guardianship of the vast universe rests with me alone, and
  • 120the right to turn the hinge is entirely mine. When it has pleased me to
  • send forth Peace from the tranquil houses, freely she walks on
  • uninterrupted ways. The whole world will be thrown into confusion
  • with deadly bloodshed if unbending bars do not keep wars under
  • restraint.
  •   125'I preside at the doors of heaven with the gentle Seasons:* Jupiter
  • himself passes to and fro through my good offices. Hence I'm called
  • Janus.* When the priest puts out for me Ceres' cake and spelt mixed
  • with salt, you'll laugh at my names; for sometimes on the sacrificer's
  • 130lips I'm called Patulcius, and sometimes Clusius, though the same
  • god. Undoubtedly that crude old time wanted to indicate my differ-
  • ent functions by changing my name.
  •   'My power has been told. Now learn the reason for my shape—and
  • 135yet to some extent you see this as well, already. Every door has twin
  • fronts, this side and that, of which one looks at the People, the other
  • at the Lar, and just as your doorman, sitting near the entrance at the
  • front of the building, sees the goings-out and comings-in, so I, the
  • 140doorman of the court of heaven, view at the same time the Eōan and
  • Hesperian regions. You see Hecate's faces turning in three directions,
  • that she may guard the crossroads split three ways. I too, so I don't
  • lose time by turning my neck, am allowed to look two ways without
  • bodily movement.'
  •   145He had spoken, and had pledged by his expression that he wouldn't
  • be difficult with me if I wanted to question him further. I plucked up
  • courage. Unafraid, I offered my thanks to the god, and looking at the
  • ground spoke further words:
  •   'Well now, tell me why the new year starts in the cold weather. It
  • 150would be better begun in the spring. That's when everything blooms,
  • that's when time has a new season, and the new bud swells from the
  • pregnant shoot, and the tree is covered with new-formed leaves, and
  • 155the seed's blade comes forth to the surface of the soil, and birds with
  • their harmonies soothe the warm air, and in the meadows the animals
  • frisk and frolic. That's when the suns are enticing, and the unfamiliar
  • swallow appears and fashions her mud work under the lofty beam.
  • That's when the field tolerates cultivation and is renewed by the
  • 160plough. By rights, this should have been called the year's newness.'
  •   I had made my enquiry at length; not so he. Without delay he com-
  • pressed his words into two lines, like this:
  • pg 5  'The winter solstice is the first day of the new sun, the last of the
  • old. Phoebus and the year take the same starting point.'
  •   165After that, I was wondering why the first day was not free from
  • lawsuits.
  •   'Learn the reason,' says Janus. 'While the times were being born,
  • I assigned them to the transaction of business, so that right from the
  • auspices the whole year should not be inactive. For the same reason,
  • 170each person does enough just to sample his skills, no more than giv-
  • ing evidence of his usual work.'
  •   'Why, Janus,' I asked next, 'though I worship the power of other
  • divinities, do I first offer incense and wine to you?'
  •   'So that through me,' says he, 'the guardian of the threshold, you
  • can have access to whichever gods you want.'
  •   175'But why are joyful words spoken on your Kalends? And why do
  • we give good wishes and receive them in return?'
  •   At that point, leaning on the staff his right hand held, 'Omens,'
  • says the god, 'are usually inherent in beginnings. You direct your
  • 180timid ears to the first word spoken, and the augur interprets the bird
  • he has seen first. The gods' temples and ears are open, no tongue
  • conceives prayers that fall useless, and things that are said carry
  • weight.'
  •   Janus had finished, and I wasn't silent long, but touched his last
  • words with words of my own:
  •   185'What,' I said, 'is the meaning of the dates and the wrinkled figs,
  • and the gift of shining honey in a snow-white jar?'
  •   'The omen is the reason,' says he, 'so that that flavour may follow
  • what ensues, and the year continue sweet on the journey it has
  • begun.'
  •   'I see why sweet things are given. Add the reason for giving coins,
  • 190so that no part of your festival may be uncertain for me.'
  •   He laughed. 'How wrong you are,' he said, 'about the age you live
  • in, if you think honey is sweeter than cash in hand! Even under
  • Saturn's reign I saw hardly anyone to whose heart profit wasn't sweet.
  • 195In time the love of possessing grew, which now is at its height; by now
  • there's scarcely any further it can go.
  •   'Wealth is more valued now than in the years of old, the time when
  • the People was poor, when Rome was new, when a little hut held
  • 200Quirinus, offspring of Mars, and sedge from the river gave him a mea-
  • gre bed. Jupiter in his cramped temple had difficulty standing upright,
  • pg 6and in Jupiter's right hand was a thunderbolt made of clay. With
  • leaves, as now with gems, they used to decorate the Capitol, and the
  • 205senator himself used to pasture his own sheep. There was no shame in
  • having taken quiet rest on straw and put hay underneath one's head.
  • The praetor used to dispense justice to the peoples having only just
  • put aside his plough, and a thin leaf of silver was cause for an
  • accusation.
  •   'But now that the Fortune of this place* has raised her head, and
  • 210Rome at her highest point has touched the gods, wealth has grown too,
  • and the frenzied desire for wealth, and although they possess huge
  • amounts they seek for more. They strive to acquire in order to spend,
  • to acquire it again when they've spent it, and even their disasters are
  • 215food for their vices. Just so with those whose bellies have swollen with
  • dropsy, the more the fluids are drunk the more they are thirsted for.
  • These days the price is what's prized: your census rating* gives you
  • honours, gives you friendships. The poor man's out of it everywhere.
  •   220'And yet you ask if an omen of coins is useful, and why old bronze
  • delights our hands? They used to give bronze once upon a time.
  • Nowadays there's a better omen in gold, and the old coins, van-
  • quished, have yielded to the new. We too delight in golden temples,
  • even though we approve of the old ones; grandeur itself is fitting for
  • Link 225a god. We praise past years but enjoy our own—and yet each custom
  • is equally worth keeping.'
  •   He had finished his advice. As before, I myself address again the
  • key-bearing god, in these calm words:
  •   'Indeed I have learned many things. But why, on the bronze coin,
  • Link 230is one stamped image a ship and the other two-headed?'
  •   'So that in the double image,' he said, 'you'd be able to recognize
  • me, if time itself hadn't worn away the old design. Next, the reason
  • for the ship: it was in a ship that the sickle-bearing god* came to the
  • Link 235Tuscan river, having first wandered the whole world. It was in this
  • land, I remember, that Saturn was received; he had been banished
  • from the heavenly realms by Jupiter. For a long time after that the
  • People kept the name "Saturnian"; the land was called Latium too
  • from the god in hiding.* But generous posterity shaped a ship on the
  • 240bronze, attesting the god's arrival as a guest.
  •   'I myself occupied the land whose left side the all-peaceful wave of
  • sandy Thybris touches. Here, where now is Rome, there flourished an
  • unfelled forest, and so great a place was pasture for a few cattle. My
  • pg 7245stronghold was the hill which this age commonly names after me and
  • calls Janiculum. I was the ruler at that time, when earth received gods
  • and divine powers mingled in the places of men.
  •   250'Not yet had mortal crime put Justice to flight (she was the last of
  • the deities to leave the earth),* and instead of fear the proper sense of
  • decency guided the People without force. It was no hardship to deliver
  • justice to the just. I had nothing to do with war; I guarded peace and
  • doorways, and these,' says he, showing the key, 'are the arms I carry.'
  •    Link 255The god had closed his lips. Then I opened mine, my speech elicit-
  • ing speeches from the god:
  •   'Since there are so many gateways, why do you stand consecrated
  • in just one, here where you have a temple adjoining two fora?'
  •   260Stroking the beard that hung down to his chest, he straight away
  • recounted the war of Oebalian Tatius*—how the fickle guard, captiv-
  • ated by bracelets, led the silent Sabines to the way to the top of the
  • Citadel.* 'From there', says he, 'there was a steep slope, just as there
  • is now, by which you go down through the fora to the valleys.
  •   265'And now he had reached the gate, from which Saturn's envious
  • daughter had removed the bars placed across. Fearing to start a fight
  • with so powerful a deity, I craftily brought into play a device of my
  • own skill. I opened the mouths of springs—a resource in which I'm
  • 270powerful—and I spurted out sudden jets of water. Before that,
  • though, I threw sulphur in the wet veins, so that boiling water would
  • bar Tatius' way.
  •   'When the Sabines had been driven off, and the usefulness of my
  • trick perceived, the place was safe and the shape it had been was
  • 275restored to it. An altar was set up for me, next to a little shrine; with
  • its flames it burns the spelt along with the heap of cakes.'
  •   'But why do you lie hidden in time of peace, and are opened up
  • when weapons are put into action?' No delay. The reason for what I'd
  • asked I got in return:
  •   'So that a way back should lie open when the People has gone to
  • 280war, my door stands wide open with its bar removed. In peacetime
  • I close up the doors, so there's no way peace can leave. Under the
  • Caesars' divine power I shall be shut for a long time.'
  •   He spoke, and raising his eyes that saw in opposite directions, he
  • Link 285looked on all there was in the whole world. There was peace,
  • Germanicus, and the Rhine, the reason for your triumph, had already
  • surrendered its waters to serve you.
  • pg 8  Janus, make peace, and the ministers of peace, eternal! Grant that
  • he who brings it about may not desert his task!

  • However—something I've been allowed to discover from the calendar
  • 290itself—on this day the Fathers dedicated two temples. The island that
  • the river hems in with divided waters received the son of Phoebus
  • and the nymph Coronis. Jupiter has a share: one place took them
  • both, and the temple of the grandson is joined to that of his mighty
  • grandfather.*

  • Link 295What stops me speaking of the stars as well, how each of them
  • rises and sets? Let that too be a part of my promise. Fortunate
  • souls, who first had the care to discover these things and climb to
  • the dwellings above! One can believe that they put their heads as
  • 300far above human weaknesses as above human haunts. Neither
  • Venus nor wine corrupted their lofty hearts, nor the business of
  • the forum nor the labour of war. They were not tempted by petty
  • ambition, by glory steeped in false colour, by hunger for great
  • 305wealth. They brought close the distant stars with the eyes of the
  • mind, and made the heavens subject to their intellect. That is how
  • one reaches for the sky, not making Olympus carry Ossa and
  • Pelion's summit* touch the highest stars. With them to guide me,
  • Link 310I too will measure the sky and assign their own days to the wan-
  • dering constellations.

  • [3 January] And so when the third night before the approaching
  • Nones arrives, and the ground is wet and sprinkled with dew from
  • heaven, it will be pointless to look for the arms of the eight-footed
  • Crab: he will go headlong under the waters of the west.

  • Link 315[5 January] If the Nones are here, showers sent from black clouds
  • will give you a sign as the Lyre rises.

  • [9 January] To the Nones add four days taken in a row. Janus will
  • have to be appeased on the Agonal day. The reason for the name may
  • 320be the attendant with his tucked-up robe, at whose blow the victim
  • falls in honour of the heavenly ones; having drawn the knives to stain
  • them with warm blood, he always asks if he should go on, and doesn't
  • go on unless he's told.*
  • pg 9  Some people believe that the Agonal day takes its name from driv-
  • 325ing, in as much as the sheep do not come but are driven. Others think
  • that this festival was called Agnalia by the ancients, supposing that
  • one letter has been taken from its proper place. Or was the day in
  • question marked from the sheep's fear, because the victim is afraid of
  • the knives it sees beforehand in the water? It is also possible that the
  • 330day took a Greek name from the games that used to take place in our
  • ancestors' time. Ancient speech, too, called sheep 'agonia', and in my
  • judgement this last reason is the true one.
  •   Uncertain though that is, still the rex sacrorum is required to
  • appease the divine powers by offering the mate of a fleecy ewe. What
  • 335has fallen to the victorious right hand is called the victim; the sacrifi-
  • cial beast takes its name from conquered enemies.*
  •   Previously, it was spelt and the sparkling grain of pure salt that had
  • the power to win the gods over to mankind. Not yet, driven through
  • 340the sea's waters, had the visiting ship brought myrrh, produced as
  • tears from its bark. The Euphrates had not sent incense, nor India
  • spice, and the stamens of red saffron had not been discovered. The
  • altar was content to give off smoke from Sabine herbs, and laurel was
  • 345burned with no small sound. If there was anyone who could add vio-
  • lets to garlands made from meadow flowers, he was a rich man! This
  • knife, which now opens the entrails of a stricken bull, had no work to
  • do in sacred rites.
  •   Ceres was the first to delight in the blood of the greedy sow, aveng-
  • 350ing her riches with the well-deserved slaughter of the guilty one. For
  • she discovered that her crops, milky with young sap at the start of
  • spring, had been rooted up by the snout of a bristly sow.
  •   The sow had paid the penalty; you should have been frightened by
  • her example, billy goat, and kept away from the vine-shoot. Someone
  • 355watched the goat sink his teeth into the vine, and didn't keep his
  • resentment to himself. This is what he said: 'Go on, goat, gnaw the
  • vine! Yet there'll be something from it that can be sprinkled on your
  • horns when you stand at the altar.' What follows bears out his words.
  • 360When your enemy, Bacchus, is given up for punishment, his horns
  • are sprinkled with a pouring of wine.
  •   Her wrongdoing did for the sow, her wrongdoing did for the she-
  • goat too. But you, ox and peaceful sheep, what wrong have you done?
  •   Aristaeus was weeping. He had seen that his bees, killed with their
  • Link 365progeny, had abandoned the honeycombs they'd begun. It was hard
  • pg 10for his sea-blue mother* to console him in his grief. She added these
  • final words to what she'd said:
  •   'Check your tears, my boy. Proteus will ease your losses and give you
  • a way to restore what has been destroyed. However, lest he deceive you
  • 370by changing shape, strong fetters must encumber both his hands.'
  •   The youth makes his way to the seer. He catches the arms of the
  • old man of the sea relaxed in sleep, and binds them tight. That shape-
  • shifter uses his own art to alter his appearance; soon he turns back to
  • 375his own body, mastered by the bonds. Raising his dripping face with
  • its sea-blue beard, he said:
  •   'Are you looking for the way to get back your bees? Slaughter
  • a bullock and bury the carcase in the earth. What you seek from me
  • the buried one will give you.'
  •   The shepherd does what he's told. Swarms of bees boil up from
  • 380the rotting bullock. A thousand lives were created from one that was
  • ended.
  •   Fate demands the sheep: she has wickedly cropped the shrubs that
  • a pious old lady used to offer to the gods of the countryside. What
  • safety remains, when the sheep that bear wool and the oxen that till
  • Link 385the ground lay down their lives at the altars? Persia uses a horse to
  • appease Hyperion, girdled with sunbeams, lest a slow victim be given
  • to a swift god. Because once for twin Diana it was slaughtered instead
  • of a virgin,* now too a hind falls instead of no virgin. I have seen the
  • 390Sapaeans, and those who live among your snows, Haemus, offer dogs'
  • entrails as a libation to the goddess of the Three Ways. A young don-
  • key, too, is killed for the stiff guardian of the countryside.* The reason
  • is certainly indecent, but all the same it suits the god.

  • Greece, you were celebrating the festival of ivy-berried Bacchus
  • which the third winter brings round at the accustomed time. The
  • 395gods too came together, those who honour Lyaeus and whoever wasn't
  • averse to a bit of fun—Pans, and young satyrs prone to Venus, and the
  • goddesses who haunt the rivers and the lonely countryside. Old man
  • Silenus had come too on his hollow-backed donkey, and the one with
  • 400the red member who scares the timid birds.
  •   They found a grove that was good for a pleasant party, and stretched
  • out on couches strewn with grass. Liber poured the wine, everyone
  • had brought his own garland, a stream provided water for mixing, but
  • not too much.
  • pg 11  405Naiads were there, some with their hair loose and uncombed,
  • others with it artfully arranged by hand. One of them serves with
  • her tunic tucked up above her calves; another with her top undone
  • is showing her bosom; this one bares a shoulder, that one trails her
  • 410dress through the grass; no sandal-straps impede their delicate feet.
  • Over here some of them cause gentle fires in the satyrs, and others
  • in you, who have your temples bound with pine.* They inflame you
  • as well, unquenchably lustful Silenus; it's lechery that stops you
  • being old.
  •   415But out of all of them, red Priapus, adornment and protector of
  • gardens, was captivated by Lotis. It's her he wants, her he desires, her
  • alone he sighs for. He gives her clues by nodding, and pesters her
  • with signs. Pride dwells in the beautiful, and haughtiness goes with
  • 420good looks. She mocks him, and her face shows her disdain.
  •   It was night. As wine brought on sleep, bodies were lying all over
  • the place, overcome by drowsiness. Furthest away on the grassy
  • ground, beneath a maple's branches, just as she was, exhausted by the
  • 425fun, Lotis rested. Up gets the lover, and stealthily, holding his breath,
  • he makes his silent way on the tips of his toes. Now that he's reached
  • the bed of the snow-white nymph, away from the rest, he takes good
  • care that even his breath should make no sound. And already he was
  • 430balancing his body on the grass next to her; she, however, was deep
  • asleep. Exultant, pulling the dress up from her feet, he had started to
  • make his way on the happy road to his desires.
  •   Oh no! With a raucous braying, the donkey that brought Silenus
  • 435opened his mouth to sound off at just the wrong moment. Terrified,
  • up jumps the nymph, pushes Priapus off with her hands, and runs
  • away, rousing the whole grove.* But the god, his obscene part all too
  • ready, was a joke for them all by the light of the moon. The one
  • 440responsible for the noise paid for it with his life, and this is the victim
  • the god of the Hellespont likes.

  • You birds, the solace of the countryside, had been inviolate, a harm-
  • less race accustomed to the woodland; you build nests and cherish
  • your eggs with your feathers and from willing throats send forth
  • 445sweet music. But that's of no avail: your power of utterance is an
  • accusation, and the gods think you reveal what they have in mind.
  • And this charge isn't false, for as each of you is close to the gods you
  • give true signs, now with your flight, now with your song. The winged
  • pg 12race, which had for long been safe, was then at last slaughtered, and
  • 450the gods took pleasure in their informer's entrails.
  •   So, partner torn from her mate, a white dove is often burned on the
  • altars of Idalium. And having defended the Capitol is no help to pre-
  • vent the goose donating its liver to your dishes, daughter of Inachus.*
  • 455At night for goddess Night the crested bird is slaughtered, because he
  • calls forth the warm day with his wakeful voice.

  • [10 January] Meanwhile the Dolphin rises above the sea, a bright
  • constellation, and thrusts his face out of ancestral waters. The next
  • 460day marks winter with a line drawn down the middle. What remains
  • will be equal to what has gone before.

  • [11 January] The next bride of Tithonus, leaving him behind,* will
  • look out on the priests' ritual for the Arcadian goddess. The same day
  • received you in your temple, sister of Turnus, here where the Campus
  • 465is visited by the Virgin water.* Where shall I look for the reasons and
  • custom of these rites? Who will steer my sails in the midst of the sea?
  • Yourself advise me, you who bear a name derived from song,* and be
  • favourable to my enterprise, lest your own honour be at risk.
  •   The land that came to be before the moon, if you believe what it
  • 470says about itself, takes its name from great Arcas. Out of it came
  • Evander, who, though illustrious on both sides, was more noble
  • through the blood of his sacred mother. As soon as she had conceived
  • in her mind the heavenly fires, she would utter from truthful lips
  • 475chants full of god. She had said that changes loomed for herself and
  • her son, and much besides which in time proved to be true.
  •   For the young man abandoned Arcadia and his Parrhasian home,
  • banished along with his mother, all too truthful. As he wept, his
  • mother said to him:
  •    Link 480'This fortune of yours you must bear like a man. Check your tears,
  • I beg you. It was thus in your destiny: no fault of yours has caused
  • your banishment, but a god. You've been driven from the city because
  • a god has been offended. What you suffer is not due punishment for
  • what you've done, but the anger of divine power. It is something that
  • no guilt is involved in your great misfortune.
  •   485'As each man has his own conscience, so it conceives in his breast
  • both hope and fear, depending on what he has done. In any case, don't
  • grieve as if you were the first to have suffered such misfortunes. That
  • pg 13sort of storm has overwhelmed mighty men. The same thing hap-
  • pened to Cadmus, who long ago was driven from the shores of Tyre
  • Link 490and settled in exile, on Aonian soil. The same thing happened to
  • Tydeus, and to Pagasaean Jason, and others besides who would take
  • too long to record.
  •   'To the brave every land is the homeland, as to fishes the sea, as to
  • 495birds the whole open space of the empty world. But fierce weather
  • doesn't rage all the year long. For you too, believe me, the time of
  • spring will come.'
  •   His mind strengthened by his mother's words, Evander cuts
  • through the waves in his ship and reaches Hesperia. And now, advised
  • 500by the learned Carmentis, he had steered his vessel into the river and
  • was going upstream against the Tuscan waters.
  •   She looks at the river's edge, next to which is the ford of Tarentum,
  • and the cottages dotted about the lonely place. Just as she was, her
  • hair streaming, she took her stand before the helm and sternly checked
  • 505the hand of the man who steered their way. Stretching her arms from
  • afar to the right bank, she struck the pinewood deck with a frantic
  • foot three times, and hardly, hardly was kept back by Evander's hand
  • from leaping in her haste to set foot on shore.
  •   'Greetings,' she said, 'you gods of the place we have been seeking!
  • And you, a land destined to give new gods to heaven! And you, rivers
  • 510and springs which the welcoming land enjoys, and woodland
  • groves and dancing Naiads! May the sight of you be a good omen for
  • my son and for me, and may the foot that touches the bank be a for-
  • tunate one!
  •   515'Am I mistaken, or will these hills become huge walls and all other
  • lands seek justice from this land? To these hills, one day, the whole
  • world is promised. Who could believe the place has so much destiny?
  • 520And now Dardanian pines will touch these shores; here too a woman
  • will be the cause of a new Mars.* Dear grandson Pallas, why do you
  • put on deadly armour? Put it on! You'll be cut down with no lowly
  • avenger.
  •   'Conquered, Troy, yet you will conquer! Overthrown, you will rise
  • again! That ruin of yours buries the homes of your enemies. Burn
  • 525Neptune's Pergamum, victorious flames! Are not these ashes still
  • loftier than all the world?
  •   'Now pious Aeneas will bring the sacred things and, sacred too, his
  • father. Vesta, receive the gods of Ilium! The time will come when you
  • pg 14530and the world have the same guardian, and your rites will be carried
  • out with a god himself officiating, and the protection of the homeland
  • will rest in Augustan hands.* It is proper that this house should hold
  • the reins of power.
  •   'Then the son and grandson of a god, though he himself may
  • demur, will bear with godlike mind his father's burden.* And just as
  • 535I shall one day be consecrated at eternal altars,* so shall Julia Augusta
  • be a new divine power.'
  •   As with such words she came down to our times, her prophetic
  • tongue stopped short in mid-utterance. Leaving his ship, the exile
  • 540stood on the grass of Latium—fortunate man, to have that as his
  • place of exile! No long time passed. New dwellings were standing,
  • and no one in the hills of Ausonia was greater than the Arcadian.

  • Look! The club-bearing hero brings there the Erythean cattle, having
  • 545measured out his journey the length of the world,* and while a Tegean
  • house offers him hospitality, the cattle roam over the broad fields
  • unguarded.
  •   It was morning. Roused from sleep, the Tirynthian drover is aware
  • that two bulls are missing from the number. Searching, he sees no
  • 550traces of the silent theft. Fierce Cacus had dragged them backward
  • into his cave—Cacus, the terror and disgrace of the Aventine wood,
  • no trivial evil to neighbours and visitors alike.
  •   The man's face was hideous, his body huge with strength to match
  • 555it; Mulciber was this monster's father. For a home he had a vast cave
  • with deep recesses, hidden away where the wild beasts themselves
  • could hardly find it. Skulls and limbs hang fixed above the doorway,
  • and the ground is foul and white with human bones.
  •   The son of Jupiter was going away, having failed to guard part of
  • 560his herd, when the stolen beasts let out a hoarse bellowing noise.
  • 'I accept the recall,' says he, and following the sound the avenger
  • comes through the woods to the impious cave.
  •   The one had blocked the entrance in advance with part of the hill-
  • side broken off. Twice-five yoke of oxen would hardly have shifted
  • 565that barricade. The other heaves with his shoulders (the sky too had
  • rested on them), and causes the vast weight to shift and come top-
  • pling down. Once it was dislodged, the crash struck terror into the
  • heavens themselves, and the ground sank down, struck by the mas-
  • sive weight.
  • pg 15  570To start with, Cacus battles hand to hand, fiercely carrying on the
  • fight with rocks and tree trunks. When these get him nowhere, the
  • coward resorts to his father's arts and belches flames from his roaring
  • mouth. Every time he blows them out you might think Typhoeus is
  • breathing and swift lightning being hurled from Etna's fire. In goes
  • 575Alcides and brings into play his triple-knotted club, which three or
  • four times landed full in the man's face.
  •   He falls and spews out smoke mixed with blood, and beats the
  • ground with his broad chest as he dies. The victor sacrifices one of
  • 580the bulls in question to you, Jupiter, summons Evander and the coun-
  • tryfolk, and sets up an altar to himself, the one called ara maxima,
  • here where part of the city takes its name from the ox.* Nor does
  • Evander's mother fail to tell him that a time is soon coming when the
  • earth will have done with Hercules as one of its own.
  •   585But the fortunate prophetess, most pleasing to the gods as she was
  • in life, so as a goddess has this day for her own in the month of
  • Janus.

  • [13 January] On the Ides in the temple of great Jupiter the chaste
  • priest offers to the flames the entrails of a half-male ram. Every
  • 590province was restored to our People,* and your grandfather was called
  • by the name Augustus. Read through the wax images displayed
  • throughout noble halls: no man has achieved so great a name.
  •   Africa names her conqueror after herself;* another by his title
  • bears witness to the subjected power of Isaurians or Cretans; the
  • 595Numidians make one man proud, Messana another; yet another
  • derived his distinction from the city of Numantia. Germany gave
  • Drusus both death and a name; alas, how short-lived that valour was!*
  • If a Caesar were to look for titles from the vanquished, he would take
  • 600on as many as the nations the great world contains.
  •   Some, famous for one deed, derive their titles from a stripped
  • torque or a raven helpful in battle.* Magnus, your name is the meas-
  • ure of your deeds, but the one who conquered you was greater than
  • 605a name. There's no degree of cognomen higher than the Fabii: that
  • house is called Maximus for its deserts. Yet it is for human distinc-
  • tions that all these are celebrated, whereas this man has a name allied
  • to Jupiter most high.
  •   Our fathers call sacred things 'august', 'august' is what temples are
  • 610called when they have been duly consecrated by the hand of the
  • pg 16priests. Augury too is derived from this word's origin, and whatever
  • Jupiter augments with his power. May he augment our leader's rule,
  • may he augment his years, and may the crown of oak-leaves protect
  • 615your doors.* And under the gods' auspices, may the inheritor of so
  • great a name, with the same omen as his father, undertake the burden
  • of the world.

  • [15 January] When the third Titan looks back at the Ides that have
  • passed, the rites for the Parrhasian goddess will be repeated. For
  • previously carriages used to convey the married ladies of Ausonia
  • 620(I think these too took their name from Evander's mother).*
  •   Soon the privilege is taken away, and every married lady resolves
  • not to renew their ungrateful husbands with any offspring. To avoid
  • giving birth, recklessly with a blind blow she forced out of her womb
  • 625the burden that was growing there. They say the Fathers reproached
  • the wives for daring barbarous acts, but all the same restored to them
  • the cancelled privilege, and they order that now two rituals be held,
  • for boys and for girls equally, in honour of the Tegean mother.
  •   630It is not allowed to bring leather into that shrine, lest dead material
  • defile the pure altars. Whoever you are, if you have a liking for ancient
  • rituals, stand next to the one who offers the prayers: you will hear
  • names you didn't know before. Porrima is being propitiated, and so is
  • Postverta—either your sisters, Maenalian goddess, or the compan-
  • ions 635of your flight. It's thought that one of them sang what had been
  • further back,* and the other whatever was likely to come hereafter.

  • [16 January] Fair goddess, the next day placed you in your snow-
  • white temple, where lofty Moneta lifts her steps on high. Well will
  • 640you look out now, Concord, over the Latin throng; now hallowed
  • hands have established you. Furius, conqueror of the Etruscan people,
  • had vowed an ancient promise, and had paid his vow. The reason was
  • that the crowd had taken up arms and seceded from the Fathers, and
  • Rome herself was afraid of her own resources.
  •    Link 645The new reason is a better one: under your auspices, venerated
  • leader, Germany offers her hair unbound.* From there you have
  • offered up the gifts of a triumphed-over nation, and built a temple for
  • the goddess you yourself worship. This goddess your mother has
  • Link 650established, both in deeds and with an altar*—she who alone was
  • found worthy of the couch of great Jupiter.

  • pg 17When these events have passed, Phoebus, you will leave Capricorn
  • and run your course through the sign of the youth who rules water.

  • [23 January] When the seventh rising sun from here has plunged
  • himself into the waves, there will now be no Lyre shining anywhere in
  • Link 655the sky. On the night coming after this star, the fire that gleams in the
  • middle of Lion's chest will have been submerged.

  • Three or four times I went through the calendars that mark the dates
  • and found no Sowing Day, when the Muse—for she understood—
  • says this to me:
  •    Link 660'This day is announced by proclamation. Why do you look in the
  • calendar for moveable rites? Although the day of the rite isn't fixed,
  • the season is: it's when the seed has been sown and the land is
  • pregnant.'
  •   You bullocks, stand garlanded at your well-filled stall; your work
  • 665will return with the warmth of spring. Let the countryman hang on
  • a post the plough that has served its time; in the cold weather the
  • ground dreads any wound. You overseer, give the earth a rest once the
  • sowing's finished; give the men a rest who have tilled the earth. Let
  • the parish hold a holiday! You farmers, go the rounds of the parish,
  • 670and give the parish's hearths* their yearly cakes.
  •   Let Earth and Ceres, mothers of the crops, be propitiated with
  • their own spelt, and with the entrails of a pregnant cow. Ceres and
  • Earth maintain a joint duty: one gives the crops their origin, the other
  • 675their place. Partners in the task, through whom the old ways were put
  • right and the oak acorn defeated by more beneficial food, glut the
  • eager farmers with boundless crops, that they may reap rewards wor-
  • thy of their cultivation.
  •   680Give uninterrupted growth to the tender sowings, and don't let
  • the fresh green growth be burned through chilly snows. When we
  • sow, make the sky clear with fair winds. When the seed lies hidden,
  • sprinkle it with water from heaven. And take care that birds don't lay
  • waste the fields of Ceres; in armed formation bent on doing harm,
  • 685they are the enemy of cultivation. You ants as well, spare the grain
  • when it's been sown; after the harvest there will be greater abundance
  • of spoil.
  •   In the meantime, let the standing corn grow free from flaky mil-
  • dew, and let none of it be pale through the fault of the weather. Let it
  • pg 18690neither wither and fail nor grow too luxuriant and perish, rank from
  • its own richness. Let the fields be free from darnel that harms the
  • eyes, and may no barren wild oats spring up in the cultivated soil.
  • May the land pay back with huge interest the wheat crops and the
  • barley and the spelt that must twice pass through fire.
  •   695This is what I wish for on your behalf, farmers. Wish for it your-
  • selves, and may each goddess bring the prayers to full effect.

  • Wars for a long time occupied men: the sword was handier than the
  • ploughshare, the ploughing bull yielded to the charger. Hoes used to
  • 700be idle, mattocks were turned into javelins, a helmet was made from
  • the weight of a rake. Thanks be to the gods and to your house! Long
  • now have wars been lying bound in chains beneath your feet. Let the
  • ox come under the plough, and the seed under the ploughed lands.
  • Peace nurtures Ceres. Ceres is the foster-child of Peace.

  • Link 705[27 January] But on this day, the sixth that precedes the coming
  • Kalends, the temple was dedicated to the gods who are Leda's sons.
  • For the brother gods, brothers from the race of gods* founded it near
  • the pools of Juturna.

  • [30 January] The song itself has brought me to the altar of Peace.
  • 710This will be the second day from the end of the month.
  •   Be present, Peace, your neat hair wreathed with branches from
  • Actium, and remain gentle in all the world. Provided enemies are
  • missing, let the reason for a triumph be missing too. You will be for
  • our leaders a glory greater than war.
  •   715May the soldier bear weapons only to keep weapons in check, and
  • may nothing but a procession be sounded by the fierce trumpet. Both
  • nearest and furthest, let the world dread Aeneas' descendants; may
  • Rome be loved by any land that feared her not enough.
  •   You priests, add incense to the flames at the rites of Peace, and let
  • 720the white victim fall, its brow well soaked. Ask the gods, who incline
  • towards pious prayers, that the house which guarantees her may last
  • long years with Peace.

  • But now the first part of my work is finished, and with its month my
  • little book finds its end.

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1.25 bard … a bard's reins: Ovid uses the same appeal when addressing Germanicus in ad 15 (Ex Ponto 4.8.67).
Editor’s Note
1.41–2 marked off by number: i.e. March and April (for Mars and Venus) were followed by May and June, and then by the 'fifth to tenth' months Quintilis (later 'July' after Julius Caesar), Sextilis (later 'August' after Augustus), September, October, November, December.
Editor’s Note
1.47 three words: the legal formula 'do, dico, addico', 'I give, I announce, I assign'.
Editor’s Note
1.53 in the enclosures: the dies comitiales were days when it was permitted to hold voting assemblies of the Roman People (com-itia, literally 'coming together'); the enclosures were where the citizens were divided up into their voting units.
Editor’s Note
1.54 ninth rotation: nundinae were market days. They occurred every eight days, which was every nine days by the Romans' inclusive counting.
Editor’s Note
1.76 Cilician spike: saffron.
Editor’s Note
1.82 on the bright ivory: the magistrate's official chair (sella curulis) was made of ivory.
Editor’s Note
1.93 in my mind: Ovid alludes to the preface of Callimachus' Aetia (1.21–2): 'For when first I had placed a writing-tablet on my knees, Lycian Apollo said to me …'
Editor’s Note
1.103 Chaos: i.e. Ianus, because Greek chaskein and Latin hiare both mean 'to gape'.
Editor’s Note
1.125 the gentle Seasons: the Hōrae, who hold the gates of heaven in Homer (Iliad 5.749, 8.393).
Editor’s Note
1.127 Hence I'm called Janus: the Latin for 'door' is ianua, whence Ianus. See also 1.257, 2.51.
Editor’s Note
1.209 the Fortune of this place: the goddess Fortuna was worshipped at Rome as 'the Fortune of the Roman People, the Quirites', or 'Fortuna Publica'.
Editor’s Note
1.217 your census rating: periodically, at the census, the Roman citizen had to make a sworn declaration of his financial situation before the censors; those with property of over 400,000 sesterces were qualified for selection as Roman Knights (equites), those with over 1,000,000 were qualified to stand for senatorial office; those are the 'honours' Ovid refers to.
Editor’s Note
1.234 sickle-bearing god: Saturn, whose cult-statue showed him carrying a sickle: either because he used it to castrate his father Uranus (Hesiod, Theogony 160–82), or because he was the inventor of agriculture (Plutarch, Roman Questions 42).
Editor’s Note
1.238 the god in hiding: the Latin for 'to hide, lurk, be unobserved' is latere, whence Latium.
Editor’s Note
1.250 to leave the earth: as in Virgil, Georgics 2.473–4; at Metamorphoses 1.149–50 Ovid follows Aratus (Phaenomena 96–136) in making the maiden Astraea the last to leave.
Editor’s Note
1.260 Oebalian Tatius: i.e. Sabine Tatius, since the Sabines were supposedly descended from the Spartans (Plutarch, Romulus 16.1), and Oebalus was a legendary Spartan king.
Editor’s Note
1.261 top of the Citadel: after the abduction of the Sabine women by Romulus, Titus Tatius led a Sabine army to Rome to recover them. They captured the Citadel by treachery: Tarpeia (daughter of the commander in one version of the story) promised to open the gates to them if they gave her what they had on their arms. She meant their bracelets, but they crushed her with their shields.
Editor’s Note
1.294 his mighty grandfather: Aesculapius, as the son of Apollo, was grandson of Jupiter. Ovid does not need to spell out that Germanicus, as the son of Tiberius, is grandson of Augustus.
Editor’s Note
1.307 Pelion's summit: when the Giants made war on Jupiter (3.439–42, 5.35–42), 'they longed to place Ossa on Olympus, and Pelion with its quivering leaves on Ossa' (Homer, Odyssey 11.315–16).
Editor’s Note
1.322 unless he's told: he says 'Agone?', 'do I go on?', whence Agonalia. The rival derivations that follow are from agere, 'to drive' (1.323–4); from agnus, 'lamb' (1.325–6); from the Greek agōnia, 'anguish' (1.327–8); and from the Greek agōn, 'competition' (1.329–30).
Editor’s Note
1.336 from conquered enemies: besides the play on 'victim' and 'victorious', Ovid also derives hostia (sacrificial beast) from hostis (enemy).
Editor’s Note
1.365 his sea-blue mother: the nymph Cyrene: Ovid retells Virgil, Georgics 4.315–558.
Editor’s Note
1.387 instead of a virgin: Iphigeneia, daughter of Agamemnon, was offered by him as a sacrifice to Artemis (Diana), in order to get fair winds for his fleet to Troy.
Editor’s Note
1.391 guardian of the countryside: the phallic god Priapus was thought of as the protector of fields, especially orchards, and also of gardens.
Editor’s Note
1.412 bound with pine: i.e. Pan.
Editor’s Note
1.436 rousing the whole grove: at Metamorphoses 9.347–8 Lotis escapes Priapus' obscene attentions by being turned into a lotus flower.
Editor’s Note
1.453 daughter of Inachus: i.e. Isis, who had a cult site on the Capitol (Suetonius, Domitian 1.2); when the besieging Gauls climbed the cliff of the Capitol in 390 bc, the alarm was raised by the sacred geese of Juno.
Editor’s Note
1.461 leaving him behind: the formula is borrowed from Homer (Iliad 11.1, Odyssey 5.1).
Editor’s Note
1.464 Virgin water: the aqueduct called Aqua Virgo, built by Agrippa in 19 bc to feed his new baths in the Campus Martius. It was so named because when the soldiers were prospecting for a good water supply eight miles east of Rome, a young girl pointed out the springs to them (Frontinus, Aqueducts 10.3).
Editor’s Note
1.467 derived from song: the Latin for 'song, chant, prophecy' is carmen, whence the name of the prophetic goddess Carmentis.
Editor’s Note
1.520 cause of a new Mars: Lavinia, the cause of the war between Aeneas and Turnus in Italy, just as Helen had been of the Trojan war.
Editor’s Note
1.531 in Augustan hands: the pontifex maximus had the ultimate responsibility for Roman religious ritual, and thus for the cult of Vesta; Augustus was elected to the position in 12 bc.
Editor’s Note
1.533 his father's burden: Tiberius (never named in the poem) was by adoption the son of Augustus and grandson of Julius Caesar; after Augustus' death in ad 14 he succeeded to the powers of the principate, with a display of reluctance that may well have been genuine.
Editor’s Note
1.535 consecrated at eternal altars: 'I have discovered that annual public sacrifices are carried out for Evander and for Carmentis, just as for the other heroes and divinities, and I have seen the altars set up for them—that for Carmentis below what is called the Capitolium, near the Porta Carmentalis, and that for Evander by a different hill, called Aventine, not far from the Porta Trigemina' (Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiquities 1.32.2).
Editor’s Note
1.544 the length of the world: Hercules' tenth labour was to capture the cattle of Geryoneus in the far west and bring them back to Greece; on his way south through Italy he stopped at Evander's settlement. Ovid retells Virgil, Aeneid 8.184–279.
Editor’s Note
1.582 takes its name from the ox: the Latin for ox is bos, whence Forum Boarium (see 6.478).
Editor’s Note
1.589 restored to our People: on 13 January 27 bc, the young Caesar 'Octavian' handed back authority to the Roman People after the civil wars, and was granted the honorific name 'Augustus'.
Editor’s Note
1.593 names her conqueror after herself: Publius Scipio Africanus, who defeated the Carthaginians at the battle of Zama in 202 bc. The following references are to Quintus Metellus Creticus in 69–67 bc; Publius Servilius Isauricus in 76–74 bc; Quintus Metellus Numidicus in 109–107 bc; Marcus Valerius Messalla in 263 bc; and Publius Scipio Numantinus in 134–133 bc.
Editor’s Note
1.598 how short-lived that valour was: Nero Claudius Drusus, brother of Tiberius and father of Ovid's addressee in book 1, conquered Germany for Augustus from 12 bc and died there in 9 bc; he was posthumously granted the honorific name Germanicus, which was inherited by his son.
Editor’s Note
1.601–2 derive their titles … battle: Titus Manlius Torquatus got his name from stripping the torque from a Gaul he killed in single combat (361 bc); Marcus Valerius Coruinus got his from a raven sent by the gods to help him kill a Gaul in single combat (349 bc). The following lines refer to Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus ('Pompey the Great') and the Fabii Maximi, whose name meant 'greatest'.
Editor’s Note
1.614 protect your doors: the 'civic crown' of oak-leaves (corona ciuica), granted for saving the lives of Roman citizens, was bestowed on Augustus in 27 bc and hung above the door of his house on the Palatine.
Editor’s Note
1.620 took their name … mother: the Latin for carriage is carpentum, supposedly derived from Carmentis.
Editor’s Note
1.635 further back: although porro means 'ahead', Ovid's derivation of Porrima implies that here, uniquely, it means the opposite.
Editor’s Note
1.646 offers her hair unbound: Tiberius had triumphed over Germany in 7 bc, and used the spoils to rebuild the temple of Concordia.
Editor’s Note
1.649 both in deeds and with an altar: as wife of Augustus, Livia set an example of marital concord, and she also dedicated an altar to Concordia in the 'Portico of Livia' in 7 bc (referred to at 6.637–8).
Editor’s Note
1.670 the parish's hearths: 'parish', despite the anachronism, is the nearest equivalent of pagus, a rural district.
Editor’s Note
1.707 brothers from the race of gods: in ad 6 the ancient temple of the brothers Castor and Pollux was rebuilt and rededicated by Tiberius in the name of himself and his brother Drusus, who had died in 9 bc.
Link Settings


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