David West (ed.), Oxford World's Classics: Horace: The Complete Odes and Epodes
Editor’s NoteEditor’s NoteIVQualem ministrum
- 9nervous as he was; but soon his impetus sent him
- 10swooping down upon the sheepfolds, and now
- 11 his love of feasting and battle have driven him
- 12 to attack the writhing serpent;
- 13or like the lion whelp just driven from the rich milk
- 14of his tawny mother, when the roe-deer intent on grazing
- 15 rich pastures sees him suddenly and dies
- 16 in jaws till then unblooded—
- 17so did the Vindelici see Drusus waging war
- Editor’s Note18at the foot of the Raetian Alps. Whence comes
- 19 their ancient practice of arming
- 20 their right hands with Amazonian axes
- 21I have forborne to ask, for it is not right
- 22to know all things, but their cohorts,
- 23 for long ages victorious far and wide,
- 24 were crushed by a young man's wisdom,
- Editor’s Note25and learned what inborn mind and character
- 26could do, if duly trained in a home blest
- pg 11727 by the gods, and what the fatherly spirit of Augustus
- 28 could achieve for the young Nerones.
- 45Since then the youth of Rome have grown in strength
- 46by constant labour and achievement, the gods
- 47 have stood erect in shrines once ravaged
- 48 by that impious rabble from Carthage,
- Link 53The race which rose in courage from the ashes
- 54of Troy and was tossed on Tuscan seas,
- 55 has carried all the way to the cities of Italy
- 56 its sacraments, its sons, and its aged fathers.
- Link 57Like a holm-oak stripped by cruel double axes
- 58on the fertile dark-leaved slopes of Algidus,
- 59 it suffers loss and death, but gathers
- 60 power and life from the very steel.pg 118
- 69To Carthage I shall not now be sending
- 70proud messages. Fallen, fallen, are all the hopes
- 71 and all the fortune of our people
- 72 now that Hasdrubal is dead.
- Link 73No task is too great for the hands of the Claudians.
- 74Jupiter defends them by his kindly favour,
- 75 and wisdom and care speed them
- 76 through the cutting blades of war.'
This ode celebrates the victory in 15 bc of Nero Claudius Drusus (born 38 bc) and Tiberius Claudius Nero (born 42 bc) over the Vindelici, a people on the north side of the Alps. Drusus and Tiberius were the sons of Livia and her first husband, also called Tiberius Claudius Nero. After Augustus had divorced his first wife, 'because he was heartily sick of her shrewishness', as he himself said, he at once took Livia Drusilla away from her husband although she was pregnant at the time, and 'he loved and cherished her alone his whole life long' (Suetonius, Life of Augustus 62). He also adopted her two sons, Hence the climactic introduction of the word Nerones at the end of the first huge sentence (line 28) and the mention of the Claudians at the end of the ode. After declaring in iv. ii the folly of any attempt to rival Pindar, he now in iv. iv writes an ode in the style of Pindar's victory odes. The daring simile with which the ode begins, the majestic opening sentence, and the detailed picture of the eagle are all declarations of Pindaric intent: see Olympian vii and Pythian iv and i.
1 The lightning-bearer was sent to abduct the cupbearer.
6–10 long since . . . then . . . soon . . . and now: the eagle's life has four phases. Latin similes tend to correspond at many points with the narrative. So here we may remember the death of Drusus' father long since in 33 bc when he was 5 years old, then his quaestorship in 18 bc, soon his easy victory over the Raeti, and now his substantial conquest of the Vindelici in 15 bc, both of them largely pastoral peoples (10, 15). Compare Cassius Dio liv. 22: 'The Raetians, who inhabit a territory between Noricum and Gaul north of the Alps, were overrunning a large part of Gaul . . . and carrying off plunder even from Italy . . . Because of these outrages, then, Augustus first dispatched Drusus against them. He soon routed a body of Raetians which had advanced to meet him . . . Some while later Augustus also sent out Tiberius. Both commanders then invaded Rhaetia' and fought a victorious campaign from Gaul to the Danube. In this ode Horace gives greater credit to Drusus than to Tiberius. Augustus would have approved.
18–22 The parenthesis on local practices, and the refusal to speak further, are both Pindaric. See Isthmian i. 63 and Olympian i. 30.
25–8 Augustus paid great attention to the upbringing of members of his family. He taught his grandsons Gaius and Lucius to read, to swim, and to write the same hand as his own. He made a point of seating them beside him when they dined in his company, and being alongside them when they travelled together (Suetonius, Life of Augustus 64). No doubt he took equal care of his stepsons Drusus and Tiberius.
29–32 brave . . . dove: Horace alludes to the word nero which in Sabine means brave and strenuous in war. The aphorism (gnome in Greek) linking blocks of sense, is Pindaric (see Olympian xii. 7–12). So too is the animal analogy as in 'The red fox and the roaring lion cannot change the nature born in them' (Olympian xi. 19–21).
33 yet training: this calculated rejection of Pindar's insistence on the paramount importance of breeding is a compliment to Augustus' care for his stepsons.
38 Metaurus: in 206 bc, during Hannibal's invasion of Italy in the Second Punic War, when Hasdrubal was hoping to join forces with him in central Italy, he was defeated and killed in a battle near the River Metaurus in Umbria, in which the consul C. Claudius Nero played a distinguished part.
39 bright day: days of good omen were marked white on the Roman calendar.
50–76 Hannibal does not speak in character as a Carthaginian. Lines 53–6 allude to the story of Virgil's Aeneid, in which Aeneas rescues the gods of Troy, his son, and his father from the burning city; lines 61–4 exploit Greek mythology in Hercules' fights with the Hydra, the water-snake of the Lernaean Marsh, and also in the crops of warriors sown and instantly grown in Colchis against Jason and in Thebes against Cadmus; lastly, the eloquent praise of the Claudians is impressive but surprising on the lips of their enemy.
51 the richest triumph: the Latin is opimus triumphus, literally 'a fat triumph'. There was no such thing but the phrase hints at the spolia opima, awarded to any Roman commander who killed the leader of the enemy forces in single combat. It may also hint at the scant flesh the Carthaginians are likely to eat in this contest of deer with wolves.