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Ovid, Fasti

OVID was a Latin poet who flourished in Rome in the late C1st B.C. and early C1st A.D., during the reign of the Emperor Augustus. His works include the Fasti, an incomplete poem in six books describing the first six months of the Roman calendar, richly illustrated with Greco-Roman myths and legends. His two other myth-themed works were the Metamorphoses and the Heroides.

Ovid. Fasti. Translated by Frazer, James George. Loeb Classical Library Volume. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1931.

A revised version of this volume is currently in print and available new from Amazon.com (click on image right for details). In addition to the translation of the Fasti, the book contains the source Latin texts, appendices describing the Roman festivals, Frazer's footnotes and an index of proper names.

NOTE: I have quoted from the A. J. Boyle & R. D. Woodard translation of the Fasti rather than this Loeb volume in the biography pages of Theoi.com.















[1] The order of the calendar throughout the Latin year, its causes, and the starry signs that set beneath the earth and rise again, of these I’ll sing. Caesar Germanicus,1 accept with brow serene this work and steer the passage of my timid bark. Spurn not the honour slight, but come propitious as a god to take the homage vowed to thee. Here shalt thou read afresh of holy rites unearthed from annals old, and learn how every day has earned its own peculiar mark. There too shalt thou find the festivals pertaining to thy house; often the names of thy sire and grandsire will meet thee on the page. The laurels that are theirs and that adorn the pained calendar, thou too shalt win in company with thy brother Drusus. Let others sing of Caesar’s wars; my theme be Caesar’s altars and the days he added to the sacred roll. Approve my effort to rehearse the praises of thy kin, and cast out quaking terrors from my heart. Show thyself mild to me; so shalt thou lend vigour to my song: at thy look my Muse must stand or fall. Submitted to the judgement of a learned prince my page doth shiver, even as if sent to the Clarian god2 to read. On thy accomplished lips what eloquence attends, we have seen, when it took civic arms in defence of trembling prisoners at the bar. And when to poetry thy fancy turns,3 we know how broad the current of thy genius flows. If it is right and lawful, guide a poet’s reins, thyself a poet, that under thy auspices the year may run its entire course happy.

[27] When the founder of the City was setting the calendar in order, he ordained that there should be twice five months in his year. To be sure, Romulus, thou wert better versed in swords than stars, and to conquer thy neighbours was thy main concern. Yet, Caesar, there is a reason that may have moved him, and for his error he might urge a plea. The time that suffices for a child to come forth from its mother’s womb, he deemed sufficient for a year. For just so many months after her husband’s funeral a wife supports the signs of sorrow in her widowed home. These things, then, Quirinus in his striped gown had in view, when to the simple folk he gave his laws to regulate the year. The month of Mars was the first, and that of Venus the second; she was the author of the race, and he his sire. The third month took its name from the old, and the fourth from the young4; the months that trooped after were distinguished by numbers. But Numa overlooked not Janus and the ancestral shades, and so to the ancient months he prefixed two.

[45] But that you may not be unversed in the rules of the different days, not every morning brings the same round of duty. That day is unlawful on which the three words may not be spoken5; that day is lawful on which the courts of law are open. But you must not suppose that every day keeps its rules throughout its whole length: a lawful day may have been unlawful in the morning; for as soon as the inwards have been offered to the god, all words may lawfully be spoken, and the honoured praetor enjoys free speech. There are days, too, on which the people may lawfully be penned in the polling-booths6; there are also days that come round ever in a cycle of nine,7 The worship of Juno claims Ausonia’s Kalends: on the Ides a bigger white ewe-land falls to Jupiter: the Nones lack a guardian god. The day next after all these days – make no mistake – is black.8 The omen is drawn from the event; for on those days Rome suffered grievous losses under the frown of Marsh. These remarks apply to the whole calendar; I have made them once for all, that I may not be forced to break the thread of my discourse.

KAL. IAN. 1st

[63] See Janus comes, Germanicus, the herald of a lucky year to thee,9 and in my song takes precedence. Two-headed Janus, opener of the softly gliding year, thou who alone of the celestials dost behold thy back, O come propitious to the chiefs whose toil ensures peace to the fruitful earth, peace to the sea. And come propitious to thy senators and to the people of Quirinus, and by thy nod unbar the temples white. A happy morning dawns. Fair speech, fair thoughts I crave! Now must good words be spoken on a good day. Let ears be rid of suits, and banish mad disputes forthwith! Thou rancorous tongue, adjourn thy wagging! Dost mark how the sky sparkles with fragrant fires, and how Cilician saffron crackles on the kindled hearths? The flame with its own splendour beats upon the temples’ gold roof. In spotless garments the procession wends to the Tarpeian towers10; the people wear the colour of festal day; and now new rods of office lead the way, new purple gleams, and a new weight is felt by the far-sewn ivory chair. Heifers, unbroken to the yoke, offer their necks to the axe, heifers that cropped the sward on the true Faliscan plains. When from his citadel Jupiter looks abroad on the whole globe, naught but the Roman empire meets his eye. Hail, happy day! and evermore return still happier, day worthy to be kept holy by a people the masters of the world.

[89] But what god am I to say thou art, Janus of double-shape? for Greece hath no divinity like thee. The reason, too, unfold why alone of all the heavenly one thou doest see both back and front. While thus I mused, the tablets in my hand, methought the house grew brighter than it was before. Then of a sudden sacred Janus, in his two-headed shape, offered his double visage to my wondering eyes. A terror seized me, I felt my hair stiffen with fear, and with a sudden chill my bosom froze. He, holding in his right hand his staff and in his left the key, to me these accents uttered from his front mouth: “Dismiss thy fear, thy answer take, laborious singer of the days, and mark my words. The ancients called me Chaos,11 for a being from of old am I; observe the long, long ages of which my song shall tell. Yon lucid air and the three others bodies, fire, water, earth, were huddled all in one. When once, through the discord of its elements, the mass parted, dissolved, and went in diverse ways to seek new homes, flame sought the height, air filled the nearer space, while earth and sea sank in the middle deep. ‘Twas then that I, till that time a mere ball, a shapeless lump, assumed the face and members of a god. And even now, small index of my erst chaotic state, my front and back look just the same. Now hear the other reason for the shape you ask about, that you may know it and my office too. Whate’er you see anywhere – sky, sea, clouds, earth – all things are closed and opened by my hand. The guardianship of this vast universe is in my hands alone, and none but me may rule the wheeling pole. When I choose to send forth peace from tranquil halls, she freely walks the ways unhindered. But with blood and slaughter the whole world would welter, did not the bars unbending hold the barricadoed wars. I sit at heaven’s gate with the gentle Hours; my office regulates the goings and the comings of Jupiter himself. Hence Janus is my name12; but when the priest offers me a barley cake and spelt mingled with salt, you would laugh to hear the names he gives me, for on his sacrificial lips I’m now Patulcius and now Clusius called.13 Thus rude antiquity made shift to work my changing functions with the change of name. My business I have told. Now learn the reason for my shape, though already you perceive it in part. Every door has two fronts, this way and that, whereof one faces the people and the other the house-god; and just as your human porter, seated at the threshold of the house-door, sees who goes out and in, so I, the porter of the heavenly court, behold at once both East and West. Thou seest Hecate’s faces turned in three directions that she may guard the crossroads where they branch three several ways; and lest I should lose time by twisting my neck, I am free to look both ways without budging.”

[145] Thus spake the god, and by a look promised that, were I fain to ask him more, he would not grudge reply. I plucked up courage, thanked the god composedly, and with eyes turned to the ground I spoke in few: “Come, say, why doth the new year begin in the cold season? Better had it begun in spring. Then all things flower, then time renews his age, and new from out the teeming vine-shoot swells the bud; in fresh-formed leaves the tree is draped, and from earth’s surface sprouts the blade of corn. Birds with their warblings winnow the warm air; the cattle frisk and wanton in the meads. Then suns are sweet, forth comes the stranger swallow and builds her clayey structure under the loft beam. Then the field submits to tillage and is renewed by the plough. That is the season which rightly should have been called New Year.”

[161] Thus questioned I at length; he answered prompt and tersely, throwing his words into twain verses, thus: “Midwinter is the beginning of the new sun and the end of the old one. Phoebus and the year take their start from the same point.”

[165] Next I wondered why the first day was not exempt from lawsuits. “Hear the cause,” quoth Janus. “I assigned the birthday of the year to business, lest from the auspice idleness infects the whole. For the same reason every man just handsels his calling, nor does more than but attest his usual work.”

[171] Next I asked, “Why, Janus, while I propitiate other divinities, do I bring incense and wine first of all to thee?” Quoth he, “It is that through me, who guard the thresholds, you may have access to whatever gods you please.” “But why are glad words spoken on thy Kalends? and why do we give and receive good wishes?” Then, leaning on the staff he bore in his right hand, the god replied: “Omens are wont,” said he, “to wait upon beginnings. At the first word ye prick up anxious ears; from the first bird he sees the augur takes his cue. (On the first day) the temples and ears of the gods are open, the tongue utters no fruitless prayers, and words have weight.” So Janus ended. I kept not silence long, but caught up his last words with my own: “What mean the gifts of dates and wrinkled figs?” I said, “and honey glistering in snow-white jar?” “It is for the sake of the omen,” said he, “that the event may answer to the flavour, and that the whole course of the years may be sweet, like its beginning.”

[189] “I see,” said I, “why sweets are given. But tell me, too, the reason for the gift of cash, that I may be sure of every point in thy festival.” The god laughed, and “Oh,” quoth he, “how little you know about the age you live in if you fancy that honey is sweeter than cash in hand! Why, even in Saturn’s reign I hardly saw a soul who did not in his heart find lucre sweet. As time went on the love of pelf grew, till now it is at its height and scarcely can go farther. Wealth is more valued now than in the years of old, when the people were poor, when Rome was new, when a small hut sufficed to lodge Quirinus,14 son of Mars, and the river sedge supplied a scanty bedding. Jupiter had hardly room to stand upright in his cramped shrine, and in his right hand was a thunderbolt of clay. They decked with leaves the Capitol, which now they deck with gems, and the senator himself fed his own sheep. It was no shame to take one’s peaceful rest on straw and to pillow the head on hay. The praetor put aside the plough to judge the people,15 and to own a light piece of silver plate was a crime. But ever since the Fortune of this place has raised her head on high, and Rome with her crest has touched the topmost gods, riches have grown and with them the frantic lust of wealth, and they who have the most possessions still crave for more. They strive to gain that they may waste, and then to repair their wasted fortunes, and thus they feed their vices by ringing the changes on them. So he whose belly swells with dropsy, the more he drinks, the thirstier he grows. Nowadays nothing but money counts: fortune brings honours, friendships; the poor man everywhere lies low. And still you ask me, What’s the use of omens drawn from cash, and why do ancient coppers tickle your palms! In the olden times the gifts were coppers, but now gold gives a better omen, and the old-fashioned coin has been vanquished and made way for the new. We, too, are tickled by golden temples, though we approve of the ancient ones: such majesty befits a gold. We praise the past, but use the present years; wet are both customs worthy to be kept.”

[227] He closed his admonitions; but again in calm speech, as before, I addressed the god who bears the key: “I have learned much indeed; but why is the figure of a ship stamped on one side of the copper coin,16 and a two-headed figure on the other?” “Under the double image,” said he, “you might have recognized myself, if the long lapse of time had not worn the type away. Now for the reason of the ship. In a ship the sickle-bearing god came to the Tuscan river after wandering over the world. I remember how Saturn was received in this land: he had been driven by Jupiter from the celestial realms. From that time the folk long retained the name of Saturnian, and the country, too, was called Latium from the hiding (latente) of the god. But a pious posterity inscribed a ship on the copper money to commemorate the coming of the stranger god. Myself inhabited the ground whose left side17 is lapped by sandy Tiber’s glassy wave. Here, where now is Rome, green forest stood unfilled, and all this mighty region was but pasture for a few kine. My castle was the hill which the present age is accustomed to call by my name and dub Janiculum. I reigned in days when earth could bear with gods, and divinities moved freely in the abodes of men. The sin of mortals had not yet put Justice to flight (she was the last of the celestials to forsake the earth): honour’s self, not fear, ruled the people without appeal to force: toil there was none to expound the right to righteous men. I had naught to do with war: guardian was I of peace and doorways, and these,” quoth he, showing the key, “these be the arms I bear.”

[255] The god now closed his lips. Then I thus opened mine, using my voice to lure the voice divine. “Since there are so many archwas, why dost thou stand thus consecrated in one alone, here where thou hast a temple adjoining two forums18? ”Stroking with his hand the beard that fell upon his breast, he straightway told the warlike deeds of Oebalian19 Tatius, and how the traitress keeper,20 bribed by armlets, led the silent Sabines the way to the summit of the citadel. “From there,” quoth he, “a steep slope, the same by which even now ye descend, led down into the valleys and the forums. And now the foe had reached the gate from which Saturn’s envious daughter21 had removed the opposing bars. Fearing to engage in fight with so redoubtable a deity, I slyly had recourse to a device of my own craft, and by the power I wield I opened the fountains’ mouths and spouted out a sudden gush of water; but first I threw sulphur into the water channels, that the boiling liquid might bar the way against Tatius. This service done, and the Sabines repulsed, the place now rendered safe, resumed its former aspect. An altar was set up for me, joined to a little shrine: in its flames it burns the sacrificial spelt and cake.”

[277] “But why hide in time of peace and open thy gates when men take arms?“ Without delay he rendered me the reason that I sought. “My fate, unbarred, stands open wide, that when the people hath gone forth to war, the road for their return may be open too. I bar the doors in time of peace, lest peace depart, and under Caesar’s star I shall be long shut up.” He spoke, and lifting up his eyes that saw in opposite directions, he surveyed all that the whole world held. Peace reigned, and on the Rhine already, Germanicus, they triumph had been won, when the river yielded up her waters to thy slaves.22 O Janus, let the pace and the ministers of peace endure for aye, and grant that its author may never forgot his handiwork.

[289] But now for what I have been allowed to learn from the calendar itself. On this day the senate dedicated two temples. The island, which the river hems in with its parted waters, received him whom the nymph Coronis bore to Phoebus.23 Jupiter has his share of the site. One place found room for both, and the temples of the mighty grandsire and the grandson are joined together.

III. NON. 3rd

[295] What is to stop me if I should tell also of the stars, their risings and their settings? That was part of my promise. Ah happy souls, who first took thought to know these things and scale the heavenly mansions! Well may we believe they lifted up their heads alike above the frailties and the homes of men. Their lofty natures neither love nor wine did breaks, nor civil business nor the toils of war; no low ambition tempted them, nor glory’s tinsel sheen, nor lust of hoarded pelf. The distant stars they brought within our ken, and heaven itself made subject to their wit. So man may reach the sky: no need that Ossa on Olympus should be piled, and that Pelion’s peak should touch the topmost stars. Under these leaders we, too, will plum the sky and give their own days to the wandering signs.

[311] Therefore when the third night before the Nones has come, and the ground is sprinkled and drenched with heavenly dew, you shall look in vain for the claws of the eight-footed Crag: headlong he’ll plunge beneath the western waves.24

NON. 5th

[315] Should the Nones be at hand, showers discharged from sable clouds will be your sign, at the rising of the Lyre.25

V. ID. 9th

[317] Add four successive days to the Nones, and on the Agonal morn Janus must be appeased.26 The day may take its name from the attendant who, in garb succinct, fells at a blow the victim of the gods; for just before he dyes the brandished knife in the warm blood, he always asks if he is to proceed (agatne), and not until he is bidden does he proceed. Some believe that the day is named Agonal from the driving of the victims, because the sheep do not come but are driven (agantur) to the altar. Others think the ancients called this festival Agnalia (“festival of the lambs”), dropping a single letter from its proper place. Or perhaps, because the victim fears the knives mirrored in the water before they strike, the day may have been so styled from the brute’s agony. It may be also that he day took a Greek name from the games (agones) which were wont to be held in olden times. In the ancient tongue, too, agonia meant a sheep, and that last, in my judgement, is the true reason of the name. And though that is not certain, still the King of the Sacred Rites is bound to placate the divinities by sacrificing the mate of a woolly ewe. The victim is so called because it is felled by a victorious right hand; the hostia (sacrificial victim) takes its name from conquered hostes (foes).

[337] Of old the means to win the goodwill of gods for man were spelt and the sparkling grains of pure salt. As yet no foreign ship. As yet no foreign ship had brought across the ocean waves the bark-stilled myrrh; the Euphrates had sent no incense, India no balm. And the red saffron’s filaments were still unknown. The altar was content to smoke with savine, and the laurel burned with crackling loud. To garlands woven of meadow flowers he who could violets add was rich indeed. The knife that now lays bare the bowels of the slaughtered bull had in the sacred rites no work to do. The first to joy in blood of greedy sow was Ceres, who avenged her crops by the just slaughter of the guilty beast; for she learned that in early spring the grain, milky with sweet juices, had been rooted up by the snout of bristly swine. The swine was punished: terrified by her example, billy-goat, you should have spared the vine-shoot. Watching a he-goat nibbling at a vine somebody vented his ill-humour in these words: “Pray gnaw the vine, thou he-goat; yet when thou standest at the altar, the vine will yield something that can be sprinkled on thy horns.” The words came true. Thy foe, Bacchus, is given up to thee for punishment, and wine out-poured is sprinkled on his horns. The sow suffered for her crime, and the she-goat suffered, too, for hers.

[361] But the ox and you, ye peaceful sheep, what was your sing? Aristaeus wept because he saw his bees killed, root and branch, and the unfinished hives abandoned. Scarce could his azure mother27 soothe his grief, when to her speech she these last words subjoined. “Stay, boy, thy tears! Thy losses Proteus will retrieve and will show thee how to make good all that is gone. But lest he elude thee by shifting his shape, see that strong bonds do shackle both his hands.” The stripling made his way to the seer, and bound fast the arms, relaxed in slumber, of the Old Man of the Sea. By his art the wizard changed his real figure for a semblance false: but soon, by the cords mastered, to his true form returned. Then lifting up his dripping face and azure beard. “Dost ask,” said he, “in what way thou mayest repair the loss of thy bees? Kill a heifer and bury its carcase in the earth. The buried heifer will give the thing thou seekest of me.” The shepherd did his bidding: swarms of bees hive out of the putride beeve: one life snuffed out brought to the birth a thousand.

[381] Death claims the sheep: shameless it cropped the holy herbs which a pious beldame used to offer to the rural gods. What creature is safe, when even the wool-bearing sheep and ploughing oxen lay down their lives upon the altars? Persia propitiates the ray-crowned Hyperion28 with a horse, for no sluggard victim may be offered to the swift god. Because a hind was once sacrificed to the twin Diana in room of a maiden,29 a hind is even now felled for her, though not in a maiden’s stead. I have seen the entrails of a dog offered to the Goddess of the Triple Roads (Trivia)30 by the Sapaeans and those whose homes border on thy snows, Mount Haemus. A young ass, too, is slain in honour of the stiff guardian32 of the country-side: the cause is shameful, but beseems the god.

[393] A feast of ivy-berried Bacchus, thou wast wont to hold, O Greece, a feast which the third winter brought about at the appointed time.31 Thither came, too, the gods who wait upon Lyaeus and all the jocund crew, Pans and young amorous Satyrs, and goddesses that haunt rivers and lonely wilds. Thither, too, came old Silenus on an ass with hollow back, and the Crimson One32 who by his lewd image scares the timid birds. They lit upon a dingle meet for joyous wassails, and there they laid them down on grassy beds. Liber bestowed the wine: each had brought his garland: a stream supplied water in plenty to dilute the wine. Naiads were there, some with flowing locks uncombed, others with tresses neatly bound. One waits upon the revellers with tunic tucked above her knee; another through her ripped robe reveals her breast; another bares her shoulder; one trails her skirt along the grass; no shoes cumber their dainty feet. So some in Satyrs kindle amorous fires, and some in thee, whose brows are wreathed with pine.33 Thou too, Silenus, burnest for the nymphs, insatiate lecher! ‘Tis wantonness alone forbids thee to grow old.

[415] But crimson Priapus, glory and guard of gardens, lost his heart to Lotis, singled out of the whole bevy. For her he longs, for her he prays, for her alone he sighs; he gives her signs by nodding and woos by making marks. But the lovely are disdainful, and pride on beauty waits: she flouted him and cast at him a scornful look. ‘Twas night, and wine makes drowsy, so here and there they lay overcome with sleep. Weary with frolic, Lotis, the farthest of them all, sank to her rest on the grassy ground under the maple boughs. Up rose her lover, and holding his breath stole secretly and silently on tiptoe to the fair. When he reached the lonely pallet of the snow-white nymph, he drew his breath so warily that no a sound escaped. And no upon the sward fast by he balanced on his toes, but still the nymph slept sound. He joyed, and drawing from off her feet the quilt, he set him, happy lover! to snatch the wished-for hour. But lo, Silenus saddle-ass, with raucous weasand braying, gave out an ill-timed roar! The nymph in terror started up, pushed off Priapus, and flying gave the alarm to the whole grove; but, ready to enter the lists of love, the god in the moonlight was laughed at by all. The author of the hubbub paid for it with his life, and he is now the victim dear to the Hellespontine god.

[441] Ye birds, the solace of the countryside, ye haunters of the woods, ye harmless race, that built your nests and warm your eggs under your plumes, and with glib voices utter descant sweet, ye were inviolate once; but all that avails not, because ye are accused of chattering,34 and the gods opine that ye reveal their thoughts. Nor is the charge untrue; for the nearer ye are to the gods, the truer are the signs ye give, whether by wing or voice. Long time immune, the brood of birds was slaughtered then at last, and the gods gloated on the guts of the talebearing fowls. That is why the white dove, torn from her mate, is often burned upon Idalian35 hearths; nor did his saving of the Capitol protect the goose from yielding up his liver on a charger to thee, daughter of Inachus36; by night to Goddess Night the crested owl is slain, because with wakeful notes he summons up the warm day.

[457] Meanwhile the bright constellation of the Dolphin rises above the sea, and from his native water puts forth his face.37

IV. ID. 10th

[459] The morrow marks midwinter; what remains of winter will be equal to what has gone before.

III. ID. 11th

[461] When next his wife quits Tithonus’ couch, she shall behold the rite pontifical of the Arcadian goddess.38 Thee, too, sister of Turnus,39 the same morn enshrined t the spot where the Virgin Water40 circles the Field of Mars. Whence shall I learn the causes and manner of these rites? Who will pilot my bark in mid ocean? Thyself, enlighten me, O thou (Carmentis), who dost take thy name from song (carmen), be kind to my emprise, lest I should fail to give thee honour due. The land that rose before the moon (if we may take its word for it) derives its name from the great Arcas.41 Of that land came Evander, who, though illustrious on both sides, yet was the nobler for the blood of his sacred mother (Carmentis), who, soon as her soul conceived the heavenly fire, chanted with voice inspired by the god prophetic strains.

[475] She had foretold that troubles were at hand for her son and for herself, and much beside she had forecast, which time proved true. Too true, indeed, the mother proved when, banished with her, the youth forsook Arcaida and the god of his Parrhasian42 home. He wept, but she, his mother, said, “Check, prithee, thy tears; bear like a man thy fortune. ‘Twas fated so; no fault of thine has banished thee, the deed is God’s; an offended god has driven thee from the city. What thou dost endure is not the punishment of sin but heaven’s ire: in great misfortunes it is something to be unstained by crime. As each man’s conscience is, so doth it, for his deeds, conceive within his breast or hope or fear. Nor mourn these sufferings as if thou wert the first to suffer; such storms have whelmed the mighty. Cadmus endured the same, he, who of old, driven from Tyrian coasts, halted an exile on Aonian soil.43 Tydeus endured the same, and Pagasaean Jason too, and others more of whom it were long to tell. Every land is to the brave his country, as to the fish the sea, as to the bird whatever place stands open in the void world. Nor does the wild tempest rage the whole year long; for thee, too, trust me, there will be spring-time yet.”

[497] Cheered by his parent’s words, Evander cleft in his ship the billows and made the Hesperian land. And now at sage Carmentis’ bidding he had steered his bark into a river and was stemming the Tuscan stream. Carmentis spied the river bank, where it is bordered by Tarentum’s shallow pool44; she, also spied the huts dotted about these solitudes. And even as she was, with streaming hair she stood before the poop and sternly stayed the steersman’s hand; then stretching out her arms to the right bank, she thrice stamped wildly on the pinewood deck. Hardly, yea hardly did Evander hold her back from leaping in her haste to land. “All hail!” she cried, “Gods of the Promised Land! And hail! thou country that shalt give new gods to heaven! Hail rivers and fountains, which to this hospitable land pertain! Hail nymphs of the groves and bands of Naiads! May the sight of you be of good omen to my son and me! And happy be the foot that touches yonder bank! Am I deceived? or shall yon hills by stately walls be hid, and from this spot of earth, shall all the earth take law? The promise runs that he whole world shall one day belong to yonder mountains. Who could believe that the place was big with such a fate? Anon Dardanian barks shall ground upon these shores: here, too, a woman45 shall be the source of a new war. Pallas, my grandson dear, why don those fatal arms?46 Ah, put them on! By no mean champion shalt thou be avenged. Howbeit, conquered Troy, thou shalt yet conquer and from they fall shalt rise again: thy very ruin overwhelms the dwellings of thy foes. Ye conquering flames, consume Neptunian Pergamum! Shall that prevent its ashes from o’ertopping all the world? Anon pious Aeneas shall hither bring his sacred burden, and, burden no whit less sacred, his own sire; Vesta, admit the gods of Ilium!47 The time will come when the same hand shall guard you and the world, and when a god shall in his own person hold he sacred rites.48 In the line of Augustus the guardianship of the fatherland shall abide: it is decreed that his house shall hold the reins of empire. Thereafter the god’s son and grandson, despite his own refusal, shall support with heavenly mind the weight his father bore; and even as I myself shall one day be sanctified at eternal altars, so shall Julia Augusta49 be a new divinity.” When in these words she had brought her story down to our own time, her prophetic tongue stopped short at the middle of her discourse. Landing from his ships, Evander stood an exile on the Latian sward, fortunate indeed to have that ground for place of exile! But little time elapsed until new dwellings rose, and of all the Ausonian mounts not one surpassed the Arcadian.50

[543] Lo! the club-bearer51 hither drives the Erythean kine; a long road he had travelled across the world; and while he is kindly entertained in the Tegean house, the kine unguarded stray about the spacious fields. When morning broke, roused from his sleep the Tirynthian drover perceived that of the tale two bulls were missing. He sought but found no tracks of the noiselessly stolen beasts. Fierce Cacus had dragged the bulls backwards into his cave, Cacus the terror and shame of the Aventine wood, to neighbours and to strangers no small curse. Grim was his aspect, huge his frame, his strength to match; the monster’s sire was Mulciber. For house he had a cavern vast with long recesses, hidden so that hardly could the wild beasts themselves discover it. Above the doorway skulls and arms of men were fastened pendent, while the ground bristled and bleached with human bones. The son of Jove was going off with the loss of part of the herd, when the stolen cattle lowed hoarsely. “I accept the recall,” quoth he, and following the sound he came, intent on vengeance, through the woods to the unholy cave. But the robber had blocked the entrance with a barricade of crag, scarcely could twice five yoke of oxen have stirred that mass. Hercules shoved it with his shoulders – the shoulders on which the sky itself had once rested – and by the shock he loosened the vast bulk. Its overthrow was followed by a crash that startled even the upper air, and the battered ground sank under the ponderous weight. At first Cacus fought hand to hand, and waged battle fierce with rocks and logs. But when these naught availed him, worsted he had recourse to his sire’s tricks, and belched flames from his roaring mouth; at every blast you might deem that Typhoeus blew, and that a sudden blaze shot out from Etna’s fires.52 But Alcides was too quick for him; up he heaved the triple-knotted club, and brought it thrice, yea four times down full on the foeman’s face. He fell, vomiting smoke mixed with blood, and dying beat the ground with his broad breast.

[579] Of the bulls the victor sacrificed one to thee, Jupiter, and invited Evander and the swains to the feast; and for himself he set up the altar which is called the Greatest at the spot where a part of the City takes its name from an ox. Nor did Evander’s mother hide the truth that the time was at hand when earth would have done with its hero Hercules. But the happy prophetess, even as she lived in highest favour with the gods, so now herself a goddess hath she this day in Janus’ month all to herself.

IDUS. 13th

[587] On the Ides the chaste priest53 offers in the flames the bowels of a gelded ram in the temple of great Jove. On that day, too, every province was restored to our people, and thy grandsire received the title of Augustus. Peruse the legends graved on the waxen images ranged round noble halls; titles so lofty never were bestowed on man before. Africa named her conqueror after herself; another by his style attests Isaurian or Cretan power subdued: one gloried in Numidians laid low, another in Messana, while from the city of Numantia yet a third drew his renown. To Germany did Drusus54 owe his title and his death: woe’s me! that all that goodness should be so short-lived! Did Caesar take his titles from the vanquished, then must he assume as many names as there are tribes in the whole world. Some have earned fame from single enemies, taking their names either from a necklace won or from a raven confederate in the fight.55 Pompey, thy name of Great is the measure of thy deeds, but he who conquered thee was greater still in name. No surname can rank above that which the Fabii bear: for their services their family was called the Greatest.56 But yet the honours bestowed on all of these are human: Augustus alone bears a name that ranks with Jove supreme. Holy things are by the fathers called august: the epithet august is applied to temples that have been duly dedicated by priestly hands: from the same root come augury and all such augmentation as Jupiter grants by his power. May he augment our prince’s empire and augment his years, and may an oaken crown57 protect your doors. Under the auspices of the gods may the same omens, which attended the sire, wait upon the heir of so great a surname, when he takes upon himself the burden of the world.


[617] When the third sun shall look back on the past Ides, the sacred rites will be repeated in honour of the Parrhasian goddess.58 For of old Ausonian matrons drove in carriages (carpenta), which I ween were also called after Evander’s parent (Carmentis). Afterwards the honour was taken from them, and every matron vowed not to propagate the line of her ungrateful spouse by giving birth to offspring; and lest she should bear children, she rashly by a secret thrust discharged the growing burden from her womb. They say the senate reprimanded the wives for their daring cruelty, but restored the right of which they had been mulcted; and they ordained that now two festivals be held alike in honour of the Teagean mother to promote the birth of boys and girls. It is not lawful to bring leather into her shrine, lest her pure hearths should be defiled by skins of slaughtered beasts. If thou hast any love of ancient rites, attend the prayers offered to her: you shall hear names you never knew before. Porrima and Postverta are palacated, whether they be thy sisters, Maenalian goddess,59 or companions of thine exile: the one is thought to have sung of what was long ago (porro), the other of what should come to pass hereafter (venturum postmodo).

XVII. KAL. 16th

[637] Fair goddess, thee the next morning set in thy snow-white fane, where high Moneta lifts her steps sublime60: well shalt thou, Concord, o’ersee the Latin throng, now that consecrated hands have stablished thee. Furius the vanquisher of the Etruscan folk, had vowed the ancient temple, and he kept his vow.61 The cause was that the common folk had taken up arms and seceded from the nobles, and Rome dreaded her own puissance. The recent cause was better: Germany presented her dishevelled locks at thy command, leader revered; hence didst thou offer the spoil of the vanquished people, and didst build a temple to that goddess whom thou thyself dost worship. That goddess thy mother62 did stablish both by her life and by an altar, she who alone was found worthy to share the bed of mighty Jupiter.

XVI. KAL. 17th

[651] When that is over, thou wilt quit Capricorn, O Phoebus, and wilt take thy course through the sign of the youth who carries water (Aquarius).

X. KAL. 23rd

[653] When the seventh sun, reckoned from that day, shall have set in the sea, the Lyre will shine no longer anywhere in the sky.63

IX. KAL. 24th

[655] After the setting of that constellation (the Lyre), the fire that glitters in the middle of the Lion’s breast will be sunk below the horizon at nightfall.64

[657] Three or four times I searched the record of the calendar, but nowhere did I find the Day of Sowing. Seeing me puzzled, the Muse observed, “That day is appointed by the priests. Why look for movable feasts in the calendar? And while the day of the feast may shift, the season is fixed: it is when the seed has been shown and field fertilized.” Ye steers, take your stand with garlands on your heads at the full crib: with the warm spring your toil will return. Let the swain hang up on the post the plough that has earned its rest: in winter the ground fears every wound inflicted by the share. Thou bailiff, when the sowing is done, let the land rest, and let the men who tilled the land rest also. Let the parish keep festival; purify the parish, ye husbandmen, and offer the yearly cakes on the parish hearths. Propitiate Earth and Ceres, the mothers of the corn, with their own spelt and flesh of teeming sow.

[673] Ceres and Earth discharge a common function: the one lends to the corn its vital force, the other lends it room. “Parners in labour, ye who reformed the days of old and replaced acorns of the oak by food more profitable, O satisfy the eager husbandmen with boundless crops, that they may reap the due reward of their tillage. O grant unto the tender seeds unbroken increase; let no the sprouting shoot be nipped by chilly snows. When we sow, let the sky be cloudless and winds blow fair; but when the seed is buried, then sprinkle it with water from the sky. Forbid the birds – pests of the tilled land – to devastate the fields of corn with their destructive flocks. You too, ye ants, O spare the sown grain; so shall ye have a more abundant booty after the harvest. Meantime may no scurfy mildew blight the growing crop nor foul weather blanch it to a sickly hue; may it neither shrivel up nor swell unduly and be choked by its own rank luxuriance. May the fields be free from darnel, that spoils the eyes,65 and may no barren wild oats spring from the tilled ground. May the farm yield, with manifold interest, crops of wheat, of barley, and of spelt, which twice shall bear the fire.”66 These petitions I offer for you, ye husbandmen, and do ye offer them yourselves, and may the two goddesses grant our prayers. Long time did wars engage mankind; the sword was handier than the share; the plough ox was ousted by the charger; hoes were idle, mattocks were turned into javelins, and a helmet was made out of a heavy rake. Thanks be to the gods and to thy house! Under your foot long time War has been laid in chains. Yoke the ox, commit the seed to the ploughed earth. Peace is the nurse of Ceres, and Ceres is the foster-child of Peace.

VI. KAL. 27th

[705] On the sixth day before the coming Kalends a temple was dedicated to Leda’s divine sons67; brothers of the race of the gods founded that temple for the brother gods beside Juturna’s68 pools.

III. KAL. 30th

[709] The course of my song hath led me to the altar of Peace. The day will be the second from the end of the month. Come, Peace, they dainty tresses wreathed with Actian69 laurels, and let thy gentle presence abide in the whole world. So but there be nor foes nor food for triumphs, thou shalt be unto our chiefs a glory greater than war. May the soldier bear arms only to check the armed aggressor, and may the fierce trumpet blare for naught but solemn pomp! May the world near and far dread the sons of Aeneas, and if there be any land that feared not Rome, may it love Rome instead! Add incense, ye priests, to the flames that burn on the alter of Peace, let a white victim fall with wine anointed brow, and ask of the gods, who lend a favouring ear to pious prayers, that the house, which is the warranty of peace, with peace may last for ever.

[723] But now the first part of my labour is done, and with the month of which it treats the book doth end.

1. Son of Drusus the brother of Tiberius, who adopted his nephew A.D. 4. Thus his pater (1. 10) is Tiberius, his avus Augustus. Drusus, called his brother (1. 12), was his first cousin, the son of Tiberius. By Caesar (1. 13) is meant Augustus.
2. Apollo of Clarios in Ionia, where he had an oracle.
3. His translation of the Phaenomena of Aratus survives in part (Poet. Lat. Minores, i. p. 142).
4. Maius from maiores, Iunius from iuvenes. The rest are Quintilis, Sextilis (August), September, etc.
5. Do, dico, addico the praetor’s formula, “Do bonorum possessionem, dico ius, addico id de quo ambigitur.” In the calendars, lawful days were marked by F (fastus), unlawful by N (nefastus), the half-days NP (nefastus parte), or EN (endotercisi, intercisi) where the business-part came in the middle.
6. Called comitiales, marked C in the calendar.
7. The nundinae, or market-days. The week was of eight days, and the eight was the nundinae, counting from the last nundinae inclusively. The whole week was called internundinum. Similarly, the Nones were eight (not nine) days before the Ides. The eight days of the Roman week were marked in the calendar with the letters A to H; but Jan. 1 was always marked A, and the other days followed in order, whenever nundinae might fall.
8. Ill-omened; a day on which no action should be taken; much stronger than nefastus.
9. Probably A.D. 15, 16, or 17, when he was campaigning in Germany.
10. The new consuls go in procession to the Capitol.

11. Some derived Janus from haire, as khaos from khaskein.
12. As from eo; so Cicero suggests, for Eanus (Nat. D. ii. 27. 1). Ovid has a craze for derivations, which are mostly wrong.
13. As from pateo and claudo (cludo).
14. The casa Romuli was preserved on the Palatine Hill. This was supposed to be the cottage in which Romulus lived.
15. He alludes to Cincinnatus, 458 B.C.
16. The ancient as. See Smith’s Dict. of Antiq. i. p. 202, for a picture.
17. Looking down the river; on the river’s left bank was Rome.
18. Archways were commonly called iani; but one between the Forum Romanum and Forum Iulum was a temple, and had a statue of the god.
19. The Sabines claimed descent from the Spartans, and Oebalus was a king of Sparta.
20. Tarpeia.

21. Juno.
22. The triumph of Germanicus and Tiberius, 26 May A.D. 17. It had been decreed two years before, so Ovid speaks of its prospectively. The river Rhine, with other rivers and mountains, was actually represented in the procession: see Tacitus, Ann. ii. 41.
23. Aesculapius.
24. Ovid has confused the morning with the evening setting of the Crab.
25. The apparent rising is on November 5, the real rising still earlier.
26. The realm meaning of Agon in the calendar is not known, but it may be for agonium, a general word for sacrifice.
27. Cyrene, a water-nymph.
28. Properly an epithet of the sun, “going above.”
29. Iphigeneia, at Aulis, according to one version of the tale.
30. Hecate.

31. That is, a biennial festival, called by the ancient inclusive mode, triennial (trietêris). See on 1. 54 above.
32. Priapus: so ll. 415, 440.
33. Pan.
34. i.e. of revealing their secrets to the augur and the auspex, words which hare connected with avis.
35. Of Venus.
36. The Egyptian Isis, as identified with Argive Io.
37. The rising was really on December 31, in Ovid’s time.
38. The Carmentalia, in honour of Carmenta or Carmentis,, one of the Camenae, mother of Evander.
39. The nymph Juturna.
40. Aqua Virgo, an aqueduct built by Agrippa in 19 B.C. which still brings water to Rome, and fill the fountain of Trevi.

41. Son of Callisto, ii. 153. “The Arcadians are fabled to have lived before the moon,” Apollo. Rhod. Iv. 264. See below 2. 282.
42. The Parrhasii were an Arcadian tribe.
43. Boeotia.
44. A place in the Field of Mars.
45. Lavinia.
46. Pallas, son of Evander, was slain by Turnus; but was avenged by Aeneas, who slew Turnus. Ovid has the Aeneid in mind here.
47. The Vestal fire and the Penates of the Roman people were believed to have been brought by Aeneas from Troy.
48. This applies both to Julius and to Augustus, who is the “son”of l. 533; the “grandson” is Tiberius.
49. By the will of Augustus, Liva was adopted into the Julian family and became Julia Augusta: Ovid anticipates her deification by her grandson Claudius (Suetonius, Claud. 11).
50. Evander landed at the foot of the Palatine hill, here called after him “Arcadian.”

51. Hercules came from Spain with the herds of Geryon, which he had taken there, to visit Evander; Erythea is in S.W. Spain. This capture was one of his Labours. He was son of Alcmena, princess of Tiryns. Evander’s house is called Tegean, for Arcadian.
52. See iv. 491.
53. The Flamen Dialis, who was subject to many ceremonial rules.
54. Son of Livia by her first husband, Tiberius Claudius Nero, and brother of the Emperor Tiberius. He died 9 B.C. of a fall from his horse, aged 31.
55. T. Manlius Torquatus, 361 B.C.; M. Valerius Corvus or Convinus, 349 B.C.
56. The title came from Q. Fabius Maximus, 304 B.C.
57. It was voted to Augustus in perpetuum, in token of his care for his people; and hung up in his palace: “For saving the life of citizens,” see Monumentum Ancyranum, vi. 3 n., in Velleius Paterculus (L.C.L.), p. 399.
58. See notes on ll. 470, 478.
59. Carmenta; Maenalus was a mountain in Arcadia.
60. The new temple of Juno Moneta was on the Capitol, and a flight of steps led up from the Forum, near which was the old temple of Concord.

61. M. Furius Camillus, 367 B.C. The temple was rebuilt by Tiberius out of the spoils of Germany, A.D. 10.
62. Livia. See vi. 637 below.
63. The apparent setting then was on January 28, the true setting on February 9.
64. This is the date of the true morning setting.
65. It was supposed to damage the sight if eaten: Plautus, Mil. Gl. 323 “mirum lolio victitare te,” i.e. "you cannot see what is before your face.”
66. Spelt was toasted before it was banked. See ii. 520.
67. Castor and Pollux. The temple had been dedicated anew in A.D. 6 by Tiberius, who added the name of his dead brother Drusus to the dedication.
68. See above, l. 463.
69. Referring to the victory of Actium, 31 B.C.