Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344



(See ch. II, note [39])


Homer, Iliad, lib. xii, 200:

[Greek: Oi rh' eti mermaerizon ephestaotes para taphroi. Ornis gar sphin epaelthe peraesemenai memaosin, Aietos upsipetaes ep' aristera laon eergon, Phoinaeenta drakonta pheron onuchessi peloron, Zoon et aspaironta kai oupo laetheto charmaes. Kopse gar auton echonta kata staethos para deiraen, Idnotheis opiso ho d'apo ethen aeke chamaze, Algaesas odunaesi, mesoi d' eni kabbal' omilo Autos de klagxas peteto pnoaeis anemoio.]

Pope's translation of the passage, book xii, 231:

"A signal omen stopp'd the passing host, The martial fury in their wonder lost. Jove's bird on sounding pinions beat the skies; A bleeding serpent, of enormous size, His talons trussed; alive, and curling round, He stung the bird, whose throat received the wound. Mad with the smart, he drops the fatal prey, In airy circles wings his painful way, Floats on the winds, and rends the heav'ns with cries. Amid the host the fallen serpent lies. They, pale with terror, mark its spires unroll'd, And Jove's portent with beating hearts behold."

Lord Derby's Iliad, book xii, 236:

"For this I read the future, if indeed To us, about to cross, this sign from Heaven Was sent, to leftward of the astonished crowd: A soaring eagle, bearing in his claws A dragon huge of size, of blood-red hue, Alive; yet dropped him ere he reached his home, Nor to his nestlings bore the intended prey."

Cicero's telling of the story:

"Hic Jovis altisoni subito pinnata satelles, Arboris e trunco serpentis saucia morsu, Ipsa feris subigit transfigens unguibus anguem Semianimum, et varia graviter cervice micantem. Quem se intorquentem lanians, rostroque cruentans, Jam satiata animum, jam duros ulta dolores, Abjicit efflantem, et laceratum affligit in unda; Seque obitu a solis nitidos convertit ad ortus."

Voltaire's translation:

"Tel on voit cet oiseau qui porte le tonnerre, Blessé par un serpent élancé de la terre; Il s'envole, il entraîne au séjour azuré L'ennemi tortueux dont il est entouré. Le sang tombe des airs. Il déchire, il dévore Le reptile acharné qui le combat encore; Il le perce, il le tient sous ses ongles vainqueurs; Par cent coups redoublés il venge ses douleurs. Le monstre, en expirant, se débat, se replie; Il exhale en poisons les restes de sa vie; Et l'aigle, tout sanglant, fier et victorieux, Le rejette en fureur, et plane au haut des cieux."

Virgil's version, Aeneid, lib. xi., 751:

"Utque volans alte raptum quum fulva draconem Fert aquila, implicuitque pedes, atque unguibus haesit Saucius at serpens sinuosa volumina versat, Arrectisque horret squamis, et sibilat ore, Arduus insurgens. Illa haud minus urget obunco Luctantem rostro; simul aethera verberat alis."

Dryden's translation from Virgil's Aeneid, book xi.:

"So stoops the yellow eagle from on high, And bears a speckled serpent through the sky; Fastening his crooked talons on the prey, The prisoner hisses through the liquid way; Resists the royal hawk, and though opprest, She fights in volumes, and erects her crest. Turn'd to her foe, she stiffens every scale, And shoots her forky tongue, and whisks her threatening tail. Against the victor all defence is weak. Th' imperial bird still plies her with his beak: He tears her bowels, and her breast he gores, Then claps his pinions, and securely soars."

Pitt's translation, book xi.:

"As when th' imperial eagle soars on high, And bears some speckled serpent through the sky, While her sharp talons gripe the bleeding prey, In many a fold her curling volumes play, Her starting brazen scales with horror rise, The sanguine flames flash dreadful from her eyes She writhes, and hisses at her foe, in vain, Who wins at ease the wide aerial plain, With her strong hooky beak the captive plies, And bears the struggling prey triumphant through the skies."

Shelley's version of the battle, The Revolt of Islam, canto i.:

"For in the air do I behold indeed An eagle and a serpent wreathed in fight, And now relaxing its impetuous flight, Before the aerial rock on which I stood The eagle, hovering, wheeled to left and right, And hung with lingering wings over the flood, And startled with its yells the wide air's solitude

"A shaft of light upon its wings descended, And every golden feather gleamed therein-- Feather and scale inextricably blended The serpent's mailed and many-colored skin Shone through the plumes, its coils were twined within By many a swollen and knotted fold, and high And far, the neck receding lithe and thin, Sustained a crested head, which warily Shifted and glanced before the eagle's steadfast eye.

"Around, around, in ceaseless circles wheeling, With clang of wings and scream, the eagle sailed Incessantly--sometimes on high concealing Its lessening orbs, sometimes, as if it failed, Drooped through the air, and still it shrieked and wailed, And casting back its eager head, with beak And talon unremittingly assailed The wreathed serpent, who did ever seek Upon his enemy's heart a mortal wound to wreak

"What life, what power was kindled, and arose Within the sphere of that appalling fray! For, from the encounter of those wond'rous foes, A vapor like the sea's suspended spray Hung gathered; in the void air, far away, Floated the shattered plumes; bright scales did leap, Where'er the eagle's talons made their way, Like sparks into the darkness; as they sweep, Blood stains the snowy foam of the tumultuous deep.

"Swift chances in that combat--many a check, And many a change--a dark and wild turmoil; Sometimes the snake around his enemy's neck Locked in stiff rings his adamantine coil, Until the eagle, faint with pain and toil, Remitted his strong flight, and near the sea Languidly fluttered, hopeless so to foil His adversary, who then reared on high His red and burning crest, radiant with victory.

"Then on the white edge of the bursting surge, Where they had sunk together, would the snake Relax his suffocating grasp, and scourge The wind with his wild writhings; for, to break That chain of torment, the vast bird would shake The strength of his unconquerable wings As in despair, and with his sinewy neck Dissolve in sudden shock those linked rings, Then soar--as swift as smoke from a volcano springs.

"Wile baffled wile, and strength encountered strength, Thus long, but unprevailing--the event Of that portentous fight appeared at length. Until the lamp of day was almost spent It had endured, when lifeless, stark, and rent, Hung high that mighty serpent, and at last Fell to the sea, while o'er the continent, With clang of wings and scream, the eagle past, Heavily borne away on the exhausted blast."

I have repudiated the adverse criticism on Cicero's poetry which has been attributed to Juvenal; but, having done so, am bound in fairness to state that which is to be found elsewhere in any later author of renown as a classic. In the treatise De Oratoribus, attributed to Tacitus, and generally published with his works by him--a treatise commenced, probably, in the last year of Vespasian's reign, and completed only in that of Domitian--Cicero as a poet is spoken of with a severity of censure which the writer presumes to have been his recognized desert. "For Caesar," he says, "and Brutus made verses, and sent them to the public libraries; not better, indeed, than Cicero, but with less of general misfortune, because only a few people knew that they had done so." This must be taken for what it is worth. The treatise, let it have been written by whom it might, is full of wit, and is charming in language and feeling. It is a dialogue after the manner of Cicero himself, and is the work of an author well conversant with the subjects in hand. But it is, no doubt, the case that those two unfortunate lines which have been quoted became notorious in Rome when there was a party anxious to put down Cicero.



"There were at that time two orators, Cotta and Hortensius, who towered above all others, and incited me to rival them. The first spoke with self-restraint and moderation, clearly and easily, expressing his ideas in appropriate language. The other was magnificent and fierce; not such as you remember him, Brutus, when he was already failing, but full of life both in his words and actions. I then resolved that Hortensius should, of the two, be my model, because I felt myself like to him in his energy, and nearer to him in his age. I observed that when they were in the same causes, those for Canuleius and for our consular Dolabella, though Cotta was the senior counsel, Hortensius took the lead. A large gathering of men and the noise of the Forum require that a speaker shall be quick, on fire, active, and loud. The year after my return from Asia I undertook the charge of causes that were honorable, and in that year I was seeking to be Quaestor, Cotta to be Consul, and Hortensius to be Praetor. Then for a year I served as Quaestor in Sicily. Cotta, after his Consulship, went as governor into Gaul, and then Hortensius was, and was considered to be, first at the bar. When I had been back from Sicily twelve months I began to find that whatever there was within me had come to such perfection as it might attain. I feel that I am speaking too much of myself, but it is done, not that you may be made to own my ability or my eloquence--which is far from my thoughts--but that you may see how great was my toil and my industry. Then, when I had been employed for nearly five years in many cases, and was accounted a leading advocate, I specially concerned myself in conducting the great cause on behalf of Sicily--the trial of Verres--when I and Hortensius were Aedile and Consul designate.

"But as this discussion of ours is intended to produce not a mere catalogue of orators, but some true lessons of oratory, let us see what there was in Hortensius that we must blame. When he was out of his Consulship, seeing that among past Consuls there was no one on a par with him, and thinking but little of those who were below consular rank, he became idle in his work to which from boyhood he had devoted himself, and chose to live in the midst of his wealth, as he thought a happier life--certainly an easier one. The first two or three years took off something from him. As the gradual decay of a picture will be observed by the true critic, though it be not seen by the world at large, so was it with his decay. From day to day he became more and more unlike his old self, failing in all branches of oratory, but specially in the rapidity and continuity of his words. But for myself I never rested, struggling always to increase whatever power there was in me by practice of every kind, especially in writing. Passing over many things in the year after I was Aedile, I will come to that in which I was elected first Praetor, to the great delight of the public generally; for I had gained the good-will of men, partly by my attention to the causes which I undertook, but specially by a certain new strain of eloquence, as excellent as it was uncommon, with which I spoke." Cicero, when he wrote this of himself, was an old man sixty-two years of age, broken hearted for the loss of his daughter, to whom it was no doubt allowed among his friends to praise himself with the garrulity of years, because it was understood that he had been unequalled in the matter of which he was speaking. It is easy for us to laugh at his boastings; but the account which he gives of his early life, and of the manner in which he attained the excellence for which he had been celebrated, is of value.


There was still prevailing in Rome at this time a strong feeling that a growing taste for these ornamental luxuries was injurious to the Republic, undermining its simplicity and weakening its stability. We are well aware that its simplicity was a thing of the past, and its stability gone The existence of a Verres is proof that it was so; but still the feeling remained--and did remain long after the time of Cicero--that these beautiful things were a sign of decay. We know how conquering Rome caught the taste for them from conquered Greece. "Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit, et artes intulit agresti Latio". [1] Cicero submitted himself to this new captivity readily, but with apologies, as shown in his pretended abnegation of all knowledge of art. Two years afterward, in a letter to Atticus, giving him instructions as to the purchase of statues, he declares that he is altogether carried away by his longing for such things, but not without a feeling of shame. "Nam in eo genere sic studio efferimur ut abs te adjuvandi, ab aliis propre reprehendi simus"[2]--"Though you will help me, others I know will blame me." The same feeling is expressed beautifully, but no doubt falsely, by Horace when he declares, as Cicero had done, his own indifference to such delicacies:

"Gems, marbles, ivory, Tuscan statuettes, Pictures, gold plate, Gaetulian coverlets, There are who have not. One there is, I trow, Who cares not greatly if he has or no."[3]

Many years afterward, in the time of Tiberius, Velleius Paterculus says the same when he is telling how ignorant Mummius was of sculpture, who, when he had taken Corinth, threatened those who had to carry away the statues from their places, that if they broke any they should be made to replace them. "You will not doubt, however," the historian says, "that it would have been better for the Republic to remain ignorant of these Corinthian gems than to understand them as well as it does now.

That rudeness befitted the public honor better than our present taste."[4] Cicero understood well enough, with one side of his intelligence, that as the longing for these things grew in the minds of rich men, as the leading Romans of the day became devoted to luxury rather than to work, the ground on which the Republic stood must be sapped. A Marcellus or a Scipio had taken glory in ornamenting the city. A Verres or even an Hortensius--even a Cicero--was desirous of beautiful things for his own house. But still, with the other side of his intelligence, he saw that a perfect citizen might appreciate art, and yet do his duty, might appreciate art, and yet save his country. What he did not see was, that the temptations of luxury, though compatible with virtue, are antagonistic to it. The camel may be made to go through the eye of the needle--but it is difficult.


[1] Horace, Epis., lib.ii., 1.

[2] Ad Att., lib.i. 8.

[3] Horace, Epis., lib.ii., 11. The translation is Conington's.

[4] Vell. Pat., lib.i., xiii



"Utinam, Quirites, virorum fortium, atque innocentium copiam tantam haberetis, ut haec vobis deliberatio difficilis esset, quemnam potissimum tantis rebus ac tanto bello praeficiendum putaretis! Nunc vero cum sit unus Cn. Pompeius, qui non modo eorum hominum, qui nunc sunt, gloriam, sed etiam antiquitatis memoriam virtute superarit; quae res est, quae cujusquam animum in hac causa dubium facere posset? Ego enim sic existimo, in summo imperatore quatuor has res inesse oportere, scientiam rei militaris, virtutem, auctoritatem, felicitatem. Quis igitur hoc homine scientior umquam aut fuit, aut esse debuit? qui e ludo, atque pueritiae disciplina, bello maximo atque acerrimis hostibus, ad patris exercitum atque in militiae disciplinam profectus est? qui extrema pueritia miles fuit summi imperatoris? ineunte adolescentia maximi ipse exercitus imperator? qui saepius cum hoste conflixit, quam quisquam cum inimico concertavit? plura bella gessit, quam caeteri legerunt? plures provincias confecit, quam alii concupiverunt? cujus adolescentia ad scientiam rei militaris non alienis praeceptis, sed suis imperiis; non offensionibus belli, sed victoriis; non stipendiis, sed triumphis est erudita? Quod denique genus belli esse potest, in quo illum non exercuerit fortuna reipublicae? Civile; Africanum; Transalpinum; Hispaniense; mistum ex civitatibus atque ex bellicosissimis nationibus servile; navale bellum, varia et diversa genera, et bellorum et hostium, non solum gesta ab hoc uno, sed etiam confecta, nullam rem esse declarant, in usu militari positam, quae hojus viri scientiam fugere posset.

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

"Quare cum et bellum ita necessarium sit, ut negligi non possit; ita magnum, ut accuratissime sit administrandum; et cum ei imperatorem praeficere possitis, in quo sit eximia belli scientia, singularis virtus, clarissima auctoritas, egregia fortuna; dubitabitis, Quirites, quin hoc tantum boni, quod vobis a diis immortalibus oblatum et datum est, in rempublicam conservandam atque amplificandam conferatis?"

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

"I could wish, Quirites, that there was open to you so large a choice of men capable at the same time, and honest, that you might find a difficulty in deciding who might best be selected for command in a war so momentous as this. But now when Pompey alone has surpassed in achievements not only those who live, but all of whom we have read in history, what is there to make any one hesitate in the matter? In my opinion there are four qualities to be desired in a general--military knowledge, valor, authority, and fortune. But whoever was or was ever wanted to be more skilled than this man, who, taken fresh from school and from the lessons of his boyhood, was subjected to the discipline of his father's army during one of our severest wars, when our enemies were strong against us? In his earliest youth he served under our greatest general. As years went on he was himself in command over a large army. He has been more frequent in fighting than others in quarrelling. Few have read of so many battles as he has fought.

He has conquered more provinces than others have desired to pillage. He learned the art of war not from written precepts, but by his own practice; not from reverses, but from victories. He does not count his campaigns, but the triumphs which he has won. What nature of warfare is there in which the Republic has not used his services? Think of our Civil war[1]--of our African war[2]--of our war on the other side of the Alps[3]--of our Spanish wars[4]--of our Servile war[5]--which was carried on by the energies of so many mighty people--and this Maritime war.[6] How many enemies had we, how various were our contests! They were all not only carried through by this one man, but brought to an end so gloriously as to show that there is nothing in the practice of warfare which has escaped his knowledge.

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

"Seeing, therefore, that this war cannot be neglected; that its importance demands the utmost care in its administration; that it requires a general in whom should be found sure military science, manifest valor, conspicuous authority, and pre-eminent good fortune--do you doubt, Quirites, but that you should use the great blessing which the gods have given you for the preservation and glory of the Republic?"

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

On reading, however, the piece over again, I almost doubt whether there be any passages in it which should be selected as superior to others.


[1] "Civile;" when Sulla, with Pompey under him, was fighting with young Marius and Cinna.

[2] "Africanum;" when he had fought with Domitius, the son-in-law of Cinua, and with Hiarbas.

[3] "Transalpinum;" during his march through Gaul into Spain.

[4] "Hispaniense;" in which he conquered Sertorins.

[5] "Servile;" the war with Spartacus, with the slaves and gladiators.

[6] "Navale Bellum;" the war with the pirates.



"O male concordes, nimiaque cupidine caeci, Quid miscere juvat vires orbemque tenere In medio."

"Temporis angusti mansit concordia discors, Paxque fuit non sponte ducum. Nam sola futuri Crassus erat belli medius mora. Qualiter undas Qui secat, et geminum gracilis mare separat isthmos, Nec patitur conferre fretum; si terra recedat, Ionium Aegaeo frangat mare. Sic, ubi saeva Arma ducum dirimens, miserando funere Crassus Assyrias latio maculavit sanguine Carras."

"Dividitur ferro regnum; populique potentis, Quae mare, quae terras, quae totum possidet orbem, Non cepit fortuna duos."

"Tu nova ne veteres obscurent acta triumphos, Et victis cedat piratica laurea Gallis, Magne, times; te jam series, ususque laborum Erigit, impatiensque loci fortuna secundi. Nec quemquam jam ferre potest Caesarve priorem, Pompeiusve parem, Quis juspius induit arma, Seire nefas; magno se judice quisque tuesur, Victrix causa deis placuit sed victa, Catoni.[1] Nec coiere pares; alter vergentibus annis In senium, longoque togae tranquilhor usu Dedidicit jam paee ducem, famaeque petitor Multa dar in vulgas, totus popularibus auris Impelli, plausuque sui gaudere theatri; Nec reparare novas vires, multumque priori Credere fortunae, Stat magni nominis umbra."

"Sed non in Caesare tantum Nomen erat, nec fama ducis, sed nescia virtus Stare loco; solusque pudor non vincere bello. Acer et indomitus; quo spes, quoque ira vocasset, Ferre manum, et nunquam te merando parcere ferro; Successus urgere suos; instare favori Numinis"--Lucan, lib.i.


[1] For the full understanding of this oft-quoted line the reader should make himself acquainted with Cato's march across Libya after the death of Pompey, as told by Lucan in his 9th book.

       *      *      *      *      *      *      *

"O men so ill-fitted to agree, O men blind with greed, of what service can it be that you should join your powers, and possess the world between you?"

"For a short time the ill-sorted compact lasted, and there was a peace which each of them abhorred. Crassus alone stood between the others, hindering for a while the coming war--as an isthmus separates two waters and forbids sea to meet sea. If the morsel of land gives way, the Ionian waves and the Aegean dash themselves in foam against each other. So was it with the arms of the two chiefs when Crassus fell, and drenched the Assyrian Carrae with Roman blood."

"Then the possession of the Empire was put to the arbitration of the sword. The fortunes of a people which possessed sea and earth and the whole world, were not sufficient for two men."

"You, Magnus, you, Pompeius, fear lest newer deeds than yours should make dull your old triumphs, and the scattering of the pirates should be as nothing to the conquering of Gaul. The practice of many wars has so exalted you, O Caesar, that you cannot put up with a second place. Caesar will endure no superior; but Pompey will have no equal. Whose cause was the better the poet dares not inquire! Each will have his own advocate in history. On the side of the conqueror the gods ranged themselves. Cato has chosen to follow the conquered.

"But surely the men were not equal. The one in declining years, who had already changed his arms for the garb of peace, had unlearned the general in the statesman--had become wont to talk to the people, to devote himself to harangues, and to love the applause of his own theatre. He has not cared to renew his strength, trusting to his old fortune. There remains of him but the shadow of his great name."

"The name of Caesar does not loom so large; nor is his character as a general so high. But there is a spirt which can content itself with no achievements; there is but one feeling of shame--that of not conquering; a man determined, not to be controlled, taking his arms wherever lust of conquest or anger may call him; a man never sparing the sword, creating all things from his own good-fortune trusting always the favors of the gods."


       *      *      *      *      *      *      *       *       *       *       *       *

Anthony Trollope

Sorry, no summary available yet.