Apparently the dramatic monologue of the ghost of one who has been shipwrecked near the tomb of the philosopher Archytas on the shore near Venusia. In lines 1-6 the ghost directly apos trophizes the shade of Archytas in the manner of the Greek sepulchral epigram. In lines 6-20 it moralizes on the universality of death. In lines 20-36, which are very loosely, if at all, connected with the preceding, the ghost is represented as imploring with mingled entreaties and imprecations a passing sailor to give it the formal rites of burial—three handfuls of earth. Attempts have been made to interpret the poem as a dialogue with change of speaker at 17 or 21. Cf. Sellar, p.182. Archytas of Tarentum, the Pythagorean philosopher and mathematician, was a contemporary of Plato. Cf. Cic. Cato M.12-41.
arenae: cf. Catull. 7. 3; Otto, p. 159; Pind. O. 2. 108; the comic word φαμμακόσια; Milton, 'unnumbered as the sands | Of Barca or Cyrene's torrid soil.' Archimedes wrote a treatise entitled φαμμίτης.
mensorem (terrae):γεωμέτρης.—cohibent: confine; cf. 2. 20. 8; 3. 4. 80; 4. 6. 34.
pulveris exigui: Verg. G. 4. 87, in exquisite symbolism. So Lucan of Pompey, Pharsal .8. 867, pulveris exigui sparget non longa vetustas | congeriem. It is the familiar contrast between the full-blown pride of living man and the 'two handfuls of white dust shut in an urn of brass.' Those who make Archytas himself the unburied speaker (22-23; 35-36) render the boon of a little dust (withheld).—litus . . . Matinum: the shore of the Adriatic near Matinus, which is variously described by Porphyrio as a mountain or promontory in Apulia, and as a mountain in Calabria; cf. 4. 2. 27; Epode 16. 27, Matina cacumina. Whether or how the tomb of Archytas was there does not appear.
munera: burial and the offices pertaining to it.
nec . . prodest . . . temptasse: nor profits it thee at all to have essayed, i.e. in his astronomical studies. Cf. Milton's 'nor aught availed him now | To have built in heaven high towers.' Temptasse suggests the audacity of the attempt. Cf. 3. 4. 31; 1. 11. 3; Verg. Eclog. 4. 32, temptare Thetim ratibus; cf. also Lucretius of Epicurus, 1 . 73, atque omnem immensum peragravit mente animoque. Whence Swinburne, 'Past the wall unsurmounted that bars out our vision with iron and fire | He has sent forth his soul for the stars to comply with and suns to conspire.' Cf. Plato, Theaetet. 173. e.
morituro: with tibi, since thou wast doomed to die, despite thy immortal thoughts. Cf. on 2. 3. 4.
Pelopis genitor: Tantalus, who was admitted by Jupiter to the feasts of the gods; cf. 2. 13. 37. In Ov. Met. 6. 172, Pelops says, mihi Tantalus auctor | cui licuit soli superorum tangere mensas. Cf. Pind. O. 1. 55; Od. 11. 587; Goethe, Iph. 4. 5.
Tithonus: translated to the skies, by Aurora who loved him. Cf. on 2. 16. 30; Eurip. Tro. 855.
Minos: of Crete, king and lawgiver, said to have been instructed in legislation by Jupiter himself; Διὸς μεγάλου ὀαριστής; Odyss. 19. 179. Cf. Plato's Minos.
Panthoiden: Panthous' son, strictly speaking Euphorbus (Il. 16. 808), but here used ironically of Pythagoras. The latter in support of his theory of the transmigration of souls claimed that his soul had formerly animated the body of the Trojan hero Eupliorbus. To establish his claim he entered the temple of Hera at Argos and from a number of shields which hung there selected as his own one which on being taken down and examined proved to be the shield which Euphorbus had used at Troy. Cf. Ov. Met. 15. 160 if.; Max. Tyr. 16. 2.
Tartara and Orco are here used without distinction of the lower world. With Orco (dat.) dimissum, cf. Verg. Aen. 2. 398, multos Danaum dimittimus Orco.
clipeo . . . testatus: having borne witness to Trojan times by taking down the shield, i.e. as he proved by his knowledge of Trojan times.
concesserat: i.e. he had yielded only the body, not the soul, to death.—atrae: cf. on 2. 3. 16.
iudice te: in thy judgment. Pythagoras would be no mean authority (litotes) to Archytas, a Pythagorean. Cf. Verg. Aen. 11. 339, non futilis auctor; Livy, 30. 45, haud . . . spernendus auctor.
una: Simon. fr. 38 (52), πάντα γὰρ μίαν ἱκνεῖται δασπλῆτα Χάρυβδιν. 'All that we are or know is darkly driven | Towards one gulf' (Shelley, Revolt of Is. 9. 35).
calcanda . . . via: 2. 17. 12, iter, 'the way to dusty death.' Cf. Propert. 4. 17. 22, est mala sed cunctis ista terenda via est.—semel: 1. 24. 16. n.
alios: some.—spectacula: (as) a show. Cf. 1. 2. 37, where war is referred to as the game of Mars.
exitiost: G. L. 356; A. and G. 382.—avidum: cf. 3. 29. 61,but here for lives, not wealth; cf. 2. 18. 30.
mixta: as in Verg. Aen. 6. 306-308.—densentur: from denseo (-ēre), to crowd together.
saeva: terrible; cf. imperiosa (Sat. 2. 5. 110), ἐπαινή.—Proserpina: cf. on Verg. Aen. 4. 698; Eurip. Alcest. 74. For quant. 2. 13. 21. n.—fugit: aoristic (cf. 3. 2. 32), shuns, neglects. But it is probably a reversal of the normal mode of expression (Proserpinam fugit), such as Jebb, J. H. S. 3. 168, notes in Pindar, O. 1. 53, etc. There was a belief that no one could die till Proserpina had clipped a lock from his head (cf. Verg. Aen. 4. 689); only then was he duly offered as a victim to the gods below. This idea is on the analogy of the custom in animal sacrifices of making some hairs cut from the forehead of the victim the first offering.
devexi: setting. Orion was a proverbially stormy sign. Cf. 3. 27. 18; Epode 10. 10; 15. 7; Milton, 'When with fierce winds Orion armed | Hath vexed the red seacoast'; Apol. Rhod. 1. 1202, εὖτε μάλιστα | Χειμερίη ὀλοοῖο δύσις πέλει Ὀρίωνος; Anth. Pal. 7. 273; Hes. Op. 619; Verg. Aen. 4. 52.—comes: 4. 12. 1.
Illyricis . . . undis: for the Adriatic.
at tu: at this point the ghost appeals to a passing sailor.—vagae: wind-blown. Construe ne malignus parce dare; parce = refrain from, refuse.—malignus: cf. on benignius, 1. 9. 6.
Note the rare and harsh hiatus.
sic: i.e. if you grant my prayer. Cf. on 1. 3. 1.
May the threats of the east wind spend themselves on the forests of Venusia while thou remainest safe. The silvae Venusinae were forty miles from the Adriatic.—fluctibus Hesperiis:the sea about Italy (Hesperia), here the Adriatic.—plēctantur: be lashed, mulcted.
unde potest: sc. defluere, parenthetic. For unde, cf. on 12. 17.
custode: πολιοῦχος. Taras, son of Neptune, was the eponymous founder of Tarentum.
neglegis: dost thou count it a light thing? Cf. Catull. 30. 5. The sailor seems to be about to refuse.—nocituram: that will injure.
te: acc. with committere rather than abl. with natis. neglegis committere would probably mean neglect to commit.—fraudem: wrong. Cf. Odyss. 11. 72 sqq.—fors et: seems to be a phraseological equivalent of fortasse with a tone of confidence. 'It may be too.' Editors cite Verg. Aen..2. 139; 11. 50.
due punishment and stern requital.—debita iura has also been interpreted 'rites and justments of the dead' (sc. withheld) .
precibus: i.e. the denial of my prayers.—inultis: cf. 1. 2. 51.—linquar: left (in the lurch); cf. Sat. 1. 9. 74.
ter: the consecrated number. Verg. Aen. 6. 229, 506; Soph. Antig. 431.