previous next

He bids them reach
In ten days' march Brundusium, and recall
From old Tarentum and from Hydrus lone
His navy, and from Leucas' point remote,
And the Salapian marsh where Sipus lies
By rich Garganus, jutting from the shore
In huge escarpment that divides the waves
Of Hadria; on each hand, his seaward slopes
Buffeted by the winds; or Auster borne
From sweet Apulia, or the sterner blast
Of Boreas rushing from Dalmatian strands.
But Caesar entered safe without a guard
Rome, trembling, taught to serve the garb of peace,
Dictator named, to grant their prayers, forsooth:
Consul, in honour of the roll of Rome.
Then first of all the names by which we now
Lie to our masters, men found out the use:
For to preserve his right to wield the sword
He mixed the civil axes with his brands;
With eagles, fasces; with an empty word
Clothing his power; and stamped upon the time
A worthy designation; for what name
Could better mark the dread Pharsalian year
Than 'Caesar, Consul'?1 Now the famous field
Pretends its ancient ceremonies: calls
The tribes in order and divides the votes
In vain solemnity of empty urns.
Nor did they heed the portents of the sky:
Deaf were the augurs to the thunder roll;
The owl flew on the left; yet were the birds
Propitious sworn. Then was the ancient name
Degraded first; and monthly Consuls,2 now
Shorn of their rank, were chosen to mark the years.
And Trojan Alba's 3 god (since Latium's fall
Deserving not) beheld the wonted fires
Blaze from his altars on the festal night.
Then through Apulia's fallows, which her hinds
Left all untilled, to sluggish weeds a prey
Passed Caesar onward, swifter than the fire
Of heaven, or tigress dam: until he reached
Brundusium's winding ramparts, built of old
By Cretan colonists. There icy winds
Constrained the billows, and his trembling fleet
Feared for the winter storms nor dared the main.
But Caesar's soul burned at the moments lost
For speedy battle, nor could brook delay
Within the port, indignant that the sea
Should give safe passage to his routed foe:
And thus he stirred his troops, in seas unskilled,
With words of courage: 'When the winter wind
'Has seized on sky and ocean, firm its hold;
But the inconstancy of cloudy spring
'Permits no certain breezes to prevail
'Upon the billows. Straight shall be our course.
'No winding nooks of coast, but open seas
Struck by the northern wind alone we plough,
'And may he bend the spars, and bear us swift
'To Grecian cities; else Pompeius' ships
'From coasts Phaeacian,4 with their swifter oars
May catch our flagging sails. Cast loose the ropes
'From our victorious prows. Too long we waste
'Tempests that blow to bear us to our goal.'
Now sank the sun to rest; the evening star
Shone on the darkening heaven, and the moon
Reigned with her paler light, when all the fleet
Freed from retaining cables seized the main.
With slackened sheet the canvas wooed the breeze,
Which rose and fell and fitful died away,
Till motionless the sails, and all the waves
Were still as deepest pool, where never wind
Ripples the surface. Thus in Scythian climes
Cimmerian Bosphorus restrains the deep
Bound fast in frosty fetters; Ister's streams 5
No more impel the main, and ships constrained
Stand fast in ice; and while in depths below
The waves still murmur, loud the charger's hoof
Sounds on the surface, and the travelling wheel
Furrows a track upon the frozen marsh.
Cruel as tempest was the calm that lay
In stagnant pools upon the mournful deep:
Against the course of nature lay outstretched
A rigid ocean: 'twas as if the sea
Forgat its ancient ways and knew no more
The ceaseless tides, nor any breeze of heaven,
Nor quivered at the image of the sun,
Mirrored upon its wave. For while the fleet
Hung in mid passage motionless, the foe
Might hurry to attack, with sturdy stroke
Churning the deep; or famine's deadly grip
Might seize the ships becalmed. For dangers new
New vows they found: for tempests was their prayer,
To rouse the billows till the watery plain
Freed from its torpor should be sea once more.
But cloudless was the sky and calm the deep,
All hope of shipwreck gone, till night was fled,
And marred by gathering mist the day arose
And stirred the depths, and moved the fleet along
Towards the Ceraunian headland; and the waves
And favouring breezes followed on the ships,
Now speeding faster, till (their goal attained)
They cast their anchors on Palaeste's 6 shore.
This land first saw the chiefs in neighbouring camps
Confronted, which the streams of Apsus bound
And swifter Genusus; a lengthy course
Is run by neither, but on Apsus' waves
Scarce flowing from a marsh, the frequent boat
Finds room to swim; while on the foamy bed
Of Genusus by sun or shower compelled
The melted snows pour seawards. Here were met
(So Fortune ordered it) the mighty pair;
And in its woes the world yet vainly hoped
That, brought to nearer touch, their crime itself
Might breed abhorrence: for from either camp
Voices were clearly heard and features seen.
Nor e'er, Pompeius, since that distant day
When Caesar's daughter and thy spouse was reft
By pitiless fate away, nor left a pledge,
Did thy loved kinsman (save on sands of Nile
So nearly look upon thy face again.

1 Caesar was named Dictator while at Massilia. Entering Rome, he held the office for eleven days only, but was elected Consul for the incoming year, B.C. 48, along with Servilius Isauricus. (Caesar, 'De Bello Civili,' iii., 1; Merivale, chapter xvi.)

2 In the time of the Empire, the degraded Consulship, preserved only as a name, was frequently transferred at monthly, or even shorter, intervals from one favourite to another.

3 Caesar performed the solemn rites of the great Latin festival on the Alban Mount during his Dictatorship. (Compare Book VII., line 471.)

4 Dyrrhachium was founded by the Corcyreans, with whom the Homeric Phaeacians have been identified.

5 Apparently making the Danube discharge into the Sea of Azov. See Mr. Heitland's Introduction, p. 53.

6 At the foot of the Acroceraunian range.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Carolus Hermannus Weise, 1835)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Brundusium (Italy) (2)
Apulia (Italy) (2)
Tarentum (Italy) (1)
Otranto (Italy) (1)
Nile (1)
Marseilles (France) (1)
Leucas (Greece) (1)
Latium (Italy) (1)
Hadria (Italy) (1)
Epidamnus (Albania) (1)
Danube (1)
Azov (Russia) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
48 BC (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: