1st century AD Roman poet

Publius Papinius Statius (c. 45 – c. 96) was a Roman poet of the Silver Age of Latin literature.

Fear first made gods in the world.



The translations are by D. R. Shackleton Bailey, and are taken from vol. 207 of the Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003).

Book I

  • Fraternas acies alternaque regna profanis
    decertata odiis.
    • Fraternal warfare, and alternate reigns fought for in unnatural hate.
    • Line 1
  • Impia jam merita scrutatus lumina dextra
    merserat aeterna damnatum nocte pudorem
    Oedipodes longaque animam sub morte trahebat.
    illum indulgentem tenebris imaeque recessu
    sedis inaspectos caelo radiisque penates
    seruantem tamen adsiduis circumuolat alis
    saeva dies animi, scelerumque in pectore Dirae.
    • Oedipus had already probed his impious eyes with guilty hand and sunk deep his shame condemned to everlasting night; he dragged out his life in a long-drawn death. He devotes himself to darkness, and in the lowest recess of his abode he keeps his home on which the rays of heaven never look; and yet the fierce daylight of his soul flits around him with unflagging wings and the Avengers of his crimes are in his heart.
    • Line 46
  • Exaudi, si digna precor quaeque ipsa furenti
    subiceres. orbum visu regnisque carentem
    non regere aut dictis maerentem flectere adorti,
    quos genui quocumque toro; quin ecce superbi
    —pro dolor!—et nostro jamdudum funere reges
    insultant tenebris gemitusque odere paternos.
    hisne etiam funestus ego? et videt ista deorum
    ignavus genitor? tu saltem debita vindex
    huc ades et totos in poenam ordire nepotes.
    indue quod madidum tabo diadema cruentis
    unguibus abripui, votisque instincta paternis
    i media in fratres, generis consortia ferro
    dissiliant. da, Tartarei regina barathri,
    quod cupiam vidisse nefas.
    • Hear oh hear, if my prayer be worthy and such as you yourself might whisper to my frenzy. Those I begot (no matter in what bed) did not try to guide me, bereft of sight and sceptre, or sway my grieving with words. Nay behold (ah agony!), in their pride, kings this while by my calamity, they even mock my darkness, impatient of their father's groans. Even to them am I unclean? And does the sire of the gods see it and do naught? Do you at least, my rightful champion, come hither and range all my progeny for punishment. Put on your head this gore-soaked diadem that I tore off with my bloody nails. Spurred by a father's prayers, go against the brothers, go between them, let steel make partnership of blood fly asunder. Queen of Tartarus' pit, grant the wickedness I would fain see.
    • Line 73
  • Sociisque comes discordia regnis.
    • Strife, the companion of shared sovereignty.
    • Line 130
  • Quid si peteretur crimine tanto
    limes uterque poli, quem Sol emissus Eoo
    cardine, quem porta vergens prospectat Hibera,
    quasque procul terras obliquo sidere tangit
    avius aut Borea gelidas madidive tepentes
    igne Noti?
    • What if by such crime you sought both of heavens boundaries, that to which the Sun looks when he is sent forth from the eastern hinge and that to which he gazes as he sinks from his Iberian gate, and those lands he touches from afar with slanting ray, lands the North Wind chills or the moist South warms with his heat?
    • Line 156
  • Tacitumque a principe vulgus
    dissidet, et, qui mos populis, venturus amatur.
    • The crowd is at silent odds with the prince. As is the way of a populace, the man of the future is the favourite.
    • Line 169
  • Aliquis, cui mens humili laesisse veneno
    summa nec impositos umquam ceruice volenti
    ferre duces.
    • One of them, whose bent it was to harm the highest with lowly venom nor ever to bear with a willing neck the rulers placed over him.
    • Line 171
  • Radiant majore sereno
    culmina et arcano florentes lumine postes.
    postquam jussa quies siluitque exterritus orbis,
    incipit ex alto: grave et inmutabile sanctis
    pondus adest verbis, et vocem fata sequuntur.
    • The towers shine in a larger blue, and the portals bloom with a mystic light. Silence was ordered and mute in terror fell the world. From on high he begins. His holy words have weight heavy and immutable and the Fates follow his voice.
    • Line 209
  • Paret Atlantiades dictis genitoris et inde
    summa pedum propere plantaribus inligat alis
    obnubitque comas et temperat astra galero.
    tum dextrae uirgam inseruit, qua pellere dulces
    aut suadere iterum somnos, qua nigra subire
    Tartara et exangues animare adsueuerat umbras.
    desiluit, tenuique exceptus inhorruit aura.
    nec mora, sublimes raptim per inane volatus
    carpit et ingenti designat nubila gyro.
    • Atlas' grandson obeys his sire's words and hastily thereupon binds the winged sandals on to his ankles and with his wide hat covers his locks and tempers the stars. Then he thrusts the wand in his right hand; with this he was wont to banish sweet slumber or recall it, with this to enter black Tartarus and give life to bloodless phantoms. Down he leapt and shivered as the thin air received him. No pause; he takes swift and lofty flight through the void and traces a vast arc across the clouds.
    • Line 303
  • Sed nec puniceo rediturum nubila caelo
    promisere jubar, nec rarescentibus umbris
    longa repercusso nituere crepuscula Phoebo:
    densior a terris et nulli peruia flammae
    subtexit nox atra polos.
    • But no clouds in a red sky promised daylight's return, nor in lessening shadows did a long twilight gleam with reflected sun. Black night that no ray can pierce comes ever denser from earth, veiling the heavens.
    • Line 342
  • Ac velut hiberno deprensus navita ponto,
    cui neque Temo piger neque amico sidere monstrat
    Luna vias, medio caeli pelagique tumultu
    stat rationis inops, jam jamque aut saxa malignis
    expectat summersa vadis aut vertice acuto
    spumantes scopulos erectae incurrere prorae.
    • As a mariner caught in a winter sea, to whom neither lazy Wain nor Moon with friendly radiance shows directions, stands clueless in mid commotion of land and sea, expecting every moment rocks sunk in treacherous shallows, or foaming cliffs with spiky tops to run upon the rearing prow.
    • Line 370
  • Sors aequa merentes
    • A just fortune awaits the deserving.
    • Line 661 (tr. C. T. Ramage). Compare: Fortuna meliores sequitur ("Fortune follows the deserving"), Sallust, Hist. 1.77.21.

Book II

  • Unus ibi ante alios, cui laeva voluntas
    semper et ad superos (hinc et gravis exitus aevi)
    insultare malis rebusque aegrescere laetis.
    • One in particular, whose warped will it ever was even in the upper world (hence his life ended ill) to insult misfortune and wax sour at prosperity.
    • Line 16
  • Qualis ubi audito venantum murmure tigris
    horruit in maculas somnosque excussit inertes,
    bella cupit laxatque genas et temperat ungues,
    mox ruit in turmas natisque alimenta cruentis
    spirantem fert ore virum.
    • As when a tigress hears the noise of the hunters, she bristles into her stripes and shakes off the sloth of sleep; athirst for battle she loosens her jaws and flexes her claws, then rushes upon the troop and carries in her mouth a breathing man, food for her bloody young.
    • Line 128
  • Exedere animum dolor iraque demens
    et, qua non gravior mortalibus addita curis,
    spes, ubi longa venit.
    • Grief and mad wrath devoured his soul, and hope, heaviest of mortal cares when long deferred.
    • Line 319
  • Non parcit populis regnum breve.
    • A brief reign spares not the folk.
    • Line 446
  • O caeca nocentum
    consilia! o semper timidum scelus!
    • Blind counsels of the wicked! Crime cowardly ever!
    • Line 489
    • Variant translations of O semper timidum scelus:
      • Crime is always fearful.
        • The Encyclopædic Dictionary, Vol. VII (1888), Part 2, p. 657
      • O wickedness, always full of fearful forebodings!
        • Craufurd Tait Ramage, Great Thoughts from Latin Authors (1884), p. 583

Book III

  • Plurima versat,
    pessimus in dubiis augur, timor.
    • Fear (in times of doubt the worst of prophets) revolves many things.
    • Line 5
  • Clamorem, bello supremus apertis
    • A cry like the last yell when warring cities are opened up.
    • Line 56. J. H. Mozley's translation: "...that last cry when cities are flung open to the victors".
  • Quantus equis quantusque viris in puluere crasso
    sudor! io quanti crudele rubebitis amnes!
    • What sweat in muddy dust for horses and for men! Ah, how high shall rivers be cruelly reddened!
    • Line 210
  • Unde iste per orbem
    primus venturi miseris animantibus aeger
    crevit amor? divumne feras hoc munus, an ipsi,
    gens avida et parto non umquam stare quieti,
    eruimus quae prima dies, ubi terminus aevi,
    quid bonus ille deum genitor, quid ferrea Clotho
    cogitet? hinc fibrae et volucrum per nubila sermo
    astrorumque vices numerataque semita lunae
    Thessalicumque nefas. at non prior aureus ille
    sanguis avum scopulisque satae vel robore gentes
    mentibus his usae; silvas amor unus humumque
    edomuisse manu; quid crastina volveret aetas
    scire nefas homini. nos, pravum et flebile vulgus,
    scrutati penitus superos.
    • Whence first arose among unhappy mortals throughout the world that sickly craving for the future? Sent by heaven, wouldst thou call it? Or is it we ourselves, a race insatiable, never content to abide on knowledge gained, that search out the day of our birth and the scene of our life's ending, what the kindly Father of the gods is thinking, or iron-hearted Clotho? Hence comes it that entrails occupy us, and the airy speech of birds, and the moon's numbered seeds, and Thessalia's horrid rites. But that earlier golden age of our forefathers, and the races born of rock or oak were not thus minded; their only passion was to gain the mastery of the woods and the soil by might of hand; it was forbidden to man to know what to-morrow's day would bring. We, a depraved and pitiable crowd, probe deep the counsels of the gods.
    • Line 551 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Primus in orbe deos fecit timor.
    • Fear first made gods in the world.
    • Line 661. These words also appear in a fragmentary poem attributed to Petronius (Fragm. 22. 1).

Book IV

  • Illum Palladia sonipes Nemeaeus ab arce
    devehit arma pavens umbraque inmane volanti
    implet agros longoque attollit pulvere campum.
    • A Nemean steed in terror of the fight bears the hero from the citadel of Pallas, and fills the fields with the huge flying shadow, and the long trail of dust rises upon the plain.
    • Line 136 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Ille velut pecoris lupus expugnator opimi,
    pectora tabenti sanie grauis hirtaque saetis
    ora cruentata deformis hiantia lana,
    decedit stabulis huc illuc turbida versans
    lumina, si duri comperta clade sequantur
    pastores, magnique fugit non inscius ausi.
    • Like is he to a wolf that has forced an entrance to a rich fold of sheep, and now, his breast all clotted with foul corruption and his gaping bristly mouth unsightly with blood-stained wool, hies him from the pens, turning this way and that his troubled gaze, should the angry shepherds find out their loss and follow in pursuit, and flees all conscious of his bold deed.
    • Line 363 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • In speculis Mors atra sedet dominoque silentes
    adnumerat populos; maior superinminet ordo.
    arbiter hos dura versat Gortynius urna
    vera minis poscens adigitque expromere vitas
    usque retro.
    • Black Death sits upon an eminence, and numbers the silent peoples for their lord; yet the greater part of the troop remains. The Gortynian judge shakes them in his inexorable urn, demanding the truth with threats, and constrains them to speak out their whole lives' story.
    • Line 528 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Tela manu, reicitque canes in vulnus hiantes.
    • While spear in hand he repels the hounds agape to rend him.
    • Line 574 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Sic ubi se magnis refluus suppressit in antris
    Nilus et Eoae liquentia pabula brumae
    ore premit, fumant desertae gurgite valles
    et patris undosi sonitus expectat hiulca
    Aegyptos, donec Phariis alimenta rogatus
    donet agris magnumque inducat messibus annum.
    • So when ebbing Nile hides himself in his great caverns and holds in his mouth the liquid nurture of an eastern winter, the valleys smoke forsaken by the flood and gaping Egypt awaits the sounds of her watery father, until at their prayers he grants sustenance to the Pharian fields and brings on a great harvest year.
    • Line 705
  • Juppiter, o quanta belli donabere praeda!
    • Jupiter, what spoils of war will our gift make yours!
    • Line 769
  • At puer in gremio vernae telluris et alto
    gramine nunc faciles sternit procursibus herbas
    in vultum nitens, caram modo lactis egeno
    nutricem clangore ciens iterumque renidens
    et teneris meditans verba inluctantia labris
    miratur nemorum strepitus aut obuia carpit
    aut patulo trahit ore diem nemorique malorum
    inscius et vitae multum securus inerrat.
    • But the child, lying in the bosom of the vernal earth and deep in herbage, now crawls forward on his face and crushes the soft grasses, now in clamorous thirst for milk cries for his beloved nurse; again he smiles, and would fain utter words that wrestle with his infant lips, and wonders at the noise of the woods, or plucks at aught he meets, or with open mouth drinks in the day, and strays in the forest all ignorant of its dangers, in carelessness profound.
    • Line 793 (tr. J. H. Mozley)

Book V

  • Dulce loqui miseris veteresque reducere questus.
    • Pleasant is it to the unhappy to speak, and to recall the sorrows of old time.
    • Line 48 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Primae decrescunt murmura noctis,
    cum consanguinei mixtus caligine Leti
    rore madens Stygio morituram amplectitur urbem
    Somnus et implacido fundit grauia otia cornu
    secernitque viros.
    • The sounds of early night die down. Mingled with the darkness of his kinsman Death and dripping with Stygian dew, Sleep enfolds the doomed city, pouring heavy ease from his unforgiving horn, and separates the men.
    • Line 196
  • O mihi desertae natorum dulcis imago,
    Archemore, o rerum et patriae solamen ademptae
    seruitiique decus, qui te, mea gaudia, sontes
    extinxere dei, modo quem digressa reliqui
    lascivum et prono uexantem gramina cursu?
    heu ubi siderei vultus? ubi verba ligatis
    imperfecta sonis risusque et murmura soli
    intellecta mihi? quotiens tibi Lemnon et Argo
    sueta loqui et longa somnum suadere querela!
    • Sweet semblance of the children who have forsaken me, Archemorus, solace of my lost estate and country, pride of my servitude, what guilty gods took your life, my joy, whom but now in parting I left at play, crushing the grasses as you hastened in your forward crawl? Ah, where is your starry face? Where your words unfinished in constricted sounds, and laughs and gurgles that only I could understand? How often would I talk to you of Lemnos and the Argo and lull you to sleep with my long tale of woe!
    • Line 608
  • Pro fors et caeca futuri
    mens hominum!
    • So strange is Chance, so blind the purposes of men!
    • Line 718 (tr. J. H. Mozley)

Book VI

  • Damnatus flammae torus.
    • The flame-appointed pyre.
    • Line 55 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Cuncta ignibus atris
    damnat atrox suaque ipse parens gestamina ferri,
    si damnis rabidum queat exaturare dolorem.
    • Yet all does the sire himself ruthlessly condemn to the murky flames, and bid his own signs of rank be borne withal, if by their loss he may sate his devouring grief.
    • Line 81 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Non ratus ore sacerdos,
    damnataeque preces.
    • The priest confirmed it not, and my prayer was lost.
    • Line 200 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Stare adeo miserum est, pereunt vestigia mille
    ante fugam, absentemque ferit grauis ungula campum.
    • To stand still is torture; a thousand paces are wasted before the start, the heavy hoof strikes the absent flat.
    • Line 400
  • Auro mansueverat ungues.
    • The claw tips are tamed with gold.
    • Line 724. Thomas Gray's translation: "And calm'd the terrors of his claws in gold".
  • Pulchrum vitam donare minori.
    • 'Tis noble to spare the vanquished.
    • Line 816 (tr. J. H. Mozley)

Book VII

  • Namque ferunt raptam patriis Aeginan ab undis.
    • For they say that Aegina was carried by force from her father's stream.
    • Line 319 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Nimiumque oblite tuorum.
    • Too little mindful of your folk.
    • Line 547


  • Stupet haec et credere Adrastus
    • Adrastus is amazed thereat and slow to believe.
    • Line 150
  • Omne homini natale solum.
    • All soil is human birthright.
    • Line 320 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
    • Variant translation: The whole world is a man's birthplace.
  • Qui mente novissimus exit,
    lucis amor.
    • Love of life, which departs last from the heart.
    • Line 386 (tr. W. J. Dominik)
  • Tydeos illa dies, illum fugiuntque tremuntque.
    • That day was the day of Tydeus: from him they flee and tremble.
    • Line 663 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Sic densa lupum jam nocte sub atra
    arcet ab apprenso pastorum turba juvenco.
    • So in the dark of night a dense crowd of shepherds wards off a wolf from the steer he has caught.
    • Line 691

Book IX

  • Nonne Hyrcanis bellare putatis
    tigribus, aut saeuos Libyae contra ire leones?
    • Do ye not think ye are making war on Hyrcanian tigers or facing angry Libyan lions?
    • Line 15 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Umida siccat
    mollibus ora comis.
    • Dries his wet face with her soft hair.
    • Line 374

Book X

  • Stat super occiduae nebulosa cubilia Noctis
    Aethiopasque alios, nulli penetrabilis astro,
    lucus iners, subterque cavis graue rupibus antrum
    it uacuum in montem, qua desidis atria Somni
    securumque larem segnis Natura locavit.
    limen opaca Quies et pigra Oblivio servant
    et numquam vigili torpens Ignauia vultu.
    Otia vestibulo pressisque Silentia pennis
    muta sedent abiguntque truces a culmine ventos
    et ramos errare vetant et murmura demunt
    alitibus. non hic pelagi, licet omnia clament
    litora, non ullus caeli fragor; ipse profundis
    vallibus effugiens speluncae proximus amnis
    saxa inter scopulosque tacet: nigrantia circum
    armenta omne solo recubat pecus, et nova marcent
    germina, terrarumque inclinat spiritus herbas.
    mille intus simulacra dei caelaverat ardens
    Mulciber: hic haeret lateri redimita Voluptas,
    hic comes in requiem vergens Labor, est ubi Baccho,
    est ubi Martigenae socium puluinar Amori
    obtinet. interius tecti in penetralibus altis
    et cum Morte jacet, nullique ea tristis imago
    cernitur. hae species. ipse autem umentia subter
    antra soporifero stipatos flore tapetas
    incubat; exhalant vestes et corpore pigro
    strata calent, supraque torum niger efflat anhelo
    ore vapor; manus haec fusos a tempore laevo
    sustentat crines, haec cornu oblita remisit.
    • Beyond the cloud-wrapt chambers of western gloom and Aethiopia's other realm there stands a motionless grove, impenetrable by any star; beneath it the hollow recesses of a deep and rocky cave run far into a mountain, where the slow hand of Nature has set the halls of lazy Sleep and his untroubled dwelling. The threshold is guarded by shady Quiet and dull Forgetfulness and torpid Sloth with ever drowsy countenance. Ease, and Silence with folded wings sit mute in the forecourt and drive the blustering winds from the roof-top, and forbid the branches to sway, and take away their warblings from the birds. No roar of the sea is here, though all the shores be sounding, nor yet of the sky; the very torrent that runs down the deep valley nigh the cave is silent among the rocks and boulders; by its side are sable herds, and sheep reclining one and all upon the ground; the fresh buds wither, and a breath from the earth makes the grasses sink and fail. Within, glowing Mulciber had carved a thousand likenesses of the god: here wreathed Pleasure clings to his side, here Labour drooping to repose bears him company, here he shares a couch with Bacchus, there with Love, the child of Mars. Further within, in the secret places of the palace he lies with Death also, but that dread image is seen by none. These are but pictures: he himself beneath humid caverns rests upon coverlets heaped with slumbrous flowers, his garments reek, and the cushions are warm with his sluggish body, and above the bed a dark vapour rises from his breathing mouth. One hand holds up the locks that fall from his left temple, from the other drops his neglected horn.
    • Line 84 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Pluraque laxato ceciderunt sidera caelo.
    • More stars fall from the loosened sky.
    • Line 145
  • Ut lea, quam saeuo fetam pressere cubili
    venantes Numidae, natos erecta superstat,
    mente sub incerta torvum ac miserabile frendens;
    illa quidem turbare globos et frangere morsu
    tela queat, sed prolis amor crudelia vincit
    pectora, et a media catulos circumspicit ira.
    • So a lioness that has newly whelped, beset by Numidian hunters in her cruel den, stands upright over her young, gnashing her teeth in grim and piteous wise, her mind in doubt; she could disrupt the groups and break their weapons with her bite, but love for her offspring binds her cruel heart and from the midst of her fury she looks round at her cubs.
    • Line 414
  • Volucrum sic turba recentum,
    cum reducem longo prospexit in aere matrem,
    ire cupit contra summique e margine nidi
    extat hians, iam iamque cadat, ni pectore toto
    obstet aperta parens et amantibus increpat alis.
    • Even so a crowd of nestlings, seeing their mother returning through the air afar, would fain go to meet her, and lean gaping from the edge of the nest, and would even now be falling, did she not spread all her motherly bosom to save them, and chide them with loving wings.
    • Line 458 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Ille coronatos iamdudum amplectitur ignes,
    fatidicum sorbens vultu flagrante vaporem.
    • He straightway spreads his arms about the garlanded fire, and absorbs the prophetic vapours with glowing countenance.
    • Line 604 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Ne frena animo permitte calenti,
    da spatium tenuemque moram, male cuncta ministrat
    • Give not rein to your hot mood, give time, a little delay; impulse is ever a bad servant.
    • Line 703. Variant translation: Give not reins to your inflamed passions: take time and a little delay; impetuosity manages all things badly.
  • Titulique in morte latentes.
    • Reputation hidden in death.
    • Line 712
  • 'Fulmen, io ubi fulmen?' ait. gemit auctor Apollo.
    • "The thunderbolt, ay, where the thunderbolt?" Apollo laments.
    • Line 889 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Mirantur taciti et dubio pro fulmine pallent.
    • They wonder in silence and turn pale for the dubious thunderbolt.
    • Line 920

Book XI

  • O furor, o homines diraeque Prometheos artes!
    • Ah! what fury! alas! mankind, alas! dread Promethean skill!
    • Line 468 (tr. J. H. Mozley)

Book XII

  • Nulla autem effigies, nulli commissa metallo
    forma dei: mentes habitare et pectora gaudet.
    • No image is there, to no metal is the divine form entrusted, in hearts and minds does the goddess delight to dwell.
    • Line 493 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Laetifici plausus missusque ad sidera vulgi
    • ...glad applause and the heaven-flung shout of the populace.
    • Line 521 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Vive, precor; nec tu divinam Aeneida tempta,
    sed longe sequere et vestigia semper adora.
    • O live, I pray! Nor rival the divine Aeneid, but follow afar and ever venerate its footsteps.
    • Line 816 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Mox, tibi si quis adhuc praetendit nubila livor,
    occidet, et meriti post me referentur honores.
    • Soon, if any envy still spreads clouds before you, it shall perish, and after me you shall be paid the honours you deserve.
    • Line 818

The translations are by D. R. Shackleton Bailey, and are taken from vol. 206 of the Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015).

Book I

  • Quas inter vultu petulans Elegea propinquat.
    • Among them pert-faced Elegy draws near.
    • ii, line 7
  • Hunc Galatea vigens ausa est incessere bello.
    • Him did Galatia dare to provoke to war in lusty pride.
    • iv, line 76 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Immensae veluti conexa carinae
    cumba minor, cum saevit hiems, pro parte furentis
    parva receptat aquas et eodem volvitur austro.
    • As a little skiff attached to a great ship, when the storm blows high, takes in her small share of the raging waters and tosses in the same south wind.
    • iv, line 120

Book II

  • Nobis meminisse relictum.
    • To us is left a memory.
    • i, line 55
  • Et dulces rapuit de collibus uvas.
    • And snatched sweet grapes from the hills.
    • ii, line 103
  • Primaevam visu platanum, cui longa propago
    innumeraeque manus et iturus in aethera vertex.
    • Spying a young plane tree with long stem and countless branches and summit aspiring to heaven.
    • iii, line 39 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Tu cujus placido posuere in pectore sedem
    blandus honos hilarisque tamen cum pondere virtus,
    cui nec pigra quies nec iniqua potentia nec spes
    improba, sed medius per honesta et dulcia limes,
    incorrupte fidem nullosque experte tumultus
    et secrete, palam quod digeris ordine vitam,
    idem auri facilis contemptor et optimus idem
    comere divitias opibusque immittere lucem.
    • In your calm bosom have made their dwelling a dignity that charms and virtue gay yet weighty. Not for you lazy repose or unjust power or vaulting ambition, but a middle way leading through the Good and the Pleasant. Of stainless faith and a stranger to passion, private while ordering your life for all to see, a despiser too of gold yet none better at displaying your wealth to advantage and letting the light in upon your riches.
    • iii, line 64
  • Magni quod Caesaris ora...
    unius amissi tetigit jactura leonis.
    • The loss of one lion alone drew a tear from mighty Caesar's eye.
    • v, line 27 (tr. J. H. Mozley)

Book III

  • Silvaque quae fixam pelago Nesida coronat.
    • The wood that crowns the peak of Nesis set fast in ocean.
    • i, line 148 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Nempe benigna
    quam mihi sorte Venus iunctam florentibus annis
    servat et in senium.
    • You, whom Venus of her grace united to me in the springtime of my days, and in old age keeps mine.
    • v, line 22 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Bacchei vineta madentia Gauri.
    • The flowing vineyards of Bacchic Gaurus.
    • v, line 99

Book IV

  • Steriles transmisimus annos:
    haec aevi mihi prima dies, hic limina vitae.
    • Barren are the years behind me. This is the first day of my span, here is the threshold of my life.
    • ii, line 12
  • At nunc, quae solidum diem terebat,
    horarum via facta vix duarum.
    • But now the route that used to wear out a solid day barely takes two hours.
    • iii, line 36
Shall future progeny of men believe, when crops grow again and this desert shall once more be green, that cities and peoples are buried below and that an ancestral countryside vanished in a common doom?
  • Mira fides! credetne virum ventura propago,
    cum segetes iterum, cum iam haec deserta virebunt,
    infra urbes populosque premi proavitaque tanto
    rura abiisse mari? necdum letale minari
    cessat apex.
    • Wonderful but true! Shall future progeny of men believe, when crops grow again and this desert shall once more be green, that cities and peoples are buried below and that an ancestral countryside vanished in a common doom? Nor does the summit yet cease its deadly thrust.
    • iv, line 81

Book V

  • Qui bona fide deos colit amat et sacerdotes.
    • Whoever worships the gods in good faith, loves their priests too.
    • Preface, line 10
  • Sic auferre rogis umbram conatur et ingens
    certamen cum Morte gerit, curasque fatigat
    artificum inque omni te quaerit amare metallo.
    Sed mortalis honos, agilis quem dextra laborat.
    • So does he strive to rescue your shade from the pyre and wages a mighty contest with Death, wearying the efforts of artists and seeking to love you in every material. But beauty created by toil of cunning hand is mortal.
    • i, line 7
  • Nec frons triste rigens nimiusque in moribus horror
    sed simplex hilarisque fides et mixta pudori
    • Yet no stiff and frowning face was hers, no undue austerity in her manners, but gay and simple loyalty, charm blended with modesty.
    • i, line 64
...rash Sappho, who feared not Leucas but took the manly leap.
  • Excidat illa dies aevo nec postera credant
    saecula. nos certe taceamus et obruta multa
    nocte tegi propriae patiamur crimina gentis.
    • May that day perish from Time's record, nor future generations believe it! Let us at least keep silence, and suffer the crimes of our own house to be buried deep in whelming darkness.
    • ii, line 88 (tr. J. H. Mozley)
  • Exsere semirutos subito de pulvere vultus,
    Parthenope, crinemque adflato monte sepultum
    pone super tumulos et magni funus alumni.
    • Raise your half-buried countenance from the sudden shower of dust, Parthenope, and place your locks, singed by the mountains breath, on the tomb and body of your great foster son.
    • iii, line 104
  • Stesichorusque ferox saltusque ingressa viriles
    non formidata temeraria Leucade Sappho.
    • And bold Stesichorus and rash Sappho, who feared not Leucas but took the manly leap.
    • iii, line 154
  • Jamque et flere pio Vesuvina incendia cantu
    mens erat et gemitum patriis impendere damnis,
    cum pater exemptum terris ad sidera montem
    sustulit et late miseras deiecit in urbes.
    • And now it was your purpose to weep Vesuvius' flames in pious melody and spend your tears on the losses of your native place, what time the Father took the mountain from earth and lifted it to the stars only to plunge it down upon the hapless cities far and wide.
    • iii, line 205
  • Crimine quo merui, juvenis placidissime divum,
    quove errore miser, donis ut solus egerem,
    Somne, tuis? tacet omne pecus volucresque feraeque
    et simulant fessos curvata cacumina somnos,
    nec trucibus fluviis idem sonus; occidit horror
    aequoris, et terris maria adclinata quiescunt.
    • For what cause, youthful Sleep, kindest of gods, or what error have I deserved, alas to lack your boon? All cattle are mute and birds and beasts, and the nodding tree-tops feign weary slumbers, and the raging rivers abate their roar; the ruffling of the waves subsides, the sea is still, leaning against the shore.
    • iv, line 1

The translations are by J. H. Mozley, and are taken from vol. 2 of Statius: Silvae, Thebaid, Achilleid, Loeb Classical Library (London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1928).

Book I

  • Aut monstrare lyra veteres heroas alumno.
    • Or to describe to his pupil upon his lyre the heroes of old time.
    • Line 118
  • Jamdudum tacito lustrat Thetis omnia visu.
    • Long time has Thetis been scanning every corner with silent glance.
    • Line 126
  • Studiis multum Mavortia, Thrace.
    • Thrace, steeped in the passionate love of war.
    • Line 201
  • Ni pudor et junctae teneat reverentia matris.
    • Did not shame restrain him and awe of the mother by his side.
    • Line 312
  • Dehinc sociare choros castisque accedere sacris
    hortantur ceduntque loco et contingere gaudent.
    qualiter Idaliae volucres, ubi mollia frangunt
    nubila, iam longum caeloque domoque gregatae,
    si iunxit pinnas diversoque hospita tractu
    venit avis, cunctae primum mirantur et horrent;
    mox propius propiusque volant, atque aere in ipso
    paulatim fecere suam plausuque secundo
    circumeunt hilares et ad alta cubilia ducunt.
    • Then they invite her to join the dance and approach the holy rites, and make room for her in their ranks and rejoice to be near her. Just as Idalian birds, cleaving the soft clouds and long since gathered in the sky or in their homes, if a strange bird from some distant region has joined them wing to wing, are at first all filled with amaze and fear; then nearer and nearer they fly, and while yet in the air have made him one of them and hover joyfully around with favouring beat of pinions and lead him to their lofty resting-places.
    • Line 370
  • Tu caeli pelagique nepos.
    • You are the grandson of the sky and sea.
    • Line 869; Ulysses to Achilles.

Book II

  • Dignissima caeli
    • Worthiest progeny of heaven.
    • Line 86


  • The cruelty of war makes for peace.
    • As quoted in Our Day of Empire (1954) by Louis Obed Renne, p. 180.



Quotes about Statius

The sweet poet. ~ Dante Alighieri
All Rome is pleased when Statius will rehearse,
And longing crowds expect the promised verse.
~ Juvenal
  • Stazio la gente ancor di là mi noma:
    cantai di Tebe, e poi del grande Achille;
    ma caddi in via con la seconda soma.
    • On earth my name is still remembered—Statius:
      I sang of Thebes and then of great Achilles;
      I fell along the way of that last labor.
    • Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy, Purgatorio, Canto XXI, line 91 (tr. Allen Mandelbaum)
  • I think Statius a truer poet than Lucan, though he is very extravagant sometimes.
    • Samuel Taylor Coleridge, remark (dated 2 Sept. 1833) in Specimens of the Table Talk of the Late Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Vol. II (1835), p. 262
  • Strada, in his Prolusions, has placed Statius on the highest top of Parnassus; thereby intimating the strength of his genius, and the lofty spirit of his style; which indeed is generally supported by a bold and lively expression, and full flowing numbers. His manner, therefore, resembles rather the martial strut of a general, and the magnificence of a triumph, than the majestic port and true grandeur of a prince, which better suits the inimitable character of Virgil's style. As a soldier cannot easily lay aside the roughness of his character, neither can Statius descend from the pomp of language and loftiness of numbers, when his subject requires it.
    • Lewis Crusius, The Lives Of The Roman Poets (1733), p. 295
  • [Statius] has as luxuriant an imagination as Lucan, but it is easy to see that he oftener checked it. You will find in his Thebaid innumerable beauties, but you will also see too many faults. You will see a fire and spirit equal to all that appeals in the Poets of the greatest name; but you will wish not only that it had been more limited, but that it had been better regulated: he has a great deal of natural dignity, but in carrying it too far he often spoils its lustre. His language is often elegant to a very great degree, and though not universally, yet in a very great part, is appropriated in a very happy manner. If there be one fault predominant above the others in the Thebaid, it is that he is too florid; but you will see that in this the fault was in the impetuosity of his fancy rather than in defect of judgment: his subject ran away with him, and he gave the reins to imagination. In his Sylvae we see him with all this false glare, natural, elegant, and easy. His Achilleid there is no pronouncing any thing upon, for it was never retouched. You will find in many parts of his Thebaid a great deal of the true sublime: in others he carries it into rant and bombast. In the Achilleid there is more of this in proportion than in the Thebaid; but we are not from thence to conclude that he grew worse in this respect as he continued his application: had he lived to finish, he would also have corrected that poem.
    • John Hill, Observations on the Greek and Roman Classics (1753), pp. 224–225
  • Among the writers of antiquity, I remember none except Statius who ventures to mention the speedy production of his writings, either as an extenuation of his faults, or a proof of his facility. Nor did Statius, when he considered himself as a candidate for lasting reputation, think a closer attention unnecessary, but amidst all his pride and indigence, the two great hasteners of modern poems, employed twelve years upon the Thebaid, and thinks his claim to renown proportionate to his labour.

    Thebais, multa cruciata lima,
    Tentat, audaci fide, Mantuanae
    Gaudia famae.

    Polished with endless toil, my lays
    At length aspire to Mantuan praise.

    • Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, No. 169 (29 October 1751). Cf. Silvae, IV, vii, 26.
  • Curritur ad vocem jucundam, et carmen amicae
    Thebaidos, laetam fecit quum Statius urbem,
    Promisitque diem, tanta dulcedine captos
    Afficit ille animos, tantaque libidine vulgi
    Auditur! sed quum fregit subsellia versu,
    Esurit, intactam Paridi nisi vendat Agaven.
    • All Rome is pleased when Statius will rehearse,
      And longing crowds expect the promised verse;
      His lofty numbers with so great a gust
      They hear, and swallow with such eager lust:
      But while the common suffrage crowned his cause,
      And broke the benches with their loud applause,
      His Muse had starved, had not a piece unread,
      And by a player bought, supplied her bread.
    • Juvenal, Satire VII (tr. Charles Dryden)
  • In the very beginning he unluckily betrays his ignorance in the rules of poetry (which Horace had already taught the Romans) when he asks his Muse where to begin his Thebaid...
    • Alexander Pope, letter to Henry Cromwell (22 January 1709), in Letters of Mr. Pope, Vol. I (1735), p. 93
  • It may be remarked of Statius's heroes, that an air of impetuosity runs through them all; the same horrid and savage courage appears in his Capaneus, Tydeus, Hippomedon, etc. They have a parity of character which makes them seem brothers of one family.
  • The best of all the Latin epic poets after Virgil.
  • I do not scruple to prefer Statius to Virgil; his images are strongly conceived, and clearly painted, and the force of his language, while it makes the reader feel, proves that the author felt himself.
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