Poem by Q. Horatius Flaccus, written for and performed at the secular games of 17 B.C., held to celebrate the beginning of a new age of peace and Roman prosperity, ushered in by the political leadership of Caesar Augustus. It was no coincidence that the games followed a year of political legislation, including the Lex Julia de maritandis ordinibus (making marriage mandatory at a specific age) and the Lex Julia de adulteriis coercendis (providing for specific processes in the punishment of adultery), all of which was meant to reinforce legally the practice of the Roman virtues and nominally republican political tradition brought about by Augustus' victory in the civil wars.

The poem has been criticized rather often as mere political propaganda for the Augustan regime, and brought as a prime example into arguments over the degree of political control the emperor Augustus had over literary production at the time. Much of the imagery is reflected in the officially sponsored art-work of the period. The figures of Apollo and Diana, with whom Augustus had early associated himself, occurring in lines 1 and 75 (opening and closing the poem), are likewise reflected on the breastplate of the famous Prima Porta Augustus. The goddess of bounty in line 60 highlights the Ara Pacis Augustae, and the virtues listed in line 57 reflect those listed on the Clupeus Virtutis, the shield granted to Augustus by the senate. Other phrases, such as the victory on land and sea (line 53) and the 15 members of the priestly college (line 70, of which Augustus himself was a member), remind us of the official list of accomplishments Augustus published some 30 years later. The poem is a distillation of all the values and ideals which officially represented the restoration of the republic, and while it should not be viewed as only a work of hired propaganda, provides us with perhaps the most important evidence for the relationship between literature and politics in the age of Augustus.

It has been suggested that this poem was sung by a procession of children to open the three-day festival of the games.


Latin Text:

Phoebe silvarumque potens Diana, 1
lucidum caeli decus, o colendi
semper et culti, date quae precamur
tempore sacro,

quo Sibyllini monuere versus 5
virgines lectas puerosque castos
dis, quibus septem placuere colles,
dicere carmen.

Alme Sol, curru nitido diem qui
promis et celas aliusque et idem 10
nasceris, possis nihil urbe Roma
visere maius.

Rite maturos aperire partus
lenis, Ilithyia, tuere matres,
sive tu Lucina probas vocari 15
seu Genitalis:

Diva, producas subolem, patrumque
prosperes decreta super iugandis
feminis prolisque novae feraci
lege marita, 20

Certus undenos decies per annos
orbis ut cantus referatque ludos
ter die claro totiensque grata
nocte frequentis.

Vosque veraces cecinisse, Parcae, 25
quod semel dictum est stabilisque rerum
terminus servet, bona iam peractis
iungite fata.

fertilis frugum pecorisque tellus
spicea donet Cererem corona; 30
nutriant fetus et aquae salubres
et Iovis aurae

condito mitis placidusque telo
supplices audii pueros, Apollo;
siderum regina bicornis, audi, 35
Luna, puella:

Roma si vestrum est opus, Iliaeque
litus Etruscum tenuere turmae,
iussa pars mutare Lares et urbem
sospite cursu, 40

cui per ardentem sine fraude Troiam
castus Aeneas patriae superstes
liberum minuvit iter, daturus
plura relictis:

Di, probos mores docili iuventae, 45
di, senectuti placidae quietem,
Romulae genti date remque prolemque
et decus omne.

Quaeque vos bubus veneratur albis
clarus Anchisae Venerisque sanguis, 50
impetret, bellante prior, iacentem
lenis in hostem.

iam mari terraque manus potentis
Medus Albanasque timet securis,
iam Scythae responsa petunt superbi 55
nuper et Indi.

Iam Fides et Pax et Honos Pudorque
priscus et neglecta redire Virtus
audet, apparetque beata pleno
Copia cornu. 60

augure et fulgente decorus arcu
Phoebus acceptusque novem Camenis,
qui salutari levat arte fessos
corporis artus,

si Palatinas videt aequus aras, 65
remque Romanam Latiumque felix
alterum in lustrum meliusque semper
prorogat aevum.

quaeque Aventinum tenet Algidumque,
quindecim Diana preces virorum 70
curat et votis puerorum amicas
applicat auris.

haec Iovem sentire deosque cunctos
spem bonam certamque domum reporto,
doctus et Phoebi chorus et Dianae 75
dicere laudes.


English Translation:

Phoebus and mistress of the woods, Diana,
radiant heaven's glory, whose adoration always
must be preserved, grant what we pray
In this sacred time,

When the verses of the Sibyl warned
the chosen girls, boys consecrated to the gods,
to sing the hymn with which they pleased
the seven hills.

Kindly Sun, who with your shining chariot
herald the day, hide it again and just the same
give birth, you still see nothing greater than
the city of Rome.

Gently bring healthy offspring into the world,
Ilithyia, grant mothers your protection
whether you prefer to be called Lucina
or Genitalis:

Goddess, may you bring forth the race and make
prosper the tenets on marriage of our fathers,
with fertile guides the bonds of wedlock
for a race to come,

That throughout the eleven by ten years
the certain world should bring its song and games
assembling on thrice clear days and just
so many nights.

And you who've sung the truth in song, you Fates
what at once is said, the steadfast boundary
of affairs guards, then join those blessed fates
with what's been done.

The fertile fields of the fruits and cattle yield
Ceres, crowned with a golden wreath of grain;
both wholesome waters and the breezes of Jove
feed the fruits.

Soft and gentle, with your darts laid down
take heed, Apollo, for those suppliant youths;
take heed for the girls, two-horned mistress
of the stars, Luna.

Rome, if that work belongs to you, and Ilian
towers take hold of the Etruscan shore,
part is bidden to move the Lares and the city
in saving flight,

You, to whom, through the burning ruins of Troy
without deceit chaste Aeneas, survivor of his home
made his way freely, destined to give more
to those left behind:

Gods, grant to peaceful youth noble morality,
gods, grant to peaceful age deserved quiet,
and grant the tribe of Romulus every thing,
offspring and glory.

And each worships you with pure, white bullocks,
the noble blood of Anchises and Venus brings
it to pass, bests the warrior, lenient to
prone enemies.

And now on land and sea the Medean fears
the mighty hands, the Alban double-axe,
now the Scythians newly proud, and the Indians
seek his reply.

Already Faith and Peace, Honor and Chastity
of old, Virtue once left behind, now dare
return, while Bounty blessed with her full horn
appears again.

Phoebus, the prophet, suited to his flashing
bow, welcomed by the nine Muses, who
lightens with his healing arts the wearied limbs
of the body,

If equal he looks on altars of the Palatine,
the business of Rome and Latium, happily
into another hundred years always extends
a better age.

As for what the Aventine and the Algidum hold
Diana herself takes care for the cares of the 15 men
and to the prayers of the youth she lends
her kindly ears.

I tell you, Jove and all the gods are listening
to this, our greatest hope and certain home,
the chorus both of Phoebus and Diana taught to sing
your praises.

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