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The side that won the Gods approved most, but Cato better lik'd the side that lost.

Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (November 3, 39April 30, 65), better known in English as Lucan, was a Roman epic poet. In A.D. 65, at the age of 25, he was charged with treason against Nero, and was commanded to commit suicide.

Despite his short life, Lucan is regarded as one of the outstanding figures of the Imperial Latin period. His youth and speed of composition set him apart from other poets. His epic poem Bellum Civile (or Pharsalia) deals with the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey.



English quotations from translations by J. D. Duff (London: 1962), Sir Edward Ridley (London: 1896) and Thomas Hobes
  • In se magna ruunt: laetis hunc numina rebus
    crescendi posuere modum.
    • Great things come crashing down upon themselves – such is the limit of growth ordained by heaven for success.
    • Book I, line 81.
  • Victrix causa diis placuit sed victa Catoni.
    • The side that won the Gods approved most,
      But Cato better lik'd the side that lost.
    • Book I, line 128 (tr. by Tho. Hobbes).
  • Stat magni nominis umbra.
    • The mere shadow of a mighty name he stood.
    • Book I, line 135; of Pompey the Great.
    • Variant translation: There stands the ghost of a great name.
  • Sed non in Caesare tantum
    nomen erat nec fama ducis, sed nescia virtus
    stare loco, solusque pudor non vincere bello.
    • But Caesar had more than a mere name and military reputation: his energy could never rest, and his one disgrace was to conquer without war.
    • Book I, line 143.
  • Leges bello siluere coactae.
    • But silenced now
      Are laws in war.
    • Book I, line 277 (tr. by Sir Edward Ridley).
  • Hi mores, haec duri inmota Catonis
    secta fuit, servare modum finemque tenere
    naturamque sequi patriaeque inpendere vitam
    nec sibi sed toti genitum se credere mundo.
    • 'Twas his rule
      Inflexible, to keep the middle path
      Marked out and bounded; to observe the laws
      Of natural right; and for his country's sake
      To risk his life, his all, as not for self
      Brought into being, but for all the world.
    • Book II, line 380 (tr. E. Ridley).
  • Sed Caesar in omnia praeceps,
    nil actum credens, cum quid superesset agendum.
    • But Caesar, headlong in all his designs,
      thought nothing done while anything remained to do.
    • Book II, line 656.
  • Discite, quam parvo liceat producere vitam,
    Et quantum natura petat.
    • Learn what life requires,
      How little nature needs!
      • Book IV, lines 377-378 (tr. E. Ridley).
  • ...Datos, ne quisquam seruiat, enses.
    • ...The sword
      Was given for this, that none need live a slave.
    • Book IV, line 579 (tr. E. Ridley).
  • Quidquid multis peccatur inultum est.
    • The sin of thousands always goes unpunished.
    • Book V, line 260.
  • Multos in summa pericula misit
    venturi timor ipse mali.
    • But many are driven to utmost peril by the mere dread of coming danger.
    • Book VII, line 104.
  • Nil opus est uotis, iam fatum accersite ferro.
    in manibus uestris, quantus sit Caesar, habetis.
    • Prayed for so oft, the dawn of fight is come.
      No more entreat the gods: with sword in hand
      Seize on our fates; and Caesar in your deeds.
    • Book VII, line 252 (tr. E. Ridley).
  • Et primo ferri motu prosternite mundum;
    sitque palam, quas tot duxit Pompeius in urbem
    curribus, unius gentes non esse triumphi.
    • One stroke of sword and all the world is yours.
      Make plain to all men that the crowds who decked
      Pompeius' hundred pageants scarce were fit
      For one poor triumph.
    • Book VII, line 278 (tr. E. Ridley).
  • ...Coniunx
    est mihi, sunt nati; dedimus tot pignora fatis.
    • I have a wife, I have sons; all these hostages have I given to fortune.
    • Book VII, line 661. Variant translation: I have a wife, I have sons: we have given so many hostages to the fates.
  • Quod defles, illud amasti
    • What you weep for, that you loved!
    • Book VIII, line 85 (tr. A. S. Kline).
  • Jupiter est quodcumque vides, quocumque moveris.
    • Jupiter is whatever you see, whichever way you move.
    • Book IX, line 580.

Quotes about Lucan[edit]

  • Lucan is the most philosophical, and the most public-spirited Poet, of all antiquity.
    • Hugh Blair, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (1784), Lecture XLIV: 'The Pharsalia of Lucan', p. 413
  • The Pharsalia is not sufficiently appreciated—though harsh and irregular I consider it an epic poem of great merit which read on classic ground is by no means uninteresting.
    • Lord Byron, note in his copy of Lucan, as quoted in Ancilla to Classical Reading (1999) by Moses Hadas, p. 355

External links[edit]

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