Silius Italicus

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Make haste! The flood-tide of Fortune soon ebbs.
He had the folly to believe that to be feared is glory.
Doubt not a woman's hardihood; no danger is too great for wedded love to face.
Men leave arms and legs behind, severed by the frost, and the cruel cold cuts off the limbs already broken.
Manhood is tested by trial.
Groundless superstition ill becomes an army; Valour is the only deity that rules in the warrior's breast.
Inaction is safety in peril.
Victorious Carthage measures the downfall of Rome by all the heap of gold that was torn from the left hands of the slain.

Silius Italicus (c. 28 – c. 103) was a Roman consul, orator, and Latin epic poet. His only surviving work is the 17-book Punica, an epic poem about the Second Punic War.

Quotes[edit]

Punica[edit]

Silius Italicus, Punica, trans. J. D. Duff (Loeb Classical Library, 1934)
  • Ordior arma, quibus caelo se gloria tollit
    Aeneadum, patiturque ferox Oenotria iura
    Carthago.
    • Here I begin the war by which the fame of the Aeneadae was raised to heaven and proud Carthage submitted to the rule of Italy.
      • Book I, lines 1–3
  • Metui demens credebat honorem.
    • He had the folly to believe that to be feared is glory.
      • Book I, line 149
  • Primus sumpsisse laborem.
    • He was ever first to undertake hardship.
      • Book I, line 242
  • Ad limina sanctae
    contendit Fidei secretaque pectora temptat.
    arcanis dea laeta polo tum forte remoto
    caelicolum magnas uoluebat conscia curas.
    quam tali adloquitur Nemeae pacator honore:
    'Ante Iouem generata, decus diuumque hominumque,
    qua sine non tellus pacem, non aequora norunt,
    iustitiae consors...'
    • He took his way to the abode of sacred Loyalty, seeking to discover her hidden purpose. It chanced that the goddess, who loves solitude, was then in a distant region of heaven, pondering in her heart the high concerns of the gods. Then he who gave peace to Nemea accosted her thus with reverence: "Goddess more ancient than Jupiter, glory of gods and men, without whom neither sea nor land finds peace, sister of Justice..."
      • Book II, lines 479–486
  • Postquam oculos varia implevit virtutis imago,
    mira dehinc cernit: surgentis mole profundi
    injectum terris subitum mare nullaque circa
    litora et infuso stagnantis aequore campos.
    nam qua caeruleis Nereus evoluitur antris
    atque imo freta contorquet Neptunia fundo,
    proruptum exundat pelagus, caecosque relaxans
    Oceanus fontis torrentibus ingruit undis.
    tum uada, ceu saevo penitus permota tridenti,
    luctantur terris tumefactum imponere pontum.
    mox remeat gurges tractoque relabitur aestu,
    ac ratis erepto campis deserta profundo,
    et fusi transtris expectant aequora nautae.
    Cymothoes ea regna vagae pelagique labores
    Luna mouet, Luna, immissis per caerula bigis,
    fertque refertque fretum, sequiturque reciproca Tethys.
    • When Hannibal's eyes were sated with the picture of all that valour, he saw next a marvellous sight—the sea suddenly flung upon the land with the mass of the rising deep, and no encircling shores, and the fields inundated by the invading waters. For, where Nereus rolls forth from his blue caverns and churns up the waters of Neptune from the bottom, the sea rushes forward in flood, and Ocean, opening his hidden springs, rushes on with furious waves. Then the water, as if stirred to the depths by the fierce trident, strives to cover the land with the swollen sea. But soon the water turns and glides back with ebbing tide; and then the ships, robbed of the sea, are stranded, and the sailors, lying on their benches, await the waters' return. It is the Moon that stirs this realm of wandering Cymothoe and troubles the deep; the Moon, driving her chariot through the sky, draws the sea this way and that, and Tethys follows with ebb and flow.
      • Book III, lines 45–60
  • Crede vigori
    femineo. Castum haud superat labor ullus amorem.
    • Doubt not a woman's hardihood; no danger is too great for wedded love to face.
      • Book III, lines 112–113
  • Quoque magis subiere iugo atque euadere nisi
    erexere gradum, crescit labor. ardua supra
    sese aperit fessis et nascitur altera moles.
    • The higher they climbed in their struggle to reach the top, the harder grew their toil. When one height had been mastered, a second opens and springs up before their aching sight.
      • Book III, line 528–530
  • Abscisa relincunt
    membra gelu, fractosque asper rigor amputat artus.
    • Men leave arms and legs behind, severed by the frost, and the cruel cold cuts off the limbs already broken.
      • Book III, line 552–553
  • Blandoque veneno
    desidiae virtus paulatim evicta senescit.
    • And their manliness is slowly sapped and weakened by the seductive poison of indolence.
      • Book III, lines 580–581
  • Caeruleas Ticinus aquas et stagna uadoso
    perspicuus seruat turbari nescia fundo
    ac nitidum uiridi lente trahit amne liquorem.
    uix credas labi: ripis tam mitis opacis
    argutos inter uolucrum certamine cantus
    somniferam ducit lucenti gurgite lympham.
    • That crystal river keeps its pools of blue water free from all stain above its shallow bed, and slowly draws along its fair stream of greenish hue. One would scarce believe it was moving; so softly along its shady banks, while the birds sing sweet in rivalry, it leads along in a shining flood its waters that tempt to sleep.
      • Book IV, lines 82–87
  • Explorant adversa viros, perque aspera duro
    nititur ad laudem virtus interrita clivo.
    • Manhood is tested by trial, and valour climbs unterrified the rocky path and difficult ascent that leads to glory.
      • Book IV, lines 603–604
  • Pelle moras! Brevis est magni Fortuna favoris.
    • Make haste! The flood-tide of Fortune soon ebbs.
      • Book IV, line 732
  • Bellandum est astu; leuior laus in duce dextrae.
    • War calls for strategy: valour is less praiseworthy in a commander.
      • Book V, line 100
  • Deforme sub armis
    vana superstitio est: dea sola in pectore Virtus
    bellantum viget.
    • Groundless superstition ill becomes an army; Valour is the only deity that rules in the warrior's breast.
      • Book V, lines 125–127
  • ...ceu tigride cerva
    Hyrcana cum pressa tremit, vel territa pennas
    colligit accipitrem cernens in nube columba,
    aut dumis subit, albenti si sensit in aethra
    librantem nisus aquilam, lepus.
    • Like a trembling hind pursued by a Hyrcanian tigress, or like a pigeon that checks her flight when she sees a hawk in the sky, or like a hare that dives into the thicket at sight of the eagle hovering with outstretched wings in the cloudless sky.
      • Book V, lines 280–284
  • Quantis armati caelum petiere Gigantes
    anguibus, aut quantus Lernae lassavit in undis
    Amphitryoniaden serpens, qualisque comantis
    auro servauit ramos Junonius anguis.
    • Huge as the snakes that armed the Giants when they stormed heaven, or as the hydra that wearied Hercules by the waters of Lerna, or as Juno's snake that guarded the boughs with golden foliage.
      • Book VI, lines 181–184
  • Haud secus ac stabulis procurans otia pastor
    in foveam parco tectam velamine frondis
    ducit nocte lupos positae balatibus agnae.
    • Even so a shepherd, seeking safety for his flock, lures the wolves at night by the bleating of a tethered lamb into the pitfall masked by a slender covering of leafage.
      • Book VI, lines 329–331
  • Rarae fumant felicibus arae.
    • Altars seldom smoke in prosperous times.
      • Book VII, line 89
  • Aegris
    nil mouisse salus rebus.
    • Inaction is safety in peril.
      • Book VII, lines 395–396
  • Non umquam spem ponit amor.
    • Love never abandons hope.
      • Book VIII, line 85
  • Mantua, Musarum domus atque ad sidera cantu
    evecta Aonio et Smyrnaeis aemula plectris.
    • Mantua, the home of the Muses, raised to the skies by immortal verse, and a match for the lyre of Homer.
      • Book VIII, lines 593–594
  • Congesto laevae quodcumque avellitur auro
    metitur Latias victrix Carthago ruinas.
    • Victorious Carthage measures the downfall of Rome by all the heap of gold that was torn from the left hands of the slain.
      • Book VIII, lines 675–676
      • Note: This refers to the mass of rings Hannibal plundered from the Roman knights slain in the Battle of Cannae.
  • Stat nulla diu mortalibus usquam,
    Fortuna titubante, fides.
    • Nowhere do men remain loyal for long when Fortune proves unstable.
      • Book XI, lines 3–4
  • At patulo surgens iam dudum ex aequore late
    nauticus implebat resonantia litora clamor,
    et simul adductis percussa ad pectora tonsis
    centeno fractus spumabat verbere pontus.
    • Then the shouting of the sailors, which had long been rising from the open sea, filled all the shore with its sound; and, when the rowers all together brought the oars back sharply to their breasts, the sea foamed under the stroke of a hundred blades.
      • Book XI, lines 487–490
  • Pax optima rerum
    quas homini novisse datum est, pax una triumphis
    innumeris potior, pax custodire salutem
    et civis aequare potens revocetur in arcis
    tandem Sidonias, et fama fugetur ab urbe
    perfidiae, Phoenissa, tua.
    • Peace is the best thing that man may know; peace alone is better than a thousand triumphs; peace has power to guard our lives and secure equality among fellow-citizens. Let us then after so long recall peace to the city of Carthage, and banish the reproach of treachery from Dido's city.
      • Book XI, lines 592–597
So, when a pebble breaks the surface of a motionless pool, in its first movements it forms tiny rings; and next, while the water glints and shimmers under the growing force, it swells the number of the circles over the rounding pond, until at last one extended circle reaches with wide-spreading compass from bank to bank.
  • Sic, ubi perrupit stagnantem calculus undam,
    exiguos format per prima volumina gyros,
    mox tremulum uibrans motu gliscente liquorem
    multiplicat crebros sinuati gurgitis orbes,
    donec postremo laxatis circulus oris
    contingat geminas patulo curuamine ripas.
    • So, when a pebble breaks the surface of a motionless pool, in its first movements it forms tiny rings; and next, while the water glints and shimmers under the growing force, it swells the number of the circles over the rounding pond, until at last one extended circle reaches with wide-spreading compass from bank to bank.
      • Book XIII, lines 24–29
      • Compare:
        • As on the smooth expanse of crystal lakes
          The sinking stone at first a circle makes;
          The trembling surface, by the motion stirred,
          Spreads in a second circle, then a third;
          Wide, and more wide, the floating rings advance,
          Fill all the watery plain, and to the margin dance.
        • As the small pebble stirs the peaceful lake:
          The centre moved, a circle straight succeeds,
          Another still, and still another spreads.
  • Et deforme malum ac sceleri proclivis Egestas
    Errorque infido gressu, et Discordia gaudens
    permiscere fretum caelo.
    • And Poverty, an unsightly plague that leads men to crime; Error, with staggering gait, and Discord that delights to confound sea with sky.
      • Book XIII, lines 585–587
  • Ipsa quidem virtus sibimet pulcherrima merces;
    dulce tamen venit ad manis, cum gratia vitae
    durat apud superos nec edunt oblivia laudem.
    • Virtue is indeed its own noblest reward; yet the dead find it sweet, when the fame of their lives is remembered among the living and oblivion does not swallow up their praises.
      • Book XIII, lines 663–665
  • Subito cum pondere victus,
    insiliente mari, summergitur alveus undis.
    scuta virum cristaeque et inerti spicula ferro
    tutelaeque deum fluitant.
    • She gave way under the sudden weight, the sea rushed in, and the Io sank beneath the wave. Shields and helmets float on the water, images of tutelary gods and javelins with useless points.
      • Book XIV, lines 540–543
  • [Virtutis] dispar habitus: frons hirta nec umquam
    composita mutata coma, stans vultus, et ore
    incessuque viro propior laetique pudoris
    celsa umeros niveae fulgebat stamine pallae.
    • The appearance of [Virtue] was far different: her hair, seeking no borrowed charm from ordered locks, grew freely above her forehead; her eyes were steady; in face and gait she was more like a man; she showed a cheerful modesty; and her tall stature was set off by the snow-white robe she wore.
      • Book XV, lines 28–31
  • Mecum Honor ac Laudes et laeto Gloria vultu
    et Decus ac niveis Victoria concolor alis.
    • My attendants are Honour and Praise, Renown and Glory with joyful countenance, and Victory with snow-white wings like mine.
      • Book XV, lines 98–99; spoken by Virtue.

Quotes about Silius[edit]

He wrote poetry with greater diligence than talent.
~ Pliny the Younger
[Virgil's] birthday he celebrated with more solemnity than his own, especially at Naples, where he used to approach his tomb with as much reverence as if it had been a temple.
~ Pliny the Younger
  • Perpetui numquam moritura volumina Sill.
    • The deathless volumes of immortal Sily.
  • Silius haec magni celebrat monumenta Maronis,
    jugera facundi qui Ciceronis habet.
    Heredem dominumque sui tumulive larisve
    non alium mallet nec Maro nec Cicero.
    • Silius, who possesses the land which was eloquent Cicero's, honours this monument of great Maro. As heir and owner of his tomb or dwelling no other would either Maro or Cicero choose.
  • Jam prope desertos cineres et sancta Maronis
    nomina qui coleret pauper et unus erat.
    Silius [optatae] succurrere censuit umbrae,
    et vates vatem non minor ipse colit.
    • To honour the ashes, now wellnigh abandoned, and the sacred name of Maro was there but one, and he was poor. Silius resolved to rescue the regretted dead: and Silius—no less himself a poet—honours the bard.
  • Scribebat carmina maiore cura quam ingenio.
    • He wrote poetry with greater diligence than talent.
  • [Virgil's] birthday he celebrated with more solemnity than his own, especially at Naples, where he used to approach his tomb with as much reverence as if it had been a temple.
  • Finished Silius Italicus; for which Heaven be praised! [...] Pope must have read him before me. In the 'Temple of Fame,' and the 'Essay on Criticism,' are some touches plainly suggested by Silius.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, note dated December 24, 1835, in The Life and Letters of Lord Macaulay, ed. G. Otto Trevelyan, Vol. I (1875), Appendix, p. 410

External links[edit]