Valerius Flaccus (poet)

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Gaius Valerius Flaccus (Setinus Balbus) (died c. AD 90) was a Roman poet of the Silver Age.



The translations are by J. H. Mozley, and are taken from Vol. 286 of the Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1928).

Book I[edit]

  • Prima deum magnis canimus freta pervia natis
    fatidicamque ratem, Scythici quae Phasidis oras
    ausa sequi mediosque inter iuga concita cursus
    rumpere flammifero tandem consedit Olympo.
    • My song is of the straits first navigated by the mighty sons of gods, of the prophetic ship that dared to seek the shores of Scythian Phasis, that burst unswerving through the clashing rocks, to slink at length to rest in the starry firmament.
    • Lines 1–4
  • Siderea tunc arce pater pulcherrima Graium
    coepta tuens tantamque operis consurgere molem
    • Then the Father from his starry citadel beholding these glorious deeds of the Greeks and how the mighty work went forward, is glad.
    • Lines 498–500

Book II[edit]

  • Auxerat hora metus, iam se vertentis Olympi
    ut faciem raptosque simul montesque locosque
    ex oculis circumque graves videre tenebras.
    ipsa quies rerum mundique silentia terrent
    astraque et effusis stellatus crinibus aether;
    ac velut ignota captus regione viarum
    noctivagum qui carpit iter non aure quiescit,
    non oculis, noctisque metus niger auget utrimque
    campus et occurrens umbris maioribus arbor,
    haud aliter trepidare viri.
    • Their fear deepened with the night as they beheld the face of the heavens turning and the mountains and all places rapt from view and all around thick darkness. The very stillness of Nature, the silent constellations in the heavens, the firmament starred with streaming meteors filled them with fear. And as a traveller by night overtaken in some unknown spot upon the road keeps ear and eye alert, while the darkening landscape to left and right and trees looming up with shadows strangely huge do but make heavier the terrors of night, even so the heroes quailed.
    • Lines 38–47
  • I, memor i terrae, quae vos amplexa quieto
    prima sinu, refer et domitis a Colchidos oris
    vela per hunc utero quem linquis Iasona nostro.
    • Go now, go, but forget not the land that first folded you to its peaceful bosom; and from Colchis' conquered shores bring back hither thy sails, I pray thee, by this Jason whom thou leavest in my womb.
    • Lines 422–424
  • Hactenus in populos vati, Samothraca, diem que
    missa mane sacrisque metum servemus opertis.
    • Thus much, Samothrace, has the poet proclaimed thee to the nations and the light of day; there stay, and let us keep our reverence for holy mysteries.
    • Lines 439–440
  • Ad primos turgentia lumina fletus.
    • Her eyes brimful to the verge of weeping.
    • Line 464

Book III[edit]

Greedily casting her arms about him, as he calls too late for help and utters the name of his mighty friend, she draws him down.
  • Stagna vaga sic luce micant ubi Cynthia caelo
    prospicit aut medii transit rota candida Phoebi,
    tale iubar diffundit aquis: nil umbra comaeque
    turbavitque sonus surgentis ad oscula nymphae.
    illa avidas iniecta manus heu sera cientem
    auxilia et magni referentem nomen amici
    detrahit, adiutae prono nam pondere vires.
    • Even as the light that shifts and plays upon a lake, when Cynthia looks forth from heaven or the bright wheel of Phoebus in mid course passes by, so doth he shed a gleam upon the waters; he heeds not the shadow of the Nymph or her hair or the sound of her as she rises to embrace him. Greedily casting her arms about him, as he calls, alack! too late for help and utters the name of his mighty friend, she draws him down; for her strength is aided by his falling weight.
    • Lines 558–564
  • Fata trahunt.
    • Fate sweeps them on.
    • Line 717
  • Hic vero ingenti repetuntur pectora luctu,
    ut socii sedere locis nullaeque leonis
    exuviae tantique vacant vestigia transtri.
    flet pius Aeacides, maerent Poeantia corda,
    ingemit et dulci frater cum Castore Pollux.
    omnis adhuc vocat Alciden fugiente carina,
    omnis Hylan, medio pereunt iam nomina ponto.
    • Then once more comes deep grief to their hearts, when he comrades sat in their places and no lion's hide was there to see, but the empty seat upon that mighty thwart. Loyal Aeacides weeps, the heart of Philoctetes is sad, brother Pollux with his dear Castor makes lament. The ship is flying fast, and still all cry "Hercules," all cry "Hylas," but the names are lost in the middle of the sea.
    • Lines 719–725

Book IV[edit]

  • Melior vulgi nam saepe voluntas.
    • For oft have the common people kindlier feelings.
    • Line 158
  • Sonitu tremebunda profundi.
    • [A cave] that trembled with the roaring of the deep.
    • Line 180
  • Dixit et urgentis post saeva piacula fati
    nescius extremum hoc armis innectere palmas
    dat famulis.
    • He spoke, and unaware that fate was driving him on the path of tardy expiation, gives his arms for this last time to his attendants to bind with harness.
    • Lines 252–254
They ravage and sweep away my banquet, and befoul and upset the cups, there is a violent stench and a sorry battle arises, for the monsters are as famished as I.
  • Fallere quas nusquam misero locus.
    • Never, alas! can I elude them.
    • Line 451
  • Diripiunt verruntque dapes foedataque turbant
    pocula, saevit odor surgitque miserrima pugna
    parque mihi monstrisque fames. sprevere quod omnes
    pollueruntque manu quodque unguibus excidit atris
    has mihi fert in luce moras.
    • They ravage and sweep away my banquet, and befoul and upset the cups, there is a violent stench and a sorry battle arises, for the monsters are as famished as I. What all have scorned or polluted with their touch, or what has fallen from their filthy claws, helps me to linger thus among the living.
    • Lines 454–456
  • Unda laborantes praeceps rotat.
    • As they toil they are whirled round by a furious wave.
    • Line 656
  • Effluit imber
    spumeus et magno puppem procul aequore vestit.
    • The spray falls in a rain and from afar shrouds the vessel in a watery deluge.
    • Lines 665–666
  • Illa volans tenui per concita saxa
    luce fugit.
    • Through the hurrying rocks the brand with thin flame takes its flight.
    • Lines 672–673
  • Hic Iuno praecepsque ex aethere Pallas
    insiliunt pariter scopulos: hunc nata coercet,
    hunc coniunx Iovis.
    • Hereupon Juno and Pallas leap sheer down from the sky upon the rocks; this one the daughter of Jove, that one his spouse constrains.
    • Lines 682–684
  • Haud temere est, fato divum reor ad mea vectos
    litora vos.
    • Not by hazard are ye come; divine fate, I ween, hath brought you to my shores.
    • Lines 741–742

Book V[edit]

  • Dicta dabant ventis nec debita fata movebant.
    • Their words were spoken to the breezes nor swayed appointed fate.
    • Line 21
  • Percutit ore lyram nomenque relinquit harenis.
    • Strikes his echoing lyre, singing the while, and bequeaths a name to the sands.
    • Line 100
  • Blandos que Iovis quae luserat ignes
    caelicolis immota procis: deceptus amatae
    fraude deae nec solus Halys nec solus Apollo.
    • One who mocked Jove's ardent wooing, unmoved by heavenly suitors; not Halys only or Apollo were deceived by the trickery of the nymph they loved.
    • Lines 110–112
  • At Iuno et summi virgo Iovis intima secum
    consilia et varias sociabant pectore curas.
    • But Juno and the virgin daughter of supreme Jove were sharing heart to heart their inmost counsels and distracting cares.
    • Lines 280–281
  • Rebus semper pudor absit in artis.
    • Away with scruple in adversity!
    • Line 324
  • Et Scythicam qui se comitentur ad urbem
    sorte petit numeroque novem ducuntur ab omni.
    • And sought by lot those who should bear him company to the Scythian town, and from the whole number nine were drawn.
    • Lines 325–326
  • Talibus orantem vultu gravis ille minaci
    iamdudum premit et furiis ignescit opertis.
    • The other, his brow heavy with threats, had long been muttering and smouldering with hidden fire.
    • Lines 519–520

Book VI[edit]

  • Velut ante comas ac summa cacumina silvae
    lenibus adludit flabris levis Auster, at illum
    protinus immanem miserae sensere carinae.
    • Just as at first the South wind makes gentle sport as it softly stirs the leaves and topmost branches of the woodland, but soon the unlucky ships are feeling all its terrible strength.
    • Lines 664–666
  • Nox simul astriferas profert optabilis umbras.
    • At the same time welcome Night brings on the star-heralding shadows.
    • Line 752

Book VII[edit]

  • Respexit que fores et adhuc invenit euntem,
    visus et heu miserae tunc pulchrior hospes amanti
    discedens; tales umeros, ea terga relinquit.
    • [Medea] looked toward the gates and found him still even as he went; and alas! as he departed still comelier seemed the stranger to the lovelorn girl: such shoulders, such frame doth he leave to her remembrance.
    • Lines 106–108
  • Quid me autem sic ille movet, superetne labores
    an cadat?
    • Why feel I so for him, whether he master his toils, or whether he fall?
    • Lines 131–132
  • Saepe suas misero promittere destinat artes,
    denegat atque una potius decernit in ira
    ac neque tam turpi cessuram semet amori
    • Often again she is resolved to promise her skill to the unhappy man, then again refuses, and is determined rather to perish with him; and she cries that never will she yield to so base a passion...
    • Lines 317–320
  • 'Tune sequeris' ait 'quidquam aut patiere pudendum
    cum tibi tot mortes scelerisque brevissima tanti
    • "Wilt thou pursue," she said, "or submit to aught that is shameful, when thou hast so many means of death and quick escape from a deed so wicked?"
    • Lines 331–333
  • Et, qua sibi fida magis vis
    nulla, Prometheae florem de sanguine fibrae
    promit nutritaque gramina monti,
    quae sacer ille nives inter tristesque pruinas
    durat alitque cruor.
    • And takes forth a Caucasian herb, of potency sure beyond all others, sprung of the gore that dropped from the liver of Prometheus, and grass wind-nurtured, fostered and strengthened by that blood divine among snows and grisly frosts.
    • Lines 355–359
  • Gemit inritus ille
    Colchidos ora tuens. totos tunc contrahit artus
    monte dolor cunctaeque tremunt sub falce catenae.
    • Fruitlessly doth he groan, beholding the face of the Colchian maid; then over all the mountain pain contracts his limbs, and all his fetters shake beneath her sickle.
    • Lines 368–370
  • Haud secus in mediis noctis nemoris que tenebris
    inciderant ambo attoniti iuxtaque subibant
    abietibus tacitis aut immotis cyparissis
    adsimiles, rapidus nondum quas miscuit Auster.
    • So in the midnight shadows of the grove did they two meet and draw nigh each other, awe-struck, like silent first or motionless cypresses, when the mad South wind hath not yet intertwined their boughs.
    • Lines 403–406
  • Nec quibus incipiat demens videt ordine nec quo
    quove tenus, prima cupiens effundere voce
    omnia, sed nec prima pudor dat verba timenti.
    • She can find in her bewilderment no words wherewith to begin, how to order or where to end her speech; fain would she pour out all in her first utterance, but not even the first words doth fear-stricken shame allow her.
    • Lines 433–435
  • Tum vero extremo percussa dolore
    arripit Aesoniden dextra ac summissa profatur:
    'sis memor, oro, mei, contra memor ipsa manebo,
    crede, tui. quantum hinc aberis, dic quaeso, profundi?
    quod caeli spectabo latus?'
    • Then indeed, pierced by grief's bitterest pang, she clutched the hand of Jason and humbly besought him thus: "Remember me, I pray, for never, believe me, shall I be forgetful of thee. When thou art gone, tell me, I beg, on what quarter of the heaven must I gaze?"
    • Lines 475–479
  • Cessit et ad socios paulum se rettulit heros
    • The hero withdrew and betook himself for a space to his companions, waiting.
    • Lines 614–615

Book VIII[edit]

  • At trepidam in thalamis et iam sua facta paventem
    Colchida circa omnes pariter furiaeque minaeque
    patris habent.
    • But Medea in her chamber, trembling and terror-struck now at what she has done, is encompassed by all her father's threatening rage.
    • Lines 1–3
  • Latmius aestiva residet venator in umbra
    dignus amore deae, velatis cornibus et iam
    Luna venit.
    • The Latmian hunter rests in the summer shade, fit lover for a goddess, and soon the Moon comes with veiled horns.
    • Lines 28–30
  • Ecce autem pavidae virgo de more columbae
    quae super ingenti circumdata praepetis umbra
    in quemcumque tremens hominem cadit, haud secus illa
    acta timore gravi mediam se misit.
    • But lo! the girl, like a frightened dove, that caught in the vast shadow of a hawk falls trembling on some man, no matter who he be, so doth she fling herself into his arms driven by strong fear.
    • Lines 32–35
  • Contra Tartareis Colchis spumare venenis
    cunctaque Lethaei quassare silentia rami
    perstat et adverso luctantia lumina cantu
    obruit atque omnem linguaque manuque fatigat
    vim Stygiam.
    • But on her side the Colchian ceases not to foam with hellish poisons and to sprinkle all the silences of Lethe's bough: exerting her spells she constrains his reluctant eyes, exhausting all her Stygian power of hand and tongue.
    • Lines 83–87
The whole landscape flashes while the hero now wraps about his body the fleece with its starry tufts of hair, now shifts it to his neck, now folds it upon his left arm.
  • Iamque altae cecidere iubae nutatque coactum
    iam caput atque ingens extra sua vellera cervix
    ceu refluens Padus aut septem proiectus in amnes
    Nilus et Hesperium veniens Alpheos in orbem.
    • And now the high crest sinks, now the head is nodding overpowered and the huge neck has slipped from around the fleece it guarded, like refluent Po or Nile that sprawls in seven streams or Alpheus when his waters enter the Hesperian world.
    • Lines 88–91
  • Cuius adhuc rutilam servabant bracchia pellem,
    nubibus accensis similem aut cum veste recincta
    labitur ardenti Thaumantias obvia Phoebo.
    • Where still the branches guarded the skin of ruddy hue, like to illumined cloud or to Iris when she ungirds her robe and glides to meet glowing Phoebus.
    • Lines 114–116
  • Micat omnis ager villisque comantem
    sidereis totos pellem nunc fundit in artus,
    nunc in colla refert, nunc implicat ille sinistrae.
    • The whole landscape flashes while the hero now wraps about his body the fleece with its starry tufts of hair, now shifts it to his neck, now folds it upon his left arm.
    • Lines 122–124
  • Interea patrias saevus venit horror ad aures
    fata domus luctumque ferens fraudemque fugamque
    • Meantime her sire was shuddering at the cruel news that reached his ear: the doom of his house, the mourning, his daughter's crafty flight.
    • Lines 134–136
  • Absyrtus subita praeceps cum classe parentis
    advehitur profugis infestam lampada Grais
    • Absyrtus in hot haste with his father's swift-assembled fleet draws nigh, and shakes a threatening torch at the escaping Greeks.
    • Lines 261–263


  • Are they heroes or mere dreamers?
    • David R. Slavitt, The Voyage of the Argo: The Argonautica of Gaius Valerius Flaccus (1999), Book I, lines 98–99 (p. 3). There is no corresponding text in the Latin (cf. Argon. 1.79–80).

Quotes about Valerius Flaccus[edit]

  • O mihi curarum pretium non vile mearum,
    Flacce, Antenorei spes et alumne laris,
    Pierios differ cantusque chorosque sororum;
    Aes dabit ex istis nulla puella tibi.
    Quid petis a Phoebo? nummos habet arca Minervae;
    Haec sapit, haec omnes fenerat una deos.
    Quid possunt hederae Bacchi dare? Pallados arbor
    Inclinat varias pondere nigra comas.
    Praeter aquas Helicon et serta lyrasque dearum
    Nil habet et magnum, sed perinane sophos.
    Quid tibi cum Cirrha? quid cum Permesside nuda?
    Romanum propius divitiusque forum est.
    Illic aera sonant: at circum pulpita nostra
    Et steriles cathedras basia sola crepant.
    • Though midst the noblest poets thou hast place,
      Flaccus, the offspring of Antenor's race;
      Renounce the Muses' songs and charming quire,
      For none of them enrich, though they inspire.
      Court not Apollo, Pallas has the gold;
      She's wise, and does the gods in mortgage hold.
      What profit is there in an ivy wreath?
      Its fruits the loaden olive sinks beneath.
      In Helicon there's nought but springs and bays,
      The Muses' harps loud sounding empty praise.
      What with Parnassus' streams hast thou to do?
      The Roman forum's rich, and nearer too.
      There chinks the cash: but round the poet's chair
      The smacks of kisses only fill the air.
    • Martial, Epigrams, Book I, epigram lxxvi
  • Multum in Valerio Flacco nuper amisimus.
    • We have suffered serious loss in the recent death of Valerius Flaccus.
    • Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria (c. 95 AD), Book X, Chapter 1, par. 90 (tr. H. E. Butler)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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