Saturday, May 1, 2021

A Woman's Choice: Marcia Remarries Cato, Lucan, Pharsalia II.326-353

 The remarriage of Marcia and Cato Uticensis in 49 BCE had various depictions in Roman history and literature. In this version, the author Lucan gives Marcia the agency to choose with whom she will spend the rest of her life. 

     interea Phoebo gelidas pellente tenebras

pulsatae sonuere fores, quas sancta relicto

Hortensi maerens inrupit Marcia busto.

quondam uirgo toris melioris iuncta mariti,

mox, ubi conubii pretium mercesque soluta est                  

tertia iam suboles, alios fecunda penates

inpletura datur geminas et sanguine matris

permixtura domos; sed, postquam condidit urna

supremos cineres, miserando concita uoltu,

effusas laniata comas contusaque pectus                  

uerberibus crebris cineresque ingesta sepulchri,

non aliter placitura uiro, sic maesta profatur:

'dum sanguis inerat, dum uis materna, peregi

iussa, Cato, et geminos excepi feta maritos:

uisceribus lassis partuque exhausta reuertor                  

iam nulli tradenda uiro. da foedera prisci

inlibata tori, da tantum nomen inane

conubii; liceat tumulo scripsisse "Catonis

Marcia", nec dubium longo quaeratur in aeuo

mutarim primas expulsa an tradita taedas.                  

non me laetorum sociam rebusque secundis

accipis: in curas uenio partemque laborum.

da mihi castra sequi: cur tuta in pace relinquar

et sit ciuili propior Cornelia bello?'

     hae flexere uirum uoces, et, tempora quamquam                  

sint aliena toris iam fato in bella uocante,

foedera sola tamen uanaque carentia pompa

iura placent sacrisque deos admittere testes.

--Lucan, Pharsalia II.326-353

As the sun was chasing away the cool twilight,

a knock shook Cato’s front door!

It was the widowed Marcia, still grieving,

Who came straight from her husband's pyre.

[She was originally married to Cato, a much better man,

but when she had paid the price of three children,

her fertile self was used to provide offspring to another's home,

joining families with a mother's blood.

After that husband's final funeral rites, 

with tear-stained face, her hair disheveled,

her flesh mangled with grief's blows

she begged Cato, upset:

"When I was still fertile,

I followed your orders, Cato.

I took another husband. 

I had this other husband's babies.

Now, post-menopausal, I return to you,

unable to be bartered out again.

Let me return to our original marriage,

let us return to our original pledge (even if only in name).

Let my tombstone read, "Here lies Marcia, *Cato's* husband,"

don't let anyone question why I left your household the first time--guessing whether I left in shame or in duty.

I'm not here "for the good times,"

I come in bad times, to support you in your troubles.

I'll follow you into battle: 

why should I be left behind, sheltered in peace,

and not just as close--or closer--than Cornelia was in times of war?"


Cato heeded her words. And, although it wasn't an appropriate time for a wedding

(Destiny was playing a reveille for war), they had a quiet ceremony.

There wasn't much fuss; the gods were the only guests to the wedding.



Name:  Marcus Annaeus Lucanus

Date:  d. 65 CE

Works:  Pharsalia



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



 Lucan was a Roman poet born in Hispania (modern day Spain). He was an influential poet during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero, but his involvement in the Pisonian Conspiracy of 65 CE cut his life short. His most influential work, the Pharsalia, is an epic poem that recounts the Civil War of 49/48 BCE with Julius Caesar as the antagonist.


Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE

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