Saturday, March 5, 2022

Love On The Brain: Horace, Epodes XIV

Horace, "burning" for his mistress, equates his love to the same-sex desire that Anacreon had for Bathyllos. 

Mollis inertia cur tantam diffuderit imis
      oblivionem sensibus,
pocula Lethaeos ut si ducentia somnos
      arente fauce traxerim,
candide Maecenas, occidis Saepe rogando:
      deus, deus nam me vetat
inceptos, olim promissum carmen, iambos
      ad umbilicum adducere.
non aliter Samio dicunt arsisse Bathyllo
      Anacreonta Teium,
qui persaepe cava testudine flevit amorem
      non elaboratum ad pedem.
ureris ipse miser: quodsi non pulcrior ignis
      accendit obsessam Ilion,
gaude sorte tua; me libertina, nec uno
      contenta, Phryne macerat.

--Horace, Epodes XIV

Delightful Maecenas, you’re killing me

By pestering me, asking me why

Burnout has spread

Such an unproductive mood deep into my consciousness,

As if I my parched throat had consumed

Two hundred glasses of Lethean* sleep.

It’s a god—yup, a god keeps me

From finishing the poem I’d started

And promised to give you.

It’s just like they say Anacreon

Had the hots for Bathyllus—

Again and again, he mourned his love

On his lyre, with a simple meter.

You’re also burning in misery—

Even though the flame [of your love]

Isn’t as pretty as the one that burned down Troy;

You should still be happy for your fate—

For the freedwoman Phryne is killing me,

She’s not content with one man.

* According to Greco-Roman mythology, the Lethe was a river that flowed in the Underworld; souls of the dead would drink from it to forget their past lives



Name:  Quintus Horatius Flaccus

Date:  65 BCE – 8 BCE

Works:  Odes






 The Latin poet Horace is known for his famous line, “Carpe Diem.” He was an Italian-born poet who lived during the rise and reign of Rome’s first emperor, Augustus. Although his life began with civil unrest and uncertainty (his father was enslaved and later freed during the civil wars of the 1st century BCE), Horace became friends with the influential entrepreneur Maecenas and earned the position in Augustus’ literary circle.  His poetry provides valuable insight into the so-called “Golden Age” of Augustan literature.  


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