Saturday, June 25, 2022

RIP: Too Young to be a Bride: Greek Anthology 7.604

There is a special spot of sadness in Greek and Roman literature for girls who died unmarried, as every woman was expected to marry and provide their husbands with legitimate offspring (with very few exceptions). Notice that more attention is placed on this young girl's wedding in this poem than her own death.


λέκτρα σοι ἀντὶ γάμων ἐπιτύμβια, παρθένε κούρη,

ἐστόρεσαν παλάμαις πενθαλέαις γενέται.

καὶ σὺ μὲν ἀμπλακίας βιότου καὶ μόχθον Ἐλευθοῦς

ἔκφυγες: οἱ δὲ γόων πικρὸν ἔχουσι νέφος.

δωδεκέτιν γὰρ μοῖρα, Μακηδονίη, σε καλύπτει,

κάλλεσιν ὁπλοτέρην, ἤθεσι γηραλέην.


Lectum tibi pro nuptiis sepulcralem, o virgo puella,

straverunt palmis luctuosis parentes.

Et tu quidem errores vitae et laborem Ilithyiae

effugisti: illi autem luctuum amaram habent nubem.

Duodecennem enim fatum, o Macedonia, te sepelit,

veneribus iuvenem, moribus grandaevam.

--Paulus Silentiarius, Greek Anthology 7.604; Translated into Latin by Hugo Grottius

O young lady, your funeral is being prepared,

Not your wedding.

Instead of a bridal bouquet, you get a funeral wreath.

You will miss the hardships of life and the pain of childbirth;

Your survivors have a bitter veil of grief.

Macedonia, the Fates have buried you at twelve years old,

At the peak of beauty, but with old school customs.


Paulus Silentiarius


Name:  Paulus Silentiarius

Date:  6th century CE

Works:  [poetry]


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



 Paulus Silentiarius was a bureaucrat in the court of the Roman Emperor Justinian I in Constantinople. Dozens of his poems are preserved in the Greek Anthology.


ARCHAIC: (through 6th c. BCE); GOLDEN AGE: (5th - 4th c. BCE); HELLENISTIC: (4th c. BCE - 1st c. BCE); ROMAN: (1st c. BCE - 4th c. CE); POST CONSTANTINOPLE: (4th c. CE - 8th c. CE); BYZANTINE: (post 8th c CE)

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