Ausonius, Epigram I (Labor Day Edition)

“Phoebus, lord of song, and Tritonia, defender in battles, and you too, Victoria, descending with a light foot from the air, adorn the lightened brow with a double diadem, bearing the garlands which are the toga’s gifts and the prize of war. Augustus, powerful in war and speech, deserves a double honor of twin titles, since he mixes battles with the Muses, and tempers the Getic war with his Apollinian strain. Amidst the weapons, the brutal Chuni, and the thieving Sarmatians, wherever he finds a break from making war, he only indulges himself in the Clarian Muses among his camp. He has hardly put down the flying arrows, those screaming missiles, when he sets his hand to the reed of the Muses – he knows no idle leisure, and so when he puts down the reed he dashes off a poem. But it is not a soft and gentle poem – it recalls the awful wars of Odrysian Mars and the weapons of the Thracian Amazon. Rejoice, Achilles, for you will be celebrated once again by a great poet – we now have a Roman Homer!”

Phoebe potens numeris, praeses Tritonia bellis,
tu quoque ab aerio praepes Victoria lapsu,
come serenatam duplici diademate frontem,
serta ferens, quae dona togae, quae praemia pugnae.
Bellandi fandique potens Augustus honorem
bis meret, ut geminet titulos, qui proelia Musis
temperat et Geticum moderatur Apolline Martem.
Arma inter Chunosque truces furtoque nocentes
Sauromatas, quantum cessat de tempore belli,
indulget Clariis tantum inter castra Camenis.
Vix posuit volucres stridentia tela sagittas:
Musarum ad calamos fertur manus, otia nescit
et commutata meditatur harundine carmen;
sed carmen non molle modis, bella horrida Martis
Odrysii Thraessaeque viraginis arma retractat.
Exsulta, Aeacide, celebraris vate superbo
rursum Romanusque tibi contingit Homerus.

Some notes:
-Gibbon writes, in the first footnote of Chapter XXVII of his Decline and Fall, that “The poetical fame of Ausonius condemns the taste of his age.” The emperor Valentinian had appointed Ausonius as tutor to his son, the emperor Gratian, about whom this epigram is written.

-The finale line recalls Propertius 2.34.65-66:
cedite Romani scriptores, cedite Grai:
nescioquid maius nascitur Iliade.

“Out of the way Roman authors, and step aside you Greeks:
something greater than the Iliad is born.”

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