“I, the Danube, tucked away in remote lands, flow under the emperor’s jurisdiction, where I pour forth the chilly stream among the Suevi, and where I divide Pannonia oppressed by imperial command, and where I, so rich in water, pour forth from the harbors into Pontus. I submit all these rivers to the imperial yoke. But most properly, the glory belongs to Valens Augustus: watch out, Nile! He will eventually find even your source.”
Danubius penitis caput occultatus in oris,
Totus sub vestra ditione fluo.
Qua gelidum fontem mediis effundo Suevis,
Imperiis gravidas qua seco Pannonias,
Et qua dives aquis Scythico solvo ostia Ponto:
Omnia sub vestrum flumina mitto iugum.
Augusto dabitur sed proxima palma Valenti.
Inveniet fones his quoque, Nile, tuos.
NOTE: So far, these poems of Ausonius have been little more than abject flattery with the occasional rhetorical flourish that could potentially count as a worthy sententia. However, we shall soldier on! If nothing else, this little project may alter people’s strong impulse to condemn Seneca as the most venal flatterer of antiquity.
The Danube constituted, effectively, the northernmost limit of the Roman imperial power. The Romans rarely ventured southward beyond the most northern parts of Africa. Indeed, ancient and even medieval cartographers often designated the parts of Africa south of the heavily-civilized northern coast by the inscription, “Hic sunt leones,” (Here there are lions).