“Strictness is dangerous, magnanimity disgraceful. Whether nothing or everything is conceded to the military, the state is in danger.”
periculosa seueritas, flagitiosa largitio: seu nihil militi siue omnia concedentur in ancipiti res publica.
Think Ukraine, Russia, Venezuela, Turkey, Syria, Iraq, the US…ad nauseam.
This passage from Ennius is preserved in Cicero’s De Divinatione 1.48
“They were struggling over whether the city would be called Roma or Remora.
And worry about which one of them would rule infected all men.
They were awaiting the word as when the consul wishes to give the signal
And all men eagerly look to the wall’s border to see
How soon he will send out the chariots from the painted mouths—
This is the way the people were watching and holding their mouths
For which man the victory would elevate to a great kingdom.
Meanwhile, the white sun receded into the darkness of night.
When suddenly a white light struck the sky with its rays.
At the same time there came flying straight down the most beautiful
Bird from the left and then the golden sun rose.
Three times, four sacred forms of birds descended from the sky
And settled themselves in propitious and noble positions.
In this, Romulus recognized that the first place was granted to him,
A kingdom and place made certain by the signs of birds.”
Certabant urbem Romam Remoramne vocarent.
Omnibus cura viris uter esset induperator.
Expectant vel uti, consul cum mittere signum
Volt, omnes avidi spectant ad carceris oras,
Quam mox emittat pictis e faucibus currus: 90
Sic expectabat populus atque ora tenebat
Rebus, utri magni victoria sit data regni.
Interea sol albus recessit in infera noctis.
Exin candida se radiis dedit icta foras lux.
Et simul ex alto longe pulcherruma praepes 95
Laeva volavit avis: simul aureus exoritur sol.
Cedunt de caelo ter quattor corpora sancta
Avium, praepetibus sese pulchrisque locis dant.
Conspicit inde sibi data Romulus esse priora,
Auspicio regni stabilita scamna locumque.
Ennius, Annales book 8, 262-8
“After [the details of] the battles are well-known
Wisdom is publicly rejected, affairs are pursued with force,
A good speaker is spurned, and the wretched warrior is loved.
Men strive not with educated speeches but instead with insults
attack one another and enter into mutual enmity.
They seize property suddenly not by the right of law but with swords
As they seek sovereignty and wander with the power of the mob.
Pellitur e medio sapientia, vi geritur res, 263
Spernitur orator bonus, horridus miles amatur.
Haut doctis dictis certantes sed maledictis
Miscent inter sese inimicitiam agitantes.
Non ex iure manu consertum sed magis ferro
Rem repetunt, regnumque petunt, vadunt solida vi.
The Annales of Quintus Ennius are available only in fragmentary form. They told the tale of Roman history in epic form from the story of Romulus and Remus down to his own time period (2nd Century BCE; Ennius served in the Second Punic War). While there are many fragments, only a handful are longer than a line or two.
It is difficult to evaluate from the short lines the quality of Ennius (his reputation is pretty good). From what we have, however, it seems that he was well-versed in the Homeric epics. One thing to note about the style from a Latin perspective, is how short the sense-units are in comparison to those of a later epic poet like Vergil (the slightly earlier Lucretius seems to be closer to Ennius in allowing most of his lines to make sense on their own).
Indeed, the ringing and repetition of the last line above (Rem repetunt, regnumque petunt, vadunt solida vi) seems much more akin to Lucretian style and some oral Greek traditions, perhaps…
“Appealing words, but of a hollow or deceitful nature: the more they were covered with the appearance of freedom, the more they would burst into hostile servitude.”
speciosa verbis, re inania aut subdola, quantoque maiore libertatis imagine tegebantur, tanto eruptura ad infensius servitium.