“Covered in Flames and Sorrowful Ash”: Martial on Vesuvius

Image result for Ancient Roman Pompeii

August 24th is, according to many, the anniversary of the eruption of Vesuvius in the Bay of Naples in 79 CE. Pliny’s account is the most famous, but Martial had his say too (Epigrams, 4.4):

“Here is Vesuvius, recently verdant with shading vines–
here the noble grape weighed made filled deep pools:
these were the hills Bacchus loved more than Nysae–
On this mountain the Satyrs not so long ago led their dance.
Here was the home Venus considered more pleasing than Sparta.
This place was famous because of its Herculean name.
All of this lies covered in flames and sorrowful ash.
Not even the gods wished for this to be their right.”

Hic est pampineis uiridis modo Vesbius umbris,
presserat hic madidos nobilis uua lacus:
haec iuga quam Nysae colles plus Bacchus amauit;
hoc nuper Satyri monte dedere choros;
haec Veneris sedes, Lacedaemone gratior illi;              5
hic locus Herculeo nomine clarus erat.
Cuncta iacent flammis et tristi mersa fauilla:
nec superi uellent hoc licuisse sibi.

 

Madness to Grieve for One Who Cannot Grieve

Seneca, De Consolatione ad Polybium 9

“Do I grieve for myself or the one who died? If I grieve for me, this torment of emotion is useless and sorrow—excused only because it is honorable—begins to depart from duty when it aims for advantage. Nothing fits a good person less than to make grief for a brother an issue of calculation.

If I grieve on his account, then one of the following two judgments must be true. For, if the dead have no feeling at all, then my brother has escaped the misfortunes of life and has returned to that place where he was before he was born where he is free of every evil, he fears nothing, desires nothing, endures nothing. What madness this is to never stop grieving for someone who will never grieve again?”

“Utrumne meo nomine doleo an eius qui decessit? Si meo, perit indulgentiae iactatio et incipit dolor hoc uno excusatus, quod honestus est, cum ad utilitatem respicit, a pietate desciscere; nihil autem minus bono viro convenit quam in fratris luctu calculos ponere. Si illius nomine doleo, necesse est alterutrum ex his duobus esse iudicem. Nam si nullus defunctis sensus superest, evasit omnia frater meus vitae incommoda et in eum restitutus est locum, in quo fuerat antequam nasceretur, et expers omnis mali nihil timet, nihil cupit, nihil patitur. Quis iste furor est pro eo me numquam dolere desinere, qui numquam doliturus est?

 

Talking Heads, “This Must be The Place (Naive Melody)

“…There was a time before we were born
If someone asks, this is where I’ll be…”

 

Image result for Ancient Greek hero vase

“Covered in Flames and Sorrowful Ash”: Martial on Vesuvius

Image result for Ancient Roman Pompeii

Today is, according to many, the anniversary of the eruption of Vesuvius in the Bay of Naples in 79 CE. Pliny’s account is the most famous, but Martial had his say too (Epigrams, 4.4):

“Here is Vesuvius, recently verdant with shading vines–
here the noble grape weighed made filled deep pools:
these were the hills Bacchus loved more than Nysae–
On this mountain the Satyrs not so long ago led their dance.
Here was the home Venus considered more pleasing than Sparta.
This place was famous because of its Herculean name.
All of this lies covered in flames and sorrowful ash.
Not even the gods wished for this to be their right.”

Hic est pampineis uiridis modo Vesbius umbris,
presserat hic madidos nobilis uua lacus:
haec iuga quam Nysae colles plus Bacchus amauit;
hoc nuper Satyri monte dedere choros;
haec Veneris sedes, Lacedaemone gratior illi;              5
hic locus Herculeo nomine clarus erat.
Cuncta iacent flammis et tristi mersa fauilla:
nec superi uellent hoc licuisse sibi.