Flaccan Friday: Quoting Horace

When I was younger, I didn’t have much time for Quintus Horatius Flaccus. (O Fons Bandusiae? Please.) I remember loathing him for his Epistles when studying for the AP in high school, slogging through the Sermones as an undergraduate  and even in graduate school proudly declaring that his Odes were simply untranslatable.

But now? He’s one of our most quoted authors. So, here’s to Friday, and some old wine in a new vase. (Yeah, that’s backwards.)

Here are some of our favorites on topics like Homer, Homer and drinking, style, fate exceptionality, etc. etc. But no fountains.

Horace, Ars poetica 25

“I try to be brief, and I become unintelligible”

brevis esse laboro, obscurus fio

Horace, Epistulae 1.17.39

“What we’re looking for is here – or nowhere”

hic est aut nusquam quod quaerimus

Horace, Epistulae 1.11.27

“Those who travel beyond the sea change the weather, not their spirits”

caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt

Horace, Ars Poetica 359

“Sometimes even good Homer nods off”

quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus

Horace, Odes 3.29.29-30

“Prudently the god covers the outcome of the future in dark night”

prudens futuri temporis exitum
caliginosa nocte premit deus

Horace, Odes 2.10.11-12

“Lightning tends to strike the highest peaks”

…feriuntque summos / fulmina montes

Horace, Odes 1.18.3-4

“For teetotalers the god has made all things difficult, nor do biting troubles flee in any other way”

siccis omnia nam dura deus proposuit neque
mordaces aliter diffugiunt sollicitudines

Horace, Ars Poetica 99

“It is not enough that poems be beautiful; they should be pleasant, too.”

“Non satis est pulchra esse poemata; dulcia sunto”

Horace, Epistles 1.1.76

“You are a beast of many heads”.

bellua multorum es capitum

Horace, Epistulae 1.19.6

“Homer is said to have been a drunkard because of his praise of wine”

laudibus arguitur vini vinosus Homerus

Horace, Sermones 1.1.27

“Let’s put aside these games and focus on serious things”.

amoto quaeramus seria ludo

Horace, Ars Poetica 309

“The origin and source of good writing is good judgment”.

scribendi recte sapere est et principium et fons.

Horace, Epistles 1.1.41-42

“Virtue’s first rule is to avoid vice, and wisdom’s is to not be stupid”.

Horace, Ars Poetica -285-287

“Our poets have left nothing untried, and deserve some honor for daring to stray off the Greek path, and celebrate our own domestic deeds.”

Nil intemptatum nostri liquere poetae, 285
nec minimum meruere decus uestigia Graeca
ausi deserere et celebrare domestica facta

Horace, Epistles 1.2

“The one who has begun has completed half the task.”

dimidium facti, qui coepit, habet.

Horace, Sermones 1.1.43-56

“What good is it to heap up a mound of gold and silver and furtively stash it away in a hole? ‘Because, if you lessen it, it will be reduced to a worthless penny.’ But barring that, what beauty does a heaped up mound have? Suppose that your granary held a hundred thousand bushels: your stomach won’t hold any more than mine! If you were carrying around a backpack of bread upon overburdened shoulders, you couldn’t take more than the man who carries nothing. Tell me: what does it matter to someone who lives within the bounds of nature whether he farms a hundred acres or a thousand? ‘But it’s a fine thing to pluck something out of a huge heap!’ While you would only leave us to take a drink from the smallest remaining fraction, why would you praise your granaries above our little baskets? It is as if, needing no more than a little urn or cup worth of water, you said, ‘I would rather drink from a river than this piddly little fountain!’”

quid iuvat inmensum te argenti pondus et auri
furtim defossa timidum deponere terra?
‘quod, si conminuas, vilem redigatur ad assem.’
at ni id fit, quid habet pulcri constructus acervus?
milia frumenti tua triverit area centum: 45
non tuus hoc capiet venter plus ac meus: ut, si
reticulum panis venalis inter onusto
forte vehas umero, nihilo plus accipias quam
qui nil portarit. vel dic quid referat intra
naturae finis viventi, iugera centum an 50
mille aret? ‘at suave est ex magno tollere acervo.’
dum ex parvo nobis tantundem haurire relinquas,
cur tua plus laudes cumeris granaria nostris?
ut tibi si sit opus liquidi non amplius urna
vel cyatho et dicas ‘magno de flumine mallem 55
quam ex hoc fonticulo tantundem sumere.’

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Vituperation of Cyclic Poets, and the Unreliability of Scholia

The following, taken from the Scholia Vindobonensia, illustrates one of the central problems with scholia: some are incredible storehouses of information and textual elucidation, while others are either wildly inaccurate or hopelessly absurd. Much of the Scholia Vindobonensia consists of straightforward explication, but the following is a preposterous ad hoc explanation which reflects the Scholiast’s lack of familiarity with early Greek poetry:

“Cyclicus is used here as a pronominatio, that is, as a name used in place of another name, which is sometimes used for praise, sometime for blame, so that by the same force of the word we can understand either sense. Here, however, we can understand the word to be meant as vituperation. A cycle (cyclus) is a line drawn around, but not brought back to the same point. In this way, Horace means that the Cyclic poet never touches on the matter at hand, but has rather gone around and around it, thus diverging farther and farther from the subject with every turn.”

cyclicus est pronominatio, id est, nomen pro nomine positum, quod fit aliquando pro laude, aliquando pro vituperatione, ut in ipsa vi vocabuli possimus utrumque notare. hic vero fit, ut vituperationem possimus ibi notare. vocatur enim cyclus linea circumducta, non ad idem reducta. et per hoc notat eum non rem tetigisse, sed circa ipsam rem ivisse; et semper magis ac magis discedit ab ipsa re.