Tibullus, Elegies Book 1, 10: 33-44: Life is Short Enough, War is F***ing Crazy

“What insanity is it to hurry dark death along with wars?
It is already imminent, coming secretly with a quiet foot.
There aren’t any fields below nor cultured vines, but only
Bold Cerberus and the foul boatman beside Stygian waters.
There with crushed eyes and burned hair
A pale crowd wanders toward murky lakes.
Instead, we should praise the man whom old age finds
In his small stocked house once his children are prepared.
He follows his sheep as his son cares for the lambs
And his wife heats cold water for the tired man.
May I be like him; may the hair on my head grow grey
As I recall the good old days in the way of an elderly man.”

Quis furor est atram bellis accersere mortem?
Inminet et tacito clam venit illa pede.
Non seges est infra, non vinea culta, sed audax 35
Cerberus et Stygiae navita turpis aquae;
Illic percussisque genis ustoque capillo
Errat ad obscuros pallida turba lacus.
Quam potius laudandus hic est, quem prole parata
Occupat in parva pigra senecta casa. 40
Ipse suas sectatur oves, at filius agnos,
Et calidam fesso conparat uxor aquam.
Sic ego sim, liceatque caput candescere canis,
Temporis et prisci facta referre senem.

Homer, Odyssey 8.147-8

“For as long as he lives, a man has no greater glory

than that which he wins with his own hands and feet”

 

οὐ μὲν γὰρ μεῖζον κλέος ἀνέρος, ὄφρα κεν ᾖσιν,

ἢ ὅ τι ποσσίν τε ῥέξῃ καὶ χερσὶν ἑῇσιν.

 

Or so a Prince Dandy says to the long-suffering war veteran Odysseus. Sports and games are ritual substitutes for war and distractions from the fact that the soldier faces far higher stakes than the sportsman. It is no accident that this scene happens among the Phaeacians who live a charmed life far from all other men…until Poseidon drops a mountain on them.

(Does this prompt the type of strife Horace talks about?)

Heraclitus fr. 67 1-2

 

“god—day is night, winter summer, war peace, satiety hunger, all things are their opposite—this is the mind”

 

— —ὁ θεὸς ἡμέρη εὐφρόνη, χειμὼν θέρος, πόλεμος εἰρήνη, κόρος λιμός (τἀναντία ἅπαντα· οὗτος ὁ νοῦς)

Yeah, some of this is Orwellian. But does that make it (un)true?

 

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