Careless Eating With Family

Seneca, Thyestes, 1031-1042

You have what remains of your children.
What does not remain, you have that too.

Which is it: are they sprawled-out food for screeching birds?
Are they being devoured by monsters?
Or are they feed for wild animals?

You’ve dined on your children yourself,
in a profane feast.

. . . What words suffice for me?
I can make out their cut-off heads, torn-off hands,
feet ripped from shattered legs–
This is what their glutton of a father could not swallow!
Their entrails churn inside me; wrong now locked in me
struggles with no way out, yet seeks escape.

Quidquid e natis tuis
superest habes, quodcumque non superest habes.

Utrumne saevis pabulum alitibus iacent,
an beluis vorantur, an pascunt feras?

Epulatus ipse es impia natos dape.

. . . quae verba sufficient mihi?
abscisa cerno capita et avulsas manus
et rupta fractis cruribus vestigia:
hoc est quod avidus capere non potuit pater.
volvuntur intus viscera et clausum nefas
sine exitu luctatur et quaerit fugam.

Red line drawing of large man eating a lot, alone at a table
Fernando Botero.
Man Eating. 2001.
Private collection.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

The One Who Needs Forgiveness: Clytemnestra on Her Husband

Seneca, Agamemnon 260-267

“Aegisthus, why do you push me again into the deep
And re-kindle my rage which was just cooling down?
The victor has indulged himself a bit with a captive girl—
It befits neither a wife nor a mistress to acknowledge it.
The law for the throne is different from the one for a man’s bed.

Even with this, why does my mind not allow me
To bring the harsher laws to bear on my husband when I have been shamed?
It’s right for the one who needs forgiveness to grant it easily.”

Aegisthe, quid me rursus in praeceps agis
iramque flammis iam residentem incitas?
permisit aliquid victor in captam sibi:
nec coniugem hoc respicere nec dominam decet.
lex alia solio est, alia privato in toro.
quid, quod severas ferre me leges viro
non patitur animus turpis admissi memor?
det ille veniam facile cui venia est opus.

Image result for clytemnestra and agamemnon
Pierre-Narcisse Guérin – Clytemnestra and Agamemnon

Fragmentary Friday: Excessive Speech of the Soul


The following might be from Accius (lines 46-63: from Varro De Lingua Latina 6.60). Additional lines are added LCL’s Remains of Old Latin. I have posted some of this before). The speaker is allegedly Aeneas.

“Who is it who calls out my name?
People say that Tantalus was born from Jove
And Pelops came from Tantalus, and then from Pelops
Atreus was born, the next father of our family.

….now the Atreid kings are devising their homeward turn.

But if you don’t shut up, Menelaos, you’ll die by this right hand.
And in this way while it has control of its counsel
Argos will remove you from power.
O ancient parent of our family, Argive prize.

….He accomplished the greatest deed, when he completed
The utmost act against the Danaans in retreat,
He regained the battle with his own hand
In his madness.

An arrogant conquerer
Was incapable of enduring his own conquest
Because of the pain of the shame.

I see, I am seeing you. Live while you can, Ulysses.
Grasp this final ray of light with your eyes

Is this one here Telamon, whose glory just now
Rose to the sky, whom everyone was watching,
Towards whose face the Greeks turned their own?

….His spirit has crashed with their fortunes.
Poeas raised ancient hands to the sky.

…Friend, what forces you to gaze upon
The unmoving waters of wide Avernus?

Because of his crimes and the unruliness
And excessive speech of his soul…
Touching but the barest top of the water with his chin, but tortured by thirst.
…chariots suspended over waves.”

Quis enim est qui meum nomen nuncupat?
Iove propagatus est ut perhibent Tantalus,
Ex Tantalo ortus Pelops, ex Pelope autem satus
Atreus, qui nostrum porro propagat genus.

. . . Iam domutionem reges Atridae parant.
Quod nisi quieris, Menelae, hac dextra occides.
Proin demet abs te regimen Argos dum est
potestas consili.

O parens antiqua nostrae gentis, Argivum decus,
. . . Facinus fecit maximum, cum Danais
summam perfecit rem, manu sua restituit proelium

Victor insolens
ignominiae se dolore victum non potuit pati.

Video, video te. Vive, Ulixes, dum licet;
oculis postremum lumen radiatum rape.

Hicine est Telamo ille, modo quem gloria ad
caelum extulit,
quem aspectabant, cuius ob os Grai ora obvertebant
sua? . . .

. . . Simul animus cum re concidit.
Tetulit seniles Poeas ad caelum manus.
. . . Quaenam te adigunt hospes
stagna capacis visere Averni?

ob scelera animique inpotentiam et
mento summam aquam attigens, enectus siti.
. . . per undas currus suspensos.

Image result for Ancient Roman Aeneas

Some Dramatic Fragments for a Monday Morning

Accius, Principles for Playwrights, 3–6

“Perperos: uneducated, foolish, rude, uncultured, liars. In his Principles Accius uses “perperos to describe common people.
The same poet in that work writes:

Poets are beat up because of this instead of some fault of their own:
The excessive gullibility of your minds or your lack of sophistication.”

Nonius, 150, 11: ‘Perperos,’ indoctos, stultos, rudis, insulsos, mendaces. Accius Pragmaticis—
describere in theatro perperos popularis.
Idem eodem—

et eo plectuntur poetae quam suo vitio saepius
ductabilitate animi nimia vestra aut perperitudine.

Dubious Fragments Attributed to Ennius


“Many a menacing machine maximally menaces the munitions”
Machina multa minax minitatur maxima muris


“Theta, a letter unluckier than the rest”
O multum ante alias infelix littera theta!


“To restep a step…”
regredi gressum

Image result for Ancient Roman Tragedy

Leisure, Work and Child-Sacrifice: Two Fragments from Ennius

Ennius’ Iphigenia was certainly modeled on Euripides’ Iphigenia on Aulis. But that in no way keeps the fragments from being their own creations….

232-234 Agamemnon

“Am I tortured because you mess up? You wander and I am on trial?
Let Helen return for her misdeed, but an innocent girl will perish?
That you and your wife be reconciled, my daughter should be served up?”

Ego projector quod tu peccas? Tu delinquis, ego arguor?
Pro malefactis Helena redeat, virgo pereat innocens?
Tua reconcilietur uxor, mea necetur filia?

241-248 Chorus

“Whoever doesn’t know who to use leisure when he has it,
Has more work in leisure than he has in work.
For the man who has a set task, does it without work:
He pays attention to it and in it entertains his mind and spirit.
In true leisure the sick mind does not know what it wants.
It is the same way here: look, we are neither at home nor soldiers;
We go here and there and when we have gone there, we go away again.
Our spirit wanders pointlessly; life is lived, more or less.”

Otio qui nescit uti <quom otium est, in otio>
Plus negoti habet quam quom est negotium in negotio;
Nam cui quod agat institutumst non ullo negotio
Id agit, id studet,ibi mentem atque animum delectat suum.
Otioso in otio animus nescit quid velit.
Hoc idem est; em neque domi nunc nos nec militiae sumus;
Imus huc, hin illuc;quom illuc ventum est, ire illic lubet.
Incerte errat animus, praeterpropter vitam vivitur.

Cicero Called Him Ulysses, but Loved Him All the Same: Fragments from Accius’ Ajax

Cicero de Officiis III.97 (=Accius fr. 109-114, Amorum Iudicium)

We probably should not be surprised if Cicero favors Odysseus…

“What indeed do you think Odysseus would have heard if he had continued in that lie? Even when he had accomplished the greatest feats in War, he still heard these kinds of things from Ajax:

‘You all know that he was the only man to break
The sworn oath which he was the first to take
He began to pretend he was insane to avoid fighting.
If the wisdom of observant Palamedes
Had not perceived this criminal audacity
Law would have foundered with its sacred trust.”

[98] Quid enim auditurum putas fuisse Ulixem, si in illa simulatione perseverasset? Qui cum maximas res gesserit in bello, tamen haec audiat ab Aiace:

“Cuius ipse princeps iuris iurandi fuit,
Quod omnes scitis, solus neglexit fidem.
Furere adsimulare, ne coiret, institit.
Quod ni Palamedi perspicax prudentia
Istius percepset malitiosam audaciam
Fide sacratae ius perpetuo falleret.”

Elsewhere (Charisius, G.L. I. 283, 30) the fragments have Ajax getting a little sarcastic.

“Oh, I saw you, Odysseus, knock down Hector with a stone.
I saw you protect the Greek fleet with your shield,
All while I quaked and plead for a shameful flight!”

Vidi te, Ulixes, saxo sternentem Hectora
Vidi tegentem clipeo classem Doricam;
Ego tunc udendam trepidus hortabar fugam.

Fragmentary Friday: A Dead Husband Among the Living (Caecilius)

Caecilius, fr. of The Little Necklace 136-150

“It is a wretched man who doesn’t know how to hide his misery outside.
My wife, even if I am silent, gives away the secret with her body and deeds.
She has everything you wouldn’t wish except a dowry.
Whoever wishes to be wise should learn from me, a man free but enslaved to enemies
In a safe town and citadel. Why should I wish her safe when she deprives me
Of all joy? While I gasp for her death, I am dead among the living.
She claims that there is a secret affair between me and my serving-woman.
She accuses me of it—then by begging, insisting, and arguing, she convinced me to sell her.
Now, I believe she is planting this kind of rumor among her relatives:
“Of all you women, which one in the bloom of youth
Succeeded in taking from her own husband what I, merely an old hag,
Stole away from mine: his sweet girlfriend!”
These are the sort of meetings they will have this day: I will be torn apart by wretched rumor!”

is demum miser est, qui aerumnam suam nescit occultare
foris: ita me uxor forma et factis facit, si taceam, tamen indicium.
Quae nisi dotem, omnia, quae nolis, habet: qui sapiet, de me discet,
qui quasi ad hostes captus liber servio salva urbe atque arce.
Quae mihi, quidquid placet, eo privatu vim me servatum.
Dum ego eius mortem inhio, egomet vivo mortuus inter vivos.
Ea me clam se cum mea ancilla ait consuetum, id me arguit,
ita plorando, orando, instando atque obiurgando me obtudit,
eam uti venderem; nunc credo inter suas
aequalis et cognatas sermonem serit:
“quis vestrarum fuit integra aetatula,
quae hoc idem a viro
impetrarit suo, quod ego anus modo
effeci, paelice ut meum privarem virum?”
haec erunt concilia hodie, differor sermone miser.

Success, Slowness and Reins: Three More Fragments from Pacuvius

Pacuvius, 160-1


“But if your qualities are so great, I fear I am unable to equal them
Unless I never hesitate to accomplish whatever good I can.”

At si tanta sunt promerita vestra, aequiperare ut queam
Vereor, nisi numquam fatiscar facere quod quibo boni.

Pacuvius, 179-180

“Although slow in itself, old age has this native trait:
All things seem to it to be accomplished slowly.”

Habet hoc senectus in sese ipsa cum pigra est
Spisse ut videantur omnia ei confieri

Pacuvius, 240, Medus

“If I pause, he urges me forward; if I try to advance, he stops me from going.”

Si resto, pergit ut eam, si ire conor, probibet baetere

Philosophers and Snapping Dogs: Two Fragments from Pacuvius

Pacuvius, fr. 11

Zethus: “I hate all men of base deeds and philosophical speech.”

Odi ego homines ignava operaet philosopha sententia

Pacuvius fr, 47-8

“For a dog, when it is hit by a rock, doesn’t retaliate against the man
Who threw it, but instead it lashes out at the stone that hit it.”

Nam canis, quando est percussa lapida, non tam illum adpetit
Qui sese icit, quam illum eumpse lapidem, qui ipsa icta est, petit

The Force That Pervades All Life: Pacuvius, fr. 112-114

“Whatever this is, it enlivens all things, forms them, nourishes, helps to grow, create
And then buries and absorbs everything into itself: it is the same father of all things
And all of this rises whole again from the same substance to which it returns.”

Quidquid est hoc, omnia animat format alit auget creat
Sepelit recipitque in sese omnia, omniumque idem est pater
Indidemque eadem aeque oriuntur deintregro atque eodem occidunt