Tuesday, June 10, 2008

monumentum aere perennius

Horace's Ode III.30 is a reflection on the completion of his first three books of poetry. It begins:

exegi monumentum aere perennius
regalique situ pyramidum altius...

I have completed a monument more lasting than bronze
and more noble than the pyramids of kings...

Obviously he had a pretty high view of his achievement (see previous post if you want to know more), but it turns out he was right. In fact more right than he could have imagined. Later on he writes:

non omnis moriar, multaque pars mei
vitabit Libitinam...

I shall not die completely, but a great part of me
shall avoid death...

...dum Capitolium
scandet cum tacita virgine pontifex.

... for as long as the chief-priest
ascends the Capitol with a silent maiden.*

Roman sacrifices on the Capitoline Hill stopped long ago, but Horace's poetry is still read (and even sometimes appreciated) widely. If you don't believe me check out this post.

Anyway, this picture is a statue which is at least as old as Horace's poetry; from the Museo Nazionale Romano at the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme in Rome, where it lives in the same room as this statue. The statues in pretty good shape, which is Horace's point - bronze lasts a long time, and so will his poetry. I guess only time will tell whether Horace outlasts the statue in the long run.

*[Just to clarify, the maiden, the embodiment of goodness and purity etc, was to help out with the sacrifices, not to be sacrificed. The Romans didn't do human sacrifice. Much.]


caerula said...

I love how you've chosen that particular word order in the last couplet to avoid our class translation issues (namely, of the priest and the... erm... "scandet" of Virgil...), Sir.

Also -- with our exam tomorrow/today, we have no guarantee of the unseens being from Livy I/Aeneid VIII, do we?

jm said...

the unseens will definitely not be from Livy I/ Aeneid VIII. since you have to read the whole of each of those books in English it would defeat the whole point of 'unseens' if i gave you soemthing you were familiar with.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, but technically, we're supposed to have read the whole of the Aeneid/Livy's works [for our Term IV/I holiday homework], which would wholly defeat the purpose of "unseens" then.