Wednesday, August 18, 2010


This is my 300th post since starting this blog way back in July 2006. The number 300 is one that crops up regularly in classical literature, for example in the 300 Spartans made popular by this movie a couple of years ago. It's often used imprecisely, to simply indicate a big, indefinite number, or often a number with some kind of magical or mysterious significance. Here are a couple of examples from Roman poetry:

Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume,
labuntur anni nec pietas moram
rugis et instanti senectae
adferet indomitaeque morti,

non, si trecenis quotquot eunt dies,
amice, places inlacrimabilem
Plutona tauris,

Ah, Postumus, Postumes, the fleeting
years slip by and not even your righteousness
can put on hold your wrinkles and inevitable
old-age and unyielding death,

not even if you sacrificed 300 bulls
everyday could you please pitiless
Pluto, my friend.
(Horace II.14)
At puer Ascanius, cui nunc cognomen Iulo

additur (Ilus erat, dum res stetit Ilia regno)
triginta magnos volvendis mensibus orbis
imperio explebit, regnumque ab sede Lavini
transferet, et longam multa vi muniet Albam.
Hic iam ter centum totos regnabitur annos
gente sub Hectorea, donec regina sacerdos,
Marte gravis, geminam partu dabit Ilia prolem.

But the reign of the boy Ascanius, to whom now the name Iulus will be given (for he was Ilian as long as the kingdom of Ilium still stood) will last for thirty years with the passing months, and he shall transfer his kingdom from its seat at Lavinium and build a city with powerful fortifications at Alba Longa. Here the rule of the race of Hector will last for three hundred long years until Ilia, the royal priestess, heavy with the seed of Mars, shall give birth to twin sons.
(Aeneid I.267ff)
nobis cum semel occidit brevis lux,

nox est perpetua una dormienda.
da mi basia mille, deinde centum,
dein mille altera, dein secunda centum,
deinde usque altera mille, deinde centum.

For us, when our brief light has set once,
there is one everlasting night to be slept through.
Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred
then another thousand, then a second hundred,
then yet another thousand, then a hundred.
(Catullus 5)


lilian.thigh said...

Congrats on the 300, sir. :)

O, the crush I had on Gerard Butler once upon a time... Getting 300 on DVD was like Christmas. Then my Mum hid it and said I wasn't allowed to watch it until I was fifteen...

Anonymous said...

thanks Lilian.

Mike Salter said...

And 300 very fine posts too.

Keep 'em coming JM!