Category Archives: Leo


When president Obama announced the death of Bin Laden, there was a great relief and triumphant feeling in the West, though the death of Bin Laden was more symbolically relevant than from a military point of view. An even greater feeling of relief must have engulfed Rome, when it became known that the fleet of Marc Antony and Cleopatra was destroyed at Actium and that Cleopatra had committed suicide. This battle took place in 30 BC and was a turning point in Roman history: after years of civil strife, Octavian got the upper hand and defeated Mark Antony.  Assuming the name of Augustus, he brought the Pax Augustana over the Roman Empire, one of the most happy periods this empire has experienced during its long existence.   

As soon as Horace (65-8 BC)  – then the rising star amongst the poets of Rome – heard of outcome of the battle of Actium, he wrote a poem celebrating  this event. Though he describes Cleopatra as afatale monstrum, he admires her courage for wanting to die rather than be taken prisoner.
What Horace could not have known, is that this poem is the first in a long line of artistic works about Cleopatra:  fiction, drama, biographies , paintings movies. Let’s say that this start could have been far worse!
Ode 1.37
Nunc est bibendum, nunc pede libero
pulsanda tellus, nunc Saliaribus
     ornare puluinar deorum
     tempus erat dapibus, sodales.
Antehac nefas depromere Caecubum               5
cellis auitis, dum Capitolio
     regina dementes ruinas
     funus et imperio parabat
contaminato cum grege turpium
morbo virorum, quidlibet impotens               10
     sperare fortunaque dulci
     ebria. Sed minuit furorem
uix una sospes nauis ab ignibus,
mentemque lymphatam Mareotico
redegit in ueros timores               15
     Caesar, ab Italia uolantem
remis adurgens, accipiter uelut
molles columbas aut leporem citus
     uenator in campis niualis
      Haemoniae, daret ut catenis               20
fatale monstrum. Quae generosius
perire quaerens nec muliebriter
     expauit ensem nec latentes
     classe cita reparauit oras,
ausa et iacentem uisere regiam               25
uoltu sereno, fortis et asperas
     tractare serpentes, ut atrum
     corpore conbiberet uenenum,
deliberata morte ferocior:
saeuis Liburnis scilicet inuidens               30
     priuata deduci superbo,
     non humilis mulier, triumpho.
nunc: emphatic! Now at this very moment the news has come to us!
bibo: to drink
pulso: to beat
tellus, telloris, f: earth, ground
Saliaribus dapibus: the Salii were a class of 12 priest who held in the first of March excessive feasts with wild dancing and lavish meals to honor to god Mars (the month March is of course dedicated to the god Mars).
pulvinar, -aris: couch. At the feast of the Salii statues of the gods were place on couches to accentuate their presence.
nunc…tempus erat:  the combination of nunc and erat is awkward. The most easy solution is to take it as `now, it was already time that the Salii etc.’. or simply translate is as tempus est.
antehac: before
nefas: shameful, not done
depromo: to bring forward from
Caecubum (vinum): the best wine came from Caecubum , a plain of Lacium.
cella: store-room
Capitolium:  the temple of Juppiter at Rome
ruinas funus et = ruinas et funus
regina dementes ruinas: many commentators take this as an enallage (an adjective belonging to one noun, but in effect qualifying an other noun) so we should understand regina demens ruinas, but in my opinion there is nothing wrong with `crazy downfall/ ruining’. Everyone understands that these ruinas are dementes because of the madness of Cleopatra.
ruina: downfall
funus,  –us: death, destruction
parabat,  imperfectum de conatu, so not provided, but tried/planned to prepare.
contaminato cum grege turpium morbo virorum  =  cum contaminato grege virorum morbo turpium. The whole phrase expresses Horace’s disgust for the eunuchs –  viri  turpes morbo –  of the Egyptian court.
grex, grecis: herd
turpis: shameful
morbus: disease  (often was sexual connotations, like here)
quidlibet: whatever
impotens: unable to control herself
ebrius: drunk
minuo: lessen, diminish
Sed…..Caesar: two things brought her back from her furor: the fact that hardly one ship of her fleet escaped fire and Octavian chasing her.
vix: hardly
sospes ab: saved from
lymphaticus: intoxicated
Mareotico (vino) excellent wine from Alexandria
redigo: bring back
volo:  to fly, flee (Cleopatram volantem)
remus: oar
adurgeo: to pursue closely
accipiter: hawk
columba: dove
venator: hunter
lepor, –oris: hare
in campis niualis Haemoniae (= Thessaly): to describe the fields of Thessaly as covered with snow is a literary convention.
catena: chain
generosius perire quaerens: seeking to end more heroic (than being chained)
nec muliebriter expauit ensem: i.e. she was not afraid to die
muliebriter: womanly
expavesco – pavi: be afraid of
ensis: sword
latentes oras: coasts hidden (for the fleet of Octavian)
classis: fleet
reparo: here `to seek’. Instead of trying to hide herself at some distant coast, Cleopatra returned to Egypt.
audeo –  ausus sum: to dare,  ausa (est)
iacentem regiam: her palace (= power) in ruins
vultus – us: face
asperasperi: rough, wild, dangerous
tracto: to handle
ateratri: black
conbibo: to drink. There are various versions about Cleopatra’s death. The most well-known is that she  let herself be bitten by two snakes.
deliberata ferocior morte: as the metre shows, deliberata goes withmorte (the final a is long, so ablative): she was very much spirited for
deliberatus: not  deliberated, but decided
saeuis Liburnis inuidens priuata deduci superbo triumpho: the subject is invidens. This takes the dative saevis Liburnis.  privata  is predicate to invidens.  The remainder is what Cleopatra is invidens.
Liburnis (navibus): Liburnian ships are a kind of small and fast vessels, extremely useful for operating in coastal waters. They played an important role in setting the ships of Mark Antony and Cleopatra to fire.
scilicet: of course
invideo: literally `to look upon’ in the sense of `to cast an evil eye upon’, then  `to envy, refuse’
privo: to deprive, bereave,  privata (regno) `deprived of her kingdom’
deduco: to lead back
superbo triumph: dative of direction = ad superbum triumphum
triumpho: a Roman commander was allowed to have a triumph, a procession through Rome at which the enemies taken captive where shown and especially their leader was shown in humiliating circumstances.
Here is a link to a translation:

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Carmina Burana 211: My belly is my god!

Whenever the Carmina Burana is mentioned, the music by Carl Orff will come to mind. It is less known that Orff only orchestrated 24 of the 228 songs and that many of these songs have their own musical notation in the manuscript of the Carmina Burana. This song was not selected by Orff.
Song nr 211 is a parody on excessive eating and drinking, but I think that for many people in the Middle Ages this would have been a dream come true, as there were often food shortages. It is therefore not surprising that the idea of  the land of Cockaigne, in which one only had te open the mouth and fried chickens were flying in, was much cherised at that time. Try to imagine that all of a sudden a person  from the Middle Ages would be here: where would he run to? Indeed: the Mcdonnalds!
Here is a live performance of this song by a Serbian early music group:

Unfortunately, I was unable to find an english translation on the internet. Is anyone able or willing to make a poetic translation in english?

Alte clamat Epicurus:
«venter satur est securus.
venter deus meus erit.
talem deum gula querit,
cuius templum est coquina,
in qua redolent divina.»
Ecce deus opportunus,
nullo tempore ieiunus,
ante cibum matutinum
ebrius eructat vinum,
cuius mensa et cratera
sunt beatitudo vera.
Cutis eius semper plena
velut uter et lagena;
iungit prandium cum cena,
unde pinguis rubet gena,
et, si quando surgit vena,
fortior est quam catena.
Sic religionis cultus
in ventre movet tumultus,
rugit venter in agone,
vinum pugnat cum medone;
vita felix otiosa,
circa ventrem operosa.
Venter inquit: «nichil curo
preter me. sic me procuro,
ut in pace in id ipsum
molliter gerens me ipsum
super potum, super escam
dormiam et requiescam.»
alte                 from afar
Epicurus: Greek philosopher (341 – 270), unfairly accused of hedonism by his opponents, – under whom Cicero –  but as his writings are largely lost, it was believed to be true.
venter, ventris                       stomach, belly
satur ura urum                       full
securus           untroubled, cheerful (se = sine, curus from cura)
talis                 such
gula                 throat
quero = quaero          to ask, strive (supply esse)
deum, cuius
coquina           kitchen
redoleo           to smell (from red-oleo, not re-doleo!)
opportunus     convenient, usefull, agreeable (somehow there must be a more fitting                           translation for this word within this context, tell me if you have a brilliant               idea!)
ieiunus            fasting
cibum matutinum       an early meal
ebrius             drunk
eructo (1)        to vomit
mensa             table
cratera            wine-bowl
beatitudo vera            the true beatitude was of course the devotion to a religious life and the reward in heaven.
cutis, cutis      skin
uter, utris       a bag or bottle made of an animal’s hide, a skin for wine, oil, water, etc
lagena             a large earthen vessel with a neck and handles, a flask, flagon, bottle:
iungit prandium cum cena the American way of life?
iungo iunxi iuctum         to connect ( from the same root as english `yoke’)
prandium        breakfast
cena                dinner
unde                in classical Latin `from which (place)’, but here `till’
pinguis            fat
rubeo              to become red
gena                cheek(s) (in classical Latin the plural is more common)
si quando        when
surgo              to arise, swell
vena                here: penis (vena originally means `tube, `pipe’)
fortior             stronger
catena             chain
rugio               to roar
agon –onis      battle
medo, -onis     non classical Latin, but a loan word from Germanic `mead       ‘, an alcoholic              honey   beverage (there is a Latin root MAD as  in madeoand madesco `to                  become  wet’, `to become drunk’, but this is not connected with the Proto Indo                         – European root . *medh-u- `honey’. This root has survived in Germanic, Greek              Sanskrit and some other languages, but not in Latin. From personal experience                       I can tell that the Indo-European ancestors of the Romans were right in                               prefering wine and forgetting all about mead.
vita felix otiosa, circa ventrem operosa `What a happy life, doing nothing (otiosa), is                                  busy (operosa) around belly’ operosa goes grammatically with vita, but of                         course the belly is busy.
inquit              is saying
nichil curo preter me = nihil curo praeter me `I care for nothing, except for my self’
sic me procuro,
ut in pace in id ipsum
molliter gerens me ipsum
super potum, super escam
dormiam et requiescam
The Latin is not difficult, but unclassical. Literally: so I take care (procuro), that in peace handling myself gently after drink and food, I will sleep and rest.
Line 3 and 6 are taken from Psalm 4:9:
The in id  ipsum is a bit problematic. It is a literal translation of a hebrew word meaning `together’, `at once’, a particle implying that  both actions take place at the same time, but in Latin it gives little sence.

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