cWhen sent into exile by Augustus, Ovid was ordered to live in Tomis, an outpost of the Roman Empire on the west coast of the Black Sea (now Constanta in Romania). Though condemned there to live a hard and dangerous life, he continued to write poetry. The following lines describe the last night before he left the Rome he loved—to which he was never to return.
Cum subit illius tristissima noctis imago, quae mihi supremum tempus in urbe fuit, cum repeto noctem, qua tot mihi cara reliqui, labitur ex oculis nunc quoque gutta meis. iam prope lux aderat, qua me discedere Caesar 5
finibus extremae iusserat Ausoniae. nec spatium nec mens fuerat satis apta parando: torpuerant longa pectora nostra mora.
text P. Ovidii Nasonis Tristia, ed. J. B. Hall (Bibliotheca Teubneriana, 1995) meter elegiac couplet [§m2]
cum subît I îllï|ùs || tris|tïssïmâ | nôctïs ï|màgô quâè mihi | sûprë|mùm || tëmpus ïn | urbë fu|it
1 subit (3 sg. près ind. act. subeô -ire) here comes [to my mind]; take illius with noctis, and tristissima (superl. of tristis sad, here used to express a very high degree [§g54]) with imâgô (imâginis f.picture). 2f. mihi dat. of disadvantage [§g 31] for me; suprëmus last; in urbe in the city— Rome was often referred to simply as urbs; repetô -ere recall, remember; qua abl. of time when [§G37] on which; take tot (indecl. adj.) with mihi càra (so many [things] dear to me).
4 The subject; of lâbitur (labor lâbïfall) is gutta (-ae f, drop, i.e., a tear); take ex oculis ... meis together; nunc quoque now too—Ovid cried at the time and cries again when writing the poem. 5f. prope ... aderat (adsum be present) trans, had almost come; lux (lucis f.) lit., light, but trans, day; qua as in 1.3; më is the object of iusserat; discëdô -ere depart; Caesar Caesaris m. here the emperor Augustus; finibus abl. of place from which [§g 39]/row the boundaries; extrëmus farthest; Ausonia -ae f. a poetic word for Italy—Ovid was not allowed to stay even in its most remote areas.
7 spatium -iî n. here period, time; mens mentis f. [frame of] mind; fuerat is singular to agree with the nearer of the two subjects [§G58], spatium and mens; satis adv. sufficiently, quite; apta (aptus favorable) agrees with the nearer subject (mens) but must be taken in sense with both; parando dat. of gerund to express purpose [§g 33] for preparing.
8 torpuerant (torpeô -ëre) had become numb; longâ... mora abl, of cause [§g48] through long delay; pectora nostra (pi. for sg. [§G53] my breast) is the subject of torpuerant—pectus was considered, among other things, the seat of intellectual faculties and so here is the equivalent of mens (mind); however, since mens has just occurred (1. 7), this line is best translated my brain had become numb.
non mihi servorum, comitis non cura legendi, non aptae profugo vestis opisve fuit. 10
non aliter stupui, quam qui Iovis ignibus ictus vivit et est vitae nescius ipse suae, ut tamen hanc animo nubem dolor ipse removit, et tandem sensus convaluere mei, adloquor extremum maestos abiturus amicos, 15
qui modo de multis unus et alter erant. uxor amans flentem flens acrius ipsa tenebat, imbre per indignas usque cadente genas. nata procul Libycis aberat diversa sub oris, nec poterat fati certior esse mei. 20
gf. The basic construction is non mihi (dat. of reference [§g 32]) ... cüra ... fuit lit., there was not concern for me; with cüra take legendi, a gerundive [§g8i] that agrees with comitis (comes comitis m./f. companion), but it must also be taken in sense with the genitives servorum, aptae ... vestis, and opis, lit., concern of slaves, etc. going to be chosen, i.e., concern of choosing slaves, a companion, clothing suitable for an exile (profugo dat. after aptae) or necessities (ops opis f.); non is repeated in 11. 9 and 10 for emphasis; trans. 1 was not concerned with choosing slaves, a companion, etc.
1 if. non aliter ... quam lit., not otherwise than, i.e., in the same way as; stupui (stupeó -ere) I was stunned; qui [a person] who; Iovis ignibus (instrumental abl. [§G47]) ictus struck (icio icere) by the lightning (lit., fires) of Jupiter (Iuppiter Iovis m.); vivit lives, is alive; nescius + gen. unaware of—the lightning victim is so stunned that he does not realize he is still alive.
13 ut + ind. when; hanc ... nübem this cloud (nübés nübis f.); animó abl. of separation [§g40] from [my] mind; dolor dolóris M.grief; removed -ere remove.
14 tandem adv.finally; sensüs... mei (my emotions (sensus -üs m.)) is the subject of convaluere (= convaluérunt; convalesco -ere recover).
15 adloquor historic pres. [§g6o], trans. I addressed; extremum adverbial acc. [§g 16] for the last time; maestos ... amicos [my] sad friends; abitürus (fut. pple. of abed abire) [when] about to depart.
16 The antecedent of qui is amicos; modo adv. now; dé multis of many; ünus et alter trans, one or two.
17Í. uxor amans [my] loving wife; with flentem (fleo flére weep) supply mé; take flens acrius (compar. adv. of acriter bitterly) with uxor; imbre ... cadente abl, absolute [§G49], trans, with a rain [of tears] (imber imbris m.) falling; per (prep. + acc.) over; indignas ... genás [her] innocent cheeks (gena -ae f.); usque constantly.
19 nata (-ae f.) [my] daughter—Ovid's only child (from a previous marriage) was living with her husband in Africa; the three words procul (far away) ... aberat (absum be distant) diversa (agreeing with nata, separated [from me]) emphasize the fact that the daughter was far away from her father at the time—trans, was abroad, far away from me; Libycis... sub oris on African shores.
20 poterat 3 sg. imperf. ind. possum; fati ... mei of my fate; certior (compar. of certus certain) here informed.
quocumque aspiceres, luctus gemitusque sonabant, formaque non taciti funeris ihtus erat.
femina virque meo, pueri quoque funere maerent, inque domo lacrimas angulus omnis habet. si licet exemplis in parvo grandibus uti, 25
haec facies Troiae, cum caperetur, erat.
iamque quiescebant voces hominumque canumque Lunaque nocturnos alta regebat equos.
hanc ego suspiciens et ab hac Capitolia cernens, quae nostro frustra iuncta fuere Lari, 30
21 quôcumque aspicerës (aspiciô -ere) wherever you/one looked (generalizing relative clause with the subj. [§g88]); sense tells us that luctus (luctus -us m. lament) and gemitûs (gemitus -ùs m.groan) are both nominative plural; sonâbant (sonô -are) lit., were sounding out, but trans, were heard.
22 forma ... intus erat lit., inside [the house] there was the appearance; non taciti lit., not quiet, but trans, noisy—Roman funerals were notorious for their noise; fiinus funeris n. funeral.
23 femina virque trans, men and women (the singular is used to represent a class [§053]); pueri children; meô ... funere abl. of place where [§g 38] at my funeral; quoque also—the three preceding nouns are the subjects of maerent (historic pres. [§g6o]; maereô -ere mourn).
24 inque = in + que; take angulus (-1 m.) omnis together, every corner; habet historic pres. [§g6o].
25 licet impers, it is allowed; take exemplis ... grandibus as the ablative object of ûtï (pres. inf. of utor), to use prominent examples (exemplum -I n,); in parvô in an insignificant [case].
26 haec faciès (-ëï f.)... erat this was the appearance—faciès is the predicate and haec, although the subject of erat, agrees with it; caperëtur here was taken [in war]—the capture of Troy (Trôia -ae f.) was naturally a mournful affair for the Trojans, and it is typical of Ovid's style that he introduces a mythological parallel.
27 iamque and already; quiesco -ere grow quiet; vôcës here sounds (vox vôcis f.); ... -que ... -que both ... and ...; canum gen. pi. of canis canis m./f. dog.
28 Traditional belief regarded the moon as a goddess (hence Luna) who rode in a horse-drawn chariot across the sky; nocturnus nocturnal; alta (with Luna) lofty; regëbat here drove.
29 hanc and hâc both refer to Luna; suspiciô -ere glance up at; cernô -ere look at—Ovid shifts his eyes from the moon to the twin peaks of the Capitoline Hill (hence pl. Capitôlia (Capitôlium -(i)ï n.)) and its various temples, the most important of which was that of Iuppiter optimus maximus, the holiest place in Rome.
30 The antecedent of quae is Capitôlia; nostro ... Lari (Lar Laris m.) dat. after iuncta fuëre (= faërunt); iuncta fuëre is another form of the perfect indicative passive of iungô -ere join (the normal form is iuncta sunt)—the Lar was the
"numina vicinis habitantia sedibus," inquam,
"iamque oculis numquam templa videnda meis, dique relinquendi, quos urbs habet alta Quirini, este salutati tempus in omne mihi."
household god that protected the home, and often, as here, the name was used by metonymy [§g 97 J to indicate the house itself; frustra in vain, to no purpose—Ovid's house was near the Capitol, but this did not save him from being condemned to exile; trans, which to no purpose were close (lit., were joined) to my home.
31 numina ... sedibus is a vocative phrase, divinities living in (habitantia pres. pple. of habito -are) neighboring dwellings (vicinis ... sedibus abl. of place where [§c338])—a god was believed to live in his temple, and Ovid is addressing those with temples on the Capitoline Hill; inquam historic pres. [§G 60] I said.
32 Ovid now addresses the temples themselves; oculis ... meis dat. of agent [§G29j after the gerundive [§g8i] videnda; trans, and temples now never [again] to be seen by my eyes.
33 The second category of divinities addressed is di ... quos urbs habet alta Quirini (gods whom the lofty city of Quirinus (= Romulus) holds (i.e., gods who had temples elsewhere in Rome)), and these are qualified by the gerundive [§g8i] relinquendi (going to be left, i.e., whom I must leave),
34 Take este (2 pi. imp. of sum) with salutati (saluto -are greet)-, mihi dat. of agent [§G2g], lit., be greeted by me for all time (tempus in omne), i.e., I greet you now, and this greeting must suffice for all future time—the Roman gods had no temples in Ovid's place of exile and so would never come there.
In exile at Tomis, Ovid wrote two collections of poems, the Tristia (Sad [Poems]) and the Epistulae ex Ponto (Letters from the Pontus (the Black Sea)), In these, he often complains of his present life arid of how he has 'been deserted by many of his friends (cf. 1.16, page 133). At Tristia 1.9,5, he sums up his plight with these words:
Donee eris sospes, multos numerabis amicos: tempora si fuerint nubila, solus eris.
While you are free of troubles^ you count many friends:
If the tirnes are cloudy, you are alone.
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