The Púnica of Silius Italicus (c. a.d. 26-c. 102), the longest surviving poem in Latin (more than 12,000 lines), is a verse account of the Second Carthaginian War (218-201 b.c.). It describes how Hannibal, after many years of successful campaigning in Italy, was forced to return to defend Carthage and was finally defeated by Scipio Africanus (see note to Lucretius Dé rérum nátürá 3.1034-, page 23).
Silius faced problems similar to those of a modern poet writing a conventional epic on the Napoleonic wars. His methods for coping with these, which include introducing gods in the same way as Vergil did in the Aeneid, were not as successful as those of his predecessor Lucan. The highest praise usually accorded him is that he sometimes rises above the mediocre.
The following selection, from the account of Scipio's mission to gain the support of Syphax, king of the Massyli in northern Africa, shows how Silius gives a poetic gloss to a historical event.
Iamque novum terris pariebat limine primo egrediens Aurora diem, stabulisque subibant 230
ad iuga solis equi, necdum ipse ascenderat axem, sed prorupturis rutilabant aequora flammis:
text Silius Italicus Púnica, ed. J. D. Duff (Loeb Classical Library, 1934) meter hexameter [§mi]
iámqué nó|vüm tér|ris || párí|ébát | límíné | primó égrédí|éns Aü|rórá dí|ém || stábü|llsqué süb|ibánt
22gS. novum,., diem is the object of pariebat; terris dat. pi .for the world; take limine primó (abl. of place from which [§039]) with égrediens (égredior -i), going out from the edge of her threshold (lit., from the first [part of her] threshold; limen liminis n.); Aurora -ae f. the goddess of the dawn; stabulis abl. of place where [§G38] in [their] stables (stabulum -i n.); the sun's horses (sólis equi) were going up (subeó -ire) to [their] yokes (iugum -i n.)—in mythology, the sun was a god who drove his horses and chariot across the heavens every day; a yoke was a pole fastened over the necks of two horses and attached to a vehicle; necdum and not yet; ipse i.e., the sun; ascendó -ere mount; the basic meaning of axis (axis m.) is axle, hence, by metonymy [§G97], a chariot. 232 próruptürís (fut. pple. of prórumpó -ere) flammis abl. of cause [§G48], lit., with flames about to burst forth, i.e., with flames that would soon burst forth; aequora (pi. for sg. [§g 53]; aequor aequoris n. sea) is the subject of rutilabant (rutiló -are glow red).
233f. The subject of the two verbs in the historic present [§g6o], exigit (exigó -ere remove) and contendit (contendó -erego quickly), is Scipio; é strátisfrom [his] bed (pi. for sg. [§g 53]; strátum -i n.)—note how Silius here uses é + ablative exigit e stratis corpus vultuque sereno
Scipio contendit Massyli ad limina regis.
illi mos patrius fetus nutriré leonum 235
et catulis rabiem atque iras expeliere alendo.
tum quoque fulva manu mulcebat colla iubasque et fera tractabat ludentum interritus ora.
Dardanium postquam ductorem accepit adesse, induitur chlamydem, regnique insigne vetusti 240
gestat laeva decus. cinguntur témpora vitta albente, ac lateri de more adstringitur ensis.
hinc in tecta vocat, secretisque aedibus hospes to express place from which, whereas four lines earlier he uses the plain ablative (such variation is common in Latin poetry); the body (corpus) is that of Scipio; vultü sereno abl. of manner [§G45] with a calm face; Massyli ... regis of the Massylian king; limina pi. for sg. [§G 53].
235 Take illi (i.e., Syphax; dat. of possessor [§G3o]) with mos patrius and supply erat, lit., there was to him ..., i.e., he observed the native custom; fetüs nutriré leonum of rearing (lit., to rear; nutrió -ire) the offspring (fetus -üs m.; English uses the collective singular for the Latin plural) of lions (leo leónis m.).
236 catulis abl. of separation [§G4o] (catulus -I m., here cub); rabies -él f.ferocity; irás pi. for sg. [§G 53], trans, rage; expelió -ere drive away; alendó instrumental abl. [§G47] of the gerund [§G 78] of aló olere feed.
237 fulva ... colla tawny necks (collum -i n.); manfi instrumental abl. [§G47]; mulceó -ére caress; iuba -ae f. mane.
238 fera ... lüdentum ... óra the wild mouths of the playing [animals]; tracto -are stroke; interritus unafraid.
239 Dardanium ... ductórem ... adesse acc.+inf. [§gio] that the Dardanian leader (ductor ductóris m.) was present (adsum)—Dardanian (= Trojan = Roman) is a learned epithet used here by Silius to confer a poetic flavor; postquam postponed conj. [§G4]; accépit here he heard.
240ÍE induitur he put on (historic pres. [§g6o]—further examples will not be pointed out; induó -ere)—the passive can be used for an action performed on oneself [§G59 and §015]; chlamys chlamydis f. cloak; regni ... vetusti of the ancient kingdom; insigne ... decus distinguished symbol (decus decoris n.)—this would have been a scepter or something of the sort); gestat laeva [manus] his left [hand] carried (gestó -are); cingó -ere encircle; témpora (tempus temporis n.) here temples (of the head); vittá albente instrumental abl. [§G47] with a white (albens (albentis)) headband (vitta -ae f.); take lateri (dat.) with adstringitur (adstringó -ere), was fastened to [his] side; dé more according to custom; ensis ensis m. sword.
243 hinc here then, next; tecta pi. for sg. [§g 53] building (tectum -i n.); with vocat supply eum (him), i.e., Scipio; secretas ... aedibus abl. of place where [§G 38] in secluded rooms (aedés aedis f.); hospes hospitis m. here guest.
sceptrifero cum rege pari sub honore residunt.
turn prior his infit terrae pacator Hiberae: 245
"Prima mihi, domitis Pyrenes gentibus, ire ad tua regna fuit properantem et maxima cura, o sceptri venerande Syphax, nec me aequore saevus tardavit medio pontus. non ardua regnis quaesumus aut inhonora tuis: coniunge Latinis 250
unanimum pectus sociusque accede secundis.
non tibi Massylae gentes extentaque tellus
244 sceptrifer scepter-bearing; pari sub honore in equal honor; resido -ere sit down—the pi. residunt agrees according to sense (the two sac down), not according to strict grammar (the subject is singular, viz hospes).
245 prior first; his instrumental abl. [§G47] with these [words]; infit begins to speak (no other form of this verb occurs); terrae... Hiberae of the Spanish land; pacator pacatoris m. subduer.
246f. Prima ... et maxima cura (the first and greatest concern) is the subject of the clause and is followed by mihi ... ire ... fuit was for me to go; domitis Pyrenes gentibus abl. absolute [§g 49], trans, after conquering (domo -are) the peoples of the Pyrenees (Pyrene Pyrenes f. a Greek word); regna pi. for sg. [§g53]; properantem (hurrying; propero -are) is accusative as though Silius had written me as the subject of ire (another agreement according to sense rather than strict grammar). 248f. sceptri (gen. of respect [§g 22]; sceptrum -i n. scepter) goes with venerande (m.sg. voc. of the gerundive of veneror -ari) Syphax (Syphacis m.), lit., Syphax, to be venerated with respect to [your] scepter, i.e., Syphax of venerable scepter; aequore ... medio instrumental abl. [§G47], lit., with [its] middle sea, trans, with its intervening water; tardo -are delay; pontus -I m. sea. 249ff. ardua regnis ... aut inhonora tuis [things] difficult or dishonorable for your kingdom (pi. for sg. [§g53]); quaesumus = quaesimus (pi. for sg. [§g53]; quaeso -ere seek); coniungo -ere join; Latinis dat. to the Latins (= Romans); trans, unanimum (sharing a single aim) by an adverb [§G55], unreservedly; pectus pectoris n. here heart; socius is in apposition [§g52] to the understood subject of the verb, trans, [as] an ally; accede secundis lit., come over (accedo -ere) to [their] successful [things], i.e., share in [their] success. 252ff. tibi... amplius attulerint decoris lit., would bring (affero -ferre; the perfect subjunctive is potential [§G68])jyou (tibi dat. of advantage [§G3l]) more (amplius) of honor (partitive gen. [§G24]; decus decoris n.)—trans, the last two words more honor; extentaque tellus Syrtibus land (tellus telluris f.) extending (lit., stretched; extendo -ere) to the Syrtes (dat. of motion toward [§g35]; Syrtis Syrtis f. as plural, dangerous shallows in the southern Mediterranean Sea east of Carthage); latis ... campis abl. of place where [§G38] over (lit., in) wide fields; proavita potentia ancestral power (potentia -ae f.); quam than; Romula virtus certa iuncta fide Roman courage joined [to you] by sure faith—the Romans prided amplius attulerint decoris, quam Romula virtus certa iuncta fide et populi Laurentis honores. 255
cetera quid referam? non ullus scilicet ulli aequus caelicolum, qui Dardana laeserit arma."
<s Silius Italicus Pünica 16.229-257
themselves on being trustworthy; populi Laurentis honores the esteem (pi. for sg. [§G53]) of the Laurentine people (Laurens (Laurentis) yet another synonym for Roman).
25ôf. cetera quid referam? why should I mention (potential subjunctive [§g68]; referô -ferre) the other [considerations]?; with the next clause supply est (is); nön ullus ... caelicolum (= nullus caelicolärum [§g95]) none of the gods (caelicola -ae m./f. lit., sky-dweller); scilicet of course—Scipio now casually tosses in the most important argument of all; ulli aequus ... qui favorable to anyone who; Dardana cf. 1. 239; laeserit subj. in a generalizing adjectival clause [§g88], trans, has harmed.
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