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From The Silvae of Statius translated with Introduction and Notes, by D. A. Slater; Oxford: The Clarendon Press; 1908; pp. 69-71.



V    Non Helicona gravi

The Baths of Claudius Etruscus.

NOT at Helicon’s gates does my tuneful lute sound with solemn rapture; not on the Muses do I call, who so often have wearied their godhead for me. Phoebus and Bacchus, from my song I set you free; and do thou too, winged Lord of Tegea, keep mute the melodious tortoise shell! Other gatherings my music summons. It is enough to lure forth the Naiad-queens of the fountains, and the Lord of gleaming fire, still wearied, and still ruddy from his Sicilian stithy. Truce for awhile to the guilty strife of Thebes; for my loved companion I fain would sing a lighter strain. Fill cup upon cup, my lad, — why so careful to count the measure?1 — and string the laggard lyre. Sorrow and Care, begone, while I sing of the bright rock, and the jewelled baths; while my muse in wanton ivy and ribbons wreathed — all sober leafage put away — sounds sportive measure for Etruscus. Come, goddesses of ocean, turn hitherward your looks out of the waters and bind your sea tresses with clusters of soft ivy-berries, unrobed as when you rise from the deep pools and torment the love-sick Satyrs with your beauty. Not unto you would I call, who have stained with guilt the honour of your waves. Banished far hence be the treacherous streams of 70 Salmacis, forlorn Oenone, too, and her grief-parched fountain, and she that filched from Hercules his foster-son. Ye rather, denizens of Latium and the Seven Hills, ye that haunt the Tiber and with fresh waves swell his flood; ye that delight in headlong Anio, in the Maiden Water that is fain to welcome the swimmer, and in Marcia that draws down the cool of Marsian snows; all ye whose travelling wave swells along ducts of tall masonry and over countless arches passes on its airy way. Yours is the work that I assay to sing; yours the home my mild lay celebrates. Never in other grottoes have you found a costlier bower. Venus herself guided her husband’s hand and gave him fresh cunning; and that no2 mean flame might fire his furnaces, herself kindled thereunder the torches of the winged Loves. Here neither Thasos nor the sea-stone of Carystus finds place: the onyx pines afar, the snake-stone, too, is outcast and sorrowful. Nothing is here but gleaming porphyry quarried from Numidia’s tawny rocks; nothing but the stone that, in the deep caves of Phrygian Synnas, Attis has flecked with glistening drops of his own blood, and marble of a deeper purple than fine linen dyed at Tyre.3 Scare is room found for blocks from the Eurotas, where that long green line picks out the Synnas-stone. Gay is each threshold, gay and bright the ceilings; the gables shine with glass of many hues to produce a picture 71 and characters of life.4 The very fire marvels to enfold such store of riches, and tempers its tyranny. Everywhere is a glory of light, for the untiring sun pours in all his beams and finds himself scorched, the rogue, by a heat not his own. Nothing common is there nor mean. Nowhere will you mark bronze of Temese. From silver into silver pours and plunges the blithe wave, poised upon the gleaming edge, spell-bound by its own loveliness and loath to pass. Without is the dark-blue river sparkling on the snow-white verge, bright and clear from lowest depth to surface.5 Whom might it not tempt to fling off his sluggish raiment for a plunge in the flood? Rather had Cytherea have sprung from these waters; clearer here hadst thou, Narcissus, gazed on thine own beauty. Here would swift Hecate fain bathe though espied. And shall I now tell of the floors laid there upon the earth, soon to hear the pulsing ball, as the vapour finds its way through the house and the vaults upheave the penetrating heat? Not though a guest came fresh from the beaches of Baiae will he scorn all this loveliness. Nay, let me be suffered to compare the little with the great, not even he who is fresh from the baths of Nero would be loath here once more to sweat. Blessings, Claudius, on thy brilliant taste and cunning thought! May thy works grow old with thee, and thy star learn to rise again to a livlier splendour.


1  Line 10.  ‘quid et enumerare laboras?’* For the passage is reminiscent of Horace, C. II. iii. 9-16, q.v.

2  Line 32.  ‘neu’ (M).

3  Line 39.  ‘quaeque Tyri vincas fucatam sindona rupes.’* See note on p. 209.


[End Note, p. 209.]

I. v. 39.  ‘Quaeque Tyri vincas fucatam sindona, rupes.’ Two proposals for the restoration of this perplexing passage (Philologus, 1905, p. 120, and C. R. xx, pp. 38-9) are grounded on the assumption that porphyry could not occur in a yellow-marble quarry. Such an assumption, however, appears to be ill-grounded. Expert opinion is to the effect that porphyry may quite well occur in such quarries; while there is the further possibility that Statius may have applied the term purpura to the purple variety of marble called Pavonazzo which is taken from these quarries (see the chapter on Marmor Numidicum in Miss Porter’s work What Rome was built with).


This porphyry, then, is to be regarded as a curiosity, and Statius is careful to say where it was found, since that is the chief reason why it is pointed out and prized. Now ‘nothing is known of marble quarries at Tyre and Sidon’ (Housman, C. R. loc. cit.). M. Lafaye’s citation of ‘punica rupes’ from Prudentius, contra Symm. ii. 246, is inconclusive, as punica there may refer simply to the colour of the stone indicated. The combination of Tyre and Sidon suggests the fancy of a monkish copyist, and Sidōnius (sic) seems only to occur once again in Statius, although he uses the word at least thirty-two times. My own conjecture was suggested by the line of Martial (iv. 19. 12) ‘Non sic in Tyria sindone cultus eris’. This poem was written at a supper-party (Praef. i. 31-2), and the comparison might well have been prompted by the sindon in which a fellow-guest had come. The change involved is in the case of two words very slight and readily illustrated from corruptions elsewhere in the Matritensis. For the form of expression Tyri fucatum, cf. Horace’s ‘Mileti textam chlamydem’ (Epp. i. 17. 30). The juxtaposition — sindona, rupes — is of course intentional, the purples of Nature have outdone the purples of Art. But fucatam for secat et is a violent alteration. 'Quaeque Tyri vincas fucam et quae sindona rupes’ woud be palaeographically easier. The conjecture does not claim to be more than a pis-aller, which more or less satisfies the difficult conditions of the problem.

4  Line 43.   ‘animosque’ (Domitius).

5  Line 52.   ‘in summum fundo patet omnis ab imo’ (S).

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