Horace: Ode 3.5 – Regulus

A vers:

We believe that Jove is king in heaven because we hear his
thunders peal; Augustus shall be deemed a god on earth for
adding to our empire the Britons and dread Persians.
Did Crassus’ troops live in base wedlock with barbarian wives
and (alas, our sunken Senate and our altered ways!) grow old
in service of the foes whose daughters they had wedded –
Marsian and Apulian submissive to a Parthian king,
forgetful of the sacred shields, the Roman name,
the toga, and eternal Vesta, while Jove’s temples
and the city Rome remained unharmed?
‘Twas against this the far-seeing mind of Regulus had guarded
when he revolted from the shameful terms and from such
precedent foresaw ruin extending to the coming ages,
should not the captive youth perish without pity.
“With my own eyes,” he said, “have I seen our
standards hung up in Punic shrines, and weapons
wrested from our soldiers without bloodshed;
with mine own eyes have I seen the hands of freemen pinioned
behind their backs, the gates (of Carthage) open wide,
the fields once ravaged by our warfare tilled again.
Redeemed by gold, forsooth, our soldiers will
renew the strife with greater bravery! To shame
ye are but adding loss; the wool with purple
dyed never regains the hue it once has lost,
nor does true manhood, when it once has vanished,
care to be restored to degenerate breasts.
If the doe gives fight when loosened from
the close-meshed toils, then will he be brave…
… who has trusted himself to perfidious foes,
and he will crush the Carthaginians in a second war
who has tamely felt the thongs upon his fettered
arms and has stood in fear of death.
Such a one, not knowing how to make his life secure,
has confounded war with peace. Alas the shame! O mighty
Carthage, raised higher on Italy’s disgraceful ruins.”
‘Tis said he put away his chaste wife’s kisses and his
little children, as one bereft of civil rights, and
sternly bent his manly gaze upon the ground,
till he should strengthen the Senate’s wavering
purpose by advice ne’er given before, and amid
sorrowing friends should hurry forth a glorious exile.
Full well he knew what the barbarian torturer was making
ready for him; and yet he pushed aside the kinsmen who
blocked his path and the people who would stay his going,
with no less unconcern than if some case in
court had been decided, and he were leaving
the tedious business of his clients, speeding to
Venafran fields, or to Lacedaemonian Tarentum.

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