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Apocolocyntosis   By: (4 BC - 65)

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This piece is ascribed to Seneca by ancient tradition; it is impossible to prove that it is his, and impossible to prove that it is not. The matter will probably continue to be decided by every one according to his view of Seneca's character and abilities: in the matters of style and of sentiment much may be said on both sides. Dion Cassius (lx, 35) says that Seneca composed an [Greek: apokolokuntosis] or Pumpkinification of Claudius after his death, the title being a parody of the usual [Greek: apotheosis]; but this title is not given in the MSS. of the Ludus de Morte Claudii, nor is there anything in the piece which suits the title very well.

As a literary form, the piece belongs to the class called Satura Menippea , a satiric medley in prose and verse.

This text is that of Buecheler, with a few trifling changes, which are indicated in the notes. We have been courteously allowed by Messrs Weidmann to use this text. I have to acknowledge the help of Mr Ball's notes, from which I have taken a few references; but my translation was made many years ago.



Editio Princeps: Lucii Annaei Senecae in morte Claudii Caesaris Ludus nuper repertus: Rome, 1513.

Latest critical text: Franz Buecheler, Weidmann, 1904 (a reprint with a few changes of the text from a larger work, Divi Claudii [Greek: Apokolokuntosis] in the Symbola Philologorum Bonnensium, fasc. i, 1864).

Translations and helps: The Satire of Seneca on the Apotheosis of Claudius, by A.P. Ball (with introduction, notes, and translations): New York: Columbia University Press; London, Macmillan, 1902.



I wish to place on record the proceedings in heaven 1 October 13 last, of the new year which begins this auspicious age. It shall be done without malice or favour. This is the truth. Ask if you like how I know it? To begin with, I am not bound to please you with my answer. Who will compel me? I know the same day made me free, which was the last day for him who made the proverb true One must be born either a Pharaoh or a fool. If I choose to answer, I will say whatever trips off my tongue. Who has ever made the historian produce witness to swear for him? But if an authority must be produced, ask of the man who saw Drusilla translated to heaven: the same man will aver he saw Claudius on the road, dot and carry one. [Sidenote: Virg. Aen. ii, 724] Will he nill he, all that happens in heaven he needs must see. He is the custodian of the Appian Way; by that route, you know, both Tiberius and Augustus went up to the gods. Question him, he will tell you the tale when you are alone; before company he is dumb. You see he swore in the Senate that he beheld Drusilla mounting heavenwards, and all he got for his good news was that everybody gave him the lie: since when he solemnly swears he will never bear witness again to what he has seen, not even if he had seen a man murdered in open market. What he told me I report plain and clear, as I hope for his health and happiness.

Now had the sun with shorter course drawn in his risen light, 2 And by equivalent degrees grew the dark hours of night: Victorious Cynthia now held sway over a wider space, Grim winter drove rich autumn out, and now usurped his place; And now the fiat had gone forth that Bacchus must grow old, The few last clusters of the vine were gathered ere the cold:

I shall make myself better understood, if I say the month was October, the day was the thirteenth. What hour it was I cannot certainly tell; philosophers will agree more often than clocks; but it was between midday and one after noon. "Clumsy creature!" you say. "The poets are not content to describe sunrise and sunset, and now they even disturb the midday siesta... Continue reading book >>

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