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Pharsalia; Dramatic Episodes of the Civil Wars   By: (39-65)

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Pharsalia

(aka "The Civil War")

by

Lucan

(Marcus Annaeus Lucanus) A.D. 39 A.D. 65

Originally written in Latin, approximately A.D. 61 65, by the Roman poet Lucan, and probably left unfinished upon his death in A.D. 65. Although the work has been generally known through most of history as the "Pharsalia", modern scholarship tends to agree that this was not Lucan's choice for a title.

This electronic edition was edited, proofed, and prepared by Douglas B. Killings (DeTroyes@AOL.COM), May 1996.

BOOK I

THE CROSSING OF THE RUBICON

Wars worse than civil on Emathian (1) plains, And crime let loose we sing; how Rome's high race Plunged in her vitals her victorious sword; Armies akin embattled, with the force Of all the shaken earth bent on the fray; And burst asunder, to the common guilt, A kingdom's compact; eagle with eagle met, Standard to standard, spear opposed to spear.

Whence, citizens, this rage, this boundless lust To sate barbarians with the blood of Rome? Did not the shade of Crassus, wandering still, (2) Cry for his vengeance? Could ye not have spoiled, To deck your trophies, haughty Babylon? Why wage campaigns that send no laurels home? What lands, what oceans might have been the prize Of all the blood thus shed in civil strife! Where Titan rises, where night hides the stars, 'Neath southern noons all quivering with heat, Or where keen frost that never yields to spring In icy fetters binds the Scythian main: Long since barbarians by the Eastern sea And far Araxes' stream, and those who know (If any such there be) the birth of Nile Had felt our yoke. Then, Rome, upon thyself With all the world beneath thee, if thou must, Wage this nefarious war, but not till then.

Now view the houses with half ruined walls Throughout Italian cities; stone from stone Has slipped and lies at length; within the home No guard is found, and in the ancient streets so Scarce seen the passer by. The fields in vain, Rugged with brambles and unploughed for years, Ask for the hand of man; for man is not. Nor savage Pyrrhus nor the Punic horde E'er caused such havoc: to no foe was given To strike thus deep; but civil strife alone Dealt the fell wound and left the death behind. Yet if the fates could find no other way (3) For Nero coming, nor the gods with ease Gain thrones in heaven; and if the Thunderer Prevailed not till the giant's war was done, Complaint is silent. For this boon supreme Welcome, ye gods, be wickedness and crime; Thronged with our dead be dire Pharsalia's fields, Be Punic ghosts avenged by Roman blood; Add to these ills the toils of Mutina; Perusia's dearth; on Munda's final field The shock of battle joined; let Leucas' Cape Shatter the routed navies; servile hands Unsheath the sword on fiery Etna's slopes: Still Rome is gainer by the civil war. Thou, Caesar, art her prize. When thou shalt choose, Thy watch relieved, to seek divine abodes, All heaven rejoicing; and shalt hold a throne, Or else elect to govern Phoebus' car And light a subject world that shall not dread To owe her brightness to a different Sun; All shall concede thy right: do what thou wilt, Select thy Godhead, and the central clime Whence thou shalt rule the world with power divine. And yet the Northern or the Southern Pole We pray thee, choose not; but in rays direct Vouchsafe thy radiance to thy city Rome. Press thou on either side, the universe Should lose its equipoise: take thou the midst, And weight the scales, and let that part of heaven Where Caesar sits, be evermore serene And smile upon us with unclouded blue. Then may all men lay down their arms, and peace Through all the nations reign, and shut the gates That close the temple of the God of War. Be thou my help, to me e'en now divine! Let Delphi's steep her own Apollo guard, And Nysa keep her Bacchus, uninvoked. Rome is my subject and my muse art thou!

First of such deeds I purpose to unfold The causes task immense what drove to arms A maddened nation, and from all the world Struck peace away... Continue reading book >>




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