Marcus Annaeus Lucanus (“Lucan”), Pharsalia

Lucan (Marcus Annaeus Lucanus, 39 – 65 CE) was a Roman poet born in Corduba (modern Córdoba, Spain) and educated in Athens. He composed Pharsalia about the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey which occurred in about the year 60 CE.

The following is an adaptation of Pharsalia. M. Annaeus Lucanus, trans. Sir Edward Ridley. London. Longmans, Green, and Co. 1905.

§ 1.396. Those who keep watch beside the western shore
Have taken their banners home; the happy land of Gaul
Rejoices in their absence; the fair Garonne river
Through peaceful meadows glides onward to the sea.
And where the river broadens, neath the cape
Her quiet harbour sleeps. No outstretched arm
Except in mock combat now hurls the lance.
No skillful warrior of the Seine river directs
The chariot scythed against his country’s foe.
Now rest the Belgians, and the Arvernian nation
That boasts of our kinship by descent from Troy;
And those brave rebels whose undaunted hands
Were dipped in Cotta’s blood, and those who wear
Sarmatian clothing. Batavia’s warriors fierce
No longer listen for the trumpet’s call,
Nor those who dwell where Rhone’s swift eddies sweep
Saone to the ocean; nor the mountain nations
Who dwell about its source. You, too, o Treves,
Rejoice that the war has left your bounds.
Ligurian nations, now shorn, in ancient days
First of the long-haired nations, on whose necks
Once flowed the auburn locks in pride supreme;
And those who pacify with blood accursed
Savage Teutates, Esus’ horrid shrines,
And Taranis’ altars, cruel as were those
Loved by Diana, goddess of the north;
All these now rest in peace. And you, o Bards,
Whose martial rhymes preserve from ancient times
The fame of valorous deeds done in battle,
Pour forth in safety more abundant song.
While you, o druids, when the war was done,
To strange mysteries and hateful rites returned:
To you alone is given the heavenly gods
To know or not to know; your dwelling places are
Secluded groves and far remote forests.
If what you druids sing is true, the souls of men
Do not seek the silent habitation of Erebus [the Greek Underworld]
Or the pale realm of Dis [the Roman Underworld], but the breath of life
Still commands these bodies in another region –
Death lies in between life on this side and the next.
The peoples beneath the Northern Star are happy
In their false belief, for they have no fear
Of that which frights all others: they with hands
And hearts undaunted rush upon the foe
And scorn to spare the life that shall return.