Roman pragmatism

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Roman pragmatism

Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Thu Feb 10, 2005 12:32 pm

Salvete omnes,

A funny anecdote from Ovid's Fasti (III.326-344). Illustrates well the Roman's practical attitude, even towards religion, I think :)

eliciunt caelo te, Iuppiter; unde minores
nunc quoque te celebrant Eliciumque vocant.
constat Aventinae tremuisse cacumina silvae,
terraque subsedit pondere pressa Iovis: 330
corda micant regis totoque e corpore sanguis
fugit et hirsutae deriguere comae.
ut rediit animus, 'da certa piamina' dixit
'fulminis, altorum rexque paterque deum,
si tua contigimus manibus donaria puris, 335
hoc quoque quod petitur si pia lingua rogat.'
adnuit oranti, sed verum ambage remota
abdidit et dubio terruit ore virum.
'caede caput' dixit; cui rex 'parebimus' inquit;
'caedenda est hortis eruta cepa meis.' 340
addidit hic 'hominis'; 'sumes' ait ille 'capillos.'
postulat hic animam; cui Numa 'piscis' ait.
risit, et 'his' inquit 'facito mea tela procures,
o vir conloquio non abigende deum.

The drew you (eliciunt) from the sky, Jupiter, and later
Generations now worship you, by the name of Elicius.
It’s true that the crowns of the Aventine woods trembled,
And the earth sank under the weight of Jove.
The king’s heart shook, the blood fled from his body,
And the bristling hair stood up stiffly on his head.
When he regained his senses, he said: ‘King and father
To the high gods, if I have touched your offerings
With pure hands, and if a pious tongue, too, asks for
What I seek, grant expiation from your lightning,’
The god accepted his prayer, but hid the truth with deep
Ambiguities, and terrified him with confusing words.
‘Sever a head,’ said the god: the king replied; ‘I will,
We’ll sever an onion’s, dug from my garden.’
The god added: ‘Of a man’: ‘You’ll have the hair,’
Said the king. He demanded a life, Numa replied: ‘A fish’s’.
The god laughed and said: ‘Expiate my lightning like this,
O man who cannot be stopped from speaking with gods.

Valete,
Quintus Pomponius Atticus
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