Introduction | Fastorum Liber Primus: Ianuarius
I.1-62 Ovid lays out the premise of his work.
Tempora cum causis Latium digesta per annum
lapsaque sub terras ortaque signa canam.
excipe pacato, Caesar Germanice, voltu
hoc opus et timidae dirige navis iter;
officioque, levem non aversatus honorem, 5
en tibi devoto numine dexter ades.
sacra recognosces annalibus eruta priscis,
et quo sit merito quaeque notata dies.
invenies illic et festa domestica vobis:
saepe tibi pater est, saepe legendus avus; 10
quaeque ferunt illi pictos signantia fastos,
tu quoque cum Druso praemia fratre feres.
Caesaris arma canant alii: nos Caesaris aras,
et quoscumque sacris addidit ille dies.
adnue conanti per laudes ire tuorum, 15
deque meo pavidos excute corde metus.
da mihi te placidum, dederis in carmina vires:
ingenium voltu statque caditque tuo.
pagina iudicium docti subitura movetur
principis, ut Clario missa legenda deo. 20
quae sit enim culti facundia sensimus oris,
civica pro trepidis cum tulit arma reis;
scimus et, ad nostras cum se tulit impetus artes,
ingenii currant flumina quanta tui.
si licet et fas est, vates rege vatis habenas, 25
auspice te felix totus ut annus eat.
tempora digereret cum conditor Urbis, in anno
constituit menses quinque bis esse suo.
scilicet arma magis quam sidera, Romule, noras,
curaque finitimos vincere maior erat. 30
est tamen et ratio, Caesar, quae moverit illum,
erroremque suum quo tueatur, habet.
quod satis est, utero matris dum prodeat infans,
hoc anno statuit temporis esse satis.
per totidem menses a funere coniugis uxor 35
sustinet in vidua tristia signa domo.
haec igitur vidit trabeati cura Quirini,
cum rudibus populis annua iura daret.
Martis erat primus mensis, Venerisque secundus:
haec generis princeps, ipsius ille pater. 40
tertius a senibus, iuvenum de nomine quartus,
quae sequitur, numero turba notata fuit.
at Numa nec Ianum nec avitas praeterit umbras,
mensibus antiquis praeposuitque duos.
ne tamen ignores variorum iura dierum, 45
non habet officii Lucifer omnis idem.
ille nefastus erit, per quem tria verba silentur:
fastus erit, per quem lege licebit agi.
nec toto perstare die sua iura putaris:
qui iam fastus erit, mane nefastus erat; 50
nam simul exta deo data sunt, licet omnia fari,
verbaque honoratus libera praetor habet.
est quoque, quo populum ius est includere saeptis:
est quoque, qui nono semper ab orbe redit.
vindicat Ausonias Iunonis cura Kalendas, 55
Idibus alba Iovi grandior agna cadit;
Nonarum tutela deo caret. omnibus istis
(ne fallare cave!) proximus ater erit.
omen ab eventu est: illis nam Roma diebus
damna sub averso tristia Marte tulit. 60
haec mihi dicta semel, totis haerentia fastis,
ne seriem rerum scindere cogar, erunt.
1 The order of the calendar throughout the Latin year, its causes, and the starry signs that set beneath the earth and rise again, of these I’ll sing. Caesar Germanicus,accept with brow serene this work and steer the passage of my timid bark. Spurn not the honour slight, but come propitious as a god to take the homage vowed to thee. Here shalt thou read afresh of holy rites unearthed from annals old, and learn how every day has earned its own peculiar mark. There too shalt thou find the festivals pertaining to thy house; often the names of thy sire and grandsire will meet thee on the page. The laurels that are theirs and that adorn the painted calendar, thou too shalt win in company with thy brother Drusus. Let others sing of Caesar’s wars; my theme be Caesar’s altars and the days he added to the sacred roll. Approve my effort to rehearse the praises of thy kin, and cast out quaking terrors from my heart. Show thyself mild to me; so shalt thou lend vigour to my song: at thy look my Muse must stand or fall. Submitted to the judgement of a learned prince my page doth shiver, even as if sent to the Clarian god to read. On thy accomplished lips what eloquence attends, we have seen, when it took civic arms in defence of trembling prisoners at the bar. And when to poetry thy fancy turns, we know how broad the current of thy genius flows. If it is right and lawful, guide a poet’s reins, thyself a poet, that under thy auspices the year may run its entire course happy.
27 When the founder of the City was setting the calendar in order, he ordained that there should be twice five months in his year. To be sure, Romulus, thou wert better versed in swords than stars, and to conquer thy neighbours was thy main concern. Yet, Caesar, there is a reason that may have moved him, and for his error he might urge a plea. The time that suffices for a child to come forth from its mother’s womb, he deemed sufficient for a year. For just so many months after her husband’s funeral a wife supports the signs of sorrow in her widowed home. These things, then, Quirinus in his striped gown had in view, when to the simple folk he gave his laws to regulate the year. The month of Mars was the first, and that of Venus the second; she was the author of the race, and he his sire. The third month took its name from the old, and the fourth from the young; the months that trooped after were distinguished by numbers. But Numa overlooked not Janus and the ancestral shades, and so to the ancient months he prefixed two.
45 But that you may not be unversed in the rules of the different days, not every morning brings the same round of duty. That day is unlawful on which the three words may not be spoken; that day is lawful on which the courts of law are open. But you must not suppose that every day keeps its rules throughout its whole length: a lawful day may have been unlawful in the morning; for as soon as the inwards have been offered to the god, all words may lawfully be spoken, and the honoured praetor enjoys free speech. There are days, too, on which the people may lawfully be penned in the polling-booths; there are also days that come round ever in a cycle of nine. The worship of Juno claims Ausonia’s Kalends: on the Ides a bigger white ewe-lamb falls to Jupiter: the Nones lack a guardian god. The day next after all these days—make no mistake—is black. The omen is drawn from the event; for on those days Rome suffered grievous losses under the frown of Marsh. These remarks apply to the whole calendar; I have made them once for all, that I may not be forced to break the thread of my discourse.
Son of Drusus the brother of Tiberius, who adopted his nephew A.D. 4. Thus his pater (1. 10) is Tiberius, his avus Augustus. Drusus, called his brother (1.12), was his first cousin, the son of Tiberius. By Caesar (1.13) is meant Augustus.
Apollo of Clarios in Ionia, where he had an oracle.
His translation of the Phaenomena of Aratus survives in part (Poet. Lat. Minores, i. p. 142).
Maius from maiores, Iunius from iuvenes. The rest are Quintilis, Sextilis (August), September, etc. See Appendix, p. 385 (i.e. “The year of ten months” entry.)
Do, dico, addico the praetor’s formula, “Do bonorum possessionem, dico ius, addico id de quo ambigitur.” In the calendars, lawful days were marked by F (fastus), unlawful by N (nefastus), the half-days NP (nefastus parte), or EN (endotercisi, intercisi) where the business-part came in the middle.
Called comitiales, marked C in the calendar.
The nundinae, or market-days. The week was of eight days, and the eighth was the nundinae, counting from the last nundinae inclusively. The whole week was called internundinum. Similarly, the Nones were eight (not nine) days before the Ides. The eight days of the Roman week were marked in the calendar with the letters A to H; but Jan. 1 was always marked A, and the other days followed in order, whenever nundinae might fall.
Ill-omened; a day on which no action should be taken; much stronger than nefastus.