March 17th | Fastorum Liber Tertius: Martius
D • LIB • NP | XVI Kal. | III.713-808, Ovid relates the rituals and myths associated with the Liberalia festival.
Tertia post Idus lux est celeberrima Baccho:
Bacche, fave vati, dum tua festa cano.
nec referam Semelen, ad quam nisi fulmina secum 715
Iuppiter adferret, partus inermis eras;
nec, puer ut posses maturo tempore nasci,
expletum patrio corpore matris opus.
Sithonas et Scythicos longum narrare triumphos
et domitas gentes, turifer Inde, tuas. 720
tu quoque Thebanae mala praeda tacebere matris,
inque tuum furiis acte, Lycurge, genus.
ecce libet subitos pisces Tyrrhenaque monstra
dicere, sed non est carminis huius opus;
carminis huius opus causas exponere, quare 725
vitisator populos ad sua liba vocet.
ante tuos ortus arae sine honore fuerunt,
Liber, et in gelidis herba reperta focis.
te memorant Gange totoque Oriente subacto
primitias magno seposuisse Iovi. 730
cinnama tu primus captivaque tura dedisti
deque triumphato viscera tosta bove.
nomine ab auctoris ducunt libamina nomen
libaque, quod sanctis pars datur inde focis.
liba deo fiunt, sucis quia dulcibus idem 735
gaudet, et a Baccho mella reperta ferunt.
ibat harenoso satyris comitatus ab Hebro
(non habet ingratos fabula nostra iocos),
iamque erat ad Rhodopen Pangaeaque florida ventum:
aeriferae comitum concrepuere manus. 740
ecce novae coeunt volucres tinnitibus actae,
quosque movent sonitus aera, sequuntur apes.
colligit errantes et in arbore claudit inani
Liber et inventi praemia mellis habet.
ut satyri levisque senex tetigere saporem, 745
quaerebant flavos per nemus omne favos.
audit in exesa stridorem examinis ulmo,
aspicit et ceras dissimulatque senex;
utque piger pandi tergo residebat aselli,
applicat hunc ulmo corticibusque cavis. 750
constitit ipse super ramoso stipite nixus
atque avide trunco condita mella petit.
milia crabronum coeunt et vertice nudo
spicula defigunt oraque sima notant.
ille cadit praeceps et calce feritur aselli 755
inclamatque suos auxiliumque rogat.
concurrunt satyri turgentiaque ora parentis
rident: percusso claudicat ille genu.
ridet et ipse deus limumque inducere monstrat;
hic paret monitis et linit ora luto. 760
melle pater fruitur, liboque infusa calenti
iure repertori splendida mella damus.
femina cur praesit, non est rationis opertae:
femineos thyrso concitat ille choros.
cur anus hoc faciat, quaeris? vinosior aetas 765
haec est et gravidae munera vitis amat.
cur hedera cincta est? hedera est gratissima Baccho:
hoc quoque cur ita sit, dicere nulla mora est.
Nysiadas nymphas puerum quaerente noverca
hanc frondem cunis opposuisse ferunt. 770
restat, ut inveniam, quare toga libera detur
Lucifero pueris, candide Bacche, tuo:
sive quod ipse puer semper iuvenisque videris,
et media est aetas inter utrumque tibi:
seu, quia tu pater es, patres sua pignora, natos, 775
commendant curae numinibusque tuis:
sive, quod es Liber, vestis quoque libera per te
sumitur et vitae liberioris iter:
an quia, cum colerent prisci studiosius agros,
et faceret patrio rure senator opus, 780
et caperet fasces a curvo consul aratro,
nec crimen duras esset habere manus,
rusticus ad ludos populus veniebat in Urbem
(sed dis, non studiis ille dabatur honor:
luce sua ludos uvae commentor habebat, 785
quos cum taedifera nunc habet ille dea):
ergo ut tironem celebrare frequentia posset,
visa dies dandae non aliena togae?
mite caput, pater, huc placataque cornua vertas
et des ingenio vela secunda meo. 790
Itur ad Argeos (qui sint, sua pagina dicet)
hac, si commemini, praeteritaque die.
stella Lycaoniam vergit declivis ad Arcton
Miluus: haec illa nocte videnda venit.
quid dederit volucri, si vis cognoscere, caelum: 795
Saturnus regnis a Iove pulsus erat;
concitat iratus validos Titanas in arma,
quaeque fuit fatis debita, temptat opem.
matre satus Terra, monstrum mirabile, taurus
parte sui serpens posteriore fuit: 800
hunc triplici muro lucis incluserat atris
Parcarum monitu Styx violenta trium.
viscera qui tauri flammis adolenda dedisset,
sors erat aeternos vincere posse deos.
immolat hunc Briareus facta ex adamante securi, 805
et iam iam flammis exta daturus erat:
Iuppiter alitibus rapere imperat; attulit illi
miluus et meritis venit in astra suis.
713 The third day after the Ides is a very popular celebration of Bacchus. Ο Bacchus, be gracious to thy bard while he sings of thy festival. But I shall not tell of Semele; if Jupiter had not brought his thunderbolts with him to her, thou hadst been born an unarmed wight. Nor shall I tell how, in order that thou mightest be born as a boy in due time, the function of a mother was completed in thy father’s body. It were long to relate the triumphs won by the god over the Sithonians and the Scythians, and how he subdued the peoples of India, that incense-bearing land. I will say naught of him who fell a mournful prey to his own Theban mother, nor of Lycurgus, whom frenzy drove to hack at his own son. Lo now, fain would I speak of the Tyrrhenian monsters, men suddenly transformed into fish, but that is not the business of this song; the business of this song is to set forth the reasons why a planter of vines hawks cakes to the people. Before thy birth, Liber, the altars were without offerings, and grass grew on the cold hearths. They tell how, after subjugating the Ganges and the whole East, thou didst set apart first-fruits for great Jupiter. Thou wert the first to offer cinnamon and incense from the conquered lands, and the roast flesh of oxen led in triumph. Libations (libamina) derive their name from their author, and so do cakes (liba), because part of them is offered on the hallowed hearths. Cakes are made for the god, because he delights in sweet juices, and they say that honey was discovered by Bacchus. Attended by the satyrs he was going from sandy Hebrus (my tale includes a pleasant jest), and had come to Rhodope and flowery Pangaeus, when the cymbals in the hands of his companions clashed. Lo, drawn by the tinkle, winged things, as yet unknown, assemble, and the bees follow the sounding brass. Liber collected the stragglers and shut them up in a hollow tree; and he was rewarded by the discovery of honey. Once the satyrs and the bald-pated ancient had tasted it, they sought for the yellow combs in every grove. In a hollow elm the old fellow heard the humming of a swarm; he spied the combs and kept his counsel. And sitting lazily on the back of an ass, that bent beneath his weight, he rode the beast up to the elm, where the bark was hollow. Then he stood on the ass, and leaning upon a branching stump he greedily reached at the honey stored in the bole. Thousands of hornets gathered, and thrust their stings into his bald pate, and left their mark on his snub-nosed face. headlong he fell, and the ass kicked him, while he called to his comrades and implored their help. The satyrs ran to the spot and laughed at their parent’s swollen face: he limped on his hurt knee. Bacchus himself laughed and taught him to smear mud on his wounds; Silenus took the hint and smudged his face with mire. The father god enjoys honey, and it is right that we should give to its discoverer golden honey infused in hot cakes. The reason why a woman presides at the festival is plain enough: Bacchus rouses bands of women by his thyrsus. You ask why it is an old woman who does it. That age is more addicted to wine, and loves the bounty of the teeming vine. Why is she wreathed with ivy? Ivy is most dear to Bacchus. Why that is so can also soon be told. They say that when the stepmother was searching for the boy, the nymphs of Nysa screened the cradle in ivy leaves.
771 It remains for me to discover why the gown of libertyis given to boys, fair Bacchus, on thy day, whether it be because thou seemest ever to be a boy and a youth, and thy age is midway between the two; or it may be that, because thou art a father, fathers commend to thy care and divine keeping the pledges that they love, their sons; or it may be that because thou art Liber, the gown of liberty is assumed and a freer (liberior) life is entered upon under thine auspices. Or was it because, in the days when the ancients tilled the fields more diligently, and a senator laboured on his ancestral land, when a consul exchanged the bent plough for the rods and axes of office, and it was no crime to have horny hands, the country folk used to come to the City for the games (but that was an honour paid to the gods, not a concession to popular tastes, the discoverer of the grape held on his own day those games which now he shares with the torch-bearing goddess); and the day therefore seemed not unsuitable for conferring the gown, in order that a crowd might gather round the novice? Thou Father God, hither turn thy horned head, mild and propitious, and to the favouring breezes spread the sails of my poetic art!
792 On this day, if I remember aright, and on the preceding day, there is a procession to the Argei. What the Argei are, will be told in the proper place.The star of the Kite slopes downwards towards the Lycaonian Bear: on that night it becomes visible. If you would know what raised the bird to heaven, Saturn had been dethroned by Jupiter. In his wrath he stirred up the strong Titans to take arms and sought the help the Fates allowed him. There was a bull born of its mother Earth, a wondrous monster, the hinder part whereof was a serpent: him, at the warning of the three Fates, grim Styx had shut up in gloomy woods enclosed by a triple wall. There was an oracle that he who should burn the inwards of the bull in the flames would be able to conquer the eternal gods. Briareus sacrificed him with an axe made of adamant, and was just about to put the entrails on the fire: Jupiter commanded the birds to snatch them away; the kite brought them to him and was promoted to the stars for his services.
Semele, mother of Bacchus, requested Jupiter to show himself in full majesty. His lightning blasted her, and Jupiter caught up her unborn child, and sewed him into his own thigh, until the proper time for birth.
When Bacchus brought his rites to Thebes, the king, Pentheus, disbelieved in him; and he was torn to pieces by his mother Agave and the bacchant women. Lycurgus, king of the Edonians, expelled Bacchus; he was driven mad, and killed his own son with an axe, in mistake for a vine: then lopped off his own extremities.
Bacchus was captured at sea by pirates; but he drove them mad, they leaped overboard, and became dolphins.
Silenus, the merry companion of the satyrs.
Juno, who as Jupiter’s wife pursued Semele’s son with a stepmother’s hatred.
Ceres (Demeter). The games are the Cerealia, April 19.
See v. 621, and App. p. 425. (i.e. “The Argei.”)
The star is unknown; but the coming of the bird was a sign of spring. The Bear was supposed to be Callisto, daughter of Lycaon.