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Martial: Let the mad be eager for wars and fierce Mars

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Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

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Martial
From Epigrams
Translated by Walter C.A. Ker

Marcellinus, true offspring of a good father, you who the numbing Bear covers with her Parrhasian car, hear what an old friend, and your father’s, wishes for you, and keep those prayers in a remembering heart. See that your valour be wary; let not rash ardour bear you into the midmost fray of swords and savage spears. Let those who lack sense be eager for wars and fierce Mars…

Marcelline, boni suboles sincera parentis,
horrida Parrhasio quem tegit ursa iugo,
ille uetus pro te patriusque quid optet amicus
accipe et haec memori pectore uota tene:
causa sit ut uirtus nec te temerarius ardor
in medios enses saeuaque tela ferat.
Bella uellint Martemque ferum rationis egentes…

“O manners! O times!” cried Tully once when Catiline was planning his sacrilegious crime, when son-in-law and father-in-law were clashing in dreadful war and the weeping earth was drenched with civil carnage. Why do you now cry “O manners!” why now “O times!” What is it displeases you, Caecilianus? No savagery of captains is here, no frenzy of the sword: we may enjoy unbroken peace and pleasure. ‘Tis not our manners that make your times despicable to you, but your own manners, Caecilianus, make them so.

Dixerat ‘o mores! o tempora!’ Tullius olim,
sacrilegum strueret cum Catalina nefas,
cum gener atque socer diris concurreret armis
niaestaque civili caede maderet humus,
cur nunc ‘o mores!’ cur nunc ‘o tempora!’ dicis?
quod tibi non placeat, Caeciliane, quid est ?
nulla ducum feritas, nulla est insania ferri;
pace frui certa laetitiaque licet,
non nostri faciunt tibi quod tua tempora sordent,
sed faciunt mores, Caeciliane, tui.

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