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Ovid: Instead of a wolf the timorous ewes dread war


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

Greek and Roman writers on war and peace

Ovid: Selections on war and peace


From Tristia
Translated by Arthur Leslie Wheeler

Poetry comes fine spun from a soul at peace; my mind is clouded with unexpected woes. Poetry requires the writer to be in privacy and ease; I am harrassed by the sea, by gales, by wintry storms. Poetry is injured by any fear; I in my ruin am ever and ever expecting a sword to pierce my throat…

Wild is the shore on my left, accustomed to the greed of robbers, ever filled with bloodshed and murder and war…

[If] I look upon the men, they are scarce men worthy the name; they have more of cruel savagery than wloves. They fear not laws; right gives way to force, and justice lies conquered beneath the aggressive sword…

Countless tribes round about threaten cruel war, thinking it base to to live if not by plunder. Without, nothing is secure: the hill itself is defended by meagre walls and its skilful site. When least expected, like birds, the foe swarms upon us and when scarce well seen is already driving off the booty. Oft, though the gates be closed, we pick up amidst the streets deadly missiles that come within the walls. Few then venture to till the fields, for the wretch must plough with one hand, and hold arms in the other. The shepherd wears a helmet while he plays upon his pitch-cemented reeds, and instead of a wolf the timorous ewes dread war.

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