OVIDIUS


The poet Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC - 17 or 18 AD) became a leading figure in the literary and social life of Rome. In AD 8 he was banished by Augustus to Tomis on the Black Sea. In the Fasti the Roman Calendar is explained. Only the first half was completed, because of the banishment. In book IV he describes the arrival in 204 BC of the image of the Magna Mater (Cybele) in Ostia, where a miracle takes place.


Fasti IV, 291-328
ostia contigerat, qua se Tiberinus in altum
dividit et campo liberiore natat:
omnis eques mixtaque gravis cum plebe senatus
obvius ad Tusci fluminis ora venit.
[295] procedunt pariter matres nataeque nurusque
quaeque colunt sanctos virginitate focos.
sedula fune viri contento bracchia lassant:
vix subit adversas hospita navis aquas.
sicca diu fuerat tellus, sitis usserat herbas:
[300] sedit limoso pressa carina vado.
quisquis adest operi, plus quam pro parte laborat,
adiuvat et fortes voce sonante manus:
illa velut medio stabilis sedet insula ponto;
attoniti monstro stantque paventque viri.
[305] Claudia Quinta genus Clauso referebat ab alto
(nec facies impar nobilitate fuit),
casta quidem, sed non et credita: rumor iniquus
laeserat, et falsi criminis acta rea est.
cultus et ornatis varie prodisse capillis
[310] obfuit ad rigidos promptaque lingua senes.
conscia mens recti famae mendacia risit,
sed nos in vitium credula turba sumus.
haec ubi castarum processit ab agmine matrum
et manibus puram fluminis hausit aquam,
[315] ter caput inrorat, ter tollit in aethera palmas
(quicumque aspiciunt, mente carere putant),
summissoque genu voltus in imagine divae
figit, et hos edit crine iacente sonos:
"supplicis, alma, tuae, genetrix fecunda deorum,
[320] accipe sub certa condicione preces.
casta negor: si tu damnas, meruisse fatebor;
morte luam poenas iudice victa dea;
sed si crimen abest, tu nostrae pignora vitae
re dabis, et castas casta sequere manus."
[325] dixit, et exiguo funem conamine traxit;
mira, sed et scaena testificata loquar:
mota dea est, sequiturque ducem laudatque sequendo;
index laetitiae fertur ad astra sonus.
fluminis ad flexum veniunt (Tiberina priores
[330] Atria dixerunt), unde sinister abit.
nox aderat: querno religant in stipite funem,
dantque levi somno corpora functa cibo.
lux aderat: querno solvunt a stipite funem,
ante tamen posito tura dedere foco,
[335] ante coronarunt puppem, sine labe iuvencam
mactarunt operum coniugiique rudem.
est locus, in Tiberim qua lubricus influit Almo
et nomen magno perdit in amne minor.
illic purpurea canus cum veste sacerdos
[340] Almonis dominam sacraque lavit aquis.
exululant comites, furiosaque tibia flatur,
et feriunt molles taurea terga manus.
Claudia praecedit laeto celeberrima voltu,
credita vix tandem teste pudica dea;
[345] ipsa sedens plaustro porta est invecta Capena:
sparguntur iunctae flore recente boves.
Nasica accepit; templi non perstitit auctor:
Augustus nunc est, ante Metellus erat.
She’d arrived at the mouth (ostia) where the Tiber divides
To meet the deep, and flows with a wider sweep:
All the Knights, grave Senators, and commoners,
Came to meet her at the mouth of the Tuscan river.
[295] With them walked mothers, daughters, and brides,
And all those virgins who tend the sacred fires.
The men wearied their arms hauling hard on the ropes:
The foreign vessel barely made way against the stream.
For a long time there’d been a drought: the grass was dry
[300] And scorched: the boat stuck fast in the muddy shallows.
Every man, hauling, laboured beyond his strength,
And encouraged their toiling hands with his cries.
Yet the ship lodged there, like an island fixed in mid-ocean:
And astonished at the portent, men stood and quaked.
[305] Claudia Quinta traced her descent from noble Clausus,
And her beauty was in no way unequal to her nobility:
She was chaste, but not believed so: hostile rumour
Had wounded her, false charges were levelled at her:
Her elegance, promenading around in various hairstyles,
[310] And her ready tongue, with stiff old men, counted against her.
Conscious of virtue, she laughed at the rumoured lies,
But we’re always ready to credit others with faults.
Now, when she’d stepped from the line of chaste women,
Taking pure river water in her hands, she wetted her head
[315] Three times, three times lifted her palms to the sky,
(Everyone watching her thought she’d lost her mind)
Then, kneeling, fixed her eyes on the goddess’s statue,
And, with loosened hair, uttered these words:
“ Kind and fruitful Mother of the Gods, accept
[320] A suppliant’s prayers, on this one condition:
They deny I’m chaste: let me be guilty if you condemn me:
Convicted by a goddess I’ll pay for it with my life.
But if I’m free of guilt, grant a pledge of my innocence
By your action: and, chaste, give way to my chaste hands.”
[325] She spoke: then gave a slight pull at the rope,
(A wonder, but the sacred drama attests what I say):
The goddess stirred, followed, and, following, approved her:
Witness the sound of jubilation carried to the stars.
They came to a bend in the river (called of old
[330] The Halls of Tiber): there the stream turns left, ascending.
Night fell: they tied the rope to an oak stump,
And, having eaten, settled to a tranquil sleep.
Dawn rose: they loosed the rope from the oak stump,
After first laying a fire and offering incense,
[335] And crowned the stern, and sacrificed a heifer
Free of blemish, that had never known yoke or bull.
There’s a place where smooth-flowing Almo joins the Tiber,
And the lesser flow loses its name in the greater:
There, a white-headed priest in purple robes
[340] Washed the Lady, and sacred relics, in Almo’s water.
The attendants howled, and the mad flutes blew,
And soft hands beat at the bull’s-hide drums.
Claudia walked in front with a joyful face,
Her chastity proven by the goddess’s testimony:
[345] The goddess herself, sitting in a cart, entered the Capene Gate:
Fresh flowers were scattered over the yoked oxen.
Nasica received her. The name of her temple’s founder is lost:
Augustus has re-dedicated it, and, before him, Metellus.

Translation: A.S. Kline, © 2004.

Metamorphoses, 15, 726-728
(deus, sc. Asclepius) ... navis in alta puppe caput posuit, donec Castrumque sacrasque Lavini sedes tiberinaque ad ostia venit. (the god, sc. Asclepius) ... rested his head on the ship’s high sternpost, until he came to Castrum, the sacred city of Lavinium, and the Tiber’s mouths.

Translation: A.S. Kline, © 2000.