Select readings from The Complete Latin Course

read by George Sharpley

tacē, Lucrētia. Sextus Tarquinius sum; ferrum in manū est.

Be quiet, Lucretia. I am Sextus Tarquinius; there is a knife in my hand.

iam nimis multōs audiō Corinthī et Athēnārum ōrnāmenta laudantēs mīrantēsque.


These days I hear too many people praising and admiring the ornaments of Corinth and Athens.

Clōdius inimīcus nōbīs. Pompēius cōnfirmat Clōdium nihil esse factūrum contrā mē. mihi perīculōsum est crēdere; ad resistendum mē parō.


Clodius is hostile to us. Pompey reassures (me) that Clodius will do nothing against me. It is dangerous for me to believe (it). I am preparing myself for resistance.
CICERO (Ch. 7, 4)

sed tamen, sī omnēs tribūnōs plēbis habēmus, sī Lentulum tam studiōsum quam vidētur, sī vērō etiam Pompēium et Caesarem, nōn est dēspērandum.


But still, if we have all the tribunes of the people, if we have Lentulus as supportive as he seems, if indeed we also have Pompey and Caesar, not all hope has gone.

stat contrā stārīque iubet. pārēre necesse est;
nam quid agās, cum tē furiōsus cōgat et īdem
fortior? ‘unde venīs? aut dīc aut accipe calcem.’


He (the robber) stands opposite and orders a halt. Obedience is the only option; for what do you do when a madman confronts you—and at the same time he is stronger? (He says:) ‘Where do you come from? Either say or take a kicking.’

quando rogātus adest calidae gelidaeque minister?
quippe indīgnātur veterī pārēre clientī
quodque aliquid poscās et quod sē stante recumbās.


When after being summoned does the server of warm and cold water turn up? To be sure he thinks it demeaning to obey an old client and (is resentful) because you ask for something and because you recline while he stands.

at nōn Ēvandrum potis est vīs ūlla tenēre,
sed venit in mediōs. feretrō Pallanta repostō
prōcubuit super atque haeret lacrimānsque gemēnsque.


There is not any force able to restrain Evander, but he comes into the middle of the throng. The bier is put down and he sinks over Pallas, and clings to him, weeping and groaning.

forte puer comitum sēductus ab agmine fīdō

dīxerat: ‘ecquis adest?’ et ‘adest’ responderat Ēcho.

By chance the lad (Narcissus) had become separated from his faithful band of comrades and had said: ‘Who is here?’ and ‘Is here’ had replied Echo.

Caelī, Lesbia nostra, Lesbia illa,
illa Lesbia, quam Catullus ūnam
plūs quam sē atque suōs amāvit omnēs,
nunc in quadriviīs et angiportīs
glūbit magnanimī Remī nepōtēs.

Caelius, our Lesbia, that Lesbia, that Lesbia, the one woman Catullus loved more than himself and all his people, nowadays picks off descendants of highminded Remus at crossroads and in alleys.

cūr nōn mittō meōs tibi, Pontiliāne, libellōs?
     nē mihi tū mittās, Pontiliāne, tuōs.

Why do I not send you my books, Pontilianus? In case, Pontilianus, you send me yours.

silvīs tē, Tyrrhēne, ferās agitāre putāstī?

Did you suppose, Etruscan, you were hunting wild beasts in the woods?

illa tamen gravior, quae cum discumbere coepit
laudat Vergilium, peritūrae īgnōscit Elissae.
cēdunt grammaticī, vincuntur rhētores, omnis
turba tacet.

Yet more troublesome is that woman who once she has begun to recline at table gushes over Virgil and finds excuses for doomed Dido. The teachers duck, the professors are seen off, and not one of the lot of them can get a word in.

quid tē commovet tuus dolor intestīnus? ea nōbīs ērepta sunt, quae hominibus nōn minus quam līberī cāra esse dēbent, patria, honestās, dīgnitās, honōrēs omnēs. at vērō malum est līberōs āmittere. malum; nisi peius est haec sufferre et perpetī.


Why does your personal grief disturb you so? Look at what has been taken from us – things which ought to be no less dear to people than their children – the state, our honour, prestige and all public offices. But for sure it is bad to lose children. Bad, yes; except suffering and enduring these (losses) is worse.

quid tantum īnsānō iuvat indulgēre dolōrī,
ō dulcis coniūnx? nōn haec sine nūmine dīvom
ēveniunt; nec tē hinc comitem asportāre Creūsam
fās, aut ille sinit superī rēgnātor Olympī.


What help is it to yield so much to your demented grief, sweet husband? These things do not happen without the will of the gods; it is not right for you to take Creusa from here as your companion, nor does that ruler of Olympus on high allow it.

‘pōne crucem servō.’ ‘meruit quō crīmine servus
supplicium? quis testis adest? quis dētulit? audī;
nūlla umquam dē morte hominis cūnctātio longa est.’
‘ō dēmēns, ita servus homo est? nīl fēcerit, estō:
hoc volo, sīc iubeō, sit prō ratiōne voluntās.’
imperat ergo virō.


‘Set up the cross for the slave.’ (She says)
‘On what charge has the slave deserved punishment. Who is present as witness? Who accused him? Hear him. No delay is ever long when it comes to the death of a human being.’
‘You fool, is a slave thus a human being? He has done nothing? So be it. This I want and thus I command. My whim may serve as procedure.’ And so she bosses her husband.

‘quid vōs,’ inquit, ‘iūmentum mē putātis esse aut lapidāriam nāvem? hominis operās locāvī, nōn caballī. nec minus līber sum quam vōs, etiam sī pauperem pater mē relīquit.’ nec contentus maledictīs tollēbat subinde altius pedem et strepitū obscēnō simul atque odōre viam implēbat.

‘Why,’ he said, ‘do you think I am a pack-animal or a ship that transports stone? I have contracted the duties of a man, not of a horse. I am no less a free man than yourselves, even if my father did leave me a pauper.’ And not content with his abuse he then lifted one foot higher (than the other) and simultaneously filled the road with an obscene noise and smell.

mercātūra autem, sī tenuis est, sordida putanda est; sīn magna et cōpiōsa, nōn est vituperanda. omnium autem rērum ex quibus aliquid acquīritur, nihil est agrī culturā melius, nihil ūberius, nihil dulcius, nihil homine līberō dīgnius.


Now if an enterprise is small it should be considered demeaning; but if large and expansive, it is not to be disparaged. Of all things, however, from which a living is made, nothing is better than agriculture, nothing more fruitful, nothing sweeter, nothing more worthy of a free man.

‘bene pāscere’; quid secundum: ‘satis bene pāscere’; quid tertium: ‘male pāscere’; quid quārtum: ‘arāre’; et cum ille, quī quaesierat, dīxisset: ‘quid faenerārī?’, tum Catō: ‘quid hominem,’ inquit, ‘occīdere?’



‘Raising livestock well.’
‘What second?’
‘Raising livestock well enough.’
‘What third?’
‘Raising livestock badly.’
‘And fourth?’
‘Arable farming.’

And when his questioner had asked ‘What of money-lending?’ then Cato replied ‘What about killing a man?’

languēbam: sed tū comitātus prōtinus ad mē
     vēnistī centum, Symmache, discipulīs.
centum mē tetigēre manūs aquilōne gelātae:
     nōn habuī febrem, Symmache, nunc habeō.



I was unwell: but in no time you made a visit to me, Symmachus, with a hundred students in tow. A hundred hands chilled by the north wind fingered me: I did not have a fever, Symmachus. I do now.

quid ille nōbīs bonī fēcit? dedit gladiātōrēs sēstertiāriōs iam dēcrepitōs, quōs sī sufflāssēs, cecidissent; iam meliōrēs bēstiāriōs vīdī.




What good has that man done for us? He produced gladiators worth tuppence, already decrepit, who, had you blown on them, would have collapsed; I have seen better animal-fighters before now.

sed fugit intereā, fugit irreparābile tempus.



But time is escaping meanwhile, irretrievable time is escaping.

beātus ille quī procul negōtiīs,
   ut prīsca gēns mortālium,
paterna rūra bōbus exercet suīs
   solūtus omnī faenore;
libet iacēre modo sub antīquā īlice,
   modo in tenācī grāmine.



Happy is he who, like the ancient race of mortals, is far from (the world of) business and works his father’s land with his oxen, free from all mortgage payments; it pleases him to lie down, now under an old oak tree, now on the clinging grass.

            fūgēre pudor vērumque fidēsque.
in quōrum subiēre locum fraudēsque dolusque
īnsidiaeque et vīs et amor scelerātus habendī.



Decency and truth and trust fled. In their place crept deceit, trickery and treachery, and violence, and the pernicious desire for gain.

repressaque in praesēns exitiābilis superstitiō rūrsum ērumpēbat, nōn modo per Iūdaeam, orīginem eius malī, sed per urbem etiam quō cūncta undique atrōcia aut pudenda cōnfluunt celebranturque.



For a while the deadly superstition was checked, but then broke out again, not only in Judaea, the source of this evil, but also in Rome where from every corner all things sleaze-ridden or shameful ooze together and come into vogue.

habuī equōs, virōs, arma, opēs: quid mīrum, sī haec invītus āmīsī? nam sī vōs omnibus imperitāre vultis, sequitur ut omnēs servitūtem accipiant?




I had horses, men, arms, wealth: why is it surprising if I was unwilling to lose these things? Just because you want to rule over everyone does it follow that everyone should welcome their slavery?

quī modo linguam Rōmānam abnuēbant, ēloquentiam concupīscēbant. paulātimque dēscēnsum ad dēlēnīmenta vitiōrum, porticūs et balinea et convīviōrum ēlegantiam. idque apud imperitōs hūmānitās vocābātur, cum pars servitūtis esset.




Those who recently rejected the Roman language wanted to be fluent. There was a gradual decline to the allurements of vices, to colonnades, baths and the sophistication of dinner-parties. That was called civilization by the foolish, when in fact it was part of their enslavement.

Lemnius extemplō valvās patefēcit eburnās
immīsitque deōs; illī iacuēre ligātī
turpiter, atque aliquis dē dīs nōn trīstibus optat
sīc fierī turpis; superī rīsēre diūque
haec fuit in tōtō nōtissima fābula caelō.


Immediately the Lemnian god opened the ivory doors and let in the gods: there those (two) lay in their shaming bondage – and one of the gods, who were much tickled, wished he could be so ashamed. The gods burst out laughing, and for a long time this story was best known in all heaven.

                  dum Prōserpina lūcō
lūdit et aut violās aut candida līlia carpit,
dumque puellārī studiō calathōsque sinumque
implet et aequālēs certat superāre legendō,
paene simul vīsa est dīlēctaque raptaque Dītī.




While Proserpina was playing in the grove and picking either violets or white lilies, and while with girlish eagerness she was filling her baskets and her bosom and striving to outdo her companions in picking (the flowers), almost in the same instant she was seen and fancied and snatched by Dis.

             facilis dēscēnsus Avernō:
noctēs atque diēs patet ātrī iānua Dītis;
sed revocāre gradum superāsque ēvādere ad aurās,
hoc opus, hic labor est.



The descent to Avernus is easy. Night and day the door of gloomy Dis lies open; but to retrace your step and escape to the air above, this is the task, this the struggle.

nam sī suprēmus ille diēs nōn exstīnctiōnem, sed commūtātiōnem affert locī, quid optābilius? sīn autem perimit ac dēlet omnīnō, quid melius quam in mediīs vītae labōribus obdormīscere?



For if that last day brings not exstinction but a change of abode, what is more desirable? But if it brings the end, completely and utterly, what is better than to fall asleep in the middle of life’s toils?

tū nē quaesierīs, scīre nefās, quem mihi, quem tibi
fīnem dī dederint, Leuconoē, nec Babylōniōs
temptārīs numerōs. ut melius quicquid erit patī,
seu plūrīs hiemēs seu tribuit Iuppiter ultimam,
quae nunc oppositīs dēbilitat pūmicibus mare
Tyrrhēnum. sapiās, vīna liquēs, et spatiō brevī
spem longam resecēs. dum loquimur, fūgerit invida
aetās: carpe diem, quam minimum crēdula posterō.


You should not inquire – it’s not right to know – what end the gods have given to me or to you, Leuconoë, nor should you dabble in Babylonian astrology. How much better it is to take whatever comes, whether Jupiter has granted more winters or this is the last, which now wears out the Etruscan sea on opposing rocks. Be wise, decant the wine and trim your long-term ambition to a brief span. Even as we speak, the unkind hour has slipped away: enjoy the moment, and trust as little as possible in tomorrow.