Notes to Silius Italicus, Punica 17

Punica XVII: Structure of Lines 1-47

Punica XVII: context

The first line of Book 17 of the Punica looks backward and forward in the narrative: it deftly recalls the defeat at the close of Punica 10 and signals that the war and the epic will soon be ending. In Punica 10.654-656, Silius recounts how the Romans relegated those who had fled from the battle of Cannae to service in Italy “until the enemy departed from Latium” (tunc terga dedisse / damnatis Siculas longe meritare per oras / impositum, donec Latio decederet hostis). Silius reprises that proviso here in line 1 with the words of the purpose clause “so that the foreign enemy might depart from the Ausonian lands” (hostis ut Ausoniis decederet advena terris). The repetition of decederet promises that by the end of Punica 17, Hannibal will leave Italy for good to return to Africa, and, when he does, the men serving in Sicily will, under the command of P. Cornelius Scipio, follow after him and avenge themselves at the battle of Zama.

Ausonius, -a, -um
Ausonian; Italian, modifying terris. Like Vergil and Lucan, Silius uses variant epithets for Troy and Rome that have specific nuance.
decedo, -ere, -cessi, -cessum
withdraw, depart. The sentence opens with a purpose clause introduced by ut. The subject of the verb is hostis . . . advena.
advena, -ae m. f.
foreigner, stranger, alien; in apposition with hostis, it refers to the Carthaginian general Hannibal Barca (see SPQR).
fatidicus, -a, -um
prophetic, announcing fate. It modifies Sibyllae (see SPQR).
oraculum, -i n.
divine utterance, oracle. The noun is followed by an indirect discourse construction as though it were a verb (see petitam . . . sacrandam below).
priscus, -a, um
ancient; former; modifies oracula. Repeated in l. 33.
caelicola, -ae m. f.
heaven-dweller; god/goddess; caelicolum is the genitive plural. See again in l. 36.
Phrygius, -a, -um
Phrygian, i.e., Trojan; the adjective modifies sede, referring to her origin in Pessinus or Pergamum.
genetrix, -icis f.
mother; creator; an accusative in an indirect discourse construction. This is Cybele, an avatar of the Magna Mater (see SPQR).
peto, -ere, petivi, petitum
seek; obtain; procure; bring; request; the perfect passive participle, it modifies genetricem.
Laomedonteus, -a, -um
Laomedontean; it modifies urbis. As Laomedon was the founder of Troy, whose survivors founded Rome, the rationale for bringing the goddess from Phrygia to Rome is established by this adjective.
sacro (I)
consecrate, dedicate. The subject of sacrandam [esse] is genetricem; the verb is in the periphrastic conjugation of the passive and expresses the idea of necessity.
moenia, -um n. pl.
defenses, wall; town; ablative of place where (within).
adveho, -ere, -vexi, -vectum
carry, bring, convey (to a place); it modifies numen, emphasizing Cybele as a non-native divinity.
excipio, -ere, -cepi, -ceptum
receive, welcome. The subject is the unexpressed pronoun is, antecedent of qui (P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica). The subjunctive occurs because the verb appears in a subordinate clause in indirect discourse.
numen, -inis n.
nod; divine will, power; divinity; it occurs again below twice: in l. 36; in l.13 it is used in the plural with reference to this single deity.
lego, -ere, legi, lectum
choose, select. The subject, delayed for emphasis to the end of the sentence (l. 7), is optimus [vir], P. Cornelius Scipio Nasica, cousin of Africanus. Their fathers, the brothers P. Cornelius Scipio (father of Africanus) and Cn. Cornelius Scipio Calvus (father of Nasica), fought and died together during the war in Spain.
concilium, -i n.
council; gathering, meeting; with the genitive plural patrum = Roman Senate.
praesens, -entis
present, immediate; modifies aevi.
dego, -ere, degi
pass time, live; subjunctive in a relative clause of characteristic.
nomen, -inis n.
name; title, reputation. Silius has not provided the hero's gens name; rather, his reference is to the term optimus. Note the resonance with the numen of Cybele.
triumphus, -i, m.
triumph; triumphis is ablative of comparison following the comparatives melius maiusque. The SPQR shows Marcus Aurelius in triumphal procession.
Cybele (also Cybebe), -es, f.
Cybele, the Magna Mater; her name was borrowed from the Greek. Scan the line to discover her modifier and the case of Latia. The SPQR image shows her with her consort Attis.
puppis, -is, f.
the poop or stern of a boat; by synecdoche, the whole boat (see also ll.15 and 26).
cedo, -ere, cessi, cessum
yield, withdraw; ablative absolute with magno senatu.
obvius, -a, -um,
in the way of; moving so as to meet; the adjective modifies Scipio, followed by the dative case: accitis. . . sacris.
accio, -ire, -ivi, -itum
invite; send for; acquire from another.
propero (I)
make haste.
sacra, -orum n. pl.
sacred object; rite.
gigno, -ere, genui, genitum
beget, bear, produce; in the passive, followed by the ablative of parentage.
patruus, -i m.
paternal uncle, i.e, Nasica's father, Cn. Cornelius Scipio Calvus.
ductor, -oris m.
military commander; leader; modified by tunc lecti on the next line. The SPQR contains the head of the most famous Scipio, awarded the agnomen Africanus.
Africus, -a, -um
fulgeo, -ere, fulsi
be illustrious; shine.
imago, -inis, f.
an image, copy, likeness. Understand multa . . . imagine in the collective sense. Imagines were wax masks of ancestors who had held curule office, worn by mimes in family funeral processions. Kept in closed cabinets (armaria) in the atrium of aristocratic homes, they were on display during the morning salutatio. None survive. The SPQR contains ancestor busts carved on a patrician statue.
avus, -i m.
grandfather; ancestor;
longinquus, -a, -um
far off, remote; note the chiastic word order: longinquo . . . ponto surrounds venientia numina, the object of accepit.
supplex, -icis adjective
suppliant; making supplication. Translate as either a substantive noun in apposition with is (Scipio) in l. 13 or an adjective with palmis (understand versis, as below in l. 35), ablative of manner.
Tuscus, -a, -um
Tuscan, Etruscan; modifies Thybridis.
sonorus, -a, -um
loud; sounding; modifies ostia (l. 15). The SPQR shows a map of the Tiber River flowing beside the Via Ostiensis from the port of Ostia to Rome.
Thybris, -idis m.
Tiber river; Thybris was an early king of the Etruscans after whose death the river Albulus came to be renamed the Thybris (see Vergil, Aeneid 8.330-332).
adduco, -ere, -duxi, -ductum
lead to, bring to; sail; the direct object is puppim.
sublimis, -e (also -us,-a,-um)
high up, aloft, in an elevated postion; scansion reveals that sublimis modifies the subject of accepit, Scipio, who is on the ship.
ostium, -i n.
mouth of a river; door. The port city of Rome was named for its situation at the mouth of the Tiber. The SPQR shows a ship being escorted into Ostia from the sea.
femineus, -a, -um
female; belonging/proper to a woman; womanly; womanish, cowardly, weak.
deinde adverb
after that; next; in turn; with tum both time and succession are expressed.
manus, -us, f.
hand; band; either meaning is possible here.
subeo, -ire, -ii (-ivi), -itum
approach, advance; follow: subiere is a shortened form of subierunt, third person plural, perfect active indicative. On l. 32 it appears as a hortatory subjunctive.
amnis, -is m.
stream of water, river.
traho, -ere, traxi, tractum
draw, drag, pull; the verb is an imperfect subjunctive in a relative clause of characteristic.
celsus, -a, -um
lofty, high, eminent; modifies alnum.
religo, (I)
secure; make fast; bind.
funis, -is m.
rope; line.
alnum, -i f.
alder; a type of wood from which the boat was built, it stands for the whole boat by synecdoche.
circum adverb
all around; on both sides.
argutus, -a, -um
piercing, penetrating, shrill; clear. Note the chiastic word order and the sound painting.
cavus, -a, -um
tinnitus, -us m.
clanging, jangling.
aes, aeris n.
bronze implements; money. The instruments were probably cymbals. Understand erant.
certo, (I)
contend; rival; the subject is understand resonantia tympana.
raucus, -a, -um
harsh; hoarse; modifies pulsu (note the chiastic word order).
resonans, -ntis
echoing, resounding.
semivir, -viri m.
half-man; i.e., the eunuch priests of Cybele were known as the Galli. However ll. 18-22 describe the Corybantes, the dancing worshippers of Cybele (click on the SPQR), who came to be identified with the Curetes, the devotees of Rhea, the mother of Jupiter.
tympanum, -i n.
small drum, used in the worship of Cybele and Bacchus. See also below in l. 43, where they are a confirmation of Cybele's presence.
chorus, -i m.
band of worshippers, revelers, performers who dance and sing; troupe.
geminus,-a, -um
twofold; double; twin; the poet describes the twin peaks of the mountain.
colo, -ere, colui, cultus
inhabit; worship; give attention to; cultivate.
Dindyma, -orum n. pl.
a mountain in Phrygia, sacred to Cybele; modified by casta on the next line.
Dictaeus, -a, -um
Dictaean; i.e, a mountain in Crete sacred to Jupiter.
bacchor (I deponent)
celebrate the festival of Bacchus, thus rave like a Bacchant or Bacchante.
antrum, -i n.
cave, hollow.
Idaeus, -a, -um
Idaean; both a mountain in Phrygia sacred to Cybele and a mountain in Crete sacred to Rhea and Jupiter.
iugum, -i n.
ridge, height, summit; yoke; object of novere.
lucus, -i m.
sacred grove; wood; object of novere.
nosco, -ere, novi, notum
become acquainted with, get knowledge of; when in the perfect tense (novere is a syncopated form of noverunt), it is translated know.
fremitus, -us m.
noise; roaring, murmuring, growling; with vota, the object of the preposition inter.
votum, -i m.
prayer, vow, offering; followed by the ablative (laeto . . . tumultu), the source of the prayers.
subsisto, -ere, -stiti
make a stand, come to a halt; remain; the subject is sacra ratis (l.25). Scan to see how meter reflects meaning.
renuo, -nuere, -nui
refuse, deny, reject.
adduco, -ere, -duxi, -ductum
pull taut; draw, lead.
vinc(u)lum, -i n.
chain; bond; rope of a ship; a shortened form, it appears in full below in l. 27.
ratis, -is f.
raft, i.e., a ship or boat (click on the SPQR). Modified by the predicate adjective immobilis.
subitus, -a, -um
sudden, suddenly appearing; unexpected; modifies vadis.
haereo, -ere, haesi, haesum
stick; adhere to somebody/something; get stuck. What is the effect of the -s sounds in these two lines?
vadum, -i
shallows; river bed.
medius, -a, -um
the middle part, the middle of; translate ex media puppe.
sacerdos, -dotis m. f.
priest, priestess; understand dixit. The speaker is one of the priests who had brought the goddess from her home (the SPQR shows an archigallus worshipping).
parco, -ere, peperci (parsi), parsum
refrain from; spare; followed by the infinitive contingere. Note the imperative mood throughout the priest's speech, as well as the ritual language and repetitions.
contingo, -ere, -tigi, -tactum
touch; be in physical contact with.
procul adverb
far away; at a great distance; translate with ferte gradus.
quicumque, quaecumque, quodcumque
whoever, any at all; note the gender of those the priest's target audience.
profanus, -a, -um
impious, ceremonially unclean.
misceo, -ere, -ui, mixtum
share, take part in; mix with; followed by the dative casto . . . labori.
satis indeclinable substantive
enough, sufficient, followed by dative of person (deae); understand me as the subject of monuisse.
quod/quodsi relative adverb
but; but if; after si (also nisi, num, ne), the relative pronoun qua= the indefinite pronoun aliqua; see also on the next line.
valeo, -ere, -ui, -itum
have the power; be strong; be fit; followed by an ablative of quality: pudica mente.
illaesus, -a, -um
inviolate; physically unharmed; unimpaired.
adsto, -are, -itiui
assist; stand up; stand near; the subject is [ali]qua conscia.
conscius, -a, -um
aware; sharing knowledge; followed by the dative of reflexive pronoun (sibi) and the genitive (illaesi corporis).
munus, -eris n.
service; work; scan to identify the cases and the word order.
Clausi, -orum m.
members of the gens Claudia. By tradition the family was founded by Attus Clausus, who migrated from the Sabine country to Rome.
origo, -inis f.
origin, source, beginning; modified by prisca.
aequus, -a, -um
fair; favorable; translate with non. Scansion reveals the final -a as long; translate as an ablative of cause with fama.
credo, -ere, -didi, -ditum
regard, consider; the perfect passive participle modifies Claudia and is modified by male.
male adverb
wrongly, incorrectly; note the central position of populi, responsible at once for Claudia's being male credita and her resultant non aequa . . .fama.
fama, -ae
rumor, opinion.
verto, -ere, verti, versum
turn; turn upward; here it means uplifted in prayer (see the SPQR at the end of the line).
profor (I deponent)
speak out; announce; make a prediction.
creo (I)
make, create, produce.
proles, -is f.
offspring, descendants, posterity. She lists the kingdoms of the gods Neptune, Jupiter, and Pluto, the three sons of Cronus and Rhea.
sors, sortis f.
lot; lottery; destiny. According to legend, Jupiter was allotted charge of heaven and earth, Neptune the sea, and Pluto the underworld
guberno (I)
govern; manage; pilot. The SPQR shows Cybele reclining among the gods.
testis, -is m. f.
witness; one who gives evidence; in apposition with the 2nd person singular subject of the imperative veni.
facilis, -e
nimble; ready; quick; easily moved; accommodating; modifies carina, an ablative of means.
carina, -ae f.
the keel of a ship; by synecdoche, the whole ship (also above: puppe and alnum). The SPQR contains a Renaissance painting of Claudia Quinta's deed.
securus, -a, -um
untroubled; free from anxiety; the unattributed adjective expresses Claudia's confidence.
leo, -onis m.
videor, -eri, visus/a sum
seem; appear. Supply est; the subject is fremitus.
gravis, -e
strong; deep; heavy. appear. Translate the comparative adjective as a predicate: tympana sonuerunt graviora.
pronus, -a, -um
moving forward; willing, eager. Translate as a predicate: ratis fertur prona.
impello, -ere, -pulsi, -pulsum
push; drive; set in motion; the subject is ventos.
credo, -ere, -didi, -ditum
trust; impersonal potential subjunctive, followed by indirect statement.
praevenio, -ire, -veni, -ventum
precede; arrive ahead of; surpass. The subject is ratis, the object ducentem. Claudia's action confirms her a dux: the poet ends this episode with the outcome of her courageous act (ll. 46-47).
extemplo adverb
spes, -ei f.
hope, expectation; modified by maior.
mulceo, -ere, mulsi, mulsum
stroke; soothe; appease; charm; the subject is spes. The verb introduces an indirect discourse construction in l. 47.
tandem adverb
at last; finally.

Close this window after final use.