Alium multīs glōria terrīs
trādat et omnēs
Fāma per urbēs garrula laudet,194
caelōque parem tollat et astrīs;194bis
alius currū sublīmis eat:
mē mea tellūs
lare sēcrētō tūtōque tegat.
venit ad pigrōs cāna senectūs,
humilīque locō sed certa sedet
sordida parvae fortūna domūs:200
altē virtūs animōsa cadit.
— Sed maesta venit crīne solūtō
Megarā parvum comitāta gregem,
tardusque seniō graditur Alcīdae parēns.
Another man may enjoy glory and fame, riding high on a triumphal chariot; the Chorus wishes to grow old in the safety of a humble house.
The ode concludes with a short priamel in which the Chorus rejects the pursuit of glory in favour of a simple life, a common theme in Greek and Roman tragedies. The contrast between the chosen life of “another man” and the preferred life of the chorus is emphasized by the contrast between the direct objects 192 alium and 196 mē as the first words of each description. Some of the details in this passage recall a famous Latin priamel, the first poem of Horace’s Odes, which begins with mention of a chariot, ends with a metaphorical description of being carried up to the stars, and introduces the preferred life of the poet with the direct object mē at the start of a section.
192 alium: the direct object of all the verbs in 192–94bis. multīs … terrīs: dative with the compound verb trādat (AG 370), which metaphorically describes how the man’s fame spread through the world.
193–94 omnēs / Fāma per urbēs garrula laudet: Seneca elaborates on the idea of the previous line, describing the man being praised by Fāma “through all the cities” of the world. Fāma is a common personification in Latin poetry, translated as “Fame,” “Renown,” or often in the negative sense of “Rumour.” The Chorus emphasizes the negative aspects of Fāmaby describing the personification as “chatty” and by using a phrase (Fāma per urbēs) that is found at the beginning of Virgil’s famous critical description of Fāma at Aeneid 4.173–97.
194bis “And let [Fāma] raise him up equal with the starry heavens”: parem modifies 192 alium and is followed by the datives caelō … et astrīs (hendiadys, “starry heavens”). Metaphorical descriptions of fame or glory lifting someone to the stars are common. Nevertheless, here we may think specifically of Hercules, who will eventually be brought up to the heavens in a literal sense, and Juno repeatedly predicted in Act 1 (lines 23, 74, 89, 122).
195 currū: this refers to the chariot used in Roman triumph. These sorts of “Romanizing” details can be found in most Latin poetry that deals with Greek mythology. sublīmis: a predicative adjective, describing how the man rides (“high on a chariot”). eat: the last of the subjunctives in this passage, from the verb eō, īre, which can describe various kinds of movement (walking, sailing, flying, or here, riding).
196 mē mea tellūs: it is common in Greek tragedy for the Chorus to refer to itself in the first person; this also occurs in Seneca, but less often. Here, mē (which is echoed in the next word, mea) indicates a transition from the preferred lives of other people to the preferred life of the Chorus: “as for me…” Other priamels in Latin poetry also indicate this transition with mē (e.g., Horace, Odes 1.1.29 and 1.7.10).
197 lare: this is another Roman detail (195n.): the Larēs were the gods that watched over a Roman household. By metonymy, the word often refers to the home or house itself. Both senses are present here: the Chorus wishes for their land to protect them “with my household god” and “in my house.” sēcrētō: as the perfect passive participle of sēcernō, sēcernere, this adjective has a basic meaning of “separated”: the humble Chorus’s house is separated from the world of the dangerously ambitious men they have just described. But the idea of “protection” in the rest of the line (tūtōque tegat) brings out the second sense of sēcrētus: the Chorus’s house is also “hidden” from danger.
198 Unambitious men are more likely to live to a ripe old age: a sentiment typical of a tragic Chorus observing the downfall of the great. pigrōs: “inactive men.” This word often describes people not living the energetic and ambitious life of an ideal Roman man. Tibullus uses the word in a similar context to contrast a soldier seeking glory with the preferable life of a man who spends his “inactive old age in a small cottage” (in parvā pigra senecta casā, 1.10.40). cāna senectūs: whiteness (referring to hair) was a common symbol of old age in Classical literature, as it is now. This particular phrase occurs in several poets before Seneca.
199 humilīque locō sed certa sedet: unlike the lofty but unstable fortune of a famous man, a poor house’s fortune “rests in a lowly position but does so securely.” humilīque locō (ablative of place where) is contrasted with certa (predicative adjective, agreeing with 200 fortūna), and both modify sedet.
200 sordida: “shabby,” “squalid,” “uncared for.” The adjective applies most naturally to the house itself (domus) but is transferred to the “prosperity” (fortuna) of the house, thus forming a neat oxymoron. “The modest fortune of a shabby house” becomes “the shabby fortune of a modest house.” The adjectives are grouped in the first half of the line, the nouns in the second half, and words alternate in synchysis according to case (nom. – gen. – nom. – gen.). The structure is like the “Golden Line“ found in dactylic hexameters, but without a verb.
201 “Bold valour falls from on high.” This epigrammatic line ends the ode and completes the argument of 198–201, which is commonly found in Greek and Latin literature: great men will eventually suffer a reversal of fortunes, whereas humble men can live in relative security. The structure of this line contrasts with the previous one, just as the fortunes of humble and bold men contrast. Here, an adverb-verb pair surrounds a central noun-adjective pair.
202–4 Making the transition from the ode to the next act, the chorus described the arrival of Hercules’ family to pray for his safe return: his wife Megara, her young sons (parvum … gregem), and his father Amphitryon (Alcīdae parēns). In the last line, the rhythm changes from the anapestic meter of the ode back to iambic trimeter; the rhythm therefore slows down, since anapests have more short syllable than iambs. To mark this deceleration, the first word of the iambic line 204 is tardusque.
202–3 maesta: modifying 203 Megarā (Greek nominative); the adjective is emphasized by its position at the start of the clause. This same word was used to describe the spirits that Hercules encounters in the Underworld (187 maestōs … mānēs). The repetition is ominous: soon enough, Megara’s spirit will be in the Underworld. crīne solūtō: disordered hair is a typical sign of female mourning. Megara is grieving for her father and brothers, all killed by Lycus. parvum comitāta gregem: “escorting her small flock [of children].” The “flock” is “small” because Megara’s sons are young.
204 seniō: ablative of cause (AG 404), explaining why Amphitryon is tardus. Alcīdae parēns: in an elaborate circumlocution, Amphitryon is called “the parent of the descendant of Alcaeus [i.e., Hercules].” Alcīdēs uses a Greek declension, with a genitive in –ae (AG 44).
garrulus –a –um: talkative; chattering, babbling
sublīmis sublīme: high, lofty; exalted
Lār Laris m.: Lar (household god); house, home
sēcrētus –a –um: separated, secret, hidden
piger pigra pigrum: reluctant; slow, lazy
cānus –a –um: white
senectūs senectūtis f.: old age
humilis humile: low; lowly, base, humble
sordidus –a –um: dirty; poor, humble, lowly
altē: aloft, from above; deep
animōsus –a –um: bold, spirited, proud
crīnis crīnis m.: hair
Megara –ōrum n./–ae f.: Megara (wife of Hercules)
comitor comitārī comitātus sum: to accompany
grex gregis m.: herd, flock
senium –ī n.: feebleness of age, senility; decay
gradior gradī gressus sum: to step, walk, go
Alcīdēs –ae. m.: a descendant of Alceus; Hercules