MEG. Quidnam iste, nostrī generis exitium ac luēs,
novī parat? quid temptat?
LYC. Ō clārum trahēns
ā stirpe nōmen rēgiā, facilis mea360
parumper aure verba patientī excipe.
sī alterna semper odia mortālēs gerant,
nec coeptus umquam cēdat ex animīs furor,
sed arma fēlīx teneat, īnfēlīx paret,
nihil relinquent bella; tum vastīs ager365
squālēbit arvīs, subditā tēctīs face
altus sepultās obruet gentēs cinis.
pācem reducī velle victōrī expedit,
vīctō necesse est. — particeps rēgnō venī;
sociēmur animīs. pignus hoc fideī cape:370
continge dextram. quid trucī vultū silēs?
Megara briefly wonders about Lycus’s intentions. Lycus then proposes marriage, demonstrating his skills as an orator in a short persuasive speech with three clear parts: an exordium (introduction, 359–61) praising Megara’s nobility, an argument (362–69) that endless hatred leads to destruction, and a peroration (conclusion, 369–71) asking her to accept his offer of marriage.
358–59 quidnam … novī: “what new thing,” a partitive genitive (AG 346a.3). For the conservative-minded Romans, “new” was often bad, as it certainly is here. We might be subtly reminded of Lycus’s 348 novitās, which he hopes to counteract by marrying Megara–precisely the “new thing” she is wondering about now.
358 iste: Lycus, spoken with spiteful force. nostrī … luēs: in apposition to iste.
359 temptat: picking up on Lycus’s temptēmus (354)
359–60 Ō … rēgiā: flattery like this (a captatio benevolentiae) is common at the start of Greek and Latin speeches, but by focusing his praise on Megara’s illustrious heritage, Lycus betrays his interest in the advantage he hopes to gain from her nobility. Ō … trahēns: “o you who inherit…” (see LS traho II.A.6, “get, obtain, derive”).
360–61 facilis (predicative adjective: “courteously”), parumper (adverb), and aure … patientī (ablative of means) all describe how Megara should receive Lycus’s words (mea … verba … excipe).
362–67 The present subjunctives in the protasis (sī … gerant … cēdat … teneat … paret) describe a hypothetical situation (unending retributive warfare amongst mortals); the future indicatives in the apodosis (relinquent … squālēbit … obruet) state the destructive consequences of that situation more vividly.
362 alterna ... odia … gerant: “harbor mutual hatred.” alternus commonly describes civil strife and conflict. %% alternais Otto Zwierlein’s correction of the manuscript reading aeterna, which is redundant with semper (see, for example, Par. Lat. 11855, 2nd column, 17th line from the top). aeterna is spelled with an e instead of ae and with -er- abbreviated by an apostrophe above the word (both common in Medieval manuscripts); note also the (incorrect) variant reading agent, written above gerant.
363 coeptus: modifies furor: “(once it has been) begun.”
364 arma: object of both teneat and paret. A “successful person” (fēlīx, a euphemism for the victor in a war) always keeps himself armed for battle; an “unsusccessful person” (īnfēlīx, the defeated) is always preparing for a violent struggle to regain power. The lack of a conjunction to join the two verbs (asyndeton) allows the contrasting actions to stand out more vividly.
365–66 vastīs … arvīs: ablative absolute. Vastus = “devastated,” “destroyed” (LS vastus II.B), rather than “vast.” squālēbit: describes the condition of the land after the farmers have been killed or driven away. The disastrous effects of (civil) war on the countryside and its inhabitants are a common topic in Latin literature. Seneca is perhaps recalling Virgil’s description of the civil wars that preceded the reign of Augustus, alluded to in the first book of the Georgics 1.507: squālent abductīs arva colōnīs.
366 subditā ... face: ablative absolute. The participle subditā describes the action precisely: a torch would be “put underneath” or “put at the base of” the house to light it on fire. tēctīs: dative with a compound verb (AG 370); tecta = domus, a commmon metonymy.
367 With typical hyperbole, Seneca describes the ash of burnt homes burying entire nations (gentēs). The elegant “golden line” (adj. A - adj. B - verb - noun B - noun A) emphasizes the apocalyptic image, altus … cinis.
368–9 pācem … necesse est: the general images of total destruction in the previous lines contain a veiled threat of what will happen to Megara if she refuses Lycus. These lines make that threat more explicit: Megara is of course “the defeated.”
368 victōrī: dative depending on expedit, an impersonal verb meaning “it is advantageous,” “it is expedient.” reducī velle: “to want [peace] to be restored.”
369 vīctō: “for the defeated,” dative depending on necesse est. venī: present imperative, not perfect indicative (which would have a long ē): Lycus is inviting Megara to come share in his regnum.
370–71 Lycus concludes by asking Megara to take his hand, recalling the dextrārum iūnctiō (295–98).
370 animīs: ablative of specification (AG 418), indicating how Megara and Lycus would be joined.
371 trucī vultū: ablative of manner without cum, as normally when there is an adjective (AG 412).
quisnam (quīnam) quaenam quidnam: who?
exitium existi(ī) n.: destruction, ruin
luēs –is f.: pestilence
tentō tentāre tentāvī tentātus: to try
stirps stirps f.: stem
parumper: a little while
alternus –a –um: one after the other, by turns; alternate
īnfēlīx īnfēlīcis: unfortunate, unhappy
vāstus –a –um: empty, desolate; vast
squāleō –ēre –uī: to be rough, neglected, waste
subdō –ere –didī –ditus: to put under; place or fasten under
sepeliō sepelīre sepeliī/sepelīvī sepultum: to bury
obruō obruere obruī obrutum: to overwhelm; bury, cover
redūcō redūcere redūxī reductus: to bring back; to restore
expediō expedīre expediī/expedīvī expedītus: to set free; (impersonal) be useful
particeps participis m.: participant
sociō sociāre sociāvī sociātus: to make one a socius; to share
pīgnus –oris n.: pledge
trux trucis: wild, rough, savage
sileō silēre siluī: to be silent