AM.       Estne aliqua tellūs Cereris aut Bacchī ferāx?


THE.      Nōn prāta viridī laeta faciē germinant,

nec adulta lēnī fluctuat Zephyrō seges;

nōn ūlla rāmōs silva pōmiferōs habet;700

sterilis profundī vastitās squālet solī

et foeda tellūs torpet aeternō sitū —

rērumque maestus fīnis et mundī ultima.

immōtus āēr haeret et pigrō sedet

nox ātra mundō; cūncta marcōre horrida,705

ipsāque morte peior est mortis locus.

    At Amphitryon’s prodding, Theseus describes how nothing grows in the land of the dead.

    Seneca begins this passage with negative enumeration: no grass, no grain, no trees. He then proceeds to use near-synonyms (sterilis, squalet, foeda, situ) to emphasize decay. The passage ends with an epigram: death’s kingdom is worse than death itself.

    697 Cereris aut Bacchī: metonymy for grain and wine, two of the main agricultural crops in the ancient Mediterranean. The objective genitives (AG 349) depend on ferāx (“productive of”).

    698–702 Note the careful arrangement of these lines. Each of the first three lines begins with a negative word, and then includes two adjectives, two nouns, and a verb, in different orders. The pattern continues in the last two lines, without the negatives.

    698 viridī … faciē: ablative of quality (AG 415). laeta: “fertile” (LS laetus II.G.2).

    699 lēnī … Zephyrō: ablative of cause (AG 404). Zephyrus is the west wind, which was frequently described as blowing gently. It is usually a harbinger of spring, but here the crops are ripe.

    700 silva: “orchard”

    701 vastitās: a very rare noun in poetry, derived from the more common adjective vāstus, the source of both “vast” and “waste” in English. The basic sense of “emptiness” leads to the associated senses of “immensity” and “desolation.”

    703 This line is in apposition to the previous few lines, and sums up Theseus’ description of the infernal world so far as “the sad end of all things and the farthest limit of the world.” que … et: the equivalent of et … et (“both … and”). fīnis … ultima: “the end” and “farthest limit,” in both a spatial and temporal sense (because the Underworld is far from the living world and is the final destination of all living things). ultima is a neuter plural adjective used substantively as a noun.

    704 immōtus: the adjective is predicative, describing how the air hangs.

    704–5 pigrō … mundō: locative ablative (AG 426)

    705 Supply sunt. marcōre: “with decay,” an ablative of cause (AG 404). %% marcōre: a correction of the manuscript reading maerōre (“with grief”). See Par. Lat. 11855, 1st column, 11th line from the top; note the medieval spelling merore. The rare word marcōre would have easily been corrupted into the much more common maerōre.

    706 ipsāque morte: ablative of comparison after peior (AG 406).

    Cerēs Cereris f.:  Ceres; grain

    Bacchus –ī m.: Bacchus; Bacchant; wine

    ferāx –ācis: fertile, fruitful; abounding

    prātum prātī n.: meadow

    viridis –e: green

    geminō gemināre –āvī –ātum: to put forth; sprout, bud

    adultus –a –um: ripe, mature

    lēnis –e: soft, mild, gentle

    fluctuō fluctuāre fluctuāvī fluctuātus: to wave

    Zephyrus –ī m.: Zephyr; gentle west wind

    seges –etis f.: cornfield, crop

    rāmus rāmī m.: branch

    pōmifer –fera –ferum: fruit-bearing

    sterilis –e: unfruitful, barren

    profundus –a –um: deep, vast; the deep

    vāstitās –ātis f.: waste, desert

    squāleō –ēre –uī: to be rough, neglected, waste

    sōlum –ī n.: ground, land, region

    torpeō torpēre: to be stiff, numb, lethargic

    situs sitūs m.: situation, position, site

    immōtus –a –um: unmoved, immovable, motionless

    haereō haerēre haesī haesūrus: to stick to, hang on to, cleave

    piger pigra pigrum: reluctant; slow, lazy

    āter atra atrum: black

    marcor –ōris m.: withering, decay

    horridus –a –um: rough, bristly; savage; rude 

    peior peius: worse

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