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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