iam succedentes quatiebat Luna iuvencas, vinceret ut tenebras radiis velut aemula fratris; 5iam volucres hominumque genus superabile curis mulcebant placidi tranquilla oblivia somni; transierant Idus, medius suprema December tempora venturo properabat iungere Iano; et nonas decimas ab se Nox longa Kalendas 10iugiter acciri celebranda ad festa iubebat.
Nescis, puto, quid velim tot versibus dicere. medius fidius neque ego bene intellego: tamen suspicor. iam prima nox erat ante diem nonum decimum kal. Ian., cum redditae sunt mihi litterae tuae oppido quam litteratae. his longe iucundissimum poema subdideras, quod de tribus Suetonii libris, quos ille de regibus dedit, in epitomen coegisti tanta elegantia, solus ut mihi videare adsecutus, quod contra rerum naturam est, brevitas ut obscura non esset. in his versibus ego ista collegi:
Europamque Asiamque duo vel maxima terrae membra, quibus Libyam dubie Sallustius addit Europae adiunctam, possit cum tertia dici, regnatas multis, quos fama oblitterat et quos 5barbara Romanae non tradunt nomina linguae— Illibanum Numidamque Avelim Parthumque Vononem et Caranum, Pellaea dedit qui nomina regum,
Iberian wave; now was Luna lashing on her advancing heifers to vanquish darkness with her beams as though vying with her brother; now birds and human kind, so vulnerable by care, were wooing peaceful sleep and calm forgetfulness; the Ides were passed, and mid-December was hastening to link his last days with approaching Janus; and long Night was bidding the nineteenth day of the Calends1 be summoned forthwith to celebrate the feast.
You do not know, I expect, what I wish to say in all these verses. So help me Heaven! even I do not clearly understand: yet I have a glimmering. It was early in the night preceding the nineteenth day of the Calends of January2 when your wonderfully lettered letter was delivered me. Together with this you sent an extremely delightful poem wherein you have condensed the three books of Suetonius, which he devotes to the Kings,3 so gracefully that I regard you as having alone achieved what is contrary to the ordinary course of things— conciseness without obscurity. Amongst these verses I have picked out the following:—
“Europe and Asia, Earth’s two greatest members, whereto uncertainly Sallust adds Libya as appanage of Europe, whereas it might be called a third part of the globe, have been ruled by many kings whom Fame blots from her page, and whom their uncouth names perpetuate not in Roman speech— Illibanus, Numidian Avelis, Vonones the Parthian, Caranus who founded the dynasty of Pella,4 and he
- 1i.e. Dec. 14th.
- 2For the opening of the letter down to this point cp. Senerca, Apocolocyntosis, 2.
- 3This work is no longer extant.
- 4The first two kings are unknown: for Vonones see Tac. Ann. ii. 1, 58, 68. Caranus, a Heraclid, was the reputed successor of Macedon, son of Deucalion, and ancestor of the Macedonian kings. For Nechepsos see Julius Firmicus, Math. viii. 5, and for Sesostris, Herodotus ii. 104 ff.