Sententiae

Sententiae
by Publilius Syrus

About the Poems

Syrus wrote these maxims and moral statements in iambic and trochaic verse, each one standing independently in a single verse. Over the course of time the collection was amended via additions of verses from other sources. The verses were arranged in alphabetical order according to the first letter of the first word in the verse. To the best of our knowledge, some 700 of the verses in the collection are genuinely the work of Publilius Syrus. Because of the revisions to the collection over time, a number of verses in the Sententiae contradict one another in their advice or opinions. One consistent aspect appearing throughout the Sententiae is its misogyny: there is no verse in the entire corpus that expresses any positive statement regarding women.

Listen to Sententiae 205 in Latin

Read by Linda Thompson

Listen to Sententiae 205 in English

Read by Linda Thompson

Sententiae 205

Homo qui in homine calamitosost misericors, meminit sui.

A person who is merciful to someone in misfortune is mindful of him/herself.

Listen to Sententiae 208 in Latin

Read by Linda Thompson

Listen to Sententiae 208 in English

Read by Linda Thompson

Sententiae 208

Heu quam miserumst ab eo laedi de quo non possis queri!

Alas, how miserable it is to be injured by one about whom you cannot complain!

Listen to Sententiae 210 in Latin

Read by Linda Thompson

Read by Linda Thompson

Listen to Sententiae 210 in English

Read by Linda Thompson

Sententiae 210

Heu dolor quam miser est qui in tormento vocem non habet!

Alas, how wretched is the pain that has no voice in [times of] torture!

Listen to Sententiae 557 in Latin

Read by Linda Thompson

Listen to Sententiae 557 in English

Read by Linda Thompson

Sententiae 557

Quis miserum sciret, verba nisi haberet dolor?

Who would know that someone is unhappy/ in misery, unless grief had words?

About the author

Publilius Syrus (fl. 85-43 BCE) was a Latin author who is best known today for his collection of maxims, known as the Sententiae. He was born in the city of Antioch in Syria, though we seem to have no information as to whether he was born free or as a slave. At some point in his life he became a slave, and was brought from Syria to Italy. Syrus seems to have gained his master’s favor, as he was set free and given an education. Syrus became the “author” of numerous mimes – Rose explains that mime composers of the time were not so much authors as managers or directors, devising plot sketches that the actors would use as bases for improvisational comedy. These were performed with success in provincial towns in Italy, making Syrus a popular figure. In 46 BCE Syrus took part in games sponsored by Julius Caesar by providing mimes for the occasion. The mime performances were part of a contest, which Syrus won, and he received his prize from Caesar himself. None of the mimes survive.What does survive is the set of Sententiae. Syrus wrote these maxims and moral statements in iambic and trochaic verse, each one standing independently in a single verse. Over the course of time the collection was amended via additions of verses from other sources. The verses were arranged in alphabetical order according to the first letter of the first word in the verse. To the best of our knowledge, some 700 of the verses in the collection are genuinely the work of Publilius Syrus. Because of the revisions to the collection over time, a number of verses in the Sententiae contradict one another in their advice or opinions. One consistent aspect appearing throughout the Sententiae is its misogyny: there is no verse in the entire corpus that expresses any positive statement regarding women.

Sources

“Publilius Syrus,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publilius_Syrus), 1/20/22; Rose, H.J. A Handbook of Latin Literature (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co, 1960).

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Located near the Tang capital city of Chang’an, site of the modern city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province, in central China.
Soldiers of that time commonly wore a white head cloth, similar to what is still worn by some peasants in China today.  The implication is that the conscripts were so young that they didn’t know how to wrap their head cloths, and needed help from elders.
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
The area of Guanxi, meaning “west of the passes”, refers to the area around the capital city of Chang’an.
This is an alternative name for a province in western China, now known as Qinghai, which literally means “blue sea”.  Kokonor Lake, located in Qinghai, is the largest saline lake in China.  
Before China’s unification under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C. there were several competing smaller kingdoms.  Han and Qin were two of these kingdoms. Han was located east of famous mountain passes that separated that area from the power base of the Qin dynasty, with its capital in Chang’an. The Qin dynasty itself only lasted about 15 years after unification due to its draconian rule, but soldiers under Qin rule retained a reputation as strong fighters.
Oulart Hollow was the site of a famous victory of the Irish rebels over British troops, which took place on May 27, 1798. The rebels killed nearly all the British attackers in this battle. (Source: Maxwell, W. H. History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798. H. H. Bohn, London 1854, pp 92-93, at archive.org)
The phrase "United Men" is elaborated upon in the Notes section below.

Ghetto


An Italian word meaning “foundry.” It originally referred to a part of the city of Venice where the Jews of that city were forced to live; the area was called “the ghetto” because there was a foundry nearby. The term eventually came to refer to any part of a city in which a minority group is forced to live as a result of social, legal, or economic pressure. Because of the restrictions placed upon them, ghetto residents are often impoverished.

"You’re five nine, I am do-uble two"


A reference to the year 1959 and the year 2020.

"The Currency"


Meaning US dollars - this is drawing attention to the fact that Cuba is effectively dollarized.

"Sixty years with the dom-ino stuck"


This sentence is a reference to the Cold War notion that countries would turn Communist one after the other - like dominos. Cuba was the first domino, but it got stuck - no one else followed through into communism.

رحلنا


رحلنا, or "rahalna," means "we have left."

Habibi


Habibi means "my love."

Ra7eel


Ra7eel, or "raheel," means "departure."

3awda


3awda, or "awda," means "returning."

أهلاً


أهلاً, or "ahalan," means "welcome."

a5 ya baba


a5 ya baba, pronounced "akh ya baba," means "Oh my father."

golpe


Treece translates "golpe" as "beating", which is correct, however misses the secondary meaning of the word: "coup".

Carlos


The “Carlos” referred to in the poem is most likely Carlos Bolsonaro, a politician from Rio de Janeiro and the second son of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s current president. His and his father’s involvement in Marielle’s murder has been questioned and investigated.