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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces one of the
Carmina Minora


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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 p188  On the Statues of Two Brothers at Catina​1


[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] See these two brothers toiling beneath a burden piety bade them bear. They deserve the tribute of divine honours at the hands of all men: at the sight of them the respect­ful flames ceased their ravages and Etna in admiration restrained his flooding lava. Seizing their parents they set them upon their shoulders and, with eyes raised to heaven, hasten their steps. The aged parents, thus carried aloft by their two sons, impede their flight, but dear to the children is that very delay. See, the old man points to the cruel flames; the aged mother's trembling lips call upon the gods for help. Fear has set their hair on end, the bronze is terror-stricken and a pale shiver runs over all the metal. In the countenances of the sons is seen courage in face of danger, and, if fear, then fear for their burdens, not for themselves. The wind has blown back their cloaks. One raises his right hand; his left is enough to sustain his aged sire. But the other needs must clasp his burden with both arms, taking greater care for that it is his mother, one of the weaker sex, that he bears. This, too, as thou passest by, leave not unnoted, for well the craftsman's dumb hands deserve such regard; both he has moulded with a likeness such as brothers bear, yet the one resembles rather his mother, the other his father.  p191 The artist's cunning has succeeded in expressing a difference of age in their faces, though a likeness to either parent is apparent in the features of both the sons; while, to ensure a further dissimilarity in that resemblance, he has varied the tenderness that either countenance expresses.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Faithful were ye to Nature's law, bright example of divine justice, model for youth, fond hope of age! Wealth ye despised, and dashed into the flames to rescue nought save your venerable parents. Not undeservedly, methinks, did such piety quench the fires in Enceladus' jaws. Vulcan himself checked the flow of molten lava from Etna that it should not harm those patterns of filial duty. The very elements were influenced thereby: father air and mother earth did their best to lighten the burden.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] If signal piety raised Castor and Pollux to the skies, if Aeneas won immortality by rescuing his sire from burning Troy, if ancient story has rendered famous the names of those Argive brothers, Cleobis and Biton,​2 who harnessed themselves to their mother's car, why does not Sicily dedicate a temple to the ageless memory of Amphinomos and Anapius? Though the three-cornered isle has many titles to fame, let her be sure that she has never given birth to a nobler deed. Let her not weep the destruction wrought by the spreading flames nor lament the houses burned down by the fire's fury. The flames abating had never put affection to the proof; the great disaster purchased immortal fame.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 The story of the pietas of these brothers has often been told or referred to: the better known passages are Senec. De benef. III.37.2; Martial VII.24.5; Sil. Ital. XIV.197. Hyginus (Fab. 254)º gives the story though with different names. The brothers' heads appear both on Sicilian and Roman coins, e.g. Head, Hist. Num. 117; Brit. Mus. Cat. Sicily 52, Nos. 70‑79; Babelon, Monn. de la répub. I.539, II.353.

Thayer's Note: Add to these citations ll. 625‑646 of the Aetna, a didactic poem by an unknown author; and a brief passage in Pausanias, 10.28.4.

2 Herodotus tells their story in book I.31.

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Page updated: 26 Mar 18