Horace used the Alcaic Strophe in thirty-seven of his odes. Named after the Greek poet Alcaeus of Mytilene, each stanza consists of four verses: two Alcaic hendecasyllables, an enneasyllable, and a decasyllable. The first and last syllables of lines one through three and the last syllable of line four may be long — or short ∪ (anceps), and is scanned as x):
x — ∪ — — || — ∪ ∪ — ∪ x
x — ∪ — — || — ∪ ∪ — ∪ x
    x — ∪ — — — ∪ — x
        — ∪ ∪ — ∪ ∪ — ∪ — x


Notes to Horace, Carmina 3.23

caelum, -i, n.
sky, heaven, air; dative of direction after supinas.
supinus, -a, -um
stretched out, extended; bent backwards. It modifies manus, describing a traditional gesture of prayer. Click on SPQR for image of a woman praying, perhaps Livia, Augustus's wife.
fero, ferre, tuli, latum
bring, bear, carry, move. The direct object is manus. Si before the verb tuleris in the future perfect indicative introduces a conditional clause (future more vivid), which can be translated as a simple future (see also placaris below in l. 3).
nascor, nasci, natus/a sum, deponent
to be born, come into existence. Nascente luna = ablative absolute in present tense, refering to the beginning of the lunar month, when the household gods received their monthly sacrifice.
rusticus, -a, -um
rural, country, simple, provincial; peasant girl (as a noun).
Phidyle, -es, f.
The name is Greek, meaning "thrifty, simple, innocent." Horace's paternalistic tone arises from their status difference: he the master, she a woman of the peasant lower-class -- immigrant, freedwoman, or slave.
tus, turis n.
incense; ablative of means (see also horna fruge . . . avida porca). Click on SPQR for a terracotta relief of an incense burner being used in prayer.
placo I
appease, calm, pacify. Si before the verb placaris (= placaveris) in the future perfect indicative, introduces a conditional clause (future more vivid), which can be translated as a simple future.
hornus, -a, -um
this year’s; produced in the current year; modifies fruge.
frux, frugis, f.
fruit; produce; corn; ablative of means.
Lar, Laris, m.
Household gods. Usually referred to in the plural as Lares familiares/domestici, these guardian spirits of the family were pictured holding a drinking horn (rhyton) and an offering dish (patera) and were found in the atrium shrine (Lararium) of each home (click SPQRs).
avidus, -a, -um
eager; ardent; greedy; modifies porca, who because she is greedy is fat and thus a worthy sacrifice.
porca, -ae, f.
sow, female swine; ablative of means.
pestilens, -entis
unhealthy, unwholesome, destructive; modifies Africum, the sirocco, a southerly wind dreaded by the farmer. What is the effect of the placement of nec as the opening word of the stanza, just before pestilentem?
Africus, -a, -um
African; object of sentiet here used as a substantive (understand ventus), the hot moist southwest wind that blows to Italy from the Sahara during the months of August and September (sirocco).
sentio, -ire, sensi, sensum
perceive, feel; sentiet is the conclusion (apodosis) of the future more vivid condition introduced (protasis) above in l. 1. The verb commands the stanza with three subjects: nec vitis . . .nec seges . . . aut alumni (for subject-verb agreement see A & G 317b-c).
fecundus, -a, -um
fruitful, fertile, productive, abundant; modifies vitis.
vitis, vitis, f.
vine, grapevine.
sterilis, -e
barren; causing unfruitfulness; useless, unproductive; modifies robiginem.
seges, -etis, f.
cornfield, crop, field, arable land.
robigo, -inis, f.
mildew, blight, rust; object of sentiet. The personified deity Robigo/Robigus protected the grain from wheat rust; on April 25 the Robigalia was held to propitiate the deity.
dulcis, -e
sweet; agreeable, charming, soft; modifies alumni.
alumnus, -a, -um
nourished, brought up; used here as a substantive for newborn farm animals.
pomifer, -era, -erum
fruit-bearing; ablative of time within which. Note the effect of the chiastic word-order.
gravis, -e
harsh, troublesome, severe; disagreeable; weighty; important; modifies tempus, the object of sentiet.
qui, quae, quod
who, which; relative pronoun whose antecedent is victima, below in l. 12.
nivalis, -e
snowy, snow-covered, cold, wintry; modifies Algido.
pasco, -ere, pavi, pastum
feed, nourish, cultivate; present subjunctive, its subject is quae
Algidus, -i, m.
Mount Algidus, a forest-covered, high mountain in the Alban Hills (click on SPQR), the site of an unexpected Roman victory in 458 BCE led by the dictator Cincinnatus against the Aequi. Situated 12 miles south-east of Rome, it is the modern-day Monte Compatri.
devoveo, -ere, -vovi, -votum
vow, promise solumnly, devote; perfect passive participle modifying victima in l. 12.
quercus, -us, f.
oak tree; object, together with ilices, of the postpositive preposition inter. Click on SPQR for an image of the Italian oak.
ilex, -icis, f.
a type of oak tree; wildlife feed on the acorns of oak trees.
cresco, -ere, crevi, cretum
grow, thrive, increase; parallel to pascitur, its subject is quae.
Albanus, -a, -um
Alban, from the Alban Hills; modifies herbis. The pontifical college owned property in the fertile Alban Hills, where animals were raised for sacrifice.
herba, -ae, f.
vegetation, grass, green crops.
victima, -ae, f.
victim, sacrificial animal; antecedent of quae in l. 9 above; subject of tinguet in line 13 below (see bloody sacrifices).
pontifex, -icis, m.
high priest; genitive plural. Click on SPQR for a relief of the flamines on the Ara Pacis.
securis, -is, f.
axe, hatchet, cleaver; accusative plural (poetic alternate for secures), direct object of tinguet. Click on SPQR for relief of a calf led to a public altar by a victimarius with an axe.
cervix, -icis, f.
neck, nape, head; ablative of means. The sacrificial victim's throat was slit and its blood collected.
tinguo/tingo, -ere, tinxi, tinctum
wet, color, stain (with blood); the subject is victima, Note the tense of the verb.
attineo, -ere, attinui, attentum
matter, concern, interest; here used impersonally with a negative (nihil), an infinitive (temptare) and accusative (te).
tempto (I)
try to influence; importune; the direct object is parvos . . . deos, the household gods whose small icons protected home and family.
caede, -is, f.
murder, slaughter; blood; ablative of means. While the placement of multa between temptare and caede suggests it agrees with both, scansion reveals it modifies caede. Click on the SPQR for a relief of the costly public dedication of a suovetaurilia on the Ara Pacis altar (13 BCE).
bidens, -entis, m./f.
having two adult front teeth, a sign that a sacred animal, usually a sheep, is ready for sacrifice.
corono (1)
wreathe, crown, deck with garlands; present active participle with conditional force, agreeing with te (Phidyle). Direct object is parvos . . . deos. Floral garlands were a regular offering to gods during festivals both public and private: Click on SPQRs for a garland relief on the Ara Pacis and a fresco of the Lares, garlanded and being offered a pig for sacrifice.
ros marinus, roris marini, m.
rosemary; an aromatic herb that is accessible to all, as it grows wild in the Mediterranean.
fragilis, -e
brittle; fragile; the firm branches of the myrtle served as a good base for a wreath or garland.
myrtum, -i, n.
myrtle; myrtle tree; a fragrant evergreen shrub with a star-like flower and a berry fruit, it is common to the Mediterranean and sacred to Aphrodite and Demeter. Click on SPQR for a relief of the garland on the Ara Pacis, pleasing gods and humans with its fragrance and floral arrangement.
immunis, -e
exempt from duty/obligation; free of cost; it modifies manus, and appears to be a rejection of the transactional (do ut des) principle of Roman sacrifice. Note the emphasis as the first word of the final stanza.
ara, -ae, f.
altar; click on SPQRs for a drawing of the public altar of the Ara Pacis and a clay model of a household altar.
tango, -ere, tetigi, tactum
touch; strike; border on, influence; mention; the subject is manus.
sumptuosus, -a, -um
costly; expensive; ablative of cause or reason A & G #404, modifying hostia. Scholars disagree on the translation of this line (does non modify sumptuosa or blandior?) and find the stanza obscure (Smith & Greenough, T.E. Page, C.E. Bennett, D.H. Garrison, Nisbet & Rudd).
blandus, -a, -um
persuasive; attractive; pleasing, pleasant; flattering; a comparative adjective agreeing with manus.
hostia, -ae, f.
victim; ablative of cause, reason A & G #404, modified by sumptuosa.
mollio, -ire, mollivi, mollitum
soften, appease; here the perfect tense can be understood as a single past instance or as a gnomic perfect A & G #475.
aversus, -a, -um
unfavorably disposed; hostile; object with Penatis of mollivit.
Penates, -tium, m. pl.
Penates, the tutelary gods of the home, regarded as controlling the destiny of the household. By the classical period the household gods were considered a unit, the Lares et Penates. Click on the SPQRs for bronze statuettes of the gods, usually pictured as holding cornucopias or symbols of fertility, signs of prosperity.
far, farris, n.
grain, course meal, sacrificial meal; ablative of means, modified by pio.
salio, -ire, salui/ii, salitum
jump; leap; hop; crackle; present active participle modifying mica. When mola salsa is sprinkled upon the flaming altar, the fire leaps up and sizzles (see Festival of the Ovens, Fornacalia).
mica, -ae, f.
grain (of salt); ablative of means. Hendiadys for mola salsa.

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