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P. Papinius Statius Silvae I.2: Epithalamion for Stella et Violentilla (selections)

Julia Agrippina
Flavian woman, late 1st century CE

Violentilla, the bride in 89 CE of Lucius Arruntius Stella, is the focus of this epithalamium (Greek term for a wedding song written in honor of the bride and groom), composed in dactylic hexameter. Violentilla was a widow who was long pursued in marriage by Stella, but is otherwise unknown. Praise of the bride is traditional in this genre, as it bestows honor on the groom as well for contracting a marriage with a woman who is so extraordinarily possessed of beauty and matronly virtues. However, this poem was composed under a number of special circumstances: Violentilla was not a virgo but a vidua, entering her second marriage; Stella was a close friend and perhaps patron of the poet Statius, who dedicated to him Book I of the Silvae (a collection of occasional and miscellaneous poems). The wedding song was requested by Stella, himself a poet who was known for his love poetry. Prior to Violentilla's acceptance of his proposal, Stella had unsuccessfully wooed his reluctant love with prayers and poetry.


Lines 105-122: Invoking the muse Erato at line 46), the poet launches into a mythological narration that constitutes the central portion of the epithalamium (to l. 200). The myth section consists of a dialogue between Venus and Cupid, her son, and a monologue addressed by the goddess to Violentilla. In the lines immediately preceding, Cupid asks his mother, Venus, to persuade Stella’s reluctant beloved to accept his proposal of marriage. Venus responds with an encomium to Violentilla’s beauty, which was a gift from the goddess herself. Statius does in this poem what sculptors of the Empire were doing in stone: figuring women in the guise of goddesses (e.g., as Venus, Spes, Fortuna, Luna, Ceres, Persephone, Diana) to represent their beauty and goodness.
105 illa refert vultu non aspernata rogari:  
  grande quidem rarumque viris, quos ipsa probavi,  
  Pierius votum iuvenis cupit. hanc ego, formae  
  egregium mirata decus cui gloria patrum  
  et generis certabat honos, tellure cadentem  
110 excepi fovique sinu; nec colla genasque  
  comere nec pingui crinem deducere amomo  
  cessavit mea, nate, manus. mihi dulcis imago  
  prosiluit. celsae procul aspice frontis honores
  suggestumque comae. Latias metire quid ultra
115 emineat matres: quantum Latonia Nymphas
  virgo premit quantumque egomet Nereidas exsto.  
  haec et caeruleis mecum consurgere digna  
  fluctibus et nostra potuit considere concha,
  et si flammigeras potuisset scandere sedes  
120 hasque intrare domos, ipsi erraretis, Amores.
  huic quamvis census dederim largita beatos,  
  vincit opes animo.”  


Lines 138-141: In conclusion to her reply to Cupid’s request, Venus agrees to persuade the reluctant Violentilla to marry:
  “sed dabitur iuveni, cui tu, mea summa potestas,  
  nate, cupis, thalami quamvis iuga ferre secundi
140 saepe neget maerens. ipsam iam cedere sensi  
  inque vicem tepuisse viro....”  


Lines 266-277: The closing lines of the Epithalamium are the traditional prayers for the bride’s fertility, safe pregnancy, production of male offspring, and long-lasting beauty and youth.
  heia age, praeclaros Latio properate nepotes,  
  qui leges, qui castra regant, qui carmina ludant.  
  acceleret partu decimum bona Cynthia mensem,
  sed parcat Lucina, precor; tuque ipse parenti  
270 parce, puer, ne mollem uterum, ne stantia laedas  
  pectora; cumque tuos tacito natura recessu  
  formarit vultus, multum de patre decoris,  
  plus de matre feras. at tu, pulcherrima forma  
  Italidum, tandem merito possessa marito,  
275 vincla diu quaesita fove: sic damna decoris  
  nulla tibi; longe virides sic flore iuventae  
  perdurent vultus, tardeque haec forma senescat.  


Click on the underlined words for translation aids and commentary, which will appear in a small window. Click on the icon link to the right of the poem for related images and information. Close the small window after each use.

Ann R. Raia and Judith Lynn Sebesta
Return to The World of Body
August 2006