This ode is a lively and heartfelt tribute to the God of wine – if you want a potted biography in the form of mythological reference, here it is! Like Virgil’s Aeneas, Bacchus is one of the select band to make the journey to Hades and return to the upper world: in the most charming description of Cerberus in Latin, Horace shows the watchdog of the underworld in unusually gentle mood. The illustration of Cerberus is by William Blake.

Hear the poem in Latin and follow in English here.

Around 650 BCE, mourning a brother-in-law lost at sea, the warrior-poet Archilochus tells his friend that sorrow is something that the Gods expect us to endure. The illustration shows mourners from a Greek vase of the sixth century BCE. Archilochus is the earliest poet of personal experience that we have from Greece: learn more about him on his poet page here.

Hear the poem in Greek and follow in English here.

Todays new poem is one of Horace’s poems on the shortness of life: as a contrast, he refers to several mythological characters who suffer everlasting punishment in Tartarus, including forty-nine of the fifty daughters of King Danaus, who killed their husbands on the wedding night. The illustration by Waterhouse shows them eternally fetching water to pour into a vessel that can never be filled.

Hear the poem in Latin and follow in English here.

After travelling with Aeneas through Hades, following Virgil at his most epic, it is time for a change. Horace Ode 3.21 sees Horace at his most gential, celebrating wine, friendship and other good things in life.

The illustration is a fresco from Herculaneum, destroyed like Pompeii by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79CE.

Listen in Latin and follow in English here.