This selection is on the theme of Carpe diem – these days usually translated as “seize the day”, but you could equally well translate it as “pluck” the day – as if it were a flower. Most of the examples here are from the Odes of Horace, the absolute master of the genre, and they include some of his most beautiful and atmospheric poems. For contrast, the final one is by a different poet – just possibly Virgil, but more probably by a gifted but anonymous writer whose poem became attached at some point to a manuscript of Virgil’s works.

To begin, here is a famous version with some of Horace’s best descriptions of nature and the simple pleasures of life (Soracte, Odes 1.9).

Next, here is the short piece in which Horace coins – or uses – the famous phrase (Odes 1.11).

Here , Horace combines the message with another recurring theme: the ultimate futility of accumulating great wealth (Odes 2.3).

Here is another in the form of a wistful piece addressed to a friend, Postumus (“Eheu fugaces”, Odes 2.4).

The poem here, from the fourth and last book of Odes is perhaps the most sombre of Horace’s “carpe diem” pieces (“Diffugere nives”, Odes 4.7).

Finally, the theme in other hands: here is a description. possibly by Virgil but more likely not, describing the Syrian hostess of a pub which is my favourite in all literature (Appendix Vergiliana, “Copa Syrisca”).

Omens and prophecy are everywhere in classical literature, as this selection from the work of Virgil shows.

In Book 2 of the Aeneid, the priest, Laocoon, foretells here all too correctly that misfortune will follow if the Trojans bring the wooden horse left by the Greeks into their city.

As Troy falls, Aeneas’s father, Anchises, at first prefers death to escape until omens from the Gods persuade him here that his descendants can be saved and achieve great things.

Thwarted by Aeneas and the Trojans, the leader of the monstrous Harpies predicts here that they will meet hardship so severe that they will gnaw their tables (fortunately the threat will turn out to be exaggerated).

The priest-King Helenus prophesies during Aeneas’s travels here that a white sow will show him the site of the future city of Alba that his son, Ascanius will found.

As Aeneas prepares for his journey to the underworld, the terrifying Cumaean Sibyl prophesies here that his path to settlement in Italy will lie through suffering and war.

As Aeneas arrives in Italy at last, his coming is heralded here by omens involving a swarm of bees and an alarming accident to Princess Lavinia as she sacrifices with the King, her father.

Finally, the prophecy here in one of Virgil’s Eclogues, or pastoral poems, of a birth heralding a future golden age, seen by later Christian ages as possibly foretelling the nativity of the Christ, may be a celebration of a great dynastic marriage.

Love prospers – Catullus, Ovid, Propertius, Horace and Virgil

Unhappy love, by the same authors

“Carpe diem” – encouragement, mainly from Horace, to enjoy life while we can.

Prophecies and omens, from the poetry of Virgil

Beasts and monsters, by Virgil and Horace

The poet mourns, by Catullus, Archilochus, Virgil and Callimachus

Gods and demons, by Ovid, Horace and Virgil

A travelling selection from Catullus, Homer, Ovid and Virgil

A landscape selection from Boethius, Catullus, Horace and Virgil

As Hercules sets sail in the bowl of Helios, enjoy this selection of Latin (and Greek) poems about travel, starting with the voyage and later retirement of

Catullus’s brave little yacht.

A pioneering flight comes to a sad end for

Icarus and his father Daedalus.

At the end of another sad journey,

Catullus says farewell to his brother.

At the beginning of the greatest classical epic of travel,

Homer introduces Odysseus.

As he prepares reluctantly to part from Dido, preparations are in hand for

Aeneas’s departure from Carthage.

Ovid describes an unexpected journey for


Aeneas embarks on his most challenging trip, his

journey to Hades.

Here is a selection of poetry about the Gods – in a variety of moods.

First, Jupiter, King of the Gods, in the mood for love as

Europa’s bull.

After Aeneas and Dido begin their doomed affair, the news is spread by the God of


Aeneas has to be reminded of his divine mission to found a city in Italy by the Gods’ messenger,


All ends badly for Dido. Taking pity, Juno ordains her final release from her agony by

Iris, the rainbow-messenger

Some deities are more glamorous than others. Aeneas meets the ferryman of Hades,


Horace has a mystical experience with a vision of


Arachne discovers that challenging a God is unwise in the course of her weaving contest with


Juno rouses King Turnus of the Rutuli to arms against Aeneas with the help of

Allecto the Fury

Aeneas receives some welcome strategic advice from

the river-God Tiberinus

Under Mount Etna, a might forge resounds with the laboursof

Vulcan and his workmen the Cyclopes

See the index to Latin selection pages here.

This is a landscape selection from the Latin poets (see the selections index here). The ancients would have assumed that the world was boundless and nature was inexhaustible, in contrast to our modern realisation that the world is small and fragile in a way that was unimaginable as recently as the 1960s.

First (see a shield used as an umbrella in the illustration from a 5th-century Virgil), in the wild and storm-swept Carthaginian hunting country, Dido and Aeneas find a fateful shelter from the rain in

Dido’s cave..

On the occasion of the festival of Fontinalia, Horace celebrates the beauty of

the Spring of Bandusia.

Horace flatters a friend over the attractions of his beloved Tarentum, but makes it clear that he will be staying at his Sabine farm near


Catullus gives us a complete account of the changing seascape from the Black Sea all the way to Italy as told by his


In Book 8 of the Aeneid, and centuries before it was built, Virgil gives us a

guided tour of the future Rome.

Zooming out, Boethius reminds us that prospects are not only Earthly and local, but

Cosmic and eternal.

This is the first of a new series of Pantheon Poets Latin medleys – a selection of Latin poems which share a common theme. The first is love, and specifically love that is happy – so far. You can hear the Latin and follow in English by following the links, and on each poem page you will find another link if you would like to see a blog post with an illustration.

We start – where else – with one of the most celebrated love poems in any language: Catullus inviting Lesbia to live and love, and not to mind the gossip or count the kisses.
Vivamus, mea Lesbia

Next, Virgil in the Aeneid describes Dido, the Queen of Carthage, falling for Aeneas, the brave and noble Trojan Prince who is her guest.
Dido falls in love

In this extract, Ovid expresses some of the free and easy attitudes to love that we believe got him into trouble with the Emperor Augustus – a great believer in conservative family values – and earned him a one-way ticket to an unhappy exile by the Black Sea.
Ovid’s broad-minded advice to his mistress

Propertius has been out for a night on the tiles and makes a dawn visit to his lady-love, Cynthia.
Propertius and his sleeping beauty

Ovid has been courting. Finally he has had his wicked way, and seems not to care who knows about it.
Ovid’s triumph

Back finally to Catullus, doyen of love poets. How many kisses are enough for him and too much. How many??!!
How many kisses

Links to new selections will be posted in the index here.

In this second selection of poems on a theme, love is not going so smoothly. Dido is being consumed by a passion for Aeneas which as yet is unrequited:

Dido falls in love

Propertius is obsessed by Cynthia, but she only seems to make him unhappy:


Catullus was so blissfully happy with Lesbia, but his luck has changed:

poor Catullus

Propertius is still camped on his lady’s doorstep, and her door doesn’t seem to care:

the lover’s complaint to the door

But doesn’t Horace say that he is glad that it is over with Pyrrha? Yes, but you can see that he still misses her:


Even in Hades when human life is past, Dido harbours a grudge:

Aeneas finds Dido among the shades

Propertius again – he says he’s invincible, but it doesn’t sound much fun to be


Follow this link to see:

the index of Latin selections

This selection introduces us to beasts and monsters, starting gently with the wolf that Horace met one day. He was clearly frightened, but with the benefit of nature documentaries we know that the wolf was probably more afraid of him.

Horace’s wolf

A wise Trojan priest pays a terrible price for warning the Trojans about the Trojan horse.


Troy is doomed to fall at the fateful moment when the horse enters the city.

The Trojan Horse

On their wanderings, Aeneas and his band encounter a flock of foul flying creatures.

The Harpies

On his journey to the underworld Aeneas sees Tisiphone, tormenter of the damned in Tartarus.


The underworld again: this time the poet is Horace, and the visitor the God Bacchus. Fortunatey he is good with dogs, as he must pass the kennel of the fearsome three-headed guardian, Cerberus.


In the illustration, the sea-nymph Thetis is using her shape-changing gift to try to escape the hero Peleus: they became the parents of Achilles.

See the index to Latin selections on here.