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.

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.

Laocoon

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.

Tisiphone

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.

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 PantheonPoets.com here.