We come now to the third day of Floralia, and my own “flowers” are not quite at the point of opening up yet…but, with the help of the gods, my own research and reading, and the inspiration from the comments over the last few days, things are coming together, and will produce fruit and flowers over the next few days!
I admired her, in silence, while she spoke. But she said:
‘You may learn the answer to any of your questions.’
‘Goddess’, I replied: ‘What’s the origin of the games?’
I’d barely ended when she answered me:
‘Rich men owned cattle or tracts of land,
Other means of wealth were then unknown,
So the words ‘rich’ (locuples) from ‘landed’ (locus plenus),
And ‘money’ (pecunia) from ‘a flock’ (pecus), but already
Some had unlawful wealth: by custom, for ages,
Public lands were grazed, without penalty.
Folk had no one to defend the common rights:
Till at last it was foolish to use private grazing.
This licence was pointed out to the Publicii,
The plebeian aediles: earlier, men lacked confidence.
The case was tried before the people: the guilty fined:
And the champions praised for their public spirit.
A large part of the fine fell to me: and the victors
Instituted new games to loud applause. Part was allocated
To make a way up the Aventine’s slope, then steep rock:
Now it’s a serviceable track, called the Publician Road.’
I believed the shows were annual. She contradicted it,
And added further words to her previous speech:
‘Honour touches me too: I delight in festivals and altars:
We’re a greedy crowd: we divine beings.
Often, through their sins, men render the gods hostile,
And, fawning, offer a sacrifice for their crimes:
Often I’ve seen Jupiter, about to hurl his lightning,
Draw back his hand, when offered a gift of incense.
But if we’re ignored, we avenge the injury
With heavy penalties, and our anger passes all bounds.
Remember Meleager, burnt up by distant flames:
The reason, because Diana’s altar lacked its fires.
Remember Agamemnon: the same goddess becalmed the fleet:
A virgin, yet still she twice avenged her neglected hearth.
Wretched Hippolytus, you wished you’d worshipped Venus,
When your terrified horses were tearing you apart.
It would take too long to tell of neglect punished by loss.
I too was once neglected by the Roman Senate.
What to do, how to show my indignation?
What punishment to exact for the harm done me?
Gloomily, I gave up my office. I ceased to protect
The countryside, cared nothing for fruitful gardens:
The lilies drooped: you could see the violets fade,
And the petals of the purple crocus languished.
Often Zephyr said: ‘Don’t destroy your dowry.’
But my dowry was worth nothing to me.
The olives were in blossom: wanton winds hurt them:
The wheat was ripening: hail blasted the crops:
The vines were promising: skies darkened from the south,
And the leaves were brought down by sudden rain.
I didn’t wish it so: I’m not cruel in my anger,
But I neglected to drive away these ills.
The Senate convened, and voted my godhead
An annual festival, if the year proved fruitful.
I accepted their vow. The consuls Laenas
And Postumius celebrated these games of mine.
I was going to ask why there’s greater
Wantonness in her games, and freer jests,
But it struck me that the goddess isn’t strict,
And the gifts she brings are agents of delight.
The drinker’s brow’s wreathed with sewn-on garlands,
And a shower of roses hides the shining table:
The drunken guest dances, hair bound with lime-tree bark,
And unaware employs the wine’s purest art:
The drunken lover sings at beauty’s harsh threshold,
And soft garlands crown his perfumed hair.
Nothing serious for those with garlanded brow,
No running water’s drunk, when crowned with flowers:
While your stream, Achelous, was free of wine,
No one as yet cared to pluck the rose.
Bacchus loves flowers: you can see he delights
In a crown, from Ariadne’s chaplet of stars.
The comic stage suits her: she’s never: believe me,
Never been counted among the tragic goddesses.
The reason the crowd of whores celebrate these games
Is not a difficult one for us to discover.
The goddess isn’t gloomy, she’s not high-flown,
She wants her rites to be open to the common man,
And warns us to use life’s beauty while it’s in bloom:
The thorn is spurned when the rose has fallen.
Why is it, when white robes are handed out for Ceres,
Flora’s neatly dressed in a host of colours?
Is it because the harvest’s ripe when the ears whiten,
But flowers are of every colour and splendour?
She nods, and flowers fall as her hair flows,
As roses fall when they’re scattered on a table.
There’s still the lights, whose reason escaped me,
Till the goddess dispelled my ignorance like this:
‘Lights are thought to be fitting for my day,
Because the fields glow with crimson flowers,
Or because flowers and flames aren’t dull in colour,
And the splendour of them both attracts the eye:
Or because the licence of night suits my delights,
And this third reason’s nearest to the truth.’
‘There’s one little thing besides, for me to ask,
If you’ll allow,’ I said: and she said: ‘It’s allowed.’
‘Why then are gentle deer and shy hares
Caught in your nets, not Libyan lionesses?’
She replied that gardens not woodlands were her care,
And fields where no wild creatures were allowed.
All was ended: and she vanished into thin air: yet
Her fragrance lingered: you’d have known it was a goddess.
Scatter your gifts, I beg you, over my breast,
So Ovid’s song may flower forever.
Honestly, in some of what is stated here by the goddess in Ovid’s narrative, I’m reminded of some things that Galina Krasskova recently wrote…some things change, but others stay the same, don’t they? I suspect Freya and Flora would get along quite nicely…!
Tomorrow, the continuation of the Floralia coincides with the Venatio Apri and Beltaine, and so we shall see very much indeed what comes of all that…but, perhaps not until the final day of the Floralia. We shall see, we shall see…!
Ave Flora Dea Magna Florum Beatarum!