aleator classicus

Reading at Random in Classical Literature

Horace, Odes 3.2.13

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dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

To die for one’s country is a sweet and seemly thing.

Most familiar nowadays from Wilfred Owen’s poem, this line – ‘the old Lie’ – had already been much quoted. Here, for example, it is spoken by the 11th Lord Lovat at his execution following Culloden:

The story of Lovat’s life, and possibly also his great age, attracted an extraordinary crowd to witness his execution. A scaffold fell, causing the deaths of several people, on which Lovat grimly remarked, ‘The more mischief the better sport.’ When on ascending to the place of execution he saw the immense crowds beneath him, ‘Why,’ he said, ‘should there be such a bustle about taking off an old grey head that cannot get up three steps without two men to support it?’ Before placing his head on the block he, with characteristic appropriation of the noblest sentiments, repeated the line from Horace:

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

Quoted from Byways in the Classics (1905) by Hugh Platt, fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford, a lovely little book I’ve mentioned before. The remaining bit of Lovat’s speech will be coming in a couple of days.

Written by aleatorclassicus

April 20, 2011 at 12:00 PM

Posted in Horace

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  1. […] Lovat’s speech continued, ‘in a vein of becoming moralising’, with this quotation from Ovid. At the debate over who should have the armour of the dead Achilles, Ulysses makes the following observation, urging that the case should be judged purely on its merits: nam genus et proavos, et quae non fecimus ipsi, vix ea nostra voco. […]

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