Classical Quarterly 36 (01):177- (1986)

Nisbet and Kraggerud make good cases for taking the ninth Epode as a dramatic recreation of the Actium campaign. Horace begins in fearful anticipation; then the crisis comes, first on land and then on sea; Antony turns to flight; and — even though some danger remains, and there is metus as well as joy at the end of the poem — the celebrations can finally begin. On this reading there remains the familiar problem of vv. 17–20: at huc frementes uerterunt bis mille equos Galli canentes Caesarem, hostiliumque nauium portu latent puppes sinistrorsum citae. The first couplet clearly relates to the defection of Amyntas' Galatians, the decisive moment in the fighting on land; the second must describe the crucial battle on sea. There is no problem in portu latent. The fleet has withdrawn, and is skulking in harbour instead of fighting. But what of nauium…puppes sinistrorsum citae? The difficulty is notorious: the secondary sources do not clearly describe any movement ‘toward the left’, and it is hard to see why Horace chooses so enigmatic a phrase to capture the fighting. His audience would not make much of the topographical detail in any case: unless they had been at Actium themselves , their reaction to the words would centre on other associations — the contrast between these magnificent puppes and their undignified sideways movement; the suggestions of ill omen in sinistrorsum
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DOI 10.1017/S0009838800010636
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