Cease, Paullus 1, importuning my tomb with tears; the gate of darkness is not opened to any prayers. What help was there in my marriage to Paullus, in the triumphs of my ancestors, in such illustrious offspring that are witnesses to my fame!
The Fates 2 were no less cruel to Cornelia 3, and I am but a handfull of dust…
If ancestral trophies have ever brought fame and glory to anyone, our statues bespeak ancestors at Numantia 4, a second line gives equal share to the Libones 5 on my mother’s side, and my house is upheld on both sides by their own achievements.
Later, when my girl’s attire gave way to marriage, another kind of ribbon caught up and bound my hair. I was joined to your bed, Paullus, destined to leave it thus: read it on this stone, she was wedded to one alone.
I call to witness the ashes of my ancestors, revered by you, O Rome…
Cornelia never tarnished such spoils of war…
Nay, even in that great house hers was a role to be emulated. My life was never altered, it is wholly without reproach.
I have lived with distinction between the torch of marriage and the torch of death. Nature gave me laws derived from blood, not to be virtuous through pressure of fear or criticism… Nor have I shamed you, my sweet mother Scribonia. 6.
What would you have wished changed in me except my fate? I am praised by my mother’s tears and the laments of the city, and my ashes are covered also by the grief of Caesar 7.
He is saddened because I lived as a worthy half-sister to his daughter 8, and we saw tears come from a god.
And yet, I deserved the dress of honour that is the mark of a fertile woman, nor was I snatched away from a sterile house. You, Lepidus 9, and you, Paullus 10, are my solace after death. My eyes were closed in your bosom.
We have also seen my brother 11 in the curule chair twice, and I, his sister, was snatched away in the happy time when he was consul. And, you, my daughter 12, born to be the token of your father’s censorship, be sure you imitate me and have but one husband.
And, my children, support the house with a line.
I am ready for the boat of death to sail, now that I have so many who will prolong my deeds. This is the highest reward of a woman, her triumph, that common talk praises her in death after a life well lived. And now to you, Paullus, I comment our children, our mutual pledges, this concern of mine still breathes, burned even into my ashes. Father, play the part of a mother’s role; the host of all my children must be the burden of your shoulders. When you kiss them as they weep, add the kisses of their mother. The whole house has begun to be your burden now. And if you are going to weep, do it far away from their eyes. When they come, cheat their kisses with dry cheeks…
Propertius. Elegies. Book IV, no.XI. (Abridged)
1.Lucius Aemilius Paullus Lepidus, consul in 34 B.C. and censor in 22 B.C.
Paullus, married again with Marcella the Younger, who was a widow since 12 B.C., and the daughter of C. Claudius Marcellus, consul 50 B.C., and of Octavia the Younger, sister of Augustus.
2. The Fates: The Three Goddesses, The Parcae, The Three Sisters.
The three Fates were born of Erebus and Night. Clothed in white, they spin,
measure out, and sever the thread of each human life. Clotho spins the thread.
Lachesis measures it. Atropos wields the shears.
3. Cornelia, born about 50-46 B.C., died in 16 B.C., her father was P.Cornelius
Scipio, consulsuffectus in 35 B.C. Cornelia was the second wife of Paullus Aemilius Lepidus, the censor.
4.The victory of P.Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus (An ancestor of Cornelia) over
Numantia in Spain in 133 B.C.
5. Libones: The ancestors of Cornelia, a branch of the Scribonii, the senatorial family.
6. Scribonia, the mother of Cornelia, who later married to Augustus and bore him his only child, Julia. When Julia was banished in A.D.2, Scribonia voluntarily stayed with her until Julia’s death in A.D.16.
7.Augustus: Julius Caesar’s grand-nephew C.Octavius, whom he adopted as his son.
8. Julia, daughter of Augustus and Scribonia, half-sister of Cornelia.
9.M.Aemilius Lepidus, consul 6. Born 30/29 B.C., died A.D.33.(Tac.ann.VI.27,4)
10. L.Aemilius Lepidus, consul 1. Born about 28 B.C., died A.D.13/14.
11.Publius Cornelius Scipio, brother of Cornelia, consul in 16 B.C.
12. Aemilia Lepida, born in 22 B.C. Nothing else is known about her.