Principum Amicitias

Explorator readers are filling my box with a story about a recently rediscovered lifetime portrait of Bill Shakespeare, with the authenticity impinging on the inscription you see at the top, to wit, principum amicitias. Savvy rogueclassicism readers will recognize the line as an excerpt from Horace, Ode 2.1.4, which is addressed to Asinius Pollio. Here’s the incipit of that piece:

MOTVM ex Metello consule ciuicum
bellique causas et uitia et modos
Iudumque Fortunae grauisque
principum amicitias et arma
nondum expiatis uncta cruoribus,
periculosae plenum opus aleae,
tractas et incedis per ignis
suppositos cineri doloso.

(from Bartleby)

Most of the news coverage is translating the two-word phrase as “Beware the friendship of princes”, which is more a translation of the whole passage than those two words. It probably has a positive spin in the painting …

(photo from Time magazine via Wikimedia Commons)

5 thoughts on “Principum Amicitias

  1. Hello Rogue Classicist,

    Can’t resist saying…the authenticity of the painting doesn’t impinge on the Latin inscription; nothing has definitively proven that the painting is indeed of Shakespeare. The words are merely part of the awful lot of circumstantial evidence such as the dating of the wood panel, the painting techniques, and the style of clothing setting it in the right period, and the existence of what are now understood to be copies of this painting, which in fact was long thought to be a painting of – Sir Walter Raleigh! The problem being that it was discovered that one of the said copies, the Janssen, had had his hairline tinkered with and Shakespeare’s age and date added – um – much later…

    Just had a little wander around – cool site!

    Deborah Mends

  2. But my quick reading of the poem as a whole makes it look like a request to Pollio to quit writing tragedy — so if it IS a painting of Shakespeare, and the words WERE recognizable as Horace, that would give it a whole new sense, wouldn’t it?

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