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The Inscriptions from
The Temple of Ancient Virtue

Stowe: The Elysian Fields




Benton Seeley's Guidebook of 1744 provides the text and translations of the inscriptions above each of the statues of the Virtuous Ancients in the Temple and above each of the two doorway arches. These inscriptions appear below.


Epaminondas
Cujus a virtute, prudentia verecundia,
Thebanorum respublica
Libertatem simul & imperium,
Disciplinam bellicam, civilem & domesticam
Accepit;
Eoque amisso, perdidit.

[From whose Valour, Prudence, and Moderation, the Republick of Thebes received both Liberty and Empire; its military, civil, and domestick Discipline; and, with him, lost them.]

Lycurgus
Qui summo cum consilio inventis legibus,
Omnemque contra corruptelam munitis optime,
Pater patriae,
Libertatem firmissimam,
Et mores sanctissimos,
Expulsa cum divitiis avaritia, luxuria, libidine,
In multa secula
Civibus suis instituit.

[Who having invented Laws with the greatest Wisdom, and most excellently fenced them against all Corruption, as a Father of his Country, instituted for his Countrymen the firmest Liberty and the soundest Morality, which endured for many Ages, he having, together with Riches, banished Avarice, Luxury, and Lust.]

Socrates
Qui corruptissima in civitate innocens,
Bonorum hortator, unici cultor DEI,
Ab inutili otio, & vanis disputationibus,
Ad officia vitae, & societatis commoda,
Philosophiam avocavit,
Hominum sapientissimus.

[Who being innocent in a most corrupt State, an Encourager of the Good, a Worshiper of one only God, as the wisest of Men reduced Philosophy from useless Indolence, and vain Disputations, to the Duties of Life, and the Advantages of Society.]

Homerus
Qui poetarum princeps, idem & maximus,
Virtutis praeco, & immortalitatis largitor
Divino carmine,
Ad pulcre audendum, & patiendum fortiter,
Omnibus notus gentibus, omnes incitat.

[Who being the first of Poets, as he was the greatest, the Herald of Virtue, and Bestower of Immortality, known to all Nations, Incites all, in a Divine Poem, honourably to dare, and resolutely to suffer.]

Over one door is the following:
Charum esse civem, bene de republica mereri, laudari, coli, diligi, gloriosum est: metui vero, & in odio esse, invidiosum, detestabile, imbecillum, caducum.

[To be dear to our Country, to deserve well of the State, to be praised, honoured, and beloved, is glorious; but to be dreaded and hated is Matter of ill Will, detestable, weak, ruinous.]

Over the other door is the following:
Justitiam cole & pietatem, quae cum sit magna in parentibus & propinquis, tum in patria maxima est. Ea vita via est in coelum, & in hunc coetum eorum, qui jam vixerunt.

[Maintain Justice, and thy relative Duty; which, as it is great, when exercised toward our Parents and Kindred, so is greater toward our Country. That Life is the Way to Heaven, and to this Assembly of those who have already lived.]


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John D. Tatter, Birmingham-Southern College, jtatter@bsc.edu