The Succession of the Hairy Men

by Robert Graves (from I, Claudius)   1934

A hundred years of the Punic Curse
And Rome will be slave to a hairy man,
A hairy man that is scant of hair,
Every man’s woman and each woman’s man.
The steed that he rides will have toes for hooves.
He shall die at the hand of his son, no son,
And not on the field of war.

The hairy one next to enslave the State
Shall be son, no son, of this hairy last.
He shall have hair in a generous mop.
He shall give Rome marble in place of clay
And fetter her fast in unseen chains
And shall die at the hand of his wife, no wife,
To the gain of his son, no son.

The hairy third to enslave the State
Shall be son, no son, of his hairy last.
He shall be mud well mixed with blood,
A hairy man who is scant of hair.
He shall give Rome victories and defeat
And die to the gain of his son, no son —
A pillow shall be his sword.

The hairy fourth to enslave the state
Shall be son, no son, of his hairy last.
A hairy man that is scant of hair,
He shall give Rome poisons and blasphemies
And die from a kick of his aged horse
That carried him as a child.

The hairy fifth to enslave the State,
To enslave the State, though against his will,
Shall be that idiot whom all despised.
He shall have hair in a generous mop.
He shall give Rome water and winter bread
And die at the hand of his wife, no wife,
To the gain of his son, no son.

The hairy sixth to enslave the State
Shall be son, no son, of his hairy last.
He shall give Rome fiddlers and fear and fire.
His hands shall be red with a parent’s blood.
No hairy seventh to him succeeds
And blood shall gush from his tomb.

[Suggested by Timothy Lane] __________________________________________________
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2 Responses to The Succession of the Hairy Men

  1. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I had no idea that Caesar meant “fine head of hair”. Ironic considering Julius started it all.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Of course, the family nickname predated him. It’s been pointed out that many old Roman cognomens were insults (e.g., Cicero meant “chickpea”). One thing I like about this putative sybilline prophecy is the way the history is covered so poetically; for example, the conspiracy to kill Caligula was led by Cassius Chaera — who as a young officer carried the child Caligula out of the army’s camp during the mutiny that followed the death of Augustus. Of course, a few aspects (such as the death of Augustus) reflect Graves’s interpretation more than the historical record.

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