NONNUS OF PANOPOLIS was a Greek poet who flourished in Egypt in the C5th AD. He was the author of the last of the great epic poems of antiquity, the Dionysiaca in 48 books. The work relates the story of Dionysos, centred around his expedition against the Indians.
H. J. Rose aptly summarises the mythology of Nonnus's Dionysiaca as "interesting as the longest and most elaborate example we have of Greek myths in their final stage of degeneracy," but cautions that "anyone who uses Nonnos as a handbook to any sort of normal and genuinely classical mythology will be grievously misled," nevertheless he goes on to say "the searcher into sundry odd corners will be rewarded for his pains, and even those who are studying the subject more generally cannot afford to neglect this belated product of the learned fancy of Hellenized Egypt."
|Nonnus, Dionysiaca. Translated by Rouse, W H D. Loeb Classical Library Volumes 344, 354, 356. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1940.
These three volumes are still in print and are available new from Amazon.com (click on image right for details). In addition to the translation, the book contains the source Greek texts, introductions by Rouse, Rose and Lind, footnotes written by H. J. Rose, and an index of proper names.
DIONYSIACA BOOK 1, TRANSLATED BY W. H. D. ROUSE
The first contains Cronion, light-bearing ravisher of the nymph, and the starry heaven battered by Typhon’s hands.
 Tell the tale, Goddess, of Cronides’ courier with fiery flame, the gasping travail which the thunderbolt brought with sparks for wedding-torches, the lightning in waiting upon Semele’s nuptials; tell the naissance of Bacchos twice-born, whom Zeus lifted still moist from the fire, a baby half-complete born without midwife; how with shrinking hands he cut the incision in his thigh and carried him in his man’s womb, father and gracious mother at once – and well he remembered another birth, when his own head conceived, when his temple was big with child, and he carried that incredible unbegotten lump, until he shot out Athena scintillating in her armour.
 Bring me the fennel, rattle the cymbals, ye Muses! put in my hand the wand of Dionysos whom I sing: but bring me a partner for your dance in the neighbouring island of Paros,1 Proteus of many turns, that he may appear in all his diversity of shapes, since I twang my harp to a diversity of songs. For if, as a serpent, he should glide along his winding trail, I will sing my god’s achievement, how with ivy-wreathed wand he destroyed the horrid hosts of Giants serpent-haired. If as a lion he shake his bristling mane, I will cry “Euoi!” to Bacchos on the arm of buxom Rheia, stealthily draining the breast of the lionbreeding goddess. If as a leopard he shoot up into the air with a stormy leap from his pads, changing shape like a master-craftsman, I will hymn the son of Zeus, how he slew the Indian nation, with his team of pards riding down the elephants. If he make his figure like the shape of a boar, I will sing Thyone’s son, love-sick for Aura the desirable, boarslayer, daughter of Cybele, mother of the third Bacchos late-born.2 If he be mimic water, I will sing Dionysos diving into the bosom of the brine, when Lycurgos3 armed himself. If he become a quivering tree and tune a counterfeit whispering, I will tell of Icarios,4 how in the jubilant winepress his feet crushed the grape in rivalry.
 Bring me the fennel, Mimallons!5 On my shoulders in place of the wonted kirtle, bind, I pray, tight over my breast a dapple-back fawnskin, full of the perfume of Maronian nectar6; and let Homer and deep-sea Eidothea keep the rank skin of the seals for Menelaos. Give me the jocund tambours and the goatskins! but leave for another the double-sounding pipe with its melodious sweetness, or I may offend my own Apollo; for he rejects the sound of breathing reeds, ever since he put to shame Marsyas7 and his god-defiant pipes, and bared every limb of the skin-stript shepherd, and hung his skin on a tree to belly in the breezes.
 Then come now, Goddess, begin with the long search and the travels of Cadmos.
 Once on the Sidonian beach Zeus as a high-horned bull imitated an amorous bellow with his changeling throat, and felt a charming thrill; little Eros heaved up a woman, with his two arms encircling her middle. And while he lifted her, at his side the sea-faring bull curved his neck downwards, spread under the girl to mount, sinking sideways on his knees, and stretching his back submissive, he raised up Europa; then the bull pressed on, and his floating hoof furrowed the water of the trodden brine noiselessly with forbearing footsteps. High above the sea, the girl throbbing with fear navigated on bullback, unmoving, unwetted. If you saw her you would think it was Thetis perhaps, or Galateia, or Earthshaker’s bedfellow,8 or Aphrodite seated on Triton’s neck. Aye, Seabluehair9 marvelled at the waddle-foot voyage10; Triton heard the delusive lowing of Zeus, and bellowed an echoing note to Cronos’ son with his conch by way of wedding song; Nereus pointed out to Doris11 the woman carried along, mingling wonder with fear as he saw the strange voyager and his horns.
 But the maiden, a light freight for her bull-barge, sailed along oxriding, with a horn for steering-oar, and trembled at the high heaving of her watery course, while Desire was the seaman. And artful Boreas bellied out all her shaking robe with amorous breath, love-sick himself, and in secret jealousy, whistled on the pair of unripe breasts. As when one of the Nereids has peeped out of the sea, and seated upon a dolphin cuts the flooding calm, balanced there while she paddles with a wet hand and pretends to swim, while the watery wayfarer half-seen rounds his back and carries her dry through the brine, while the cleft tail of the fish passing through the sea scratches the surface in its course, – so the bull lifted his back: and while the bull stretched, his drover Eros flogged the servile neck with his charmed girdle, and lifting bow on shoulder like a pastoral staff, shepherded Hera’s bridegroom with Cypris’ crook, driving him to Poseidon’s watery pasture. Shame purpled the maiden cheek of Pallas unmothered,12 when she spied Cronion ridden by a woman. So Zeus clove the course with watery furrow, but the deep sea did not quench his passion – for did not the water conceive Aphrodite by a heavenly husbandry, and bring her forth from the deeps? Thus a girl steered the bull’s unboisterous passage, herself at once both pilot and cargo.
 One saw this mimic ship of the sea, alive and nimble-kneed, – an Achaian seaman passing by, and he cried out in this fashion: “O my eyes, what’s this miracle? how comes it that he cuts the waves with his legs, and swims over the barren sea, this land-pasturing bull? Navigable earth – is that the new creation of Cronides? Shall the farmer’s wain trace a watery rut through the brine-sprent deep? That’s a bastard voyage I descry upon the waves! Surely Selene13 has gotten an unruly bull, and leaves the sky to traipse over the high seas! Or no – deepwater Thetis drives a coach on a floating racecourse! This sea-bull is a creature very different from the land-bull, has a fishlike shape; must be a Nereïd with other looks, not naked now, but in long flowing robes, driving this bull unbridled to march afoot on the waters, a new fashion that! If it is Demeter wheatenhaired, cleaving the gray back of the sea with waterfaring oxhoof, then thou, Poseidon, must have turned landlubber and migrated to the thirsty back of earth, afoot behind the plow, and cut Demeter’s furrow with thy sea-vessel, blown by land-winds, tramping a voyage on the soil! Bull, you are astray out of your country; Nereus is no bulldrover, Proteus no plowman, Glaucos14 no gardener; no marshground, no meadows in the billows; on the barren sea there’s no tillage, but sailors cut the ship-harbouring water with a steering-oar, and do not split with iron; Earthshaker’s hinds do not sow in the furrows, but the sea’s plant is seaweed, sea’s sowing is water, the sailor is the farmer, the only furrow is the ship’s grain and wake,15 the hooker is the plow.
 “But how came you to have dealings with a maid? Do bulls also go mad with love, and ravish women? Has Poseidon played a trick, and ravished a girl under the shape of a horned bull like a river-god? Has he woven another plot to follow the bedding of Tyro, just as he did the other day, when the watery paramour came trickling up with counterfeit ripples like a bastard Enipeus?” 16
 So the Hellenic sailor spoke his amazement as he passed by. Then the girl presaged her union with the bull; and tearing her hair, she broke out in lamentable tones: “Deaf Water, voiceless Coasts! Say to the Bull, if cattle can hear and hearken, ‘Merciless, spare a girl!’ Ye Coasts, pray tell my loving father that Europa has left her native land, seated upon a bull, my ravisher, my sailor, and I think, my bed-fellow. Take these ringlets to my mother, ye circling Breezes. Aye Boreas, I conjure thee, receive me on thy pinions in the air, as thou didst ravish thine Athenian bride!17 But stay, my voice! or I may see Boreas in love, like the Bull!” So the girl spoke, as the bull ferried her on his back.
 Then Cadmos, passing in his travels from land to land, followed the never-staying tracks of the bull turned bridesman. He came to the bloodstained cave of Arima,18 when the mountains had moved from their seats and were beating at the gate of inexpugnable Olympos, when the gods took wing above the rainless Nile, like a flight of birds far out of reach, oaring their strange track in the winds of heaven, and the seven zones of the sky19 were sore assailed.
 This was the reason. Zeus Cronides had hurried to Pluto’s bed,20 to beget Tantalos, that mad robber of the heavenly cups21; and he laid his celestial weapons well hidden with his lightning in a deep cavern. From underground the thunderbolts belched out smoke, the white cliff was blackened; hidden sparks from a fire-barbed arrow heated the watersprings; torrents boiling with foam and steam poured down the Mygdonian gorge, until it boomed again.
 Then at a nod from his mother, the Earth, Cilician Typhoeus stretched out his hands, and stole the snowy tools of Zeus,22 the tools of fire; then spreading his row of rumble-rattling throats, he yelled as his warcry the cries of all wild beasts together: the snakes that grew from him waved over his leopards’ heads, licked the grim lions’ manes, girdled with their curly tails spiral-wise round the bulls’ horns, mingled the shooting poison of their long thin tongues with the foam-spittle of the boars.23
 Now he laid the gear of Cronides in a cubby-hole of the rock, and spread the harvest of his clambering hands24 into the upper air. 165 ff And that battalion of hands! One throttled Cynosuris25 beside the ankle-tip of Olympos; one gripped the Parrhasian Bear’s mane as the rested on heaven’s axis, and dragged her off26; another caught the Oxdrover and knocked him out; another dragged Phosphoros, and in vain under the circling turning-post sounded the whistling of the heavenly lash in the morning; he carried off the Dawn, and held in the Bull, so that timeless, half-complete, horsewoman Season rested her team. And in the shadowy curls of his serpenthair heads the light was mingled with gloom; the Moon shone rising in broad day with the Sun.
 Still there was no rest. The Giant turned back, and passed from north to south; he left one pole and stood by the other. With a long arm he grasped the Charioteer, and flogged the back of hailstorming Aigoceros; he dragged the two Fishes out of the sky and cast them into the sea; he buffeted the Ram, that midnipple star of Olympos, who balances with equal pin day and darkness over the fiery orb of his spring-time neighbour.27 With trailing feet Typhoeus mounted close to the clouds: spreading abroad the far-scattered host of his arms, he shadowed the bright radiance of the unclouded sky by darting forth his tangled army of snakes. One of them ran up right through the rim of the polar circuit and skipt upon the backbone of the heavenly Serpent, hissing his mortal challenge. One made for Cepheus’s daughter,28 and with starry fingers twisting a ring as close as the other, enchained Andromeda, bound already, with a second bond aslant under her bands. Another, a horned serpent, entwined about the forked horns of the Bull’s horned head of shape like his own, and dangled coiling over the Bull’s brow, tormenting with open jaws the Hyades opposite ranged like a crescent moon. Poison-spitting tangles of serpents in a bunch girdled the Ox-drover. Another made a bold leap, when he saw another Snake in Olympos, and jumped around the Ophiuchos’s arm that held the viper; then curving his neck and coiling his crawling belly, he braided a second chaplet about Ariadne’s crown.
 Then Typhoeus manyarmed turned to both ends, shaking with his host of arms the girdle of Zephryos and the wing of Euros opposite, dragging first Phosphoros, then Hesperos and the crest of Atlas. Many a time in the weedy gulf he seized Poseidon’s chariot, and dragged it from the depths of the sea to land; again he pulled out a stallion by his brine-soaked mane from the undersea manger, and threw the vagabond nag to the vault of heaven, shooting his shot at Olympos – hit the Sun’s chariot, and the horses on their round whinnied under the yoke. Many a time he took a bull at rest from his rustic plowtree and shook him with a threatening hand, bellow as he would, then shot him against the Moon like another moon, and stayed her course, then rushed hissing against the goddess, checking with the bridle her bulls’ white yoke-straps, while he poured out the mortal whistle of a poison-spitting viper.
 But Titan Mene29 would not yield to the attack. Battling against the Giant’s heads, like-horned to hers, she cared many a scar on the shining orb of her bull’s horn30; and Selene’s radiant cattle bellowed amazed at the gaping chasm of Typhaon’s throat. The Seasons undaunted armed the starry battalions, and the lines of heavenly Constellations in a disciplined circle came shining to the fray. A varied host maddened the upper air with clamour and with flame: some whose portion was Boreas, others the back of Lips in the west, or the eastern zones or the recesses of the south. The unshaken congregation of the fixt stars with unanimous acclamation left their places and caught up their travelling fellows. The axis passing through the heaven’s hollow and fixt upright in the midst, groaned at the sound. Orion the hunter, seeing these tribes of wild beasts,31 drew his sword; the blade of the Tanagraian brand sparkled bright as its master made ready for attack; his thirsty32 Dog, shooting light from his fiery chin, bubbled up in his starry throat and let out a hot bark, and blew out the steam from his teeth against Typhaon’s beasts instead of the usual hare. The sky was full of din, and, answering the seven-zoned heaven, the seven-throated cry of the Pleiads raised the war-shout from as many throats; and the planets as many again banged out an equal noise.
 Radiant Ophiuchos, seeing the Giant’s direful snaky shape, from his hands so potent against evil shook off the gray coils of the fire-bred serpents, and shot the dappled coiling missile, while tempests roared round his flames – the viper-arrows flew slanting and maddened the air. Then the Archer33 let fly a shaft, – that bold comrade of fish-like Aigoceros34; the Dragon, divided between the two Bears, and visible within the circle of the Wain, brandished the fiery trail of the heavenly spine; the Oxherd, Erigone’s neighbour, attendant driver of the Wain, hurled his crook with flashing arm; beside the knee of the Image35 and his neighbour the Swan, the starry Lyre presaged the victory of Zeus.
 Now Typhoeus shifted to the rocks, leaving the air, to flog the seas. He grasped and shook the peak of Corycios,36 and crushing the flood of the river that belongs to Cicilica, joined Tarsos and Cydnos together in one hand; then hurled a volley of cliffs upon the mustered waves of the brine. As the Giant advanced with feet trailing in the briny flood, his bare loins were seen dry through the water, which broke heavy against his mid-thigh crashing and booming; his serpents afloat sounded the charge with hissings from brine-beaten throats, and spitting poison led the attack upon the sea. There stood Typhon in the fish-giving sea, his feet firm in the depths of the weedy bottom, his belly in the air and crushed in clouds: hearing the terrible roar from the mane-bristling lions of his giant’s head, the sea-lion lurked in the oozy gulf. There was no room in the deep for all its phalanx of leviathans, since the Earthborn monster covered a whole sea, larger than the land, with flanks that no sea could cover. The seals bleated, the dolphins hid in the deep water; the manyfooted squid, a master of craft, weaving his trailing web of crisscross knots, stuck fast on his familiar rock, making his limbs look like a pattern on the stone. All the world was a-tremble: the love-maddened murry herself,37 drawn by her passion for the serpent’s bed, shivered under the god-desecrating breath of these seafaring serpents. The waters piled up and touched Olympos with precipitous seas; as the streams mounted on high, the bird never touched by rain found the sea his neighbour, and washed himself. Typhoeus, holding a counterfeit of the deep-sea trident, with one earthshaking flip from his enormous hand broke off an island at the edge of the continent which is the kerb of the brine, circled it round and round, and hurled the whole thing like a ball. And while the Giant waged his war, his hurtling arms drew near to the stars, and obscured the sun, as they attacked Olympos, and cast the precipitous crag.
 Now after the frontier of the deep, after the well-laid foundation of the earth, this bastard Zeus armed his hand with fire-barbed thunderbolt: raising the gear of Zeus was hard work for the monster Typhoeus with two hundred furious hands, so great was the weight; but Cronion would lightly lift it with one hand. No clouds were about the Giant: against his dry arms, the thunder let out a dull-sounding note booming gently without a clap, and in the drought of the air scarcely did a thirsty dew trickle in snowflakes without a drop in them; the lightning was dim, and only a softish flame shone sparkling shamefacedly, like smoke shot with flame. The thunderbolts felt the hands of a novice, and all their manly blaze was unmanned. Often they slipped out of those many many hands, and went leaping of themselves; the brands went astray, missing the familiar hand of their heavenly master. As a man beats a horse that loathes the bit, – some stranger, a novice untaught, flogging a restive nag, as he tries again and again in vain, and the defiant beast knows by instinct the changeling hand of an unfamiliar driver, leaping madly, rearing straight into the air with hind-hooves planted immovable, lifting the forelegs and pawing out to the front, raising the neck till the mane is shaken abroad over both shoulders at once: so the monster laboured with this hand or that to lift the fugitive flash of the roving thunderbolt.
 Well, at the very time when Cadmos paid his visit to Arima in his wanderings, the seafaring bull set down the girl from his withers, quite dry, upon the shore by Dicte38; but Hera saw Cronides shaken with passion, and mad with jealousy she called out with an angry laugh:
 39 “Phoibos, go and stand by your father, or some plowman may catch Zeus and put him to some earth-shaking plowtree. I wish one would catch him and put him to the plow! Then I could shout to my lord – ‘Learn to bear two goads now, Cupid’s (Eros’s’) and the farmer’s! You must be verily Lord of Pastures, my fine Archer, and shepherd your parent, or cattle-driver Selene may put Cronides under the yoke, she may score Zeus’s back with her merciless lash when she is off to herdsman Endymion’s bed in a hurry! Zeus your Majesty! it is a pity Io40 did not see you coming like that to court her, when she was a heifer with horns on her forehead! she might have bred you a little bull as horny as his father! Look out for Hermes! The professional cattle-lifter may think he is catching a bull and steal his own father! He may give his harp once again to your son Phoibos, as price for the ravisher ravished.41 But what can I do? If only Argos were still alive, shining all over with sleepless eyes, that he might be Hera’s drover, and drag Zeus to some inaccessible pasture, and prod his flanks with a crook!’”
 So much for Hera. But Cronides put off his bull-faced form, and in the shape of a young man ran round the innocent girl. He touched her limbs, loosed first the bodice about the maid’s bosom, pressed as if by chance the swelling circle of the firm breast, kissed the tip of her lip, then silently undid the holy girdle of unwedded virginity, so well guarded, and plucked the fruit of love hardly ripe.
 Soon her womb swelled, quick with twin progeny; and Zeus the husband passed over his bride with the divine offspring in her womb, to Asterion,42 a consort of rich fortune. Then rising beside the Charioteer’s ankle the bridegroom Bull of Olympos sparkled with stars, he who keeps his dewloving back for the Sun in the springtime, crouching upon his hams across the path as he rises: half submerged in the sea, he shows himself holding out his right foot towards Orion, and at evening quickens his pace into the circle and passes the Charioteer who rises with him to run his course.43 So he was established in the heavens.
 But Typhoeus was no longer to hold the gear of Zeus. For now Zeus Cronides along with Archer Eros left the circling pole, and met roving Cadmos amid the mountains on his wandering search; then he devised with him an ingenious plan, and entwined the deadly threads of Moira’s spindle for Typhon. And Goatherd Pan who went with him gave Zeus Almighty cattle and sheep and rows of horned goats. Then he built a hut with mats of wattled reeds and fixed it on the ground: he put on Cadmos a shepherd’s dress, so that no one could know him in disguise, when he had clad his sham herdsman in this make-believe costume; he gave clever Cadmos the deceiving panpipes, part of the plot to pilot Typhaon to his death.
 Now Zeus called the counterfeit herdsman and the winged controller of generation,44 and disclosed this one common plan: “Look alive, Cadmos, pipe away and there shall be fine weather in heaven! Delay, and Olympos is scourged! for Typhoeus is armed with my heavenly weapons. Only the aegis-cape is left me; but what will my aegis do fighting with Typhon’s thunderbolt? I fear old Cronos may laugh aloud, I am shy of the proud neck of my lordly adversary Iapetos! I fear Hellas even more, that mother of romances – what if one of that nation call Typhon Lord of Rain, or Highest, and Ruling in the Heights,45 defiling my name! Become a herdsman for one day-dawn; make a tune on your mindbefooling shepherd’s pipes, and save the Shepherd of the Universe, that I may not hear the noise of Cloud-gatherer Typhoeus, the thunders of a new46 impostor Zeus, that I may stop his battling with lightnings and volleying with thunderbolts! If the blood of Zeus is in you, and the breed of Inachian Io,47 bewitch Typhon’s wits by the sovereign remedy of your guileful pipes and their tune! I will give you ample recompense for your service, two gifts: I will make you saviour of the world’s harmony, and the husband of the lady Harmonia. You also, Love, primeval founder of fecund marriage, bend your bow, and the universe is no longer adrift. If all things come from you, friendly shepherd of life, draw one shot more and save all things. As fiery god, arm yourself against Typhon, and by your help let the fiery thunderbolts return to my hand. All-vanquisher, strike one with your fire, and may your charmed shot catch one whom Cronion did not defeat; and may he have madness from the mind-bewitching tune of Cadmos, as much as I had passion for Europa’s embrace!”
 With these words Zeus passed away in the shape of the horned Bull, from which the Tauros Mountain takes its name.
 But Cadmos tuned up the deceitful notes of his harmonious reeds, as he reclined under a neighbouring tree in the pasturing woodland; wearing the country garb of a real herdsman, he sent the deluding tune to Typhaon’s ears, puffing his cheeks to blow the soft breath. The Giant loved music, and when he heard this delusive melody, he leapt up and dragged along his viperish feet; he left in a cave the flaming weapons of Zeus with Mother Earth to keep them, and followed the notes to seek the neighbouring tune of the pipes which delighted his soul. There he was seen by Cadmos near the bushes, who was sore afraid and hid in a cleft of the rock. But the monster Typhoeus with head high in air saw him trying to hide himself, and beckoned with voiceless signs, nor did he understand the trick in this beautiful music; then face to face with the shepherd, he held out one right hand, not seeing the net of destruction, and with his middle face, blood-red and human in shape, he laughed aloud and burst into empty boasts:
 “Why do you fear me, goatherd? Why do you cover your eyes with your hand? A fine feat I should think it to pursue a mortal man, after Cronion! A fine feat to carry off panspipes alone with the lightning! What have reeds to do with flaming thunderbolts? Keep your pipes alone, since Typhoeus possesses another kind of organ, the Olympian, which plays by itself! There sits Zeus, without his clouds, hands unrumbling, none of his usual noise – he could do with your pipes. Let him have your handful of reeds to play. I don’t join worthless reeds to other reeds in a row and wave them about, but I roll up clouds upon clouds into a lump, and discharge a bang all at once with rumblings all over the sky!
 “Let’s have a friendly match, if you like. Come on, you make music and sound your reedy tune, I will crash my thundery tune. You puff our your cheek all swollen with wind, and blow with your lips, but Boreas is my blower, and my thunderbolts boom when his breath flogs them. Drover, I will pay you for your pipes: for when I shall hold the sceptre instead of Zeus, and drive the heavenly throne, you shall come with me; leave the earth and I will bring you to heaven pipes and all, with your flock too if you like, you shall not be parted from your herd. I’ll settle your goats over the backbone of Aigoceros, one of the same breed; or near the Charioteer, who pushes the shining Olenian She-goat48 in Olympos with his sparkling arm.49 I’ll put your cattle beside the rainy Bull’s broad shoulder and make them stars rising in Olympos, or near the dewy turning-piont50 where Selene’s cattle send out a windy moo from their life-warming throats. You will not want your little hut. Instead of your bushes, let your flock go flashing with the ethereal Kids: I will make them another crib, to shine beside the Asses’ Crib and as good as theirs. Be a star yourself instead of a drover, where the Ox-driver is seen; wield a starry goad yourself, and drive the Bear’s Lycaonian wain. Happy shepherd, be heavenly Typhon’s guest at table: tune up on earth to-day, to-morrow in heaven! You shall have ample recompense for your song: I will establish your face in the starlit circle of heaven, and join your tuneful pipes to the heavenly Harp. If you like, I will give you Athena for your holy bride: if you do not care for Grayeyes,51 take Leto, or Charis, or Cythereia, or Artemis, or Hebe to wife. Only don’t ask me for my Hera’s bed. If you have a horse-master brother who can manage a team, let him take Helios’ fiery four-in-hand. If you want to wield the goatskin cape of Zeus, being a goatherd, I will make you a present of that too. I mean to march into Olympos caring nothing for Zeus unarmed; and what could Athena do to me with her armour? – a female! Srike up ‘See the Conquering Typhon comes,’ you herdsman! Sing the new lawful sovereign of Olympos in me, bearing he sceptre of Zeus and his robe of lightning!”
 He spoke, and Adrasteia52 took note of his words thus far. But when Cadmos understood that the son of Earth had been carried by Fate’s thread into his hunting-net, a willing captive, struck by the delightful sting of those soul-delighting reeds, unsmiling he uttered this artful speech:
 “You liked the little tune of my pipes, when you heard it; tell me, what would you do when I strike out a hymn of victory on the harp of seven strings, to honour your throne? Indeed, I matched myself against Phoibos with his heavenly quill, and beat him with my own harp, but Cronides burnt to dust my fine ringing strings with a thunderbolt, to please his beaten son! But if ever I find again the swelling sinews,53 I will strike up a tune with my quills to bewitch all the trees and the mountains and the temper of wild beasts. I will drag back Oceanos, that coronet self-wreathed about the earth and old as earth herself,54 I will make him hasten and bring his stream rolling back upon himself round the same road. I will stay the army of fixed stars, and the racing planets, and Phaëthon,55 and Selene’s carriage-pole. But when you strike Zeus and the gods with your thunderbolt, do leave only the Archer, that while Typhon feasts at his table, I and Phoibos may have a match, and see which will beat which in celebrating mighty Typhon! And do not kill the dancing Pierides, that they may weave the women’s lay harmonious with our manly song when Phoibos or your shepherd leads the merry dance!”
 He finished; and Typhoeus bowed his flashing eyebrows and shook his locks: every hair belched viper-poison and drenched the hills.56 Quick he returned to his cave, took up and brought out the sinews of Zeus,57 and gave them to crafty Cadmos as the guest’s gift; they had fallen on the ground in the battle with Typhaon.
 The deceitful shepherd thanked him for the immortal gift; he handled the sinews carefully, as if they were to be strung on the harp, and hid them in a hole in the rock, kept safe for Zeus Giant-slayer. Then with pursed-up lips he let out a soft and gentle breath, pressing the reeds and stealing the notes, and sounded a tune more dainty than ever. Typhoeus pricked up all his many ears and listened to the melody, and knew nothing. The Giant was bewitched, while the false shepherd whistled by his side, as if sounding the rout of the immortals with his pipes; but he was celebrating the soon-coming victory of Zeus, and singing the fate of Typhon to Typhon sitting by his side. So he excited him to frenzy even more; and as a lusty youth enamoured is bewitched by delicious thrills by the side of a maiden his agemate, and gazes now at the silvery round of her charming face, now at a straying curl of her thick hair, now again at a rosy hand, or notes the circle of her blushing breast pressed by the bodice, and watches the bare neck, as he delights to let his eye run over and over her body never satisfied, and never will leave his girl – so Typhoeus yielded his whole soul to Cadmos for the melody to charm.
1. The island (now part of Egypt) on which Menelaos caught Proteus, Od. iv. 351 ff. Nonnus came from Panopolis in neighbouring Egypt.
2. Thyone is one of the names of Semele. Aura, for whom see inf., xlviii. 238 ff., was one of the nymphs of Artemis, hence a huntress. There are many traditions about the birth and birthplace of Dionysos, and hence it came to be thought that there were several deities confused. Diodorus (iii. 63) gives five, Cicero three (Nat. Deor. iii. 23). The third here is Iacchos.
3. A Thracian king who persecuted Dionysos; see inf., xx. 182 ff.
4. An Athenian hero to whom Dionysos taught the cultivation of the vine; see inf., xlvii. 34 ff.
5. Macedonian name of the bacchants.
6. Maron was a fine wine, from Maroneia in Thrace; cf. Hom. Od. ix. 197. Menelaos and the seals, Hom. Od. iv. 406.
7. Athena invented the pipes, but threw the instrument away. Marsyas picked it up, and was so pleased with it that he challenged Apollo to a musical contest. Apollo won, and flayed Marsyas alive.
10. eilipous, Homer’s word for the waddling gait of cattle, “skew-the-dew” as the English call it.
11. Respectively the father of the Nereids and one of his daughters.
12. So called because she was born from the head of Zeus.
13. Very occasionally the Moon-goddess drives or rides a bull, because the astrological exaltation (hupsôma) of the Moon is in Taurus.
14. Of Potniai in Boeotia, a fisher who was changed by a magic herb into a merman.
15. If a line be drawn along the ship’s course, the part ahead is called the grain, the part astern is the wake.
16. Tyro, daughter of Salmoneus, loved by the river-god Enipeus; Poseidon took his shape (hence “horned,” for all river-gods have bulls’ horns), and so got access to her. Compare Hom. Od. xi. 238.
17. Oreithyia, daughter of Erechtheus, king of Athens.
18. A mountain range in Asia Minor under which the monster Typhoeus was said to be laid, according to one story. Compare Hom. Il. ii. 783.
19. The course of the seven planets about the pole.
20. Pluto (not Pluton), daughter of Cronos and mother of Tantalos.
21. Tantalos stole the divine (food and) drink and gave it to men.
22. Odd, but intelligible; lightning is a sign of coming snow, Il. x. 7. But in Nonnos, niphetos is often a storm, or showers of rain.
23. The hundred heads of the monster had the shapes of all kinds of animals: hence sumphuees. He had two hundred hands. Compare Hesiod, Theogony 825 ff.
24. i.e. his hands which were as numerous as cornstalks in a field.
25. A variant of Cynosura.
27. For the Ram and spring-time, see xxxviii. 269.
29. The Moon.
30. Nonnos pictures the moon as Isis-Hathor, with horns and a disk between them.
31. The heads of Typhoeus. Before becoming a constellation Orion was a Boeotian (hence loosely Tanagraian) hunter. [Orion was born at Hyrai, in the territory of Tanagra.]
32. Because it rises in the dog-days.
34. Capricorn, represented as a fish-tailed goat.
35. A kneeling man, called now Hercules, but by the Greeks eidolon aiston, or Eggonasin, Latinized as Engonasin.
36. A rock on the coast of Asia Minor, near Erythrai. The Cydnos runs through the city of Tarsos.
37. The loves of the murry, or lamprey, and viper are told by Aelian (Hist. An. i. 50).
38. A mountain in Crete.
39. Hera’s speech is a mass of allusions. Apollo has the title Nomios, He of the Pastures (330), having been in all probability a god of herdsmen originally. For Selene’s ox-team (331), cf. note on 97; she loved Endymion of Latmos and visited him while he slept.
40. Io, daughter of the Argive River Inachos, was loved by Zeus, who turned her into a heifer to hide her from Hera; the latter set Argos to watch her with his unsleeping eyes, which he did till Hermes killed him. Hermes, the day he was born, stole Apollo’s cattle, and made his peace with the elder god by giving him the lyre which he had just invented.
41. See the Homeric Hymn to Hermes.
42. King of Crete.
43. Imitated closely from Aratos 174-178.
45. The first two epithets are well-known titles of Zeus.
46. The other one presumably was Salmoneus, see Virgil, Aen. vi. 585 ff.
47. Zeus = Io –– Epaphos –– Libye –– Belos –– Agenor = Argiope –– Cadmos.
48. Amaltheia, who gave milk to the infant Zeus and was placed among the stars. She came from Olenos in the Peloponnese. [The goat stands on the left (olenos) shoulder of Auriga].
49. The allusion are to the constellations Capricorn, Aurgia, Capella, Haedi, the two Asses and the faint little group of stars between them known as the Manger, the arctic constellations already mentioned above, 165, and finally (467) to Lyra.
50. “The spring equinox,” see vi. 237. The puzzling word nussa is discussed by Stegemann, Astrologie, p. 30.
51. The standing epithet of Athena.
53. See 512; this is just mentioned by the way.
54. Oceanos is conceived as a river running round the earth at its limit.
55. Here, as often, the sun.
56. A memory of Hom. Il. i. 528 ê kai kuaneêsin ep’ ophrusi neuse Kroniôn, ambrosiai d’ ara chaitai eperrôsanto anaktos kratos ap’ athanatoioi megan d’ elelizen Olumpon.
57. The story is obscurely told, and probably Nonnos did not understand it; it is obviously old. By some device or by a well-aimed blow, Typhon had evidently cut the sinews out of Zeus’ arms, thus disabling him; Cadmos now gets them back by pretending that he wants them for harp-strings. So fantastic a tale may well be genuinely Oriental, as fits the locality, not Greek at all; there are in various parts of the world tales, mostly savage, of a similar loss and recovery of important parts of the body.
165 ff. Nonnos is fond of displaying his very inaccurate astronomical learning. Here Cynosuris is Cynosura, in the constellation Ursa Minor; but as Typhon reaches for it with one hand while the other grasps the Great Bear and Nonnos describes it as being “by the ankle of the sky” [probably because the Bear appears to turn around the pole by its ankle]. The Parrhasian Bear is Callisto, daughter of Lycaon, king of Arcadia, in which Mt Parrhasion lies; she was turned by Zeus into the constellation Ursa Major. Boötes, the Ox-driver, otherwise Arctophylax, the Bearward, is immediately behind her. Phosphoros was the morning star, the planet now called Venus, which rising on the horizon before the sun is said to be under the “circling turning-post” of the sky, i.e. drives around the edges of it; the nussa, Latin meta, was the post around which the chariots turned in a race. The heavenly bodies are quite commonly spoken of as riding or driving. The Bull being one of the signs of the Zodiac, if Typhon was interfering with it the sun could not pass through, and so the season (late spring) could not be completed. By grasping at once Aurgia and Capricorn, – the latter is “hailstorm” because it is the sign of the winter solstice, – the Giant reaches clean across the sky from east to west, 178-179. The Ram is the “mid-navel” of the heavens, not because it is anywhere near the Pole, but because it is the sign from which the astronomical year conventionally stars; its fiery neighbour is the Sun, which is theoretically in Aries in spring. The “heavenly serpent” (189) is the constellation Draco, near the Pole; Cepheus’ daughter is here the constellation Andromeda. The serpent which is attacking the Bull, i.e. the constellation Taurus (194), since it is hanging from his horns, has its head somewhere near the Hyades, the little crescent-shaped group of stars near his nose. The “other snake” of 199 is not Draco, but he serpent which Ophiuchus holds. Ariadne’s, or the Northern, crown is the wedding-wreath of Ariadne, daughter of Minos, made a constellation by Dionysos to celebrate her union with him. In 206 the crest of Atlas (the mountain) is dragged along with the evening star to the morning star (Nonnos did not know, or had forgotten, that the two are one and the same), because it represents the extreme west for most Greek geographers and, being the metamorphosed head of the Titan who supported the sky, could be brought in along with the stars themselves. For an explanation of 215, see note on 97.