DIONYSIACA BOOK 6, TRANSLATED BY W. H. D. ROUSE
Look for marvels in the sixth, where in honouring Zagreus, all the settlements on the earth were drowned by Rainy Zeus.
 Not the Father alone felt desire; but all that dwelt in Olympos had the same, struck by one bolt, and wooed for a union with Deo’s divine daughter. Then Deo lost the brightness of her rosy face, her swelling heart was lashed by sorrows. She untied the fruitful frontlet1 from her head, and shook loose the long locks of hair over her neck, trembling for her girl; the cheeks of the goddess were moistened with self-running tears, in her sorrow that so many wooers had been stung with one fiery shot for a struggle of rival wooing, by maddening Eros, all contending together for their loves. From all the bounteous mother shrank, but specially she feared Hephaistos to be her daughter’s lame bedfellow.
 15 ff She hastened with quick foot to the house of Astraios the god of prophecy; her hair flowed behind her unbraided and the clusters were shaking in the fitful winds. Eosphoros2 saw her and brought the news. Old Astraios heard it and arose; he had covered the surface of a table with dark dust,3 where he was describing in traced lines a circle with the tooth of his rounding tool, within which he inscribed a square in the dark ashes, and another figure with three equal sides and angles. He left all this, and rose and came towards the door to meet Demeter. As they hastened through the hall, Hesperos led Deo to a chair beside his father’s seat4; with equal affection the Winds, the sons of Astraios, welcomed the goddess with refreshing cups of nectar which was ready mixt in the bowl. But Deo refused to drink, being tipsy with Persephone’s trouble: parents of an only child ever tremble for their beloved children.
 But Astraios was one of sweet words, who possessed mind-bewitching Persuasion, and with great pains he persuaded Deo to consent while still denying. Then the ancient prepared a great spread, that he might dispel Demeter’s heart-piercing cares by his tables. The four Winds fitted aprons round their waists as their father’s waiters. Euros held out the cups by the mixing-bowl and poured in the nectar, Notos had the water ready in his jug for the meal,5 Boreas brought the ambrosia and set it on the table, Zephyros fingering the notes of the hoboy made a tune on his reeds of spring-time – a womanish Wind this! Eosphoros plaited garlands of flowers in posies yet proud with the morning dew; Hesperos held aloft the torch which is wont to give light in the night, and spun about with dancing leg while he tossed high his curving foot – for he is the escort of the Loves, well practised in the skipping tracery of the bridal dance.
 After the banquet, as soon as the goddess had had enough of the dance, she threw off the heavy goad of mindmaddening care and inquired of the seer’s art. She laid her left hand on the knees of the kindly ancient, and with her right touched his deepflowing beard in supplication. She recounted all her daughter’s wooers and craved a comfortable oracle; for divinations can steal away anxieties by means of hopes to come.
 Nor did old Astraios refuse. He learnt the details of the day when her only child was new born, and the exact time and veritable course of the season which gave her birth; then he bent the turning fingers of his hands and measured the moving circle of the ever-recurring number counting from hand to hand in double exchange.6 He called a servant, and Asterion lifted a round revolving sphere, the shape of the sky, the image of the universe, and laid it upon the lid of a chest. Here the ancient got to work. He turned it upon its pivot, and directed his gaze round the circle of the Zodiac, scanning in this place and that planets and fixed stars. He rolled the pole about with push, and the counterfeit sky went rapidly round and round in mobile course with a perpetual movement, carrying the artificial stars about the axle set through the middle. Observing the sphere with a glance all round, the deity found that the Moon at the full was crossing the curved line of her conjunction, and the Sun was half through his course opposite the Moon moving at his central point under the earth; a pointed cone of darkness creeping from the earth into the air opposite to the Sun hid the whole Moon. Then when he heard the rivals for wedded love, he looked especially for Ares, and espied the wife-robber over the sunset house along with the evening star of the Cyprian.7 He found the portion called the Portion of the Parents under the Virgin’s starry corn-ear8; and round the Ear ran the light-bearing star of Cronides, father of rain.9
 When he had noticed everything and reckoned the circuit of the stars, he put away the ever-revolving sphere in its roomy box, the sphere with its curious surface; and in answer to the goddess he mouthed out a triple oracle of prophetic sound: “Fond mother Demeter, when the rays of the Moon are stolen under a shady cone and her light is gone, guard against a robber-bridegroom for Persephoneia, a secret ravisher of your unsmirched girl, if the threads of the Fates can be persuaded. You will see before marriage a false and secret bedfellow come unforeseen, a half-monster cunning-minded: since I perceive by the western point Ares the wife-stealer walking with the Paphian, and I notice the Dragon rising beside them both. But I proclaim you most happy: for you will be known for glorious fruits in the four quarters of the universe, because you shall bestow fruit on the barren soil; since the Virgin Astraia holds out her hand full of corn for the destined lot of your girl’s parents.”
 This said, he let the oracular voice sleep in his mouth. But when Demeter Sicklebearer heard the hope of coming fruits, and how one uninvited and unbetrothed was to ravish her beloved maiden girl, she groaned and smiled at once, and hastening by the paths of high heaven she entered her own house with despondent step. Then beside the dragon-manger she balanced the curved yoke over the two necks of the monsters, and fastened the untamed crawlers with the yokestrap, pressing their jaws about the crooktooth bit. So goldenbrown Deo in that grim car conveyed her girl hidden in a black veil of cloud. Boreas roared like thunder against the passage of the wagon, but she whistled him down with her monster-driving whip, guiding the light wings of the quick dragons as they sped horselike along the course of the wind, through the sky and round the back-reaching cape of the Libyan Ocean. She heard the music of the helmeted Cretan troop resounding in Dicte,10 as they danced about with the tumbling steel thundering heavy upon their oxhide shields. The goddess passed them by, looking for a stony harbourage; and she alighted among the Pelorian cliffs of Threepeak Sicily near the Adriatic shores, where the restless briny flood is driven towards the west and bends round like a sickle, bringing the current in a curve to southwest from the north.11 And in the place where that River had often bathed the maiden Cyane, pouring his water in fountain-showers as a bridegift,12 she saw a neighbouring grotto like a lofty hall crowned and concealed by a roof of stone, which nature had completed with a rocky gateway and a loom of stone tended by the neighbouring Nymphs.13
 The goddess passed through the dark hall, and concealed her daughter well-secured in this hollow rock. Then she loosed the dragons from the winged car; one she placed by the jutting rock on the right of the door, one on the left beside the stone-pointed barrier of the entry, to protect Persephoneia unseen. There also she left Calligeneia, her own fond nurse, with her baskets, and all that cleverhand Pallas gives to make womankind sweat over their woolspinning. Then she left her rounded chariot for the Nymphs to watch, in their lonely home among the rocks, and cut the air with her feet.
 The girl busied herself in carding fleeces of wool under the sharp teeth of the iron comb. She packed the wool on the distaff, and the twirling spindle with many a twist and jerk ran round and round in dancing step, as the threads were spun and drawn through the fingers. She fixed the first threads of the warp which begins the cloth, and gave them a turn round the beam, moving from end to end to and fro with unresting feet. She wove away, plying the rod and pulling the bobbin along through the threads, while she sang over the cloth to her cousin Athena the clever Webster.
 Ah, maiden Persephoneia! You could not find how to escape your mating! No, a dragon was your mate, when Zeus changed his face and came, rolling in many a loving coil through the dark to the corner of the maiden’s chamber, and shaking his hairy chaps: he lulled to sleep as he crept the eyes of those creatures of his own shape who guarded the door. He licked the girl’s form gently with wooing lips. By this marriage with the heavenly dragon, the womb of Persephone swelled with living fruit, and she bore Zagreus the horned baby, who by himself climbed upon the heavenly throne of Zeus and brandished lightning in his little hand, and newly born, lifted and carried the thunderbolts in his tender fingers.14
 But he did not hold the throne of Zeus for long. By the fierce resentment of implacable Hera, the Titans cunningly smeared their round faces with disguising chalk, and while he contemplated his changeling countenance reflected in a mirror they destroyed him with an infernal knife.15 There where his limbs had been cut piecemeal by the Titan steel, the end of his life was the beginning of a new life as Dionysos. He appeared in another shape, and changed into many forms: now young like crafty Cronides shaking the aegis-cape, now as ancient Cronos heavy-kneed, pouring rain. Sometimes he was a curiously formed baby, sometimes like a mad youth with the flower of the first down marking his rounded chin with black. Again, a mimic lion he uttered a horrible roar in furious rage form a wild snarling throat, as he lifted a neck shadowed by a thick mane, marking his body on both sides with the self-striking whip of a tail which flickered about over his hairy back. Next, he left the shape of a lion’s looks and let out a ringing neigh, now like an unbroken horse that lifts his neck on high to shake out the imperious tooth of the bit, and rubbing, whitened his cheek with hoary foam. Sometimes he poured out a whistling hiss form his mouth, a curling horned serpent covered with scales, darting out his tongue from his gaping throat, and leaping upon the grim head of some Titan encircled his neck in snaky spiral coils. Then he left the shape of the restless crawler and became a tiger with gay stripes on his body; or again like a bull emitting a counterfeit roar from his mouth he butted the Titans with sharp horn.16 So he fought for his life, until Hera with jealous throat bellowed harshly through the air – that heavy-resentful stepmother! and the gates of Olympos rattled in echo to her jealous throat from high heaven. Then the bold bull collapsed: the murderers each eager for his turn with the knife chopt piecemeal the bull-shaped Dionysos.
 After the first Dionysos had been slaughtered, Father Zeus learnt the trick of the mirror with its reflected image. He attacked the mother of the Titans17 with avenging brand, and shut up the murderers of horned Dionysos within the gate of Tartaros: the trees blazed, the hair of suffering Earth was scorched with heat. He kindled the East: the dawnlands of Bactria blazed under blazing bolts, the Assyrian waves set afire the neighbouring Caspian Sea and the Indian mountains, the Red Sea rolled billows of flame and warmed Arabian Nereus. The opposite West also fiery Zeus blasted with his thunderbolt in love for his child; and under the foot of Zephyros the western brine half-burnt spat out a shining stream; the Northern ridges – even the surface of the frozen Northern Sea bubbled and burned: under the clime of snowy Aigoceros18 the Southern corner boiled with hotter sparks.
 Now Oceanos poured rivers of tears from his watery eyes, a libation of suppliant prayer. Then Zeus calmed his wrath at the sight of the scorched earth; he pitied her, and wished to wash with water the ashes of ruin and the fiery wounds of the land.
 The Rainy Zeus covered the whole sky with clouds and flooded all the earth. Zeus’s heavenly trumpet bellowed with its thunderclaps, while all the stars moved in their appointed houses: 232 ff when the Sun in his four-horse chariot drove shining over the Lion’s back, his own house; the Moon of threefold form rolled in her onrunning car over the eightfoot Crab; Cypris19 in her equinoctial course under the dewy region had left the Ram’s horn behind, and held her spring-time house in the heavenly Bull which knows no winter; the Sun’s neighbour Ares20 possessed the Scorpion, harbinger of the Plow, encircled by the blazing Bull, and ogled Aphrodite opposite with a sidelong glance; Zeus21 of nightfall, the twelvemonth traveller who completes the lichtgang,22 was treading on the starry Fishes, having on his right he round-faced Moon in trine; Cronos23 passed through the showery back of Aigoceros24 drenched in the frosty light; round the bright Maiden,25 Hermes was poised on his pinions, because as a dispenser of justice he had Justice for his house.
 Now the barriers of the sevenzoned watery sky were opened, when Zeus poured down his showers. The mountain-torrents roared with fuller fountains of the loudsplashing gulf. The lakes, liquid daughters cut off from Oceanos, raised their surface. The fountains shot spouts of the lower water of Oceanos into the air. The cliffs were besprinkled, the dry thirsty hills were drenched as with rivers streaming over the heights: the sea rose until Nereïds became Oreads on the hills over the woodland. O poor thing! Maid Echo had to swim with unpractised hands, and felt a new fear for that old maiden zone – Pan she had escaped, but she might be cause by Poseidon! Sea-lions now leaped with dripping limbs in the land-lions’ cave among rocks they knew not, and in the depths of a mountain-torrent a stray boar met with a dolphin of the sea. Wild beasts and fishes navigated in common stormy floods that poured from the mountains. The many-footed squid dragged his many coils into the hills, and pounced on the hare. The dripping Tritons at the edge of a secret wood wagged their green forked tails against their flanks, and hid in the mountain vaults where Pan had his habitation, leaving their familiar speckled conchs to sail about with the winds. Nereus on his travels met rock-loving Pan on a submerged hill, the rock-dweller left his sea and changed it for the hill, leaving the waterlogged pan’s-pipes that floated; while he took to the watery cave where Echo had sheltered.
 Then the bodies of poor fellows swollen in their watery death were buried in the waters. Heaps of corpses were floating one upon another carried along by the rolling currents; there fell the lion, there fell the boar into the roaring torrent, with open throat gulping draughts of the cascades that poured from rocks and mountains. With mingling streams, lakes and rivers, torrents of rain, waters of the sea were all combined together, and the four winds united their blasts in one, to flog the universal inundation.
 Earthshaker saw from the deep the earth all flooded, while Zeus alone with stronger push made it quake under his threatening torrents: he threw away his prongs, wondering in his anger what earth now he could heave with a trident! Nereïds in battalions swam over the flooding waves; Thestis travelled over the water riding on the green hip of a Triton with broad beard; Agauë26 on a fish’s back drove her pilotfish in the open air, and an exile dolphin with the water swirling round his neck lifted Doris26 and carried her along. A whale of the deep sea leaped about the hills and sought the cave of the earthbedded lioness.
 Then Pan well soaked saw Galateia swimming under a neighbouring wavebeaten rock, and sang out: “Where are you going, Galateia? Have you given up sea for hills? Perhaps you are looking for the love-song of Cyclops?27 I pray you by the Paphian, and by your Polyphemos – you know the weight of desire, do not hide from me if you have noticed my mountainranging Echo swimming by you? Does she also sit on a dolphin of Aphrodite the sea-goddess, my own Echo navigating like Thetis unveiled? I fear the dangerous waves of the deep may have startled her! I fear the great flood may have covered her! How cruel for her, poor thing! She has left the hills and moves restless over the waves. Echo once the maid of the rocks will show herself as the maid of the waters. Come, leave your Polyphemos, the laggard! If you like, I will lift you upon my own back and save you. The roaring flood does not overwhelm me; if I like I can mount to the starry sky on my goatish feet!”
 He spoke, and Galateia said in reply: “My dear Pan, carry your own Echo through the waves – she knows nothing of the sea. Don’t waste your time in asking me why I am going here this day. I have another and higher voyage which Rainy Zeus has found me. Let be the song of Cyclops, though it is sweet. I seek no more the Sicilian sea; I am terrified at this tremendous flood, and I care nothing for Polyphemos.”
 With these words, she passed away from the lair of waterfaring Pan.
 As the irresistible torrent swelled on and on, every city, every nation was a flood; not one corner was undrenched, not one hill was then bare – not the peak of Ossa, not the top of Pelion. Under the three peaks roared the Tyrrhenian Sea; the Adriatic rocks rebounded with Sicilian waters in showers of foam from the flogging sea.28 The sparkling rays of Phaëthon in his airy course became soft and womanish in the torrents. Selene in her seventh zone29 over the low rim of the earth cooled her light in the mounting waves, and checked her cattle with drenched and soaking necks. The rainwater mixed with the starry battalions, and made the Milky Way whiter with foam.
 The Nile, pouring his lifegiving stream through his seven mouths, went astray and met love-sick Alpheios. His wish was to creep through the fruitful soil, and delight his thirsty bride with watery kisses; but the other had lost the familiar road of his old-time hunt, and rolled along in sorrow, until seeing Pyramos the lover moving by his side he cried out and said – “Nile, what am I to do? Arethusa is hidden! Pryamos, why this haste? You have left your companion Thisbe – to whom? Happy Euphrates! He has not felt the sting of love. Jealousy and fear possess me together. Perhaps Cronos’s watery son30 has slept with lovely Arethusa! I fear he may have wooed your Thisbe in his flowings! Pyramos is a consolation of Alpheios. The rain of Zeus has not stirred us so much as the arrow of the Foamborn.31 Follow me the lover, I will seek the tracks of Syracusan Arethusa, and do you, Pramos, hunt for Thisbe.32
 “But you will say – the earth quakes, the sky attacks us, the sea compels us, the unnavigable upper air itself swells in a foaming flood! I care not for the wild deluge. See what a great miracle! The blazing earth, the flaming sea, the rivers – all have been swept clean by the downpour of Zeus, only one trifle it has not quenched, the Paphian fire of Alpheios! However, if the great flood confounds me, if I suffer from fire, there is one small medicine for my pain, that tender Adonis is wandering too and vexing Aphrodite.”
 His tale was not yet ended, when fear conquered his voice. Then also Deucalion33 passed over the mounting flood, to navigate far out of reach on a sky-traversing voyage; and the course of his ark selfguided selfmoving, without sheet and without harbour, scored the stormy waters.
 Then the whole frame of the universe would have been unframed, then all-breeding Time would have dissolved the whole structure of the unsown generations of mankind: but by the divine ordination of Zeus, Poseidon Seabluehair with earthsplitting trident split the midmost peak of the Thessalian mountain, and dug a cleft through it by which the water ran sparkling down. Earth shook off the stormy flood which travelled so high, and showed herself risen again; the streams were driven into the deep hollows and the cliffs were laid bare. The sun poured his thirsty rays on the wet face of earth, and dried it; the water grew thick under the hotter beams, and he mud was dried again as before. Cities were fashioned by men with better skill and established upon stone foundations, palaces were built, and the streets of the new-founded cities were made strong for later generations of men. Nature laughed once more; the air once more was paddled by the wings of birds that flew in the winds.
1. A wreath of corn-ears.
2. Lucifer, the Morning Star, the same as the Evening Star, the planet Venus.
3. The ancient mathematician’s equivalent of a blackboard.
4. He was the son of Astraios.
5. To wash the hands.
6. He reckoned the number of days in the years of her life on his fingers.
7. The planets Mars and Venus.
8. The brightest star in the constellation Virgo is Spica, the ear of corn. The klêros tokeôn is that part of the heavens which concerns the subject’s parents. Its position varies with the starting-point of the scheme.
9. The planet Jupiter.
10. Mountain and cave in Crete, where Zeus was hidden as a baby: the Curetes drowned his cries by clashing their spears on their shields.
11. A long the coast by Drepana or Drepane, the sickle-town.
12. The river is the Anapos. Cyane is the nymph of the spring of that name at Syracuse, regarded as his wife because the water of the spring flows into the river.
13. The stalactites of such caves are often compared to the beams of a standing-loom.
14. Zagreus is horned because Dionysos often is. Zeus meant him to be king of the universe.
15. Harpocration s.v apamattôn, p. 28, 10 Bekker: hoi Titanes ton Dionuson elumênanto guphô kataplasamenoi epi tô mê gnôrimoi genesthai. Compare Herodotus viii. 27 for a similar stratagem of the Phocians, and Lobeck, Aglaophamus, p. 655.
16. Like Dionysos he can take all manner of shapes.
19. The planet Venus.
22. See note on xi. 586.
26. A Nereïd.
27. The Cyclops Polyphemos loved Galateia the sea-nymph and wooed her with such love-songs as he could contrive; see Theocritos, Id. xi.
28. The three peaks are those of Sicily. The waters of the Tyrrhenian, Sicilian, and Adriatic seas were commingled.
29. Hers is the lowest sphere and therefore the seventh, counting from above downwards. The waters had risen to the limit of the earth’s atmosphere.
32. The Nile’s bride is apparently Egypt. Alpheios loved the fountain-nymph Arethusa, and followed her underground from the Peloponnesos to Sicily. Pyramos and Thisbe, although both names of rivers, are much more familiar in Ovid’s version of their story, in which they are a young man and woman.
33. The cosmic flood is now forced into the framework of conventional mythology by introducing Deucalion, and the Thessalian story that the gorge of the Peneios was made by Poseidon to drain their country (Herod. vii. 129. 4).
15 ff. The name and relationships of Astraios are from Hesiod, Theog. 375-382, where he is son of Krios and Eurybië the Titans, and father of the winds and stars (astra). Nonnos makes him into a divine astrologer, and to understand his activities it is necessary to have some smattering of his pseudo-science; Nonnos himself had little more.
Like ancient astronomy, astrology depended upon the theory that the earth is the centre of the solar system. It further postulated that the “planets” (Sun, Moon, and the five real planets visible to the naked eye, viz., Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury), the twelve signs of the Zodiac and to a less extent those other constellations which rise at the same time as the various signs (paranatellonta) influence the earth and its inhabitants in various ways, according partly to their own supposed nature, partly to their relative position to each other in the heavens. When Demeter enters, Astraios is making a diagram consisting of a circle (representing the Zodiac) with a square and an equilateral triangle inscribed in it; this indicates that he is studying the position of certain stars which are in trine with each other (i.e. 120 deg. apart, and so on the points of the triangle) or quadratile aspect (90 deg. apart and so on the four angles of a square). These are two of the most important aspects, or relative positions, of the stars. When she consults him, he sends for his orrery or planetoscope, a model, presumably in metal, and with movable parts, of the solar system as envisaged by the science of the time. On adjusting this, he finds (74) that the Moon is right opposite the Sun with the Earth in a straight line between them, i.e., that she is totally eclipsed at the zenith, the Sun being at the nadir. Further (81-83), Mars is in conjunction with Venus (i.e., both in the same sign of the Zodiac) in the seventh house (the West), which governs marriage, Jupiter with the Sun in the nadir, which is the house of parents. The signs of the Zodiac at these positions are respectively Sagittarius and Virgo. The former has for its paranatellon the constellation Draco (98). The astrological significance of all this is as follows. The eclipsed Moon (the mother’s planet) indicates grave trouble for Demeter herself. The conjunction of Mars and Venus in the house of marriage indicates adultery, while Draco hints at the snake-form assumed by Zeus to accomplish his desires. On the other hand, Jupiter is shedding good influence form the house of parents; he is also in quadratile aspect with Mars, thus again indicating honour and glory; that Venus is in the same aspect with the Moon (Demeter) is also good. So, on the whole the scheme, so far as Nonnos gives it, is favourable, though it bodes irregularities and trouble before the glorious end is reached.
232 ff. Here Nonnos sets out to give us the astrological scheme of the Deluge. If he were an orthodox astrologer of Stoic sympathies, he would have either a deluge only or a conflagration only, since it was their theory that at long intervals one or another of these disasters (kataklusmos, ekpurôsis) destroyed the universe, which then began again, repeating exactly everything that had happened since the last destruction (apokatastasis). But Nonnos is an indifferent astrologer and learned mythologist; he is also, despite the wretched times in which he lived, an incurable optimist. His universe undergoes no apokatastasis but a change for the better (383), at least so far as men are concerned, and his flood comes to heal the ravages of the fire (227), instead of being separated from it by a whole cosmic period. He therefore must construct a scheme which will show the stars in a position appropriate to a deluge, while at the same time hinting at a conflagration and at a renewed and better world.
According to Dorostheos the astrologer-poet, every planet has a favourite house, or sign of the Zodiac; all but the Sun and Moon have two, but each mostly prefers that one which is of its own sex (the signs are alternately male and female). The ideal arrangement is: Saturn in Aquarius (male in male); Jupiter in Saggitarius (male in male); Mars in Scorpius (male in male); Venus in Taurus (female in female; Taurus is the forepart only of a bull, and hence is accounted sexless and so female); Mercury in Virgo. The Sun’s house is Leo, the Moon’s Cancer. The result is the nativity of the Universe, according to this system; there are others. Nonnos, however, departs somewhat from this plan, and puts the Sun in Leo, the Moon in Cancer, Saturn in Capricorn and Mercury in Virgo. He thus gets traces of a conflagration-scheme, for the Sun in Leo brings heat, and is supported by Mars in Scorpius, and therefore in quadratile aspect with him. Mars is also regent of the triangle Cancer-Scorpius- Pisces. But the opposite triangle, Taurus-Virgo-Capricorn, is of a cold and earthy nature, and is the stronger because Venus and Saturn are respectively moist and cold, while Saturn is further strengthened by being in diametrical opposition to the Moon, which is moist. Thus the deluge is provided for. Virgo, where Mercury stands, is identified with Justice, which is to rule in the new period; and the arrangement of the planets in alternate signs (sextile aspect) is favourable. See Stegemann, pp. 88-94.