VALERIUS FLACCUS 6
 

VALERIUS FLACCUS INDEX

ARGONAUTICA BOOK 1

1. Jason & King Pelias
2. Assembly of the Argonauts
3. Death of Aeson

ARGONAUTICA BOOK 2

1. Women of Lemnos
2. Hercules & the Sea Monster
3. The Hellespont

ARGONAUTICA BOOK 3

1. Cyzicus
2. Hylas & the Naiads

ARGONAUTICA BOOK 4

1. Wresling of Amcyus
2. Phineus & the Harpies
3. The Clashing Rocks

ARGONAUTICA BOOK 5

1. The Black Sea
2. Jason & King Aeetes

ARGONAUTICA BOOK 6

1. Colchian-Scythian War
2. Hera & the Love of Medea

ARGONAUTICA BOOK 7

1. Jason & Medea
2. Jason & the Bronze Bulls

ARGONAUTICA BOOK 8

1. Theft of the Golden Fleece
2. Marriage of Jason & Medea
3. Absyrtus' Pursuit

ARGONAUTICA BOOK 6, TRANSLATED BY J. H. MOZLEY

[1] But Gradivus takes no rest: still the same passion burns in the fierce tumult of his heart, yet knows he not which camp, which battle-array to join; at length he resolves to go and appear in visible presence, if haply he may lay low the Minyae and take reprisal of sore distress for their compact with the king and destroy the youth of Greece. On them he drives his chariot, brandishing the irrevocable portent of war,1 and draws rein above the tents of Scythia. Straightway slumber leaves the host: all spring to arms, and the chiefs anxiously take counsel, disturbed, moreover, by the strong rumour that told how Achaeans have come in a sacred ship claiming the fleece that once their own Phrixus had, and how crafty Aeetes had tricked them with hospitable welcome and right hands joined in treaty, and has won them for his own warfare.

[14] And so while midnight still gives room for scheming, they decide to send an embassy of chieftains; Perses tells them his message, to accost the Minyae and tell them of the tyrant’s cunning: “What delusion can have blinded them thereto? ‘Twas he that first advised Aeetes to restore the fleece to Haemonia and let go the slough of the sacred beast; hence hatred and the prelude of a mighty war. Nay, let them rather choose his friendship, his alliance or else return home, for no surety was there in Aeetes’ word and promise; let them shrink from bloodshed in another’s cause. Not for that have they passed through the travails of so great an ocean. What need to fight with strangers for whom they felt no hate?”

[25] Yes even while Perses gives them this message, a golden sheen lights up the fields, of their own accord arms clashed and blaring trumpets brayed. From his chariot on high Mars fiercely cries: “The foe, the foe! on with you! forward to the fray! the foe draws nigh!” and therewith he sends here the Colchians, there Perses rushing into the plain. Then each folk joined battle with its own weapons, and alike in every quarter of the field was heard the War-god’s voice.

[33] And now, O Muse, come tell of the wild deeds thou didst see in that Riphaean land, of the mighty endeavour wherewith Perses drave Scythia to battle, of the horses and men wherein he put his trust. Truly neither by number nor by name could I tell them all, had I even a thousand tongues, for no other region is more populous; say, though Maeotian manhood fall in everlasting warfare, yet never fails that fertile womb to fill the land of the Two Bears and the mighty Serpent.2 Therefore, O goddesses, recount me the leaders and the peoples alone.

[42] The fiery Alani and fierce Heniochi had Anausis, himself soon following, dispatched, long since indignant that Medea was betrothed to Albania’s monarch; alas, he knew not how dire a monster was she for whose marriage couch he yearned, nor what terror was in store for Achaean cities; more pleasing was he to the gods and happier in his lonely hall. Next came Bisalta’s legion and Colaxes its chief, himself too of the seed of gods, begotten by Jupiter in Scythian land by green Myrace and the mouths of Tibisis, enchanted, if the tale is worthy of belief, by a nymph’s half-human body nor afraid of her twin snakes.3 The whole troop bears Jove’s emblem, their targes are embossed with the darting fire of the triple thunderbolt; nor, soldiers of Rome,4 are ye the first with your shields to spread abroad the flash and glare and flaming pinions of the brand. Thereon had he himself joined serpents of gold, in likeness of Hora his mother; from either hand did the snakes’ tongues meet, darting wounds upon a shapely gem.5

[60] Third, Auchus comes with thousands of like heart and displays the riches of Cimmeria; long since has he had a white lock of hair, a distinction of his birth; by now has age left bare a space; a triple fastening runs around his temples and the twin fillets fall from his consecrated head.6 Daraps, ailing from a wound in the Achaemenian conflict, sent Datis to the fray; around him throng the martial Gangaridae and they whom draughts of Gerus’ wave make fierce and they who ring round the lake of Byce.7 Anxur failed not, nor Sidon with his brother Rhadalus, and Phrixus8 sets in motion the armies of Acesinus by the ill-omened portent of a prophetic hind. Its effigy, with shining coat and golden horns, is borne upon a lofty staff before the host, grieving nor fated ever to return to fierce Diana’s woodland.

[74] Syene also and the Hylaean folk did suppliant Perses rouse, displaying the wounds his cruel kinsman had wrought. Nowhere does denser or loftier wood stretch forth its boughs, and arrows return outwearied ere they have reached the tree-tops. Moreover, Titanian Cyris drove forth his men to arms from Hyrcanian glends, and the Coelaletae brought all their troops in wagons to the fight; there sewn skins made homes for them, and their wives sit beneath raw hides while the lads hurl javelins from the end of the wagon-pole. Tyra with its swift seaward course is left behind, left is Mount Ambenus and Ophiusa powerful with chilling poisons.

[86] The degenerate Sindi come flocking in hot haste, still fearful of the lash for the crime their fathers wrought.9 Next to these Phalces leads over the plain a cloud of shouting bronze-clad warriors, and the serried Corallians lift their banners; barbaric wheels are their emblems and the shapes of swine with iron-coated backs,10 and broken columns, effigies of Jove; nor care they to fan the fire of battle with the raucous horn, but duly sing of their native chiefs and the deeds of their ancestors and the praises of heroes of old to stir their men to valour. But where the intermingled footmen keep pace with Sidonian reins, thence Aea draws to her the sworn Batarnae, whom, Teutagonus at their head, a barrier11 of raw bark arms and an even-balanced spear, not shorter in steel or stem. Hard by with twin javelins doth he strike his white targes who with an axe digs out the surface of wintry Novas and frozen Alazon, nor hears any sound from him all along his banks; they too whom Taras sends and Evarchus abundant in white swans.12

[103] And thee, great Ariasmenus, mighty man of war, would I hand down to coming ages, who dist scour the deserted plain from end to end with scythed chariots. There follows Drancae’s host and the Caspians streaming forth from their barrier, whose pack of gods13 dashes forth no less swiftly at the trumpet’s blare, and joins in their masters’ battles. Therefore in death also have they equal honours, and they are received among ancestors and heroes’ tombs; now, their breasts and dreadful crests entwined with iron, the troop rushes on in black array and with baying loud as that which rings at the grim gate of Dis or from Hecate’s escort to the world above.

[115] Vanus, a consecrated seer, leads forth his troop from the Hyrcanian groves; him had now the third generation beheld foretelling the Minyae and Argo’s sails. Through the sure warrant of his counsel rich Indians and the Lagean meadowlands of hundred-fold Thebes and all Panchaia fell victims to Riphaea’s triumphant arms. Many-hued Hiberia poured forth her spear-armed squadrons, whom Otaces and Latris lead and Neurus ravisher of his loves, and the Iazyges who know not hoary eld. For when now their strength begins to fail and the well-known bow denies them and the lance despises the efforts of its lord, a custom have they, inherited from great-hearted sires of old, not to suffer the slow laws of death but to give a sword to their own dear offspring and die by his right hand; so child and parent break through delays, in courage both, in gallant deed both miserable.14

[129] Then the Mycaei also with fragrance of perfumed locks, and Cessae’s troop, and thou, Arimaspus, who not yet dost dig thy acres, guiltless in thy ignorance of precious metals; Auchates, too, skilled to hurl the wide circle of the flying noose and with the lasso to draw to him the farthest warriors. I will not be silent of the Thyrsagetae who carry drums to their gory battles and fasten behind their back floating skins and bind their spear-shaft with fresh flowers. It is said that Bacchus, of Cadmus’ seed and Jove’s, led this host to war and with them routed the Sabaeans, whose fortunate realms are rich in incense, and with them too the Arabs; then when he had broken through the waters of Hebrus he left the Thyrsagetae beneath the frozen North. Still do they keep all their ancestral ways, the holy beating of the bronze and the pipe that calls those Eastern fights to mind.

[143] Emoda adds her might; the Exomatae follow their banners, and the Toryni and the yellow-haired Satarchae; the Toryni have pride in honey, their milking-pails are the wealth of the Satarchae, the Exomatae live by the chase, nor is the North more famous for any steeds; over the Hypanis and its fragile waves they speed, carrying off in their flight the cub of a tiger or fierce lioness, while the mother stands dazed with grief on the rampart of the treacherous bank.

[150] Frenzy kindled by the fleece of Phrixus urged to the fray also the doubting Centors and the Choatrae feared for horrid magic; all honour the gods with savage rites, all have skill to work portents; now do they hold the leaves of spring in check, now suddenly thaw Maeotis beneath trembling wagons. Mightest among them in Stygian arts Coastes comes: not love of war excites him, but the fame of the Cytaean maid and Medea breathing poisons to match his own; glad is the Avernian lake, glad the ferryman that night is now untroubled and Latonia that she can ride in a safe heaven.15 There also marched the Balloniti, whose bow-tips twain give speed that matches wings,16 and the Moesian changing nimbly from steed to companion steed, and the Sarmatian who puts a rein upon his huge lance.

[163] Boreas drives not so many billows from ocean’s bounds, nor so answers his brothers from opposing waves17: not so loud is the clamour of birds about the rivers, as is then the blare of trumpets that ascends to heaven, filling with frenzy the mingled myriads, numerous as leaves or flowers in the opening year. The plain itself groans beneath the beat of wheels, and the ground trembles and quakes at the shock, as when Jupiter strikes Phlegra with his angry brand and hurls back Typhon to the deepest recesses of the earth.

[171] Upon the other side Absyrtus in his father’s armour holds first place, and the suitor prince, and mighty kings amid their thousands. But around Aesonides stand the Danaan heroes and Pallas herself with terrifying aegis, which, bristling with snakes and fearful with Gorgon visage, nor the goddess nor her sire wear out by wielding. Not yet does the time permit to display those half-dead tresses,18 nor to join the shock of battle. Against these drove father Mars, evil Death-lust and Tisiphone raising her head to the clouds at the bugle’s sound and Panic stalking huge through the battle lines nor as yet determined which hearts she will enter.

[182] So then when steel met steel and the yelling ranks closed in conflict and hero breathed on hero through clashing helms, forthwith ensued the falling of warriors and the breaking of bodies and weapons in the carnage and bloodshed and collapse on either side; helmets roll upon the field, and from corselets spouts up the bloody rain; barbarians swarm, here shouting in triumph, there with groans, while the lives of warriors are mingled with the dust. Caspius bore away Aeaean Monaeses, grasping him by the hair; Colchians and Greeks alike follow him with missiles; he slays his foe and leaves the booty, but the dead man is no more heeded by his friends. Caresus strikes down Dipsas and Strymon who scatters wounds in concealment from a sling; he falls himself by the spear of Albanian Cremedon, and already is lost to view; chariots and squadrons sweep over him.

[196] Melas and Idasmenus strode forward; Melas first hurls his spear, but the light fir-shafts play both men false. Then they rush in with the sword; Melas gets home a swift blow on the bottom of the helm; the neck is shattered by the stroke. In the mêlée valour goes for naught: neither Ocheus nor Tyres know to whom they owe their fate. While Iron looks round at the whistling of an Argive spear, he receives a Pylian javelin in his flank.

[203] Castor had seen Hyrcanian brethren scouring the field on like chargers, which their wealthy sire had marked out from the stud for special nurture and pointed the way for cruel destiny. Then more and more when he noticed their whiteness did desire of them inflame the son of Tyndareus as he fights on foot, and forthwith meeting Gela he hurls his lance right at the breast, and as the rider fell he leapt in triumph on the wing-footed steed; from a cloud on high his father laughed, and knew the horseman by this handling of the reins. But Medores, frenzied at once with grief and at the sight, makes for the son of Tyndareus: “Come now, either grant me to join my murdered brother or let my spear fist fell this traitor steed, who hath not restored to my unhappy sire the arms entrusted to him, but charges against me and offers hid back to his victor.” He spoke, but ere that the shaft of Attic Phalerus casts him down; swiftly his steed gallops off to his friends’ array.

[219] Who would ever have feared that Amyclae and the Oebalian arm would have proved thy undoing, Rhyndacus, parted by so many mountains and so many seas? With thee, his loins pierced, falls Tages, strenuous son of famous Taulas and a mother half-divine – Tages, for whom full many a sister of his mother19 works at his raiment in nightly watches in the woodlands. No aid hath he from delicate white linen sheet or gold-embroidered cloak, nor in the bonnet’s yellow plume or the trews with their coloured thread. And now a horseman fresh to war he rides through the reeling ranks of hottest battle, flinging shaft after shaft with his right hand, and plies his lightning-swift sword upon his foes, laying them low now this side and now that: when lo! a fierce band of Sarmatians came thronging with savage yells: stiff are their corselets with pliant mail, and such too the armour of their steeds; but stretching out over the horse’s head and shoulders the fir-wood shaft, firm resting on their knee, casts a long shadow upon the enemy’s field and forces its way with all the might of both warrior and steed, easily gathered up and set in rest again, and once more as swift to go through the midst of the foe.20

[239] Rapidly circling and nimbly wheeling his lighter horse upon the plain Castor baffles them, as they pant and reck not of death; but not so skilfully do the Colchians charge and rush upon their fate. Campesus falls from a spear that drives between his ribs and loin, and dying sinks down to the middle of the shaft. Oebasus, thinking to have escaped Phalces’ attack by sinking on his knee, is pierced in his left eye; his tender cheeks are made bloody by the wound. But on the other side Sibotes trusting in two breastplates rises to a blow, and with his sword strikes the end of the spear, but all in vain; already the point is on him, nor cares Ambenus that his lance is broken, but with the headless shaft lunges at Ocreus’ middle. Taxis bear Hypanis along half-dead, then letting him fall to the ground drags him behind him as he flees, and in his course pulls the spear free; and while he gathers it up and sets it in rest once more, the Laconian attacks him and rushes at him while in confusion and still unarmed. Oncheus was carried by his headlong steed straight upon a pike, though in vain with all his might he tugs the horse’s shoulders sideward; on went the steed, on went the rider, cold with terror; his weapons fall, the spear-point far behind his back drips blood; as when a man brings down from its airy perch upon the topmost branch a bird that has trusted in the interwoven poplar shade, a man from whose secret hand uprisen many a length of reed: the bird caught by the guile of the clinging lime implores the boughs and flaps its wings in vain.

[265] In another region with weapons eager for the fray (since chance has brought this meeting) Styrus stands ready, and Anausis recognises him with joy, and first cries out: “Lo! he whose wedlock Aeetes’ daughter awaits, his plighted bride; he who in triumph shall carry off the maid I love! Not so!” cries he, “ay, though, her father like it not, he will change sons-in-law!” Then rushing forward together they hurl their spears; the Albanian, wounded, grasps his reins and flees, and neither hopes nor sees that he has stricken Anausis to death. But he, dying from the spear-wound, cries: “Styrus, thou fleest to the bosom of thy betrothed and to her parents’ home; thou fleest, bearing a wound that Medea will find no spells to succour nor any herbs to heal.” He spoke, and the dizziness of death seizes his eyes, his voice is choked in the death-chill, and his head falls back upon the ground.

[279] Then the combat incites Gesander’s valour, and Mars drives him on in a storm of passionate grief; he rebukes the Iazygians for laggards, and with bared blade thus urges them on: “Methought all our old men had fallen, methought all our sires were slain21 already. What shameful old age hath seized you on a sudden, and broken your valour and taken away your ire? Come, men, either charge with me through the midst of the Argives and the city’s host, or meet doom at your dear children’s hands!” Forward he rushes, and fiercely invokes his father’s shade to bless his deeds: “Holy sire Voraptus, lend now thy courage to thy son and a soul to match thine own, if thou, who hatedst a tardy fate and base delaying, hast found me as quick to obey thee, and if thy small grandsons have learnt a like obedience.”

[292] So spake he and was heard in Erebus. Then he wildly grips his sword and brandishes his weapons, ablaze with his father’s frenzy. Aquites, priest of mighty Phasis, consecrated to his native waters, roamed among the warriors of the North (poplar decked his brow and his temples were conspicuous with its gray entwining sprays); thee, Cyrnus, forgetful of thy sire, would he fain withdraw from the stern battle; and now he has ranged unharmed through all the companies and the regiments far and wide, yet sees him not; and as yet again he continues more urgently, calling out his name, and yet again traverses far and wide the battle-scene, a flung lance whistles about the dark-blue fillets: at full gallop the fierce Gesander is upon him. He in alarm holds out in his hand the unavailing emblems, and cries: “By this white hair I pray thee, if thou hast yet a father, spare me, and if thou hast a son, spare mine!” He spoke; but the victor, thrusting home his sword, rejoins: “My sire, whom thou deemest still to endure a shameful eld, himself preferred to fall by this hand of mine and of his own will to cut the tardy thread. And hadst thou the love of thy son, the service of his right hand, thou hadst not now been with prayers delaying the battle at its height, prey of dogs as thou shalt be! A young man’s lot is in all ways more glorious; both to strive in battle and to lie unburied becomes him.” 22 So said he; the other dying, prays to heaven and the gods that his hapless son meet not so ruthless an arm.

[317] Thee too, O Canthus, did Argo not ignorant of thy fate bewail, as thou didst snatch thy weapons from her unwilling bark. Already, unhappy one, hadst thou reached the Scythian bay and Phasis river, nor lacked there yet many days that thou shouldst see the fleece a prize, and the beacons of thy land upon the Euboean hills. Him did Gesander meet in unequal combat, and thus terrifies: “Argive who thoughtest these to be the kindly homes of men, other seasons, poor fool, dost thou behold here, snows for our rearing and early weariness of life. We have not learnt to apply our arms to the nimble oar, nor need we to wait for winds to bear us onward; on horses do we ride, be it where the sea lies stiff in mid-expanse or where the swelling waves of Hister roar; nor care we for your city walls: now am I borne unhindered in northern fields, with all that I possess; all my goods do I carry with me, a wain is all I have to lose, nor is this a booty that thou canst long possess; nay, for our banquets swerve whatever cattle we own, whatever beast we slay. Send this message to Asia, to thine Argive husbandmen, that they be not fearful; never will I leave these wintry rocks, these fields of Mars, where we have hardened our infants and young sons in such ruthless streams, where for men is such abundance of carnage. ‘Tis thus we delight in our frozen land to wage war and to despoil, and such a right hand do thou now welcome!”

[340] So speaking he hurled a lance that Edonian winds had nourished; through mid-breast and through the rough links of bronze the deadly iron. In alarm Idas and with him Oenides hasten to the spot, Menoetius likewise and he who of late returned a victor from his Bebrycian host. But Telamon held forth his mighty shield, guarding thy dead body, Canthus: just as a lion hemmed in a narrow strait puts his cubs behind him, so doth Aeacides stand nigh and abide unmoving and turn against all onslaughts the sevenfold covering of that mighty mass. Yet none the less does the Scythian host press hard upon him, each man striving to win the arms of Canthus for himself and wreak vengeance on the Grecian corpse. Then arduous was the toil of the battle joined on every side about the body. As when in fierce commotion the winds shatter themselves on the very threshold of Aeolia, contesting which of them shall sway the storm-clouds and the fury of the sea, which shall have the lordship of that day, even so rages the close-packed struggle of the warriors, nor can they be driven from the body they have seized. Just as a man gives the spoils of a steer to his thralls to be softened with much oil, and they by stretching it and pulling it this way and that tame the bull’s hide, while earth flows with the rich unguent: such is the toil on either side, and the hero’s piteous limbs stream, dragged to and fro in the narrow space. These this way strive, those that way, nor either way will the warriors’ hands give ground.

[364] Here Telamon drags Canthus by the waist, there Gesander in hot rage grips the neck and the soft fastenings of the helm, which rang out as it fell to the ground and cheated his grip. Once more tirelessly he charges against he sevenfold circle of the shield; Canthus he follows, for Canthus he clamours, but from behind his comrades drag Canthus away, and once regained set him in the chariot of the maiden Euryale. Forward she flies and the Haemonidae with her, and the whole band attack Gesander alone. He when he sees the new conflict and the maiden’s weapons cries: “Women too, then, are we to fight? ah, for shame!” Then he strikes Lyce near the breast and Thoe where her targe leaves a space; and now was he rushing against Harpe, who scarce yet had begun to draw the bow-horns with the light string, and Menippe, who was pulling up her stumbling horse, when the princess, with redoubled blows of a battle-axe heavy with knobs of gold, cleaves in sunder his head and his helm of wild beast’s hide. A vast hail of missiles assails him at the same time; long while sustains he the flung spears, and overburdened now and tottering he yet strikes Idas23 with terror. Then he falls like a mountain-side, or like the masonry of a wall, which long weakened by stones and shafts and flames at last collapses and crushes a mighty city.

[386] Lo1 Ariasmenus, thinking that place and time are now calling him to fight, brings on his scythed axles and spreads abroad the fierce chariots of his comrades, with intent to sweep straightway all Greeks, ay, and all Colchians from his path. Even as were Jove in utter hatred of Pyrrha’s race to pour forth once again the seas and all the river unrestrained, hidden would be Parnassus’ lofty range, Othrys’ pines would vanish and the Alps shrink as their crags were merged in flood: such is the deluge and destruction as Ariasmenus hurries his chariots in indiscriminate course. Then first did the Maid uplift her aegis and Medusa’s coils all bristling with three hundred savage snakes, which ye, his steeds, alone beheld. Great terror seizes them, their drivers are flung backward to the ground, and they perforce wreak dire destruction upon their comrades. Then with the curved blades doth discord entangle and lacerate the panic-stricken cars.24 As when fierce Tisiphone stirs Roman legions and their princes to war, whose lines on either side glitter with the same eagles and spears; their fathers till the same rural lands, and the same unhappy Tiber has sent, not to such wars as these, the chosen levies of all the countryside: so were they, but now of one mind as they sought their foemen’s death, swept away by the panic that Pallas sent, so turned the chariots and dashed together to their own ruin, while their masters strove to hold them back. Not so hideous the ranks of men that South winds have hurled upon the Laurentian shore, nor is such the appearance of the Libyan beaches, when the seas roll shattered hulks to land. Here yoked steeds, there drivers’ limbs are strewn, mangled by wheel-spokes or by shaft; the chariot dripping with gore drags and is dragged along, and in the dark dust entrails of leaders are entangled now with this car, now with that.

[417] Unmoved are the Colchians, nor do they cease to hurl their darts, but slaughter their foes trapped and bound in hopeless doom, and a form of battle arises like as when a hunter hunts stags not with his hungry Umbrian hound or with the feather,25 but finds them held fast by their branching horns and catches them interlocked in blind fury. Bold Ariasmenus himself gathers up his arms and leaps down; but on this side and on that26 the edge of a curved blade cleaves him and casts the fragments among the wheels; then caught upward by the furious car he touched no more the Circean fields.

[427] Thus in rivalry were the Minyae and scattered Cytaei dealing death upon the plains and putting Scythia to rout, when royal Juno, seeing that this is no way for Aesonides to win the fleece or accomplish his return, contrives a last resource ere the faithless king reveals the deadly plotting of his savage wrath. Moreover, with tardy sorrowful complaint she chides Vulcan, whose flame-emitting bulls she can see snorting forth from their breasts Tartarean gloom in the royal grazing-fields. For she fears beforehand lest when the warfare be over he bid the Minyae sow the Cadmean dragon’s teeth and yoke these monsters, and casts about for divers ruses. Medea alone comes to her mind, all her thoughts are centred on the maiden only, than whom is none more potent at the nightly altars; for responsive to her cry and to the juices she scatters in desolate places the stars are halted trembling and the Sun her grandsire is aghast as he runs his course; she changes the aspect of the fields and the tracks of the rivers, all things are bound fast in their own deep slumber, old folk she seethes again to youth27 and lawlessly assigns them yet more spindles; at her did Circe, mightiest in the ways of terror, at her did the stranger Phrixus marvel, though he knew that Atracian poisons made the moon to foam and that spells of Haemonia were rousing up the ghosts. Her therefore, awe-inspiring with magic power and maidenhood, would Juno fain join in alliance with the Achaean leader; for none other can she see to be a match for the bulls and for the up-springing warriors and for the flame28 that stands in her mid path, fearing nothing, shrinking from no sight of ill; what if blind passion add thereto its merciless flame?

[455] Then seeks she Venus’ bower and the garlands ever fresh that deck her abode. At the sight of her the goddess straightway springs from her high-piled couch, and all the troop of winged Loves. And first with calm and humble speech, afraid to reveal her real fears, the Saturnian accosts her: “In thy hands all my hope now lies,” she says, “and all my power; all the more then grant this boon, for it is truth I tell thee. Ever since the stern Tirynthian hath been an exile from Argolic shores, Jove hath not the same mind toward me, his will is contrary; no regard hath he for my chamber, no nightly passion as of yore. Grant me, I pray, the winning allurement of a cunningly wrought beauty, grant me thy own adornments that have power both in earth and heaven.”

[467] The goddess perceived her craft, for long had she sought herself to destroy the Colchian land and all the hated race of Phoebus. Now at last she has what she desires: suffering no further prayer she gives her the dangerous ornament, the girdle fruitful in dire issues, that knows not piety nor care of good repute nor honour, but rather fickleness and hot desire, and inducement to ill and sin that allures the wavering, and fear and the distracting terror of another’s peril. “All my power and all the armoury of my sons have I given thee,” she says; “now make havoc of what hearts thou wilt.”

[477] Joyfully the Saturnian girds herself with the mysterious magic, and thence betakes herself to the inmost chamber of the maiden’s dwelling, counterfeiting in voice and shape her sister Chalciope. In her own despite fire flashed from her afar, and straightway panic and a mighty shuddering shook the frame of Aeetes’ daughter. “Thou alone then art ignorant, O sister,” she begins, “that the Minyae are come hither, braving the unknown deep and with our sire have joined confederate bands? Nay, the rest of the folk are on the walls, delighting in the heavenly armour of the heroes, and dost thou sit slothful in thy bower and alone stir not from our father’s dwelling? When wilt thou see again such princes?”

[488] Naught answered she, but the goddess suffered her not, but takes Medea’s hand and with swift steps leads her marvelling away. Ignorant of future ill, surrendering herself to her feigned sister, the hapless maid is led to the summit of the walls: even as white lilies gleam conspicuous through the hues of springtime, lilies whose life is short and their glory reigns but for a while and already the dark pinions of the South wind hover near.

[495] Persean Hecate dwelling in her lofty groves bewailed her, and from the depth of her heart uttered these words: “Alas! thou dost leave our woodland and thy maidens’ bands, unhappy girl, to wander in thy own despite to the cities of the Greeks. Yet not unbidden goest thou, nor, my dear one, will I forsake thee. A signal record of thy flight shalt thou leave behind, nor though a captive shalt thou ever be despised by thy false lord, nay, he shall know me for thy teacher, and that I grieved with shame that he robbed me of my handmaiden.” She spoke; but they gaining the extremity of the walls listen motionless and in fear to the cries of men and the trumpet’s blaring; even as birds dismayed at the oncoming chill of the storm-clouds flock to the branches and cling to them in terror.

[507] By now the Getae and by now all Hiberia and the Drangaean host is falling in dense carnage, strewn far and wide about the plain. Cowering half-dead amid their weapons and their steeds they miserably thrust and struggle to get free from the grim pile of bodies, and their gasping cries fill all the fields. But the victorious Geloni redouble the paean of their native land; soon do the conquered also know the same delights, where heaven and war in kindlier shape hath looked upon them.29

[515] Who wrought such slaughter, who performed such deeds, tell now, O Muse, and recollect his furious frenzy. Absyrtus, amid the effulgence of his flashing shield and of the chariot of his grandsire the Sun (whose quivering spear and threatening helm the folk could not look on close at hand, but in fear gave ground and turning their backs were stricken, while their loud cries enhance the panic) – he with the impact of galloping steeds lays warriors low, and tramples the groans of the living mass. As fiery is his comrade Aron, upon whose bristling armour and shoulders scaled with bronze there burns the barbaric embroidery of a many-coloured cloak, which bellying in the wind streams all over his horse: even as Lucifer sails upon roseate wings, whom Venus rejoices to lead forth in a glorious sky. But not far from thence Rambelus and fierce Otaxes had routed the Colchians, and likewise inglorious Armes, wont by a new device and still unpunished ruse to ravage flocks and herds, for clothed in shaggy hide he wore stags’ horns upon his face and lurked in the terrors of the Lycaean god. In such aspect had he then held his enemies spellbound, when Aron saw him plying this unwonted terror in the fight, and “Now thinkest thou,” said he, “that thou art assailing timid herdsmen and brute cattle? No pastures or oxen hast thou here; keep thy counterfeits for nocturnal raids, and pretend not to be a god; nay, even if a god, do battle with me!” So doth he speak, and aims the missile to which his firmly planted foot gives aid; the shaggy hide fell away, and the wound showed clear.

[542] Nor less gallantly do the Aeetian sons of Aeolian Phrixus charge, inspired themselves with battle frenzy and exulting to display their prowess now to the Cytaean host, now to their Grecian kinsmen. Jason rejoiced to see them in the fiercest peril of the stubborn conflict and in the midst of glorious deeds; “Heaven prosper you,” he cried, “men of my own race, sure offspring, not fancied only, of the Aeolian stock. Gifts enough do I win in recompense for your labours, solace have I enough in this sight for whatever may befall.” He spoke, and dashed forth against Suetes and to slay mighty Ceramnus, and whirling his shield the while lays low the one by a stroke behind the knee, and opens a broad gash in the other’s breast.

[553] From their horses Argus stretches out upon the broad plain two warriors, Zacorus and Phalces, and on foot, as he was himself, makes Amastris’ blood to flow. The barbarian coughs up gory gobbets and holds his entrails as they pour forth, and gnashing his teeth expires in fruitless wrath. Calais slays Barisas, and Ripheus who ever frequented neighbouring wars, selling his blood for hire. For one hundred chosen bodies of oxen and one hundred steeds had the warrior made compact; these did he weigh against his life and the light of day, ruthless one; now at last too late he bethinks himself of the pleasant air and the heaven that no treasure will buy.

[563] Peucon falls, his hair that curled over his dark temples still veiled in his mother’s reeds; but at the self-same hour in her deep cave his Maeotian parent filled the lakes with lamentation as she called upon her son, who no more would scour the banks and undulating meres, nor slay hinds upon the marble surface of mid-ocean.30 Eurytus chases the Exomatae from the field. Young Helix dies upon Nestor’s spear, nor repays to his dear sire his debt of nurture, snatched away in the outset of his life. But Daraps slays Latagus and Zetes, the one with his spear, an the other is fleeing when of a sudden he beholds a mighty gush of blood and his breast agleam with an iron point.31

[575] But lo! Medea seated upon her father’s walls scans the separate conflicts of this mighty battle, and while she recognises some princes in the murky haze and asks about others, at Juno’s prompting spies afar the head of Jason, and hither turns her eager eyes and senses and favouring mind, picturing beforehand now whither he would dash, now to what other part he would ride off, and how many steeds, how many weapons he would strike down alone, and with what hail of spears he would bring roaming warriors to a halt. And wherever again she cast her wandering glance and silent look, seeking the armour either of her brother or of her betrothed spouse, there fierce Jason and he alone met her passionate gaze. Then as though ignorant, she addressed her sister thus: “Who, pray, is he whom I have long been watching rage furiously over all the plain and whom thou thyself dost see? for I ween that thou too art amazed at valour so great.”

[590] Cruel Juno makes answer, plying the goad and driving her on in deadly fraud. “’Tis Aesonides himself, sister, thou seest,” she says, “who over so vast a sea is come to recover the fleece of his kinsman Phrixus that is his due, nor is any before him now in nobility of race or blood. Thou seest how he shines out and flashes amid the Minyae and the Colchian chieftains, and over what heaps of slain he triumphs; and soon will he set sail, soon will he leave our shores, bound for the wealth of prosperous Thessaly and the countryside that Phrixus loved. Ay, would that he could go, and all his toils be ended!” So saying she urges her to attend yet more eagerly to the battlefield while yet she may, and to scan with her gaze the fierce combats of the hero.

[602] But, even while she incited Medea with words, the prince too did the goddess urge on with success in battle and implanted new vigour in his breast. Straightway ‘neath the lofty summit of his helm do his eyes flash fury, and as he speeds along his Achaean plume blazes like a star, bringing no joy to thee, O Perses, nor yet, O maid, to thee; like the fierce hound of autumn is it or comets sent to mark the doom of unjust kings by angry Jove. Nor was Crethides32 blind to his own goddess, but felt the new strength working in his limbs, and rears himself up above the host; huge as Caucasus when white with frost and storms of snow he soars in wintertime to the Bears aloft. Then, indeed, like a lion that wreaks his fury upon the fatlings of the stall, and in luxury of slaughter sates his maw now here, now there, and passes from bloodshed to bloodshed, so Jason storming on tarries not to sate his ire in one quarter or one scene of carnage, but rages against all alike, and now through the fury of his sword, now of his relentless spear-point do the fighting ranks grow scant and dwindle; then smites he both Hebrus with terrible streaming hair and Getic Prion; he slashes off Auchus’ head and arms, and sends him rolling on the desolate plain.

[621] But Colaxes, son of Jove, had fulfilled his fate; and now his sire with mournful countenance makes the heavens gloomy as he gives utterance to his soul’s distress with such complaints as these: “Alas! were I to endeavour to save my son from inexorable doom, and boldly trust in my own empire, my brother, now mourning for the death of Amycus, and all the host of gods would make loud uproar, whose sons have fallen and yet must fall. Nay, let his day of destiny claim each hero: what I deny to myself I suffer none else to take.”

[629] So speaking, he heaps final honours upon the hapless man, and inspires him with boundless valour ere he dies. Over the field he flies, and deals deaths innumerable throughout the columns, like a rain-storm that bursting from a wintry bow sweeps boulders before it and the wreck of woods and tillage, until after racing riotously from the great mountain-top its strength is broken and little by little brought to naught in the new-made stream. So violently darts forth the son of Jove at his life’s ending, and now he slays the great-hearted Hypetaon and Gessithous, and now Arines and Olbus; already wounded and on foot, his charger lost, he slays with his lance Apres and Thydrus Phasiades, whom Caucasus, guarding as was his wont his father’s flock, begat by the side of Phasis’ waters; hence had the boy his surname, and his parents called him the servant of Phasis, keeping in vain his locks unshorn.

[644] And already was he fiercely assaulting other foes, when the cruel goddess breaks off his latest thread and victorious Jason draws nigh. With angry words Colaxes greets him thus: “Is it to sate the gods and birds of Scythia that ye, poor wretches, are hither come?” he says, and grasps and hurls from the upheaved earth a rock, a missile suited to that right hand and to that age, but royal Juno turned it away to the head, unknown and unlamented, of Monesus; headlong falls Monesus, but from his son Jupiter turned not aside the blow, but the fatal stroke of the Aesonian spear passes through both shield and heart, while murderous Aesonides dashes up to him where he lies and embitters the fallen warrior’s death. Thence speeds he away, and comes to the hapless Alani who already know him well.

[657] But the princess with roving gaze follows the hero (for the god quenches not the fire),33 upon him her burning eyes are ever fixed; and now she has less delight in the battle-scene before her, and chides her fears and the trouble cherished she knows not why, wondering if it be in truth her sister; nor dares she harden herself and deem that countenance false, but yields again to the same entrancing fancies and is drawn on by the sweetness of the cruel flame. And just as at first the South wind makes gentle sport as it softly stirs the leaves and topmost branches of the woodland, but soon the unlucky ships are feeling all its terrible strength: even so is Medea led on to the height of madness. At whiles she fingers the necklace plucked from the winsome goddess, and fits it, flashing fire, about her hapless neck, and where she has set the maddening gold upon her tender limbs there her strength fails; and the maiden gives back the ornament to the goddess, overcome not by the gems nor by the light metal, but by the fire, by the strong influence of the god whom she hath made free of all her heart, while the last remnant of shame hovers in the blushes of her cheek. And thus first she speaks: “Thinkest thou, sister, that our sire will grant what he has promised, since so kind a Providence has thus brought the Argive stranger to him? or who much cruel warfare yet remains? Alas! to what perils doth he expose himself in behalf of a race he knows not!” As she thus spoke, in mid-utterance Juno left her, now mistress of her purpose and of her fraud assured.

[681] More boldly now leans the reckless girl from the high walls, nor follows or seeks her vanished sister. But so oft as the stern violence of the leaders and sudden charge of thronging warriors beset the son of Aeson, and when all the hail of darts converge on him alone, so oft doth she feel the stones and lances wound her. First was she to shudder at Lexanor’s threatening bow, but the shaft sped high above Jason’s head, straight for thee, Caicus: a piteous wife doth Caicus leave and a house where the new marriage-bed mourns one partner lost.

[690] Myraces had come, a king’s ambassador, from eastern shores, to make with Aeetes no idle treaty, uniting Parthians and Colchians by gifts of gold. At that time fate and a passion for the sudden war had kept him in Cytaean lands; with him went his eunuch squire, emasculate and sterile in the flower of youth. He himself, seated by the reins upon quiver-burdened coverlets, now nimbly speeds to the press of battle in threatening car, now turning scatters arrows in feigned retreat. On his head he binds the tiara of his race, adorned with emeralds and the fruit of eastern trees34; he wears bangles on his arms, a scimitar at his right side, and the long trews run down to cover his barbarian feet. Nor did those spoils long escape the eye of fierce Syenes, but through the light tiger’s hide varied with much purple speeds the driven spear; of a sudden the wounded tiger gushes at the mouth with blood and pours forth its master’s life, while the youth35 falls, his head entangled in the broken bow. Then drenched is the flaming cloak with the dark blood, with blood his face and the heavy locks which his mother had tended with perfume of Sabaean flowers and decked with purest gold. Even as when one nurtures an olive with river streams and all the richness of fertile oil and stints it not of breezes, nor doth his constant toil nor expectation play the nurturer false, and now doth he behold its summit put forth its earliest leaf, when on a sudden hurricane swoops down from the rushing storm-clouds of the North, and roots it up and stretches it on the dark soil: not otherwise doth Myraces fall before the city and the maiden’s very eyes; yet, anxious for one alone, no more doth she feel than when she beholds Talaus or thy furious prowess, Meleager, or admires the fighting of Acastus; yet had their own peoples and the battle-fields their fill of seeing these warriors in equal hurricane press hard the routed squadrons. Before their eyes stream the chieftains in base flight, fast runs the blood of the fallen, and chariots bereaved of their mighty lords go by.

[725] Perses brooked not the cries of his routed warriors, and gazing at their fleeing backs filled heaven with these complaints: “Why, O ye gods above, why with vain auguries did ye command me, driven from my native home, to set this war afoot and stir up Scythia to battle? Why, Jupiter, did thine omens vouchsafe me my brother’s merited punishment? Thou wert ready, forsooth, to bring all the might of Argos to be joined in succour to mine. Verily, for the wretched it is cruelty to tarry in the light; yet may the fates grant me but the one day, that may play the Achaeans false as they deserve, and that I may see this Jason who so flaunts his prowess mourn that such labours met with no reward.”

[737] He spoke, and with mailed arms beat his breast, and filled his helm with tears and groaning; and fast was he striding into the very furnace of the fight, had not Pallas spied him from the opposing ranks, and thought within herself: “Lo! Perses is rushing impetuously to death, whom my sire hath decreed already to set over the Colchians upon his brother’s throne. I fear lest he chide me if through deed of mine he perish, and send dire and terrible recompense for my fault.” So saying she sheds around him a dark shroud of mist, and turns away the javelins that hiss about the hero’s head. A kindly blast lifts him above his fellow-warriors, and bearing him for a while through the tenuous air sets him down at length on the battle’s outer marge, where it chances that Hiberians and Issedonian columns have no part in the fight, and aid the combatants with cries alone.

[752] At the same time welcome Night brings on the star-heralding shadows: straightway the noise of war is lulled, and the maiden, her long day of terror over, goes heartsick from the walls. As the Nyctelli36 in their wild revels awhile resist the god, but soon have the Thyiads drunk the frenzy, ready now for any deed, even in such tumult doth Medea return, and ever amid the Grecian host and the troops of her own land doth she, with passion still unsated, recognise Jason and his armour and his face that strains forward from the hollow helm.

1. His spear.
2. The North, symbolised by the constellations of the Greater and Lesser Bear and the Dragon which winds between them.
3. Valerius has combined the legends in Herodotus 4. 5 and 4. 9, in which Colaxais is the grandson of Jupiter by a nymph, and Hercules begets sons by a woman whose lower half is serpent; he also makes her end in two snakes instead of one, if that is the point of “geminos.”
4. The reference is probably to the Twelfth Legion, called Fulminata.
5. The snakes are represented as facing one another, and darting their tongues upon a jewel placed between them.
6. Auchus is holy because of the white hair that he had at birth; hence he wears fillets. There was also a sacredness in the number of three (cf. Virg. Ecl. 9. 73-4). Langen thinks the triple band was due to his baldness.
7. Gerus is a river flowing into the Lacus Maeotis, and Byce or Byze is in that neighbourhood. The Gangaridae are not known except as an Indian tribe. Langen suggests that the poet had the Dandaridae in mind, quoting Tac. Ann. 12. 15, Strabo 11. 2. 11.
8. If this is the Phrixus of the fleece, it is not clear what the poet means by saying that he set the troops in motion, nor does Langen, who takes this view, explain it; it is more likely that Phrixus is the chieftain of the tribe who live by the river Acesinus, in the Tauric Chersonese.
9. They were descendants of slaves who, while the Scythian men were away from home, had married the women; the men on their return had punished them with the lash and driven them out (Justin 2.5).
10. i.e. porcupines. The “broken columns” in the following line must be herms, short pillars with an effigy at the top.

11. So called (“mora”) because it delays the passage of darts.
12. This line seems out of place, as it lacks a verb; Taras is unknown, and Evarchus, a river near Sinope, can hardly have sent Scythians to the war.
13. The use of dogs in war is referred to by Pliny, Nat. Hist. 8. 153; cf. also the mysterious allusion in Prudentius, Apotheosis 216.
14. This custom of the Iazyges is mentioned by Claudian (in Ruf. 1. 328), and told of the Spaniards by Silius (1. 226), of the Indians by Herodotus (3. 99); according to Prudentius the mode of death was to be pushed off a bridge (c. Symm. 2. 294).
15. Ghosts are not called up from the underworld any more, now that Coastes has gone to war, and Charon can sleep in peace at night; also the moon is not continually being drawn down by his magic.
16. This is Koestlin’s explanation, but Langen understands the words in a military sense, that the Sarmatian tribe had as many detachments (alas”) at the end of the line (“cornu”) as the Balloniti and the Moesi at theirs. By his mention of a rein the poet means that there was a thong attached by which the lance could be jerked back from the wound it had made and so retrieved (see R. Syme, op. cit. p. 132).
17. Boreas shouts from the waves that he is driving, against the other winds who shout from theirs.
18. The snakes of the aegis, but it is not clear why they are called “half-dead,” unless because the Gorgon’s head which they encircled had been severed from its body.
19. The nymphs of the woodland.
20. For a discussion of these lines see R. Syme, op. cit., pp. 132, 133.

21. The reference is to 123-8.
22. Borrowed from Homer, Iliad 22. 71.
23. Mentioned as one of the most valiant Argonauts (3. 471, 4. 224, 7. 574); even so he is frightened at the sight of Gesander.
24. The chariots were thrown into confusion by their own scythes.
25. A line of feathers strung at intervals on a cord was used to frighten wild animals and drive them upon the ambushed hunters.
26. He gets among the scythed chariots, so that on either side of him he comes in contact with the blades.
27. The reference must be to Medea’s subsequent feat in restoring Aeson to youth, as related, for instance, in Ovid, Met. 7. 251-92, although in fact in this poem Aeson kills himself (1. 814).
28. Apparently that breathed out by the bulls.
29. In other parts of the field the invading army do better, and so, like the victors, can sing the paean.
30. i.e. when frozen, as in 328-9.

31. One faces him, and is killed with the spear, the other turns to flee, when suddenly he finds himself transfixed from behind.
32. Jason, whose father Aeson was the son of Cretheus.
33. Usually taken to refer to the fire of love kindled by Cupid, but Langen takes “deus” as meaning Juno, as there has been no mention of Cupid, and gives authority for “deus” used for a goddess.
34. i.e. silk.
35. i.e. the eunuch (695).
36. Votaries of Bacchus; the name was an epithet of that god, signifying that he was worshipped with nocturnal rites; cf. Ovid, Ars Am. 1. 567.

<< BOOK 5 BOOK 7 >>
 
RELATED BOOKS