Classical Texts Library >> Nonnus, Dionysiaca >> Book 5




Love of Zeus & Europa
Typhoeus & Cadmus


Battle of Zeus & Typhoeus


Cadmus on Samothrace


Winning of Harmonia
The Founding of Thebes


Wedding of Harmonia
Death of Actaeon


Birth & Death of Zagreus
The Great Deluge


Love of Zeus & Semele


Death of Semele


Birth & Fostering of Dionysus
Madness of Ino


Madness of Athamas
Love of Dionysus & Ampelus


Death of Ampelus
Love of Calamus & Carpus


Tablets of Phanes
Discovery of Wine


Human Army of Dionysus


Divine Army of Dionysus

BOOKS 15 - 48


Look into the fifth next, and you will see Actaion also, whom no pricket brought forth, torn by dogs as a fleeing fawn.

[1] As soon as Cadmos had reaped the snaky crop of toothplanted battles, and shorn the stubble of the giants, pouring the bloodlibation to Ares as the firstling feast of harvestslaughter, he cleansed his body in dragonbreeding Circe, and sacrificed the Delphian cow on the godbuilt altar as fair offering for Pallas. As the first rite in the sacrifice, he sprinkled the two horns on both sides with barleygrains; he drew out and bared the falchion knife which hung at his thigh alongside by an Assyrian strap, and cut the top hairs of the longhorned head with the hilted blade. Theoclymenos grasped the heifer’s horn and drew back the throat, Thyestes cut through the sinews of the neck with a double-edged axe; the stone altar of Athena Onca1 was reddened with the smear of the creature’s blood. Then the cow’s horned front was struck, and prone the creature fell. They brittled her with the steel, they cut through the sides and carved her up with the knife, they strips the hard covering of hide and stretched it out.

[20] The prince himself was busy, after folding his bright mantle and laying it on the ground. He cut out raw slices of the sturdy thighs, chopt them small and set them between two layers of fat; he pierced the long tripes with iron spits and stretched them over the embers, grilling them with gentle heat; then he brought them, pierced on the pointed bronze, and lifting the glowing spits one by one, laid them in a row on the grass amid the flowers – steward of a lowly table! The fragrant smoke of Assyrian incense scattered curling through the air. The sacrifice ended, there was a feast: and Cadmos took and held out and served to each an equal portion of choice food. The rows of banqueters at the round table soon had enough and wanted no more.2

[35] The dragon’s death was not the end of the labours of Cadmos; but after the Serpent, and after the savage tribes of giants, he fought the champions of the Ectenes and the Aonian people, reaping a barbarian harvest of Ares, and fell on the neighbouring Temmicans3: when he called for soldiers, a motley swarm of neighbours came to his help. To both armies alike Strife joined Enyo and brought forth Tumult: when they met in battle bows were bent, spears hurled, helmets shook, shots whizzed, oxhides rattled struck on the bossy round with chunks like millstones. The blood of the fallen ran in streams; many a man fell headlong half-dead on the fruitful earth, and rolled in the dust. Then the army of his adversaries bowed suppliant before Cadmos, and the conflict ceased. After the bloody whirl of battle Cadmos laid the foundation of Thebes yet unfortified.

[51] He divided the spaces, and many furrows were cut this way and that, the beds of many branching roads were cut by the sharp-footed iron of the oxplow; many streets were measured at right angles to the four opposing winds to take their share of the grasslands. Then the Aonian city was embellished with the stony beauty of Tyrian art: all were busy, one workman with another, cutting under the Boiotian slopes with earthcleaving pick the variegated rock, which the hills near the thick forest of tree-clad Teumessos4 brought forth, which Helicon grew and Cithairon brought to birth. He completed temples for the gods and houses for the people, planning with his builder’s rules. He scored the shape of a city surrounded by walls upon impregnable foundation-stones, with seven entries, imitating in his art heaven with its seven zones,5 but he left the walls for Amphion to build for the future inhabitants, and to protect, with towerbuilding harp.

[67] He dedicated seven gates, equal in number to the seven planets. First towards the western clime he allotted the Oncaian Gate to Mene Brighteyes, taking the name from the honk of cattle, because the Moon herself, bullshaped, horned, driver of cattle, being triform is Tritonis Athene.6 The second gate he gave in honour to Hermaon,7 the shining neighbour of Mene. The fourth he traced out and named for Electra Phaëthon’s8 daughter, because when he appears, Electra’s morning gleam sparkles with like colour; and the midmost gate9 opposite the Dawn he dedicated to fiery Helios, since he is in the middle of the planets. The fifth he gave to Ares, the third to Aphrodite, in order that Phaëthon might be between them both on either side, and cut off his neighbour the furious Ares from Aphrodite. The sixth he made an image of Zeus, shining high with more glorious craftsmanship. The last fell to the lot of Cronos10 the seventh planet.

[85] Such he made this seat; and having founded the sacred city, he called it by the name of Thebes in Egypt, decking out an earthly image like to Olympos with all its adornments.

[88] The daughters of the Aonians struck up Harmonia’s marriage-hymn with dances: the dancing girls sang the name of the Thracian bride, in that palace and its fine bridal chamber. The Paphian also, her lovely mother, decorated her daughter’s newbuilt bower for Cadmos, while she sang of the god-ordained marriage; her father danced with joy for his girl, bare and stript of his armour, a tame Ares! and laid his right arm unweaponed about Aphrodite, while he sounded the spirit of the Loves on his wedding-trumpet answering the panspipes: he had shaken off from his helmet head the plumes of horsehair so familiar in the battlefield, and wreathed bloodless garlands about his hair, weaving a merry song for Love. Dancing with the immortals came Ismenian11 Apollo to Harmonia’s wedding, while he twangled a hymn of love on his sevenstring harp. The nine Muses too struck up a lifestirring melody: Polymnia nursingmother of the dance waved her arms, and sketched in the air an image of a soundless voice, speaking with hands and moving eyes in a graphic picture of silence full of meaning. Victory turned a tripling foot for the pleasure of Zeus, and stood by as bridesmaid crying triumph for Cadmos the god’s champion; about the bridebed she wove the wedding song with her virgin voice, and moved her gliding steps in the pretty circles of the dance, while she fluttered her wings, shamefast beside the wings of the Loves.

[113] A light arose, like a misnamed dawn in the evening, from the splendour no less brilliant of those gleaming torches scattered everywhere. All night long, the merry rout of untiring dancers were singing with clear voices beside the bridal chamber in happy romps; since <Hermes> anxious for a sleepless wedding night had left his familiar wand behind, because that was the rationer of sleep. So Thebes was the Olympian dancing-place; and one might see Cadmos and Zeus touching the same table!

[121] And now rose the Serpent,12 companion of the northern Waggon, bringing the bride-adorning season to the marriage halls, a messenger with news of things to come: for Harmonia’s bridegroom along with his agemate bride was destined to change his human shape for a serpent’s. The Blessed, one after another, brought their gifts of honour to Cadmos as he hastened to his chamber. Zeus gave success in all things. Horsemaster Seabluehair proffered the gifts of the sea, in honour to his sister Hera the renowned, for she was Ares’ mother. Hermes gave a sceptre, Ares a spear, Apollo a bow. Hephaistos lifted upon Harmonia’s head a crown plumed with precious stones of many colours, a golden circlet hung over her temples. Goldenthrone Hera provided a jewel-set throne. Aphrodite wishing to delight Ares in the deep shrewdness of her mind, clasped a golden necklace showing pale about he girl’s blushing neck, a clever work of Hephaistos set with sparkling gems in masterly refinement. This he had made for his Cyprian bride, a gift for his first glimpse of Archer Eros.13 For the heavyknee bridegroom always expected that Cythereia would bear him a hobbling son, having the image of his father in his feet. But his thought was mistaken; and when he beheld a whole-footed son brilliant with wings like Maia’s son Hermes, he made this magnificent necklace.14

[144] It was like a serpent with starspangled back and coiling shape. For as the twoheaded amphisbaina15 in very sooth winds the coils between and spits her poison from either mouth, rolling along and along with double-gliding motion, and head crawling joins with head while she jumps twirling waves of her back sideways: so that magnificent necklace twisted shaking its crooked back, with its pair of curving necks, which came to meet at the midnipple, a flexible twoheaded serpent thick with scales; and by the curving joints of the work the golden circle of the moving spine bent round, until the head slid about with undulating movement and belched a mimic hissing through the jaws.16

[158] With the two mouths on each side, where is the beginning and the end, was a golden eagle that seemed to be cutting the open air, upright between the serpent’s heads, high-shining with fourfold nozzle of the four wings.17 One wing was covered with yellow jasper, one had the allwhite stone of Selene,18 which fades as the horned goddess wanes, and waxes when Mene newkindled distils her horn’s liquid light and milks out the self-gotten fire of Father Helios. A third had the gleaming pearl, which by its gleam makes the gray swell of the Erythraian Sea sparkle shining. Right in the middle of the other, the Indian agate spat out its liquid light, gently shining in bright beauty.

[171] Where the two heads of the serpent came together from both sides, the mouths gaped wide and enclosed the eagle with both their jaws, enfolding it from this side and that. Over the shining front, rubies in the eyes shot their native brilliancy, which sent forth a sharp gleam, like a fiery lamp being kindled. Proud with the manifold shapes of stones was a sea, and an emerald stone grass-green welcomed the crystal adjoining like the foam, and showed the image of the white-crested brine becoming dark; here all clever work was fashioned, here all the brinebred herds of the deep sparkled in shining gold as though leaping about, and many a supple traveller danced halfseen, the dolphin skimming the brine which waggled its mimic tail selfmoved; flocks of many-coloured birds – you might almost think you heard the windy beat of their flapping wings, when Cythereia gave the glorious necklace to her girl, golden, bejewelled, to hang by the bride’s neck.19

[190] Soon Harmonia yoked by the cestus-girdle that guides wedded desire, carried in her womb the seed of many children whom she brought forth soon one by one: turn by turn she was delivered of her teeming burden by the birth of daughters, after four times nine circuits of the Moon had been fulfilled. First Autonoë leapt from her mother’s fruitful womb, her first birthpangs after nine months’ course with child. Then came Ino to be her sister, the beautiful consort of Athamas who bore him two children. Third appeared Agauë, who afterwards married with the giant stock and bore a son like to her fangborn husband.20 Then Semele fourth of the daughters grew up, the image of the Graces in her lovestriking looks, preserved for Zeus; although youngest of the sisters, she alone was given by nature the prerogative of unconquerable beauty. Last of all Harmonia added a little son to the brood of sisters, and made Cadmos happy – Polydoros, the morning star of the Aonian nation, younger than rosycheek Semele; but Pentheus a lawless prince pushed him aside and took the sceptre in Thebes. All this old Time was to bring to pass by and by.

[212] Cadmos now chose husbands for his daughters, and gave them over in four successive bridals, settling their weddings one by one. First Aristaios laden with gifts, he of the herds and he of the wilds, as he was named, the blood of allwise Apollo and Cyrene so ready with her hands,21 wedded Autonoë according to the rules of lawful marriage. Agenorides did not refuse his daughter to a goodson well acquainted with the art of feeding many; nay, he gave her to a very clever husband, a lifesaving son of Apollo, after he had calmed the pestilential star of fiery Maira22 by the lifepreserving breezes of heaven-sent winds. The wedding-feast also was very rich, since he gave the unyoked maid oxen for her treasure, he gave goats, he gave mountain-bred flocks; many a line of burden-bearers was forced to lift the load of great jars full of olive-oil, his marriage gifts, much travail of the clever honeybee he brought, in the riddled comb her masterpiece.

[229] That man ranging the mountains on his springing feet, first found out the business of hunting the prickets among the rocks they love: how the dog divines the scent of the unseen prey with intelligent nostril on the ankles of the hills, pricking up his ears on the crookpath course; he learnt the many-twining meshes of his cunning art, and the shape of the standing stakenet, and the morning track of animals over the sand and the spoor impressed in the untrodden earth. He taught also the huntsman those high boots for his feet, when he speeds on, steadily pressing the hounds in chase of their prey, and made him wear a short shirt with the thigh showing, lest the tunic hanging low should hinder the speed of the hunter’s hurrying foot.

[242] That man invented the riddled hive with its rows of cells, and made a settled place for the labours of the wandering bees, which flit from flower to flower over the meadows and flutter on clusters of finefruiting plants, sucking dew from the top with the tips of their lips. He covered every limb from toenails to hair with a closewoven wrap of linen, to defend him from the formidable stings of the battling bees, and with the cunning trick of smothering smoke he tamed their malice. He shook in the air a torch to threaten the hive-loving bee, and lifting a pair of metal plates, he clapt the two together with rattling hands over the brood in the skep, while they buzzed and humblebumbled in ceaseless din; then cutting off the covering of wax with its manypointed cells, he emptied from the comb its gleaming treasure of honeydripping increase.

[258] He first found out the dew of the slicktrickling oil, when he cut into the fruit of the juicy olive with the press’s heavy stone and scrouged out the rich feason. From the wellwooded pasture of the shady forestslopes he brought the herdsmen to meadows and ealings, and taught them to feed their flocks from sunrise to eventide. When the sheep strayed in strings with wandering hoof, lagging behind on ways they could not find or trust, to the flowery pasture, he joined them on one path sending a goat ahead to lead the concerted march. He invented Pan’s pastoral tune on the mountains. He lulled asleep the scorching dogstar of Maira.23 He kindled the fragrant altar of Zeus Icmaios; he poured the bull’s blood over the sweet libation, and the curious gifts of the gadabout bee which lay on the altar, filling his dainty cups with a posset mixt with honey. Father Zeus heard him; and honouring his son’s son, he sent a counterblast of pestaverting winds to restrain Seirios with his fiery fevers. Still to this day the etesian winds from Zeus herald the sacrifice of Aristaios, and cool the land when the ripening vine grows in mottled clusters.

[280] This was he, the Ceian24 son of Phoibos, whom Eros escorted to the Aonian wedding. All the city wreathed in garlands was busy about the cattle-sacrifice, and the straightcut streets were all busy dancing. Before the gates of the bridal chamber the people twirled their reeling legs for the wedding; the women struck up a lovelysounding noise of melody, the Aonian hoboys tootled with the bridal pipes.

[287] Afterwards from the bed of Aristaios and Autonoë, arose Actaion. His passion was for the rocks; and having in him the blood of the Hunter,25 he took the mould of his huntsman father, and became a mountainranging servant of Artemis – no wonder that illfated Actaion learnt the practice of the chase, when he was born grandson to lionslaying Cyrene! Never a bear escaped him on the hills; not even the baneful eye of the lioness with young could make his heart flutter. Many a time he lay in wait for the panther, and laid low as she leapt on him high in air. Shepherd Pan would ever gaze at him over the bushes with wondering eyes, while he outstripped the running of the swift stag. But his running feet availed him nothing, his quiver helped him not, nor the straight shot, the cunning of the chase; but the Portioner (Moira) destroyed him, a scampering fawn worried by dogs, while still breathing battle after the Indian war. For as he sat up in a tall oak tree amid the spreading boughs, he had seen the whole body of the Archeress bathing; and gazing greedily on the goddess that none may see, he surveyed inch by inch the holy body of the unwedded virgin close at hand. A Naiad nymph unveiled espied him from afar with a sidelong look, as he stared with stolen glances on the unclothed shape of her queen, and shrieked in horror, telling her queen the wild daring of a lovesick man. Artemis half revealed caught up her dress and encircling shawl, and covered her modest breasts with the maiden zone in shame, and sank with gliding limbs into the water, until by little and little all her form was hidden.

[316] Actaion heavy-fated! At once your manly shape was gone – four feet had cloven hooves – long cheeks drew out on your jawbones – your legs became thinner – two long bunches of widebranching antlers curved over your forehead – a borrowed shape, its body all covered with hair, dappled every limb with motley spots – a windswift fawn had nothing of you left but the mind! With quickfaring leap of the hoof he ran through the unfriendly forest, a hunter in terror of hunters. But in this new shape his dogs no longer knew their former master. The angry Archeress in resentment maddened them with a nod – there was no escape; panting infuriated with wild frenzy, they sharpened the double row of their fawnkilling teeth, and deceived by the false appearance of a stag they devoured the dappled changeling body in senseless fury. But that was not all the goddess meant: the dogs were to tear Actaion slowly to pieces with their jaws little by little, while breathing still and in his right mind, that she might torment his mind even more with sharper pains. So he with a man’s feeling groaned for his own fate, while he cried aloud in a lamentable voice:

[337] “Happy Teiresias!26 You saw without destruction the naked body of Athena, reluctant but pitiful. You did not die! you did not get the shape of a stag, no poking horns raised themselves on your brow. You lost the light of your eyes, but you live! and the brilliancy of the eyes Athena transplanted to your mind. Archeress is more deadly in anger than Tritogeneia. O that she had given me a pain like that! O that she also had attacked the eyes, as Athena did! O that she had transformed my mind with my form – for I have the alien shape of a beast, yet a man’s feeling is in me! Do beasts ever lament their own death? They live without thought, and know not their end. I alone keep a sensible mind perishing: I drop intelligent tears, under the brows of a beast! Now for the first time, my hounds, you are really wild; when before have you hunted a lion with frenzied leap like this!

[354] “Sing a dirge for Actaion, my beloved hills! Yes I beseech you, and the beasts do the like! Cithairon, tell Autonoë what you know; with stony tears describe to Aristaios my father, my end and the maddened hounds unmerciful. O dreaded fate! With my own hands I fed my murderers! If only a hillranging lion had brought me low, if only a dappleback panther had dragged me and torn me, if only furious bears had pierced me about with sharp merciless claws, and feasted on the seeming fawn with flashing jaws, not my own familiar hounds had brought me down: no longer they know my shape, no longer the voice with a sound so strange!”

[366] Half dead he spoke, and as he prayed, the cruel hound did not understand the prayers poured out in sorrow with the voice of a beast; the stories he told had meaning, but instead of a human voice, only a noise of unmeaning sound rang out.

[370] Already Rumour self born had flown from the hills to Autonoë, proclaiming her son’s fate torn to pieces by his dogs: not indeed that he had donned the thickhaired shape of a stag, only that he was dead. His mother in her passionate love, unshot, unveiled, was scourged by grief. She tore her hair, she rent all her smock, she scored her cheeks with her nails in sorrow till they were red with blood; baring her bosom, she reddened the lifegiving round of the breasts which had nursed her children, in memory of her son; over her sorrowing face the tears ran in a ceaseless flood and drenched her robes. Actaion’s hounds returning from the mountain confirmed the tidings of woe, for they revealed the young man’s end by their silent tears. When the mother saw their mourning she wailed louder still. Old Cadmos shore off his hoary hair, Harmonia cried aloud; the whole house resounded heavybooming with the noise of women wailing in concert.

[388] Autonoë along with Aristaios her husband went in search of the scattered remains of the dead. She saw her son, but knew him not; she beheld the shape of a dappled deer and saw no aspect of a man. Often she passed the bones of a fawn unrecognized, lying on the ground, and did not understand; for her boy was dead, and she looked to find a human shape. I blame not unhappy Autonoë. The relics of her son which met her eyes were of alien shape; she noticed the jaws of a face unrecognized and did not see the circle of his countenance, touched horns and did not know a son’s temples, found slim legs and did not trace his feet, saw slim legs and saw not the rounded boots. I blame not unhappy Autonoë; she saw not the human eyes of him that was gone, she saw no image of a manly shape, she saw no the well-known chin marked with the dark flower of bloom. Passing over the forest ridges with wandering feet, she trod the rough back of the rugged hill, unshod, with loosened robe, and returned home form the mountainranging task; grieving for her unsuccessful cares she fell asleep at last beside her husband, unhappy father! Both were haunted by shadowy dreams, their eyes glimpsing the wing of a nightingale sleep.27

[412] The young man’s ghost stood by his disconsolate father, wearing the shadowy form of a dappled stag; but from his eyelids he poured tears of understanding and spoke with a human voice: “You sleep, my father, and you know not my fate. Wake, and recognize my unknown changeling looks; wake, and embrace the horn of a stag you love, kiss a wild beast with understanding, one born of Autonoë’s womb! I whom you behold am that very one you brought up; you both see Actaion and hear Actaion’s voice. If you desire to clasp your boy’s hand and fingers, look at my forefeet and you shall know my hands. If you want my head, behold the head of a stag; if human temples, look at the long horns; if Actaion’s feet, see the hindhoof. If you have seen my hairy coat, it was my clothing. Know your son, my father, whom Apollo did not save! Mourn your son, my father, whom Cithairon did not protect! Cover in the sad dust your boy in disguise, and be not misled by this changeling incredible aspect, that you may not leave your dead fawn unburied and unhonoured.

[432] “Father, if you had only kept me unversed in hunting! I should never have desired the Archeress of the wilds, I should never have seen the Olympian shape. If only I had loved a mortal girl! But I left earthborn women and quickfated wedlock to others, and I desired an immortal: the goddess was angry, and I became a dinner for my dogs, father – the hills are my witnesses, or if you do not believe rocks, ask the Naiad nymphs – my trees know all, ask my wild beasts (with forms like mine) and the shepherds whom I summoned.

[442] “I do beg, my father, for one last grace: they knew not what they did, so do not kill my slayers, in your love and sorrow for your child; pity those who slew your son, for they are not to blame – they did not mean it, they were misled by my beastlike looks to take me for a beast. What hound ever spares a stag? What man is angry with dogs for killing a fawn? How the poor creatures scamper about the hills all round, this way and that way, searching for the thing they have killed! They drop understanding tears from their eyes, and throw their forepaws round the nets with what might be an affectionate embrace, like sorrowing men, and weep over the place where I lie with mournful bellings. Yes, I pray you, do not kill the mourners! It was my face, but they saw only a hairy skin; they did not obey my prayers, they did not stay their teeth, because they heard only the bellow of my changeling voice, and in whimpering tones questioned my cliff – ‘To-day someone has stolen Actaion: tell us, Rocks, whither he plies his pricketchasing course? Tell us, Nymphs!’ So the gods; and the hill made answer, ‘What hillranging pricket hunts the pricket himself? I never heard of a stag turned stagshooter! but Acation has changed into another shape and become a fawn with a mind, he who once killed the wild beasts – he who has the blood of the Hunter in him is hunted by a manslayer himself, by Archeress!’ So shouted the cliffs to the sorrowful hounds. Often Artemis said to my hunting murderer, ‘Down, heavylabouring hound! trace no more the wandering slot. Do you seek Actaion whom you carry in your belly? Do you seek Actaion whom you have killed? If you like, you shall see the orts of your meal, nothing but bones.’

[473] “But I will tell you my fate, father, in due order. There was longleafy thicket, part of wild-olive, part of orchard olive.28 Like a fool I left Phylia’s namesfellow growth29 and scrambled up a handy branch of the pure olive, to spy out the naked skin of Artemis – forbidden sight! I was mad – I committed two outrageous sins, when I climbed Pallas’s tree to look on the Archeress’s body with bold eyes; from which the danger of heavy resentment attacked Actaion, both from Artemis and from Athena. For Artemis newly sweating in the vapour of the oppressive fiery heat, after coursing her familiar game, was bathing in the pure water; and as she bathed, her brilliance shooting snowy gleams on the waters against my eyes dazzled me. You might have said the full moon of evening was flashing through the water near the refluent stream of Oceanos. The Naiads all shrieked together; Loxo cried aloud with Upis in concert, and checked her sister Hecaerge who was swimming in the calm stream. Darkness pervaded the air and covered my eyes; I slipt down from the tree headlong into the dust, and suddenly got me a dappled shape. Instead of human form I had a shape unknown, covered all over with hair, and the hunting-dogs all at once drove their fangs into me.

[497] “But I will not speak of all that – why should I inflict a second pain? or I may cause you to groan again even in sleep. Often you passed that tree where lies what is left of Actaion; often you went by those pitiable bones of a dappled fawn, disjointed, scattered on the ground far apart, torn from the flesh by many eaters. But I will tell you another sign of my death which you will believe. You will see my quiver and bow near the tree where the trouble began, unless the winged arrows have been transformed also, unless Artemis in her anger has changed my bow back to its native wood and transformed the quiver. Otos30 was happy, that he became no wandering fawn. The dogs did not rend Orion31 the dogmaster. Would that a scorpion had killed Actaion also with a sharp sting! I was a fool – empty rumour deceived my mind. I heard that Phoibos, the Archeress’s brother, slept with Cyrene and begat my father, and I thought to draw Artemis to marriage in the family. I heard again that shining Dawn carried off Orion for a bridegroom, and Selene Endymion, and Deo embraced a mortal husband Iasion,32 and I thought the Archeress’s mind the same.

[520] “I beg you, father, give burial to the changeling stronghorned shape, let it not be a toy for other dogs! And if you cover what is left of me in the hollowed earth, grant me this boon also: fix my bow and arrows beside my tomb, which is the honour due to the dead. But no, father, never mind bow and arrows, because the Archeress delights in shafts and bends a curving bow. And ask a skilful artist to carve my changeling dappled shape from neck to feet, but let him make only my face of human form, that all may recognize my shape as false. But do not inscribe my fate, father; for the wayfarer cannot shed a tear for fate and shape together.”

[533] So spoke in the dream the intelligent pricket, and without warning it was flown and gone. Autonoë’s husband leapt up, and threw off the wing of this revealing sleep. He aroused his wife much disturbed, and described her boy’s stronghorned animal form, and recounted the story which the intelligent fawn had told. Then there was more lamentation. The bride of Aristaios went on the search again, and passed often through the heart of the longbranching bush; sadly treading the difficult circuits of the rocky ways, she found with pains that fatal growth, she found even the quiver and bow beside a lonely trunk. With much trouble the mother gathered the fallen relics, bones scattered here and there over the strewn earth. She clasped the sweet horn with loving hand, and kissed the hairy lips of the bloodstained fawn. Wailing loudly the mother entombed the dead, and carved along the tomb all that the voice in a dream of the night had told Actaion’s father.

[552] At the time when mourning resounded in the hall of Aristaios, fairbosomed Agauë brought forth to Echion the Earthborn a bold god-assaulting son33: he was named Pentheus, the man of sorrows, from the sorrow arising for the newly slain.

[556] After the bridals of Nephele of the earlier marriages,34 maiden Ino went with revels to the bridal chamber of Athamas. She bore Learchos destined to woe, and Melicertes. She was afterwards to find a home in the sea, as cherishing nurse for the childhood of Bromios: to both she gave one common breast, Palaimon and Dionysos.

[562] Semele was kept for a more brilliant union, for already Zeus ruling on high intended to make a new Dionysos grow up, a bullshaped copy of the older Dionysos; since he throught with regret of the illfated Zagreus.35 This was a son born to Zeus in the dragonbed by Persephoneia, the consort of the blackrobed king of the underworld; when Zeus put on a deceiving shape of many coils, as a gentle dragon twining around her in lovely curves, and ravished the maidenhood of unwedded Persephoneia; though she was hidden when all that dwelt in Olympos were bewitched by this one girl, rivals in love for the marriageable maid, and offered their dowers for an unsmirched bridal. Hermes had not yet gone to the bed of Peitho,36 and he offered his rod as a gift to adorn her chamber. Apollo produced his melodious harp as a marriage-gift. Ares brought spear and cuirass for the wedding, and shield as a bride-gift. Lemnian Hephaistos held out a curious necklace of many colours, newmade and breathing still of the furnace, poor hobbler! for he had already, though unwilling, rejected his former bride Aphrodite, when he spied her rioting with Ares; he displayed her to the Blessed and the womanthief who had robbed his bed, when by information from Phaëthon he had entangled them in a spider’s net, naked Ares with naked Aphrodite.37

[586] And Father Zeus was much more bewitched by Persephoneia. When Zeus spied the virgin beauty of her shape, his eye ran ahead of him to guide all the Loes, and could not have enough of Persephone; in his heart storms of unsleeping passion raged without ceasing, and gradually a greater furnace of the Paphian was kindled from a small spark; the gaze of lovemaddened Zeus was enslaved by the lovely breast of the goddess. Once she was amusing herself with a resplendent bronze plate, which reflected her face like a judge of beauty; and she confirmed the image of her shape by this free voiceless herald, testing the unreal form in the shadow of the mirror, and smiling at the mimic likeness. Thus Persephone gazed in the selfgraved portrait of her face, and beheld the selfimpressed aspect of a false Persephoneia. Once in the scorching steam of thirsty heat, the girl would cease the loomtoiling labours of her shuttle at midday to shun the tread of the parching season, and wipe the running sweat from her face; she loosed the modest bodice which held her breast so tight, and moistened her skin with a refreshing bath, floating in the cool running stream, and left behind her threads fixt on the loom of Pallas.38

[609] But she could not escape the allseeing eye of Zeus. He gazed at the whole body of Persephoneia, uncovered in her bath. Not so wild his desire had been for the Cyprian, when craving but not attaining he scattered his seed on the ground, and shot out the hot foam of love self-sown, where in the fruitful land of horned Cyprus flourished the two-coloured generation of wild creatures with horns.39 He – so mighty! the ruler of the universe, the charioteer of heaven, bowed his neck to desire – for all his greatness no thunderbolts, no lightnings helped him against Aphrodite in arms: he left the house of Hera, he refused the bed of Dione, he threw away the love of Deo, he fled from Themis, he deserted Leto – no charm was left for him but only in union with Persephoneia.

1. A local title of Athena (meaning unknown), given later to one of the Gates of Thebes. Nonnos explains it below.
2. All this is a paraphrase of the sacrificial banquets in Homer, e.g. Il. i. 458 ff.
3. Earlier inhabitants of Boeotia; see Lycophron 644, Pausanias ix. 5. 1.
4. A mountain in Boeotia.
5. Used loosely for the spheres of the planets.
6. A rare explanation of Tritonis, found also in Tzetzes’ commentary on Lycophron 519. It is purely fanciful. Tritônis as if from Tritos.
7. The planet Mercury.
8. The sun.
9. i.e., fourth, “mid-most” in the enumeration.
10. The planet Saturn. There seems to have been no authoritative list on the gates of Thebes; hardly any two authors agree, though most name the gates of Onca and Electra.

11. Properly Hismenian, a local title, from one of the two rivers of Thebes.
12. The constellation Draco.
13. The word is used of a bridegroom’s gift for the first sight of the bride without the veil: Pollux ii. 59, iii. 36.
14. The necklace is an elaborately wrought twoheaded snake, and the eagle is a clasp-guard which lies across the heads, hekterthen, extending beyond them both; its wings are spread to cover the fastenings which do the real clasping and form part of the heads, 171 ff. Its wings are outspread, also its legs, thus making four limbs, loosely called pteruges, 161, attached to the necklace with little hollow nozzles or bars, kêmoi, presumably of gold. To hide these, the jaws of the snakes’ heads are wide open and seem to be biting at the eagle.
15. A serpent reputed to have a head at each end.
16. i.e., was shown open-mouthed, as if the snake were hissing.
17. The wings and legs outspread join with four nozzles.
18. Moonstone (selenite, foliated calcium sulphate), fancies to wax and wane with the moon.
19. This is the famous “necklace of Harmonia,” which, passing from her, brought ruin to one possessor after another.
20. Echion, one of the five surviving Spartoi, “born of the teeth.”

21. From her deeds as a huntress without weapons, see Pindar, Pyth. ix. 28.
22. The dogstar. Aristaios, besides being a minor deity or culture-hero of country life, was reputed to know potent formulae for ending excessive heat.
23. See 220. Zeus Icmaios is Zeus in his capacity of sender of dew.
24. An important seat of the cult of Aristaios, see Virgil, Georg. i. 14, with Servius’s note.
25. A title of Apollo.
26. He was blinded for seeing Athena as she bathed; cf. Callimachos, Hymns v. 57 ff.
27. The wakeful sleep of the nightingale mourning for her son is proverbial.
28. The last six words are from Hom. Od. v. 477.
29. Presumably a nymph.
30. Brother of Ephialtes and killed with him (usually by Artemis, but the story varies) for trying to rape her.

31. See note on iv. 338.
32. Orion was among the many lovers of Eos, Hom. Od. v. 121; for Selene and Endymion, see iv. 223; Demeter lay with Iasion in a ploughed field (no doubt a reflection of some old rite of fertility), Hom. Od. v. 125.
33. See bks. xliv.-xlvi.
34. Nonnos here follows the variant of the complicated tradition of Athamas’s marriages which gives him two wives: (1) Nephele, who left him for some reason, after bearing Phrixos and Helle; (2) Ino. Because she nursed Dionysos, Hera was angry with her and drove Athamas (and in some forms of the story Ino herself) mad. Athamas then killed his son Learchos; Ino ran away with Melicertes in her arms and jumped off a cliff into the sea. There she was changed into a sea-goddess and henceforth called Leucothea, while her child, also becoming immortal, was known as Palaimon.
35. Zagreus, a deity of unknown origin (the name pretty certainly is not Greek, possibly Phrygian), appears first in connexion with Orphism, a cult which arose probably in the sixth century B.C. The son of Zeus and Persephone, he was murdered as described by Nonnos in bk. vi. No early account of this survives, but Pindar manifestly alludes to it, see Rose in Greek Poetry and Life, pp. 79-96. At this early period he had probably had nothing whatever to do with Dionysos, but later the idea grew up that the two were somehow identical, and Nonnos makes this identification the basis of his poem.
36. Hermes has no consort; to say that he married the goddess of Persuasion is mere allegory (he is the celestial patron of oratory).
37. Hom. Od. viii. 266.
38. Pallas Athena was patron of the arts of women.
39. Only Nonnos has preserved this legend of the Centaurs (Pheres; the name is as old as Homer and said to mean simply “wild beasts” in Aiolic), but he mentions it several times (cf. xiv. 193; xxxii. 71). The Centaurs are not the children of Ixion and the cloud, but of Zeus and the earth, fertilized by his seed; and they are horned, not a blend of horse and man. That some real Cypriote legend is involved seems indicated by the discovery in Cyprus of archaic figures more or less Centaur-like but having horns. Why the island is called “horned” is not clear.