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Statius, Achilleid

PUBLIUS PAPINIUS STATIUS was a Roman poet who flourished in the late C1st A.D. during the reign of the Emperor Domitian. He was the author of a collection of dedicatory poems known as the Silvae, the epic Thebaid in twelve books, and the unfinished Achilleid. These last two works relate the stories of the Seven Against Thebes and the youth of Achilles respectively.

Statius, Thebaid, Achilleid. Translated by Mozley, J H. Loeb Classical Library Volumes . Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1928.

The Mozley translations of Statius are now out of print and have been replaced in the Loeb series by a new set of translations by Shackleton Bailey. These are available new from Amazon.com (click on image right for details). In addition to the translation of Statius' Silvae, Thebaid and Achilleid, these books contain the source Greek texts, translator's introduction and footnotes, and an index of proper names.


[1] Tell, O goddess, of great-hearted Aeacides and of the progeny that the Thunderer feared and forbade to inherit his father’s heaven.1 Highly renowned are the warrior’s deeds in Maeonian song,2 but more remains untold: suffer me – for such is my desire – to recount the whole story of the hero, to summon him forth from his hiding-place in Scyros with the Dulichian trumpet,3 and not to stop short at the dragging of Hector, but to lead the youth through the whole tale of Troy. Only do thou, O Phoebus, if with a worthy draught I drained the former fount, vouchsafe new springs and weave my hair with propitious chaplets; for not as a newcomer do I seek entrance to the Aonian4 grove, nor are these the first fillets that magnify my brow. The fields of Dirce5 know it, and Thebes counts my name among her forefathers of old time and with her own Amphion.

[14] But thou whom far before all others the pride of Italy and Greece regards with reverent awe, for whom the laurels twain of poet and warrior-chief flourish in mutual rivalry – already one of them grieves to be surpassed6– grant pardon, and allow me anxiously to toil in this dust awhile. Thine is the theme whereat with long nor yet confident preparation I am labouring, and great Achilles plays the prelude unto thee.7

[20] The Dardan shepherd had set sail from the Oebalian shore,8 having wrought sweet havoc in thoughtless Amyclae, and fulfilling the presage of his mother’s9 dream was retracing his guilty way, where Helle10 deep sunk below the sea and now a Nereid holds sway over the detested waves: when Thetis – ah! never vain are a parent’s auguries! – started with terror beneath the glassy flood at the Idaean oars.11 Without delay she sprang forth from her watery bower, accompanied by her train of sisters: the narrowing shores of Phrixus swam, and the straitened sea had not room for its mistresses.

[30] As soon as she had shaken the brine from off her, and entered the air of heaven: “There is danger to me,” said she, “in yonder fleet, and threat of deadly harm; I recognize the truth of Proteus’ warnings. Lo! Bellona brings from the vessel amid uplifted torches a new daughter-in-law to Priam; already I see the Ionian and Aegean seas pressed by a thousand keels; nor does it suffice that all the country of the Grecians conspires with the proud sons of Atreus, soon will my Achilles be sought for by land and sea, ay, and himself will wish to follow them. Why indeed did I suffer Pelion and the stern master’s cave12 to cradle his infant years? There, if I mistake not, he plays, the rogue, at the battle of the Lapiths, and already takes his measure with his father’s spear. O sorrow! O fears that came to late to a mother’s heart! Could I not, unhappy that I am, when first the timber of Rhoeteum was launched upon my flood, have raised a mighty sea and pursued with a tempest on the deep the adulterous robber’s sails and led on all my sisters against him? Even now – but ‘tis too late, the outrage hath been wrought in full. Yet will I go, and clinging to the gods of ocean and the right hand of second Jove13 – nought else remains – entreat him in piteous supplication by the years of Tethys and his aged sire for one single storm.”

[51] She spoke, and opportunely beheld the mighty monarch; he was coming from Oceanus his host, gladdened by the banquet, and his countenance suffused with the nectar of the deep: wherefore the winds and tempests are silent and with tranquil song proceed the Tritons who bear his armour and the rock-like sea-monsters and the Tyrrhenian herds,14 and gambol around and below him, saluting their king; he towers on high above the peaceful waves, urging on his team with his three-pronged spear: frontwise they run at furious speed amid showers of foam, behind they swim and blot out their footprints with their tails:– when Thetis: “O sire and ruler of the mighty deep, seest thou to what uses thou hast made a way o’er the hapless ocean? The crimes of the nations pass by with unmolested sails, since the Pagasaean bark broke through the sanctions of the waters and profaned their hallowed majesty on Jason’s quest of plunder. Lo! freighted with another wicked theft, the spoils of hospitality, sails the daring arbiter of unjust Ida, destined to cause what sorrow alas! to heaven and earth, and what to me! Is it thus we requite the joy of the Phrygian triumph,15 is this the way of Venus, is this her gift to her dear ward? These ships at least – no demigods nor our own Theseus do they carry home16 – o’erwhelm, if thou still hast any regard for the waters, or give the sea into my power; no cruelty do I purpose; suffer me to fear for my own son. Grant me to drive away my sorrow, nor let it be thy pleasure that out of all the seas I find a home in but a single coast and the rocks of an Ilian tomb.” 17

[77] With torn cheeks she made her prayer, and with bare bosom would fain hinder the cerulean steeds. But the ruler of the seas invites her into his chariot, and soothes her thus with friendly words: “Seek not in vain, Thetis, to sink the Dardanian fleet: the fates forbid it, ‘tis the sure ordinance of heaven that Europe and Asia should join in bloody conflict, and Jupiter hath issued his decree of war and appointed years of dreary carnage. What prowess of thy son in the Sigean dust, what vast funeral trains of Phrygian matrons shalt thou victoriously behold, when thy Aeacides shall flood the Trojan fields with streaming blood, and anon forbid the choked rivers to flow and check his chariot’s speed with Hector’s corpse and mightily o’erthrow my walls,18 my useless toil! Cease now to complain of Peleus and thy inferior wedlock: thy child shall be deemed begotten of Jove; nor shalt thou suffer unavenged, but shalt use thy kindred seas: I will grant thee to raise the billows, when the Danaans return and Caphareus19 shows forth his nightly signals and we search together for the terrible Ulesses.” 20

[95] He spoke; but she, downcast at the stern refusal, for but now she was preparing to stir up the waters and make war upon the Ilian craft, devised in her mind another plan, and sadly turned her strokes toward the Haemonian land. Thrice strove she with her arms, thrice spurned the clear water with her feet, and the Thessalian waves are washing her snow-white ankles. The mountains rejoice, the marriage-bowers fling open their recesses, and Spercheus in wide, abundant streams flows to meet the goddess and laps her footsteps with his fresh water. She delights not in the scene, but wearies her mind with schemes essayed, and taught cunning by her devoted love seeks out the aged Chiron. His lofty home bores deep into the mountain, beneath the long, overarching vault of Pelion; part had been hollowed out by toil, part worn away by its own age. Yet the images and couches of the gods are shown, and the places that each had sanctified by his reclining and his sacred presence21; within are the Centaur’s wide and lofty stalls, far different from those of his wicked brethren. Here are no spears that have tasted human blood, nor ashen clubs broken in festal conflict, nor mixing-bowls shattered upon kindred foemen, but innocent quivers and mighty hides of beasts. These did he take while yet in the prime of age; but now, a warrior no more, his only toil was to learn herbs that bring health to creatures doubting of their lives, or to describe to his pupil upon his lyre the heroes of old time.

[119] On the threshold’s edge he awaited his return from hunting, and was urging the laying of the feast and brightening his abode with lavish fire: when far off the Nereid was seen climbing upward from the shore; he burst forth from the forests – joy speeds his going – and the well-known hoof-beat of the sage rang on the now unwonted plain. Then bowing down to his horse’s shoulders he leads her with courtly hand within his humble dwelling and warns her of the cave.

[126] Long time has Thetis been scanning every corner with silent glance: then, impatient of delay, she cries: “Tell me, Chiron, where is my darling? Why spends the boy any time apart from thee? Is it not with reason that my sleep is troubled, and terrible portents from the gods and fearful panics – would they were false! – afflict his mother’s heart? For now I behold swords that threaten to pierce my womb, now my arms are bruised with lamentation, now savage beasts assail my breasts; often – ah, horror! – I seem to take my son down to the void of Tartarus, and dip him a second time in the springs of Styx. The Carpathian seer22 bids me banish these terrors by the ordinance of a magic rite, and purify the lad in secret waters beyond the bound of heaven’s vault, where is the farthest shore of Ocean and father Pontus23 is warmed by the ingliding stars. There awful sacrifices and gifts to gods unknown – but ‘tis long to recount all, and I am forbidden; give him to me rather.”

[141] Thus spoke his mother in lying speech – nor would he have given him up, had she dared to confess to the old man the soft raiment and dishonourable garb.24 Then he replies: “Take him, I pray, O best of parents, take him, and assuage the gods with humble entreaty. For thy hopes are pitched too high, and envy needs much appeasing. I add not to thy fears, but will confess the truth: some swift and violent deed – the forebodings of a sire deceive me not – is preparing, far beyond his tender years. Formerly he was wont to endure my anger, and listen eagerly to my commands nor wander far from my cave: now Ossa cannot contain him, nor mighty Pelion and all the snows of Thessaly. Even the Centaurs often complain to me of plundered homes and herds stolen before their eyes, and that they themselves are driven from field and river; they devise violence and fraud, and utter angry threats. Once when the Thessalian pine bore hither the princes of Argos, I saw the young Alcides and Theseus – but I say no more.”

[158] Cold pallor seized the daughter of Nereus: lo! he was come, made larger by much dust and sweat, and yet for all his weapons and hastened labours still pleasant to the sight; a radiant glow25 shimmers on his snow-white countenance, and his locks shine more comely than tawny gold. The bloom of youth is not yet changed by new-springing down, a tranquil flame burns in his glance, and there is much of his mother in his look: even as when the hunter Apollo returns from Lycia and exchanges his fierce quiver for the quill. By chance too he is in joyful mood – ah, how joy enhances beauty! – ; beneath Pholoë’s cliff he had stricken a lioness lately delivered and had left her in the empty lair, but had brought the cubs and was making them show their claws. Yet when he sees his mother on the well-known threshold, away he throws them, catches her up and binds her in his longing arms, already violent in his embrace and equal to her in height. Patroclus follows him, bound to him even then by a strong affection, and strains to rival all his mighty doings, well-matched in the pursuits and ways of youth, but far behind in strength, and yet to pass to Pergamum with equal fate.

[178] Straightway with rapid bound he hies him to the nearest river, and freshens in its waters his steaming face and hair: just as Castor enters the shallows of Eurotas on his panting steed, and tricks out anew the weary splendours of his star. The old man marvels as he adorns him, caressing now his breast, now his strong shoulders: her very joy pierces his mother’s heart. Then Chiron prays her to taste the banquet and the gifts of Bacchus, and contriving various amusements for her beguiling at last brings forth the lyre and moves the care-consoling strings, and trying the chords lightly with his finger gives them to the boy. Gladly he sings of the mighty causes of noble deeds: how many behests of his haughty stepmother the son of Amphitryon performed, how Pollux with his glove smote down the cruel Bebryx, with what a grip the son of Aegeus enfolded and crushed the limbs of the Minoan bull, lastly his own mother’s marriage-feast and Pelion trodden by the gods. Then Thetis relaxed her anxious countenance and smiled. Night draws them on to slumber: the huge Centaur lays him down on a stony couch, and Achilles lovingly twines his arms about his shoulders – though his faithful parent is there – and prefers the wonted breast.

[198] But Thetis, standing by night upon the sea-echoing rocks, this way and that divides her purpose, and ponders in what hiding-place she will set her son, in what country she shall choose to conceal him. Nearest is Thrace, but steeped in the passionate love of war; nor does the hardy folk of Macedon please her, nor the sons of Cecrops,26 sure to excite to noble deeds, nor Sestos and the bay of Abydos, too opportune for ships; she decides to roam the lofty Cyclades. Of these she spurns Myconos and humble Seriphos, and Lemnos cruel to its men,27 and Delos, that gives all the world a welcome. Of late from the unwarlike palace of Lycomedes28 had she heard the sound of maiden bands and the echo of their sport along the shore, what time she was sent to follow Aegaeon29 freed from his stubborn bonds and to count the hundred fetters of the god. This land finds favour, and seems safest to the timid mother. Even so a bird already taking anxious thought, as her deliver draws nigh, on what branch to hang her empty home, here foresees winds, there bethinks her fearfully of snakes, and there of men; at last in her doubt a shady spot finds favour; scarce ahs she alighted on the boughs, and straightway loves the tree.

[217] One more care abides in her mind and troubles the sad goddess, whether she shall carry her son in her own bosom o’er the waves, or use great Triton’s aid, whether she shall summon the swift winds to help her, or the Thaumantian30 that is wont to drink the main. Then she calls out from the waves and bridles with a sharp-edged shell her team of dolphins twain, which Tethys, mighty queen, had nourished for her in an echoing vale beneath the sea; – none throughout all Neptune’s watery realm had such renown for their sea-green beauty, nor greater speed of swimming, nor more of human sense; – these she halts in the deep shore-water, lest they take harm from the touch of naked earth. Then in her own arms she carries Achilles, his body utterly relaxed in a boy’s slumber, from the rocks of the Haemonian cave down to the placid waters and the beach that she had bidden be silent; Cynthia lights her way and shines out with full orb. Chiron escorts31 the goddess, and careless of the sea entreats her speedy return, and hides his moistened eyes and high upon his horse’s body gazes out towards them as suddenly they are whirled away, and now – and now are lost to view, where for a short while the foamy marks of their going gleam white and the wake dies away into the watery main. Him destined never more to return to Thessalian Tempe now mournful Pholoë bewails, now cloudy Othrys,32 and Spercheos with diminished flood and the silent grotto of the sage; the Fauns listen for his boyish songs in vain, and the Nymphs bemoan their long-hoped-for nuptials.

[242] Now day o’erwhelms the stars, and from the low and level main Titan wheels heavenward his dripping steeds, and down from the expanse of air falls the sea that the chariot bore up; but long since had the mother traversed the waves and gained the Scyrian shores, and the weary dolphins had been loosed from their mistress’ yoke: when the boy’s sleep was stirred, and his opening eyes grew conscious of the inpouring day. In amaze at the light that greets him he asks, where is he, what are these waves, where is Pelion? All he beholds is different and unknown, and he hesitates to recognize his mother. Quickly she caresses him and soothes his fear: “If, dear lad, a kindly lot had brought me the wedlock that it offered, in the fields of heaven should I be holding thee, a glorious star, in my embrace, nor a celestial mother should I fear the lowly Fates or the destinies of earth. But now unequal is they birth, my son, and only on thy mother’s side is the way of death barred for thee; moreover, times of terror draw nigh, and peril hovers about the utmost goal. Retire we then, relax awhile they mighty spirit, and scorn not this raiment of mine. If the Tirynthian took in his rough hand Lydian wool and women’s wands,33 if it becomes Bacchus to trail a gold-embroidered robe behind him, if Jupiter put on a woman’s form,34 and doubtful sex weakened not the mighty Caeneus,35 this way, I entreat thee, suffer me to escape the threatening, baleful cloud. Soon will I restore the plains and the fields where the Centaurs roam: by this beauty of thine and the coming joys of youth I pray thee, if for thy sake I endured the earth and an inglorious mate, if at they birth I fortified thee with the stern waters of Styx36 – ay, would I had wholly! – take these safe robes awhile, they will in no wise harm thy valour. Why doest thou turn away? What means that glance? Art thou ashamed to soften thee in this garb? Dear lad, I swear it by my kindred waters, Chiron shall know nought of this.”

[274] So doth she work on his rough heart, vainly cajoling; the thought of his sire and his great teacher oppose her prayer and the rude beginnings of his mighty spirit. Even so, should one try to subdue with earliest rein a horse full of the mettlesome fire of ungoverned youth, he having long delighted in stream and meadow and his own proud beauty, gives not his neck to the yoke, nor his fierce mouth to the bridle, and snorts with rage at passing beneath a master’s sway and marvels that he learns another gait.

[283] What god endued the despairing mother with fraud and cunning? What device drew Achilles from his stubborn purpose? It chanced that Scyros was keeping festal day in honour of Pallas, guardian of the shore, and that the sisters, offspring of peace-loving Lycomedes, had on this sacred morn gone forth from their native town – a licence rarely given – to pay tribute of the spring, and bind their grave tresses with the leaf of the goddess and scatter flowers upon her spear. All were of rarest beauty, all clad alike and all in lusty youth, their years of girlish modesty now ended, and maidenhood ripe for the marriage-couch. But as far as Venus by comparison doth surpass the green Nymphs of the sea, or as Diana rises taller by head and shoulders than the Naiads, so doth Deidamia, queen of the lovely choir, outshine and dazzle her fair sisters. The bright colour flames upon her rosy countenance, a more brilliant light is in her jewels, the gold has a more alluring gleam; as beauteous were the goddess herself, would she but lay aside the serpents on her breast, and doff her helm and pacify her brow. When he beheld her far in advance of her attendant train, the lad, ungentle as he was and heart-whole from any touch of passion, stood spellbound and drank in strange fire through all his frame. Nor does the love he has imbibed lie hidden, but the flame pulsating in his inmost being returns to his face and colours the glow upon his cheeks, and as he feels its power runs o’er his body with a light sweat. As when the Massagetae darken milk-white bowls with blood-red dye, or ivory is stained with purple, so by varying signs of blush and pallor does the sudden fire betray its presence. He would rush forward and unprovoked fiercely break up the ceremonies of his hosts, reckless of the crowd and forgetful of his years, did not shame restrain him and awe of the mother by his side. As when a bullock, soon to be the sire and leader of a herd, though his horns have not yet come full circle, perceives a heifer of snowy whiteness, the comrade of his pasture, his spirit takes fire, and he foams at the mouth with his first passion; glad at heart the herdsmen watch him and check his fury.

[318] Seizing the moment his mother purposely accosts him: “Is it too hard a thing, my son, to make pretence of dancing and join hands in sport among these maidens? Hast thou aught such ‘neath Ossa and the crags of Pelion? O, if it were my lot to match two loving hearts, and to bear another Achilles in my arms!”

[323] He is softened, and blushes for joy, and with sly and sidelong glance repels the robes less certainly. His mother sees him in doubt and willing to be compelled, and casts the raiment o’er him; then she softens his stalwart neck and bows his strong shoulders, and relaxes the muscles of his arms, and tames and orders duly his uncombed tresses, and sets her own necklace about the neck she loves; then keeping his step within the embroidered skirt she teaches him gait and motion and modesty of speech. Even as the waxen images that the artist’s thumb will make to live take form and follow the fire and the hand that carves them, such was the picture of the goddess as she transformed her son. Nor did she struggle long; for plenteous charm remains to him though his manhood brook it not, and he baffles beholders by the puzzle of his sex that by a narrow margin hides its secret.

[338] They go forward, and Thetis unsparingly plies her counsels and persuasive words: “Thus then, my son, must thou manage thy gait, thus thy features and thy hands, and imitate thy comrades and counterfeit their ways, lest the king suspect thee and admit thee not to the women’s chambers, and the crafty cunning of our enterprise be lost.” So speaking she delays not to put correcting touches to his attire. Thus when Hecate37 returns wearied to her sire and brother from Therapnae, haunt of maidens, her mother bears her company as she goes, and with her own hand covers her shoulders and bared arms, herself arranges the bow and quiver, and pulls down the girt-up robe, and is proud to trim the disordered tresses.

[349] Straightway she accosts the monarch, and there in the presence of the altars: “Here, O king, “ she says, “I present to thee the sister of my Achilles – seest thou not how proud her glance and like her brother’s? – so high her spirit, she begged for arms and a bow to carry on her shoulders, and like an Amazon to spurn the thought of wedlock. But my son is enough care for me; let her carry the baskets at the sacrifice, do thou control and tame her wilfulness, and keep her to her sex, till the time for marriage come and the end of her maiden modesty; nor suffer her to engage in wanton wrestling-matches, nor to frequent the woodland haunts. Bring her up indoors, in seclusion among girls of her own age; above all remember to keep her from the harbour and the shore. Lately thou sawest the Phrygian38 sails: already ships that have crossed the sea have learnt treason to mutual loyalties.”

[363] The sire accedes to her words, and receives the disguised Achilles by his mother’s ruse – who can resist when gods deceive? Nay more, he venerates her with a suppliant’s hand, and gives thanks that he was chosen; nor is the band of duteous Scyrian maidens slow to dart keen glances at the face of their new comrade, how she o’ertops them by head and neck, how broad her expanse of breast and shoulders; then they invite her to join the dance and approach the holy rites, and make room for her in their ranks and rejoice to be near her. Just as Idalian birds,39 cleaving the soft clouds and long since gathered in the sky or in their homes, if a strange bird from some distant region has joined them wing to wing, are at first all filled with amaze and fear; then nearer and nearer they fly, and while yet in the air have made him one of them and hover joyfully around with favouring beat of pinions and lead him to their lofty resting-places.

[379] Long, ere she departs, lingers the mother at the gate, while she repeats advice and implants whispered secrets in his ear and in hushed tones gives her last counsels. Then she plunges into the main, and gazing back swims far away, and entreats with flattering prayers the island-shore: “O land that I love, to whom by timid cunning I have committed the pledge of my anxious care, a trust that is great indeed, mayst thou prosper and be silent, I beg, as Crete was silent for Rhea40; enduring honour and everlasting shrines shall gird thee, nor shalt thou be surpassed by unstable41 Delos; sacred alike to wind and wave shalt thou be, and clam abode of Nereïds among the shallows of the Cyclades, where the rocks are shattered by Aegean storms, an isle that sailors swear by – only admit no Danaan keels, I beg! `Here are only the wands of Bacchus, nought that avails for war;’ that tale bid rumour spread, and while the Dorian armaments make ready and Mavors rages from world to world – he may, for aught I care – let Achilles be the maiden daughter of good Lycomedes.”

[397] Meanwhile avenging Europe, inflamed by war’s sweet frenzy and the monarchs’ complaining entreaties, excites her righteous ire; more earnestly pleads that son of Atreus whose spouse abides at home, and by his telling makes the Ilian crime more grievous: how without aid of Mars or force of arms the daughter of heaven42 and child of mighty Sparta was taken, and justice, good faith and the gods spurned by one deed of rapine. Is this then Phrygian honour? Is this the intercourse of land with land? What awaits the common folk, when wrong so deadly attacks the foremost chieftains? All races, all ages flock together: nor are they only aroused whom the Isthmian barrier with its rampart fronting on two seas encloses and Malea’s wave-resounding promontory, but where afar the strait of Phrixus sunders Europe and Asia; and the peoples that fringe Abydos’ shore, bound fast by the waters of the upper sea.

[413] The war-fever rises high, thrilling the agitated cities. Temese43 tames her bronze, the Euboean coast shakes with its dockyards, Mycenae echoes with innumerable forges, Pisa makes new chariots, Nemea gives the skins of wild beasts, Cirrha vies in packing tight the arrow-bearing quivers, Lerna in covering heavey shields with the hides of slaughtered bullocks. Aetolia and fierce Acarnania send infantry to war, Argos collects her squadrons, the pasture-lands of rich Arcadia are emptied, Epiros bridles her swift-footed nurslings,44 ye shades of Phocis and Aonia grow scant by reason of the javelins, Pylos and Messene strain their fortress-engines. No land but bears its burden; ancestral weapons long renounced are torn from lofty portals, gifts to the gods melt in the flame; gold reft from divine keeping Mars turns to fiercer use. Nowhere are the shady haunts of old: Othrys is lesser grown, lofty Taygetus sinks low, the shorn hills see the light of day. Now the whole forest is afloat: oaks are hewn to make a fleet, the woods are diminished for oars. Iron is forced into countless uses, for riveting prows, for armour of defence, for bridling chargers, for knitting rough coats of mail by a thousand links, to smoke with blood, to drink deep of wounds, to drive death home in conspiracy with poison; they make the dripping whetstones thin with grinding, and add wrath to sluggish sword-points. No limit is there to the shaping of bows or heaping up of bullets or the charring of stakes or the heightening of helms with crests. Amid such commotion Thessaly alone bewails her indolent repose, and brings a twofold complaint against the Fates, that Peleus is too old and Achilles not yet ripe of age.

[441] Already the lord of war had drained the land of Pelops and the Grecian world, madly flinging aboard both men and horses. All aswarm are the harbours and the bays invisible for shipping, and the moving fleet stirs its own storms and billows; the sea itself fails the vessels, and their canvas swallows up every breath of wind.

[447] Aulis, sacred to Hecate, first gathers together the Danaan fleet, Aulis, whose exposed cliff and long-projecting ridge climb the Euboean sea, coast beloved by the mountain-wandering goddess, and Caphereus, that raises his head hard by against the barking waves. He, when he beheld the Pelasgian ships sail by, thrice thundered from peak to wave, and gave presage of a night of fury.45 There assembles the armament for Troy’s undoing, there the vast array is sworn, while the sun completes an annual course. Then first did Greece behold her own might; then a scattered, dissonant mass took form and feature, and was marshalled under one single lord. Even so does the round hunting-net confine the hidden beasts, and gradually hem them in as the toils are drawn close. They in panic of the torches and the shouting leave their wide pathless haunts, and marvel that their own mountain is shrinking, till from every side they pour into the narrow vale; the herds startle each other, and are tamed by mutual fear; bristly boar and bear and wolf are driven together, and the hind despises the captured lions.

[467] But although the twain Atridae make war in their own cause together, though Sthenelus and Tydeus’ son surpass in eager valour their fathers’ fame, and Antilochus heeds not his years, and Ajax shakes upon his arm the seven leaders of the herd46 and the circle vast as a city-wall, though Ulysses, sleepless in counsel and deeds of arms, joins in the quarrel, yet all the host yearns ardently for the absent Achilles, lovingly they dwell upon Achilles’ name, Achilles alone is called for against Hector, him and none other do they speak of as the doom of Priam and of Troy. For who else grew up from infancy crawling on fresh-dug snow in the Haemonian valleys? Whom else did the Centaur take in hand and shape his rude beginnings and tender years? Whose line of ancestry runs nearer heaven? Whom else did a Nereid take by stealth through the Stygian waters and make his fair limbs impenetrable to steel? Such talk do the Grecian cohorts repeat and interchange. The band of chieftains yields before him and gladly owns defeat. So when the pale denizens of heaven flocked into the Phlegraean camp,47 and already Gradivus was towering to the height of his Odrysian48 spear and Tritonia raised her Libyan snakes and the Delian strongly bent his mighty bow, Nature in breathless terror stood looking to the Thunderer alone – when would he summon the lightnings and the tempests from the clouds, how many thunderbolts would he ask of fiery Aetna?

[491] There, while the princes, surrounded by the mingled multitudes of their folk, hold counsel of times for sailing and for war, Protesilaus amid great tumult rebukes the prophet Calchas and cries – for to him was given the keenest desire to fight, and the glory even then of suffering death the first: “O son of Thestor, forgetful of Phoebus and thy own tripods, when wilt thou open thy god-possessed lips more surely, or why dost thou hide the secret things of Fate?49 Seest thou how all are amazed at the unknown Aeacides and clamour for him? The Calydonian hero50 seems nought in the people’s eyes, and so too Ajax born of mighty Telamon and lesser Ajax, so do we also: but Mars and the capture of Troy will prove the truth. Slighting their leaders – for shame! – they all love him as a deity of war. Quickly speak, or why are thy locks enwreathed and held in honour? In what coasts lies he hidden? In what land must we seek him? For report has it that he is living neither in Chiron’s cave nor in the halls of Peleus his sire. Come, break in upon the gods, harry the fates that lie concealed! Quaff greedily, if ever thou dost, thy draughts of laurelled fire! We have relieved thee of dread arms and cruel swords, and never shall a helm profane thy unwarlike locks, yet blest shalt thou be and foremost of our chiefs, if of thyself thou doest find great Achilles for the Danaans.” 51

[514] Long since has the son of Thestor been glancing round about him with excited movements, and by his first pallor betrayed the incoming of the god; soon he rolls fiery, bloodshot eyes, seeing neither his comrades nor the camp, but blind and absent from the scene he now overhears the mighty councils of gods in the upper air, now accosts the prescient birds, now the stern sisters’ threads, now anxiously consults the incense-laden altars, and quickly scans the shooting flames and feeds upon the sacred vapours.52 His hair streams out, and the fillet totters on his stiffened locks, his head rolls and he staggers in his gait. At last trembling he looses his weary lips from their long bellowings, and his voice has struggled free from the resisting frenzy: “Whither bearest thou, O Nereid, by thy woman’s guile great Chiron’s mighty pupil? Send him hither: why dost thou carry him away? I will not suffer it: mine is he, mine! Thou art a goddess of the deep, but I too am inspired by Phoebus. In what hiding-places triest thou to conceal the destroyer of Asia? I see her all bewildered among the Cyclades, in base stealth seeking out the coast. We are ruined! The accomplice land of Lycomedes finds favour. Ah! horrid deed! see, flowing garments drape his breast. Rend them, boy, rend them, and yield not to thy timid mother. Woe, woe! he is rapt away and is gone! Who is that wicked maiden yonder?”

[536] Here tottering he ceased, the madness lost its force, and with a shudder he collapsed and fell before the altar. Then the Calydonian hero accosts the hesitating Ithacan: “’Tis us53 that task summons; for I could not refuse to bear thee company, should thy thought so lead thee. Though he be sunk in the echoing caves of Tethys far removed and in the bosom of watery Nereus, thou wilt find him. Do thou but keep alert the cunning and foresight of thy watchful mind, and arouse thy fertile craft: no prophet, methinks, would make bold in perplexity to see the truth before thee.”

[545] Ulysses in joy makes answer: “So may almighty God bring it to pass, and the virgin guardian of thy sire grant to thee! But fickle hope gives me pause; a great enterprise is it indeed to bring Achilles and his arms to our camp, but should the fates say nay, how woeful a disgrace were it to return! Yet will I not leave unventured the fulfilment of the Danaans’ desire. Ay, verily, either the Pelean hero shall accompany me hither, or the truth lies deep indeed and Calchas hath not spoken by Apollo.”

[543] The Danai shout applause, and Agamemnon urges on the willing pair; the gathering breaks up, and the dispersing ranks depart with joyful murmurs, even as at nightfall the birds wing their way homeward from the pastures, or kindly Hybla sees the swarms returning laden with fresh honey to their cells. Without delay the canvas of the Ithacan is already calling for a favouring breeze, and the merry crew are seated at the oars.

1. Zeus would have married Thetis, had it not been declared that their son would be mightier than Zeus himself.
2. i.e., the Iliad of Homer.
3. i.e., of Ulysses (see line 873), Dulichium was part of his kingdom.
4. Of the Muses.
5. A fountain at Thebes.
6. “altera,” that of poetry; Domitian fancied himself both as a poet and a general, but would be better flattered by being called more brilliant in the latter capacity.
7. Part of the usual prologue to an epic, cf. Theb. i. 17.
8. i.e., of Laconia.
9. Hecuba, before she bore Paris, dreamed that she was bearing a burning torch which set fire to Troy.
10. The Hellespont was so called after Helle, who was drowned there while fleeing with her brother Phrixus upon the ram with fleece of gold.

11. Because his fleet was built of wood of Mt. Ida. So “Rhoeteae” (line 44) from the promontory near Troy.
12. Chiron’s.
13. i.e., Neptune.
14. i.e., of the Tyrrhenian sea.
15. Is this the way we are paying for the victory of Venus on Ida? “alumnae,” i.e. Helen.
16. They are no Argonauts, nor Theseus, who, according to one legend, was the son of Neptune.
17. i.e., haunt a rocky shore by the tomb of my son Achilles.
18. Neptune had helped Apollo to build the walls of Troy.
19. A promontory at the southern end of Euboea, on which many Greek ships were wrecked when returning from Troy, because Nauplius, king of Euboea, showed false lights.
20. He offended Poseidon, who sought to destroy him; see Odyssey, xiii. 125 sq.

21. i.e., at the marriage-feast of Peleus and Thetis.
22. Proteus, from his abode in the Carpathian sea. “axe peracto,” the bound or limit of the sky, i.e., beneath the horizon, not necessarily western, though that is the meaning here (l. 138).
23. Here obviously = Oceanus, not the Euxine. [Or rather the sea in general, Pontus was grandfather of Thetis.]
24. See ll. 326 sq.
25. “purpureus,” as in Virgil’s “lumenque inventae purpureum” (Aen. i. 590), also cf. Hor. C. iii. 3. 12.
26. The Athenians.
27. See the story of Hypsipyle, Theb. v. 48 sq.
28. King of Scyros.
29. Also named Briareus, one of the sons of Uranus, put in chains by Cronos, and set free by Zeus; Thetis went in search of him to bring aid to Zeus when threatened by the other Olympians (see Hesiod, Theog. 502; Homer, Il. i. 398 sqq.). “centum,” because he had a hundred arms.
30. Iris, i.e., the rainbow, that seems to draw moisture from the sea, cf. Ovid, Met. i. 271 “concipit Iris aquas alimentaque nubidus adfert.” Iris was the daughter of Thaumas.

31. “rotat” would presumably mean “gallops quickly back,” which would have no point here.
32. Both mountains of Thessaly.
33. Hercules spun wool for Omphale in Lydia.
34. Jupiter disguised himself as Diana to gain possession of Callisto (Ovid, Met. ii. 425).
35. First a girl, Caenis, then a man, then a woman again (Ovid, Met. xii. 189; Virg. Aen. vi. 448).
36. Thetis plunged the infant Achilles in the waters of Styx, and thereby made his body immune from harm – all except the left heel by which she held him.
37. Another name for Diana.
38. i.e., of Paris.
39. Doves, as sacred to Venus, who had a shrine at Idalium.
40. When she gave birth to Zeus.

41. Delos floated till made fast by Apollo.
42. Because daughter of Zeus by Leda.
43. See note on Silv. i. 1. 42.
44. Cf. Virgil Georg. i. 57 “Eliadum palmas Epiros equarum.”
45. Cf. note on l. 93.
46. i.e., the seven bullocks whose hides went to make his shield.
47. Scene of the battle of gods and giants, part of Macedonia, also called Pallene.
48. i.e., Thracian.
49. I have adopted Garrod’s reading here, giving “recludo” the meaning of “conceal”; “quaenam . . . recludes” would mean “What mysteries wilt thou reveal?”
50. Diomede.

51. Garrod rightly remarks that there is no question here of which is to serve in the campaign (implied by “pro te dependis”); see ll. 510, 511. The question is “Where is Achilles?”
52. This was a kapnomanteia, or divination by the smoke of the altar-fire, as in Theb. x. 598. The altar of Apollo would be crowned with laurel (cf. 509).
53. i.e., himself and Ulysses; “cura” seems to recognize Ulysses’ hesitation.