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Statius, Thebaid

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.



Exile of Polynices & Tydeus


Bridal of the Adrastides
Embassy of Tydeus to Thebes


The Winds of War;
Prophecy of Amphiaraus


Army of the Seven
Necromancy of Tiresias
Drought of Nemea


Hypsipyle & the Lemnians
Death of Opheltes


Funeral of Opheltes
The First Nemean Games


Thebes Preparing for War
Battle & Demise of Amphiaraus


Amphiarus Swallowed by Earth
Battle & Death of Tydeus


Battle & Death of Hippomedon
Battle & Death Parthenopaeus


Night-time Foray
Sacrifice of Menoeceus
Battle & Death of Capaneus


Deaths of Polynices & Eteocles
Creon & Exile of Oedipus


Antigone & Argia
Theseus & Burial of the Dead


[1] My spirit is touched by Pierian fire to recount the strife of brethren, and the battle of the alternate reign fought out with impious hatred, and all the guilty tale of Thebes. Whence, O goddesses, do ye bid me begin? – Shall I sing the origins of the dreadful race, the Sidonian rape and the inexorable terms of Agenor’s law, and Cadmus searching o’er the main?1 Far backward runs the story, should I tell of the anxious husbandman of hidden war, sowing battles in the unhallowed soil, and searching to the uttermost, relate with what song Amphion bade the Tyrian mountains move to form a city’s walls, whence came Bacchus’ grievous wrath against his kindred towers; what deed fierce Juno wrought; against whom unhappy Athamas caught up his bow, and why with Palaemon in her arms his mother quailed not to leap into the vast Ionian sea.2 Nay rather here and now I will suffer the sorrows and the joys of Cadmus to have gone by: let the troubled house of Oedipus set a limit to3 my song, since not yet may I venture to utter the theme of the standards of Italy and the triumphs of the North, or Rhine twice brought beneath our yoke and Ister twice subject to our law and the Dacians hurled down from their conspiring mount, or how in those days or scarce-approaching manhood Joe was forfended to attack,4 and of thee, O glory added to the Latian name, whom succeeding early to thy sire’s latest exploits Rome longs to be her own for ever. Yea, though a closer bound confine the stars, and the shining quarter of the sky5 that knows nought of Pleiads or Boreas or rending thunderbolt tempt thee, though he who curbs the fiery-footed steeds set with his own hand upon thy locks the exalted radiance of his diadem, or Jupiter yield thee an equal portion of the great heaven, abide contented with the governance of men, thou lord of earth and sea, and give constellations to the sky.6 A time will come when emboldened by Pierian frenzy I shall recount thy deeds: now do I pitch my harp but to the singing of Aonian7 arms and the sceptre fatal to both tyrants; of their madness unchecked by death and the strife of flames in the dissension of the funeral pyre8; of kings’ bodies lacking burial and cities drained by mutual slaughter, when the dark-blue waters of Dirce blushed red with Lernaean gore, and Thetis stood aghast at Ismenos, once wont to graze arid banks, flowing down with mighty heaps of slain. Which hero first dost thou make my theme, O Clio? Tydeus, uncontrolled in wrath? the sudden chasm that gaped for the laurel-crowned prophet? Distraught Hippomedon, too, repelling his river-foe with corpses demands my song, and I must lament the gallant Arcadian and his wars, and sing with a yet fiercer thrill the fate of Capaneus.

[46] Already had Oedipus with avenging hand probed deep his sinning eyes and sunk his guilty shame in eternal night, abiding in a long and living death. But while he hugs his darkness and the uttermost seclusion of his dwelling, and keeps his secret chamber which the sun’s rays and heaven behold not, yet with unwearied wings the fierce daylight of the mind hovers around him,9 and the Avenging Furies of his crimes assail his heart. Then he displays to heaven those empty orbs, the cruel, pitiful punishment of his life, and with blood-stained hands beats upon the hollow earth,10 and in dire accents utters this prayer: “Gods who hold sway over guilty souls and over Tartarus crowded with the damned, and thou O Styx, whom I behold, ghastly in thy shadowy depths, and thou Tisiphone, so oft the object of my prayer, be favourable now, and further my unnatural wish: if in aught I have found favour; if thou didst cherish me in thy bosom when I fell from my mother’s womb, and didst heal the wounds of my pierced feet; if I sought the lake of Cirrha where it winds between the two summits of the range,11 when I could have lived contented with the false Polybus, and in the Phocian strait where three ways meet grappled with the aged king and cleft the visage of the trembling dotard, searching for my true sire; if by wit of the foreshowing I solved the riddles of the cruel Sphinx; if I knew exulting the sweet ecstasy and fatal union of my mother’s bed, and passed many an unhallowed night, and begot sons for thee, as well thou knowest, yet soon, greedy for punishment, did violence to myself with tearing fingers and left my eyes upon my wretched mother – hear me to the end, if my prayer be worthy and such as thou wouldest inspire my ranging heart withal. Sightless though I was and driven from my throne, my sons, on whatever couch begotten, attempted not to give me guidance or consolation in my grief; nay, haughtily (ah! the maddening sting!) an raised to royalty with me long dead, they mock my blindness and abhor their father’s groans. Do these too hold me accursed? and the father of gods beholds it, and does naught? Do thou at least, my due defender, come hither, and begin a work of vengeance that will blast their seed for ever! Set on thy head the gore-drenched circlet that my bloody nails tore of, and inspired by their father’s curses go thou between the brethren, and with the sword sunder the binding ties of kinship. Grant me, thou queen of Tartarus’ abyss, grant me to see the evil that my soul desires, nor will the spirit of the youths be slow to follow; come thou but worthy of thyself, thou shalt know them to be true sons of mine.”

[88] So prayed he, and the cruel goddess turned her grim visage to hearken. By chance she sat beside dismal Cocytus, and had loosed the snakes from her head and suffered them to lap the sulphurous waters. Straightway, faster than fire of Jove or falling stars she leapt up from the gloomy bank: the crowd of phantoms gives way before her, fearing to meet their queen; then, journeying through the shadows and the fields dark with trooping ghosts, she hastens to the gate of Taenarus,12 whose threshold none may cross and again return. Day felt her presence, Night interposed her pitchy cloud and startled his shining steeds; far off towering Atlas shuddered and shifted the weight of heaven upon his trembling shoulders. Forthwith rising aloft from Malea’s vale she hies her on the well-known way to Thebes: for on no errand is she swifter to go and to return, not kindred Tartarus itself pleases her so well. A hundred horned snakes erect shaded her face, the thronging terror of her awful head13; deep within her sunken eyes there glows a light of iron hue, as when Atracian14 spells make travailing Phoebe redden through the clouds; suffused with venom, her skin distends and swells with corruption; a fiery vapour issues from her evil mouth, bringing upon mankind thirst unquenchable and sickness and famine and universal death. From her shoulders falls a stark and grisly robe, whose dark fastenings meet upon her breast: Atropos and Proserpine herself fashion her this garb anew. Then both her hands are shaken in wrath, the one gleaming with a funeral torch, the other lashing the air with a live water-snake.

[114] She halted, where the sheer heights of vast Cithaeron rise to meet the sky, and sent forth from her green locks fierce repeated hisses, a signal to the land, whereupon the whole shore of the Achaean gulf and the realm of Pelops echoed far and wide. Parnassus also in mid-heaven heard it, and turbulent Eurotas; with the din Oete rocked and staggered, and Isthmos scarce withstood the waves on either side. With her own hand his mother snatched Palaemon from the curved back of his straying dolphin steed and pressed him to her bosom.15

[123] Then the Fury, swooping headlong upon the Cadmean towers, straightway cast upon the house its wonted gloom: troubled dismay seized the brothers’ hearts and the madness of their race inspired them, and envy that repines at the others’ happiness, and hate-engendering fear; and then fierce love of power, and breach of mutual covenant, and ambition that brooks not second place, the dearer joy of sole supremacy, and discord that attends on partnered rule. Even so would a farmer fain unite under the plough-yoke two picked bullocks of the savage herd, but they indignant – for not yet has the frequent coulter bowed those arching necks to the sinewy shoulders – pull contrariwise and with strength well-matched break harness and confound the furrows with divers tracks: not otherwise does furious discord enrage the proud brothers. ‘Twas agreed to change rule for exile by the ordinance of the alternate year. By a grudging law they bade their fortunes change, so that a new claimant should ever embitter the monarch’s fast-expiring term. No other bond united the brethren, this was their sole stay from arms, nor destined to endure to a second reign. Yet then no ceilings glittered with thick plates of yellow gold, nor did quarried Grecian pillars bear aloft vast halls that could freely spread the serried mass of clients; no spears kept guard o’er a monarch’s troubled slumbers, no sentinels groaned at the recurring duty of the watch; they thought not to entrust precious stones to the wine-cup, nor to soil gold with food; ‘twas for naked power the brethren armed, a starveling realm was their cause of battle. And while they dispute which of the twain shall plough scant Dirce’s squalid fields, or boast himself on the Tyrian exile’s lowly throne, the laws of God and man are broken, righteousness perisheth, and honour both in life and death. Alas! unhappy ones! what limits set ye to your wrath? what if it were the sky’s farthest bounds ye dared so impiously, whereon the sun looks when he issues from the eastern gate and when he sinks into his Iberian haven, or the lands he touches afar with slanting devious ray, lands that the North wind freezes or the moist South warms with fiery breath? nay, even though the wealth of Phrygia and Tyre were gathered as the prize! A land of horror and a city God-accursed sufficed to rouse your hatred, and hell’s madness was the price of sitting in the seat of Oedipus!

[164] And now by the losing of the hazard Polynices saw his reign deferred. How proud a day for thee, fierce tyrant,16 when alone and unchallenged in thy palace thou didst look and behold all power thine, all other men thy subjects, and never a head but bowed beneath thy sway! Yet already murmurs are creeping among the Echionian17 folk, the people is at silent variance with its prince, and, as is the wont of a crowd, ‘tis the claimant that they love. And one among them, whose chief thought it was to hurt by mean and venomous speech and never to bear the yoke of rulers with submissive neck, said: “Is this the lot that the hard fates have appointed for our Ogygian18 land, so often to change those whom we must fear, and to give uncertain allegiance to an alternate sway? From hand to hand they toss the destinies of peoples and of their own accord make Fortune fickle. Am I always to serve princes that take their turn of exile? Is this thy will and purpose for thy kindred realm, great Lord of heaven and earth? Does the ancient augury still have power for Thebes, since Cadmus, bidden search in vain the Carpathian sea for the winsome burden of the Sidonian bull, found an exile’s kingdom in the Hyantean19 fields, and in the gaping of the pregnant earth bequeathed the warfare of brethren as an omen to his posterity for ever? See how the tyrant, rid of his colleague, rises erect more fiercely threatening under cruel brows! what terror in his look, how overbearing his pride! will this man ever stoop to subject rank? But the other was gentle to our prayers, affable of speech, and more patient of the right. What wonder? he was not alone. A worthless crowd indeed are we, ready for every chance, at the bidding of every lord, whosoe’er he be! As the sails yield to the cold north wind on this side and to the cloudy east wind on that, and the vessel’s fate hangs wavering – alas! for the cruel, intolerable lot of peoples, racked by doubt and fear! – so now one commands and the other threatens.”

[197] But now by Jove’s command the High Court and chosen council of the gods had assembled in the spacious halls of the revolving sphere, in heaven’s inmost depths. Equally removed from hence is the whole world’s extent, the abodes of east and west, and earth and sea outspread beneath the infinite sky. Loftily through their midst moves the King himself making all tremble, yet with countenance serene, and takes his seat on the starry throne: nor dare they sit, the heavenly ones, until the sire himself with tranquil hand permit them. Next a crowd of wandering demigods and Rivers, of one kin with the high clouds, and Winds, their clamours hushed by fear, throng the golden halls. The arching vaults of heaven are all agleam with majesty, the heights glow with a fuller radiance, and alight that is not of earth blooms upon the portals. When quiet was commanded and heaven’s orb fell silent, he began from his lofty throne – the sacred words have authority and power immutable, and Destiny waits upon his voice: “Of Earth’s transgressions I complain, and of Man’s mind that no Avenging Powers can satiate. Am I ever to be spent in punishing the wicked? I am weary of venting my anger with the flashing brand, long since are the busy arms of the Cyclopes failing, and the fires droop that serve Aeolian anvils. Yea, I had suffered the Sun’s steeds to run free of their false driver, and heaven to be burned with their straying wheels and earth to be foul with the ashes that once were Phaethon. Yet naught availed it, nor that thou, brother, didst with thy strong spear send the sea flooding wide over the forbidden land. Now am I descending in punishment on two houses, whereof I am myself progenitor. The one branches from the stem to Persean Argos, the other flows from its source to Aonian Thebes. In all the implanted character abides: who knows not Cadmus’ bloodshed20 and the array of warring Furies so oft summoned from the depths of hell, the mothers’ unhallowed joys and frenzies ranging of the forests, and the reproaches of gods that must be veiled in silence?21 Scarce would the period of day or passing night avail me to recount the impious doings of the race. Nay, this unnatural heir has even ventured to climb his father’s couch and defile the womb of his innocent mother, returning (oh! horror!) to his own life’s origin. Yet he has made atonement everlasting to the gods above, casting forth from himself the light of day, nor any more feeds upon the air of heaven; but his sons (a deed unspeakable) trampled on his eyes as they fell. Now, now are they prayers fulfilled, terrible old man! deserving art thou, yea, deserving in thy blindness to hope for Jove as they avenger. New strife will I send upon the guilty realm, and uproot the whole stock of the deadly race. Let the gift of Adrastus’ daughter22 and her ill-omened nuptials furnish me the seeds of war. This race too I am resolved to scourge with punishment: for never hath the deceit of Tantalus, nor the crime of the pitiless banquet23 been forgotten in the secret counsels of my heart.”

[248] So spake the Almighty Sire. But wounded by his words and nursing sudden wrath in a heart aflame Juno thus makes answer: “’Tis I, then, justest of gods, I whom thou biddest to engage in war? for thou knowest how I ever give aid of men and might to the Cyclopean towers and the far-famed sceptre of great Phoroneus, although there thou didst ruthlessly cast on sleep and slay the guardian of the Pharian heifer, ay, and dost enter barred turrets in a shower of gold.24 Concealed armours I pardon thee: that city25 I hate where thou goest undisguised, where thou soundest the thunders that proclaim our high union, and wieldest the lightnings that are mine. Let Thebes atone her crimes; why doest thou choose Argos as her foe? Nay, if such discord hath seized our holy marriage-chamber, go, raze Sparta to the ground, bring war’s destruction upon Samos and old Mycenae. Why anywhere26 is the altar of thy spouse made warm by sacrificial blood or fragrant with heaps of eastern incense? Sweeter is the smoke that rises from the votive shrines of Mareotic Coptos or from the wailing crowds and brazen gongs of river Nile. But if ‘tis the evil deeds of former men that mankind now doth expiate, and this resolve hath come so tardily to minister to thy wrath, to cast back thy gaze through days of old, at what far stage of time doth it suffice to drive away earth’s madness and purge the backward-reaching ages? Choose straightway that spot for thy beginning where Alpheus following afar the track of his Sicanian love glides by with sea-wandering wave. Here on accursed ground the Arcadians set thee a shrine – yet it shames thee not – here is Oenomaus’ chariot of war and the steeds more fitly stalled beneath Getic Haemus,27 nay even yet the severed heads and mangled corpses of the suitors lie stark and unburied. Yet hast thou here the welcome honours of a temple, yea, and guilty Ida28 pleases thee, and Crete that tells falsely of thy death. Why dost thou grudge me then to abide in my Tantalean land? Turn hence the tumults of war, and have compassion on thine own blood. Many a wide and wicked realm hast thou, that can better suffer the crimes of offending sons.”

[283] Juno had finished her mingled entreaty and reproach. But he made reply not in hard words, though cruel29 was its purport: “In truth I deemed not that thou wouldest bear with favouring mind all that I might devise, albeit justly, against thy Argos, nor does it escape me that, did occasion grant, Bacchus and Dione, would dare to make long pleading on Thebes’ behalf, but reverence for my authority forbids. For by those awful waters, my brother’s Stygian stream, I swear – an oath abiding and irrevocable, - that naught will make me waver from my word! Wherefore, my Cyllenian,30 in winged speed outstrip the winds that bear thee, and gliding through the limpid air down to the dusky realms tell this message to thy uncle: Let old Laius betake himself to the world above, Laius, whom his son’s blow bereft of life and whom by the law of Erebus profound the further bank of Lethe hath not received; let him bear my commands to his hateful grandson: His brother, to whom exile has brought confidence and his Argive friendship boastful pride, let him in despite of kin keep far from his halls – as already he doth well desire – and deny him the alternate honour of the crown. So will angry deeds be begotten, and the rest will I lead on in order due.”

[303] Obedient to his father’s word the grandson of Atlas straightway fastens on his ankles the winged sandals, and with wide hat veils his locks and tempers the brilliance of the stars. Then he took in his right hand the wand wherewith he was wont to dispel or call again sweet slumber, wherewith to enter the gates of gloomy Tartarus or summon back dead souls to life. Then down he leapt, and shuddered31 as the frail air received him; delaying not, he wings his speedy flight through the void on high, and draws a mighty curve upon the clouds.

[312] Meanwhile the son of Oedipus, long time a wandering outlaw from his father’s lands, traverses by stealth the waste places of Aonia. Already he broods on the lost realm that was his due, and cries that the long year stands motionless in its tardy constellations. One thought recurring night and day holds him, could he ever but behold his kinsman degraded from the throne, and himself master of Thebes and all its power; a lifetime would be bargain for that day. Now he complains that his exile is but time consumed in idleness, but soon the gust of princely pride swells high, and he fancies his brother already cast down and himself seated proudly in his place; fretful hope keeps his mind busy, and in far-reaching prayers he tastes all his heart’s desire. Then he resolves to journey undismayed to the Inachian cities and Danaan lands and to Mycenae dark with the sun’s withdrawal,32 whether it were the Fury piloting his steps, or the chance direction of the road, or the summoning of resistless Fate. He leaves the Ogygian glades that resound with frenzied howlings, and the hills that drink deep of Bacchic gore,33 then passes the region where long Cithaeron settles gently to the plain and stoops his weary height to the sea. Thereafter with dizzy climb along a rocky path he puts behind him Sciron’s infamous cliffs and Scylla’s country where the purple monarch ruled,34 and kindly Corinth, and in the midmost plain hears two shores resound.

[336] But now through the wide domains which Phoebus, his day’s work ended, had left bare, rose the Titanian queen, borne upward through a silent world, and with her dewy chariot cooled and rarefied the air; now birds and beasts are hushed, and Sleep steals o’er the greedy cares of men, and stoops and beckons from the sky, shrouding a toilsome life once more in sweet oblivion. Yet no reddening clouds gave promise of the light’s return, nor as the shadows lessened did the twilight gleam with long shafts of sun-reflecting radiance35; black night, blacker to earthward and shot by never a ray, veiled all the pole. And now the rocky prisons of Aeolia36 are smitten and groan, and the coming storm threatens with hoarse bellowing: the winds loud clamouring meet in conflicting currents, and fling loose heaven’s vault from its fastened hinges, while each strives for mastery of the sky; but Auster most violent thickens gloom on gloom with whirling eddies of darkness, and pours down rain which keen Boreas with his freezing breath hardens into hail; quivering lightnings gleam, and from the colliding air bursts sudden fire. Already Nemea and the high peaks of Arcadia that border the forests of Taenarum are drenched; Inachus flows in mighty spate, and Erasinus swelling high into icy billows. Streams that before were dusty road-tracks now defy all stay of confining bank, Lerna surges up from her deepest depths and foams with her ancient poison. Shattered are all the forests, aged boughs are swept out upon the storm, and the shady summer-haunts of Lycaeus, unbeheld before by any suns, are now stripped bare to view.

[364] Yet he, now marvelling at the rocks down-hurled from the cloven mountains, now listening in terror to the cloud-born torrents dashing from the hills, and the raging flood whirling away home of shepherd and stall of beast, slackens not his pace, though distraught and uncertain of his way, but through the dark silences devours the lonely stretches of his road; on every side fear and the thought of his brother assail his heart. And just as a sailor, caught in a tempest on the deep, to whom neither lazy Wain nor Moon with friendly beam show bearings, stands beggared of resource in mid-tumult of sky and sea, and even now expects the treacherous reef submereged beneath the wave, or waits to see foaming jagged rocks fling themselves at his prow and heave it high in air: so the Cadmean hero threads the darkness of the forests with hastening step, while with huge shield he braves the lairs of fearsome beasts and forward-stooping thrusts through the brushwood thickets; terror’s sombre influence adds spurs to his resolve, till from above the town of Inachus, conquering the gloom with beam of light downpoured upon the shelving walls, shone forth the Larissaean height. Thither sped by every hope he hies him fast, with Juno’s temple of Prosymna37 high on his left hand, and yonder the black marsh of Lerna’s water branded by Herculean fire,38 and at length the gates are opened and he enters. Straightway he spies the royal portals; there he flings down his limbs stiffened with rain and wind, and leaning against the unknown palace doors woos gentle slumber to his hard couch.

[390] There king Adratus, verging now toward old age from life’s mid-course, ruled his folk in tranquil governance, rich in the wealth of ancestry, and on either side tracing his line to Jove. Issue lacked he of the stronger sex, but was prosperous in female offspring: two daughters gave him pledge of love and service. To him had Phoebus at fate’s bidding told that sons-in-law drew nigh – a deadly horror to tell! yet soon was the truth made manifest – in the shapes of bristly swine and tawny lion. Naught comprehends the sire therein for all his ponderings, nor thou, wise Amphiaraus, for thy master Apollo forbids. Only the father’s heart sikens ever in deep-felt anxiety.

[401] But lo! Olenian39 Tydeus leaving ancient Calydon by fate’s decree – the guilty terror of a brother’s blood drives him forth – treads beneath night’s slumberous veil the same wild ways, bewailing likewise wind and rain, and with ice-sheeted back, and face and hair streaming with the storm, comes to the self-same shelter, whereof the former stranger, stretched on the cold earth, had part. Thereat so chanced it that both were seized with bloody rage, and suffered not a shared roof to ward of the night; for a while they tarry with exchange of threatening words, then when flung taunts had swelled their anger to the pitch, each uprose, set free his shoulders, and challenged to naked combat. Taller the Theban, with long stride and towering limbs and in life’s prime, yet was Tydeus in strength and spirit no whit the less, and though his frame was smaller greater valour in every part held sway.40 Then closing fiercely they deal many a blow on face and temple, like showers of darts or Rhipaean hail, and with bent knee belabour hollow loins. Even as when the fifth year brings back his festival to the Pisaean Thunderer,41 and all is dust and heat and the crude sweat of men, while yonder the rival favours of the crowd urge on the youthful striplings, and the mothers, excluded from the scene, await the prizes of their sons: so these with but hate to spur them, and inflamed by no lust of praise, fall on, and the sharp nails probe far into their faces and force their way into the yielding eyes. Perchance – so hot their anger – they had bared the swords girt to their sides, and thou hadst lain, O Theban youth, the victim of a foeman’s arms – far better so – and earned a brother’s meed of tears, had not the king, marvelling at the night’s unwonted show of clamour and the fierce panting groans deep-heaved, bent his steps thither: age and the burden of grave cares held him now in broken fitful slumber. And when proceeding through the high halls with attendant train of torches he beheld, the bars undone, upon the fronting threshold a sight terrible to tell, faces torn and cheeks disfigured with streaming blood: “Whence this fury, stranger youths?” he cried, “for no citizen of mine would dare such violence as this; whence this implacable desire to let your hate disturb the tranquil silence of the night? Has then day so little room, or is it grievous to suffer, even for a while, sleep and peace of mind? But now come tell me, whence are ye sprung, whither do ye fare, and what may be your quarrel? Mean of soul ye cannot be – such anger proves it – even through bloodshed the noble signs of proud race show clear.”

[448] Scarce had he spoken, when with mingled clamour and sidelong glance together they begin: “Achaean prince! most gracious monarch! what need of words? thou seest thyself this face all bloody” – their words are lost in the confused sound of bitter accents. Then Tydeus taking first place of speech thus recounts his tale: “Desiring solace for my unhappy lot I left the wealth of Calydon, nurse of monsters, and he Acheloian fields: and lo! in your boundaries deepest night o’ertakes me. Who was he to forbid me shelter from the sky? or was it because he won his way first to this threshold? But twy-form Centaurs stall with each other, so ‘tis said, and Cyclopes have peace together beneath Aetna; nay even to wild monsters nature has given laws and their own rule of right; and for us to share a lodging on the ground –? But why waste words? either thou, whoe’er thou art, shalt to-day depart rejoicing in my spoils, or, if rising pain dulls not my blood, thou shalt know me to be of mighty Oeneus’ stock and no degenerate scion of my forefather Mars!” “Nor lack I spirit or race” returns the other, but conscious in his heart of ruthless fate he hesitates to name his sire. Then kindly Adrastus: “Nay come now, cease the threatening words which night or sudden wrath or valour prompted, and pass beneath my palace-roof. Now let your right hands be joined to pledge your hearts. These doings have not been vain nor without the sanction of the powers above: perchance even these angry quarrels do but foreshadow a friendship to come, so that ye may have pleasure in remembrance.” Nor were the old man’s words an empty presage, for they say that from their comradeship in wounds grew such loyalty as Theseus showed when he shared extremest peril with wanton42 Pirithous, or Pylades when he rescued distraught Orestes from the fury of Megaera.43 So then, yielding their savage hearts to the king’s soothing words – even as waters that winds have made their battleground sink to rest, and yet on the drooping sails one surviving breath is long in dying – even so submissive they entered the palace.

[482] Here first he has leisure to let his glance pass o’er the heroes’ dress and mighty weapons. On Polynices’ back he spies a lion flayed, all rought with uncombed mane, like to that one which in the Teumesian44 glades Amphitryon’s son laid low in his boyish years and clothed himself withal, before the battle with the monster of Cleonae.45 Tydeus’ broad shoulders the proud spoils of Calydon, grim with bristles and curved fang, strive to enfold. Aghast and motionless stands the old king at so dire an omen, calling to mind the divine oracles of Phoebus and the warning uttered from the inspired cell. His countenance is fixed in frozen silence, while through his limbs ran a thrill of joy; he felt that they had come, led by heaven’s clear prompting, whom prophetic Apollo in riddling obscurities had foreshown to be his destined sons-in-law, under the feigned guise of beasts. Then stretching forth his hands to the stars, “O Night,” he cries, “who castest thy mantle over toiling earth and heaven, and sendest the fiery stars on their divers roaming courses, gracious referesher of the mind, till the next sun shed blithe upspringing upon faint mortality, thou, kindly Night, dost bring me of thy bounty assurance long sought in perplexity and doubt, and dost reveal the ancient purposes of fate: aid now my work, and certify the omens thou hast given. Ever shall this house throughout the circling periods of the year hold thee high in honour and in worship; black bulls of chosen beauty shall pay thee sacrifice, O goddess! And Vulcan’s fire shall eat the lustral entrails, whereo’er the new milk streams. Hail, ancient truth of mystic Tripod! hail, secret grotto! I have found, O Fortune, that the gods are gods indeed!”

[510] So saying, and joining arms with both he goes forward to the inner chamber of his dwelling. Even yet the fires slumbered on the grey ashes of the altars, and the poured offerings of the sacrifice were yet warm; he bids the flames again be roused and the late banquet renewed. His henchmen obey his words in emulous haste: manifold tumult echoes throughout the palace. Some array the couches with delicate purple and rustling embroidery of gold and pile the cushions high, some polish smooth and place in order the tables: others again set about to banish the darkness of gloomy night by stretching chains for gilded lanterns; these have the task of roasting on a spit’s point the bloodless flesh of slain beasts, those of crushing grain on a stone and heaping the bread in baskets; Adrastus rejoices to see his house aglow with obedient service.

[525] And now he himself, raised high on the proud cushions an ivory throne, shone resplendent; elsewhere the youths recline, their wounds healed with cleansing water, and beholding each other’s scarred visages bear mutual forgiveness. Then the aged king bids Acaste be summoned – his daughters’ nurse and trusty guardian, chosen to keep ward on maiden modesty consecrated to lawful wedlock – and murmurs in her silent ear.

[533] She stayed not upon his bidding, but straightway both maidens came forth from their secret bower, in countenance, marvellous to tell, like to quiver-bearing Diana and warrior Pallas, yet without their terror. They spy the new faces of the heroes and are shamed; pallor at once and blushes made havoc of their bright cheeks, and their timorous eyes resought their reverend sire.46 When in the banquet’s course hunger was quelled, the son of Iasus,47 as his custom was, bade his thralls bring a goblet fair-wrought with figures and shining with gold, wherefrom both Danaus and elder Phoroneus were wont to pour libations to the gods. Thereon was embossed work of images: all golden, a winged youth holds the snake-tressed Gorgon’s severed head, and even upon the moment – so it seems – leaps up into the wandering breeze; she almost moves her heavy eyes and drooping head, and even grows pale in the living gold.48 Here the Phrygian hunter49 is borne aloft on tawny wings, Gargara’s range sinks downwards as he rises and Troy grows dim beneath him; sadly stand his comrades, in vain the hounds weary their throats with barking and pursue his shadow or bay at the clouds. From this he pours the streaming wine and in order due calls on all the denizens of heaven, Phoebus before the rest; Phoebus’ presence all invoke with praise, garlanded with reverent myrtle, friend and thrall alike, about his altar; for in his honour they make holiday, and the atlars, refreshed by lavish incense, glow through wreaths of smoke.

[557] “Perchance ye may inquire, O youths,” thus says the monarch, “what means this sacrifice, and for what reason we pay Phoebus signal honour. Urged by no ignorant fear, but under stress of dire calamity, the Argive folk aforetime made this offering. Lend me your hearing, and I will recount the tale. When that the god had smitten the dark and sinuous-coiling monster, the earth-born Pytho, who cast about Delphi his sevenfold grisly circles and with his scales ground the ancient oaks to powder, even while sprawling by Castalia’s fountain he gaped with three-tongued mouth athirst to feed his deadly venom: when having spent his shafts on numberless wounds he left him, scarce fully stretched in death over a hundred acres of Cirrhaean50 soil, then, seeking fresh expiation of the dead, he came to the humble dwelling of our king Crotopus. A daughter, in the first years of tender maidenhood, and wondrous fair, kept this pious home, a virgin chaste. How happy, had she ne’er kept secret tryst with the Delian, or shared a stolen love with Phoebus! For she suffered the violence of the god by Nemea’s stream, and when Cynthia had twice five times gathered her circle’s visage to the full, she brought forth a child, Latona’s grandson, bright as a star. Then fearing punishment – for her sire would ne’er have pardoned a forced wedlock – she chose the pathless wilds, and stealthily among the sheep-pens gave her child to a mountain-wandering guardian of the flock for nurture. No cradle worthy of a birth so noble, hapless infant, did thy grassy bed afford thee, or thy woven home of oaken twigs; enclosed in the fibre of arbutus-bark thy limbs are warm, and a hollow pipe coaxes thee to gentle slumbers, while the flock shares thy sleeping-ground. But not even such a home did the fates permit, for, as he lay careless and drinking in the day with open mouth, fierce ravening dogs mangled the babe and took their fill with bloody jaws. But when the tidings reached the mother’s horror-struck ears, father and shame and fear were all forgot; herself straightway she fills the house with wild lamentation, all distraught, and baring her breast meets her father with her tale of grief. Nor is he moved, but bids her – Oh horrible! even as she desires, suffer grim death.

[596] “Too late remembering thy union, O Phoebus, thou dost devise a solace for her miserable fate, a monster conceived ‘neath lowest Acheron in the Furies’ unhallowed lair: a maiden’s face and bosom has she, from her head an ever-hissing snake rises erect, parting in twain her livid brow. Then that foul pest, gliding at night with unseen movement into the chambers, tore from the breasts that suckled them lives newly-born, and with blood-stained fangs gorged and fattened on the country’s grief. But Coroebus, foremost in prowess of arms and high courage, brooked it not, and with chosen youths, unsurpassed in valour and ready at life’s hazard to enlarge their fame, went forth, a willing champion. From dwellings newly ravaged she was going, where in the gateway two roads meet, the corpses of two little ones hung at her side, and still her hooked talons claw their vitals and the iron nails are warm in their young hearts. Thronged by his band of heroes the youth rushed to the attack, and buried his broad blade in her cruel breast, and with flashing steel probing deep the spirit’s lurking-place at length restored to nether Jove his monstrous offspring. What joy to go and see at close hand those eyes livid in death, the ghastly issue of her womb, and her breasts clotted with foul corruption, whereby our young lives perished! Appalled stand the Inachian youth, and their gladness, though great now sorrow is ended, even yet is dim and pale. With sharp stakes they mangle the dead limbs – vain solace for their grief – and beat out the jagged grinding teeth from her jaws: they can – yet cannot glut their ire. Her did ye flee unfed, ye birds, wheeling round with nocturnal clamour, and ravening dogs, they say, and wolves in terror upon her, dry-mouthed.

[627] “But against the unhappy youths the Delian rises up fierce at the doom of his slain avengeress, and seated on the shady top of twin-peaked Parnassus with relentless bow he cruelly scatters shafts that bring pestilence, and withers beneath a misty shroud the fields and dwellings of the Cyclopes.51 Pleasant lives droop and fail, Death with his sword cuts through the Sisters’ threads, and hurries the stricken city to the shades. Our leader then inquiring what the cause may be, what is this baleful fire from heaven, why Sirius reigns throughout the whole year, the word of the same god Paean brings command, to sacrifice to the blood-stained monster those youths that caused her death. O valour heaven-blest! O worth that will merit a long age of fame! No base craven thou to hide thy devoted deed, or shun in fear a certain death! Unabashed he stood on the threshold of Cirrha’s temple, and with these words gives fierce utterance to his sacred rage: `Not sent by any, nor suppliant, O Thymbraean,52 do I approach thy shrine: duly and consciousness of right have turned my steps this way. I am he, O Phoebus, who laid low thy deadly scourge, I am he whom thou, ruthless one, dost seek out by poison-cloud, and the light of day defiled, and the black corruption of a baleful heaven. But even if raging monsters be so dear to the gods above, and the destruction of men a cheaper loss to the world, and heaven be so stern and pitiless, in what have the Argives sinned? My life, my life alone, most righteous of the gods, should be offered to the fates! Or is it more soothing to thy heart that thou seest homesteads desolate, and the countryside lit up by the burning roofs of husbandmen? But why by speaking do I delay the weapons of thy might? our mothers are waiting, and the last prayers for me are being uttered. Enough: I have deserved that thou should’st be merciless. Bring then thy quiver, and stretch thy sounding bow, and send a noble soul to death! but, even while I die, dispel the gathered mist that form on high hangs pallid over Inachian Argos.’

[661] “Equity hath regard for the deserving. Awe of slaughter took hold on Leto’s fiery son, and yielding he grants the hero the sad boon of life; the deadly clouds fly scattering from our heaven, while thou, thy prayer heard, departest from marvelling Phoebus’ door. Thenceforward do we in solemn banquet yearly renew the appointed sacrifice, and placate the shrine of Phoebus in recurring festival. Of what stock come ye, whom chance has led to these our altars? though, if but now my ears did rightly catch your outcry, Oeneus of Calydon is thy sire, and thine the lordship of Parthaonia’s house.53 But thou, do thou reveal who thou art that comest thus to Argos, since now the hour permits of varied discourse.”

[673] Straightway did the Ismenian54 hero bend his sad looks to earth, and cast an injured Tydeus a silent sidelong glance; then after a long pause he spoke: “Not at these honours paid to heaven is it meet to ask me of my birth or land or ancient descent of blood; hard is it to confess the truth amid the holy rites. But if your wish is urgent to know my unhappy tale, Cadmus was the ancestor of my sires, my land Mavortian Thebes, my mother is Jocasta.”

[681] Then Adrastus moved to friendly compassion – for he recognized him – said: “Why hide what all have heard? this know we, nor doth Fame journey so distant from Mycenae. Yea, of that reign, and the madness, and the eyes that knew shame of their seeing, even he hath heard who shivers ‘neath an Arctic sun, and he who drinks of Ganges, or sails in to the Ocean darkening to the west, and they whom the shifting shoreline of the Syrtes fails. Cease to lament, or to recount the woes of thy fathers: in our house also hath there been many a fall from duty, but past error binds not posterity. Only do thou, unlike to them, win by fortune’s favour this reward, to redeem thy kindred. And now the frosty wagoner of the Hyperborean Bear55 droops languidly, with backward slanting pole. Pour your wine upon the altar-hearths, and chant we our prayer, again and yet again, to Leto’s son, the saviour of our fathers!

[696] “Phoebus, Sire! whether the copses of Patara and Lycia’s snowy uplands keep thee busy,56 or thou delightest to bathe thy golden hair in Castalia’s pure drew, or whether as Thymbra’s lord thou dwellest in Troy, where they say thou didst willingly bear on thankless shoulders blocks of Phrygian stone,57 or whether Latonian Cynthus58 pleases thee, casting his shadow on the Aegean wave, and Delos, settled sure in the deep, nor needing now thy search, - thine are the arrows and the bending of bows against the savage enemy afar; to thee did celestial parents grant the cheeks’ eternal bloom; thou art skilled to foreknow Fate’s cruel handiwork, and the destiny that lies beyond, and high Jove’s pleasure, to what peoples pestilence cometh or wars, what change of sceptres comets brings; thou makest the Phrygian59 subject to thy lyre, and for thy mother’s honour dost stretch the earth-born Tityos on the Stygian sands; thee the green Python and the Theban mother60 horror-struck beheld triumphant with thy quiver, to avenge thee grim Megaera holds fast the starving Phlegyas,61 who lies ever pressed beneath cavernous rocks, and tortures him with the unholy feast, but mingled loathing defeats his hunger: be thou present to our succour, mindful of our hospitality, and shed on the fields of Juno62 the blessings of thy love, whether ‘tis right to call thee rosy Titan, in the fashion of the Achaemenian race,63 or Osiris bringer of the harvest, or Mithras, that beneath the rocky Persean cave strains at the reluctant-following horns.”

1. Cadmus, son of Agenor, king of Phoenicia, was sent by his father in search of Europa when carried off by Zeus in the form of a bull; he subsequently founded Thebes, and sowed the dragon’s teeth there; hence “anxious husbandman,” etc.
2. Juno’s jealousy caused the death of Semele, mother of Bacchus; Athamas went mad and slew his son Learchus, Ino leapt with Palaemon into the sea. Ino and Semele were daughters of Cadmus.
3. Or, “be the track, the course of.”
4. The reference is to Domitian’s campaigns against Germans and Dacians, and to the part he took in the fighting on the Capitol between Flavians and Vitellians in A.D. 69.
5. The south.
6. The deifying members of the Imperial house; the idea of stars being divine spirits is an old one in mythology, e.g. Castor and Pollux; it is also found in Plato and his successors.
7. Boeotian, i.e. Theban.
8. See xii. 429.
9. Oedipus had torn out his own eyes when he realized that he was guilty of parricide and incest. Statius has in mind the Virgilian “nox atra caput circumvolat” Aen. vi. 866 (cf. also Hor. S. ii. 1. 58), but here it is the “saeva dies” that hovers round.
10. Or, as some take it, “beats upon the empty sockets”; but to beat on the earth was a recognized way of summoning infernal deities.

11. i.e., the Castalian spring at Delphi, beneath the two peaks of Parnassus, where he went to consult the oracle. He was brought up as the son of Polybus, king of Corinth (hence “falso”).
12. A promontory in Laconia, which had a cave supposed to be an entrance to the underworld.
13. Edd. who keep “minor” explain either as the lesser half of the crowd of snakes, or as the small fry, compared with the big snake in the Fury’s hand (113).
14. i.e., Thessalian. Thessaly was famous for magic spells and witches, cf. iii. 140.
15. See note on i. 14.
16. i.e., of course, Eteocles.
17. Theban, from Echion, king of Thebes.
18. Theban, from Ogyges, founder of Thebes according to one legend.
19. Boeotian. See n. on 1. 6.
20. The slaughter of the armed warriors who sprang from the dragon’s teeth.

21. The old commentators took this as purposely ambiguous, crimes committed by or against the gods. The latter meaning is the easier one, e.g. Niobe, Pentheus, Semele, and it is difficult to see what the other could refer to.
22. Lit. “Adrastus as a father-in-law,” i.e., “giving his daughter in marriage.”
23. When Tantalus, according to one legend, cut up his son Pelops and boiled him as a feast for the gods. Tantalus was king of Argos, though in some legends king of Lydia or Phrygia. “hanc” therefore means “Argive.”
24. Phoroneus, son of Inachus, was commonly considered the founder of Argos, whose walls, like those of other ancient cities, were thought to have been built by the Cyclopes. Argus, the watcher of Io, daughter of Inachus, was slain there, and there Danaë, daughter of Acrisius, was visited by Jupiter.
25. Thebes: the reference is to his union with Semele, when he revealed himself in all his majesty with thunder and lightning.
26. i.e. why should I be worshipped as a goddess at all, when I am so dishonoured by you? l. 265 again alludes to Io, with whom Isis, worshipped by the Egyptians, was commonly identified.
27. Where were the man-eating horses of king Diomede of Thrace. Those of Oenomaus, king of Pisa, used to devour the suitors to the hand of his daughter Hippodamia whom he defeated in a chariot-race.
28. In Crete; for the charge cf. Callimachus, Hymn to Zeus, l. 8, where he accuses the Cretans of speaking of the death of Zeus, whereas Zeus is alive and immortal.
29. “aspera,” because his words were intended to embroil the brothers yet more.
30. Mercury, son of Jupiter, born on Mt. Cyllene in Arcadia. His mother Maia was the daughter of Atlas (303).

31. Or “hurtled”; see critical note.
32. Inachus and Danaus were former kings of Argos. Mycenae was shrouded in darkness as a sign of divine anger when Atreus served up the sons of Thyestes as a meal for their father.
33. Blood shed in worship of Bacchus.
34. Scylla was the daughter of Nisus, king of Megara, who had the purple lock.
35. i.e., there was no morning twilight giving promise of the coming day. “longa” might be taken as long-abiding, not far-streaming.
36. The domain of Aeolus, lord of the winds, as in Virg. Aen. i. 52.
37. Nothing else is known of this place. [This is incorrect, according to Pausanias (cf. 2. 17. 1) Prosymna was the name of land beneath the Argive Heraeum. - AA]
38. Hercules used fire to burn away the hydra’s heads.
39. i.e. Aetolian, from a town called Olenos.
40. Statius here has Homer in mind: mikros men eên demas, alla machêtês (of Tydeus, Il. v. 801).

41. i.e., Olympian Zeus.
42. Because he tried to carry off Proserpine.
43. One of the Furies who pursued Orestes when he had slain his mother.
44. Teumesus is a mountain near Thebes.
45. The Nemean lion; Cleonae, a village near Nemea.
46. “hausere” is used by a startling zeugma both with “pallor” (its natural use), and with “rubor” (for “suffuses”).
47. He was a former king of Argos.
48. Gold is naturally pale, and so suggests the face growing pale in death: “vivo” means the natural, native metal, cf. “vivoque sedilia saxo.”
49. Ganymede.
50. From Cirrha, the port of Delphi; so l. 641.

51. i.e., Argos, which the Cyclopes were supposed originally to have built.
52. A title of Apollo, from his shrine at Thymbra in the Troad, cf. 699.
53. Parthaon was a king of Calydon, father of Oeneus.
54. Theban, from the river Ismenus.
55. Statius has quaintly combined the two names of the constellation, the Bear and the Wain; by the Hyperborean Bear he simply means the North, so that the phrase corresponds to Spenser’s “the Northern Waggoner.”
56. i.e., hunting.
57. i.e., in building Troy.
58. The mountain in Delos.
59. Marsyas.
60. Niobe, daughter of Cadmus [actually daughter of Tantalus and the wife of King Amphion of Thebes].

61. A Lapith who had set fire to Apollo’s temple.
62. i.e., Argos.
63. The reference is to the sun-worship of the Persians; Mithras is frequently represented dragging a bull to be sacrificed. “Persean,” from Perses, son of Perseus and Andromeda, founder of the Persian nation, cf. Hdt. vii. 61.