Classical Texts Library >> Statius, Thebaid >> Book 4




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] Thrice had Phoebus loosened stark winter with the Zephyrs, and was constraining the scanty day to move in its vernal path with a longer course, when counsellings yielded to the shock of fate, and pitiful war was given at last an ample field. First from the Larissaean height Bellona displayed her ruddy torch, and with right arm drove the spear-shaft whirling; hissing, it flew through the clear heaven, and stood fixed on the high rampart of Aonian Dirce. Then to the camp she goes and, mingling with the heroes that glittered in gold and steel, shouts like a squadron; she gives swords to hurrying warriors, claps their steeds and beckons gateward; the brave anticipate her promptings and even the timid are inspired to short-lived valour.

[13] The appointed day had come. A mighty herd falls in due sacrifice to the Thunderer and to Mars; the priest, cheered by no favouring entrails, pales and feigns hope before the host. And now around their kinsmen sons and brides and fathers pour mingled, and from the summit of the gates would fain delay them. No stint is there of tears: bedewed are the shields and helmet-crests of those who make their sad farewell, and the household, the object of their sighs, clings to every weapon; they delight to find entrance for their kisses through the closed visors, and to draw down the grim helmet-peaks to their embrace. They who of late took pleasure in the sword, yea in death itself, now groan and shake with sobbing, their warlike temper broken. Even so, when men are about to go perchance on some long voyage o’er the sea, and already the south winds are in the sails and the anchor rises from its torn bed, the loving band clings fast and enlaces their necks with eager arms, and their streaming eyes are dimmed, some with kisses, some with the sea’s vast haze; at last they are left behind, yet stand upon a rock, and rejoice to follow the swift-flying canvas with their gaze, while they grieve that their native breezes are blowing ever stronger; yet still they stand, and beckon to the ship from the well-known rock.

[32] Now, Fame of olden time, and thou, dark Antiquity of the world, whose care it is to remember princes and to make immortal the story of their lives, recount the warriors, and thou, Calliope, queen of the groves of song, uplift thy lyre and begin the tale, what troops of arms Gradivus roused, what cities he laid waste of their peoples; for to none comes loftier inspiration from the fountain’s draught. The king Adrastus, sick with misgiving beneath the burden of his cares, and drawing nigh his life’s departure, walked scarce of his own will amongst the applauding people, content to be girt but with his sword1; attendants bear his arms behind him, his charioteer tends the swift horses close by the city gates, and already is Arion struggling against the yoke. To support their king Larissa and high Prosymna arm their men, and Midea, fitter home of herds, and Phlius rich in cattle, and Neris that quails at Charadros foaming down his valley’s length, Cleonae with her piled mass of towers, and Thyrea2 destined one day to reap a harvest of Spartan gore.

[49] To them are joined men who remember the king sent thence in early days,3 men who cultivate the rocky heights of Drepanum and olive-bearing Sicyon, and whom Strangilla laves with lazy, silent stream, and Elisson winding through his curving banks. An awful privilege has that river: it cleanses, so ‘tis said, with its austere waters the Stygian Eumenides; here are they wont to dip their faces and the horned snakes that gasp from drinking Phlegethon, whether they have ruined Thracian homes4 or Mycenae’s impious palace or Cadmus’ dwelling; the river itself flees from them as they bathe, and its pools grow livid with countless poisons. Ephyre, who consoled the weeping Ino,5 lends her company, and Cenchreae, where the river, struck by the Gorgon-quelling steed, owns the presence of the bard, and where Isthmos lies athwart the deep and wards off from the land the sloping seas. This troop, in all three thousand, followed in Adrastus’ train exultant; some bore pikes in their hand, some stakes long hardened in the fire – for neither blood nor custom are shared by all their bands – some are wont to whirl firmly-woven slings and gird the air with a trackless circle. The king himself moves venerable alike in years and rank: as a tall bull goes amid the pastures he has long possessed, his neck and shoulders now drooping and void of strength, yet the leader still; no courage have the steers to try him in the fight, for they see the horns that many a blow has broken, and huge scars of wounds upon his breast.

[74] Next to the aged Adrastus his Dircaean son-in-law brings forth his standards; to his cause the war does service, to him the whole army lends it martial ire, for him even from his native home have men come gladly, whether those whom his exile moves, and in whom loyalty has stood sure strengthened by adversity, or those in whom desire to change their ruler is uppermost, many again whom the better cause makes favourable to his complaint. Moreover, his father-in-law had given him Aegion and Arene to rule, and all the wealth that Troezen, famous for Theseus,6 brings, lest with scant following he should go inglorious, and feel the loss of his native honours. The hero wears the same dress and carries the same arms as on that winter’s night, when he owed the duty of a guest7: a Teumesian lion covers his back, and the twin points of javelins glitter, while by his side a cruel Sphinx rises stiff on his wound-dealing sword. Already in his hopes and prayers he is master of his realm, and holds his mother and faithful sisters in his embrace, yet he looks back upon distraught Argia as she stands on the high tower against the sky; she draws back to herself her husband’s eyes and thoughts, and drives pleasant Thebes from out his mind.

[93] Lo! in the midst Tydeus flashing bright leads on his native squadrons, glad already and hale of limb,8 so soon as the first bugles sounded: even so a slippery snake raises itself from the deep earth at the coaxing breath of the vernal sun, freed of its eld and the unsightly years put off, and gleams, a bright green danger, in the lush herbage; unhappy the husbandman who meets its gaping mouth in the grass, and spoils its fangs of their new venom! To him also the rumour of war brings present help of warriors from the Aetolian cities; rocky Pylene heard the tidings, and Pleuron of Meleager, wept for by his sister-birds9; steep Calydon, and Olenos whose Jove doth challenge Ide,10 and Chalcis, welcome haven from Ionian billows, and the river11 whose face the athlete Hercules did mar: even yet scarce dares he raise his stricken visage from the waters’ depth, but mourns with head sunk far below in his green cave, while the river-banks pant and sicken with dust. All these defend their bodies with bronze-bound targes, and bear fierce halberds in their hands, while native Mars stands erect upon their helms. Chosen youths surround the great-hearted son of Oeneus, high-spirited for battle and in all the glory of his well-known scars; no meaner he in threatening ire than Polynices; ‘tis doubtful even for whom the war is waged.

[116] But mightier comes thereon the Dorian12 array new-armed, they whose numerous ploughs turn up thy banks, Lyrcius, and thy shores, Inachus, prince of Achaean streams – for no more tempestuous torrent flows forth from Persean13 land, when he has drunk deep of Taurus14 or the watery Pleiades, foaming high and swollen with Jove, his daughter’s lover15 – they too whom swift Asterion encircles and Erasinus sweeping on his flood Dryopian harvests, and they who tame the fields of Epidaurus – favourable to Iacchus are those hill-sides, but they give denial to Ceres of Henna16 – desolate Dyme sends aid, and Neleian Pylos her swarming squadrons; not yet renowned was Pylos, and Nestor was as yet in the prime of his second age, but would not join a host doomed to perish. These doth tall Hippomedon excite and teach the love of glorious valour; on his head a brazen helm doth shake with triple tier of snow-white plume, beneath his armour iron mail fits close upon his flanks, his shoulders and breast a wide flaming circle covers, whereon the night of Danaus17 lives in the gold handiwork: the fifty guilty chambers blaze with Furies’ murky torch, the sire himself on the blood-stained threshold praises the crime and views the swords. A Nemean steed in terror of the fight bears the hero from the citadel of Pallas,18 and fills the fields with the huge flying shadow, and he long trail of dust rises upon the plain. Not otherwise, crashing through the forests with shoulders and either breast, does twy-formed Hylaeus19 speed headlong from his mountain cave; Ossa trembles at his going ,and beasts and cattle fall in terror; yea, even his brethren are affrighted, till with a great leap he plunges into the waters of Peneus, and with thwarting bulk dams back the mighty flood.

[144] Who could describe in mortal speech that numerous armament, its peoples and their valiant might? Ancient Tiryns is roused by her own god20 to arms, not barren of brave men, nor degenerate from her tremendous son’s renown, but desolate and her day of fortune past, nor hath she the power that wealth can give; the scanty dweller in her empty fields points out the towers raised by the sweat of Cyclopean brows. Yet she sends three hundred manly hearts, a company undisciplined for war, without javelin-thongs or the surly gleam of swords; on their heads and shoulders the tawny spoil of lions, their tribe’s adornment, a pinewood stake their weapon, and shafts crammed tight in inexhaustible quivers. They sing the paean of Hercules and the world swept clear of monsters: the god listens from afar on leafy Oeta.21 Nemea gives them comrades and all the might that he sacred vineyards of Cleonaean Molorchus summon to war. Well known is the glory of that cottage22; pictured upon its willow doors are the arms of the god who was its guest, and in the humble field ‘tis shown where he laid his club, and under what holm-oak he reposed his limbs at ease, and where yet the ground bears traces of his lying.

[165] But Capaneus, on foot and looking down by a whole head’s height upon the host, wields the burden of four hides torn from the backs of untamed steers and stiffened above with a covering of massy bronze; there lies the Hydra with triple-branching crown, lately slain and foul in death: part, embossed in silver, glitters fierce with moving snakes, part by a cunning device is sunken, and grows dark in the death agony against the tawny gold; around, in dark-blue steel runs the torpid stream of Lerna. His long flanks and spacious breast are guarded by a corselet woven of iron threads innumerable, a work inspiring terror, no mother’s task; a giant rises from the summit of his flashing helm; his spear, that he alone can throw, is a cypress standing stripped of leaves and pointed with iron. Assigned in fealty to him are they whom fertile Amphigenia nourishes, and Messene’s plain and mountainous Ithome, Thryon and Aepy high-piled on mountain-tops, Helos too and Pteleon and Dorion that bewails the Getic bard: here Thamyris made bold to surpass in song the skilled daughters of Aonia, but doomed to a life of silence fell on the instant mute with voice and harp alike – who may despise deities met face to face? – for that he knew not what it was to strive with Phoebus, nor how the hanging Satyr23 brought Celaenae fame.

[187] And now even the fate-foretelling augur’s resolve begins to weaken under strong assault; he saw indeed what should befall and the dread signs thereof, but Atropos herself had made violent attack upon his doubting will, and overwhelmed the god within him, nor is wifely treachery absent, and already the house sparkles with forbidden gold. From that gold died the fates bode destruction to the Argive seer, yea, and she knew it – ah, impious crime! – but the perfidious wife would fain barter her husband for a gift, and yearns to gain the spoils of the princess Argia, and to excel her in the stolen finery. She not unwilling – for she sees that the spirit of the princes and the resolve of war must fail, should not the foreseeing hero join their enterprise – herself put off from her bosom the fatal ornament of her beloved Polynices, nor grieved therat, but saith moreover: “No fit times these to deck myself in shining jewelry, nor without thee let me take delight in adorning my hapless beauty; enough to beguile my doubts and fears with the solace of my maidens, and trail my unkempt tresses at the altars. Shall I – oh! thought unspeakable! – shall I wear rich Harmonia’s dower of gold, while thou art shut within thy threatening helmet, and dost clang in arms of steel? More fitly mayhap will heaven grant me that boon, and I outdo the Argolic brides in apparel, when I am queen indeed, and must fill the temples with votive choirs, upon thy safe return. Now let her put it on who desires it, and can rejoice while her husband is at war.” Thus the fatal gold made entry to the chambers of Eriphyle, and set in motion the beginnings of great crimes, and Tisiphone laughed loud, exulting in what should come to pass.

[214] Aloft behind Taenarian steeds, whom Cyllarus unknown to Castor had begotten on mars of meaner stock, he makes earth tremble; the adornment of Parnassian wool betrays the prophet, sprays of olive wreath his helmet, and the white fillet intertwines the scarlet crest. He handles at once his weapons and the reins held tight upon the yoke. On either side there is a shelter from darts, and an iron forest trembles on his chariot; far seen he stands, conspicuous and terrible with stern spear, and flashes the conquered Python on his shield. Amyclae, Apollo’s town, bears his car company, and the bands of Pylos, and Malea shunned by doubting keels, and Caryae skilled to raise the hymn that wins Diana’s applause, and Pharis and Cytherean Messe, mother of doves, the phalanx of Taygetus, and the hardy troop of swan-nurturing Eurotas. The Arcadian god24 himself trains them in the dust of combat, and implants in them the ways of naked valour and warlike temper; hence dauntless courage and the welcome consecration of a glorious death. Their parents rejoice in their children’s fate and urge them on to die; and while the whole band of youths makes lamentation, the mother is content with the wreath that crowns the victim. They hold the reins and two javelins with thong attached, bard are their mighty shoulders, from which a rough cloak hangs; a Ledaean crest25 is on their helms. Not these alone, Amphiaraus, are in thy service: the slopes of Elis swell they array, and low-lying Pisa’s folk, who swim thy waters, yellow Alpheus, thou who farest to Sicanian lands, yet art never tainted by so long a passage through the deep. Countless chariots vex their crumbling fields far and wide, their beasts are broken to war: that glory of the race endures even from the impious ways and broken axles of Oenomaus26; the champed bits foam between the jaws, and the white spume bedews the churned earth.

[246] Thou too, Parthenopaeus, unknown to thy mother – unschooled alas! in arms, such lure hath young ambition – speedest onward thy Parrhasian27 cohorts. Thy warlike parent,28 so it chanced – not otherwise could the boy have left her – was bringing peace with her bow to distant glades, and the farther slopes of cool Lycaeus. No fairer face was there of any marching to the grim hazard of war, none winds such favour for pre-eminent beauty; nor lacks he courage, so he but come to sterner years. What forest-queens and spirits enshrined in rivers, what nymphs of the glade hath he not fired with consuming passion? Diana herself, when she saw the boy beneath the shade of Maenalus steeping youthful o’er the grass, forgave her comrade, so they say, and with her own hand fitted to his shoulders the Dictean29 shafts and Amyclean quiver. Smitten by dauntless love of war he dashes to the front, burning to hear the clash of arms and bray of trumpets, to soil his fair hair with the dust of battle, and to ride home on a foeman’s captive steed. He is weary of the woodlands, and ashamed that he knows not the arrows’ baneful boast of human blood. Foremost he shines, ablaze with purple and gold, his streaming cloak furrowed by Iberian cords,30 and his innocent shield adorned with his mother’s Calydonian battles; fierce sounds the bow at his left side, and on his back, plumed with feathery shafts, rattles the quiver set with pale electrum and brilliant Eastern jasper, full of Cydonian arrows. His charger, accustomed to outstrip the flying stags, was covered with two lynxes’ hides, and marvelled at his armed master’s heavier weight; him he loftily bestrode, comely to look upon from the pleasant flush of youth upon his cheeks.

[275] To him the Arcadians31 an ancient people, older than the moon and stars, give trusty cohorts; they were born, ‘tis said, of the hard trunks of forest trees, when the wondering earth first bore the print of feet; not yet were fields or houses or cities or ordinance of marriage: oaks and laurels suffered rude child-birth, and the shady mountain-ash peopled the earth, and the young babe fell from the pregnant ash-tree’s womb. ‘Tis said that, struck with terror at the change from light to murky darkness, they followed far the setting Titan, despairing of the day. The husbandmen grow few on high Maenalus, the forests of Parthenius are deserted, Rhipe and Stratie and windy Enispe give their troops to aid the war. Neither Tegea nor Cyllene blest by the winged god stand idle, nor Alea, woodland shrine of Minerva, nor swift Clitor, nor Ladon,32 almost, O Pythian, the father of thy bride; nor yet Lampia with her shining snow-white ridges, nor Pheneos,33 believed to send down Styx to swarthy Dis. Azan, that can rival the howling mobs of Ida,34 came, and the Parrhasian leaders, and the Nonacrian countryside, wherein the Thunderer quiverclad35 took delight, and furnished laughter for you, ye Loves, and Orchomenos rich in cattle, and Cynosura abounding in wild beasts. The same ardour lays bare the fields of Aepytus and lofty Psophis and the mountains famed for Hercules’ might, Erymanthos home of monsters, and Stymphalos with its clanging bronze.36 All Arcadians these, one race of men, but sundered by differing customs: these bend back Paphian myrtle-saplings, and practise warfare with pastoral staves; some have bows, some pikes for weapons; some cover their hair with helmets, while that one keeps the fashion of the Arcadian hat, and another makes his head terrible with the jaws of a Lycaonian she-bear.37 This warlike gathering of hearts sworn true to Mars Mycenae, neighbour though she was, helped with no soldiery; for then was the deadly banquet and the sun’s midday withdrawing, and there, too, was a feud of warring brothers.38

[309] And now the tidings had filled the ears of Atalanta, that her son was going a captain to the war, and rousing all Arcadia; her steps faltered and the darts fell by her side; swifter than the winged wind she fled from the woodland, o’er rocks and brimming rivers that would stay her, just as she was, with snatched-up raiment and fair hair streaming behind her on the breeze; even as a tigress, bereft of her cubs, fiercely tracks the horse of him that robbed her. When she halted and pressed her bosom on the reins that met her (he pale, with eyes downcast): “Whence comes this mad desire, my son, whence this reckless valour in thy young breast? Canst thou drill men to war, canst thou bear the burdens of Mars and go among the sword-bearing companies? Yet would that thou wert able! Lately I paled to see thee plying the hunting-lance in close conflict with a struggling boar, forced back upon bent knee and almost fallen, and had I not drawn my bow and sped an arrow, where now would be thy wars? Nought will my shafts avail thee, nor my shapely bows, nor this black-spotted steed in whom thou trustest; mighty are the endeavours to which thou hastenest, and thou a boy scarce ripe for the embraces of Dryads or the passions of Erymanthian Nymphs. Omens tell true: I wondered why Diana’s temple seemed to me of late to tremble, and the goddess herself to frown upon me, and why the votive spoils fell from her roof; this it was that made my archery slack and my hands to falter and never to strike sure. Nay, wait till thy prowess be greater, thy years more firm, till the shadow come upon thy rosy cheeks and my likeness fade from thy face. Then I myself will give thee the battles and the sword for which thou dost burn, and no mother’s tears shall call thee back. Now take back thy weapons home! But you, will you suffer him to go to war, ye Arcadians, O born assuredly of rock and oak?” 39 More would she fain entreat; her son and the chieftains thronging round console her and lessen her fears, and already the bugles’ horrid signal blares forth. She cannot loose her son from her loving embrace, and commends him earnestly to his leader Adrastus.

[345] But in another region the Martian folk of Cadmus, dismayed by the madness of the king and terrified by news that is grave indeed – for ‘tis spread abroad how Argos is making descent in force – tardily in truth for shame of the monarch and his cause, nevertheless prepare for war. None rush to draw the sword, or take pleasure in covering their shoulders with their father’s shield or making trim the harness of wing-footed horses, delights such as war affords; despondent, without resolve or warlike temper, they vouchsafe a timorous aid; this one bewails a loving parent in his evil case, another his wife’s pleasant youth and the hapless babes ripening in her womb. In none does the war-god wax hot; even the walls crumbling with age-long neglect and Amphion’s mighty towers lay bare their worn and ancient sides, and a mean and unresponsive toil repairs those parapets once raised to heaven by the inspired harp. Yet the Boeotian cities are moved by the avenging lust of battle, and are stirred in behalf of their kindred race rather than to aid the unjust king. Like is he to a wolf that has forced an entrance to a rich fold of sheep, and now, his breast all clotted with foul corruption and his gaping bristly mouth unsightly with blood-stained wool, hies him from the pens, turning this way and that his troubled gaze, should the angry shepherds find out their loss and follow in pursuit, and flees all conscious of his bold deed.

[369] Disturbing Rumour heaps panic upon panic: one says that scattered cavalry of Lerna wander upon Asopus’ bank, one tells of thy capture, Cithaeron of the revels, another reports Teumesos taken, and Plataeae’s watch-fires burning through the darkness of the night. And to whom throughout the land hath not knowledge, yea sight been granted, of the Tyrian40 walls a-sweat and Dirce stained with blood, of monstrous births and Sphinx yet once more speaking from her rock? And to crown all, a new fear confounds their anxious hearts: of a sudden the queen of the woodland dance41 is seized by frenzy, and scattering the sacred baskets runs down to the plain from the Ogygian heights, and bloodshot-eyed waves fiercely to and fro a triple pine-torch, and fills the alarmed city with wild distracted cries: “Almighty Sire of Nysa,42 who long hast ceased to love thy ancestral nation, swift-borne beneath the frozen North thou art shaking warlike Ismara now with thine iron-pointed thyrsus, and bidding the vine-groves creep over Lycurgus’43 realm, or thou art rushing in mad and flaring triumph by swelling Ganges and the farthest confines of red Tethys44 and the Eastern lands, or issuing golden from the springs of Hermus. But we, thy progeny, have laid aside our country’s weapons45 that do thee festal honour, and have our portion of war and tears, and terror and kindred crime, the cruel burdens of this unrighteous reign. Rather, O Bacchus, take and set me among the eternal frosts, beyond Caucasus that rings with the war-cry of the Amazons, than that I should tell the horrors of our rulers and their unnatural brood. Lo! thou drivest me! far different was the frenzy I vowed to thee, O Bacchus: I behold two similar bulls engage, alike in honour and sharing one inherited blood; with butting foreheads and lofty horns they close in fierce struggle, and perish in the violence of their mutual wrath. Thou art the villain! Do thou give way, who wrongfully seekest all alone to hold ancestral pastures and the hills ye both do own. Ah! miserable and wicked! such bloodshed have your wars cost you, and another champion is master of your meadow.” So spake she, and as the god withdrew his presence fell mute with ice-cold face.

[406] But the king, affrighted by the portent and a prey to various terrors, in sick despair – such is the way of those who fear they know not what – seeks aid from the long-lived seer and the clear-sighted blindness of Tiresias. He replies that heaven shows not its will so clearly by lavish slaughter of steers or nimble feathered wing or the truthful leap of entrails, not by means of garlanded tripod or star-determined numbers, or by the smoke that hovers about the altar’s frankincense, as by the ghosts called up from Death’s stern barrier; then he prepares the rites of Lethe,46 and makes ready beforehand to evoke the monarch sunk below the confines of Ismenos where it mingles with the deep, and makes purgation all around with the torn entrails of sheep and the strong smell of sulphur, and with fresh herbs and the long mutterings of prayers.

[419] There stands a wood, enduring of time, and strong and erect in age, with foliage aye unshorn nor pierced by any suns; no cold of winter has injured it, nor has the South wind power thereon nor Boreas swooping down from the Getic Bear. Beneath is sheltered quiet, and a vague shuddering awe guards the silence, and the phantom of the banished light gleams pale and ominous. Nor do the shadows lack a divine power: Latonia’s haunting presence is added to the grove; her effigies wrought in pine or cedar and wood or very tree are hidden in the hallowed gloom of the forest. Her arrows whistle unseen through the wood, her hounds bay nightly, when she flies from her uncle’s threshold and resumes afresh Diana’s kindlier shape. Or when she is weary from her ranging on the hills, and the sun high in heaven invites sweet slumber, here doth she rest with head flung back carelessly on her quiver, while all her spears stand fixed in the earth around. Outside, of vast extent, stretches the Martian plain, the field that bore its harvest to Cadmus. Hardy was he who first after the kindred warfare and the crime of those same furrows dared with the ploughshare till the soil and upturned the blood-soaked meads; even yet the accursed earth breathes mighty tumults at midday and in the lonely night’s dim shadows, when the black sons of earth arise to phantom combat: with trembling limbs the husbandman flees and leaves the field unfinished, and his oxen hie them to their stalls, distraught.

[443] Here the aged seer – for well suited is the ground to Stygian rites, and the soil, rich with living gore, delighted him – bids dark-fleeced sheep and black oxen be set before him, all the finest heads that the herds can show; Dirce and gloomy Cithaeron wailed aloud, and the echoing valleys shuddered at the sudden silence. Then he entwined their fierce horns with wreaths of dusky hue, handling them himself, and first at the edge of that well-known wood he nine times spills lavish draughts of Bacchus into a hollowed trench, and gifts of vernal milk and Attic rain47 and propitiatory blood to the shades below; so much is poured out as the dry earth will drink. Then they roll tree trunks thither, and the sad priest bids there be three altar-fires for Hecate and three for the maidens born of cursed Acheron; for thee, lord of Avernus, a heap of pinewood though sunk into the ground yet towers high in to the air; next to this an altar of lesser bulk is raised to Ceres of the underworld; in front and on very side the cypress of lamentation intertwines them. And now, their lofty heads marked with the sword and the pure sprinkled meal, the cattle fell under the stroke; then the virgin Manto, catching the blood in bowls, makes first libation, and moving thrice round all the pyres, as her holy sire commands, offers the half-dead tissues and the yet living entrails, nor delays to set the devouring fire to the dark foliage.

[468] And when Tiresias heard the branches crackling in the flames and the grim piles roaring – for the burning heat surges before his face, and the fiery vapour fills the hollows of his eyes – he exclaimed, and the pyres trembled, and the flames cowered at his voice: “Abodes of Tartarus and awful realms of insatiable Death, and thou, most cruel of the brothers,48 to whom the shades are given to serve thee, and the eternal punishments of the damned obey thee, and the palace of the underworld, throw open in answer to my knocking the silent places and empty void of stern Persephone, and send forth the multitude that lurk in hollow night; let the ferryman row back across the Styx with groaning bark. Haste ye all together, nor let there be fore the shades but one fashion of return to the light; do thou, daughter of Perses,49 and the cloud-wrapt Arcadian with rod of power lead in separate throng the pious denizens of Elysium; but for those who died in crime, who in Erebus, as among the seed of Cadmus, are most in number, be thou their leader, Tisiphone, go on before with snake thrice brandished and blazing yew-branch, and throw open the light of day, nor let Cerberus interpose his heads, and turn aside the ghosts that lack the light.”

[488] He spoke, and together the aged man and Phoebus’ maiden waited in rapt attention. Nought feared they, for their hearts were inspired of the god; only the son of Oedipus was overcome by a great terror, and in agony he grasps, now the shoulders, now the hands and sacred fillets of the seer as he chants his awful strain, and would fain leave the rites unfinished. Even so a hunter awaits a lion roused by long shouting from his lair in the brushwood of a Gaetulian forest, steeling his courage and holding his spear in a perspiring grip; his face is frozen in terror and his steps tremble; “what beast approaches?” he wonders, and “how mighty?” and he hears the roar that gives ominous signal, and measures the growing sound in blind anxiety.

[500] Then Tiresias, as the ghosts did not yet draw night: “I bear you witness, goddesses, for whom we have drenched these flames and poured propitious goblets upon the rent earth, I can endure delay no further. Am I heard in vain, priest though I be? Or, if a hag of Thessaly bid you with her frenzied chant, will ye then go, or so often as a Colchian witch drives you with Scythian drugs and poisons, will Tartarus grow pale and stir affrighted: but of me have ye less regard, if I care not to raise bodies from the bomb, and bring forth urns crammed with ancient bones, and profane the gods of heaven and Erebus alike, or hunt with the sword the bloodless faces of the dead and pluck out their sickly tissues?50 Despise not these frail years nor the cloud that is upon my darkened brow, despise it not, I warn you! I, too, can vent my wrath. I know the name whose knowing and whose speaking ye so dread, even Hecate I can confound, feared I not thee, O Thymbraean, and the high lord of the triple world,51 who may not be known. Him – but I am silent; peaceful old age forbids. Now will I –“

[518] But Manto, votary of Phoebus, eagerly cries: “Thou art heard, O father, the pale ghost draws nigh. The Elysian void is flung open, the spacious shadows of the hidden region are rent, the groves and black rivers lie clear to view, and Acheron belches forth noisome mud. Smoky Phlegethon rolls down his streams of murky flame, and Styx interfluent sets a barrier to the sundered ghosts. Himself I behold, all pale upon his throne, with Furies ministering to his fell deeds about him, and the remorseless chambers and gloomy couch of Stygian Juno.52 Black Death sits upon an eminence and numbers the silent peoples for their lord; yet the greater part of the troop remains. The Gortynian judge53 shakes them in his inexorable urn, demanding the truth with threats, and constrains them to speak out their whole lives’ story and at last confess their extorted gains. Why should I tell thee of Hell’s monsters, of Scyllas and the empty rage of Centaurs, and the Giants’ twisted chains of solid adamant, and the diminished shade of hundredfold Aegaeon?”

[536] “Even so,” said he, “O guide and strength of my old age, tell me not things well known. Who knows not the aye-returning rock, and the deceiving waters, and Tityos food of vultures, and Ixion swooning on the long circlings of the wheel? I myself in the years of stronger manhood beheld the hidden realms with Hecate as my guide, before heaven whelmed my vision, and drew all my light within my mind. Rather summon thou hither with thy prayers the Argive and the Theban souls; the rest, my daughter, bid thou with milk four times sprinkled to aver their steps, and to leave the dreary grove. Then tell me, pray, the dress and countenance of each, how great their desire for the spilled blood, which folk draw nigh more haughtily, and thus of each several thing inform my darkness.”

[549] She obeys, and weaves the charm wherewith she disperses the shades and calls them back when scattered; potent (but without their crimes) as the Colchian miadne, or the enchantress54 Circe on the Aeaean strand. Then with these words she addressed her priestly sire: “First from the blood-red lake doth Cadmus raise his strengthless head, and the daughter of Cytherea55 follows hard upon her spouse, and from their head twin serpents drink. The earth-born company, seed of Mars, throng round them, whose span of life one day did measure, and every hand is on its weapon, yea, on the sword-hilt; they repel and bar approach, and rush to combat with the fury of living men, nor care they to stop to the gloomy trench, but thirst to drain each other’s blood. Near by is a band of Cadmus’ daughters and the sons they mourned. Here we behold bereaved Autonoë56 and panting Ino, looking back at the bow and pressing her sweet pledge to her bosom, and Semele with arms held out to protect her womb. With shivered wands and bosom bare and bleeding, the frenzy of the god now spent, doth his mother, Cadmus’ daughter, follow Pentheus with wailing cries; but he fleeth by Lethe’s pathless region even beyond the Stygian lakes, where his kindlier sire Echion weeps over him and tends his mangled body. Sad Lycus57 too, I recognize, and the son of Aeolus,58 his right arm bent behind him, and a corpse thrown upon his laden shoulder. Nor yet doth that one change his appearance or the reproach of his transformation, even Aristaeus’ son59: the horns roughen his brow, while spear in hand he repels the hounds agape to rend him. But lo! with numerous train comes the jealous Tantalid,60 and proud in her grief counts o’er the bodies, nought humbled by her woes; she rejoices to have escaped the power of heaven, and now to give freer rein to her mad tongue.”

[580] While the chaste priestess thus recounts the tale to her father, his hoary locks trembling rise erect with lifted chaplet, and his pale visage throbs with a rush of blood. No longer rests he on the supporting staff or faithful maiden, but standing upright cries: “Cease they song, my daughter, enough have I of external light, the sluggish mists depart, black night flees from my face. Comes it from the shades or from Apollo on high, this flooding inspiration? Lo! I behold all that thou didst tell me of. Behold! there mourn the Argive ghosts with eyes downcast! grim Abas, guilty Proetus and gentle Phoroneus, and Pelops maimed61 and Oenomaus soiled with cruel duest, all bedew their faces with plenteous tears. Hence do I prophesy for Thebes a favouring issue of the war. But what means this dense throng of warrior-souls, for such their wounds and weapons prove them? Why show they gory faces and breasts, and with unsubstantial clamour raise and shake at me threatening arms? Do I err, O king, or re these that band of fifty?62 Chthonius thou dost behold, and Chromis and Phegeus and Maeon distinguished by my laurel. Rage not, ye chieftains, no mortal, believe me, dared that enterprise; ‘twas iron Atropos span you those destined years. Ye have fulfilled your fate; for us cruel war remains, and Tydeus yet again.” He spake, and as they swarmed upon his wool-bound chaplets he drove them off and pointed them to the blood.63

[604] Reft of his comrade ghosts stood Laius on Cocytus’ dreary strand – for already had the winged god restored him to unpitying Avernus64– and glancing sidelong at his dire grandson, for he knew him by his face, came not like the rest of the multitude to drink the blood or the other outpourings, but breathed immortal hatred. But the Aonian seer delays not to lure him forward: “Renowned prince of Tyrian Thebes, since whose death no day has looked with kindly aspect on Amphion’s citadel, O thou who hast now enough avenged thy bloody murder, O shade to whom thy issue have made full atonement, whom doest thou fly, unhappy one? He65 against whom thou ragest lies a living corpse, and feels Death joined with him in linked companionship, his sunken visage besmeared with blood and filth, and all the light of day put out. Trust me, ‘tis a fate far worse than any dying! What cause hast thou to shun thy innocent grandson? Turn thy gaze hither, and take thy fill of sacrificial blood; then tell the chances that shall be, and the war’s victims, whether thou art in hostile mood or pityest thy kindred’s fortunes. Then will I grant thee to cross forbidden Lethe in the bark thou doest desire, and set thee again at peace in the blessed land, in the safe keeping of the gods of Styx.”

[624] Soothed is he by the proffered honour, and brings the colour to his cheeks,66 then thus replies: “Why, when thou wert marshalling the spirits, O prophet equal to me in years, why was I chosen, first out of so many shades, to speak augury and to foretell what shall befall? ‘Tis enough to have remembrance of the past. Seek ye my counsel, illustrious grandsons? nay, shame upon you! Him summon ye, him, to your unhallowed rites, who gladly pierces his father with the sword, who turns him to the place of his begetting, and casts back upon his innocent mother her own dear pledge of love. And now he wearies the gods and the dark councils of the Furies, and supplicates my shade for the coming strife. But if I have found such favour as a prophet of these times of woe, I will speak, so far as Lachesis and grim Megaera suffer me: War cometh from every side, war of countless hosts, Gradivus sweeps on the sons of Lerna67 before the goads of fate; them there await portents of the earth, and weapons of heaven, and glorious deaths, and unlawful withholdings from the final fire.68 Victory is sure for Thebes, doubt it not, nor shall thy fierce kinsman have thy realm; but Furies shall possess it, and twofold impious crime, and alas, in your unhappy swords your cruel father triumphs.” So speaking he faded from their sight, and left them in doubt at his mazy riddling words.

[646] Meanwhile the sons of Inachus with scattered troop had reached cool Nemea and the glades that witness to Hercules’ renown; already they burn with eagerness to drive off Sidonian plunder, to destroy and ravage homesteads. Say thou, O Phoebus, who turned them from their path of anger, whence came their staying, and how in mid course they wandered from the way; to us but scant beginnings of the tale remain.

[652] In drunken languor Liber was bringing back his array of war from conquered Haemus; there had he taught the warrior Getae, two winters through to hold the orgies, and white Othrys to grow green along his ridges and Rhodope to bear Icarian shade69; already he draws nigh in his chariot decked with vine-leaves to his mother’s city; wild lynxes bear him company to right and left, and tigers lick the wine-soaked reins. In his train exulting Bacchanals70 carry their spoil of beasts, half-dead wolves and mangled she-bears. No sluggish retinue is his: Anger and Fury are there, and Fear and Valour, and Ardour never sober, and steps that stagger, an army most like to its prince. But when he sees the cloud of dust surge up from Nemea, and the sun kindling on the flashing steel, and Thebes not yet marshalled for battle, horror-struck at the sight, though faint and reeling, he commands the brazen cymbals and the drums and the noise of the double pipe, screaming loudest about his astonished ears, to be silent, and thus speaks: “Against me and my race doth that host plan destruction; after long time their rage gains violence anew; savage Argos and my stepmother’s indomitable wrath are stirring up this war. Doth it not even yet suffice – my mother’s cruel burning, the natal pyre, and the lightning-flash that I myself perceived? Nay, even against the relics and the tomb of her consumed rival, against idle Thebes doth she make impious attack.71 By craft will I contrive delay; hasten then thither, ho! my comrades, thither to yon plain!” At the signal the Hyrcanian72 team pricked up their crests, and, the word scarce spoken, he halted at his goal.

[680] It was the hour when panting day uplifts the sun to the mid summit of the world, when the languid heat hangs over the gaping fields, and all the groves let in the sky.73 He summons the spirits of the waters, and as they throng round him in silence he begins: “Ye rustic Nymphs, deities of the streams, no small portion of my train, fulfil the task that I now do set you. Stop fast with earth awhile the Argolic river-springs, I beg, and the pools and running brooks, and in Nemea most of all, whereby they pass to attack our walls, let he water flee from the depth; Phoebus himself, still at the summit of his path, doth aid you, so but your own will fail not; the stars lend their strong influence to my design, and the heat-bringing hound of my Erigone74 is foaming. Go then of your goodwill, go into the hidden places of earth; afterwards will I coax you forth with swelling channels, and all the choicest gifts at my altar shall be for your honour, and I will drive afar the nightly raids of the shameless horn-footed ones, and the lustful rapine of the Fauns.”

[697] He spoke, and a faint blight seemed to overspread their features, and the moist freshness withered from their hair. Straightway fiery thirst drains the Inachian fields: the streams are gone, fountains and lakes are parched and dry, and the scorched mud hardens in the river-beds. A sickly drought is upon the soil, the crops of tender springing wheat droop low; at the edge of the bank the flock stands baffled, and the cattle seek in vain the rivers where they bathed. Even so, when ebbing Nile buries itself in mighty caverns and gathers into its mouth the life-giving streams of Eastern winters, the flood-deserted valleys steam, Egypt gapes wide and waits expectant for the roar of her sire’s waves,75 till by dint of many prayers he give sustenance to the Pharian fields and bring on a great year of harvest.

[711] Dry is guilty Lerna, dry Lyrcius and great Inachus, and Charadrus that rolls down boulders on his stream, bold Erasinus whom his banks ne’er contain, and Asterion like a billowy sea; oft hath he been heard on pathless uplands, oft known to break the repose of distant shepherds. But Langia alone – and she by the god’s command – preserves her waters in the silence of a secret shade. Not yet had slaughtered Archemorus76 brought her sorrowful renown, no fame had come to the goddess; nevertheless, in far seclusion, she maintains her spring and grove. Great glory awaits the nymph, when the toiling contests of Achaean princes and the four-yearly festival of woe shall do honour to sad Hypsipyle and holy Opheltes.77

[723] So then neither burning shields nor close-fitting breastplates have they power to carry – so fiercely doth fiery thirst78 scorch them – not only their mouths and the throat’s passage are parched, but a fever rages within, their hearts beat heavily, the veins are thick congealed, and the tainted blood cleaves to the dried-up tissues; then the crumbling, sunburnt earth exhales a hot vapour. No rain of foam from the horses’ mouths, their jaws close on dry bits, and far out hang their bridled tongues; no restraint of their masters do they suffer, but scour the plain, maddened by the fiery heat. This way and that Adrastus sends scouts to discover if the Licymnian lakes yet remain, or aught of Amymone’s waters, but all lie drained by fire unseen, nor is there hope of moisture from Olympus, as though they ranged yellow Libya and Africa’s desert sand and Syene shaded by no cloud.

[739] At length wandering in the woodland – for so had Euhius himself devised – they behold on a sudden Hypsipyle, beauteous in her grief; at her breast Opheltes hangs, not her own child, but the ill-starred offspring of Inachian Lycurgus79; dishevelled is her hair and poor her raiment, yet in her countenance are marks of kingly birth, and a dignity not overwhelmed by a bitter lot. Then Adrastus, awestruck, thus addressed her: “Goddess, queen of the woodlands80 – for thy countenance and honourable bearing proclaim thee of no mortal birth – thou who beneath this fiery vault art blest in needing not to search for water, succour a neighbouring people; whether the Wielder of the Bow or Latona’s daughter hath set thee in the bridal-chamber from her chaste company, or whether it be no lowly passion but one from on high doth make thee fruitful – for the ruler of the gods himself is no stranger to Argive bowers – look upon our distressed ranks. Us hath the resolve to destroy guilty Thebes with the sword brought hither, but the unwarlike doom of cruel drought doth bow our spirits and drain our exhausted strength. Help thou our failing fortunes, whether thou hast some turbid river or a stagnant marsh; nought is to be held shameful, nought too mean in such a pass as ours. Thee now in place of the Winds and rainy Jupiter do we supplicate, do thou restore our ebbing might and fill again our spiritless hearts; so may thy charge grow under suspicious stars! Only let Jupiter grant us to return, what high-piled booty of war shalt thou be given! With the blood of numerous herds of Dirce will I recompense thee, O goddess, and a mighty altar shall mark this grove.” He spoke, but a fevered gasping makes havoc of his words even in mid-utterance, and with the rush of breath his dry tongue stutters; a like pallor holds all his warriors, and like panting of the hollow cheeks.

[768] With downcast eyes the Lemnian makes answer: “No goddess indeed am I, to help you, though of heaven be my descent; would that my griefs were not more than mortal! ‘Tis an entrusted pledge you behold me nursing, and a nurse herself bereaved. But whether my sons found any lap or breasts to suckle them, heaven knoweth, – and yet I had once a kingdom and a mighty father. But why do I speak thus, and stay you in your weariness from the waters ye desire? Come now with me, perchance Langia’s stream yet runs unfailing; for even beneath the path of the furious Crab ‘tis ever wont to flow, yea, through the shaggy hide of the Icarian star81 be blazing.” Forthwith, lest she prove a tardy guide to the Pelasgians, she sets down the clinging infant – alas! poor child! – on the grass near by – so willed the Fates – and when she would not be put down consoled his pretty tears with flowers heaped around and coaxing murmurs: like the Berecyntian mother, while she bids the Curetes leap in excited dance around the infant Thunderer; their cymbals clash in emulous frenzy, but Ide resounds with his loud wailings.

[786] But the child, lying in the bosom of the vernal earth and deep in herbage, now crawls forward on his face and crushes the soft grasses, now in clamours thirst for milk cries his beloved nurse; again he smiles, and would fain utter words that wrestle with his infant lips, and wonders at the noise of the woods, or plucks at aught he meets, or with open mouth drinks in the day, and strays in the forest all ignorant of its dangers, in carelessness profound. Such was the young Mars amid Odrysian snow, such the winged boy on the heights of Maenalus, such was the rogue Apollo when he crawled upon Ortygia’s82 shore, and set her side atilt.

[797] They go through the coppices and by devious dusky ways of shadowy green; some cluster round their guide, some throng behind, others outstrip her. In the midst of the band she moves with proud mien and hurrying step; and now the vale echoes loud as they approach the stream, and the plashing of water upon rocks assails their ears: then first from the column’s head, just as he was, with banner raised high for the nimble companies, Argus exultant cries “Water!” and through the warrior’s mouths ran the long-drawn shout of “Water!” Even so, along the shores of the Ambracian sea, sounds forth at the helmsman’s prompting the shout of the seamen at the oars, and in turn the smitten land sends back the echo, when Apollo83 at their salutation brings Leucas into view. Into the stream the host plunged, indiscriminate and disordered, chieftains alike and common soldiers; levelling thirst makes no distinction in their confused ranks; bridled horses with their chariots, chargers with armed riders all dash madly in. Some the flood whirls away, some lose their footing on the slippery rocks, nor have they shame to trample their princes as they wrestle with the torrent, or to sink beneath the stream the face of a friend who cries for succour. Loud roar the waves, while far from the fountain-head is the river plundered, that once flowed green and clear, with gentle lucid waters, but now from the depths of its channel is muddied and befouled. Then the sloping banks and torn herbage are mingled with the stream; and now, though it be stained and filthy with mire and earth, and though their thirst be quenched, yet they drink still. One would think armies strove in fight, or a pitched battle raged in the flood, or the conquerors were looting a captured city.

[824] And one of the princes, standing in the midst of the streaming river, cried: “Nemea, noblest by far of verdant glades, chosen seat of Jove, not even the toils of Hercules wert thou more cruel, when he strangled the furious monster’s shaggy neck, and throttled the breath within its swollen limbs. So far let it suffice thee to have vexed thy people’s enterprise. And thou,84 whom no suns are wont to tame, O horned one, so lavish of never failing waters, flow with prosperous current, from whatsoever storehouse thou settest free thy cooling springs, immortally replenished; for hoary Winter pours not out for thee her laid-up snows, nor doth the rainbow shed waters stolen from another fount,85 nor do the pregnant storm-clouds of Corus86 show thee favour, but thou flowest all thine own, and no star can overcome thee or destroy. Thee neither Ladon, Apollo’s river, shall surpass, nor either Xanthus,87 nor threatening Spercheus, nor Lycormas88 of Centaur’s fame; thee will I celebrate in peace, thee beneath the very cloud of war, and at the festal banquet, ay, honour thee next to Jove himself – so but thou gladly receive our triumphing arms, and again be pleased to give the welcome of thy streams to our tired warriors, and recognize of thy grace the host thou once didst save.”

1. E. H. Alton (Class. Quarterly, xvii. P. 175) interprets, possibly correctly, “content with a bodyguard,” and “arma ferunt” as “march, fully, armed,” comparing vii. 501 “multoque latus praefugurat ense,” also “ferrum” in i. 148, iv. 145.
2. A district on the borders of Argolis and Laconia, which was the subject of constant fighting between Argives and Spartans down to as a late as a hundred years after Statius’s time.
3. Adrastus was originally ruler of Sicyon, having fled thither from Argos owing to a feud, but subsequently returned to Argos; cf. ii. 179.
4. Probably refers to the madness sent upon Lycurgus, king of Thrace, by Dionysus.
5. She bewailed her son Palaemon at Lechaeum, port of Corinth (Ephyre). Cenchreae was the port on the Saronic Gulf; the spring struck out by the hoof of Pegasus was usually placed on Helicon (Hippocrene), but was sometimes identified with Pirene, the fountain of Corinth, cf. Silvae, ii. 7. 2.
6. He was born there, at the home of his mother Aethra, whose father Pittheus was king of Troezen.
7. See i. 482.
8. i.e., after his wounds received at Thebes in the ambush.
9. The sisters of Meleager wept for him until Artemis turned them into guinea-fowl, hence called “meleagrides.”
10. Olenos was an Aetolian town called after a king of that name who was a son of Zeus. The Ida referred to is the mountain in Crete, which boasted of having given birth to Zeus.

11. The Achelous.
12. i.e., Peloponnesian.
13. i.e., Argive.
14. Taurus, the sign of the Zodiac, mentioned as rainy, because the Hyades were in it (cf. Plin. N.H. ii. 110).
15. Jupiter was the lover of Io, daughter of Inachus, and “Jove” is used for “rain”: cf. Virg. Georg. ii. 419 “matures metuendus Jupiter arvis.”
16. Where Proserpine was carried off by Pluto.
17. Danaus planned the murder of the fifty suitors of his daughters, who slew their husbands on the wedding night.
18. There was a temple of Athena on the acropolis of Argos (Paus. ii. 24. 4).
19. One of the Centaurs.
20. Hercules.

21. The scene of his apotheosis.
22. The cottage of Molorchus as which Hercules stayed on the night before the slaying of the Nemeian lion.
23. Marsyas, who strove with Phoebus on the flute, but, being defeated, was hung up and flayed by him.
24. Mercury, cf. Hor. C. i. 10. 4.
25. i.e., a crest of swan’s feathers.
26. King of Elis, who challenged the suitors of his daughter Hippodamia to a chariot-race, and slew them when he defeated them; he was finally defeated and slain himself by Pelops.
27. i.e., Arcadian.
28. Atalanta, a comrade of Diana, and so vowed to virginity, but Diana “forgave her the crime” of becoming the mother of Parthenopaeus (l. 258).
29. i.e., Cretan; Crete was famous for bows and arrows.
30. The reference may, however, be to a steel cuirass (cf. Hor. C. i. 29. 15) fitting tightly upon a full undergarment.

31. The Arcadians were the most primitive people of ancient Greece, and were supposed to have been born originally from rocks or trees (cf. l. 340). For the quaint idea of ll. 282 sqq. Cf. Lucretius, v. 973 – nec plangore diem mango solemque per agros quarebant pavidi palantes noctis in umbris, i.e., wandered about in search of the sun that had set below the horizon.
32. He was father of Daphne.
33. A lake near the town of that name in Arcadia; the underground channels of the rivers were supposed to lead down to Hades.
34. Because there too Cybele was worshipped.
35. When he assumed the shape of Diana to gain the favours of Callisto.
36. Refers to the brazen rattle with which Hercules frightened the Stymphalian birds.
37. Such as Callisto, daughter of Lycaon, was turned into.
38. Atreus and Thyestes.
39. For the legend see l. 275 n.
40. i.e., Theban; so also “Ogygian,” line 380.

41. The leader o the Bacchanals, or women that in Bacchic frenzy roamed the hills round about Thebes.
42. A mountain-city in India, according to some legends the birthplace of Bacchus; Oriental triumphs play a large part in the Dionysian legend. [Nysa was also identified with Mount Cithaeron.]
43. King of Thrace, who resisted Bacchus and his vines.
44. i.e., what the ancients called the Red Sea, viz. the Persian Gulf.
45. i.e., the thyrsus. “Thy progeny,” because Bacchus was the guardian deity of Thebes.
46. “parat” must be taken both with “Lethaeaque sacra” and with “ducem,” i.e., Laeius; “miscentis” is intrans.
47. Honey, for which Hymettus in Attica was famous.
48. Hades, or Pluto, was the brother of Zeus and Poseidon; they obtained sky and sea respectively, while he had to be content with the underworld.
49. He was brother of Circe and Aeetes. Perseis is Hecate.
50. i.e., if I care not to practise evil rites.

51. It is not clear whom or what Statius means by this mysterious phrase. Cf. Lucan, Phars. vi. 743, where a similar Power is appealed to. The Scholiast identifies with the Demiurgus, or Creator, who appears in some philosophical systems (Orphic, Gnostic, Plato’s Timaeus), but more probably Statius is using the language of magical formulae, in which such invocations as “highest,” “greatest,” “king,” without any particular application are common. Cf. the Graeco-Egyptian magic spells cited by Wessely (Griech. Zauberpapyri, 1888), or by Eitrem (Pap. Osloenses, 1925). Typhon (=Seti) is frequently called on in similar language.
52. i.e., Proserpine.
53. Minos.
54. Referring to her power of changing men into beasts (lit. “disguising” them as beasts).
55. Harmonia, wife of Cadmus. They were changed into serpents.
56. Mother of Actaeon (iii. 201). She and Ino, Semele and Agave (565) were all daughters of Cadmus.
57. A Theban king, slain by Hercules.
58. Athamas, who slew his son Learchus.
59. Actaeon.
60. Niobe.

61. Pelops was said to have been cut up and boiled by his father Tantalus as a dish for the gods; they, however, put him together again, with the exception of one shoulder, which was replaced by one of ivory.
62. i.e., the fifty who were sent by Eteocles to lie in wait for Tydeus, but slain by him, cf. ii. 527 ff.
63. The ghosts were to drink of the blood which would enable them to speak of the future. In fact only Laius drinks; cf. line 625, where “tingit genas” means that the invigorating blood makes his cheeks ruddy and lifelike.
64. Laius in Bk. ii (init.) had been brought from the underworld to appear to Eteocles in a dream.
65. i.e., Oedipus, his son, who slew him.
66. See note [63 above].
67. i.e., the Argives.
68. Oracular reference to the fate of Amphiaraus (swallowed up by the earth). Capaneus (struck by lightning), and the other heroes, and to Eteocles’ [should read Creon’s] decision to refuse burial to the Argive slain. Cf. Ach. i. 526.
69. That of the vine, which Icarus of Sparta [should read Athens] was taught by Bacchus to cultivate.
70. “Mimallones,” i.e., Bacchanals.

71. The reference is to Semele, mother of Bacchus, to whom she gave birth when struck by Jove’s lightning, “residem” seems to mean “unwarlike,” often a taunt in the mouths of enemies of Thebes, here a reproach against Argos for attacking her, as she is doing Argos no harm.
72. The Hyrcanians were a people on the Caspian; the name is often used by the poets = “wild, savage.” [Here it refers to the tigers which draw the chariot of Bacchus. The animals were native to Hyrcania.]
73. Because the sun pierces through them.
74. Named Maera, and set in the heavens as the Dog-star, after the death of Erigone from grief for her father Icarius.
75. i.e., Nile, as source of Egypt’s fertility; so Tib. i. 7. 24 “Nile pater.”
76. The name means “Beginner of Doom,” and denoted the beginning of doom for the Argive host. Cf. v. 647. Elsewhere the infant is called Opheltes.
77. i.e., when the Nemean festival is established with its games in honour of Opheltes (the infant whom Hypsipyle nursed, and who was slain by the serpent).
78. For other descriptions of thirst cf. iii. 328, vi. 471.
79. King of Nemea. Hypsipyle was daughter of Thoas, king of Lemnos. For her story see her own narrative in Bk. iv.
80. Adrastus mistakes her for Diana.

81. See note on line 692.
82. Delos.
83. The temple of Apollo at Actium on the Ambracian Gulf.
84. The river here is addressed in the masculine, as distinct from its nymph.
85. The idea of the rainbow sucking up moisture is common in Latin writers, e.g. “bibit ingens Arcus,” Virg. G. i. 380, and Theb. ix. 405; the present passage is an original application of the idea.
86. The north-west wind.
87. i.e., in the Troad or in Lycia.
88. A river in Aetolia. As there is no known connexion between the river and any Centaur, the epithet may mean “Centaur-like,” i.e., as furious as a Centaur. [Incorrect, the Lycormas was an old name of the River Evenus in Aetolia where the centaur Nessus was ferryman.]