Classical Texts Library >> Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica >> Book 2




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


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


1. Cyzicus
2. Hylas & the Naiads


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


1. The Black Sea
2. Jason & King Aeetes


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


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


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


[1] All this time Jason, knowing nothing of the crime and of the sorrowing, is cleaving the deep; for Juno suffered him not to learn his father’s fate, for fear he should turn in passion midway, and hurl himself blindly against Pelias and his royal destiny that still opposed, for fear too that he should leave undone the task decreed by heaven.

[6] And now they see Pelion and its crown of mountain ashes level with the waves, and the temple of Tisaean1 Diana plunge out of sight abeam; and now Sciathos has sunk into the waters, now the long line of Sepias fades; the Magnesian plain raises before them its grazing horses; they think they see the grave of Dolops and the Amyros meeting the see long sought in winding course, and they furl the sails blown backward by the river breeze and labour at the oars; next they hailed Eurymenae; the South wind returning again possessed sail and sea, and as the Minyae again put outward, again Ossa faded into cloud.

[16] Lo! here the terror of the gods, Pallene, their fated battle-ground: all about they saw the monstrous forms of Earth’s children, that once made war on heaven, the Giants, whom in compassion their mother had clothed with rocks, trees, crags, and piled up to heaven new-shaped as mountains. And still in stone each threatens, battles or cowers; with his own hand their father wields his storms and hurls bolt after bolt from on high; but not among those rocks is the chiefest dread; Typhoeus lies crushed beneath Sicilian soil. Men say that as he fled, blasting forth accursed fires from his breast, Neptune grasped him by the hair, and bore him out to see and entangled him in the waters, and as the bloody mass rose again and again, churning the waves with serpent limbs, took him far away to the Sicilian waters and down upon his head placed all Aetna with her cities; savage still he throws up the foundations of the caverned mountain; then heaves Trinacria throughout her length and breadth, as he struggles and shifts the burdening mass with weary breast, to let it fall again with a groan – baffled.

[34] And now Hyperion’s car drew close to its goal in the Hiberian sea, and with declining day the reins slackened at the journey’s end, what time the ancient Tethys raised her hands for the embrace and the holy Titan thundered2 as he cleft the floor of Ocean. Their fear deepened with the night as they beheld the face of the heavens turning and the mountains and all places rapt from view and all around thick darkness. The very stillness of Nature, the silent constellations in the heavens, the firmament starred with streaming meteors filled them with fear. And as a traveller by night overtaken in some unknown spot upon the road keeps ear and eye alert, while the darkening landscape to left and right and trees looming up with shadows strangely huge do but make heavier the terrors of night, even so the heroes quailed.

[47] But Hagnius’ son3 comforted their breasts, saying: “Not without the help of a god do we pilot this ship; nor has the Tritonian queen but taught me the ways of the sea; oft-times has she herself deigned to guide our keel. What? felt we not her hand when suddenly the light was quenched and the day grew rough with storm? How great, ye heavens, the tempests against which we have prevailed! How many a time through Pallas’ Sovran skill the mounting heap of the tenth wave has fallen harmless! Nay then, courage, comrades! the sky shines unchanging, and clear with sharp horns the moon (Cynthia) has risen; no ruddy glow4 is in her face, and Titan, who in such matters lies not, sank full-orbed into the waters, one blaze of gold. Moreover, at nightfall the breezes blow stronger upon sail and sea: the ship flies swifter in the silent hours. Furthermore, she teaches me not to follow those stars that go down to draw new strength from Ocean: see, mighty Orion is sinking, and Perseus is hissing in the angry waters; no, my guide shall be he that never hides beneath the forbidden waters as he shines about the pole, the serpent that enfolds the seven stars.”

[66] So spake he, and showed them how clear the face of the heavens, where Pleione and the Hyades were, in what constellation flashed Orion’s sword, how brilliant shone the Actaean Bootes. When he had thus spoken, they renewed their weary bodies/ strength with the gift of Ceres and a little wine; presently sleep overcame them; kindly stars guide the ship.

[72] And now as the fires of the Pallantian maid5 grow faint in the east, the land lightens; from the sacred sheepcotes the fierce bears return to the covert of their dens; from the shore birds scatter over the deep; then the first rays from Phoebus’ panting horses traversed Athos and flung day abroad over the waters. Eagerly the rowers smote the sea and made the prow’s point quiver with their speed, until Lemnos, Vulcan’s home, rose above the crest of the waves, Lemnos, for whose many sufferings thou mournedst, Lord of Fire; not the frenzy and guilt of the women can drive thee from the land, and it is still sweet to think upon its former service.6

[82] What time Jupiter first heard the rising tide of secret girdings, and felt the anger of the gods kindle against his new sovereignty, and that the calm of peace in heaven could not last, first he hung up Juno from the wheeling sky and showed to her chaos in its horror and the doom of the abyss. And presently when Vulcan would have undone his trembling mother’s fetters, down from the sheer height of heaven he cast him; and from the sky daylong and nightlong he fell as in a whirlwind, until at length he thundered upon the shore of Lemnos. Then when his sudden cries thrilled the city, men found him leaning against a rock; they took compassion on him and nursed him, as on weak knees he moved slowly step by step. Hence, ever since the Father suffered him to return to the heights of heaven, Lemnos has been dear to the god, nor is Aetna nor his Liparaean home more renowned: here is the board, here too is the temple where he loves to repair when he has completed the aegis or forged wings for the dire thunderbolt.

[98] But there Venus’ altar stands ever cold, since the day when the goddess trembled before her husband’s righteous anger, while Mars lay bound in the noiseless-woven fetters. For this cause she is plotting evil and scheming destruction for guilty Lemnos like some Fury; for she hath not only a gracious aspect when she binds her hair with golden pin, her bright robes falling loose about her; it is the same goddess that, fierce and huge, her cheeks blotched and dark, seems like a Hell-maid with her crackling torch and black mantle.

[107] And now the day had come which saw the rout of the Thracians in battle.7 The captain of Lemnos made bolt to plait their withes into ships and to cover the wicker-work with layers of hide. Then rejoicing he bears his standards home across the sea, and they rowed ships laden with flocks and women; strange garments had these and necklaces, the marks of their land. Over the waters rang the shout: “O country, O wife now troubled with many a care, see the slaves we bring you, prizes of the long war!”

[115] Then the goddess in hot haste threw herself to the earth in a pitchy cloud through the clear sky, and in the darkness tracked wandering Rumour, her whom the almighty Father has shut out from the peaceful world of heaven, whose voice is ever sounding both good and evil and spreading panic; in wrath she dwells beneath the clouds, a spirit neither of hell nor of heaven, and troubles the earth; for this is permitted her: at first when men hear her they scorn her, yet cherish her, until presently she assails all men, and cities are shaken with busy tongues. Such an instrument of sin and craft the goddess is eagerly seeking for her purpose. Rumour sees her first, and already unannounced flies up impatient; already she sets her countenance, already pricks up her ears. Venus inflames her yet more and inspires her with these words: “Up, thou! get thee down to sea-girt Lemnos and stir up every home for me, even as when thou comest heralding war, bringing tales of a thousand trumpets and armed multitudes on the plains and the snortings of countless chargers. Tell how the men are coming, enslaved by delicate living and shameful lust, and are bringing women from Thrace to share the bed of love. Be that the outline of thy tale; from that let resentment sting and madden every woman far and wide; presently I myself will come and lead them thus wrought upon.”

[135] The other departed and went down rejoicing into the midst of the city; she first accosts Eurynome at the house of Codrus near by, as she sat worn by anxious fears, still preserving undefiled her marriage-bed; faithful to her husband she wearies her maids with wool-spinning; and they reckon up the days of the dragging war by her bedside, as they soothe her sleepless nights with their unending toil. To her the goddess comes weeping, in the well-known dress of Neaera and with smitten cheeks, and says: “Ah, sister, would that I were not the bearer of these tidings, or might the waters first cover the cause of our sorrows, since at this moment the husband thou hast served so well, he for whose return thou prayest and weepest (oh, shame!), is crazed, the servant of a bondslave’s shameful love. Yes, soon they will be here, and to thy bridal chamber there comes a Thracian woman, no match for thee in beauty, in skill with the distaff or in fair fame for chastity; no glorious scion of the great Doryclus finds favour, but a foreign woman with stained hands and a branded face. For all that, it may be thou wilt find some other bride-bed to comfort thee for this loss and wilt choose some happier home; but I, I am maddened to think of thy children, their mother lost, condemned to a rival wife; and I see her eyeing them askance, poor wretches! I see deadly meats and the drugged up. Thou knowest how like flame our nature is; yes, but more than this, a thirst for blood is inborn in the Dahae. Soon, hard-reared amid frosts on wild beasts’ milk, will she be here. Nay, rumour says that I too have been cast out by my husband, and some tattooed bride snatched from her wagon home shall lie in my bed.”

[160] With these words she broke off her tale of sorrow, leaving the other to doubt and weep and tremble. She passed on to Iphinoe, and spread the same fire in the homes of Amythaon and Olenius; next through the whole city she cries aloud, that the men are plotting to drive them one and all from Lemnos, that they and their Thracian women may rule the city. The tides of jealous rage and anger begin to rise. And all as they met one another passed on and heard again the same story, nor was any disbelieved. Then they call upon the gods with shrill lament, and now on their beds, now on the very door-posts they shower kisses , and then again they tarry to weep and to look back. Forth they rush and seek no more their husbands’ roof and the bridal chamber; together they throne, and close-packed beneath the naked stars wail ever louder, calling down curses on these weddings and the fires of hell on these monstrous unions.

[174] Midst of them all in the form of the sorrowing Dryope Venus stands and weeps. Her fierce and passionate complainings never cease, and first she spoke: “O would that it had been my lot to find a home among the Sarmatians, to dwell amid the grim frosts and to follow a wagon, or even to have looked upon the flames devouring my father’s house, and the ruin of our temples; for all the other misfortunes of war, are they not ours? What? does he, does that madman think to put the strange yoke of slavery on me? Or am I to flee the city and leave my little ones? No! before they come, let us arm ourselves with swords and burning brands, and as they rest in slumber each by his new-found bride, love shall inspire some mighty deed!”

[184] She cast her flashing eyes around and dashed her children headlong from her breast. At once the women’s minds were roused, their tender hearts overcome and swept along by the accursed cries of Venus; one and all gaze out across the sea, and then make show of dancing and of decking the temples with festal garlands, and with smiling faces go down to meet their returning husbands. Soon they depart to their homes to feast; they lie down in the high colonnades, by each man’s side his wife, raging and eager to be doing, even as Tisiphone beneath the night of hell’s abyss lies close to the terror-stricken Phlegyas and Theseus, and tastes the ghastly meats and wine (her way to torture them), and wreathes them with her foul serpents.8

[196] Venus herself whirling a pine-torch in spires of flame piles gloom on gloom and girt for the fray sweeps down to quivering Lemnos; storm, lightning and peals are her escort from heaven; the pomp of her father’s thunder lends her glory. Then through the terror-stricken air again and again she makes a strange cry ring, whereat all Athos first did shudder, and then the sea and the wide Thracian mere, aye, and every mother in her bed; and children at the breast grew chilled. Straightway Fear and insensate Strife from her Getic lair, dark-browed Anger with pale cheeks, Treachery, Frenzy and towering above the rest Death, her cruel hands bared, come hastening up at the first sound of the Martian consort’s pealing voice that gave the signal. And now Venus set her hands to yet another and more awful crime; she caused a sound as of groans and cries of men struck down; she rushed into houses clutching a head still throbbing, with fresh blood staining her bosom and her hair streaming in terror. “Look!” she cries, “I am the first to return; I have avenged the guilty bed! See, day is at hand!”

[214] She drives them before her lash into the chambers, and forces swords into their faltering hands. (How record all those scenes of wickedness, all the deaths of the fallen? Alas, ‘mid what ghastly deeds has his story brought the bard! Ah, the long tale of horror that opens before me! Oh that some hand would check my too faithful tongue, and rid me of this vision in the night hours!) They seize the doorways and fall upon the bodies of their once loved ones: some, upon the men that lay drowsed with feasting and drinking, others, armed even to fight and with huge torches, upon a few that slumbered not but saw all; but flee or take up arms they cannot for fear: so huge did the angry goddess make the women seem, and their voice rings louder than the wife they knew. They did but cover their eyes with their hands as though they saw the ranks of the Eumenides, or Bellona flashed her sword o’er their heads. Such the savagery of sister, of wife, aye, of closer of kin, of daughter and of mother; caught in their beds woman drags forth and butchers the men whom neither the huge Bessi nor the Getic armies nor the anger of the sea could overcome. Blood flows in the chambers, while in every breast there is a bubbling, smoking wound, and struggling pitifully the bodies roll from their beds. Some of the women hurl torches of destruction upon the roofs and add their homes to the ruin; some few men make haste to escape from the smoking fires, but their way is barred at the threshold by an unyielding wife, and at the sight of the sword they rush back into the flames. Others rend and tear the Thracian salves, their men’s undoing and the cause of these frenzied deeds; mingled groans, barbaric cries of supplication and unintelligible voices filled the air.

[242] But now what words can I bring worthy of thy high courage, Hypsipyle, thou the glory, the single honour of thy country’s fall? Thy story told in my song no ages shall make forgotten, so but the Latian annals9 still mark the centuries, and the homes from Ilium founded and the palace of our mighty empire. Daughters and the wives of sons, all beneath one impulse had joined the throng, and now the whole island was ablaze with widespread deeds of horror. But good Hypsipyle, sword in hand cries: “Straightway flee the city, father, and me too; it is no enemy, no exulting Thracian holds the walls; this is our doing; ask not who bade us do it. Up and flee! Up and be swift to profit by my doubting spirit, and do thou (O have pity!), not I, grasp the sword!”

[253] Then she supported his limbs, and covering his head brought him swiftly in silence to Bacchus’ shrine, partner of their secret, where upon the threshold she stretched forth her hands and said: “Father Bacchus, save me from this sin, and have compassion once more upon thy votaries.” Then in the still shrine she placed him trembling, below the feet and the right hand of the god; gathered beneath the folds of the sacred robe no eye might see him; voices issue from the dome and sounds from the festal cymbals, while the sculptured lynxes at the portal roared.

[161] When the Lemnian princess saw Dawn mounting in her rosy chariot, and how at length silence had come upon every home spent with the unresting tumult, since good deeds give courage and righteous acts increase boldness, she arrays her father in garlands, with the tresses of a youth and the robes of Lyaeus, and causes him to stand in a chariot, while around him she places the cymbals and drums, and the caskets, full of mysterious awe. She herself twined the Bacchanal ivy about her bosom and her limbs, and brandished a vine-leaved wand that smote the air; looking back to see that her father in his robes should grasp the leaf-decked reins, that the horns should stand out from the snow-white coif, and that a sacred goblet should bring Bacchus before men’s eyes. Next with a harsh grating she thrust back the strong doors and moved onward through the city as she cried aloud: “I pray thee, Bacchus, quit they bloodstained dwelling-place; let the sea cleanse thee of the pollution of death, and let me bring thy snakes again to thy temple when they are purified.”

[277] Thus she went safe through the terrors about her path, for the god himself made her to be feared, and consciously she glowed with breathless inspiration. So now she hid the old man far from the cruel city in the silent forest; yet by day and by night fear troubles her, and the secret of her bold deed, and Erinys, cheated of her victim. Nor more she dares to join the dances of her companions (once only can the mock rites deceive), nor to visit in secret the glen that hides her father, while she must seek escape for him, poor wretch, by other means. She beheld a ship outworn with the toils of the savage sea, long since offered up to Thetis and to Glaucus, which passing time had scorched with its suns and the moon with her hoarfrosts had worn. Hither with all speed through the darkness and silence of midnight she haled her father from the woods, and thus in sorrow spake: “What a land, my father, what homes lately so prosperous, dost thou leave, spoiled of their manhood! Oh horrible pollution! Oh the ruin wrought in one bitter night! How can I trust thee to so frail a ship, father dear? How can I keep thee here amid these great dangers? Alas, I am paying at length for my crime of cunning! Hear my prayer, goddess, thou who now drivest thy slumberous care across the ocean. I ask no subject peoples for my father, no bounteous land, no throne; only grant that he go forth from his home and country. When shall I be borne through the midst of the city, happy that my father’s life was saved? When shall I see tears and lamentations in this land?” 10

[300] She finished; he in fear escapes in the oarless ship afar, and reaches the dwelling of the Tauri and Diana’s savage shrine. Here didst thou, goddess, but sword in his hand, and didst appoint him warden of thy cheerless altar; but thou madest no long sojourn in that bloodstained land. Already there summon thee the glade of Egeria, lord Jupiter at Alba, and Aricia stern to her king alone.11

[306] His daughter betook her to the citadel, whither an unkempt throng of women had gathered together. With harsh clamour they sat them down where fathers and sons had sat before, and amid the buildings of the empty city they make new laws: on Hypsipyle they bestow the throne and sceptre of her father as by right, and a daughter’s love has its fit reward.

[311] Lo! afar off they descry warriors making towards Lemnos with sturdy strokes of the oar; the queen stars in sudden alarm, and calls councillors about her. No reckless rage lacked they to bring arms or fling brands upon the foe, had not Vulcan quelled the savage passions of Venus’ stirrings. Then too Polyxo,12 the priestess beloved of Phoebus (of uncertain race and country, she declares that thou, O mighty Tethys and the ever-changing Proteus steered their course thither from the Pharian caves, drawn by a team of seals across the waters; oft-times she hides in the depths and, tarrying awhile, rises again as one reporting words she had heard beneath the waters): “Let us yield them the harbour,” she cries. “Oh trust me, it is destiny brings this ship, and the god that favours Lemnos has guided the Minyae hither across the sea; freely doth Venus herself grant us to mate with them, while our wombs have strength and our years are not past child-bearing.”

[326] Her words find favour, and Iphinoe bears the entreaty shoreward to the Greeks; and they shrink not at the guilty people nor at the traces of yederday’s crime, for Cythera’s queen banishes all fear of the island . . . Forthwith he fells a huge ox in the name of the chieftains, and offers up gifts of sacrifice once more in the unused13 shrines, and for the first time the altar of Venus smokes with a slain heifer.

[332] They came to a crag, whose pendent rocks and ridges were black with smoke and the air around was warmed with mounting heat. Aeson’s son halted; whereat the queen bids him pray and expounds the cause, saying: “Lo, here ye see the caverns of Vulcan, his home; offer wine and supplication. Even now, it may be, a forged bolt lies silent in this very cave; the night will bring thee proof, stranger, when thou shalt marvel at the roar of the prisoned furnace and the clang of smitten metal.”

[340] Next she points proudly to their bastions, to the strength of the island, and the wealth of her ancestors from olden times. In the midst of the palace the servants make ready a banquet; the couches quiver in the sheen or Tyrian purple. A company of Thracian women stood by, mourning for the kings their forefathers and the kings that were their husbands, all they who, it was believed, had shunned the marriage torch and had not stained the sanctity of their mistresses’ bed.14 Then midmost of all Jason, and next, the queen, sat down; after them the other captains; while their first hunger is being overcome with the flesh of sacrifice, the wine passes round in cups, and all the hall is hushed; the banquet began,15 and then they while away the night and linger in converse long into the darkness. But most of all Hypsipyle marvels at the prince’s fortunes, and asks him what destiny it is that draws him, what power of his king that constrains, and whence come the great Haemonian ship; she hangs upon his words, his only, and slowly gathers in the sweet flame, no longer unyielding to wedlock or unkind to passion’s return, and the god himself grants a respite and a time for love.

[357] By heaven’s law Jove had drawn the Pleiads’16 stormy constellation down from the firmament as he rolled the earth upon its everlasting course, and straightway rain streams everywhere, and at one blow from the god Pangaea and Gargara and the forests of Moesia stood terror-stricken. At no other season of the year does fiercer fear sway men’s hearts; for then does Astraea urge her plea, then does she implore Jove’s anger against the nations, and leaving the earth importunes Saturn’s star with her complaint. Then follows the darkling South-west wind, and with his strong brethren thunders upon the Aegean main, and all the sea strains shoreward; and at her fourth rising Thespian Tiphys sees the moon misty through rain, and fear thereat keeps the Minyae long from their task and from the waves. They, ever waiting till the goddess in kinder mood should show her fires once more, rest glad at heart in the city, and free from toil give themselves up to the marriage-bed; they spend the days of tempest in delicate living, nor wish any more for seafaring, and feign not to hear the breezes calling, until the hero of Tiryns17 brooked their sloth no longer, as himself he watched the ship nor knew the city’s taint; the gods, he cries, are jealous of them for assailing the spaces of the sea; they have deserted their homes and the prayers of their elders are mocked by these days of idleness. Why should he, aye he, be there to help dalliers?

[378] “Oh unhappy are we who have joined thy adventure! Give me back Phasis and Aeetes and the perils of the Scythian sea, thou son of Aeson,” he cries; “naught but the love of deeds drew me to thy side, so long as I hoped to stay the Cyanean rocks and to despoil one vigilant monster more. If thy resolve is still to dwell amid the cliffs of the Aegean deep, this task my Telamon will carry through with me.” When he had thus spoken, Aesonides was kindled by the bitter admonishing; even as a war-horse that takes his pleasure in a land numb from long peace, and that is idly confined to the circlings of a narrow tether, would yet wish for bit and rider, were the cry of battle and the blare of the forgotten clarion to fill his ears. Then he summons Argus and Tiphys and bids them swiftly make ready for the voyage; with a loud shout the helmsman seeks the tackle and his crew and the oars that lie strewn upon the beach.

[393] Grief broke out afresh in the city, the old mourning, the old face of things was in every home. Lo! once again their city is to be deserted! and when comes the time for bearing children, who shall establish their race once more and wield the sceptre? Bitterer now seems the work of that impious night, crueller now the stillness of each widowed home, since once again they dared to put on the discarded bonds of wedlock, and once again to open their hearts to its cares. Even Hypsipyle too, when she descried the sudden going to and fro along the beach, and the heroes departing utterly from Lemnos, groaned aloud and thus plaintively accosted Jason: “So quickly, at the first clear sky, dost thou resolve to unfurl thy sails, O dearer to me than mine own father? But now have the angry seas sunk to rest. In this manner would thy ship be fleeing from the harbour, had the fierce Pleiads held thee prisoner on Thrace’s hostile coast. Is it then to the sky and to the waves that hindered thy course that we owed thy tarrying?”

[408] Weeping she spoke, and brought forth a gift that should abide with her loved prince, a tunic of woven handiwork. Therein she had painted with her needle the rites that told of her father’s rescue and the holy car; there stand in fear the savage throng and make way for him; all round sways the wild forest, woven in green; her father in dread seeks refuge in the midmost shade. This part showed the rape on leafy Ida and the famed flight of the boy; presently he was standing joyfully at the table in heaven, nay, even Jove’s armour-bearer himself quaffs the beguiling draught from the Phrygian’s ministering hand. Next she bears the sword of Thoas, with its renowned emblem: “Take it,” she said, “that I may be by thy side in wartime and in the dust where the battle is thickest, the flaming gift of Aetna’s god that my father bore; worthy to be worn now along with thine own arms. Go now, go, but forget not the land that first folded you to its peaceful bosom; and from Colchis’ conquered shores bring back hither thy sails, I pray thee, by this Jason whom thou leavest in my womb.”

[425] So spake she, and sank upon the neck of her Haemonian husband. Not less sadly hung his wife on Orpheus’neck, and thine on thee, thou son of Aeacus,18 and theirs on Castor and Castor’s twin.

[428] Amid this weeping the sluggish anchor is raised from the sand: already the oars have sped the vessel forward, already the breezes bear her on; the wake of the fleeing helm is a path of foam. Then Lemnos grows faint and Electra’s island19 grows larger, guarding the secret of Thracian rites; for here dwells the great and terrible god, and here are ordained penalties for an unguarded tongue. No storm sent by Jove ever dares to beat with its billows upon this land; of his own will the god makes fierce his waves, what time he would forbid faithless sailors to touch his shores. But Thyotes the priest meets the Minyae and bids them welcome to the land and to the temples, revealing their mysteries to his guests. Thus much, Samothrace, has the poet proclaimed thee to the nations and the light of day; there stay, and let us keep our reverence for holy mysteries. The Minyae, rejoicing in the new light of the Sun and full of their heavenly visions, seat themselves upon the thwarts. Now the cities they had seen ahead sank out of sight, and Imbros came up before the prow, and the sun in mid course had scaled heaven’s towers. Then for the first time a Thessalian ship put in to the Dardanian strand, and at fate’s bidding rested on the shore of Sigeum. They leapt forth; thereupon some raise light tents with the white sails; some grind spelt with a stone drawn to and fro; others to plucked leaves show fire swiftly struck from flints, and feed it with friendly sulphur.

[451] While Hercules and Telamon at his side passed along the shore that broke back in a pleasant inlet, a voice fell upon their ears, ever and anon sounding mournfully as each wave broke and murmured away again. Full of amaze they went slowly, following the viewless track of the voice; now it sounds distinct: a maiden abandoned to a cruel death was calling all men and gods to help her. At this the heroes press on more keenly, resolved to bring succour; even as when a bull fills the wild places with his harsh bellowing, as he bears upon his high back a lion that rends him with his jaws, there rouses and gathers from the scattered huts a band of countryfolk and husbandmen with bewildering shouts. Hercules halted, and straining his gaze upwards sees upon a high crag galling shackles and the worn face of a maiden, her eyes brimful to the verge of weeping; just as when lifeless ivory is yet constrained by mastering skill to weep, or Parian marble assumes man’s lineaments and person, or flowing colours bring wonders before us. The hero spoke: “Maiden, what is thy name and thy family? what lot is thine, tell me? wherefore do gives strain thy hands?”

[470] Trembling and casting down her eyes in sorrow and shame she replied: “I do not deserve these sufferings; thou seest here the last gifts of my parents, these rocks covered over20 with purple and gold. Our stock sprang of Ilus, happy once until envious Fortune deserted the home of Laomedon. First of all there fell a sickness and the temperate airs were driven from the clear sky; the country blazed with pyre rivalling pyre, when there burst forth a roar, and waves that made all Ida’s forests with their lairs shudder. Lo! of a sudden there rose from the sea a beast, of monstrous bulk; not by any mountain, not by the sea we know couldst thou measure it. A band of young maidens is sacrificed to its rage amid the tears and embraces of their parents. This the lot, this doth horned Ammon command – that a maiden’s life and her body that drew death’s lot be doomed; ‘tis I whom the cruel urn condemns to the rocks.21 But oh! if once again Heaven inclines to the Phrygians, and if thou art he whose coming augury and Heaven’s omens promised, he for whom my father now feeds snow-white horses in the pasture of his vow, the pledged reward for saving my life, say Yea and rescue both me and wasted Troy from the dragon, for so thou canst; since never did I behold do broad a breast while Neptune was raising the walls to meet the stars, nor had Apollo such mighty shoulders or such a quiver.”

[493] The place lent strength to her words, the doleful aspect too of the captive shore, the funeral pyres and the sky that brooded o’er the city; even such to his pitying eyes had seemed the path to Nemea and Erymanthus and Lerna’s poisoned meres.

[497] Meanwhile far off Neptune gave the signal, and at the same moment a roar came from the gulf, the dragon’s home, and the curse of Sigeum drove the waters on a heap, while its flashing eyes flicker beneath a blue-grey film,22 and a sound of thunder shakes the maw circled with a triple row of fangs, as it s tail reaches backward over the sea it has covered, and the proud neck sweeps the streaming coils onward. The burden of its thousand folds is upon the waters, and they lap its flanks and move with it, while the storm makes drives it speeding forward to the terror-stricken shores. Not so mighty are the billows when the sea comes in beneath the cloud-compelling South wind, not so fiercely exults the South-west wind upon the main, nor Orion when grasping his father’s reins he heaves the sea with the snorting of his two-hooved horses.

[509] Lo! Telamon stands in amaze at the hero growing fiercer with the frenzy of the chosen battle, at the swelling muscles and the body so huge in its armour, and how the loaded quiver smites his back. But he, with a prayer to his father and the gods of the sea and his own weapons, leapt upon a rock, while he shuddered at the sea stirred to its depths and the towering dragon’s vast coils: even as the North wind, when it rises from the ravines of Hebrus and hurls the flying clouds across the Riphaean peaks, but not yet does it cover the world with a pitchy sky. At the same instant the beast reared its awful bulk and its mountainous back, drawing nearer with its huge shadow; one would think all Ida trembled and was being dashed in pieces and that towers overthrown rose up again. Hercules grasped his bow and plied it with all his cloud of arrows. It stirred no more than great Eryx from its foundations, when the rains would wash it down into the valleys. Now the space is short, and useless for the slaying shaft. Oh, then he groaned! the madness of that vain task! the silent shame, and the maiden pale once more; he casts his weapons from him, bethinks him of the rocks and stones at hand, and any that time with the wind’s help or the crashing sea had loosened, he breaks off, wrenching them from the bottom of the deep sea.

[530] And now the monster is upon them with all its coils, now closer than ever it gapes upon its wretched victim. High in the midst of the waters stands Hercules, awaiting its onset, and swifter than the neck can rise he strikes it down with a rock; then redoubles the shattering blows of his knotted club, until the beast sinks beneath the waves, its coils slackening along all the shallows; the Idaean mother with her votaries and the rivers from the hill-tops raise lament. Straightway the shepherds rise up from the crags and out of the shade of the valley, and with loud shouts make towards the city. Thereupon Telamon brought the tidings and called his comrades, while themselves they shudder to see the vessel in a sudden tide of blood. Straightway too Hercules springs up the crags to the top of the harsh rock, and frees the maiden’s hands from the fetters that bind her to the cliff, and girds his armour on his vaunting shoulders. Thence with triumphant steps he passes across the safe shore to meet the king; even as through the pastures stalks the victorious bull, with swelling neck and towering shoulders, when he returns to the high fold of the herd he knows, and the woods of his home and he loved one he has avenged in battle.

[550] Then came out to meet him on his way a throng of Phrygians released from their long night, and Laomedon with his wife leading his little son; sadly he laments that his horses, the due reward, are now claimed. Some of the folk fill the circuit of the soaring walls and marvel at the hero in his strange armour. With grim look the king, all treachery and subtle cunning, comes to him, and, half-hearted in his joy, speaks as with a father’s love: “Mightiest of the sons of Greece, whom, when thou soughtest not Sigeum’s shores and knewst no pity for the doom of our Troy, chance alone drove to this region, if the tale be true that Jove is thy sire and that thy stock is of the Thunderer king, of our kin art thou, and to kinsmen comest thou: our sire was one and the same, and one the glory of our race, even though we dwell sundered by distant shores. After how many tears of mine, after how many a father’s sacrifice23 thou art come at length! How slight now24 is the glory of thy deeds! But come, bring thy comrades within our brotherly walls; let to-morrow’s light unbar their stalls and show thee the horses.”

[567] He ceased; but silently in his heart he ponders treachery and a hateful crime: how he may slay him in his chamber, when sleep has overpowered him, and may seize his quiver and cheat the oracle: for he had heard that twice must Troy fall victim to the shafts of Hercules. But who now can change the destiny of Priam’s kingdom? Fixed in the unstirred ages stands e night of the Dorians,25 the race of the Aeneadae and the glories of a better Troy. “Our journey,” the hero of Tiryns answered, “hurries us to the mouth of the Scythian sea; soon shall we return hither to your shores, and I will take the gift thou hast promised.” Then indeed did the other, calling heaven to witness, vow yet more, while the Phrygians wept to heart the treacherous promises of their lord and the peril to unhappy Troy.26

[579] Thereafter the sail spread all its wings into the night, and the shores and the tombs of ancient Ilus and of Dardanus his sire glide by: and all the while they mark the country awake and making merry in games; on the one side the sea, on the other Ida flashes with the fire of sacrifice, and Gargara echoes back the fierce sound of the flute. Then when they had gained the silences of mid-sea and the sounding winds were favourable, they entered Phrixus’ sea and the narrow gorges that of yore had no name. But lo! as dawn was breaking, the waves opened and scared the flying ship, and there stood before them Helle27 chapleted, the sister now of Panope and Thetis, and holding in her left hand a golden sceptre. Then she lulled the waves, and looking upon the captains and their leader accosted Jason with gentle words:

[592] “Thou too art being driven from Haemonia across strange seas by an unfriendly kingdom at home and a destiny like mine; once more doth Fortune banish the offspring of Aeolus, and you, ill-starred folk, are seeking the Scythian river. A vast land is still before thee, a measureless sea (falter not in what thou hast begun), and Phasis itself lies far off, yet it will grant thee entrance. In that spot is a secret glade, and twin altars piled of turf: there pay the first rites to Phrixus as is due, and, I pray you, bear these my words to his dust: ‘My brother, I wander not, as thou fanciest, through the silence of the Stygia shore; vainly, dear one, doest thou search the paths of empty Avernus. For no storm bruises me tossed upon rocks and waves; straightway as I fell, Cymothoe and Glaucus came swift to my succour; this abode too, this realm the father of the deep himself awarded me, willing justly, and our gulf envies not Ino’s sea.’”

[608] She ceased, and with a sigh hid her sad countenance beneath the calm waters, as the thought of her father’s grief came back to her. Then the prince poured wine upon the sea, and thus began: “Daughter of Cretheus, pride of the sea and of our stock, open our path, and, O goddess, prosper thy kinsmen’s voyage!”

[613] Then onward he steered the ship, and flew on between cities on either hand, where the race boils with its narrow waters, and Europe, grimmer with its cliffs, breaks away from pursuing Asia.28 These lands too, these fields with their once linked peoples lashed by the ocean, Neptune’s trident, I think, and the slow workings of time the enemy sundered of yore, even as they did the shores of Sicily and Libya, when Janus29 and Atlas, lord of the sunset mountains, were struck aghast at the crash. And now they win past the ridges of Percote, and Parium ill-famed from its booming shoals, Pitya too, and Lampsacus sent sternwards, Lampsacus whose dwellers no triennial festival of Bacchus nor Phrygian madness bids gather in secret caverns, but their own god30 hales them to Venus. High over the city they see his altars and the carvings of his towering shrine.

[629] Then land grew less, and again the great vault of sky was all about them, and they began to look forth into another world. Midway upon the gulf between Pontus and Helle lies a land, as it were cast up from the bottom of the sea; for its fields are boldly set amid treacherous shallows and it drives its shore in a long ridge over the waters: one end is set towards ancient Phrygia whose shores meet it; the other is a mountain, forest-clothed and apart. Not far off by the borders of the shallow sea there rises a city, built down from the gentle slopes; the king of that rich land was Cyzicus. And he, as soon as he descried the strange portent of the Haemonian ship, of his own accord made haste down to the water’s edge, and gazed in wonder at the heroes, and as he clasped and clung to their right hands he thus began:

[639] “O ye from Emathia, strangers to our land till now, methinks the sight of you is even greater than rumour. Yet this land is not so remote, nor so hard to attain unto, nor are the kingdoms of the morning any more so inaccessible to man, when I see captains such as ye are, and so many mighty men set foot upon them. For though on one side a rugged land breeds savage peoples, and though thundering Propontis with its tossing estuary flows round me, yet here I too find loyalty like your own; alike our worship, and hearts too nurtured in kindness; far from us is the frenzies courage of Bebryx, and the cruelty of the Scythian sacrifice.” 31

[649] Thus speaking he hurries on his delighted guests, bidding all men open their doors to them in friendship, while to the temples he pays the tribute of offerings. Couches, jewelled and gilded, stand ready, and tables royally dight, and a hundred youthful slaves of equal years; some bear on the meats, some bring cups embossed with the fortunes of late wars. Then Cyzicus reached forward and gave one of these goblets first to the Graian prince, and said: “Lo! here the enemy is affrighting our harbour, and here beneath the cover of night he renews the battle, and here, see! The backs of the Pelasgians in rout; this fire that devours the rafts is mine.”

[659] Aeson’s son rejoined: “Oh, would that anger might bring the Pelasgians hither now, and that they would try to meet us with their wonted craft, and that all the host would pour forth from their ships: then shalt thou see thy guests in arms, and no more after this night shalt thou live in fear of battles!” So he spake, and thus in the interchange of converse and in manifold discourse a great part of the night was sped, and the day following spent they in like manner.

1. Tisaeum is a promontory of Magnesia.
2. Or perhaps “hissed,” as in l. 373.
3. [Tiphys]
4. Considered to be a sign of coming storm.
5. Aurora, the Dawn, one of whose ancestors was the giant Pallas; cf. Ovid, Fasti 4. 373, Met. 9. 320.
6. See ll. 90-98 below.
7. The story was that the Lemnian men who had been fighting on the mainland against the Thracians came back with concubines and would have nothing to do with their own wives, who thereupon murdered them – a simpler version of the Agamemnon applies to a whole community; in Valerius the fury of the women first arises from a suspicion and rumour that such is the case, though in 344-5 it is implied that he suspicion was not groundless. Another difference is that the disaster is plotted as a punishment for Vulcan’s detection of her intrigue with Mars, while in Statius, who here follows Apollonius, the goddess is taking vengeance for neglect of her worship.
8. It was part of their torture that Tisiphone tasted of their food and defiled it with her snakes.
9. The lists of Roman magistrates, whose names marked the successive years in imperial as in republican times.
10. When shall she be able to rejoice openly that she has saved her father, and when will the other women bewail their crime?

11. The poet implies that the cult of Diana was transferred from the Tauric Chersonese to Nemi near Aricia in the Alban hills, where the nymph Egeria was also worshipped and the festival of Jupiter Latiaris held. The priest of the shrine of Diana was called the “rex Nemorensis,” and seems to have been a runaway slave who must slay his predecessor before the could be priest himself. The runaways found asylum there.
12. While in Apollonius she is Hypsipyle’s nurse and in Statius one of the Lemnian women, Valerius, as Langen suggests, seems to have had Eidothea (Homer, Odyssey 4. 365) in mind, and to hint that like her Polyxo may have been a daughter of Proteus.
13. It must be assumed that since the massacre of the men there had been a cessation of religious observances.
14. i.e. by union with the Lemnian men.
15. The partaking of the flesh and wine of the sacrifice is clearly distinguished from the banquet which followed it.
16. It is part of the “law of heaven” that at the setting of the Pleiades (beginning of November) there shall be stormy weather; Valerius goes on to associate this with the demand of Astraea for vengeance against mankind for its wickedness. Astraea is usually identified with Justice, and is spoken of as being the last of the goddesses to leave the earth. Dureau (quoted by Langen) refers to Homer, Iliad 16. 384-8, where the autumn tempests are attributed to Zeus’ indignation against men for their wickedness. The planet Saturn was also supposed to exert an evil influence.
17. [Hercules]
18. Peleus is here referred to, as Telamon stayed with Hercules on the Argo (384), and had not taken one of the Lemnians to wife.
19. Samothrace, so called from Electra, daughter of Atlas, who bore Dardanus to Jove in this island. The Samothracian mysteries were celebrated in honour of the Cabiri, primitive deities represented as metal-working dwarfs (see Herodotus, 2. 51, 3. 37, Lobeck, Aglaophamus, p. 1202sqq).
20. A somewhat bold use of “frequens,” usually of a space or region that is full of people or of things.

21. Valerius here seems to be guilty of ambiguity, in stating first that a band of maidens was sacrificed, then that Hesione was drawn by lot to be placed upon the rock. Cf. also 563.
22. Interpreted by others as a cloud of spray. The lines that follow express the straightening-out movement of snakes, when, as the front half moves forward (passos … cervix), the tail seems to move towards the rear. On a large scale this might be described as “reaching backward over the sea it has already covered.”
23. For the ambiguity see note on 484.
24. i.e. coming so late.
25. Fated is the night wherein the Greeks will sack Troy, as a result of which the followers of Aeneas will found a mightier Troy in Rome.
26. The Phrygians, knowing the king’s promises to be false, forebode disaster for their city.
27. She had become a sea-goddess, and therefore the sister of Panope and Thetis; she still wears, however, the fillets of the victim.
28. The European coast of the Dardanelles is steeper and more abrupt than the Asiatic.
29. Mentioned as an ancient deity of Italy in the times when these changes took place.
30. Priapus.
31. The sacrifice of strangers at the shrine of Diana in the Tauric Chersonese.