Classical Texts Library >> Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica >> Book 3




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] Now for the third time had Tithonus’ bride dissolved the chill shadows and uncurtained the heavens; the calm deep was calling to Tiphys. Forth from the palace goes the crew of Argo, and along with them stream out of the city all the sons of Aeneus1 clinging to their dear departing comrades. They give them corn and the chosen of their flocks, and wine not of Bithynian or of Phrygian grapes, but that which the god’s own isle of Lesbos sends up from its famed hillside along the narrow straits of Helle. Cyzicus himself, side by side with Aeson’s son, betakes him to the shore, shedding tears at their parting, and loads him with princely gifts, garments first, which his wife Percosian Clite had given him and embroidered with patterned gold. Also he gave him a helmet and the unconquerable spear his father bore: himself in return receives a goblet from the chief and a Thessalian bridle; they clasped hands and made their houses one.

[15] Do thou, Clio, now unfold the causes that drove the heroes to affrays unspeakable; since to thee, O Muse, has been vouchsafed the power to know the hearts of the gods and the ways by which things come to be. Wherefore did Jove suffer such violence, why that hands once locked in friendship should meet in strife? Wherefore was the clarion heard, and wherefore did Erinys trouble the night?

[20] As Cyzicus upon his swift horse shook Dindymus2 where votaries revel with bloodstained arms, and wearied the woods, he was betrayed by his too great love of the chase; for with his javelin he slew a lion that was wont to bear its mistress through the cities of Phrygia and was now returning to the bridle. And now (Madman!) hath he hung from his doorposts the mane and the head of his victim, a spoil to bring sorrow to himself and shame upon the goddess. But she, nursing her great rage, beholds from the cymbal-clashing mountain the ship with its border of kingly shields,3 and devises against the hero deaths and horrors unheard of: how in the night to set allied hands at strife in unnatural war, how to enmesh the city in cruel error.

[32] It was night, and the sea was white on the ship’s smooth track, and the stars, declining now, were scattering gentle sleep abroad. A breeze bears the ship on; they make fast their oars, and sailing pass by Proconnesus and by thee, Rhyndacus, whose stream is still tawny in mid-sea, and Scylaceum where the waves break into foam. With his own eyes Tiphys marks far off the daylight and the sun’s setting, with his own hand he sets the ship to wind and stars. But Sleep at the bidding of the gods weighs upon him as never before, and lulls him to rest from his heavy travail; unwitting his hand slips from the tiller, his eyes droop, and unpiloted the ship, caught in a puff of wind, turns its course full circle and is borne back to the friendly harbour.

[43] As it rode into the shallows it had known, trumpets sounded alarm afar through the air, and a voice cried in the midst of the darkness: “The enemy have seized the harbour, our hold foes the Pelasgians have returned!” Men’s rest was broken; the god Pan4 had driven the doubting city distraught, Pan fulfilling the cruel commands of the Mygdonian Mother, Pan lord of the woodlands and of war, whom from the daylight hours caverns shelter; about midnight in lonely places are seen that hairy flank and the soughing leafage on his fierce brow. Louder than all trumpets sounds his voice alone, and at that sound fall helm and sword, the charioteer from his rocking car and bolts from gates of walls by night; nor might the helmet of Mars and the tresses of the Furies, nor the dismal Gorgon from on high spread such terror, nor with phantoms so dire sweep an army in headlong rout. Sport is it to the god when he ravishes the trembling flock from their pens, and the steers trample the thickets in their flight.

[58] Straightway the cry reached the king. From his high couch leaps Cyzicus, leaving fearsome dreams and sickly visions. Lo! above the open portals appeared Bellona with bare flank, her brazen weapons clanging as she moved, and as with triple plume she smote the housetop she cried thence to the king. He distraught follows the goddess along the city walls, onward to the fight that was to be his last: even as Rhoetus,5 clouded with excess wine and seeing Pholoe double and the stars larger than their wont, rushed upon Alcides and Theseus, or as that father,6 his hunting done, came home singing of the wild beasts’ lairs and of Diana, as he bore Learchus’ body on his shoulders, while sorrowing Thebes turned away its gaze. And now, now neither gate can delay the prince nor the appointed night-watch at his back that first flew to meet him on his mad course; then others joined them as house after house quaked and felt the vain tumult.

[74] But the Minyae were struck by doubt and fear; their sick hearts fail, and they cannot see what land it is, what are the dangers, wherefore this flashing of helm and shield, whether watching and armed some enemy awaits them, until a spear flying in a fearful rush of wind clanged upon the thwarts, and warned the crew to snatch blindly whatever weapons came in their way. Jason was the first to fasten his helmet, crying aloud: “Lo! father, this is thy son’s first battle; and you, my men, deem that the Colchians we have longed for are upon us.” Even as Mars’ chariot leaps down from the stars into the midst of the Bistones, when high hearts and the clamour and the bloodthirsty trumpets have filled the god with joy, even so swiftly does he madly seize upon the battle-ground; the whole force of the Achaeans follows him. They close their ranks: grim with massed corselets stands the troop, such as neither the fierce Maid, the clanging aegis on her breast, nor Jove’s right hand, nor Fear and Dread, the horses of Mars, might scatter. So do they press forward with knit shields, even as when Jupiter brings up some black mass of cloud; the winds are at battle, from every side they beat upon it in vain: it yields not; men’s hearts are long in fear and doubt: will it fall upon the sea? will it fall upon the land?

[95] Hereupon an ill-starred band of men7 began with a great shouting to hurl stones, pitchy brands, and the burden of the whirling sling; unmoved the troop endured the din, refraining their passion, until the first spate should have ebbed. Mopsus marked the glittering armour and Eurytus the looming bulk of Corythus, who halted in his stride and then swift drew back from the gleam of the steel, like a shepherd by some sudden stream that foams beneath fierce rains and hurries tree-trunks along on its waves. But Tydeus8 cired: “Lo! thou – might I but await thee in the fullness of my strength, might I but meet thee face to face! – die where thou standest!” The lance of the Olenian pierced his groin; he uttered a groan, and as his closing teeth bit the plain his throbs drove forth the crimson spear. And as some jagged rock lurks in mid-sea, over which the unwitting helmsmen have never steered their plunging ships unharmed, so blindly rushed the troop, drawn swords in hand. There fell Iron and Cotys and Bienor, a better man than his father Pyrnus.

[113] But meantime a wilder tumult shakes the confused city. The wife of Genysus had taken away her husband’s weapons, when of a sudden he sees, beneath a gust, a live brand upon the hearth shine out; miserable man, thou art glad to find thy sword again. All that night Medon too forsakes the laden tables and the holy rites unfulfilled; a mantle twisted up enwraps his hand with its unwarlike purple, and his drawn blade flashes light upon his path. Thus goes he forth to battle; the wine and the food are not taken off, his couch still stands in its place; and there they remained to presage ill. Thence going their ways, unlike in fashion as in fortune, they joined the fight, and far apart they both lay slain. Lo! Phlegyas, brandishing a torch all knotted and heavy with thick pitch, comes running from the troubled city; he, thinking that the light-armed host of the Pelasgi had sailed back by night according to their wont, and seeking again the oft vanquished Thamyris, shouted his loud challenge in vain, standing erect and flashing afar beneath the smoky cloud; huge as Typho when he glares from the measureless sky, red with fire and tempest, while Jove on high grips him by the hair; every vessel shudders beneath the ominous glow.

[133] Then rose the Tirynthian hero and rushed forward with bent bow, aiming from his breast unerring shafts at the flame before him; the arrow caught fire from the gouts of pitch and sped with full force through the middle of his chest; he fell with face and beard upon the torch, and larger flared the flame. Peleus laid Ambrosius low, Ancaeus the stout Echelus, and he suffered Telecoon to come near to his uplifted hand, then with twofold blow of axe cleft his skull to the neck. In that instant the conqueror strips the embossed belt that glimmers in the half darkness, but Nestor cries: “Nay, leave these spoils, these rich carcases; rather let the steel, the steel in my hand speed the work,” and seizing Amastrus he lops his head, and straightway bids his comrades fall upon the scattered hosts. The cover of shields is broken, and hither and thither they hie where darkness and the plain lead them.

[149] Huge Phlias finds Ochus, while Pollux dashes against the trembling Hebrus. The captain himself, lord of the field and of the battle, sweeps over heads and bodies wallowing in gore, like some black storm over the deep; Zelys and Brontes and Abaris he leaves half-dead; ‘tis Glaucus he pursues; Glaucus falls, and he is on him, he deals him a wound that gashes his throat. Glaucus to oppose him grips the weapon, and gasping forth his last helpless words sees the planted javelin sink in and in. Thence as he passes he cuts down Halys with cruel blade, then Protis and Dorceus, famed for his harping and tuneful song, who after Bistonia’s mighty son9 dared to accompany men’s banquets with his melodious lyre.

[161] No more does the Tirynthian hero handle quiver or twanging bow, but scatters the ranks with his trusty club. And as when some great forest totters beneath the woodmen’s repeated blows, and the heavy oak groans as the wedges are driven home, and now fir and pine begin to fall, even so beneath the blows sound the hard bones and jaws of warriors, while the ground is white with scattered brains. The nimble Admon had sunk at his feet; Hercules seized his chin and beard and brought down his club’s thunder-stroke upon him from above, and “Now shalt thou fall,” he cries, “by Hercules’ own weapon – no slight guerdon and an ever-memorable doom.” The other shuddered as he fell, for he straightway recognized his friend’s name; and he bore the horrid deed down to the unwitting shades.

[173] Naught availed it in that hour, Ornytus, that thou hadst cherished the Thessalian princes in friendliness, or with kind intent hadst sought to delay them and hadst kept the day holy to thy household gods; Idmon draws hither from close by and smites thee in the encounter, wearing the helmet with its scarlet plume, that was, alas! thy gift. In what a plight, Crenaeus, shall thy horror-stricken sire behold thee! Lo! chilling sleep steals now over thy bright eyes, now fail beauty and youth and with life’s undoing all loveliness flees away: now desert the groves, hard-hearted one, ay, and the loves of the Nymphs! Meantime in another quarter Sages was making havoc when the lad Hylas, then first adventuring, deceived him with his bow (the comely Hylas, men’s hope in warfare, if Fate but grant it, if Juno be kind), nad laid low his man with a winged arrow through the heart.

[186] There meet (O shame!) the sons of Tyndareus, embroiled by the treacherous darkness: Castor was the first about to strike unknowing, when a strange light and a sudden radiance on their brows bade them sunder. Then Castor pierced Itys where the blue sword-belt girt him and twin serpents locked jaw in jaw; his brother smote through Hages and Thapsus and Nealces, who wielded an axe, and Cydrus, blanching beneath a wound from Canthus. Then, gathering all his strength, he hurled his spear at Erymus the hunter, but a gleam of the Moon’s light betrayed the deadly shaft, as in pity for her comrade she flashed out from the black sky; the helm-crest parted,10 the spear swept through the air, and on the rim of his helmet the rushing point smote with a clang.

[198] Telamon smote Nisaeus and Opheltes, the idle boaster, piercing his huge shield of threefold wickerwork where it covered his belly, and cried in triumph: “I pray that heaven or chance has chosen me here a king or one sprung of lineage as ancient, and that a mighty one has fallen, and a lamentation to his city!” He slew moreover Ares and his brother Melanthus, and Phoceus son of Olenus, who, exiled from the land of the Leleges, won the friendship of the king and (schooling himself to every art) the rank of a close attendant.

[206] The midnight hour swells the great clamour of falling warriors and thickens the slain; as faster pants Inarime, and faster the bellowing Vesuvius, when of a sudden he rouses the terror-stricken cities, so more furious grows the fight; for the flames of the stars fail not, but witnessing Night pauses in her lagging car. Come then, my Muse, and follow out the full tale of that hellish night. Phaethon from on high breathed upon the trembling Tisiphone, and now as daylight drew near a heavier shade lay upon that region; men see not the banners, see not the dead bodies, while hotter wax their brows with frenzy. Ye goddesses, disclose the troops that the Furies gathered in the night, and reveal to your seer the clash of weapons, the earth warm with the gasps11 of falling heroes, and the ghosts whom the Minyae chased along the shore.

[220] And now Cyzicus ranges vainly through all his army, delaying his doom; exultantly he deems that already the routed Pelasgians have yielded to him, that already they are scattered over the deserted fields; such the feelings, such the gladness engendered by heaven’s spite. As when Coeus12 in the lowest pit bursts the adamantine bonds and trailing Jove’s fettering chains invokes Saturn and Tityus, and in his madness conceives a hope of scaling heaven, yet though he repass the rivers and the gloom the hound of the Furies and the sprawling Hydra’s crest repel him. Shouting bitter taunts Cyzicus rages, and girds at his host that is slow to come from the city: “What, shall resentment and valour never inspire the hands that dare naught without your king? But if the savage pipe and all Dindymus yelling as the holy emblems proceed called you, then sword and frenzy would be your pleasure, did but the priest give the weapons to your hands and the blood stream from your arms at his command.”

[235] Taunting them thus, as the goddess had willed, forthwith he flagged; a chill faintness balks his onset; his heart misgives him; he hears the roar of lions in anger and horns sounding, and sees towers moving across the darkness. Then heavy and surely aimed comes hissing through the gloom the spear of the Aesonian chieftain, and pierces a broad way deep within his heart. How he wishes now that he had never known the woodlands, that he had never spent his years in hunting! Thus the high-souled heroes fling their spears in contending whirlwinds, and track out the sound of footfalls and suspected stirrings; they clutch their comrades and challenge them to speak. But if such slaughter had lasted till dawn broke at length, then had the day seen the race destroyed utterly, naught but mothers upon the walls, and a nation lying dead along the shores.

[249] Then the Father Omnipotent bethought him the hour was come, their king being slain, to turn aside the doom and to break off the miserable fight. Swiftly he brought help at the last, and thundered with that tranquil nod, whereat Night’s children and the fiery War-god tremble. Then shuts the hell-gate of stern war. Forthwith they turn in terror and flee in retreat over the fields, their one hope of safety; neither are the Minyae minded to follow their headlong rout: valour paused doubting. Lo! the dawn began to scatter its first fain rays upon the harbour, and white grew the towers (O horror!) which they knew. “Ye gods of the sea,” exclaimed Tiphys from the amazed ranks, “how have ye condemned my heart to a deadly sleep! Alas, for my comrades’ fearful deeds that fill the shore!”

[262] But they can neither utter a groan nor lift their guilty eyes; freezing horror binds their strengthless limbs; even as the Bacchanal pales at the sight of the hair and sad face of Pentheus, when the god has withdrawn from the frenzy-driven mother’s troop, and the horns of the slain bull fade away.13 Nor less do the aged folk, pouring forth toward the shore, turn terror-struck to flight, when they behold the friendly band. With right hand outstretched Jason exclaims: “Whom do ye flee? would indeed that in this carnage I and mine had rather fallen! A god, ay, a god in his cruelty embroiled us thus. Alas, we are the Minyae, we are these ye befriended. And why delay we the sad honours of the pyre?”

[274] Then the mourners rush wildly upon the dense heaps of bloodless slain; among the high-piled corpses of the heroes a mother recognises her woven work, a wife her gift. Among the winding shores all heaven is filled with their lamentation. Some clutch at faint breathings and wounds yet bubbling loud, some, all too late, close eyelids with their hands. But when in the midst of the heaps the king’s pale corpse was found, then as though every other region kept silent from sad lament, even so loud are the cries of servants and of mothers, so do the whole multitude turn toward him alone. The Minyae, weeping and sick at heart, stand round about, bewailing the awful deed and the stroke of the Aesonian spear, and console their prince in his unhappy lot.

[286] He, when he saw the locks now matted with rich blood and the pallid cheeks and the darts shattered on the breast he loved, nor recognised in his host the face known but yesterday, groaned and clasping his friend’s limbs cried: “Thee at least night holds, hapless one, ay, but knowing naught of madness so dire nor bitterly making appeal to friendship’s bond: but to me sorrow-bearing has come the light. Ah, what colloquy is this of ours! to how strange a welcome has Fortune brought me back! Thought I ever that my hand could lay thee low (that alone was lacking to my destiny), or was I so minded, friend, when I left these dwellings? Yet if it was still our doom to fight, and the gods above so willed it, were it not more just that I should now be lying dead, and thou rather at fault and grieving over me? Nor should I now be blaming the grotto of the Clarian god and the oak trees of the Thunderer; was it such battles, such triumphs they appointed me? Could the seers in their knowledge keep silence of such horrors, when they sang of the cruel death of my aged sire and of so much woe beside? Alas, under heaven’s displeasure did I see this realm! where now can I return? what land will receive me with friendly welcome? what land will not debar me even from its extremest shore? Heaven has begrudged me that having ravaged the lands of distant Phasis and the wealth of Scythia I should return to these shores, or march then to avenge thee on thy foes. Yet may I press cheek and breast to breast, and strain thy pale limbs in my embrace. Come, men, roll funeral tree-trunks to the shores, and give solemn lustration to our comrades’ pyres; afford due to the slain, such as Cyzicus would have paid to our own burnings.”

[314] On the other side Clite, her torn tresses streaming over her husband’s face, calls the wretched train of women to join her mourning, and thus she cries: “Oh husband, torn from me in thy prime, thou takest all things with thee; no offspring nor any joy have I had of thee, whereby I might endure thy fate, noblest of men, cheating my grief with feeble solace. Mygdon’s armed might and deadly war bereft me of my sire, and of the home where I was born, and powerful Trivia’s secret shaft laid my mother low: thou who alone to me wert spouse and brother and parent and my sole hope from earliest maidenhood dost now abandon me (O misery!), and heaven with one blow has smitten all our city. Ah, Cyzicus, I saw thee not even holding out thy hands to me in the hour of death, nor caught any word of counsel to me; nay, in my chamber I complained of thy tarrying, and ah! in what plight hast thou come back to me who ne’er conceived so dire a fear!” Scarce in their grief can Pollux with twin Castor raise her up as she clings fast and drags with her the neck she still embraces.

[332] Meanwhile in rivalry laying bare the hills they press on with countless pyres and deck them and sadly set the bodies on the summit; the steed goes with drooping neck, nor tarry the hunting bands of hounds nor droves of cattle14; as each man’s skill of hand or fortune, or sorrow for his kin, so are their offerings to the dead. Conspicuous from afar is the king upon the midmost pyre: the son of Aeson, his face convulsed with repeated sobs, lifts him and lays him down upon the lofty purple. He makes gift of raiment gold-embroidered and glowing with crimson dye, torn in haste from the looms by Hypsipyle when the south winds called; thereon he casts the helm and the baldric that the king held dear; he with his face turned toward his city holds in his hand the sceptre that his forefather bore of old. For since no offspring nor indeed any of his blood survived him, he bears back to his sire the proud emblem of his realm. Then thrice trembled the stricken pyres as the Minyae traced their armed circuit, thrice shuddered the air with the bugles’ mournful clamour; then with final shout they threw the brands, and the toil-wrought heap is dissolved into the winds, and the waters gleam with the leaping flames.

[352] In very truth this fate was laid up for prince and people, what time the trees fell on the Pelian mount; this fate had threatening birds and presaging thunder-brands borne far overseas announced. But who is not fain to reject heaven’s earliest omens, and prophesy for himself long years to come? And now the ashes had had their meed of honour, now with failing steps the waives and the children depart; at last the waters have rest from the discordant, sleepless lamentation: as when in mid-spring the birds have returned to their native north, and Memphis is silent now, and their yearly tarrying-ground on sunny Nile.

[362] But thereafter nor day nor night, that but embitters sorrow, sets free the Minyae from the haunting image of the slain. Twice already do the zephrys invite the sails, but the heroes’ grief forbids assurance; in unwearying tides it plucks their sick hearts, nor yet do they feel that all their tears are shed, or all dues paid to the slain ones; lost to view is the home-land, forgotten the keen love of enterprise, and their joy is to grow cold in the languor of distress. Aesonides himself, though as chief he must repress the extremity of sorrow and hide it beneath a tranquil countenance, indulges the sweetness of lament and lays bare his grief. Then, drawing Mopsus, the seer of Phoebus, to a sequestered region of the shore, “What means,” he asks, “this plague, or what is the mind of the gods? Is it by fate’s decree this terror comes? or do hearts contrive their own anxieties? Why forgetful of home and renown do we suffer anguish, or what end will this faint-heartedness bring to pass?”

[377] “I will tell thee,” said Mopsus,15 “and wholly explain the causes of this plague;” then, looking at the stars, “If we , who once were fire and high Olympus’ kin, suffer mortal frames and brief apportionments and a short span of destiny, it is not therefore right to engage in reckless slaughter and to drive hence with the sword souls that yet would tarry, and seeds that will one day return to heaven; for we are not dissolved into the breezes or into mere bones at the last: anger abides and grief endures. Thereafter when they are come to the throne of awful Jove and have set forth all the sorrowful story of their dreadful end, the gate of death is opened for them and they may return a second time; one of the Sisters is given them as a companion, and they range together over lands and seas. Each involves in penalties the guilty souls of his own foes; they rack them with various terrors after their deserving. But those whose hands have dripped with blood unwillingly – or were it cruel mischance, though nigh to guilt, that swept away the wretches – these men their own minds harry in divers ways, and their own deeds vex the doers; languid now and ventureless they decline into tears and spiritless alarms and sickly sloth: such thou doest here behold. Yet shall my thoughtful care seek out a way.

[397] “Known long since to the unforgetting seer there lies, where afar the land slopes down to silence and Stygian night, the abode of the Cimmerians, a region that the Olympians know not, a land dark and desolate gloom, where the Sun never drives his flaming car and Jupiter sends not the star-appointed seasons. Soundless and still are all the branches, motionless and stark on the luxuriant ridges stand the vernal woods; below is a cavern and the winding way of the spirits and Ocean’s headlong crash, waste stretches of black dread and after long silences sudden cries. Here Celaeneus, sitting sable-shrouded and sword in hand, cleanses the innocent from their error, and remitting their fault unwinds a spell to appease the angry shades. He it was who taught me what lustrations should be made to the slain, he of his good pleasure opened the earth to Erebus below.16 When therefore the orient sets the crimson seas aflame, do thou summon thy comrades to the sacrifice, and bring two steers to the mighty gods; for me were it wrong meanwhile to approach your gathering, until I spend the night in cleansing prayers. Lo! Latonia’s cold chariot is on its way; turn thy steps, and see that the shores are silent for they placating deeds.”

[416] By this time sleep at its midmost hour was lying heavy on the earth, and dreams were flitting here and there over the silent world, when the son of Ampycus17 watching in vigil for the time of the mystic rite sets his face to the forest and seeks out Aesepus’ stream, then hastens adown its course to the ocean waves. Here with the purple brine and fresh-spring water he makes his body fresh and shining, and prepares himself for his dread doings. Then chastely he binds his brow with fillets and leaves of suppliant olive, and drawing a sword marks out the shore; low altars he sets up around to gods with names unknown,18 and sheds a gloom with covering of dark foliage, and when he has filled the place with awe of unseen powers and holy quiet, the bright beam flashes from the burning deep.

[430] And lo! there marched the crew of Argo, splendid in manifold accoutrement, leading chosen sheep with gilded foreheads.19 Then the Delian priest in white robe shining from afar hastens to meet them and beckons with a branch; and now taking his stand upon the new-made barrow he touches with propitious bay-leaf the troop as they pass by him, and leads them to the river streams and teaches them first to loose the fastenings of their feet and bind grey leaves about their hair, then bids them raise high their hands to the orb of orient Phoebus and together fall prostrate over all the plain. Then pitch-black sheep are slain, and part of the chine reserved, part Idmon going toward them bears through their midst. Thrice in silence did they accomplish the march, thrice does he touch the sad armour and raiment of the men, and throw the lustral offerings behind him in the sea; the rest is consumed by the devouring flames.

[444] Moreover, he duly places oak trees stripped of their foliage and shaped to the likeness of the warriors,20 and fastens thereto pretended armour. To these with prayer he bids pass over the Stygian threats and the shed blood’s unrelenting anger, upon these he prays that he wakeful remorse may weigh, and thus with atoning chant he calls to them: “Go, slain ones, make an end of unforgetting wrath; leave us in peace, and be content at last with your Stygian resting-place; far from our course, far from the sea abide, and have naught to do with wars. I would not have you go to Grecian cities or shriek at cross-roads; let no plague come hereby on herds or crops, nor baneful season bear hard upon them; let not our people or our offspring atone these deeds.” He spoke, and set the final feast on the leafy altars, and poured libation; forthwith peaceful snakes, the ministers of the shades, seized it with their quick-darting tongues.

[459] Straightway Ampycides gives orders to make for the ship and take seat upon the thwarts, nor turn their gaze toward the land; let them forget what their hands have wrought, and what was owed to fate. Briskly some stow the arms, some spread the high benches with high-piled coverings, and there rises the sound of quivering oars and of voices raised in joyful concord. Even as when Jupiter scatters a cloud that oppresses the Ceraunian heights and moves it from the ridges, of a sudden shine out the forests and the peaks, and the sky is bright once more, so their spirits returned to the heroes; and now the helmsman beckons from the lofty poop, and they pull with a will upon the oars. First Eurytus freeing himself of his clothing and Idas no whit dismayed by Talaus’ taunts begin the contest; then others make like challenge, and with labouring breasts fling high the waters. There is equal toil in their groans and in their strokes, and the sea upturned in regular beat by the oar is driven back sternwards. Alcides himself too cries in high spirits: “Who challenges these billows of mine?” and rising in towering height against the whirling waves suddenly struck his baffled breast with a broken oar, and falling backwards o’erwhelmed Talaus and valiant Eribotes and Amphion, who on his far seat feared not so huge a mass, and laid his head upon thy thwart, Iphitus.

[481] Already Phoebus, burning ever brighter, had surpassed heaven’s supremest height and in mid-career shortened the long shadows. Sailing with slower course thereafter through the hero’s idleness Tiphys approaches the nearest shore and the mountains thick in forest that Mysia presented. The Tirynthian makes for the lofty ash trees; Hylas keeps close to his side, delaying the strides that re too long for him.

[487] When Juno from the topmost height of heaven sees that he has left the ship, the goddess, accounting it a time for working bane, first endeavours to deceive Pallas, who was sharing her cares and guiding his steps, lest through her delay befall the enterprise, and with guile to dissever her from her dear brother. Then in such wise she accosts her: “Perses, driven out by ruthless might of chieftains and his kinsman’s troops (thou recallest upon what charge), ahs already set barbarian armies stirring and the banners of Hyrcania; Aeetes on his side by pledge of a maiden’s marriage-bower invites to friendship Scythian princes, and first Styrus, his daughter’s betrothed, brings gathered forces from the Albanian gate. A vast encounter threatens, and Mars himself urges his steeds apace with hurrying reins. Seest thou from the North how huge a cloud uprises and hangs in the darkened sky? Do thou first hasten thither; when Perses ahs crossed the boundary of deep Phasis and brought up his host against the city, bear news of the enterprise and for awhile by thy counsels and craft contrive delays and parleys. Promise him that god-descended princes will come to his aid, with whom he may if he will join forces and armament of war.”

[506] The Maid, though perceiving the treacherous ruse of her stepmother and how she endeavours to mould her looks to bland persuasion, yet complies and instantly seeks the bidden shores. Juno groaned and at length breaks the silence: “Lo! a heavy task! – this man whom no hate of mine can overcome; what Nemea, what affray of Lerna can I find, outwearied by all my threatenings? Why, we have seen the hero engage unbidden with Phrygian terrors and in brilliant enterprise unbar the gates of Pergamum. Lo! now the sister of kings21 am I – and have I any honour for my race? Even from the first had I shame and just beginning of vexation, when the serpents were straightway worsted by the babe. Defeated as I was I should perchance have sought no more hazards with the hero, nor descended to such battles as these. Nay, press on with thy resolve, and let thy modesty stick at no deception: soon shall I stir the Furies also and Dis himself to action.”

[521] So she speaks, and therewith glancing at the pine-clad ridges of the hills to leftward she sees a comely troop of huntress nymphs, the pride of woods and waves. Light bows and green armlets have they all, and a shaft of myrtle-wood with tight-drawn strap; knee-high are their skirts, and the straying stresses float and fall gently rippling to the band that confines the hidden breasts. Earth herself re-echoes the beating of the sisters’ feet, and sends up grasses beneath their tender steps. Of these Dryope, hearing the crash of Hercules’ advance, as the quarry fled before his shafts, had gone forward to view the havoc of the grove, and was returning to her spring, bringing back from Hercules an awe-struck face.

[533] Her Juno, down-gliding from the heavens and leaning against a dark pine tree, summons to her side, and grasping her hand thus speaks with coaxing words: “He whom scorning so many suitors I appointed, O Nymph, for thy wedlock – lo! the lad is here, come hither in the Haemonian barque, bright Hylas; he is wandering through thy glades and over thy hills. Thou sawest when Bacchus with his rose-hung reins led in triumph22 through these regions the vanquished armies and chariots of an eastern realm, and stirred again his votaries to their sacred revels: such an one, or Phoebus in hunting guise, his quill laid by, be assured is now offered to thee. How fair a hope have the nymphs of Achaea lost! with what complainings will Boebe’s23 brood hear that thou hast stolen him from them! how sad will be the daughter of yellow Lycormas!” 24

[545] So saying she puts up a swift hart through the trackless brushwood, all lofty-antlered, right in the lad’s path. By tardy flight and lengthy halt it challenges his ardour, and provokes him to content in speed of foot. Hylas adventures, and madly afire for so near a quarry, gives chase, while Alcides looking after him urges him on with cheering cry. And now both are out of sight, when as the boy presses on and with weary arm threatens a shot the stag leads him far onward to where a bright fountain gushes forth, and himself with light bound springs clear over the pool. Thus is the lad’s hope baffled nor is he fain to struggle farther; and since sweat had bathed his limbs sand labouring breast, he greedily sinks beside the pleasant stream. Even as the light that shifts and plays upon a lake, when Cynthia looks forth from heaven or the bright wheel of Phoebus in mid course passes by, so doth he shed a gleam upon the waters; he heeds not the shadow of the Nymph or her hair or the sound of her as she rises to embrace him. Greedily casting her arms about him, as he calls, alack! too late for help and utters the name of his mighty friend, she draws him down; for her strength is aided by his falling weight.

[565] By now had the Tirynthian sire laid an ash tree low upon the shady heights, tearing it up while the mountain groaned aloud, and laying it on the tawny monster’s25 rough hide was making for the curving shore; for he deems that Hylas has returned by another path and increased the banquet with the flesh of his captured quarry. But neither among his comrades at the tables that lined the shore does he see his dearest Hylas, nor yet when he directs his gaze afar; and his heart sinks. Various then are the bewildered fears that affection, beset by clouding ill, incites: “In what region has he lost his way? what chance, what task has delayed him? it grows pitchy dark the while,” and at that he fears the more26; ay, then turns he pale indeed, and black sweat pours down, and a numb frenzy holds him. As Jove’s wintry countenance congeals the hearts of mariners or husbandmen, when threatening darkness gathers, so does his comrade’s truancy trouble Alcides and warn him to bethink him of his cruel stepmother.

[581] Forthwith, as a bull stung in the breast by a swift gadfly bursts out from a Calabrian thicket and overthrows all obstacles, so violently does he rush out toward the desolate hills: aghast is all the guilty forest far and wide, aghast the mountains, for fear what Alcides inflamed by bitter grief may do, what he may be scheming in his heavy wrath. And, just as a lion that the bold lance of some fleeing Moor has hit dashes forth all bloody and roaring loud, and in empty jaws crushes his absent foe, even so with rage-enkindled countenance dashes forth the Tirynthian and with strung bow ranges over the hills. Alas for the hapless beasts, for the innocent men whom he meets among the wilds! aimless, yet seeking everywhere, he storms on; now rushes to river-banks and precipitous waterfalls, now to the shady forests that he knows. “Hylas” and yet again “Hylas” he calls through the pathless distances; the forests answer him, and the wandering echo emulates his cry.

[600] Yet unimpaired is the confidence of the crew, and sure though south winds favour: nor does young Hylas cause delay, though to all alike his youth gave pleasure, but the thought of Hercules brings perplexity. ‘Tis he they call for with tears and mournful vows, and bewildered with fear now send their voices far echoing along the shore, now show beacons in the deep of night; the captain himself when he sees the lofty mountain wrapped in unbroken silence or the sea made smooth by the offering breezes stands weeping: his great love of the hero makes him linger yet. His gait he misses, and the quiver well fitted to his back, and helplessly he looks for him among the princes and the mournful silence at the board, where once he would quaff the wine-cup grasped in his mighty hand, and tell of the monsters of his ruthless stepdame.

[611] No less meantime does cruel Juno tirelessly bestir and with first daylight after a south-west breeze. And now impatient of delay Tiphys chides their lingering endeavour, and bids seize the proffered sailing and tarry no more. Wherefore Jason, moved by his urgency, gives way, and addresses all his crew together: “Oh, would that when I was devising death for Scythianl ands the Parnassian voice had given me false oracle, how that he who was the mightiest in arms of all this band should be held fast by fate and Jove’s command before he reached the sea that storms about the wandering rocks. And not yet hath rumour of the hero, or informant trustier than that, come to us.27 But come, and because your hearts are fluctuating with divers cares, take counsel, and if the journey calls with the stirring breeze set sail and return to the labours we began together – or if it profits more to endure delay and once more to search the neighbouring hills, not slight the reward for time so spent.”

[628] He spoke, but the heroes, long since confident of their intrigue, beseech him to set forth; their large company would lack but one, they say; their blood is as generous, their right hands as strong. Such pride swells high the spirits of the greater part and vain talk makes their hearts wax bold: as in the midst of the woodland then only does the glad hind lead back the herd, then only does the boar desire battle, and the she-bear make answering challenge, though cruel wolves are night at hand, when the warlike tiger is gone, or the lion, hid in the winding cave, no longer roars. But devoted Telamon is tossed on the tides of mighty, clamorous wrath; in furious, harsh rebuke he chides their perjury and with loud complain invokes the gods. Again, with beseeching prayers he lays hold of the heroes, and as a suppliant moves not from the downcast leader’s presence; “’tis not on the special account of Hercules that I speak; I should do the same for any comrade; yet wild regions and barbarous shores peopled by savage tribes await us, we have no second Alcides, no heart so valiant as his.”

[645] On the other hand, Calydon’s great-hearted son28 goads and draws on those who are for the venture, a fosterer he of worse counsel by better argument, ever persistent in aiding a perverted course, never yielding to pleas of equity or having a thought for his leaders. “Respect, not for lost Hercules but for thee, has prolonged our silence unto these late complainings, till thou shouldst give us right and opportunity of speech. Now for the seventh day is the south wind blowing from the hills, and would perchance have already beached our ships on the Scythian shores; but we, forgetting our home, as though no joys awaited our return but a cruel king in pitiless Mycenae, are halting in mid course. Could I endure these barren days of waiting anywhere, I should be ruling my realm of pleasant Calydon, happy in its peace and plenty, abiding in the home where my sire and mother dwell. Why linger we in a slothful land? why does the sea weary our unrewarded vision? dost thou think that our comrade Alcides will yet join us in the land of Phasis, that his quiver will any more be allied to thine? Hatred knows no such truce, nor is Juno, though her godhead be weary, forgetful of herself. Perchance new portents of Tartarean seed and another message from Inachian Argos is vexing him.

[667] “This scion of mighty Jove we may not have, but Pollux and Castor, in birth no less, are with thee still, and all the other progeny of gods, nor is my boast of lineage small. Lo! I will follow thee wheresoever thou callest me; I will mow down lines of steel-clad warriors; to thee is dedicated my hand, to thee all my very life-blood can give, and from this moment I beg for myself the hardest task. Our safety, forsooth, rested on the arms of truant Hercules alone: all men for sure are, look you, in aspect equally mortal, and for sure all our oars moved to an equal beat. As for him, whether a surge of madness has long since confused his mind, or he is swollen with glory already won, he scorns partnership in our renown, and refuses to sail on and share the exploits of our arms. But you29 who have valour and fresh-budding hope, go onward, while you have a spirit to bear what may befall and vigour is fresh within your limbs; for let it not suffice only to deal destruction to the Colchians, and to have spent all your prime in traversing the sea. My hope was as enduring as hope in such a case could be: love drove me to seek the man through every forest; no region did I neglect as I called aloud. Even now, while various impulse makes my judgment waver, I hope to see him descending the mountain slopes. Enough have we given to friendship, enough to tears; deem that the hazards of life or the heat of battle-carnage have reft him from thee.”

[690] With such words the son of Oeneus incites them, and sets the heroic band aflame. Calais above all urges that Argo’s cables be unloosed. The son of Aeacus marvels at their frenzied joy, and deep grief perplexes the hero’s mind, whether he shall deny his comradeship to so distasteful a deed, and in sorrow betake himself to the mountain heights. Yet he ceases not to pour forth laments and words of empty wrath. “O heaven, what a day is this for Achaean lands!” he cries; “what joy will the savage Colchians feel! Not such boasting was there then, no words so arrogant when on our country’s shore, while the south winds already wooed the sails, the favour of all was turned toward Alcides; let himself give aid, they cried, himself undertake the cares and merited honours of a leader. Are ye now his match in valour, or in birth? hath the might of us common men equal renown? Is there no loyalty, are there no tears for Hercules? Is now Parthaon’s son or a scion of Thrace to be my chief?30 Does the lamb now spring fiercely at timid lions? By this spear,31 once the spoil of great-souled Didymaon, which never more will put forth green shade of foliage, wince once it was torn from the rocks and bereft of its mother tree and now, a knotted shaft, gives trusty service in hard-fought encounters, by this spear I swear and confirm this oath to thee, O chieftain, by every power divine: often in fear, often in closest hazard of thy fortunes wilt thou too late call on the might of Hercules and the arms of the hero ye despised; nor shall these swelling words assist us then.”

[715] As with such terrors he assails his comrades, Aeacides weeps and with much dust befouls his hair. Fate sweeps them on, and the chief carried away by the eagerness of his crew went forward, and sought to dry his eyes, veiling them with his cloak. Then once more comes deep grief to their hearts, when he comrades sat in their places and no lion’s hide was there to see, but the empty seat upon that mighty thwart. Loyal Aeacides weeps, the heart of Philoctetes is sad, brother Pollux with his dear Castor makes lament. The ship is flying fast, and still all cry “Hercules,” all cry “Hylas,” but the names are lost in the middle of the sea.

[726] Meanwhile from afar away old Phorcys gives a signal over all the deep, and making for his cave gathers his huge shell-encrusted seals together; at the same time Massylian and Lyctian herdsmen, and they of Calabria, are returning from the fields. Straightway on the sun’s extremest shore deep night has buried Hiberian abodes, and the sky has raised aloft the stars. The breezes have sunk to rest, and wind and sea are silent. The son of Amphitryon knows not what fresh regions to search, nor whither to turn his steps, nor what news of his friend’s fate to take to his parent, nor in what mind to rejoin his comrades. Love sears his heart, and he will not leave the lonely woods: not otherwise upon a time hath a lioness groaned in anguish for her lost cub; then doth she beset the roadways, and the barricaded strongholds keep long and anxious vigil; meanwhile her eyes are drawn with grief, and her mane droops low in unkempt misery and distress.

1. The people of Cyzicus, from Aeneus, father of their king Cyzicus.
2. The chief centre of the worship of Cybele, whose votaries frequently cut themselves with knives. Cybele is often spoken of as borne through Phrygia in a chariot drawn by lions; e.g. Lucr. 2. 601, Catull. 63. 76.
3. Compare the pictures of Viking ships.
4. Pan was commonly supposed to be the cause of sudden terrors, felt either in war or in the solitary places of the countryside, hence “nemorum bellique potens”; such terrors were called “panic fears.” Pindar mentions him as a companion of the Great Mother (Cybele) in Pyth. 3. 139.
5. One of the Centaurs; the reference is to the fight with the Lapiths at the wedding of Pirithous.
6. Athamas, who was driven mad by Juno, and slew his son Learchus.
7. That is, of Cyzicans.
8. Tydeus, from Olenus, a city in Aetolia [actually Achaea].
9. Orpheus.
10. i.e. gave way before the spear-point which then hit the helmet’s rim; the crest must be imagined as drooping over the helmet.

11. That is, of course, with the blood gasped forth.
12. One of the Titans hurled into Tartarus by Jove.
13. The reference is to the slaying of her son Pentheus, king of Thebes, by Agave, who under the influence of the Bacchic frenzy took him for a wild animal; it is a dramatic moment of Euripides’ Bacchae when she gradually comes to her senses and realises what she has done. It is probable that she is the Thyiad referred to in 265.
14. As offerings at the pyre, as, for instance, horses and dogs are sacrificed at Patroclus’ pyre in Homer (Iliad 23. 171).
15. This speech owes something to that of Anchises in Virgil’s Aeneid 6. 724-51, which deals with the same subject of the soul after death and contains the same Stoic doctrine of the fiery origin of the soul.
16. i.e. that I might descend to the underworld.
17. Mopsus.
18. Roman religion was very careful to include all gods whether named or unnamed in the performance of sacred rites.
19. The rites here described include the purification of the army, the sacrifice and the prayer that the wrath of the offended shades might be transferred to the effigies of warriors; the propitiation is completed by a feast offered to the spirits of the dead, “final” because it is the last that they will share with the living, and the pouring of the libation; the snakes that seize it are thought of as the attendants or actual embodiments of the dead. Characteristic of rites performed to the dead are the black sheep, the casting of the offerings behind one, and the triple march (439-43).
20. i.e. of the Argonauts.

21. She was, of course, the sister of Neptune and of Pluto, but the expression seems to allude more generally to her lofty breeding and descent.
22. “fercula” means literally the barrows on which captives, etc. were displayed in triumphal processions.
23. The nymphs of the lake of Boebe in Thessaly.
24. A river in Aetolia.
25. The Nemean lion whose skin Hercules habitually carried as a covering.
26. Sudhaus here, as indeed in many other places, would explain the difficulty of the text by the omission of a line, which he thinks has fallen out after 575.
27. He has not as yet heard anything to contradict the oracle mentioned above (618) which foretold that Hercules would desert him.
28. Meleager.
29. Here he addresses all the heroes.
30. Meleager, grandson of Parthaon, and Calais, son of Thracian Boreas.
31. Borrowed from the famous scene in Homer, Iliad 1. 234-44. Cf. also Apollonius, 1. 466-71; Virgil, Aeneid 12. 206-11.