Classical Texts Library >> Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica >> Book 4




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] No longer then did the Father of the gods endure to turn thereon indifferent eyes, but pitying the loyal affection of his son, in blazing wrath he sternly rebuked the trembling Juno: “Ah! so now new joys are springing in thy secret heart! Baffled and helpless the Tirynthian is raging on the deserted shore; but the Minyae in easy forgetfulness have abandoned their comrade and put out to sea. Such is Juno’s anxious care for her Aesonian chieftain, thus does she give arms and comrades to her hero! With what wars distraught and in terror of Scythian power, with what fears aghast shall I presently see her! When that time comes, try me not with tears and prayers and suppliant hand; unshakable is my sovereignty. Go, stir up the Furies and Venus; punished shall be the sinful maid, nor shall we suffer Aeetes’ sorrow to go unavenged.” 1

[15] He spoke, and brought fragrant dew of mystic nectar, that hath the power of deep quiet and untroubled sleep, and bedewed the temples of his restless son. He, with heavy eyes and lips that ever cry “Hylas,” since no power can overcome the god, sinks to the ground. At last the weary woods once more have peace, once more the streams and the breezes are heard upon the vacant hills.

[22] Lo! in a vision the boy rises from the water’s level, clad in saffron weeds, the gift of the unkind Nymph, and standing by his dear head utters such words as these: “Why, father, dost thou waste time in vain lament? Mine now by fate’s appointing is this glade, this home, whither at cruel Juno’s behest the wanton Nymph has stolen me; now doth she win me power to consort with the streams of Jove and the heavenly deities, and shares with me her love and the honours of her fountain. Alas, for the beloved quiver which once I bore! Now have our comrades loosed the cables to the favouring winds, urged on by Oenides’ frenzied appeals and evil tongue. Nay, but with house and home shall he pay for it, and thy spirit shall aid his remorseless mother.2 Arise, now, fail never in adversity; soon shalt thou draw nigh to heaven and the stars shall bear thee; be thou ever mindful of thy love, and let not the image of thy dear comrade fade.”

[38] While thus in such words he pleaded and indulged his gaze, eagerly the other seeks to seize him, urgent with unsatisfied embrace, and plies in vain the effort of his languid arm; but his body is dull with slumber and is foiled by the fugitive shade. Then with tears, with cries, he essays to follow, and breaks into complaints, till sleep with that vain struggle and sorrowful hope are ended. Even as when perchance from the base of some wave-echoing rock a breaker snatches a hapless halcyon’s home and brood, the other in distress hovers complaining above the swelling billows, resolved to follow wheresoever they take them, and ventures and is afraid, until beaten and broken by the waves the home is swallowed by the flood; in her anguish she cries aloud and rises upon her wings: not otherwise was the sad striving of his dream. Madly he leaps up and streaming tears bedew his cheeks. “Shall I go then,” he cries, “and shalt thou dwell alone on these hills and desolate wilds, dear youth, nor marvel any more at my deeds?” So speaking he retraces his path and leaves the glens, uncertain what Juno may have in store, what angers she may be preparing. Then too he beholds his comrades faring afar in hot haste upon the sea, and feels shame that with no word spoken he could have borne to be left behind.

[58] And now he had bent his steps to the Trojans and Troy’s hospitable walls, claiming the promise of the Ilian monarch,3 when Latona and Diana together stood mournful-eyed before Jove, and Apollo thus supplicating speaks: “Until what other Alcides come, until what time indeed, great king, dost thou put off the old man of Caucasus?4 Grantest thou no end at all of punishment and of misery? The whole race of mankind beseeches thee, ay, the very mountains, worthy sire, and the weary ridges with their forests supplicate thee. Sufficiently hast thou punished the theft of fire and safeguarded the secrets of the ethereal board.”

[68] Even as he spoke, from the crags amidst the very ravening of the dreadful vulture Prometheus too himself besets Jove with groans and piteous pleas, uplifting eyes that the cruel frosts have seared; the rivers and rocks of Caucasus redouble the loud complaint; the bird itself is amazed at the clamour of the god. Then too from Acheron up to heaven’s heights is heard the cry of Iapetus himself; sternly, as he pleads, does Erinnys thrust him aside, looking to the law of lofty Jove. He moved by the goddesses’ tears and Phoebus’ high renown sends down swift Iris on her rosy cloud. “Go,” he says, “let Alcides put off the Phrygians and the war of Troy. Now let him rescue the Titan from the dreadful bird.” Fast flies the goddess and bids the hero quickly perform his sire’s commands, and pours the glad message into his eager ears.

[82] Already through the clear and starry night the Minyae had brought their bellying sails to mid-ocean in placid course, and were revolving many memories of the Hercules they had left behind. But from the high poop the Thracian bard in solace for heaven’s destiny and life’s distressful miseries sings to his comrades a melody whose measures bring healing and relief: no sooner had he taken his lyre than grief and anger and weariness were dispelled, and the sweet memory of children fades away.

[90] Meanwhile the stars are now gliding into the life-giving springs of mighty Ocean, and the bridles are jingling in the Titanian caves; hastened by the golden-haired Hours the Sun puts on his diadem of myriad rays and the corselet woven of twelve stars and bound by the belt which athwart the rain-clouds shows for me its many hued bow. Then above the earth and above the horns of the eastern mount he shone forth, and drew a train of light over the sparkling waves; but at the sight of Phoebus the breezes left the Minyae.

[99] Next open out the shores of the Bebrycian realm, a land of fertile soil and a good friend to sturdy bulls. Amycus was its king, and trusting to his destiny and power divine they girded not their homes with walls nor observed conditions of treaties or laws that constrain peaceful minds. Even as the wild Cyclopes in Aetna’s caverns watch the straits during stormy nights, should any vessel driven by fierce south winds draw nigh, bringing thee, Polyphemus, grim fodder and wretched victims for thy feasting, so look they forth and speed every way to drag captive bodies to their king. Them doth the cruel monarch himself on the rocky verge of a sacrificial ridge, that looms above mid-sea, take and hurl down in offering to his father Neptune; but should the men be of finer build, then he bids them take arms and meet him with the gauntlets; that for the hapless men is the fairest doom of death.

[[114] When Neptune saw the vessel borne hither upon the flood and for the last time looked upon his son’s domain the fields that once rejoiced in their master’s contests, he sighed and poured from his heart such plaints as these: “Melie, ‘tis pity thou wast long ago carried off by me beneath the waves, and didst not rather yield to the Thunderer! So utterly then does a sad fate await my offspring, from whosoever born? Ere now have I known thee so to act, O Jupiter, when hapless Orion5 fell by the cruel virgin’s shaft and now fills Chaos. And let not thy valour, O my son, nor confidence in me afford thee courage, trust no more in thy father’s power. Now other might has the mastery, and the destinies of Jove, more eager to protect his own, are too strong for blood of mine. Therefore I stove not to turn away this ship with boisterous winds nor stayed her course, nor now can I in aught delay thy death. Make lesser kings thy prey, hard-hearted one!” Then he turned his gaze away, and the father, leaving his son and the ill-starred combat, laved the shores with a tide of blood.

[133] Straightway the chieftain bids explore the rivers and the coasts and the folk, and Echion going forward a little way finds a youth secretly uttering groans in a secluded vale and lamenting the name of a murdered friend. He when he saw the hero coming toward him, and the brow shaded after the fashion of his sire by an Arcadian hat,6 and in his hand the vain emblem of the peace-bringing branch, “Ah, flee, while yet thou canst,” he cried; “hesitate not, doomed man, whoever thou art!”

[141] At the sight the Nonacrian halted in amaze, wondering what he brings. But when he sees him bidding him swiftly return and persistent in the same warning, he carried him off and compels him to reveal his story to the crew. The other with hand outstretched replies: “No friendly land is this to you, O heroes, here are no hearts that reverence any rites; this shore is the home of death and cruel combats. Soon Amycus will come bidding you raise the dread gauntlets aloft and striking the clouds with overtopping head. In such wise rages he, deemed Neptune’s son, against voyagers continually, and them that lack valour to match his he stations like sluggish bulls at the cruel altars of the gods, only that he may wet his weapons in the wretches’ brains. Take counsel then, and scorn not the time that yet remains for flight. For with that monster in vain would anyone dare to engage; and what pleasure is there in the sight of such an one?”

[157] The chief to this: “Comest thou as a Bebrycian, with heart estranged from thy prince (for oft have the common people kindlier feelings), or as a stranger whom fate has brought from foreign shores? And why then has Amycus not shattered thy face with his gauntlet?”

[161] “I followed,” he said, “the name, to me surpassing sweet, and the renown of Otreus, sharer of my soul. The pride and glory he of his comrades, nor one that you might despise as a partner of your deeds. In search for Hesione and the enjoyment of a Phrygian bride he was bidden stand against Amycus, and I it was who enlaced his hands; but scarce had he drawn nigh and lifted his head when the other with lightning blow dashed out the eyes from his shattered brow; me he never deemed worthy of a violent death, rather do I consume myself with tears and helpless sorrow. Yet hope I still, if a spoken message has left these shores and reached the cities of my native Mariandyni, whence come the hero’s brother and his race – but may Lycus, I pray, remain inactive, nor increase the slaughter with vain attempt of arms.” 7

[174] The youths listen unperturbed, and seeing that they persist with unimpaired resolve he bids them follow behind and add their speed to his. On the limit of the strand was seen a mighty cave, covered by trees above and threatening ridge of rock, debarred from heaven’s blessings and from the sky’s radiance,8 a grim abode that trembled with the roaring of the deep. But before the rock were various terrors: severed arms torn from men sent flying, and lifeless though still clad with the gauntlet, and bones all foul and mouldering, and heads in a dismal row. You could see those for whom the straight-pitched blow had left nor name nor visage; in the midst were the weapons of the monarch himself, held sacred through fear and placed on the altar of his mighty sire.

[187] Here first they remembered the warnings of the stranger Dymas; fear came upon them with the thought of the absent monster, and all fixed their silent looks upon each other, until Pollux with starry countenance undismayed said: “Ay, but for all this terror I will cause this wood of tine to bear thee anon, whoever thou art, if thou have but blood and limbs withal!” All are alike emboldened to try the issue in valiant fight, they call for the foe and ask to challenge him face to face. Even as when a river foams from its depths with untried waters, the bull that first goes in and spurns its eddies opens up the way, then all the herd, their terror lost, follow behind him, ay, from mid-stream they even take the lead.

[199] But from the woods and from his flocks hard by the ruthless giant was striding to the cave; not even his own folk as they gazed at him went free from secret fears. No signs of mortal man remain9; as it were a rocky peak that soars above high mountains and stands alone far apart from all the ridge. Then he swoops down in fury, and asks not their race or whither they are bound or why, but thunders in his wrath: “Begin, ye striplings; assurance it was, I ween, that brought you hither; ye have heard of our shores, and straight are come to vex them. But if it was error of the way and ye have not yet knowledge of these lands, this is Neptune’s house and I am Neptune’s son. Here it is my law to raise gauntlet and arms in opposing combat. Only so does Asia’s vast tract and sea that lies northward to the right and leftward seek here my welcome; this contest concluded do kings return.10 Long since do my gauntlets lie idle, and the ground is cold and dry, and but few teeth bestrew it. Who will strike a bargain with me? To whom may I hand the prize? The same guerdon will come to all in time. No escape is there beneath the earth, none through the air. My heart is proof against tears (no grovelling prayers!) and appeals to heaven; ‘tis elsewhere Jupiter counts for king. I shall see that no vessel sails Bebrycian waters, and that he Clashers dance to and fro on an empty sea!”

[222] Such words he was uttering, when in a moment up leaps stern Jason and the sons of Aeacus and the Calydonian pair11 together and Neleus’ son,12 and before him Idas – the mightiest names of all: but already Pollux with bared breast had taken his stand. Then did fear grip Castor and icy chill of blood; for it is no contest before the face of his Elean sire that he watches, nor do the cheers of the Oebalian13 ring re-echo or Taygetus’14 well-known range, where the victor washes himself by his native streams, nor is the prize of the accursed sand a bull or a steed with sounding hooves, but the guerdon is man’s life and the gate of death unbarred. But Amycus with smiling looks surveys a foe neither fierce of brow nor terrible in bulk, scarce as yet showing signs of earliest manhood; he rages at his boldness, and in blazing fury rolls his bloodshot eyes. Not otherwise did Typhoeus, boasting that already the kingdom of the sky and already the stars were won, feel aggrieved that Bacchus in the van and Pallas, foremost of the gods, and a maiden’s snakes confronted him. Thus too he continues and tries to cow him with rabid clamour: “Make haste, whosoever thou art, unhappy boy; no longer shall the beauty of that fair brow remain to thee, nor shalt thou take back to thy mother the face she knew. Wilt thou, the choice of cruel comrades, wilt thou die by the and of Amycus?”

[243] No more he tarries, but displays his huge shoulders and the spacious breast-bones and the unsightly sinews of his terrible limbs. The hearts of the Minyae fail at the sight, and even the son of Tyndareus marvels; too late they long once more for Alcides, and with sad gaze scan the deserted hills But the son of the ruler of the sea then accosts him thus: “Look, here too are hardened wrappings of raw bull’s hide; and seek not the aid of chance, but put on what gloves thou canst.”

[252] He spoke, and unaware that fate was driving him on the path of tardy expiation, gives his arms for this last time to his attendants to bind with harness: then so too does the Laconian. Fierce hatred wells up in those who were erstwhile strangers, and with minds inflamed the seed of Jove and Neptune’s son stride forth into the midst.15 On both sides silence is strung taut by suspense and hope, and at their entreaty father Tartarus sends forth in a hollow cloud shades of the slain to view at last the well-earned retribution; the mountain-tops grow black with them. Straightway the Bebyrcian, like a hurricane sweeping down from Malea’s roaring summit, scarce suffers the hero to raise his head, scarce to lift his arms, but drives him headlong and with swift steps encompasses him about in a storm and torrent of attack, and in vast bulk pursues him over all the ground. The other alter with fear turns breast and gauntlets now this way, now that, ever with head drawn back, ever a-tiptoe on the surface dust of the plain, or lunging forward returns upon the foe. Just as a vessel caught by the Pleiads on the foaming deep and kept safe only by its anxious helmsman’s care cleaves unharmed the sea that contending winds make boisterous, so Pollux warily watches the blows and with Oebalian skill withdraws his head from the peril. Then when he has wasted the urgent wrath and fury of the man upon the clouds,16 by slow degrees he rises to the attack, still fresh against a tired foe, and rains down blows with uplifted arms. That day first beheld Amycus’ limbs drooping with sweat and himself halting with fevered gasps, nor do his own land or people know their weary lord.

[279] Both take breath awhile and drop their arms; as when on the very field of war Gradivus refreshes the Lapithae or the Paeonians, leaning silent upon his fixed spear. Scarce a moment had they stood, when lo! already they rush to the fray, and their gloves resound afar with hail of blows; with fresh might once more, with fresh bodies do they rise. Shame urges the one, the other hope, more confident now from knowledge of his foe; their breasts are asteam with repeated blows. The desolate hillsides re-echo their loud cries: as when in nightly vigil the master marks the labours of his workmen and the Cyclops prepares the metal for the thunderbolt, while cities echo the clang of stricken anvils. Then the son of Tyndareus leaps forward and shows his right and threatens with it; that way go the eyes an the lunge of the Bebrycian, so fancying, but the other with swift left makes havoc of his face. His friends raise a shout and in sudden cry vent to joy.

[293] From his foe dazed and maddened by the unexpected guile of the Oebalian shrinks back until the first thunder of his wrath be spent, terrified himself even and conscious of his great daring. In helpless rage Amycus hurls himself forward without regard and greedy for his foe (for he sees the Minyae exulting afar), then raising aloft both gauntlets he dashes upon him. Pollux slips between them and undaunted flies at the face of his fierce enemy, nor was his hope fulfilled, but both fists fell upon his chest. The other, all the fiercer, lo! once more waves his arms at random through the empty air. When Pollux sees him bereft of wits, he plants his legs close and presents his side, and as he sprawls forward follows up or suffers him to recover his stand, but hustling and pressing him hard in his perplexity rains down from behind a shower of blows at his own pleasure; his bowed head resounds with all manner of wounds, and he sinks beneath the punishment. Already his temples stream and his ears are hidden by the gore, until a heavy blow with the right snaps the vital bond where the first joint connects the head and neck. As he reels the hero thrusts him down, and standing over him cries: “Pollux am I, who hail from Amyclae and am born of Jove; this name shalt thou bear down to the wondering shades; thus shall it be told of thee on thy recording tomb.”

[315] Forthwith the Bebrycians scatter in flight; no love have they for the slain king; swiftly they hie them to the mountains and the forests. Such was the lot, such the hand that at length thrust Amycus from his ambition, as he guarded the wild haunts of Pontus and hoped for youth’s enduring vigour, and a life that should rival his mighty sire’s. Outstretched lies that vast terror of men, and in broad bulk covers the fields, as if a portion of aged Eryx or all Athos were one day to fall; the victor himself cannot be sated with the huge prostrate mass, and marvelling gazes long and fixedly from close at hand. But the whole company of heroes throng him with emulous embraces, and rejoice to carry his gauntlets and raise his weary arms. “Hail, true offspring, ay, true offspring indeed of Jove!” they dry again and again on every side. “Hurrah for Taygetus, renowned for great-hearted wrestling-schools, and for the fruitful lessons of thy earliest teachers!”

[330] Even while they utter these cheers, yet still they mark think blood stream flowing from that starry forehead, and Pollux unterrified was stanching the wound with the back of his glove. Castor entwines his lofty head and his weapons with leaves, and wreathes his temples with laurel, and glancing at the ship, “Bring back, I pray, O goddess,” he cries, “this foliage to our native shores, and with this garland speed over the sea.” So ended his prayer; thereupon they slay with strong axe steers of the herd, and bathing themselves in the sacred water of the flood they have appeased,17 lie down upon the grassy ground; then they heap dainties of the banquet upon leaves, and ordain for the Laconian prime portions of all the meat. Then throughout all the feast he exults with joy now at the heroes’ praise, now at the bard’s honouring song, twice pouring the bowl to his victorious sire.

[344] And now day and the breezes call them, and once more they take to the seas, where Bosporus spews forth its frozen streams. These very waves Io, not yet a goddess to thy folk, O Nile, had crossed, whence the strait had its name. Then the pious bard of renowned Oeagrus’ line invoking his mother’s aid tells of the places and their story, of Inachus’ daughter and her wanderings, and how the heifer ranged the sea in exile: eagerly do they hearken to his song.

[351] “Oft did our fathers see Jupiter come down to earth and the Pelasgians’ Argive realm, aflame for the coy Iasian maid. Juno, aware of his deceit and aglow with bridal fears, leapt down form heaven; the Lyrceian land and its bowers, their guilty secret known, trembled before the queen. Then did the frightened paramour with the god’s will take on the form of an Inachian heifer; Juno caresses her and soothes her breast, stifling her own sighs beneath a smiling countenance. Then she accosts Jove thus: ‘Give me the untamed heifer that feeds on Argos’ fertile plains and is just showing the horns of the infant moon; give her as a gift to thy dear bride. Myself now will I choose fit pastures and choicest fountains for my pet.’ What ruse could Jove find to say her nay? what trickery, once found, could he have maintained? She, possessed of the gift, straightway sets Argus on guard; Argus as guardian pleases her, for everywhere on his head are sleepless eyes, as though a Lydian bride should bedeck her web with flecks of purple.

[370] “At Argus’ bidding must she go on paths unknown, over rocks, through monster-haunted wilds, tarrying oft, alas! and struggling with prayers and words fast locked within her breast. Then departing gave she last kisses to her father’s banks; wailed Amymone, wailed Messeis’ waters, wailed Hyperia with arms outstretched to call her back. But she, when her limbs trembled aweary of her wandering or when now chilly evening sped down from heaven’s height – ah! how often laid she her body on a stone, or when long thirst made her faint, what pools did her lips drink, what pastures graze, how oft did her white shoulders quail before the lash! Nay, too, as daring death she planned to leap from lofty height, swift did Argus drive her down to the vale beneath, and cruelly saved her at his queen’s behest: when on a sudden a hollow flute pipes out a measure of Arcady, and the winged Cyllenian, hastening to obey his sire, draws nigh, and tuning his soft reed to melody cries, ‘Whither away? where roamest thou? Ho there! give heed to my music!’ Following Argus close he notes that all his eyes are already languishing and seeking after sweet slumber, and in the midst of his song out he flashes his swift blade.

[391] “And now, her former shape gradually restored by Jove, Io is walking the fields victorious over Juno, when lo! she sees Tisiphone with brands of fire and coiling snakes and fiendish yells; at the first sight she stops and passes once again into the shape of a hapless heifer, nor bethinks her in what vale or on what height to stay her steps. Wandering she comes even to the waters of Inachus, how faring and how changed from that first heifer that she was! Nor do her father or the frightened nymphs try to draw nigh her. Therefore once more she seeks the woods, once more the pathless wilds, fleeing from that dear head as from hateful Styx; and thence is she hurried through Grecian towns and steep-banked rivers, until the deep waters meet her, and hesitating awhile she plunges in: the waves part and the ocean foreknowing the future yields her timid steps a path; with high horns she gleams afar, and upholds her dewlaps on the summit of the wave.

[407] But the maid of Erebus flies through the air to rich Memphis to be beforehand and repel the new-comer from the Pharian land. But Nile withstands Tisiphone and driving her with all his eddying flood plunges her to the depths of his sandy bed, calling for help to Dis and all the powers of that cruel realm; here and there are seen her brands and ships far scattered, and the serpents shaken from her dishevelled hair. Nor meanwhile is Jove’s hand idle; the Father arising thunders from high heaven and makes his anger known, and Juno herself quails before his word. All this from Pharos’ height afar Io beholds, now added to the gods with snake-girt hair and loud triumphant sistrum.18 Hence was it that men of old spread abroad the story of Bosphorus, so called from the wandering goddess; may she herself now help our toils, and sending winds to aid us urge our vessel through her own strait.”

[422] His tale was done; and clam winds were making the canvas fill. The morrow’s dawn showed to the Minyae that the night’s journey had not been vain; all that they see is new – the Thynian shores near-by aghast at the fate of prophetic Phineus, oppressed at his life’s close by the gods’ stern might. For not only is he a stranger from his land, not only blind, but moreover the Harpies, daughters of Typhoeus, ministers of the Thunderer’s wrath, do ravage him, thieving his food from his very mouth. Such portents and such penalties doth he suffer for his crimes; one hope alone the old man hath: the Fates decreed of yore that the sons of Aquilo should dispel the cruel plague. So Phineus, aware that the Minyae and sure succour are drawing nigh, goes down with his staff’s aid to the water’s edge, and lifting up sightless eyes seeks out the ship.

[436] Then drawing faint breath, he cries: “All hail, O long-expected band, well known to my prayers! I know of what gods ye are sprung and what errand speeds your bidden course, and I followed the stages of your voyage, recalling each incident in turn, how much delay Vulcan’s Lemnos caused, how ill-starred Cyzicus fought; I knew too the last combat on the Bebrycian shore, nearer to you already and soothing my spirit with that solace. Not now would I tell you how Phineus is sprung from great Agenor, or how prophetic Apollo hath his seat within my breast: pity rather my present fate. Nor is it the time to bewail my divers adventures in wandering over the world, my loss of home and eyesight sweet: too late is it to sigh over the tale of sufferings I have grown to bear.

[450] “The Harpies ever watch my food; never, alas! can I elude them; straightway they all swoop down like the black cloud of a whirling hurricane, already by the sound of her wings I know Celaeno from afar; they ravage and sweep away my banquet, and befoul and upset the cups, there is a violent stench and a sorry battle arises, for the monsters are as famished as I. What all have scorned or polluted with their touch, or what has fallen from their filthy claws, helps me to linger thus among the living. Nor may I break fate’s bond by death: by nourishment is my cruel need prolonged. But do you save me, I beseech you, if heaven’s presage to me be not false, do you set a term to my punishment. Surely Aquilo’s sons are here to rout the monsters, nor are they alien to me; for I am king of rich Hebrus, and once was your Cleopatra19 joined to me in wedlock.”

[465] At the name of their Attic sister Calais and Zetes spring forward, and first Zetes asks: “Whom do we behold? Art thou that Phineus, famous king of the Odrysian shore? Art thou the friend of Phoebus, beloved of our sire? O where is now the glory of thy race and realm? How hath hardship devoured thee, and old age that to the wretched comes too quickly! But see now, have done with prayers, for our goodwill is on thy side, if the gods’ wrath pursue not, or pursuing may be appeased.”

[473] Then Phineus raised his two hands to heaven and cried: “Thee first do I supplicate, wrath of the unjust Thunderer, that now oppressest me, spare now my grey hairs at the last, some limit let there be; ay, that there will be I verily think, for ‘tis not without heaven’s favour, O youths, that I have your goodwill. And deem not that I am now expiating a sin of cruelty or evil deeds: the fates, vain babbler, and Jove’s purpose and the counsels he framed, his from all else, and suddenly to be made manifest on earth – these had I disclosed, pitying the human race; hence this great plague and the darkness that even as I spoke o’erclouded me. Now at last is his wrath assuaged, nor is it chance but God’s own will that hath brought you from the deep unto our shores.”

[485] So he spoke, and (for so the fates now granted it) deeply stirred and excited them all with the picture of his cruel punishment. They set the couches, and welcome him to the midmost cushions, and themselves recline around; withal they watch the waters and withal the skies, and bid him dine and banish care: when suddenly the wretched old man trembled, and his fingers dropped from his paling lips; nor was there warning of the plague, but among the very dishes were seen the birds. A rank smell floats abroad, and a breath of their sire’s Avernus is exhaled; one only do all attack with flapping wings, one alone does the band molest; in savage glee doth the cloud of Cocytus gape at him, rousing disgust by their very sight. Then upon the ground and upon the fouled coverlets of the mocked banquet do they pour a filthy stream; there is a whirring of wings, and from the withholding of the prey hunger ranges on either side; for the horrible Celaeno debars not Phineus only, but her wretched sisters also.

[501] Thereat on a sudden dart forth the sons of Aquilo, and rise with a shout into the air, their sire impelling their wings the while. The new foe dismays the pests, and the plunder drops from their jaws, and first in fear they flutter about Phineus’ palace, then seek the deep; the Haemonians stand transfixed upon the shore, and follow the roving monsters with their gaze. As when it happens that the peak of Vesevus bursts forth in thunder, bringing destruction to Hesperia, scarce yet has the fiery hurricane wrung the mountain, and already eastern cities are coated with the ash: in so fleet a whirlwind do they pass over peoples and seas afar, nor are suffered to settle in any land. And by now are they drawing nigh the bounds of the Ionian sea and the rocks in its midst: to-day the dweller in that mighty sea calls them the Isles of Turning (Strophades).

[514] Here while they hovered, weary and panting with fear of death’s approach, and weighed down in low and timorous flight implored with ghastly shriek their father Typho, he rose and brought up the darkness with him, mingling high and low, while from the heart of the gloom a voice was heard: “It is enough to have chase the goddesses so far; why strive ye farther in rage against the ministers of Jove, whom, though he wield the thunderbolt and the aegis, he has chosen to work his mighty wrath? Now also hath that same Jove commanded them to depart from the dwellings of Agenor’s son; they hearken to his prompting, and withdraw upon his word. Yet anon will ye also in like manner flee, when the fatal bow shall bring doom upon you.20 Never shall the Harpies lack sustenance, so long as mortals shall merit the anger of the gods.” The twain stopped short in the air, and hovered awhile with doubtful wing; then they depart, and in triumph rejoin their comrades’ ranks.

[529] Meanwhile the Minyae, the plague dispelled, renew their first sacrifice to the Thunderer; then once more they set wine and meat before the couches. In the midst the king himself, as though in the sweet mazes of a dream, sighs with joy at Ceres’ forgotten bounties; he recognises the liquor ob Bacchus and the water, and marvels at the new delights of a feast that is free from fear. Beholding him as he reclines upon the cushions and enjoys peace and tastes forgetfulness of his long ordeal, Jason addresses him and supplicates him thus: “Reverend sire, thy vows are accomplished; now deliver me too from my cares, and turn thy mind to our labours. So far, ‘tis true, all hath been fortunate, nor with vain sanction (if one may trust heaven’s care) do we venture to sail so vast a sea; herself did Jove’s peerless offspring21 prepare my bark, and the Saturnian22 gave me my crew of princes. But my mind will not be assured, and the nearer Phasis approaches and the crowning taks of all, the more am I tortured by what is next to come, and the soothsaying of Mopsus and Idmon suffices for me no longer.”

[547] Then at last, no longer suffering him to plead or speak, Phineus took up the fillets and the laurel wreath, calling on the powers he knew so well. Amazed is Aeson’s famous son to see Phineus as though never had punishment or plague of Jove oppressed him: so ample the dignity, so wonderful the majesty of old age that was shed upon him; a new vigour had inspired his limbs. Then doth he utter prophecy: “O thou who in fame shalt travel through all lands, thou whom with gods to aid and guide thee and by Pallas’ friendly skill Pelias himself exalts all unknowing to the stars (fool that he is never thinking to see the fleece of banished Phrixus!), I will set forth to thee (such grateful recompense can I make) thy destiny and the places thou shalt visit, and show thee the train of events. Jupiter himself, who suffers me not to reveal to mankind its future story, hath on thy account inspired my speech.

[561] “Hence thy way lies to the beginnings of Pontus and the Cyaneans that wander o’er the deep. Their madness is to clash together in mid-sea, nor yet have they seen any ships; they crush their own cliffs, their own boulders when they meet. Then rock the deepest fastenings of the world, lo! the ground trembles, the very houses suddenly quake before thy sight; once more they return and fight upon the sea. Heaven itself when thou hast drawn nigh them, heaven itself perchance will give thee aid and wisdom. But I, with what counsel could I help thy enterprise? For ye are sailing a sea from which winds and birds keep far away, nay, the very father of the ocean turns his frightened reins aside. Should the rocks delay but for a moment, if once started they rest at all, then even in mid withdrawal make your dash; scarce have they swiftly regained the confines of the shore, and already with new uproar they are rushing on, and all the sea is beset, flowing bewildered among the invading mountains.

[577] “But to my mind returns the knowledge of that heavenly decree (for I will speak, nor in your perplexity solace you with empty hope): when Jove’s anger sent against me the fierce flapping of those Tartarean birds, there fell withal this voice from heaven: ‘Waste not vain prayers, O son of Agenor, nor search out the ending of thy toils; only when a ship has penetrated the sea and the fleet mountains have stood fast in the flood, may you hope for pardon and the term of your punishment.’ So spake the god. Either then the savage rocks open for you, of the fierce Furies even now are returning to my food.

[587] “But if it be granted to run between the cliffs – and surely your band deserves it – and to pass out into the open sea, next lies the realm of Lycus, who returns in triumph from Bebrycian shores: none more courteous than he on all the coasts of Pontus. If here the pestilence of the place strike any of thy chosen heroes, lose not heart, remembering the foretelling of the mischance, and gird up thy spirit for the future. There beneath mountain caves another Acheron whirls plague-bringing waters, and through a vast chasm boils up in steam, and with its dire mist infests the fields; leave behind thee the dangerous river, and the wretched folk to bear their doom; even so not one sorrow only will thy passing cost thee. Why should I tell thee of Carambis that rises upon her cloud-encircled cliff, why of the whirling waters of Iris or of Ancon?

[601] “Next are the fields that Thermodon’s stream doth cleave; the famous tribe of Amazons, sprung from great Mars, is there; nor deem those warriors women, but of such a sort and of such might as Enyo triumphant over men, or the Virgin goddess who bears the monstrous Gorgon. Let not then the driving blast carry thy ship to those dreadful shores, what time the troop in arrogant sport fly here and there exultant on dusty steeds, and the ground trembles to their halloing, and their sire incites them to battle with brandished spear. Have not such terror of the race of Chalybes, savage though it be, whose patient husbandry lies in stubborn fields, while ever their fiery dwellings thunder with stricken ores. Then along all the line of coast come kings innumerable whose welcome none may trust; but let thy canvas speed past with straight course and level breeze.

[616] “So at length shalt thou come to rapid Phasis’ stream; there already is a Scythian camp, and surging war between the brothers; thyself shalt succour with thine aid the fierce Colchians and thy foe.23 No further dangers do I see; perchance even shall it be granted thee to gain the longed-for fleece. But thou shouldst not trust to valour or strength alone; often is wisdom better than vigour of arm. Such help as heaven offers be quick to take. And now ‘tis forbidden me to reveal the final destiny; suffer me, I pray, to be silent.”

[624] And so making an end he whelmed his oracle once more in shrouding silence. Then, as sudden fear unnerves his comrades, Jason sends them hurrying and cuts short the time for cowardly delay. Phineus himself walks to the water’s edge to bid the men farewell. “What reward can I pay thee,” he says, “how show my gratitude, O glory of Boreas? Once more I fancy that I am standing on the Pangaean heights or in my native Tyre, and that once more the sweet suns are rising for my eyes. Are the bird sin real truth chased away? need I fear no more for my banquet’s safety? Grant me to touch your faces, suffer me to embrace you, and come you nigh to my right hand.” He had done. They draw away from the land and hide the shore from sight.

[636] Straightway comes to all the grim thought of the Cyanean rocks, and their more instant task: when and on what side are they to think they will come; their faces are stark with fear, nor do their weary eyes give over their watching of the waters on every side, when from afar are heard the sounds of the raging rocks, yet not rocks seemed they to the heroes but a part of the starry pole plunged into the deep. And while they press on more quickly, they behold24 the seas taking fright before the ship, the very seas of a sudden falling and the opposing mountains parting asunder, and all in chill terror dropped their oars. Then Jason himself, hastening over the tackle holding out pleading hands, urging each man by name. “Where are now those proud promises, where the loud-mouthed threats with which in my presence you sought the rocks? Surely the same blind fear was on us all when we saw the cave of Amycus: yet we stood firm, and heaven aided our daring, and once again that same heaven, I ween, will aid us.”

[653] Having spoken thus he seizes the oar and the place of terror-stricken Phalerus and pulls the oar: the youths fired with shame follow his lead. As they toil they are whirled round by a furious wave and the flight of the sea that meets them; the rocks meet together, and now again send back their battered cliffs in headlong flight over all the sea. Twice crashed together cliff with cliff and rock with rock, twice shone the flame25 in the upward-flung spray. Just as from the rent clouds flies forth a manifold terror and fire flickers through the darkness of the storm and fearsome thunders roll and the escaping flash destroys the night, while panic holds the faces, panic the limbs of men: so did uproar fill the ocean; the spray falls in a rain and from afar shrouds the vessel in a watery deluge.

[667] The gods took heed and their gaze was fixed on the ocean, to see how the rock-barred ship would fare, what its hardy crew would devise; their goodwill called forth by the bold emprise is in suspense. First with flashing aegis the Maiden gave a sign, and hurled a lightning brand; scarce had the steep cliff given place when through the hurrying rocks the brand with thin flame takes its flight; back to the heroes came their courage and their strength as they marked its path. “I follow,” cried the son of Aeson, “whatever god thou be – aye even if thou deceivest!” and speeds headlong through the midst of the uproar and plunges into the murky smoke.

[677] Then as the mountains drew away the ebbing wave began to bear the ship, and daylight met them across the opened sea. But neither can the captain by now give rein and spread the sails, nor struggle out with oars, when lo! the Cyaneans are lowering over them; their shadow looms over the ship, and the rocks are borne to close conflict. Hereupon Juno and Pallas leap sheer down from the sky upon the rocks; this one the daughter of Jove, that one his spouse constrains, even as one who with brawny strength thrusts down beneath the yoke toward their bellies the unwilling horns of bulls.26

[686] Then as though the heat of fire were churning water and sand together, even so the depths rave, and choked with close-pressed waves the imprisoned sea pours in flood over the rocks. For their part all with valiant oarage urge their way through the narrow strait and guide their bark between the colliding masses; yet crashed the rocks upon the extremities of the poop, and part (oh, horror!) was caught by the crags: the rest was owed to heaven. The Minyae cry aloud, for they deem that both sides have sprung apart; latest of all does Tiphys himself escape the blow, and from the midst of the ruin follows the streaming waters; nor looked he back to the cliff-beleaguered sea, nor ventured the crew to take repose before they had passed the dark shores and stream of distant Rheba. Then let they fall their weary arms, then gave relief to their dry and panting breasts, even as Alcides and Theseus his companion, the terror of Avernus past, join in a pallid embrace, ere well they greet the first precincts of the light.

[703] Now verily did the leader himself forget all fears and cares, but gazing on the seas, “Alas,” he cried, “how hard a task is here set us by heaven’s will! Even though at last we come to the river Phasis and the Colchians in courtesy give up the fleece, how can we sail a second time between these mountains?” Such words he utters, not knowing that they are fixed and eternally bound by Jove’s command. For that remained sure by Fate’s unalterable law, should ever a ship pass between them through an open sea.

[711] Then those waters which for long ages had been untravelled saw with amaze the sudden bark, and all the land of low-lying Pontus and its kings and remote peoples are laid bare. Not elsewhere have the coasts retired further before the pouring flood, nay, waters so vast not even the seas Tyrrhenian and Aegean27 roll, nor can both Syrtes equal them. For, moreover, earth sweeps hither mighty rivers; must I tell what abundance the mouth of sevenfold Danube adds, or Tanais, yellow Tyres, Hypanis and Novas,28 or into what huge bays the Maeotian waters open? Thus by its host of rivers29 has Pontus broken the force of the bitter salt, giving way thereby to Boreas’ icy airs and easily freezing when winter comes. And according as the rigour of the Bear comes upon rivers motionless or churned to the depths of their waters, so the winter long doth the sea lie like a plain or stiffen into lofty swelling billows, and on this side it touches Europe with its winding curves, on that side Asia, where it is bent to the shape of a Scythian bow. There ever stands shadowy cloud upon the sea, and the daylight is fitful, nor tat the sun’s first returning is the ocean melted nor when the light draws level with the dark in spring, but at length at the end of Taurus30 doth it return to its own shores.

[733] And now the ship draws near the sands of the Mariandyni, and swift Echion seeks out the country and its king, bearing the message (if anywhere their name be known) that chosen heroes of Haemonia are come, so let him open his shores to weary voyagers. Lycus, rejoicing to hear the Achaean name, hastens toward them, and brings Aesonides and all his company with him into the royal house, of late adorned with trophies of Bebryice, and in kindly welcome thus speaks in the midst of the Grecians: “Not by hazard are ye come; divine fate, I ween, hath brought you to my shores, who share our angry hated of Bebrycia and our triumph over that savage race. ‘Tis a sure pledge of loyalty when men have known the same foe. We too, by so wide a tract of earth removed, we too have known Amycus, and my brother lies felled upon those cruel sands. Myself in vengeance and fiery zeal was drawing nigh with full armament of war, when the mid seas were bearing hither your straining sails. Him we beheld in new-shed gore and foul corruption like to some sea monster upon the sands. Nor complain I that I was robbed of the tyrant’s death, nor should I rather rejoice had he fallen in war and by my arms than by the vengeance of his own law, and that his gauntlets are drenched with blood deservedly shed.”

[755] “Was that then thy beacon upon the hills?” Aesonides replies, “was it thy host I saw from the mid ocean?” He speaks, and pointing to the son of Jove, “Look, here is Pollux,” he adds, “to whom that hated breast paid penalty;” the other turned marvelling eyes upon the hero. Then in the midst of the palace they begin the festal banquet, and call upon their common gods, by whose decree Bebrycia had been overthrown, and enjoy alike their vows’ fulfilment and the booty won.

1. In “Venus and the Furies” he foreshadows the love of Medea (the sinful maid) for Jason, and the murder of her brother Absyrtus. By Jason’s desertion of Medea Aeetes her father was avenged.
2. Althaea, mother of Meleager (Oenides).
3. The reward promised to Hercules by Laomedon, king of Troy, for his help in building the walls of that city.
4. Prometheus, who stole fire from heaven (966), but it was Tantalus who betrayed the secrets entrusted to him by Jupiter (67).
5. Slain by Diana according to one version for assaulting her, but in Homer, Odyssey 5. 121, through the jealousy of the gods, because he was the lover of Eos, the Dawn.
6. The broad-brimmed hat (“petasus”) which Mercury, the Arcadian god, is commonly represented as wearing.
7. The speaker’s name is Dymas (187), who laments the fate of his friend Otreus, brother of Lycus, king of the Mariandyni, a Bithynian people.
8. A rock which did not enjoy the sunlight and on which no flowers or crops could grow.
9. Amycus is as tall and solitary as a mountain peak unfrequented by man; no human beings are to be seen anywhere near him.
10. Spoken in irony; they do not return alive.

11. Tydeus and Meleager.
12. Periclymenus.
13. Spartan, from Oebalus, a king of Sparta.
14. The mountain range that divides Laconia from Messenia.
15. The fight here described follows that in Apollonius (ii. 62-97) in the main; in both cases the combatants pause for breath, and there are thus two phases of the fight; in each poet Amycus begins by rushing fiercely on his adversary, and there is a simile of a vessel weathering a storm of wind; then they belabour each other (another simile); after the pause Valerius is somewhat fuller, and somewhat elaborates the finish of the fight.
16. i.e. made Amycus waste his blows upon the air.
17. The sea, because Amycus was a son of Neptune.
18. Io was identified with the Egyptian goddess Isis, who was worshipped with the rattling of the “sistrum,” for which see Dict. Ant. And Apuleius, Met. 11. 3: “In her right hand she bore a brazen sistrum, through the narrow rim of which . . . passed a few little rods, producing a sharp shrill sound, while her body imparted motion to the triple chords” (Bohn). In the same passage she is described as wearing on her head a flat circlet representing the moon, on either side of which are serpents. Snakes are also mentioned in connection with Isis by Ovid (Am. 2. 13. 13, and Met. 9. 693). Epaphus, the son of Io by Zeus, was identified by the Greeks with Apis, the Egyptian deity. The worship of Isis was introduced into Rome about 80 B.C., and became very popular there.
19. Sister of Calais and Zetes, and wife of Phineus. She is called Attic because their mother Orithyia was a daughter of Erechtheus, king of Athens.
20. According to one legend the sons of Boreas were slain by Hercules.

21. Minerva.
22. Juno
23. Aeetes proved in the end to be their enemy.
24. Valerius is describing the action of the sea as caused by the rapid movement of the rocks; its flight before the ship and its “failing” is caused by their parting after they have met, which makes the water flow into the space vacated by them.
25. Caused by the collision of the rocks.
26. To get their horns beneath the yoke the heads must be forced downwards till they are turned towards their bellies.
27. The reading is doubtful, and the masculine (“Tyrrhenus”) is certainly odd. For Aegon = Aegaeon cf. Statius, Theb. 5. 88.
28. Otherwise unknown.
29. The rivers flowing into Pontus are regarded as parts of an army advancing against the salt sea.
30. At the end of May.