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Metamorphoses by Ovid

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Book 14

The transformation of Scylla

Glaucus, the fisher of the swollen Euboean waters, soon left Aetna behind, that mountain piled on Typhoeus's giant head, and the Cyclops's fields, that know nothing of the plough's use or the harrow, and owe nothing to the yoked oxen. Zancle was left behind as well, and the walls of Rhegium opposite, and the dangerous strait, hemmed in between twin coastlines, that marks the boundary between Sicily and Italian Ausonia. From there, swimming with mighty strokes, across the Tyrrhenian Sea, he came to the grassy hills and the halls of Circe, daughter of the Sun, filled with transformed beasts.

As soon as he saw her, and words of welcome had been exchanged, he said: "Goddess, I beg you, take pity on a god! You alone can help this love of mine, if I seem worthy of help. No one knows better than I, Titaness, what power herbs have, since I was transmuted by them. So that the cause of my passion is not unknown to you, I saw Scylla, on the Italian coast, opposite Messene's walls. I am ashamed to tell of the prayers and promises, the blandishments I used, words that were scorned. If there is any power in charms, utter a charm from your sacred lips: or, if herbs are more potent, use the proven strength of active herbs. I trust you not to cure me, or heal me, of these wounds: my love cannot end: only let her feel this heat.

No one has a nature more susceptible to such fires than Circe, whether the root of it is in herself, or whether Venus, offended by Sol her father's tale-bearing, made her that way, so she replied: "You would do better to chase after someone whose wishes and purposes were yours, and who was captured by equal desire. Besides, you were worth courting (and certainly could be courted), and if you offer any hope, believe me you will be too. If you doubt it, and have no faith in your attractions, well, I, though I am a goddess, daughter of shining Sol, though I possess such powers of herbs and charms, I promise to be yours. Spurn the spurner, repay the admirer, and, in one act, be twice revenged."

To such temptations as these Glaucus replied: "Sooner than my love will change, Scylla unchanged, leaves will grow on the waters, and sea-weed will grow on the hills." The goddess was angered, and since she could not harm him (nor, loving him, wished to do so) she was furious with the girl, who was preferred to her. Offended at his rejection of her passion, she at once ground noxious herbs with foul juices, and joined the spells of Hecate to their grinding. Wrapping herself in a dusky cloak, she made her way from the palace, through the crowd of fawning beasts, and sought out Rhegium opposite Zancle's cliffs, travelling over the seething tidal waters, as if she trod on solid ground, crossing dry-footed over the surface of the sea.

There was a little pool, curved in a smooth arc, dear to Scylla for its peacefulness. When the sun was strongest, at the zenith, and from its heights made shortest shadows, she retreated there from the heat of sky and sea. This, the goddess tainted in advance and contaminated with her monstrous poison. She sprinkled the liquid squeezed from harmful roots, and muttered a mysterious incantation, dark with strange words, thrice nine times, in magical utterance.

Scylla comes, wading waist deep into the pool, only to find the water around her groin erupt with yelping monsters. At first, not thinking them part of her own body, she retreats from their cruel muzzles, fears them, and pushes them away: but, what she flees from, she pulls along with her, and, seeking her thighs, her legs, her feet, in place of them finds jaws like Cerberus's. She stands among raging dogs, and is encircled by beasts, below the surface, from which her truncated thighs and belly emerge.

Her lover Glaucus wept, and fled Circe's embrace, she, who had made too hostile a use of her herbs' powers. Scylla remained where she was, and, at the first opportunity, in her hatred of Circe, robbed Ulysses of his companions. Later she would have overwhelmed the Trojan ships, if she had not previously been transformed into a rock, whose stone is visible even now: a rock that sailors still avoid.

Aeneas journeys to Cumae

When the oarsmen of the Trojan ships had escaped Scylla, and rapacious Charybdis, when they had almost reached the Ausonian shore, the wind carried them to the coast of Libya. There Sidonian Queen Dido took Aeneas into her heart and home, she, who was fated not to endure her Phrygian husband's departure. She stabbed herself with his sword, on a blazing pyre, that was built as if it were intended for sacred rites, deceiving, as she had been deceived.

Fleeing from the new city, Carthage, and its sandy shores, and carried back to the home of his loyal half-brother Acestes, son of Venus of Eryx, Aeneas sacrificed there, and paid honours at his dead father's, Anchises's, tomb. Then he loosed the ships, that Iris almost destroyed by fire, at Juno's command, and passed the Aeolian Islands, smoking with clouds of hot sulphur, the kingdom of Aeolus, son of Hippotes, and passed the rocky isle of the Sirens, the daughters of Acheloüs.

Bereft of its pilot, Palinurus, he follows the coast by Inarime, Prochyte, and Pithecusae, on its barren hill, named after its inhabitants, from pithecium, a little ape. For the father of the gods, Jupiter, hating the lying and deceit of the Cercopes, and the crimes of that treacherous people, changed them into disgraceful creatures, so that, though unlike men, they should seem like them. He contracted their limbs, turned up and blunted their noses, and furrowed their faces with the wrinkles of old age. Their bodies completely covered by yellow hair, he sent them, as monkeys, to this place, but not before he had robbed them of the power of speech, and those tongues born for dreadful deceit, leaving them only the power to complain in raucous shrieks.

   

Aeneas and the Sybil of Cumae

When he had passed those islands, and left the walls of Parthenope behind him to starboard, the tomb of Misenus, the trumpeter, the son of Aeolus, was to larboard, and the shore of Cumae, a place filled with marshy sedges. He entered the cave of the Sibyl, and asked to go down to Avernus, to find his father's ghost. Then the Sibyl after remaining, for a long time, with her eyes gazing at the earth, lifted them, at last, filled with the frenzy of the god, and cried: "You ask great things, man of great achievements, whose hand has been tested by the sword, whose faith has been tested by the fire. But have no fear, Trojan, you will have what you desire, and, with me as your guide, you will know the halls of Elysium, and earth's strangest realm, and the likeness of your dear father. To virtue, no way is barred."

She spoke, and pointed out to him a gleaming golden bough, in the woods of Proserpine, the Juno of Avernus, and ordered him to break it from the tree. Aeneas obeyed, and saw the power of dread Dis, and he saw his own ancestors, and the ancient shade of great-souled Anchises. He learned also the laws of those regions, and the trials he must undergo in fresh wars.

Then taking the return path, with weary paces, he eased the labour by talking with his Cumean guide. As he travelled the fearful road through the shadowy twilight, he said: "Whether you are truly a goddess, or only most beloved by the gods, you will always be like a goddess to me, and I will acknowledge myself in your debt, who have allowed me to enter the place of the dead, and having seen that place of the dead, escape it. When I reach the upper air, I will build a temple to you, for this service, and burn incense in your honour."

The priestess gazed at him and with a deep sigh, said: "I am not a goddess: and do not assume any human being is worth the honour of holy incense, or err out of ignorance. I was offered eternal life without end, if I would surrender my virginity to Phoebus my lover. While he still hoped for it, while he desired to bribe me beforehand with gifts, he said: "Virgin of Cumae, choose what you wish, and what you wish you shall have." Pointing to a pile of dust, that had collected, I foolishly begged to have as many anniversaries of my birth, as were represented by the dust. But I forgot to ask that the years should be accompanied by youth. He gave me the years, and lasting youth, as well, if I would surrender: I rejected Phoebus's gift, and never married.

But now my more fruitful time has turned its back on me, and old age comes, with tottering step, that must be long endured. Though I have now lived seven centuries, three hundred harvests, three hundred vintages, still remain to be seen, to equal the content of the dust. The time will come when the passage of days will render such body as I have tiny, and my limbs, consumed with age, will reduce to the slightest of burdens. I will be thought never to have loved, and never to have delighted a god. Phoebus too perhaps will either not know me, or will deny that he loved me. I will go as far as having to suffer transformation, and I will be viewed as non-existent, but still known as a voice: the fates will bequeath me a voice."

Macareus meets Achaemenides again

As the Sibyl spoke these words, they emerged, by the rising path, from the Stygian regions, into the city of Cumae of the Euboeans. Trojan Aeneas came to the shore that was later named after his nurse Caieta, where he carried out her funeral rites, as accepted, according to custom. This was also the place where Macareus of Neritos, a companion of sorely tried Ulysses, had settled, after the interminable weariness of hardship.

Macareus now recognised Achaemenides, among the Trojans, he, who had been given up as lost, by Ulysses, long ago, among the rocks of Aetna. Astonished to discover him, unexpectedly, still alive, he asked: "What god or chance preserved you, Achaemenides? Why does a Trojan vessel now carry a Greek? What land is your ship bound for? Achaemenides, no longer clothed in rags, his shreds of clothing held together with thorns, but himself again, replied to his questions, in these words: "If this ship is not more to me than Ithaca and my home, if I revere Aeneas less than my father, let me gaze at Polyphemus once more, with his gaping mouth dripping human blood. I can never thank Aeneas enough, even if I offered my all. Could I forget, or be ungrateful for, the fact that I speak and breathe and see the sky and the sun's glory? Aeneas granted that my life did not end in the monster's jaws, and when I leave the light of day, now, I shall be buried in the tomb, not, indeed, in its belly.

What were my feelings, then (if fear had not robbed me of all sense and feeling), abandoned, seeing you making for the open sea? I wanted to shout to you, but feared to reveal myself to the enemy. Indeed, Ulysses's shout nearly wrecked your vessel. I watched as Cyclops tore an enormous boulder from the mountainside, and threw it into the midst of the waves. I watched again as he hurled huge stones, as if from a catapult, using the power of his gigantic arms, and, forgetting I was not on board the ship, I was terrified that the waves and air they displaced would sink her.

When you escaped by flight from certain death, Polyphemus roamed over the whole of Aetna, groaning, and groping through the woods with his hands, stumbling, bereft of his sight, among the rocks. Stretching out his arms, spattered with blood, to the sea, he cursed the Greek race like the plague, saying: "O, if only chance would return Ulysses to me, or one of his companions, on whom I could vent my wrath, whose entrails I could eat, whose living body I could tear with my hands, whose blood could fill my gullet, and whose torn limbs could quiver between my teeth: the damage to me of my lost sight would count little or nothing then!"

Fiercely he shouted, this and more. I was pale with fear, looking at his face still dripping with gore, his cruel hands, the empty eye-socket, his limbs and beard coated with human blood. Death was in front of my eyes, but that was still the least of evils. Now he'll catch me, I thought, now he'll merge my innards with his own, and the image stuck in my mind of the moment when I saw him hurl two of my friends against the ground, three, four times, and crouching over them like a shaggy lion, he filled his greedy jaws with flesh and entrails, bones full of white marrow, and warm limbs.

    Trembling seized me: I stood there, pale and downcast, watching him chew and spit out his bloody feast, vomiting up lumps of matter, mixed with wine. I imagined a like fate was being prepared for my wretched self. I hid for many days, trembling at every sound, scared of dying but longing to be dead, staving off hunger with acorns, and a mixture of leaves and grasses, alone, without help or hope, left to torture and death. After a long stretch of time, I spied this ship far off, begging them by gestures to rescue me, and ran to the shore and moved their pity: a Trojan ship received a Greek! Now, dearest of comrades, tell me of your fortunes too, and of your leader, and the company that has entrusted itself to the sea with you."

Ulysses and Circe

Macareus spoke of how Aeolus ruled the Tuscan deep, Aeolus son of Hippotes, imprisoning the winds. Ulysses, the Dulichian leader, had received them from him, an amazing gift, fastened up, in a bull's hide bag. Sailing for nine days, with a favourable wind, Ulysses and his crew spied the homelands they sought, but when the tenth morning came, his comrades were conquered by greed and desire for their share: thinking the bag contained gold, they loosened the strings that tied up the winds. The ship was blown back over the waters, through which they had come, and, once more, entered King Aeolus's harbour.

"From there," Macareus said, "we came to the ancient city of Lamus, of the Laestrygonians: Antiphates was now king in that land. I was sent to him with two companions. One of my friends and myself, fleeing, barely reached safety. The third reddened the Laestrygonians' evil mouths with his blood. Antiphates chased us as we ran for it, urging his men on. They rushed us, hurling rocks and tree-trunks, drowning the men, and sinking the ships. The one which Ulysses himself, and I sailed in, escaped. Mourning our lost companions, lamenting greatly, we came to that land you see, in the distance, (believe me the island I saw is best seen from a distance!) and I warn you, O most virtuous of Trojans, son of the goddess, (since the war is over now, I will not treat you as an enemy, Aeneas) shun the shores of Circe! We, likewise, beaching our vessel, refused to go on, remembering Antiphates, and savage Cyclops: but we were chosen by lot to explore the unknown place. I, and the loyal Polites, and also Eurylochus, and Elpenor, too fond of wine, and eighteen others of my comrades, were sent within Circe's walls.

We had no sooner arrived, and were standing on the threshold of her courts, when a thousand wolves, and. mixed with the wolves. she-bears and lionesses rushed at us, filling us with terror. But there was nothing to be afraid of: none of them gave our bodies a single scratch. Why they even wagged their tails in the air with affection, and fawned on us, as they followed our footsteps, till female servants received us, and led us, through halls covered with marble, to their mistress.

She sat in a lovely inner room on her sacred throne, wearing a shining robe, covered over with a gold-embroidered veil. Nereids and nymphs were with her, who do not work wool with nimble fingers, nor, then, spin the thread: they arrange herbs, scattered without order, separating flowers and grasses of various colours, into baskets. She herself directs the work they do: she herself knows the use of each leaf, which kinds mix in harmony, examines them, and pays attention to the weighings of the herbs. When she saw us, and words of welcome had been received, she smiled at us, and seemed to give a blessing to our desires. Without delay she ordered a drink to be blended, of malted barley, honey, strong wine, and curdled milk, to which she secretly added juices, that its sweetness would hide. We took the cup offered by her sacred hand. As soon as we had drained it, thirstily, with parched lips, the dread goddess touched the top of our hair with her wand, and then (I am ashamed, but I will tell you) I began to bristle with hair, unable to speak now, giving out hoarse grunts instead of words, and to fall forward, completely facing the ground.

I felt my mouth stiffening into a long snout, my neck swelling with brawn, and I made tracks on the ground, with the parts that had just now lifted the cup to my mouth. I was shut in a sty with the others in the same state (so much can magic drugs achieve!) We saw that only Eurylochus had escaped the transformation: the only one to avoid the proffered cup. If he had not refused, I would even now be one of the bristly herd, since Ulysses would not have heard of our plight from him, or come to Circe, as our avenger.

Peace-loving Cyllenian Mercury had given him the white flower, the gods call moly,that springs from a black root. With this, and divine warnings, he entered Circe's house in safety, and, when he was asked to drink from the fateful cup, he struck aside the wand, with which she tried to stroke his hair, and scared off the frightened goddess, with drawn sword. Then they gave their right hands to each other, as a pledge of good faith, and after being received into her bed as her husband, he asked for his friends true bodies to be restored, as a wedding gift.

We were sprinkled with the more virtuous juices of unknown herbs, our heads were stroked with the wand reversed, and the words, she had said, were pronounced, with the words said backwards. The more words she spoke, the more we stood erect, lifted from the ground. Our bristles fell away, our cloven hoofs lost their cleft, our shoulders reappeared, and below them were our upper and lower arms. Weeping we embraced him, as he wept himself, and clung to our leader's neck, and nothing was said till we had testified to our gratitude.

We stayed there for a year, and, in that length of time, I saw and heard many things. Here is one told me, in secret, by one of the four female servants, dedicated to those earlier tasks. While Circe was tarrying alone with our leader, the girl showed me the statue of a young man, carved out of snow-white marble, with a woodpecker's head on top. It stood in a holy temple, distinguished by many wreaths. I asked, as I wished to know, who it was, and why he was worshipped in a holy temple, and why he bore a bird's head. She said "Listen, Macareus, and learn, as well, how great is my mistress's power: keep your mind on my words!" "

The transformation of Picus

" "Picus, the son of Saturn, was king in the land of Ausonia, and loved horses trained for war. The hero's appearance was as you see it there. Though, if you looked at his beauty itself, you would approve the true and not the imaginary form. His spirit equalled his looks. In age, he had not yet seen four of the five-yearly Games at Elis in Greece. He had turned the heads of the dryads born on the hills of Latium: the nymphs of the fountains pursued him, and the naiads; those that live in the Tiber; and in the River Numicius; in Anio's streams; and the brief course of the Almo; the rushing Nar; and Farfar of dense shadows; and those who haunt the wooded pool of Scythian Diana, and its neighbouring lakes.

But, spurning them all, he loved one nymph alone, whom, it is said, Venilia once bore, on the Palatine hill, to two-faced Janus. She, when she had grown to marriageable age, was given to Picus of Laurentum, preferred of all her suitors. She was of rare beauty, but rarer her gift of song, so that she was called Canens. She could move the rocks and trees with her singing, make wild beasts gentle, halt wide rivers, and detain the wandering birds. One day when she was singing her song, with a girl's expressiveness, Picus left home to hunt the native wild boar, in the Laurentian fields. Astride the back of an eager mount, he carried two hunting spears in his left hand, and wore a Greek military cloak, dyed crimson, fastened with a golden brooch.

Sol's daughter had come to those same woods, leaving the fields, called Circean from her name, to cull fresh herbs in the fertile hills. As soon as she saw the youth from the cover of a thicket, she was stunned: the herbs she had culled fell from her hand, and flames seemed to reach to her very marrow. As soon as she had recovered rational thought after the wave of passion, she wanted to own to her desires, but she could not reach him, because of his horse's speed, and his crowd of companions. "Though the wind take you, you will not escape," she cried, "if I know my skill, if the power of herbs has not completely vanished, and my incantations do not fail." Saying this, she conjured up a bodiless phantom boar, and commanded it to cross under the king's very eyes, and seem to enter a dense grove of trees, where the woods were thickest, and the place was impenetrable to horses. Instantly, and unwittingly, without a moment's delay, Picus, followed his shadowy prey, and, quickly leaping from the back of his foaming mount, he roamed, on foot, through the deep wood, chasing an empty promise.

Circe recited curses, and spoke magic words, worshipping unknown gods, with unknown incantations, by which she used to dim the face of the bright moon, and veil her father's orb, with moisture-loving cloud. Now, also, by her song, the sky is darkened, and the earth breathes out fog, and his companions wander on blind trails, and the king's protection is lost. Having made the time and place, she says: "O, by those eyes, that have captured mine, and by that beauty, most handsome of youths, that has made a goddess suppliant to you, think of my passion, and accept the sun, who sees all things, as your father-in-law. Do not, unfeelingly, despise Circe, daughter of Titan."

She spoke: he fiercely rejected her and her entreaties, and said: "Whoever you may be, I am not for you. Another has captured my love and holds me, and I hope she will hold me forever. While the fates guard Canens, Janus's daughter, for me, I will not harm our bond of affection by an alien love. Repeating her entreaties, time and again, in vain, Circe cried: "You will not go unpunished, or return to your Canens, and you will learn the truth of what the wounded; a lover; a woman, can do: and Circe is a lover; is wounded; is a woman!"

Then twice to the west, twice to the east, she turned; thrice touched the youth with her wand, thrice spoke an incantation. He ran, but was surprised to find himself running faster than before: he saw wings appear on his body. Angered at his sudden transformation to a strange bird in the woods of Latium, he pecked at the rough oak wood with his hard beak, and in fury wounded the long branches. The feathers of his crown and nape took on the colour of his crimson cloak, and what had been a golden brooch, pinning his clothes, became plumage, and his neck was surrounded behind by green-gold. Nothing was left to Picus of his former being, except his name." "

The fate of Canens

Meanwhile, his companions came upon Circe, after calling for Picus through the fields, often, and uselessly (she had now thinned the mist, and dispersed the clouds with winds, and revealed the sun). They pressed true charges against her; demanded the king; showed force; and prepared to attack her with deadly spears. She sprinkled them with harmful drugs and poisonous juices, summoning Night and the gods of Night, from Erebus and Chaos, and calling on Hecate with long wailing cries.

Marvellous to say, the trees tore from their roots, the earth rumbled, the surrounding woods turned white, and the grass she sprinkled was wet with drops of blood. And the stones seemed to emit harsh groans, and dogs to bark, and the ground to crawl with black snakes, and the ghostly shades of the dead to hover. The terrified band shuddered at these monstrosities. She touched the fearful, stunned, faces with her wand, and, at its contact, the monstrous forms of various wild beasts appeared, as the warriors were transformed: none of them retained his human form.

Now Phoebus, setting, dyed the shores of Spain, and Canens was looking, in vain, for her husband, with her eyes and in her thoughts. Her servants, and her people, ran through the woods to meet him, carrying torches. The nymph was not satisfied with weeping, and tearing at her hair, and beating her breast (though she did all those things) and she rushed out herself, and roamed madly through the fields of Latium. Six nights, and as many returns of the sun's light, found her wandering, without food or sleep, through valleys and hills, wherever chance lead her. Tiber was last to see her, as she lay down, weary with grief and journeying, on his wide banks. There, she poured out her words of grief, tearfully, in faint tones, in harmony with sadness, just as the swan sings once, in dying, its own funeral song. At the last she melted away, wasted by grief, liquefied to the marrow, little by little vanishing into thin air. But her story is signified by the place, that the Muses of old, fittingly, called Canens, from the nymph's name." "

Caieta's epitaph

"I heard many such stories, and saw many things throughout that long year. Sluggish and torpid, through inactivity, we were commanded to spread the sails and travel the seas again. Circe, the Titan's daughter, had told us of the fierce dangers of the seas to come, the dangerous channels, and the vast reaches: I confess I was afraid, and finding this shore, I clung to it." Macareus had done.

Aeneas's nurse, Caieta, was interred in a marble urn, having a brief epitaph carved on her tomb:

HERE HE WHOM I, CAIETA, NURSED, WHO, NOTED FOR HIS PIETY,
SAVED ME FROM ACHAEAN FIRE, AS IS RIGHT, CREMATED ME.

War in Latium: Turnus asks Diomede's help

Freeing their cables from the grassy shore, and keeping far away from the treacherous island and the home of the infamous goddess, the Trojans sought the groves where dark-shadowed Tiber, rushes, yellow with sand, to the sea. There, Aeneas won the daughter, Lavinia, and the kingdom of Latinus, son of Faunus, but not without a battle.

Turnus fights with fury for his promised bride, and war is waged with a fierce people. All Etruria clashes with Latium, and for a long time, with anxious struggle, hard-fought victory is looked for. Both sides add to their strength with outside aid, and many support the Rutuli, many others the Trojan camp.

Aeneas did not seek help from Evander in vain, but Venulus, sent by Turnus, had no profit from the city of exiled Diomede. He had founded a major city, Arpi, in Daunus's kingdom of Iapygia, and held the country given him as a dowry. When Venulus had done as Turnus commanded and asked for help, Diomede, Aetolia's hero, pleaded lack of resources as an excuse: he did not wish to commit himself or his father-in-law's people, nor had he any men of his own race he could arm. "So that you do not think that these are lies," he said, "I will endure the telling of my story patiently, though its mention renews my bitter grief.

When high Ilium had been burned, and Pergama had fed the Greek fires, and when Ajax, hero of Naryx, had brought down, on us all, the virgin goddess Minerva's punishment, that he alone deserved, for the rape of virgin Cassandra, we Greeks were taken, and scattered by storms, over the hostile seas. We suffered lightning, darkness, and storms, the anger of sea and sky, and Cape Caphereus, the culminating disaster. Not to waste time by telling you our sad misfortunes one by one, the Greeks then might even have appeared to warrant Priam's tears. Warrior Minerva's saving care for me, however, rescued me from the waves. But I was driven from my native country again, for gentle Venus, remembering the wound I had once given her, exacted punishment. I suffered such great toils in the deep sea, such conflicts on land, that I often called those happy whom the storm, that we shared, and the troubled waters, of Caphereus, drowned, and I longed to have been one of them."

Acmon and others are changed into birds

"Now my friends lost heart, having endured ultimate misery in war and on the sea, and begged me to end our wanderings. But fiery-natured Acmon, truly exasperated by our disasters, said: "What is left, indeed, men, that your patience would not bear? What more could Cytherean Venus do, do you think, if she wished to? When we fear the worst there is a place for prayer, but when our lot is worst, fear is under our feet, and at the height of misfortune we are unconcerned. Though she herself should hear me, though she should hate, as she does, all those under Diomede's command, yet we all scorn her hatred. Great powers hardly count as great to us."

Acmon of Pleuron goaded Venus with these insulting words, and rekindled her former anger. Few of us approved of what he said: the majority of his friends reproved him, and when he tried to answer, his voice and throat grew attenuated; his hair turned to plumage; and plumage covered his newly formed neck, chest and back. His arms received large feathers, and his elbows twisted to form swift wings; his toes took up most of his feet, and his face hardened and stiffened like horn, and ended in a pointed beak. Lycus, and Idas, Rhexenor, Nycteus and Abas, marvelled at him, and while they marvelled, they took the same form. The larger number of the flock rose, and circled the oarsmen on beating wings. If you ask the shape of these suddenly created birds, they were like white swans, though they were not swans. Now I can scarcely hold this house, and its parched fields, as Daunus of Iapygia's son-in-law, with this tiny remnant of my friends."

The creation of the wild olive

So said Diomede, grandson of Oeneus of Calydon. Venulus left that kingdom passing the Peucetian valleys, and the fields of Messapia. Here he came across a cave, dark with trees, and masked by slender reeds, that now is held by the goat-god Pan, but once was held by the nymphs. A shepherd from that region of Apulia scared them to flight, at first, suddenly inspiring terror in them. When they had collected their wits, scornful of their pursuer, they returned to their dancing, feet skipping to the measure.

The shepherd mocked them, leaping wildly in imitation, and adding foul language, with coarse abuse. Nor was his mouth silent till tree-bark imprisoned his throat: he is indeed a tree: you may know its character, by the taste of its fruit that bears the mark of his speech in the wild olives' bitterness. The sharpness of his words has entered them.

The transformation of Aeneas's ships

When the ambassadors returned, saying that Aetolia's arms were denied them, the Rutuli pursued war without their help, and much blood was spilled on both sides. Turnus attacked the pinewood ships, with devouring fire, and the Trojans feared to lose by fire what the sea had spared. Now Mulciber's flames burned the pitch and wax, and other fuel, and climbed the tall masts to the sails, and the thwarts across the curved hulls were smouldering, when Cybele, the sacred mother of the gods, remembering that these pines were felled on Mount Ida's summit, filled the air with the clashing throb of bronze cymbals, and the shrilling of boxwood flutes. Carried through the clear air by tame lions, she cried out: "Turnus, you hurl those firebrands, with sacrilegious hands, in vain! I will save: I will not allow the devouring fire to burn what was part of my woods and belongs to me."

As the goddess spoke it thundered, and, after the thunder, heavy rain, and leaping hail, fell, and the winds, the brothers, sons of Astraeus the Titan by Aurora, troubled the air and the sea, swollen by the sudden onrush, and joined the conflict. The all-sustaining mother goddess, used the force of one of them, and broke the hempen cables of the Trojan ships, drove them headlong, and sank them in the deep ocean.

Their rigidity softened, and their wood turned to flesh; the curved sternposts turned into heads; the oars into fingers and legs, swimming; the sides of each vessel became flanks, and the submerged keel down the ship's middle turned into a spine; the cordage became soft hair, the yards were arms; and their dusky colour was as before. Naiads of the waters, they play, in the waves they used to fear, and born on the hills they frequent the gentle sea, and their origin does not affect them. Yet not forgetting how many dangers they have often endured on the ocean, they often place their hands beneath storm-tossed boats, unless they have carried Greeks. Remembering, as yet, the Trojan disaster, they hate the Pelasgians and with joyful faces they saw the wreckage of Ulysses's ship, and with joyful faces they saw King Alcinous's vessel become a rock, its wood turning to stone.

The heron is born from Ardea's ruins

There was hope that the Rutuli, in awe of the wonder of the Trojan fleet being turned into sea-nymphs, would abandon the war. It continued, and both sides had gods to help them, and courage that is worth as much as the gods' assistance. Now they were not seeking a kingdom as a dowry, nor a father-in-law's sceptre, nor you, virgin Lavinia, but to win: and they waged war because they were ashamed to surrender. At length Turnus fell, and Venus saw her son's weapons victorious. Ardea fell, spoken of as a power while Turnus lived. After the savage fires had destroyed it, and warm ashes buried its houses, a bird flew from the ruins, one now seen for the first time, and beat at the embers with flapping wings. Its cry, its leanness, its pallor, everything that fitted the captured city, even its name, ardea, the heron, survived in the bird: and in the beating of its wings, Ardea mourns itself.

The deification of Aeneas

Aeneas's virtues had compelled all the gods, even Juno herself, to bring to an end their ancient feud, and since his young son Julus's fortunes were firmly founded, Cytherea's heroic son was ripe for heaven. Venus had sought the opinion of the gods, and throwing her arms round her father's neck, had said "You have never been harsh to me, father, now be kindest of all, I beg you. Grant my Aeneas, who claims you as his grandfather through my bloodline, some divinity, however little - you choose - so long as you grant him something! It is enough that he once gazed on the hateful kingdom, once crossed the steams of Styx." The gods agreed, and Juno, the royal consort, did not display her severe expression, but consented peacefully. Then Jupiter said: "You are worthy of this divine gift, you who ask, as is he for whom you ask it: my daughter, possess what you desire!"

The word was spoken: with joy she thanked her father, and drawn by her team of doves through the clear air, she came to the coast of Laurentum, where the waters of the River Numicius, hidden by reeds, wind down to the neighbouring sea. She ordered the river-god to cleanse Aeneas, of whatever was subject to death, and bear it away, in his silent course, into the depths of the ocean. The horned god executed Venus's orders, and purged Aeneas of whatever was mortal, and dispersed it on the water: what was best in him remained. Once purified, his mother anointed his body with divine perfume, touched his lips with a mixture of sweet nectar and ambrosia, and made him a god, whom the Romans named Indiges, admitting him to their temples and altars.

The line of Alban kings

After that the Alban and Latin kingdom had both names under Ascanius. Silvius succeeded him, whose son claimed the name Latinus, with the sceptre. The famous Alba followed Latinus, and then Epytus inherited. After him came first Capys, and then Capetus. Tiberinus inherited the kingdom from them, who, drowning in the waters of that Tuscan stream, gave his name to the River Tiber. His sons were Acrota the warrior, and Remulus. The elder Remulus was killed by a lightning-bolt, when trying to portray the lightning. Acrota, more restrained than his brother, passed the sceptre to brave Aventinus, who lies buried on the very hill where he reigned, and has given his name to it, the Aventine hill. And then Proca had the rule of the Palatine people.

Vertumnus woos Pomona

Pomona lived in this king's reign. No other hamadryad, of the wood nymphs of Latium, tended the gardens more skilfully or was more devoted to the orchards' care, hence her name. She loved the fields and the branches loaded with ripe apples, not the woods and rivers. She carried a curved pruning knife, not a javelin, with which she cut back the luxuriant growth, and lopped the branches spreading out here and there, now splitting the bark and inserting a graft, providing sap from a different stock for the nursling. She would not allow them to suffer from being parched, watering, in trickling streams, the twining tendrils of thirsty root. This was her love, and her passion, and she had no longing for desire. Still fearing boorish aggression, she enclosed herself in an orchard, and denied an entrance, and shunned men.

    What did the Satyrs, fitted by their youth for dancing, not do to possess her, and the Pans with pine-wreathed horns, and Silvanus, always younger than his years, and Priapus, the god who scares off thieves, with his pruning hook or his phallus? But Vertumnus surpassed them all, even, in his love, though he was no more fortunate than them. O how often, disguised as an uncouth reaper, he would bring her a basket filled with ears of barley, and he was the perfect image of a reaper! Often he would display his forehead bound with freshly cut hay, and might seem to have been tossing the new-mown grass. Often he would be carrying an ox-goad in his stiff hand, so that you would swear he had just unyoked his weary team. Given a knife he was a dresser and pruner of vines: he would carry a ladder: you would think he'd be picking apples. He was a soldier with a sword, or a fisherman taking up his rod.

In short, by his many disguises, he frequently gained admittance, and found joy, gazing at her beauty. Once, he even covered his head with a coloured scarf, and leaning on a staff, with a wig of grey hair, imitated an old woman. He entered the well-tended garden, and admiring the fruit, said: "You are so much more lovely', and gave her a few congratulatory kisses, as no true old woman would have done. He sat on the flattened grass, looking at the branches bending, weighed down with autumn fruit. There was a specimen elm opposite, covered with gleaming bunches of grapes. After he had praised it, and its companion vine, he said: "But if that tree stood there, unmated, without its vine, it would not be sought after for more than its leaves, and the vine also, which is joined to and rests on the elm, would lie on the ground, if it were not married to it, and leaning on it.

But you are not moved by this tree's example, and you shun marriage, and do not care to be wed. I wish that you did! Helen would not have had more suitors to trouble her, or Hippodamia, who caused the Lapithae problems, or Penelope, wife of that Ulysses, who was delayed too long at the war. Even now a thousand men want you, and the demi-gods and the gods, and the divinities that haunt the Alban hills, though you shun them and turn away from their wooing. But if you are wise, if you want to marry well, and listen to this old woman, that loves you more than you think, more than them all, reject their vulgar offers, and choose Vertumnus to share your bed! You have my assurance as well: he is not better known to himself than he is to me: he does not wander here and there in the wide world: he lives on his own in this place: and he does not love the latest girl he has seen, as most of your suitors do.

You will be his first love, and you will be his last, and he will devote his life only to you. And then he is young, is blessed with natural charm, can take on a fitting appearance, and whatever is ordered, though you ask all, he will do. Besides, that which you love the same, those apples you cherish, he is the first to have, and with joy holds your gifts in his hand! But he does not desire now the fruit of your trees, or the sweet juice of your herbs: he desires nothing but you. Take pity on his ardour, and believe that he, who seeks you, is begging you, in person, through my mouth. Fear the vengeful gods, and Idalian Venus, who hates the hard-hearted, and Rhamnusian Nemesis, her inexorable wrath! That you may fear them more (since my long life has given me knowledge of many tales) I will tell you a story, famous through all of Cyprus, by which you might easily be swayed and softened."

Anaxarete and Iphis

"Once, Iphis, a youth, born of humble stock, saw noble Anaxarete, of the blood of Teucer, saw her, and felt the fire of passion in every bone. He fought it for a long time, but when he could not conquer his madness by reason, he came begging at her threshold. Now he would confess his sorry love to her nurse, asking her not to be hard on him, by the hopes she had for her darling. At other times he flattered each of her many attendants, with enticing words, seeking their favourable disposition. Often he gave them messages to carry to her, in the form of fawning letters. Sometimes he hung garlands on her doorpost wet with his tears, and lay with his soft flank on the hard threshold, complaining at the pitiless bolts barring the way.

But she spurned, and mocked, him, crueler than the surging sea, when the Kids set; harder than steel tempered in the fires of Noricum; or natural rock still rooted to its bed. And she added proud, insolent words to harsh actions, robbing her lover of hope, as well. Unable to endure the pain of his long torment, Iphis spoke these last words before her door. "You have conquered, Anaxarete, and you will not have to suffer any tedium on my account. Devise glad triumphs, and sing the Paean of victory, and wreathe your brow with shining laurel! You have conquered, and I die gladly: now, heart of steel, rejoice! Now you will have something to praise about my love, something that pleases you. Remember that my love for you did not end before life itself, and that I lose twin lights in one.

No mere rumour will come to you to announce my death: have no doubt, I myself will be there, visibly present, so you can feast your savage eyes on my lifeless corpse. Yet, if you, O gods, see what mortals do, let me be remembered (my tongue can bear to ask for nothing more), and suffer my tale to be told, in future ages, and grant, to my fame, the years, you have taken from my life."

He spoke, and lifted his tear-filled eyes to the doorposts he had often crowned with flowery garlands, and, raising his pale arms to them, tied a rope to the cross-beam, saying: "This wreath will please you, cruel and wicked, as you are!" Then he thrust his head in the noose, though, as he hung there, a pitiful burden, his windpipe crushed, even then he turned towards her. The drumming of his feet seemed to sound a request to enter, and when the door was opened it revealed what he had done.

The servants shrieked, and lifted him down, but in vain. Then they carried his body to his mother's house (since his father was dead). She took him to her breast, and embraced her son's cold limbs, and when she had said all the words a distraught father could say, and done the things distraught mothers do, weeping, she led his funeral procession through the heart of the city, carrying the pallid corpse, on a bier, to the pyre.

The sound of mourning rose to the ears of stony-hearted Anaxarete, her house chancing to be near the street, where the sad procession passed. Now a vengeful god roused her. Still, she was roused, and said: "Let us see this miserable funeral" and went to a rooftop room with open windows. She had barely looked at Iphis, lying on the bier, when her eyes grew fixed, and the warm blood left her pallid body. Trying to step backwards she was rooted: trying to turn her face away, also, she could not. Gradually the stone that had long existed in her heart possessed her body. If you think this is only a tale, Salamis still preserves the image of the lady as a statue, and also possesses a temple of Gazing Venus.

Remember all this, O nymph of mine: put aside, I beg you, reluctant pride, and yield to your lover. Then the frost will not sear your apples in the bud, nor the storm winds scatter them in flower."

When Vertumnus, the god, disguised in the shape of the old woman, had spoken, but to no effect, he went back to being a youth, and threw off the dress of an old woman, and appeared to Pomona, in the glowing likeness of the sun, when it overcomes contending clouds, and shines out, unopposed. He was ready to force her: but no force was needed, and the nymph captivated by the form of the god, felt a mutual passion.

War and reconciliation with the Sabines

Now unjust Amulius rules Ausonia, by means of military power, and old Numitor, with his grandson Romulus's help, captures the kingdom he has lost, and the city of Rome is founded, on the day of the Palilia.

The Sabine leaders, and their king Tatius, wage war, and Tarpeia who gives them access to the citadel, is punished as she deserves, stripped of her life, crushed by a heap of weapons.

Then the men of Cures, with hushed voices, silently, like wolves, overcome the Romans, whose bodies are lost in sleep, and attempt the gates that Romulus, son of Ilia, has closed, and firmly barred. Saturnian Juno herself unbarred a gate, opening it silently on its hinges. Only Venus saw that the gate's bars had dropped, and would have closed it, except that one god is never allowed to reverse the actions of another.

The Ausonian Naiads, owned a spot, adjoining the temple of Janus, moistened by a cold spring. Venus asked them for help: the nymphs did not refuse her just request, and elicited the aid of the streams, and watercourses, belonging to their fountain. But the pass of Janus was still not blocked, and the water did not bar the way: they placed yellow sulphur under their copious spring, and heated the hollow channels with burning pitch. By these and other means the vapour penetrated the depths of the spring, and you waters that a moment ago dared to compete with Alpine coldness, now did not concede to fire itself!

The twin gateposts smouldered under a fiery spray, and the gate, that vainly promised an entrance to the tough Sabines, was blocked by the new waters, while the Roman soldiers took up their weapons of war.

After this Romulus sallied out, and the Roman soil was strewn with the Sabine dead, and with Rome's own, and the impious sword mixed the blood of son-in-law with the blood of father-in-law. Yet it was decided not to fight it out to the end, to let peace end war, and that Tatius should share the rule of Rome.

The deification of Romulus

Tatius died, and you, Romulus, gave orders equally to both peoples. Mars, removing his helmet, addressed the father of gods and men in these words: "The time has come, lord, to grant the reward (that you promised to me and your deserving grandson), since the Roman state is strong, on firm foundations, and does not depend on a single champion: free his spirit, and raising him from earth set him in the heavens. You once said to me, in person, at a council of the gods (since I am mindful of the gracious words I noted in my retentive mind), "There will be one whom you will raise to azure heaven." Let your words be ratified in full!"

Omnipotent Jupiter nodded, and, veiling the sky with dark clouds, he terrified men on earth with thunder and lightning. Mars knew this as a sign that ratified the promised ascension, and leaning on his spear, he vaulted, fearlessly, into his chariot, the horses straining at the blood-wet pole, and cracked the loud whip. Dropping headlong through the air, he landed on the summit of the wooded Palatine. There he caught up Romulus, son of Ilia, as he was dealing royal justice to his people. The king's mortal body dissolved in the clear atmosphere, like the lead bullet, that often melts in mid-air, hurled by the broad thong of a catapult. Now he has beauty of form, and he is Quirinus, clothed in ceremonial robes, such a form as is worthier of the sacred high seats of the gods.

The deification of his wife Hersilia

His wife, Hersilia, was mourning him as lost, when royal Juno ordered Iris to descend to her, by her rainbow path, and carry these commands, to the widowed queen: "O lady, glory of the Latin and Sabine peoples, worthy before to have been the wife of so great a hero, and now of Quirinus, dry your tears, and if it is your desire to see your husband, follow me and seek the grove, that flourishes on the Quirinal hill and shades the temple of Rome's king."

Iris obeyed, and gliding to earth along her many-coloured arch addressed Hersilia as she had been ordered. She, hardly raising her eyes, replied, modestly: "O goddess (since it is not easy for me to say who you are, but it is clear you are a goddess), lead on: O, lead on, and show me my husband's face. If only the fates allow me to see him once, I shall declare I have been received in heaven."

Without delay, she climbed to Romulus's hill, with Iris, the virgin daughter of Thaumas. There a star fell, gliding from sky to earth, and Hersilia, hair set alight by its fire, vanishes with the star in the air. The founder of the Roman city receives her in his familiar embrace, and alters her former body and her name, and calls her Hora, who, a goddess now, is one with her Quirinus.

TO TOP


Book 15

Myscelus: the founding of Crotona

Meanwhile the Romans looked for a leader, to bear the weight of such responsibility, and follow so great a king: Fame, the true harbinger, determined on the illustrious Numa for the throne. Not content with knowing the rituals of the Sabine people, with his capable mind he conceived a wider project, and delved into the nature of things. His love of these enquiries led him to leave his native Cures, and visit the city of Crotona, to which Hercules was friendly. When Numa asked who was the founder of this Greek city on Italian soil, one of the older inhabitants, not ignorant of the past, replied: "They say that Hercules, Jupiter's son, back from the sea with the rich herds of Spain, happily came to the shore of Lacinium, and while his cattle strayed through the tender grass, he entered the house of the great Croton, a not inhospitable roof, and refreshed himself with rest, after his long labours, and, in leaving, said: "At a future time, there will be a city here, of your descendants."

And the promise proved true, since there was one Myscelus, the son of Alemon of Argos, dearest to the gods of all his generation. Hercules, the club-bearer, leaning over him, spoke to him as he lay in a deep sleep: "Rise now, leave your native country: go, find the pebble-filled waves of Aesar!" and he threatened him with many and fearful things if he did not obey. Then the god and sleep vanished together. Alemon's son rose, and, in silence, thought over the vision, fresh in his mind. He struggled in himself for a long time over the decision: the god ordered him to go: the law prohibited his going. Death was the penalty for the man who wished to change his nationality.

Bright Sol had hidden his shining face in Ocean's stream, and Night had lifted her starriest face: the same god seemed to appear to him, to admonish him in the same way, and warn of worse and greater punishment if he did not obey. He was afraid, and prepared, at once, to transfer the sanctuary of his ancestors to a new place. There was talk in the city, and he was brought to trial, for showing contempt for the law. When the case against him had been presented, and it was evident the charge was proven, without needing witnesses, the wretched defendant, lifting his face and hands to heaven, cried: "O you, whose twelve labours gave you the right to heaven, help me, I beg you! Since you are the reason for my crime."

The ancient custom was to vote using black and white pebbles: the black to condemn: the white to absolve from punishment. Now, also, the harsh verdict was determined in this way, and every pebble dropped into the pitiless urn was black: but when the urn was tipped over and the pebbles poured out for the count, their colour had changed from black to white, and, acquitted through the divine power of Hercules, Alemon's son was freed.

He first gave thanks to that son of Amphitryon, his patron, and with favouring winds set sail on the Ionian Sea. He sailed by Neretum, of the Sallentines, Sybaris, and the Spartan colony of Tarentum, the bay of Siris, Crimisa, and the Iapygian fields. He had barely passed the lands that overlook those seas, when he came, by destiny, to the mouth of the river Aesar, and near it the tumulus beneath which the earth covered the sacred bones of Croton. He founded the city of Crotona there, in the land commanded by the god, and derived the name of the city from him, whom the tumulus held. Such were the established beginnings, according to reliable tradition, of that place, and the cause of the city's being sited on Italian soil.

Pythagoras's Teachings: Vegetarianism

There was a man here, Pythagoras, a Samian by birth, who had fled Samos and its rulers, and, hating their tyranny, was living in voluntary exile. Though the gods were far away, he visited their region of the sky, in his mind, and what nature denied to human vision he enjoyed with his inner eye. When he had considered every subject, through concentrated thought, he communicated it widely in public, teaching the silent crowds, who listened in wonder to his words, concerning the origin of the vast universe, and of the causes of things; and what the physical world is; what the gods are; where the snows arise; what the origin of lightning is; whether Jupiter, or the storm-winds, thunder from colliding clouds; what shakes the earth; by what laws the stars move; and whatever else is hidden; and he was the first to denounce the serving of animal flesh at table; the first voice, wise but not believed in, to say, for example, in words like these :

"Human beings, stop desecrating your bodies with impious foodstuffs. There are crops; there are apples weighing down the branches; and ripening grapes on the vines; there are flavoursome herbs; and those that can be rendered mild and gentle over the flames; and you do not lack flowing milk; or honey fragrant from the flowering thyme. The earth, prodigal of its wealth, supplies you with gentle sustenance, and offers you food without killing or shedding blood.

Flesh satisfies the wild beast's hunger, though not all of them, since horses, sheep and cattle live on grasses, but those that are wild and savage: Armenian tigers, raging lions, and wolves and bears, enjoy food wet with blood. Oh, how wrong it is for flesh to be made from flesh; for a greedy body to fatten, by swallowing another body; for one creature to live by the death of another creature! So amongst such riches, that earth, the greatest of mothers, yields, you are not happy unless you tear, with cruel teeth, at pitiful wounds, recalling Cyclops's practice, and you cannot satisfy your voracious appetite, and your restless hunger, unless you destroy other life!

But that former age, that we call golden, was happy with the fruit from the trees, and the herbs the earth produced, and did not defile its lips with blood. Then birds winged their way through the air in safety, and hares wandered, unafraid, among the fields, and its own gullibility did not hook the fish: all was free from trickery, and fearless of any guile, and filled with peace. But once someone, whoever he was, the author of something unfitting, envied the lion's prey, and stuffed his greedy belly with fleshy food, he paved the way for crime. It may be that, from the first, weapons were warm and bloodstained from the killing of wild beasts, but that would have been enough: I admit that creatures that seek our destruction may be killed without it being a sin, but while they may be killed, they still should not be eaten.

    From that, the wickedness spread further, and it is thought that the pig was first considered to merit slaughter because it rooted up the seeds with its broad snout, and destroyed all hope of harvest. The goat was led to death, at the avenging altar, for browsing the vines of Bacchus. These two suffered for their crimes! What did you sheep do, tranquil flocks, born to serve man, who bring us sweet milk in full udders, who give us your wool to make soft clothing, who give us more by your life than you grant us by dying? What have the oxen done, without guile or deceit, harmless, simple, born to endure labour?

He is truly thankless, and not worthy of the gift of corn, who could, in a moment, remove the weight of the curved plough, and kill his labourer, striking that work-worn neck with his axe, that has helped turn the hard earth as many times as the earth yielded harvest. It is not enough to have committed such wickedness: they involve the gods in crime, and believe that the gods above delight in the slaughter of suffering oxen! A victim of outstanding beauty, and without blemish (since to be pleasing is harmful), distinguished by sacrificial ribbons and gold, is positioned in front of the altar, and listens, unknowingly, to the prayers, and sees the corn it has laboured to produce, scattered between its horns, and, struck down, stains with blood those knives that it has already caught sight of, perhaps, reflected in the clear water.

Immediately they inspect the lungs, ripped from the still-living chest, and from them find out the will of the gods. On this (so great is man's hunger for forbidden food) you feed, O human race! Do not, I beg you, and concentrate your minds on my admonitions! When you place the flesh of slaughtered cattle in your mouths, know and feel, that you are devouring your fellow-creature."

Pythagoras's Teachings: Metempsychosis

"Now, since a god moves my lips, I will follow, with due rite, the god who moves those lips, and reveal my beloved Delphi and the heavens themselves, and unlock the oracles of that sublime mind. I will speak of mighty matters, not fathomed by earlier greatness, things long hidden. I delight in journeying among the distant stars: I delight in leaving earth and its dull spaces, to ride the clouds; to stand on the shoulders of mighty Atlas, looking down from far off on men, wandering here and there, devoid of knowledge, anxious, fearing death; to read the book of fate, and to give them this encouragement!

    O species, stunned by your terror of chill death, why fear the Styx, why fear the ghosts and empty names, the stuff of poets, the spectres of a phantom world? Do not imagine you can suffer any evil, whether your bodies are consumed by the flames of the funeral pyre, or by wasting age! Souls are free from death, and always, when they have left their previous being, they live in new dwelling-places, and inhabit what received them. I myself (for I remember) was Euphorbus, son of Panthoüs, at the time of the Trojan War, in whose chest was pinned the heavy spear of the lesser Atrides, Menelaüs. I recognised the shield I used to carry on my left arm, recently, in the temple of Juno at Argos, city of Abas!

Everything changes, nothing dies: the spirit wanders, arriving here or there, and occupying whatever body it pleases, passing from a wild beast into a human being, from our body into a beast, but is never destroyed. As pliable wax, stamped with new designs, is no longer what it was; does not keep the same form; but is still one and the same; I teach that the soul is always the same, but migrates into different forms. So, I say as a seer, cease to make kindred spirits homeless, by wicked slaughter: do not let blood be nourished by blood!"

Pythagoras's Teachings: The Eternal Flux

"Since I have embarked on the wide ocean, and given full sails to the wind, I say there is nothing in the whole universe that persists. Everything flows, and is formed as a fleeting image. Time itself, also, glides, in its continual motion, no differently than a river. For neither the river, nor the swift hour can stop: but as wave impels wave, and as the prior wave is chased by the coming wave, and chases the one before, so time flees equally, and, equally, follows, and is always new. For what was before is left behind: and what was not comes to be: and each moment is renewed.

You see the nights' traverses tend towards day, and brilliant light follow the dark of night. The sky has a different colour when all weary things are at rest, at midnight, than when bright Lucifer appears on his white charger, and alters again when Aurora, herald of the dawn, stains the world she bequeaths to Phoebus. The shield of the god himself is red, when it rises from beneath the earth, and still red, when it is hidden below the earth, again: but is white at the zenith, because there the atmosphere is purer, and it escapes far from the contagion of earth. And Diana, the moon, can never have the same or similar form, and is always less today than tomorrow if her orb is waxing, greater if it is waning."

Pythagoras's Teachings: The Four Ages of Man

"Do you not see that the year displays four aspects, passing through them, in a semblance of our life? For spring, in its new life, is tender and sap-filled, and like a child: then the shoots are fresh and growing, delicate, without substance, quickening the farmer's hopes. Then everything blossoms, the kindly land is a riot of brightly coloured flowers, but the leaves are still not strong. From spring, the year, grown stronger, moves to summer, and becomes a powerful man: no season is sturdier, or more expansive, than this, or shines more richly. Autumn comes, when the ardour of youth has gone, ripe and mellow, between youth and age, a scattering of grey on its forehead. Then trembling winter, with faltering steps, its hair despoiled, or, what it has, turned white.

And our bodies themselves are always, restlessly, changing: we shall not be, tomorrow, what we were, or what we are. There was a time when we were hidden in our first mother's womb, only the seed and promise of a human being: nature applied her skilful hands, and, unwilling for our bodies to be buried, cramped in our mother's swollen belly, expelled us from our home, into the empty air. Born into the light, the infant lay there, powerless: but soon it scrambled on all fours like a wild creature, then, gradually, helped by a supporting harness, it stood, uncertainly, on shaky legs. From that point, it grew strong and swift, and passed through its span of youth.

When the middle years are also done, life takes the downward path of declining age. Milon, the athlete, grown old, cries when he looks at those weak and flabby arms, that were once, like those of Hercules, a solid mass of muscle. Helen, the daughter of Tyndareus, also weeps, when she sees an old woman's wrinkles in the glass, and asks why she has been twice ravaged. Devouring Time, and you, jealous Age, consume everything, and slowly gnawing at them, with your teeth, little by little, consign all things to eternal death!"

Pythagoras's Teachings: The Elements

"Even the things we call elements do not persist. Apply your concentration, and I will teach the changes, they pass through. The everlasting universe contains four generative states of matter. Of these, two, earth and water, are heavy, and sink lower, under their own weight. The other two lack heaviness, and, if not held down, they seek height: that is air, and fire, purer than air. Though they are distinct in space, nevertheless they are all derived from one another, and resolve into one another. Earth, melting, is dilated to clear water: the moisture, rarified, changes to wind and air: then air, losing further weight, in the highest regions shines out as fire, the most rarified of all. Then they return, in reverse, revealing the same series of changes. Since fire, condenses, turns into denser air, and this to water, and water, contracted, solidifies as earth.

Nothing keeps its own form, and Nature, the renewer of things, refreshes one shape from another. Believe me, nothing dies in the universe as a whole, but it varies and changes its aspect, and what we call "being born" is a beginning to be, of something other, than what was before, and "dying" is, likewise, ending a former state. Though, "that" perhaps is transferred here, and "this', there, the total sum is constant.

Pythagoras's Teachings: Geological changes

For my part, I would have thought that nothing lasts for long with the same appearance. So the ages changed from gold to iron, and so the fortunes of places have altered. I have seen myself what was once firm land, become the sea: I have seen earth made from the waters: and seashells lie far away from the ocean, and an ancient anchor has been found on a mountaintop. The down rush of waters has made what was once a plain into a valley, and hills, by the deluge have been washed to the sea. Marshy land has drained to parched sand, and what was once thirsty ground filled with a marshy pool.

Here, Nature generates fresh springs, and there seals them up, and rivers, released by deep earthquakes, burst out or dry up, and sink. So when the Lycus is swallowed by a chasm in the earth, it emerges far off, reborn, from a different source. So, engulfed, flowing as a hidden stream, the mighty Erasinus emerges again, in the fields of Argos. And they say that Mysus, ashamed of its origin and its former banks, now flows elsewhere, as Caicus. Amenanus flows sometimes churning Sicilian sands, at other times dried up, its fountains blocked. Anigrus, once drinkable, now flows with water you would not wish to touch, since, unless we deny all credence to the poets, the bi-formed centaurs washed their wounds there, dealt by the bow of club-bearing Hercules. Is the Hypanis, born in the Scythian mountains, not ruined by bitter saltwater, that once was sweet?

Antissa, and Pharos, and Phoenician Tyre, were surrounded by sea: of which not one, now, is an island. The former settlers of Leucas lived on a peninsula: now the waves encircle it. Zancle also is said to have been joined to Italy, till the waves washed away the boundary, and the deep sea pushed back the land. If you look for Helice and Buris, cities of Achaia, you will find them under the waters, and sailors are accustomed, even now, to point out the submerged towns with their sunken walls.

There is a mound near Troezen, where Pittheus ruled, steep and treeless, that once was the flattest open space on the plain, and now is a mound. For (strange to relate) the wild strength of the winds, imprisoned in dark caves, longing for somewhere to breathe, and struggling in vain to enjoy the freer expanses of sky, since there was no gap at all in their prison, as an exit for their breath, extended and swelled the ground, just as a man inflates a bladder, or a goatskin taken from a twin-horned goat. The swelling remained there, and has the look of a high hill, solidified by long centuries."

Pythagoras's Teachings: Physical changes

"Though many instances, I have heard and known of, come to mind, I shall relate only a few more. Does not water, also, offer and receive new forms? Your stream, horned Ammon, is chill at mid-day, and warm in the morning and evening, and they tell of the Athamanians setting fire to wood, by pouring your waters over it, when the moon wanes to her smallest crescent.

    The Cicones have a river, whose waters when drunk turn the vital organs to stone, and that change things to marble when touched. The Crathis, and the Sybaris, here, near our own country, make hair like amber or gold: and what is more amazing, there are streams that have power to change not merely the body but the mind as well. Who has not heard of the disgusting waves of Salmacis, and the Aethiopian lakes? Whoever wets his throat with these, is either maddened, or falls into a strange, deep sleep.

Whoever slakes his thirst at Clitor's fountain, shuns wine, and only enjoys pure water, whether it is due to a power in the water that counteracts hot wine, or whether, as the natives claim, Melampus, Amythaon's son, when he had saved the demented daughters of Proetus from madness, by herbs and incantations, threw the remnants, of what had purged their minds, into its springs, and the antipathy to wine was left behind in its waters. The flow of the River Lyncestius has the opposite effect, so that whoever drinks even moderately of it, stumbles about, as if they had drunk pure wine. There is a place in Arcadia, the ancients called Pheneus, mistrusted for its dual-natured waters: beware of them at night, drunk at night they are harmful: in the day they can be drunk without harm. So, rivers and lakes can harbour some power or other.

There was a time when Ortygia floated on the waves, now it is fixed, and the Argo's crew feared the Symphlegades" collisions, and the spray of their crashing waves, islands that now stand there motionless, and resist the winds.

And Aetna that glows, with its sulphurous furnaces, was not always on fire, and will not always be on fire. For if the earth is a creature, that lives, and, in many places, has vents that breathe out flame, she can alter her air passages, and as frequently as she shifts, she can close these caverns and open others. Or, if swift winds are confined in the deep caves, and strike rock against rock, or against material containing the seeds of fire, and Aetna catches alight from the friction, the caves will be left cold when the wind dies. Or, if it is bituminous substances that take fire, and yellow sulphur, burning with little smoke, then, when the ground no longer provides rich fuel, or nourishment for the flames, and their strength fails after long centuries, earth herself will lack the support of devouring nature, and will not withstand that famine, and forsaken, will forsake her fires.

There is a tale of men in Hyperborean Pallene, who are used to clothing their bodies in soft plumage, by plunging nine times in Minerva's pool: for my part, I can scarcely believe it: also the women of Scythia are said to practise the same arts, sprinkling their bodies with magic liquids."

Pythagoras's Teachings: Autogenesis

"However if trust is only placed in proven things, do you not see that whenever corpses putrefy, due to time or melting heat, they generate tiny creatures? Bury the carcases of sacrificed bulls (it is a known experiment) in the ditch where you have thrown them, and flower-sipping bees, will be born, here and there, from the putrid entrails. After the custom of their parent bodies, they frequent the fields, are devoted to work, and labour in hope of harvest.

A war-horse dug into the earth is the source of hornets: If you remove the hollow claws of land-crabs, and put the rest under the soil, a scorpion, with its curved and threatening tail, will emerge from the parts interred: and the caterpillars that are accustomed to weave their white cocoons, on uncultivated leaves (a thing observed by farmers) change to a butterfly's form, symbol of the soul.

Mud contains the generative seeds of green frogs, and generates them without legs, soon giving them legs for swimming, and, at the same time, with hind legs longer than their forelegs, so that they are fit to take long leaps. The cub that a she-bear has just produced is not a cub but a scarcely living lump of flesh: the mother gives it a body, by licking it, and shapes it into a form like that she has herself. Do you not see how the larvae of the honey-carrying bees, protected by the hexagonal waxen cells, are born as limbless bodies, and later acquire legs, and later still wings?

    Who would believe, if he did not know, that Juno's bird, the peacock, that bears eyes, like stars, on its tail; and Jupiter's eagle, carrying his lightning-bolt; and Cytherea's doves; all the bird species; are born from the inside of an egg? There are those who believe that when the spine decomposes, interred in the tomb, human marrow forms a snake."

Pythagoras's Teachings: The Phoenix

"Yet these creatures receive their start in life from others: there is one, a bird, which renews itself, and reproduces from itself. The Assyrians call it the phoenix. It does not live on seeds and herbs, but on drops of incense, and the sap of the cardamom plant. When it has lived for five centuries, it then builds a nest for itself in the topmost branches of a swaying palm tree, using only its beak and talons. As soon as it has lined it with cassia bark, and smooth spikes of nard, cinnamon fragments and yellow myrrh, it settles on top, and ends its life among the perfumes.

    They say that, from the father's body, a young phoenix is reborn, destined to live the same number of years. When age has given it strength, and it can carry burdens, it lightens the branches of the tall palm of the heavy nest, and piously carries its own cradle, that was its father's tomb, and, reaching the city of Hyperion, the sun-god, through the clear air, lays it down in front of the sacred doors of Hyperion's temple.

If there is anything to marvel at, however, in these novelties, we might marvel at how the hyena changes function, and a moment ago a female, taken from behind by a male, is now a male. Also that animal, the chameleon, fed by wind and air, instantly adopts the colour of whatever it touches.

Vanquished India gave lynxes to Bacchus of the clustered vines, and, they say that, whatever their bladder emits, changes to stone, and solidifies on contact with air. So coral, also, hardens the first time air touches it: it was a soft plant under the waves."

Pythagoras's Teachings: Transfers of Power

"The day will end, and Phoebus will bathe his weary horses in the deep, before my words can do justice to all that has been translated into new forms. So we see times change, and these nations acquiring power and those declining. So Troy, that was so great in men and riches, and for ten years of war could give so freely of her blood, is humbled, and only reveals ancient ruins now, and, for wealth, ancestral tombs. Sparta was famous, great Mycenae flourished, and Cecrops's citadel of Athens, and Amphion's Thebes. Sparta is worthless land, proud Mycenae is fallen, and what is the Thebes of Oedipus but a name, what is left of the Athens of Pandion, but a name?

Even now, there is a rumour that Rome, of the Dardanians, is rising, by Tiber's waters, born in the Apennines, and laying, beneath its mass, the foundation of great things. So, growing, it changes form, and one day will be the capital of a whole world! So, it is said, the seers predict, and the oracles that tell our fate. As I remember also, when the Trojan State was falling, Helenus, son of Priam, said to a weeping Aeneas, who was unsure of his future: "Son of the goddess, if you take careful heed, of what my mind prophesies, Troy will not wholly perish while you live! Fire and sword will give way before you: you will go, as one man, catching up, and bearing away Pergama, till you find a foreign land, kinder to you and Troy, than your fatherland. I see, even now, a city, destined for Phrygian descendants, than which none is greater, or shall be, or has been, in past ages.

Other leaders will make her powerful, through the long centuries, but one, born of the blood of Iülus, will make her mistress of the world. When earth has benefited from him, the celestial regions will enjoy him, and heaven will be his goal."

These things, I remember well, Helenus prophesied for Aeneas, as Aeneas carried the ancestral gods, and I am glad that the walls, of his descendants, are rising, and that the Greeks conquered to a Trojan's gain."

Pythagoras's Teachings: The Sanctity of Life

"Now (lest I stray too far off course, my horses forgetting to aim towards their goal), the heavens, and whatever is under them, change their form, and the earth, and whatever is within it. We, as well, who are a part of the universe, because we are not merely flesh, but in truth, winged spirits, and can enter into the family of wild creatures, and be imprisoned in the minds of animals.

We should allow those beings to live in safety, and honour, that the spirits of our parents, or brothers, or those joined to us by some other bond, certainly human, might have inhabited: and not fill our bellies as if at a Thyestean feast! What evil they contrive, how impiously they prepare to shed human blood itself, who rip at a calf's throat with the knife, and listen unmoved to its bleating, or can kill a kid to eat, that cries like a child, or feed on a bird, that they themselves have fed! How far does that fall short of actual murder? Where does the way lead on from there?

Let the ox plough, or owe his death to old age: let the sheep yield wool, to protect against the chill north wind: let the she-goats give you full udders for milking! Have done with nets and traps, snares and the arts of deception! Do not trick the birds with limed twigs, or imprison the deer, scaring them with feathered ropes, or hide barbed hooks in treacherous bait. Kill them, if they harm you, but even then let killing be enough. Let your mouth be free of their blood, enjoy milder food!"

The transformation of Hippolytus

His mind versed in these and other teachings, it is said that Numa returned to his native country, and took control of Latium, at the people's request. Blessed with a nymph, Egeria, for wife, and guided by the Muses, he taught the sacred rituals, and educated a savage, warlike, race in the arts of peace.

When, in old age, he relinquished his sceptre, with his life, the women of Latium, the populace, and the senators wept for the dead Numa: but Egeria, his wife, left the city, and lived in retirement, concealed by dense woods, in the valley of Aricia, and her sighs and lamentations prevented the worship of Oresteian Diana. O! How often the nymphs of the lakes and groves admonished her to stop, and spoke words of consolation to her!

How often Hippolytus, Theseus's heroic son, said, to the weeping nymph: "Make an end to this, since yours is not the only fate to be lamented: think of others' like misfortunes: you will endure your own more calmly. I wish my own case had no power to lighten your sorrow! But even mine can. If your ears have heard anything of Hippolytus, of how, through his father's credulity, and the deceits of his accursed stepmother, he met his death, though you will be amazed, and I will prove it with difficulty, nevertheless, I am he.

    Phaedra, Pasiphaë's daughter, having tried, vainly, to tempt me to dishonour my father's bed, deflected guilt, and, (more through fear than anger at being rejected?), made out I had wanted, what she wished, and so accused me. Not in the least deserving it, my father banished me from the city, and called down hostile curses on my head.

Exiled, I headed my chariot towards Troezen, Pittheus's city, and was travelling the Isthmus, near Corinth, when the sea rose, and a huge mass of water shaped itself into a mountain, and seemed to grow, and give out bellowings, splitting at the summit: from it, a horned bull, emerged, out of the bursting waters, standing up to his chest in the gentle breeze, expelling quantities of seawater from his nostrils and gaping mouth. My companions' hearts were troubled, but my mind stayed unshaken, preoccupied with thoughts of exile, when my fiery horses turned their necks towards the sea, and trembled, with ears pricked, disturbed by fear of the monster, and dragged the chariot, headlong, down the steep cliff.

I struggled, in vain, to control them with the foam-flecked reins, and leaning backwards, strained at the resistant thongs. Even then, the horses' madness would not have exhausted my strength, if a wheel had not broken, and been wrenched off, as the axle hub, round which it revolves, struck a tree. I was thrown from the chariot, and, my body entangled in the reins, my sinews caught by the tree, you might have seen my living entrails dragged along, my limbs partly torn away, partly held fast, my bones snapped with a loud crack, and my weary spirit expiring: no part of my body recognisable: but all one wound. Now can you compare your tragedy, or dare you, nymph, with mine?

I saw, also, the kingdom without light, and bathed my lacerated body in Phlegethon's waves: there still, if Apollo's son, Aesculapius, had not restored me to life with his powerful cures. When, despite Dis's anger, I regained it, by the power of herbs and Paean's help, Cynthia, created a dense mist round me, so that I might not be seen and increase envy at the gift. And she added a look of age, and left me unrecognisable, so that I would be safe, and might be seen with impunity. She considered, for a while, whether to give me Crete or Delos to live in: abandoning Delos and Crete, she set me down here, and ordered me to discard my name that might remind me of horses, and said: "You, who were Hippolytus, be also, now, Virbius!" Since then I have lived in this grove, one of the minor deities, and sheltering in the divinity of Diana, my mistress, I am coupled with her."

Egeria's grief could not be lessened, even by the sufferings of others: prostrate, at the foot of a mountain, she melted away in tears, till Phoebus's sister, out of pity for her true sorrow, made a cool fountain from her body, and reduced her limbs to unfailing waters.

Cipus acquires horns

This strange event amazed the nymphs, and the Amazon's son was no less astounded, than the Tyrrhenian ploughman when he saw a fateful clod of earth in the middle of his fields, first move by itself with no one touching it, then assume the form of a man, losing its earthy nature, and open its newly acquired mouth, to utter things to come. The native people called him Tages, he who first taught the Etruscan race to reveal future events. No less astounded than Romulus, when he saw his spear, that had once grown on the Palatine Hill, suddenly put out leaves, and stand there, not with its point driven in, but with fresh roots: now not a weapon but a tough willow-tree, giving unexpected shade to those who wondered at it.

No less astounded than Cipus, the praetor, when he saw his horns in the river's water (truly he saw them) and, thinking it a false likeness of his true form, lifting his hands repeatedly to his forehead, touched what he saw. Unable now to resist the evidence of his eyes, he raised his eyes and arms to the sky, like a victor returning from a beaten enemy, and cried: "You gods, whatever this unnatural thing portends, if it is happiness, let it be the happiness of my country, and the race of Quirinus: if it is a threat, let it be towards me."

Making a grassy altar of green turf, he appeased the gods with burning incense, and made a libation of wine, and inspected the quivering entrails of sacrificed sheep, as to what they portended for him. As soon as the Tyrrhenian seer, there, saw them, he recognised the signs of great happenings, not yet manifest, and when indeed he raised his keen eyes from the sheep's entrails to Cipus's forehead, he cried: "Hail! O King! You, even you, Cipus, and your horns, this place, and Latium's citadels, shall obey. Only no delay: hurry and enter the open gates! So fate commands: and received in the city, you will be king, and safely possess the eternal sceptre."

Cipus drew back, and grimly turning his face away from the city's walls, he said: "Oh, let the gods keep all such things, far, far away, from me! Far better for me to spend my life in exile, than for the Capitol to see me crowned! He spoke, and immediately called together the people and the grave senators. First however he hid his horns with the laurels of peace, then standing on a mound raised by resolute soldiers, and praying to the ancient gods as customary, he said: "There is a man here who shall be king, unless you drive him from the city. I will show you who he is, not by name, but by a sign: he wears horns on his forehead! The augur declares that if he enters Rome, he will grant you only the rights of slaves. He could have forced his way in, through the open gates, but I opposed it, though no one is more closely connected to him than me. Quirites, keep the man out of your city, and, if he deserves it, load him with heavy chains, or end all fear, with the death of this fated tyrant!"

There was a sound from the crowd, like the murmur from the pine-trees when the wild East wind whistles through them, or like the waves of the sea, heard from far off: but among the confused cries of the noisy throng, one rang out: "Who is he?" They looked at each other's forehead looking for the horns foretold. Cipus spoke to them again: "You have here, whom you seek," and, taking the wreath from his head, the people trying to prevent him, he showed them his temples, conspicuous by their twin horns. They all sighed, and lowered their eyes (who could believe it?) and were reluctant to look at that distinguished head. Not allowing him any longer to be dishonoured, they replaced the festal wreath.

But since you were forbidden to enter the city, Cipus, they gave you, as an honour, as much land as you could enclose, with a team of oxen, harnessed to the plough, between dawn and sunset. And they engraved horns on the bronze gateposts, recalling their marvellous nature, to remain there through the centuries.

Aesculapius, the god, saves Rome from plague

You Muses, goddesses present to poets, reveal, now (since you know, and spacious time cannot betray you) where Aesculapius, son of Coronis, came from, to be joined to the gods of Romulus's city, that the deep Tiber flows around.

Once, plague tainted the air of Latium, and people's bodies were ravaged by disease, pallid and bloodless. When they saw that their efforts were useless, and medical skill was useless, wearied with funeral rites, they sought help from the heavens, and travelled to Delphi, set at the centre of the earth, to the oracle of Phoebus, and prayed that he would aid them, in their misery, by a health-giving prophecy, and end their great city's evil. The ground, the laurel-tree, and the quiver he holds himself, trembled together, and the tripod responded with these words, from the innermost sanctuary, troubling their fearful minds: "You should have looked in a nearer place, Romans, for what you seek here: even now, look for it from that nearer place: your help is not from Apollo, to lessen your pain, but Apollo's son. Go, with good omens, and fetch my child."

When the senate, in its wisdom, heard the god's command, it made enquiries as to the city where Phoebus's son lived, and sent an embassy to sail to the coast of Epidaurus. As soon as the curved ship touched shore, the embassy went to the council of Greek elders, and begged them to give up the god, who, by his presence, might prevent the death of the Ausonian race: so the oracle truly commanded. They disagreed, and were of various minds: some thought that help could not be refused: the majority recommended the god should be kept, and their own wealth not released, or surrendered.

While they wavered, as dusk dispelled the lingering light, and darkness covered the countries of the earth with shadow, then, in your dreams, Aesculapius, god of healing, seemed to stand before your bed, Roman, just as he is seen in his temple, holding a rustic staff in his left hand, and stroking his long beard with his right, and with a calm voice, speaking these words: "Have no fear! I will come, and I will leave a statue of myself behind. Take a good look at this snake, that winds, in knots, round my staff, and keep it in your sight continually, till you know it! I will change into this, but greater in size, seeming as great as a celestial body should be when it changes." The god vanished with the voice, at once: and sleep, with the voice, and the god: and as sleep fled, kind day dawned.

When morning had put the bright stars to flight, the leaders, still unsure what to do, gathered at the temple complex of that god whom the Romans sought, and begged him to show them by some divine token where he himself wanted to live. They had hardly ceased speaking, when the golden god, in the likeness of a serpent with a tall crest, gave out a hiss as a harbinger of his presence, and by his coming, rocked the statue, the doors, the marble pavement, and the gilded roof. Then he stopped, in the middle of the temple, raising himself breast-high, and gazed round, with eyes flashing fire.

The terrified crowd trembled, but the priest, his sacred locks tied with a white band, knew the divine one, and cried: "The god, behold, it is the god! Restrain your minds and tongues, whoever is here! Let the sight of you, O most beautiful one, work for us, and help the people worshipping at your shrine!" Whoever was there, worshipped the god, as they were told, and all re-echoed the priest's words, and the Romans gave dutiful support, with mind and voice.

The god nodded, and shook his crest, confirming his favour, by hissing three times in succession, with his flickering tongue. Then he glided down the gleaming steps, and turning his head backwards, gazed at the ancient altars he was abandoning, and saluted his accustomed house, and the temple where he had lived. From there the vast serpent slid over the flower-strewn ground, flexing his body, and made his way through the city centre to the harbour, protected by its curved embankment. He halted there, and, appearing to dismiss the dutiful throng, with a calm expression, settled his body down in the Ausonian ship. It felt the divine burden, and the keel sank under the god's weight. The Romans were joyful, and, sacrificing a bull on the shore, they loosed the twisted cables of their wreath-crowned ship. A gentle breeze drove the vessel: the god arching skyward, rested his neck heavily on the curving sternpost, and gazed at the dark blue waters.

With gentle breezes he reached Italy, over the Ionian Sea, on the sixth morning. He passed the shores of Lacinium, famous for Juno's temple, and Scylaceum; he left Iapygia, and avoided the rocks of Amphrisia to larboard, the cliffs of Cocinthia to starboard; he coasted by Romethium, by Caulon and Narycia: he passed the narrow strait of Sicilian Pelorus, and the home of King Aeolus, and the mines of Temese, and headed for Leucosia and the rose-gardens of gentle Paestum.

From there he skirted Capri, and Minerva's promontory, and Surrentum's hills well-stocked with vines, Herculaneum, Stabiae, and Parthenope, born for idleness, and headed for the temple of the Cumean Sibyl. By Baiae's hot pools; and Liternum's lentisk trees; and the River Volturnus, dragging quantities of sand along in its floodwaters; and Sinuessa, frequented by white doves; and unhealthy Minturnae; and Caïeta, named after her whom Aeneas her foster-son buried; and the home of Antiphates; and marsh-surrounded Trachas; and Circe's land; and Antium's firm shore.

When the sailors steered their ship, under sail, to the place (since the sea was now rough) the god unwound his coils, and gliding along, fold after fold, in giant curves, entered his father Apollo's temple, bordering the yellow strand. When the sea was calm, the Epidaurian left the paternal altars, and having enjoyed the hospitality of his divine father, furrowed the sandy shore as he dragged his rasping scales along, and climbing the rudder, rested his head on the ship's high sternpost, till he came to Castrum, the sacred city of Lavinium, and the Tiber's mouths.

All the people, men and women alike, had come thronging from every side, in a crowd, to meet him, along with those who serve your flames, Trojan Vesta, and they hailed the god with joyful cries. As the swift ship sailed up-stream, incense burned with a crackling sound on a series of altars on either bank, and the fumes perfumed the air, and the slaughtered victims bled heat on the sacrificial knives.

Now it entered Rome, the capital of the world. The snake stood erect, and resting his neck on the mast's summit, turned, and looked for places fit for him to live. The river splits here into two branches, flowing round what is named the Island, stretching its two arms out equally on both sides, with the land between. There the serpent-child of Phoebus landed, and, resuming his divine form, made an end to grief, and came as a health-giver to the city.

The deification of Julius Caesar

Though Aesculapius came as a stranger to our temples, Caesar is a god in his own city. Outstanding in war or peace, it was not so much his wars that ended in great victories, or his actions at home, or his swiftly won fame, that set him among the stars, a fiery comet, as his descendant. There is no greater achievement among Caesar's actions than that he stood father to our emperor. Is it a greater thing to have conquered the sea-going Britons; to have lead his victorious ships up the seven-mouthed flood of the papyrus-bearing Nile; to have brought the rebellious Numidians, under Juba of Cinyps, and Pontus, swollen with the name of Mithridates, under the people of Quirinus; to have earned many triumphs and celebrated few; than to have sponsored such a man, with whom, as ruler of all, you gods have richly favoured the human race? Therefore, in order for the emperor not to have been born of mortal seed, Caesar needed to be made a god.

When Venus, the golden mother of Aeneas, saw this, and also saw that a grim death was being readied for Caesar, her high-priest, and an armed conspiracy was under way, she grew pale and said to every god in turn: "See the nest of tricks being prepared against me, and with what treachery that life is being attacked, all that is left to me of Trojan Iülus. Will I be the only one always to be troubled by well-founded anxiety: now Diomede's Calydonian spear wounds me: now the ill-defended walls of Troy confound me, seeing my son Aeneas driven to endless wandering, storm-tossed, entering the silent house of shadows, waging war against Turnus, or, if we speak the truth, with Juno, rather? Why do I recall, now, the ancient sufferings of my race? This present fear inhibits memory of the past: look at those evil knives being sharpened. Prevent them, I beg you, thwart this attempt, and do not allow Vesta's flames to be quenched by the blood of her priest!"

Venus in her anxiety voiced her fears throughout the heavens, but in vain, troubling the gods, who though they could not break the iron rules of the ancient sisters, nevertheless gave no uncertain omens of imminent disaster. They say weapons, clashing among black clouds, and terrifying trumpets and horns, foretelling crime, were heard from the sky: and that the face of the sun, darkened, gave out a lurid light, over the troubled earth. Often, firebrands were seen, burning in the midst of the stars: often drops of blood rained from the clouds: Lucifer, the morning star, was dulled, with rust-black spots on his disc, and the moon's chariot was spattered with blood.

    The Stygian owl sounded its sad omens in a thousand places: in a thousand places ivory statues wept: and incantations, and warning words, were said to have been heard in the sacred groves. No sacrifice was favourable, and the livers were found with cleft lobes, among the entrails, warning of great and impending civil conflict. In the forum, and around men's houses, and the temples of the gods, dogs howled at night, and they say the silent dead walked, and earthquakes shook the city. Still the gods' warnings could not prevent the conspiracy, or fate's fulfillment.

Drawn swords were carried into the curia, the sacred senate house: no place in the city would satisfy them, as scene for the act of evil murder, but this. Then in truth Cytherean Venus struck her breast with both hands, and tried to hide Caesar in a cloud, as Paris was once snatched from the attack of Atrides, and Aeneas escaped Diomede's sword.

Then Jupiter, the father, spoke: "Alone, do you think you will move the immoveable fates, daughter? You are allowed yourself to enter the house of the three: there you will see all things written, a vast labour, in bronze and solid iron, that, eternal and secure, does not fear the clashing of the skies, the lightning's anger, or any forces of destruction. There you will find the fate of your descendants cut in everlasting adamant. I have read them myself, and taken note of them in my mind, and I will tell you, so that you are no longer blind to the future.

This descendant of yours you suffer over, Cytherean, has fulfilled his time, and the years he owes to earth are done. You, and Augustus, his "son', will ensure that he ascends to heaven as a god, and is worshipped in the temples. Augustus, as heir to his name, will carry the burden placed upon him alone, and will have us with him, in battle, as the most courageous avenger of his father's murder. Under his command, the conquered walls of besieged Mutina will sue for peace; Pharsalia will know him; Macedonian Philippi twice flow with blood; and the one who holds Pompey's great name, will be defeated in Sicilian waters; and a Roman general's Egyptian consort, trusting, to her cost, in their marriage, will fall, her threat that our Capitol would bow to her city of Canopus, proved vain.

Why enumerate foreign countries, for you, or the nations living on either ocean shore? Wherever earth contains habitable land, it will be his: and even the sea will serve him!

When the world is at peace, he will turn his mind to the civil code, and, as the most just of legislators, make law. He will direct morality by his own example, and, looking to the future ages and coming generations, he will order a son, Tiberius, born of his virtuous wife, to take his name, and his responsibilities. He will not attain his heavenly home, and the stars, his kindred, till he is old, and his years equal his merits. Meanwhile take up Caesar's spirit from his murdered corpse, and change it into a star, so that the deified Julius may always look down from his high temple on our Capitol and forum."

Ovid's celebration of Augustus

He had barely finished, when gentle Venus stood in the midst of the senate, seen by no one, and took up the newly freed spirit of her Caesar from his body, and preventing it from vanishing into the air, carried it towards the glorious stars. As she carried it, she felt it glow and take fire, and loosed it from her breast: it climbed higher than the moon, and drawing behind it a fiery tail, shone as a star.

Seeing his son's good works, Caesar acknowledges they are greater than his own, and delights in being surpassed by him. Though the son forbids his own actions being honoured above his father's, nevertheless fame, free and obedient to no one's orders, exalts him, despite himself, and denies him in this one thing. So great Atreus cedes the title to Agamemnon: so Theseus outdoes Aegeus, and Achilles his father Peleus: and lastly, to quote an example worthy of these two, so Saturn is less than Jove.

Jupiter commands the heavenly citadels, and the kingdoms of the threefold universe. Earth is ruled by Augustus. Each is a father and a master. You gods, the friends of Aeneas, to whom fire and sword gave way; you deities of Italy; and Romulus, founder of our city; and Mars, father of Romulus; Vesta, Diana, sacred among Caesar's ancestral gods, and you, Phoebus, sharing the temple with Caesar's Vesta; you, Jupiter who hold the high Tarpeian citadel; and all you other gods, whom it is fitting and holy for a poet to invoke, I beg that the day be slow to arrive, and beyond our own lifetime, when Augustus shall rise to heaven, leaving the world he rules, and there, far off, shall listen, with favour, to our prayers!

Ovid's Envoi

And now the work is done, that Jupiter's anger, fire or sword cannot erase, nor the gnawing tooth of time. Let that day, that only has power over my body, end, when it will, my uncertain span of years: yet the best part of me will be borne, immortal, beyond the distant stars. Wherever Rome's influence extends, over the lands it has civilised, I will be spoken, on people's lips: and, famous through all the ages, if there is truth in poet's prophecies, vivam - I shall live.

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