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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces one of the
Carmina Minora


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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 p281  The Battle of the Giants


[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Once upon a time mother Earth, jealous of the heavenly kingdoms and in pity for the ceaseless woes of the Titans, filled all Tartarus with a monster brood, thus giving birth to that which proved a very bane. Her womb swollen with this monstrous birth she opened Phlegra's side and brought forth foes against heaven. With a noise as of thunder they burst forth in profusion and, scarce born, prepare their hands for war, as with twofold trail1 they writhe their hissing course. Suddenly the stars grow pale, Phoebus turns his rosy steeds and, impelled by fear, retraces his steps. The Bear takes refuge in the Ocean, and the unsetting Triones learned to endure setting. Then their angry mother stirred up her sons to war with words such as these: [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Children, ye shall conquer  p283 heaven: all that ye see is the prize of victory; win, and the universe is yours. At last shall Saturn's son feel the weight of my wrath; shall recognize Earth's power. What! can any force conquer me? Has Cybele born sons superior to mine? Why has Earth no honour? Why is she ever condemned to bitter loss? Has any form of injury passed me by? There hangs luckless Prometheus in yon Scythian vale, feeding the vulture on his living breast; yonder, Atlas supports the weight of the starry heavens upon his head, and his grey hair is frozen stiff with cruel cold. What need to tell of Tityus whose liver is ever renewed beneath the savage vulture's beak, to contend with his heavy punishment? Up, army of avengers, the hour is come at last, free the Titans from their chains; defend your mother. Here are seas and mountains, limbs of my body, but care not for that. Use them as weapons. Never would I hesitate to be a weapon for the destruction of Jove. Go forth and conquer; throw heaven into confusion, tear down the towers of the sky. Let Typhoeus seize the thunderbolt and the sceptre; Enceladus, rule the sea, and another in place of the sun guide the reins of dawn's coursers. Porphyrion, wreathe thou thy head with Delphi's laurel and take Cirrha for they sanctuary."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] This exhortation filled their minds with vain hopes. They think themselves already victors o'er the gods, imagine they have thrown Neptune into chains and dragged him a prisoner from Ocean's bed. One thinks to lay Mars low, one to tear Phoebus' locks from his head; one assigns Venus to himself, another anticipates in thought his marriage with Diana, and another is all aflame to do violence to chaste Minerva.

 p285  [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Meanwhile Iris, messenger of the gods, summons the immortal council. There come the deities of river and lake; the very ghosts were there in heaven's defence. Hell's shady portals could not hold Proserpine afar; the king of the silent himself advances in his Lethaean chariot. His horses fear the light which hitherto their astonished eyes have never looked upon and, swerving this way and that, they breathe forth thick vapour from their soot-black nostrils. As, when an enemy's siege-engine affrights a town, the citizens run together from all sides to defend their citadel, so gods of all shapes and forms came together to protect their father's home. Them Jove thus addressed: "Deathless army, whose dwelling-place is, and must ever be, the sky, ye whom no adverse fortune can ever harm, mark ye how Earth with her new children conspires against our kingdom and undismayed has given birth to another brood? Wherefore, for all the sons she bore, let us give back to their mother as many dead; let her mourning last through the ages as she weeps by as many graves as she now has children."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The clouds echo the blast of heaven's trumpets; on this side Heaven, on that Earth, sounds the attack. Once more Nature is thrown into confusion and fears for her lord. The puissant company of the giants confounds all differences between things; islands abandon the deep; mountains lie hidden in the sea. Many a river is left dry or has altered its ancient course. One giant brandishes Thessalian Oeta in his mighty hand, another gathers all his strength and hurls Pangaeus at the foe, Athos with his snows arms another; this one roots up Ossa, that tears out Rhodope and Hebrus' source, dividing the  p287 waters that before were one; Enipeus, gathered up with its beetling crags, scatters its waters over yon giant's shoulders: robbed of her mountains Earth sank into level plains, parted among her own sons.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] On all sides a horrid din resounds and only the air divides the rival armies. First impetuous Mars urges against the horrid band his Thracian steeds that oft have driven in rout Getae or Geloni. Brighter than flame shines his golden shield, high towers the crest of his gleaming helmet. Dashing into the fray he first encounters Pelorus and transfixes him with his sword, where about the groin the two-bodied serpent unites with his own giant form, and thus with one blow puts an end to three lives. Exulting in his victory he drives his chariot over the dying giant's limbs till the wheels ran red with blood.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Mimas ran forward to avenge his brother. He had torn Lemnos and with it Vulcan's fiery house from out the foaming main, and was on the point of hurling it when Mars' javelin prevented him, scattering the brain from his shattered skull. What was giant in him died, but the serpent legs still lived, and, hissing vengeance, sought to attack the victor after Mimas' death.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Minerva rushed forward presenting her breast whereon glittered the Gorgon's head. The sight of this, she knew, was enough: she needed not to use a spear. One look sufficed. Pallas drew no nearer, rage as he might, for he was the first to be changed into rock. When, at a distance from his foe, without a wound, he found himself rooted to the ground, and felt the murderous visage turn him, little by little, to stone (and all but stone he was) he called out, "What is happening to me? What  p289 is this ice that creeps o'er all my limbs? What is this numbness that holds me prisoner in these marble fetters?" Scarce had he uttered these few words when he was what he feared, and savage Damastor, seeking a weapon wherewith to repel the foe, hurled at them in place of a rock his brother's stony corpse.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Then Echion, marveling, all ignorant, at his brother's death, even as he seeks to assail the author of the deed, turned his gaze upon thee, goddess, whom alone no man may see twice. Beaten audacity well deserved its punishment and in death he learned to know the goddess. But Palleneus, mad with anger, turning his eyes aside, rushed at Minerva, striking at her with undirected sword. Nigh at hand the goddess smote him with her sword, and at the same time the snakes froze at the Gorgon's glance, so that of one body a part was killed by a weapon and a part by a mere look.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Impious Porphyrion, carried by his serpents into the middle of the sea, tried to uproot trembling Delos, wishing to hurl it at the sky. The Aegean was affrighted; Thetis and her agèd sire fled from their watery caverns; the palace of Neptune, regarded with awe by all the denizens of the deep, lay deserted. The summit of Cynthus rang with the cries of the gentle nymphs who had taught Phoebus' unpractised hand to shoot at the wandering beasts with his bow, they who first had prepared the bed for weeping Latona when, in labour with the lights of heaven, she blessed the world with twin offspring. Delos in terror called her lord Phoebus to help her and begged him for aid: "In remembrance of the  p291 time when Latona entrusted thine infant life to my care, help me who thus call upon thee. Behold, once more they seek to uproot me. . . ."2

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 They were twiform; cf. l. 81.

2 Like the De raptu Proserpinae, the Gigantomachia was probably never completed. S. Jerome in his commentary on Isaiah (viii.27) quotes from a Gigantomachia, not giving the name of its author. It is possible that the lines, which do not occur in Claudian's poem as we possess it, belong to a final portion which has been lost. But it is more likely that they come from some other poet's work and that the abrupt end of Claudian's poem is due not to loss but to the poet's sudden death.

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Page updated: 24 Jul 07