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This webpage reproduces
The War Against Gildo

by
Claudian

published in the Loeb Classical Library,
1922

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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p99 Claudian, The War Against Gildo1

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The kingdom of the south is restored to our empire, the sky of that other hemisphere is once more brought into subjection. East and West live in amity and concord beneath the sway of one ruler. We have joined Europe again to Africa, and unswerving singleness of purpose unites the brother emperors. The would‑be third participant of empire has fallen before the prowess of Honorius the son — that one victory that failed to grace the arms of Theodosius, the father. Still is my mind troubled and admits not the universal joy for very amazement, nor can believe the fulfilment of its heartfelt prayers. Not yet had the army landed upon Africa's2 coasts when Gildo yielded to defeat. No difficulties delayed our victorious arms, neither length of march nor intervening ocean. One and the same word brings news of the conflict, the flight, the capture of Gildo. The news of victory outstripped the news of the war that occasioned it. What god wrought this for us? Could madness so strong, so deep-seated be overcome so soon? The enemy whom early winter brought upon us, spring destroyed.

p101 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Rome, the goddess, fearing for her city's destruction and weak with cornº withheld, hastened to the threshold of revolving Olympus with looks unlike her own; not with such countenance does she assign laws to the Britons, or subject the frightened Indians to her rule. Feeble her voice, slow her step, her eyes deep buried. Her cheeks were sunken and hunger had wasted her limbs. Scarcely can her weak shoulders support her unpolished shield. Her ill-fitting helmet shows her grey hairs and the spear she carries is a mass of rust. At last she reaches heaven and falls at the Thunderer's feet and utters this mournful complaint: "If prophecy rightly foretold the permanence of the rising walls of Rome; if the Sibyl's verse is unalterable; if thou art not yet wearied of our city and the Capitol, I come to thee as a suppliant. My prayer is not that a consul may march in triumph along Araxes' banks, nor that Rome's power may crush the archer Persians and Susa their capital, nor yet that we may plant our standards on the Red Sea's strand. All this thou grantedst us of old. 'Tis but food I, Rome, ask for now; father, take pity on thy chosen race and ease us of this hunger unto death. Whatever thy displeasure, we have surely sated it. The very Getae would shudder at my disasters. What need have I to mention the pestilence, the heaps of corpses, the numberless deaths wherewith the very air is corrupted? Why tell of Tiber's flooded stream, sweeping betwixt roofs and threatening the very hills? My submerged city has borne mighty ships, echoed the sound of oars, and experienced Pyrrha's flood.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Woe is me, whither are fled the power of Latium p103and the might of Rome? To what a shadow of our former glory are we by gradual decline arrived! Time was when my men bore arms and my greybeards met in council; mistress of the world was I and lawgiver to mankind. From rising to setting sun I sped in triumph. When proud Caesar had transferred my people's power to himself, when manners became corrupt and forgetful of war's old discipline I declined into the servile lap of peace, the emperors rewarded me with Africa and Egypt that they might nourish the sovereign people and the Senate, arbiter of peace and war, by means of summer-sped fleets, and that the winds, blowing alternately from either shore, should fill our granaries with corn. Our provisioning was secure. Should Memphis perchance have denied us food, I would make up for the failure of Egypt's harvest by the African supply. I saw competition between grain-bearing vessels, and where'er I looked I beheld the fleet of Carthage strive in rivalry with that of the Nile. When a second Rome arose and the Eastern Empire assumed the toga of the West, Egypt fell beneath that new sway. Africa remained our only hope and scarcely did she suffice to feed us, whose corn-ships none but the south wind wafted across. Her promise for the future was insecure, as, ever helpless, she demanded the loyalty of the wind and of the season.3 This province, too, Gildo seized towards the close of autumn. Anxiously and prayerfully we scan the blue sea to glance a coming sail in the fond hope that perchance a sense of shame has extorted somewhat from the powerful tyrant, or the conqueror left some corner unconquered. We are fed at the pleasure of the Moor, p105who boasts that he does not repay a debt but that he gives us of his own, and rejoices to apportion out my daily food to me, as though I were his slave; with a barbarian's pride he weighs me life or death by hunger, triumphs in a people's tears, and holds above our heads an universal destruction. He sells Rome's crops and possesses land won by my wounds. Was it for this that I waged lamentable war with proud Carthage for so many years? For this that Regulus reckoned his life as naught and would fain return to his captors?a Is this my reward, father, for my losses on Cannae's field? Have the Spanish and Sicilian seas resounded so often to our navies' clarion for naught? For naught my lands been laid waste, so many of my generals slain, the Carthaginian invader broken his way through the Alps, Hannibal approached my affrighted capital? Have I kept the foe at bay with my walls and spent nights of slaughter before the Colline gate to enable a barbarian to reap the fruits of conquered Africa? Has thrice-conquered Carthage fallen for Gildo's benefit? Was this the object of mourning Italy's thousand disasters, of centuries spent in war, of Fabius' and Marcellus' deeds of daring — that Gildo should heap him up riches? We forced cruel Syphax to drink poison, drove fierce Iugurtha, whose power Metellus had broken, beneath Marius' yoke — and shall Africa be Gildo's? Alas for our toil and those many deaths: the two Scipios have laboured, it seems, to further Bocchus'4 native rule; Roman blood has given victory to the Moors. That long warlike race, lord of the world, that appointed consuls and kings, whom foreign nations found ever formidable in war, though gentle once they had p107been subdued, dishonoured now and poverty-stricken, bends beneath the cruel lash of peace, and though not openly beleaguered by any foe yet has all the hazard of a siege. Destruction threatens me hourly; a few days will set a limit to my uncertain food-supply. Out upon thee, prosperity! Why hast thou given me seven hills and such a population as a small supply cannot nourish? Happier I, had my power been less. Better to have put up with the Sabines and Veii; in narrower bonds I passed securer days. My very magnitude undoes me; would that I could return to my former boundaries and the walls of poor Ancus. Enough for me then would be the ploughlands of Etruria and Campania, the farms of Cincinnatus and Curius, and at his country's prayer the rustic dictator5 would bring his home-grown wheat.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "What am I to do now? Gildo holds Libya, another6 Egypt; while I, who subdued land and sea with my strong arm, am left to perish. Veteran of so many wars, can I claim no reward in mine old age? Ye gods in whose respite, it seems, I increased, now aid me at the last; pray Jove for me. And thou, Cybele, if ever of thine own free will thou wert carried over the sea and in exchange for Mount Ida tookest the hills of Rome and didst bathe thy Phrygian lions in Almo's more favoured stream, move now thy son7 with a mother's entreaties. But if the fates forbid and our first founder was misled by augury untrue, o'erwhelm me at least in some different ruin, and change the nature of my punishment. Let Porsenna bring back the Tarquins; let Allia renew her bloody battle. Let me fall rather into the hands of cruel p109Pyrrhus; abandon me to the fury of the Senones or the flames of Brennus. Welcome all this rather than to starve!

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] So spake she, and upwelling tears choked her voice. Venus, mother of Aeneas, wept, and Mars, father of Romulus and Minerva, mindful of Vesta's sacred charge.8 Nor Cybele nor Juno stood with dry eyes. The heroes mourn and all the gods whose worship Rome received from without or herself inaugurated. And now began the heart of Jove to soften. With hand outstretched he was checking the murmurings of the gods when, shaking heaven with distraught cries, Africa, her cheeks torn, appeared in the distance advancing amid the stars. Torn was her raiment, scattered her crown of corn. Her head was wounded and the ivory comb that secured her hair hung loose and broken. She rushed into Heaven's halls shouting thus: "Great Jove, why delayest thou to loose the bonds of sea, to break its decree and hurl thy brother9 in wrath against the land? May I be the first to be overwhelmed. Welcome the broken waters from Pachynus' cape; sink my cities in the freed Syrtes. If so be fate cannot rid me of Gildo, rid Gildo of me. Happier that region of Libya that defends itself by means of its own excessive heat and thus knows not the irksome rule of so savage a tyrant. Let the torrid zone spread. Let the midmost path of the scorching sky burn me also. Better I lay a desert nor ever suffered the plough. Let the dust-snake lord it in a cornless land and the thirsty earth give birth to nought but vipers. What avails me a healthy climate, a milder air? My fruitfulness is but for p111Gildo. Twelve courses has the sun's chariot run since first I wore this sorry yoke. He has now grown old amid our miseries and these many years have set their seal upon his rule. Rule — would it were rule: a private owner possesses me, as it had been some pelting farm. From Nile to Atlas' mount, from scorched Barce to western Gades, from Tingi10 to Egypt's coast Gildo has appropriated the land as his own. A third of the world belongs to one robber-chief.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "He is a prey to the most diverse vices: whatsoe'er his bottomless greed has stolen, a yet more insatiable profligacy squanders. He is the terror of the living, the heir of the dead, the violator of the unwed, and the foul corrupter of the marriage-bed. He is never quiet; when greed is sated lust is rampant; day is a misery to the rich, night to the married. Is any wealthy or known to possess a beautiful wife, he is overwhelmed by some trumped-up charge. If no charge be brought against him, he is asked to a banquet and there murdered. No form of death but is known to this artist in crime. He investigates the properties of different poisons and serpents' livid venom and knows of deadly herbs unknown even to stepmothers. If any condemns what he sees by a look or sighs with too much freedom, at the very festal board out darts some henchman with drawn sword at a nod from his master. Each glued to his seat tastes in silent fear of the deadly banquet; drains, pale of face, the treacherous cup, and looks around at the weapons that threaten his life. The deadly board is decked in infernal splendour, wet with slaughter, dreadful with fear of sword and suspected poison. When wine has p113inflamed the passions, his lust rages more savagely; 'midst the mingled smell of scents and flowers, 'midst curled minions and youthful choirs he bids go sport the widowed wives whose husbands he but a moment ago has murdered. Better Phalaris and the torments of his furnace, better to listen to the bellowings of the Sicilian bull than to such songs as these. Nor is the base sacrifice of their good name enough. When tired of each noblest matron Gildo hands her over to the Moors. Married in Carthage city these Sidonian mothers needs must mate with barbarians. He thrusts upon me an Ethiopian as a son-in‑law, a Berber as a husband. The hideous half-breed child affrights its cradle. Thanks to those base allies his state is more regal than that of the emperor himself. Before him goes a body of foot-soldiers, squadrons of cavalry surround him and client kings whom he enriches with our spoils. He drives one and all from their ancestral houses and expels husbandmen from farms so long theirs. My people are scattered in exile. Are my citizens never to return from their wanderings to their native soil?"

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] She would have spoken further in her grief had not Jove begun from his lofty throne — Atropos wrote down his words in adamant and Lachesis spun them in with her thread — "Neither thou, Rome, nor yet thou, Africa, will we suffer to go long unavenged. Honorius shall disperse your common foe. Go in peace. No violence shall part your companionship; Africa shall serve Rome, and Rome alone."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] He spake and breathed into Rome a youth renewed. Straightway her former strength returned, and her hair put off its grey of eld; her helmet grew solid, p115upright stood the plumes, the round shield shone once more, and gone was every trace of rust from her wingèd, gleaming spear.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Sleep was now driving the dew-drenched steeds of night, guiding them with the reins of Lethe and carrying round the stars in her silent course, when the elder and the younger Theodosius,11 chief among the heroes divine, came to bring peace to men. They bore Jove's secret message and mandate to the two brothers and ratified the treaty between the two empires. So when at dead of night the driving tempest has brought the helmsman's skill to nought and the sinking ship groans and shudders at the waves' ceaseless shock, Leda's Spartan-born sons sustain the foundering bark in answer to the sailors' prayers. At the rise of the full moon the twain parted. The elder directed his steps towards the coasts of Italy, the younger visited the couch of Arcadius, gliding down to that Eastern city where Bosporus narrows the entrance to the Euxine. As soon as the son saw his father (for the moon was shining brightly), he wept, yet trembled for joy, and embracing that form he had little hoped ever to embrace again, said: "O thou restored now to me for the first time since thy triumphs in the Alps, whence comest thou to thy loving son? Let me touch that hand that had conquered so many barbarian races! Who hath robbed the world of such a defender? How long a while has mankind prayed thine aid, and missed thy goodness and thy might!"

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Sighing, the father made answer "Was it for this? Is a Moor become a cause of discord between two brothers? Does the empire and court of the p117East quarrel with those of the West? Can Gildo's salvation be fit guerdon for this mad rivalry? Great no doubt are his virtues, great should be the price paid to preserve them and such his merits as to banish affection in a brother. Look you, though I, thy sire, willed it not, civil war raged; the fortunes of Rome stood on a razor's edge. Was there a distant king of Armenia, an unknown monarch by Maeotis' shore but sent aid to mine enterprises? The Getae gave me succour, the Geloni came to my assistance. Gildo alone sent not a man, not a ship, but waited the issue in wavering loyalty. Had he sought the confronting host as an open foe my wrath had been less bitter. He stood apart on Fortune's watch-tower and, withdrawn from the throng, weighed this side against that, meaning to let the event decide him, dependent upon the turn things might take and ready to embrace the side of the victor. His fortune hung in the balance as well as his intention. Had I not been hurried to heaven by the impatient stars I would have followed the example of Tullus Hostilius and dragged the impious wretch limb from limb fastened to chariots driven different ways through thorn bushes.12 Up to this time he has owed obedience to thy brother, now behold he spurns his commands. After thy father's and thy brother's fate art thou ready to trust thyself to such a villain? Is thine answer that he maketh great return and hath brought over many cities to thine allegiance? Shall honour, then, give place to utility? Can gain render treachery welcome? I make no mention of his cruel betrayal of thy brother; of his fickle nature; were a traitor to bring safety even when at peril's height death threatened, never shall he win gratitude. When our life is saved p119we condemn the treachery nor brook to entrust ourselves to such protection. 'Tis this sort that offers for purchase cities and their inhabitants, that sells its fatherland. Most make use of such for the moment but soon learn to hate them. 'Twas thus that Philip held the cities of Greece; liberty fell before the attack of the Macedonian gold. Rome has ever despised the ministers of guilt. Fabricius, discovering the plot, sent back to King Pyrrhus the slave who had promised to mingle deadly poison for his lord; fierce war raged between them, but Fabricius refused to end it by means of the treachery of a slave. Camillus, too, gave back to the beleaguered city the boys brought to his camp from out the walls.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "These were consigned to punishment for seeking to put an end to wars. Is Gildo to live that he may kindle them? Takest thou such measures against thy brother as another would disdain to take against an enemy? O shame for unending ages! Gildo entrusts the governance of the south to whom he will; the great province of Africa obeys a tyrant's whim. To whichever side his fickle mind inclines, he carries Libya over with him and malignantly subjects it to a rule shifting as the tide. Africa was the gift of the Moor. Away with the trickery of the Massyli, their treacherous wiles and their words that breathe forth the poison of their land. Let not brother wage war on brother, I pray. That were worthy of cruel Thebes and Mycenae; let that accusation be levelled against the Moors.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "What wrong is Stilicho devising? when did he fail in his obedience? than him what more loyal p121supporter have we? I will not mention the various brave deeds he did while yet with me; of those only I will tell which I saw after my death. When I was raised to heaven disorder — I admit it — and tumult did I leave behind me. The army was still drawing the forbidden sword in that Alpine war, and conquerors and conquered gave alternate cause for dissension. Scarce could this madness have been calmed by my vigilance, much less by a boy's rule. Ah, how I feared for you what the uncontrolled might of such vast armies might dare, when, your sire removed, there came the fevered delight in change! Dangerous was discord, more dangerous still unanimity. 'Twas then that Stilicho took my place in paternal love for thee, tended thine immature youth, and brought thee to the years and estate of an emperor. 'Twas he drove back Rufinus whom thou didst confess thou fearedst. Gratitude and loyalty I find in him alone. Did I want or seem to want aught, while yet I lived he accomplished it. Now I am dead he worships me as worthy of veneration and an ever present helper. If the thought of his goodness move thee not, at least show respect to thy brother's father-in‑law: bethink thee of Honorius' marriage, the royal espousal of my niece Serena. Thou oughtest to face thy brother's foes, he thine. Could any nation, could the combined forces of Rhine and Danube have stood against you twain allied? Enough! bring about but the defeat of Gildo: I ask nought else. Though he entrench himself behind the protecting Syrtes and rely for safety on the intervening ocean; though he think to be defended by reason of his serpent-infested country and the fierce p123sun's mid-day heat, yet well I know Stilicho's ingenuity — that mind of his equal to any emergency. He will force his way through the desert, his own greatness will lead him."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Thus spake the dead emperor, whereon thus the son answered: "Right willingly, father, will I fulfill thy commands: ever ready am I to welcome thy behests. None is dearer to me than my kinsman Stilicho. Let the impious Gildo atone for his wrongs, and Africa be restored to my brother still safer than before."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] While father and son thus debated in long converse, Theodosius the grandfather made his way to Italy and entered the chaste bedchamber where on his couch of Tyrian purple Honorius lay in sweet sleep by the side of his wife Maria. At his head he stood and thus spake to him in a dream. "What rash confidence is this, dear grandson, that fills the conquered Moors? Does the mad race descended from Juba, the people whom I subdued, once more conspire to oppose Rome's power and recommence the war with its conqueror's grandson? Have they forgotten the defeat of Firmus?13 Do they think to repossess Libya won back by the sweat of battle? Dares Gildo strive with Rome? Does he not fear his brother's fate? Fain would I go myself, old though I be, and show him the face he knows but too well. Will not the Moor flee my very shade, should he behold it? Why delayest thou? Up from thy bed; attack the rebel; give me back my prisoner; waste no more time. 'Tis Fate's gift to thy family. While yet the race of Theodosius treads the earth the palace of Bocchus shall go in fear. Let the spoils of Gildo be added to those of Firmus; p125let the bays of Mauretania deck chariots twain and one house triumph thus many times over one race. Thanks be to the gods who have interposed so many years between the sacrifice of Firmus to my arms and that of Firmus' brother to those of my grandson." He spake, then fled, as he felt the breath of the approaching dawn.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Then emulous courage roused the emperor with insistent goad. He burns to set sail, to cleave the main, to assail with the spear the distant Moors. So he summons his father-in‑law14 and clasping his hand asks what course of action he advises. "Full often, reverend sire, is the future revealed to me in dreams; many a night brings prophecy. Methought I surrounded in hunting the distant glades of Africa and scoured the Gaetulian mountains with my hounds. The district was distressed by reason of the incursions of a ravening lion. On all sides were slaughtered beasts and mangled heifers, and still their homesteads ran red with blood, and corpses of many a shepherd lay weltering in the bloody fields. I approached the beast's cave and saw a sight wonderful to relate. Gone was that noble form, drooping on the neck the threatening mane; there he crouched, defeated, humbled, with slavish moans; fetters were upon his paws and a chain clanked of a sudden on his neck. Now, too, my grandsire eagerly urges me to rival his triumphs with my own. Why, he asked, did I delay and hesitate so long? Already my ships should have been manned and the sea's threatened opposition overcome. I myself am ready to cross in the first vessel. Let every foreign nation that is bound beneath my rule come to our aid. Let all Germany be transported and p127the Sygambri come with allied fleet. Let trembling Africa now have experience of the dwellers on Rhine's banks. Or shall I sit here and submit to such disgrace? Shall I relinquish, now that I am a man, what I ruled and governed as a boy? Twice my father hurried to the Alps to defend another's realm. Am I to be an easy prey, an object of scorn?

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] He ended and Stilicho thus made answer: "Wilt thou, an emperor, deign to challenge a Moor to fight? Is that coward to have the consolation of death in battle at thy hand? Shall Honorius fight on our side and Gildo on the other? Ere that, chaos shall plunge the stars into Hell. 'Tis enough to command his punishment. Thy name shall strike greater terror into him than thy sword. Presence will minish awe; he who stands in the lists admits equality, and struggling hosts regard not majesty. Listen and I will tell thee something at once more profitable for thyself and of more effect against the enemy. 389Gildo has a brother of like descent but unlike in character, Mascezel, who, avoiding the evil courses of his brother, has entrusted his hopes and his life to thy keeping. When Gildo, after many vain attempts, found no means to kill Mascezel, he turned his anger from the father to the children and slew those whom he himself had nursed as infants in his arms; then cast aside their unburied bodies and refused sepulchre to the shades of those that had been his kin. The bloody tyrant stifled all natural feelings, forgot he was a brother, forgot he was a man, and begrudged the slain a handful of dust. 'Twas a like deed brought its ill repute upon Mycenae, that put the sun to rout and turned back the day. But while Atreus paid back crime for crime and had excuse p129for the bloody banquet in the unfaithfulness of his wife, Gildo's motive was hatred, not vengeance. Violated rights, the sorrowing father, the unburied dead, the unnatural crime all call upon thee as avenger. If thou, Athens, didst dedicate an altar to the sorrowing and ordain to those that mourn a special deity, if the women of Argos won to their aid the Athenian phalanx by their tears and bought burial for their slain lords at the price of war;15 if Adherbal, driven from his throne, roused the Senate against the Numidians by the sad appeal of unkempt locks and by his tears, then let Gildo be sorry that now this man also whom he has crushed by so many murders is come into the field against him, and let him learn that he must bow before thy suppliants. Let Gildo flee headlong before him whom he put to flight and fear him whom he o'erwhelmed with the murder of his children. As he is being dragged off to the slaughter let him recognize his brother's hand."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] When this advice had been accepted by his son-in‑law, Stilicho made ready for war the most famous regiments in the army, selecting therefrom special companies of picked men; he further prepared the fleet in the harbours of Etruria. Alcides himself commands the Herculean cohort; the king of the gods leads the Jovian. No standard-bearer feels the weight of his eagle, so readily do the very standards press forward. The Nervian cohort follows and the Felix, well deserving its name, the legion, too, named after Augustus, that well called The Unconquered, and the brave regiment of the Lion16 to whose name their shields bear witness.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] But before they start the emperor, standing upon a platform of earth, heartens them with his words: p131leaning upon their spears the soldiers throng around him and attune their ready ears to his inspiring voice. "My men, so soon to bring defeat upon Gildo, now is the time to fulfil your promises and make good your threats. If you felt indignation on my behalf, now take up arms and prove it. Wash out the stain of civil war by means of a great and deserved triumph. Let the empire of the East know, let it be plain to all the world, that Gaul can only owe defeat to the badness of a cause, not to her enemies' strength.17 Let not Gildo affright you though he have all barbary at his back. Shall Moors stand up against the shock of your clashing shields and the near threat your swords? You shall not oppose men armed with shields or shining blades. These savages put their trust in javelins hurled from afar. Once he has discharged his missile the enemy will be disarmed. With his right hand he hurls his spear, with his left he holds his cloak before him; no other armour has the horseman. His steed knows not the rein; a whip controls it. Obedience and discipline are unknown in their ranks. Their arms are a burden to them, their salvation lies in flight. Though each has many wives, ties of family bind them not, nor have they any love for their children whose very number causes affection to fail. Such are the troops. The chief will come to battle crowned with roses, drenched with scents, his last feast still undigested; drunken with wine, foredone with eld, enervated with disease and venery. Let the war trumpet rouse him from a bed of incest, let him beg aid of lutes and choirs, for he likes not the clarion's note, and let him learn (all unwilling) to spend in war nights that he now dedicates to love.

p133 [Legamen ad paginam Latinam] "Is not death preferable to a life disgraced? If, in addition to the loss of Illyria, Africa is to be surrendered to Moorish kings, what lands still remain to us? The empire of Italy, once bounded by the Nile and the Red Sea, is limited to‑day by the sea of Tuscany; shall Sicily now be the most distant province of Roman rule, to which in days of old neither Egypt nor India set an end? Go: win back that southern realm a rebel has reft from me. It depends on your arms whether Rome, the unconquerable mistress of the world, stands or falls. You owe me so many peoples, countries, cities lost. Fight but one battle in defence of Libya. Let empire restored attend on your oars and sails. Give back to Africa the laws of Rome she now disregards. Let history repeat itself, and the sword smite from its trunk the head of this third tyrant18 and so end at last the series of bloody usurpers."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] An omen confirms his word and before the eyes of all, the tawny bird, armour-bearer of Jove, swoops down from the open sky and seizes a snake in his curved talons; and while the eagle tears his struggling prey with his hooked beak, his claws are embedded in its head. The severed body falls to earth. Straightway the soldiers come hurrying up, crossing rock and streams in their eagerness at the call of this portent. Neither mountains nor woods delay them. Even as the cranes leave their summer home of Thrace clamorously to join issue in doubtful war with the Pygmies, when they desert the Strymon for the warm-watered Nile, the letter19 traced by the speeding line stands out against the clouds and the heaven is stamped with the figure of their flight.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] When they reached the coast still fiercer blazed p135their enthusiasm. They seize upon the ships and themselves make ready the hawsers; furl the sails and fix the yards to the masts. Etruria's shore is shaken with their uproar and Arcadian-founded Pisa cannot contain so great a number of ships. So Aulis rang with countless voices what time avenging Greece loosed the cables of Agamemnon's fleet. No storm-blast deterred them nor threat of coming tempest nor the presence of the treacherous south wind. "Seize the rope, fellow-soldiers," they cry, "seize the rope: let us sail against Gildo though the very seas be against us. Let the storm drive us to battle by how crooked so ever a course. Fain would I seize upon that shore though my ships' beaks be shattered. Cowards ye, who cautiously observe whether or no the sea-gulls fly back or the crow pace the beach. What if clouds fleck the face of the setting sun or a stormy moon wear the halo that betokens hurricane? What if comets wave their spreading tails, or the constellation of the Kids threatens rain, or the cloudy Hyades lead forth the Bull and all Orion sink 'neath the waves? Put your trust in the sky, but put more in Honorius. Beneath his auspices I, his soldier, range the boundless seas nor look to the Plough or the Bear to guide me. Make no account of Boötes, sailor; launch your bark in mid tempest. If winds and storms deny me Libya, my emperor's fortune will grant it."

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The fleet is launched. They pass Liguria on their right hand, Etruria on their left, avoiding the sunken reefs of Corsica. There lies an island formed like a human foot (Sardinia its former inhabitants called it), an island rich in the produce of its fields, and conveniently situated for them who sail either to p137Africa or Italy. The part that faces Africa is flat and affords good anchorage for ships; the northern shore is inhospitable, rock-bound, stormy, and loud with sudden gales. The sailor curses these wild cliffs. Here the pestilence falls on men and beasts, so plague-ridden and deadly is the air, so omnipotent the South wind and the North winds banished.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] When their much buffeted vessels had given a wide berth to these dangers, they came to land at different places on the broken coast-line. Some are beached at Sulci, a city founded by Carthage of old. The sea-wall of Olbia shelters others. The city of Caralis over against the coast of Libya, a colony of great Phoenician Carthage, juts out into the sea and extends into the waves, a little promontory that breaks the force of the opposing winds. Thus in the midst a harbour is found and in a huge bay the quiet waters lie safe from every wind. For this harbour they make with every effort, and reversing their vessels they await the favouring breezes of the west wind with fleet at anchor.20


The Editor's Notes:

1 For the details of Gildo's rebellion see Introduction, p. x.

2 The Cinyps is a river in Libya; cf. Virg. Georg. III.312.

3 Claudian means that the African corn-supply was not always to be relied upon because (1) there might be a bad season, (2) there might be unfavourable winds.

4 Bocchus, properly a king of Mauritania, stands here typically for any native monarch.

5 Doubtless a reference to Cincinnatus.

6 Claudian means by "altera" the Eastern Empire.

7 i.e. Jupiter.

8 i.e. the Palladium, the image of Pallas (= Minerva), rescued by Metellus from the burning temple of Vesta, 241 B.C.

9 i.e. Neptune.

10 Tangier.º

11 Theodosius the younger is, of course, Theodosius I, the Emperor (see Introduction, p. vii). Theodosius the elder was his father. He was an able and trusted general of Valentinian I, who restored quiet in Britain (368‑370), defeated the Alamanni (370), and crushed the revolt of Firmus, Gildo's brother (see line 333 of this poem) in Africa (? 372‑374). His death was brought about by Merobaudes, Gratian's minister (cf. viii.26‑9).

12 See note on viii.401.

13 Firmus, brother of Gildo, had, during the reign of Valentinian, risen against the oppressive government of Romanus, count of Africa, and had been defeated by Theodosius the elder.

14 i.e. Stilicho.

15 A reference to the support given by Theseus, King of Athens, to Adrastus, King of Argos, when the Thebans had refused to allow the burial of the Argives slain at Thebes; cf. Eur. Supplices.

16 Orosius (VII.36.6) says Mascezel only had 5000 men. The legion may have been leg. viii. Augusta. The other names are those of various numeri (the unit of the post-Diocletianic army).

17 He appeals to the Gallic element of the army to atone for its previous support of Maximus and Eugenius.

18 The other two being Maximus and Eugenius.

19 i.e. the Greek Λ.

20 This poem was never properly finished; see Introduction, p. xi.


Thayer's Note:

a M. Atilius Regulus, a Roman general captured by the Carthaginians, was sent by them to Rome to persuade the Roman senate to make peace — on the condition that he pledge to return to Carthage if they did not. He pledged, went to Rome, and used his energies to persuade the Senate, on the contrary, to continue the war. He then honored his pledge and returned to Carthage, knowing that he would most likely be put to death there, as indeed he was. The story is an often quoted example of Roman rectitude and courage; see Dion Cass. XI.43.26, Livy, Periochae XVII.7, Gellius VII.4.


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