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This text of
the Cynegetica


published in the Loeb Classical Library,
1934 (revised 1935)

is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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 p485  Nemesianus
The Chase

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] The thousand phases of the chase I sing; its merry tasks do we reveal, its quick dashes to and fro — the battles of the quiet country-side. Already my heart is tide-swept by the frenzy the Muses​1 send: Helicon bids me fare through widespread lands, and the God of Castaly presses on me, his foster-child, fresh draughts from the fount of inspiration: and, after far roaming in the open plains, sets his yoke upon the bard, holding him entangled with ivy-cluster, and guides him o'er wilds remote, where never  p487 wheel marked ground.​2 'Tis joy to advance in gilded car and obey the God: lo, 'tis his behest to fare across the green sward: we print our steps on virgin moss; and, though Calliope meet us pointing to easy runs along some well-known path, it is our dear resolve to set foot upon a mead where the track lies clear mid furrows hitherto untrod.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] For ere now who has not sung of Niobe saddened by death upon death of her children? Who does not know of Semele and of the fire that was at once bridal and doom for her — as the outcome of her rival's​3 craft? Who fails to record the cradling renewed for mighty Bacchus — how the Almighty Sire deigned to restore his mother's months and fulfilled the time of regular pregnancy.​4 Poets there are whose taste is to tell the hackneyed tales of Bacchic wands dripping with unholy blood,​5 or Dirce's bonds,​6 and the terms imposed for the wooing at Pisa,​7 and Danaus' bloody behest, and the merciless brides who, fresh from plighted troth, changed sweet joys to funeral torches.​8 No poet fails to tell of Biblis' criminal passion;​9 we know of Myrrha's  p489 impious amour, of her father defiled with cruel crimes, and how, traversing in her flight the fields of Araby, she passed into the greenwood life of the leafy trees.​10 There are some who relate the fierce hissing of Cadmus turned into a scaly serpent, and Maiden Io's gaoler starred with eyes,​11 or who fain for ever to recount the labours of Hercules, or Tereus' wonderment that after your banquet, Philomela,​12 he could raise wings as yet untried; there are others whose theme is Phaethon's ill-starred attempt upon the heights of the universe in the Sun's chariot, and whose song is of flames quenched in the thunderbolt launched forth, and of the river Padus reeking, of Cycnus and the plumage of his old age, of the (poplar-)trees for ever weeping by reason of a brother's death.​13 Bards ere now have told of the misfortunes of the Tantalids, the blood-besprinkled tables, the Titan Sun hiding his face at the sight of Mycenae and the dread vicissitudes of a race.​14 We do not sing of gifts imbued with the accursed poison of the angry Colchian dame​15 and of the burning of fair Glauce; not of Nisus' lock;​16 not of cruel Circe's  p491 cups;​17 nor yet of the sister​18 whose conscience contrived a (brother's) burial by night: in all this ere now a band of mighty bards has forestalled us, and all the fabling of an ancient age is commonplace.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] We search the glades, the green tracts, the open plains, swiftly coursing here and there o'er all the fields, eager to catch varied quarries with docile hound. We enjoy transfixing the nervous hare, the unresisting doe, the daring wolf or capturing the crafty fox; our heart's desire is to rove along the river-side shades, hunting the ichneumon on the quiet banks among the crops of bulrushes, with the long weapon to pierce in front the threatening polecat on a tree-trunk and bring home the hedgehog​19 entwined in the convolution of its prickly body: for such a task it is our resolve to set sail, while our little barque, wont to coast by the neighbouring shore and run across safe bays with the oar, now first spreads its canvas to southern winds, and, leaving the trusty havens, dares to try the Adriatic storms.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Hereafter I will gird myself with fitter lyre to record your triumphs, you gallant sons of deified Carus,​20 and will sing of our sea-board beneath the twin boundaries of our world,​21 and of the subjugation, by the brothers' divine power, of nations that drink from Rhine or Tigris or from the distant source of the Arar or look upon the wells of  p493 the Nile at their birth; nor let me fail to tell what campaigns you first ended, Carinus, beneath the Northern Bear​22 with victorious hand, well-nigh outstripping even your divine father, and how your brother​23 seized on Persia's very heart and the time-honoured citadels of Babylon, in vengeance for outrages done to the high dignity of the realms of Romulus' race.​24 I shall record also the Parthians' feeble flight, their unopened quivers, unbent bows and unavailing arrows.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Such strains shall my Muses consecrate to you both, as soon as it is my fortune to see your blest faces, kindly divinities of this earth. Already my feelings, intolerant of slow time and disdain­ful of delay, anticipate the joys of my aspiration, and I fancy I already discern the majestic mien of the brothers, and therewith Rome, the illustrious senate, the generals trusted for warfare, and the marching lines of many soldiers, their brave souls stirred with devotion. The golden standards gleam radiant afar with their purple drapery, and a light breeze waves the folds of the ferocious dragons.25

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Only do thou, Diana, Latona's great glory, who dost roam the peaceful glade and woodland, come quickly, assume thy wonted guise, bow in hand, and hang the coloured quiver from thy shoulder; golden be the weapons, thine arrows; and let thy gleaming feet be fitted with purple buskins; let thy cloak  p495 be richly tricked with golden thread,​26 and a belt with jewelled fastenings tighten the wrinkled tunic-folds: restrain thine entwined tresses with a band. In thy train let genial Naiads come and Dryads ripening in fresh youth and Nymphs who give the streams their water, and let the apt pupil Echo repeat the accents of thine Oreads.​27 Goddess, arise, lead thy poet through the untrodden boscage: thee we follow; do thou disclose the wild beasts' homes and lairs. Come hither then with me, whosoever, smitten with the love of the chase, dost condemn lawsuits and panic-stricken turmoil, or dost shun the din in cities and the clash of war, or pursuest no spoils on the greedy surge of the deep.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] At the outset your diligent care of your dogs​28 must start from the beginning of the year, when Janus, author of the march of time, opens for each twelve months the never-ceasing round. At that season you must choose a bitch obedient to speed forward, obedient to come to heel, native to either the Spartan or the Molossian​29 country-side, and of good pedigree.​30 She must stand high on straight legs; with a comely slope let her carry, under a broad breast, where the ribs end, a width of keel that gradually again contracts in a lean belly: she must be big enough with strong loins, spread at the hips, and with the silkiest of ears floating in air as she runs. Give her a male to match, everywhere similarly well-sized, while strength holds sway, while  p497 bodily youth is in its joyous flower and blood abounds in the veins of early life. For burdensome diseases creep on and sluggish age, and they will produce unhealthy offspring without steadfast strength. But for breeding a difference of age in the parents is more suitable: you should release the male, keen for mating, when he has already completed forty months: and let the female be two full years old.​31 Such is the best arrangement in their coupling. Presently when Phoebe has completed the round of two full moons since the birth-giving womb fertilised by the male began to swell, the pregnancy in its due time reveals the fruitful offspring, and straightway you see all round an abundant noisy litter. Yet, however desirous of dogs, you must make up you mind to put no value on the first set born; and of the next set you must not rear all the young ones. For if you decide to feed a crowd of whelps, you will find them thin with leanness and beggared of strength, and, by their long tussle to be first to suck, harassing a mother weakened with teat outworn. But if this is your anxiety, to keep the better sort from being killed or thrown out of the house, if it is your intention to test the puppies before even their steps are steady or their eyes have felt​32 and seen the light-bearing sunbeam, then grasp what experience has handed on, and assent fearlessly to well-tried words. You will be able to examine the strength of a puppy by its weight and by the heaviness of each body know in advance which will be light in running.​33 Furthermore, you should get a series of flames made in a  p499 wide circuit with the smoke of the fire to mark a convenient round space, so that you may stand unharmed in the middle of the circle: to this all the puppies, to this the whole crowd as yet unseparated must be brought: the mother will provide the test of her progeny, saving the valuable young ones by her selection and from their alarming peril. For when she sees her offspring shut in by flames, at once with a leap she clears the blazing boundaries of the fire-zone, snatches the first in her jaws and carries it to the kennel; next another, next another in turn: so does the intelligent mother distinguish her nobler progeny by her love of merit. These then along with their mother, now that it is clear spring, you are to feed on soft whey (for everywhere the season that abounds in milk has come, and sheepfolds are white with brimming milk-pails): at times, too, add to their food bread with milk,​34 so that they may be able to fill their young marrows with power­ful juices and even at that time give promise of vigorous strength.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] But after the burning Sun-God has reached the glowing height of heaven, entering on his slow paths and on the sign of the lingering Crab,​35 then it will be useful to lessen their regular fattening food and retain the more delicate nourishment,​36 so that the weight of heavy bulk may not overstrain their limbs; for that is when they have the connecting joints of the body slack, and plant on the ground unstable feet and swimming legs: then too their mouths are furnished with snowy teeth. But you should not  p501 keep them shut up, nor impatiently put chains on their neck, and from want of foresight hurt their future running powers. For often young dogs, when kept separate, will take to worrying the timber-fittings, or to gnawing the doors till they are torn, and in the attempt they twist their tender limbs or blunt their young teeth by chewing at the wood or drive their tender nails into the tough doorposts. Later, when time, revolving eight months from their birth, now lets them stand on steady legs and sees the whelps everywhere with limbs unharmed, then it will be suitable again to mix the gifts of Ceres with their whey and have them given strengthening food from the produce of the fields. Only then must they be trained to have their free necks in leash, to run in harmony or be kept in chain. When Phoebe has now renewed twenty monthly risings, start to bring out the young dogs on a course not over-long but within the space of a small valley or enclosed fallow. Out of your hand let slip for them a hare, not of equal strength nor their match in speed of running, but slow in moving its limbs, so that they may at once capture an easy prey. Not once only must you grant the whelps these limited runs, but until they are trained to outstrip strong hares, exercise them long in the task of the chase, forcing them to learn and love the praise due to deserving merit. Likewise they must recognise the urgent words of a well-known voice, whether calling them in or telling them to run full-speed. Besides, when they have been taught to seize the vanquished prey, they must be content to kill, not mangle, what they have caught. By such methods see that you recruit your swift dogs every season,  p503 and again direct your anxious thoughts towards the young ones. For they have melancholy ailments, and the filthy mange often comes on their veins, and the dogs cause widespread mortality without distinction: you must yourself expend anxious efforts on them and every year fill up your pack by supplying progeny. Besides, the right thing is to blend tart draughts of wine with Minerva's olive-fruit, and it will do good to anoint the whelps and the mother dogs, expose them to the warm sun, and expel worms from their ears with the glittering knife.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Dogs also get rabies, a deadly peril. Whether it emanates from taint in a heavenly body when the Sun-God shoots but languid rays from a saddened sky, raising a pallid face in a world dismayed; or whether, rather, in striking the glowing back of the fire-tressed Lion,​37 he drives deep into our friendly dogs his feverish heats, whether earth breathes forth contagion from its bosom, or harmful air is the cause of the evil, or whether, when cool water runs short, the torrid germs of fire grow strong throughout the veins — whatever it is, it stirs the inmost marrow beneath the heart, and with black venomous foam darts forth into ferocious snarls, compelling the dog to imprint its bites in madness. Learn, therefore, the curative potions and the treatment that brings health. In such cases you will take the fetid drug got from the beaver and work it well, forcing it to grow viscous with the friction of a flint: to this should be added powder from pounded or chopped ivory, and by a long process of blending you will got both to harden together: next put in gradually the liquid flow of milk besides, to enable you to pour  p505 in through an inserted horn doses which do not stick in the throat, and so banish the melancholy Furies, and settle the dogs' minds once more to friendliness.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] But it is not only Spartan whelps or only Molossian which you must rear: sundered Britain sends us a swift sort, adapted to hunting-tasks in our world.​38 You should not disdain the pedigree of the Pannonian breed, nor those whose progeny springs from Spanish blood. Moreover, keen whelps are produced within the confines of dry Libya, and their service you must not despise. Besides, Tuscan dogs often give a satisfaction not foreign to us.​39 Even allowing that their shape is covered with shaggy hair and that they have limbs unlike quick-footed whelps, still they will give you an agreeable return in game; for they recognise the tracks on the meadow, though full of scents, and actually point to where a hare lies hid. Their mettle and their habits as well, and their discerning sense of smell I shall record presently;​40 for the moment the whole equipment of the chase​41 has to be explained, and I must deal with the attention due to horses.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] So then let Greece send us choice horny-hoofed coursers, and let a high-mettled breed recall the traits of the Cappadocians, and let the whole stud be soundly equipped and surpass the victorious racing-palms of their ancestors. Theirs is surface  p507 wide enough on their smooth back, an enormous extent of side, and neat belly for their huge size, a forehead uplifted, quick ears, high pride of comely head, and eyes sparkling with restless gleam; an ample neck falls back on power­ful shoulders; moist breath steams from hot nostrils, and, while the foot does not maintain its duty to stand still, the hoof repeatedly strikes the earth and the horse's spirited mettle tires its limbs. Moreover, beyond the soaring peaks of Calpe​42 lies a vast country, productive far and wide of fine coursers. For they have the strength to make long runs across the prairies,​43 and their beauty is no less than that in a Grecian body; panting they roll forth terrifying snorts, a flood of breath; they shoot out spirited glances; all a‑quiver they raise whinnyings and fight against the bridle, never giving their ears smooth rest nor their legs repose. Besides, you may select the courser sent by Mauretania (if he be a stout descendant of good stock), or the horse which the dusky Mazax tribesman​44 has reared in desert fields and taught to undergo ceaseless toil. No need to repine at their ugly head and ill-shapen belly, or at their lack of bridles, or because both breeds have the temper of freedom, or because the neck lashes the sloping shoulders with its mane. For he is an easy horse to guide, plies obediently under the control of a limber switch: its strokes are the orders for speed, its strokes are  p509 as bridles too. Nay, once launched across the spacious levels of the plain, with blood stirred, the steeds win fresh strength in the race, leaving by degrees their eager comrades behind. Even so, on the outburst of the winds across the blue waters of Nereus, when Thracian Boreas has uprisen o'er his cavern and with shrill howling dismayed the dreary waves, all the blasts on the troubled deep give way to him: himself​45 aglow mid foaming din, above the billows he o'ertops them in mastery manifest upon the sea: the whole band of the Nereids is mazed in wonderment as he passes over their watery domains.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] These horses are slow to attain confidence in prolonged running; also, theirs is youthful vigour even in age that has served its time. For no quality which has bloomed full at its due period suffers collapse in spirit ere physical powers fail. In the fresh spring-time, then, feed the coursers on soft mash, and, lancing a vein, watch old-standing ailments flow out with the ooze of the tainted blood. Soon strength returns joyously to their gallant hearts, moulding the sleek limbs with strength diffused: soon a better blood runs warm in their veins, and they wish for long stretches of road, and to make the broad plain vanish in their career. Next, when summer has hardened the ripening stalks and, scorching the juicy blades, has dried all the moisture for harvest and joined corn-earsº to stems, then be sure to furnish barley and light chaff: moreover, there must be care to winnow the produce free from dust, and to run the hands  p511 over the horses' muscles, so that the courser may enjoy being patted and relax his body in pleasure and quickly pass the nourishing juices throughout his frame. This must be the task of the servants and brave young attendants.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Besides they too must learn always to weave with knots far enough apart the hollow nets fit for the chase, and the toils set on tracks, and the nets which run in a long stretch; they must learn to preserve the right size for the openings between the knots and for the binding cord. Moreover, the line which can enclose great glades and by reason of terror shut in winged game as prey must carry here and there, entwined on it, feathers of different birds.​46 For the colours, like lightning-flashes, frighten bears, big boars, timid stags, foxes and fierce wolves, and bar them from surmounting the boundary of the cord. These then you will always be careful to diversify with various hues, mixing other colours with the whites, and thus stretching all along the line one terror after another. In feathers you draw a thousand means of fight from the vulture, from Africa, fertile mother of great-sized birds,​47 from cranes and aged swans and the white goose, from fowl that haunt rivers and thick marshes and dip webbed feet in standing pools. Of these​48 you will rather take birds with red plumage by nature's gift; for among the former you will find endless flocks of birds with bright-hued wings, their colours reddening with pleasant orange tint and gleaming everywhere in flecks upon the back. With such arrangements made towards the season of rainy winter, begin to send your swift dogs across the meadows; begin to urge your horses over the broad  p513 fields. Let us go hunting while the morning is young, while the soft meads retain the tracks imprinted by the wild beasts of the night.

The Editor's Notes:

1 Aonia = Boeotia, associated with the Muses through Mount Helicon.

2 Lines 8‑14: for this almost conventional claim to be original, cf. Lucret. I.926, avia Pieridum peragro loca nullius ante trita solo; Virg. G. III.291‑293; Hor. Od. III.I.2‑4; Milton, P. L. I.16.

3 Juno (here strikingly called paelex, "concubine") tempted Semele into the fatal request that Jupiter should appear to her in all his glory.

4 After Semele perished amidst the flames of her lover Jupiter's visitation, the god kept her unborn child, Bacchus, in his thigh until his birth was due: cf. Nem. Ecl. III.21‑24.

5 i.e. of Pentheus, King of Thebes, torn to pieces by his mother and other Bacchanalian devotees.

6 Dirce was tied to a savage bull by Amphion and Zethus out of revenge for her part in the maltreatment of their mother, Antiope: cf. Aetna, 577.

7 To escape prophesied death at the hands of a son-in‑law, Oenomaus, King of Elis and Pisa, proclaimed that he would give his daughter, Hippodamia, in marriage only to the suitor who should win a chariot-race against his supernatural steeds.

8 The fifty Danaides, with the exception of Hypermestra, carried out the command of their father, Danaus, to kill their bridegrooms on their marriage-night.

9 i.e. for her brother Caunus.

10 Myrrha (or Zmyrna), daughter of King Cinyras, was metamorphosed into a fragrant tree.

11 Juno, jealous of Jupiter's love for Io, consigned her to the guardian­ship of Argus of the hundred eyes, afterwards transformed into a peacock.

12 Procne and Philomela punished Tereus for his unfaithfulness by serving to him as food Itys, his son by Procne. When Procne was changed into a swallow and Philomela into a nightingale, Tereus became a hoopoe to pursue them: cf. Aetna, 589.

13 The fiery ruin which overtook Phaëthon in the Sun-God's chariot was lamented by Cycnus, who was changed into a swan, and by his sisters, the Heliades, who were changed into poplars.

14 Blood-guilt was transmitted through Pelops, son of Tantalus, and through his sons Atreus and Thyestes to Agamemnon and his son Orestes. Atreus, King of Mycene, avenged himself for the seduction of his wife on his brother by slaying his two sons and setting their flesh before their father. From this "banquet of Thyestes" the Sun hid his face in horror: cf. Aetna, 20.

15 The sorceress Medea from Colchis, infuriated by Jason's desertion of her for Glauce, sent to her bridal gifts which consumed her with fire.

16 On the purple lock of Nisus, King of Megara, the safety of his kingdom depended. His betrayal by his daughter is told in Ciris (Appendix Virgiliana).

17 Circe's potions and spells transformed men into beasts.

18 Antigone buried her brother Polynices in defiance of the edict of Creon.

19 eres (= ericius, ericinus or erinaceus) corresponds to the Greek ἐχῖνος.

20 This passage dates the Cynegetica. For the Emperor Carus and his sons, Carinus and Numerianus, see Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. xii. They succeeded their father on his death in A.D. 283. In 284 Carinus celebrated elaborate games at Rome in the name of himself and Numerian; but the brothers never saw each other after their father died. Numerian's death in 284 during his return journey with his army from Persia prevented him from enjoying the triumph decreed to the young emperors at Rome.

Thayer's Note: The main primary source for the life and reign of Carus is his biography in the Historia Augusta: Carus, Carinus and Numerian.

21 Fines are the limits set by Ocean on East and West.

22 The war maintained against the Sarmatians by Carus after Probus' death was left to Carinus to finish, when Carus had to face the Persian menace in the East. In his Gallic campaign also, Carinus showed some degree of soldierly ability.

23 Numerian is here flatteringly associated with the exploits of Carus, who after subduing Mesopotamia carried his victorious arms to Ctesiphon. Numerian's subsequent retreat surprised the Persians.

24 The reference is to violations of the Eastern frontiers of the Empire. Cacumina regni is taken, with Wernsdorf, to mean fastigium et maiestatem imperii Romani.

25 They were military emblems from Trajan's time.

26 Lines 91‑93 are discussed in a special excursus by Wernsdorf. With lusa cf. Virg. G. II.464, illusasque auro vestes, "garments fancifully embroidered with gold."

27 i.e. the surroundings should reverberate to the voices of the attendant mountain-nymphs.

28 On dogs generally see note on Grattius, Cyneg. 151.

29 Cf. Grattius, Cyneg. 181, 197, 211‑212.

30 On the mating of dogs cf. Grattius, Cyneg., esp. 263‑284.

31 Soles stands here for annos, i.e. annual revolutions of the sun according to the ancient cosmology.

32 Wernsdorf, following Barth, explains passa as meaning aperta (from pandere, not from pati).

33 138‑139: the parallel in Grattius, Cyn. 298‑299, is one of the points suggesting that Nemesianus had read Grattius.

34 Cf. Grattius, Cyn. 307, lacte novam pubem facilique tuebere maza. For the use of the goddess' name by metonymy for bread cf. Gratt. Cyn. 398: also Aetna, 10.

35 In the long days of midsummer the sun might be fancied to cross the sky more slowly. Morantis refers to the almost imperceptible lengthening and shortening of the days before and after the solstice.

36 i.e. the molle serum of l. 152.

37 The reference is to the heat of the sun on entering the sign of Leo.

38 For British dogs see Grattius, 174 sqq. and note there: divisa Britannia is an allusion to Virg. Ecl. I.66, penitus toto divisos orbe Britannos.

39 Burman gives the choice between summa and minima as equivalents to extrema. Non . . . externa seems to fit better the only Italian dogs in the passage.

40 This shows the incomplete state in which Nemesianus has been transmitted; for these subjects are not treated in his extant work.

41 The supellex venandi corresponds to Grattius' arma, i.e. nets, traps, hunting-spears, caps and so forth.

42 One of the fabled Pillars of Hercules, in Hispania Baetica, now the Rock of Gibraltar. Nemesianus, writing from the standpoint of an African, thinks of all Spain (gens ampla) as beyond Calpe.

43 The commendation of Spanish horses is supported by Martial I.XLIX.21‑25: cf. XIV.CXCIX. But, according to 11, Cyneg. I.284‑286, the Iberian horses, although fleet (θοοί), were found wanting in staying power (δρόμον ἐν παύροισιν ἐλεγχόμενοι σταδίοισιν).

44 Belonging to the Numidian tribe of Mazaces in Africa.

45 Boreas.

46 Cf. Grattius, Cyenegeticon, 75‑78 (the "formido").

47 e.g. the ostrich.

48 i.e. aquatic fowl.

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