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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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 p217  Aponus​1


[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Fount that prolongest life for the dwellers in Antenor's city, banishing by thy neighbouring waters all harmful fates, seeing that thy marvels stir utterance even in the dumb, that a people's love bids poets to honour thee in song, and that there is no hand whose fingers have not traced for thee some lines in thankful witness of prayers granted, shall I not be held guilty alike by the Muses and the Nymphs if I alone sing not thy praises? How can a spot whose fame is on so many lips rightly be passed over by me in slighting silence?

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Lower than a lofty hill yet higher than the level plain rises a gentle eminence, clear to see from all around. Prolific it is in hot springs, for wherever water penetrates its recesses encountering fires drive it forth. The crumbling ground exhales vapours, and the water, closed down in its prison of burning rock, forces its way out by many a fissured channel. 'Tis a region of liquid fire where Vulcan's flames spring forth from earth's breast, a land of burning and of sulphur. Who would not think it barren? Yet are those fiery fields green with verdure; grass grows o'er the burning marl and, though the very rocks melt at the heat, plants, mocking at the flames, boldly flourish.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Beyond this are vast furrows cut in the rock, scarring and cleaving it in long lines. Traces are  p219 they — so tradition tells — of Hercules' plough, or else chance did the ploughshare's work. In the middle of the hill is what seems a broad, steaming sea, an azure lake of vast extent. Great is the space it covers, still greater its depth where it plunges down and loses itself beneath the rocky caverns. A thick pall of steam hangs over it; its waters cannot be touched nor drunk though they are transparent as crystal to the very bottom. Nature took counsel for herself and lest that lake should be entirely beyond our ken she let our eyes penetrate what, because of its heat, our bodies could not enter. When a breeze scatters the thick clouds of steam and clears the grey surface of the erstwhile vaporous water you can gaze with wonder on the valley floor below that glassy flood where glint old weapons, king's gifts​2 of bygone days (between these a gulf of other hue, dark with the eddyings of black sand, swallows the hastening waters; below there opens a cavern into which the darkling flood pours, filling every nook and cranny with its swirling eddies); then are revealed the hidden places of the hill which, bent round in a bow, encircles the surface of the water with an overhanging rim.3

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] A verdant amphitheatre surrounds this steaming cauldron, and the ground floats lightly with slender film;​4 never will it give way beneath the visitor's weight, upholding his timorous feet, trusty though seeming so unsure. One would think it the work of man's hand, so smoothly does its circuit enfold the shore, slight and yet firm all the way. The water  p221 in the lake stands motionless, filling it to the brim and fearing to o'erstep its appointed limit. The overflow runs in a stream down a sloping rock and seeks the undulating plain below. A natural but tortuous channel carries the water away and thence it flows into an open conduit of lead. These pipes, noiselessly impregnated with some powderous mineral that the water carries down, produce a snow-white distillation of salt. The streams branch off in all directions carrying with them this natural wealth whithersoever art has directed their going, flexing this way and that their errant courses, flowing in swift torrent below aqueducts and warming the arches with the heat of their rushing waters. Within the arches, amid the roarings of the echoing rock, issues forth fiercer steam and vapour as the water rushes out. Then the sick, weak with sweating, seek next the stagnant pools that long time has made pleasantly cool.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Hail to thee, stream, generous giver of the waters of healing, chief glory of the land of Italy, doctor of all that come to thee, common helper of all Aesculapius' sons; a very present deity for whose aid there is nought to pay. Whether it be that hell's fiery streams have burst their banks and that Phlegethon gone astray bestows his heat upon the upper world, or that a river, originally of cold water, sinks down into veins of sulphur and rises thence afire (as one would think from the smell), or that the mountain in arbitration summons the two elements to a treaty, balancing a certain quantity of fire against a similar amount of water that neither yield to the other but under a just law of equipoise each may withstand the other's might — whatsoever  p223 shall prove to be the cause, whatever the origin, of this we may be sure — that thou flowest not without design. Who would dare to ascribe such a miracle to chance? Who could deny that the overruling gods have so ordained? Nature's lord, who measures the centuries by the stars, has given thee a place of honour among the works of his divinity, and, pitying the feebleness of our human bodies, has bidden pour forth healing waters for the earth, and from the riven hills burst forth streams that should win pardon from the Fates' relentless distaffs.

[Legamen ad paginam Latinam] Happy ye whose lot it is to dwell by those banks and to possess Aponus for your own; you no plague of earth, no pestilence-fraught winds of the south, nor Sirius with his cruel fires can harm. Should Lachesis' fatal thread threaten death men find in thee a more propitious fate. If it chance that noxious humours swell their limbs or that excess of bile inflames their ailing bowels they need not to open their veins nor to cure one wound with another nor yet to drink medicine of bitter herbs. By thy water's aid they renew their lost strength without suffering; 'mid luxury the sick find relief from pain.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

1 Aponus (mod. Abano) near Padua, famous for its hot mineral springs (cf. Mart. VI.42.4; Lucan, VII.193; Sil. Ital. XII.218, etc.). Padua (Patavium)º is said to have been founded by Antenor.

2 Doubtless ex voto offerings.

3 The "hidden places" (i.e. the sides of the mountain below the water-level) are "revealed" because of the translucency of the water.

4 Claudian describes a film or crust which encircles the lake and forms a path.

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Page updated: 27 Jul 07