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Ovid XV Chapter 13: 479-546 The transformation of Hippolytus
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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 step-mother, he met his death, though you will be amazed, and I will prove it with difficulty, nevertheless, I am he. Phaedra, Pasiphae'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 [Note 1] help, Cynthia [Note 2] 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. |
Note 1: Paean = Apollo.
Events: Death of Numa; grief and metamorphose of Egeria, Hippolytus and Phaedra, Fate of Hippolytus