|Religion||Subjects||Images||Queries||Links||Contact||Do not fly Iberia|
Do not display Latin text
Display Dutch text
Ovid XV Chapter 15: 622-744 Aesculapius, the god, saves Rome from plague
Return to index
|You Muses, goddesses present to poets, reveal, now (since you know, and spacious time cannot betray you) where Aesculapius, son of Coronis, came from, to be joined to the gods of Romulus's city, that the deep Tiber flows around. Once, plague tainted the air of Latium, and people's bodies were ravaged by disease, pallid and bloodless. When they saw that their efforts were useless, and medical skill was useless, wearied with funeral rites, they sought help from the heavens, and travelled to Delphi, set at the centre of the earth, to the oracle of Phoebus, and prayed that he would aid them, in their misery, by a health-giving prophecy, and end their great city's evil. The ground, the laurel-tree, and the quiver he holds himself, trembled together, and the tripod responded with these words, from the innermost sanctuary, troubling their fearful minds: 'You should have looked in a nearer place, Romans, for what you seek here: even now, look for it from that nearer place: your help is not from Apollo, to lessen your pain, but Apollo's son. Go, with good omens, and fetch my child.' When the Senate, in its wisdom, heard the god's command, it made enquiries as to the city where Phoebus's son lived, and sent an embassy to sail to the coast of Epidaurus. As soon as the curved ship touched shore, the embassy went to the council of Greekelders, and begged them to give up the god, who, by his presence, might prevent the death of the Ausonian race: so the oracle truly commanded. They disagreed, and were of various minds: some thought that help could not be refused: the majority recommended the god should be kept, and their own wealth not released, or surrendered. While they wavered, as dusk dispelled the lingering light, and darkness covered the countries of the earth with shadow, then, in your dreams, Aesculapius, god of healing, seemed to stand before your bed, Roman, just as he is seen in his temple, holding a rustic staff in his left hand, and stroking his long beard with his right, and with a calm voice, speaking these words: 'Have no fear! I will come, and I will leave a statue of myself behind. Take a good look at this snake, that winds, in knots, round my staff, and keep it in your sight continually, until you know it! I will change into this, but greater in size, seeming as great as a celestial body should be when it changes.' The god vanished with the voice, at once: and sleep, with the voice, and the god: and as sleep fled, kind day dawned. When morning had put the bright stars to flight, the leaders, still unsure what to do, gathered at the temple complex of that god whom the Romans sought, and begged him to show them by some divine token where he himself wanted to live. They had hardly ceased speaking, when the golden god, in the likeness of a serpent with a tall crest, gave out a hiss as a harbinger of his presence, and by his coming, rocked the statue, the doors, the marble pavement, and the gilded roof. Then he stopped, in the middle of the temple, raising himself breast-high, and gazed round, with eyes flashing fire. The terrified crowd trembled, but the priest, his sacred locks tied with a white band, knew the divine one, and cried: The god, behold, it is the god! Restrain your minds and tongues, whoever is here! Let the sight of you, O most beautiful one, work for us, and help the people worshipping at your shrine!' Whoever was there, worshipped the god, as they were told, and all re-echoed the priest's words, and the Romans gave dutiful support, with mind and voice. The god nodded, and shook his crest, confirming his favour, by hissing three times in succession, with his flickering tongue. Then he glided down the gleaming steps, and turning his head backwards, gazed at the ancient altars he was abandoning, and saluted his accustomed house, and the temple where he had lived. From there the vast serpent slid over the flower-strewn ground, flexing his body, and made his way through the city centre to the harbour, protected by its curved embankment. He halted there, and, appearing to dismiss the dutiful throng, with a calm expression, settled his body down in the Ausonian ship. It felt the divine burden, and the keel sank under the god's weight. The Romans were joyful, and, sacrificing a bull on the shore, they loosed the twisted cables of their wreath-crowned ship. A gentle breeze drove the vessel: the god arching skyward, rested his neck heavily on the curving sternpost, and gazed at the dark blue waters. With gentle breezes he reached Italy, over the Ionian Sea, on the sixth morning. He passed the shores of Lacinium, famous for its temple of Juno, and Scylaceum; he left Iapygia, and avoided the rocks of Amphrisia to larboard, the cliffs of Cocinthia to starboard; he coasted by Romethium, by Caulon and Narycia: he passed the narrow strait of Sicilian Pelorus, and the home of King Aeolus, and the mines of Temese, and headed for Leucosia and the rose-gardens of gentle Paestum. From there he skirted Capri, and the promontory of Minerva, and Surrentum's hills well-stocked with vines, Herculaneum, Stabiae, and Parthenope, born for idleness, and headed for the temple of the Cumean Sibyl. By Baiae's hot pools; and Liternum's lentisk trees; and the River Volturnus, dragging quantities of sand along in its flood waters; and Sinuessa, frequented by white doves; and unhealthy Minturnae; and Caieta, named after her whom Aeneas her foster-son buried; and the home of Antiphates; and marsh-surrounded Trachas; and Circe's land; and Antium's firm shore. When the sailors steered their ship, under sail, to the place (since the sea was now rough) the god unwound his coils, and gliding along, fold after fold, in giant curves, entered his father Apollo's temple, bordering the yellow strand. When the sea was calm, the Epidaurian left the paternal altars, and having enjoyed the hospitality of his divine father, furrowed the sandy shore as he dragged his rasping scales along, and climbing the rudder, rested his head on the ship's high sternpost, until he came to Castrum, the sacred city of Lavinium, and the Tiber's mouths. All the people, men and women alike, had come thronging from every side, in a crowd, to meet him, along with those who serve your flames, Trojan Vesta, and they hailed the god with joyful cries. As the swift ship sailed up-stream, incense burned with a crackling sound on a series of altars on either bank, and the fumes perfumed the air, and the slaughtered victims bled heat on the sacrificial knives. Now it entered Rome, the capital of the world. The snake stood erect, and resting his neck on the mast's summit, turned, and looked for places fit for him to live. The river splits here into two branches, flowing round what is named the Island, stretching its two arms out equally on both sides, with the land between. There the serpent-child of Phoebus landed, and, resuming his divine form, made an end to grief, and came as a health-giver to the city.||
Pandite nunc, Musae, praesentia numina vatum, |
(scitis enim, nec vos fallit spatiosa vetustas,)
unde Coroniden circumflua Thybridis alti
insula Romuleae sacris adiecerit urbis.
Dira lues quondam Latias vitiaverat auras,
pallidaque exsangui squalebant corpora morbo.
funeribus fessi postquam mortalia cernunt
temptamenta nihil, nihil artes posse medentum,
auxilium caeleste petunt mediamque tenentes
orbis humum Delphos adeunt, oracula Phoebi,
utque salutifera miseris succurrere rebus
sorte velit tantaeque urbis mala finiat, orant:
et locus et laurus et, quas habet ipse, pharetrae
intremuere simul, cortinaque reddidit imo
hanc adyto vocem pavefactaque pectora movit
'quod petis hinc, propiore loco, Romane, petisses,
et pete nunc propiore loco: nec Apolline vobis,
qui minuat luctus, opus est, sed Apolline nato.
ite bonis avibus prolemque accersite nostram.'
iussa dei prudens postquam accepere senatus,
quam colat, explorant, iuvenis Phoebeius urbem,
quique petant ventis Epidauria litora, mittunt;
quae simul incurva missi tetigere carina,
concilium Graiosque patres adiere, darentque,
oravere, deum, qui praesens funera gentis
finiat Ausoniae: certas ita dicere sortes.
dissidet et variat sententia, parsque negandum
non putat auxilium, multi retinere suamque
non emittere opem nec numina tradere suadent:
dum dubitant, seram pepulere crepuscula lucem;
umbraque telluris tenebras induxerat orbi,
cum deus in somnis opifer consistere visus
ante tuum, Romane, torum, sed qualis in aede
esse solet, baculumque tenens agreste sinistra
caesariem longae dextra deducere barbae
et placido tales emittere pectore voces:
'pone metus! veniam simulacraque nostra relinquam.
hunc modo serpentem, baculum qui nexibus ambit,
perspice et usque nota visu, ut cognoscere possis!
vertar in hunc: sed maior ero tantusque videbor,
in quantum verti caelestia corpora debent.'
extemplo cum voce deus, cum voce deoque
somnus abit, somnique fugam lux alma secuta est.
postera sidereos aurora fugaverat ignes:
incerti, quid agant, proceres ad templa petiti
conveniunt operosa dei, quaque ipse morari
sede velit, signis caelestibus indicet, orant.
vix bene desierant, cum cristis aureus altis
in serpente deus praenuntia sibila misit
adventuque suo signumque arasque foresque
marmoreumque solum fastigiaque aurea movit
pectoribusque tenus media sublimis in aede
constitit atque oculos circumtulit igne micantes:
territa turba pavet, cognovit numina castos
evinctus vitta crines albente sacerdos
et 'deus en, deus est! animis linguisque favete,
quisquis ades!' dixit 'sis, o pulcherrime, visus
utiliter populosque iuves tua sacra colentes!'
quisquis adest, iussum veneratur numen, et omnes
verba sacerdotis referunt geminata piumque
Aeneadae praestant et mente et voce favorem.
adnuit his motisque deus rata pignora cristis
ter repetita dedit vibrata sibila lingua;
tum gradibus nitidis delabitur oraque retro
flectit et antiquas abiturus respicit aras
adsuetasque domos habitataque templa salutat.
inde per iniectis adopertam floribus ingens
serpit humum flectitque sinus mediamque per urbem
tendit ad incurvo munitos aggere portus.
restitit hic agmenque suum turbaeque sequentis
officium placido visus dimittere vultu
corpus in Ausonia posuit rate: numinis illa
sensit onus, pressa estque dei gravitate carina;
Aeneadae gaudent caesoque in litore tauro
torta coronatae solvunt retinacula navis.
inpulerat levis aura ratem: deus eminet alte
inpositaque premens puppim cervice recurvam
caeruleas despectat aquas modicisque per aequor
Ionium zephyris sextae Pallantidos ortu
Italiam tenuit praeterque Lacinia templo
nobilitate deae Scylaceaque litora fertur;
linquit Iapygiam laevisque Amphrisia remis
saxa fugit, dextra praerupta Cocinthia parte,
Romethiumque legit Caulonaque Naryciamque
evincitque fretum Siculique angusta Pelori
Hippotadaeque domos regis Temesesque metalla
Leucosiamque petit tepidique rosaria Paesti.
inde legit Capreas promunturiumque Minervae
et Surrentino generosos palmite colles
Herculeamque urbem Stabiasque et in otia natam
Parthenopen et ab hac Cumaeae templa Sibyllae.
hinc calidi fontes lentisciferumque tenetur
Liternum multamque trahens sub gurgite harenam
Volturnus niveisque frequens Sinuessa columbis
Minturnaeque graves et quam tumulavit alumnus
Antiphataeque domus Trachasque obsessa palude
et tellus Circaea et spissi litoris Antium.
huc ubi veliferam nautae advertere carinam,
(asper enim iam pontus erat), deus explicat orbes
perque sinus crebros et magna volumina labens
templa parentis init flavum tangentia litus.
aequore placato patrias Epidaurius aras
linquit et hospitio iuncti sibi numinis usus
litoream tractu squamae crepitantis harenam
sulcat et innixus moderamine navis in alta
puppe caput posuit, donec Castrumque sacrasque
Lavini sedes Tiberinaque ad ostia venit.
huc omnis populi passim matrumque patrumque
obvia turba ruit, quaeque ignes, Troica, servant,
Vesta, tuos, laetoque deum clamore salutant.
quaque per adversas navis cita ducitur undas,
tura super ripas aris ex ordine factis
parte ab utraque sonant et odorant aera fumis,
ictaque coniectos incalfacit hostia cultros.
iamque caput rerum, Romanam intraverat urbem:
erigitur serpens summoque acclinia malo
colla movet sedesque sibi circumspicit aptas.
scinditur in geminas partes circumfluus amnis
(Insula nomen habet) laterumque a parte duorum
porrigit aequales media tellure lacertos:
huc se de Latia pinu Phoebeius anguis
contulit et finem specie caeleste resumpta
luctibus inposuit venitque salutifer urbi.