The Pharsalia of Lucan

Book x

Caesar in Egypt

Caesar visits the tomb of Alexander, 1-62. Cleopatra comes to Caesar and asks for protection, 63-131. Banquet, 132-205. Caesar questions Achoreus, 206-230. His reply upon the stars, the source of the Nile, and its course, 231-400. Pothinus stirs up Achillas to murder Caesar, 401-483. The troops are collected and Caesar is besieged in the palace, 484-612. Caesar occupies Pharos, 613-664; and the poem ends.

When Caesar, following those who bore the head,

First trod the shore accursed, with Egypt’s fates

His fortunes battled, whether Rome should pass

In crimson conquest o’er the guilty land,

Or Memphis’ arms should ravish from the world

Victor and vanquished: and the warning shade

Of Magnus saved his kinsman from the sword.

First, by the crime assured, his standards borne

Before, he marched upon the Pharian town;

But when the people, jealous of their laws,10

Murmured against the fasces, Caesar knew

Their minds were adverse, and that not for him

Was Magnus’ murder wrought. And yet with brow

Dissembling fear, intrepid, through the shrines

Of Egypt’s gods he strode, and round the fane

Of ancient Isis; bearing witness all

To Macedon’s vigour in the days of old.

Yet did nor gold nor ornament restrain

His hasting steps, nor worship of the gods,

Nor city ramparts: but in greed of gain20

He sought the cave dug out amid the tombs. 293

The madman offspring there of Philip lies

The famed Pellaean robber, fortune’s friend,

Snatched off by fate, avenging so the world.

In sacred sepulchre the hero’s limbs,

Which should be scattered o’er the earth, repose,

Still spared by Fortune to these tyrant days:

For in a world to freedom once recalled,

All men had mocked the dust of him who set

The baneful lesson that so many lands30

Can serve one master. Macedon he left

His home obscure; Athena he despised

The conquest of his sire, and spurred by fate

Through Asia rushed with havoc of mankind,

Plunging his sword through peoples; streams unknown

Ran red with Persian and with Indian blood.

Curse of all earth and thunderbolt of ill

To every nation! On the outer sea 294

He launched his fleet to sail the ocean wave:

Nor flame nor flood nor sterile Libyan sands40

Stayed back his course, nor Hammon’s pathless shoals;

Far to the west, where downward slopes the world

He would have led his armies, and the poles

Had compassed, and had drunk the fount of Nile:

But came his latest day; such end alone

Could nature place upon the madman king,

Who jealous in death as when he won the world

His empire with him took, nor left an heir.

Thus every city to the spoiler’s hand

Was victim made: Yet in his fall was his50

Babylon; and Parthia feared him. Shame on us

That eastern nations dreaded more the lance

Of Macedon than now the Roman spear.

True that we rule beyond where takes its rise

The burning southern breeze, beyond the homes

Of western winds, and to the northern star;

But towards the rising of the sun, we yield

To him who kept the Arsacids in awe;

And puny Pella held as province sure

The Parthia fatal to our Roman arms.60

Now from the stream Pelusian of the Nile,

Was come the boyish king, taming the rage

Of his effeminate people: pledge of peace;

And Caesar safely trod Pellaean halls;

When Cleopatra bribed her guard to break

The harbour chains, and borne in little boat

Within the Macedonian palace gates,

Caesar unknowing, entered: Egypt’s shame;

Fury of Latium; to the bane of Rome

Unchaste. For as the Spartan queen of yore70

By fatal beauty Argos urged to strife

And Ilium’s homes, so Cleopatra roused

Italia’s frenzy. By her drum 295 she called

Down on the Capitol terror (if to speak

Such word be lawful); mixed with Roman arms

Coward Canopus, hoping she might lead

A Pharian triumph, Caesar in her train;

And ’twas in doubt upon Leucadian 296 waves

Whether a woman, not of Roman blood,

Should hold the world in awe. Such lofty thoughts80

Seized on her soul upon that night in which

The wanton daughter of Pellaean kings

First shared our leaders’ couches. Who shall blame

Antonius for the madness of his love,

When Caesar’s haughty breast drew in the flame?

Who red with carnage, ‘mid the clash of arms,

In palace haunted by Pompeius’ shade,

Gave place to love; and in adulterous bed,

Magnus forgotten, from the Queen impure,

To Julia gave a brother: on the bounds,90

Of furthest Libya permitting thus

His foe to gather: he in dalliance base

Waited upon his mistress, and to her

Pharos would give, for her would conquer all.

Then Cleopatra, trusting to her charms,

Tearless approached him, though in form of grief;

Her tresses loose as though in sorrow torn,

So best becoming her; and thus began:

“If, mighty Caesar, aught to noble birth

Be due, give ear. Of Lagian race am I100

Offspring illustrious; from my father’s throne

Cast forth to banishment; unless thy hand

Restore to me the sceptre: then a Queen

Falls at thy feet embracing. To our race

Bright star of justice thou! Nor first shall I

As woman rule the cities of the Nile;

For, neither sex preferring, Pharos bows

To queenly governance. Of my parted sire

Read the last words, by which ’tis mine to share

With equal rights the kingdom and the bed.110

And loves the boy his sister, were he free;

But his affections and his sword alike

Pothinus orders. Nor wish I myself

To wield my father’s power; but this my prayer:

Save from this foul disgrace our royal house,

Bid that the king shall reign, and from the court

Remove this hateful varlet, and his arms.

How swells his bosom for that his the hand

That shore Pompeius’ head! And now he threats

Thee, Caesar, also; which the Fates avert!120

’Twas shame enough upon the earth and thee

That of Pothinus Magnus should have been

The guilt or merit.”

Caesar’s ears in vain

Had she implored, but aided by her charms

The wanton’s prayers prevailed, and by a night

Of shame ineffable, passed with her judge,

She won his favour.

When between the pair 297

Caesar had made a peace, by costliest gifts130

Purchased, a banquet of such glad event

Made fit memorial; and with pomp the Queen

Displayed her luxuries, as yet unknown

To Roman fashions. First uprose the hall

Like to a fane which this corrupted age

Could scarcely rear: the lofty ceiling shone

With richest tracery, the beams were bound

In golden coverings; no scant veneer

Lay on its walls, but built in solid blocks

Of marble, gleamed the palace. Agate stood140

In sturdy columns, bearing up the roof;

Onyx and porphyry on the spacious floor

Were trodden ‘neath the foot; the mighty gates

Of Maroe’s throughout were formed,

He mere adornment; ivory clothed the hall,

And fixed upon the doors with labour rare

Shells of the tortoise gleamed, from Indian seas,

With frequent emeralds studded. Gems of price

And yellow jasper on the couches shone.

Lustrous the coverlets; the major part150

Dipped more than once within the vats of Tyre

Had drunk their juice: part feathered as with gold;

Part crimson dyed, in manner as are passed

Through Pharian leash the threads. There waited slaves

In number as a people, some in ranks

By different blood distinguished, some by age;

This band with Libyan, that with auburn hair

Red so that Caesar on the banks of Rhine

None such had witnessed; some with features scorched

By torrid suns, their locks in twisted coils160

Drawn from their foreheads. Eunuchs too were there,

Unhappy race; and on the other side

Men of full age whose cheeks with growth of hair

Were hardly darkened.

Upon either hand

Lay kings, and Caesar in the midst supreme.

There in her fatal beauty lay the Queen

Thick daubed with unguents, nor with throne content

Nor with her brother spouse; laden she lay

On neck and hair with all the Red Sea spoils,170

And faint beneath the weight of gems and gold.

Her snowy breast shone through Sidonian lawn

Which woven close by shuttles of the east

The art of Nile had loosened. Ivory feet

Bore citron tables brought from woods that wave 298

On Atlas, such as Caesar never saw

When Juba was his captive. Blind in soul

By madness of ambition, thus to fire

By such profusion of her wealth, the mind

Of Caesar armed, her guest in civil war!180

Not though he aimed with pitiless hand to grasp

The riches of a world; not though were here

Those ancient leaders of the simple age,

Fabricius or Curius stern of soul,

Or he who, Consul, left in sordid garb

His Tuscan plough, could all their several hopes

Have risen to such spoil. On plates of gold

They piled the banquet sought in earth and air

And from the deepest seas and Nilus’ waves,

Through all the world; in craving for display,190

No hunger urging. Frequent birds and beasts,

Egypt’s high gods, they placed upon the board:

In crystal goblets water of the Nile

They handed, and in massive cups of price

Was poured the wine; no juice of Mareot grape 299

But noble vintage of Falernian growth

Which in few years in Meroe’s vats had foamed,

(For such the clime) to ripeness. On their brows

Chaplets were placed of roses ever young

With glistening nard entwined; and in their locks200

Was cinnamon infused, not yet in air

Its fragrance perished, nor in foreign climes;

And rich amomum from the neighbouring fields.

Thus Caesar learned the booty of a world

To lavish, and his breast was shamed of war

Waged with his son-in-law for meagre spoil,

And with the Pharian realm he longed to find

A cause of battle.

When of wine and feast

They wearied and their pleasure found an end,210

Caesar drew out in colloquy the night

Thus with Achoreus, on the highest couch

With linen ephod as a priest begirt:

“O thou devoted to all sacred rites,

Loved by the gods, as proves thy length of days,

Tell, if thou wilt, whence sprang the Pharian race;

How lie their lands, the manners of their tribes,

The form and worship of their deities.

Expound the sculptures on your ancient fanes:

Reveal your gods if willing to be known:220

If to th’ Athenian sage your fathers taught

Their mysteries, who worthier than I

To bear in trust the secrets of the world?

True, by the rumour of my kinsman’s flight

Here was I drawn; yet also by your fame:

And even in the midst of war’s alarms

The stars and heavenly spaces have I conned;

Nor shall Eudoxus’ year 300 excel mine own.

But though such ardour burns within my breast,

Such zeal to know the truth, yet my chief wish230

To learn the source of your mysterious flood

Through ages hidden: give me certain hope

To see the fount of Nile — and civil war

Then shall I leave.”

He spake, and then the priest:

“The secrets, Caesar, of our mighty sires 301

Kept from the common people until now

I hold it right to utter. Some may deem

That silence on these wonders of the earth

Were greater piety. But to the gods240

I hold it grateful that their handiwork

And sacred edicts should be known to men.

“A different power by the primal law,

Each star possesses: 302 these alone control

The movement of the sky, with adverse force

Opposing: while the sun divides the year,

And day from night, and by his potent rays

Forbids the stars to pass their stated course.

The moon by her alternate phases sets

The varying limits of the sea and shore.250

‘Neath Saturn’s sway the zone of ice and snow

Has passed; while Mars in lightning’s fitful flames

And winds abounds’ beneath high Jupiter

Unvexed by storms abides a temperate air;

And fruitful Venus’ star contains the seeds

Of all things. Ruler of the boundless deep

The god 303 Cyllenian: whene’er he holds

That part of heaven where the Lion dwells

With neighbouring Cancer joined, and Sirius star

Flames in its fury; where the circular path260

(Which marks the changes of the varying year)

Gives to hot Cancer and to Capricorn

Their several stations, under which doth lie

The fount of Nile, he, master of the waves,

Strikes with his beam the waters. Forth the stream

Brims from his fount, as Ocean when the moon

Commands an increase; nor shall curb his flow

Till night wins back her losses from the sun. 304

“Vain is the ancient faith that Ethiop snows 305

Send Nile abundant forth upon the lands.270

Those mountains know nor northern wind nor star.

Of this are proof the breezes of the South,

Fraught with warm vapours, and the people’s hue

Burned dark by suns: and ’tis in time of spring,

When first are thawed the snows, that ice-fed streams

In swollen torrents tumble; but the Nile

Nor lifts his wave before the Dog star burns;

Nor seeks again his banks, until the sun

In equal balance measures night and day.

Nor are the laws that govern other streams280

Obeyed by Nile. For in the wintry year

Were he in flood, when distant far the sun,

His waters lacked their office; but he leaves

His channel when the summer is at height,

Tempering the torrid heat of Egypt’s clime.

Such is the task of Nile; thus in the world

He finds his purpose, lest exceeding heat

Consume the lands: and rising thus to meet

Enkindled Lion, to Syene’s prayers

By Cancer burnt gives ear; nor curbs his wave290

Till the slant sun and Meroe’s lengthening shades

Proclaim the autumn. Who shall give the cause?

’Twas Parent Nature’s self which gave command

Thus for the needs of earth should flow the Nile.

“Vain too the fable that the western winds 306

Control his current, in continuous course

At stated seasons governing the air;

Or hurrying from Occident to South

Clouds without number which in misty folds

Press on the waters; or by constant blast,300

Forcing his current back whose several mouths

Burst on the sea; — so, forced by seas and wind,

Men say, his billows pour upon the land.

Some speak of hollow caverns, breathing holes

Deep in the earth, within whose mighty jaws

Waters in noiseless current underneath

From northern cold to southern climes are drawn:

And when hot Meroe pants beneath the sun,

Then, say they, Ganges through the silent depths

And Padus pass: and from a single fount310

The Nile arising not in single streams

Pours all the rivers forth. And rumour says

That when the sea which girdles in the world 307

O’erflows, thence rushes Nile, by lengthy course,

Softening his saltness. More, if it be true

That ocean feeds the sun and heavenly fires,

Then Phoebus journeying by the burning Crab

Sucks from its waters more than air can hold

Upon his passage — this the cool of night

Pours on the Nile.320

“If, Caesar, ’tis my part

To judge such difference, ‘twould seem that since

Creation’s age has passed, earth’s veins by chance

Some waters hold, and shaken cast them forth:

But others took when first the globe was formed

A sure abode; by Him who framed the world

Fixed with the Universe.

“And, Roman, thou,

In thirsting thus to know the source of Nile

Dost as the Pharian and Persian kings330

And those of Macedon; nor any age

Refused the secret, but the place prevailed

Remote by nature. Greatest of the kings

By Memphis worshipped, Alexander grudged 308

To Nile its mystery, and to furthest earth

Sent chosen Ethiops whom the crimson zone

Stayed in their further march, while flowed his stream

Warm at their feet. Sesostris 309 westward far

Reached, to the ends of earth; and necks of kings

Bent ‘neath his chariot yoke: but of the springs340

Which fill your rivers, Rhone and Po, he drank.

Not of the fount of Nile. Cambyses king

In madman quest led forth his host to where

The long-lived races dwell: then famine struck,

Ate of his dead 310 and, Nile unknown, returned.

No lying rumour of thy hidden source

Has e’er made mention; wheresoe’er thou art

Yet art thou sought, nor yet has nation claimed

In pride of place thy river as its own.

Yet shall I tell, so far as has the god,350

Who veils thy fountain, given me to know.

Thy progress. Daring to upraise thy banks

‘Gainst fiery Cancer’s heat, thou tak’st thy rise

Beneath the zenith: straight towards the north

And mid Bootes flowing; to the couch

Bending, or to the risings, of the sun

In sinuous bends alternate; just alike

To Araby’s peoples and to Libyan sands.

By Seres 311 first beheld, yet know they not

Whence art thou come; and with no native stream360

Strik’st thou the Ethiop fields. Nor knows the world

To whom it owes thee. Nature ne’er revealed

Thy secret origin, removed afar.

Nor did she wish thee to be seen of men

While still a tiny rivulet, but preferred

Their wonder to their knowledge. Where the sun

Stays at his limit, dost thou rise in flood

Untimely; such try right: to other lands

Bearing try winter: and by both the poles

Thou only wanderest. Here men ask thy rise370

And there thine ending. Meroe rich in soil

And tilled by swarthy husbandmen divides

Thy broad expanse, rejoicing in the leaves

Of groves of ebony, which though spreading far

Their branching foliage, by no breadth of shade

Soften the summer sun — whose rays direct

Pass from the Lion to the fervid earth. 312

Next dost thou journey onwards past the realm

Of burning Phoebus, and the sterile sands,

With equal volume; now with all thy strength380

Gathered in one, and now in devious streams

Parting the bank that crumbles at thy touch.

Then by our kingdom’s gates, where Philae parts

Arabian peoples from Egyptian fields

The sluggish bosom of thy flood recalls

Try wandering currents, which through desert wastes

Flow gently on to where the merchant track

Divides the Red Sea waters from our own.

Who, gazing, Nile, upon thy tranquil flow,

Could picture how in wild array of foam390

(Where shelves the earth) thy billows shall be plunged

Down the steep cataracts, in fuming wrath

That rocks should bar the passage of thy stream

Free from its source? For whirled on high the spray

Aims at the stars, and trembles all the air

With rush of waters; and with sounding roar

The foaming mass down from the summit pours

In hoary waves victorious. Next an isle

In all our ancient lore “untrodden” named

Stems firm thy torrent; and the rocks we call400

Springs of the river, for that here are marked

The earliest tokens of the coming flood.

With mountain shores now nature hems thee in

And shuts thy waves from Libya; in the midst

Hence do thy waters run, till Memphis first

Forbids the barrier placed upon thy stream

And gives thee access to the open fields.”

Thus did they pass, as though in peace profound,

The nightly watches. But Pothinus’ mind,

Once with accursed butchery imbued,410

Was frenzied still; since great Pompeius fell

No deed to him was crime; his rabid soul

Th’ avenging goddesses and Magnus’ shade

Stirred to fresh horrors; and a Pharian hand

No less was worthy, as he deemed, to shed

That blood which Fortune purposed should bedew

The conquered fathers: and the fell revenge

Due to the senate for the civil war

This hireling almost snatched. Avert, ye fates,

Far hence the shame that not by Brutus’ hand420

This blow be struck! Shall thus the tyrant’s fall

Just at our hands, become a Pharian crime,

Reft of example? To prepare a plan

(Fated to fail) he dares; nor veils in fraud

A plot for murder, but with open war

Attacks th’ unconquered chieftain: from his crimes

He gained such courage as to send command

To lop the head of Caesar, and to join

In death the kinsmen chiefs.

These words by night430

His faithful servants to Achillas bear,

His foul associate, whom the boy had made

Chief of his armies, and who ruled alone

O’er Egypt’s land and o’er himself her king:

“Now lay thy limbs upon the sumptuous couch

And sleep in luxury, for the Queen hath seized

The palace; nor alone by her betrayed,

But Caesar’s gift, is Pharos. Dost delay

Nor hasten to the chamber of thy Queen?

Thou only? Married to the Latian chief,440

The impious sister now her brother weds

And hurrying from rival spouse to spouse

Hath Egypt won, and plays the bawd for Rome.

By amorous potions she has won the man:

Then trust the boy! Yet give him but a night

In her enfondling arms, and drunk with love

Thy life and mine he’ll barter for a kiss.

We for his sister’s charms by cross and flame

Shall pay the penalty: nor hope of aid;

Here stands adulterous Caesar, here the King450

Her spouse: how hope we from so stern a judge

To gain acquittal? Shall she not condemn

Those who ne’er sought her favours? By the deed

We dared together and lost, by Magnus’ blood

Which wrought the bond between us, be thou swift

With hasty tumult to arouse the war:

Dash in with nightly band, and mar with death

Their shameless nuptials: on the very bed

With either lover smite the ruthless Queen.

Nor let the fortunes of the Western chief460

Make pause our enterprise. We share with him

The glory of his empire o’er the world.

Pompeius fallen makes us too sublime.

There lies the shore that bids us hope success:

Ask of our power from the polluted wave,

And gaze upon the scanty tomb which holds

Not all Pompeius’ ashes. Peer to him

Was he whom now thou fearest. Noble blood

True, is not ours: what boots it? Nor are realms

Nor wealth of peoples given to our command.470

Yet have we risen to a height of power

For deeds of blood, and Fortune to our hands

Attracts her victims. Lo! a nobler now

Lies in our compass, and a second death

Hesperia shall appease; for Caesar’s blood,

Shed by these hands, shall give us this, that Rome

Shall love us, guilty of Pompeius’ fall.

Why fear these titles, why this chieftain’s strength?

For shorn of these, before your swords he lies

A common soldier. To the civil war480

This night shall bring completion, and shall give

To peoples slain fit offerings, and send

That life the world demands beneath the shades.

Rise then in all your hardihood and smite

This Caesar down, and let the Roman youths

Strike for themselves, and Lagos for its King.

Nor do thou tarry: full of wine and feast

Thou’lt fall upon him in the lists of love;

Then dare the venture, and the heavenly gods

Shall grant of Cato’s and of Brutus’ prayers490

To thee fulfilment.”

Nor was Achillas slow

To hear the voice that counselled him to crime.

No sounding clarion summoned, as is wont,

His troops to arms; nor trumpet blare betrayed

Their nightly march: but rapidly he seized

All needed instruments of blood and war.

Of Latian race the most part of his train,

Yet to barbarian customs were their minds

By long forgetfulness of Rome debased:500

Else had it shamed to serve the Pharian King;

But now his vassal and his minion’s word

Compel obedience. Those who serve in camps

Lose faith and love of kin: their pittance earned 313

Makes just the deed: and for their sordid pay,

Not for themselves, they threaten Caesar’s life.

Where finds the piteous destiny of the realm

Rome with herself at peace? The host withdrawn

From dread Thessalia raves on Nilus’ banks

As all the race of Rome. What more had dared,510

With Magnus welcomed, the Lagean house?

Each hand must render to the gods their due,

Nor son of Rome may cease from civil war;

By Heaven’s command our state was rent in twain;

Nor love for husband nor regard for sire

Parted our peoples. ’Twas a slave who stirred

Afresh the conflict, and Achillas grasped

In turn the sword of Rome: nay more, had won,

Had not the fates adverse restrained his hand

From Caesar’s slaughter.520

For the murderous pair

Ripe for their plot were met; the spacious hall

Still busied with the feast. So might have flowed

Into the kingly cups a stream of gore,

And in mid banquet fallen Caesar’s head.

Yet did they fear lest in the nightly strife

(The fates permitting) some incautious hand —

So did they trust the sword — might slay the King.

Thus stayed the deed, for in the minds of slaves

The chance of doing Caesar to the death530

Might bear postponement: when the day arose

Then should he suffer; and a night of life

Thus by Pothinus was to Caesar given.

Now from the Casian rock looked forth the Sun

Flooding the land of Egypt with a day

Warm from its earliest dawn, when from the walls

Not wandering in disorder are they seen,

But drown in close array, as though to meet

A foe opposing; ready to receive

Or give the battle. Caesar, in the town540

Placing no trust, within the palace courts

Lay in ignoble hiding place, the gates

Close barred: nor all the kingly rooms possessed,

But in the narrowest portion of the space

He drew his band together. There in arms

They stood, with dread and fury in their souls.

He feared attack, indignant at his fear.

Thus will a noble beast in little cage

Imprisoned, fume, and break upon the bars

His teeth in frenzied wrath; nor more would rage550

The flames of Vulcan in Sicilian depths

Should Etna’s top be closed. He who but now

By Haemus’ mount against Pompeius chief,

Italia’s leaders and the Senate line,

His cause forbidding hope, looked at the fates

He knew were hostile, with unfaltering gaze,

Now fears before the crime of hireling slaves,

And in mid palace trembles at the blow:

He whom nor Scythian nor Alaun 314 had dared

To violate, nor the Moor who aims the dart560

Upon his victim slain, to prove his skill.

The Roman world but now did not suffice

To hold him, nor the realms from furthest Ind

To Tyrian Gades. Now, as puny boy,

Or woman, trembling when a town is sacked,

Within the narrow corners of a house

He seeks for safety; on the portals closed

His hope of life; and with uncertain gait

He treads the hails; yet not without the King;

In purpose, Ptolemaeus, that thy life570

For his shall give atonement; and to hurl

Thy severed head among the servant throng

Should darts and torches fail. So story tells

The Colchian princess 315 with sword in hand,

And with her brother’s neck bared to the blow,

Waited her sire, avenger of his realm

Despoiled, and of her flight. In the imminent risk

Caesar, in hopes of peace, an envoy sent

To the fierce vassals, from their absent lord

Bearing a message, thus: “At whose command580

Wage ye the war?” But not the laws which bind

All nations upon earth, nor sacred rights,

Availed to save or messenger of peace,

Or King’s ambassador; or thee from crime

Such as befitted thee, thou land of Nile

Fruitful in monstrous deeds: not Juba’s realm

Vast though it be, nor Pontus, nor the land

Thessalian, nor the arms of Pharnaces,

Nor yet the tracts which chill Iberus girds,

Nor Libyan coasts such wickedness have dared,590

As thou, with all thy luxuries. Closer now

War hemmed them in, and weapons in the courts,

Shaking the innermost recesses, fell.

Yet did no ram, fatal with single stroke,

Assail the portal, nor machine of war;

Nor flame they called in aid; but blind of plan

They wander purposeless, in separate bands

Around the circuit, nor at any spot

With strength combined attempt to breach the wall.

The fates forbad, and Fortune from their hands600

Held fast the palace as a battlement.

Nor failed they to attack from ships of war

The regal dwelling, where its frontage bold

Made stand apart the waters of the deep:

There, too, was Caesar’s all-protecting arm;

For these at point of sword, and those with fire 316

He forces back, and though besieged he dares

To storm th’ assailants: and as lay the ships

Joined rank to rank, bids drop upon their sides

Lamps drenched with reeking tar. Nor slow the fire610

To seize the hempen cables and the decks

Oozing with melting pitch; the oarsman’s bench

All in one moment, and the topmost yards

Burst into flame: half merged the vessels lay

While swam the foemen, all in arms, the wave;

Nor fell the blaze upon the ships alone,

But seized with writhing tongues the neighbouring homes,

And fanned to fury by the Southern breeze

Tempestuous, it leaped from roof to roof;

Not otherwise than on its heavenly track,620

Unfed by matter, glides the ball of light,

By air alone aflame.

This pest recalled

Some of the forces to the city’s aid

From the besieged halls. Nor Caesar gave

To sleep its season; swifter than all else

To seize the crucial moment of the war.

Quick in the darkest watches of the night

He leaped upon his ships, and Pharos 317 seized,

Gate of the main; an island in the days630

Of Proteus seer, now bordering the walls

Of Alexander’s city. Thus he gained

A double vantage, for his foes were pent

Within the narrow entrance, which for him

And for his aids gave access to the sea.

Nor longer was Pothinus’ doom delayed,

Yet not with cross or flame, nor with the wrath

His crime demanded; nor by savage beasts

Torn, did he suffer; but by Magnus’ death,

Alas the shame! he fell; his head by sword640

Hacked from his shoulders. Next by frauds prepared

By Ganymede her base attendant, fled

Arsinoe 318 from the Court to Caesar’s foes;

There in the absence of the King she ruled

As of Lagean blood: there at her hands,

The savage minion of the tyrant boy,

Achillas, fell by just avenging sword.

Thus did another victim to thy shade

Atone, Pompeius; but the gods forbid

That this be all thy vengeance! Not the king650

Nor all the stock of Lagos for thy death

Would make fit sacrifice! So Fortune deemed;

And not till patriot swords shall drink the blood

Of Caesar, Magnus, shalt thou be appeased.

Still, though was slain the author of the strife,

Sank not their rage: with Ganymede for chief

Again they rush to arms; in deeds of fight

Again they conquer. So might that one day

Have witnessed Caesar’s fate; so might its fame

Have lived through ages.660

As the Roman Chief,

Crushed on the narrow surface of the mole,

Prepared to throw his troops upon the ships,

Sudden upon him the surrounding foes

With all their terrors came. In dense array

Their navy lined the shores, while on the rear

The footmen ceaseless charged. No hope was left,

For flight was not, nor could the brave man’s arm

Achieve or safety or a glorious death.

Not now were needed for great Caesar’s fall,670

Caught in the toils of nature, routed host

Or mighty heaps of slain: his only doubt

To fear or hope for death: while on his brain

Brave Scaeva’s image flashed, now vainly sought,

Who on the wall by Epidamnus’ fields

Earned fame immortal, and with single arm

Drove back Pompeius as he trod the breach. . . .

293 The body of Alexander was embalmed, and the mummy placed in a glass case. The sarcophagus which enclosed them is stated to be now in the British Museum.

294 See Book III., 268.

295 The kettledrum used in the worship of Isis. (See Book VIII, line 974.)

296 At the Battle of Actium. The island of Leucas, close to the promontory of Actium, is always named by Lucan when he refers to this battle. (See also Virgil, “Aeneid”, viii., 677.)

297 Between Cleopatra and her brother.

298 See Book IX., 507.

299 Yet the Mareot grape was greatly celebrated. (See Professor Rawlinson’s note to Herodotus. ii., 18.)

300 The calendar introduced by Caesar, in B.C. 45, was founded on the Egyptian or solar year. (See Herodotus, ii., 4.) Eudoxus seems to have dealt with this year and to have corrected it. He is probably alluded to by Virgil, “Eclogue” iii., 41.

301 Herodotus was less fortunate. For he says “Concerning the nature of the river I was not able to gain any information either from the priests or others.” (ii., 19.)

302 It was supposed that the Sun and Moon and the planets (Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, and Venus) were points which restrained the motion of the sky in its revolution. (See Book VI., 576.)

303 Mercury. (See Book IX., 777.)

304 That is, at the autumnal equinox. The priest states that the planet Mercury causes the rise of the Nile. The passage is difficult to follow; but the idea would seem to be that this god, who controlled the rise and fall of the waves of the sea, also when he was placed directly over the Nile caused the rise of that river.

305 So also Herodotus, Book ii., 22. Yet modern discoveries have proved the snows.

306 So, too, Herodotus, Book ii., 20, who attributes the theory to Greeks who wish to get a reputation for cleverness.

307 See on Book V., 709. Herodotus mentions this theory also, to dismiss it.

308 The historians state that Alexander made an expedition to the temple of Jupiter Hammon and consulted the oracle. Jupiter assisted his march, and an army of crows pointed out the path (Plutarch). It is, however stated, in a note in Langhorne’s edition, that Maximus Tyrius informs us that the object of the journey was the discovery of the sources of the Nile.

309 Sesostris, the great king, does not appear to have pushed his conquests to the west of Europe.

310 See Herodotus, iii., 17. These Ethiopian races were supposed to live to the age of 120 years, drinking milk, and eating boiled flesh. On Cambyses’s march his starving troops cast lots by tens for the one man who was to be eaten.

311 The Seres are, of course, the Chinese. The ancients seem to have thought that the Nile came from the east. But it is possible that there was another tribe of this name dwelling in Africa.

312 A passage of difficulty. I understand it to mean that at this spot the summer sun (in Leo) strikes the earth with direct rays.

313 Reading “ibi fas ubi proxima merees”, with Hosius.

314 See Book VIII., 253.

315 Medea, who fled from Colchis with her brother, Absyrtus. Pursued by her father Aeetes, she killed her brother and strewed the parts of his body into the sea. The king paused to collect them.

316 It was in this conflagration that a large part of the library of the Ptolemies was destroyed. 400,000 volumes are stated to have perished.

317 The island of Pharos, which lay over against the port of Alexandria, had been connected with the mainland in the middle by a narrow causeway. On it stood the lighthouse. (See Book IX, 1191.) Proteus, the old man of the sea, kept here his flock of seals, according to the Homeric story. (“Odyssey”, Book IV, 400.)

318 Younger sister of Cleopatra.

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