Powered by Heat Keywords
The Online 
Medieval and Classical Library

(aka "The Civil War")

Caesar in Egypt

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #16b

     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;
10   But when the people, jealous of their laws,
     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,
20   Nor city ramparts: but in greed of gain
     He sought the cave dug out amid the tombs. (1)
     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
30   The baneful lesson that so many lands
     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 (2)
     He launched his fleet to sail the ocean wave:
40   Nor flame nor flood nor sterile Libyan sands
     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
50   Was victim made: Yet in his fall was his
     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
60   The Parthia fatal to our Roman arms.

     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
70   Unchaste.  For as the Spartan queen of yore
     By fatal beauty Argos urged to strife
     And Ilium's homes, so Cleopatra roused
     Italia's frenzy.  By her drum (3) 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 (4) waves
     Whether a woman, not of Roman blood,
80   Should hold the world in awe.  Such lofty thoughts
     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,
90   To Julia gave a brother: on the bounds,
     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
100  Be due, give ear.  Of Lagian race am I
     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
110  With equal rights the kingdom and the bed.
     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
120  Thee, Caesar, also; which the Fates avert!
     '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 (5)
     Caesar had made a peace, by costliest gifts
     Purchased, a banquet of such glad event
130  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 stood
     In sturdy columns, bearing up the roof;
140  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 part
     Dipped more than once within the vats of Tyre
150  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 coils
     Drawn from their foreheads.  Eunuchs too were there,
160  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,
     And faint beneath the weight of gems and gold.
     Her snowy breast shone through Sidonian lawn
170  Which woven close by shuttles of the east
     The art of Nile had loosened.  Ivory feet
     Bore citron tables brought from woods that wave (6)
     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!
     Not though he aimed with pitiless hand to grasp
     The riches of a world; not though were here
180  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,
     No hunger urging.  Frequent birds and beasts,
     Egypt's high gods, they placed upon the board:
190  In crystal goblets water of the Nile
     They handed, and in massive cups of price
     Was poured the wine; no juice of Mareot grape (7)
     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 locks
     Was cinnamon infused, not yet in air
     Its fragrance perished, nor in foreign climes;
200  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,
     Caesar drew out in colloquy the night
     Thus with Achoreus, on the highest couch
     With linen ephod as a priest begirt:
210  "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:
     If to th' Athenian sage your fathers taught
     Their mysteries, who worthier than I
     To bear in trust the secrets of the world?
220  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 (8) excel mine own.
     But though such ardour burns within my breast,
     Such zeal to know the truth, yet my chief wish
     To learn the source of your mysterious flood
     Through ages hidden: give me certain hope
     To see the fount of Nile -- and civil war
230  Then shall I leave."

                              He spake, and then the priest:
     "The secrets, Caesar, of our mighty sires (9)
     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 gods
     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: (10) these alone control
240  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.
     '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;
250  And fruitful Venus' star contains the seeds
     Of all things.  Ruler of the boundless deep
     The god (11) 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 path
     (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,
260  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. (12)

     "Vain is the ancient faith that Ethiop snows (13)
     Send Nile abundant forth upon the lands.
     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,
270  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 streams
     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,
280  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 wave
     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.

290  "Vain too the fable that the western winds (14)
     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,
     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
300  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 fount
     The Nile arising not in single streams
     Pours all the rivers forth.  And rumour says
     That when the sea which girdles in the world (15)
     O'erflows, thence rushes Nile, by lengthy course,
310  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.

                         "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
320  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 kings
     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 (16)
     To Nile its mystery, and to furthest earth
     Sent chosen Ethiops whom the crimson zone
330  Stayed in their further march, while flowed his stream
     Warm at their feet.  Sesostris (17) westward far
     Reached, to the ends of earth; and necks of kings
     Bent 'neath his chariot yoke: but of the springs
     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 (17) and, Nile unknown, returned.
     No lying rumour of thy hidden source
340  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,
     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
350  In sinuous bends alternate; just alike
     To Araby's peoples and to Libyan sands.
     By Seres (18) first beheld, yet know they not

     Whence art thou come; and with no native stream
     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
360  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 rise
     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
370  Pass from the Lion to the fervid earth. (20)
     Next dost thou journey onwards past the realm
     Of burning Phoebus, and the sterile sands,
     With equal volume; now with all thy strength
     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
380  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 foam
     (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
390  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 call
     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
400  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,
     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
410  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' hand
     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
420  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 night
     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,
430  But Caesar's gift, is Pharos.  Dost delay
     Nor hasten to the chamber of thy Queen?
     Thou only?  Married to the Latian chief,
     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.
440  We for his sister's charms by cross and flame
     Shall pay the penalty: nor hope of aid;
     Here stands adulterous Caesar, here the King
     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
450  Their shameless nuptials: on the very bed
     With either lover smite the ruthless Queen.
     Nor let the fortunes of the Western chief
     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
460  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.
     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.
470  Why fear these titles, why this chieftain's strength?
     For shorn of these, before your swords he lies
     A common soldier.  To the civil war
     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
480  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' prayers
     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,
490  Yet to barbarian customs were their minds
     By long forgetfulness of Rome debased:
     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 (21)
     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
500  From dread Thessalia raves on Nilus' banks
     As all the race of Rome.  What more had dared,
     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,
510  Had not the fates adverse restrained his hand
     From Caesar's slaughter.

                                   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
520  The chance of doing Caesar to the death
     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
530  Or give the battle.  Caesar, in the town
     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
540  His teeth in frenzied wrath; nor more would rage
     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 (22) had dared
550  To violate, nor the Moor who aims the dart
     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;
560  In purpose, Ptolemaeus, that thy life
     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 (23) 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
570  Bearing a message, thus: "At whose command
     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,
580  Nor Libyan coasts such wickedness have dared,
     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.
590  The fates forbad, and Fortune from their hands
     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 (24)
     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
600  Lamps drenched with reeking tar.  Nor slow the fire
     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;
610  Not otherwise than on its heavenly track,
     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 (25) seized,
     Gate of the main; an island in the days
620  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 sword
630  Hacked from his shoulders.  Next by frauds prepared
     By Ganymede her base attendant, fled
     Arsinoe (26) 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 king
640  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.

                                   As the Roman Chief,
650  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,
     Caught in the toils of nature, routed host
660  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....

(1)  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.
(2)  See Book III., 268.
(3)  The kettledrum used in the worship of Isis.  (See Book VIII,
     line 974.)
(4)  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.,
(5)  Between Cleopatra and her brother.
(6)  See Book IX., 507.
(7)  Yet the Mareot grape was greatly celebrated. (See Professor
     Rawlinson's note to Herodotus. ii., 18.)
(8)  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.
(9)  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.)
(10) 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.)
(11) Mercury. (See Book IX., 777.)
(12) 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.
(13) So also Herodotus, Book ii., 22.  Yet modern discoveries
     have proved the snows.
(14) So, too, Herodotus, Book ii., 20, who attributes the theory
     to Greeks who wish to get a reputation for cleverness.
(15) See on Book V., 709.  Herodotus mentions this theory also,
     to dismiss it.
(16) 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.
(17) Sesostris, the great king, does not appear to have pushed
     his conquests to the west of Europe.
(18) 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
(19) 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.
(20) A passage of difficulty.  I understand it to mean that at
     this spot the summer sun (in Leo) strikes the earth with
     direct rays.
(21) Reading "ibi fas ubi proxima merees", with Hosius.
(22) See Book VIII., 253.
(23) 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.
(24) 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.
(25) 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.)
(26) Younger sister of Cleopatra.

[End of Lucan's "Pharsalia"]