309-331

AM.        Ō socia nostrī sanguinis, castā fide

servāns torum nātōsque magnanimī Herculis,310

meliōra mente concipe atque animum excitā.

aderit profectō, quālis ex omnī solet

labōre, māior.

 

MEG.                            Quod nimis miserī volunt,

hoc facile crēdunt.

 

AM.                                    Immo quod metuunt nimis

numquam movērī posse nec tollī putant;315

prōna est timōris semper in peius fidēs.

 

MEG.     Dēmersus ac dēfossus et tōtō īnsuper

oppressus orbe quam viam ad superōs habet?

 

AM.        Quam tunc habēbat cum per ārentem plagam

et fluctuantēs mōre turbātī maris320

abīt harēnās bisque discēdēns fretum

et bis recurrēns, cumque dēsertā rate

dēprēnsus haesit Syrtium brevibus vadīs

et puppe fīxā maria superāvit pedes.

 

MEG.     Inīqua rārō maximīs virtūtibus325

Fortūna parcit. nēmo sē tūtō diū

perīculīs offerre tam crēbrīs potest;

quem saepe trānsit cāsus, aliquandō invenit.

   — Sed ecce saevus ac minās vultū gerēns

et quālis animō est tālis incessū venit330

aliēna dextrā scēptra concutiēns Lycus.

Amphitryon and Megara trade a number of sententiae, using pointed language to emphasize their powerful anxieties. The exchange ends with the arrival of Lycus.

309 sanguinis: “family.” castā fide: ablative of manner with servāns. Amphitryon announces his trust in his daughter-in-law through praise of her marital fides. Her sense of loyalty will not allow her to become Lycus’s wife, no matter the threat to her life.

311 meliōra mente concipe: “imagine better things,” i.e., consider that things will get better. When the verb means “understand, imagine, think,” it is often accompanied with an ablative like mente or animō (LS concipio I.B). animum: “spirit, courage.” Alliteration of m and a adds force to Amphitryon’s encouragement of Megara.

312–13 aderit … māior: the predicative adjective specifies how Hercules will be when he arrives (aderit > adsum). It also answers Megara’s fear that a māior potestās has trapped Hercules (305–6): instead, Amphitryon predicts that it will be Hercules who is māior. ex:  “after.” quālis … labōre: the implied infinitive after solet is esse: “like he is accustomed to be after every labor.”

313–14 nimis: the adverb can modify both miserī (“very wretched”) and volunt (“want very much”). facile: an adverb. The thought is a variation on the more general idea that people believe what they want to believe (Caesar, De Bello Gallico 3.18.6:  ferē libenter hominēs id quod volunt crēdunt.)

314–16 These Stoic sententiae express Amphitryon’s heroic endurance of adversity, the major theme of Act 5. He answers Megara’s statement point by point: the problem is not excessive desire (quod nimis … volunt) but excessive fear (quod metuunt nimis), and this does not lead to easy belief (facile crēdunt), but rather the belief that nothihng will change (numquam … putant). This kind of careful argumentation reflects an author and an audience well trained in debate.

315 Translation order: putant [hoc] numquam posse movērī nec tollī.

316 “The belief of fear (i.e. the fearful) always inclines to the worse” (Fitch 1987). This sententia adapts a line from Ovid, prōna venit cupidīs in sua vōta fidēs (Ars Amatoria 3.674), on the tendency of people to have fidēs that they will get what they want, which is similar to what Megara has just said about wretched people believing in what they desire. Amphitryon thus counters Megara’s argument by appropriating the words of a similar argument in Ovid.

317–18 dēmersus ... dēfossus … oppressus: all modify an implied Hercules. The tricolon emphasizes the impossibility of his return. This emphasis is strengthened aurally by the repetition of de- and -sus, followed by repetition of p/b, r, and o. tōtō … orbe: an ablative of means (AG 398) with all three of the adjectives that describe Hercules. quam:interrogative, with viam. ad superōs: “to the world above,” i.e., the earth (LS superi I.A.2). But superī often means “the gods above” (ibid., I.B.1.β) so there was a hint at Hercules’ eventual deification (Seneca exploits ambiguities like this elsewhere in the play: 23, 276, 505).

319–324 Hercules’ ship ran aground in the Syrtes (modern Gulf of Sirte, Libya) sandbars that shifted like the waves of the sea. He walked across these treacherous sandbars to reach safety. Amphitryon imagines his heroic stepson can make a similarly miraculous escape from the Underworld. These lines are the only extant account of this particular Herculean adventure. %% The repeated verb 318 habēt – 319 habēbat underscores that Amphitryon is answering Megara’s question. More subtly, Megara’s tricolon 317–18 dēmersus ... dēfossus … oppressus is echoed by 322–23 dēsertā … dēprēnsus: Hercules has been caught in difficult situations before, and still escaped.

319 quam: relative pronoun, antecedent viam. per: followed by three objects in 319–21: plagam, harēnas, and fretum. ārentem plagam: i.e., the sandbars that produce the paradox of an “arid region” in the sea.  

320–1 fluctuantēs … harēnas: the long separation of adjective and noun emphasizes the striking image of sand shifting like waves. mōre: “in the manner of” + genitive. abīt: “escaped.” The long i results from a contraction of the perfect indicative form abiīt. This tense and mood is regular with cum when it specifies the time when something happened (AG 545).

321–22 bisque discēdēns ... bis recurrēns: the tide goes out and comes in twice a day, an unusual phenomenon in the non-tidal Mediterranean.

322 cumque: probably continuing the episode that began with 319 cum, rather than introducing a second adventure of Hercules on the Syrtes. dēsertā rate, 324 puppe fīxā: ablative absolute (AG 419).

323 dēprēnsus haesit … brevibus vadīs: both the participle and verb take the ablative: Hercules got stuck on, and was caught by, the shallow waters, unable to sail away.

324 pedes: the adjective pedes, peditis, “on foot” (short final e), not the plural of pēs, pedis. The word is delayed to the end of the long sentence in order to emphasize the seeming miracle of walking across the sea (in reality, navigating sandbars on foot).

325–26 rārō: adverbial. parcit: “refrains from injuring” + dat.  maximīs virtūtibus: “the greatest virtues,” i.e. men of the greatest valor. The opposite of the proverbial “fortune favors the bold,” this sententia is at home in Seneca’s tragic universe, where extraordinary humans are overwhelmed by inīqua … Fortūna (see 524). In this context Megara is worried that Hercules’ unbroken string of successes cannot last.

326 tūtō diū: two adverbs with offerre … potest: no one can confront dangers for a long time and safely, as Hercules is trying to do.

328 “Whom calamity often passes by [LS transeo II.A.2], it eventually finds.”

329–31 Lycus, Megara’s own personal calamity, enters the stage just as she says his name. %% The focus on Lycus’s expression (vultū), gait (incessū), and gesture (concutiēns) as reflections of his tyrannical disposition can be contrasted with Seneca’s description of a wise man at Epistulae Morales 66.5: modestus incessus et conpositus ac probus vultus et conveniēns prūdentī virō gestus (“a modest gait and a composed and upright expression and gestures befitting a wise man”).

330 quālis animō est tālis incessū:  ablatives of specification (AG 418): “the same in his gait as he is in his spirit.”

ō: O

socia –ae f.: a partner

fīdus –a –um: faithful, trustworthy

torum –ī n. (alsō torus –ī m.): bulge; muscle, knot, bank, cushion

magnanimus –a –um: noble–spirited, brave, bold

Herculēs –is m.: Hercules

melius; optimē: better; best

concipiō concipere concēpī conceptum: to hold; become fertilized, germinate

exciō –īre –cīvī or ciī –ītus and excieō –itus: to rouse up or forth; call forth

profectō: surely, certainly

immō: no indeed

prōnus –a –um: sloping; prone to

fīdus –a –um: faithful, trustworthy

dēmergō –ere –mersī –mersus: to dip

dēfodiō –ere –fōdī –fossus: to dig down; sink deep

īnsuper: above, overhead

opprimō opprimere oppressī oppressus: to press on or down; overwhelm

āreō –ēre –uī: to be dry; wither

plaga –ae f.: tract, region

fluctuō fluctuāre fluctuāvī fluctuātus: to wave

arēna –ae f. or harēna –ae f.: sand, arena

bis: twice

fretum fretī n.: strait, channel; the sea

bis: twice

recurrō –ere –currī –cursus: to run back; return

ratis ratis f.: raft; boat

dēprehendō dēprehendere dēprehendī dēprehensus: to catch, seize

haereō haerēre haesī haesūrus: to stick to, hang on to, cleave

Syrtis –is f.: Syrtis

vadum –ī n.: shallow; ford, body of water

puppis puppis f.: stern of a ship; ship

fīgō fīgere fīxī fīxus: to fix, fasten; pierce

inīquus –a –um: unequal; uneven, unjust

crebēr crēbra crēbrum: thick, crowded, close

aliquā: in any direction

minae –ārum f. pl.: battlements, threats

tālis ... quālis: such...as

incessus –ūs m.: walking or advancing; manner of walking; walk

aliēnum –ī n.: the property of a stranger

scēptrum –ī n.: royal staff; scepter

concutiō –ere –cutere –cussī –cussum: to shake; strike

Lycus –ī m.: Lycus

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