ferāx deōrum terra, quem dominum tremis?
ē cuius arvīs ēque fēcundō sinū260
strictō iuventūs orta cum ferrō stetit,
cuiusque mūrōs nātus Amphīōn Iove
strūxit canōrō saxa modulātū trahēns,
in cuius urbem nōn semel dīvum parēns
caelō relictō vēnit, haec quae caelitēs265
recēpit et quae fēcit et (fās sit loquī)
fortasse faciet, sordidō premitur iugō.
Reminiscence of the glories of old Thebes serves to augment the horror of what has befallen it under the tyrant Lycus.
259 deōrum: objective genitive (AG 349) with the adjective ferāx, “productive of.” Alliteration of d emphasizes the pointed contrast between deōrum and dominum: if Thebes has produced gods (i.e., Bacchus), why should it be afraid of a mere (human) master?
260, 262, 264 cuius… cuius… cuius: the antecedent is terra in each instance.
260–61 At Minerva’s command, Cadmus sowed a dragon’s teeth in the earth. A band of warriors sprung up and fought one another. The survivors of the battle became the original Thebans.
262 Amphīōn: son of Jupiter and Antiope, who sang a magical song (canōrō … modulātū) that made rocks build themselves into the walls of Thebes. Iove: ablative of origin (AG 403.2.a) with nātus.
263 canōrō … modulātū: “harmonious music.” modulatus is a very rare noun based on the more common verb modulor (“to sing, play”) and appears for the first time in extant Latin here. The series of short syllables (saxă mŏdŭlātū) helps to suggest Amphion’s music.
264 nōn semel: the litotes indicates that Jupiter (dīvum parēns) visited the city often, referring to his impregnation of Alcmena, Semele, and others. dīvum: archaic and poetic for deōrum or dīvōrum.
265 haec quae: still referring to terra.
266 fās sit loquī: “may it be right to say,” indicating anxiety that the prediction of fortasse faciet might be presumptuous coming from a mere mortal. fās and its opposite nefās indicate a sense of divine permission, or the opposite. The optative subjunctive (AG 441) caries no suggestion of command or authority, only hope. The Romans were cautious when speaking about divine matters, as they believed that incorrect or impious speech could provoke the gods’ displeasure. Thus, e.g., the typical command favēte linguīs (essentially, “watch your tongues”) during religious ceremonies.
267 faciet: the future tense predicts Hercules’ eventual apotheosis. premitur: the subject is still terra (i.e., Thebes). iugō:the “yoke” of slavery imposed by Lycus.
ferāx –ācis: fertile, fruitful; abounding
dominus dominī m.: master, lord
tremō tremere tremuī: to shake, quiver
fēcundus –a –um: bringing forth, productive
stringō stringere strīnxī strictum: to draw tight, bind fast; draw (from a scabbard, etc.)
iuventūs iuventūtis f.: youth, young man
Iuppiter Iovis m.: Jupiter, Jove
struō struere strūxī strūctus: to build, construct
canōrus –a –um: harmonious
modulor –ārī –ātus sum: to measure; regulate; tune
dīvus (dīus) –a –um: divine; godlike
caeles caelitis m.: the gods
fās n.: divine law, right (undeclinable)
fortasse or fortassis: perhaps
sordidus –a –um: dirty; poor, humble, lowly