MEG.     Gelidus per artūs vādit exsanguēs tremor.

quod facinus aurēs pepulit? haud equidem horruī,415

cum pāce ruptā bellicus mūrōs fragor

circumsonāret; pertulī intrepidē omnia.

thalamōs tremēscō; capta nunc videor mihi.

gravent catēnae corpus et longā famē

mors prōtrahātur lenta: nōn vincet fidem420

vīs ūlla nostram. moriar, Alcīdē, tua.


LYC.      Animōsne mersus īnferīs coniūnx facit?


MEG.     Īnferna tetigit, posset ut supera assequī.


LYC.      Tellūris illum pondus immēnsae premit.


MEG.     Nūllō premētur onere, quī caelum tulit.425


LYC.      Cōgēre.


MEG.                  Cōgī quī potest nescit morī.


LYC.      Effāre thalamīs quod novīs potius parem

rēgāle mūnus.


MEG.                            Aut tuam mortem aut meam.


LYC.      Moriēre dēmēns.


MEG.                                  Coniugī occūram meō.


LYC.      Scēptrōque nostrō potior est famulus tibi?430


MEG.     Quot iste "famulus" trādidit rēgēs necī!


LYC.      Cūr ergō rēgī servit et patitur iugum?


MEG.     Imperia dūra tolle: quid virtūs erit?


LYC.      Obicī ferīs mōnstrīsque virtūtem putās?


MEG.     Virtūtis est domāre quae cūnctī pavent.435


LYC.      Tenebrae loquentem magna Tartareae premunt.


MEG.     Nōn est ad astra mollis ē terrīs via.


LYC.      Quō patre genitus caelitum spērat domōs?

    Megara says that, though she was unmoved by the battle itself, she shudders with terror at the thought of marrying Lycus, and vows to die as Hercules’ wife. Lycus and Megara then alternate lines or half-lines.

    The argument is propelled forward by frequent word repetition between characters’ statements, as in the first five lines of the passage (422–26 īnferīs-īnferna, premit-premētur, cōgēre-cōgī).

    414 The golden line word order (adj. A - adj. B - verb - noun B - noun A) produces an elegant description of Megara’s fear. The image of a gelidus tremor is also found in Virgil and Ovid; Seneca innovates by having the shudder pass per artūs instead of per ossa.

    415 equidem: adds emphasis to Megara’s statement, in acknowledgement of the stereotypical expectation for women to be afraid during wartime.

    416–17 cum … circumsonāret: circumstantial cum (AG 544). The verb takes the accusative object mūrōs. Words of five or more syllables are very rare in Senecan tragedy; circumsonāret thus emphatically describes the terrifying sound of battle.

    417 pertulī intrepidē omnia: in theory, Seneca could have written omnia intrepidē tulī. But the intensifying prefix per-and the verb-object word order produce a more emphatic statement.

    418 thalamōs tremēscō: the alliteration underscores Megara’s striking point. As intrepidē shows, she is not afraid of marriage because she is a stereotypically timid maiden. Rather, she fears breaking her marriage vows to Hercules and wedding a hated enemy. capta … videor: supply esse. nunc: i.e., only now that she faces marriage, and not before, when Lycus seized control of her family’s kingdom.

    419 gravent, 420 prōtrahātur: hortatory subjunctives (AG 439)

    419–20 longā … lenta: the adjectives are positioned emphatically to illustrate the slow death by a long starvation (fame > fames) that Megara imagines Lycus will punish her with.

    420–21 Refusing to go along with Lycus’s pose as a reasonable leader (397–413n.), Megara sets her marital fidēs against Lycus’ tyrannical vīs.

    421 moriar … tua: more likely future indicative (“I will die yours”) than hortatory subjunctive (“May I die yours”). Alcīdē: vocative of the masculine 1st declension Greek noun (AG 44).

    422–24 Earlier, Megara despairingly described her husband as “submerged, buried, and weighed down” in the Underworld (317–18 dēmersus ac dēfossus et tōtō īnsuper / oppressus orbe) and Amphitryon promised that Hercules would return. Now it is Megara’s turn to argue against a similar description of Hercules as “submerged” (mersus īnferīs coniūnx) and “weighed down” (permit, premetur).

    422 animōsne … facit: “gives you courage”

    423 posset ut: the purpose clause (AG 531.1) refers to Hercules’ return from the Underworld (supera = “the human world above the Underworld”), but also hints at Hercules’ eventual apotheosis (supera = “the divine world above the human world”).

    424 illum: Hercules

    425: nūllō … onere:  “no weight,” no matter how heavy. quī: “(a man) who,” i.e. Hercules. caelum tulit: one of Hercules’ Labors was holding up the sky for Atlas. The relative clause is the subject of premētur.

    426 cōg­­ēre: future passive, as indicated by the long second syllable: “you will be forced [to marry me].” Lycus has dropped his pretense of asking Megara to marry him. Cōgī quī potest nescit morī: a sententia expressing the Stoic idea that voluntary death by suicide was the ultimate escape from tyranny (an idea Seneca himself put into practice). Cf. for instance Seneca Epistulae 12.10 quī morī didicit, servīre dēdidicit (“he who was learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave”). nescit morī: “does not know how to die.”

    427 Prose order would be effāre quod mūnus rēgāle thalamīs novīs potius parem: Lycus asks Megara to name her price. effāre: deponent imperative, as at 384. potius parem: “I should provide instead [of forcing you to marry me].”

    429 moriēre: future deponent, similar to 426; dēmēns is a vocative. Within four lines, Lycus has gone from threatening force, to bribing, to threatening to kill someone who has just threatened her own death by suicide: the argument is not going well for him. His portrayal as a violent but ultimately impotent tyrant contrasts with Megara, whom Seneca has carefully constructed as an exemplary model for Roman women: loyal to her husband even in the face of death. coniugī occūram meō: Megara wittily counters Lycus’ death threat: killing her would just send her to meet Hercules in the Underworld.

    430 potior est: “is preferable,” with an ablative of comparison (AG 406). famulus: i.e., Hercules, who serves Eurystheus. Famulus is a loftier-sounding synonym for servus, typically used in Latin epic and tragedy.

    431 trādidit … necī: “delivered to death,” a periphrasis for “kill” found elsewhere in Seneca.

    432 iugum: as in English, often refers figuratively to the “yoke” of slavery.

    433–37 Answering each of Lycus’ questions with a sententia about the glories of suffering, Megara proudly argues that the Labors have allowed Hercules to demonstrate his virtūs. Juno made the same claim in Act 1 (esp. 33–36), but that only made her angrier at Hercules.

    433 tolle: “take away.” The imperative is the equivalent of sī tolles.

    434 Supply esse to complete the indirect statement introduced by putās. obicī ferīs mōnstrīsque: “being thrown to beasts and monsters” makes Hercules sound like a prisoner in the arena (not a flattering comparison). Obiciō  is the normal verb used to describe the exposure of low-status criminals convicted of serious crimes, especially brigands and pirates, to lions or bears in public executions. See Seneca’s Epistulae 7.4 manē leōnibus et ursīs hominēs … obiciuntur.

    435 virtūtis est domāre: “it is in the nature of valor to subdue”; for this use of the genitive with an infinitive, see AG 343.c.

    436 loquentem magna: “boasting.” Lycus implies that Hercules might not be as great as he claims, since he is trapped in the Underworld. The alliteration of t in this line suggests Lycus’s contempt.

    437 Translation order: via ē terrīs ad astra nōn est mollis.

    437–8 An adaptation of Virgil Aeneid 9.641–42 (Apollo’s praise of Ascanius) macte novā virtūte, puer: sīc ītur ad astra / dīs genitē et genitūre deōs (“hail to your new valour, boy: this is your path to the stars, you who are born from the gods and will produce gods”). %% In a technique typical of Latin poetry’s self-consciousness, Megara and Lycus conduct their debate on an intertextual level: Megara likens Hercules to one of Rome’s legendary founders, and Lycus counters that Hercules is not descended from the gods like Ascanius (Lycus denies that Jupiter is Hercules’ father).

    438 quō patre: as at 357, Lycus does not acknowledge Hercules’ divine paternity.

    gelidus –a –um: cold, icy

    artus artūs m.: joint; limb

    vādō vādere vāsī vāsum: to go, rush

    exsanguis –e: without blood

    tremor –ōris m.: trembling; a shudder, horror

    equidem: indeed

    horreō horrēre horruī: to shake, dread

    bellicus –a –um: of or pertaining to war

    fragor –ōris m.: breaking

    circumsonō circumsonāre circumsonāvī circumsonātus: to sound about; raise a din around

    perferō perferre pertulī perlātus: to endure

    intrepidus –a –um: undaunted, intrepid

    thalamus –ī m.: marriage bed; bedchamber

    tremēscō –ere: to tremble

    captō captāre captāvī captātus: to seize

    gravō gravāre gravāvī gravātus: to burden, load

    catēna –ae f.: chain, fetter

    prōtrahō –ere –trāxī –trāctus: to draw

    lentus –a –um: flexible, sticky, slow

    Alcīdēs –ae. m.: a descendant of Alceus; Hercules

    mergō –ere –mersī –mersus: to dip, immerse, plunge

    īnfernus –a –um:  of that which is below, infernal

    adsequor (assequor) adsequī adsecūtus: to follow after

    immēnsus –a –um: immeasurable, boundless, vast

    caelus –ī m.: sky (old form of caelum)

    effor –fātus sum: to speak forth; speak

    thalamus –ī m.: marriage bed; bedchamber

    pār paris n.: an equal; a set of two

    rēgālis –e: regal, kingly

    dēmēns dēmentis: mad, raving

    scēptrum –ī n.: royal staff; scepter

    famulus –ī m.: servant, attendant 

    quot: how many , as many as (undeclinable)

    famulus –ī m.: servant, attendant 

    nex necis f.: killing, murder

    obiiciō obiicere obiēcī obiectus: to throw in the way

    fera ferae f.: wild animal

    mōnstrum mōnstrī n.: monster; omen

    domō domāre domuī domitus: to tame, subdue

    paveō –ēre –uī: to tremble, fear

    Tartareus –a –um: of Tartarus; Tartarean

    caelus –ī m.: sky (old form of caelum)

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