AM.        Miseranda coniūnx Herculis magnī, sīlē;

partēs meae sunt reddere Alcīdae patrem440

genusque vērum. post tot ingentis virī

memoranda facta postque pācātum manū

quodcumque Tītān ortus et lābēns videt,

post mōnstra tot perdomita, post Phlegram impiō

sparsam cruōre postque dēfēnsōs deōs445

nōndum liquet dē patre? mentīmur Iovem?

Iūnōnis odiō crēde.


LYC.                                     Quid violās Iovem?

mortāle caelō nōn potest iungī genus.


AM.        Commūnis ista plūribus causa est deīs.


LYC.       Famulīne fuerant ante quam fierent deī?450


AM.        Pāstor Pheraeōs Dēlius pāvit gregēs.


LYC.       Sed nōn per omnēs exul errāvit plagās.


AM.        Quem profuga terrā māter errante ēdidit?


LYC.       Num mōnstra saevās Phoebus aut timuit ferās?


AM.        Prīmus sagittās imbuit Phoebī dracō.455


LYC.       Quam gravia parvus tulerit ignōrās mala?


AM.        Ē mātris uterō fulmine ēiectus puer

mox fulminantī proximus patrī stetit.

quid? quī gubernat astra, quī nūbēs quatit

nōn latuit īnfāns rūpis exēsae specū?460

sollicita tantī pretia nātālēs habent,

semperque magnō cōnstitit nāscī deum.

Amphitryon steps in to argue for Hercules’ divine paternity, both to explain his identity as the hero’s stepfather and to provide some reprieve for the embattled Megara. He begins by summarizing the worldwide fame of Hercules’ deeds, focusing on the Gigantomachy. A section of stichomythia with Lycus then focuses on Hercules’ suffering. Lycus argues that Hercules cannot be of divine parentage, because Hercules suffered greatly and (Lycus takes as assumed) gods do not suffer. Amphitryon replies with examples of gods who did suffer, especially at their birth: Apollo, Bacchus, and Jupiter.

439 sīlē: imperative > sileō

440 partēs meae: typically plural when the noun means “duty”; partēs can also mean “character (in a play),” so there is a metatheatrical ambiguity here: defending Hercules’ divinity is Amphitryon’s “role” in two senses. See LS pars II.B.1–2. Alcīdae: dative of the 1st declension Greek noun (AG 44).

442 memoranda facta: in the context of Greek and Roman education by means of exempla (stories of famous figures of history and mythology that provided moral lessons), calling Hercules’ deeds “memorable” is high praise: they are the kinds of deeds that are worthy of being used to teach the next generation. Valerius Maximus’s Memorable Deeds and Words is an extant collection of such deeds written under the Emperor Tiberius. manū: “by force” (LS  manus II.A).

442–43 postque pācātum … quodcumque: “after the pacification of whatever …”; as often, passive participle + (pro)noun is most idiomatically translated in English as noun + objective genitive: The other noun-participle phrases in this section may be similarly translated (444–46 mōnstra … perdomita, Phlegram … sparsam, dēfēnsōs deōs).

443 “Whatever the rising and setting sun sees,” means the entire world. Phrases like this are common in Seneca (871 et quod occāsus videt et quod ortus; Troades 382–83  quidquid sōl oriēns, quidquid et occidēns / nōvit). Tītān: although Helios, the Sun, is in fact a child of the Titans Hyperion and Theia, poets often describe him as a Titan himself (LS Titan I.B).  

444–46 Amphitryon recalls how Hercules came to the gods’ aid when the Giants attacked them at Phlegra. The Gigantomachy was a favorite theme in Classical literature and art (e.g., a 6th-century black-figure amphora).

446 nōndum liquet dē patre?: “is there not yet certainty about his father?” nōn(dum) liquet (with + abl.) was originally a legal phrase to express an uncertain case (LS liqueo II.B). mentīmur Iovem: “are we lying about Jupiter (being Hercules’ father)?”

447 Iūnōnis odiō crēde: i.e., if Jupiter did not father Hercules, then why does Juno hate him? odiō: the dative object of the imperative crēde.

447–48 violās: “you wrong,” “you dishonor”; the rationalizing Lycus views the claim that Hercules is Jupiter’s son as blasphemous. mortāle … genus: “the mortal race,” i.e. a human. caelō: “heaven,” i.e. a god. The juxtaposition mortale caelō visually illustrates the idea of the mortal race being “joined with heaven” (i.e., sex between Alcmena and Jupiter).

449 plūribus … deīs: dat. with commūnis (“shared by”). causa: “origin.” Gods with mixed human and divine parentage include Bacchus (see lines 456–57), Castor and Pollux, Plutus (the god of wealth, Greek Ploutos), and Aristaeus, who plays a role in the story of Orpheus and Eurydice in Virgil’s Georgics 4.315ff.

450 fuerant: “had they been …?”; the subjects are the gods with human parentage referred to in the previous line. famulīne: predicate, alluding to Hercules’ servitude to Eurystheus. ante quam: governing subjunctive (AG 550), as at 210. An elegant line, with alliteration of f and a chiastic word order (nom. – verb – ante quam – verb – nom.).

451 pāvit: “pastured, fed,” perfect tense > pāscō, pāscere, pāvī, pāstus, not to beconfused with pāveō, pāvēre, pāvī, “to be afraid.” Apollo (here called Dēlius from his birth on the island of Delos), killed Zeus’ Cyclopes after Zeus killed Apollo’s son Asclepius. To expiate his crime, Apollo went into exile as a herdsman for king Admetus in Pherae. Euripides tells the story at the beginning of his tragedy Alcestis. The alliteration of p responds to the alliteration of f in the previous line and is answered in turn by alliteration of p and e in the next line.

452 exul: a predicate nominative, “as an exile.” plagās: “regions” > plaga -ae f., not to be confused with plāga -ae f., “blow.”

453 quem: Apollo. mater: Latona, the mother of Apollo and Diana, by Jupiter. Juno persecuted Latona, forcing her to flee (profuga) to Delos in order to give birth to Apollo and Diana. Delos is called terrā… errante because it was imagined to be free floating until this event. Ovid tells the story at Metamorphoses 6.184ff. errante responds to errāvit in the previous line, and the focus on Delos has been set up by the use of the cult title Dēlius in 451.

454 aut: postponed by two words: it joins mōnstra and saevās … ferās. %% This postponement has caused confusion in one branch of the manuscript transmission, where saevās has been corrupted to saeva, agreeing with the adjacent mōnstra (e.g., Par. Lat. 11855, 4th column, 9th line from the top; note the medieval spellings sevās and Phebus, and the variant reading nōn written above num). timuit: as at 45, this verb does not suggest that Apollo or Hercules are cowards, but that the monsters they are imagined to face would frighten anyone.

455 Apollo’s first exploit was the killing of the Python. Ovid tells the story at Metamorphoses 1.416ff. prīmus … imbuit:a predicate adjective: “was the first to stain...”

456 quam gravia … tulerit: indirect question (AG 573). mala: “evil things,” i.e., the snakes that attacked Hercules as a baby. “Do you not know what serious trials he bore while small?” (Fitch 2018). The word order emphasizes gravia and juxtaposes it with parvus.

457–462 Amphitryon offers Bacchus and Jupiter as examples of other gods who were persecuted as infants before coming to power and greatness as adults.

457–58 Note the chiasmus mātris-fulmine-fulminantī-patrī. Jupiter appeared to Bacchus’ pregnant mother Semele in his true form, destroying her with his power (here summarized as fulmine). Ovid tells the story at Metamorphoses 3.251ff. Line 458 hints at the next part of the story, where Jupiter sewed Bacchus into his thigh to bring him to term (Bacchus would thus be proximus patrī). But it also alludes to Bacchus’ role in the Gigantomachy, where he fought alongside Jupiter against the Giants.

459–60 Rhea hid the baby Jupiter from his father Saturn in a cave under Mount Ida in Crete. quid? … nōn latuit īnfāns … ?: “what, did he not hide when he was a baby?” quī … quī: “he who … and who…” The image of Jupiter hurling lighting (implied by nūbēs quatit) is common, but the image of him guiding the stars suggests a specifically Stoic depiction of Jupiter as governor of the universe.

460 rūpis exēsae specū: “in a cave of a hollowed cliff.” The ablative without a preposition is used freely in poetry to denote place where (AG 429.4).

461 nātālēs: “births,” “origins” (LS natalis II.B.1). sollicita … pretia: “a price that causes anxiety.”

462 semperque magnō cōnstitit: “has always cost a lot.” cōnstō, “to cost,” governs an ablative of price (AG 416). nāscī deum: “to be born a god”: the infinitive phrase is the subject of cōnstitit.

miserandus –a –um: to be pitied

Herculēs –is m.: Hercules

sileō silēre siluī: to be silent

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

memorandus –a –um: worthy of mention; famed

pācātus –a –um: peaceful, calm, tranquil

Tītān –ānis m.: a Titan

ortus ortūs m.: rising, beginning; sunrise, the East 

lābor labī lapsus sum: to glide, slip

mōnstrum mōnstrī n.: monster; omen

perdomō perdomāre perdomuī perdomitum: to tame thoroughly; subdue

impius –a –um: disloyal, wicked

cruor cruōris m.: blood, bloodshed

liqueō liquēre licuī/liquī: to be fluid; to be evident

mentior mentīrī mentītus: to lie

Iuppiter Iovis m.: Jupiter, Jove

Iūnō Iūnōnis f.: Juno

violō violāre violāvī violātus: to violate

Iuppiter Iovis m.: Jupiter, Jove

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

famulus –ī m.: servant, attendant 

pāstor pāstōris m.: shepherd

Pheraeus -i m.: Pheraeus 

Dēlius –a –um: of Delos; Delian

pāscō pāscere pāvī pāstum: to feed

grex gregis m.: herd, flock

exsul exsulī m.: exile

plaga –ae f.: tract, region

profugus –ī m.: fugitive, exile

mōnstrum mōnstrī n.: monster; omen

Phoebus –ī m.: Phoebus, Apollo

fera ferae f.: wild animal

sagitta sagittae f.: arrow

imbuō –ere –uī –ūtus: to wet

Phoebus –ī m.: Phoebus, Apollo

dracō –ōnis m.: dragon, serpent 

quī: in what manner? how? Why?

īgnōrō īgnōrāre īgnōrāvi īgnōrātus: to not know; ignore

uterus –ī m.: the womb

fulmen fulminis n.: lightning, thunderbolt

ēiectō ēiectāre ēiectāvī ēiectātus: to cast forth; vomit

fulminō fulmināre fulmināvī fulminātus: to lighten, hurl lightning; flash or strike like lightning

proximus –a –um: next, nearest

gubernō gubernāre –āvī –ātus: to steer

nūbēs nūbis f.: cloud

quatiō quatere quassī quassum: to shake

īnfāns –antis: a baby

rūpēs –is f.: rock, cliff

exedō –ere –ēdī –ēsus: to eat out, consume, corrode

specus –ūs m./f.: cave, chasm

sollicitus –a –um: moved, agitated; worried, troubled

nātālis –e: related to birth, natal

article Nav