AM. Quid ille opāca quī regit scēptrō loca,
quā sēde positus temperat populōs levēs?
THE. Est in recessū Tartarī obscūrō locus,
quem gravibus umbrīs spissa cālīgō alligat.710
ā fonte discors mānat hinc ūnō latex,
alter quiētō similis (hunc iūrant deī),
tacente sacram dēvehēns fluviō Styga;
at hic tumultū rapitur ingentī ferōx
et saxa flūctū volvit Acherōn invius715
renāvigārī. cingitur duplicī vadō
adversa Dītis rēgia, atque ingēns domus
umbrante lūcō tegitur. hīc vastō specū
pendent tyrannī līmina, hoc umbrīs iter,
haec porta rēgnī. campus hanc circā iacet,720
in quō superbō dīgerit vultū sedēns
animās recentēs. dīra maiestās deō,
frōns torva, frātrum quae tamen specimen gerat
gentisque tantae; vultus est illī Iovis,
sed fulminantis. magna pars rēgnī trucis725
est ipse dominus, cuius aspectūs timet
Amphitryon asks about the ruler of Underworld. Theseus describes Dis and his palace located amid the rivers Styx and Acheron.
707 quid: “what about …?”
708 quā sēde: locative ablative (AG 426). populōs levēs: the dead are “light” because they have no bodies, as at Ovid, Metamorphoses 10.14.
708–10 As befits the Underworld, Dis’s palace is not in a conspicuous location, but in a dark corner of Tartarus, shrouded in shadows.
709 est … locus: a common phrase for introducing a vivid description (ekphrasis) of a place.
710 gravibus umbrīs: ablative of instrument (AG 412) after alligat, “binds,” i.e. pervades or shrouds.
711 hinc: i.e., from the locus in 709–10. discors … latex: the basic image of two rivers flowing from one source is made stronger by calling the rivers discors, as the Styx and Acheron have opposite characteristics. latex (“liquid”) is a poetic way to refer to water (LS latex), used also by Vergil in a similar context, Aeneid 4.512.
712–14 alter … hic: “the other one… this one”
712 quiētō: dative with the adjective similis (AG 383), “appearing at rest” (Fitch 2018). iūrant: “swear on.” The gods invoke the “holy” Styx when making an oath as early as the Iliad.
713 Styga: Greek accusative singular (AG 81). tacente sacram dēvehēns fluviō Styga: modifying alter (latex): the river is described as “conveying the sacred Styx on a silent stream.” We would more naturally think of a river moving its waters, rather than the water moving a river, but the frequent personification of rivers makes it easier to think of the Styx being carried by it.
714 tumultū … ingentī: ablative of manner (AG 412). rapitur: “rushes”; the passive is best translated as an intransitive (LS rapiō I.B).
715–16 Acheron invius / renāvigārī: “the Acheron, closed off to sailing back.” %% Along with the Styx, the Acheron was sometimes imagined as the river which shades had to cross on their way into the Underworld, and which they could not re-cross to escape. The infinitive renāvigārī, emphasized by its many syllables and its enjambment at the start of the line, is an exegetical/explanatory infinitive: it explains in what way the Acheron is invius.
717 adversa Dītis rēgia: “the front of the palace of Dis,” i.e., the palace where it faces (adversa) those who approach.
718 umbrante lūcō: “by a shady grove.” The participle is the equivalent of the adjective umbrōsus and is used here for metrical convenience. Umbrōsō would have a long final syllable, which is not allowed at this point in the line.
718–20 hic… hoc… haec: repetition of a word in different forms is called polyptoton, a common rhetorical technique in Latin.
718 vastō specū: locative ablative (AG 429.4)
719 pendent: the idea seems to be that the entranceway (līmina) “hangs” or “looms” imposingly over the heads of those who use it.
720 hanc circā: porta is the antecedent of hanc. The inversion of the usual word order is called anastrophe, which occurs occasionally with circa.
721 dīgerit … sedēns: Dis sits before his palace and sorts the souls of the newly dead. See 733–34. superbō … vultū: ablative of manner (AG 412).
722–25 Though weaker than Jupiter, Dis still has some of his brother’s terror and majesty. His attitude sets the tone for his realm. Seneca indirectly comments on life in an autocracy.
722 deō: dative of possession (AG 373). Supply est.
723 quae … gerat: relative clause of characteristic (AG 534)
723–24 fratrum … specimen … gentisque tantae: proof that Dis is Jupiter’s brother.
724 illī: dative of possession (AG 373)
726–27 “Whatever is feared [i.e., each of the Underworld’s horrors] fears Dis’s face.” aspectūs: accusative, poetic plural.
opācus –a –um: shady, dark
scēptrum –ī n.: royal staff; scepter
temperō temperāre temperāvī temperātus: to divide or combine duly; temper, rule, control oneself
recessus –ūs m.: retreat; nook, cavity
Tartarus –ī m. pl. Tartara –ōrum n.: Tartarus
obscūrus –a –um: dark, shadowy; obscure
spissus –a –um: close, dense, thick
cālīgō –inis f.: mist, fog; darkness
adligō adligāre adligāvī adligātus: to tie to, bind
discors –cordis: disagreeing
mānō mānāre mānāvī mānātus: to drip, flow
hinc: from here, hence
latex –icis m.: liquid, fluid
quiētus –a –um: at rest, inactive, peaceful
dēvehō –vehere –vēxī –vectum: to carry down, convey
fluvius fluvi(ī) m.: river
Styx –Stygis f.: Styx
tumultus tumultūs m.: uproar, confusion; commotion, disturbance
ferōx ferōcis: bold; wild
volvō volvere voluī volūtum: to roll, tumble
Acherōn –ontis m.: Acheron
invius –a –um: without a way, impassable
vadum –ī n.: shallow; ford, body of water
Dīs –ītis m.: Dis; Pluto
rēgia rēgia f.: palace, court; royal power
umbrō umbrāre umbrāvī umbrātus: to shade, overshadow
lūcus lūcī m.: grove, wood
vāstus –a –um: empty, desolate; vast
specus –ūs m./f.: cave, chasm
pendeō pendēre pependī: to hang, be suspended
tyrannus tyrannī m.: tyrant
portus portūs m.: entrance; harbor, refuge
dīgerō –gere –gessī –gestum: to separate, distribute
dīrus –a –um: ominous, fearful, horrible; dire
māiestās –ātis f.: greatness, dignity; majesty
torvus –a –um: keen, stern; wild, savage
specimen –inis n.: mark, sign; proof
Iovis –is m.: Jupiter, Jove
fulminō fulmināre fulmināvī fulminātus: to lighten, hurl lightning; flash or strike like lightning
trux trucis: wild, rough, savage
dominus dominī m.: master, lord
aspectus aspectūs m.: sight