— Sed quid hoc? medium diem

cīnxēre tenebrae. Phoebus obscūrō meat940

sine nūbe vultū. quis diem retrō fugat

agitque in ortūs? unde nox ātrum caput

ignōta prōfert? unde tot stēllae polum

implent diurnae? prīmus ēn noster labor

caelī refulget parte nōn minimā Leō945

īrāque tōtus fervet et morsūs parat.

iam rapiet aliquod sīdus: ingentī mināx

stat ōre et ignēs efflat et rutilat, iubam

cervīce iactāns; quidquid autumnus gravis

hiemsque gelidō frīgida spatiō refert950

ūnō impetū trānsiliet, et vernī petet

frangetque Taurī colla.

Hercules claims to see an eclipse that no other character can see. During the eclipse, he sees the constellation Leo seemingly about to attack another constellation and recalls his first Labor.

This vision performs multiple functions in the play:

  1. It signifies the beginning of Hercules’ psychotic episode.
  2. It recalls Juno’s actual sight of the constellations in Act 1.
  3. It is also a traditional motif from mythological stories about violence in the family. An eclipse occurred at Mycenae when Atreus killed his brother Thyestes’ children and fed them to him. Seneca tells this story at Thyestes 789–884.

939 medium diem: midday.

940 cinxēre: pf. 3 pl. = cinxērunt > cingō.

940–941 obscūrō … vultū: ablative of manner (AG 412).

941 sine nūbe: normally the sun could only be obscured by clouds. fugat: fugō fugāre; do not confuse with fugit (> fugiō fugere).

942 ortūs: accusative plural. The sun’s “rising,” i.e. the East.

944 diurnae: modifying stellae, which don’t usually appear during the day. 
prīmus ēn noster labor: Latin poets associated the constellation Leo with that the Nemean Lion: e.g., Ovid, Ars Amatoria 1.68 cum sōl Herculeī terga Leōnis adit (“when the sun approaches the skin of Hercules’ lion”)

945 parte non minimā: locative ablative (AG 421). The Lion is massive, so it appears “in no small part of the sky.”

947–48 ingentī … ōre: ablative of manner (AG 412).

949–52 The Lion seems about to leap over the constellations that appear in different seasons, such as the Bull, which appears in spring. Quidquid … refert accordingly means “whichever stars the autumn and winter bring back around.” Romans could see many more stars at night than we can because their world had much less light pollution. They also used the stars for information, particularly for sailing and astrology, that we now get from other sources.

949 gravis: autumn is both “heavy” with crops ready to be harvested (cf. LS gravis I.A.2.b) and “unhealthy” because of the colder weather (LS gravis I.B.3).

950 gelidō … spatiō: locative ablative (AG 421).

951–52 ūnō impetū: ablative of manner (AG 412). vernī … Taurī colla: “the spring Bull’s neck.” Colla is a poetic plural.

Phoebus –ī m.: Phoebus, Apollo

obscūrus –a –um: dark, shadowy; obscure

meō meāre meāvī meātus: to go

nūbēs nūbis f.: cloud

retrō: backwards

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

āter atra atrum: black

īgnōtus –a –um: unknown

prōferō prōferre prōtulī prōlātus: to bring forth; extend, prolong; offer; defer; reveal, publish

polus –ī m.: pole, heavens

diurnus –a –um: daily; daytime, during the day

ēn or em: Look! Behold!

refulgeō –ēre –fulsī –fulsus: to flash back; shine forth

minimus –a –um: least, smallest

leō leōnis m.: lion

fervō –ere: to blaze

mināx –ācis: threatening 

efflō efflāre efflāvī efflātus: to blow or breathe out

rutilō rutilāre rutilāvī rutilātus: to redden; gleam

iuba –ae f.: the mane of a horse; the crest of a serpent

cervīx cervīcis f.: neck

iactō iactāre iactāvī iactātus: to throw; throw around; boast

autumnus autumnī m.: fall

gelidus –a –um: cold, icy

frīgidus –a –um: cool, cold

trānsiliō –īre –īvī –iī or uī: to leap over; pass over

vernus –a –um: of or belonging to spring, spring-, vernal

taurus taurī m.: bull

collum collī n.:  neck

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