previous next

'Since in Emathia's battle-field was lost
'The world, so far as Roman, it remains
' To test the faith of peoples of the East
' Who drink of Tigris and Euphrates' stream,
'Secure as yet from Caesar. Be it thine
'Far as the rising of the sun to trace
' The fates that favour Magnus: to the courts
' Of Median palaces, to Scythian steppes;
'And to the son of haughty Arsaces,
'To bear my message, "Hold ye to the faith,
'" Pledged by your priests and by the Thunderer's name
' "Of Latium sworn? Then fill your quivers full,
' "Draw to its fullest span th' Armenian bow;
'" And, Getan archers, wing the fatal shaft.
'" And you, ye Parthians, if when I sought
'"The Caspian gates, and on th' Alaunian tribes
" Fierce, ever-warring, pressed, I suffered you
" In Persian tracts to wander, nor compelled
" To seek for shelter Babylonian walls;
" If beyond Cyrus' kingdom 1 and the bounds
" Of wide Chaldaea, where from Nysa's top
'"Pours down Hydaspes, and the Ganges stream
' Foams to the ocean, nearer far I stood
'" Than Persia's bounds to Phoebus' rising fires;
'" If by my sufferance, Parthians, you alone
'" Decked not my triumphs, but in equal state
" Sole of all Eastern princes, face to face
" Met Magnus in his pride, nor only once
' Through me were saved; (for after that dread day
" Who but Pompeius soothed the kindling fires
" Of Latium's anger?) - by my service paid
'"Come forth to victory : burst the ancient bounds
' By Macedon's hero set: in Magnus' cause
" March, Parthians, to Rome's conquest. Rome herself
' Prays to be conquered."'
Hard the task imposed;
Yet doffed his robe, and swift obeyed, the king
Wrapped in a servant's mantle. If a Prince
For safety play the boor, then happier, sure,
The peasant's lot than lordship of the world.
The king thus parted, past Icaria's rocks
Pompeius' vessel skirts the foamy crags
Of little Samos: Colophon's tranquil sea
And Ephesus lay behind him, and the air
Breathed freely on him from the Coan shore.
Cnidos he shunned, and, famous for its sun,
Rhodos, and steering for the middle deep
Escaped the windings of Telmessus' bay;
Till rose Pamphylian coasts before the bark,
And first the fallen chieftain dared to find
In small Phaselis shelter; for therein
Scarce was the husbandman, and empty homes
Forbad to fear. Next Taurus' heights he saw
And Dipsus falling from his lofty sides:
So sailed he onward.
Did Pompeius dream,
When giving safety to the seas, he made
Flight for himself secure? His little boat
Flies unmolested past Cilician shores;
But to their exiled lord in chiefest part
The senate of Rome was drawn. Celendrae there
Received their fleet, where fair Selinus' stream
In spacious bay gives refuge from the main;
And to the gathered chiefs in mournful words
At length Pompeius thus resolved his thoughts :
O faithful comrades mine in war and flight!
To me, my country! Though this barren shore
Our place of meeting, and no gathered host
'Surrounds us, yet upon our changed estate
I seek your counsel. Rouse ye as of yore
With hearts of courage! Magnus on the field
'Not all is perished, nor do fates forbid
But that I rise afresh with living hope
Of future victories, and spurn defeat.
'From Libyan ruins did not Marius rise
'Again recorded Consul on the page
Full of his honours? shall a lighter blow
'Keep Magnus down, whose thousand chiefs and ships
'Still plough the billows; by defeat his strength
'Not whelmed but scattered? And the fame alone
' Of our great deeds of glory in the past
' Shall now protect us, and the world unchanged
'Still love its hero. Weigh upon the scales
Ye chiefs, which best may help the needs of Rome,
'In faith and armies; or the Parthian realm
'Egypt or Libya. For myself, I keep
'No secret thoughts apart, but thus advise.
'Place no reliance on the Pharian king:
'Faith, to be constant, needs a riper age;
'Nor on th' unstable cunning of the Moor,
Who vain of Punic blood, and of descent2
'Supposed from Hannibal, is swollen with pride
'At Varus' prayer for aid, and sees in thought
Rome's fates beneath his own. Then, comrades, seek
'At speed, the Eastern world. Those mighty realms
'Euphrates severs from us, and the gates
'Called Caspian; on another sky than ours
' There day and night revolve; another sea
' Of different hue is parted from our own.3
' Rule is their wish, nought else: and in their plains
' Taller the war-horse, stronger twangs the bow;
' There fails nor youth nor age to wing the shaft
' Fatal in flight. Their archers first subdued
' The lance of Macedon and Bactra's 4 walls,
' Home of the Mede; and haughty Babylon
' With all her storied towers: nor shall they dread
' The Roman onset; trusting to the shafts
' By which the host of fated Crassus fell.
' Nor trust they only to the javelin blade
' Untipped with poison: from the rancorous edge
'The slightest wound deals death. Would that my lot
' Forced me not thus to trust that savage race
' Of Arsaces!5 Yet now their emulous fate
' Contends with Roman destinies: the gods
' Smile favouring on their nation. Thence I'll pour
' On Caesar peoples from another earth
' And all the Orient ravished from its home.
' But should the East and barbarous treaties fail,
' Fate, bear our shipwrecked fortunes past the bounds
' Of earth, as known to men. The kings I made
' I supplicate not, but in death shall take
' To other spheres this solace, chief of all;
' His hands, my kinsman's, never shed my blood
' Nor soothed me dying. Yet as my mind in turn
' The varying fortunes of my life recalls,
' How was I glorious in that Eastern world!
' How great my name by far Maeotis marsh
' And where swift Tanais flows! No other land
'Has so resounded with my conquests won,
' So sent me home triumphant. Rome, do thou
' Approve my enterprise! What happier chance
' Could favouring gods afford thee? Parthian hosts
' Shall fight the civil wars of Rome, and share
' Her ills, and fall enfeebled. When the arms
' Of Caesar meet with Parthian in the fray,
' Then must kind Fortune vindicate my lot
'Or Crassus be avenged.' But murmurs rose,
And Magnus speaking knew his words condemned.
Then Lentulus 6 answered, with indignant soul,
Foremost to rouse their valour, thus in words
Worthy a Consul:

1 Pompeius seems to have induced the Roman public to believe that he had led his armies to such extreme distances, but he never in fact did so. - Mommsen, vol. iv., p. 147.

2 Juba was of supposed collateral descent from Hannibal. (Haskins, quoting 'The Scholiast.')

3 Confusing the Red Sea with the Persian Gulf.

4 Balkh of modern times. Bactria was one of the kingdoms established by the successors of Alexander the Great. It was, however, subdued by the Parthians about the middle of the third century B.C.

5 Dion could not believe it possible that Pompeius ever contemplated taking refuge in Parthia, but Plutarch states it as a fact; and says that it was Theophanes of Lesbos who dissuaded him from doing so. ('Pomp.,' 76.) Mommsen (vol. iv., pp. 421-423) discusses the subject, and says that from Parthia only could Pompeius have attempted to seek support, and that such an attempt, putting the objections to it aside, would probably have failed. Lucan's sympathies were probably with Lentulus.

6 Probably Lucius Lentulus Crus, who had been Consul, for B.C. 49, along with Caius Marcellus. (See Book V., 9.) He was murdered in Egypt by Ptolemy's ministers.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
49 BC (1)
hide References (2 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), HAMA┬┤XIA
    • Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854), SYEDRA
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: