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[120] Fortune brought forth three generals, and the goddess of War and Death buried them all, each beneath a pile of arms. The Parthian has Crassus in keeping,1 Pompey the Great lies by the Libyan water,2 Julius stained ungrateful Rome with his blood; and as though the earth could not endure the burden of so many graves, she has separated their ashes. These are the wages paid by fame.

"Between Parthenope and the fields of the great town of Dicarchis there lies a spot3 plunged deep in a cloven chasm, wet with the water of Cocytus: for the air that rushes furiously outward is laden with[p. 259] that baleful spray. The ground here is never green in autumn, the field does not prosper or nurture herbage on its turf, the soft thickets never ring nor are loud in springtime with the songs of rival birds, but chaos is there, and gloomy rocks of black pumice-stone lie happy in the gloom of the cypresses that mound them about. From this place the father of Dis lifted his head, lit with funeral flames and flecked with white ashes, and provoked winged Fortune with these words:

"'Disposer of life in earth and heaven, Chance, always angry against power too firmly seated, everlasting lover of change and quick for saker of thy conquests, dost not thou feel thy spirit crushed under the weight of Rome, and that thou canst not further raise up the mass that is doomed to fall? The youth of Rome contemns its own strength, and groans under the wealth its own hands have heaped up. See, everywhere they squander their spoils, and the mad use of wealth brings their destruction. They have buildings of gold and thrones raised to the stars, they drive out the waters with their piers, the sea springs forth amid the fields: rebellious man turns creation's order upside down. Aye, they grasp even at my kingdom. The earth is hewn through for their madmen's foundations and gapes wide, now the mountains are hollowed out until the caves groan, and while men turn precious stones to their empty purposes, the ghosts of hell declare their hopes of winning heaven. Arise, then, Chance, change thy looks of peace to war, harry the Roman, and let my kingdom have the dead. It is long now since my lips were wet with blood, and never has my loved Tisiphone bathed her thirsty limbs since the sword[p. 261] of Sulla4 drank deep, and the earth stood thick with corn fattened on blood and thrust up to the sun.'

1 M. Licinius Crassus was defeated and killed by the Parthians at Carrhae, 53 B.C.

2 C. Pompeius Magnus was killed on the shore at Pelusium in Egypt after his defeat at Pharsalus, 48 B.C.

3 The Phlegraean Plain, between Naples and Puteoli. The latter town is here called Dicarchis after its founder Dicaearchus.

4 The massacre of the supporters of Marius in 82 B. C., Sulla being Dictator.

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load focus Introduction (Michael Heseltine, 1913)
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