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For Curio rash from Lilybaean1 coast
Sailed with his fleet, and borne by gentle winds
Betwixt half-ruined Carthage, mighty once,
And Clupea's cliff, upon the well-known shore
His anchors dropped. First from the hoary sea
Remote, where Bagra slowly ploughs the sand,
He placed his camp: then sought the further hills
And mazy passages of cavernous rocks,
Antaeus' kingdom called. From ancient days
This name was given; and thus a swain retold
The story handed down from sire to son:
'Not yet exhausted by the giant brood,
'Earth still another monster brought to birth,
'In Libya's caverns: huger far was he,
'More justly far her pride, than Briareus
With all his hundred hands, or Typhon fierce,
Or Tityos: 'twas in mercy to the gods
'That not in Phlegra's 2 fields Antaeus grew,
'But here in Libya; to her offspring's strength,
'Unmeasured, vast, she added yet this boon,
'That when in weariness and labour spent
'He touched his parent, fresh from her embrace
'Renewed in vigour he should rise again.
'In yonder cave he dwelt, 'neath yonder rock
'He made his feast on lions slain in chase:
'There slept he; not on skins of beasts, or leaves,
'But fed his strength upon the naked earth.
Perished the Libyan hinds and those who came,
'Brought here in ships, until he scorned at length
'The earth that gave him strength, and on his feet
'Invincible and with unaided might
'Made all his victims. Last to Afric shores,
' Drawn by the rumour of such carnage, came
' Magnanimous Alcides, he who freed
'Both land and sea of monsters. Down on earth
'He threw his mantle of the lion's skin
' Slain in Cleone; nor Antaeus less
'Cast down the hide he wore. With shining oil,
'As one who wrestles at Olympia's feast,
'The hero rubbed his limbs: the giant feared
' Lest standing only on his parent earth
'His strength might fail; and cast o'er all his bulk
' Hot sand in handfuls. Thus with arms entwined
'And grappling hands each seizes on his foe;
'With hardened muscles straining at the neck
'Long time in vain; for firm the sinewy throat
' Stood column-like, nor yielded; so that each
' Wondered to find his peer. Nor at the first
'Divine Alcides put forth all his strength,
' By lengthy struggle wearing out his foe,
'Till chilly drops stood on Antaeus' limbs,
'And toppled to its fall the stately throat,
'And smitten by the hero's blows, the legs
' Began to totter. Breast to breast they strive
'To gain the vantage, till the victor's arms
'Gird in the giant's yielding back and sides,
'And squeeze his middle part: next 'twixt the thighs
' He puts his feet, and forcing them apart,
'Lays low the mighty monster limb by limb.
'The dry earth drank his sweat, while in his veins
'Warm ran the life-blood, and with strength refreshed,
'The muscles swelled and all the joints grew firm,
'And with his might restored, he breaks his bonds
'And rives the arms of Hercules away.
'Amazed the hero stood at such a strength.
'Not thus he feared, though then unused to war,
'That hydra fierce which, smitten in the marsh
'Of Inachus, renewed its severed heads.
'They fought as peers, the giant with the powers
'Which earth bestowed, the hero with his own:
' Nor did the hatred of his step-dame3 find
'In all his conflicts greater room for hope.
' She sees bedewed in sweat the neck and limbs
'Which once had borne the burden of the heavens
' Nor knew the toil: and when Antaeus felt
' His foeman's arms close round him once again,
' He flung his wearying limbs upon the sand
' To rise with strength renewed; all that the earth,
'Though labouring sore, could breathe into her son
'She gave his frame. But Hercules at last
' Saw how his parent gave the giant strength.
'" Stand thou," he cried; "no more upon the ground
' "Thou liest at thy will-here must thou stay
'" Within mine arms constrained; against this breast,
'" Antaeus, shalt thou fall." He lifted up
' And held by middle girth the giant form,
'Still struggling for the soil: but she no more
'Could give her offspring vigour. Slowly came
'The chill of death upon him, and 'twas long
'Before the hero, of his victory sure,
'Trusted the earth and laid the giant down.
'Hence, hoar antiquity that loves to prate
'And wonders at herself,4 this region called
'Antaeus' kingdom. But a greater name
' Yon hills from Scipio gained, when he recalled
'From Roman citadels the Punic chief.
'Here was his camp; here canst thou see the trace
' Of that most famous rampart 5 whence at length
'Issued the Eagles of triumphant Rome.'
But Curio rejoiced, as though for him
The fortunes of the spot must hold in store
The fates of former chiefs: and on the place
Of happy augury placed his tents ill-starred;
Took from the hills their omens; and with force
Unequal, challenged his barbarian foe.
All Africa that bore the Roman yoke
Then lay 'neath Varus. He, though placing first
Trust in his Latian troops, from every side
And furthest regions, summons to his aid
The nations who confessed King Juba's rule.
Not any monarch over wider tracts
Held the dominion. From the western belt6
Near Gades, Atlas parts their furthest bounds;
But from the southern, Hammon girds them in
Hard by the whirlpools; and their burning plains
Stretch forth unending 'neath the torrid zone,
In breadth its equal, till they reach at length
The shore of ocean upon either hand.
From all these regions tribes unnumbered flock
To Juba's standard: Moors of swarthy hue
As though from Ind; Numidian nomads there
And Nasamon's needy hordes; and those whose darts
Rival the flying arrows of the Mede:
Dark Garamantians leave their fervid home;
And those whose coursers unrestrained by bit
Or saddle, yet obey the rider's hand
Which wields the guiding switch: the hunter, too,
Who wanders forth, his home a fragile hut,
And blinds with flowing robe (if spear should fail)
The angry lion, monarch of the steppe.
Not eagerness alone to save the state
Stirred Juba's spirit: private hatred too
Roused him to war. For in the former year,
When Curio all things human and the gods7
Polluted, he by tribune law essayed
To ravish Libya from the tyrant's sway,
And drive the monarch from his father's throne,
While giving Rome a king. To Juba thus,
Still smarting at the insult, came the war,
A welcome harvest for his crown retained.
These rumours Curio feared: nor had his troops
(Ta'en in Corfinium's hold) 8 in waves of Rhine
Been tested, nor to Caesar in the wars
Had learned devotion: wavering in their faith,
Their second chief they doubt, their first betrayed.
Yet when the general saw the spirit of fear
Creep through his camp, and discipline to fail,
And sentinels desert their guard at night,
Thus in his fear he spake : ' By daring much
' Fear is disguised; let me be first in arms,
'And bid my soldiers to the plain descend,
While still my soldiers. Idle days breed doubt.
' By fight forestall the plot.9 Soon as the thirst
'Of bloodshed fills the mind, and eager hands
' Grip firm the sword, and pressed upon the brow
' The helm brings valour to the failing heart-
' Who cares to measure leaders' merits then?
' Who weighs the cause? With whom the soldier stands,
'For him he fights; as at the fatal show
No ancient grudge the gladiator's arm
' Nerves for the combat, yet as he shall strike
' He hates his rival.' Thinking thus he led
His troops in battle order to the plain.
Then victory on his arms deceptive shone
Hiding the ills to come: for from the field
Driving the hostile host with sword and spear,
He smote them till their camp opposed his way.
1 That is, Sicilian.
2 For Phlegra, the scene of the battle between the giants and the gods, see Book VII., 169, and Book IX., 770. Ben Jonson ('Sejanus,' Act v., scene 10) says of Sejanus:
“'Phlegra, the field where all the sons of earth
Mustered against the gods, did ne'er acknowledge
So proud and huge a monster.'
4 That is, extols ancient deeds.
6 See line 82.
7 Curio was tribune in B.C. 50. His earlier years are stated to have been stained with vice.
8 Book II., 535.
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