Astyages's Weblog

February 25, 2012

Virgil’s Aeneid, by Astyages

Filed under: Virgil's Aeneid 31 — astyages @ 4:54 pm
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Virgil’s Aeneid
DL Rowlands

(Part 31)

From there the Trojan hero made his way into the neighboring plain, whose mountainous perimeter’s sides were shaded with surrounding woods. Right in the middle of this plain stood a natural amphitheater, which, rising slowly by small degrees, overlooked the ground below. High on a silver throne sat the leader, attended in solemn state by a numerous train. Here was both the start and the finishing line of the race; the goal for all those who loved to race and whose desire of honor and renown had prompted them to contend for the prize and who now entered in no particular order; Trojans mixed in with Sicilians:

First Nisus appears, with Euryalus; a boy of blossoming years, who was gifted with a sprightly grace and crowned with equal beauty. Diores, from Priam’s proud race, was next, then Salius, together with Patron, took their places; Patron’s birthplace was in Arcadia and Salius was an Acharnanian. Then came two Sicilian youths, the swift Helymus and the lovely Panopes by name; both jolly huntsmen who were bred in the forest and claimed old Acestes as their head; along with many others of less renown, whom time had not yet given over to fame.

To these, in words which gained general approbation, the hero thus explained his thoughts:

“One common largesse is designed for all: (the vanquished and the victor shall be joined). Two darts of polished steel with Gnosian wood and a silver-studded axe were to be bestowed on each of the first three winners along with an olive-wreath, though the first of these also wins a stately steed, adorned with all the trappings. The runner-up would be given the quiver of an Amazonian dame, well supplied with Thracian arrows, and a golden belt to gird his manly side, to which a sparkling diamond was sown. “The third will have to be content with a Grecian helmet,” he said.

The runners took their appointed places, to await the expected sign with beating hearts, as, all starting at once, they leave the barrier, spreading out, they flew as if on the wings of the wind to seize the distant goal their greedy eyes pursued. Shooting out from the crowd swift Nisus surpassed all; neither storms nor thunder could equal half his speed! Next, though following at a distance, came Salius, with Euryalus behind him. Then came Helymus, who vied for position with young Diores, who paced him step for step and almost side by side, their shoulders almost touching; leaving little or nothing to choose between them.

Now, spent, they approach the goal at last, when the over-eager Nisus, hapless in his haste, first slipped, then, slipping, fell down upon the plain; a loser despite being covered in the blood of newly-sacrificed oxen. The careless would-be victor had not marked his way and, treading in a treacherous puddle, his heels flew up and he fell on the grassy ground, besmeared now with filth as well as the holy gore. Not mindless of this then, nor of the sacred bonds of friendship, Euryalus strove to cross his immediate rival’s hope and caught Salius’ foot as he rose so that Salius too now lay stretched out upon the plain, as Euryalus, leaving the crowd behind him, springs into the lead to seize the prize; and as he leaves the crowd further and further behind him, loud peals of applause attend him as the victor finally reaches the goal, his rival vanquished by his friend. Next came Helymus, and then Diores, made third in fame by these two misfortunes. But Salius enters the prince’s presence, and loudly calling for justice, deafens and disturbs the crowd, urging that his cause be heard in the court, he pleads that the prize was wrongfully conferred. The crowd, however, favor Euryalus, some say on account of his blossoming beauty and his tender years, with which he had bribed the judges for the promised prize. Beside Salius, Diores fills the court with loud cries, reaching in vain for the prize that would be his if first place were to be awarded to Salius.

Finally the prince intervened: “Let there be no dispute! I shall award the prize where Fortune has placed it! But give me leave to mend Fortune’s errors and allow me to show some pity to my deserving friend!” As he said this he drew from among the spoils a lions hide, with a ponderous shaggy mane and huge golden paws and gives it to Salius. Nisus, seeing this gift, is envious and grieves, “If falling is to rise by you, then what prize may Nisus claim of your bounty, who merited the fame and rewards of the first-place winner? In falling we were both equally tasked by Fortune… would Fortune provide so well for my fall?” With this he pointed to his face and showed his hands and his clothes, all smeared with sacrificial blood.

The father of the people smiled indulgently and had an ample shield brought, of wondrous art and wrought by Didymaon, and long-since brought in triumph from Neptune’s bars. After giving this to Nisus, he divides the rest, expressing equal justice in all his gifts.

***** ******* *******

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