Lucan

The Civil War (Pharsalia)

Book X

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2014 All Rights Reserved.

This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.

Contents


Book X:1-52 Alexander’s grave

As soon as Caesar, chasing Pompey, touched shore

and trod those fateful sands, his destiny and that of

guilty Egypt had contended as to whether that land

under Macedonian rule would yield to Roman arms

or an Egyptian sword take the victor’s life not only

the loser’s. Your shade, Pompey, did good service;

you ghost snatched your kinsman from death, lest

Rome, despite your murder, be indebted to Egypt.

Caesar, secure, transferred to Paraetonium (Mersa

Matruh), with Egypt now attached to his cause by

the bond of a ruthless crime, but found the people

angered that Roman laws and officialdom should

usurp their own, feelings split, support wavering,

and that Pompey’s death had brought him no gain.

Yet undaunted, his face forever masking his fears,

he visited the temples of the gods and the ancient

sacred shrines, witnesses to former Macedonian

greatness. He was charmed by neither the gold

nor the ornaments of religion, nor by their city,

but descended eagerly into the sepulchral vault

where lay Alexander, Macedonian Philip’s wild

son, that chance marauder, whose sudden death

solaced the world. His mortal parts that should

have been scattered throughout the earth, were

laid to rest in a holy shrine; fate spared his bones,

imperial rule was destined to endure to the end.

For, if the world had regained a shred of liberty

his corpse would have been retained as an object

of derision, not shown as an example to the world

of how a host of lands were subjected to one man.

He left his Macedonian obscurity, spurned Athens

that his father had conquered, and spurred on by

the power of destiny ran amok among the realms

of Asia, slaying humankind, putting every land

to the sword. He stained far-off rivers, Persia’s

Euphrates, India’s Ganges with blood; a plague

on earth, a lightning bolt that struck all peoples

alike, a fateful comet flaring over every nation.

He was about to launch his fleet on the Ocean’s

encircling deep. Neither water nor fire, Syrtes

nor barren Libya, nor Ammon himself stood

in his way, for, following the earth’s horizon

he’d have reached the west, circled the poles,

drunk the Nile at its source. Nature alone was

able to bring his mad reign to an end; his last

day came and jealously he stole away that

power by which he conquered the world; he

left no heir to all his greatness, but exposed

the nations to ruin. Yet he died in Babylon,

and Parthians feared him. For shame, that

the East dreaded the Macedonian lance, far

more than they now do the Roman javelin!

Though we rule the home of the north wind

and that of the west, and oppress those lands

beyond the burning southerlies, yet in the east

we yield to him who conquered the Parthians.

Parthia so fateful for the Crassi, was merely

a harmless province of tiny Macedonian Pella.

Book X:53-103 Caesar’s infatuation with Cleopatra

Now the boy-king came from the Pelusian mouth

of the Nile, and calmed the anger of his unwarlike

people; with the Pharaoh as his hostage for peace,

Caesar was safe at the royal court. But the sister,

Cleopatra, bribed the guards to release the chain

across Pharos’ harbour, disembarked her little

two-oared vessel, and entered the royal palace

without Caesar knowing; she, Egypt’s shame,

Latium’s Fury, her un-chastity a bane to Rome.

As the fatal beauty of Helen the Spartan harmed

Argos and Troy, so Cleopatra increased Italy’s

madness. Her sistrum even rattled the Capitol,

dare one say, and with unwarlike Canopus she

opposed our Roman standards, hoping to lead

a captive Caesar in an Egyptian triumph. By

Leucas, in Actium’s bay, she cast doubt on

whether a woman not of our race might rule

the world. That night had fuelled her insolence,

the night that first brought a wanton daughter

of the Ptolemies to pollute a Roman general’s

bed. Who can refuse to pardon Mark Antony’s

wild infatuation, when even Caesar’s unfeeling

heart took fire? Even in the grip of his mad fury,

in that palace haunted by Pompey’s ghost, still

drenched in the blood of Pharsalia, he tainted

his thoughts with adulterous lust, mixed illicit

lovemaking, bastard offspring, with the affairs

of war. For shame! Forgetful of your adherents,

Magnus, he gave Julia brothers by a vile mother,

letting the defeated rally in the depths of Libya,

frittering his time in that torrid intrigue in Egypt,

yielding the land to her rather than ruling himself.

Confident of her charms, Cleopatra came to him

in sorrow but not in tears, decked in the trappings

of mourning, her hair unkempt to the right extent

as if she had torn at it, and addressed him thus:

‘O mighty Caesar, if ancestry is important to you,

I am a noble daughter of the Ptolemies, pharaohs

of Egypt, but driven from my father’s throne, and

an exile forever unless your right hand restores me

to my former place; thus I a queen bow before you.

Like a benign star, assist our nation. I would not be

the first woman to reign over the Nile: Egypt will

allow my rule, without distinction of gender. Read

my father’s last testament, which granted me equal

share of power, gave me in marriage to my brother.

If only he were free, the boy would love his sister,

but his army and affections are ruled by Pothinus.

I myself do not seek a share of my father’s power,

only free our house from guilt and shame; destroy

Pothinus’ fatal influence, and bid the king reign.

How swollen are that underling’s ambitions! Now,

having decapitated Magnus, he threatens you; may

fate avert the danger! Was it not indignity enough,

Caesar, for you and the world to suffer, that he is

credited, this Pothinus, with murdering a Pompey?’

Book X:104-135 Cleopatra’s splendour

She would have sought to sway Caesar’s hard heart

in vain, if her beauty had not added to her prayers,

and lust pleaded for her. She passed a sinful night

with her corrupted arbiter. Caesar’s favour won,

purchased by her great gifts, the happy event was

celebrated with a feast, and Cleopatra displayed,

with tumultuous preparations, a magnificence

that Rome has not yet equalled even now. Her

palace itself was like a temple, such as a lesser

age would scarce achieve, the very ceiling panels

proclaiming riches, the rafters coated with gold.

The walls gleamed with marble, no mere façade,

agate stood there proudly, porphyry, alabaster

underfoot to tread on throughout the whole hall,

while ebony from Meroe, no mere cladding, took

the place of the usual wood in forming the great

doors, supporting the place not simply decoration.

Ivory covered the atrium; the doors were inlaid

with Indian tortoiseshell, coloured by hand, its

plates adorned with many an emerald. Jewels

gleamed from the couches, their furnishings

flickering with tawny jasper, the covers deep

dyed with Tyrian purple, dipped more than

once in the cauldron, some embroidered in

shining gold, others ablaze with scarlet, in

the Egyptian manner of weaving on the loom.

There were also a swarm of attendants, a host

of servants to the multitude, differing in age

and cast of skin, some with the dark hair of

Libya, some so tawny that Caesar declared

he had never seen hair as red on the Rhine;

some had black skin, woolly heads, the hair

receding from the brow, and there were those

wretched effeminate lads, who had lost their

manhood to the knife: ranked opposite older

youths whose cheeks showed barely any down.

Book X:136-193 The banquet

There, kings, and Caesar, greater than they, were

seated. There too was Cleopatra, not content with

a crown of her own, or her brother for a husband,

her baleful beauty inordinately painted, covered

with Red Sea pearls, a fortune in her hair and

around her neck, weighed down with jewellery.

Her snowy breasts gleamed through the Sidonian

stuff, threads wound tight on the Seres’ shuttles,

that Egyptian needle-workers loosen and extend

drawing out the silk. On snowy tusks they set

round citrus-wood tables cut in Moorish forests,

such as Caesar never saw even on capturing Juba.

What a mad blind rage for display, revealing her

wealth to a general fresh from civil war, stirring

the mind of an armed guest! Even if it were not

Caesar, ready in impious warfare to gather riches

from the ruins of a world, set here the ancient

generals famous in less wealthy times, Fabricius

or stern Curius, or let Cincinnatus recline there,

snatched, soiled with sweat, from his Etrurian

plough: and each would pray to celebrate such

a splendid triumph in Rome. A banquet was

served on gold of all that earth, air, sea or Nile

affords, all that luxury, unprompted by hunger,

but wild with idle love of display, has sought

throughout the world. Many birds and beasts

divine in Egypt were served, and crystal ewers

yielded Nile water for their hands; the wine,

poured from great jewelled goblets, was not

from Egyptian grapes, but noble Falernian,

that Meroe brings to maturity in a few years,

forcing fermentation on their stubborn nature.

They donned garlands of flowering spikenard,

and never-fading roses, drenched their hair

in cinnamon that had not yet been exposed

to the outer air, or lost its natural scent; and

in cardamom culled nearby, and recently

despatched. Caesar learns how to squander

the riches of a ransacked world, ashamed

to have fought so impoverished a son-in-law,

now seeking a reason to make war on Egypt.

When enjoyment, sated, put an end to eating

and drinking, Caesar began a long discourse

to prolong the evening, engaging Acoreus,

who dressed in linen robes reclined on a high

couch, in friendly speech: ‘Devoted as you are,

sir, to holy things, and as your age shows not

unfavoured by the gods, tell me of the origins

of the Egyptian people, the country’s features,

the nation’s manners, your rites, and the forms

of your gods. Reveal what is engraved on your

ancient shrines, and disclose whatever of your

gods they themselves will make known. Since

your ancestors taught Plato of Athens their

religion, was there ever a guest of yours more

fitted to hear of it, with more capacious mind?

It is true that report of Pompey brought me to

your country, but its fame also: in the midst

of war I have always found the time to study

the stars above, celestial regions; my calendar

does not yield to that of Eudoxus. And while

such force of mind and love of truth flourishes

within me, there is nothing I would rather know

than the cause, hidden through so many ages,

of the Nile’s floods, and its unknown source.

Grant me firm expectation of seeing the fount

of that river, and I will abandon civil warfare.’

He paused, and Acoreus the priest replied thus:

Book X:194-267 The cause of the Nile flood

‘Caesar, it is permitted me to reveal the secrets

of our mighty ancestors, unknown to this day

to the profane. Let others think it pious to hide

such wondrous knowledge, but I believe it is

the gods’ will that these things be understood,

and mankind learn their sacred laws. Diverse

powers were assigned to the stars that control

the fleeting heavens, and rule the sky. The Sun

marks time and changes night to day; his force

prevents planets progressing, and delays their

wandering courses while they seem stationary.

The changes of the Moon create the tidal surge.

The freezing ice of snowy zones was assigned

to Saturn; to Mars, winds and sudden lightning;

under Jove the temperate climate and clear air;

while fecund Venus owns the seeds of everything,

as Mercury controls the element of water. When

Mercury has occupied that region of the heavens

where Leo borders on Cancer, when Sirius emits

fierce fire, on the ecliptic that tracks the changing

seasons, that intersects the tropic of Capricorn;

and that of Cancer beneath which lie the sources

of the Nile; when that lord of the watery element

shines vertically on them, the river’s sources flow,

and as the waxing moon raises the oceans so Nile

obeys the command, and does not falter in its flow

till night regains the hours it lost to day in summer.

The ancient belief was wrong that Ethiopian snows

swell the Nile and flood the fields. No north-winds

reach those mountains, as evidenced by the colour

of the Ethiopians, blackened by sun and scorching

southerlies. Moreover, every river source that flows

when the ice melts rises in early spring when snows

thaw, but the Nile waters never rise till Sirius shines,

nor fully recede till the autumn equinox, under Libra.

Nile knows not the laws that govern other rivers, it

rises not in winter when the sunlight is faint, when

its flood lacks purpose, but commanded to temper

an adverse climate it rises in torrid midsummer heat;

and, that fire might not waste the earth, Nile comes

to aid the people; rising in the jaws of Leo, invoked

by Syene’s prayers, where it scorches under Cancer;

and not receding from the plains till the autumn sun

declines and casts noon shadow at Meroe. Who can

explain the reason? Our mother Nature commanded

the Nile to rise thus, and mankind needs it to do so.

The ancients also erred in ascribing its rise to westerly

winds that blow each day for many days at a certain

season; that either drive clouds from west to south,

and force the rain to fill the Nile, or else encounter

the river’s flow at its several mouths, and slow it by

the pressure of the waves, till it overflows the fields

since its course is hindered, and the sea obstructs it.

Some think that there are air-passages underground,

vast spaces within its hollowed mass: and that, there,

water travels to and fro invisibly, and is drawn from

the frozen north to the equator when the sun at Meroe

shines overhead and the parched earth attracts the flow;

Ganges and the Po being drawn through hidden realms

of the earth, till Nile, discharging those streams from

a single source, channels them through its many mouths

to the sea. They even say the Nile’s violent eruption is

an outflow from the distant Ocean that bounds all lands,

its saltwater freshening with the great distance travelled.

While some believe the sun and sky are fed by Ocean;

the sun in the grip of fiery Cancer, sucks up the waters,

and more than the air can absorb, which night returns

in downpours on the Nile. But if I might give my own

opinion, Caesar, in so great a matter, I say, ages after

the world was created, certain waters burst from veins

of the earth after earthquakes, not at the command of

a deity; but others, like the Nile, had their beginning

at its very foundation, with all other things, and these

latter the maker and creator bound by their own laws.

Book X:268-331 The source of the Nile

This desire you have to know the Nile’s source,

Roman, was shared by Pharaohs and the kings

of Macedonia and Persia; no age but wished to

hand this knowledge to futurity; yet Nature’s

powers of concealment have held sway till now.

Alexander, greatest of men, begrudged Memphis

its worship of the Nile, and sent picked men into

the furthest reaches of Ethiopia; but they were

thwarted by the burning zone of parching skies;

and only saw the Nile steam with heat. Sesostris

reached the western limits of the world, drove

his chariot with kings under the yoke, drank of

the Rhone and Po, yet never the sources of Nile.

Cambyses, that madman, penetrated the eastern

lands of the long-lived Macrobii; ran short of

food and ate his own dead, but returned with no

more knowledge of you, Nile. Even mendacious

legend has not ventured to speak of your source.

Whoever looks on it is intrigued, and no nation

can boast the glory of possessing Nile as its own.

I will reveal your course, Nile, as far as the deity

who conceals it grants me knowledge of the flow.

You rise on the equator, boldly lifting your shores

to burning Cancer, you flow due north towards

the heart of Bootes (yet your channel winds and

bends west and east, now adding ground towards

Arabia, now towards the sands of Libya), Seres

the first to see you, yet also query your source,

you who reach Ethiopian plains an alien river,

no land knowing to whom it owes your flow.

Nature has revealed to none your hidden source,

preventing any seeing the infant Nile, concealing

the valley where you rise, preferring the nations

to wonder than to know. It is given you to swell

at the midsummer solstice, rising in alien winter,

bringing the winter with you, and alone allowed

to wander the southern and northern hemispheres.

In the former your hidden source, your final goal

in the latter. Your wide waters part to surround

Meroe, and the fertile soil her black-skinned races

cultivate, dense with the foliage of ebony-trees;

yet though Meroe is thick with leaves, she lacks

shade to temper the summer heat, since she lies

directly beneath the sun in Leo. Then you pass

through the torrid zone with no loss of volume,

and cross a length of barren sand, at one time all

your flow gathered in a single channel, at another

straying, overflowing the banks that readily yield.

Then your many streams are gathered once more

into a sluggish channel where Philae, the gateway

to Egypt, divides that realm from the Arab nations.

Later cleaving the desert where trade links the Red

Sea to our own, your flow is gentle. Who would

think the river that glides so smoothly there, had

roused its whole turbulent fury, here? Yet where

your stream runs in a rough channel, with violent

cataracts, resentful that rock should obstruct your

flow that ran free, you trouble the stars with your

spray, drowned by your roar, as the cliffs resound

and your waters whiten with foam in the confined

gorge. Then comes the sacred island our hallowed

traditions call Abatos; that place is struck and feels

the tumult first, there are the rocks where they say

the river rises, since there are the first signs of its

flood. From this point on, nature has flanked your

wandering flow with mountains that deny you to

Libya, Nile, and between which your current flows

tamed, and silent in a deep valley. Memphis is first

to offer widening plains for you to overflow, and

forbids your channel to set borders to your flood.’

Book X:332-433 Pothinus conspires against Caesar

So they passed the time till after midnight, apparently

in peace and security, but Pothinus’ troubled mind,

now stained with a sacrilegious murder, was never

free of evil thoughts: and after killing Pompey he no

longer judged anything a crime; shades of the dead

possessed his breast, and the avenging Furies spurred

him on to fresh horrors. Once more his vile hands

prepared to shed blood, blood that the fates intended

to spurt for oppressed senators; a Senate’s vengeance,

their punishment for bringing civil war, was almost

yielded to the base-born. Destiny, avert the wrong,

let Caesar’s head not fall without our Brutus there,

or the punishment of a Roman tyrant would only

go to further Egypt’s guilt, and its warning be lost!

Pothinus works an audacious plot doomed to fail:

not seeking to commit murder with secret cunning,

instead attacking the undefeated leader in open war.

His crimes emboldened him to order that Caesar’s

head be severed as his son-in-law Pompey’s was,

and he told a loyal henchmen to carry the message

to Achillas, his accomplice in Pompey’s murder;

Achillas, whom the unwarlike boy, his Pharaoh,

had appointed to command all his forces and to

whom, reserving no authority for himself, he had

handed the sword to use against all, even the king

himself. ‘Is this a moment,’ Pothinus demanded,

‘to lie in your soft bed, sleeping long and soundly,

now Cleopatra has seized the palace, and Egypt,

betrayed by her, is granted to her as well? Shall

you alone fail to hasten to your mistress’ bed?

The impious sister weds her brother, now she is

wed already to the Roman, scurrying between two

spouses, possessing Egypt and servicing Rome.

Cleopatra conquered the older man’s heart with

drugs; trust the boy, at your peril, who, if a single

night brings them together, and he yields to her

embraces with incestuous passion, plunged in

illicit love masquerading as natural affection,

will grant her your head and mine, perhaps

for a single kiss. If the sister proves charming,

we’ll pay with crucifixion or at the stake. No

refuge anywhere remains: the royal spouse on

one side, adulterous Caesar on the other. We,

to confess the truth, are guilty if that cruel one

is judge; and which of us with whom she’s chaste

does Cleopatra not consider harmful? By the crime

we both committed, and lost by; by our pact sealed

with Pompey’s blood; act; stir up conflict with some

sudden disturbance; attack now, and break off their

nocturnal union, slay our cruel mistress in her bed,

be her partner who he may. Nor be deterred from

an attempt by Fortune, who has raised this Roman

general and set him over all the world: we share

his ambition, and Pompey’s death exalts us also.

Gaze at that shore whose crime fuels our hopes;

ask of the blood-stained tide what power is ours,

and look on Pompey’s grave, a little heap of dust,

that covers something less than a corpse. The man

you fear is no more than Pompey. What matter if

our blood is not noble, if we cannot command

kingdoms or the power of nations: through fate

we are great in crime. Fortune placed these men

in our grasp: behold another nobler victim comes!

Let us placate the Italians with a second killing:

cutting Caesar’s throat would bring us this, that

the people of Rome will love those who as yet

are only viewed as Pompey’s murderers. Why

dread Caesar’s great fame and his army, who

on his leaving it behind is a mere soldier? This

night shall end the civil war, yield an offering

to the dead for mankind, sending to the shades

that life the world is still owed. Go, bravely

against Caesar; let the Egyptian soldiers serve

their king, and the Romans their own. Beware

delay! You will find him sated from the feast,

drunk with wine, ripe for dalliance; be daring;

heaven will grant you what Cato and Brutus

so often pray for.’ Achillas was not slow to

obey the call to action, and gave the order to

advance but without the usual noise, no blare

of trumpets betraying the call to arms, swiftly

readying all the cruel appurtenances of war.

Most of his troops were Roman soldiers, but so

corrupted militarily by alien ways, and now so

oblivious to Rome, that though it was shameful

to serve an Egyptian king, they marched with his

slave as general, at the bidding of his henchman.

Camp-followers have no loyalty or sense of duty,

their swords are for sale: where lie easy pickings

there is their cause. They will threaten a Caesar’s

life, not on their own behalf but for a little pay.

Oh, divine law! Where did the wretched destiny

of empire fail to bring civil war? Absent from

Pharsalia, the men were nevertheless maddened,

like their nation, beside the Nile. The Ptolemies

would have shown less daring if they had made

Pompey welcome! The truth is every right hand

belongs to the powers above, and no Roman is

allowed to stand idle. It has so pleased the gods

to divide Rome’s being: and though the nations

were no longer at odds regarding Caesar or his

son-in-law, now a mere underling had stirred

civil conflict, with Achillas usurping the part

of a Roman; and unless the fates deflected their

attack on Caesar’s life, their plan would triumph.

Both were ready while, distracted by the banquet,

the court was open to every treachery, such that

Caesar’s blood might fill the Pharaoh’s drinking

cup, and his head encumber the table. But they

feared the danger and confusion of night action;

left to chance, you, Ptolemy, might be slain in

a murderous confusion. Such was their trust in

their swords, that they put off the moment; and

contemptuous of the ease of execution of their

grand design, thinking it a loss easily repaired,

these slaves let slip the chance of killing Caesar.

He was saved to meet his punishment in daylight;

and granted one more night by Pothinus, Caesar

gained a respite from death, till the sun’s rising.

Book X:434-485 The conspirators attack

The morning-star was shining over Mount Casius,

bringing the dawn to Egypt, warm even at sunrise,

when an armed forced was seen at some distance

from the walls, not a confused mass of stragglers,

but well-ordered ranks advancing towards them:

ready to charge, endure and inflict close combat.

Caesar, distrusting the city’s defences, protected

himself by closing the palace gates, submitting to

a base hiding-place. Shut in as he was, the wider

palace was no longer his: his forces penned in one

corner. His pride was assailed by rage and fear,

fear of attack and anger at his fear. So some wild

and noble creature trapped in a narrow cage roars

and furiously bites the bars, till his teeth shatter;

so your fires, Vulcan, would rage in the Sicilian

depths if Etna’s summit crater were once sealed.

Not long previously, below Mount Haemus’ cliffs,

Caesar had defied Rome’s leaders, armed senators

under Pompey’s command; his cause undeserving

of success, yet promising himself an unjust victory.

Now though, fearing the baseness of slaves, he hid

behind the walls while the missiles rained down.

He whom neither Alanians, nor Scythians, nor even

the Moors who make strangers a target, could harm;

he for whom the whole Roman world was too small,

who would have thought India to Phoenician Cadiz,

too slight a realm; like a harmless child or a woman

when a city’s captured, now sought safety indoors,

relying on barricaded entrance-ways to save his life,

wandering, anxious, uncertain, from room to room,

and not without the king, whom he took everywhere

with him, intending, if he himself must die, to exact

punishment on Ptolemy, make an example of him,

and if javelins, firebrands were lacking hurl that head

at its slaves. So, they say, Medea, the Colchian witch,

fearing vengeance for her treason and flight, awaited

her father with a sword in one hand, the head of her

brother in the other. But Caesar, in desperate straits,

was forced to explore a truce, and a royal courtier

was sent, bearing a message from their absent king,

rebuking the rebellious slaves, questioning their

authority for action. But the usual convention, those

sacred rules respected by all nations, failed to save

that seeker of peace, sent by the king. Where should

this rank among your crimes, Egypt, the land guilty

of so many atrocities? Not Thessaly nor Juba’s barren

lands, nor Pontus plagued by Pharnaces’ war against

his father, nor Spain through which the cold Ebro flows,

nor the savage Syrtes, none takes such delight in them

as you. Attacked on every side, now missiles cascade

on the palace, and batter at the walls. Lacking a ram

to shatter the gates, and break the defences at a blow;

lacking engines of war, mistrustful of fire to achieve

their aim, dividing blindly, the attackers surrounded

the vast reach of walls, unable to use their full force.

Fate denied them, Fortune acted as a defensive wall.

Book X:486-546 Caesar prepares to escape by sea

The palace was even attacked from the sea, at a point

where that glorious structure projected boldly above

the waters. But Caesar was everywhere in defence,

driving back some with the sword, others with fire;

such his strength of mind, he acted like the besieger.

He ordered brands steeped in resin hurled at the sails

of the crowded ships, and the fire ran swiftly along

the rigging, over the decks whose caulking melted,

till the thwarts and the towering yards blazed as one.

Soon the half-burned vessels sank beneath the waves,

the attackers being swamped, with their weapons.

Nor did flames fall only on the ships: houses nearby

caught fire with the fierce heat, and wind increased

the conflagration, till the flames, driven by the gale,

rushed whirling over the roofs, swiftly as meteors

trace furrows in the sky, though lacking material

to feed on, and burning by means of the air alone.

This danger recalled the attackers from the barred

palace to save their city. Wasting no time, Caesar

seized the respite granted by fire, and boarded

ship in the dark of night. His success in war was

ever based on speed, and now he swiftly seized

Pharos, the gateway to the sea. Once, in the days

of Proteus the seer, it was an island in the waters,

but now it was linked to the walls of Alexandria.

It was doubly useful to Caesar in this conflict: he

prevented the enemy sailing through the narrow

entrance to reach the sea, and ensured the harbour

was opened to reinforcements. Then he no longer

delayed the punishment of death that Pothinus

had earned, though not inflicted by the means

deserved; crucifixion, burning, wild beasts jaws;

but dying Pompey’s death. Meanwhile, Cleopatra’s

younger sister, Arsinoe, was conveyed secretly

by a ruse of Ganymede, her servant, to Caesar’s

enemies, where, as a daughter of the Ptolemies,

she took command of them in the king’s name,

and rightly had Achillas slain, Ptolemy’s dire

instrument, by the sword. So a second victim

was offered to your shade, Magnus, yet the fates

were still not satisfied. Far be it that vengeance

should end there. Not Ptolemy nor all his house

sufficed: for until his own countrymen’s blades

pierced Caesar’s body, Pompey would remain

unavenged. There, the madness did not end with

Pothinus’ death; and led by Ganymede the host

rushed to arms and made successful skirmishes.

With Caesar in extreme danger, that day might

have been forever notable. His soldiers crowded

round him on the narrow mole, as he prepared

to embark his force on the empty ships, when

he was suddenly surrounded by all the terrors

of war: on one side close-packed vessels lined

the shore, on the other infantry attacked his rear.

Neither valour nor flight offered a path of safety,

he could barely hope for an honourable death.

No rout of the enemy ranks, no piles of dead, no

act of bloodshed was needed to conquer Caesar

then; perplexed, trapped by the very nature of his

position, torn between fearing death and praying

for death, he thought again of Scaeva in the serried

ranks, Scaeva who won eternal glory on your field,

Dyrrachium; that Scaeva who, when the walls there

were breached and Pompey trampled the ramparts

underfoot, alone withstood the forces against him.


End of Lucan’s Unfinished Book X