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Tiresias: The Ancient Mediterranean Religions Source Database

Ovid, Fasti, 4.709

factum abiit, monumenta manent; nam dicere certaThe thing’s forgotten, but a relic remains: since now

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1. Ovid, Fasti, 4.179-4.390, 4.393-4.620, 4.623 (1st cent. BCE - 1st cent. CE)

4.179. Let the sky turn three times on its axis 4.180. Let the Sun three times yoke and loose his horses 4.181. And the Berecyntian flute will begin sounding 4.182. Its curved horn, it will be the Idaean Mother’s feast. 4.183. Eunuchs will march, and sound the hollow drums 4.184. And cymbal will clash with cymbal, in ringing tones: 4.185. Seated on the soft necks of her servants, she’ll be carried 4.186. With howling, through the midst of the City streets. 4.187. The stage is set: the games are calling. Watch, then 4.188. Quirites, and let those legal wars in the fora cease. 4.189. I’d like to ask many things, but I’m made fearful 4.190. By shrill clash of bronze, and curved flute’s dreadful drone. 4.191. ‘Lend me someone to ask, goddess.’ Cybele spying her learned 4.192. Granddaughters, the Muses, ordered them to take care of me. 4.193. ‘Nurslings of Helicon, mindful of her orders, reveal 4.194. Why the Great Goddess delights in continual din.’ 4.195. So I spoke. And Erato replied (it fell to her to speak about 4.196. Venus’ month, because her name derives from tender love): 4.197. ‘Saturn was granted this prophecy: “Noblest of kings 4.198. You’ll be ousted by your own son’s sceptre.” 4.199. The god, fearful, devoured his children as soon a 4.200. Born, and then retained them deep in his guts. 4.201. often Rhea (Cybele) complained, at being so often pregt 4.202. Yet never a mother, and grieved at her own fruitfulness. 4.203. Then Jupiter was born (ancient testimony is credited 4.204. By most: so please don’t disturb the accepted belief): 4.205. A stone, concealed in clothing, went down Saturn’s throat 4.206. So the great progenitor was deceived by the fates. 4.207. Now steep Ida echoed to a jingling music 4.208. So the child might cry from its infant mouth, in safety. 4.209. Some beat shields with sticks, others empty helmets: 4.210. That was the Curetes’ and the Corybantes’ task. 4.211. The thing was hidden, and the ancient deed’s still acted out: 4.212. The goddess’s servants strike the bronze and sounding skins. 4.213. They beat cymbals for helmets, drums instead of shields: 4.214. The flute plays, as long ago, in the Phrygian mode.’ 4.215. The goddess ceased. I began: ‘Why do fierce lion 4.216. Yield untamed necks to the curving yoke for her?’ 4.217. I ceased. The goddess began: ‘It’s thought their ferocity 4.218. Was first tamed by her: the testament to it’s her chariot.’ 4.219. ‘But why is her head weighed down by a turreted crown? 4.220. Is it because she granted towers to the first cities?’ 4.221. She nodded. I said ‘Where did this urge to cut off 4.222. Their members come from?’ As I ended, the Muse spoke: 4.223. ‘In the woods, a Phrygian boy, Attis, of handsome face 4.224. Won the tower-bearing goddess with his chaste passion. 4.225. She desired him to serve her, and protect her temple 4.226. And said: “Wish, you might be a boy for ever.” 4.227. He promised to be true, and said: “If I’m lying 4.228. May the love I fail in be my last love.” 4.229. He did fail, and in meeting the nymph Sagaritis 4.230. Abandoned what he was: the goddess, angered, avenged it. 4.231. She destroyed the Naiad, by wounding a tree 4.232. Since the tree contained the Naiad’s fate. 4.233. Attis was maddened, and thinking his chamber’s roof 4.234. Was falling, fled for the summit of Mount Dindymus. 4.235. Now he cried: “Remove the torches”, now he cried: 4.236. “Take the whips away”: often swearing he saw the Furies. 4.237. He tore at his body too with a sharp stone 4.238. And dragged his long hair in the filthy dust 4.239. Shouting: “I deserved this! I pay the due penalty 4.240. In blood! Ah! Let the parts that harmed me, perish! 4.241. Let them perish!” cutting away the burden of his groin 4.242. And suddenly bereft of every mark of manhood. 4.243. His madness set a precedent, and his unmanly servant 4.244. Toss their hair, and cut off their members as if worthless.’ 4.245. So the Aonian Muse, eloquently answering the question 4.246. I’d asked her, regarding the causes of their madness. 4.247. ‘Guide of my work, I beg you, teach me also, where She 4.248. Was brought from. Was she always resident in our City? 4.249. ‘The Mother Goddess always loved Dindymus, Cybele 4.250. And Ida, with its pleasant streams, and the Trojan realm: 4.251. And when Aeneas brought Troy to Italian fields, the godde 4.252. Almost followed those ships that carried the sacred relics. 4.253. But she felt that fate didn’t require her powers in Latium 4.254. So she stayed behind in her long-accustomed place. 4.255. Later, when Rome was more than five centuries old 4.256. And had lifted its head above the conquered world 4.257. The priest consulted the fateful words of Euboean prophecy: 4.258. They say that what he found there was as follows: 4.259. ‘The Mother’s absent: Roman, I command you: seek the Mother. 4.260. When she arrives, she must be received in chaste hands.’ 4.261. The dark oracle’s ambiguity set the senators puzzling 4.262. As to who that parent might be, and where to seek her. 4.263. Apollo was consulted, and replied: ‘Fetch the Mother 4.264. of all the Gods, who you’ll find there on Mount Ida.’ 4.265. Noblemen were sent. Attalus at that time held 4.266. The Phrygian sceptre: he refused the Italian lords. 4.267. Marvellous to tell, the earth shook with long murmurs 4.268. And the goddess, from her shrine, spoke as follows: 4.269. ‘I myself wished them to seek me: don’t delay: send me 4.270. Willingly. Rome is a worthy place for all divinities.’ 4.271. Quaking with fear at her words, Attalus, said: ‘Go 4.272. You’ll still be ours: Rome claims Phrygian ancestry.’ 4.273. Immediately countless axes felled the pine-tree 4.274. Those trees pious Aeneas employed for his flight: 4.275. A thousand hands work, and the heavenly Mother 4.276. Soon has a hollow ship, painted in fiery colours. 4.277. She’s carried in perfect safety over her son’s waves 4.278. And reaches the long strait named for Phrixus’ sister 4.279. Passes fierce Rhoetum and the Sigean shore 4.280. And Tenedos and Eetion’s ancient kingdom. 4.281. Leaving Lesbos behind she then steered for the Cyclades 4.282. And the waves that break on Euboea’s Carystian shoals. 4.283. She passed the Icarian Sea, as well, where Icarus shed 4.284. His melting wings, giving his name to a vast tract of water. 4.285. Then leaving Crete to larboard, and the Pelopian wave 4.286. To starboard, she headed for Cythera, sacred to Venus. 4.287. From there to the Sicilian Sea, where Brontes, Sterope 4.288. And Aemonides forge their red-hot iron 4.289. Then, skirting African waters, she saw the Sardinian 4.290. Realm behind to larboard, and reached our Italy. 4.291. She’d arrived at the mouth (ostia) where the Tiber divide 4.292. To meet the deep, and flows with a wider sweep: 4.293. All the Knights, grave Senators, and commoners 4.294. Came to meet her at the mouth of the Tuscan river. 4.295. With them walked mothers, daughters, and brides 4.296. And all those virgins who tend the sacred fires. 4.297. The men wearied their arms hauling hard on the ropes: 4.298. The foreign vessel barely made way against the stream. 4.299. For a long time there’d been a drought: the grass was dry 4.300. And scorched: the boat stuck fast in the muddy shallows. 4.301. Every man, hauling, laboured beyond his strength 4.302. And encouraged their toiling hands with his cries. 4.303. Yet the ship lodged there, like an island fixed in mid-ocean: 4.304. And astonished at the portent, men stood and quaked. 4.305. Claudia Quinta traced her descent from noble Clausus 4.306. And her beauty was in no way unequal to her nobility: 4.307. She was chaste, but not believed so: hostile rumour 4.308. Had wounded her, false charges were levelled at her: 4.309. Her elegance, promenading around in various hairstyles 4.310. And her ready tongue, with stiff old men, counted against her. 4.311. Conscious of virtue, she laughed at the rumoured lies 4.312. But we’re always ready to credit others with faults. 4.313. Now, when she’d stepped from the line of chaste women 4.314. Taking pure river water in her hands, she wetted her head 4.315. Three times, three times lifted her palms to the sky 4.316. (Everyone watching her thought she’d lost her mind) 4.317. Then, kneeling, fixed her eyes on the goddess’s statue 4.318. And, with loosened hair, uttered these words: 4.319. “ Kind and fruitful Mother of the Gods, accept 4.320. A suppliant’s prayers, on this one condition: 4.321. They deny I’m chaste: let me be guilty if you condemn me: 4.322. Convicted by a goddess I’ll pay for it with my life. 4.323. But if I’m free of guilt, grant a pledge of my innocence 4.324. By your action: and, chaste, give way to my chaste hands.” 4.325. She spoke: then gave a slight pull at the rope 4.326. (A wonder, but the sacred drama attests what I say): 4.327. The goddess stirred, followed, and, following, approved her: 4.328. Witness the sound of jubilation carried to the stars. 4.329. They came to a bend in the river (called of old 4.330. The Halls of Tiber): there the stream turns left, ascending. 4.331. Night fell: they tied the rope to an oak stump 4.332. And, having eaten, settled to a tranquil sleep. 4.333. Dawn rose: they loosed the rope from the oak stump 4.334. After first laying a fire and offering incense 4.335. And crowned the stern, and sacrificed a heifer 4.336. Free of blemish, that had never known yoke or bull. 4.337. There’s a place where smooth-flowing Almo joins the Tiber 4.338. And the lesser flow loses its name in the greater: 4.339. There, a white-headed priest in purple robe 4.340. Washed the Lady, and sacred relics, in Almo’s water. 4.341. The attendants howled, and the mad flutes blew 4.342. And soft hands beat at the bull’s-hide drums. 4.343. Claudia walked in front with a joyful face 4.344. Her chastity proven by the goddess’s testimony: 4.345. The goddess herself, sitting in a cart, entered the Capene Gate: 4.346. Fresh flowers were scattered over the yoked oxen. 4.347. Nasica received her. The name of her temple’s founder is lost: 4.348. Augustus has re-dedicated it, and, before him, Metellus.’ 4.349. Here Erato ceased. There was a pause for me to ask more: 4.350. I said: ‘Why does the goddess collect money in small coins?’ 4.351. She said: ‘The people gave coppers, with which Metellu 4.352. Built her shrine, so now there’s a tradition of giving them.’ 4.353. I asked why people entertain each other at feasts 4.354. And invite others to banquets, more than at other times. 4.355. She said: ‘It’s because the Berecynthian goddess by good luck 4.356. Changed her house, and they try for the same luck, by their visits.’ 4.357. I was about to ask why the Megalesia are the first game 4.358. of the City’s year, when the goddess (anticipating) said: 4.359. ‘She gave birth to the gods. They yielded to their mother 4.360. And she was given the honour of precedence.’ 4.361. Why then do we call those who castrate themselves, Galli 4.362. When the Gallic country’s so far from Phrygia?’ 4.363. ‘Between green Cybele and high Celaenae,’ she said 4.364. ‘Runs a river of maddening water, called the Gallus. 4.365. Whoever drinks of it, is crazed: keep far away, all you 4.366. Who desire a sound mind: who drinks of it is crazed.’ 4.367. ‘They consider it no shame to set a dish of salad 4.368. On the Lady’s table. What’s the reason?’ I asked. 4.369. She replied: ‘It’s said the ancients lived on milk 4.370. And on herbs that the earth produced of itself. 4.371. Now they mix cream cheese with pounded herbs 4.372. So the ancient goddess might know the ancient food.’ 4.373. When the stars have vanished, and the Moon unyoke 4.374. Her snowy horses, and the next dawn shines in the sky 4.375. He’ll speak true who says: ‘On this day long ago 4.376. The temple of Public Fortune was dedicated on the Quirinal.’ 4.377. It was the third day of the games (I recall), and a certain 4.378. Elderly man, who was sitting next to me at the show, said: 4.379. ‘This was the day when Julius Caesar crushed proud 4.380. Juba’s treacherous army, on the shores of Libya. 4.381. Caesar was my leader, under whom I’m proud 4.382. To have been a tribune: he ordered me so to serve. 4.383. I won this seat in war, and you in peace 4.384. Because of your role among the Decemvirs.’ 4.385. We were about to speak again when a sudden shower 4.386. Parted us: Libra balanced there shed heavenly waters. 4.387. But before the last day completes the spectacle 4.388. Orion with his sword will have sunk in the sea. 4.389. When the next dawn gazes on victorious Rome 4.390. And the fleeing stars have given way to the Sun 4.393. Next, the Games of Ceres, there’s no need to say why: 4.413. You girded attendants lift those knives from the ox: 4.414. Let the ox plough, while you sacrifice the lazy sow 4.415. It’s not fitting for an axe to strike a neck that’s yoked: 4.416. Let the ox live, and toil through the stubborn soil. 4.423. Cool Arethusa gathered together the mothers of the gods: 4.424. And the yellow-haired goddess came to the sacred feast. 4.437. One picked marigolds: another loved violets 4.438. And one nipped the poppy-heads with her nails: 4.439. Some you tempt, hyacinth: others, amaranth, you delay: 4.440. Others desire thyme, cornflowers or clover. 4.445. Dis, her uncle saw her, and swiftly carried her off 4.448. Carried away!’ and tore at the breast of her robe: 4.457. She rushed about, distracted, as we’ve heard 4.458. The Thracian Maenads run with flowing hair. 4.516. And begged her to shelter under his insignificant roof. 4.517. She refused. She was disguised as an old woman, her hair 4.518. Covered with a cap. When he urged her she replied: 4.521. She spoke, and a crystal drop (though goddesses cannot weep) 4.584. Is married to Jupiter’s brother, and rules the third realm.’ 4.619. White is fitting for Ceres: dress in white clothes for Ceres’ 4.620. Festival: on this day no one wears dark-coloured thread.
2. Ovid, Metamorphoses, 1.237 (1st cent. BCE - 1st cent. CE)

Subjects of this text:

subject book bibliographic info
ceres, and magna mater Pasco-Pranger, Founding the Year: Ovid's Fasti and the Poetics of the Roman Calendar (2006) 160
change Clay and Vergados, Teaching through Images: Imagery in Greco-Roman Didactic Poetry (2022) 260
fire Clay and Vergados, Teaching through Images: Imagery in Greco-Roman Didactic Poetry (2022) 260
food, ritual for magna mater' Pasco-Pranger, Founding the Year: Ovid's Fasti and the Poetics of the Roman Calendar (2006) 160
magna mater, and ceres Pasco-Pranger, Founding the Year: Ovid's Fasti and the Poetics of the Roman Calendar (2006) 160
metamorphosis Clay and Vergados, Teaching through Images: Imagery in Greco-Roman Didactic Poetry (2022) 260
ritual Clay and Vergados, Teaching through Images: Imagery in Greco-Roman Didactic Poetry (2022) 260
transformation Clay and Vergados, Teaching through Images: Imagery in Greco-Roman Didactic Poetry (2022) 260