Religio

Louis Billotey, Le sacrifice d'Iphigénie, 1935
Louis Billotey, Le sacrifice d’Iphigénie (1935)

Illud in his rebus vereor, ne forte rearis
impia te rationis inire elementa viamque
indugredi sceleris. quod contra saepius illa
religio peperit scelerosa atque impia facta;
Aulide quo pacto Triviai virginis aram
Iphianassai turparunt sanguine foede
ductores Danaum delecti, prima virorum.
cui simul infula virgineos circumdata comptus
ex utraque pari malarum parte profusast,
et maestum simul ante aras adstare parentem
sensit et hunc propter ferrum celare ministros
aspectuque suo lacrimas effundere cives,
muta metu terram genibus submissa petebat.
nec miserae prodesse in tali tempore quibat,
quod patrio princeps donarat nomine regem;
nam sublata virum manibus tremibundaque ad aras
deductast, non ut sollemni more sacrorum
perfecto posset claro comitari Hymenaeo,
sed casta inceste nubendi tempore in ipso
hostia concideret mactatu maesta parentis—
exitus ut classi felix faustusque daretur.
tantum religio potuit suadere malorum.
(Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 1.80-101)

One thing I fear in this matter, that in this your apprenticeship to philosophy you may perhaps see impiety, and the entering on a path of crime; whereas on the contrary more often it is that very Superstition which has brought forth criminal and impious deeds: as when at Aulis the altar of our Lady of the Crossways was foully defiled by the blood of Iphianassa, shed by chosen leaders of the Danai, chieftains of the host. So soon as the ribbon has bound her maiden tresses falling in equal lengths down either cheek, so soon as she saw her father standing sorrowful before the altar, and by his side attendants hiding the knife, and the people shedding tears at the sight of her, dumb with dread, she sank to the ground upon her knees. Alas, poor girl! no help could it be to her at such a time that the name of father had been bestowed on the king first by her; for uplifted by the hands of men, all trembling she was brought to the altar, not that amidst solemn and sacred ritual she might be escorted by loud hymeneal song, but a clean maiden to fall by unclean hands at the very age of wedlock, a victim sorrowful slain by a father’s hand: all in order that a fair and fortunate release might be given to the fleet. So potent was Superstition in persuading to evil deeds. (tr. William Henry Denham Rouse, revised by Martin F. Smith)

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