Ferimur per devia vastae
urbis et ingentem nocturnae caedis acervum
passim, ut quosque sacris crudelis vespera lucis
straverat, occulta speculamur nube latentes.
hic impressa toris ora exstantesque reclusis
pectoribus capulos magnarum et fragmina trunca
hastarum et ferro laceras per corpora vestes,
crateras pronos epulasque in caede natantes
cernere erat, iugulisque modo torrentis apertis
sanguine commixto redeuntem in pocula Bacchum.
hic iuvenum manus et nullis violabilis armis
turba senes, positique patrum super ora gementum
semineces pueri trepidas in limine vitae
singultant animas.
(Statius, Theb. 5.248-261)

We take our way through byways of the deserted city, hiding in secret darkness, descrying everywhere a huge pile of the night’s massacre, as the cruel evening had laid them low in the sacred groves. Here could be seen faces pressed down on couches, sword hilts standing out from opened breasts, broken fragments of large spears and knife-torn clothes among the bodies, mixing bowls overturned, victuals swimming in gore, and Bacchus mixed with blood returning in torrents from severed throats into the wine cups. Here is a company of young men, here a gathering whom no weapons should violate, the old; and half-dead boys, placed on the faces of their moaning parents, sob out their trembling spirits on the threshold of life. (tr. David Roy Shackleton-Bailey)


Fas mihi sanctorum venia dixisse parentum,
tuque, oro, Natura, sinas, cui prima per orbem
iura animis sancire datum: non omnia sanguis
proximus aut serie generis demissa propago
alligat: interius nova saepe adscitaque serpunt
pignora conexis. natos genuisse necesse est,
elegisse iuvat. tenero sic blandus Achilli
semifer Haemonium vincebat Pelea Chiron,
nec senior Peleus natum comitatus in arma
Troica, sed claro Phoenix haerebat alumno.
(Statius, Silv. 2.1.82-91)

By permission of sacred parenthood, and by your leave, Nature,
Who dictate the whole world’s primal laws, may I be allowed
To say: consanguinity and natural descent via a line of offspring,
Are not the only bonds; adopted children are often dearer to us
Than kin. Legitimate sons are a necessity, but those we choose
Are a joy. So Achilles meant more to that kindly centaur Chiron,
Than to Haemonian Peleus. Nor did the aged Peleus accompany
His son to the Trojan War, but Phoenix clung to his dear pupil.
(tr. Tony Kline)



Procedunt, gemini ceu foedere iuncto
hiberna sub nocte lupi: licet et sua pulset
natorumque fames, penitus rabiemque minasque
dissimulant humilesque meant, ne nuntiet hostes
cura canum et trepidos moneat vigilare magistros.
(Statius, Ach. 1.704-708)

They go forward like two wolves in league on a winter’s night; though hunger, their own and their cubs’, pushes them, they quite dissemble their ravening threats and move meekly, lest watchdogs announce the enemy and warn the fearful shepherds to keep vigil. (tr. David Roy Shackleton Bailey)


Primitias egomet lacrimarum et caedis acerbae,
ante tubas ferrumque, tuli, dum deside cura
credo sinus fidos altricis et ubera mando.
quidni ego? narrabat servatum fraude parentem
insontesque manus. en quam ferale putemus
abiurasse sacrum et Lemni gentilibus unam
immunem furiis! haec illa (et creditis) ausa,
haec pietate potens solis abiecit in arvis,
non regem dominumque, alienos impia partus,
hoc tantum, silvaeque infamis tramite liquit,
quem non anguis atrox (quid enim hac opus, ei mihi, leti
mole fuit?), tantum caeli violentior aura
impulsaeque noto frondes cassusque valeret
exanimare timor.
(Statius, Theb. 6.146-159)

I bore the first fruit of tears and untimely death before trumpet and sword, as caring but lazily I believed in a nurse’s trusty bosom and handed over my suckling. But why not? She told me how she had saved her father by cunning and kept her hands innocent. Look at her, this woman who we are to think abjured the deadly covenant, alone immune from the madness of her fellow Lemnians; this woman who thus dared (and you believe her), this woman, so strong in her devotion, undutifully cast off in a lonely field – I say not king or master but another’s child, just that, and left him on a track in an ill-famed wood. No frightful snake – what need, alas, for such a mass of death? – but merely a breeze blowing strong or leaves shaken by the wind or idle terror might have been enough to cause his end. (tr. David Roy Shackleton Bailey)


William Blake - Capaneus the Blasphemer
William Blake, Capaneus the Blasphemer

Non tamen haec turbant pacem Iovis. ecce quierant
iurgia, cum mediis Capaneus auditus in astris:
‘Nullane pro trepidis,’ clamabat, ‘numina Thebis
statis? ubi infandae segnes telluris alumni,
Bacchus et Alcides? piget instigare minores:
tu potius venias (quis enim concurrere nobis
dignior?); en cineres Semelaeaque busta tenentur!
nunc age, nunc totis in me conitere flammis,
Iuppiter! an pavidas tonitru turbare puellas
fortior et soceri turres exscindere Cadmi?’
(Statius, Theb. 10.897-906)

Yet all this does not disturb Jove’s peace. Behold, the wrangling had subsided, when Capaneus is heard in mid heaven: ‘Do none of you deities,’ he roars, ‘take stand for trembling Thebes? Where are the sluggish nurslings of the accursed land, Bacchus and Alcides? It irks me to urge inferiors; come you rather, for who is worthier to meet me? See, Semele’s ashes and tomb are mine. Come now, strive against me with all your flames, Jupiter! Or are you braver at alarming timid girls with your thunder and razing the towers of your bride’s father Cadmus?’ (tr. D.R. Shackleton Bailey)