The witch Erictho, granting the request of Pompey's son Sextus, is in the process of creating a necromantic prophet. She has selected the corpse of a soldier slain on the battlefield as suitable for her purpose. As our passage begins, Erictho is trying to reanimate the corpse, having already pierced the breast and poured all her noxious potions into the body. In a "decorously vile parody of classical prayer structure" (Johnson 1987: 26), she has prayed to the underworld powers, asking for their assistance in reanimating the corpse. This "prayer" (6.695-718) follows the standard sequence found at Il. 1.37-42 and elsewhere, namely i) invocation of the god(s); ii) reminder of past services performed by the petitioner; iii) the actual request. But, in keeping with Lucan's general pattern, the standard elements are inverted or perverted. Thus, the prayer begins not with an invocation of a god, but an appeal to various abstract forces: Eumenides, Stygium nefas, Poenae nocentum, and Chaos. Only subsequently are the gods Dis and Persephone mentioned, along with Styx and the Elysian fields (the latter a curious entry for the witch). True to her nature, Erictho confines her address to the forces of the nether world. The "prayer" continues with a reminder of past services - but instead of the usual acts of piety, Erictho catalogues acts of depravity (706-11). This echoes the earlier description of her power (507ff.), and underscores her immense capacity for wickedness. Finally, the witch makes her request on behalf of Sextus Pompey, and in so doing suggests once again both her symbolic and actual connection with the civil war (si bene de vobis civilia bella merentur, 718).
This brief narrative section separates Erictho's "prayer" (695-718) from her angry tirade against the underworld powers (730-49). The poet focuses on creating a sense of metaphysical horror, accompanied by a certain amount of concrete detail. The picture of the repulsive witch, her mouth foaming (spumantia... ora, 719), is followed by the terror of the compelled umbra (invisaque claustra timentem / carceris antiqui, 721-2). Likewise, the grotesque details of the corpse's wounds (pectus apertum etc., 722-3) are followed by the perverse horror of a soul facing death a second time (724-5). The passage contains clear verbal echoes of Ovid's pathos-laden description of the aftermath of Phaethon's death at Met. 2.333ff. In particular, Lucan has made use of exanimesque artus (Met. 2.336), aperto pectore (Met. 2.339), and inania morti / munera (Met. 2.340-1), though he has reversed two of the images. See further 722 n. and 724-5 n.
719-20. The only two finite verbs in the first three lines of the passage are placed in emphatic positions at the end of the first line and the beginning of the second - a Virgilian arrangement. This is enhanced by the position of the participles, which chiastically enclose the finite verbs. There is a sense of activity, enhanced by asyndeton between the two lines, as Erictho is described (she is the subject of both finite verbs), with a preponderance of dactyls suggesting her restless energy. The activity slows down tangibly as the focus shifts to the shade (astantem ... umbram), whose wavering reluctance is suggested by a preponderance of spondees (three feet out of four).
719. haec ubi fata : The phrase is a simple resumptive formula, used after a speech in the Virgilian manner. For more common resumptive formulae, cf. haec ubi dicta (Aen. 1.81 etc.), haec ubi dicta dedit (Aen. 2.790 etc.), sic fatus/fata (Aen. 4.685 etc.; Lucan makes heavy use of the latter Virgilian formula (16 times), but has haec ubi dicta only once, at 2.500). Such formulae go back to Ennius (e.g. Ann. 46 Skutsch: haec effatus pater), and indeed trace their origins to the Homeric hos fato. As for haec ubi fatus/fata, it appears to be Lucan's own invention, and one which was not taken up with great enthusiasm by either him or his successors. Aside from this instance, Lucan has haec ubi fatus to terminate a line at 8.775. Statius uses the formula once as a line termination (Theb. 4.644), while Valerius Flaccus uses it thus three times (4.653, 5.54, 7.349). In the latter two cases, the principal attraction seems to have been its metrical convenience (haec ubi providing the dactylic fifth foot of the hexameter line).
ubi : The second syllable is short. In speech, iambic words such as ubi tended to undergo correption (i.e., a long second syllable became short), a process known as "iambic shortening" or "brevis brevians." For a discussion, see Allen, p. 86. The practice found its way into poetry, though archaizing taste sometimes preserved the long vowel. In the Bellum Civile, Lucan employs correption in all 30 uses of ubi as a relative temporal conjunction. This may be part of his "prosaic" epic style; it also serves metrical convenience. (For correption of final o, see further 788 n.)
spumantia... ora : Masters (1992: 193) assigns the spumantia ora to the corpse, but other scholars more plausibly take it as referring to Erictho. The phrase appears to be an attempt to "improve" on Virgil's rabida ora (Aen. 6.102; cf. 6.80: os rabidum), used of the Sybil, and rabido... ore (Aen. 7.451), used of Allecto. Both Virgil's Sibyl and his Allecto serve as models for Lucan's Erictho, the former being especially significant; see Erictho article for details). Lucan's expression has a solid epic pedigree - but his usage is unusual. Spumantia ora is generally reserved in Latin poetry for descriptions of horses in full-blown epic narrative: cf. Aen. 12.372: spumantia frenis / ora citatorum dextra detorsit equorum. Spumans without ora is used of boars as well as of horses: spumantem ... / aprum (Aen. 4.158-9) equo spumante (12.651), spumantem equum (11.770), and (by transferred epithet) spumantiaque ... / frena (5.817). Ovid uses the participial phrase more sparingly than Virgil, but likewise restricts its use to horses: e.g. Met. 6.226: quadripedis spumantiaque ora; Met. 8.34: equi spumantiaque ora. Lucan's application of spumantia ora to a human being is unparalleled, (he also uses spumantia ora of a serpent at 9.722, if we accept Duff's disputed reading) and, in the poetic context, deliberately incongruous. The phrase also enables Lucan to portray Erictho's sub-human qualities by an implicit comparison to wild, impatient and unruly horses. (The animal terminology continues with inlatrat, 729). Like Caesar, Erictho is both greater and less than a typical human being, and the eye-catching use of this epic phrase alludes to both inequalities. Finally, it should be noted that Lucan uses a similar phrase to describe Phemonoe possessed by the power of a prophetic deity at 5.190: spumea tunc primum rabies vaesana per ora effluit.
720. astantem proiecti corporis umbram : The description of the spirit/shade standing beside the slain and outstretched body (astantem proiecti) creates a sense of incongruity. The phrase proiecti corporis and its variants are common, occurring in e.g. Lucretius (3.882, 6.1155), Virgil (toto proiectus corpore, Aen. 11.87), Cicero (Fam. 184.108.40.206), and Seneca (Ep. Mor. 92.35.4). Ovid's ante sacros vidi proiecta cadavera postes (Met. 7.602) may have vaguely inspired Lucan's juxtaposition; certainly his use of cadavera is here (as passim in Lucan) intended to shock. The mechanism by which the umbra appears is not described. Erictho prays, and the result appears in Lucan's narrative realm, without any excursus into the divine sphere. This is characteristic of Lucan's approach: divine or supernatural processes are not elaborated, and in this way the poem maintains a disengaged position with respect to the traditional gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon.
721. exanimes artus : An Ovidian phrase, used notably in the pathos-laden description of the dead Phaethon (Met. 2.335-6): exanimesque artus primo, mox ossa requirens / repperit. Cf. Ov. Am. 1.7.53: exanimes artus et membra trementia vidi. Elsewhere in Book Six, Lucan, following the example of Horace (S. 2.6.114), uses exanimis figuratively to indicate Sextus' fear (658-9): ipsumque trementem / conspicit exanimi defixum lumina voltu. Neither Ovid nor Virgil use exanimis in this way, though the latter comes close at Aen. 4.672: audiit exanimis trepidoque exterrita cursu. Lucan is consistent in his preference for the third declension form exanimis-e over the second declension form exanimus-a-um (4-0). In this he appears to be following Ovid (9-0), who rejected Virgil's nearly balanced use (5-7) of both forms. Virgil's experiment in this multiplastic form was, in fact, little imitated. Most authors make exclusive use of one form or the other, with only Statius making a weak attempt to duplicate Virgil's dual usage. The third declension form is overwhelmingly preferred, suggesting that the second declension form may be a colloquial or vulgar simplification. The following table summarizes the usage of various Latin writers:
721-2. invisaque claustra timentem / carceris antiqui : "Fearing [the] hated cage of its old prison" (Braund). The alliteration of c and t, produces a sense of shivering or chattering. The notion of the body as a prison for the soul seems to have originated with the Orphics (Powell, p. 153; he also cites the considerable influence of Plato on later authors, especially Cra. 400c, Phd. 67d and 82e, Grg. 492d). It was retained by Stoic writers such as Seneca, who viewed corporeal existence as intrinsically corrupt and burdensome: nam corpus hoc animi pondus ac poena est (Ep. 65.16). Cicero (Rep. 6.14.14) may provide the Latin archetype for Lucan's phrase: [animi] qui ex corporum vinclis tamquam e carcere evolaverunt. Cf. Cic. Tusc. 1.30.74: ex his tenebris in lucem illam excesserit, nec tamen illa vincla carceris ruperit - leges enim vetant. Virgil expresses a similar notion, while expounding further on Stoic doctrine at Aen. 6.733ff. Lucan's treatment of this basic Stoic material is quite different: once again, he partially inverts the standard image. While previous writers tended to focus on the joy of the soul's ultimate escape from its corporeal carcer, he focuses on the unnatural reimprisonment of the soul caused by the perverse practices of Erictho. Lucan is, in effect, taking a relatively common literary motif - the revivification of a dead body - and reconsidering its implications from the metaphysical standpoint of Stoic philosophy. (A somewhat similar notion is found in Aeneas' tour of the underworld at Aen. 6.713-4: animae, quibus altera fato / corpora debentur, though Virgil is treating the reincarnation of the soul into a new body: hence there is no metaphysical malfunction; moreover, Virgil's deluded souls happily return to corporeal existence (incipiant in corpora velle reverti, Aen. 6.751), having lost their perception of the new bodies as invisa claustra).
722. pavet ire in pectus apertum : The heavy alliteration of p and t effectively conveys the almost stuttering hesitation of the terrified umbra. Lucan specifies that the departed soul must re-enter the body via the breast (cf. the description of the revivification of a corpse in Apul. Met. 2.28-9), viewed in antiquity as the seat of the soul and intelligence. This unnatural re-entry has been prepared by Erictho's gruesome surgery on the corpse, which has already been described in graphic detail at 667-9: pectora tunc primum ferventi sanguine supplet / volneribus laxata novis taboque medullas / abluit et virus large lunare ministrat.
pectus apertum : Lucan's use of the phrase pectus apertum to mean "opened breast" (Braund) or "gaping bosom" (Duff) is strikingly literal. The phrase, a not uncommon one in Latin literature, was regularly used in three different senses: i) the "naked breast" of funeral lamentation. E.g. Ov. Am. 3.6.58 : pectoraque insana plangis aperta manu (cf. Am. 3.9.10); Ov. Met. 2.339: perfudit lacrimis et aperto pectore fovit; Ov. Met. 13.688-9: apertae pectora matres / significant luctum; Stat. Silv. 5.5.13-4: huc patres et aperto pectore matres / conveniant. ii) the "exposed breast" of an unprotected soldier in battle. E.g. Aen. 11.667-8: apertum / adversi longa transverberat abiete pectus [sc. Camilla]; Ov. Ars 3.667-8: quid aperto pectore in hostem / mittor? iii) the figurative application to state of mind, signifying sincerity or a receptive disposition. E.g. Cic. Amic. 97.5: in qua nisi, ut dicitur, apertum pectus videas tuumque ostendas; Sen. Ep. 59.9.9: non satis credimus nec apertis pectoribus haurimus; Pliny Ep. 6.12.3: epistularum, quas mihi ut ais "aperto pectore" cripsisti. Lucan's brutally literal deployment of the phrase may be intended to create a jarring effect by playing off these more familiar usages.
723. visceraque ... fibras : An elaboration of pectus apertum; the two phrases together are an example of theme-and-variation. Rhotacism (assonance on r), often associated with atrocity (see Fantham, p. 99) is evident here. Indeed, r sounds remain prominent through to line 728. The line, then, is a self-contained amplification of pectus apertum. The language, though grisly, is fully epic. For the sentence as a whole, cf. Ov. Met 6.390-1: salientia viscera possis / et perlucentes numerare in pectore fibras. In general terms, Lucan appears to have found inspiration from Met. 6.382-400, where the satyr Marsyas is being cruelly punished for challenging Apollo's artistic preeminence. From the gruesome death of Ovid's satyr, Lucan has taken most of his principal vocabulary (pectus, viscera, vulnere, fibras), as well as the woeful interjection a!
letali vulnere : The phrase is epic; cf., e.g. Virg., Aen. 11.749, 9.580; Ilias Latina 672. The letali vulnere in question here is somewhat vaguely attributed. If it refers to the wound inflicted by Erichto (667-9), then Lucan is engaging in a rather subtle paradox, since this wound was not literally lethal (the soldier was already dead).
724-5. a miser ... non posse mori : "Hapless wretch! unjustly robbed of death's last gift - the inability to die a second time" (Duff). Lucan separates the description of the terrified umbra from that of Erictho's rabid fury by a moving sententia, based on rhetorical paradox. Note the heavy alliteration of m, a sound generally associated with lamentation. The interjection a is a stock Hellenistic pathetic device, used to indicate pity and surprise, both of which are appropriate to this brief outburst of rhetorical indignatio. Lucan regularly uses this and similar interjections (o, heu, quam, quantum, etc.) to express authorial outrage. (For an exhaustive summary of Lucan's usage, see Viansino, p. 106, n. 1). Virgil's usage of this interjection (nine times in the Eclogues, twice in the Georgics, and not at all in the Aeneid, where he prefers the regular epic interjection o) suggests that it was of doubtful epic pedigree. As a model, Lucan may have had Virg. G. 4.526 in mind here: a miseram Eurydicen! anima fugiente vocabat. Like the cadaver, Eurydice experienced death twice. This sententia is Lucan's only editorial interruption in our passage, though it is a device to which he generally resorts with great frequency.
Thematically speaking, the sententia repeats Lucan's dominant themes of the pathos of burial and death (cf. 819-20, 824-5) - but, as so often, conventional images are inverted. Instead of a sense of pity for the dead, there is an expression of grief for someone being brought back to life. Cf. 6.639-40: per scopulos miserum trahitur, per saxa, cadaver / victurum, which is a complete inversion of, e.g., Ovid's account of Orpheus and Eurydice, where Orpheus seeks (as an almost-gift) to have his lover's corporeal life, cruelly cut short by Fate, extended (Met. 10.36-7): haec quoque, cum iustos peregerit annos, / iuris erit vestri: pro munere poscimus usum. The archetype for the funereal phrase extremum mortis munus is Cat. 101.3: ut te postremo donarem munere mortis, but instead of using mortis, like Catullus, as a defining genitive ("gift connected with death, death gift;" note that Lucan does use it in precisely this sense at 8.841), Lucan uses it here as a genitive of possession ("gift of death" - i.e. a consolation of death for the dead). Closer in sentiment to Lucan is Virgil's reworking of the Catullan phrase at Ecl. 8.60: extremum hoc munus morientis habeto. Here death is likewise looked upon as a consolation - but to one living, not the person dying. Cf. Page's translation: "take thou this (i.e. my self-destruction) as my last dying gift." For the phrase extremum munus, cf. Aen. 4.429: extremum hoc miserae det munus amanti. Eclogue 8 has another point of contact in that it deals with the inversion of nature or natural order (53-62), one of the thematic underpinnings of the entire Erichto passage. To arrive at his own peculiar statement Lucan transformed the Virgilian phrase by subjecting it to Stoic philosophy, which viewed death as an essentially positive event. To Ecl. 8.60 he added the sentiment expressed in Sen. Ep. 24.18: moriar; hoc dicis, desinam aegrotare posse, desinam alligari posse, desinam mori posse. The synthesis of these two entirely independent phrases is highly effective, and demonstrates one aspect of Lucan's poetic genius. The reversal of the standard munus mortis image is one more example of Lucan's overarching theme, namely, that civil war turns everything upside down. Just as it makes heroism a crime (6.148), it makes death a blessing, a gift to mortals. Cf. 770: a me morte data; 768: sit tanti vixisse iterum; 821: mortemque reposcit; 827: tandem passa mori. It should be remembered, however, that this inversion of normal epic standards is, as always in Lucan, not a consistently supported moral position. Even if Lucan is generally more inclined to treat death with "Stoic indifference" (cf. 4.520-1: victurosque dei celant, ut vivere durent, / felix esse mori; 9.211: scire mori sors prima viri, sed proxima cogi) he does express more conventional "epic" values elsewhere in the Bellum Civile, e.g. 7.470: mortem, quae cunctis poena paratur; 6.532: fugere cadavera letum.
725. mori : Bonner (1966: 267) notes that Lucan's constant preoccupation with death often supplies a natural "terminal point" for a passage or sententia: "the sentence termination mori (or some part of mors) is quite ubiquitous." E.g. 4.280: perdant velle mori; 4.520: felix est mori.
725-29. miratur ... rumpit : An interesting case of Lucan running a sentence over several lines through parataxis. The lengthy period is unusual in view of its extreme syntactic simplicity (cf. 744-49 n.). There is no hyperbaton to speak of, a single participle, and only one instance of subordination (quas ... rimas, 728). There is a relative abundance of finite verbs (five), three of whose clauses are linked by the enclitic conjunction -que. The parataxis allows a brisk and unencumbered reading which is not typical of Lucan's handling of longer periods (see e.g. Mayer 1968: 137). This briskness is enhanced by alliteration of t throughout, which creates a peremptory tone (cf. Austin on Aen. 1.132) that conveys almost viscerally a sense of Erictho's angry impatience.
725-6. Johnson (1987: 26) goes awry here by claiming that the underworld powers refuse Erictho at this point: "... in a delicious turn, when the gods of hell refuse her request ... Erictho turns nasty." It is, however, clear both by Lucan's use of moras and the immediate appearance of the umbra near the body at 720 (see 732 n.) that the underworld gods have made no such refusal. It is the umbra itself which has caused the delay (pavet ire in pectus apertum, 722), and, if anything, Lucan is suggesting the failure of the infernal powers to get the job done. This failure (as opposed to refusal) is foreshadowed at 705: iam lassate senex ad me redeuntibus umbris. Erictho's demands on the forces of the underworld, her exhausting reversal of the natural order of things (cf. 823ff.), strains the abilities of the underworld deities. The notion that the underworld gods have difficulty sending back the souls of the dead is, of course, hardly original to Lucan. A very clear statement of this concept is found as far back as Aesch. Pers. 688ff. Furthermore the parallelism between the Erictho and Appius episodes (on which see Ahl 1976, Masters 1992) suggests that it is indeed the anima itself which refuses to comply. As Ahl (1976: 130) notes, "the Pythia's false trance is counterbalanced by the refusal of the corpse's soul to reenter the body".
726. has fatis licuisse moras : A curious paradox: how can Fate be "permitted" anything? Normally it is for Fate to permit, thus 1.115-6: si tibi fata dedissent / maiores in luce moras; 1.263-4: cunctasque pudoris / rumpunt fata moras. The phrase emphasizes Erictho's unwillingness to allow events to follow their natural rhythm. This impatience with Fate is perhaps the most pervasive characteristic of Lucan's immoral figures, and places them at the opposite moral pole from the Stoic sage. Caesar, like Erictho here, is constantly portrayed as labouring under such impatience, while Sextus is likewise described as impatiens morae venturisque omnibus aeger (423). The phrase also emphasizes Erictho's awesome power. Lucan's language perversely recalls the earlier statement of his witch's abilities at 607-9: conceditur arti, / unam cum radiis presserunt sidera mortem, / inseruisse moras. The use of moras in both statements is quite pointed: the Fates concede the power of delay to Erictho, but the arrangement is not reciprocal. The poet has achieved here an artful reversal of the Virgilian treatment of Fate (cf. the difference in outlook in the speeches by Juno at Aen. 7.312-6 and Vulcan at Aen. 8.398-9). The notion of urgency is generally alien to the Virgilian concept of Fate (cf. ineluctabile fatum, Aen. 8.334) - it rarely requires prompt action from its human agents. But with the roles switched by a cunning syntactic inversion, immediacy is precisely what Erictho demands from Fate. It is impressive that Lucan can conceptually juxtapose the present passage with 607-9 without creating a glaring theological contradiction. He achieves this through Erictho's disclaimer at 611-15, which essentially distinguishes between fata minora (which the Thessalian witch may influence) and fata maiora (which she may not). This is in fact a reworking of the Ciceronian dichotomy, magna curant dei, parva neglegunt (Nat. D. 2.167).
irataque morti : "Enraged at death" (Braund); i.e. Erictho is infuriated that the corpse has not yet returned to life ("quod non mox corpus ingressa est," Comm. Bern.). It is possible that this phrase inspired Statius' description of Pluto (in a similar context of the underworld violated by the descent of Amphiaraus) as iratusque omnibus umbris (Theb. 8.23).
726-7. morti ... vivo : The frequent opposition of life and death in the same sentence serves to underline the unnatural horror of the necromancy, and the eerily ambiguous status of the cadaver (see 758-9 n.). The same is true at 753-4: vita ... / morti; 758-9: viventis ... / morientis; 768ff.: vixisse iterum ... morte data; 807-8: vitae ... / mori.
morti : The repetition of mors, which occurs only two lines earlier at 724, and likewise at 770 and 772, is noticeable. Although some of Lucan's repetitions may be careless (cf. Housman, p. xxxiii: "Lucan was almost insensible [sc. to word iteration]"), the repetitions in the present passage are quite studied. Certainly in this line the poet could have availed himself of the metrically equivalent form leto - an epic word he resorts to fully 37 times in the Bellum Civile (and cf. letali, 723) - had he wished to avoid the recurrence. The repetition of mors six times (724, 726, 754, 770, 772, 821) in our passage, along with four instances of morior (725, 759, 807, 827) is a deliberately contrived effect with two important aims. First, the prosaic word mors has a tangible immediacy to it that is completely lacking in the poetic alternate letum. In this respect, mors is the counterpart to cadaver, which Lucan generally prefers to corpus in the Erictho passage because of its ability to remove "epic distance" (see 727 n.). Secondly, the regular repetition of forms of mors and morior is crucial to the poet's persistent pattern of "mournful" alliteration on m throughout much of the present passage. For this effect, cf. 3.689-90: mille modos inter leti mors una timori est, / qua coepere mori; 4.557-8: minimumque in morte virorum / mors virtutis habet.
727. This scene appears to associate his witch with the Furies in general and Allecto in particular; her actions here recall Allecto's treatment of Turnus at Aen. 7.449ff. In the same way, manibus inlatrat at 729 seems intended to link her to Cerberus (see 729 n.). By showing Erictho assuming the parts of various chthonic figures, the poet conveys her awesome power. The Erinyes, generally depicted as ugly scourge-bearing women with serpents entwined in their hair, are perhaps Erictho's most natural nether-world counterparts. The poet seems to make the association explicit in his description of his witch at 656: coma vipereis substringitur horrida sertis. Hence the present verse is merely an expansion of this earlier linkage. Although the Erinyes were not generally described as having serpentine scourges, this was a modest enough variation on the motif in the baroque atmosphere of "Silver" Latin epic. It is, in effect, merely a conflation of the elements of Aen. 6.570-2 or Aen. 7.449ff. Seneca was the first to introduce the combined motif, at Ag. 759-60: instant sorores squalidae, / anguinea iactant verbera (cf. Sen. Thy. 96-7: quid ora terres verbere et tortos ferox / minaris angues?), though the distinction between serpents and scourge seems already to be fading at Ov. Ib. 159: verbera saeva dabunt sonitum nexaeque colubrae. Following the precedent of Seneca and Lucan, Statius' Tisiphone likewise uses a living snake for a lash at Theb. 1.112. Unquestionably, the image of Erictho whipping the lifeless corpse with living snakes eclipses the horror of its Senecan model. Lucan, however, provides a more meaningful context for the serpentine scourges since the snake (which was thought to take on a new life when it shed its old skin) was the mythological symbol par excellence of revivification.
cadaver : Lucan's use of this rather strikingly prosaic word "must have been conscious policy; it was probably adopted out of a desire to enliven epic diction by abolishing its remoteness. The reader would be more affected by the common word." (Mayer 1981: 14).
728-9. This self-contained couplet bears a clear Ovidian stamp. For example, rimas is a relatively uncommon word, used only twice by Lucan and once by Virgil. By contrast, Ovid uses it about a dozen times. For echoes in phraseology and treatment, cf. Ov. Am. 1.8.18: et solidam longo carmine findit humum; Rem. Am. 254: non anus infami carmine rumpet humum; and see 729 n.
728. cavas ... rimas : Both tautological and proleptic. The language is poetic and the "framing" arrangement of epithet and noun is the sole ornament in the entire period. Lucan appears to be adapting Tib. 1.2.47-8: haec cantu finditque solum Manesque sepulcris / elicit et tepido devocat ossa rogo. There is, however, an important difference. Tibullus' witch causes the earth to part for the conventional purpose of allowing ghosts passage from the underworld (cf. Sen. Oed. 575-6: duxere rimas robora et totum nemus / concussit horror). By contrast, Erictho splits the earth in order to threaten the underworld deities when they fail properly to send up a ghost; a neat reversal of the traditional motif, which underscores Erictho's menace. For the phrase, cf. also Prop. 1.16.27-8: o utinam traiecta cava mea vocula rima / percussas dominae vertat in auriculas!
quas egit carmine : "Which it (the earth) opened at her spell" (Haskins). The subject terra is understood, as Haskins and Housman rightly point out. Cf. Priap. 63.2: agente terra per Caniculam rimas; Ov. Met. 2.210-11.
729. A climactic finish to the section. The line is essentially self-contained, consisting of a rather disconcerting theme-and-variation of the Virgilian type. The verse not only contains two finite verbs (relatively rare in Lucan), but two verbs which are striking for their figurative implications of savage power (inlatrat) and violence (rumpit).
inlatrat : This verb appears to be a rare Lucanian coinage, one of what Bramble refers to (p. 541) as the poet's "cumbersome three new compounds" (the others are listed as iniectare and superenatare). While the other coinages may be cumbersome, it is difficult to agree with Bramble here. The prefix in is hostile here ("to bark at"), nicely reflecting Erictho's aggressive manner. It thus offers a small refinement in meaning over latrare or oblatrare (as found at e.g. Sen. Ir. 3.43.1, Sil. 8.249, Apul. Met. 6.19). Inlatrare occurs only here and at Sil. 13.845. Far more important than the coinage is the use of any form of latrare in the context. The verb continues the repulsive and bestial portrayal of Erictho begun by the earlier spumantiaque ora (719 n.). Moreover, it provides a nice reversal of typical epic underworld iconography: normally it would be Cerberus or some other nether figure who would do the barking. Cf. Sen. Oed. 569: latravit Hecates turba; Aen. 6.400-1: licet ingens ianitor antro / aeternum latrans exsanguis terreat umbras; Aen. 6.417-8: Cerberus haec ingens latratu regna trifauci / personat; Ov. Met. 4.450-1: tria Cerberus extulit ora / et tres latratus simul edidit; Apul. Met. 6.19: canis namque praegrandis ... tonantibus oblatrans faucibus mortuos. Finally, in addition to referring back to 719, inlatrat provides a forward reference to 733ff. Not only is there an obvious link to canes (733), but through her present association with the watchdog Cerberus (manibus inlatrat) there is also a hint of her threatened role as guardian of the dead at 734-5. This is brought out in a typical Lucanian reversal: Erictho's threat is to guard the souls of the dead from the various underworld figures.
regnique silentia : An attractive Ovidian phrase for the stillness of the underworld. Cf. Ov. Met. 10.30: vastique silentia regni. It is notable that Lucan regularly abridges borrowings from Ovid - and often to good effect. Here, however, the omission of vasti sacrifices more than it gains.
silentia rumpit : A forceful, violent lead-in to Erictho's nasty address. In particular, the placement of rumpit in the emphatic position at the end of the line (and in fact at the end of the entire period) heightens its power and effectiveness. The phrase is a fairly common one, but is not used to like effect by Lucan's predecessors. E.g. Aen. 10.63: quid me alta silentia cogis / rumpere?; Sen. Apoc. 4.1: felicia lassis saecula praestabit legumque silentia rumpet. Somewhat closer is Hor. Ep. 5.85: sed dubius unde rumperet silentium / misit Thyesteas preces, but the tone is (deliberately) softer. Lucan's immediate model was undoubtedly Ovid: in particular Lucan has adapted the far less forceful Iuppiter hoc iterum sermone silentia rupit (Met. 1.208), which serves merely as an attractive but isolated and somewhat redundant ornament. There is an implicit equation of Erictho's haughty rebuke of the underworld deities and the Ovidian Jupiter's imperious address to his divine Olympian underlings, which emphasizes the witch's vast power. Cf. Met. 1.384: obstipuere diu: rumpitque silentia voce; Met. 11.598-9: nec voce silentia rumpunt / sollicitive canes canibusque sagacior anser. In contrast to his Ovidian precedents, Lucan's suppression of the ablative of means (sermone, voce) maintains the bestial effect of inlatrat. Lucan's usage represents an improvement over his models: earlier writers used the phrase similarly, but none to such breathtaking effect. Moreover, Lucan integrates it masterfully into the very fabric of the entire episode. The verb rumpit resonates with the violence of Erictho's activity, recalling the violation of the dead soldier's body (ruptas letali volnere fibras, 723), and looking forward to Erictho's ability to destabilize the separation of universal realms (inmittam ruptis Titana cavernis, 743). Moreover, the phrase silentia rumpit suggests the very disturbance of the civil war itself, and serves to foreshadow the memorable utterance of the cadaver at 781: impiaque infernam ruperunt arma quietem (cf. 1.239: rupta quies populi).
730-49 Erictho's Diatribe
When Erictho's initial "prayer" to the forces of the underworld fails to achieve the desired result, Lucan's witch resorts to threats of violence and slander. This second address to the infernal powers is far more focused and harsh than Erictho's first (695-718). The earlier "prayer" is somewhat rambling and rather mild in tone. In it, the witch makes her appeal to a number of somewhat vague abstractions (Stygiumque nefas 695, Poenaeque nocentum 695, Chaos 696, Styx 698). One of these abstractions, Elysios (699), appears particularly inappropriate to her purpose, and is perhaps mentioned merely for the sake of completeness (is this a "comic" touch on Lucan's part?). The various underworld figures are more frequently addressed by collective (Eumenides 695, sorores 703) and function (rector terrae 697, ianitor 702, portitor 704), than they are by name (Persephone 700, Hecates 700). Moreover, the forces of the nether world are mentioned in no apparent order (Furies, abstract forces, Dis, abstract forces, Persephone, Hecate, Ianitor, Parcae, Charon). Erictho's language is flattering (caelum matremque perosa / Persephone 699-700: cf. 739-42), friendly (nostrae Hecates 700), and unforceful. Almost every entity addressed is characterized by a qualifying phrase (e.g. rector terrae, quem longa in saecula torquet / mors dilata deum 697-8; quos nulla meretur / Thessalis Elysios 698-9). Her request, a mixed condition, takes the form of an imperative apodosis prefaced by a series of four protases (si ... si ... si ... si ...706-10; a commonplace in prayer formulae), and the entire sequence terminates with a further conditional protasis: si bene de vobis civilia bella merentur 718. Taken as a whole, the initial "prayer" is respectful, polite, and unforceful - in parts almost self-effacing. It represents Erictho's attempt to "pray by the rules," and one of the points of its failure is that "the rules" are insufficient in a world neglected by the gods. The difference in tone of Erictho's second address is unmistakable. Instead of a rambling and unfocused catalogue of underworld powers, Erictho addresses specific figures in a sequence of ascending importance and power (Furies, Hecate, Persephone, Dis, ille deus).
The witch makes three straightforward threats, which present little difficulty for the reader. She threatens to drive the Erinyes out of the tombs they are wont to frequent and expose them to the light of the upper world (734-5); she threatens to compel Hecate to assume her Hellish guise even when in the upper realms (736-38); she threatens to expose the underworld to the light of the sun (742-44). These threats are characteristic of nether-world blackmail, with numerous parallels in ancient literature. Erictho also makes a pair of more obscure threats. In the first instance (739-42), the witch threatens to disclose the dapes, the foedus, and the contagia that bind Persephone to the underworld. In the second instance (744-49), Erictho threatens to invoke a terrible unnamed god if her injunctions are not obeyed. As she proceeds through the underworld hierarchy, then, Erictho makes increasingly weighty threats. Instead of focusing on her past deeds (as in the earlier speech), she breathlessly catalogues her threatened future deeds (hostile actions). Instead of a conditional clause with multiple protases and one apodosis, she has but one protasis - and an implicit one at that: (si) non agitis ... infelicem animam 731-2 - followed by a series of ominous apodoses in the future tense (eliciam 733, destituam 734, expellam 735, ostendam 738, eloquar 739, inmittam 743). There is an emphatic and snarling repetition of second-person pronouns, as the witch addresses the various underworld powers imperiously: vos (732: Erinyes), vos (735: Erinyes), te (736: Hecate), te (739: Proserpina), te (741: Proserpina), tibi (742: Dis). The pronouns bring home the personal force of her threats, and emphasize Erictho's power over each figure. The difference between the two addresses is both deliberate and emphatic, and serves two purposes. First, it emphasizes an aspect of Erictho's character: she is far more effective (and, indeed, credible) when threatening than she is when praying. As with 719-20 (levavit / aspicit), the witch's restless activity and impatience (a characteristic she shares with Caesar) is underscored by a torrent of verbs (eliciam ... destituam ... sequar ... expellam ... abigam 733-5, ostendam ... vetabo ... eloquar 738-9). Second, it underlines - even in perverse antithesis - the unresponsive nature of Lucan's gods, who do not reward "prayer" and "piety" (conventional or otherwise), but rather act only when compelled.
Structurally, the diatribe is divided into three sections: i) 730-5 address to minor underworld deities (appeal, threats to Erinyes); ii) 736-44 address to major underworld deities (threats, appeal to Hecate, Persephone, Dis); iii) 744-9 collective address (threat to invoke and description of supreme deity). As mentioned above, the speech is arranged in an ascending sequence of mythological importance: Erictho works her way through the ranks of the underworld. Thematically, the speech is unified by the recurring motif of threatened exposure. Implicit in each threat is Erictho's terrifying ability to tear down barriers and distinctions between the upper and lower realms, thereby shattering universal concordia. Repetitions are used to convey the relentlessness of Erictho's injunction: the menacing sequence (is it an incantation, a spell?) is delivered with hammer-like reiteration. The repetitious tone is matched by stylistic repetitions: anaphora (per, 734, vos 732-5, te 736-41, quae 739-41, qui 746-9 enhanced by two oblique cases of the relative pronoun), syllabic reduplication (ta: ficta ... tabida ... / ... mutare vetabo 737-8), alliteration (m: maestum / regem noctis ames 740-1, t: arbiter, inmittam ruptis Titana 743, s: cuius / vos estis superi, Stygias qui peierat undas 748-9). The speech bristles with other artistic effects: dicolons, tricolons, ring structure, hyperbaton, periphrasis, autonomasia, and more. In the realm of diction, Lucan maintains an unusually high level of epic language throughout the speech.
730-5. Address to the Furies
The first section of Erictho's diatribe, an address to the Furies, shows considerable stylistic unity. It is framed by two self-contained verses. The intervening lines are all enjambed, and three have a caesural pause following a word ending with -am, creating a kind of internal rhyme.
730. Tisiphone ... Megaera : An elegant one-line vocative address, framed by the names of the two addressees, and consisting otherwise only of an adjectival clause. The stateliness and leisurely pacing of the five-word verse, enhanced by the absence of a verb, stands in stark contrast to the content of the speech, as well as to the preceding five lines of demented activity. The format of the line (i.e. two names framing associated descriptive phrases without a verb) is decidedly Homeric; cf., e.g. Il. 1.7, 2.691, 3.237 (repeated at Od. 11.300); 3.314. The Homeric flavor is strengthened by the use of Greek names (Tisiphone, Megaera). Thus, the speech can be seen to commence with an incongruously lofty epic manner. Although there were generally held to be three Furies (Hyginus Fab. 3.6: Furiae tres, id est Allecto Megaera Tisiphone), Roman literature regularly presented Tisiphone and Megaera as a natural duo, as here (cf. Sil. Pun. 13.574ff.; Sen. Her. Oet. 1012ff.; Stat. Theb. 11.60ff.). Allecto was generally depicted as acting alone - and this may be the reason she is not mentioned here. Alternatively, Lucan may have been influenced by Virgil's statement at Aen. 7.327-8 that Allecto was hated by her two sisters (and by her father Pluto as well). Another possibility, suggested by Hardie (p. 77), is that Allecto is not invoked by Erictho because the witch is herself partly modelled on Virgil's supreme Fury. As Fahz notes (p. 120), an invocation to the Furies was a regular element of necromantic ritual. Cf. Hor. S. 1.8.33-4: saevam ... Tisiphonem; Stat. Theb. 4.456-7: tris ... satis Acheronte nefasto / virginibus iubet esse focos, 483ff., 500-1; Lucian. Nec. 9.
vocisque meae secura : The scholiast (Adnot.) notes: "hoc cum indignatione dicit, quod vocem suam Megaera audiat et sit secura, ut Virg. [Aen. 7.304:] securi pelagi atque mei." Indeed, the "model" here for Erictho is in part Virgil's anger-crazed Juno, and her threat Acheronta movebo (Aen. 7.312), voiced just before she summons Allecto.
731-2. non agitis ... infelicem animam : The conclusion of Duff (ad loc.) that in this passage "the soul (anima) is clearly distinct from the ghost (umbra) of line 720" is problematic. (Johnson seems to fall into the same trap by claiming that the gods initially refuse Erictho's request: if so, then clearly the anima has not yet appeared in the upper realm). Duff's position is based on the difficulty that if one assumes that anima and umbra are here referring to the same entity, the question arises as to why Erictho should ask the Furies if they are driving the hapless soul (infelicem animam) through Erebus, since she has already seen it (i.e. the umbram) astantem proiecti corporis (720)? It may be that Lucan is simply guilty of an inconsistency in composition, just as he appears to have been at 619, where the tanta novae ... copia mortis precedes any fighting in Thessaly. It is unwise to press the poet's choice of terminology too hard, the eschatology of the poem being anything but consistent. For example, an ethereal (Stoic) afterlife for Pompey is narrated at 9.1ff., whereas a "traditional" underworld existence is foretold at 6.802 (see note). A third eschatalogical system, the primitive belief that the ghosts of the dead inhabited their tombs, is suggested at 6.513ff. It is true that some ancients did postulate a tripartite post-mortem split somewhat along the lines of Duff's suggestion. But this belief is not consistent with Duff's interpretation of the passage. Lucan uses three principal terms to denote afterlife entites: anima, umbra, and manes. That they are used interchangeably is easily inferred from 6.712ff. As a further proof, manes are described as populating the infernal realms in some passages (e.g. 3.13-4) and the ethereal realms in others (e.g. 9.1ff.). Anima is likewise used to describe afterlife entities in both realms at 7.815ff.
731. non agitis ... flagellis : The Furies were portrayed by Virgil as goddesses who remorselessly punished crimes after death, and only occasionally appeared on Earth. Tisiphone in particular was depicted as whipping the guilty souls before her as they proceeded to the pit of Tartarus (Aen. 6.570-1), thereafter keeping them imprisoned in the bronze-house of Tartarus (ibid. 6.549). Here Lucan reverses this mythological commonplace, as Erictho commands the Furies to drive the dead soldiers soul back into the realm of the living. Thus, instead of driving wicked souls into the infernal carcer, she is required here to drive an unlucky ("good"?) soul back into the prison of the body (carceris antiqui, 722). For the reversal, cf. 6.702-3: o flagrantis portitor undae, / iam lassate senex ad me redeuntibus umbris.
732. iam vos ego : Cf. Aen. 9.257: immo ego vos; Ecl. 1.75: non ego vos. The reversal of the usual subject-object order is for emphasis. The phrase is highlighted by a preceding caesura and a following (bucolic) diaeresis, as well as by the choppy effect of three words totalling only four syllables (or one and a half metrical feet). The juxtaposition of personal pronouns creates a sense of a clash of wills; it also nicely suggests Erictho's power by the contrast of singular to plural. As this speech demonstrates, Lucan was capable of using personal pronouns to great effect. Cf. the gentler effect of Brutus asking Cato for guidance (2.244-5): tu mente labentem / dirige me, dubium certo tu robore firma, where the language creates a sense of embracing (tu ... me ... tu) and support.
ego : Unlike the case of ubi, the short final syllable of ego is the rule in classical poetry. For correption of final o, see 788 n.
nomine vero : Haskins' suggestion (ad loc.) that canes is meant here is clearly wrong. Undoubtedly, Lucan was referring to the secret names for the gods used in ritual magic ("quod magica ars scit," Adnot.) that were held to be particularly efficacious in compelling their obedience. Thus Rose (p. li): "The knowledge of the true name gives power over its bearer. The ordinary names of the Furies (Tisiphone etc.) are mere descriptions. This idea is very common, e.g. Plin. N.H. 3.65, Plut. QR 61."
733. Stygiasque canes : For the image, cf. Aesch. Eum. 246.
734-5 : Lucan attributes the same morbid love of death and decay to the Furies as he does to Erictho. They are no longer the remorseless post-mortem avengers of injustice, but merely rabid underlings to the powerful Thessalian witch.
734. per busta sequar, per funera, custos : A tricolon structure with diminishing measure and anaphora of per, all of which follows the enjambed verb destituam. The diminishing tricolon nicely gives the sense of the prey closing in on its quarry. The verse is remarkable for conveying the relentless pounding of Erictho's verbal onslaught. For the same structure in a slightly less effective line, cf. 6.639: per scopulos miserum trahitur, per saxa, cadaver - (though the stunning subsequent enjambement victurum redeems the inferior proportions of the three cola). Likewise, cf. 9.101. The phrase represents a complete mythological inversion: Erictho will pursue relentlessly (emphasized by the anaphora of per) precisely those underworld figures who were themselves known for their relentless pursuit.
custos : Another ingenious mythological inversion. Virgil's Tisiphone is herself described as a custos at Aen. 6.555-6: Tisiphoneque sedens palla succincta cruenta / vestibulum exsomnis servat noctesque diesque, and again at 6.576-7: cernis custodia qualis / vestibulo sedeat, faciesque quae limina servet. There is a further incongruity implicit in Erictho's self-designated role of custos. Namely, the word custos is virtually a technical term for someone who watched over a corpse immediately before and during burial. The role of the custos was to protect the corpse from thieves and other hazards, such as the evil designs of witches like Erictho. Cf. 6.534-7: e mediis rapit illa rogis ipsamque, parentes / quam tenuere, facem nigroque volantia fumo / feralis fragmenta tori vestesque fluentes / colligit in cineres et olentes membra favillas. Although the custos was usually a relative of the deceased, Apul. Met. 2.25 makes it clear that there were also professionals (alio custode) who would watch over the corpse for a small fee. Propertius (4.7.2ff.) also mentions this task, which seemingly involved shaking a rattle to scare away evil spirits: at mihi non oculos quisquam inclamavit euntis: / ... / nec crepuit fissa me propter harundine custos. Likewise 3.16.23-4: sertisque sepulchrum / ornabit custos ad mea busta sedens.
735. expellam ... urnis : The address to the Furies ends with a dicolon crescendo, with internal rhymes at the beginning (expellam ... abigam) and end (tumulis ... urnis) of the two clauses.
736-44. Erictho's Address to the major underworld deities
Considered as a whole, Erictho's address to the three principal gods of the underworld is roughly in the form of a mock hymnic invocation. The address exhibits a number of features that conform to the traditional hymnic manner and sometimes follow the poetic language of cult. Firstly, the promise or intention to "sing the praises" of the deity (or here deities). Cf. Cat. 64.24: vos ego meo ... carmine compellabo (it is perhaps not coincidental that Erictho uses the same verb at 745 when she threatens to invoke the unnamed god); Hor. S. 1.10.5-6: te canam, magni Iovis et deorum / nuntium. For this hymnic parody, Lucan uses the verbs ostendam and eloquar at the beginning of two successive lines (739-40). Though they serve a similar purpose, these pointedly are not regular hymnic verbs: eloquar in particular implies a less than ethereal subject matter (see 739-42 n.). In a sense, Erictho is revelling in the very sense of impiety that Callimachus pretends to check in himself at Aetia 75.4ff. - also a risque story about a goddess (Hera). Second, the "sacral use of detached vocative adjectives or participles" (Nisbet & Hubbard II, 320). E.g., teque ... Hecate ... tabida (736-7); quae te contineant, Hennaea, dapes (739-40); tibi, pessime mundi arbiter, inmittam. Cf. Aen. 2.557: alma, tibi hanc, nemorum cultrix. Third, anaphora of emphatic second-person pronouns (te 736, te 739, te 741, tibi 742), a feature common to hymns and panegyrics. Cf. Lucr. 1.6ff.: te dea, te fugiunt venti, te nubila caeli / adventumque tuum, tibi suavis daedala tellus / summittit flores, tibi rident aequora ponti; Aen. 8.293ff. There is, of course, a jarring disjunction between form and content: Erictho's savage insults could not be further in spirit from the prayers found elsewhere in Latin literature. The formal adherence to a hymnic pattern links this speech to Erictho's previous address to the gods: the "vile parody of traditional prayer structure" (Johnson) is followed by a vile parody of traditional hymn structure.
The threats to Hecate and Persephone are linked by the nature of the threat: in both cases, Erictho promises to reveal embarrassing private truths. On the structural level, they are clearly linked by the common hymnic elements outlined above (which, however, they also share in common with Pluto). In addition, they combine to form a chiastic arrangement whose centre is provided by the conjunction of the verbs vetabo and eloquar. These verbs close and open successive lines, as well as terminating one address and starting the next. Cf. 719-20 n.
736-8. Threat to Hecate
Lucan combines a sly portrait of feminine psychology with the familiar mythological motif of beauty as a magical salve that goddesses can apply as needed (subject, of course, to availability). The motif generally involves one goddess providing the gift of beauty, as when Homer's Athena enhances Penelope's appearance (Od. 18.190-4), or Circe transforms Odysseus' men back to their human form (Od. 10.391ff.). Here it appears that Erictho is referring to a salve used by Hecate to assume the nobler anthropomorphic forms of Diana and Luna (see 738 n.). The witch does not mention the source of Hecate's make-up, but an interesting parallel is provided by Apul. Met. 6.16.4, where Venus instructs Psyche to seek the salve from Proserpina in the underworld. Characteristically, Lucan does not dwell on the effects of the make-up, but the result of its absence. In this, however, he may be following his knowledge of magical invocation as much as his artistic predisposition. For examples of similar insults and threats, cf. Papyrae Graecae Magicae 4.1054, 4.2478, 2654. Rose (p. li) points out the similarity to the legends of Proteus and Thetis, suggesting that Lucan may have meant to imply the notion that "a monster is helpless in its true form."
736-7. alio ... voltu ficta : "made-up with a different face." Erictho's threat to show the true face of the underworld goddess mirrors the poet's own constant threat to unmask mythological commonplaces and reveal the malignant and incomprehensible forces that lie behind them pervades the poem. Yet here, as elsewhere, the gods are never quite put to the test. Cf. Cato's decision not to consult the oracle at Hammon at 9.584ff.: servataque fide templi discedit ab aris / non exploratum populis Hammona relinquens.
737. Hecate pallenti tabida forma : It seems most logical (pace Haskins) to take Hecate and tabida as vocatives, with pallenti ... forma as an ablative of description. Hecate, as the adiutrix cantusque artisque magorum (Ov. Met. 7.195) is, according to Fahz (p. 116), the virtual patron of necromantic ritual, and thus the first major deity to be addressed: "in primis nimirum Hecate appellatur [sc. in necromantea]." Cf. Hor. S. 1.8.33: Hecaten vocat altera; Lucian Nec. 9. For the phrase cf. Aen. 8.196-7: foribus adfixa superbis / ora virum tristi pendebant pallida tabo. The language, as well as the association with the Virgilian scene of Cacus' slaughtered and decaying victims, suggests an obvious connection with death (pallida mors).
738. ostendam ... vetabo : This line shows a "Virgilian placement of the verbs at the beginning and end of the line" (Mayer 1981: 113). This is a relative rarity in Lucan because of his restricted use of finite verbs. The effect here is to close out the address to Hecate with a self-contained line, and to lead into the address to Persephone with a flurry of verbs. See 736-42 n.
faciemque Erebi : Hecate could assume three different guises: Luna, Diana, and Hecate proper. It was in the form of Hecate that she frequented the nether realms. This last one is her genuine guise, and Lucan has already made reference to it at 6.700: nostraeque Hecates pars ultima. Cf. Aen. 4.511: tergeminamque Hecaten, tria virginis ora Dianae (and see Austin ad loc.); Hor. S. 3.22.4: diva triformis. See also Fordyce on Cat. 34.
Persephone is threatened with having the true details of her story revealed. The details given here of the Rape of Persephone appear not to tally with the standard epic accounts (e.g. Hymn. Hom. Cer., Ov. Met. 5.385ff.) and a number of modern commentators have suggested that these lines refer to an unknown variant of the Persephone myth. Of interest here is the suggestion of Baldini-Moscadi (1976: 180) that, just as many gods have a secret name, so they might have a "secret history," the knowledge of which might give one power to constrain the deity. Citing Eisler, Bourgery (1928: 311) notes that an alternate myth existed among the Orphics in which there was an adulterous affair between Dis and Proserpina.
eloquar ... Ceres : A good example of Lucan's technique of accumulation. He generates a period over four lines using three successive relative clauses in asyndeton, and employs enjambment to preserve flow from line to line.
739-40. eloquar ... dapes : "And girl of Henna, I will disclose the feast which holds you underneath the Earth's enormous weight" (Braund). An example of hyperbaton, which convey Erictho's extreme agitation. A further artistic refinement is the "visual" arrangement of the phrase: i.e. te is "contained" by quae ... dapes. There is also word-play in the phrase te contineant ... dapes: usually it is the person that "contains" the meal, and not the reverse
739. eloquar : a hapax in Lucan. Cf. Aen. 3.39: eloquar an sileam?, where Aeneas is unsure whether or not to describe a horrendous prodigy he witnessed earlier.
immenso terrae sub pondere : High epic tone and diction: immensus and pondus are standard epic vocabulary; terra, though less "epic" than tellus, is regularly used by all epic poets. Cf. Ov. Met. 1.53-4: qui quanto est pondere terrae, / pondere aequae levior; 5.354: pondera terrae. The phrase is neatly marked off from the rest of the line by diaeresis after the first and fifth feet. The expression as a whole is taken from Sen. HF. 424: telluris illum pondus immensae premit. Here the lofty tone of the phrase grates against the context.
quae te : The break in the last foot resulting from the rare monosyllabic line termination serves to emphasize the final pronoun te and create a sense of agitation at the close (cf. Austin on Aen. 4.132). The word pair is repeated at 741 (though in the middle of the verse), thereby enhancing the impression of Erictho's irritation.
740. Hennaea : An example of autonomasia (substitution for names) used here with apostrophe. The coinage of this epithet for Persephone appears to be Lucan's innovation; Ovid had previously used it as an epithet for Demeter at Fast. 4.455. The use of this tag creates a deliberate allusion to the scene of Persephone's abduction by Pluto as described by Ovid in particular (cf. Met. 5.385ff.: haud procul Hennaeis lacus est a moenibus altae, / nomine Pergus, aquae ...).
dapes : A word of good epic pedigree, used only here by Lucan (contrast 19 occurrences in Virgil; 12 in Ovid Met.). Given the use of daps as a religious technical term meaning "sacrifice offered to the gods" or "sacred banquet," there is clear ironical force to the word in the present perverse context. For a similarly ironical use of daps, cf. Cat. 64.78-9: electos iuvenes simul et decus innuptarum / Cecropiam solitam esse dapem dare Minotauro [sc. quasi deo]. It is likely that dapes is meant to serve as an allusive reference to the pomegranate seed eaten by Persephone in the traditional version of the myth (e.g. Ov. Met. 5.534ff.). Housman's objection to this possibility (ad loc.) does not consider the possibility of a sarcastic double reference by Erictho - i.e. alluding on the obvious level to the pomegranate seed, but at the same time indicating something immeasurably more foul to those "in the know." In fact, the tone of Erictho's speech, the emphatic postponement of dapes and the metrical isolation of the word in the middle of the verse (it is flanked by a pair of caesurae) all support reading it with a sarcastic force. Dapes, then, probably refers to the conventional version of the myth while implying something far more outrageous. The word suggests a large meal (cf. Aen. 1.210: illi se praedae accingunt dapibusque futuris), and stands in wry contrast to the modest meal that Persephone claims to have eaten.
741-2. quae ... Ceres : A good example of Lucan's compression of language. By using a rather convoluted "nested" accusative (the indirect question quae ... contagia is accusative object of te ... passam, which is in turn accusative object of noluerit ... revocare Ceres), the poet avoids the necessity of a result clause.
741. contagia : Poetic form for the metrically intractable contagio, used five times by Lucan (cf. two occurrences in Virgil; nine in Ovid). Erictho's scathing verbal assault on Persephone is a long way from e.g. the casta ... Proserpina of Aen. 6.402. Contagia carries a nice double sense of "infection or pollution with evil" and "sexual intercourse," both of which are appropriate to the context. For the notion of contagia as the corruption of the Earth (of which Pluto is king: rector terrae, 697), cf. Ov. Met. 15.192-5.
742. noluerit ... mundi : The transition from the elegant address to Persephone to the rough address to Pluto (see 742-4 n.) is marked by a wholly dactylic line with metrical "blemishes." A strong caesura in the fourth foot divides the line between the two gods. This caesura is rather artlessly followed by bucolic diaeresis only two syllables later, creating an abrupt isolation of the pronoun tibi, which does, however, nicely emphasize the very personal nature of the threat. The effect is to greatly disrupt the close of the verse.
noluerit revocare Ceres : Erictho continues to emphasize the corruption that has transformed Persephone from her former innocence, by reversing the terms of (but not contradicting) the more flattering appeal to the goddess in her earlier "prayer" (caelum matremque perosa / Persephone, 699-700; cf. Virg. G. 1.39: nec repetita sequi curet Proserpina matrem). The corruption of the goddess is so advanced that in addition to preferring her underworld abode (cf. Ov. Met. 5.569-71: nam modo quae poterat Diti quoque maesta videri, / laeta deae frons est, ut sol, qui tectus aequosis / nubibus ante fuit, victis e nubibus exit), she would be shunned by her own mother if Ceres were to learn the extent of the pollution.
742-4. Threat to Hades
When addressing the female deities of the nether world, Erictho directed her assault against their personal vanity: she threatened to deprive one of her make-up and the other of her reputation. Now, as she turns her attention to the male gods of the underworld, she abandons this tack and focuses instead on physical threats expressed in straightforward (and metrically unpolished) language. By the standards of Roman gender stereotypes, Lucan's witch is presented throughout as a sound psychologist.
742-3. pessime mundi arbiter : "The lowest ruler of the world" (Braund). For the phrase, cf. Sen. HF 582: Pluto arbiter mortis. The three sons of Kronos were all mundi arbitri, for between them they shared dominion over the universe. Jupiter ruled the upper realms, Neptune the seas, and Pluto the underworld. In the literal sense, Pluto's realm was the lowest of the three. The double entendre on pessime ("lowest," "worst") is obvious and perhaps deliberately feeble. The slighting emphasis on Pluto's inferior status contrasts with Erictho's earlier, more respectful address to the lord of the underworld as simply rector terrae (697). As Fahz notes (p. 117), an invocation of Pluto is a regular ingredient in necromantic ritual; cf. Sen. Oed. 559: qui manes regis; Stat. Theb. 4.474: saevissime fratrum.
743-4. inmittam ... die : Though daylight is toxic to the entire underworld population, Erictho stresses the danger to Pluto alone (feriere, tibi). Note the onomatopoeic alliteration of t in inmittam ruptis Titana cavernis. For the threat of exposing the underworld kingdom to noxious daylight, cf. Aen. 8.243-6; Ov. Met. 2.260-1, 5.356-8; Stat. Theb. 8.34ff.
743. Titana : Poetic name (here in a Greek accusative form) for the sun or sun-god Helios, as son of the Titans Hyperion and Theia, here used merely as a metonymy for daylight. Lucan uses this tag 16 times, compared with one appearance in Virgil (Aen. 4.119) and six in Ovid's Metamorphoses.
744-49. Erictho's Final Threat
Erictho concludes her speech with one final threat -namely, to invoke a supreme deity who is considerably more powerful than the gods of the Olympian pantheon. The very mention of this god, whom the witch does not name, is enough to compel immediate obedience from the forces of the underworld. The description of this supreme god involves an overturning of conventional mythological principles: almost every descriptive detail violates the normal rules of behaviour by which the Olympian gods are bound. He can look upon the Gorgon without turning to stone, lash the Furies with their own scourges, and swear a false oath by the Styx without penalty. He dwells in an underworld beneath the conventional underworld, and is not observed by the conventional gods. This repeated principle of inversion and subversion of behavioral norms links him and his invocation by Erictho with the larger theme of the civil war itself (745-6 n.). It is notable that Erictho's final threat serves, in effect, to answer the author persona's own earlier question at 6.494-9: parere necesse est [sc. superis] / an iuvat? ignota tantum pietate merentur, / an tacitis valuere minis? hoc iuris in omnes / est illis [sc. Thessalis] superos, an habent haec carmina certum / imperiosa deum, qui mundum cogere, quicquid / cogitur ipse, potest? (Cf. Sen. Oed. 561-3: carmen magicum volvit et rabido minax / decantat ore quidquid aut placat leves / aut cogit umbras). What is striking here, however, is that the poet seems to be superseded by the authority of one of his characters.
744. paretis? : Duff's punctuation seems preferable to Housman's (paretis, an ille ...?) here, though the difference is slight. The single-word sentence is more pointed and forceful. It also provides a brief syntactic respite from the elaborate accumulations that precede and follow.
744-9. an ille ... undas? : This period exhibits Lucan's fondness for accumulation. There are six qualifying phrases for ille, each with its own verb. Five of the six phrases are relative clauses. The effect is relentless: Erictho hammers her points home to the "disobedient" gods, emphasizing the sinister credentials of her supreme deity with anaphora of the relative pronoun. Lucan avoids monotony by careful variations within each clause. The most obvious device is to vary the case of the relative pronoun (quo, qui, qui, cuius, qui); or, where a case is repeated, to vary its position in the clause (first word at 746, fourth at 748, second at 749). Cf. 8.506-9 and Mayer's note ad loc. A more sophisticated device is to vary word patterns within the clauses: overlapping word order is used at 745-6 (quo ... terra vocato ... concussa, ABab), normal separation at 747 (verberibusque suis trepidam ... Erinyn, AabB), and enclosing word order - a standard ornament at the conclusion of a speech - at 748 (indespecta ... Tartara) and 749 (Stygias ... undas). Finally, Lucan alternates enjambment (744-6, 748-9) and self-terminating lines (746-7).
744. an ille : The placement of the phrase at the final position of the hexameter is emphatic. This appears to be deliberately reminiscent of the ubiquitous line-ending formula at ille (and variants), which generally indicates a change of tone as well as a change of subject. The effect here is to mark a transition to an even more ominous tone. Cf. Virg. G. 1.242-3: hic vertex nobis semper sublimis; at illum / sub pedibus Styx atra videt manesque profundi; Juv. 3.263-5: haec inter pueros varie properantur, at ille / iam sedet in ripa taetrumque novicius horret / porthmea. The use of the "colourless" pronoun ille is the more notable for following hard upon the elaborate and self-consciously "epic" identifications of the conventional underworld gods. The nondescript pronoun allows the description of Lucan's supreme god to start on a quietly sinister note, from which it quickly rises.
ille : The identity of the deity mentioned obliquely by Erictho here has been the source of much scholarly debate. Suggestions have included the mysterious deity Demiurgus (Haskins 1887 ad loc., Pichon 1912: 192), Ahriman (Rose 1913: li-lii); Hermes Trismegistus (Bourgery 1928: 312), and Yahweh (Baldini-Moscadi 1976: 182-3). All of these identifications are plausible, but none conclusive - a point which is in itself suggestive: Lucan may have wished to avoid picking one ultimate nether deity over another, particularly given that it was accceptable practice in magical rituals not to offer a precise designation. Since aporia in divine matters is one of the conceptual pillars upon which Lucan's epic is built is, it likely that the poet is exploiting the conventional obfuscation of magical formulae for his own artistic program.
745-6. terra ... concussa : Lucan tends to reserve this phrase for disastrous effects that run counter to the essential course of nature (contrast Aen. 9.752: ingenti concussa est pondere tellus, used of a single body crashing to earth in battle). Here the phrase immediately calls to mind the description of the powers of the Thessalian witch (6.481-2): terra quoque inmoti concussit ponderis axes, / et medium vergens titubavit nisus in orbem, with whom the unnamed god clearly shares some characteristics. Perhaps more significant is the verbal echo of the effects of the civil war itself, e.g. 1.5: certatum totis concussi viribus orbis; 4.115: concussaque tellus. This serves as an effective unifying device, showing the Earth beset by inversion and disaster on both the human and "divine" level. If civil war breaks the natural laws of the human realm, this ultimate god likewise violates every principle by which the conventional gods of Greco-Roman mythology operate.
747. trepidam ... Erinyn : In effect an oxymoron; trepidus is not an adjective associated with the Furies themselves - it is used rather of their awful effect on others. It is possible that the single Fury mentioned here is Allecto, the most dread of the three sisters, who was not included in Erictho address at 730. Cf. Aen. 7.570-1: pestiferas aperit fauces, quis condita Erinys, / invisum numen, terras caelumque levabat. See further 730 n.
748. indespecta tenet qui ... : The language pointedly evokes that of Virgilian catalogues, especially with the anaphora of relative pronouns. The immediate model here is Aen. 7.739-40 (the catalogue of Italian allies): quique Rufras Batulumque tenent atque arva Celemnae, / et quos maliferae despectant moenia Abellae. But there is a characteristic twist: Lucan is ennumerating the unseen attributes of an unnamed god; the very rare adjective indespecta (the present instance is the sole entry in TLL), nicely reversing Virgil's despectant, pointedly suggests a catalogue of the invisible.
qui : For postponement of the relative pronoun, see Dewar on Stat. Theb. 9.28 quibus.
748-9. cuius vos estis superi : The punctuation of this line is perhaps the most contentious textual issue of our passage. A number of commentators (e.g. Hosius, Braund, Nock, and Baldini Moscadi) insert a comma after estis, taking cuius as a genitive of possession and superi as a "vocativo riferito alle divinita in genere, e al tempo stesso scelto a sottolineare, quasi ironicamente, che al di sopra dei superi stessi c'e una forza che li domina e li possiede" (Baldini Moscadi 1976: 181); for the genitive used as a predicate in this way, cf. Liv. 21.11.1: adeo prope omnis senatus Hannibalis erat). This yields the sense "(him) in whose power are you upper gods" (Braund). But superi looks very implausible as a vocative, since Erictho has up to now been systematically apostrophising the various inferi. True, Lucan does tend to switch vocatives abruptly and use a vast amount of "unmotivated" apostrophe, but this transition would be especially harsh. Against this interpretation stand Housman ("casu factum in priore Cortii editione errorem amplexi sunt Weisius et Hosius," ad loc.) and Haskins (followed by, e.g., Duff, and Luck), who do not admit the comma between estis and superi, taking superi as a nominative predicate. Haskins thus translates: "to whom ye (the infernal powers) are the gods above" explaining (ad loc.) that the infernal gods would be so seen by him "because he dwells in a lower depth of Tartarus." This must surely be correct. The rhetorical transformation of the inferi into someone else's superi (antithesis) would be a typical flourish for Lucan. Moreover, cuius vos estis superi fits well as an ingenious elaboration of indespecta tenet vobis qui Tartara, where vos picks up vobis, and the two phrases taken together constitute a rather elegant theme-and-variation. The lone objection to this second interpretation is the unusual usage of the genitive form cuius, for which no precise parallel springs to mind. Though one would expect superi to depend on a dative, the use of the genitive is not difficut to construe: "(him) whose gods above ye are."
749. Stygias qui peierat undas : "(Him) who by the waters of the Styx can falsely swear" (Braund); i.e. this god does not suffer punishment for a false oath uttered on the Styx. According to Hesiod (Th. 793ff.), whenever an Olympian god broke such an oath, he went into a death-like trance for a "great year" (usually said to be nine ordinary years), after which he was banished from Olympus for nine further "great years." For the phrase cf. Aen. 6.324-5: Cocyti stagna alta vides Stygiamque paludem, / di cuius iurare timent et fallere numen.
Commentary Sections: 719-749 | 750-774 | 775-809 | 810-830