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Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.511-733

 | 
Ingo Gildenhard
, 
Andrew Zissos

Commentary

572–691: The Captive Acoetes and his Tale

Texte intégral

1The famuli return, not with Bacchus, as Pentheus had ordered, but with a different prisoner — or so it would seem. This captive, who gives his name as Acoetes, proceeds to explain, in a lengthy inset narrative, how he became a follower of Bacchus.

2Ovid has evidently borrowed the motif of a follower of Bacchus taken prisoner by Pentheus from Euripides’ Bacchae, where the prisoner, who never gives his name, is the god himself in disguise. In Ovid, by contrast, the captive identifies himself as Acoetes (582), which name was evidently taken from Pacuvius’ lost tragedy Pentheus (or Bacchae). Moreover, the metamorphic story that Ovid’s Acoetes goes on to tell derives from the tradition represented by the long Homeric Hymn to Dionysus. For a full discussion of these intertextual complexities (and the full text of the Hymn), see Intro. §5a. Irrespective of the compound literary genealogy of the prisoner Acoetes, the fact that in Euripides the (unnamed) prisoner was the god in disguise suffices to raise the question: is the Ovidian Acoetes Bacchus in disguise? For a detailed discussion of this intriguing possibility, see Intro. §5b-iv. It is certainly true that various details (e.g. 582–83, 658–59, 699–700 with nn.) offer support for an affirmative answer, but the fact remains that Ovid never explicitly resolves the riddle of Acoetes’ identity. At a minimum, though, it must be granted that the text gains in richness, irony, and complexity if we recognize the likelihood that Bacchus and Acoetes are one and the same. In this shifting and slippery narrative about Bacchus, the god never appears in his own guise, but his presence is felt throughout, and equating him with Acoetes yields the culminating stroke of his metamorphic ubiquity. No matter how one reads the captive’s identity, Ovid follows Euripides in constructing a striking contrast between this cool, calm and collected figure and his enraged captor Pentheus, whose impatience and agitation mount as the interview unfolds (577–78, 692–93 with nn.). The resulting contrast in verbal style between the two antagonists could hardly be greater: whereas the restive, no-nonsense Pentheus manifests terseness and alacrity, Acoetes becomes ponderous and long-winded — irritatingly so, as a fuming Pentheus will later declare (692–93).

3 572–73. The interjection ecce marks a sudden and surprising development. Pertinent here is the observation of Austin (on Virg. Aen. 2.57) that this interjection often ‘marks a sudden disruption, in a manner familiar from Comedy, when a character unexpectedly appears, or when there is some disconcerting development’. That the elided subject of redeunt is famuli (‘servants’) — i.e. those to whom Pentheus earlier issued the arrest order (cf. 562 famulis hoc imperat) — is made clear by domino.

4The overall syntax is a little convoluted: quaerenti modifies domino and governs the indirect question (hence the subjunctive) Bacchus ubi esset; at the same time, (quaerenti) domino serves as the indirect object of negarunt, which introduces an indirect statement, with subject accusative (se) elided and vidisse as infinitive, with Bacchum the internal accusative object of vidisse.

5Note the unusual switch in tense from present redeunt to perfect negarunt (a syncopated 3rd pers. pl. perf. form = nega-ve-runt). With regard to the latter, a present participle (here quaerenti) would normally denote incomplete action contemporaneous with that of the verb, which does not match the normal progression of question-and-answer. This could imply that the servants interrupt Pentheus or that he keeps pressing them while they try to answer. But it might have no such implication: the stress on contemporaneity in the use of the present participle is not as pronounced for the oblique cases (as here with dative quaerenti).

6If the indirect report represents Pentheus’ actual query, this would be the first time that he mentions the god by name. That name, in any event, registers emphatically here thanks to the *hyperbaton that places Bacchus in front of the ubi-clause to which it belongs, and the reiteration with *polyptoton (Bacchus… Bacchum). The text registers the god’s presence even as Pentheus’ henchmen report his absence.

7That the servants return ‘blood-stained’ (cruentati is the perf. pass. part. of cruento, ‘stain with blood’), would seem to imply some manner of struggle with Bacchus’ worshippers. Ovid does not elaborate on this encounter, but may have been thinking of Eur. Bacch. 760–63, where a messenger reports on a skirmish between armed (male) villagers and (female) Bacchants, in which the latter rout the former, inflicting serious wounds while themselves remaining unscathed. In any event, the graphic detail is an ominous sign that contributes to the ‘gorenographic’ build-up of the set text (521–23 n.).

8 574–76 hunc … secutum. Ovid here switches from indirect to direct speech. In an inversion of the sequence at 572–73, the verbs now progress from perfect (dixere is an alternate 3rd pers. pl. perf. form) to present (tradunt). The concessive particle tamen is an apologetic touch on the part of the servants: although they did not see, let alone capture Bacchus, they nevertheless do not come back empty-handed. hunc… comitem famulumque sacrorum designates the same individual, their captive, in a mildly pleonastic fashion (Ovid will promptly ratchet up the *pleonasm with sacra dei quendam… secutum — note the *polyptoton of sacra — which supplies no new information). The term comes here designates a follower in Bacchus’ retinue, whereas famulus is used in the religious sphere of functionaries charged with carrying out parts of the sacred rites. Presumably all famuli are comites, but not every comes is a famulus. It is difficult to judge where to situate famuli within the hierarchy of Bacchus’entourage: are they subservient factota or privileged religious ministrants? It is at any rate suggestive that Ovid uses the same term of both the henchmen that Pentheus sent out to capture Bacchus (562 famulis hoc imperat) and the religious functionary of Bacchus whom they bring back. The ablative absolute manibus post terga ligatis indicates attendant circumstances; terga (‘back’) is a ‘poetic’ plural. To place a follower of Bacchus/ Liber (‘the Freer’) in chains is not without a measure of irony — all the more so if we understand the captive to be the god himself in disguise (see Intro. §5b-iv).

9 quendam is the accusative object of tradunt; it is modified by secutum (perf. pass. part. of the deponent sequor, ‘follow’), which takes sacra dei as internal accusative object: ‘someone who followed the rites of the god’. This tells us nothing that we didn’t already know, but the throwaway designation quendam (‘someone or other’) is a wonderfully arch metaliterary touch given Ovid’s elusive play on the identity of this figure (see Intro. §5b-iv). Tyrrhena gente is ablative of origin, qualifying quendam. The adjective Tyrrhenus, used of Acoetes again at 696, means ‘Etruscan’ or ‘Lydian’. Why? According to Hdt. 1.94, the Tyrrhenians were a ‘Pelasgic’ race, one of the pre-historic people inhabiting the Aegean, which originally settled on the coast of Lydia but later migrated to Italy to become the ancestors of the Etruscans. The Greeks continued to designate them ‘Tyrrhenian’, and Roman authors frequently followed suit, as here. Other terms for ‘Etruscan’ include Etruscus (Met. 15.557), Tuscus (found later in the set text at 624) and the poeticism Maeonius (cf. 583 Maeonia with n.). The double Lydian/Etruscan geographical identity of Acoetes enables Ovid subtly to link Euripides’ Bacchae (in which Dionysus twice declares his Lydian origins: see 582–83 n.), Pacuvius’ Pentheus (with the character Acoetes), and the second Homeric Hymn to Dionysus, where the helmsman remains anonymous, but the crew is collectively designated ‘Tyrrhenian’ (Τυρσηνοί, Hymn. Hom. 7.8).

10 577–78 adspicit … differt. The placement of the verb (adspicit) in initial position, both within its verse and its sentence, neatly marks the incipit of Pentheus’ interview with the captive, which occupies lines 577–700 (including the long inset narrative). The et after fecerat links adspicit (577) and ait (580), the two main verbs of the sentence.

11 hunc, repeated from 574, designates the captive, who will identify himself as Acoetes in 582, but, as already observed, may well be Bacchus in disguise (see Intro. §5b-iv). Pentheus’ meteoric anger already features in Euripides (e.g. Bacch. 670); Ovid here imagines its manifestation in his gaze: his eyes are, literally, ‘to be feared’ (tremendos, gerundive of tremo). Epic heroes are sometimes described as having blazing or shining eyes, particularly in the heat of battle, where they are prone to manifest what Lovatt (2013, 311) terms an ‘assaultive gaze’, the essence of which is ‘looking at someone with the intention of committing violence against them’. The belligerent Theban king seems to be following the generic paradigm here. But it should not be forgotten that this is also a genetic paradigm: cf. the description of his serpentine ancestor at 3.33 igne micant oculi: ‘[the dragon’] eyes flashed with fire’(on Pentheus’ ‘genetic’ connection to the dragon, see 526 n.). As Hardie (1990, 225) observes, ‘Pentheus’ rage is as elemental in its fury as the violence of the serpent’. The implication of poenae vix tempora differt is that Pentheus is torn between the desire immediately to execute the prisoner and the more rational course of acquiring some intelligence about the cult of Bacchus and its followers first; vix indicates that he just barely musters the necessary self-control to follow the latter course.

12 579–80 o periture … morte. Pentheus begins with a characteristically nasty vocative address: the lofty tone of the opening interjection o (on which see 540–42 n.) is promptly dispelled by a redoubled ‘promise’ of execution, which he expects to set an example for other perceived miscreants. periture and dature are future active participles in the vocative. They are linked by -que (which has migrated to tua). documenta, the accusative object of dature, has the sense ‘example, warning’, with tua… morte an ablative of means (‘by your death’; note that the verse position of tua requires that it scan as an iamb [∪ —], so it must be abl. sing., agreeing with morte, rather than acc. pl., agreeing with documenta).

13 580–81 ede … frequentes. The imperative ede (‘declare’) governs three accusative objects (nomen, nomen parentum, patriam), as well as the indirect question (whence the pres. subjunct. frequentes) introduced by cur, which is appended to the list by the -que after moris. In the corresponding scene, Euripides’ Pentheus starts the interrogation with a rather less elaborate question (πρῶτον μὲν οὖν μοι λέξον ὅστις εἶ γένος, ‘But first tell me of your origins’, Bacch. 460). The sense of morisque novi sacra is ‘new fashioned rites’: moris… novi is genitive of quality qualifying sacra.

14 582–83 ille … parentes. The unruffled prisoner — metu is an ablative of separation dependent on vacuus (‘free from’) — begins his lengthy narrative, which occupies more than one hundred verses, by obliging Pentheus with a response to his multi-faceted query. He is asyndetically brief and to the point, with both the pronoun (mihi, dative of possession) and the verb (est) operating *apo koinou over the three clauses (notwithstanding the plural subject of the final clause: sunt is strictly needed, but the license is a common one).

15The name ‘Acoetes’ is Greek in form (Ἀκοίτης), but occurs nowhere in extant Greek literature. Etymologically, it might suggest ‘husband’, ‘bedfellow’ (ἀκοίτης) or ‘unresting’ (ἄκοιτος), neither of which shed much light on Ovid’s figure; if it is a ‘speaking name’, its significance may have been clarified in Pacuvius’ lost Pentheus (on which see Intro. §5b-iv). Maeonia is properly a district of Lydia, in the neighbourhood of Mount Tmolus, where, according to some mythic accounts, Bacchus/Dionysus spent his childhood; the term was also used by poets as a synecdoche for Lydia, and here it almost certainly means, by a further poetic extension, ‘Tyrrhenian’ or ‘Etruscan’: cf. Virgil’s reference to the Etruscan Mezentius’ troops as Maeoniae delecta iuventus (Aen. 8.499). For the array of terms for ‘Etruscan’ used by Ovid, see 574–76 n. By the choice of this term Acoetes emphasizes ‘historical’ Lydian origins as against Etrurian habitation, a suggestive self-characterization in the intertextual context. Euripides’ Dionysus twice states that he hails from Lydia: in the prologue (Bacch. 13), and in the scene to which the present passage corresponds when, disguised, he declares to Pentheus Λυδία δέ μοι πατρίς (‘Lydia is my fatherland’, Bacch. 464); Acoetes here offers a close Latin equivalent to the second statement — and one that might even be deemed more ‘Dionysian’. His declaration of Lydian origins would thus seem to connect him to both Euripidean instantiations of the god, thereby fuelling the suspicion that he is indeed Bacchus in disguise (see Intro. §5b-iv).

16 humili plebe amounts to a mild *tautology in the context. Acoetes’ emphasis on his humble origins is somewhat unusual for ancient epic; of course if this self-characterization is a ‘front’, then the archetype would be Odysseus assuming the guise of a beggar upon his return to Ithaca. In a Bacchic context, moreover, the low social rank of the internal narrator is appropriate, recalling the mixing of ‘commoners’ and princes in the religious festivities (vulgusque proceresque ignota ad sacra feruntur, 530); there is also perhaps a moral dimension to a plebeian figure speaking enigmatic truth to tyrannical power. Note that plebs is a technical term of Rome’s political culture, referring to the body of Roman citizens who were not patricians. Ovid uses such Roman idiom throughout the Metamorphoses in both the human and divine realms (so Jupiter in his attempted seduction of Callisto promises her safety praeside… deo,… nec de plebe deo (‘under a god’ s protection — and no plebeian god at that’, Met. 1.594–95). Such terrestrial and cosmic analogies subtly prepare Ovid’s narrative culmination, in which the city of Rome has subsumed and become coextensive with the world (see Intro. §3c).

17 584–87 non … pisces. Acoetes specifies the profession he ‘inherited’ from his father in a roundabout fashion, first mentioning two livelihoods — farming and pasturing — that were not his father’s and then identifying fishing as the case at hand. These were, in fact, the three principal ways by which a rural inhabitant of ancient Italy might earn a living. Once again, the point is to underscore Acoetes’ humble station: land and cattle were the essential constituents of rural wealth; the fisherman’s condition was regarded as one of pauperdom.

18 584–85 non mihi … reliquit. The pronounced *hyperbaton presents something of a challenge; a more natural word order for the essential sequence would be non mihi arva, quae duri iuvenci colerent,… pater reliquit. In other words, pater is the subject of the main clause; the principal verb reliquit takes three accusative objects: arva (the antecedent of quae, though coming after it), lanigeros… greges, and ulla armenta. Note also that quae duri colerent iuvenci is a relative clause of purpose (AG §530.2), whence the subjunctive verb. The sense of jerkiness and imbalance is further increased by the double (rather than triple) *anaphora of non, and the fact that the first and the second accusative objects (arva and lanigeros greges) are linked by -ve, whereas the second and third (lanigeros greges and ulla armenta) follow each other *asyndetically.

19 Lanigeros… greges, literally ‘wool-bearing flocks’, speaks to sheep. laniger is a compound epithet (from lana + ger) of a type quite frequent in epic, which likes constructing adjectives by adding either -fer or -ger (both contributing the sense ‘bearing’) to a noun; later in the set text Ovid has racemifer (‘cluster-bearing’, 666).

20 586–87 pauper … pisces. The key to sorting out this sentence is untangling the connectives. The -que after lino links the two main verbs fuit and solebat. Then we have two complementary infinitive phrases dependent on solebat, both taking salientis pisces as accusative object (an *apo koinou construction): lino et hamis decipere and calamo ducere. The et between solebat and hamis thus links lino and hamis, the et between decipere and calamo links decipere and ducere.

21Henderson (1979, 102) understands et ipse in the conventional manner as setting up a comparison: ‘he too’, i.e. ‘like me’. But this seems pointless, even inept on Ovid’s part, in the wake of the previous three lines. Bömer’s solution seems preferable: he assumes that we are dealing with yet another transposition and should understand et pauper ipse fuit et solebat etc. (‘he himself was poor and was accustomed to…’). Rather than using a verb for ‘fishing’ (piscari vel sim.), Acoetes provides a circumlocution elaborating the two stages of that activity: catching the fish with a hook on a line (lino … et hamis decipere), and then drawing the struggling creatures out of the water with the fishing rod (calamo … ducere). calamus (= κάλαμος) is a reed, but can stand by metonymy for an object made thereof (cf. 532 aera, 621 pinus with nn.). The sense ‘fishing rod’ is common in both Greek (e.g. Theoc. Id. 21.43) and Latin. ducere is a simplex form (570–71 n.), standing for educere (‘to draw out’). Note that salientis is acc. pl. of the pres. act. part. (AG §118; most modern readers would expect salientes, because the -es termination had largely supplanted the original -is by the Augustan Age); it modifies pisces: the image is that of fish on the hook struggling to free themselves. The mini-vignette of a fisherman in his moment of triumph could reflect authorial zeal: there is extant a fragment of some 130 lines of a Halieutica (a handbook on the art of fishing) ascribed to Ovid (on which see Richmond 1962). At the same time, the reader might catch a whiff of allegory here: anglers practise their proverbial craft of baiting hooks then tricking and landing prey by paying out plenty of line. If we sense something fishy about Acoetes’ autobiography, Pentheus seems to fall for it — hook, line, and sinker.

22 588 ars … erat. Strictly speaking, the census was a registration of the property of every Roman citizen, performed every five years by the censors, in order to classify citizens according to wealth. From this technical sense, the term came to be used in a broader metonymic sense for ‘property in general, wealth, substance’ (OLD s.v. 3), as here. Since his father has no material property — if he were actually assessed in a Roman census he would be placed in the lowest category, the capite censi, those ‘registered by their head’ because they owned nothing — Acoetes applies the term to his technical skill as a fisherman as part of an elaborate metaphor that is further developed by the terms traderet, successor, heres, reliquit and paternum. Use of the term census at this point in Ovid’s cosmic history is of course anachronistic, but such anachronisms are part of Ovid’s broader strategy of anticipating Rome’s eventual global dominance (see Intro. §3c). illi is dative of possession. sua is, as Bömer (1969, 591) puts it, ‘indirectly reflexive’ (i.e. referring to illi, rather than the subject of the sentence); or as Henderson (1979, 103) puts it, ‘sua refers to the “logical”, not the grammatical, subject of the sentence, as often’.

23 588–90 cum … opes. We have a quotation (dixit, with which supply pater as subject from 584) within Acoetes’ direct speech. The quotation is anchored chronologically by cum traderet artem (with which understand mihi), but the verb traderet is playfully inept. Acoetes refers to his father teaching him how to fish, but this could not occur as a single process as the coordination of the cum-clause with dixit requires (traderet is imperfect subjunctive with circumstantial cum, so expressing contemporaneous action). Thus we are caught between trado in the sense ‘teach’ and its more common meaning ‘hand over, bequeath’. Ovid may be having a bit of fun with the traditions of didactic poetry in the spirit of his own Ars Amatoria (ars meaning a codified body of teachable knowledge), as well, perhaps, as the Halieutica ascribed to him (on which see 586–87 n.). The (postponed) antecedent of the relative pronoun quas is opes, which is also accusative object of accipe. The grand, pretentioussounding vocative studii successor et heres ironically evokes notions of intellectual accomplishment, social rank, material wealth, or political power being handed down from one generation to the next; but the studium bequeathed in this case is the lowly art of fishing.

24 591–92 moriensque … paternum. This restatement of Acoetes’ ‘inheritance’ maintains the ironic pose: where others inherit land, his father left him nothing but the waters he fished in (which were of course available to all). The non-specificity of aquas subtly prepares for Acoetes career change from fisherman to navigator. Notice that the adjective paternum is in predicative position, correlated with unum hoc by appellare: it can be translated substantively as ‘inheritance’. L-S s.v. paternus notes that it is used ‘of the property, possessions, external relations, etc. of a father’, whereas its near synonym patrius ‘is used of that which belongs to his nature, dignity, or duty’ — much as we saw earlier with patrium… decus (548).

25 592–96 mox … aptos. There are two main verbs in this sentence, linked by the et between flectere and Oleniae: addidici (593) and notavi (595). The latter governs the following accusative objects, all linked by -que save the last, for which Ovid uses et: (i) sidus pluviale, (ii) Taygeten; (iii) Hyadas; (iv) Arcton; (v) domos; (vi) portus. If Acoetes has to this point used banalities to raise Pentheus’blood pressure, he now switches modes and taxes the king’s patience with recherché learning, set out in excruciating detail.

26 592–94 ne scopulis … flectere. The negative purpose clause marks Acoetes’ decision not to follow in his father’s footsteps. With scopulis … isdem understand where my father had fished before me (vel sim.). The prefix of addidici (from addisco = ad + disco, ‘learn besides’) indicates skills in addition to fishing, which he had learned from his father. The skills in question belong to the métier of helmsman or navigator. regimen (‘guiding, steering’) is used concretely by Ovid here (and again at Met. 11.552), by an unusual poetic metonymy, to designate the component by which one does the steering, i.e. the rudder (or, more precisely ‘steeringoar’; moderamen will have the same sense at 644); it is the accusative object of flectere. dextra moderante is an ablative absolute, here taking the place of a clause of accompanying circumstance (AG §420.5), but in truth adding nothing of significance: Acoetes is becoming annoyingly (or amusingly) prolix. The termination of the present participle in -e (rather than -i) indicates verbal (rather than adjectival) force, and so is the usual form in an ablative absolute construction.

27Latin epicists tend to avoid the ‘obvious’ prosaic word navis for ‘ship’, using instead a wide range of more elevated terms, as here with the synecdoche carina (literally ‘keel’; again at 604 and 639), which is widespread in poetry from Enn. Ann. 376 Sk onwards. Other poetic synonyms for ‘ship’ found in the set text are pinus (621 with n.), puppis (596 with n.) and ratis (687 with n.).

28 594–96 et Oleniae … aptos. Here Acoetes enumerates in indirect and learned fashion the various cognitive skills, all essential for navigation in the ancient world, that he acquired: (i) observation of stars or constellations (Capella, the Pleiades, the Hyades) whose rising or setting marked the beginning of the rainy season when sailing was dangerous and so should be avoided; (ii) use of the Great Bear constellation to chart one’s course; (iii) anticipation of wind patterns and other meteorological activity; (iv) recognition and/ or knowledge of good harbours. The importance of these particular stars and constellation to sailing is evident from Virgil’s statement that it was sailors who gave them their names: navita tum stellis numeros et nomina fecit, | Pleiades, Hyadas, claramque Lycaonis Arcton (‘the sailor then counted the stars and gave them names, the Pleiades, the Hyades and Lycaon’s Arctos’, G. 1.137–38).

29 594–95 Oleniae … notavi. Henderson (1979, 103) draws attention to Oleniae sidus pluviale Capellae, calling it ‘an enclosing appositional structure’, the genitive Oleniae … capellae being in apposition to (or defining) sidus pluviale. Ovid employs a very similar expression with the same structure at Fast. 5.113 Oleniae signum pluviale Capellae.

30 Oleniae … Capellae designates the goat star, so named from the creature, usually called Amalthea, that, according to legend, suckled the infant Jupiter. The goat was afterwards rewarded by being changed into a star called Capella (sometimes Capra) in the constellation Auriga. The epithet Olenius is variously explained as arising (i) from the fact that Amalthea was born near the town of Olenos (Ὤλενος), or (ii) from the fact that the owner of the goat, a nymph sometimes herself identified as Amalthea, was the daughter of Olenos, or (iii) from the fact that the goat, when translated to heaven, was placed in the elbow (ὠλένη) of the constellation Auriga. The star rises at the beginning of the rainy season (October), whence the label sidus pluviale. From the point of view of sea navigation, the rising of this constellation signalled dangerous sailing conditions. Virgil mentions the importance of the observation of this sign by mariners at G. 1.204–07.

31 Taygeten designates one of the Pleiads, a cluster of seven stars located in the sign Taurus. Ovid here uses a single star synecdochically of the whole constellation, the setting of which (around the beginning of November) caused it to be associated with autumn storms (e.g. Arat. Phaen. 1064–66; Luc. 8.852; Stat. Theb. 4.120, 9.460–61; Silv. 1.6.22). Already Hesiod uses the morning setting of this constellation to mark the end of the (safe) sailing season (Op. 618–23), and this remained the rule in the Roman period. Taygete is a Greek loanword (Τηϋγέτη) which scans as quadrisyllabic (—̮ ̮ — ), with both the initial a and the final e standing in for the long Greek vowel ‘êta’ (η). Notice that Taygeten is a Greek accusative form (559–61 n.), the first of three in the verse.

32The Hyades (f. pl.; gen. Hyadum; the acc. pl. Hyadas follows the Greek declension, as with Taygeten) were a group of seven stars in the head of the constellation Taurus, whose morning rising and setting were associated with rainy weather (hence their name: huein is Greek for ‘to rain’). Like the Peliades, the Hyades were thought to be daughters of Atlas.

33 Arctos is Greek for ‘bear’ (Arcton is yet another Greek accusative form), and is the name of the two northern constellations, the Great and Little Bear (Ursa Maior and Ursa Minor). These constellations were crucial for seafaring, as ancient navigators steered by them, using either one or the other to determine orientation, as well as approximate geographic position (Luc. 8.174–81 elaborates on the technique). Ursa Maior is mentioned in the context of navigation as early as Hom. Od. 5.270–73.

34 596. The verb continues to be (oculis) notavi, though it may suit its penultimate object, ventorum… domos, less well than the preceding celestial bodies (which would be a mild case of *zeugma). This expression does not refer to the mythological conception of the wind gods as incarcerated in a mountain cave under the supervision of Aeolus, king of the winds (as we find, e.g., in Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid). Ovid seems rather to be thinking of the geographical or celestial region from which each wind blows as its individual ‘abode’ (the plural domos indicates separate ‘houses’); in the cosmogony at the start of the epic, the domains of the individual winds were treated in such a geographical manner (Met. 1.61–66). An important precedent for the present expression is Virgil’s Eurique Zephyrique… domus (G. 1.371), with use of the verb tonat (‘thunders’) indicating that each wind’s ‘abode’ is the part of the heavens from which it blows.

35 puppibus is dative with aptos, a predicative adjective modifying portus. The term puppis (literally ‘stern’ or ‘poop’) is a frequent poetic synecdoche (pars pro toto) for ‘ship’, found again in the set passage at 651 and 660. For other poetic terms used to avoid the ‘obvious’ prosaic word navis for ‘ship’, see 592–94 n. The alliteration and assonance of p and t in portus puppibus aptos provide a resonant flourish to bring this segment of Acoetes’speech to a close.

36 597–99 forte … harenae. With a striking ellipse, Acoetes’ autobiography abruptly transitions from his acquisition of navigational skills and knowledge to their concrete application. What is missing is his securing gainful employment as a helmsman: perhaps the marine transportation sector was awash with job opportunities; then again, as we’ll see, Acoetes wasn’t especially fussy about the kind of outfit he signed on with. In any event, he now proceeds to tell of a particular voyage — the one, indeed, that brought his seafaring career to an end and made him a devotee of Bacchus. Though this sentence exhibits Acoetes’ stylized prolixity — he takes three full verses to say ‘on the way to Delos, I made landfall at Chios’ — it maintains the momentary impulse towards narrative compression by omitting both the point of departure and the reason for the journey, evidently details of no consequence for his tale.

37The adverb forte is often used in narrative to introduce a chance event or circumstance: ‘as it happened’ or ‘as luck would have it’ (see OLD s.v. 2). Notice that the participle petens is used here to indicate final destination (‘on my way to…’, ‘as I was heading towards…’), while the finite verbs indicate an event en route (in this case a stopover); for this convenient syntactical structure cf. Val. Max. 2.6.8 Asiam petens Iulidem oppidum intravi (‘on the way to Asia I stopped in at the town of Iulis’). Delos is a Greek noun of the 2nd declension (Δῆλος; see AG §52), which admits two accusative forms in Latin: Delon, (as here), and the Latinized Delum (as at, e.g., Virg. Aen. 4.144). Delos is an important Aegean island, nearly in the centre of the Cyclades, celebrated as the birthplace of the gods Apollo and Diana. Its significance here, if any, is unclear; in the long Homeric Hymn to Dionysus (see Intro. §5a), the island where the pirates make landfall and come upon the god is not identified. In the Aeneid, the Trojans sail to Delos and obtain a riddling oracle that sends them circling around the Aegean… Ever been had?

38Henderson (1979, 104) rightly calls Chiae telluris ad oras a ‘grandiose circumlocution’: Acoetes does not simply say ‘Chios’, but ‘the coast of the land of Chios’. The verb applico is a nautical technical term (‘direct, steer, or bring to land’) which takes an accusative object (navem vel sim.) in the active voice, but is used absolutely in the passive voice (as here with applicor) when it is ‘middle’ in sense (see further L-S s.v. applico). adducor is likewise middle in force: ‘I sail (my ship) to’ (OLD s.v. adduco, 1c). The use of litora as a simple accusative of the end of motion (i.e. without a preposition) is an unusual license (L-S s.v. adduco, 2; TLL 1.596.71). dextris… remis probably means ‘with the right hand oars’, i.e. those on the starboard side of the ship, and speaks to manoeuvring to make landfall on Chios. Henderson (1979, 104) voices suspicion over the ‘technical and precise’ nature of this specification, but Roman epic is strongly inclined to technical terminology and precise detail in its treatment of seafaring — and the internal narrator Acoetes has already demonstrated the same propensity. Con artists work with the ‘reality effect’ guaranteed to accrue from circumstantiality. But let’s just notice that the wine of Chios was the best Greece had to offer…

39The -que after do links it with adducor. The combination do + noun (in place of a verb) is a mild periphrasis of a familiar poetic kind, though do… saltus, equivalent to salio, which occurs again in the set text at 683, is not common before Ovid: Virgil has it only once (Aen. 12.681 saltum dedit). levis is best rendered ‘nimble’ (OLD s.v. 2). Note that levis saltus is acc. pl. (levis = leves); since one leap would presumably suffice, we should understand a ‘poetic’ plural. This nautical leap might strike some readers as a bit fishy: fish ‘leap’ (cf. 587 salientis… pisces) and so, especially, do acrobatic dolphins (as we shall soon see, 683). The -que attached to udae links do and inmittor. After applicor and adducor, inmittor is yet another passive form used in a reflexive or middle sense (‘I jump onto’), here taking the dative (udae… harenae).

40 600–04. After an indication of a night’s rest and a new day dawning, Acoetes describes preparations for resuming the voyage: he orders his companions to fetch water and then climbs a hill to get a sense of which way the wind is likely to blow. The reference to crewmen — first implied by the verbs admoneo and monstro and then explicitly mentioned with comitesque voco — brings these individuals into the narrative picture at precisely the moment when their conduct will bear on the course of events. Not until verse 687 are we told their number: viginti (20).

41The syntax is arranged *chiastically: we get three main verbs in paratactic sequence linked by -que (exsurgo, admoneo, monstro), followed by a subordinate clause (quae ducat ad undas); then we get a subordinate clause (quid aura mihi tumulo promittat ab alto), followed by three main verbs in paratactic sequence linked by -que (prospicio, voco, repeto).

42 600–01 nox… coeperat. Acoetes emerges as something of an ‘Odyssean’ internal narrator here, telling the tale of his sea voyage in a manner reminiscent of Homer’s very own ‘sole survivor’ yarn-spinning seafarer Odysseus. His account of the events of the fateful day begins with the breaking of dawn, aurora rubescere primo | coeperat, which is reminiscent of the standard Odyssean incipit ἦμος δ᾽ ἠριγένεια φάνη ῥοδοδάκτυλος Ἠώς (‘when rosy-fingered dawn appeared…’). The adverb primo usually indicates the first stage in a sequence (and is often followed by deinde vel sim.), i.e. ‘at first’, ‘firstly’, which is clearly not the case here: it is perhaps best translated ‘as soon as’.

43 601–02 laticesque … undas. The -que after latices links exsurgo and admoneo, here with the sense ‘exhort’, governing the infinitive inferre. This infinitive construction is a license largely confined to poetry through the Augustan period: like hortor and its compounds, moneo and admoneo are normally followed by an ut/ ne clause. latices … recentis (= recentes) is the accusative object of inferre. The word latex (pl. latices), which can be used of any liquid, is almost exclusively poetic, often occurring in contexts of drinking and libations. Here it serves as an elevated synonym for ‘water’; the adjective recentis indicates that ‘fresh’ or ‘drinking’ water is meant, for use on the voyage. undas is probably best translated ‘spring’ (OLD s.v. 2), which would be a preferred source of drinking water. From monstro… viam etc. it is clear that Acoetes knows his way around the island.

44 603–04. The pronoun ipse underscores the distinction between Acoetes, who concerns himself with the ‘technical’ task of reading the weather conditions, and the rest of the crew, to whom he assigns more mundane tasks. The main verb prospicio introduces the indirect question quid aura mihi … promittat (‘what the breeze promises to me’, i.e. what sort of weather I might anticipate). Virgil describes Aeneas’ helmsman Palinurus assessing sailing conditions in much the same fashion: surgit Palinurus et omnes | explorat ventos et auribus aera captat (‘Palinurus arose to test the winds, his ears taking in their first stirrings ‘, Aen. 3.513). Such forecasting, which was an important part of the navigator’s repertoire (594–96 n.), was best undertaken at or before dawn, ideally from an elevated position, whence tumulo … ab alto. The straightforwardly paratactic follow-up comitesque voco repetoque carinam again imparts a sense of Acoetes’ authority over the crew and his firm control of events — a perfect set-up for the anarchic disruptions that follow as Acoetes’ crewmembers decide to take matters into their own hands — a recipe for disaster, as readers familiar with the Odyssey will recognize. For the poetic synecdoche carina, see 592–94 n.

45 605–07. Ovid, with what appears to be mock scrupulousness, will end up naming about a dozen of the 20-man crew. In strict narrative terms there is no need for the nomenclatural profusion — no crewmembers are named in the Homeric Hymn — but epic likes catalogues and similar effects, and Ovid evidently could not resist the temptation here (see esp. 617–20 and n.). There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the drawn-out enumeration, and John Henderson is surely right to see it as ‘typical Ovidian bait for academics with the Oxford Classical Dictionary to hand, and the rest of us can enjoy imagining the quest to “authenticate” this profusion of smallest fry. Here is an epic trait that this epic means to send up. Obsessively’.

46In these lines we are introduced to Opheltes, who is represented as the ringleader throughout — whence primus sociorum. The designation socii (‘companions’) for these characters creates a suggestive parallel with Odysseus and his companions (ἑταῖροι) — not least since Homer instantly qualifies Odysseus’ companions as fools (νήπιοι) who lost their lives because of their foolish conduct vis-à-vis the gods (Od. 1.6–9 ‘Yet even so Odysseus could not save his companions, even though he greatly desired to, for through their own blind folly they perished — fools, who consumed the cattle of Helios’). At the end of his tale, Acoetes, like Odysseus, will be the last man standing. Only more so: Acoetes will be the last man (the only crewmember not transformed into a dolphin) standing (the only crewmember still possessing legs).

47The word order is somewhat jumbled, starting with Opheltes’pronouncement adsumus en: the interjection would normally precede the verb (as famously with the declaration of the goddess Isis at Apul. Met. 11.4 en adsum tuis commota, Luci, precibus); the inversion here is metri gratia. The-que after ut links the two main verbs of the sentence, i.e. inquit and ducit. Note that ut putat (‘as he believes’) glosses praedam: Acoetes signals at once that his comrades have badly misjudged the situation. To modern sensibilities, the conduct of the crew in abducting a seemingly defenceless youth and regarding him as ‘booty’ seems loathsome; in antiquity, such activity was quite widespread (as the opening pages of Herodotus’Histories attest; cf. also Hom. Od. 14.297, 15.427 and, for a Roman example, Plut. Caes. 2), as well as extremely lucrative: the kidnapping victim could be sold on the slave-market or (if from a wealthy family) ransomed. Notice that Acoetes does not criticize the abduction as such; it is rather the choice of victim that he finds fault with. In a poetic universe in which the gods (still) mingle with humans, if it looks too easy… well, suffice it to say that right now, Acoetes has his very own ‘prize beauty’ well and truly hooked.

48The circumstances of Bacchus’ capture are surprising: he was wandering about in a deserted field (deserto … in agro) when the sailors abducted him; in the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus he is said to be wandering on the shore (Hymn. Hom. 7.2). virginea… forma is an ablative of description, qualifying puerum. Barchiesi (2007, 227) points out that the attribute virginea (‘referring to a girl of marriageable age’) introduces an element of gender-ambiguity into the portrayal that is absent from the Hymn, where the god appears ‘in the likeness of a youth in first manhood’ (νεηνίῃ ἀνδρὶ ἐοικὼς | πρωθήβῃ, Hymn. Hom. 7.3–4), but chimes well with the decidedly androgynous Dionysus of Euripides’ Bacchae. Indeed, one might add that virginea… forma looks very much like a Latin gloss on θηλύμορφος (‘woman shaped’), used of Dionysus/Bacchus at Eur. Bacch. 353. ‘Acoetes’ thus casts Bacchus in Euripidean terms that resonate powerfully with the frame-narrative in the Metamorphoses, while feeding Pentheus’ prejudices — almost a captatio benevolentiae.

49In terms of versification, notice that an adjective and its corresponding noun (virginea forma) ‘frame’ verse 607, which is designed symmetrically around a central verb in a quasi-‘golden’ arrangement. The attractive forma of the verse reflects that of the boy it describes.

50 608–09 ille … sequi. The pronoun ille designates the as yet unidentified Bacchus, with mero somnoque gravis standing in apposition. The weight metaphors with wine and sleep (iness) are longstanding, in Greek (e.g. Hom. Od. 3.139 οἴνῳ βεβαρηότες) as well as Latin. Elsewhere in the poem Ovid has somno gravis (1.224) and vino gravis (10.438); the combination of the two here (mero being equivalent to vino) suggests (the appearance of) an advanced state of inebriation. The -que after vix links titubare and sequi; both infinitives depend on videtur. The first infinitive, implying a loss of motor control, prepares the second (vixque sequi: he seems ‘to follow with difficulty’). In the Homeric Hymn account, the sailors attempt to put the god in chains (Hymn. Hom. 7.13–15); in Acoetes’ account, by contrast, Bacchus is evidently too drunk for the sailors to bother with physical restraints. But of course videtur here and veluti at 630 imply that the god is merely feigning a state of inebriation, making this a case of divine testing of mortal goodness, whereby wicked behaviour is induced in order to be punished promptly thereafter. We call that entrapment, but it’s hard to mount an affirmative defence when you’ve been transformed into a dolphin.

51 609–10 specto … videbam. Once again (cf. 572–73 n.) we have a change of tense in mid-sentence, this time from vivid present (videtur, specto) to the more reflective imperfect (videbam). Acoetes discerns three aspects of the stranger that manifest a more than human nature: the elegance or refinement of his overall physical appearance (cultum is perhaps best taken as a reference to the stranger’s body, i.e. cultus corporis, rather than the adornment of his attire), his countenance (faciem), and his gait (gradum). The individual elements of the *tricolon add up to an impressive whole, which is further enhanced by the absence of attributes: it is left to the audience to visualize the appearance of, say, a (perfectly elegant and beautiful) body, a (translucent) face, and a (divine) gait — even though the last attribute sits oddly with the earlier description of the youth staggering along (titubare) in a drunken stupor.

52Verse 610 constitutes a relative clause of characteristic (AG §535), with nil the antecedent of quod; the overall statement is similar in form to Cic. Fam. 9.16.3 nihil video quod timeam (‘I see nothing to fear’). ibi, an adverb of place (‘there’) refers to the stranger, or more specifically his cultus, facies, and gradus. These, along with the voice, are ‘standard’ epic ways of spotting a deity in disguise: cf. Virg. Aen. 5.647–49, identifying vultus vocisque sonus vel gressus eunti as divini signa decoris. The use of a passive form of credo (here credi, pres. pass. infinitive) suggests the common-sense validity of Acoetes’observations, thereby underscoring the obtuseness of Opheltes and the rest of the crew, evidently blinded by greed — as blind as Pentheus, at this moment, who can’t see that he is right in this story, facing a sight that shouldn’t look like ‘anything mortal’ (610).

53 611–12. The simple paratactic statement et sensi et dixi conveys the rapidity of Acoetes’reaction: ‘I no sooner felt than said…’ The interrogative adjective quod (modifying numen) begins an indirect question (hence the subjunctive sit) dependent on dubito (here: ‘I am uncertain’). Acoetes drives his point home with a *chiasmus (numen corpore corpore numen). The anastrophe corpore… in isto in the second half ensures that numen resides within ‘that body’ also on the formal level. Acoetes does not know which divine power dwells in the youth, but, unlike his comrades, he is dead sure that one does. The anonymous protagonist of the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus is similarly sure of the stranger’s divine nature, but uncertain of the precise identity of the god before him, speculating that he might be Zeus, Apollo, or Poseidon (Hymn. Hom. 7.19–20).

54 613–14 quisquis … veniam. Acoetes now addresses the stranger, whose divinity he has recognized, in prayer. As Bömer (1969, 598) points out, the all-encompassing quisquis es (‘whoever you are’) both accords with Roman practice — such precautionary language avoids a misrecognition that might offend the deity in question (cf. e.g. Virg. Aen. 4.576–77 sequimur te, sancte deorum, | quisquis es) — and suits the narrative situation. The interjection o (for which see 540–42 n.) creates an elevated tone, appropriate for an address to a god. The-que after nostris links faveas and adsis, which are instances of the ‘polite’ 2nd pers. sing. subjunctive, sometimes referred to as the ‘precative’ subjunctive because typical of prayer-language (cf. e.g. Virg. Aen. 4.578 adsis o placidusque iuves): Acoetes prays for the divinity’s benevolent disposition and help. nostris… laboribus, which has an epic ring — labores are what heroes such as Hercules undertake — should probably be understood in reference to Acoetes alone, since the immediately following his quoque refers to the case of his crew as a separate matter, with veniam acknowledging a transgression on their part. Come on Pentheus, take the hint.

55 614–16 pro nobis … relabi. Ovid now introduces a second member of the crew, Dictys. The name is Greek (Δίκτυς), and found of various figures in myth, including a centaur appearing much later in the Metamorphoses (12.327), and a fisherman who caught in his nets the babe set adrift in the box, i.e. Perseus. Ovid is surely indulging in (false) etymological play with δίκτῠον/ diktyon ‘fishing net’. mitte precari is a poetic form of prohibition, much like parce + infinitive (the prose equivalent would be noli + infinitive). Here simplex mittere stands for omittere (cf. Hor. Epod. 13.7 cetera mitte loqui); on the use of simplex for compound verb forms, see 570–71 n.

56For good measure, if somewhat inconsequentially, Acoetes specifies the skill at which the blasphemous Dictys excelled, thereby individuating his role on the vessel. Put simply, Dictys’ allotted task while at sea is taking care of the rigging of the sail yard, for which he would need to be agile at scampering up the mast, making the required adjustment, and then sliding back down again. The ship will prove to be the ‘net’ that catches the crew, including this expert ‘Netski’ who knows all the ropes. Then, there’ll be no more of these acrobatics… (664).

57The combination quo non alius + comparative adjective is a convenient hexametric formula found earlier in Virgil (G. 4.372–73 Eridanus, quo non alius violentior amnis) that continues to find favour with post-classical writers (including the Renaissance humanist Desiderius Erasmus). In this formula, the antecedent of the relative pronoun quo (ablative of comparison with the comparative adjective) is the immediately preceding name (here Dictys). Note that conscendere and relabi are epexegetical (explanatory) infinitives dependent upon ocior. Such dependence of infinitives upon adjectives is largely confined to poetry in Ovid’s day, a syntactic form found in early Latin that was displaced in prose by gerundive constructions. It is widespread in Augustan poetry, and its preservation is at least partly attributable to Greek influence. antemnas refers to the ‘yard’, or long crossbeam at the top of the mast from which the sail was hung. It usually consisted of two spars lashed together, whence the interchangeability of singular and plural forms (the sense here is singular). rudens can designate a rope of any kind; in a nautical context, it could refer to any of the ship’s tackle, including ropes attached to the yard. The sense of prenso rudente relabi is ‘in sliding down again (while) grasping a rope’; prenso rudente is an ablative absolute, here merely instrumental in force.

58 617–20. Acoetes now devotes four verses to listing, in a kind of minicatalogue, four members of the crew who voice approval of Dictys’scornful riposte — before wrapping up with the catch-all omnes alii. The main verb throughout is probat (though with the concluding subject omnes alii we need mentally to switch to plural probant). There is an interlacing pattern for the named sailors: for the first (Libys) and the third (Alcimedon) we get the name only; for the second (Melanthus) and the fourth (Epopeus), we also get physical characteristics and their sphere of nautical competence. Those whose role is not mentioned will be rowers (both the most common and the humblest occupation on an ancient ship). The fourfold *anaphora of hoc (throughout the accusative object of probat) works slightly differently: the third hoc goes with two of the named sailors (Alcimedon and Epopeus), the fourth with omnes alii. The catalogue effect, the intricate word order, the insistent anaphora, the concluding generalizing sententia — all contribute to the creation of a compelling picture of the many, spurred on by vocal ring-leaders, turning into a mob and overpowering a lone voice of reason (for the leitmotif one-versus-many in the set text, see 513–14 n.).

59 617–18 hoc Libys … Alcimedon. The pronoun hoc refers to Dictys’ brief utterance at 614. The name Libys (Λίβυς) means ‘Libyan’, which ought to raise an eyebrow or two. The Homeric Hymn to Dionysus, to which Acoetes’ inset narrative broadly conforms (see Intro. §5a), bluntly declares the company to be ‘Tyrrhenian [i. e. Etruscan] pirates’ (ληισταὶ … Τυρσηνοί, Hymn. Hom. 7.7–8), thereby conforming to an ancient ethnographic stereotype that associated the Etruscans in particular with piracy (not that any one nationality held a monopoly on such activity!). Other than himself (583 with n.), Acoetes explicitly identifies Lycabas as Etruscan (624 with n.), so that the name Libys raises a scruple as to how far we should pursue the analogy of the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus. But we have already noted a penchant for geographical mystification in this episode (582–83 n.), and will soon see that speaking names have a tendency to misspeak.

60 flavus … Melanthus appears to entail a bilingual witticism: the Latin epithet (equivalent to Greek ξανθός), here speaking to blond hair, illsuits the Greek name Melanthus (Μέλανθος, ‘the Black one’). The poet may also have had in mind a nominal/zoological connection to Melantho, daughter of Deucalion, who is mentioned later by Ovid as seduced by Neptune in the form of a dolphin (the very species into which Melanthus will soon be transformed): sensit delphina Melantho (Met. 6.120). In any event prorae tutela stands in apposition to Melanthus, designating him as the ‘lookout’ or bow officer (proreta, Greek πρῳράτης), stationed on the small foredeck of the ship, whose job was to be on the lookout for hazards and sound the depths — both crucial for a vessel sailing among the islands and reefs of the Aegean — as well as to report changes in wind direction. Notice that tutela is an instance of abstract for concrete (540–42 n.), with the abstracted quality (‘guardianship’) standing for the concrete form — in this case tutor (‘guardian’) vel sim.

61 618–19 hoc probat … Epopeus. The Greek name Alcimedon is compounded from ἀλκή (alkê), meaning ‘strength, might, power’ and μέδων (medôn) meaning ‘lord, ruler’. It is the name of several characters in Greek mythology, and affords an ironic epic ring to this inconsequential figure, probably a lowly rower on Acoetes’nondescript vessel.

62In contrast to Alcimedon, about whom we are given no explicit information, Epopeus’ role on the vessel is fleshed out via the relative clause qui requiemque modumque | voce dabat remis, which precedes its antecedent Epopeus. The clause identifies him as the boatswain, that is, the officer who gives time to the rowers, to ensure synchronized rowing strokes. This could be done by a musical instrument or a small hammer called a portisiculus, or simply by the sound of the boatswain’s voice — as the ablative voce indicates here. requiemque modumque (‘rest and rhythm’; for the correlating –que … -que, see 521–23 n.) neatly expresses the cadence Epopeus’voice imparts: requies corresponding to the retraction of the oar above the water, and modus to the ‘measured stroke’ of the submerged oar-blade that propels the vessel. Note that Epopeus is said to give (dabat) time to the oars (remis) rather than the rowers, but the former stand for the latter by an easy metonymy. After the descriptive relative clause, animorum hortator, which stands in apposition to Epopeus, provides a technical specification: the boatswain was called κελευστής (keleustês) by the Greeks and pausarius or hortator by the Romans. Note that the objective genitive animorum activates the verbal root of the technical term — cf. Plaut. Merc. 4.2.5 solet hortator remiges hortarier (‘the boatswain is accustomed to urge on the rowers’) — as well as creating a more lofty epic expression.

63The name Epopeus is again Greek (ἐπωπεύς — note that the o, corresponding to ω, is long), meaning something like ‘watcher’. It is somewhat incongruous for a boatswain — one would expect a figure so named to be the lookout (cognate ἐπωπή actually means ‘look-out place, observation post’) rather than Melanthus, whereas the name Alcimedon seems more suited to a hortator animorum. Ovid seems playfully to be developing verbal incongruities — speaking names that misspeak, as it were — as he enumerates members of the crew. All is not as it sounds; improper names abound: ‘Pentheus’ works (see Intro. §5b-ii) in the frame narrative, but does anything in Acoetes’ inset tale — ‘Acoetes’ included?

64 620 praedae… est. The objective genitive praedae depends on cupido, with tam caeca a predicative complement. Blindness, both literal and metaphorical, is a prominent theme of the Pentheus-episode from the outset (515–16, 516–18, 525 with nn.) and, more generally, of Ovid’s Theban narrative, complementing the focus on sight, vision, and the gaze. The phrasing here harks back to an earlier Theban episode: at 3.225, right after listing many of the names of the hounds of Actaeon (who had just been transformed into a stag), Ovid says that ea turba (‘this pack’) pursues its metamorphosed master cupidine praedae (‘in lust for prey’): they desire to tear him to pieces. A frenzied crowd eager to commit outrage is a recurring motif of Ovid’s Theban History; in Acoetes’tale, though, the apparent victim(s) will ultimately emerge unscathed.

65 621–22. The adversative particle tamen and the prepositionally ‘strengthened’ main verb (perpetior = per + patior), here rendered even more forceful by enjambment and scansion (a choriamb followed by a strong trithemimeral *caesura), underscore Acoetes’ determined opposition to the crew’s scheme. A prohibitive tone is also imparted by the staccato effect of the rapid-fire alliteration on p (pondere pinum perpetiar… pars).

66 non… perpetiar (‘I will not suffer’, i.e. ‘I will not permit’) introduces an indirect statement with pinum as subject accusative and violari as infinitive (the regular construction: OLD s.v. 2; cf. AG §563c). The implication of violari is that the (coerced) presence of the god would render the ship religiously impure — and Acoetes will have none of it. Note that hanc agrees with pinum (trees are almost invariably feminine nouns in Latin, just as rivers are almost exclusively masculine). pinus, the pine-tree, can stand metonymically for objects made out of pine-wood (cf. 532 aera, 586 calamo with nn.); since that material was much used in shipbuilding, pinus is a common poetic term for ‘ship’ (cf. 592–94 n.). sacro … pondere refers to the captured youth, whom Acoetes has correctly identified as a god. Note the use of an adjective (here a transferred epithet: it is not the weight that is ‘holy’, but the deity) instead of an attributive genitive (e.g. pondere dei). Great weight was a traditional attribute of gods that frequently features in epic; so, for instance, when Juno visits the underworld in Book 4 the threshold groans under her weight (4.449–50 sacro… a corpore pressum | ingemuit limen, ‘the threshold groaned beneath [the weight of] her sacred body’).

67 pars maxima takes the partitive genitive iuris; supply the verb est with mihi (dative of possession). Note that hic is not the pronoun, but the adverb (with long vowel) meaning ‘here’ — i.e. on the ship. Hence: ‘the greatest part of authority here belongs to me’. Acoetes invokes his superior rank as helmsman or captain of the ship — an office that afforded him broad authority for averting dangers to the vessel and its crew.

68 623–28. The situation escalates to physical confrontation, when, with the crew evidently about to bring Bacchus on board, Acoetes follows up his verbal rebuke by attempting to block access to the ship — in this context aditu (‘entrance’) would be the ‘gangplank’. Acoetes is promptly and violently cast aside by Lycabas, a particularly felonious member of the crew. The juxtaposition in 623 of the verbs obsisto and furit, representing the two antagonists, separated by a strong penthemimeral caesura neatly enacts on the level of verse the initial confrontation. In addition, the consecutive elisions in inque aditu obsisto may be meant to evoke Acoetes’ unsuccessful attempt to block access to the vessel. After a two-verse elaboration on Lycabas’ murderous past, Acoetes proceeds to recount the physical assault he suffered at his hands. The language and verse design are highly dramatic: we get the brutal verb rupit in enjambment (627); and in the conditional sequence, the apodosis (excussum misisset in aequora) comes first, summoning up the shocking picture of the helmsman hurled overboard, before the negated protasis (si non = nisi; the two monosyllables at the end of the verse are a sign of unsettled discourse and set up the enjambment of haesissem).

69John Henderson observes that the attempt of Acoetes, champion of righteousness, to quell mob violence ‘must insinuate a bogus parallel with Pentheus’ attempted stand to stop the stampede into perceived fanaticism. Throughout, the stock metaphor analogizing ship to state underpins the story’s function as parable, captain to king. Just like the Odyssey, like the “Odyssean Aeneid”’. What we get in Ovid’s ‘Thebaid’, in other words, is the shipwreck of state.

70 623–25 furit … luebat. Acoetes ominously supplements the main clause (furit Lycabas) in two ways. First, the appositional phrase audacissimus omni | de numero foregrounds Lycabas’ particular notoriety within Acoetes’ miscreant crew (the partitive use of the preposition de after the superlative is an unusual construction, highlighted by enjambment, which puts the emphasis on omni). More sinister still is the relative clause documenting Lycabas’ homicidal past: the initial Tusca pulsus ab urbe speaks to Lycabas’ banishment (OLD s.v. pello 4) while affirming his Etruscan origins (a nod to the Homeric Hymn: cf. 617–18 n.); this is fleshed out by exilium … poenam … luebat, which amounts to ‘was suffering exile as punishment’ (exilium is best taken in apposition to poenam); finally, dira … pro caede explains what prompted the banishment: Lycabas committed some manner of homicide. All this, as Anderson (1997, 400) points out, is reminiscent of Virgil’s villain Mezentius, a vicious Etruscan exile and murderer.

71Exile is a recurring theme and motif in the Metamorphoses: from Io in the first book to Pythagoras in the last, the epic repeatedly features the travails of protagonists banished from their homeland (in the context of Ovid’s Theban narrative, of course, it should be recalled that Cadmus founded Thebes as a Phoenician exile). In most cases the exiles are innocent victims suffering unjustly; Lycabas is a rare instance in which the banishment was merited. Exile was a common punishment in the ancient world for various forms of homicide, though premeditated murder was not usually included among them, so we should perhaps imagine Lycabas ‘flying off the handle’ in the earlier offence, just as he does here — and with nearly the same result.

72 626–27 is … rupit. The high-stakes showdown between the two adversaries is nicely developed by the initial juxtaposition of pronouns and the verb resto (‘hold one’ s ground’, OLD s.v. 2; for the combination with dum, cf. Prop. 3.8.31 dum restat barbarus Hector). But the thuggish Lycabas dispatches Acoetes without breaking a sweat. The precise sense of guttural … rupit is difficult to pin down. Ovid has the expression again at Met. 15.464, where it means ‘throttle to death’, a sense clearly inadmissible here. Bömer (1969, 601–02) suggests taking rupit as counterfactual, with indicative used in lieu of subjunctive (rupit ~ rupisset); but excussum and amens would stand awkwardly without a preceding factual (i.e. indicative) report of a forceful blow sustained by Acoetes, e.g., ‘dealt (me) a crushing blow to the throat’ (Henderson 1979, 107) or, more colloquially, ‘smashed (me) in the throat’ (Anderson 1997, 401). Note that guttura is poetic plural, which, like pectora in 631, provides a convenient dactyl in the fifth foot. iuvenali pugno is ablative of instrument; iuvenalis is best understood in a derived sense as speaking to physical power; cf. Met. 10.674 (of Hippomenes) iecit… nitidum iuvenaliter aurum.

73 627–28 et excussum… retentus. A past contrary-to-fact condition (whence the pluperfect subjunctives) with the apodosis (misisset) coming before the negated protasis (si non = nisi). Lycabas would have sent Acoetes tumbling into the water, had the latter not managed to cling to the ropes (sc. of the ship’s tackle). The mildly tautological participle excussum (from excutio) modifies an implied me, the object of misisset: ‘he would have sent me, having been knocked off (sc. the gangplank), into the sea…’ The sense of quamvis amens is probably ‘though stunned by the blow’. The implication of in fune retentus is that Acoetes, after being sent flying by his adversary, manages to grab hold of a rope or more likely he gets ‘caught in the ropes’.

74 629 inpia … factum. Earlier the crowd expressed its approval (probat, 618) at the blasphemous words of Dictys, here they approve the phyal outrage committed by Lycabas: we move from dicta to facta, from words to deeds.

75 629–31 tum denique… sensus. The sprawling main clause tum denique Bacchus… ait (extending through 632) sets up the direct speech at 632–33. Bacchus enim fuerat is a parenthetical gloss on the part of the internal narrator Acoetes. Bömer suggests that pluperfect fuerat is here used in lieu of the imperfect erat, but Henderson (1979, 107) rightly insists on the point of the pluperfect here: ‘for it had been Bacchus all along’ (our italics). The stranger, now positively identified as Bacchus, acts as if the noise of the brawl is returning him to his senses. veluti (= velut + si, ‘as if’) introduces a so-called ‘clause of comparison’ (AG §524), which normally takes present and/or perfect subjunctive verbs — as here with solutus sit and redeant (linked by the-que attached to the preposition a/ ab). Notice that the clause of comparison expresses an interpretation of Bacchus’ behaviour: Acoetes, maintaining his guise of pious devotee, modestly refrains from claiming to know for a fact what the god was up to, but, as earlier with videtur (608 with n.), his language implies the suspicion that Bacchus’ inebriation is feigned (see also OLD s.v. veluti 5, for use in the context of pretence). The subject of redeant is the long-delayed sensus (nom. pl.): Bacchus’senses seem to return a mero (‘from drunkenness’, by metonymy) in pectora (translate ‘to him’: in ancient thought the breast was regarded as the seat of reason and of the feelings). As with guttura in 626, pectora is a stock ‘poetic’ plural that conveniently supplies the requisite dactyl in the fifth foot of the verse.

76So ‘it had been Bacchus all along’ … and probably is right now, talking! It’s déjà bu all over again: Bacchus is the wine (mero), he is frenzied yelling (clamore), he is release (solutus). Time to come to our senses.

77 632–33 quid… paratis? Bacchus stays ‘in character’, playing to perfection the part of a bewildered youth awakening from a drunken stupor to find himself in unfamiliar surroundings. Befuddlement is conveyed through four rapid-fire questions, each introduced by a different interrogative pronoun, adjective, or adverb: quid …? quis …? qua ope? quo …? In the midst of this sequence of queries the parenthetical command dicite, nautae (in which the vocative reinforces the imperative) heightens the sense of urgency, as deeds and noise (factum… facitis; clamore… clamor) prompt their correlative, words (dictis). The question quis clamor? is equivalent to qui clamor est?; for the interrogative quis, see 531–32 n. The noise in question is the crews’ shouts of approval for the violence visited on Acoetes by Lycabas (629). qua… ope amounts to ‘by what means’ — a common sense.

78 634–35 pone … petita. There is some uncertainty here about the individual speaking: most modern editions capitalize Proreus, taking it as a proper name. The alternative would be to understand proreus as an occupational designation, rendering the Greek technical term πρῳρεύς, used of a ship’s ‘lookout’ or bow officer (i.e. synonymous with πρῳράτης, discussed at 617–18 n.; this is the view of OLD s.v. proreus). Understood this way, proreus would amount to a second mention of Melanthus, who featured earlier at 617 (see 617–18 n.). But it seems more in keeping with what proceeds to take Proreus as a proper name individuating a new member of the crew via a ‘speaking name’ that misspeaks, by referring to a different figure’s nautical role (cf. 618–19 n.). At any rate, this figure endeavours to conceal the crew’s malicious intentions from Bacchus, assuring him that he will be dropped off wherever he wishes. In this tricksy story, the dunces think to trick the master who holds all the tricks.

79 et links the two imperatives pone and ede. The former is a simplex poetic form for depone (570–71 n.): pone metum/ metus is a frequent command in epic (elsewhere in Met. at 1.735, 5.256, 15.658). The latter (‘tell us’) governs the indirect question quos contingere portus velis (cf. 580–81 n.). In the closing reassurance sistêre is an alternative form of sistêris, i.e. 2nd pers. sing. fut. indic. pass. of sisto (this form occurred earlier at 522 spargêre) in the sense ‘put ashore’. terra… petita is ablative of place.

80 636–37 Naxon … tellus. For Liber as a designation of Bacchus, see 520 n. The god continues to play along, instructing the crew to direct its course to Naxos (cursus… vestros is ‘poetic’ plural). Note the Greek accusative form Naxon (559–61 n.), here an accusative of direction without a preposition (as we are dealing with a relatively small island: AG §427). Naxos is one of the Cycladic islands, celebrated in antiquity for its vineyards; it was as such sacred to Bacchus (cf. Stat. Ach. 1.678 Bacchica Naxos), and a key centre of his cult. In terms of mythology, it was the island where he rescued Ariadne after her abandonment by Theseus, and, according to some sources, it was Bacchus’ birthplace (Hymn. Hom. 1.2). The strong associations of the god with the island afford his statement illa mihi domus an underlying appropriateness.

81 638–39 per mare … carinae. The-que attached to me links iurant and iubent. It is probably best to construe the adjective fallaces, referring to Acoetes’ crew members, substantivally here (‘the liars’) rather than predicatively (‘they swear, lying’). The miscreants swear per mare and, with dramatic irony, per omnia numina, unwittingly invoking their addressee, that they will do his bidding. iurant introduces the indirect statement sic fore (= sic futurum esse), which is missing a subject accusative (supply id). iubent governs an accusative (me) + infinitive (dare), as often. With vela dare supply ventis as indirect object (Ovid has the full expression at Met. 1.132 vela dabant ventis), with pictae … carinae a genitive of possession: i.e. ‘give the sails of the painted ship to the winds’. For the poetic synecdoche carina, see 592–94 n. pictus is a stock epithet for ships (Ovid has it again at Met. 6.511), usually referring to the encaustic paint that was applied during the waterproofing stage of a vessel’s construction (for details see Zissos 2008.152). Notice the power inversion achieved through the mutiny: the crew is now issuing orders to the helmsman. Just like Thebes? Not in Pentheus’ Thebes — if he had anything to do with it.

82 640–43 dextera Naxos … susurro. An amusing mime is acted out on board, as the crew endeavours to indicate to Acoetes that he is to steer the opposite course from that just promised to Bacchus, without tipping off the latter. Acoetes, meanwhile, seeks to fulfil Bacchus’ wish and ignore the wicked plot hatched by his crew. The use of the present tense throughout these verses adds to the ‘dramatic’ effect.

Additional Information: In Tarrant’s Oxford Classical Text of the Metamorphoses, these lines look very different: ‘Dextera Naxos erat; dextra mihi lintea danti | ‘quid facis, o demens? quis te furor’ inquit Opheltes | ‘persequitur?’ retinens ‘laevam pete!’ maxima nutu | pars mihi significat, pars quid uelit aure susurrat. (Naxos was on the right; as I was trying to give sail to the right, Opheltes held me back and said: ‘what are you doing, madman? What frenzy addles your brain? Go to the left!’The greater part signals with nods, the rest whisper into my ear what they want.).

83 640–42 dextera Naxos … pete. Notice that dextera is an adjective (nom. f. sing.), the predicative complement of Naxos, whereas the syncopated form dextra in the following sentence is a noun (‘the right hand side’). The unsettled word order of the second sentence reflects the agitation of the crewmembers, who evidently assume that Acoetes is slow on the uptake rather than still daring to resist their plan. To construe the Latin, it might be helpful mentally to reorder as follows: dextra mihi lintea danti pro se quisque dixit: ‘quid facis, o demens? quis te furor, Acoete, tenet? laevam pete! The pronoun mihi serves as the indirect object of inquit in the following verse; agreeing with it is the participle danti, which takes lintea (a stock metonymy for vela) as its object; dextra is ablative of place (a regular usage without a preposition), here qualifying the participial phrase. An English rendering might be something like: ‘As I was setting sail to the right…’ Acoetes explicates his action in rational terms: Naxos was on the right: ergo he tried to sail to starboard. The formula pro se quisque (literally ‘each for himself’) often has the weakened sense ‘everyone’, as here. The verb of speaking, inquit, introduces the pair of rhetorical questions and the abrupt command with which the crew members assail Acoetes. For the interjection o before a vocative address, see 540–42 n. Their imputations of insanity (demens, furor) are of course, freighted with irony; quis… furor recalls Pentheus’ query to his fellow-citizens at 531, thereby reinforcing the analogy between his imperception and that of Acoetes’ crew. The command laevam pete, literally ‘seek the left’, means of course ‘steer to the left’ (cf. 597–99 n.).

84 642–43 maxima nutu … susurro. Like pars… alii, the combination pars … pars is a standard formula of distribution, meaning ‘some… others’. Here the distribution is made asymmetrical by the adjective maxima modifying the first pars: in effect, we have a pars maior and a pars minor. Each group is assigned its own verb and ablative of means, while quid velit, an indirect question (AG §573–75; hence the subjunctive velit) is the shared (*apo koinou) object of both verbs.

Additional Information: Although the manuscript reading ore creates a neat balance of ablative complements (nutu… ore), it is otherwise somewhat lacking in point, and many editors prefer the variant aure (a poetic shortening of in aure; in prose we would expect in aurem).

85 644–45 obstipui … removi. The -que after capiat (in the original Latin, the quotation marks would of course have been absent) connects obstipui and dixi. The -que after me connects dixi and removi. To construe the initial sentence, reorder as follows: obstipui et dixi: ‘aliquis moderamina capiat’. The indefinite pronoun aliquis (‘someone’) here has the emphatic implication ‘someone else’ — i.e. ‘someone other than me’. Having already suffered physical assault, Acoetes now opts for passive resistance. capiat is a hortatory subjunctive (AG §439); its object moderamina (‘poetic’ plural) is probably used concretely here of the rudder (as again at 15.756), much as regimen was earlier (593 with n.). In English we would say ‘take the helm’.

86 me is the accusative object of removi, with ministerio an ablative of separation (AG §401). For the correlating -que…-que, coordinating the two genitive attributes of ministerio, see 521–23 n.; this pair of genitives produces a mildly zeugmatic and hendiadic effect: ‘(I removed myself) from service of their crime and the exercise of my skill (sc. as helmsman)’ — that is, from helping them in their crime with my skill. The versification reflects Acoetes’brisk, punctilious response: lines 644 and 645 are almost entirely dactylic, with just a single spondee in the fourth foot of the second verse.

87 646 increpor … agmen. The -que after totum links increpor and inmurmurat. Notice that this verse constitutes a so-called ‘theme-and-variation’, with the second clause essentially reformulating the first (cf. 515 with n.): increpor is synonymous with inmurmurat, a cunctis with totum… agmen. This is a device of emphasis; in addition, the switch from Acoetes as passive subject to the crew as active subject subtly prepares for the emergence of a ringleader from the group, who takes charge of matters with Caesarean vigour and decisiveness.

88 647–48 e quibus … ait. The relative pronoun is ‘connecting’: e quibus is equivalent to ex iis, and depends on unus understood. As with the previous instances, the name Aethalion is Greek; αἰθαλίων (aithaliôn) means ‘burning, blazing’. His utterance is dripping with sarcasm, rendered explicit by the particle scilicet and underscored by the hyperbaton of te… in uno (giving mocking prominence to the 2nd person pronoun) and of omnis … nostra salus (giving mocking prominence to the hyperbolic omnis).

89 648–49 et subit … relicta. The -que after meum links subit and explet; the-que after Naxo links explet and petit. The sense of subit is ‘succeeds me, takes my place’ (cf. Met. 1.114 subiit argentea proles, of the silver race succeeding the gold); explet can be rendered ‘performs’. Naxo relicta is an ablative absolute (the Greek proper noun Naxos is f., as is the rule for islands). As earlier at 642, petit has the sense ‘direct one’ s course’; diversa, its object, can be understood as modifying an implied loca, or as neuter adjective used as a noun, in which case it could be rendered in English with an adverbial clause: ‘in the opposite direction’.

90 650–52 tum deus … similis. The primary verb for this sequence is ait in 653. In the elaborate build-up, the circumstantial participle inludens governs a clause of comparison (AG §524) introduced by the comparative particle tamquam (‘as if’), which takes a subjunctive verb (senserit); the sense of modo denique is ‘only then’ (i.e. ‘then for the first time’). Here puppe is meant literally rather than synecdochically: Bacchus is standing at the stern. The epithet adunca arises from the fact that on the ancient ship the keel was raised up at the stern (just as it was at the front; cf. Met. 1.298 curvae carinae).

91The dative participle flenti (from fleo) is dependent on similis: as he proceeds to address the crew, Bacchus is ‘akin to someone crying’. It was generally held by the ancients that the gods were incapable of crying; but of course Bacchus is acting here. Indeed, the god, who was the divine patron of the theatre, does that patronage proud by continuing persuasively to play the part of the defenceless youth, on whom the criminal intent of the crew is only now beginning to dawn. Notice the pronounced alliteration on p in 651.

92 653–55 tum… unum. Bacchus’ brief speech is direct, with repetition and ‘doubling’ used to powerful rhetorical effect (1a: non haec mihi litora… promisistis — 1b: non haec mihi terra rogata est; 2a: quo merui poenam facto? — 2b: quae gloria vestra est…?; 3a: si puerum iuvenes [sc. fallitis ] — 3b: si multi fallitis unum).

93The first mihi (652) is the indirect object of promisistis; the second mihi is dative of agent (‘by me’) with perfect passive rogata est (AG §375). In Bacchus’ first query, quo is an interrogative adjective modifying facto, forming a causal ablative (‘on account of what deed…?’). In the second, quae is an interrogative adjective, modifying gloria, with vestra in predicative position (‘what glory is yours if…?’). Bacchus emphasizes the shamefulness of the crew members’exploit by means of subjectobject pairs, arranged *chiastically, that underscore their superiority in age (iuvenes … puerum) and number (multi … unum).

Additional Information: The differentiation between the Latin terms puer and iuvenis is starker than it might appear to modern readers (thanks in no small part to modern cognates like ‘juvenile’). Roman thought generally divided a man’s life into four stages (ranges are approximate): infantia (0–2 years), pueritia (3–16), iuventus (17–45), senectus (46 +). Hence the age range of the iuvenis (someone in the stage of iuventus) extends into what we would classify as ‘middle-age’, and we should imagine Acoetes’crewmembers surpassing the apparent age of their captive by a considerable margin.

94 656–57 iamdudum … remis. Whereas Bacchus only simulates weeping (flenti similis), the pious Acoetes has long since dissolved into genuine tears of despair (for the tense of flebam, see AG §277b); notice the appropriate metrical articulation of Acoetes’sobbing: all of the syllables in iamdudum flebam scan long. True to type, the crew, ominously characterized as a manus inpia (‘blasphemous band’), makes fun of his tears (nostras is ‘poetic’ plural, hence: ‘my’). The sense of impellit is ‘strikes’ or perhaps ‘sets in motion’, speaking to the ‘shovelling’ of the sea by the oars (properantibus … remis).

95 658–60 per … fide. The inset tale has reached its pivotal moment, with Bacchus about to cast off the victim’s role to exact miraculous metamorphic punishment on the crew (for the formal requirement that every episode of the poem include a metamorphosis, see Intro. §3b). Acoetes portentously introduces this new narrative phase with an affirmation of veracity in the form of an oath sworn by the avenging god himself, delivered to his internal audience (tibi is addressed to Pentheus), but naturally aimed at the reader as well. Challenges to the reader to overcome (steep) thresholds of disbelief in the face of the marvellous are a key feature of the Metamorphoses, an epic poem that insists on making prima facie incredible forms of (divinely induced) transformative change part of the record of universal history. Anticipation of incredulity on the part of the audience is one of the strategies by which Ovid tries, tongue-in-cheek, to endow his narrative with credibility.

96The separation of the preposition from the noun it governs is a peculiarity of Latin poetry. Within this broad phenomenon, the separation of per from its case (here ipsum, with which understand deum) is particularly frequent in adjurations: Bömer (1969, 608) provides a list of parallels. In the parenthetical aside, illo, referring to Bacchus, is ablative of comparison after praesentior. In supernatural contexts, praesens has a quasi-technical sense, speaking to a deity making its power manifest (cf. OLD s.v. 3); hence the implication would be ‘no god is more powerful than he’. But for those recognizing Bacchus in Acoetes, this declaration can be taken literally: ‘no god is more present than he’, an arch double-entendre that clearly — and fatally — sails over Pentheus’ head.

97Acoetes insists on the truth of the marvel he is about to recount in a decidedly counterintuitive fashion. The indirect statement tam me tibi vera referre | quam veri maiora fide is dependent on adiuro; the subject accusative is me, the infinitive referre. The latter takes two accusative objects, vera and maiora (both are n. pl. adjectives used substantivally), which are coordinated by tam… quam. Finally, fide is ablative of comparison after maiora, and veri an objective genitive dependent on fide. Taken altogether, we have ‘I swear that the things I tell you are just as (tam) true as (quam) they are greater than belief in the truth’, i.e. beyond belief.

98 660–61 stetit … teneret. The miraculous developments begin with the ship (for the synecdoche puppis, see 596 n.) suddenly standing still (stetit) on the open sea as if it were resting in dry dock (siccum navale). This eerie prelude appears to be Ovid’s invention (cf. Hymn. Hom. 7.32–34). The imperfect subjunctive teneret is the usual form for this kind of conditional (or ‘hypothetical’) comparison; the general rule is that quasi and tamquam are followed by the present and perfect subjunctive, while quam si (as well as ut si, etc.) is followed by the imperfect and pluperfect subjunctive, as here (cf. Met. 15.331 haud aliter titubat quam si mera vina bibisset, ‘he staggered as if he had drunk unmixed wine’). Since Latin idiom has the vessel ‘holding’ dry dock rather than the reverse, the subject of the clause remains puppis, with siccum navale the accusative object.

99 662–63 illi admirantes… temptant. Acoetes now describes the unavailing efforts of the astonished crew (admirantes is a circumstantial participle) to restore the ship’s motion. This report takes the form of a *tricolon, structured around the verbs perstant — deducunt — temptant. The-que after vela links perstant and deducunt, the-que after gemina links deducunt and temptant. The first colon captures the attempt at rowing; the second the unfurling of the sails; the third sums up the first two: they try to overcome the eerie standstill through this twofold effort (gemina ope).

100Persisting in a given activity is regularly expressed by perstare in + abl. (OLD s.v. 3), as here with remorum in verbere perstant. Here, though, the sense is ‘persist in the attempt at rowing’, since Acoetes promptly reveals that the oars are held fast by ivy (664). The metaphoric use of verber, verberare etc. in reference to rowing strokes, figured as a kind of ‘lashing’ of the sea, is quite common in Latin poetry (Görler 1999, 273); Ovid uses the same conceit of swimming strokes at Her. 18 dare verbera ponto. In addition to rowing, the crew makes an equally futile attempt to harness the winds: vela deducunt speaks to the unfurling (or letting down) of the main sail, which was tied to the yard (the horizontal beam attached to the top of the mast). That this measure is supplementary to the rowing is underscored by gemina ope (‘with double aid’, i.e. with the aid of both oars and sail). Acoetes sets the crew’s double effort in relief because it was not normal ancient seafaring practice simultaneously to resort to both means of propulsion. The application of currere to the progress of a ship through water is a standard poeticism (OLD s.v. 3a), attested as early as Naevius but enjoying particular currency in the Augustan and later periods. It belongs to a set of nautical metaphors systematized by Virgil, including ‘flying’, used of rapid sailing (on which see further Zissos 2008, 226–27).

101 664–65 inpediunt … corymbis. Bacchus’power is now made manifest through a miraculous botanical metamorphosis, the onset of fastspreading ivy (a plant associated with the god: see 540–42, 555–56 nn.). Here Ovid has simplified the account of the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus, which begins with a miraculous geyser of wine (Hymn. Hom. 7.35–37), and then features a combined incursion of ivy and vines: ‘All at once a vine spread out in both directions along the top of the sail, with many clusters hanging down from it, and a dark ivy-plant twined about the mast, blossoming with flowers, and with rich berries growing on it’ (αὐτίκα δ᾽ ἀκρότατον παρὰ ἱστίον ἐξετανύσθη | ἄμπελος ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα, κατεκρημνῶντο δὲ πολλοὶ | βότρυες: ἀμφ᾽ ἱστὸν δὲ μέλας εἱλίσσετο κισσός, | ἄνθεσι τηλεθάων, χαρίεις δ᾽ ἐπὶ καρπὸς ὀρώρει, Hymn. Hom. 7.39–42).

102Notice that hederae is the subject of all three verbs, whose sequence produces a *tricolon structure (the-que after nexu linking inpediunt and serpunt). The rapidly spreading ivy ‘obstructs’ (impediunt) the oars — without, it would seem, growing out of them, as we find in other accounts (e.g. Sen. Oed. 452–56, quoted below). In the second colon, the enjambment of serpunt neatly reflects what is being described: the ivy is crawling all over the place; the instrumental ablative nexu recurvo speaks to the ‘intertwined formation’ of the ivy. In the final colon, the sense of distinguunt vela corymbis is ‘deck the sails with clusters of ivy berries’ (for distinguo in this sense, cf. Hor. Carm. 2.5.11 distinguet Autumnus racemos purpureo varius colore). The Greek loanword corymbus (κόρυμβος) designates a cluster of ivy-berries. The basic meaning of gravidus is ‘pregnant’ and then, metaphorically, ‘laden, swollen, teeming with’, ‘rich, abundant’.

Additional Information: Writing in the later Neronian Age, Seneca offers a ramped-up version of this scene: hinc verno platanus folio viret | et Phoebo laurus carum nemus; | garrula per ramos avis obstrepit. | vivaces hederas ramus tenet, | summa ligat vitis carchesia (‘so there were plane trees green with spring foliage, and laurels whose groves are dear to Phoebus; birds chattered among the branches, the oars were covered with vigorous ivy, grapevines twined at the mastheads’, Oed. 452–56). His twofold elaboration of the initial miracles — ivy on the oars and a vine at the top of the mast — makes for an attractive botanical ‘division of labour’. Notice that vivaces hederas remus tenet is a neat variation on Ovid’s inpediunt hederae remos, which emphasizes the metamorphic without insisting on the sudden immobility of the vessel (a detail also absent from the Homeric Hymn).

103 666–67 ipse racemiferis… hastam. As the epiphany continues, the god himself — ipse refers to Bacchus — acquires a couple of his familiar accessories: a garland and the thyrsus. The elaborate formulation can be stripped down to a simple core: ipse (subject) agitat (verb) hastam (object). The participle circumdatus agrees with ipse and governs frontem, which is a synecdochical or ‘Greek’ accusative used to denote the part affected (AG §397b, so named as a construction thought to have entered Latin in imitation of Greek practice), and the instrumental ablative racemiferis… uvis. The latter defies literal translation: a racemus is a cluster of grapes (or other fruits); the compound adjective racemifer (from racemus + fer; for such epithets in-fer and-ger, see 584–85 n.) means ‘bearing clusters (of grapes)’. Its application to the noun uva is decidedly odd; perhaps translate ‘(with) clustering grapes’.

104As already indicated, hastam does not designate a real spear but rather the thyrsus (on which see 540–42 n.), a metaphoric usage found earlier in Virgil (Ecl. 5.31; Aen. 7.396) and later in Statius (Theb. 9.796; Ach. 1.261). The participle velatam, agreeing with hastam, governs pampineis… frondibus, another instrumental ablative: ‘… a spear veiled in vine-leaves’ is an attractive indirect formulation for the thyrsus. The trope is freighted with foreboding for Pentheus, as his mother Agave will begin the murderous onslaught on her son by hurling her thyrsus at him as if it were a spear (712 with n.). But here as elsewhere, Acoetes’imperious interlocutor misses the point.

105 668–69 quem circa … pantherarum. The god’s bestial entourage is now added to the epiphany; Ovid opts for more theologically ‘appropriate’ — if less concrete — species than the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus, which states that the god metamorphosed into a lion and a bear materialized at his side (Hymn. Hom. 7.45–46). The creatures in question here — tigers, lynxes, panthers — became associated with Bacchus (and were added to his train) as a result of a body of legends attributing the conquest of India to the god (on which see Intro. §5b-iii n. 76; although Ovid does not develop this alternate, ‘martial’ version of the god, these oblique allusions could be yet another hint that Bacchus isn’t the pushover Pentheus has assumed: cf. 553–58 with nn.). The lynx in particular came to be seen as the Bacchic animal par excellence. In a retrospective section of the ‘Hymn to Bacchus’ with which he opens Book 4, Ovid mentions a chariot drawn by lynxes as one of the divinity’s preferred means of transportation, right after his punishment of the Etruscan sailors: Tyrrhenaque mittis in aequor | corpora, tu biiugum pictis insignia frenis | colla premis lyncum (‘you send the Tyrrhenian bodies into the sea, you press the necks of lynxes yoked in pairs with multicoloured reins’, Met. 4.23–25).

106The verb iacent has three subjects — tigres, simulacra, corpora — linked, respectively, by the-que after simulacra and pictarum. The pronoun quem is a so-called connecting relative, equivalent to et eum. It occupies emphatic initial position (of both verse and clause) by virtue of the *anastrophe of its preposition circa.

107Whereas tigres are mentioned without qualification, the expression simulacra… inania lyncum raises the possibility that all these creatures are apparitions — which would not be inappropriate to Bacchus, as a god of illusion. A simulacrum is an image formed in the likeness of something else. Depending on the context this could be a work of art (such as a portrait or statue), a mirror-image, something seen in a dream (shade, phantom) or in one’s imagination, or, when the emphasis is the opposition to what is real or substantial, something flimsy or insubstantial (shadow, semblance, appearance). The attribute inania (‘empty’) reinforces the sense that the lynxes in question are mere apparitions. But one might justly wonder about focalisation: did the lynxes appear as simulacra inania to Acoetes at the time? Or is it Acoetes the narrator who retrospectively clarifies that what at the time seemed to him (as surely to the sailors) to be real lynxes were in fact phantom beasts. The sense of pictarum is ‘spotted’.

108Verse 669 exhibits some noteworthy stylistic features, starting with the attractive ‘enclosing’ arrangement of the alliterative epithet-noun pair pictarum… pantherarum. In addition, the four long syllables of pantherarum occupying the last two feet of the hexameter, produce something of a metrical monstrosity, turning verse 669 into a so-called spondaic verse (i.e. one in which the 5th foot consists of a spondee rather than the expected dactyl).

109 670–72 exsiluere … flecti. In construing exsiluere (an alternate 3rd pers. pl. perf. form) the prefix should be afforded its full force: the men jump out of the vessel, i.e. overboard. After this dramatic declaration, Acoetes momentarily suspends the action to speculate on its motivation, entertaining two possibilities (sive… sive): a fit of insanity or fear. This of course reminds us that Acoetes is (posing as) a non-omniscient narrator. On the metaliterary level, this equivocation could also be marking Ovid’s departure from the tradition of the Homeric Hymn, in which the creatures that appear are only too real, and it is the lion’s apparent assault on the helmsman — Acoetes’counterpart! — that prompts the fearful crew to jump overboard (Hymn. Hom. 7.51–52).

110The -que after primus links exsiluere and coepit, which governs the two infinitives nigrescere and flecti (linked by et). primus is an adjective, agreeing with Medon (a Greek nominative form), used in lieu of an adverb: he is the first to exhibit symptoms of the metamorphosis subjected upon the entire crew; corpore is a somewhat otiose ablative of respect with nigrescere. The sense of expresso spinae curvamine (ablative absolute) is ‘with the curve of his spine arching outwards’ — an initial manifestation of his metamorphosis into a dolphin. Strictly speaking, this curve is not an anatomical feature of the species, but is dramatically in evidence when dolphins leap out of the water, and this captivating sight prompted many ancient artists and poets to conceive of — or at least represent — the dolphin as hog-backed: cf. Ovid’s earlier reference to curvi delphines (Met. 2.265, which appears to be the inspiration for Christopher Marlowe’s ‘crooked dolphin’ at Hero and Leander 2.234).

111 673–75 incipit … trahebat. The text may well be corrupt here: see Additional Information below. If retained as transmitted, it will be necessary to supply dicere with incipit: ‘he begins to speak’. This is an easy *ellipse in English as well as Latin, but here it sits very oddly with dixit at the end of the verse. huic refers to Medon, Lycabas’ addressee. The sense of in quae miracula is ‘into what strange shape…?’rictus (nom. m. pl.) and naris (nom. f. sing.) are both subjects of erat (which is singular in correspondence with the nearer of the pair); they take lati and panda respectively as predicative complements. loquenti is a circumstantial present participle, agreeing with an implied demonstrative pronoun in the dative of possession. Taken together, we have ‘as he was speaking his mouth became broad and his nose curved’. The sense of squamam… trahebat is ‘took on scales, became scaly’ (squamam is a collective singular). Here again — cf. 670–72 n. — we reach the limits of the poet’s zoological competence: dolphins are mammals and, unlike fish, do not have scales. Ovid is evidently not speaking from personal observation. The compact combination of perfect participle (durata) + ‘ingressive’ imperfect (trahebat) neatly expresses a two-fold process: the skin hardens and then takes on scales. In describing metamorphoses Ovid regularly uses the verbs traho (OLD s.v. 13, ‘take on, acquire (properties, attributes, etc.)’), as here: cf. Met. 1.412 saxa… faciem traxere virorum (‘the stones took on the form of men’). Another stock verb of transformation is duco, which is used in much the same way (cf. Met. 1.163 ducere formam, ‘take shape’).

Additional Information: The juxtaposition of two main verbs in different tenses without any connectives in 673 (incipit — dixit) is difficult to parallel and make sense of. It may well be that the transmitted text is corrupt and some editors have put forward conjectures (as well as proposing alternative punctuation). Here is the text as printed by Tarrant in his Oxford Classical Texts edition: exsiluere viri, sive hoc insania fecit | sive timor, primusque Medon nigrescere toto | corpore et expresso spinae curvamine flecti | incipit; huic Lycabas ‘in quae miracula’ dixit | ‘verteris?’ et lati rictus et panda loquenti | naris erat, squamamque cutis durata trahebat (670–75). The differences are underlined: (i) toto, in lieu of the manuscript reading coepit, at the end of line 671 is a conjecture of Shackleton Bailey adopted by Tarrant; (ii) this conjecture entails changes in punctuation: Tarrant has no full stop after flecti, but puts a colon after incipit, with no punctuation after Lycabas. The conjecture and re-punctuation results in syntactical differences: (i) the-que after primus links exsiluere (670) and incipit (673), rather than exsiluere (670) and coepit (671); (ii) incipit governs the preceding infinitives nigrescere and flecti rather than being used in an absolute, elliptical sense (‘he begins to speak’).

112 676–78 at Libys … vocari. The conjunction at does not have its usual adversative force here, merely signalling a transition to the next victim of transformation, Libys, who featured earlier at 617. The main verb vidit governs an indirect statement that falls into two parts, linked by et and arranged chiastically: resilire (verb) — manus (subject accusative) and illas (subject accusative) — posse posse (verb), with vocari a supplementary infinitive dependent on (both instances of) posse. This sequence is focalized through the metamorphic victim: Libys witnesses as he experiences the transformation of his own hands into fins. As Henderson (1979, 111) observes, ‘Ovid gets inside the mind of Libys, whose rapidly changing definition of his own extremities is subtly brought out by the asyndetic *anaphora iam (non) … iam …’ Notice how the line break helps to capture the eerie moment in which Libys’extremities have ceased to be recognizable as hands and have become recognizable as fins.

113The verb of the dum-clause is vult, which takes obvertere as supplementary infinitive. Libys wishes to ply (obvertere) the oars (i.e. turn them against the water), but they are resisting the attempt (obstantes), i.e. they are immovable. The sense of in spatium resilire… breve (literally ‘to jump back into a small space’) is ‘to contract’ or ‘to shrink’. The use of pinna in the sense ‘fin’ (OLD s.v. 3) though not attested before Ovid in extant Latin literature, would appear to have been the regular term in both poetry and prose; cf. Plin. NH 9.7 pinnarum… quae pedum vice sunt datae piscibus (‘fins… which are given to fish in place of feet’).

114 679–82 alter … lunae. Acoetes subtly generalizes the metamorphic phenomenon by describing the experience of an unnamed victim (alter). The first main clause is alter bracchia non habuit, with the present participle cupiens (which agrees with the subject alter) governing an infinitive construction that specifies what this individual wished to do with the arms he no longer has. The verb of the second main clause is desiluit, which is linked to non habuit by the -que after trunco. Ovid here underscores the quick sequence of events by interweaving description of the transformation (trunco repandus… corpore) with portrayal of the behaviour it entails: in undas… desiluit, across a line break, which enacts his jumping down from the ship into the waters.

115 intortos (‘twisted’) is a conventional attribute of ropes and cables, speaking to the braiding of individual strands during the manufacturing process (cf. Cat. 64.235 intorti… rudentes; Virg. Aen. 4.575 tortos… funis). The sense of dare bracchia is tendere bracchia: this fellow wishes to reach out towards the braided ropes (ad intortos… funes) — to what end is not altogether clear; perhaps to trim the sail or to perform some other nautical task. Trunco … corpore (speaking to the metamorphic loss of limbs) is ablative of respect with repandus (‘curved backward’). novissima cauda denotes the extremity (or tip) of the tail; novus can bear a spatial as well as a temporal implication. qualia introduces a comparison; it agrees with cornua, the subject of the sentence, on which the genitive dimiduae … lunae (‘half-moon’) depends: ‘just as the horns of the crescent moon are bent’.

Fig. 7 Nautical terms

116 683–86 undique … efflant. These four verses constitute an extended paratactic sequence describing the newly formed dolphins — the subject is implied by the plural verb forms — frolicking in the sea. There are fully seven verbs, all in the vivid present: dant, rorant, emergunt, redeunt, ludunt, iactant, efflant. The initial five are linked by -que (after multa, emergunt, redeunt, in, and lasciva), the last two by et (this switch nicely ‘closes out’ the sequence). The sportive dolphins are in many ways the polar opposite of the vicious and depraved humans from whom they have been transformed. Ovid provides no indication that they have retained any vestige of their former human consciousness (as is explicitly affirmed in many of the transformations recounted in the Metamorphoses).

117For the expression dant saltus (note that saltus is acc. pl.), see 597–99 n. The sense of multa … aspergine rorant is ‘they shed moisture in a great spray’. The phrase captures the initial moment when a dolphin emerges above the surface of the sea in order to breathe, as a preliminary to which it vigorously ‘chuffs’ or exhales in order to clear its blowhole and the area around it of water. Acoetes well captures the repetitive character of the dolphins’ disappearance beneath the water (redeuntque) and reappearance above it (emerguntque) through the adverbs iterum and rursus (the latter technically redundant after redeunt) — a dynamic in fact dictated by the need to breathe. Here aequora retains its primary connotation of the surface of the sea (L-S s.v.): Acoetes observes (and reports) from a vantage point above sea level. The expression in chori … speciem constitutes a very brief comparison: the dolphins’activity resembles that of a band of dancers. The Greek loanword chorus (χορός) refers to the performance of group dancing (usually with musical accompaniment). The use of in speciem + genitive with the sense ‘in the guise of/giving the impression of’ is widespread in Classical Latin (OLD s.v. species, 6b). A certain intricacy of expression is achieved by the separation of the preposition from its case (on which see 658–60 n.). The sense of iactant corpora is that the dolphins ‘throw their own bodies about’in a playful manner (speaking to their leaping above the water); Ovid here uses an adjective (lasciva) in lieu of an adverb (lasciviter). Though a frisky and highly intelligent species, the dolphin’s apparently playful activity is in this instance dictated by its need to breathe, as mentioned above. The statement acceptum patulis mare naribus efflant returns to the action of ‘chuffing’ briefly treated in 683 (as discussed above). mare is an instance of whole for part (a less common form of synecdoche), designating the seawater taken in (acceptum) while the dolphins are submerged; it is the accusative object of efflant: they blow it out again through a gaping nose (patulis… naribus). The ‘gaping nose’ is an anatomically imprecise reference to the dolphin’s blowhole (which, as a result of evolution, has migrated from its snout to the top of its head, facilitating breathing when partly submerged).

118 687–91. In the closing section of his account, Acoetes returns to his own situation: as the sole survivor, he is in a state of holy horror, almost beside himself — but is promptly reassured by the now benevolent divinity, whose follower he thereupon becomes.

119 687–88 de modo … solus. The preposition de governs the indeclinable numeral viginti and has partitive force; modo is a temporal adverb here meaning ‘just a moment ago’: taken together we have ‘out of twenty who were there just a moment ago…’. Of the various poetic synonyms for ‘ship’ (592–94 n.), ratis is perhaps the least grandiose: it originally designated a raft (cf. Varr. Ling. 7.23), but from Enn. Ann. 515 Sk onwards serves as a poetic term for a sea-going ship (OLD s.v. 2), as here. Overall, the parenthesis glosses viginti: with tot supply viros as the accusative object of ferebat. Acoetes is once again being a stickler for precision. Twenty might be on the high side for such a vessel; Hyg. Fab. 134 reports a total crew of twelve. In any event, the contrasting numerical specifications (de) viginti solus neatly frame the sentence. The import of restabam solus is ‘I alone remained in unaltered form’and/or ‘I alone remained onboard’ — an effective encapsulation of Bacchus’transformative intervention.

120 688–90 pavidum … Dianque tene. The subject of the sentence is the long-delayed and climactic deus; the verb is firmat. What precedes is a long and complex accusative object: the adjective pavidum and present participle trementem (linked by the -que after gelido) agree with an implied me: ‘the god reassures me, fearful and trembling as I am…’. gelido… corpore vixque meo is an ablative of description, with the noun corpore modified by two attributes (gelido and vix meo) linked by the-que after vix: ‘with my body chilled and hardly my own’. Acoetes is obviously scared out of his wits — and almost out of his body as well: the phrasing here is poignant given what has just happened to the sailors and their bodies.

121Bacchus proceeds to give two orders (linked by-que after Dian), in chiastic sequence: imperative (excute) — accusative object (metum) ‹› accusative object (Dian) — imperative (tene). corde is ablative of separation. Dian tene is short for cursum tene ad Dian, i.e. make for the island of Naxos (of which Dia is an old designation). Sol uses this abbreviated imperative in advising his son Phaethon at 2.140 inter utrumque tene (‘steer a course between the two [sc. constellations]’). Notice that Dian is a Greek accusative form (the Latin equivalent, found in some manuscripts and retained in some modern editions, is Diam).

Additional Information: In his Oxford Classical Text, Tarrant prints pavidum gelidumque trementem | corpore vixque meum. On this reading, pavidum, gelidum, and (vix) meum (linked by the two-que after gelidum and vix) are the complements to the implied me. They are further qualified by the ablative of description trementi corpore, which stands *apo koinou with all three: ‘The god reassures me, fearful, chilled, and hardly myself as I was, with my body trembling all over’. (We added ‘all over’ to bring out the extra formal stress on this phrase achieved by the enjambment.)

122 690–91 delatus … frequento. A curious feature of the closing statement of the inset narrative is the abrupt switch in subject (from Bacchus to Acoetes) and in voice (from active to passive). Indeed, in the wake of Bacchus’ command to Acoetes to head for Naxos, it is natural to assume that the god continues to be the subject and it is only after accessi (1st pers. sing. perf. act.) that one grasps that delatus in illam (‘having been brought to Naxos’; illam refers back to Dian) is in reference to Acoetes and involves an abrogation of agency. It is tempting to see this odd effect as a further conflation of Bacchus and Acoetes, and a final clue to Acoetes’ true identity (see Intro. §5b-iv).

123The -que after Bacchea links accessi and frequento. The switch from perfect (accessi) to present (frequento) distinguishes between a singular moment in the past when Acoetes first joined in the rites and his continuing participation, i.e. accessi sacris: ‘I joined the rites’; frequento: ‘I (still) attend’. The repetition of sacra frequentare indicates that Acoetes has at last managed to answer the question Pentheus posed at the end of his speech at 581 morisque novi cur sacra frequentes?

Additional Information. Some editors have suspected a corruption in the transmitted text on the grounds that accedere sacris is an unusual idiom and the repetition sacris… sacra has struck some readers as a trifle clumsy. Hence some editions have substituted the conjecture accensis aris for accedere sacris. Alternatively, one could interpret the *polyptoton as indicative of Acoetes’devotion to the cult as well as a subtle pun on frequento, which implies repetition, thus rendering the reiteration of sacra thematically appropriate.

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