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Ovid XIII Chapter 5: 429-480 The deaths of Polydorus and Polyxena
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|There is a country opposite Phrygia, where Troy stood, that the Bistones inhabit: Polymestor's wealthy court was there, to whom Priam your father secretly sent you, Polydorus, to be reared away from the Phrygian war: a wise plan if he had not sent great riches with you, a reward for the criminal, a temptation to the greedy spirit. When Phrygia's fortunes waned, the impious king of Thrace took his sword and stabbed his young foster child in the throat, and threw the body from a cliff into the sea, as if murder could be eliminated with the corpse. Agamemnon had moored his fleet on a Thracian beach until the sea calmed, and the winds were kinder. Here, suddenly the ghost of Achilles appeared from a broad fissure in the earth, as large as he used to be in life. He appeared as on the day when, with threatening face, and sword in hand, he fiercely challenged Agamemnon's injustice. 'You depart, then, Achaeans, forgetting me, and gratitude for my courage is buried with me!' he cried, 'Do not let it be so! Let Polyxena be sacrificed, so that my tomb is not without its honours. Appease Achilles's shade!' He spoke, and, his countrymen obeyed the pitiless ghost. Now, she was torn from her mother's arms, and the girl, almost Hecuba's only comfort, ill-fated, but with more than a woman's courage, was led to the burial mound and became a victim of the dread grave. She remembered who she was, set before the brutal altar, knowing the savage rite was readied for her, and when she saw Neoptolemus standing, gripping his sword, his eyes gazing at her face, she said: 'Now, shed noble blood, nothing prevents you: but sheathe your sword in my throat or in my breast,' and she uncovered both her throat and her breast, 'Polyxena, for certain, has no desire to be slave to any man! No god will be appeased by such a rite as this! I only wish my death could be unknown to my mother: my mother weakens and lessens my joy in death, though it is not my dying but her living that is terrible. Now, move away, you, so that if my request is lawful, I may not be hindered in going to the Stygian shades: and take the hands of man from virgin flesh! My free blood will be more acceptable to him, whoever he is, whom you are trying to appease with my murder. If my last words still move any of you (the daughter of Priam asks it, not a prisoner) return my body to my mother without ransom: let her pay for the sad privilege of burying me, not with gold, but with tears! When she could, then she paid in gold as well' she spoke, and the crowd could not restrain its tears, that she restrained. Then the priest, also weeping, and against his will, driving his sword home, pierced the breast she offered up. Her knees gave way, and she sank to the ground, keeping her look of fearless courage to the end. Even then, as she fell, she was careful to hide the parts that should be hidden, and to protect the honour of her chaste modesty.||
in mediis Hecabe natorum inventa sepulcris: |
prensantem tumulos atque ossibus oscula dantem
Dulichiae traxere manus, tamen unius hausit
inque sinu cineres secum tulit Hectoris haustos;
Hectoris in tumulo canum de vertice crinem,
inferias inopes, crinem lacrimasque reliquit,
Est, ubi Troia fuit, Phrygiae contraria tellus
Bistoniis habitata viris: Polymestoris illic
regia dives erat, cui te commisit alendum
clam, Polydore, pater Phrygiisque removit ab armis,
consilium sapiens, sceleris nisi praemia magnas
adiecisset opes, animi inritamen avari.
ut cecidit fortuna Phrygum, capit inpius ensem
rex Thracum iuguloque sui demisit alumni
et, tamquam tolli cum corpore crimina possent,
exanimem scopulo subiectas misit in undas.
Litore Threicio classem religarat Atrides,
dum mare pacatum, dum ventus amicior esset:
hic subito, quantus, cum viveret, esse solebat,
exit humo late rupta similisque minanti
temporis illius vultum referebat Achilles,
quo ferus iniustum petiit Agamemnona ferro
'inmemores' que 'mei disceditis,' inquit 'Achivi,
obrutaque est mecum virtutis gratia nostrae!
ne facite! utque meum non sit sine honore sepulcrum,
placet Achilleos mactata Polyxena manes!'
dixit, et inmiti sociis parentibus umbrae,
rapta sinu matris, quam iam prope sola fovebat,
fortis et infelix et plus quam femina virgo
ducitur ad tumulum diroque fit hostia busto.
quae memor ipsa sui postquam crudelibus aris
admota est sensitque sibi fera sacra parari,
utque Neoptolemum stantem ferrumque tenentem;
inque suo vidit figentem lumina vultu,
'utere iamdudum generoso sanguine' dixit
'nulla mora est; at tu iugulo vel pectore telum
conde meo' iugulumque simul pectusque retexit.
'scilicet haud ulli servire Polyxena vellem.
haud per tale sacrum numen placabitis ullum!
mors tantum vellem matrem mea fallere posset:
mater obest minuitque necis mihi gaudia, quamvis
non mea mors illi, verum sua vita tremenda est.
vos modo, ne Stygios adeam non libera manes,
ite procul, si iusta peto, tactuque viriles
virgineo removete manus! acceptior illi,
quisquis is est, quem caede mea placare paratis,
liber erit sanguis. siquos tamen ultima nostri
verba movent oris (Priami vos filia regis,
non captiva rogat), genetrici corpus inemptum
reddite, neve auro redimat ius triste sepulcri,
sed lacrimis! tum, cum poterat, redimebat et auro.'
dixerat, at populus lacrimas, quas illa tenebat,
non tenet; ipse etiam flens invitusque sacerdos
praebita coniecto rupit praecordia ferro.
illa super terram defecto poplite labens
pertulit intrepidos ad fata novissima vultus;
tunc quoque cura fuit partes velare tegendas,
cum caderet, castique decus servare pudoris.