Nisos and Skylla (page 258)

Chapter 7: The Royal House of Athens

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♠ Vergil, Ciris

Tossed though I am, this way and that, by love of renown, and knowing full well that the fickle throng’s rewards are vain; though the Atticgarden, breathing forth sweet fragrance, enwraps me in fine-flowering Wisdom’s verdant shade, so that my mind is fain to go in quest of a song worthy thereof, prepared though she is for far different tasks and far different toils — she has looked aloft to the stars of the mighty firmament, and has dared to climb the hill that has found favour with few — yet I will not cease to fulfil the task I have begun, wherein I pray that my Muses may find their due repose, and lightly lay aside that seductive love.
But if, O Messalla, thou a task so wondrous in kind — wondrous indeed, if only thy fancy favour it — if Wisdom, exalted partner of those four heirs of olden days, now planted me on her topmost citadel, whence, o’er the world far and wide, I could look down upon the errors of men, and despise their lowly cares, thee I should not be honouring, great as thou art, with gift so slight — no verily, albeit at times we may be pleased to trifle, and to round a slender verse with smooth-running feet; but I should weave a story into an ample robe, if thus to speak be lawful, such as is borne in Erechthean Athens, what time due vows are paid to chaste Minerva, and the fifth-year feast slowly returns at the lustre’s close, when the gentle West-wind waxes strong against his rival of the East, and bears onward the car, heavy with its o’erhanging weight. Happy that day is called, happy that year, and happy are they who have looked upon such a year and such a day! Thus in due order are inwoven the battles of Pallas: the great robes are adorned with the trophies of Giants, and grim combats are depicted in blood-red scarlet. There is added he, who was hurled down by the golden spear — Typhon, who aforetime, when mounting into heaven on the rocks of Ossa, essayed to double the height of Olympus by piling thereon the Emathian mount.  Continue Reading  Latin Text  Latin Text and English Translation

Σ Lyk  650 – Scholia to Lykophron, Alexandra – Lykophronis Alexandra 2, p. 216, ed E. Scheer. Berlin 1908.

Greek Text

Fab 198 – Hyginus, Fabulae

Nisus, son of Mars, or as others say, of Deion, and king of the Megarians, is said to have had a purple lock of hair on his head. An oracle had told him that he would rule as long as he preserved that lock. When Minos, son of Jove, had come to attack him, Scylla, daughter of Nisus, fell in love with him at the instigation of Venus. To make him the victor, she cut the fatal lock from her sleeping father, and so Nisus was conquered by Minos. He said that holy Crete would not receive such a criminal. She threw herself into the sea to avoid pursuit [?]. Nisus, however, in pursuit of his daughter, was changed into a halliaetos, that is, a sea-eagle. Scylla, his daughter, was changed into a fish which they call the ciris, and today, if ever that bird sees the fish swimming, he dives into the water, seizes it, and rends it with his claws.  Latin Text

Fab 242 – Hyginus, Fabulae

Nisus, son of Mars, when he lost his fatal lock of hair, killed himself.  Latin Text

AA 1.331-32 – Ovid, Ars Amatoria

The Daughter (Scylla), having stolen the purple hair from Nisus, burdens the rabid dogs with her groin and loins. (transl. Aaron J. Ivey)  Latin Text

 Ecl 6.74-77 – Vergil, Eclogues

Wherefore speak
of Scylla, child of Nisus, who, ’tis said,
her fair white loins with barking monsters girt
vexed the Dulichian ships, and, in the deep
swift-eddying whirlpool, with her sea-dogs tore
the trembling mariners? Latin Text

Vergil, Ciris 54-91

Many great poets tell us, Messalla (for let us confess the truth: ’tis truth Polyhymnia loves) that she, with limbs changed to far different form,
haunted the rock of Scylla with her voracious bulk.  She it is, they say, of whom we read in the toils of Ulysses, how that, with howling monsters girt about her white waist, she often harried the Ithacan barques and in the swirling depths tore asunder with her sea-dogs the sailors she had clutched.  But neither do Homer’s pages suffer us to credit this tale nor does he who is the pernicious source  of those poets’ sundry mistakes. For various writers have commonly feigned various maidens as the Scyllas named by Colophon’s Homer. He him self says that Crataeis was her mother; but whether Crataeis or Echidna bare that two-formed monster ; or whether neither was her mother, and throughout the poem she but portrays the sin of lustfulness and love’s incontinence, or whether, transformed through scattered poisons, the luckless maiden (luckless, I say, for of what wrong had she been guilty ? Father Neptune himself had em braced the frightened maid on the lonely strand, and broken his conjugal vow to chaste Amphitrite) beheld awful shapes plant themselves about her: —how often, alas! did she marvel and grow pale at her strange limbs ! how often, alas ! did she turn in terror from her own baying ! but still long after wards she exacted penalty, for when the delight of his consort was riding upon the deep, she herself confounded the savage sea with much blood—or whether, as ’tis said, seeing that she excelled all women in beauty, and in avarice made wanton havoc of her eager lovers, she of a sudden became fenced about with fell fishes and dogs, for that she, a woman, dared to defraud the powers divine, and to withhold from Venus the vow-appointed price, even the payment which a base harlot, encompassed by a thronging crowd of youths, and stirred with a wild and savage spirit, had imposed upon her lovers— that by this report she was with reason defamed, Pachynus has learned and so bears witness, speaking by the lips of Venus, queen of Old Paphos:—what-soever and howsoever each has spoken of such disastrous state, ’tis all dreams: rather let the Ciris become known, and not a Scylla who was but one of many maidens.  Latin Text

Hesiod, Ehoiai (Catalogue of Women) fr 43a.70-91 MW – Fragmenta Hesiodea, pp. 27-31, ed. R. Merkelbach and M. L. West. Oxford 1967.

[70] [. . .] daughter of the son of Pandion [. . . wh]om Pallas Athena taught her works [. . . -]ing, for she had understanding equal to the goddesses, [from whose very bo]dy and silvery clothing [. . .] and a pleasant form blew away; [now, Sisypho]s son of Aiolos tested [her] plans, drivi[ng] off the cattle; [but] he did [not] know the mind of aegis-holding [Zeus at all]; he came [see]king the wom[an with gifts] by the will of Ath[ena; but against this] cloudgathering Zeu[s shook] his immortal head so that [. . .] [80] would not ever exist [. . .] of the son of Sisyphos.

     And she, mixi[ng] with Pose[idon in his] arms, [. . .] blameless Belle[rophontes] to Glaukos in [. . . .] outstanding in wor[th among hum]ans on the boundless e[arth. His fa]ther gave to him, even [. . .] Pegaso[s,] the swiftest [horse . . .] everywhere [. . .] with which [. . .] fire[-breathing Chimaira].

     And he married the [dear] dau[ghter of great-hearted Iobates,] the respected ki[ng . . .] chief [. . .] who bo[re . . .]   (Transl. Silvio Curtis)

See Early Greek Myth, Ch. 5 pp. 174-75

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Edited by Aaron J. Ivey, Graduate Teaching Assistant, Department of Classics, University of Georgia, March 2016; Dan Mills, Graduate Teaching Assistant, Department of Classics, University of Georgia, March 2017. Patrick Dix, Graduate Teaching Assistant, Department of Classics, University of Georgia, November 2017. Updated by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, March 2023

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