LUCAN BELLUM CIVILE III, 3,509-762
(The naval battle near Marseille)
published in: Vincent Hunink, Lucan's Bellum Civile Book III, a commentary; (Gieben) Amsterdam 1992
509-537 On both sides preparations are made for the naval battle.
Caesareans prepare for battle at sea, using unfinished vessels. The Roman
fleet is positioned near the Stoechades islands. On the Massilian side, young
and old are deployed on all available ships, even those already scrapped. On a
quiet, sunny morning both fleets start approaching each other. Among the
various ships the Romans use, the huge ship of their general Brutus is the
this short scene, the account of the naval battle (509-762) is introduced
after having been connected to the foregoing scenes on the siege. In its first
part (509-20), both sides equip and crew their ships. The second part (521-37) shows
how the fleets come closer, and provides some additional details on the
impressive Roman fleet.
Caes. Civ.1,56-8; 2,4-7; and D.C. 41,21; 41,25 we get the clear impression
that the Massilians took the initiative in both naval conflicts, had more
ships at their disposal, and were more experienced in nautical matters. As on
many other occasions, Lucan seems to have adapted the facts for his tale: he
plays down all Massilian resources and qualities except their courage and
determination, and suggests that the Caesareans not only started the fight,
but also possessed more, stronger and larger vessels; cf. also on 510.
the scene seems to be rather technical, several elements reflect epic
traditions. The sunrise is a common element to all epic poetry (cf. on 521).
Elements like the description of the `battlefield' and the ordering of the
troops belong to the sphere of battle scenes, whereas Lucan's interest in
ships and nautical affairs gives the scene a very special colour.
on military preparations at sea are rather exceptional in BC: cf. 4,417-47
(preparation of rafts by Caesareans near Salonae); further 169-297.
For military preparations in general, cf. the scenes adduced above on 375-398.
509 spes - abit:
`the defeated lost their hope of success on land', a concise but clear
expression, in which the poet gives a deliberate distortion of the facts, as
in the preceding lines; cf. on 498. First, as I have noted before, the siege
did not end with the beginning of the naval battle, but was continued during
and after the two historical naval battles; cf. e.g. on 509-762 (3). Second,
the initiative for the naval battle was probably not just a Roman initiative,
especially considering Massilia's famous nautical expertise, for which cf. RE
XIV,2,2146-9. Finally, although the Caesareans had faced temporary setbacks,
they could hardly be called victi
by now. Throughout the Massilia blocks in book 3, Lucan sides with the
Massilians, sacrificing truth to effect whenever necessary.
not to be taken together, as BOURGERY a.l. says and others seem to suggest. At
sea (profundo) the Caesareans try their fortunam maris. EHLERS
is the only one who clearly renders the nuance (`...vor der Küste ihr Glück
im Seekrieg zu versuchen'). For fortunam maris OUDENDORP compares
Justin. 2,11,19. Profundum and mare equally stand side by side
in 651-2, as HOUSMAN notes.
the Caesareans' ships have not been properly finished off and lack the usual
ornaments. From Caesar's own account we gain the impression that his ships
were made in great haste or improvised (Caes. Civ.1,36,4-5; 1,58,3; 2,5,1).
However, Lucan gives no such explanation, but merely conveys the image of
rough, massive structures which seem typical of a barbaric tribe rather than
of civilized Romans; see also below on 512 and 513. For the negation
antithesis non... sed... cf. on 49.
some translators think that these words refer to the tutela. This is
not impossible, since both the ship and the tutela could be made of
wood. But painting in bright colours was used especially for decorative
purposes on parts of a ship, as the bow; cf. CASSON 1971,211-2. Moreover, this
tutela is said to be fulgens, a word not suggestive of paint
(see below on tutela). Finally, it seems more natural to connect robore
picto with ornatas...carinas than with fulgens (which
would leave ornatas standing isolated). Considering these arguments,
the words are more likely to refer to the ships.
a statue of the ship's guardian divinity, an essential feature of every Roman
ship, placed on the stern; cf. 558; further e.g. Ov. Tr.1,10,1; Petr. 105,4;
108,13; Stat. Theb.10,186; Sil. 14,410. It could be gilded, as in Verg.
A.10,171 aurato fulgebat Apolline puppis or made of ivory, as in Sen.
Ep.76,13; cf. CASSON 1971,347wn13. This may explain Lucan's epithet fulgens.
The ending of the line is imitated in V.Fl. 1,301 fulgens tutela carina.
512 rudis - conseritur:
trees in their natural state are fastened together into something more
primitive than the raft built in 4,417-26. By their formlessness and lack of
decoration, these constructions recall the barbaric statues in the sacred
grove of the Gauls (412-7). The periphrasis qualis procumbit - arbor
seems based on Caesar's note that his ships were made from unseasoned wood (ex
umida materia Caes. Civ.1,58,3), but may also contain a distant echo of
the motif of felling trees, for which see on 440.
stabilis - bellis:
`a stable site for fighting at sea', a typical Lucanean paradox. By using the
raft-like constructions, the Caesareans are in fact continuing the land war at
sea, rather than starting a genuine naval battle. In a later stage this
stability will prove to be disadvantageous for the Romans; see on 553. For the
phrase cf. 6,60 area belli;
Ov. Fast.5,707 apta area pugnae; for the dativus finalis dependant on a
substantive OBERMEIER 1886,43-4;
further LHS II,99.
514 et iam - classis:
a Roman fleet comes down the Rhône. From Caes. Civ.1,36,4-5 we know that
Caesar had ordered the construction of 12 warships at Arles. They were
completed in no more than 30 days. According to RAMBAUD 1976,857 the fleet had
been built between April 29th and May 30th of the year 49 B.C., and arrived
near the Stoechades (see below) on June 2nd or 3rd.
`bearing a tower', said of a ship, as in 4,226; Sil. 14,500; cf. also Verg.
A.8,693. Towers on ships are attested to already in the Hellenistic
period; cf. Plb. 16,3,12. They were used on low lying warships to provide
height for missile launching machines. Often they were painted in distinctive
colours, so as to facilitate strategic operations; cf. further CASSON
1971,122; VIERECK 1975,26; REDDÉ 1986,95-8. In the present text, the mention
of the tower reinforces the link established in 513 between the naval battle
and the preceding siege; cf. also Plin. Nat.32,1; for towers in the siege see
D. Iunius Brutus Albinus, Caesar's general who was left in command of the
fleet; cf. RE Sup.V,369,30ff; and see also on 761. In book 3, he is the only
general who is mentioned by name. He does not occur in Roman poetry apart from
to be taken with the subject classis, which is postponed until the end
of the following line, perhaps to convey the image of the slowness of the
a periphrasis for the Stoechades, a group of islands commonly identified as
the `Iles d'Hyères', east of Toulon. However, the use of the name has been
extended to all islands dependant on Massilia; cf. e.g. CLEBERT 1970,117;
DIRKZWAGER 1975,76-80; RIVET 1988,223-4. Lucan's unusual singular Stoechas
might point to one specific island,
but it seems more likely that Stoechados arva is a rather vague
designation of place, especially since the poet has fused the two battles
fought at different locations, and uses the poetical phrase arva tenere,
for which cf. Verg. A.2,209; 6,477; 6,744; 10,741; see further the use of tenere
above in 182. Used slightly paradoxically in connection with ships, arva
tenere reflects Lucan's special interest in the border between land and
sea; cf. on 60.
the combination also occurs in 7,56 and 10,486. For nec non see further
Schmidt on 10,133; LHS II,778-9.
for the ending cf. 355.
517 suum fatis - robur:
Lucan presents the Massilians' preparations as a desperate attempt to resist
brutal force with courage and determination. In fact, Massilia with its long
seafaring tradition was better equipped for a naval war than Caesar, who had
to improvise some ships almost on the spot. For Massilia's resources in this
sphere, cf. Caes. Civ.1,56; 2,4. Cf. also on 509.
grandaevos - ephebis:
old men and youths belong to the groups traditionally not taking part in
combat, but significantly they are armed here. This effectively turns Lucan's
battle into a life-and-death struggle,
of which the outcome is already certain at the start.
is a solemn, poetical word, also used in 7,371; further e.g. Verg. G.4,392;
Aen.1,121. With senes it is used in Sen. Ag.378; Oed.838; Sil. 4,29;
Tac. Hist.3,33. On the other hand, ephebus, a Graecism for puer
or iuvenis, occurs only rarely in poetry after the early Republican
period. Before Lucan cf. only Catul. 63,63; Hor. Ep.2,1,171; Ov. Ars 1,147;
Sen. Her.F.853. In BC it is also used in 6,562.
a second element emphasizing the life-and-death struggle of the Massilians:
they patch up scrapped ships taken from their dockyards. This is confirmed by
Caes. Civ.2,4,1, who additionally mentions the use of fishing boats. Emeritus
is often used of things, cf. e.g. Ov. Fast.1,665; Plin. Nat.17,206; Mart.
10,85,5 (of a ship). With navalibus we must think de, e
or a, as in Verg. A.4,593. For navalia cf. on 182; for alnus
521 ut matutinos...:
the second part of the scene 509-37 opens with a poetical description of
sunrise, a traditional element in epic poetry. This case (like e.g. 7,1-6)
clearly shows how its function has shifted from merely denoting time to
creating atmosphere and tension in preparation for events to come. Cf.
already Verg. A.3,521; 588-9; 4,6-7; 4,584-5 a.o.; cf. REEKER 1971,77n177; for
sunrise in combination with winds subsiding see Verg. A.7,25-8. Lucan may
also have been influenced by A. Pers.386-98. His picture is powerful: though
the rays of the sun are said to be refracted on the surface of the water
(cf. KÖNIG 1957,182-3, comparing the light effect in Verg. A.8,22-5), there
is no mention of colour;
and though the sea and the air are calm, there is no peace and harmony. Nature
is full of grim, silent tension, a calm before the storm perhaps comparable to
5,424-55. On sunrise and sundown in epic see BARDON 1946; further on 40 pronus
in undas; in addition see HÜBNER 1976.
as KÖNIG 1957,183wn1 notices, the word is often used with lumine and
an object in the accusative in Vergil's sunrises ; e.g. A.4,584; 9,459;
12,113. Here, more dynamically, the light itself has become the object.
more than `sea' as DUFF renders it. Considering the following description
the word has retained its original sense of `level surface' here: the sea is
pictured as calm and flat.
for the ending cf. 68 cessantibus Austris; for Auster see on 1.
servatum bello iacuit:
`lay calm and ready for warfare' (HASKINS). The tension is elevated by the
ominous calm at sea. The motif will be used again at great length in 5,424-55,
where Caesar's ships can no longer sail because of a complete calm.
servare in the present sense cf. also LUNDQVIST 1907,161; OLD s.v. 8. Iacere
is used of water as in 5,434 and 443; (cf. 4,119 and 311); further e.g. Ov.
Met.11,747; Man. 1,249; Sen. Ag.449; Tro.199; Nat. 2,6,4; V.Fl. 3,732; Juv.
12,62. The MSS PUV read iacuit bello instead of bello iacuit,
which is the commonly accepted word order.
to be taken with statione. Most translators neglect the word, except
EHLERS and CANALI.
on both sides the rowing starts. Though warships were equipped with sails,
these were not used during the fighting; cf. CASSON 1971,235‑6. For lacerti
referring to rowing cf. Verg. A.5,141 adductis spumant freta versa lacertis;
Sil. 14,358. Par can be used to describe opponents in a battle or
contest; cf. OLD s.v.11‑12.
in a nautical context, the direct object of impellere can be a ship
(e.g. Caes. Civ.3,40,2; Verg. A.5,120; Sil. 1,568); or the sea itself (e.g.
Verg. G.1,254; Ov. Met.3,657) or even remos (cf. Verg. A.4,594); see
SAINT-DENIS 1935b,70. For the trembling of the ship the scholiasts already
compare Verg. A.5,198; cf. further V.Fl. 2,77-8.
tonsa is an archaic word used in epic as a synonym for `oar', cf. 539;
5,448; further e.g. Enn. Ann.218 Sk (with Skutsch's note); Lucr. 2,554; Verg.
A.7,28; 10,299; V.Fl. 1,369; Sil. 6,363. In ZM we find a variant reading contis
already mentioned in a scholium in a 12th.century MS; cf. CAVAJONI 1979,197.
crebraque - puppes:
if we translate `and frequent strokes tugged at the tall ships', the phrase
adds nothing new to 526-7, `tall' functioning merely as a traditional epithet
for ships. Probably the upward movement of the ship
due to the impulse of the oars is meant here; cf. Sil. 14,379 with
Spaltenstein's note. In that case sublimes would be proleptical: `so
that they rose up'; as in EHLERS' `und die Rümpfe bäumten sich, wenn Schlag
um Schlag sie vorwärts riss'.
529-34 briefly picture the general arrangement of the Roman fleet: the larger
warships, like triremes and quadriremes, form the wings of the fleet (529-32),
which is crescent-shaped (533). In the centre, smaller vessels are positioned
syntax of 529-32 is extremely difficult: we should construct as follows: cornua
Romanae classis triremes et... cinxere, with cornua as object of cinxere,
and multiplices rates as apposition to the threefold subject (triremes;
quasque...commovet; et plures... pinus). Cornua cingere
seems a bold expression meaning `form the wings, thereby encircling the
centre'; cf. HOUSMAN a.l.; METGER 1957,17wn1-2, comparing Caes. Civ.1,83,2 and
Liv. 23,29,3 for this use of cingere. The complex syntax and word order
seem deliberate here: they add to the impressive image of the Caesarean
fleet resulting from the various warships mentioned. Significantly, we hear
nothing now about the arrangement of the Massilian fleet: the Caesareans are
clearly to be seen as the aggressors.
the triremis (Gr. trièrès) was one of the dominant types of
warships throughout antiquity. Surprisingly, no good ancient picture of the
vessel is extant. Though it is not certain to what the element of `three' in
the name of the ship corresponds, it is now generally accepted that the
trireme had three superimposed banks of oarsmen; cf. CASSON 1971,77-80;
VIERECK 1975,39-41; WARRY 1980,94; REDDÉ 1986,110-2; for a modern
reconstruction of the ship see MORRISON/COATES 1986 and WELSH 1988. A more
complex problem will be discussed below on 530.
quasque - commovet:
`and those driven by ranks of rowers rising four times in layers above each
other' (HASKINS). Lucan's words seem to allude to four layers of rowers, but
this causes a serious problem. With quadriremes and other, larger polyremes
there is a similar difficulty to that of the triremes: the rowing arrangement
on these vessels is not known for certain. However, most scholars agree that
for technical reasons no Greek or Roman ship could have had more than three
superimposed layers of oarsmen. We may reasonably assume that a combination of
superimposed banks and several oarsmen to an oar was used. Thus a quadrireme
might have three levels of oars (two handled by one oarsman, one by two), two
(each oar handled by two men) or even one (handled by four men); cf. CASSON
1971,97-116; VIERECK 1975,46 and 56; WARRY 1980, 94; 98-9; ROUGÉ 1981,93-5;
further OLD s.v. quadriremis `...probably with four rowers to every
Similar explanations may be given for larger ships, like the quiqueremis or
with this theory, Lucan might be said to be simply `wrong' here. This is
actually stated in RE Suppl.V,922,49ff. However, this has provoked reactions
in defence of Lucan. It has been suggested by REDDÉ 1980 (repeated in REDDÉ
1986,55-9) that the present text is a most important piece of evidence against
the commonly accepted theory. In his view Lucan is talking of ships with four
and more superimposed layers of oars. This same idea is implicit in most
translations of the passage, which seem to have overlooked the problem here.
But REDDÉ has fallen into a trap, questioning archeological theories by
means of BC, which is a rhetorical poem rather than a handbook of maritime
text must be explained in a different way. In lines 530-2 and 535-7 Lucan
gives rather vague and poetical periphrases for various polyremes.
Significantly, those larger than the triremes are not even mentioned by
name. On the whole, Lucan's descriptions may be reconciled with the commonly
accepted theory on these ships; see notes below.
if we suppose that he actually describes ships with more than three levels of
oars, he may also be referring to types of ships of which we know nothing at
all. It seems possible that he was influenced by naumachiae here (cf.
on 509-762 (4)). Perhaps extraordinary vessels with more than three layers
of oarsmen were constructed for these shows.
the main aim of the poet is not to give an accurate account of maritime
realia, but to enhance the pathos in his text. As with so many other details
concerning geography, history, astronomy and other areas, he may have deliberately
adapted his material to suit his rhetorical purpose. We probably should not
ask whether his words are `wrong' or `right', but how they function within
quater - ordo may be taken as a reference to four oarsmen (cf. remige),
who do not necessarily sit in a strictly vertical line and may be handling one
large oar (as even REDDÉ 1980,1035; and 1986,56-7 notes) or two or three
oars, or even four oars arranged in two adjacent pairs in one `room'. But
other explanations of Lucan's words are equally possible. In particular, the
poet seems to have adapted his description both to suggest the enormous
dimensions of Caesar's ships, and to surpass Verg. A.5,120 terno consurgunt
ordine remi who refers to just three layers of oars.
531 plures - pinus:
`(ships) that plunge more oars into the deep'. This place is considered as
the only instance of pinus in the metonymical sense `oar'; cf. HOUSMAN
a.l.; OLD s.v.2c. We meet the same problem as in 530. If the poet refers to
`more than four oars',
he may well mean regular polyremes with units of e.g. two and three oars (5),
or twice three oars (6), twice two and once three oars (7), etcetera. But he
may also be deliberately exaggerating the image of the Caesarean fleet; cf.
above on 530. For the ending cf. Stat. Silv.2,6,28; Claud. 1,246.
either `various' or `numerous' or `complex'. All three senses suit the context
here, but the first seems best. Multiplices...rates is an apposition
to the threefold subject of the period, as mentioned above on 529 cornua....
For cingere cf. ibid..
the word is sometimes used for the strongest part of an army or task-force;
cf. 7,545; OLD s.v.8.
lunata classe recedunt:
the ships are lined up in the shape of a half moon, with the heavy ships at
the wings, and the lighter ones in second line in the centre. The naval
formation is well known; cf. Prop. 4,6,25; Sil. 14,369-70; and especially
For Lucan's general interest in the moon, see also on 42.
ordine - Liburnae:
contrary to the other types of warships the liburnian is not of Greek origin.
It was a fast galley developed by the Liburnian pirates living on the
Dalmatian coast (they are mentioned themselves in 4,530; cf. 8,38). The vessel
was adopted by the Romans
and widely used in their fleets during the principate; cf. CASSON 1971,141-2;
ROUGÉ 1981,124-5; REDDÉ 1986,104-10.
is generally agreed upon that the liburnian was constructed with two layers of
oars, each oar being handled by one oarsman. Lucan gives a poetical
periphrasis of this, personalising the liburnians as `content to have risen
with two layers'. He may be referring to the oarsmen rather than the oars, as
possibly in 530, although both are certainly `double' in the case of the
celsior at cunctis...:
the picture of the Roman warships culminates in the huge vessel of its
commander Brutus. The ship has already been mentioned as turrigera in
514; in 558-66 it will start the actual fighting.
`an admiral's flagship', according to OLD s.v. praetorius 1c, comparing
Liv. 26,39,18; Fron. Str.1,1,2; Flor. Epit.1,23,7. Whereas Lucan gives several
details about the ship, Caesar merely says that Brutus' ship could be easily
identified by its insigne; Caes. Civ.2,6,4. Lucan's description has
influenced Sil. 14,384-91.
`with sixfold strokes'. Again, the problem of ancient polyremes emerges. As in
the case of the quadrireme, Lucan does not mention a name for the ship, but he
is probably referring to the hexeris,
for which cf. Liv. 29,9,8; 37,23,5; V.Max. 1,8. ext.11. Analogous to what has
been said about the quadrireme (above, 530), this text cannot be taken as
proof for the theory that this ship had six superimposed banks (REDDÉ
1980,1035 and REDDÉ 1986,57). Lucan's text mentions six strokes in the water,
that is, six oars, but this may refer to units of six oars arranged in two
adjacent groups of three.
the description of Brutus' huge ship seems to have been the result mainly of
the poet's imagination. It clearly functions as a climax in the pathos of
the section 529-537 (see on 529), and may be far removed from maritime
reality. For the phrase cf. Sil. 14,487-8 senis... pulsibus.
for agere used to describe propelling ships by means of oars, see Verg.
A.5,116; Ov. Ep.12,7. It may also be used to refer to sailing, as in Lucr.
4,390; Sil. 7,242.
the passive invehi can govern a dative, as in Liv. 23,47,8; Tac.
Ger.40,2. The active form as used here is uncommon; cf. OLD s.v. inveho
537 et summis - remis:
the translation `reaches for the water far below with its topmost tier' (DUFF)
seems rather awkard: surely all oars are reaching for the water. Only
if we put all stress on longe, this interpretation makes sense, the
oars of the topmost layers being necessarily longer than the others; thus e.g.
HOUSMAN; EHLERS; LUCK; WIDDOWS. In any case, the topmost layer is not the
sixth but probably the third; cf. discussion above on 530. Less likely,
though not impossible is `...with the end of its blades' (cf. BOURGERY;
we may simply render: `...with its very high oars', with summis comparing
not the various layers of oars to each other, but the ship and its features as
a whole to the surrounding ships (cf. 535 celsior - cunctis).
for the ending cf. Verg. A.3,668; Ov. Ep.2,87; 3,65; Sil. 14,538. The whole
line is quoted by Serv. on Verg. A.10,207 (reading ferit for petit).
The fleets draw up close to each other. After some initial manoeuvres, the
first close combats take place, resulting in many casualties.
fleets are moved within each other's range. Some initial naval manoeuvres take
place, but these do not have any effect. The first close combats do not occur
until they are provoked by a move of Brutus' flagship. The fighting rapidly
becomes intense and causes many casualties.
that preparations have been made, this second scene of 509-762 describes the
initial phases of the battle. It may be divided in four sections: First, (i) the
fleets approach each other (538-42); then, (ii) three naval manoeuvres are
carried out, ramming (542-5); shooting missiles (545-6); and encircling
(547-57), but these have no effect. (iii) After Brutus takes measures to start
the fighting (558-6) finally, (iv) close combats and killing begin (567-82).
version is pro-Massilian as usual, making the Caesareans responsable for the
encircling and the start of the fighting (see on 547 and 558). With the
exception of a few other items, such as the different nature of the ships of
Massilians and Caesareans (see on 553; 556), his version seems to have little
relation with historical sources on the civil war; in general, see on 509-762
the beginning of the scene suggests that the battle will start in traditional
epic fashion (see on 538), it is actually postponed until the fourth part
(567-82), where attention is immediately focused on unusual and unexpected forms
tension which has been built up in the preceding section (509-37) is therefore
not immediately resolved. The rather abstract naval manoeuvres in (2) and the
concrete action in (3) function as retarding elements which create the impression
of disquiet and continuing tension.
a whole the section belongs to the scenes of collective fighting. It is interrupted
only by the short intervention of Brutus, which thus stands out even more
clearly. Somewhat surprisingly, the poet pays relatively little attention to
the difference between the contesting parties. In the section on naval
operations, he does not specify them in any way before 553. The ships damaged
due to Brutus' action are likely to be Massilian, but again it is not made
clear to which side the victims falling in 567-82 belong. Attention seems to be
shifted from the contrast of the parties (so dominant in 298-508) to the highly
pathetic and surprising `special effects', the various ways in which marines get
killed; see further on 509-762 (4).
often, some technical terms are employed (cf. notes on e.g. 545; 547; 548), but
taken as a whole the descriptions are either abstract or provide poetical detail
(as in 549-52). The scene is clearly not intended to give a faithful or
technical account of the events, but to maintain the atmosphere of tension in
the scene and prepare for the even more pathetic individual combats to come
scene contains many elements founded in or alluding to epic conventions; cf.
various notes below, e.g. on 538; 540; 542; 543, a.o.. Especially in 567-82
they appear much more frequently than usual; for a complex example see e.g. on
572. In addition, Aeschylus' Persae seems to have been a model in some
places; cf. 540; 542; 547; 566). For the tradition of the First Punic War as
reflected in Plb. 1, see on 509-762 (4).
section on naval manoeuvres closely matches the initial phases of the land
battle described in 455-92 (see on 455-508 (2)). Here too, there is a succession
of three operations. They are equally described in such a fragmentary and
abstract manner that we can hardly gain a good impression of what actually
happens. Finally, these naval operations are no more effective than those
performed during the siege, and lead up to a climax which does bring about some
success (cf. 497-508 and 558-66).
fierce fighting scene 567-82 is the first of a long series of scenes full of
death and destruction; cf. further on 509-762 (2).
538 ut tantum...:
both fleets come into close proximity of each other. Lucan adopts the epic
topos of the beginning of battle in an unusual maritime context. In this he may
have been particularly inspired by Verg. A.5,137-50, describing, perhaps
significantly, not the start of a real fight, but of a boat race. Although the
present scene appears to develop in a traditional, epic manner, the fighting
itself is postponed until much later; cf. on 538-82 (4); further e.g. on 540.
`(so much...) as either fleet could cover by throwing out its oars just once'. A
creative variation for the conventional idea of parties being `within range of
a missile', as in Verg. A.11,608-9; Ov. Met.4,709-10 (cf. also Bömer's note
a.l.); V.Fl. 8,303 (at sea); Stat. Theb.5,361-2; 6,354; Sil. 4,101-2.
For excutere HASKINS and OLD s.v. 7 compare Ov. Met.5,596 excussaque
bracchia iacto (of a swimmer), but the verb is also often used for throwing
missiles, which seems relevant here. For tonsa see on 527.
the reading of MYGPEJ preferred by all modern editors to possit of
ZABRQUVW; cf. GOTOFF 1971,50.
innumerae - tubae:
normally, the shouts and battle cries come only after the trumpet has sounded;
cf. e.g. 7,475-8; Verg. A.5,139-41; 9,503-4. Here, they do not only precede the
official signal, as in A. Pers.386-95, but even drown it. It cannot be heard any
more than the sound of the oars. Therefore it does not break the tension as it
would normally do. In a different context, the trumpet is drowned out by human
voices in 6,165-6, where Scaeva's words rouse a greater fury than a trumpet
would do. For the combination innumerae voces cf. Stat. Theb.7,111;
10,147; Silv.1,6,81; Claud. 15,485. For the ending aethera voces cf. Verg.
A.8,70; V.Fl. 2,241; Rut.Nam. 1,203.
the most popular type of horn. It was made of bronze, and had a straight tube,
contrary to the lituus, bucina and cornu. It was already
used in 2,690 in a maritime context, as in Sil. 14,373.
lines 542-57 describe three naval operations carried out by the ships. Here the
crews start to row arduously. It is not immediately clear why they are doing
so, but considering 544-5 it must be the first move in the manoeuvre of ramming.
Significantly, no distinction is made between Massilians and Romans; cf. on
538-82. On naval manoeuvres in BC, cf. SAINT-DENIS 1935,425-35; for ramming cf.
A. Pers.408-11 and CASSON 1968,100-1.
`sweep the blue waters of the sea' a conventional phrase; cf. Catul. 64,7;
Verg. A.3,208; 4,583 (cf. also Verg. A.8,671-4). The
underlying model is Enn. Ann.377-8 Sk verrunt extemplo placidum mare: marmore
flavo / caeruleum spumat sale conferta rate pulsum. As PATERNI 1987,106-7
has noticed, the traditional contrast of white foam and blue water has been
avoided by Lucan, who does not favour bright colours (cf. on 98; further e.g.
238; 503). The colour blue occurs only here and in 2,220 caeruleum aequor,
and seems reduced to a mere formulaic element. For caerula used to
describe the sea cf. also TLL III,107,27ff.
explicative, since the two notions of 543 merely illustrate and explain the
foregoing caerula verrunt.
after bending forward to dip the blades,
the oarsmen fall back on their benches while pulling the oars. Transtra
are `rowers' benches', as in 731; 8,671; 10,495; cf. SAINT-DENIS 1935b,117;
CASSON 1971,220. The phrase as a whole is suggestive of arduous rowing and
should not be taken too literal.
In employing it, the poet may be alluding to the much less violent movement of considere
transtris as expressed by Verg. A.3,289; 4,573 and 5,136.
the thought is repeated in an even more visual description: the men pull the
oars so strongly that they beat their chests. Of course, this is poetical
exaggeration once more. The periphrasis for rowing is conventional; cf. Enn.
Ann.218 Sk poste recumbite vestraque pectora pellite tonsis and 219 Sk ...exim
referunt ad pectora tonsas;
cf. further Verg. A.5,141; 8,689-90; Ov. Met.11,461-2; Sen. Ag.437-8; V.Fl.
1,369; Stat. Theb.5,375; Sil. 11,489. For pectora pulsant as verse ending
cf. 4,182; 7,128; 608; Ov. Met.12,234.
544 rostris - rostra:
a poetic manner of describing a collision between ships. For the phrase cf.
1,6-7 infestisque obvia signis / signa....pila minantia pilis which is an
echo of Enn. Ann.582 Sk., a fragment preserved by the Comm.Bern. a.l.; further
e.g. 4,783; Enn. Ann.584 Sk.; Verg. A.11,615; Ov. Met.14,301.
rostrum is the beak of a Roman ship, its most powerful weapon, used for
ramming; cf. CASSON 1971,85; VIERECK 1975,22-3 (with illustration); REDDÉ
1986,84-90. It was reinforced with iron or bronze. This explains the sound
expressed in crepuere, for which see 657; further 9,288 sonus increpat
this form is found in PV and Prisc. GLK II,330,2f, specifically quoting it as an
example of the accusative on -em. Other MSS (as well as Prisc. GLK
III,53,19f have the more regular puppim. Cf. HOUSMAN a.l..
`backed astern'. After hitting their adversaries, the ships withdraw, thereby
completing the manoeuvre of ramming, as in 659. Since the rostra are said
to have hit each other, the operations remain without effect here. For the
phrase cf. SAINT-DENIS 1935b,95-6 who compares V.Fl. 5,211 in proram rediit
(of a turning movement). Following the Comm.Bern. a.l. EHLERS interprets in
puppem differently, rendering `als die Schiffe eine Bootslänge zurückgingen'.
But the phrase indicates the direction of the movement rather than the distance.
For in with accusative cf. on 112.
after the attempts at ramming, in a second phase, described only briefly,
missiles are launched. This is done either by hand, as in 567, or by means of tormenta
as in 716.
546 aera - pontum:
a poetical description of a mass of arrows. For covering the air by missiles cf.
7,519 ferro subtexitur aether; Verg. A.11,611 caelumque obtexitur
umbra (sc. of tela); 12,578 obumbrant aethera telis; Sen.
Epigr.52,3 caelum texere sagittae; Sil. 4,550-1 a.o..
In cadentia we see the conventional comparison of weapons to clouds,
snow, hail or rain, as in 2,262; 4,776; 6,134; further e.g. Hom. Il.12,156; Enn.
Ann.266 Sk.; 391 Sk.; Verg. A.12,283-4; Ov. Met.5,158; see also HÄUSSLER
1978,165-7 and above on 482. The image of missiles covering the surface of the
sea is a point Lucan seems to have added here (cf. further on 566).
the missiles fall into the sea where there are no ships, and therefore have no
547 iam diductis - proris:
`now they deploy their wings by spacing out the ships', a description of
preparations for the third naval manoeuvre in the present passage, that of
encircling. At first, it is not made clear which party is actually attempting
it. It is only from 553-7 that we learn that it is the Caesarean side. By
contrast, the Massilians are the ones who try to encircle the Romans according
to Caes. Civ.1,58,1. In addition, Caesar mentions diducere navibus in
Caes. Civ.2,6,2 as a move made by the Romans, but not as a preliminary step to
encircling as it is here. Lucan seems to have combined the ideas and ascribed
them to the Caesareans; cf. also METGER 1957,21-2. For the idea of encircling
cf. also A. Pers.417-8 (by the Greeks); Plb. 1,23,8-9 (by the Cathaginians).
diducere (proras) and extendere cornua are military technical
terms whose use has been broadened to include the sea; cf. SAINT-DENIS 1935b,51
and 61; TLL V,I,1016,76ff and V,II,1971,51ff. For extendere cornua in a
maritime context cf. already Liv. 36,44,1. Several MSS read deductis
(PVC) and rostris (ZMGC), but these variants for diductis and proris
are generally rejected. Prora is used as pars pro toto for `ship'.
diversae - receptae:
`and the ships of the enemy were admitted after the fleet had been extended'. Laxata
classe is another military expression applied to the sea; cf. SAINT-DENIS
1935b,78; TLL VII,1071,83ff. It further explains 547, while the rest of the line
describes the actual encircling.
considering the nature of the image (see below), the sense `rough sea' (cf. OLD
s.v.7) seems the best here.
lines 549-52 illustrate the turbulence and inner conflict of the water moved by
the oars on both sides. It is compared to the turbulence due to winds, causing
the waves at the surface to move in the opposite direction to the deeper levels
of the water.
speaking, the comparison is not accurate: the turbulence on the horizontal level
of the water caused by the oars is compared to turbulence on the vertical level
caused by a conflict of wind and water. Moreover, in the present situation ships
are not likely to move in opposite directions at all: they are more likely
approaching or pursuing each other.
However, we must not take the text too literally: it is a poetic picture of a
dynamic, agitated sea; cf. METGER 1957,22-3. The conflicting streams of the
water may be seen as representing the conflicting parties; for a similar
transposition of civil war to the scale of nature, see on 60 qua mare....
main element in the comparison belongs to the same sphere as the element to
which it is compared; see on 41 tantum.... Comparisons involving the sea
are particularly frequent in BC; cf. e.g. 1,100-3; 260; 498-503; 2,189-90;
665-8; 672-7; 715-9; 4,134-6 a.o.; for a full list and analysis cf. SAINT-DENIS
1935,421-5. For the conflict of wind and sea see especially 2,454-60 (with Van
Campen's notes) and 9,333-4; further e.g. Ov. Met.8,470-2; Sen. Med.940-3;
Ag.138-40; 488-9. On the relation of the present text to full scale storm
scenes, see MORFORD 1967,52.
the west and southeast winds. Only shortly before the Boreas and Auster
were named (523). All four quarters of the sky have thus been alluded to in the
present passage, emphasizing once again the world wide dimensions of the
present conflict. For Zephyrus cf. 1,407; 2,676 (Eurum Zephyrumque);
4,72; a.o..; for Eurus see on 232.
the MSS MZY read Eurusque, while GJ have Eurisve. The right
reading Eurisque is found in Z2ABR and the other MSS; cf.
GOTOFF 1971,117. Serv. on Verg. A.5,2 quoting 549 and half of 550 reads furiisque.
Instead of repugnat PV have the incorrect repugnant.
550 huc - mare:
this is one of the rare verses with a bucolic dihaeresis; SHACKLETON BAILEY's
index (p.287) mentions as other examples in book 3 only lines 90 (a rather weak
case) and 633. Cf. also on 552.
the waves on the surface, agitated by the wind, as opposed to the deeper layers
of the sea; see on 549.
after huc we might expect illuc, which is actually found in V and
in Servius' quotation mentioned on 549. However, all modern editors prefer the
reading adopted in all other MSS.
sulcato - tractus:
`as the ships drew various tracks by ploughing the water'. `Ploughing the sea'
is a conventional poetic metapher; cf. e.g. Verg. A.2,780; 5,142; 158; 10,197;
Ov. Met.4,707 (with Bömer's note); Am.2,10,33; Stat. Theb.8,18; Sil. 14,362.
But here it is used not merely as a poeticism for sailing: it takes up a more
literal sense of agitating the water, the key element in the passage. The result
is made visible in duxerunt tractus, a phrase recalling Lucr. 2,207 (of a
to be connected with aequor. As MORFORD 1967,52 points out, the verse is
built up with a quadruple chiasm, reinforced by allitteration of the nouns
in the centre. The balanced rhythm of lines 550 and 552 sharply contrasts with
the strong inner turbulence they describe.
the meaning of tulit and rettulit is not fully clear, but I take
them to refer to a horizontal movement of the water;
cf. on 549. For remis HASKINS has `with its prow', which is plainly
the reading of PUV,generally preferred to hoc of ZMG.
553 sed Grais habiles...:
it is only in lines 553-7 that a difference is made between the parties (cf. on
547). With their light ships, the Massilians are able both to provoke the
Caesareans, and to escape them. Therefore, it seems likely that the Massilians
are the ones who are encircled. Earlier, in the course of the siege, they were
at a disadvantage because of the lack of flexibility of their war machines; cf.
on 478. Now a similar disadvantage arises for the Romans because of the
sluggishness of their ships (see also 513).
confirms both the manoeuvrability of the Massilian ships and the slowness of
those of his own troops, thereby adding further weight to the victory of the
latter; Caes. Civ.1,58,1 and 3. Here, the contrast of the two types of ships
merely indicates the ineffectiveness of the encircling manoeuvre. Cf. further on
a possessive dative, with ellipse of the verb esse.
on this adjective four infinitives are dependant: lacessere; temptare;
frangere and cedere. Habilis constructed with infinitive is
extremely rare; the only other case is Stat. Theb.4,225. The constructions
with gerundi(v)um or with ad and accusative are more regular.
the generally adopted reading of ZM, all other MSS reading capessere. The
combination with pugnam is quite normal, cf. Liv. 37,16,9; Verg. A.5,429;
Stat. Theb.1,413; cf. also BC 4,720.
`ship'; cf. OLD s.v. 2a.
554 nec longo - cursum:
`to break off their course with a short turn'. Nec must be taken with gyro
only. For the use of frangere cf. Stat. Theb.10,183; 12,232; further OLD
one of the rare places where DUFF departs from the text of HOUSMAN and, for that
matter, all editors: he writes tardae following the MSS GU. It would then
be constructed with an infinitive, like habiles (which would have three
instead of four infinitives dependant upon it). However, this would split up
553-5 into two parts, creating an image far less suggestive of speed and
manoeuvrability. The MSS authority is clearly in favour of tarde, which
should be taken with nec just like nec longo in the preceding
the helm, a bar used for moving a steering oar (gubernaculum); cf.
9,345; Enn. Ann.508 Sk.; Verg. A.5,177; 10,218; a.o.. Ancient rudders were not
installed at the stern but both at the port and starboard; cf. in general on
rudders SAINT-DENIS 1935b,64-7; CASSON 1971,224-8; REDDÉ 1986,80-4. Flectenti...clavo
is only paralleled by Sil. 14,403 following the present text.
556 at Romana - usum:
`but the Roman ships were more reliable in providing a stable bottom to the
fighters, and a use similar to land'. This has already been alluded to in 513
and will return later in 566. For the idea cf. also 5,708 ut terrestre,
coit consertis puppibus agmen.
sluggish, heavy ships of the Caesareans recall those first used by Romans in
the First Punic War (264-241 B.C.) against lighter Carthaginian vessels; cf.
Plb. 1,20; 22-3; 51; esp.1,23,6-7 paraplèsion gar pezomachias sunebaine ton
kindunon apoteleisthai; see also below, and in general on 509-762 (4).
according to OPELT 1957,438 this expression reveals patriotic pathos
overshadowing Lucan's anti-Caesarean attitude. However, I cannot see patriotism
here any more than in 529 Romanae classis. The mere allitteration can
hardly count as a patriotic signal. The echoes of the First Punic War (see
above) rather bring out an ironical contrast between the glorious Roman
achievements of the past and Caesar's impious acts in the present civil war.
558 tunc in...:
after the three successive operations (542-57) have led to nothing, Caesar's
general Brutus initiates close combat by a provocative action: he orders his
helmsman to expose the sides of his ship to the enemy's attacks. The closest
model for the passage is Caes. Civ.2,6,4-5,
where two triremes assail Brutus' ship; it rapidly moves away, causing the
assailants to crash. Lucan's version is markedly different: first, Brutus
provokes the conflict; second, his ship is actually rammed by some of the
enemy's ships; although these are caught, it can hardly have got away undamaged
itself; finally, the incident is used as a starting point for the close combat.
the context of the mass scenes of 538-82, the concrete image of Brutus and his
ship stands out clearly.
It brings the tension and pathos to a climax, and resolves it.
Characteristically, Lucan does not tell what happened further to Brutus' ship:
once the first attacks have occurred, the text develops into a rather abstract
mass scene again.
obviously an epithet of puppe. It has been taken as referring to the
image of a ship's tutela (see on 511); cf. HASKINS; OLD s.v. signifer
1 `adorned with images'. But a tutela was present on many ships, whereas
Brutus' ship is repeatedly mentioned as unique (514; 535-7). Probably the word
refers to military signa, in this case the ensign of the flagship; cf.
also SAINT-DENIS 1935b,113.
poetical for the steersman of a ship, as in e.g. Verg. A.1,115; 5,176; 6,353;
Ov. Ars 1,6. The normal term was gubernator; cf. CASSON 1971,310. For
the ending puppe magistro 1,501; further Stat. Theb.8,269; Silv.5,3,127;
Sil. 1,687; 3,153 a.o.; for steersmen cf. further on 593.
a full and neutral introduction of a speech, as in 435. Ait is remarkable
here, since it is mostly used in the parenthetical type of introduction, as in
38 and 716; cf. SANGMEISTER,65-6. For the short speech starting in the middle
of 559, see on 38.
Brutus' words seem to display a traditional Roman fighting spirit, averse to
tricks and strategems. But ironically, the Roman ships took the initiative, at
least in the third manoeuvre (547-57); see also on 560.
TLL V,808,64ff explains acies as classes, comparing other examples
of errare referring to ships, Verg. A.5,867; Ov. Fast.2,391 and
B.Afr.44,1. However, the abstract meaning `battle' seems more to the point in
this context of the beginning of a battle scene and produces a stronger effect;
cf. WIDDOWS' free but apt translation `why allow this to become wide
ranging, a battle of movement?'.
artibus - pelagi:
interpreted by most translators as a dative dependant on certare
expressing the field of rivalry: `against naval manoeuvres'. In this case
Brutus would be formally disclaiming any responsibility for the manoeuvres.
But we may also take it with CANALI and WIDDOWS as an ablative expressing the
field of rivalry: `in naval manoeuvres'. This gives a subtler, more ironical
sense: like a principled Roman, Brutus is condemning the manoeuvres - after
they have been tried in vain. For both constructions cf. OLD s.v. certo
referring to Phocaia in Asia Minor, the mother city of Massilia; hence poetical
for `Massilian', as in 583 and 728; see on 172.
the steersman is ordered to expose the sides of the ship to the enemy,
so as to provoke attempts at ramming. This move is intended to take away the
enemy's advantage of mobility. The double hyperbaton in 561 may suggest the
obliquas - alnos:
an explanation of medias - carinas. For the phrase cf. Liv. 37,30,6 obliquas
se ipsae ad ictus praebebant; 28,30,10; Sen. Phaed.1073 ne det obliquum
the passage on Brutus' ship is concluded by a pathetic climax: it is rammed by
Massilian vessels, but these cannot withdraw after hitting it and get caught,
either directly, or through grappling-irons and chains, or because their oars
get entangled. For the model and the function of the passage see on 558 tunc
in...; for its pathos see NOWAK 1955,85-6.
an allusion both to the material from which the Roman ships were made (510-3)
and to the strength they represent (see on 529).
percussae capta cohaesit:
`got stuck in the (ship) it had hit, and was caught'. An explanation of the
striking paradox ictu victa suo. OUDENDORP compares Liv. 37,30,10 and
Sil. 14,381-4 for the idea. The MSS provide several variants for percussae
(found in MZQY): percussa et (Z2ABRUVEWJ), percussaque
(G) and percussa est (P); cf. GOTOFF 1971,117. But cohaereo is
regularly constructed with the dative (cf. Ov. Met.4,553; 5,125; further OLD
s.v.1), and the commonly accepted text makes excellent sense.
the archaic form of at. In poetry it remained in use as a metrically
convenient variant; cf. Austin on Verg. A.2,467; TLL II,942,83ff. In BC 3 it
is also used in 754.
normally the word denotes handcuffs, but here it is used in an exceptional
way as a synonym of harpago or manus ferrea (cf. Caes.
Civ.1,58,4 and 635): a `grappling-iron'; TLL VIII,301,83f gives no parallel
for this meaning.
`tightly twisted', `firmly woven', a rare meaning, given only by Lewis/Short
s.v. I. There seems to be no Latin parallel for its use with catenae,
although one may compare examples like Hor. Carm.1,1,28 (plagae); Ov.
Fast.2,320 (zonam) and Sen. Phaed.45-6 (laquei).
Possibly Lucan is imitating the Homeric eustrephès, used to describe
ropes and cables in Od.10,147 and 14,346.
566 seque - remis:
the ships' oars get entangled, probably with the oars of Caesarean ships. For remis
the MSS PC have remi, a less likely, though not impossible reading.
another paradox: the sea is covered with ships, as it was with missiles in 546
and will be with blood in 572-3 and with corpses in 575 (cf. also on 652 clauso...mari).
Only shortly before, in 546, the sea was entirely free of ships. This is the
sort of extreme contrast Lucan likes very much.
idea of the sea being covered by ships is a topos dating back to A. Pers.419-20
and Hdt. 7,45.
In Latin literature cf. e.g. Verg. A.4,582 latet sub classibus aequor;
Man. Poet.3,20; Eleg.Maec.45; Sen. Suas.2,3,8; (Sen.) Oct.42; Sen. Ag.41; 434;
further Man. Poet.1,776; Juv. 10,175-6. The combination of the two paradoxes
in 566 may have been inspired by Liv. 26,39,12-3.
`the fight became stationary' (HASKINS). Now the paradox already alluded to in
513 (stabilis - bellis) and 556-7 (stabilem - usum) has come to
a climax: finally, the Romans have achieved their aim in making the fight like a
battle on land. For the use of stare cf. Sil. 14,519 steteruntque
rates ad proelia nexae. In addition, it may recall the sense `to last, to
continue' of Livian phrases like stetit... pugna (e.g. Liv. 7,7,7;
567 iam non...:
after Brutus has provoked the first clashes, close combat starts taking place.
The mass scene 567-82, formed by seven successive paradoxes, brings out the
violence and novelty of the fighting. For the priamel in 567-70 see on 101; for
catalogues of horrors see on 342; similar cases involving horrors of war are
e.g. 6,169-79; 7,619-30; 764-76; 789-94. Cruel and violent deaths are not merely
part of the war, as in Homer or Vergil, but seem to have become the main theme;
see METGER 1957,27-9; see also on 509-762 (4).
`as the arms were shot out'. Excutere is used for the movement of the
arms in throwing missiles, cf. OLD s.v. 7 and above on 538. For the phrase cf.
1,424 excusso...lacerto; 4,386; Ov. Ep.4,43; Pont.2,9,57; Sen. Ben.2,6,1;
for the ending cf. 2,502 (torserunt tela lacerti); further e.g. Ov.
Met.12,79; Stat. Theb.5,378; 9,904.
568 nec - ferro:
not merely a paraphrase of 567: the notions of distance (longinqua) and
of hitting (cadunt...vulnera) are added.
considering the verb, vulnera must be rendered as `wounding weapons'
here, as in 314. Cf. also 7,514 cadunt mortes.
for the ending cf. 9,678; Ov. Hal.61 and further SCHUMANN 1983, s.v..
`but they fought hand to hand'. -Que is adversative: after the notion of
fighting at a distance has been repeated once again in 568 (cf. 538-9; 545-6),
here it is turned into its opposite. For the pathos cf. NOWAK 1955,21-2.
the sword plays a major role in the naval battle. This paradox illustrating the
foregoing miscenturque manus brings the recurrent idea of a land battle
at sea (cf. on 566) to a new climax. It is closely imitated in Sil. 14,521 et
gladio terrestria proelia miscent. For ensis and gladius see
on 323; for the sword as a special weapon in epic associated with force and furor,
see METGER 1957,33-6.
`each man leaned forward from the bulwark of his own ship' (DUFF). The Latin is
concise, stat indicating a firm but not fully upright position.
pronus - ictus:
`exposing himself to hostile blows' (cf. HASKINS, LUCK and CANALI). An active
translation, `eager to deal blows to the enemy', is possible as well, and many
scholars (starting with the Comm.Bern.) have chosen that approach. But in view
of the constant stress in book 3 on victims rather than those who kill, on
opposition and defiance of weapons rather than the use of them, the first seems
more appropriate. For the idea cf. e.g. 707-8; 4,480 admoto occurrere fato
and HÜBNER 1975,206n45; in general RUTZ 1960.
the generally accepted reading of ZM, for which the other MSS read multi.
not surprisingly, words and expressions for `killing' are frequent in any battle
scene. Lucan's vocabulary in this sphere shows subtle changes in relation to
Vergil's. For instance, Vergil's favourite words sternere and caedere
(29 and 27 times) are used less frequently (7 and 16 times) in favour of
synonyms like perimere (8 in Vergil, 14 in Lucan); cf. WEBER 1969,45-52.
in a regular naval battle, men struck by missiles tend to fall on their own
ships or in the water. Here, paradoxically, they fall onto the enemy's ships.
The poet focuses on the unusual character of this falling by using a negation (nulli
- in suis) and adding no other detail. It seems relevant to note that cadere
is a common word in epic poetry for `to die'; cf. WEBER 1969,52. Lucan may well
be playing with this sense here.
`blood foamed deep upon the sea'. The basic epic topos is that of water
colouring red due to blood.
For blood see on 124; for its flowing during the battle, cf. on 589 and 639; for
the imagery of blood and water see below on 577.
Lucan goes further, using several other motifs: the water does not simply turn
red, but is actually hidden from view by thick layers of blood, a variation of
the motif of the covered sea (see on 566), possibly inspired by Achilles' words
in Acc. Trag.313 W Scamandriam undam salso sanctam obtexi sanguine.
Furthermore, the normal foam of the waves is replaced by foam of blood,
recalling Enn. Trag.118 Joc. maria salsa spumant sanguine; Verg. A.6,87;
9,456 (spumanti sanguine rivos) and 9,700-1; cf. also BC 4,758; 7,699.
Finally, this motif is given a new twist: the foam starts to clot, which recalls
Verg. A.2,277; Ov. Met.12,270; 13,492; 14,201.
with blood, as in 1,329 and 2,214. It is not impossible to interpret cruor
altus with METGER 1957,48n1 as `Herzensblut', coming from the chests
defiantly exposed to the enemy in 571. Still, it seems preferable to take altus
as a predicative adjective indicating the quantity of blood (cf. also Verg.
A.11,633). This is a better explanation for both the foam (spumat) and
the clotted blood (concreto).
573 et obducti - fluctus:
this image explains the foregoing difficult statement, and adds a final point;
see on 572. Lines 572-3 have been closely imitated in the medieval Vita
Willibrordi by Thiofrid, 4,200-1, cf. ROSSBERG 1883,152.
with obducti we must think sunt. In some MSS (PV) this was
apparently misunderstood and instead of concreto they wrote concrescunt.
sc. puppes (575).
`the chains of the iron launched upon them', a curiously exact periphrasis
for the instruments described in 565. For the ending vincula ferri cf.
`packed closely together'. This reading, found in ZGVPE is generally preferred
to conserta of MZ2ABRQYUWJ; cf. GOTOFF 1971,50. Cf. 4,490 conferta...
corpora. HOUSMAN a.l. compares Lucr.6,1263; V.Fl. 3,274; Juv. 10,186. The
word may also be taken as grimly ironical, since it is often used to describe
the close order of living troops (e.g. Verg. A.2,347); for this view see LYNE
1989,117. The idea of water having become impenetrable through piled up corpses
is an epic topos, cf. 2,209-20; Hom. Il.21,218-20; Catul. 64,359-60; Verg.
A,5,806-8; Stat. Theb.9,436-7; Sil. 1,45-9; Claud. 21,186-7.
the word is avoided in classical poetry, as it had a very negative ring. In epic
it was usually replaced by corpus; cf. AXELSON 1945,49-50; Norden on
Lucan has a particular fancy for this crude word: no other Latin author shows a
more frequent use of it (36 cases); Seneca comes closest (with 18 cases). HÜBNER
1976b,303 has observed that the sense `fallen' is more accurate here than
The ambiguity inherent to the first is similar to that of cadere (above,
a word indicating the vague condition between life and death. Cf. e.g. Enn. Ann.
484 Sk.; Verg. A.4,686; 10,396; 404; Ov. Met.5,105 7,577; see ESPOSITO
1987,40wn4. Lucan has 5 other cases of it.
in a nautical context, subire is normally used in the technical sense of
`making one's access into a place', such as a harbour or a coast; cf. OLD s.v.
10; SAINT-DENIS 1935b,107. But Lucan has returned to the literal sense of a
vertical movement into the water; for which cf. Ov. Met.15,358. Here subiere
will become even more ominous through periere of 579 which closely echoes
it in metrical position, etymology and sound.
the heavy u-sounds as well as the hyperbaton seem to suggest the deepness and
vastness of the sea. Cf. also 651.
577 suo - pontum:
the imagery of water defiled by blood belongs to the epic tradition; cf. above
on 572-3; it will return in 638-41 and 661.
The horrific image here echoes Man. Poet.5,666 inficiturque suo permixtus
sanguine pontus; and Ov. Met.12,326 where a man's blood pours into his
drinking cup (the former has been noted by SCHWEMMLER 1916,10; the latter by
METGER 1957,47); cf. also Ov. Met.4,728-9 mixtos cum sanguine fluctus / ore
vomit. Lucan's phrase has been imitated without much fantasy by Sil. 4,593.
luctantem - trahentes:
`drawing their last breath which struggled with slow death'. For luctantem
animam (cum morte) cf. Verg. A.4,695; Sen. Phoen.142-3; further e.g. Sen.
Oed.344; Apoc.3,1; Stat. Silv.1,4,107 pugnantem animam. Lucan has
effectively combined this with the notion of breathing one's last; cf. OLD s.v. anima
cf. on 576 subiere. The men who were already struggling with death (after
having been injured or threatened with drowning) now finally get killed in
another form of death. Similar duplications occur later in the battle; e.g.
687-90; 748-51; see also on 587.
for the ending cf. 5,637; 9,969; for ruina see on 290.
580 irrita - caedes:
`weapons which missed their target did some killing of their own in the water',
a paradox illustrated and clarified in 581-2. Lucan gives a new twist to the
motif of demoniac weapons behaving as living beings, a form of animism common in
epic. Cf. e.g. Hom. Il.4,126; 521; 11,574; 21,70; Verg. A.11,804; see FUHRMANN
1968,38. For missiles striking at random cf. e.g. 6,78-9; 7,485-8; 514-7;
further e.g. Sen. Phaed.816-9; for irrita tela cf. 722; Verg. A.2,459;
11,735; Prop. 4,9,40 a.o..
almost a synonym of irrita in 580; cf. also TLL VI,1,1440,36ff with
for the ending cf. 725; 4,776; further e.g. Ov. Am.3,8,37; Sil. 6,355.
sc. by a victim; cf. 601.
this particular idea of a weapon `finding wounds' (explaining suas - caedes)
forms the climax of the section 567-82, esp. lines 575-6. It may also have been
inspired by texts like Liv. 26,39,13 ita in arto stipatae erant naves, ut vix
ullum telum in mari vanum intercideret (quoted by METGER 1957,70n1). After
Lucan, it returns in Stat. Theb.8,526; 11,512; Sil. 4,140-1.
In a series of single combats, several warriors meet their death.
displaying courage and vigour, the Roman soldier Catus perishes in an uncommon
way. So do the Massilians Telo and Gyareus, as well as one of a pair of twins.
The ship his body falls on is sunk. Lycidas meets an equally violent end.
this third part of 509-762 the battle is no longer described in scenes of mass
fighting, as in the previous part, but in a sequence of individual fights. It
may be divided according to its protagonists who are all clearly distinguished
from each other: (i) Catus (583-91); (ii) Telo (592-9); (iii) Gyareus (600-2);
(iv) a pair of twins (603-34); (v) Lycidas (635-46). The central part is clearly
(iv): it is the longest and most elaborate scene.
the nature of the scenes, we should not expect them to have any historical
basis. Still, the actions of one of the twin brothers in 603-34 echo among other
things the heroic behaviour of the Caesarean soldier Acilius during the naval
battles near Massilia; for Lucan's adaptations see on 609.
section consists of a number of relatively small, isolated scenes. In each of
them, an individual warrior, identified by his skills or actions and often by a
name, is represented in his final hour. All of them behave heroically, literally
fighting to the death if they are given the opportunity. Individual combats are
part of the epic tradition; so are extensive and detailed descriptions of wounds
and violent fighting, and `frozen movements'; see on 509-762 (4).
Though Lucan is rather vague as to the exact nature of the Pompeyan forces
gathering in 3,169-297, several lines indicate the inclusion of ships and
naval forces: cf. 183; 218; 228; further possibly 191-7 and 287.
It is they who are meant with victi, as nearly all translators and
scholars have agreed upon. Considering his normal reliability it is
surprising that METGER 1957,11 goes astray here: by stating that the word
refers to the Massilians, he spoils his analysis of the section 509-20
(p.11-15). In defence of METGER it may be said that lines 509-13 are rather
In Caesar, the first naval battle is said to take place near an island quae
est contra Massiliam (Caes. Civ.1,56,4), usually identified as
Ratonneau. BOURGERY thinks that Lucan's phrase designates Stoechade or the
Petits Stoechades facing Marseille.
Lucan seems to echo Caes. Civ.2,5,5, in which some noble young men and the
most important men of every age are said to have gone on board the ships.
But Caesar interprets the fact in a different way. In addition, he explicitly
mentions old men and youths remaining behind in the city during the second
naval battle, along with women and children (Civ.2,5,3). In his view, the
Massilians have plenty of troops to crew the ships (Civ.2,4,1).
Puppis should be taken as pars pro toto for `ship', as often in BC,
and not in its original sense `stern'. Ancient ships moved with their stern
in front only in special manoevres such as in 545 and 659; cf. also VIERECK
It would even be possible to interpret convellere as `to heave up',
but that sense is very rare; cf. OLD s.v.2d; TLL IV,818,64ff. The present
text is included by TLL IV,819,13f as an example of the sense quassare,
which is obviously wrong.
Other suggestions have been made too. For instance, VIERECK 1975,30 suggests
that the number in the name of each ship is relative to its strategic value.
Thus a quinquereme would have three levels of oarsmen, while being a
`fifth class' ship.
Its earliest recorded deployment was in the battle of Naulochus in 36 B.C.;
cf. App. BC 5,111. However, they were probably used already long before, so
we do not have to consider the present text an anachronism.
Whereas the other ships have Latinized names like liburna, triremis
quadriremis and quinqueremis, the `six' appears to have
been known only by its Greek name; cf. VIERECK 1975,30-1; REDDÉ
1980,1025n3; REDDÉ 1986,112-3.
Following this line of thought, we might regard this as another example of
Lucan's technique of self-explanation by means of paraphrase; for which see
on 232. The height of the ship would be illustrated by its relatively highly
CASSON 1971,104 regards Lucan's verse as a reference to a particular
rowing technique in ships with multiple-rower sweep. However, as a poetical
periphrasis for rowing, the text may apply to any sort of ship.
CONTE 1970,135-6 (=CONTE 1988,27-9) has argued that the present text is a
case of `flagrante imitazione enniana in Lucano'. This seems overstated
and is rightly rejected by Skutsch on Enn. Ann.218 Sk. However, Skutsch
becomes too cautious when he suggests that the parallel is merely due to
coincidence. Lucan's expression is surely not everyday Latin. It must be
understood within the Roman epic tradition starting with Ennius.
HASKINS also compares Ar. V.1084, which may be an echo of Hdt. 7,226. The
image of `covering the sky' was used in many contexts; cf. e.g. 7,834-5
(birds); Lucr. 5,466 (clouds); Verg. A.3,582 (smoke); Ov. Met.14,368.
LUCK seems to assume a vertical movement, rendering tulit as `aufgewühlt',
possibly inspired by the image of ploughing in 551. However, he is not
consistent and renders rettulit as `zurückgeworfen'.
OLD s.v. 1c (not quoting the present text) says nets and fabrics called teres
are `rounded into a bulge'. This seems less apt. Nisbet and Hubbard on Hor.
Carm.1,1,28 suggest the sense `fine', which may do for a net, but is rather
unlikely as an epithet of chains.
In support of this, it may be adduced that the etymological link with cadere
was already firmly established in antiquity; cf. e.g. Serv. on Verg.
A.6,481. Lucan seems to play with it in several cases, e.g. 2,134 cecidere
cadavera; 4,787 stetit omne cadaver; see further MORETTI
Apart from places mentioned above on 572 cf. also 2,214-20; 4,321-3; 567-8;
6,365-6; 7,176; 537; 789-90; 9,810-4 (body fluids); 10,32-3; further e.g.
Liv. 22,1,10; Verg. A.11,393-4; 12,35-6; Ciris 76; Man. Poet.5,666;
Ov. Fast.6,566; Met.8,33-4; 12,111-2; Stat. Theb.1,38;
Sil. 1,126. Cf. RAABE 1974,79-83; SAYLOR 1986 on 4,148-401.
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