A newer edition of this work is available: 2018

Seneca the Younger, Agamemnon

LCL 78: 172-173



arx imminet praerupta quae spectat mare utrimque geminum: Pelopis hinc oras tui et Isthmon, arto qui recurvatus solo 565Ionia iungi maria Phrixeis vetat; hinc scelere Lemnon nobilem, hinc et Chalcida tardamque ratibus Aulida. hanc arcem occupat Palamedis ille genitor, et clarum manu lumen nefanda vertice e summo efferens 570in saxa ducit perfida classem face. haerent acutis rupibus fixae rates. has inopis undae brevia comminuunt vada, pars vehitur huius prima, pars scopulo sedet; hanc alia retro spatia relegentem ferit 575et fracta frangit. iam timent terram rates et maria malunt. cecidit in lucem furor; postquam litatum est Ilio, Phoebus redit et damna noctis tristis ostendit dies.


Utrumne doleam laeter an reducem virum? 580remeasse laetor, vulnus et regni grave lugere cogor. redde iam Graiis, pater altisona quatiens regna, placatos deos! nunc omne laeta fronde veletur caput, sacrifica dulces tibia effundat modos 585et nivea magnas victima ante aras cadat.

Sed ecce, turba tristis incomptae comas Iliades adsunt, quas super celso gradu effrena Phoebas entheas laurus quatit.

  • 566hinc et Chalcida recc.: hinc calchedona A: et calchedona E


a sheer headland that looks out on two seas, right and left: on one side to your Pelops’ shores and the Isthmus, whose narrow, recurving ground keeps the Ionian sea apart from Phrixus’; on the other side to Lemnos, famous for crime, Chalcis, and Aulis delayer of ships. On this headland Palamedes’ father, that criminal, took up position. Shining a bright light from the summit, he led the fleet onto the crags with that treacherous beacon. Ships stuck fast on the jagged rocks. Some, with insufficient draft, broke up in the shallows; the front half of one carried away, with the other half sitting on the reef; one ship, trying to back away, was struck by another, both wrecked and wrecking. Now the ships feared the land, and preferred the sea. Towards dawn the madness subsided. Now that atonement had been made for Ilium, Phoebus returned, and the gloomy day revealed the havoc of the night.


Should I grieve or rejoice at my husband’s return? I rejoice at his homecoming, and yet I must mourn the deep wound to our kingdom. O father who shake the high-resounding kingdom, at long last restore the gods’ favour to the Greeks! Now every head must be crowned with a joyful wreath; the flute of sacrifice must pour out its sweet notes, and a snow-white victim fall before the high altar.

But see, the women of Ilium are here, a sad group, their hair dishevelled, and pacing tall among them the unbridled priestess of Phoebus 25 shakes the god-filled laurel.

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-agamemnon.2004