Fantastic Friday, Part 2: Roman General Goes Mad, Gives Prophecy in Verse and Prose

In the first half of this account, a soldier from Antiochus’ defeated army rises from the dead to prophesy Rome’s demise. 

Phlegon of Tralles, On Marvels 3 (Part 2)

“When they were present at Delphi and asking what should be done, the Pythia responded with this oracle:

Hold back, Roman, and may justice remain with you
So that Pallas does not raise great Ares against you
And ravage your markets. But you, fool, you will get home
After suffering much and losing your great wealth

After they heard this speech, they completely swore off waging war against any of the people who lived in Europe. Once they moved from the place mentioned before, they were at Naupaktos in Aitolia, where the Greeks have a common shrine, and they were setting out the public sacrifices and the customary first fruits.

As they were completing these things, the general Publius lost his mind and in his madness began to utter many things in a possessed fashion, some in meter and others in regular speech. As this matter was discussed by the army, everyone rushed to Publius’ tent simultaneously upset and shocked at what had happened to their most powerful leader, a man of great experience, but also interested in hearing what he said. Some even suffocated because the crowding was so terrible.

These were the words spoken by him in meter while he was inside the tent:

My home country, what a grievous Ares Athena brings you
When, even after you have despoiled very wealthy Asia
You come to the Italian land and the well-crowned cities
Of the much-loved Island of Thrinakia, which Zeus founded.
An overpowering army with an indomitable heart will come
From far away Asia where the rays of the sun rise up
And the king who has crossed the Hellespont’s passage
Will make faithful oaths to the Epirote King.
Then, once he has gathers a numberless host from
All over Asia and lovely Europe he will lead it to Rome.
He will crush you and devastate your homes and walls.
He will deprive you of that day of freedom when he founds
Slavery for all thanks to the rage of great-hearted Athena.”

After he declared these lines he rushed from his tent in his tunic and spoke further in regular speech: “We predict, my soldiers and citizens, that after crossing from Europe into Asia you will conquer the king Antiochus once you fight him at sea and face him on foot. You will rule all the land on our side of the Tauros as well as the cities which are inhabited in it after who chase Antiochus to Syria. This land and its cities are to be handed over to the sons of Attalos. Then the Galatains who live in Asia will meet you in battle and be defeated and you will rule over their wives, childed, and everything you own and you will take them to Europe.

Then those Thracians who live along the coast in Europe near the Black Sea and Hellepsont will make an attack as you end your expedition near the land of the Ainiani and they will take away some of what you have plndered and kill some of you. When the rest have been saved and transported to Rome, you will make a treaty with king Antiochus which stipulates that he pay tribute and give up some of his lands.”

After he proclaimed these things, he shouted out with a greater voice: “I can see bronze-breasted powers crossing over from Asia! Kings gathered to that very place! Every kind of people gathered against Asia! [I can hear] the thunder of horses and the crashing of spears; I can sense the blood-soaking murder, the awful plunder, the collapse of towers, the breaking of walls, and the indescribable destruction of the earth.”

παραγενομένων δὲ Πυθῶδε τῶν θεωρῶν καὶ πυνθανομένων τί ποιητέον, ἀνεῖπεν ἡ Πυθία τόνδε τὸν χρησμόν·

ἴσχεο νῦν, ῾Ρωμαῖε, δίκη δέ τοι ἔμμονος ἔστω,
μή σοι ἐφορμήσῃ Παλλὰς πολὺ φέρτερον ῎Αρη
χηρώσῃ τ’ ἀγοράς· σὺ δέ, νήπιε, πολλὰ μογήσας
ἵξεαι ἐς χώρην τὴν σὴν πολὺν ὄλβον ὀλέσσας.

ἀκούσαντες οὖν τοῦ λόγου τούτου, τὸ μὲν ἐπιστρατεῦσαι ἐπί τινα τῶν ἐν τῇ Εὐρώπῃ κατοικούντων ἀπέγνωσαν τὸ παράπαν, ἀναζεύξαντες δὲ ἀπὸ τοῦ προειρημένου τόπου παρεγένοντο ἐπὶ Ναύπακτον τῆς Αἰτωλίας, οὗ ἐστιν ἱερὸν κοινὸν τῶν ῾Ελλήνων, εὐτρέπιζόν τε θυσίας δημοτελεῖς ἀπαρχάς τε ἐξ ἔθους.

τούτων δὲ ἐπιτελουμένων ὁ στρατηγὸς Πόπλιος ἐμμανὴς γενόμενος καὶ παράφρων ἀποφθέγγεται πολλά τινα ἐνθουσιωδῶς, τὰ μὲν ἐν μέτρῳ, ἐστὶν δ’ ἃ καὶ καταλογάδην.
διαγγελθέντος δὲ τῷ πλήθει τοῦ πράγματος συνέθεον πάντες πρὸς τὴν σκηνὴν τοῦ Ποπλίου, ἅμα μὲν ὑπαγωνιῶντες καὶ ἐκπεπληγμένοι ἐπὶ τῷ τὸν κράτιστον αὐτῶν καὶ δυνάμενον ἀφηγεῖσθαι μετ’ ἐμπειρίας ἠτυχηκέναι, ἅμα δὲ ἀκούειν βουλόμενοι τὰ λεγόμενα, ὥστε τινὰς αὐτῶν πιεσθέντα βιαιότερον ἀποπνιγῆναι. τὰ μὲν οὖν ἐν μέτρῳ ῥηθέντα ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ, ἔτι ὄντος ἐν τῇ σκηνῇ, ἐστὶν τάδε·

ὦ πατρὶς, οἷόν σοι λυγρὸν φέρει ῎Αρη ᾿Αθήνη,
ἡνίκα πορθήσασ’ ᾿Ασίην πολύολβον ἵκηαι
᾿Ιταλίην ἐς γαῖαν ἐυστεφάνους τε πόληας
Θρινακίης νήσου πολυηράτου, ἣν κτίσατο Ζεύς.
ἥξει γὰρ στρατιὴ πολυφέρτατος, ὀβριμόθυμος,
τηλόθεν ἐξ ᾿Ασίης, ὅθεν ἡλίου ἀντολαί εἰσιν,
καὶ βασιλεὺς διαβὰς στεινὸν πόρον ῾Ελλησπόντου
ὅρκια πιστὰ τεμεῖ πρὸς κοίρανον ᾿Ηπειρώτην·
ἥξει δ’ Αὐσονίην στρατιὴν ἀνάριθμον ἀγείρας
πάντοθεν ἔκ τ’ ᾿Ασίης ἠδ’ Εὐρώπης ἐρατεινῆς,
καί σε δαμᾷ, χήρους δ’ οἴκους καὶ τείχεα θήσει,
δουλοσύνην δ’ ἐπὶ πᾶσιν ἐλεύθερον ἦμαρ ἀπούρας
τεύξει μήνιδος οὕνεκ’ ᾿Αθηναίης μεγαθύμου.

ἀνειπὼν δὲ τοὺς στίχους τούτους ὥρμησεν ἐκ τῆς σκηνῆς ἐν χιτῶνι καὶ ἀπεφθέγγετο καταλογάδην τάδε· «μηνύομεν, ὦ ἄνδρες στρατιῶται καὶ πολῖται, διαβάντας ἐκ τῆς Εὐρώπης ἐπὶ τὴν ᾿Ασίαν νικῆσαι ὑμᾶς τὸν βασιλέα ᾿Αντίοχον ναυμαχήσαντάς τε καὶ πεζῇ παραταξαμένους, κυριεῦσαι δὲ τῆς ἐπίταδε τοῦ Ταύρου χώρας πάσης καὶ τῶν πόλεων τῶν ἐκτισμένων ἐν αὐτῇ, ἐκβαλόντας τὸν ᾿Αντίοχον εἰς Συρίαν· ταύτην δὲ παραδοθῆναι καὶ τὰς πόλεις τοῖς ᾿Αττάλου υἱοῖς, Γαλάτας τε τοὺς κατοικοῦντας ἐν τῇ ᾿Ασίᾳ παραταξαμένους πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἡσσηθῆναι, τῶν τε γυναικῶν καὶ τέκνων καὶ τῆς ἀποσκευῆς πάσης κυριεῦσαι ὑμᾶς καὶ ἀγαγεῖν εἰς τὴν Εὐρώπην· τοὺς δὲ κατοικοῦντας ἐν τῇ Εὐρώπῃ τὴν παραλίαν Θρᾷκας τῆς τε Προποντίδος καὶ ῾Ελλησπόντου ἀναλύουσιν ὑμῖν ἀπὸ τῆς στρατείας ἐπίθεσιν ποιήσασθαι περὶ τὴν τῶν Αἰνίων χώραν καί τινας διαφθείραντας ἀφελέσθαι μέρος τι τῆς προνομῆς· δημωθέντων δὲ τῶν ἄλλων καὶ κομισθέντων εἰς ῾Ρώμην ἔσεσθαι συνθήκας πρὸς βασιλέα ᾿Αντίοχον, ἐφ’ ᾧ χρήματα μὲν εἰσοίσει καὶ χώρας τινὸς ἀποστήσεται.» ἀναγορεύσας δὲ ταῦτα ἀνεκεκράγει μεγάλῃ τῇ φωνῇ λέγων τάδε· «ἐκ τῆς ᾿Ασίας ὁρῶ διαβαινούσας δυνάμεις χαλκοστέρνους καὶ βασιλέας ἐπὶ τὸ αὐτὸ συναγομένους καὶ ἔθνη παντοδαπὰ ἐπὶ τὴν Εὐρώπην, ἵππων τε κτύπον δοράτων τε ψόφον καὶ φόνον αἱματόφυρτον λεηλασίαν τε δεινὴν πτώσεις τε πύργων καὶ τειχῶν κατασκαφὰς ἐρημίαν τε χθονὸς ἀμύθητον.»


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