Ariadne: A Woman Wronged

Catullus 64. 52-70.

Looking out from Dia’s wave-thudding shores
she sees Theseus and his fleet ships drawing away,
Ariadne does, her heart full of savage rage.

She still cannot believe what she’s been seeing
since shaking off hoodwinking sleep and finding
her luckless self deserted on a lonely shore:

the thoughtless youth putting oar to water, fleeing,
and letting slip to squally winds his empty vows.

It’s him the far-off sad-eyed daughter of Minos
gazes upon, Bacchant-like, from sea-tangled rocks,
gazes upon and swells with upsurges of grief.

She did not clasp to her fair head the fine headpiece,
keep her bossom veiled in her delicate robes
or her milky breasts encircled with the smooth band–

All these things, from all her person, fell haphazard
at her feet, and with them the salty waves sported.
But not for headpiece or flowing robes did she care.

Theseus, it was on you, with all her heart,
all her soul, and all her mind, that she hung, hopeless.

Racine. Phedre. 87-89.

So many others; their names escape even him,
Those too credulous spirits whom his flame deceived:
Ariadne on the rocks reciting wrongs done her . . .


namque fluentisono prospectans litore Diae,
Thesea cedentem celeri cum classe tuetur
indomitos in corde gerens Ariadna furores,
necdum etiam sese quae visit visere credit,
utpote fallaci quae tum primum excita somno
desertam in sola miseram se cernat harena.
immemor at iuvenis fugiens pellit vada remis,
irrita ventosae linquens promissa procellae.
quem procul ex alga maestis Minois ocellis,
saxea ut effigies bacchantis, prospicit, eheu,
prospicit et magnis curarum fluctuat undis,
non flavo retinens subtilem vertice mitram,
non contecta levi uelatum pectus amictu,
non tereti strophio lactentis vincta papillas,
omnia quae toto delapsa e corpore passim
ipsius ante pedes fluctus salis alludebant.
sed neque tum mitrae neque tum fluitantis amictus
illa vicem curans toto ex te pectore, Theseu,
toto animo, tota pendebat perdita mente.


Tant d’autres, dont les noms lui sont même échappés,
Trop crédules esprits que sa flamme a trompés ;
Ariane aux rochers contant ses injustices . . .


photograph of an oil painting of a woman looking surprised
Ariadne. Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792). Private Collection.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

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