Aurelius Prudentius Clemens was a Christian poet who lived at the end of the fourth and in the early fifth century AD. He served at the court of Theodosius.
|respice, num Libyci desistat ruris arator | frumentis onerare rates et ad Ostia Thybris | mittere triticeos in pastum plebis acervos.||
See if the farmer of the African country-side is ceasing to load ships with his grain and send to Tiber's mouth his heaps of wheat to feed the people.
Translation: Loeb, H.J. Thomson.
sistitur insano rectori christicolas tunc
ostia uexanti per Tiberina uiros.
Illo namque die Roma secesserat, ipsos
peste Suburbanos ut quateret populos,
non contentus humum celsae intra moenia Romae
tinguere iustorum caedibus assiduis.
Ianiculum cum iam madidum, fora, rostra, Suburam
cerneret eluuie sanguinis affluere,
protulerat rabiem Tyrreni ad litoris oram
quaeque loca aequoreus proxima portus habet.
Inter carnifices et constipata sedebat
officia extructo celsior in solio,
discipulos fidei detestandique rebelles
idolii ardebat dedere perfidiae.
Carcereo crinita situ stare agmina contra
iusserat horrendis excrucianda modis.
Inde catenarum tractus, hinc lorea flagra
stridere, uirgarum concrepitare fragor,
ungula fixa cauis costarum cratibus altos
pandere secessus et lacerare iecur.
Ac iam lassatis iudex tortoribus ibat
in furias cassa cognitione fremens --
nullus enim Christi ex famulis per tanta repertus
supplicia, auderet qui uitiare animam --
inde furens quaesitor ait: 'iam, tortor, ab unco
desine, si uana est quaestio, morte agito.
Huic abscide caput, crux istum tollat in auras
uiuentesque oculos offerat alitibus;
hos rape praecipites et uinctos conice in ignem,
sit pyra, quae multos deuoret una reos.
En tibi, quos properes rimosae inponere cumbae
pellere et in medii stagna profunda freti.
Quos ubi susceptos rabidum male suta per aequor
uexerit et tumidis caesa labarit aquis,
dissociata putrem laxent tabulata carinam
conceptumque bibant undique naufragium.
Squamea caenoso praestabit uentre sepulcrum
belua consumptis cruda cadaueribus.'
Haec persultanti celsum subito ante tribunal
offertur senior nexibus inplicitus.
Stipati circum iuuenes clamore ferebant
ipsum christicolis esse caput populis:
si rorer extinctum propere caput, omnia uulgi
pectora Romanis sponte sacranda deis.
Insolitum leti poscunt genus et noua poenae
inuenta, exemplo quo trepident alii.
Ille supinata residens ceruice: 'quis', inquit,
'dicitur?' adfirmant dicier Hippolytum.
'Ergo sit Hippolytus, quatiat turbetque iugales
intereatque feris dilaceratus equis.'
Vix haec ille, duo cogunt animalia freni
ignara insueto subdere colla iugo,
non stabulis blandius manu palpata magistri
imperiumque equitis ante subacta pati,
sed campestre uago nuper pecus e grege captum,
quod pauor indomito corde ferinus agit.
Iamque reluctantes sociarant uincula bigas
oraque discordi foedere nexuerant:
temonis uice funis inest, qui terga duorum
diuidit et medius tangit utrumque latus,
deque iugo in longum se post uestigia retro
protendens trahitur transit et ima pedum.
Huius ad extremum, sequitur qua puluere summo
cornipedum refugas orbita trita uias,
crura uiri innectit laqueus nodoque tenaci
adstringit plantas cumque rudente ligat.
Postquam conposito satis instruxere paratu
martyris ad poenam uerbera, uincla, feras,
instigant subitis clamoribus atque flagellis
iliaque infestis perfodiunt stimulis.
Vltima uox audita senis uenerabilis haec est:
'hi rapiant artus, tu rape, Christe, animam!'
Prorumpunt alacres caecoque errore feruntur,
qua sonus atque tremor, qua furor exagitant.
Incendit feritas, rapit impetus et fragor urget
nec cursus uolucer mobile sentit onus.
Per siluas, per saxa ruunt, non ripa retardat
fluminis aut torrens oppositus cohibet,
prosternunt saepes et cuncta obstacula rumpunt,
prona, fragosa petunt, ardua transiliunt.
Scissa minutatim labefacto corpore frusta
carpit spinigeris stirpibus hyrtus ager.
Pars summis pendet scopulis, pars sentibus haeret,
parte rubent frondes, parte madescit humus.
Exemplar sceleris paries habet inlitus, in quo
multicolor fucus digerit omne nefas,
picta super tumulum species liquidis uiget umbris
effigians tracti membra cruenta uiri.
Rorantes saxorum apices uidi, optime papa,
purpureasque notas uepribus inpositas.
Docta manus uirides imitando effingere dumos
luserat et minio russeolam saniem.
Cernere erat ruptis conpagibus ordine nullo
membra per incertos sparsa iacere situs.
Addiderat caros gressu lacrimisque sequentes,
deuia quo fractum semita monstrat iter.
Maerore attoniti atque oculis rimantibus ibant
inplebantque sinus uisceribus laceris.
Ille caput niueum conplectitur ac reuerendam
canitiem molli confouet in gremio;
hic umeros truncasque manus et bracchia et ulnas
et genua et crurum fragmina nuda legit.
Palliolis etiam bibulae siccantur harenae,
ne quis in infecto puluere ros maneat.
Si quis et in sudibus recalenti aspergine sanguis
insidet, hunc omnem spongia pressa rapit.
Nec iam densa sacro quidquam de corpore silua
obtinet aut plenis fraudat ab exequiis.
Cumque recensetis constaret partibus ille,
corporis integri qui fuerat numerus,
nec purgata aliquid deberent auia toto
ex homine extersis frondibus et scopulis,
metando eligitur tumulo locus, ostia linquunt,
Roma placet, sanctos quae teneat cineres.
|Then he was brought before a maddened ruler who at that time was afflicting Christian heroes by Tiber's mouth; for that day he had left Rome to beat down with persecution the peoples of the nearby districts, not being content to wet the ground within the walls of lofty Rome with constant slaying of the righteous. Seeing the Janiculum now soaked, and squares, platforms, the Subura flooded with pools of blood, he had carried his rage out to the Tyrrhenian coast and the parts that lie nearest to the seaport.
Amid his executioners and close-packed staff he was sitting on a chair of state elevated above them, burning to make the disciples of the faith, who would not give in to the abominable idolatry, forswear themselves. Trains of them, their hair grown long and dirty from lying in prison, he had ordered to stand before him, to suffer frightful tortures. Here sounded the grating of the chains they dragged, there the crack of leathern lashes, or the crashing of the rods, while the claw pierced the hollow framework of their ribs, laying open deep cavities and tearing their vitals. And now the tormentors were weary and the judge passing into a furious rage at the futility of the trial, for not one of the servants of Christ was found in all the course of their sufferings, who would dare to taint his soul.
So the inquisitor, grown frantic, said: "Drop the claw now, torturer. If the torture has no effect, proceed by death. Behead this one; let the cross lift that one into the air and present his living eyes to the birds; bundle those off, bind them and cast them into the fire; let there be a pyre that will consume many prisoners at one time. Here are some whom you will put at once on board a leaky boat and drive out to the deep water in the midst of the sea; and when the crazy boat has carried her passengers over the raging waves and gives way under the blows of the swelling waters, her deck-timbers shall part and open out the rotten bottom, so that she will let in water at all points and founder. Some scaly monster, gorged with the bodies it has devoured, will furnish them a grave in its foul belly."
While he was loudly giving these orders, an elderly man enveloped in bonds was suddenly presented befote the high judgement-seat, and the young men who crowded round were crying out that he was the head of the hosts which worshipped Christ, and if the head were promptly destroyed, all the hearts of the multitude must freely dedicate themselves to the gods of Rome. They called for some unusual kind of death, some newly devised penalty to make an example for the terror of others. The judge, sitting with head thrown back, asked: "What is he called?" and they stated that he was called Hippolytus. "Hippolytus let him be, then. Let him get a team frightened and agitated and be torn to death by wild horses." [Like the Hippolytus of Greek mythology]
His words were hardly spoken when they forced two animals that had never known the bridle to submit their necks to the strange yoke. They were not brought from the stable nor ever had been stroked by a caressing trainer's hand and broken in to suffer a rider's government, but were beasts of the field lately caught out of a wandering herd, their untamed spirits excited by a wild creature's nervousness. Already the struggling pair were harnessed together, their heads joined in discordant partnership. Instead of a pole there was a rope separating the bodies of the two, running between them and touching the flanks of both; and from the yoke it stretched out a long way back, trailing behind their tracks, reaching beyond their hooves. To the end of it, where the rut it made on the surface of the dusty ground followed the changing course of the runaway horses, a noose fastened Hippolytus' legs, binding his feet tight with a gripping knot and tying them to the rope.
Now that all was got ready and the needful whips and harness and wild horses provided for the martyr's suffering, they set them on with sudden shouts and lashes, and violently dug the pricks into their sides. These were the last words heard from the venerable old man: "Let these ravish my body, but do Thou, O Christ, ravish my soul." Off go the horses headlong, rushing about blindly wherever the din and their quivering nerves and frantic excitement drive them, spurred by their wild spirit, carried on by their dash, impelled by the noise, and in their swift career unconscious of the burden that goes with them. They lay fences low and break through every obstacle; down slopes and over broken ground they go, and bound over the steep places. The body is shattered, the thorny shrubs which bristle on the ground cut and tear it to little bits. Some of it hangs from the top of rocks, some sticks to bushes, with some the branches are reddened, with some the earth is wet.
There is a picture of the outrage painted on a wall, showing in many colours the wicked deed in all its details; above the tomb is depicted a lively likeness, portraying in clear semblance Hippolytus' bleeding body as he was dragged along. I saw the tips of rocks dripping, most excellent Father, and scarlet stains imprinted on the briers, where a hand that was skilled in portraying green bushes had also figured the red blood in vermillion. One could see the parts torn asunder and lying scattered in disorder up and down at random. The artist had painted too his loving people walking after him in tears wherever the inconstant track showed his zig-zag course. Stunned with grief, they were searching with their eyes as they went, and gathering the mangled flesh in their bosoms. One clasps the snowy head, cherishing the venerable white hair on his loving breast, while another picks up the shoulders, the severed hands, arms, elbows, knees, bare fragments of legs. With their garments also they wipe dry the soaking sand, so that no drop shall remain to dye the dust; and wherever blood adheres to the spikes on which its warm spray fell, they press a sponge on it and carry it all away.
Now the thick wood held no longer any part of the sacred body, nor cheated it of a full burial. The parts were reviewed and found to make the number belonging to the unmutilated body; the pathless ground being cleared, and the boughs and rocks wiped dry, had nothing of the old man still to give up; and now a site was chosen on which to set a tomb. They left the river-mouth, for Rome found favour with them as the place to keep the holy remains.
Translation: Loeb, H.J. Thomson.