HOW AESCULAPIUS, AS ANANTA SESHA NAGA, SAVED ROME FROM THE PLAGUE…Ovid’s Metemorphosis Book 15

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AESCULAPIUS BROUGHT TO ROME

[622] Relate, O Muses, guardian deities of poets (for you know, and the remote antiquity conceals it not from you), the reason why an island, which the deep stream of Tiber closed about, has introduced Coronis’ child among the deities guarding the city of famed Romulus.

[626] A dire contagion had infested long the Latin air, and men’s pale bodies were deformed by a consumption that dried up the blood. When, frightened by so many deaths, they found all mortal efforts could avail them nothing, and physicians’ skill had no effect, they sought the aid of heaven. They sent envoys to Delphi center of the world, and they entreated Phoebus to give aid in their distress, and by response renew their wasting lives and end a city’s woe. While ground, and laurels and the quivers which the god hung there all shook, the tripod gave this answer from the deep recesses hid within the shrine, and stirred with trembling their astonished hearts—“What you are seeking here, O Romans, you should seek for nearer you. Then seek it nearer, for you do not need Apollo to relieve your wasting plague, you need Apollo’s son. Go then to him with a good omen and invite his aid.”

[641] After the prudent Senate had received Phoebus Apollo’s words, they took much pains to learn what town the son of Phoebus might inhabit. They despatched ambassadors under full sail to the coast of Epidaurus. When the curved ships had touched the shore, these men in haste went to the Grecian elders there and prayed that Rome might have the deity whose presence would drive out the mortal ill from their Ausonian nation; for they knew response unerring had directed them. The councillors dismayed, could not agree on their reply: some thought that aid ought not to be refused, but many more held back, declaring it was wise to keep the god for their own safety and not give away a guardian deity. And, while they talked, discussing it, the twilight had expelled the waning day, and darkness on the earth spread a thick mantle over the wide world. Then in your sleep, the healing deity appeared, O Roman leader, by your couch, as in his temple he is used to stand, holding in his left hand a rustic staff. Stroking his long beard with his right, he seemed to utter from his kindly breast these words: “Forget your fears; for I will come to you, and leave my altar. But now look well at the serpent with its binding folds entwined around this staff, and accurately mark it with your eyes that you may recognize it. I will transform myself into this shape but of a greater size, I will appear enlarged and of a magnitude to which a heavenly being ought to be transformed.”

[663] The god departed, when he said those words; and sleep went, when the god and words were gone; and genial light came, when the sleep had left. The morning then dispersed fire-given stars. The envoys met together in much doubt within the temple of the long sought god. They prayed the god to indicate for them, by clear celestial tokens, in what spot he wished to dwell. Scarce had they ceased the prayer for guidance, when the god all glittering with gold and as a serpent, crest erect, sent forth a hissing as to notify a quick approach—and in his coming shook his statue and the altars and the doors, the marble pavement and the gilded roof. Then up to his breast the serpent stood erect within the temple. He gazed on all with eyes that sparkled fire. The waiting multitude was frightened; but the priest, his chaste hair bound with a white fillet, knew the deity. “Behold the god!” he cried, “It is the god. Think holy thoughts and walk in reverent silence, all who are present. Oh, most Beautiful, let us behold you to our benefit, and give aid to this people that performs your sacred rites.”

[680] All present then adored the deity as bidden by the priest. The multitude repeated his good words, and the descendants of Aeneas gave good omen, with their feelings and their speech. Nodding well pleased and moving his great crest, the god at once assured them of his favor and hissed repeatedly with darting tongue. And then he glided down the polished steps; turned back his head; and, ready to depart, gazed on the altars he had known for so long—a last salute to the temple of his love. While all the people strewed his way with flowers, the great snake wound in sinuous course along and, passing through the middle of their town, came to the harbor and its curving wall. He stopped there, and it seemed that he dismissed his train and dutiful attendant crowd, and with a placid countenance he placed his mighty body in the Ausonian ship, which plainly showed the great weight of the god. The glad descendants of Aeneas all rejoiced, and they sacrificed a bull beside the harbor, wreathed the ship with flowers, and loosed the twisted hawsers from the shore. As a soft breeze impelled the ship, within her curving stern the god reclined, his coils uprising high, and gazed down on the blue Ionian waves.

[699] So wafted by the favoring winds, they came in six days to the shores of Italy. There he was borne past the Lacinian Cape, ennobled by the goddess Juno’s shrine, and Scylacean coasts. He left behind Iapygia; then he shunned Amphrysian rocks upon the left and on the other side escaped Cocinthian crags. He passed, near by, Romechium and Caulon and Naricia; crossed the Sicilian sea; went through the strait; sailed by Pelorus and the island home of Aeolus and by the copper mines of Temesa. He turned then toward Leucosia and toward mild Paestum, famous for the rose. He coasted by Capreae and around Minerva’s promontory and the hills ennobled with Surrentine vines, from there to Herculaneum and Stabiae and then Parthenope built for soft ease. He sailed near the Cumaean Sibyl’s temple. He passed the Warm Springs and Linternum, where the mastick trees grow, and the river called Volturnus, where thick sand whirls in the stream, over to Sinuessa’s snow-white doves; and then to Antium and its rocky coast.

[719] When with all sails full spread the ship came in the harbor there (for now the seas grew rough), the god uncoiled his folds, and, gliding out with sinuous curves and all his mighty length, entered the temple of his parent, where it skirts that yellow shore. But, when the sea was calm again, the Epidaurian god departing from his father’s shrine, where he a while had shared the sacred residence reared to a kindred deity, furrowed the sandy shore with weight of crackling scales, again he climbed into the lofty stern and near the rudder laid his head at rest. There he remained until the vessel passed by Castrum and Lavinium’s sacred homes to where the Tiber flows into the sea there all the people of Rome came rushing out—mothers and fathers and even those who tend your sacred fire, O Trojan goddess Vesta—and joyous shouted welcome to the god. Wherever the swift ship steered through the tide, they built up many altars in a line, so that perfuming frankincense with smoke crackled along the banks on either hand, and victims made the keen knives hot with blood. The serpent-deity has entered Rome, the world’s new capital and, lifting up his head above the summit of the mast, looked far and near for a congenial home. The river there, dividing, flows about a place known as the Island, on both sides an equal stream glides past dry middle ground. And here the serpent child of Phoebus left the Roman ship, took his own heavenly form, and brought the mourning city health once more

 

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About Collected Works of Sri Bhakti Ananda Goswami

This site is a repository of the written work of Bhakti Ananda Goswami managed by one of his students, Vrndavan Brannon Parker. Bhakti Ananda Goswami is a practicing Catholic Hermit under private vows, and a Vedic Monk in the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya-Vaishnava Lineage Tridanda Sannyasi and Siksha (Instructing) Master. His research provides the evidence proving that at the ultimate source there is only One Religion and Divinity yet there are multiple expressions of that religion and Divinity. Read the various collected articles on this site revealing that ancient Humanity was highly evolved and motivated by transcendent and life affirming impulses leading to High Civilization. (Please Note that this site is not maintained and updated by Bhakti Ananda Goswami himself but is managed by one of his students. Though he does scan the site he is not always able to respond to messages or comments.)

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