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Metamorphoses
Ovid

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Bk VII:501-613 Aeacus tells of the plague at Aegina.

After meeting and exchanging a few words, Cephalus described his mandate from Athens, asking for help and quoting the treaty sworn to by their ancestors, adding that Minos was out to control all Achaia. When he had invoked the treaty, in this way, to aid his cause, Aeacus, resting his left hand on the handle of his sceptre, replied, "Don't ask for our help, assume it. Don't hesitate to reckon the forces of this island your own, and (let this state of my fortunes last!) energy is not lacking. I have men enough, and thank the gods, the moment is auspicious and there will be no excuses." "I wish it may always be so," Cephalus said, "and may your city swell its numbers. Indeed, as I came I felt happy: so many equally youthful, handsome people, meeting me on the way. Yet there were many I missed, that I saw before, when I visited the city." Aeacus sighed, and spoke sadly. "From a bad beginning, better fortune follows. I wish I could recall the one for you without the other! I'll take them in order, now, and not stall you with irrelevances. Those your mind, remembering, misses are only bones and ashes, and how great a part of my wealth perished with them!
        
A terrible plague afflicted the people through the unjust anger of Juno, detesting us because our island had been named after my mother, her rival. While it looked like a human disease, and the cause of the disastrous epidemic was hidden, we fought it with medical skill. But the destruction cancelled out our efforts, which waned as we were conquered. At the outset the sky shrouded the earth in a thick fog, and held the sultry heat under clouds. While Luna filled her horns four times to make her disc complete, and four times thinned her full disc away, hot southerly winds breathed their deadly air on us. We know the pestilence reached our lakes and streams. Thousands of snakes slithered through the empty fields, and fouled the waters with their slime. The unexpected power of the disease surprised us, at the first, with its destruction of dogs, sheep and cattle, wild animals and birds. The wretched ploughman watches in dismay as sturdy oxen stumble in their task, and sink down onto the furrows. The flocks of sheep give out a sickly bleating, while the wool falls away of itself, and their bodies waste. The spirited horse, once famous on the track, loses his glory, and forgetting past honour, whinnies in his stall, dying a slow death. The wild boar no longer remembers his fury; the deer cannot trust to speed; the bears cannot match the strength of the herds. Lethargy grips them all. Decaying carcasses lie in the roadways, fields and woods, and the air is fouled with the stench. Strangely, dogs, carrion birds, and grey wolves, will not touch them. They rot on the ground, pollute the air with their dying breath, and spread contagion far and wide.
        
Increasing in virulence the pestilence spreads to the luckless farmers themselves, and takes lordship inside the city walls. Firstly the inner organs grow hot, and a flushed skin and feverish breath are symptoms of hidden warmth. The tongue is rough and swollen with heat: the lips are parted, parched with dry breath, and gasping suck in the heavy air. The sick cannot tolerate a bed or any kind of covering, but lie face down on the bare ground, though the earth does not cool their bodies, their bodies heat the earth.
        
No one can control it, and it breaks out fiercely among the doctors themselves, and the practice of their skill condemns the practitioners. The nearer people are to the sick, and the more selflessly they attend them, the more swiftly they meet their fate, and as the hope of recovery deserts them, and they see the end of their illness only in death, they give way to their desires, and ignore what is good for them, since nothing is any good. Everywhere they cling to the fountains and runnels and deep wells, and drinking, thirst is not quenched sooner than life. Many of them are too weak to stand, and even die in the water, yet others still draw it. Others loathe their hateful beds so much they leave them, and if they lack the strength to stand, they roll out onto the ground. They quit their household gods since their house seems fatal to them, and, because the cause is unknown, the building itself is blamed. You see them, half-dead, wandering the streets, while they can still stay on their feet, others lying on the ground weeping, turning their exhausted gaze upwards in their dying efforts, and stretching their arms out to the stars in the overhanging sky, breathing their last, here or there, wherever death has overtaken them.
        
What were my feelings then? What could they be, but to hate life, and to wish to be with my people? Wherever I looked as I turned my gaze, there were layers of dead, like rotten apples fallen from shaken branches, or acorns from a windblown ilex. See that temple opposite on the hill with a flight of steps up to it? It is Jupiter's. Who among us did not bring useless offerings to those shrines? How often a husband while still praying for his wife, or a father still praying for his son, ended his life in front of those implacable altars, part of the unused incense found in their hands! How often the sacrificial bulls fell down, without waiting for the blow, while the priest was praying and pouring unmixed wine between the horns. Even when I was sacrificing to Jove, for myself my country and my three sons, the victim let out a dreadful moan, and suddenly collapsed without a stroke from my blade, barely staining the knives below with its blood. The diseased entrails showed no marks, from which to read the prophetic truths, and warnings, of the gods. That offensive morbidity penetrated to their vital organs. I have seen corpses thrown down in front of the temple doors, in front of the altars, to make their deaths even more of a reproach. Some cut off their breath with a noose, and banished, by death, their fear of death, summoning their approaching fate from the beyond.

The bodies of the dead were not given the usual rites (the exit gates from the city could not cope with so many funerals). They either lay on the ground unburied, or were given to the heaped pyres without ceremony. And now there was no reverence left: the people struggled to the pyres, and were consumed by others' flames. There was no one left to mourn, and the spirits of parents and children, of young and old were left to wander, unwept. There was no space in the burial mounds, and not enough wood for the fires."
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