Bk XV:622-745 Aesculapius, the god, saves Rome from plague.
You Muses, goddesses present to poets, reveal, now (since you know, and spacious time cannot betray you) where Aesculapius, son of Coronis, came from, to be joined to the gods of Romulus's city, that the deep Tiber flows around.
Once, plague tainted the air of Latium, and people's bodies were ravaged by disease, pallid and bloodless. When they saw that their efforts were useless, and medical skill was useless, wearied with funeral rites, they sought help from the heavens, and travelled to Delphi, set at the centre of the earth, to the oracle of Phoebus, and prayed that he would aid them, in their misery, by a health-giving prophecy, and end their great city's evil. The ground, the laurel-tree, and the quiver he holds himself, trembled together, and the tripod responded with these words, from the innermost sanctuary, troubling their fearful minds: "You should have looked in a nearer place, Romans, for what you seek here: even now, look for it from that nearer place: your help is not from Apollo, to lessen your pain, but Apollo's son. Go, with good omens, and fetch my child."
When the Senate, in its wisdom, heard the god's command, it made enquiries as to the city where Phoebus's son lived, and sent an embassy to sail to the coast of Epidaurus. As soon as the curved ship touched shore, the embassy went to the council of Greek elders, and begged them to give up the god, who, by his presence, might prevent the death of the Ausonian race: so the oracle truly commanded. They disagreed, and were of various minds: some thought that help could not be refused: the majority recommended the god should be kept, and their own wealth not released, or surrendered.
While they wavered, as dusk dispelled the lingering light, and darkness covered the countries of the earth with shadow, then, in your dreams, Aesculapius, god of healing, seemed to stand before your bed, Roman, just as he is seen in his temple, holding a rustic staff in his left hand, and stroking his long beard with his right, and with a calm voice, speaking these words: "Have no fear! I will come, and I will leave a statue of myself behind. Take a good look at this snake, that winds, in knots, round my staff, and keep it in your sight continually, until you know it! I will change into this, but greater in size, seeming as great as a celestial body should be when it changes." The god vanished with the voice, at once: and sleep, with the voice, and the god: and as sleep fled, kind day dawned.
When morning had put the bright stars to flight, the leaders, still unsure what to do, gathered at the temple complex of that god whom the Romans sought, and begged him to show them by some divine token where he himself wanted to live. They had hardly ceased speaking, when the golden god, in the likeness of a serpent with a tall crest, gave out a hiss as a harbinger of his presence, and by his coming, rocked the statue, the doors, the marble pavement, and the gilded roof. Then he stopped, in the middle of the temple, raising himself breast-high, and gazed round, with eyes flashing fire.
The terrified crowd trembled, but the priest, his sacred locks tied with a white band, knew the divine one, and cried: "The god, behold, it is the god! Restrain your minds and tongues, whoever is here! Let the sight of you, O most beautiful one, work for us, and help the people worshipping at your shrine!" Whoever was there, worshipped the god, as they were told, and all re-echoed the priest's words, and the Romans gave dutiful support, with mind and voice.
The god nodded, and shook his crest, confirming his favour, by hissing three times in succession, with his flickering tongue. Then he glided down the gleaming steps, and turning his head backwards, gazed at the ancient altars he was abandoning, and saluted his accustomed house, and the temple where he had lived. From there the vast serpent slid over the flower-strewn ground, flexing his body, and made his way through the city centre to the harbour, protected by its curved embankment. He halted there, and, appearing to dismiss the dutiful throng, with a calm expression, settled his body down in the Ausonian ship. It felt the divine burden, and the keel sank under the god's weight. The Romans were joyful, and, sacrificing a bull on the shore, they loosed the twisted cables of their wreath-crowned ship. A gentle breeze drove the vessel: the god arching skyward, rested his neck heavily on the curving sternpost, and gazed at the dark blue waters.
With gentle breezes he reached Italy, over the Ionian Sea, on the sixth morning. He passed the shores of Lacinium, famous for Juno's temple, and Scylaceum; he left Iapygia, and avoided the rocks of Amphrisia to larboard, the cliffs of Cocinthia to starboard; he coasted by Romethium, by Caulon and Narycia: he passed the narrow strait of Sicilian Pelorus, and the home of King Aeolus, and the mines of Temese, and headed for Leucosia and the rose-gardens of gentle Paestum.
From there he skirted Capri, and Minerva's promontory, and Surrentum's hills well-stocked with vines, Herculaneum, Stabiae, and Parthenope, born for idleness, and headed for the temple of the Cumean Sibyl. By Baiae's hot pools; and Liternum's lentisk trees; and the River Volturnus, dragging quantities of sand along in its floodwaters; and Sinuessa, frequented by white doves; and unhealthy Minturnae; and Caïeta, named after her whom Aeneas her foster-son buried; and the home of Antiphates; and marsh-surrounded Trachas; and Circe's land; and Antium's firm shore.
When the sailors steered their ship, under sail, to the place (since the sea was now rough) the god unwound his coils, and gliding along, fold after fold, in giant curves, entered his father Apollo's temple, bordering the yellow strand. When the sea was calm, the Epidaurian left the paternal altars, and having enjoyed the hospitality of his divine father, furrowed the sandy shore as he dragged his rasping scales along, and climbing the rudder, rested his head on the ship's high sternpost, until he came to Castrum, the sacred city of Lavinium, and the Tiber's mouths.
All the people, men and women alike, had come thronging from every side, in a crowd, to meet him, along with those who serve your flames, Trojan Vesta, and they hailed the god with joyful cries. As the swift ship sailed up-stream, incense burned with a crackling sound on a series of altars on either bank, and the fumes perfumed the air, and the slaughtered victims bled heat on the sacrificial knives.
Now it entered Rome, the capital of the world. The snake stood erect, and resting his neck on the mast's summit, turned, and looked for places fit for him to live. The river splits here into two branches, flowing round what is named the Island, stretching its two arms out equally on both sides, with the land between. There the serpent-child of Phoebus landed, and, resuming his divine form, made an end to grief, and came as a health-giver to the city.