Prayers of the Argonautica
by: M. Horatius Piscinus
Gaius Valerius Flaccus (d. before 90 CE)


1.5-7: Advise me, Phoebus Apollo, if ever You inspired the Sibyl of Cumae to see visions waft from a kettle in Your sacred house, if ever a chaplet of fresh laurel dignified a worthy brow, and O You whose great fame opened many a sea.

1.79-90: Uncertain and confused, he then strengthens his deep conviction, piously raising the palms of his hands heavenward to the stars in religious form to pray, "Almighty Queen of Heaven, remember when Jupiter made the skies grow wild with black clouds and sheets of rain; remember when Thundering Jupiter commanded Your return to the marriage bed and how You, frightened with sudden capture and at being left destitute following Your rape, sought only how to flee; remember how it was I who carried You upon my shoulders across the storm swollen Enipeus, when it carried away its banks to flood the Thessalian plane, and all were carried before its torrents. Grant, Juno, that I may arrive safely to Scythia where the Phasis flows. And You, virgin Minerva, snatch me away from harm. I, even I then, will set that plucked fleece in your shrine, and my father, relieved and grateful, will dedicate snow white cattle from herds and lead them to your altar with gilded horns."

1.188-203: Neptune, Lord of Waters, the highest honor falls to You, along the shoreline, decked with dark blue ribbons, a bull Ancaeus fells, and to Zephyris and Glaucus bulls as well, while a heifer is offered to Thetis. No one is more deft than he with the ritual axe at the fat necks of the cattle. Jason himself pours a goblet in libation to the lord of the sea, saying, "O god, who with a nod can stir the ocean foam, You who with Your salt water encompass the lands of the earth, hear my prayer and grant me Your indulgence. I am the first of mankind to venture forth on unlawful paths across Your waters, and therefore, one might suppose, deserve the worst of Your storms. It is not my own idea to presume in this way, to pile mountain on high mountain and summon down from Olympus bolts of heavenly lightning. Pelias? prayers are false. Do not be swayed by his vows, but know that he devised and imposed his cruel commands to send me off to Colchis and bring on me and my kin the bitterest grief. I beg of You, therefore, mercy and justice. Let Your waters receive me: bear me up and protect this ship and its crew of kings." Thus he spoke as he poured the rich wine from the cup on the blazing coals of fire.

1.265-70 Looking up to the North Star Peleus prayed, "Heavenly gods, I have heard the omens and offer thanks that you will grant the following wind we want, but I ask that you will spare the head of this remarkable son of mine, Achilles,? and then to Chiron he said, ?Give him whatever he needs. Teach him of warfare and let him learn in the hunt the use of all his small arms weapons. Soon, when he has his strength he will wield a spear like my own."

1.667-80: O You Gods who rule the waves and hold domain over the winds and storms, you whose dwelling places reach from the ocean's depths to the heights of heaven, and you Father of the Gods, who order the spheres of the sky and govern the tides, behold a novelty here on earth, a ship on the sea with armed men. For your rage I make atonement and pray you look with indulgence upon us. Let me bring these men safely to shore, and let me go home again where I shall offer up on the sacrificial altars those rich feasts your mercy shall have deserved. In every village and hamlet men shall acknowledge the might of Neptune and pay you homage.

1.783-822: "You who received from mighty Jove the gift of light and whose names still resound on earth for your fortunate reigns, your wisdom in council and valor in war, your heirs remember each of you with reverence. And you, my beloved father, summoned as you have been to witness my death and endure yet again the all but forgotten sorrow of the flesh, welcome me now to your dim and quiet world. Accept this offering I send before me. You, Astraea, Goddess of Justice, and You the Eumenides, who avenge transgressions of the laws of the Gods, and Themis, whose retribution all men ought to fear, attend on Pelias' wicked house. Visit upon him your cleansing torches and fill him with fear: let him understand that Jason will not come home alone, but hordes of Asians, crazed, will follow hard and looking for vengeance. Let him walk the shore and worry that the force of these hostile princes may overwhelm his own. Let him behold in terror the heroes returning in triumph and let his schemes for protection be endless and all in vain. Jason shall parade the Golden Fleece, and my spirit will gloat as Pelias cringes. But let his end be shameful, not by the hand of a soldier in the light of day, but secret, wretched, as women, his kinsfolk, do him to shameful death. Let it be painful and also absurd, as those he has trusted turn on him, betraying, tearing him limb from limb in a madness that does not leave fragments enough for a tomb. This is my dying prayer, that he be made to pay for having sent my son and his brave companions to sea."

2.294-97: O Goddess, whose sleep bearing chariot carries You across the broad surface of darkening oceans, nod with approval to our vows. I do not ask that my father be given a realm to rule, no subject people for him to lord over, but only that he be allowed to depart peacefully from this land.

2.611-12: O Cretheian Virgin, borne on graceful and gentle waves, unfold the way, Goddess, and show us what course to follow.

3.14-8: O Clio, unfold for me now the unspeakable cause of war between men. To You, Virgin, is given knowledge of the hearts and minds of the Gods and the way of things. Why would Jupiter allow that rights hands once clasped in friendship should then turn in battle towards one another? By what means does Erinys sound the war trumpets and removes the tranquility of night?

3.201-3: Gods, I pray, may it be assigned to a king or someone of equal rank, or else someone of still greater stature for whom the city will weep lamentations.

3.212-13: Muse, be with me as on all other nights; inspire me to continue on with our Tartarean tale.

3.448-55: Leave us, you ghosts of the slain, forget those angry memories and vengeful thoughts. Let peace come between us. May you grow to love your Stygian resting place, far from our crew and far from the seas we travel, and may you stay far from the battles we engage. At no time haunt our cities back home in Greece or at the crossroads howl. Do no harm to our pigs and cattle, bring no pestilence to our herds or crops. Do not woefully assail our people or our children.

4.474-6: I pray first to You, thunderous Jupiter Tonans, that now finally You may spare me in my old age and lift the manner in which Your anger has been set upon me.

4.674-5: Whosoever You may be among the Gods, I shall follow wherever You may lead, in faithful trust that You do not deceive.

5.17-20: Turn to us now, Mighty Archer, I pray that finally now, Apollo, You will come to our aid! Father, revive the life of this man. If You approve of what we do, then stir back to life he who is of the utmost importance for the success of our venture; and so from this one does the fate of all hands depends.

5.51-53: O Holy Ghost, I pray that you may come to us in the semblance of a guiding spirit with foreknowledge of impending storms and advising our helmsman on the course he must follow.

5.192-209: Bearing sacramental wine in a heavy bowl he approaches the tomb and its altar and pours out the libation, addressing the ghosts of the dead. "Phrixus, hear me, your kinsman. I pray you be my guide in this enterprise. Protect us and help us now that we have reached this land, having survived the perils of the trackless seas we have crossed. Remember your countrymen in kindness, and favor your kinsfolk. And You, too, my Lady, at whose empty tomb I stand, a goddess now of the sea, be gracious to us and help us now and on our return when we venture again on your waves. When shall that golden fleece sail again past Sestus, perhaps to recognize that unfortunate stretch of water? And You, O woods and shores of Colchis, welcome us now and lead us to that sacred tree where the glittering fleece hangs. And you, O Phasis, child of potent Jove, accept and allow Minerva's vessel to travel between your banks on your tranquil current. Appropriate gifts I promise at shrines that I shall erect in your honour when I get home -statues commanding the reverence we pay to the Enipeus or the Inachus whose god lolls in his golden cave."

5.217-19: And now, O Goddess, begin anew a different song to tell the story of Jason, the Thessalian chieftain whose deeds you with your own eyes witnessed. Not the powers of my mind or my speech are enough for the task.

5.244-52: The king, startled by his dreams, awoke, arose from his bed and addressed his father, the god of the sun, whose car would soon appear on the eastern shore. "Father Apollo, I pray to you, all-seeing guardian god, be gracious to me and protect me, watching of my kingdom. Be ever vigilant and warn me what subjects of mine or strangers conspire against me. Whatever treacherous plots there may be, keep me alert and prepared. And You, Gradivus, hear me, on whose sacred oak which fleece glitters. Protect it and keep it safe always, your arms prepared to clash at the clarion?s sound to which your voice responds, ringing out in the darkness."

5.378-90: If you are a goddess, if to your great glory this temple was built, then from Olympus descend and visit mortals on earth. The ritual torches your nymphs in attendance carry contribute nothing to your own luminous brightness as you wander here with your escorts along this Caucasian river. But if I am somehow mistaken, and you are a mortal whose home is here on earth, then your parents I am sure must take great pride in having you now as their daughter as someday that fortunate man who bears you away as his bride will also rejoice and be happy. Meanwhile O noble Lady, I ask that you grant your favor and aid to a band of princes of Greece who have crossed the sea to seek the house of the king. Lead us I pray to your lord and let us know the correct customs and the proper mode of address we ought to employ. Heaven has intervened, sending you here to cross our path at this critical moment. Ignorant of this place as we are, we rely on your good advice, and something with me tells me to trust in your goodwill.

6.33-5: Now, O Muse, sing of the frantic deeds you beheld in that cold and mountainous land and tell the desperate striving when Perses drove his Scythian horde, putting his hopes and trust in the brave but mortal flesh of men and horses.

6.213-6: Strike me down, too, that I may rejoin my departed comrades. But first let this our spear fell that traitorous horse who did not carry back our father's arms, but even now instead he charges against me and serves the captured hide

6.288-91: Holy Father Vorapte, give me the strength and courage to try to do you credit so that I may teach my children those lessons you once taught to me.

6.515-6: Tell, O Muse, how it was and recall for us now that frenzy.

6.727-36: You gods above, why did you mislead me? Why did you give me omens that lured me from home to stir up my Scythian forces and set this altogether misguided battle in progress? Your augurs lied. You promised me, Jupiter, triumph over my brother, you let me believe these Argive strangers would join my cause. To live in the light is to learn to endure such gross betrayals. What man of honor can bear it? Better to die. And yet I ask that the Fates may grant me one more day, to betray the Achaeans and bring them to ruin also, as they have deserved. Let me live to behold Jason, so proud of his prowess, cheated and hating his efforts when all will have come to nothing.

8.70-74: Medea raises her arms to the sky. In her hand she holds her wand and she recites to Father Sleep in rhythmic incantations. ?From all the four directions I, the girl from Colchis, call upon you to come and bid you descend in all your power upon the serpent. You have helped me often before, with your horn I have gentled the waves of the sea and the sky's dark storm clouds and lightning bolts. Come now, reverend sir, to perform a more daunting task and show that your might compares with.
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