Bibliotherapy

Nonnus of Panopolis-The Hymn Of Dionysus To Starclad Herakles

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Herakles-Melqart, 5th century B.C., Cyprus. now in the Museo Barracco, Roma (Italia).

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Today’s sharing from the Blue House of HYGEIA is another excerpt from Nonnus of Panopolis’ ‘Dionysiaca’, chapter 40. Bacchus/Dionysus on his way back home after winning the war in India, arrives at the city of Tyre and after walking through, enters the temple of Starclad Herakles (also called Melqart the Tyrian Herakles) sings a hymn and praise to him. The god materializes and greets Dionysus, answering a few questions about the foundation of the city of Tyre (see our earlier post: Nonnus of Panopolis-The Snake And Eagle Brothers, The Mythical Foundation Of The City of Tyre). The attributes of the God are of the highest interest, as detailed remnants of ancient mythologies here been intertwined by Nonnus. English translation by William Henry Denham Rouse (1863-1950), from the Loeb Classical Library, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 1940. French translation by the Count Lodoïs de Martin du Tyrac de Marcellus. Firmin Didot, 1856.

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English

‘Starclad Herakles, lord of fire, prince of the universe! O Helios, long shadowed shepherd of human life, coursing round the whole sky with shining disk and wheeling the twelvemonth lichtgang the son of Time! Circle after circle thou drivest, and from thy chariot is shaped the running life space for youth and age! Nurse of wise birth, thou bringest forth the threefold image of the motherless Moon, while dewy Selene milks her imitative light from the fruitful beam, while she fills in her curving bull’s-horn. All shining Eye of the heavens, thou bringest in thy four-horse chariot winter following autumn, and changest spring to summer. Night pursued by thy shooting torch moves and gives place, when the first morning glimpse comes of thy straight necked steeds drawing the silver yoke under the lashes; when thy light shines, the varied heavenly meadow no longer shines brighter dotted with patterns of bright stars. From thy bath, in the waters of the eastern Ocean thou shakest off the creative moisture from thy cool hair, bringing the fruitful rain, and discharging the early wet of the heavenly dew upon the prolific earth. With thy disk thou givest increase to the growth of harvest, irrigating the bounteous corn in the life-nourishing furrows.’

‘Belos on the Euphrates, called Ammon in Libya, thou art Apis by the Nile, Arabian Cronos, Assyrian Zeus! On thy fragrant altar, that thousand-year-old wise bird the phoenix lays sweet-smelling woods with his curved claw, bringing the end of one life and the beginning of another; for there he is born again, self-begotten, the image of equal time renewed — he sheds old age in the fire, and from the fire takes in exchange youthful bloom. Be thou called Sarapis, the cloudless Zeus of Egypt; be thou Cronos, or Phaethon of many names, or Mithras the Sun of Babylon, in Hellas Delphic Apollo; be thou Gamos, whom Love begat in shadowy dreams, fulfilling the deceptive desire of a mock union, when from sleeping Zeus, after he had sprinkled the damp seed over the earth with the self-wedding point of the sword, the heights brought forth by reason of the heavenly drops; be thou pain quelling Paieon, or patterned Heaven; be thou called the Starclad, since by night starry mantles illuminate the sky — O hear my voice graciously with friendly ears!’

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French

Roi du feu, principe du monde, Hercule Astrochiton, Soleil, éternel régulateur de la vie des hommes, toi qui parcours de ton disque brûlant tous les pôles, tu ramènes par cercle les douze mois de l’année, fille du Temps. C’est de ton char que l’âge descend et se forme pour la jeunesse et la vieillesse à la fois ; aide d’un sublime enfantement, tu produis la triple image de la bienfaisante Lune, qui n’a pas eu de mère. C’est à tes feux féconds qu’elle rallume ses feux reflétés quand elle réunit en globe les cornes recourbées d’un taureau. Œil de l’air que tu illumines, tu portes, dans ton char aux quatre coursiers, l’hiver après l’automne et l’été à la suite du printemps. La Nuit, poursuivie par tes traits, s’enfuit détrônée dès que paraît ton joug argenté, et que la tête de tes chevaux qui se cabrent sous ton fouet montre le bord de ta lumière. Obscure avant tes flammes, la vaste prairie du ciel s’émaille, sous ton éclat, d’étoiles plus brillantes. Baigné dans les flots de l’Océan oriental, tu secoues la tiède rosée de ta féconde chevelure, tu promènes une pluie bienfaisante ; tu répands sur la terre fertile le breuvage éthéré de la rosée matinale ; et, versant dans les sillons générateurs les dons de Gérés, tu fais croître et gonfler les épis sous ton disque.

On te nomme Bélus sur l’Euphrate, Ammon en Libye, Apis sur le Nil, Cronos dans l’Arabie, en Assyrie Jupiter. Sur ton autel parfumé, l’oiseau qui présage sa fin, le phénix, après mille ans, apporte dans ses serres recourbées des rameaux odoriférants. A la fin de 6a vie, il en renouvelle par lui-même le début ; il s’enfante seul, image du temps qui recommence et se perpétue ; il se dégage de sa vieillesse, et reçoit des flammes une jeunesse nouvelle. Que tu sois Serapis, le Jupiter sans nuage de l’Égypte, ou le Temps, ou Phaéton sous tant de noms divers; que tu sois Mithra, le soleil de Babylone, ou l’Apollon delphique de la Grèce ; que tu sois colin le dieu Gamos, né des songes nocturnes où l’Amour accomplit les vœux illusoires d’une union imaginaire, lorsque, pendant le sommeil de Jupiter, la terre entr’ouverte par la pointe du glaive générateur en reçut les germes humides que les collines firent éclore sous les rosées envoyées des cieux; que tu sois le Péon qui apaise la douleur, ou l’éther émaillé que l’on nomme Astrochiton, car tes tuniques constellées illuminent le ciel pendant la nuit : écoute d’une oreille favorable et exauce ma prière.’

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Greek

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An illustration from the Encyclopaedia Biblica. Image of a half-shekel from Tyre in the year 102 BC. The human-like head is that of Melkarth, the Tyrian deity (often called, the ‘Tyrian Hercules’). On the other side of the coin is an eagle with one foot on the prow of a galley. Next to it is a club, which is a symbol of Melkarth. It says “Year 24, [coin] of Tyre, the sacred and inviolable [city]”
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dionysiaka 🌿https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melqart🌿Nonnus of Panopolis’ ‘Dionysiaca’: https://topostext.org/work/529 🌿 Also associated to this hymn is ‘The Hymn to the Sun’ preserved by Martianus Capella, in his ‘Wedding of Philologia and Mercur’; it is little known and contains a summary of the Egyptian and Pythagorean Theologies concerning the Sun: https://travellers-to-the-east.org/2018/04/03/hymn-to-the-sun-under-the-name-of-bacchus-bacchus-adi-altinda-gunese-ezgi/
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