On their underworld journey, the Sibyl has already described to Aeneas the frightful prison-fortress of Tartarus before them, and the terrifying powers that guard it. Now she describes some of the sins committed by those imprisoned there to await their punishment. Phlegyas’s crimes included burning the temple of Apollo at Delphi.
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“Hic, quibus invisi fratres, dum vita manebat,
pulsatusve parens et fraus innexa clienti,
aut qui divitiis soli incubuere repertis
nec partem posuere suis (quae maxima turba est),
quique ob adulterium caesi, quique arma secuti
impia nec veriti dominorum fallere dextras,
inclusi poenam exspectant. ne quaere doceri
quam poenam, aut quae forma viros fortunave mersit.
saxum ingens volvunt alii, radiisque rotarum
districti pendent; sedet aeternumque sedebit
infelix Theseus, Phlegyasque miserrimus omnis
admonet et magna testatur voce per umbras:
‘discite iustitiam moniti et non temnere divos’.
vendidit hic auro patriam dominumque potentem
imposuit; fixit leges pretio atque refixit;
hic thalamum invasit natae vetitosque hymenaeos:
ausi omnes immane nefas ausoque potiti.
non, mihi si linguae centum sint oraque centum,
ferrea vox, omnis scelerum comprendere formas,
omnia poenarum percurrere nomina possim.”
“Imprisoned here, there await punishment those
who when alive hated brothers, struck a parent,
entangled a client in fraud, found wealth,
hoarded it for themselves alone and gave no share
to their own (these the greatest crowd!), died
for adultery, took up impious arms, did not fear
to fail their masters in the fight. Do not ask what
punishment, what form the fate that crushed them.
Some roll a huge rock, some hang stretched on the
spokes of wheels, Theseus sits, and for ever will,
and Phlegyas, most miserable of any, warns all comers
and loudly bears witness through the dark:
‘be warned, learn justice, do not scorn the Gods!’
One sold his country for gold, set a harsh tyrant
over it, made, and remade, the laws for pay; one
invaded his child’s bed in forbidden wedlock;
all dared the worst infamy, and carried it out.
Not if I had a hundred tongues and mouths, an iron
voice, could I cover every form of crime, call
every form of retribution by name.”