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Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [H5v p122]

Scyphus Nestoris.

Nestor’s cup


Nestoreum geminis cratera hunc accipe fundis,[1]
Quod gravis argenti massa profundit opus.
Claviculi ex auro, stant circum quatuor ansae:
Unamquamque super fulva columba sedet.
Link to an image of this page  Link to an image of this page  [H6r p123]Solus eum potuit longaevus tollere Nestor.
Maeonidae doceas quid sibi musa velit?
Est caelum, scyphus ipse: colorque argenteus illi,
Aurea sunt caeli sidera claviculi.
Pleiadas esse putant, quas dixerit ille columbas:[2]
Umbilici gemini[3] magna minorque fera est.[4]
Haec Nestor longo sapiens intelligit usu:
Bella gerunt fortes: callidus astra tenet.

Receive this bowl of Nestor with its double support, a work which a heavy mass of silver shaped. Its studs are of gold. Four handles stand about it. Above each one sits a yellow dove. Only aged Nestor was able to lift it. Do tell us what Homer’s Muse intended. The cup itself is the heavens; its colour is silvery; the studs are the golden stars of heaven. They think that what he called doves are the Pleiades. The twin bosses are the great and lesser beast. The wise Nestor understood this by long experience: the strong wage war, the wise man grasps the stars.


1.  Nestor’s bowl is described at Homer, Iliad, 11.632-7. Only Nestor, for all his great age (see Emblem 25. n.4, [A91a025]) could lift it when full. For the interpretation of Nestor’s cup (or mixing bowl) given here, see Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, 11.487 F ff.

2.  The Greek word for ‘doves’ is πελειάδες.

3.  ‘twin bosses’, i.e. possibly the protuberances inside the bowl where it was joined to the two supports.

4.  ‘great and lesser beast’, i.e. the Great and Little Bear, a phrase based on Ovid, Tristia, 4.3.1: ‘magna minorque ferae’.

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