Pancrates – The Lion Hunt Poem

Fragments of this poem were originally only known from Athenaeus‘ Deipnosophistae, but then a fragment was discovered on a piece of papyrus from Oxyrhynchus.


And swifter than the steed of Adrastus
Which once saved its master as he fled through battle.
Such was the steed whereon Antinous sat in wait for the deadly lion,
Holding in his left hand the bridle-rein
And in his right a spear tipped with adamant.
First Hadrian his brass fitted spear wounded the beast
But slew him not, for of purpose he missed the mark,
Wishing to test to the full the sureness of aim
Of his lovely Antinous, son of the Argus-slayer.
Stricken, the beast was yet more aroused,
With his paws he tore the rough ground in anger,
And dust rising in a cloud dimmed the light of the sun.
He raged like a wave of the surging sea
When Zephyrus is stirred forth after the wind of Strumon.
Straight he rushed upon them both,
Scourging with his tail, his haunches and sides
While his eyes, beneath his brows, flashed dreadful fire;
And from his ravening jaws he sent forth a shower of foam
As his fangs gnashed within.
From his mighty head and shaggy neck the mane stood bristling.
On his limbs it was bushy as trees,
And on his back…it was like whetted spear points.
In such wise he came against the glorious god, upon Antinous
Like Typhoeus of old against Zeus, slayer of giants…


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Alexander Sarcophagus, late 4th century BC, Istanbul. Photo by Dave Proffer, 29 August 2006.