Publius Vergilius Maro (Virgil)
I sing of arms and the man, he who, exiled by fate,
first came from the coast of Troy to Italy, and to
Lavinian shores – hurled about endlessly by land and sea,
by the will of the gods, by cruel Juno’s remorseless anger,
long suffering also in war, until he founded a city
and brought his gods to Latium: from that the Latin people
came, the lords of Alba Longa, the walls of noble Rome.
Muse, tell me the cause: how was she offended in her divinity,
how was she grieved, the Queen of Heaven, to drive a man,
noted for virtue, to endure such dangers, to face so many
trials? Can there be such anger in the minds of the gods?
There was an ancient city, Carthage (held by colonists from Tyre),
opposite Italy, and the far-off mouths of the Tiber,
rich in wealth, and very savage in pursuit of war.
They say Juno loved this one land above all others,
even neglecting Samos: here were her weapons
and her chariot, even then the goddess worked at,
and cherished, the idea that it should have supremacy
over the nations, if only the fates allowed.
Yet she’d heard of offspring, derived from Trojan blood,
that would one day overthrow the Tyrian stronghold:
that from them a people would come, wide-ruling,
and proud in war, to Libya’s ruin: so the Fates ordained.
Fearing this, and remembering the ancient war
she had fought before, at Troy, for her dear Argos,
(and the cause of her anger and bitter sorrows
had not yet passed from her mind: the distant judgement
of Paris stayed deep in her heart, the injury to her scorned beauty,
her hatred of the race, and abducted Ganymede’s honours)
the daughter of Saturn, incited further by this,
hurled the Trojans, the Greeks and pitiless Achilles had left,
round the whole ocean, keeping them far from Latium:
they wandered for many years, driven by fate over all the seas.
Such an effort it was to found the Roman people.
They were hardly out of sight of Sicily’s isle, in deeper water,
joyfully spreading sail, bronze keel ploughing the brine,
when Juno, nursing the eternal wound in her breast,
spoke to herself: ‘Am I to abandon my purpose, conquered,
unable to turn the Teucrian king away from Italy!
Why, the fates forbid it. Wasn’t Pallas able to burn
the Argive fleet, to sink it in the sea, because of the guilt
and madness of one single man, Ajax, son of Oileus?
She herself hurled Jupiter’s swift fire from the clouds,
scattered the ships, and made the sea boil with storms:
She caught him up in a water-spout, as he breathed flame
from his pierced chest, and pinned him to a sharp rock:
yet I, who walk about as queen of the gods, wife
and sister of Jove, wage war on a whole race, for so many years.
Indeed, will anyone worship Juno’s power from now on,
or place offerings, humbly, on her altars?’
So debating with herself, her heart inflamed, the goddess
came to Aeolia, to the country of storms, the place
of wild gales. Here in his vast cave, King Aeolus,
keeps the writhing winds, and the roaring tempests,
under control, curbs them with chains and imprisonment.
They moan angrily at the doors, with a mountain’s vast murmurs:
Aeolus sits, holding his sceptre, in his high stronghold,
softening their passions, tempering their rage: if not,
they’d surely carry off seas and lands and the highest heavens,
with them, in rapid flight, and sweep them through the air.
But the all-powerful Father, fearing this, hid them
in dark caves, and piled a high mountain mass over them
and gave them a king, who by fixed agreement, would know
how to give the order to tighten or slacken the reins.
Juno now offered these words to him, humbly:
‘Aeolus, since the Father of gods, and king of men,
gave you the power to quell, and raise, the waves with the winds,
there is a people I hate sailing the Tyrrhenian Sea,
bringing Troy’s conquered gods to Italy:
Add power to the winds, and sink their wrecked boats,
or drive them apart, and scatter their bodies over the sea.
I have fourteen Nymphs of outstanding beauty:
of whom I’ll name Deiopea, the loveliest in looks,
joined in eternal marriage, and yours for ever, so that,
for such service to me as yours, she’ll spend all her years
with you, and make you the father of lovely children.’
Aeolus replied: ‘Your task, O queen, is to decide
what you wish: my duty is to fulfil your orders.
You brought about all this kingdom of mine, the sceptre,
Jove’s favour, you gave me a seat at the feasts of the gods,
and you made me lord of the storms and the tempests.’
When he had spoken, he reversed his trident and struck
the hollow mountain on the side: and the winds, formed ranks,
rushed out by the door he’d made, and whirled across the earth.
They settle on the sea, East and West wind,
and the wind from Africa, together, thick with storms,
stir it all from its furthest deeps, and roll vast waves to shore:
follows a cry of men and a creaking of cables.
Suddenly clouds take sky and day away
from the Trojan’s eyes: dark night rests on the sea.
It thunders from the pole, and the aether flashes thick fire,
and all things threaten immediate death to men.
Instantly Aeneas groans, his limbs slack with cold:
stretching his two hands towards the heavens,
he cries out in this voice: ‘Oh, three, four times fortunate
were those who chanced to die in front of their father’s eyes
under Troy’s high walls! O Diomede, son of Tydeus
bravest of Greeks! Why could I not have fallen, at your hand,
in the fields of Ilium, and poured out my spirit,
where fierce Hector lies, beneath Achilles’s spear,
and mighty Sarpedon: where Simois rolls, and sweeps away
so many shields, helmets, brave bodies, of men, in its waves!’
Hurling these words out, a howling blast from the north,
strikes square on the sail, and lifts the seas to heaven:
the oars break: then the prow swings round and offers
the beam to the waves: a steep mountain of water follows in a mass.
Some ships hang on the breaker’s crest: to others the yawning deep
shows land between the waves: the surge rages with sand.
The south wind catches three, and whirls them onto hidden rocks
(rocks the Italians call the Altars, in mid-ocean,
a vast reef on the surface of the sea) three the east wind drives
from the deep, to the shallows and quick-sands (a pitiful sight),
dashes them against the bottom, covers them with a gravel mound.
A huge wave, toppling, strikes one astern, in front of his very eyes,
one carrying faithful Orontes and the Lycians.
The steersman’s thrown out and hurled headlong, face down:
but the sea turns the ship three times, driving her round,
in place, and the swift vortex swallows her in the deep.
Swimmers appear here and there in the vast waste,
men’s weapons, planking, Trojan treasure in the waves.
Now the storm conquers Iloneus’s tough ship, now Achates,
now that in which Abas sailed, and old Aletes’s:
their timbers sprung in their sides, all the ships
let in the hostile tide, and split open at the seams.
Neptune, meanwhile, greatly troubled, saw that the sea
was churned with vast murmur, and the storm was loose
and the still waters welled from their deepest levels:
he raised his calm face from the waves, gazing over the deep.
He sees Aeneas’s fleet scattered all over the ocean,
the Trojans crushed by the breakers, and the plummeting sky.
And Juno’s anger, and her stratagems, do not escape her brother.
He calls the East and West winds to him, and then says:
‘Does confidence in your birth fill you so? Winds, do you dare,
without my intent, to mix earth with sky, and cause such trouble,
now? You whom I – ! But it’s better to calm the running waves:
you’ll answer to me later for this misfortune, with a different punishment. Hurry, fly now, and say this to your king:
control of the ocean, and the fierce trident, were given to me,
by lot, and not to him. He owns the wild rocks, home to you,
and yours, East Wind: let Aeolus officiate in his palace,
and be king in the closed prison of the winds.’
So he speaks, and swifter than his speech, he calms the swollen sea,
scatters the gathered cloud, and brings back the sun.
Cymothoë and Triton, working together, thrust the ships
from the sharp reef: Neptune himself raises them with his trident,
parts the vast quicksand, tempers the flood,
and glides on weightless wheels, over the tops of the waves.
As often, when rebellion breaks out in a great nation,
and the common rabble rage with passion, and soon stones
and fiery torches fly (frenzy supplying weapons),
if they then see a man of great virtue, and weighty service,
they are silent, and stand there listening attentively:
he sways their passions with his words and soothes their hearts:
so all the uproar of the ocean died, as soon as their father,
gazing over the water, carried through the clear sky, wheeled
his horses, and gave them their head, flying behind in his chariot.
The weary followers of Aeneas made efforts to set a course
for the nearest land, and tacked towards the Libyan coast.
There is a place there in a deep inlet: an island forms a harbour
with the barrier of its bulk, on which every wave from the deep
breaks, and divides into diminishing ripples.
On this side and that, vast cliffs and twin crags loom in the sky,
under whose summits the whole sea is calm, far and wide:
then, above that, is a scene of glittering woods,
and a dark grove overhangs the water, with leafy shade:
under the headland opposite is a cave, curtained with rock,
inside it, fresh water, and seats of natural stone,
the home of Nymphs. No hawsers moor the weary ships
here, no anchor, with its hooked flukes, fastens them.
Aeneas takes shelter here with seven ships gathered
from the fleet, and the Trojans, with a passion for dry land,
disembarking, take possession of the sands they longed for,
and stretch their brine-caked bodies on the shore.
At once Achates strikes a spark from his flint,
catches the fire in the leaves, places dry fuel round it,
and quickly has flames among the kindling.
Then, wearied by events, they take out wheat, damaged
by the sea, and implements of Ceres, and prepare to parch
the grain over the flames, and grind it on stone.
Aeneas climbs a crag meanwhile, and searches the whole prospect
far and wide over the sea, looking if he can see anything
of Antheus and his storm-tossed Phrygian galleys,
or Capys, or Caicus’s arms blazoned on a high stern.
There’s no ship in sight: he sees three stags wandering
on the shore: whole herds of deer follow at their back,
and graze in long lines along the valley.
He halts at this, and grasps in his hand his bow
and swift arrows, shafts that loyal Achates carries,
and first he shoots the leaders themselves, their heads,
with branching antlers, held high, then the mass, with his shafts,
and drives the whole crowd in confusion among the leaves:
The conqueror does not stop until he’s scattered seven huge
carcasses on the ground, equal in number to his ships.
Then he seeks the harbour, and divides them among all his friends.
Next he shares out the wine that the good Acestes had stowed
in jars, on the Trinacrian coast, and that hero had given them
on leaving: and speaking to them, calmed their sad hearts:
‘O friends (well, we were not unknown to trouble before)
O you who’ve endured worse, the god will grant an end to this too.
You’ve faced rabid Scylla, and her deep-sounding cliffs:
and you’ve experienced the Cyclopes’s rocks:
remember your courage and chase away gloomy fears:
perhaps one day you’ll even delight in remembering this.
Through all these misfortunes, these dangerous times,
we head for Latium, where the fates hold peaceful lives
for us: there Troy’s kingdom can rise again. Endure,
and preserve yourselves for happier days.’
So his voice utters, and sick with the weight of care, he pretends
hope, in his look, and stifles the pain deep in his heart.
They make ready the game, and the future feast:
they flay the hides from the ribs and lay the flesh bare:
some cut it in pieces, quivering, and fix it on spits,
others place cauldrons on the beach, and feed them with flames.
Then they revive their strength with food, stretched on the grass,
and fill themselves with rich venison and old wine.
When hunger is quenched by the feast, and the remnants cleared,
deep in conversation, they discuss their missing friends,
and, between hope and fear, question whether they live,
or whether they’ve suffered death and no longer hear their name.
Aeneas, the virtuous, above all mourns the lot of fierce Orontes,
then that of Amycus, together with Lycus’s cruel fate,
and those of brave Gyus, and brave Cloanthus.
Now, all was complete, when Jupiter, from the heights of the air,
looked down on the sea with its flying sails, and the broad lands,
and the coasts, and the people far and wide, and paused,
at the summit of heaven, and fixed his eyes on the Libyan kingdom.
And as he weighed such cares as he had in his heart, Venus spoke
to him, sadder still, her bright eyes brimming with tears:
‘Oh you who rule things human, and divine, with eternal law,
and who terrify them all with your lightning-bolt,
what can my Aeneas have done to you that’s so serious,
what have the Trojans done, who’ve suffered so much destruction,
to whom the whole world’s closed, because of the Italian lands?
Surely you promised that at some point, as the years rolled by,
the Romans would rise from them, leaders would rise,
restored from Teucer’s blood, who would hold power
over the sea, and all the lands. Father, what thought has changed
your mind? It consoled me for the fall of Troy, and its sad ruin,
weighing one destiny, indeed, against opposing destinies:
now the same misfortune follows these men driven on by such
disasters. Great king, what end to their efforts will you give?
Antenor could escape through the thick of the Greek army,
and safely enter the Illyrian gulfs, and deep into the realms
of the Liburnians, and pass the founts of Timavus,
from which the river bursts, with a huge mountainous roar,
through nine mouths, and buries the fields under its noisy flood.
Here, nonetheless, he sited the city of Padua, and homes
for Teucrians, and gave the people a name, and hung up
the arms of Troy: now he’s calmly settled, in tranquil peace.
But we, your race, to whom you permit the heights of heaven,
lose our ships (shameful!), betrayed, because of one person’s anger,
and kept far away from the shores of Italy.
Is this the prize for virtue? Is this how you restore our rule?
The father of men and gods, smiled at her with that look
with which he clears the sky of storms,
kissed his daughter’s lips, and then said this:
‘Don’t be afraid, Cytherea, your child’s fate remains unaltered:
You’ll see the city of Lavinium, and the walls I promised,
and you’ll raise great-hearted Aeneas high, to the starry sky:
No thought has changed my mind. This son of yours
(since this trouble gnaws at my heart, I’ll speak,
and unroll the secret scroll of destiny)
will wage a mighty war in Italy, destroy proud peoples,
and establish laws, and city walls, for his warriors,
until a third summer sees his reign in Latium, and
three winter camps pass since the Rutulians were beaten.
But the boy Ascanius, surnamed Iulus now (He was Ilus
while the Ilian kingdom was a reality) will imperially
complete thirty great circles of the turning months,
and transfer his throne from its site at Lavinium,
and mighty in power, will build the walls of Alba Longa.
Here kings of Hector’s race will reign now
for three hundred years complete, until a royal priestess,
Ilia, heavy with child, shall bear Mars twins.
Then Romulus will further the race, proud in his nurse
the she-wolf’s tawny pelt, and found the walls of Mars,
and call the people Romans, from his own name.
I’ve fixed no limits or duration to their possessions:
I’ve given them empire without end. Why, harsh Juno
who now torments land, and sea and sky with fear,
will respond to better judgement, and favour the Romans,
masters of the world, and people of the toga, with me.
So it is decreed. A time will come, as the years glide by,
when the Trojan house of Assaracus will force Phthia
into slavery, and be lords of beaten Argos.
From this glorious source a Trojan Caesar will be born,
who will bound the empire with Ocean, his fame with the stars,
Augustus, a Julius, his name descended from the great Iulus.
You, no longer anxious, will receive him one day in heaven,
burdened with Eastern spoils: he’ll be called to in prayer.
Then with wars abandoned, the harsh ages will grow mild:
White haired Trust, and Vesta, Quirinus with his brother Remus
will make the laws: the gates of War, grim with iron,
and narrowed by bars, will be closed: inside impious Rage will roar
frighteningly from blood-stained mouth, seated on savage weapons,
hands tied behind his back, with a hundred knots of bronze.’
Saying this, he sends Mercury, Maia’s son, down from heaven,
so that the country and strongholds of this new Carthage
would open to the Trojans, as guests, and Dido, unaware of fate,
would not keep them from her territory. He flies through the air
with a beating of mighty wings and quickly lands on Libyan shore.
And soon does as commanded, and the Phoenicians set aside
their savage instincts, by the god’s will: the queen above all
adopts calm feelings, and kind thoughts, towards the Trojans.
But Aeneas, the virtuous, turning things over all night,
decides, as soon as kindly dawn appears, to go out
and explore the place, to find what shores he has reached,
on the wind, who owns them (since he sees desert)
man or beast, and bring back the details to his friends.
He conceals the boats in over-hanging woods
under an arching cliff, enclosed by trees
and leafy shadows: accompanied only by Achetes,
he goes, swinging two broad-bladed spears in his hand.
His mother met him herself, among the trees, with the face
and appearance of a virgin, and a virgin’s weapons,
a Spartan girl, or such as Harpalyce of Thrace,
who wearies horses, and outdoes winged Hebrus in flight.
For she’d slung her bow from her shoulders, at the ready,
like a huntress, and loosed her hair for the wind to scatter,
her knees bare, and her flowing tunic gathered up in a knot.
And she cried first: ‘Hello, you young men, tell me,
if you’ve seen my sister wandering here by any chance,
wearing a quiver, and the hide of a dappled lynx,
or shouting, hot on the track of a slavering boar?’
So Venus: and so Venus’s son began in answer:
‘I’ve not seen or heard any of your sisters, O Virgin –
or how should I name you? Since your looks are not mortal
and your voice is more than human: oh, a goddess for certain!
Or Phoebus’s sister? Or one of the race of Nymphs?
Be kind, whoever you may be, and lighten our labour,
and tell us only what sky we’re under, and what shores
we’ve landed on: we’re adrift here, driven by wind and vast seas,
knowing nothing of the people or the country:
many a sacrifice to you will fall at the altars, under our hand.’
Then Venus said: ‘I don’t think myself worthy of such honours:
it’s the custom of Tyrian girls to carry a quiver,
and lace our calves high up, over red hunting boots.
You see the kingdom of Carthage, Tyrians, Agenor’s city:
but bordered by Libyans, a people formidable in war.
Dido rules this empire, having set out from Tyre,
fleeing her brother. It’s a long tale of wrong, with many
windings: but I’ll trace the main chapters of the story.
Sychaeus was her husband, wealthiest, in land, of Phoenicians
and loved with a great love by the wretched girl,
whose father gave her as a virgin to him, and wed them
with great solemnity. But her brother Pygmalion, savage
in wickedness beyond all others, held the kingdom of Tyre.
Madness came between them. The king, blinded by greed for gold,
killed the unwary Sychaeus, secretly, with a knife, impiously,
in front of the altars, indifferent to his sister’s affections.
He concealed his actions for a while, deceived the lovesick girl,
with empty hopes, and many evil pretences.
But the ghost of her unburied husband came to her in dream:
lifting his pale head in a strange manner, he laid bare the cruelty
at the altars, and his heart pierced by the knife,
and unveiled all the secret wickedness of that house.
Then he urged her to leave quickly and abandon her country,
and, to help her journey, revealed an ancient treasure
under the earth, an unknown weight of gold and silver.
Shaken by all this, Dido prepared her flight and her friends.
Those who had fierce hatred of the tyrant or bitter fear,
gathered together: they seized some ships that by chance
were ready, and loaded the gold: greedy Pygmalion’s riches
are carried overseas: a woman leads the enterprise.
The came to this place, and bought land, where you now see
the vast walls, and resurgent stronghold, of new Carthage,
as much as they could enclose with the strips of hide
from a single bull, and from that they called it Byrsa.
But who then are you? What shores do you come from?
What course do you take?’ He sighed as she questioned him,
and drawing the words from deep in his heart he replied:
‘O goddess, if I were to start my tale at the very beginning,
and you had time to hear the story of our misfortunes,
Vesper would have shut day away in the closed heavens.
A storm drove us at whim to Libya’s shores,
sailing the many seas from ancient Troy,
if by chance the name of Troy has come to your hearing.
I am that Aeneas, the virtuous, who carries my household gods
in my ship with me, having snatched them from the enemy,
my name is known beyond the sky.
I seek my country Italy, and a people born of Jupiter on high.
I embarked on the Phrygian sea with twenty ships,
following my given fate, my mother, a goddess, showing the way:
barely seven are left, wrenched from the wind and waves.
I myself wander, destitute and unknown, in the Libyan desert,
driven from Europe and Asia.’ Venus did not wait
for further complaint but broke in on his lament like this:
‘Whoever you are I don’t think you draw the breath of life
while hated by the gods, you who’ve reached a city of Tyre.
Only go on from here, and take yourself to the queen’s threshold,
since I bring you news that your friends are restored,
and your ships recalled, driven to safety by the shifting winds,
unless my parents taught me false prophecies, in vain.
See, those twelve swans in exultant line, that an eagle,
Jupiter’s bird, swooping from the heavens,
was troubling in the clear sky: now, in a long file, they seem
to have settled, or be gazing down now at those who already have.
As, returning, their wings beat in play, and they circle the zenith
in a crowd, and give their cry, so your ships and your people
are in harbour, or near its entrance under full sail.
Only go on, turn your steps where the path takes you.’
She spoke, and turning away she reflected the light
from her rose-tinted neck, and breathed a divine perfume
from her ambrosial hair: her robes trailed down to her feet,
and, in her step, showed her a true goddess. He recognised
his mother, and as she vanished followed her with his voice:
‘You too are cruel, why do you taunt your son with false
phantoms? Why am I not allowed to join hand
with hand, and speak and hear true words?’
So he accuses her, and turns his steps towards the city.
But Venus veiled them with a dark mist as they walked,
and, as a goddess, spread a thick covering of cloud around them,
so that no one could see them, or touch them,
or cause them delay, or ask them where they were going.
She herself soars high in the air, to Paphos, and returns to her home
with delight, where her temple and its hundred altars
steam with Sabean incense, fragrant with fresh garlands.
Meanwhile they’ve tackled the route the path revealed.
And soon they climbed the hill that looms high over the city,
and looks down from above on the towers that face it.
Aeneas marvels at the mass of buildings, once huts,
marvels at the gates, the noise, the paved roads.
The eager Tyrians are busy, some building walls,
and raising the citadel, rolling up stones by hand,
some choosing the site for a house, and marking a furrow:
they make magistrates and laws, and a sacred senate:
here some are digging a harbour: others lay down
the deep foundations of a theatre, and carve huge columns
from the cliff, tall adornments for the future stage.
Just as bees in early summer carry out their tasks
among the flowery fields, in the sun, when they lead out
the adolescent young of their race, or cram the cells
with liquid honey, and swell them with sweet nectar,
or receive the incoming burdens, or forming lines
drive the lazy herd of drones from their hives:
the work glows, and the fragrant honey’s sweet with thyme.
‘O fortunate those whose walls already rise!’
Aeneas cries, and admires the summits of the city.
He enters among them, veiled in mist (marvellous to tell)
and mingles with the people seen by no one.
There was a grove in the centre of the city, delightful
with shade, where the wave and storm-tossed Phoenicians
first uncovered the head of a fierce horse, that regal Juno
showed them: so the race would be noted in war,
and rich in substance throughout the ages.
Here Sidonian Dido was establishing a great temple
to Juno, rich with gifts and divine presence,
with bronze entrances rising from stairways, and beams
jointed with bronze, and hinges creaking on bronze doors.
Here in the grove something new appeared that calmed his fears
for the first time, here for the first time Aeneas dared to hope
for safety, and to put greater trust in his afflicted fortunes.
While, waiting for the queen, in the vast temple, he looks
at each thing: while he marvels at the city’s wealth,
the skill of their artistry, and the products of their labours,
he sees the battles at Troy in their correct order,
the War, known through its fame to the whole world,
the sons of Atreus, of Priam, and Achilles angered with both.
He halted, and said, with tears: ‘What place is there,
Achates, what region of earth not full of our hardships?
See, Priam! Here too virtue has its rewards, here too
there are tears for events, and mortal things touch the heart.
Lose your fears: this fame will bring you benefit.’
So he speaks, and feeds his spirit with the insubstantial frieze,
sighing often, and his face wet with the streaming tears.
For he saw how, here, the Greeks fled, as they fought round Troy,
chased by the Trojan youth, and, there, the Trojans fled,
with plumed Achilles pressing them close in his chariot.
Not far away, through his tears, he recognises Rhesus’s
white-canvassed tents, that blood-stained Diomede, Tydeus’s son,
laid waste with great slaughter, betrayed in their first sleep,
diverting the fiery horses to his camp, before they could eat
Trojan fodder, or drink from the river Xanthus.
Elsewhere Troilus, his weapons discarded in flight,
unhappy boy, unequally matched in his battle with Achilles,
is dragged by his horses, clinging face-up to the empty chariot,
still clutching the reins: his neck and hair trailing
on the ground, and his spear reversed furrowing the dust.
Meanwhile the Trojan women with loose hair, walked
to unjust Pallas’s temple carrying the sacred robe,
mourning humbly, and beating their breasts with their hands.
The goddess was turned away, her eyes fixed on the ground.
Three times had Achilles dragged Hector round the walls of Troy,
and now was selling the lifeless corpse for gold.
Then Aeneas truly heaves a deep sigh, from the depths of his heart,
as he views the spoils, the chariot, the very body of his friend,
and Priam stretching out his unwarlike hands.
He recognised himself as well, fighting the Greek princes,
and the Ethiopian ranks and black Memnon’s armour.
Raging Penthesilea leads the file of Amazons,
with crescent shields, and shines out among her thousands,
her golden girdle fastened beneath her exposed breasts,
a virgin warrior daring to fight with men.
While these wonderful sights are viewed by Trojan Aeneas,
while amazed he hangs there, rapt, with fixed gaze,
Queen Dido, of loveliest form, reached the temple,
with a great crowd of youths accompanying her.
Just as Diana leads her dancing throng on Eurotas’s banks,
or along the ridges of Cynthus, and, following her,
a thousand mountain-nymphs gather on either side:
and she carries a quiver on her shoulder, and overtops
all the other goddesses as she walks: and delight
seizes her mother Latona’s silent heart:
such was Dido, so she carried herself, joyfully,
amongst them, furthering the work, and her rising kingdom.
Then, fenced with weapons, and resting on a high throne,
she took her seat, at the goddess’s doorway, under the central vault.
She was giving out laws and statutes to the people, and sharing
the workers labour out in fair proportions, or assigning it by lot:
when Aeneas suddenly saw Antheus, and Sergestus,
and brave Cloanthus, approaching, among a large crowd,
with others of the Trojans whom the black storm-clouds
had scattered over the sea and carried far off to other shores.
He was stunned, and Achates was stunned as well
with joy and fear: they burned with eagerness to clasp hands,
but the unexpected event confused their minds.
They stay concealed and, veiled in the deep mist, they watch
to see what happens to their friends, what shore they have left
the fleet on, and why they are here: the elect of every ship came
begging favour, and made for the temple among the shouting.
When they’d entered, and freedom to speak in person
had been granted, Ilioneus, the eldest, began calmly:
‘O queen, whom Jupiter grants the right to found
a new city, and curb proud tribes with your justice,
we unlucky Trojans, driven by the winds over every sea,
pray to you: keep the terror of fire away from our ships,
spare a virtuous race and look more kindly on our fate.
We have not come to despoil Libyan homes with the sword,
or to carry off stolen plunder to the shore: that violence
is not in our minds, the conquered have not such pride.
There’s a place called Hesperia by the Greeks,
an ancient land, strong in men, with a rich soil:
There the Oenotrians lived: now rumour has it
that a later people has called it Italy, after their leader.
We had set our course there when stormy Orion,
rising with the tide, carried us onto hidden shoals,
and fierce winds scattered us far, with the overwhelming surge,
over the waves among uninhabitable rocks:
we few have drifted here to your shores.
What race of men is this? What land is so barbaric as to allow
this custom, that we’re denied the hospitality of the sands?
They stir up war, and prevent us setting foot on dry land.
If you despise the human race and mortal weapons,
still trust that the gods remember right and wrong.
Aeneas was our king, no one more just than him
in his duty, or greater in war and weaponry.
If fate still protects the man, if he still enjoys the ethereal air,
if he doesn’t yet rest among the cruel shades, there’s nothing
to fear, and you’d not repent of vying with him first in kindness.
Then there are cities and fields too in the region of Sicily,
and famous Acestes, of Trojan blood. Allow us
to beach our fleet, damaged by the storms,
and cut planks from trees, and shape oars,
so if our king’s restored and our friends are found
we can head for Italy, gladly seek Italy and Latium:
and if our saviour’s lost, and the Libyan seas hold you,
Troy’s most virtuous father, if no hope now remains from Iulus,
let us seek the Sicilian straits, from which we were driven,
and the home prepared for us, and a king, Acestes.’
So Ilioneus spoke: and the Trojans all shouted with one voice.
Then, Dido, spoke briefly, with lowered eyes:
‘Trojans, free your hearts of fear: dispel your cares.
Harsh events and the newness of the kingdom force me to effect
such things, and protect my borders with guards on all sides.
Who doesn’t know of Aeneas’s race, and the city of Troy,
the bravery, the men, or so great a blaze of warfare,
indeed, we Phoenicians don’t possess unfeeling hearts,
the sun doesn’t harness his horses that far from this Tyrian city.
Whether you opt for mighty Hesperia, and Saturn’s fields,
or the summit of Eryx, and Acestes for king,
I’ll see you safely escorted, and help you with my wealth.
Or do you wish to settle here with me, as equals in my kingdom?
The city I build is yours: beach your ships:
Trojans and Tyrians will be treated by me without distinction.
I wish your king Aeneas himself were here, driven
by that same storm! Indeed, I’ll send reliable men
along the coast, and order them to travel the length of Libya,
in case he’s driven aground, and wandering the woods and towns.’
Brave Achetes, and our forefather Aeneas, their spirits raised
by these words, had been burning to break free of the mist.
Achates was first to speak, saying to Aeneas: ‘Son of the goddess,
what intention springs to your mind? You see all’s safe,
the fleet and our friends have been restored to us.
Only one is missing, whom we saw plunged in the waves:
all else is in accord with your mother’s words.’
He’d scarcely spoken when the mist surrounding them
suddenly parted, and vanished in the clear air.
Aeneas stood there, shining in the bright daylight,
like a god in shoulders and face: since his mother
had herself imparted to her son beauty to his hair,
a glow of youth, and a joyful charm to his eyes:
like the glory art can give to ivory, or as when silver,
or Parian marble, is surrounded by gold.
Then he addressed the queen, suddenly, surprising them all,
saying: ‘I am here in person, Aeneas the Trojan,
him whom you seek, saved from the Libyan waves.
O Dido, it is not in our power, nor those of our Trojan race,
wherever they may be, scattered through the wide world,
to pay you sufficient thanks, you who alone have pitied
Troy’s unspeakable miseries, and share your city and home
with us, the remnant left by the Greeks, wearied
by every mischance, on land and sea, and lacking everything.
May the gods, and the mind itself conscious of right,
bring you a just reward, if the gods respect the virtuous,
if there is justice anywhere. What happy age gave birth
to you? What parents produced such a child?
Your honour, name and praise will endure forever,
whatever lands may summon me, while rivers run
to the sea, while shadows cross mountain slopes,
while the sky nourishes the stars.’ So saying he grasps
his friend Iloneus by the right hand, Serestus with the left,
then others, brave Gyus and brave Cloanthus.
Sidonian Dido was first amazed at the hero’s looks
then at his great misfortunes, and she spoke, saying:
‘Son of a goddess, what fate pursues you through all
these dangers? What force drives you to these barbarous shores?
Are you truly that Aeneas whom kindly Venus bore
to Trojan Anchises, by the waters of Phrygian Simois?
Indeed, I myself remember Teucer coming to Sidon,
exiled from his country’s borders, seeking a new kingdom
with Belus’s help: Belus, my father, was laying waste
rich Cyprus, and, as victor, held it by his authority.
Since then the fall of the Trojan city is known to me,
and your name, and those of the Greek kings.
Even their enemy granted the Teucrians high praise,
maintaining they were born of the ancient Teucrian stock.
So come, young lords, and enter our palace.
Fortune, pursuing me too, through many similar troubles,
willed that I would find peace at last in this land.
Not being unknown to evil, I’ve learned to aid the unhappy.’
So she speaks, and leads Aeneas into the royal house,
and proclaims, as well, offerings at the god’s temples.
She sends no less than twenty bulls to his friends
on the shore, and a hundred of her largest pigs with
bristling backs, a hundred fat lambs with the ewes,
and joyful gifts of wine, but the interior of the palace
is laid out with royal luxury, and they prepare
a feast in the centre of the palace: covers worked
skilfully in princely purple, massive silverware
on the tables, and her forefathers’ heroic deeds
engraved in gold, a long series of exploits traced
through many heroes, since the ancient origins of her people.
Aeneas quickly sends Achates to the ships
to carry the news to Ascanius (since a father’s love
won’t let his mind rest) and bring him to the city:
on Ascanius all the care of a fond parent is fixed.
He commands him to bring gifts too, snatched
from the ruins of Troy, a figured robe stiff with gold,
and a cloak fringed with yellow acanthus,
worn by Helen of Argos, brought from Mycenae
when she sailed to Troy and her unlawful marriage,
a wonderful gift from her mother Leda:
and the sceptre that Ilione, Priam’s eldest daughter,
once carried, and a necklace of pearls, and a double-coronet
of jewels and gold. Achates, hastening to fulfil
these commands, took his way towards the ships.
But Venus was planning new wiles and stratagems
in her heart: how Cupid, altered in looks, might arrive
in place of sweet Ascanius, and arouse the passionate queen
by his gifts, and entwine the fire in her bones: truly she fears
the unreliability of this house, and the duplicitous Tyrians:
unyielding Juno angers her, and her worries increase with nightfall.
So she speaks these words to winged Cupid:
‘My son, you who alone are my great strength, my power,
a son who scorns mighty Jupiter’s Typhoean thunderbolts,
I ask your help, and humbly call on your divine will.
It’s known to you how Aeneas, your brother, is driven
over the sea, round all the shores, by bitter Juno’s hatred,
and you have often grieved with my grief.
Phoenician Dido holds him there, delaying him with flattery,
and I fear what may come of Juno’s hospitality:
at such a critical turn of events she’ll not be idle.
So I intend to deceive the queen with guile, and encircle
her with passion, so that no divine will can rescue her,
but she’ll be seized, with me, by deep love for Aeneas.
Now listen to my thoughts on how you can achieve this.
Summoned by his dear father, the royal child,
my greatest concern, prepares to go to the Sidonian city,
carrying gifts that survived the sea, and the flames of Troy.
I’ll lull him to sleep and hide him in my sacred shrine
on the heights of Cythera or Idalium, so he can know
nothing of my deceptions, or interrupt them mid-way.
For no more than a single night imitate his looks by art,
and, a boy yourself, take on the known face of a boy,
so that when Dido takes you to her breast, joyfully,
amongst the royal feast, and the flowing wine,
when she embraces you, and plants sweet kisses on you,
you’ll breathe hidden fire into her, deceive her with your poison.’
Cupid obeys his dear mother’s words, sets aside his wings,
and laughingly trips along with Iulus’s step.
But Venus pours gentle sleep over Ascanius’s limbs,
and warming him in her breast, carries him, with divine power,
to Idalia’s high groves, where soft marjoram smothers him
in flowers, and the breath of its sweet shade.
Now, obedient to her orders, delighting in Achetes as guide,
Cupid goes off carrying royal gifts for the Tyrians.
When he arrives the queen has already settled herself
in the centre, on her golden couch under royal canopies.
Now our forefather Aeneas and the youth of Troy
gather there, and recline on cloths of purple.
Servants pour water over their hands: serve bread
from baskets: and bring napkins of smooth cloth.
Inside there are fifty female servants, in a long line,
whose task it is to prepare the meal, and tend the hearth fires:
a hundred more, and as many pages of like age,
to load the tables with food, and fill the cups.
And the Tyrians too are gathered in crowds through the festive
halls, summoned to recline on the embroidered couches.
They marvel at Aeneas’s gifts, marvel at Iulus,
the god’s brilliant appearance, and deceptive words,
at the robe, and the cloak embroidered with yellow acanthus.
The unfortunate Phoenician above all, doomed to future ruin,
cannot pacify her feelings, and catches fire with gazing,
stirred equally by the child and by the gifts.
He, having hung in an embrace round Aeneas’s neck,
and sated the deceived father’s great love,
seeks out the queen. Dido, clings to him with her eyes
and with her heart, taking him now and then on her lap,
unaware how great a god is entering her, to her sorrow.
But he, remembering his Cyprian mother’s wishes,
begins gradually to erase all thought of Sychaeus,
and works at seducing her mind, so long unstirred,
and her heart unused to love, with living passion.
At the first lull in the feasting, the tables were cleared,
and they set out vast bowls, and wreathed the wine with garlands.
Noise filled the palace, and voices rolled out across the wide halls:
bright lamps hung from the golden ceilings,
and blazing candles dispelled the night.
Then the queen asked for a drinking-cup, heavy
with gold and jewels, that Belus and all Belus’s line
were accustomed to use, and filled it
with wine. Then the halls were silent. She spoke:
‘Jupiter, since they say you’re the one who creates
the laws of hospitality, let this be a happy day
for the Tyrians and those from Troy,
and let it be remembered by our children.
Let Bacchus, the joy-bringer, and kind Juno be present,
and you, O Phoenicians, make this gathering festive.’
She spoke and poured an offering of wine onto the table,
and after the libation was the first to touch the bowl to her lips,
then she gave it to Bitias, challenging him: he briskly drained
the brimming cup, drenching himself in its golden fullness,
then other princes drank. Iolas, the long-haired, made
his golden lyre resound, he whom great Atlas taught.
He sang of the wandering moon and the sun’s labours,
where men and beasts came from, and rain and fire,
of Arcturus, the rainy Hyades, the two Bears:
why the winter suns rush to dip themselves in the sea,
and what delay makes the slow nights linger.
The Tyrians redoubled their applause, the Trojans too.
And unfortunate Dido, she too spent the night
in conversation, and drank deep of her passion,
asking endlessly about Priam and Hector:
now about the armour that Memnon, son of the Dawn,
came with to Troy, what kind were Diomed’s horses,
how great was Achilles. ‘But come, my guest, tell us
from the start all the Greek trickery, your men’s mishaps,
and your wanderings: since it’s the seventh summer now
that brings you here, in your journey, over every land and sea.’
They were all silent, and turned their faces towards him intently.
Then from his high couch our forefather Aeneas began:
‘O queen, you command me to renew unspeakable grief,
how the Greeks destroyed the riches of Troy,
and the sorrowful kingdom, miseries I saw myself,
and in which I played a great part. What Myrmidon,
or Dolopian, or warrior of fierce Ulysses, could keep
from tears in telling such a story? Now the dew-filled night
is dropping from the sky, and the setting stars urge sleep.
But if you have such desire to learn of our misfortunes,
and briefly hear of Troy’s last agonies, though my mind
shudders at the memory, and recoils in sorrow, I’ll begin.
‘After many years have slipped by, the leaders of the Greeks,
opposed by the Fates, and damaged by the war,
build a horse of mountainous size, through Pallas’s divine art,
and weave planks of fir over its ribs:
they pretend it’s a votive offering: this rumour spreads.
They secretly hide a picked body of men, chosen by lot,
there, in the dark body, filling the belly and the huge
cavernous insides with armed warriors.
Tenedos is within sight, an island known to fame,
rich in wealth when Priam’s kingdom remained,
now just a bay and an unsafe anchorage for boats:
they sail there, and hide themselves, on the lonely shore.
We thought they had gone, and were seeking Mycenae
with the wind. So all the Trojan land was free of its long sorrow.
The gates were opened: it was a joy to go and see the Greek camp,
the deserted site and the abandoned shore.
Here the Dolopians stayed, here cruel Achilles,
here lay the fleet, here they used to meet us in battle.
Some were amazed at virgin Minerva’s fatal gift,
and marvel at the horse’s size: and at first Thymoetes,
whether through treachery, or because Troy’s fate was certain,
urged that it be dragged inside the walls and placed on the citadel.
But Capys, and those of wiser judgement, commanded us
to either hurl this deceit of the Greeks, this suspect gift,
into the sea, or set fire to it from beneath,
or pierce its hollow belly, and probe for hiding places.
The crowd, uncertain, was split by opposing opinions.
Then Laocoön rushes down eagerly from the heights
of the citadel, to confront them all, a large crowd with him,
and shouts from far off: ‘O unhappy citizens, what madness?
Do you think the enemy’s sailed away? Or do you think
any Greek gift’s free of treachery? Is that Ulysses’s reputation?
Either there are Greeks in hiding, concealed by the wood,
or it’s been built as a machine to use against our walls,
or spy on our homes, or fall on the city from above,
or it hides some other trick: Trojans, don’t trust this horse.
Whatever it is, I’m afraid of Greeks even those bearing gifts.’
So saying he hurled his great spear, with extreme force,
at the creature’s side, and into the frame of the curved belly.
The spear stuck quivering, and at the womb’s reverberation
the cavity rang hollow and gave out a groan.
And if the gods’ fate, if our minds, had not been ill-omened,
he’d have incited us to mar the Greeks hiding-place with steel:
Troy would still stand: and you, high tower of Priam would remain.
See, meanwhile, some Trojan shepherds, shouting loudly,
dragging a youth, his hands tied behind his back, to the king.
In order to contrive this, and lay Troy open to the Greeks,
he had placed himself in their path, calm in mind, and ready
for either course: to engage in deception, or find certain death.
The Trojan youth run, crowding round, from all sides,
to see him, and compete in mocking the captive.
Listen now to Greek treachery, and learn of all their crimes
from just this one. Since, as he stood, looking troubled,
unarmed, amongst the gazing crowd,
and cast his eyes around the Phrygian ranks,
he said: ‘Ah! What land, what seas would accept me now?
What’s left for me at the last in my misery, I who have
no place among the Greeks, when the hostile Trojans,
themselves, demand my punishment and my blood?
At this the mood changed and all violence was checked.
We urged him to say what blood he was sprung from,
and why he suffered: and tell us what trust could be placed
in him as a captive. Setting fear aside at last he speaks:
“O king, I’ll tell you the whole truth, whatever happens,
and indeed I’ll not deny that I’m of Argive birth:
this first of all: if Fortune has made me wretched,
she’ll not also wrongly make me false and a liar.
If by any chance some mention of Palamedes’s name
has reached your ears, son of Belus, and talk
of his glorious fame, he whom the Pelasgians,
on false charges of treason, by atrocious perjury,
because he opposed the war, sent innocent to his death,
and who they mourn, now he’s taken from the light:
well my father, being poor, sent me here to the war
when I was young, as his friend, as we were blood relatives.
While Palamades was safe in power, and prospered
in the kings’ council, I also had some name and respect.
But when he passed from this world above, through
the jealousy of plausible Ulysses (the tale’s not unknown)
I was ruined, and spent my life in obscurity and grief,
inwardly angry at the fate of my innocent friend.
Maddened I could not be silent, and I promised, if chance allowed,
and if I ever returned as a victor to my native Argos,
to avenge him, and with my words stirred bitter hatred.
The first hint of trouble came to me from this, because of it
Ulysses was always frightening me with new accusations,
spreading veiled rumours among the people, and guiltily
seeking to defend himself. He would not rest till, with Calchas
as his instrument – but why I do unfold this unwelcome story?
Why hinder you? If you consider all Greeks the same,
and that’s sufficient, take your vengeance now: that’s what
the Ithacan wants, and the sons of Atreus would pay dearly for.”
Then indeed we were on fire to ask, and seek the cause,
ignorant of such wickedness and Pelasgian trickery.
Trembling with fictitious feelings he continued, saying:
“The Greeks, weary with the long war, often longed
to leave Troy and execute a retreat: if only they had!
Often a fierce storm from the sea land-locked them,
and the gale terrified them from leaving:
once that horse, made of maple-beams, stood there,
especially then, storm-clouds thundered in the sky.
Anxious, we send Eurypylus to consult Phoebus’s oracle,
and he brings back these dark words from the sanctuary:
‘With blood, and a virgin sacrifice, you calmed the winds,
O Greeks, when you first came to these Trojan shores, seek your
return in blood, and the well-omened sacrifice of an Argive life.’
When this reached the ears of the crowd, their minds were stunned,
and an icy shudder ran to their deepest marrow:
who readies this fate, whom does Apollo choose?
At this the Ithacan thrust the seer, Calchas, into their midst,
demanding to know what the god’s will might be,
among the uproar. Many were already cruelly prophesying
that ingenious man’s wickedness towards me, and silently saw
what was coming. For ten days the seer kept silence, refusing
to reveal the secret by his words, or condemn anyone to death.
But at last, urged on by Ulysses’s loud clamour, he broke
into speech as agreed, and doomed me to the altar.
All acclaimed it, and what each feared himself, they endured
when directed, alas, towards one man’s destruction.
Now the terrible day arrived, the rites were being prepared
for me, the salted grain, and the headbands for my forehead.
I confess I saved myself from death, burst my bonds,
and all that night hid by a muddy lake among the reeds,
till they set sail, if as it happened they did.
And now I’ve no hope of seeing my old country again,
or my sweet children or the father I long for:
perhaps they’ll seek to punish them for my flight,
and avenge my crime through the death of these unfortunates.
But I beg you, by the gods, by divine power that knows the truth,
by whatever honour anywhere remains pure among men, have pity
on such troubles, pity the soul that endures undeserved suffering.”
With these tears we grant him his life, and also pity him.
Priam himself is the first to order his manacles and tight bonds
removed, and speaks these words of kindness to him:
“From now on, whoever you are, forget the Greeks, lost to you:
you’ll be one of us. And explain to me truly what I ask:
Why have they built this huge hulk of a horse? Who created it?
What do they aim at? What religious object or war machine is it?”
He spoke: the other, schooled in Pelasgian art and trickery,
raised his unbound palms towards the stars, saying:
“You, eternal fires, in your invulnerable power, be witness,
you altars and impious swords I escaped,
you sacrificial ribbons of the gods that I wore as victim:
with right I break the Greek’s solemn oaths,
with right I hate them, and if things are hidden
bring them to light: I’m bound by no laws of their country.
Only, Troy, maintain your assurances, if I speak truth, if I repay
you handsomely: kept intact yourself, keep your promises intact.
All the hopes of the Greeks and their confidence to begin the war
always depended on Pallas’s aid. But from that moment
when the impious son of Tydeus, Diomede, and Ulysses
inventor of wickedness, approached the fateful Palladium to snatch
it from its sacred temple, killing the guards on the citadel’s heights,
and dared to seize the holy statue, and touch the sacred ribbons
of the goddess with blood-soaked hands: from that moment
the hopes of the Greeks receded, and slipping backwards ebbed:
their power fragmented, and the mind of the goddess opposed them.
Pallas gave sign of this, and not with dubious portents,
for scarcely was the statue set up in camp, when glittering flames
shone from the upturned eyes, a salt sweat ran over its limbs,
and (wonderful to tell) she herself darted from the ground
with shield on her arm, and spear quivering.
Calchas immediately proclaimed that the flight by sea must be
attempted, and that Troy cannot be uprooted by Argive weapons,
unless they renew the omens at Argos, and take the goddess home,
whom they have indeed taken by sea in their curved ships.
And now they are heading for their native Mycenae with the wind,
obtaining weapons and the friendship of the gods, re-crossing
the sea to arrive unexpectedly, So Calchas reads the omens.
Warned by him, they’ve set up this statue of a horse
for the wounded goddess, instead of the Palladium,
to atone severely for their sin. And Calchas ordered them
to raise the huge mass of woven timbers, raised to the sky,
so the gates would not take it, nor could it be dragged
inside the walls, or watch over the people in their ancient rites.
Since if your hands violated Minerva’s gift,
then utter ruin (may the gods first turn that prediction
on themselves!) would come to Priam and the Trojans:
yet if it ascended into your citadel, dragged by your hands,
Asia would come to the very walls of Pelops, in mighty war,
and a like fate would await our children.”
Through these tricks and the skill of perjured Sinon, the thing was
credited, and we were trapped, by his wiliness, and false tears,
we, who were not conquered by Diomede, or Larissan Achilles,
nor by the ten years of war, nor those thousand ships.
Then something greater and more terrible befalls
us wretches, and stirs our unsuspecting souls.
Laocoön, chosen by lot as priest of Neptune,
was sacrificing a huge bull at the customary altar.
See, a pair of serpents with huge coils, snaking over the sea
from Tenedos through the tranquil deep (I shudder to tell it),
and heading for the shore side by side: their fronts lift high
over the tide, and their blood-red crests top the waves,
the rest of their body slides through the ocean behind,
and their huge backs arch in voluminous folds.
There’s a roar from the foaming sea: now they reach the shore,
and with burning eyes suffused with blood and fire,
lick at their hissing jaws with flickering tongues.
Blanching at the sight we scatter. They move
on a set course towards Laocoön: and first each serpent
entwines the slender bodies of his two sons,
and biting at them, devours their wretched limbs:
then as he comes to their aid, weapons in hand, they seize him too,
and wreathe him in massive coils: now encircling his waist twice,
twice winding their scaly folds around his throat,
their high necks and heads tower above him.
He strains to burst the knots with his hands,
his sacred headband drenched in blood and dark venom,
while he sends terrible shouts up to the heavens,
like the bellowing of a bull that has fled wounded,
from the altar, shaking the useless axe from its neck.
But the serpent pair escape, slithering away to the high temple,
and seek the stronghold of fierce Pallas, to hide there
under the goddess’s feet, and the circle of her shield.
Then in truth a strange terror steals through each shuddering heart,
and they say that Laocoön has justly suffered for his crime
in wounding the sacred oak-tree with his spear,
by hurling its wicked shaft into the trunk.
“Pull the statue to her house”, they shout,
“and offer prayers to the goddess’s divinity.”
We breached the wall, and opened up the defences of the city.
All prepare themselves for the work and they set up wheels
allowing movement under its feet, and stretch hemp ropes
round its neck. That engine of fate mounts our walls
pregnant with armed men. Around it boys, and virgin girls,
sing sacred songs, and delight in touching their hands to the ropes:
Up it glides and rolls threateningly into the midst of the city.
O my country, O Ilium house of the gods, and you,
Trojan walls famous in war! Four times it sticks at the threshold
of the gates, and four times the weapons clash in its belly:
yet we press on regardless, blind with frenzy,
and site the accursed creature on top of our sacred citadel.
Even then Cassandra, who, by the god’s decree, is never
to be believed by Trojans, reveals our future fate with her lips.
We unfortunate ones, for whom that day is our last,
clothe the gods’ temples, throughout the city, with festive branches.
Meanwhile the heavens turn, and night rushes from the Ocean,
wrapping the earth, and sky, and the Myrmidons’ tricks,
in its vast shadow: through the city the Trojans
fall silent: sleep enfolds their weary limbs.
And now the Greek phalanx of battle-ready ships sailed
from Tenedos, in the benign stillness of the silent moon,
seeking the known shore, when the royal galley raised
a torch, and Sinon, protected by the gods’ unjust doom,
sets free the Greeks imprisoned by planks of pine,
in the horses’ belly. Opened, it releases them to the air,
and sliding down a lowered rope, Thessandrus, and Sthenelus,
the leaders, and fatal Ulysses, emerge joyfully
from their wooden cave, with Acamas, Thoas,
Peleus’s son Neoptolemus, the noble Machaon,
Menelaus, and Epeus who himself devised this trick.
They invade the city that’s drowned in sleep and wine,
kill the watchmen, welcome their comrades
at the open gates, and link their clandestine ranks.
It was the hour when first sleep begins for weary mortals,
and steals over them as the sweetest gift of the gods.
See, in dream, before my eyes, Hector seemed to stand there,
saddest of all and pouring out great tears,
torn by the chariot, as once he was, black with bloody dust,
and his swollen feet pierced by the thongs.
Ah, how he looked! How changed he was
from that Hector who returned wearing Achilles’s armour,
or who set Trojan flames to the Greek ships! His beard was ragged,
his hair matted with blood, bearing those many wounds he received
dragged around the walls of his city.
And I seemed to weep myself, calling out to him,
and speaking to him in words of sorrow:
“Oh light of the Troad, surest hope of the Trojans,
what has so delayed you? What shore do you come from
Hector, the long-awaited? Weary from the many troubles
of our people and our city I see you, oh, after the death
of so many of your kin! What shameful events have marred
that clear face? And why do I see these wounds?’
He does not reply, nor does he wait on my idle questions,
but dragging heavy sighs from the depths of his heart, he says:
“Ah! Son of the goddess, fly, tear yourself from the flames.
The enemy has taken the walls: Troy falls from her high place.
Enough has been given to Priam and your country: if Pergama
could be saved by any hand, it would have been saved by this.
Troy entrusts her sacred relics and household gods to you:
take them as friends of your fate, seek mighty walls for them,
those you will found at last when you have wandered the seas.”
So he speaks, and brings the sacred headbands in his hands
from the innermost shrine, potent Vesta, and the undying flame.
Meanwhile the city is confused with grief, on every side,
and though my father Anchises’s house is remote, secluded
and hidden by trees, the sounds grow clearer and clearer,
and the terror of war sweeps upon it.
I shake off sleep, and climb to the highest roof-top,
and stand there with ears strained:
as when fire attacks a wheat-field when the south-wind rages,
or the rushing torrent from a mountain stream covers the fields,
drowns the ripe crops, the labour of oxen,
and brings down the trees headlong, and the dazed shepherd,
unaware, hears the echo from a high rocky peak.
Now the truth is obvious, and the Greek plot revealed.
Now the vast hall of Deiphobus is given to ruin
the fire over it: now Ucalegon’s nearby blazes:
the wide Sigean straits throw back the glare.
Then the clamour of men and the blare of trumpets rises.
Frantically I seize weapons: not because there is much use
for weapons, but my spirit burns to gather men for battle
and race to the citadel with my friends: madness and anger
hurl my mind headlong, and I think it beautiful to die fighting.
Now, see, Panthus escaping the Greek spears,
Panthus, son of Othrys, Apollo’s priest on the citadel,
dragging along with his own hands the sacred relics,
the conquered gods, his little grandchild, running frantically
to my door: “Where’s the best advantage, Panthus, what position
should we take?” I’d barely spoken, when he answered
with a groan: “The last day comes, Troy’s inescapable hour.
Troy is past, Ilium is past, and the great glory of the Trojans:
Jupiter carries all to Argos: the Greeks are lords of the burning city.
The horse, standing high on the ramparts, pours out warriors,
and Sinon the conqueror exultantly stirs the flames.
Others are at the wide-open gates, as many thousands
as ever came from great Mycenae: more have blocked
the narrow streets with hostile weapons:
a line of standing steel with naked flickering blades
is ready for the slaughter: barely the first few guards
at the gates attempt to fight, and they resist in blind conflict.”
By these words from Othrys’ son, and divine will, I’m thrust
amongst the weapons and the flames, where the dismal Fury
sounds, and the roar, and the clamour rising to the sky.
Friends joined me, visible in the moonlight, Ripheus,
and Epytus, mighty in battle, Hypanis and Dymas,
gathered to my side, and young Coroebus, Mygdon’s son:
by chance he’d arrived in Troy at that time,
burning with mad love for Cassandra, and brought help,
as a potential son-in-law, to Priam, and the Trojans,
unlucky man, who didn’t listen to the prophecy
of his frenzied bride! When I saw them crowded there
eager for battle, I began as follows: “Warriors, bravest
of frustrated spirits, if your ardent desire is fixed
on following me to the end, you can see our cause’s fate.
All the gods by whom this empire was supported
have departed, leaving behind their temples and their altars:
you aid a burning city: let us die and rush into battle.
The beaten have one refuge, to have no hope of refuge.”
So their young spirits were roused to fury. Then, like ravaging
wolves in a dark mist, driven blindly by the cruel rage
of their bellies, leaving their young waiting with thirsty jaws,
we pass through our enemies, to certain death, and make our way
to the heart of the city: dark night envelops us in deep shadow.
Who could tell of that destruction in words, or equal our pain
with tears? The ancient city falls, she who ruled for so many years:
crowds of dead bodies lie here and there in the streets,
among the houses, and on the sacred thresholds of the gods.
Nor is it Trojans alone who pay the penalty with their blood:
courage returns at times to the hearts of the defeated
and the Greek conquerors die. Cruel mourning is everywhere,
everywhere there is panic, and many a form of death.
First, Androgeos, meets us, with a great crowd of Greeks
around him, unknowingly thinking us allied troops,
and calls to us in friendly speech as well:
“Hurry, men! What sluggishness makes you delay so?
The others are raping and plundering burning Troy:
are you only now arriving from the tall ships?”
He spoke, and straight away (since no reply given was
credible enough) he knew he’d fallen into the enemy fold.
He was stunned, drew back, and stifled his voice.
Like a man who unexpectedly treads on a snake in rough briars,
as he strides over the ground, and shrinks back in sudden fear
as it rears in anger and swells its dark-green neck,
so Androgeos, shuddering at the sight of us, drew back.
We charge forward and surround them closely with weapons,
and ignorant of the place, seized by terror, as they are, we slaughter
them wholesale. Fortune favours our first efforts.
And at this Coroebus, exultant with courage and success, cries:
“Oh my friends, where fortune first points out the path to safety,
and shows herself a friend, let us follow. Let’s change our shields
adopt Greek emblems. Courage or deceit: who’ll question it in war?
They’ll arm us themselves.” With these words, he takes up Androgeos’s plumed helmet, his shield with its noble markings,
and straps the Greek’s sword to his side. Ripheus does likewise,
Dymas too, and all the warriors delight in it. Each man
arms himself with the fresh spoils. We pass on
mingling with the Greeks, with gods that are not our known,
and clash, in many an armed encounter, in the blind night,
and we send many a Greek down to Orcus.
Some scatter to the ships, and run for safer shores,
some, in humiliated terror, climb the vast horse again
and hide in the womb they know.
“Ah, put no faith in anything the will of the gods opposes!
See, Priam’s virgin daughter dragged, with streaming hair,
from the sanctuary and temple of Minerva,
lifting her burning eyes to heaven in vain:
her eyes, since cords restrained her gentle hands.
Coroebus could not stand the sight, maddened in mind,
and hurled himself among the ranks, seeking death.
We follow him, and, weapons locked, charge together.
Here, at first, we were overwhelmed by Trojan spears,
hurled from the high summit of the temple,
and wretched slaughter was caused by the look of our armour,
and the confusion arising from our Greek crests.
Then the Danaans, gathering from all sides, groaning with anger
at the girl being pulled away from them, rush us,
Ajax the fiercest, the two Atrides, all the Greek host:
just as, at the onset of a tempest, conflicting winds clash, the west,
the south, and the east that joys in the horses of dawn:
the forest roars, brine-wet Nereus rages with his trident,
and stirs the waters from their lowest depths.
Even those we have scattered by a ruse, in the dark of night,
and driven right through the city, re-appear: for the first time
they recognise our shields and deceitful weapons,
and realise our speech differs in sound to theirs.
In a moment we’re overwhelmed by weight of numbers:
first Coroebus falls, by the armed goddess’s altar, at the hands
of Peneleus: and Ripheus, who was the most just of all the Trojans,
and keenest for what was right (the gods’ vision was otherwise):
Hypanis and Dymas die at the hands of allies:
and your great piety, Panthus, and Apollo’s sacred headband
can not defend you in your downfall.
Ashes of Ilium, death flames of my people, be witness
that, at your ruin, I did not evade the Danaan weapons,
nor the risks, and, if it had been my fate to die,
I earned it with my sword. Then we are separated,
Iphitus and Pelias with me, Iphitus weighed down by the years,
and Pelias, slow-footed, wounded by Ulysses:
immediately we’re summoned to Priam’s palace by the clamour.
Here’s a great battle indeed, as if the rest of the war were nothing,
as if others were not dying throughout the whole city,
so we see wild War and the Greeks rushing to the palace,
and the entrance filled with a press of shields.
Ladders cling to the walls: men climb the stairs under the very
doorposts, with their left hands holding defensive shields
against the spears, grasping the sloping stone with their right.
In turn, the Trojans pull down the turrets and roof-tiles
of the halls, prepared to defend themselves even in death,
seeing the end near them, with these as weapons:
and send the gilded roof-beams down, the glory
of their ancient fathers. Others with naked swords block
the inner doors: these they defend in massed ranks.
Our spirits were reinspired, to bring help to the king’s palace,
to relieve our warriors with our aid, and add power to the beaten.
There was an entrance with hidden doors, and a passage in use
between Priam’s halls, and a secluded gateway beyond,
which the unfortunate Andromache, while the kingdom stood,
often used to traverse, going, unattended, to her husband’s parents,
taking the little Astyanax to his grandfather.
I reached the topmost heights of the pediment from which
the wretched Trojans were hurling their missiles in vain.
A turret standing on the sloping edge, and rising from the roof
to the sky, was one from which all Troy could be seen,
the Danaan ships, and the Greek camp: and attacking its edges
with our swords, where the upper levels offered weaker mortar,
we wrenched it from its high place, and sent it flying:
falling suddenly it dragged all to ruin with a roar,
and shattered far and wide over the Greek ranks.
But more arrived, and meanwhile neither the stones
nor any of the various missiles ceased to fly.
In front of the courtyard itself, in the very doorway of the palace,
Pyrrhus exults, glittering with the sheen of bronze:
like a snake, fed on poisonous herbs, in the light,
that cold winter has held, swollen, under the ground,
and now, gleaming with youth, its skin sloughed,
ripples its slimy back, lifts its front high towards the sun,
and darts its triple-forked tongue from its jaws.
Huge Periphas, and Automedon the armour-bearer,
driver of Achilles’s team, and all the Scyrian youths,
advance on the palace together and hurl firebrands onto the roof.
Pyrrhus himself among the front ranks, clutching a double-axe,
breaks through the stubborn gate, and pulls the bronze doors
from their hinges: and now, hewing out the timber, he breaches
the solid oak and opens a huge window with a gaping mouth.
The palace within appears, and the long halls are revealed:
the inner sanctums of Priam, and the ancient kings, appear,
and armed men are seen standing on the very threshold.
But, inside the palace, groans mingle with sad confusion,
and, deep within, the hollow halls howl
with women’s cries: the clamour strikes the golden stars.
Trembling mothers wander the vast building, clasping
the doorposts, and placing kisses on them. Pyrrhus drives forward,
with his father Achilles’s strength, no barricades nor the guards
themselves can stop him: the door collapses under the ram’s blows,
and the posts collapse, wrenched from their sockets.
Strength makes a road: the Greeks, pour through, force a passage,
slaughter the front ranks, and fill the wide space with their men.
A foaming river is not so furious, when it floods,
bursting its banks, overwhelms the barriers against it,
and rages in a mass through the fields, sweeping cattle and stables
across the whole plain. I saw Pyrrhus myself, on the threshold,
mad with slaughter, and the two sons of Atreus:
I saw Hecuba, her hundred women, and Priam at the altars,
polluting with blood the flames that he himself had sanctified.
Those fifty chambers, the promise of so many offspring,
the doorposts, rich with spoils of barbarian gold,
crash down: the Greeks possess what the fire spares.
And maybe you ask, what was Priam’s fate.
When he saw the end of the captive city, the palace doors
wrenched away, and the enemy among the inner rooms,
the aged man clasped his long-neglected armour
on his old, trembling shoulders, and fastened on his useless sword,
and hurried into the thick of the enemy seeking death.
In the centre of the halls, and under the sky’s naked arch,
was a large altar, with an ancient laurel nearby, that leant
on the altar, and clothed the household gods with shade.
Here Hecuba, and her daughters, like doves driven
by a dark storm, crouched uselessly by the shrines,
huddled together, clutching at the statues of the gods.
And when she saw Priam himself dressed in youthful armour
she cried: “What mad thought, poor husband, urges you
to fasten on these weapons? Where do you run?
The hour demands no such help, nor defences such as these,
not if my own Hector were here himself. Here, I beg you,
this altar will protect us all or we’ll die together.”
So she spoke and drew the old man towards her,
and set him down on the sacred steps.
See, Polites, one of Priam’s sons, escaping Pyrrhus’s slaughter,
runs down the long hallways, through enemies and spears,
and, wounded, crosses the empty courts.
Pyrrhus chases after him, eager to strike him,
and grasps at him now, and now, with his hand, at spear-point.
When finally he reached the eyes and gaze of his parents,
he fell, and poured out his life in a river of blood.
Priam, though even now in death’s clutches,
did not spare his voice at this, or hold back his anger:
“If there is any justice in heaven, that cares about such things,
may the gods repay you with fit thanks, and due reward
for your wickedness, for such acts, you who have
made me see my own son’s death in front of my face,
and defiled a father’s sight with murder.
Yet Achilles, whose son you falsely claim to be, was no
such enemy to Priam: he respected the suppliant’s rights,
and honour, and returned Hector’s bloodless corpse
to its sepulchre, and sent me home to my kingdom.”
So the old man spoke, and threw his ineffectual spear
without strength, which immediately spun from the clanging bronze
and hung uselessly from the centre of the shield’s boss.
Pyrrhus spoke to him: “Then you can be messenger, carry
the news to my father, to Peleus’s son: remember to tell him
of degenerate Pyrrhus, and of my sad actions:
now die.” Saying this he dragged him, trembling,
and slithering in the pool of his son’s blood, to the very altar,
and twined his left hand in his hair, raised the glittering sword
in his right, and buried it to the hilt in his side.
This was the end of Priam’s life: this was the death that fell to him
by lot, seeing Troy ablaze and its citadel toppled, he who was
once the magnificent ruler of so many Asian lands and peoples.
A once mighty body lies on the shore, the head
shorn from its shoulders, a corpse without a name.
Then for the first time a wild terror gripped me.
I stood amazed: my dear father’s image rose before me
as I saw a king, of like age, with a cruel wound,
breathing his life away: and my Creusa, forlorn,
and the ransacked house, and the fate of little Iulus.
I looked back, and considered the troops that were round me.
They had all left me, wearied, and hurled their bodies to earth,
or sick with misery dropped into the flames.
So I was alone now, when I saw the daughter of Tyndareus,
Helen, close to Vesta’s portal, hiding silently
in the secret shrine: the bright flames gave me light,
as I wandered, gazing everywhere, randomly.
Afraid of Trojans angered at the fall of Troy,
Greek vengeance, and the fury of a husband she deserted,
she, the mutual curse of Troy and her own country,
had concealed herself and crouched, a hated thing, by the altars.
Fire blazed in my spirit: anger rose to avenge my fallen land,
and to exact the punishment for her wickedness.
“Shall she, unharmed, see Sparta again and her native Mycenae,
and see her house and husband, parents and children,
and go in the triumphant role of a queen,
attended by a crowd of Trojan women and Phrygian servants?
When Priam has been put to the sword? Troy consumed with fire?
The Dardanian shore soaked again and again with blood?
No. Though there’s no great glory in a woman’s punishment,
and such a conquest wins no praise, still I will be praised
for extinguishing wickedness and exacting well-earned
punishment, and I’ll delight in having filled my soul
with the flame of revenge, and appeased my people’s ashes.”
I blurted out these words, and was rushing on with raging mind,
when my dear mother came to my vision, never before so bright
to my eyes, shining with pure light in the night,
goddess for sure, such as she may be seen by the gods,
and taking me by the right hand, stopped me, and, then,
imparted these words to me from her rose-tinted lips:
“My son, what pain stirs such uncontrollable anger?
Why this rage? Where has your care for what is ours vanished?
First will you not see whether Creusa, your wife, and your child
Ascanius still live, and where you have left your father Anchises
worn-out with age? The Greek ranks surround them on all sides,
and if my love did not protect them, the flames would have caught
them before now, and the enemy swords drunk of their blood.
You do not hate the face of the Spartan daughter of Tyndareus,
nor is Paris to blame: the ruthlessness of the gods, of the gods,
brought down this power, and toppled Troy from its heights.
See (for I’ll tear away all the mist that now, shrouding your sight,
dims your mortal vision, and darkens everything with moisture:
don’t be afraid of what your mother commands, or refuse to obey
her wisdom): here, where you see shattered heaps of stone
torn from stone, and smoke billowing mixed with dust,
Neptune is shaking the walls, and the foundations, stirred
by his mighty trident, and tearing the whole city up by it roots.
There, Juno, the fiercest, is first to take the Scaean Gate, and,
sword at her side, calls on her troops from the ships, in rage.
Now, see, Tritonian Pallas, standing on the highest towers,
sending lightning from the storm-cloud, and her grim Gorgon
breastplate. Father Jupiter himself supplies the Greeks with
courage, and fortunate strength, himself excites the gods against
the Trojan army. Hurry your departure, son, and put an end
to your efforts. I will not leave you, and I will place you
safe at your father’s door.” She spoke, and hid herself
in the dense shadows of night. Dreadful shapes appeared,
and the vast powers of gods opposed to Troy.
Then in truth all Ilium seemed to me to sink in flames,
and Neptune’s Troy was toppled from her base:
just as when foresters on the mountain heights
compete to uproot an ancient ash tree, struck
time and again by axe and blade, it threatens continually
to fall, with trembling foliage and shivering crown,
till gradually vanquished by the blows it groans at last,
and torn from the ridge, crashes down in ruin.
I descend, and, led by a goddess, am freed from flames
and enemies: the spears give way, and the flames recede.
And now, when I reached the threshold of my father’s house,
and my former home, my father, whom it was my first desire
to carry into the high mountains, and whom I first sought out,
refused to extend his life or endure exile, since Troy had fallen.
“Oh, you,” he cried, “whose blood has the vigour of youth,
and whose power is unimpaired in its force, it’s for you
to take flight. As for me, if the gods had wished to lengthen
the thread of my life, they’d have spared my house. It is
more than enough that I saw one destruction, and survived
one taking of the city. Depart, saying farewell to my body
lying here so, yes so. I shall find death with my own hand:
the enemy will pity me, and look for plunder. The loss
of my burial is nothing. Clinging to old age for so long,
I am useless, and hated by the gods, ever since
the father of the gods and ruler of men breathed the winds
of his lightning-bolt onto me, and touched me with fire.”
So he persisted in saying, and remained adamant.
We, on our side, Creusa, my wife, and Ascanius, all our household,
weeping bitterly, determined that he should not destroy everything
along with himself, and crush us by urging our doom.
He refused and clung to his place and his purpose.
I hurried to my weapons again, and, miserably, longed for death,
since what tactic or opportunity was open to us now?
“ Did you think I could leave you, father, and depart?
Did such sinful words fall from your lips?
If it pleases the gods to leave nothing of our great city standing,
if this is set in your mind, if it delights you to add yourself
and all that’s yours to the ruins of Troy, the door is open
to that death: soon Pyrrhus comes, drenched in Priam’s blood,
he who butchers the son in front of the father, the father at the altar.
Kind mother, did you rescue me from fire and sword
for this, to see the enemy in the depths of my house,
and Ascanius, and my father, and Creusa, slaughtered,
thrown together in a heap, in one another’s blood?
Weapons men, bring weapons: the last day calls to the defeated.
Lead me to the Greeks again: let me revisit the battle anew.
This day we shall not all perish unavenged.”
So, again, I fasten on my sword, slip my left arm
into the shield’s strap, adjust it, and rush from the house.
But see, my wife clings to the threshold, clasps my foot,
and holds little Iulus up towards his father:
“If you go to die, take us with you too, at all costs: but if
as you’ve proved you trust in the weapons you wear,
defend this house first. To whom do you abandon little Iulus,
and your father, and me, I who was once spoken of as your wife?”
Crying out like this she filled the whole house with her groans,
when suddenly a wonder, marvellous to speak of, occurred.
See, between the hands and faces of his grieving parents,
a gentle light seemed to shine from the crown
of Iulus’s head, and a soft flame, harmless in its touch,
licked at his hair, and grazed his forehead.
Trembling with fear, we hurry to flick away the blazing strands,
and extinguish the sacred fires with water.
But Anchises, my father, lifts his eyes to the heavens, in delight,
and raises his hands and voice to the sky:
“All-powerful Jupiter, if you’re moved by any prayers,
see us, and, grant but this: if we are worthy through our virtue,
show us a sign of it, Father, and confirm your omen.”
The old man had barely spoken when, with a sudden crash,
it thundered on the left, and a star, through the darkness,
slid from the sky, and flew, trailing fire, in a burst of light.
We watched it glide over the highest rooftops,
and bury its brightness, and the sign of its passage,
in the forests of Mount Ida: then the furrow of its long track
gave out a glow, and, all around, the place smoked with sulphur.
At this my father, truly overcome, raised himself towards the sky,
and spoke to the gods, and proclaimed the sacred star.
“Now no delay: I follow, and where you lead, there am I.
Gods of my fathers, save my line, save my grandson.
This omen is yours, and Troy is in your divine power.
I accept, my son, and I will not refuse to go with you.”
He speaks, and now the fire is more audible,
through the city, and the blaze rolls its tide nearer.
“Come then, dear father, clasp my neck: I will
carry you on my shoulders: that task won’t weigh on me.
Whatever may happen, it will be for us both, the same shared risk,
and the same salvation. Let little Iulus come with me,
and let my wife follow our footsteps at a distance.
You servants, give your attention to what I’m saying.
At the entrance to the city there’s a mound, an ancient temple
of forsaken Ceres, and a venerable cypress nearby,
protected through the years by the reverence of our fathers:
let’s head to that one place by diverse paths.
You, father, take the sacred objects, and our country’s gods,
in your hands: until I’ve washed in running water,
it would be a sin for me, coming from such fighting
and recent slaughter, to touch them.” So saying, bowing my neck,
I spread a cloak made of a tawny lion’s hide over my broad shoulders, and bend to the task: little Iulus clasps his hand
in mine, and follows his father’s longer strides.
My wife walks behind. We walk on through the shadows
of places, and I whom till then no shower of spears,
nor crowd of Greeks in hostile array, could move,
now I’m terrified by every breeze, and startled by every noise,
anxious, and fearful equally for my companion and my burden.
And now I was near the gates, and thought I had completed
my journey, when suddenly the sound of approaching feet
filled my hearing, and, peering through the darkness,
my father cried: “My son, run my son, they are near us:
I see their glittering shields and gleaming bronze.”
Some hostile power, at this, scattered my muddled wits.
for while I was following alleyways, and straying
from the region of streets we knew, did my wife Creusa halt,
snatched away from me by wretched fate?
Or did she wander from the path or collapse with weariness?
Who knows? She was never restored to our sight,
nor did I look back for my lost one, or cast a thought behind me,
until we came to the mound, and ancient Ceres’s sacred place.
Here when all were gathered together at last, one was missing,
and had escaped the notice of friends, child and husband.
What man or god did I not accuse in my madness:
what did I know of in the city’s fall crueller than this?
I place Ascanius, and my father Anchises, and the gods of Troy,
in my companions’ care, and conceal them in a winding valley:
I myself seek the city once more, and take up my shining armour.
I’m determined to incur every risk again, and retrace
all Troy, and once more expose my life to danger.
First I look for the wall, and the dark threshold of the gate
from which my path led, and I retrace the landmarks
of my course in the night, scanning them with my eye.
Everywhere the terror in my heart, and the silence itself,
dismay me. Then I take myself homewards, in case
by chance, by some chance, she has made her way there.
The Greeks have invaded, and occupied, the whole house.
Suddenly eager fire, rolls over the rooftop, in the wind:
the flames take hold, the blaze rages to the heavens.
I pass by and see again Priam’s palace and the citadel.
Now Phoenix, and fatal Ulysses, the chosen guards, watch over
the spoils, in the empty courts of Juno’s sanctuary.
Here the Trojan treasures are gathered from every part,
ripped from the blazing shrines, tables of the gods,
solid gold bowls, and plundered robes.
Mothers and trembling sons stand round in long ranks.
I even dared to hurl my shouts through the shadows,
filling the streets with my clamour, and in my misery,
redoubling my useless cries, again and again.
Searching, and raging endlessly among the city roofs,
the unhappy ghost and true shadow of Creusa
appeared before my eyes, in a form greater than I’d known.
I was dumbfounded, my hair stood on end, and my voice
stuck in my throat. Then she spoke and with these words
mitigated my distress: “Oh sweet husband, what use is it
to indulge in such mad grief? This has not happened
without the divine will: neither its laws nor the ruler
of great Olympus let you take Creusa with you,
away from here. Yours is long exile, you must plough
a vast reach of sea: and you will come to Hesperia’s land,
where Lydian Tiber flows in gentle course among the farmers’
rich fields. There, happiness, kingship and a royal wife
will be yours. Banish these tears for your beloved Creusa.
I, a Trojan woman, and daughter-in-law to divine Venus,
shall never see the noble halls of the Dolopians,
or Myrmidons, or go as slave to some Greek wife:
instead the great mother of the gods keeps me on this shore.
Now farewell, and preserve your love for the son we share.”
When she had spoken these words, leaving me weeping
and wanting to say so many things, she faded into thin air.
Three times I tried to throw my arms about her neck:
three times her form fled my hands, clasped in vain,
like the light breeze, most of all like a winged dream.
So at last when night was done, I returned to my friends.
And here, amazed, I found that a great number of new
companions had streamed in, women and men,
a crowd gathering for exile, a wretched throng.
They had come from all sides, ready, with courage and wealth,
for whatever land I wished to lead them to, across the seas.
And now Lucifer was rising above the heights of Ida,
bringing the dawn, and the Greeks held the barricaded
entrances to the gates, nor was there any hope of rescue.
I desisted, and, carrying my father, took to the hills.
After the gods had seen fit to destroy Asia’s power
and Priam’s innocent people, and proud Ilium had fallen,
and all of Neptune’s Troy breathed smoke from the soil,
we were driven by the gods’ prophecies to search out
distant exile, and deserted lands, and we built a fleet
below Antandros and the peaks of Phrygian Ida, unsure
where fate would carry us, or where we’d be allowed to settle,
and we gathered our forces together. Summer had barely begun,
when Anchises, my father, ordered us to set sail with destiny:
I left my native shore with tears, the harbour and the fields
where Troy once stood. I travelled the deep, an exile,
with my friends and my son, and the great gods of our house.
Far off is a land of vast plains where Mars is worshipped
(worked by the Thracians) once ruled by fierce Lycurgus,
a friend of Troy in the past, and with gods who were allies,
while fortune lasted. I went there, and founded my first city
named Aeneadae from my name, on the shore
in the curving bay, beginning it despite fate’s adversity.
I was making a sacrifice to the gods, and my mother Venus,
Dione’s daughter, with auspices for the work begun, and had killed
a fine bull on the shore, for the supreme king of the sky-lords.
By chance, there was a mound nearby, crowned with cornel
bushes, and bristling with dense spikes of myrtle.
I went near, and trying to tear up green wood from the soil
to decorate the altar with leafy branches, I saw
a wonder, dreadful and marvellous to tell of.
From the first bush, its broken roots torn from the ground,
drops of dark blood dripped, and stained the earth with fluid.
An icy shiver gripped my limbs, and my blood chilled with terror.
Again I went on to pluck a stubborn shoot from another,
probing the hidden cause within: and dark blood
flowed from the bark of the second. Troubled greatly
in spirit, I prayed to the Nymphs of the wild,
and father Gradivus, who rules the Thracian fields,
to look with due kindness on this vision, and lessen
its significance. But when I attacked the third
with greater effort, straining with my knees against the sand
(to speak or be silent?), a mournful groan was audible
from deep in the mound, and a voice came to my ears:
“Why do you wound a poor wretch, Aeneas? Spare me now
in my tomb, don’t stain your virtuous hands, Troy bore me,
who am no stranger to you, nor does this blood flow from
some dull block. Oh, leave this cruel land: leave this shore
of greed. For I am Polydorus. Here a crop of iron spears
carpeted my transfixed corpse, and has ripened into sharp spines.”
Then truly I was stunned, my mind crushed by anxious dread,
my hair stood up on end, and my voice stuck in my throat.
Priam, the unfortunate, seeing the city encircled by the siege,
and despairing of Trojan arms, once sent this Polydorus, secretly,
with a great weight of gold, to be raised, by the Thracian king.
When the power of Troy was broken, and her fortunes ebbed,
the Thracian broke every divine law, to follow Agamemnon’s
cause, and his victorious army, murders Polydorus, and takes
the gold by force. Accursed hunger for gold, to what do you
not drive human hearts! When terror had left my bones
I referred this divine vision to the people’s appointed leaders,
my father above all, and asked them what they thought.
All were of one mind, to leave this wicked land, and depart
a place of hospitality defiled, and sail our fleet before the wind.
So we renewed the funeral rites for Polydorus, and piled
the earth high on his barrow: sad altars were raised
to the Shades, with dark sacred ribbons and black cypress,
the Trojan women around, hair streaming,
as is the custom: we offered foaming bowls of warm milk,
and dishes of sacrificial blood, and bound the spirit
to its tomb, and raised a loud shout of farewell.
Then as soon as we’ve confidence in the waves, and the winds
grant us calm seas, and the soft whispering breeze calls to the deep,
my companions float the ships and crowd to the shore.
We set out from harbour, and lands and cities recede.
In the depths of the sea lies a sacred island, dearest of all
to the mother of the Nereids, and Aegean Neptune,
that wandered by coasts and shores, until Apollo,
affectionately, tied it to high Myconos, and Gyaros,
making it fixed and inhabitable, scorning the storms.
I sail there: it welcomes us peacefully, weary as we are,
to its safe harbour. Landing, we do homage to Apollo’s city.
King Anius, both king of the people and high-priest of Apollo,
his forehead crowned with the sacred headband and holy laurel,
meets us, and recognises an old friend in Anchises:
we clasp hands in greeting and enter his house.
I paid homage to the god’s temple of ancient stone:
“Grant us a true home, Apollo, grant a weary people walls,
and a race, and a city that will endure: protect this second
citadel of Troy, that survives the Greeks and pitiless Achilles.
Whom should we follow? Where do you command us to go?
Where should we settle? Grant us an omen, father, to stir our hearts.
I had scarcely spoken: suddenly everything seemed to tremble,
the god’s thresholds and his laurel crowns, and the whole hill
round us moved, and the tripod groaned as the shrine split open.
Humbly we seek the earth, and a voice comes to our ears:
“Enduring Trojans, the land which first bore you from its
parent stock, that same shall welcome you, restored, to its
fertile breast. Search out your ancient mother.
There the house of Aeneas shall rule all shores,
his children’s children, and those that are born to them.”
So Phoebus spoke: and there was a great shout of joy mixed
with confusion, and all asked what walls those were, and where
it is Phoebus calls the wanderers to, commanding them to return.
Then my father, thinking of the records of the ancients, said:
“Listen, O princes, and learn what you may hope for.
Crete lies in the midst of the sea, the island of mighty Jove,
where Mount Ida is, the cradle of our race.
They inhabit a hundred great cities, in the richest of kingdoms,
from which our earliest ancestor, Teucer, if I remember the tale
rightly, first sailed to Trojan shores, and chose a site
for his royal capital. Until then Ilium and the towers of the citadel
did not stand there: men lived in the depths of the valleys.
The Mother who inhabits Cybele is Cretan, and the cymbals
of the Corybantes, and the grove of Ida: from Crete came
the faithful silence of her rites, and the yoked lions
drawing the lady’s chariot. So come, and let us follow
where the god’s command may lead, let us placate
the winds, and seek out the Cretan kingdom.
It is no long journey away: if only Jupiter is with us,
the third dawn will find our fleet on the Cretan shores.”
So saying, he sacrificed the due offerings at the altars,
a bull to Neptune, a bull to you, glorious Apollo, a black sheep
to the Storm god, a white to the auspicious Westerlies.
A rumour spread that Prince Idomeneus had been driven
from his father’s kingdom, and the Cretan shores were deserted,
her houses emptied of enemies, and the abandoned homes
waiting for us. We left Ortygia’s harbour, and sped over the sea,
threading the foaming straits thick with islands, Naxos
with its Bacchic worship in the hills, green Donysa, Olearos,
snow-white Paros, and the Cyclades, scattered over the waters.
The sailors’ cries rose, as they competed in their various tasks:
the crew shouted: “We’re headed for Crete, and our ancestors.”
A wind rising astern sent us on our way, and at last
we glided by the ancient shores of the Curetes.
Then I worked eagerly on the walls of our chosen city, and called
it Pergamum, and exhorted my people, delighting in the name,
to show love for their homes, and build a covered fortress.
Now the ships were usually beached on the dry sand:
the young men were busy with weddings and their fresh fields:
I was deciding on laws and homesteads: suddenly,
from some infected region of the sky, came a wretched plague,
corrupting bodies, trees, and crops, and a season of death.
They relinquished sweet life, or dragged their sick limbs
around: then Sirius blazed over barren fields:
the grass withered, and the sickly harvest denied its fruits.
My father urged us to retrace the waves, and revisit
the oracle of Apollo at Delos, and beg for protection,
ask where the end might be to our weary fate, where he commands
that we seek help for our trouble, where to set our course.
It was night, and sleep had charge of earth’s creatures:
The sacred statues of the gods, the Phrygian Penates,
that I had carried with me from Troy, out of the burning city,
seemed to stand there before my eyes, as I lay in sleep,
perfectly clear in the light, where the full moon
streamed through the window casements: then they spoke
to me and with their words dispelled my cares:
“Apollo speaks here what he would say to you, on reaching Delos,
and sends us besides, as you see, to your threshold.
When Try burned we followed you and your weapons,
we crossed the swelling seas with you on your ships,
we too shall raise your descendants yet to be, to the stars,
and grant empire to your city. Build great walls for the great,
and do not shrink from the long labour of exile.
Change your country. These are not the shores that Delian
Apollo urged on you, he did not order you to settle in Crete.
There is a place the Greeks call Hesperia by name,
an ancient land powerful in arms and in richness of the soil:
There the Oenotrians lived: now the rumour is that
a younger race has named it Italy after their leader.
That is our true home, Dardanus and father Iasius,
from whom our race first came, sprang from there.
Come, bear these words of truth joyfully to your old father,
that he might seek Corythus and Ausonia’s lands:
Jupiter denies the fields of Dicte to you.”
Amazed by such a vision, and the voices of the gods,
(it was not a dream, but I seemed to recognise their expression,
before me, their wreathed hair, their living faces:
then a cold sweat bathed all my limbs)
my body leapt from the bed, and I lifted my voice
and upturned palms to heaven, and offered pure
gifts on the hearth-fire. The rite completed, with joy
I told Anchises of this revelation, revealing it all in order.
He understood about the ambiguity in our origins, and the dual
descent, and that he had been deceived by a fresh error,
about our ancient country. Then he spoke: “My son, troubled
by Troy’s fate, Only Cassandra prophesied such an outcome.
Now I remember her foretelling that this was destined for our race,
and often spoke of Hesperia, and the Italian kingdom.
Who’d believe that Trojans would travel to Hesperia’s shores?
Who’d have been moved by Cassandra, the prophetess, then?
Let’s trust to Apollo, and, warned by him, take the better course.”
So he spoke, and we were delighted to obey his every word.
We departed this home as well, and, leaving some people behind,
set sail, and ran through the vast ocean in our hollow ships.
When the fleet had reached the high seas and the land
was no longer seen, sky and ocean on all sides, then
a dark-blue rain cloud settled overhead, bringing
night and storm, and the waves bristled with shadows.
Immediately the winds rolled over the water and great seas rose:
we were scattered here and there in the vast abyss.
Storm-clouds shrouded the day, and the night mists
hid the sky: lightning flashed again from the torn clouds.
We were thrown off course, and wandered the blind waves.
Palinurus himself was unable to tell night from day in the sky,
and could not determine his path among the waves.
So for three days, and as many starless nights,
we wandered uncertainly, in a dark fog, over the sea.
At last, on the fourth day, land was first seen to rise,
revealing far off mountains and rolling smoke.
The sails fell, we stood to the oars: without pause, the sailors,
at full stretch, churned the foam, and swept the blue sea.
Free of the waves I’m welcomed first by the shores
of the Strophades, the Clashing Islands. The Strophades
are fixed now in the great Ionian Sea, but are called
by the Greek name. There dread Celaeno and the rest
of the Harpies live, since Phineus’s house was denied them,
and they left his tables where they fed, in fear.
No worse monsters than these, no crueller plague,
ever rose from the waters of Styx, at the gods’ anger.
These birds have the faces of virgin girls,
foulest excrement flowing from their bellies,
clawed hands, and faces always thin with hunger.
Now when, arriving here, we enter port,
we see fat herds of cattle scattered over the plains,
and flocks of goats, unguarded, in the meadows.
We rush at them with our swords, calling on Jove himself
and the gods to join us in our plunder: then we build
seats on the curving beach, and feast on the rich meats.
But suddenly the Harpies arrive, in a fearsome swoop
from the hills, flapping their wings with a huge noise,
snatching at the food, and fouling everything with their
filthy touch: then there’s a deadly shriek amongst the foul stench.
We set out the tables again, and relight the altar fires,
in a deep recess under an overhanging rock,
closed off by trees and trembling shadows:
again from another part of the sky, some hidden lair,
the noisy crowd hovers, with taloned feet around their prey,
polluting the food with their mouths. Then I order my friends
to take up their weapons and make war on that dreadful race.
They do exactly that, obeying orders, placing hidden swords
in the grass, and burying their shields out of sight.
Then when the birds swoop, screaming, along the curved beach,
Misenus, from his high lookout, gives the signal on hollow bronze.
My friends charge, and, in a new kind of battle, attempt
to wound these foul ocean birds with their swords.
But they don’t register the blows to their plumage, or the wounds
to their backs, they flee quickly, soaring beneath the heavens,
leaving behind half-eaten food, and the traces of their filth.
Only Celaeno, ominous prophetess, settles on a high cliff,
and bursts out with this sound from her breast:
“Are you ready to bring war to us, sons of Laomedon, is it war,
for the cows you killed, the bullocks you slaughtered,
driving the innocent Harpies from their father’s country?
Take these words of mine to your hearts then, and set them there.
I, the eldest of the Furies, reveal to you what the all-powerful
Father prophesied to Apollo, and Phoebus Apollo to me.
Italy is the path you take, and, invoking the winds,
you shall go to Italy, and enter her harbours freely:
but you will not surround the city granted you with walls
until dire hunger, and the sin of striking at us, force you
to consume your very tables with devouring jaws.”
She spoke, and fled back to the forest borne by her wings.
But my companions’ chill blood froze with sudden fear:
their courage dropped, and they told me to beg for peace,
with vows and prayers, forgoing weapons,
no matter if these were goddesses or fatal, vile birds.
And my father Anchises, with outstretched hands, on the shore,
called to the great gods and declared the due sacrifice:
“Gods, avert these threats, gods, prevent these acts,
and, in peace, protect the virtuous!” Then he ordered us
to haul in the cables from the shore, unfurl and spread the sails.
South winds stretched the canvas: we coursed over foaming seas,
wherever the winds and the helmsman dictated our course.
Now wooded Zacynthus appeared amongst the waves,
Dulichium, Same and Neritos’s steep cliffs.
We ran past Laertes’s kingdom, Ithacas’s reefs,
and cursed the land that reared cruel Ulysses.
Soon the cloudy heights of Mount Leucata were revealed,
as well, and Apollo’s headland, feared by sailors.
We headed wearily for it, and approached the little town:
the anchor was thrown from the prow, the stern rested on the beach.
So, beyond hope, achieving land at last, we purify
ourselves for Jove, and light offerings on the altars,
and celebrate Trojan games on the shore of Actium.
My naked companions, slippery with oil,
indulge in the wrestling-bouts of their homeland:
it’s good to have slipped past so many Greek cities
and held our course in flight through the midst of the enemy.
Meanwhile the sun rolls through the long year
and icy winter stirs the waves with northerly gales:
I fix a shield of hollow bronze, once carried by mighty Abas,
on the entrance pillars, and mark the event with a verse:
AENEAS OFFERS THIS ARMOUR FROM CONQUERING GREEKS
then I order them to man the benches and leave harbour:
in rivalry, my friends strike the sea and sweep the waves.
We soon leave behind the windblown heights of Phaeacia,
pass the shores of Epirus, enter Chaonia’s harbour
and approach the lofty city of Buthrotum.
Here a rumour of something unbelievable greeted our ears:
Priam’s son, Helenus, reigning over Greek cities,
having won the wife and kingdom of Pyrrhus, Aeacus’s scion,
Andromache being given again to a husband of her race.
I was astounded, and my heart burned with an amazing passion
to speak to the man, and learn of such events.
I walked from the harbour, leaving the fleet and the shore,
when, by chance, in a sacred grove near the city, by a false Simois,
Andromache was making an annual offering, sad gifts,
to Hector’s ashes, and calling his spirit to the tomb,
an empty mound of green turf, and twin altars, she had sanctified,
a place for tears. When she saw me approaching and recognised,
with amazement, Trojan weapons round her, she froze as she gazed,
terrified by these great wonders, and the heat left her limbs.
She half-fell and after a long while, scarcely able to, said:
“Are you a real person, a real messenger come here to me,
son of the goddess? Are you alive? Or if the kindly light has faded,
where then is Hector?” She spoke, and poured out her tears,
and filled the whole place with her weeping. Given her frenzy,
I barely replied with a few words, and, moved, I spoke disjointedly:
“Surely, I live, and lead a life full of extremes: don’t be unsure,
for you see truly. Ah! What fate has overtaken you, fallen
from so great a husband? Or has good fortune worthy enough
for Hector’s Andromache, visited you again? Are you still
Pyrrhus’s wife?” She lowered her eyes and spoke quietly:
“O happy beyond all others was that virgin daughter
of Priam, commanded to die beside an enemy tomb,
under Troy’s high walls, who never suffered fate’s lottery,
or, as a prisoner, reached her victorious master’s bed!
Carried over distant seas, my country set afire, I endured
the scorn of Achilles’s son, and his youthful arrogance,
giving birth as a slave: he, who then, pursuing Hermione,
Helen’s daughter, and a Spartan marriage, transferred me
to Helenus’s keeping, a servant to a servant.
But Orestes, inflamed by great love for his stolen bride,
and driven by the Furies for his crime, caught him,
unawares, and killed him by his father’s altar.
At Pyrrhus’s death a part of the kingdom passed, by right
to Helenus, who named the Chaonian fields, and all
Chaonia, after Chaon of Troy, and built a Pergamus,
and this fortress of Ilium, on the mountain ridge.
But what winds, what fates, set your course for you?
Or what god drives you, unknowingly, to our shores?
What of the child, Ascanius? Does he live, and graze on air,
he whom Creusa bore to you in vanished Troy?
Has he any love still for his lost mother?
Have his father Aeneas and his uncle Hector roused
in him any of their ancient courage or virile spirit?”
Weeping, she poured out these words, and was starting
a long vain lament, when heroic Helenus, Priam’s son,
approached from the city, with a large retinue,
and recognised us as his own, and lead us, joyfully,
to the gates, and poured out tears freely at every word.
I walked on, and saw a little Troy, and a copy of the great
citadel, and a dry stream, named after the Xanthus,
and embraced the doorposts of a Scaean Gate.
My Trojans enjoyed the friendly city with me no less.
The king received them in a broad colonnade:
they poured out cups of wine in the centre of a courtyard,
and held out their dishes while food was served on gold.
Now day after day has gone by, and the breezes call
to the sails, and the canvas swells with a rising Southerly:
I go to Helenus, the seer, with these words and ask:
“Trojan-born, agent of the gods, you who know Apollo’s will,
the tripods, the laurels at Claros, the stars, the language
of birds, and the omens of their wings in flight,
come, speak (since a favourable oracle told me
all my route, and all the gods in their divinity urged me
to seek Italy, and explore the furthest lands:
only the Harpy, Celaeno, predicts fresh portents,
evil to tell of, and threatens bitter anger
and vile famine) first, what dangers shall I avoid?
Following what course can I overcome such troubles?”
Helenus, first sacrificing bullocks according to the ritual,
obtained the gods’ grace, then loosened the headband
from his holy brow, and led me, anxious at so much
divine power, with his own hand, to your threshold Apollo,
and then the priest prophesied this, from the divine mouth:
“Son of the goddess, since the truth is clear, that you sail
the deep blessed by the higher powers (so the king of the gods
allots our fates, and rolls the changes, so the order alters),
I’ll explain a few things of many, in my words to you,
so you may travel foreign seas more safely, and can find
rest in an Italian haven: for the Fates forbid Helenus
to know further, and Saturnian Juno denies him speech.
Firstly, a long pathless path, by long coastlines, separates
you from that far-off Italy, whose neighbouring port
you intend to enter, unknowingly thinking it nearby.
Before you can build your city in a safe land,
you must bend the oar in Sicilian waters,
and pass the levels of the Italian seas, in your ships,
the infernal lakes, and Aeaean Circe’s island.
I’ll tell you of signs: keep them stored in your memory.
When, in your distress, you find a huge sow lying on the shore,
by the waters of a remote river, under the oak trees,
that has farrowed a litter of thirty young, a white sow,
lying on the ground, with white piglets round her teats,
that place shall be your city, there’s true rest from your labours.
And do not dread that gnawing of tables, in your future:
the fates will find a way, Apollo will be there at your call.
But avoid these lands, and this nearer coastline
of the Italian shore, washed by our own
ocean tide: hostile Greeks inhabit every town.
The Narycian Locri have built a city here,
and Lyctian Idomeneus has filled the plain
with soldiers: here is that little Petelia, of Philoctetes,
leader of the Meliboeans, relying on its walls.
Then when your fleet has crossed the sea, and anchored
and the altars are raised for your offerings on the shore,
veil your hair, clothed in your purple robes, so that
in worshipping the gods no hostile face may intrude
among the sacred flames, and disturb the omens.
Let your friends adopt this mode of sacrifice, and yourself:
and let your descendants remain pure in this religion.
But when the wind carries you, on leaving, to the Sicilian shore,
and the barriers of narrow Pelorus open ahead,
make for the seas and land to port, in a long circuit:
avoid the shore and waters on the starboard side.
They say, when the two were one continuous stretch of land,
they one day broke apart, torn by the force of a vast upheaval
(time’s remote antiquity enables such great changes).
The sea flowed between them with force, and severed
the Italian from the Sicilian coast, and a narrow tideway
washes the cities and fields on separate shores.
Scylla holds the right side, implacable Charybdis the left,
who, in the depths of the abyss, swallows the vast flood
three times into the downward gulf and alternately lifts
it to the air, and lashes the heavens with her waves.
But a cave surrounds Scylla with dark hiding-places,
and she thrusts her mouths out, and drags ships onto the rocks.
Above she has human shape, and is a girl, with lovely breasts,
a girl, down to her sex, below it she is a sea-monster of huge size,
with dolphins’ tails joined to a belly formed of wolves.
It is better to round the point of Pachynus,
lingering, and circling Sicily on a long course,
than to once catch sight of hideous Scylla in her vast cave
and the rocks that echo to her sea-dark hounds.
Beyond this, if Helenus has any knowledge, if the seer
can be believed, if Apollo fills his spirit with truth,
son of the goddess, I will say this one thing, this one thing
that is worth all, and I’ll repeat the warning again and again,
honour great Juno’s divinity above all, with prayer, and recite
your vows to Juno freely, and win over that powerful lady
with humble gifts: so at last you’ll leave Sicily behind
and reach the coast of Italy, victorious.
Once brought there, approach the city of Cumae,
the ghostly lakes, and Avernus, with its whispering groves,
gaze on the raving prophetess, who sings the fates
deep in the rock, and commits names and signs to leaves.
Whatever verses the virgin writes on the leaves,
she arranges in order, and stores them high up in her cave.
They stay in place, motionless, and keep in rank:
but once a light breeze ruffles them, at the turn of a hinge,
and the opening door disturbs the delicate leaves, she never
thinks to retrieve them, as they flutter through the rocky cave,
or to return them to their places, or reconstitute the prophecies:
men go away unanswered, and detest the Sibyl’s lair.
Though your friends complain, and though your course
calls your sails urgently to the deep, and a following wind
might fill the canvas, don’t overvalue the loss in any delay,
but visit the prophetess, and beg her with prayers to speak
the oracle herself, and loose her voice through willing lips.
She will rehearse the peoples of Italy, the wars to come,
and how you might evade or endure each trial,
and, shown respect, she’ll grant you a favourable journey.
These are the things you can be warned of by my voice.
Go now, and by your actions raise great Troy to the stars.”
After the seer had spoken these words with benign lips,
he ordered heavy gifts of gold and carved ivory
to be carried to our ships, and stored massive silverware
in the holds, cauldrons from Dodona, a hooked breastplate
woven with triple-linked gold, and a fine conical helmet
with a crest of horse-hair, Pyrrhus’s armour.
There were gifts of his own for my father too.
Helenus added horses and sea-pilots: he manned
our oars: he also equipped my friends with weapons.
Meanwhile Anchises ordered us to rig sails on the ships,
so the rushing wind would not be lost, by our delay.
Apollo’s agent spoke to him with great respect:
“Anchises, worthy of proud marriage with Venus,
cared for by the gods, twice saved from the ruins of Troy,
behold your land of Italy: sail and take it.
But still you must slide past it on the seas:
the part of Italy that Apollo named is far away.
Go onward, happy in your son’s love. Why should I say more,
and delay your catching the rising wind?”
Andromache also, grieved at this final parting, brought robes
embroidered with gold weave, and a Phrygian cloak
for Ascanius, nor did she fail to honour him,
and loaded him down with gifts of cloth, and said:
“Take these as well, my child, remembrances for you
from my hand, and witness of the lasting love of Andromache,
Hector’s wife. Take these last gifts from your kin,
O you, the sole image left to me of my Astyanax.
He had the same eyes, the same hands, the same lips:
and now he would be growing up like you, equal in age.”
My tears welled as I spoke these parting words:
“Live happily, you whose fortunes are already determined:
we are summoned onwards from destiny to destiny.
For you, peace is achieved: you’ve no need to plough the levels
of the sea, you’ve no need to seek Italy’s ever-receding fields.
I wish that you might gaze at your likeness of Xanthus,
and a Troy built by your own hands, under happier auspices,
one which might be less exposed to the Greeks.
If I ever reach the Tiber, and the Tiber’s neighbouring fields,
and gaze on city walls granted to my people, we’ll one day
make one Troy, in spirit, from each of our kindred cities
and allied peoples, in Epirus, in Italy, who have the same Dardanus
for ancestor, the same history: let it be left to our descendants care.”
We sail on over the sea, close to the Ceraunian cliffs nearby,
on course for Italy, and the shortest path over the waves.
Meanwhile the sun is setting and the darkened hills are in shadow.
Having shared oars, we stretch out, near the waves, on the surface
of the long-desired land, and, scattered across the dry beach,
we rest our bodies: sleep refreshes our weary limbs.
Night, lead by the Hours, is not yet in mid-course:
Palinurus rises alertly from his couch, tests all
the winds, and listens to the breeze: he notes
all the stars gliding through the silent sky,
Arcturus, the rainy Pleiades, both the Bears,
and surveys Orion, armed with gold. When he sees
that all tallies, and the sky is calm, he sounds
a loud call from the ship’s stern: we break camp,
attempt our route, and spread the winged sails.
And now Dawn blushes as she puts the stars to flight,
when we see, far off, dark hills and low-lying Italy.
First Achates proclaims Italy, then my companions
hail Italy with a joyful shout. Then my father Anchises
took up a large bowl, filled it with wine,
and standing in the high stern, called to the heavens:
“You gods, lords of the sea and earth and storms, carry us
onward on a gentle breeze, and breathe on us with kindness!”
The wind we longed-for rises, now as we near, a harbour opens,
and a temple is visible on Minerva’s Height.
My companions furl the sails and turn the prows to shore.
The harbour is carved in an arc by the eastern tides:
its jutting rocks boil with salt spray, so that it itself is hidden:
towering cliffs extend their arms in a twin wall,
and the temple lies back from the shore.
Here I see four horses in the long grass, white as snow,
grazing widely over the plain, our first omen.
And my father Anchises cries: “O foreign land, you bring us war:
horses are armed for war, war is what this herd threatens.
Yet those same creatures one day can be yoked to a chariot,
and once yoked will suffer the bridle in harmony:
there’s also hope of peace.” Then we pray to the sacred power
of Pallas, of the clashing weapons, first to receive our cheers,
and clothed in Phrygian robes we veiled our heads before the altar,
and following the urgent command Helenus had given,
we duly made burnt offerings to Argive Juno as ordered.
Without delay, as soon as our vows are fully paid,
we haul on the ends of our canvas-shrouded yard-arms,
and leave the home of the Greek race, and the fields we mistrust.
Then Tarentum’s bay is seen, Hercules’s city if the tale is true:
Lacinian Juno’s temple rises against it, Caulon’s fortress,
and Scylaceum’s shore of shipwreck.
Then far off Sicilian Etna appears from the waves,
and we hear the loud roar of the sea, and the distant
tremor of the rocks, and the broken murmurs of the shore,
the shallows boil, and sand mixes with the flood.
Then my father, Anchises, said: “This must be Charybdis:
these are the cliffs, these are the horrendous rocks Helenus foretold.
Pull away, O comrades, and stand to the oars together.”
They do no less than they’re asked, and Palinurus is the first
to heave his groaning ship into the portside waves:
all our company seek port with oars and sail.
We climb to heaven on the curving flood, and again
sink down with the withdrawing waves to the depths of Hades.
The cliffs boom three times in their rocky caves,
three times we see the spray burst, and the dripping stars.
Then the wind and sunlight desert weary men,
and not knowing the way we drift to the Cyclopes’s shore.
There’s a harbour, itself large and untroubled by the passing winds,
but Etna rumbles nearby with fearsome avalanches,
now it spews black clouds into the sky, smoking,
with pitch-black turbulence, and glowing ashes,
and throws up balls of flame, licking the stars:
now it hurls high the rocks it vomits, and the mountain’s
torn entrails, and gathers molten lava together in the air
with a roar, boiling from its lowest depths.
The tale is that Enceladus’s body, scorched by the lightning-bolt,
is buried by that mass, and piled above him, mighty Etna
breathes flames from its riven furnaces,
and as often as he turns his weary flank, all Sicily
quakes and rumbles, and clouds the sky with smoke.
That night we hide in the woods, enduring the dreadful shocks,
unable to see what the cause of the sound is,
since there are no heavenly fires, no bright pole
in the starry firmament, but clouds in a darkened sky,
and the dead of night holds the moon in shroud.
Now the next day was breaking with the first light of dawn,
and Aurora had dispersed the moist shadows from the sky,
when suddenly the strange form of an unknown man came out
of the woods, exhausted by the last pangs of hunger,
pitifully dressed, and stretched his hands in supplication
towards the shore. We looked back. Vile with filth, his beard uncut,
his clothing fastened together with thorns: but otherwise a Greek,
once sent to Troy in his country’s armour.
When he saw the Dardan clothes and Trojan weapons, far off,
he hesitated a moment, frightened at the sight,
and checked his steps: then ran headlong to the beach,
with tears and prayers: “The stars be my witness,
the gods, the light in the life-giving sky, Trojans,
take me with you: carry me to any country whatsoever,
that will be fine by me. I know I’m from one of the Greek ships,
and I confess that I made war against Trojan gods,
if my crime is so great an injury to you, scatter me
over the waves for it, or drown me in the vast ocean:
if I die I’ll delight in dying at the hands of men.”
He spoke and clung to my knees, embracing them
and grovelling there. We urged him to say who he was,
born of what blood, then to say what fate pursued him.
Without much delay, my father Anchises himself gave
the young man his hand, lifting his spirits by this ready trust.
At last he set his fears aside and told us:
“I’m from the land of Ithaca, a companion of unlucky Ulysses,
Achaemenides by name, and, my father Adamastus being poor,
(I wish fate had kept me so!) I set out for Troy.
My comrades left me here in the Cyclops’ vast cave,
forgetting me, as they hurriedly left that grim
threshold. It’s a house of blood and gory feasts,
vast and dark inside. He himself is gigantic, striking against
the high stars – gods, remove plagues like that from the earth! –
not pleasant to look at, affable to no one.
He eats the dark blood and flesh of wretched men.
I saw myself how he seized two of our number in his huge hands,
and reclining in the centre of the cave, broke them
on the rock, so the threshold, drenched, swam with blood:
I saw how he gnawed their limbs, dripping with dark clots
of gore, and the still-warm bodies quivered in his jaws.
Yet he did not go unpunished: Ulysses didn’t suffer it,
nor did the Ithacan forget himself in a crisis.
As soon as the Cyclops, full of flesh and sated with wine,
relaxed his neck, and lay, huge in size, across the cave,
drooling gore and blood and wine-drenched fragments
in his sleep, we prayed to the great gods, and our roles fixed,
surrounded him on all sides, and stabbed his one huge eye,
solitary, and half-hidden under his savage brow,
like a round Greek shield, or the sun-disc of Phoebus,
with a sharpened stake: and so we joyfully avenged
the spirits of our friends. But fly from here, wretched men,
and cut your mooring ropes. Since, like Polyphemus, who pens
woolly flocks in the rocky cave, and milks their udders, there are
a hundred other appalling Cyclopes, the same in shape and size,
everywhere inhabiting the curved bay, and wandering the hills.
The moon’s horns have filled with light three times now, while I
have been dragging my life out in the woods, among the lairs
and secret haunts of wild creatures, watching the huge Cyclopes
from the cliffs, trembling at their voices and the sound of their feet.
The branches yield a miserable supply of fruits and stony cornelian
cherries, and the grasses, torn up by their roots, feed me.
Watching for everything, I saw, for the first time, this fleet
approaching shore. Whatever might happen, I surrendered myself
to you: it’s enough for me to have escaped that wicked people.
I’d rather you took this life of mine by any death whatsoever.”
He’d barely spoken, when we saw the shepherd Polyphemus
himself, moving his mountainous bulk on the hillside
among the flocks, and heading for the familiar shore,
a fearful monster, vast and shapeless, robbed of the light.
A lopped pine-trunk in his hand steadied and guided
his steps: his fleecy sheep accompanied him:
his sole delight and the solace for his evils.
As soon as he came to the sea and reached the deep water,
he washed away the blood oozing from the gouged eye-socket,
groaning and gnashing his teeth. Then he walked through
the depths of the waves, without the tide wetting his vast thighs.
Anxiously we hurried our departure from there, accepting
the worthy suppliant on board, and cutting the cable in silence:
then leaning into our oars, we vied in sweeping the sea.
He heard, and bent his course towards the sound of splashing.
But when he was denied the power to set hands on us,
and unable to counter the force of the Ionian waves, in pursuit,
he raised a mighty shout, at which the sea and all the waves
shook, and the land of Italy was frightened far inland,
and Etna bellowed from its winding caverns, but the tribe
of Cyclopes, roused from their woods and high mountains,
rushed to the harbour, and crowded the shore.
We saw them standing there, impotently, wild-eyed,
the Aetnean brotherhood, heads towering into the sky,
a fearsome gathering: like tall oaks rooted on a summit,
or cone-bearing cypresses, in Jove’s high wood or Diana’s grove.
Acute fear drove us on to pay out the ropes on whatever tack
and spread our sails to any favourable wind.
Helenus’s orders warned against taking a course between
Scylla and Charybdis, a hair’s breadth from death
on either side: we decided to beat back again.
When, behold, a northerly arrived from the narrow
headland of Pelorus: I sailed past the natural rock mouth
of the Pantagias, Megara’s bay, and low-lying Thapsus.
Such were the shores Achaemenides, the friend of unlucky Ulysses,
showed me, sailing his wandering journey again, in reverse.
An island lies over against wave-washed Plemyrium,
stretched across a Sicilian bay: named Ortygia by men of old.
The story goes that Alpheus, a river of Elis, forced
a hidden path here under the sea, and merges
with the Sicilian waters of your fountain Arethusa.
As commanded we worshipped the great gods of this land,
and from there I passed marshy Helorus’s marvellously rich soil.
Next we passed the tall reefs and jutting rocks of Pachynus,
and Camerina appeared in the distance, granted
immoveable, by prophecy, and the Geloan plains,
and Gela named after its savage river.
Then steep Acragas, once the breeder of brave horses,
showed its mighty ramparts in the distance:
and granted the wind, I left palmy Selinus, and passed
the tricky shallows of Lilybaeum with their blind reefs.
Next the harbour of Drepanum, and its joyless shore,
received me. Here, alas, I lost my father, Anchises,
my comfort in every trouble and misfortune, I, who’d
been driven by so many ocean storms: here you left me,
weary, best of fathers, saved from so many dangers in vain!
Helenus, the seer, did not prophesy this grief of mine,
when he warned me of many horrors, nor did grim Celaeno.
This was my last trouble, this the end of my long journey:
leaving there, the god drove me to your shores.’
So our ancestor Aeneas, as all listened to one man,
recounted divine fate, and described his journey.
At last he stopped, and making an end here, rested.
But the queen, wounded long since by intense love,
feeds the hurt with her life-blood, weakened by hidden fire.
The hero’s courage often returns to mind, and the nobility
of his race: his features and his words cling fixedly to her heart,
and love will not grant restful calm to her body.
The new day’s Dawn was lighting the earth with Phoebus’s
brightness, and dispelling the dew-wet shadows from the sky,
when she spoke ecstatically to her sister, her kindred spirit:
“Anna, sister, how my dreams terrify me with anxieties!
Who is this strange guest who has entered our house,
with what boldness he speaks, how resolute in mind and warfare!
Truly I think – and it’s no idle saying – that he’s born of a goddess.
Fear reveals the ignoble spirit. Alas! What misfortunes test him!
What battles he spoke of, that he has undergone!
If my mind was not set, fixedly and immovably,
never to join myself with any man in the bonds of marriage,
because first-love betrayed me, cheated me through dying:
if I were not wearied by marriage and bridal-beds,
perhaps I might succumb to this one temptation.
Anna, yes I confess, since my poor husband Sychaeus’s death
when the altars were blood-stained by my murderous brother,
he’s the only man who’s stirred my senses, troubled my
wavering mind. I know the traces of the ancient flame.
But I pray rather that earth might gape wide for me, to its depths,
or the all-powerful father hurl me with his lightning-bolt
down to the shadows, to the pale ghosts, and deepest night
of Erebus, before I violate you, Honour, or break your laws.
He who first took me to himself has stolen my love:
let him keep it with him, and guard it in his grave.”
So saying her breast swelled with her rising tears.
Anna replied: “O you, who are more beloved to your sister
than the light, will you wear your whole youth away
in loneliness and grief, and not know Venus’s sweet gifts
or her children? Do you think that ashes or sepulchral spirits care?
Granted that in Libya or Tyre before it, no suitor ever
dissuaded you from sorrowing: and Iarbas and the other lords
whom the African soil, rich in fame, bears, were scorned:
will you still struggle against a love that pleases?
Do you not recall to mind in whose fields you settled?
Here Gaetulian cities, a people unsurpassed in battle,
unbridled Numidians, and inhospitable Syrtis, surround you:
there, a region of dry desert, with Barcaeans raging around.
And what of your brother’s threats, and war with Tyre imminent?
The Trojan ships made their way here with the wind,
with gods indeed helping them I think, and with Juno’s favour.
What a city you’ll see here, sister, what a kingdom rise,
with such a husband! With a Trojan army marching with us,
with what great actions Punic glory will soar!
Only ask the gods for their help, and, propitiating them
with sacrifice, indulge your guest, spin reasons for delay,
while winter, and stormy Orion, rage at sea,
while the ships are damaged, and the skies are hostile.”
By saying this she inflames the queen’s burning heart with love
and raises hopes in her anxious mind, and weakens her sense
of shame. First they visit the shrines and ask for grace at the altars:
they sacrifice chosen animals according to the rites,
to Ceres, the law-maker, and Phoebus, and father Lycaeus,
and to Juno above all, in whose care are the marriage ties:
Dido herself, supremely lovely, holding the cup in her hand,
pours the libation between the horns of a white heifer
or walks to the rich altars, before the face of the gods,
celebrates the day with gifts, and gazes into the opened
chests of victims, and reads the living entrails.
Ah, the unknowing minds of seers! What use are prayers
or shrines to the impassioned? Meanwhile her tender marrow
is aflame, and a silent wound is alive in her breast.
Wretched Dido burns, and wanders frenzied through the city,
like an unwary deer struck by an arrow, that a shepherd hunting
with his bow has fired at from a distance, in the Cretan woods,
leaving the winged steel in her, without knowing.
She runs through the woods and glades of Dicte:
the lethal shaft hangs in her side.
Now she leads Aeneas with her round the walls
showing her Sidonian wealth and the city she’s built:
she begins to speak, and stops in mid-flow:
now she longs for the banquet again as day wanes,
yearning madly to hear about the Trojan adventures once more
and hangs once more on the speaker’s lips.
Then when they have departed, and the moon in turn
has quenched her light and the setting constellations urge sleep,
she grieves, alone in the empty hall, and lies on the couch
he left. Absent she hears him absent, sees him,
or hugs Ascanius on her lap, taken with this image
of his father, so as to deceive her silent passion.
The towers she started no longer rise, the young men no longer
carry out their drill, or work on the harbour and the battlements
for defence in war: the interrupted work is left hanging,
the huge threatening walls, the sky-reaching cranes.
As soon as Juno, Jupiter’s beloved wife, saw clearly that Dido
was gripped by such heart-sickness, and her reputation
no obstacle to love, she spoke to Venus in these words:
“You and that son of yours, certainly take the prize, and plenty
of spoils: a great and memorable show of divine power,
whereby one woman’s trapped by the tricks of two gods.
But the truth’s not escaped me, you’ve always held the halls
of high Carthage under suspicion, afraid of my city’s defences.
But where can that end? Why such rivalry, now?
Why don’t we work on eternal peace instead, and a wedding pact?
You’ve achieved all that your mind was set on:
Dido’s burning with passion, and she’s drawn the madness
into her very bones. Let’s rule these people together
with equal sway: let her be slave to a Trojan husband,
and entrust her Tyrians to your hand, as the dowry.”
Venus began the reply to her like this (since she knew
she’d spoken with deceit in her mind to divert the empire
from Italy’s shores to Libya’s): “Who’d be mad enough
to refuse such an offer or choose to make war on you,
so long as fate follows up what you say with action?
But fortune makes me uncertain, as to whether Jupiter wants
a single city for Tyrians and Trojan exiles, and approves
the mixing of races and their joining in league together.
You’re his wife: you can test his intent by asking.
Do it: I’ll follow.” Then royal Juno replied like this:
“That task’s mine. Now listen and I’ll tell you briefly
how the purpose at hand can be achieved.
Aeneas and poor Dido plan to go hunting together
in the woods, when the sun first shows tomorrow’s
dawn, and reveals the world in his rays.
While the lines are beating, and closing the thickets with nets,
I’ll pour down dark rain mixed with hail from the sky,
and rouse the whole heavens with my thunder.
They’ll scatter, and be lost in the dark of night:
Dido and the Trojan leader will reach the same cave.
I’ll be there, and if I’m assured of your good will,
I’ll join them firmly in marriage, and speak for her as his own:
this will be their wedding-night.” Not opposed to what she wanted,
Venus agreed, and smiled to herself at the deceit she’d found.
Meanwhile Dawn surges up and leaves the ocean.
Once she has risen, the chosen men pour from the gates:
Massylian horsemen ride out, with wide-meshed nets,
snares, broad-headed hunting spears, and a pack
of keen-scented hounds. The queen lingers in her rooms,
while Punic princes wait at the threshold: her horse stands there,
bright in purple and gold, and champs fiercely at the foaming bit.
At last she appears, with a great crowd around her,
dressed in a Sidonian robe with an embroidered hem.
Her quiver’s of gold, her hair knotted with gold,
a golden brooch fastens her purple tunic.
Her Trojan friends and joyful Iulus are with her:
Aeneas himself, the most handsome of them all,
moves forward and joins his friendly troop with hers.
Like Apollo, leaving behind the Lycian winter,
and the streams of Xanthus, and visiting his mother’s Delos,
to renew the dancing, Cretans and Dryopes and painted
Agathyrsians, mingling around his altars, shouting:
he himself striding over the ridges of Cynthus,
his hair dressed with tender leaves, and clasped with gold,
the weapons rattling on his shoulder: so Aeneas walks,
as lightly, beauty like the god’s shining from his noble face.
When they reach the mountain heights and pathless haunts,
see the wild goats, disturbed on their stony summits,
course down the slopes: in another place deer speed
over the open field, massing together in a fleeing herd
among clouds of dust, leaving the hillsides behind.
But the young Ascanius among the valleys, delights
in his fiery horse, passing this rider and that at a gallop, hoping
that amongst these harmless creatures a boar, with foaming mouth,
might answer his prayers, or a tawny lion, down from the mountain.
Meanwhile the sky becomes filled with a great rumbling:
rain mixed with hail follows, and the Tyrian company
and the Trojan men, with Venus’s Dardan grandson,
scatter here and there through the fields, in their fear,
seeking shelter: torrents stream down from the hills.
Dido and the Trojan leader reach the very same cave.
Primeval Earth and Juno of the Nuptials give their signal:
lightning flashes, the heavens are party to their union,
and the Nymphs howl on the mountain heights.
That first day is the source of misfortune and death.
Dido’s no longer troubled by appearances or reputation,
she no longer thinks of a secret affair: she calls it marriage:
and with that name disguises her sin.
Rumour raced at once through Libya’s great cities,
Rumour, compared with whom no other is as swift.
She flourishes by speed, and gains strength as she goes:
first limited by fear, she soon reaches into the sky,
walks on the ground, and hides her head in the clouds.
Earth, incited to anger against the gods, so they say,
bore her last, a monster, vast and terrible, fleet-winged
and swift-footed, sister to Coeus and Enceladus,
who for every feather on her body has as many
watchful eyes below (marvellous to tell), as many
tongues speaking, as many listening ears.
She flies, screeching, by night through the shadows
between earth and sky, never closing her eyelids
in sweet sleep: by day she sits on guard on tall roof-tops
or high towers, and scares great cities, as tenacious
of lies and evil, as she is messenger of truth.
Now in delight she filled the ears of the nations
with endless gossip, singing fact and fiction alike:
Aeneas has come, born of Trojan blood, a man whom
lovely Dido deigns to unite with: now they’re spending
the whole winter together in indulgence, forgetting
their royalty, trapped by shameless passion.
The vile goddess spread this here and there on men’s lips.
Immediately she slanted her course towards King Iarbas
and inflamed his mind with words and fuelled his anger.
He, a son of Jupiter Ammon, by a raped Garamantian Nymph,
had set up a hundred great temples, a hundred altars, to the god,
in his broad kingdom, and sanctified ever-living fires, the gods’
eternal guardians: the floors were soaked with sacrificial blood,
and the thresholds flowery with mingled garlands.
They say he often begged Jove humbly with upraised hands,
in front of the altars, among the divine powers,
maddened in spirit and set on fire by bitter rumour:
“All-powerful Jupiter, to whom the Moors, on their embroidered
divans, banqueting, now pour a Bacchic offering,
do you see this? Do we shudder in vain when you hurl
your lightning bolts, father, and are those idle fires in the clouds
that terrify our minds, and flash among the empty rumblings?
A woman, wandering within my borders, who paid to found
a little town, and to whom we granted coastal lands
to plough, to hold in tenure, scorns marriage with me,
and takes Aeneas into her country as its lord.
And now like some Paris, with his pack of eunuchs,
a Phrygian cap, tied under his chin, on his greasy hair,
he’s master of what he’s snatched: while I bring gifts indeed
to temples, said to be yours, and cherish your empty reputation.
As he gripped the altar, and prayed in this way,
the All-powerful one listened, and turned his gaze towards
the royal city, and the lovers forgetful of their true reputation.
Then he spoke to Mercury and commanded him so:
“Off you go, my son, call the winds and glide on your wings,
and talk to the Trojan leader who malingers in Tyrian Carthage
now, and gives no thought to the cities the fates will grant him,
and carry my words there on the quick breeze.
This is not what his loveliest of mothers suggested to me,
nor why she rescued him twice from Greek armies:
he was to be one who’d rule Italy, pregnant with empire,
and crying out for war, he’d produce a people of Teucer’s
high blood, and bring the whole world under the rule of law.
If the glory of such things doesn’t inflame him,
and he doesn’t exert himself for his own honour,
does he begrudge the citadels of Rome to Ascanius?
What does he plan? With what hopes does he stay
among alien people, forgetting Ausonia and the Lavinian fields?
Let him sail: that’s it in total, let that be my message.”
He finished speaking. The god prepared to obey his great
father’s order, and first fastened the golden sandals to his feet
that carry him high on the wing over land and sea, like the storm.
Then he took up his wand: he calls pale ghosts from Orcus
with it, sending others down to grim Tartarus,
gives and takes away sleep, and opens the eyes of the dead.
Relying on it, he drove the winds, and flew through
the stormy clouds. Now in his flight he saw the steep flanks
and the summit of strong Atlas, who holds the heavens
on his head, Atlas, whose pine-covered crown is always wreathed
in dark clouds and lashed by the wind and rain:
fallen snow clothes his shoulders: while rivers fall
from his ancient chin, and his rough beard bristles with ice.
There Cyllenian Mercury first halted, balanced on level wings:
from there, he threw his whole body headlong
towards the waves, like a bird that flies low close
to the sea, round the coasts and the rocks rich in fish.
So the Cyllenian-born flew between heaven and earth
to Libya’s sandy shore, cutting the winds, coming
from Atlas, his mother Maia’s father.
As soon as he reached the builders’ huts, on his winged feet,
he saw Aeneas establishing towers and altering roofs.
His sword was starred with tawny jasper,
and the cloak that hung from his shoulder blazed
with Tyrian purple, a gift that rich Dido had made,
weaving the cloth with golden thread.
Mercury challenged him at once: “For love of a wife
are you now building the foundations of high Carthage
and a pleasing city? Alas, forgetful of your kingdom and fate!
The king of the gods himself, who bends heaven and earth
to his will, has sent me down to you from bright Olympus:
he commanded me himself to carry these words through
the swift breezes. What do you plan? With what hopes
do you waste idle hours in Libya’s lands? If you’re not stirred
by the glory of destiny, and won’t exert yourself for your own
fame, think of your growing Ascanius, and the expectations
of him, as Iulus your heir, to whom will be owed the kingdom
of Italy, and the Roman lands.” So Mercury spoke,
and, while speaking, vanished from mortal eyes,
and melted into thin air far from their sight.
Aeneas, stupefied at the vision, was struck dumb,
and his hair rose in terror, and his voice stuck in his throat.
He was eager to be gone, in flight, and leave that sweet land,
shocked by the warning and the divine command.
Alas! What to do? With what speech dare he tackle
the love-sick queen? What opening words should he choose?
And he cast his mind back and forth swiftly,
considered the issue from every aspect, and turned it every way.
This seemed the best decision, given the alternatives:
he called Mnestheus, Sergestus and brave Serestus,
telling them to fit out the fleet in silence, gather the men
on the shore, ready the ships’ tackle, and hide the reason
for these changes of plan. He in the meantime, since
the excellent Dido knew nothing, and would not expect
the breaking off of such a love, would seek an approach,
the tenderest moment to speak, and a favourable means.
They all gladly obeyed his command at once, and did his bidding.
But the queen sensed his tricks (who can deceive a lover?)
and was first to anticipate future events, fearful even of safety.
That same impious Rumour brought her madness:
they are fitting out the fleet, and planning a journey.
Her mind weakened, she raves, and, on fire, runs wild
through the city: like a Maenad, thrilled by the shaken emblems
of the god, when the biennial festival rouses her, and, hearing the Bacchic cry, Mount Cithaeron summons her by night with its noise.
Of her own accord she finally reproaches Aeneas in these words:
“Faithless one, did you really think you could hide
such wickedness, and vanish from my land in silence?
Will my love not hold you, nor the pledge I once gave you,
nor the promise that Dido will die a cruel death?
Even in winter do you labour over your ships, cruel one,
so as to sail the high seas at the height of the northern gales?
Why? If you were not seeking foreign lands and unknown
settlements, but ancient Troy still stood, would Troy
be sought out by your ships in wave-torn seas?
Is it me you run from? I beg you, by these tears, by your own
right hand (since I’ve left myself no other recourse in my misery),
by our union, by the marriage we have begun,
if ever I deserved well of you, or anything of me
was sweet to you, pity this ruined house, and if
there is any room left for prayer, change your mind.
The Libyan peoples and Numidian rulers hate me because of you:
my Tyrians are hostile: because of you all shame too is lost,
the reputation I had, by which alone I might reach the stars.
My guest, since that’s all that is left me from the name of husband,
to whom do you relinquish me, a dying woman?
Why do I stay? Until Pygmalion, my brother, destroys
the city, or Iarbas the Gaetulian takes me captive?
If I’d at least conceived a child of yours
before you fled, if a little Aeneas were playing
about my halls, whose face might still recall yours,
I’d not feel myself so utterly deceived and forsaken.”
She had spoken. He set his gaze firmly on Jupiter’s
warnings, and hid his pain steadfastly in his heart.
He replied briefly at last: “O queen, I will never deny
that you deserve the most that can be spelt out in speech,
nor will I regret my thoughts of you, Elissa,
while memory itself is mine, and breath controls these limbs.
I’ll speak about the reality a little. I did not expect to conceal
my departure by stealth (don’t think that), nor have I ever
held the marriage torch, or entered into that pact.
If the fates had allowed me to live my life under my own
auspices, and attend to my own concerns as I wished,
I should first have cared for the city of Troy and the sweet relics
of my family, Priam’s high roofs would remain, and I’d have
recreated Pergama, with my own hands, for the defeated.
But now it is Italy that Apollo of Grynium,
Italy, that the Lycian oracles, order me to take:
that is my desire, that is my country. If the turrets of Carthage
and the sight of your Libyan city occupy you, a Phoenician,
why then begrudge the Trojans their settling of Ausonia’s lands?
It is right for us too to search out a foreign kingdom.
As often as night cloaks the earth with dew-wet shadows,
as often as the burning constellations rise, the troubled image
of my father Anchises warns and terrifies me in dream:
about my son Ascanius and the wrong to so dear a person,
whom I cheat of a Hesperian kingdom, and pre-destined fields.
Now even the messenger of the gods, sent by Jupiter himself,
(I swear it on both our heads), has brought the command
on the swift breeze: I saw the god himself in broad daylight
enter the city and these very ears drank of his words.
Stop rousing yourself and me with your complaints.
I do not take course for Italy of my own free will.”
As he was speaking she gazed at him with hostility,
casting her eyes here and there, considering the whole man
with a silent stare, and then, incensed, she spoke:
“Deceiver, your mother was no goddess, nor was Dardanus
the father of your race: harsh Caucasus engendered you
on the rough crags, and Hyrcanian tigers nursed you.
Why pretend now, or restrain myself waiting for something worse?
Did he groan at my weeping? Did he look at me?
Did he shed tears in defeat, or pity his lover?
What is there to say after this? Now neither greatest Juno, indeed,
nor Jupiter, son of Saturn, are gazing at this with friendly eyes.
Nowhere is truth safe. I welcomed him as a castaway on the shore,
a beggar, and foolishly gave away a part of my kingdom:
I saved his lost fleet, and his friends from death.
Ah! Driven by the Furies, I burn: now prophetic Apollo,
now the Lycian oracles, now even a divine messenger sent
by Jove himself carries his orders through the air.
This is the work of the gods indeed, this is a concern to trouble
their calm. I do not hold you back, or refute your words:
go, seek Italy on the winds, find your kingdom over the waves.
Yet if the virtuous gods have power, I hope that you
will drain the cup of suffering among the reefs, and call out Dido’s
name again and again. Absent, I’ll follow you with dark fires,
and when icy death has divided my soul and body, my ghost
will be present everywhere. Cruel one, you’ll be punished.
I’ll hear of it: that news will reach me in the depths of Hades.”
Saying this, she broke off her speech mid-flight, and fled
the light in pain, turning from his eyes, and going,
leaving him fearful and hesitant, ready to say more.
Her servants received her and carried her failing body
to her marble chamber, and laid her on her bed.
But dutiful Aeneas, though he desired to ease her sadness
by comforting her and to turn aside pain with words, still,
with much sighing, and a heart shaken by the strength of her love,
followed the divine command, and returned to the fleet.
Then the Trojans truly set to work and launched the tall ships
all along the shore. They floated the resinous keels,
and ready for flight, they brought leafy branches
and untrimmed trunks, from the woods, as oars.
You could see them hurrying and moving from every part
of the city. Like ants that plunder a vast heap of grain,
and store it in their nest, mindful of winter: a dark column
goes through the fields, and they carry their spoils
along a narrow track through the grass: some heave
with their shoulders against a large seed, and push, others tighten
the ranks and punish delay, the whole path’s alive with work.
What were your feelings Dido at such sights, what sighs
did you give, watching the shore from the heights
of the citadel, everywhere alive, and seeing the whole
sea, before your eyes, confused with such cries!
Cruel Love, to what do you not drive the human heart:
to burst into tears once more, to see once more if he can
be compelled by prayers, to humbly submit to love,
lest she leave anything untried, dying in vain.
“Anna, you see them scurrying all round the shore:
they’ve come from everywhere: the canvas already invites
the breeze, and the sailors, delighted, have set garlands
on the sterns. If I was able to foresee this great grief,
sister, then I’ll be able to endure it too. Yet still do one thing
for me in my misery, Anna: since the deceiver cultivated
only you, even trusting you with his private thoughts:
and only you know the time to approach the man easily.
Go, sister, and speak humbly to my proud enemy.
I never took the oath, with the Greeks at Aulis,
to destroy the Trojan race, or sent a fleet to Pergama,
or disturbed the ashes and ghost of his father Anchises:
why does he pitilessly deny my words access to his hearing?
Where does he run to? Let him give his poor lover this last gift:
let him wait for an easy voyage and favourable winds.
I don’t beg now for our former tie, that he has betrayed,
nor that he give up his beautiful Latium, and abandon
his kingdom: I ask for insubstantial time: peace and space
for my passion, while fate teaches my beaten spirit to grieve.
I beg for this last favour (pity your sister):
when he has granted it me, I’ll repay all by dying.”
Such are the prayers she made, and such are those
her unhappy sister carried and re-carried. But he was not
moved by tears, and listened to no words receptively:
Fate barred the way, and a god sealed the hero’s gentle hearing.
As when northerly blasts from the Alps blowing here and there
vie together to uproot an oak tree, tough with the strength of years:
there’s a creak, and the trunk quivers and the topmost leaves
strew the ground: but it clings to the rocks, and its roots
stretch as far down to Tartarus as its crown does towards
the heavens: so the hero was buffeted by endless pleas
from this side and that, and felt the pain in his noble heart.
His purpose remained fixed: tears fell uselessly.
Then the unhappy Dido, truly appalled by her fate,
prayed for death: she was weary of gazing at the vault of heaven.
And that she might complete her purpose, and relinquish the light
more readily, when she placed her offerings on the altar alight
with incense, she saw (terrible to speak of!) the holy water blacken,
and the wine she had poured change to vile blood.
She spoke of this vision to no one, not even her sister.
There was a marble shrine to her former husband in the palace,
that she’d decked out, also, with marvellous beauty,
with snow-white fleeces, and festive greenery:
from it she seemed to hear voices and her husband’s words
calling her, when dark night gripped the earth:
and the lonely owl on the roofs often grieved
with ill-omened cries, drawing out its long call in a lament:
and many a prophecy of the ancient seers terrified her
with its dreadful warning. Harsh Aeneas himself persecuted
her, in her crazed sleep: always she was forsaken, alone with
herself, always she seemed to be travelling companionless on some
long journey, seeking her Tyrian people in a deserted landscape:
like Pentheus, deranged, seeing the Furies file past,
and twin suns and a twin Thebes revealed to view,
or like Agamemnon’s son Orestes driven across the stage when he
flees his mother’s ghost armed with firebrands and black snakes,
while the avenging Furies crouch on the threshold.
So that when, overcome by anguish, she harboured the madness,
and determined on death, she debated with herself over the time
and the method, and going to her sorrowful sister with a face
that concealed her intent, calm, with hope on her brow, said:
“Sister, I’ve found a way (rejoice with your sister)
that will return him to me, or free me from loving him.
Near the ends of the Ocean and where the sun sets
Ethiopia lies, the furthest of lands, where Atlas,
mightiest of all, turns the sky set with shining stars:
I’ve been told of a priestess, of Massylian race, there,
a keeper of the temple of the Hesperides, who gave
the dragon its food, and guarded the holy branches of the tree,
scattering the honeydew and sleep-inducing poppies.
With her incantations she promises to set free
what hearts she wishes, but bring cruel pain to others:
to stop the rivers flowing, and turn back the stars:
she wakes nocturnal Spirits: you’ll see earth yawn
under your feet, and the ash trees march from the hills.
You, and the gods, and your sweet life, are witness,
dear sister, that I arm myself with magic arts unwillingly.
Build a pyre, secretly, in an inner courtyard, open to the sky,
and place the weapons on it which that impious man left
hanging in my room, and the clothes, and the bridal bed
that undid me: I want to destroy all memories
of that wicked man, and the priestess commends it.”
Saying this she fell silent: at the same time a pallor spread
over her face. Anna did not yet realise that her sister
was disguising her own funeral with these strange rites,
her mind could not conceive of such intensity,
and she feared nothing more serious than when
Sychaeus died. So she prepared what was demanded.
But when the pyre of cut pine and oak was raised high,
in an innermost court open to the sky, the queen
hung the place with garlands, and wreathed it
with funereal foliage: she laid his sword and clothes
and picture on the bed, not unmindful of the ending.
Altars stand round about, and the priestess, with loosened hair,
intoned the names of three hundred gods, of Erebus, Chaos,
and the triple Hecate, the three faces of virgin Diana.
And she sprinkled water signifying the founts of Avernus:
there were herbs too acquired by moonlight, cut
with a bronze sickle, moist with the milk of dark venom:
and a caul acquired by tearing it from a newborn colt’s brow,
forestalling the mother’s love. She herself, near the altars,
with sacred grain in purified hands, one foot free of constraint,
her clothing loosened, called on the gods to witness
her coming death, and on the stars conscious of fate:
then she prayed to whatever just and attentive power
there might be, that cares for unrequited lovers.
It was night, and everywhere weary creatures were enjoying
peaceful sleep, the woods and the savage waves were resting,
while stars wheeled midway in their gliding orbit,
while all the fields were still, and beasts and colourful birds,
those that live on wide scattered lakes, and those that live
in rough country among the thorn-bushes, were sunk in sleep
in the silent night. But not the Phoenician, unhappy in spirit,
she did not relax in sleep, or receive the darkness into her eyes
and breast: her cares redoubled, and passion, alive once more,
raged, and she swelled with a great tide of anger.
So she began in this way turning it over alone in her heart:
“See, what can I do? Be mocked trying my former suitors,
seeking marriage humbly with Numidians whom I
have already disdained so many times as husbands?
Shall I follow the Trojan fleet then and that Teucrian’s
every whim? Because they might delight in having been
helped by my previous aid, or because gratitude
for past deeds might remain truly fixed in their memories?
Indeed who, given I wanted to, would let me, or would take
one they hate on board their proud ships? Ah, lost girl,
do you not know or feel yet the treachery of Laomedon’s race?
What then? Shall I go alone, accompanying triumphant sailors?
Or with all my band of Tyrians clustered round me?
Shall I again drive my men to sea in pursuit, those
whom I could barely tear away from their Sidonian city,
and order them to spread their sails to the wind?
Rather die, as you deserve, and turn away sorrow with steel.
You, my sister, conquered by my tears, in my madness, you
first burdened me with these ills, and exposed me to my enemy.
I was not allowed to pass my life without blame, free of marriage,
in the manner of some wild creature, never knowing such pain:
I have not kept the vow I made to Sychaeus’s ashes.”
Such was the lament that burst from her heart.
Now that everything was ready, and he was resolved on going,
Aeneas was snatching some sleep, on the ship’s high stern.
That vision appeared again in dream admonishing him,
similar to Mercury in every way, voice and colouring,
golden hair, and youth’s graceful limbs:
“Son of the Goddess, can you consider sleep in this disaster,
can’t you see the danger of it that surrounds you, madman
or hear the favourable west winds blowing?
Determined to die, she broods on mortal deceit and sin,
and is tossed about on anger’s volatile flood.
Won’t you flee from here, in haste, while you can hasten?
Soon you’ll see the water crowded with ships,
cruel firebrands burning, soon the shore will rage with flame,
if the Dawn finds you lingering in these lands. Come, now,
end your delay! Woman is ever fickle and changeable.”
So he spoke, and blended with night’s darkness.
Then Aeneas, terrified indeed by the sudden apparition,
roused his body from sleep, and called to his friends:
“ Quick, men, awake, and man the rowing-benches: run
and loosen the sails. Know that a god, sent from the heavens,
urges us again to speed our flight, and cut the twisted hawsers.
We follow you, whoever you may be, sacred among the gods,
and gladly obey your commands once more. Oh, be with us,
calm one, help us, and show stars favourable to us in the sky.”
He spoke, and snatched his shining sword from its sheath,
and struck the cable with the naked blade. All were possessed
at once with the same ardour: They snatched up their goods,
and ran: abandoning the shore: the water was clothed with ships:
setting to, they churned the foam and swept the blue waves.
And now, at dawn, Aurora, leaving Tithonus’s saffron bed,
was scattering fresh daylight over the earth.
As soon as the queen saw the day whiten, from her tower,
and the fleet sailing off under full canvas, and realised
the shore and harbour were empty of oarsmen, she
struck her lovely breast three or four times with her hand,
and tearing at her golden hair, said: “Ah, Jupiter, is he to leave,
is a foreigner to pour scorn on our kingdom? Shall my Tyrians
ready their armour, and follow them out of the city, and others drag
our ships from their docks? Go, bring fire quickly, hand out the
weapons, drive the oars! What am I saying? Where am I?
What madness twists my thoughts? Wretched Dido, is it now
that your impious actions hurt you? The right time was then,
when you gave him the crown. So this is the word and loyalty
of the man whom they say bears his father’s gods around,
of the man who carried his age-worn father on his shoulders?
Couldn’t I have seized hold of him, torn his body apart,
and scattered him on the waves? And put his friends to the sword,
and Ascanius even, to feast on, as a course at his father’s table?
True the fortunes of war are uncertain. Let them be so:
as one about to die, whom had I to fear? I should have set fire
to his camp, filled the decks with flames, and extinguishing
father and son, and their whole race, given up my own life as well.
O Sun, you who illuminate all the works of this world,
and you Juno, interpreter and knower of all my pain,
and Hecate howled to, in cities, at midnight crossroads,
you, avenging Furies, and you, gods of dying Elissa,
acknowledge this, direct your righteous will to my troubles,
and hear my prayer. If it must be that the accursed one
should reach the harbour, and sail to the shore:
if Jove’s destiny for him requires it, there his goal:
still, troubled in war by the armies of a proud race,
exiled from his territories, torn from Iulus’s embrace,
let him beg help, and watch the shameful death of his people:
then, when he has surrendered, to a peace without justice,
may he not enjoy his kingdom or the days he longed for,
but let him die before his time, and lie unburied on the sand.
This I pray, these last words I pour out with my blood.
Then, O Tyrians, pursue my hatred against his whole line
and the race to come, and offer it as a tribute to my ashes.
Let there be no love or treaties between our peoples.
Rise, some unknown avenger, from my dust, who will pursue
the Trojan colonists with fire and sword, now, or in time
to come, whenever the strength is granted him.
I pray that shore be opposed to shore, water to wave,
weapon to weapon: let them fight, them and their descendants.”
She spoke, and turned her thoughts this way and that,
considering how to destroy her hateful life.
Then she spoke briefly to Barce, Sychaeus’s nurse,
since dark ashes concealed her own, in her former country:
“Dear nurse, bring my sister Anna here: tell her
to hurry, and sprinkle herself with water from the river,
and bring the sacrificial victims and noble offerings.
Let her come, and you yourself veil your brow with sacred ribbons.
My purpose is to complete the rites of Stygian Jupiter,
that I commanded, and have duly begun, and put an end
to sorrow, and entrust the pyre of that Trojan leader to the flames.”
So she said. The old woman zealously hastened her steps.
But Dido restless, wild with desperate purpose,
rolling her bloodshot eyes, her trembling cheeks
stained with red flushes, yet pallid at approaching death,
rushed into the house through its inner threshold, furiously
climbed the tall funeral pyre, and unsheathed
a Trojan sword, a gift that was never acquired to this end.
Then as she saw the Ilian clothing and the familiar couch,
she lingered a while, in tears and thought, then
cast herself on the bed, and spoke her last words:
“Reminders, sweet while fate and the god allowed it,
accept this soul, and loose me from my sorrows.
I have lived, and I have completed the course that Fortune granted,
and now my noble spirit will pass beneath the earth.
I have built a bright city: I have seen its battlements,
avenging a husband I have exacted punishment
on a hostile brother, happy, ah, happy indeed
if Trojan keels had never touched my shores!”
She spoke, and buried her face in the couch.
“I shall die un-avenged, but let me die,” she cried.
“So, so I joy in travelling into the shadows.
Let the cruel Trojan’s eyes drink in this fire, on the deep,
and bear with him the evil omen of my death.”
She had spoken, and in the midst of these words,
her servants saw she had fallen on the blade,
the sword frothed with blood, and her hands were stained.
A cry rose to the high ceiling: Rumour, run riot, struck the city.
The houses sounded with weeping and sighs and women’s cries,
the sky echoed with a mighty lamentation,
as if all Carthage or ancient Tyre were falling
to the invading enemy, and raging flames were rolling
over the roofs of men and gods.
Her sister, terrified, heard it, and rushed through the crowd,
tearing her cheeks with her nails, and beating her breast,
and called out to the dying woman in accusation:
“So this was the meaning of it, sister? Did you aim to cheat me?
This pyre of yours, this fire and altar were prepared for my sake?
What shall I grieve for first in my abandonment? Did you scorn
your sister’s company in dying? You should have summoned me
to the same fate: the same hour the same sword’s hurt should have
taken us both. I even built your pyre with these hands,
and was I calling aloud on our father’s gods,
so that I would be absent, cruel one, as you lay here?
You have extinguished yourself and me, sister: your people,
your Sidonian ancestors, and your city. I should bathe
your wounds with water and catch with my lips
whatever dying breath still hovers.” So saying she climbed
the high levels, and clasped her dying sister to her breast,
sighing, and stemming the dark blood with her dress.
Dido tried to lift her heavy eyelids again, but failed:
and the deep wound hissed in her breast.
Lifting herself three times, she struggled to rise on her elbow:
three times she fell back onto the bed, searching for light in
the depths of heaven, with wandering eyes, and, finding it, sighed.
Then all-powerful Juno, pitying the long suffering
of her difficult death, sent Iris from Olympus, to release
the struggling spirit, and captive body. For since
she had not died through fate, or by a well-earned death,
but wretchedly, before her time, inflamed with sudden madness,
Proserpine had not yet taken a lock of golden hair
from her head, or condemned her soul to Stygian Orcus.
So dew-wet Iris flew down through the sky, on saffron wings,
trailing a thousand shifting colours across the sun,
and hovered over her head. “ I take this offering, sacred to Dis,
as commanded, and release you from the body that was yours.”
So she spoke, and cut the lock of hair with her right hand.
All the warmth ebbed at once, and life vanished on the breeze.
Meanwhile Aeneas with the fleet was holding a fixed course
now in the midst of the sea, cutting the waves, dark in a northerly
wind, looking back at the city walls that were glowing now with
unhappy Dido’s funeral flames. The reason that such a fire had
been lit was unknown: but the cruel pain when a great love is
profaned, and the knowledge of what a frenzied woman might do,
drove the minds of the Trojans to sombre forebodings.
When the ships reached deep water and land was no longer
in sight, but everywhere was sea, and sky was everywhere,
then a dark-blue rain cloud hung overhead, bringing
night and storm, and the waves bristled with shadows.
Palinurus the helmsman himself from the high stern cried:
‘Ah! Why have such storm clouds shrouded the sky?
What do you intend, father Neptune?’ So saying, next
he ordered them to shorten sail, and bend to the heavy oars,
then tacked against the wind, and spoke as follows:
‘Brave Aeneas, I would not expect to make Italy
with this sky, though guardian Jupiter promised it.
The winds, rising from the darkened west, have shifted
and roar across our path, and the air thickens for a storm.
We cannot stand against it, or labour enough to weather it.
Since Fortune overcomes us, let’s go with her,
and set our course wherever she calls. I think your brother Eryx’s
friendly shores are not far off, and the harbours of Sicily,
if I only remember the stars I observed rightly.’
Then virtuous Aeneas replied: ‘For my part I’ve seen for some time
that the winds required it, and you’re steering into them in vain.
Alter the course we sail. Is any land more welcome to me,
any to which I’d prefer to steer my weary fleet,
than that which protects my Trojan friend Acestes,
and holds the bones of my father Anchises to its breast?”
Having said this they searched out the port, and following winds
filled their sails: the ships sailed swiftly on the flood,
and they turned at last in delight towards known shores.
But Alcestes, on a high hill in the distance, wondered at the arrival
of friendly vessels, and met them, armed with javelins,
in his Libyan she-bear’s pelt: he whom a Trojan
mother bore, conceived of the river-god Crinisius.
Not neglectful of his ancient lineage he rejoiced
at their return, entertained them gladly with his rural riches,
and comforted the weary with the assistance of a friend.
When, in the following Dawn, bright day had put the stars
to flight, Aeneas called his companions together,
from the whole shore, and spoke from a high mound:
“Noble Trojans, people of the high lineage of the gods,
the year’s cycle is complete to the very month
when we laid the bones, all that was left of my divine father,
in the earth, and dedicated the sad altars. And now
the day is here (that the gods willed) if I am not wrong,
which I will always hold as bitter, always honoured.
If I were keeping it, exiled in Gaetulian Syrtes,
or caught on the Argive seas, or in Mycenae’s city,
I’d still conduct the yearly rite, and line of solemn
procession, and heap up the due offerings on the altar.
Now we even stand by the ashes and bones of my father
(not for my part I think without the will and power of the gods)
and carried to this place we have entered a friendly harbour.
So come and let us all celebrate the sacrifice with joy:
let us pray for a wind, and may he will me to offer these rites
each year when my city is founded, in temples that are his.
Acestes, a Trojan born, gives you two head of oxen
for every ship: Invite the household gods to our feast,
our own and those whom Acestes our host worships.
Also, when the ninth Dawn raises high the kindly light
for mortal men, and reveals the world in her rays,
I will declare a Trojan Games: first a race between the swift ships:
then those with ability in running, and those, daring in strength,
who step forward, who are superior with javelin and slight arrows,
or trust themselves to fight with rawhide gloves:
let everyone be there and hope for the prize of a well-deserved
palm branch. All be silent now, and wreathe your brows.”
So saying he veiled his forehead with his mother’s myrtle.
Helymus did likewise, Acestes of mature years, the boy
Ascanius, and the rest of the people followed.
Then he went with many thousands, from the gathering
to the grave-mound, in the midst of the vast accompanying throng.
Here with due offering he poured two bowls of pure wine
onto the ground, two of fresh milk, two of sacrificial blood,
and, scattering bright petals, he spoke as follows:
“Once more, hail, my sacred father: hail, spirit,
ghost, ashes of my father, whom I rescued in vain.
I was not allowed to search, with you, for Italy’s borders,
our destined fields, or Ausonia’s Tiber, wherever it might be.”
He had just finished speaking when a shining snake unwound
each of its seven coils from the base of the shrine,
in seven large loops, placidly encircling the mound, and gliding
among the altars, its back mottled with blue-green markings,
and its scales burning with a golden sheen, as a rainbow forms
a thousand varied colours in clouds opposite the sun.
Aeneas was stunned by the sight. Finally, with a long glide
among the bowls and polished drinking cups, the serpent
tasted the food, and, having fed, departed the altar,
retreating harmlessly again into the depths of the tomb.
Aeneas returned more eagerly to the tribute to his father,
uncertain whether to treat the snake as the guardian of the place,
or as his father’s attendant spirit: he killed two sheep as customary,
two pigs, and as many black-backed heifers:
and poured wine from the bowls, and called on the spirit
and shadow of great Anchises, released from Acheron.
And his companions as well, brought gifts gladly, of which
each had a store, piling high the altars, sacrificing bullocks:
others set out rows of cauldrons, and scattered among the grass,
placed live coals under the spits, and roasted the meat.
The eagerly-awaited day had arrived, and now
Phaethon’s horses brought a ninth dawn of cloudless light,
and Acestes’s name and reputation had roused the countryside:
they thronged the shore, a joyous crowd,
some to see Aeneas and his men, others to compete.
First the prizes were set out for them to see in the centre
of the circuit, sacred tripods, green crowns and palms,
rewards for the winners, armour, and clothes dyed with purple,
and talents of silver and gold: and a trumpet sang out,
from a central mound, that the games had begun.
Four well-matched ships with heavy oars
were chosen from the fleet for the first event.
Mnesthus, soon to be Mnesthus of Italy from whom
the Memmian people are named, captains the Sea-Serpent,
with its eager crew: Gyas, the vast Chimaera of huge bulk,
a floating city, rowed by the Trojan men
on three decks, with the oars raised in triple rows:
Sergestus, from whom the house of Sergia gets its name,
sails in the great Centaur, and Cloanthus from whom
your family derives, Cluentius of Rome, in the sea-green Scylla.
There’s a rock far out at sea opposite the foaming shore,
which, lashed by the swollen waves, is sometimes drowned,
when wintry north-westerlies hide the stars:
it is quiet in calm weather and flat ground is raised above
the motionless water, a welcome haunt for sun-loving sea-birds.
Here our ancestor Aeneas set up a leafy oak-trunk
as a mark, as a sign for the sailors to know where
to turn back, and circle round the long course.
Then they chose places by lot, and the captains themselves, on
the sterns, gleamed from a distance, resplendent in purple and gold:
the rest of the men were crowned with poplar leaves,
and their naked shoulders glistened, shining with oil.
They manned the benches, arms ready at the oars:
readied for action they waited for the signal, and pounding fear,
and the desire aroused for glory, devoured their leaping hearts.
Then when the clear trumpet gave the signal, all immediately
shot forward from the starting line, the sailor’s shouts
struck the heavens, as arms were plied the waters turned to foam.
they cut the furrows together, and the whole surface
gaped wide, ploughed by the oars and the three-pronged beaks.
The speed is not as great when the two horse chariots
hit the field in their race, shooting from their stalls:
and the charioteers shake the rippling reins over their
galloping team, straining forward to the lash.
So the whole woodland echoes with applause, the shouts
of men, and the partisanship of their supporters,
the sheltered beach concentrates the sound
and the hills, reverberating, return the clamour.
Gyas runs before the pack, and glides forward on the waves,
amongst the noise and confusion: Cloanthus follows next,
his ship better manned, but held back by its weight.
After them separated equally the Sea-Serpent
and the Centaur strain to win a lead:
now the Sea-Serpent has it, now the huge Centaur wins in front,
now both sweep on together their bows level,
their long keels ploughing the salt sea.
Now they near the rock and are close to the marker,
when Gyas, the leader, winning at the half-way point,
calls out loudly to his pilot Menoetes:
“Why so far adrift to starboard? Steer her course this way:
hug the shore and graze the crags to port, oars raised:
let others keep to deep water.” He spoke, but Menoetes
fearing unseen reefs wrenched the prow towards the open sea.
“Why so far adrift?” again, “Head for the rocks, Menoetes!”
he shouts to him forcefully, and behold, he sees Cloanthus
right at his back and taking the riskier course.
He squeezed a path between Gyas’s ship and the booming rocks
inside to starboard, suddenly passing the leader,
and, leaving the marker behind, reached safe water.
Then indeed great indignation burned in the young man’s marrow,
and there were tears on his cheeks, and forgetting his own pride
and his crew’s safety he heaved the timid Menoetes
headlong into the sea from the high stern:
he stood to the helm, himself captain and steersman,
urged on his men, and turned for the shore.
But when Menoetes old as he was, clawed his way back heavily
and with difficulty at last from the sea floor, he climbed to the top
of the crag and sat down on the dry rock dripping, in his wet
clothing. The Trojans laughed as he fell, and swam
and laughed as he vomited the seawater from his chest.
At this a joyful hope of passing Gyas, as he stalled,
is aroused in Sergestus and Mnestheus, the two behind,
Sergestus takes the leading place and nears the rock,
still he’s not a full ship’s length in front, only part:
the rival Sea-Serpent closes on him with her prow.
Then, Mnesthus walking among his crew amidships
exhorted them: “Now, now rise to the oars, comrades
of Hector, you whom I chose as companions at Troy’s
last fatal hour: now, exert all that strength,
that spirit you showed in the Gaetulian shoals,
the Ionian Sea, and Cape Malea’s pursuing waves.
Now I, Mnesthus, do not seek to be first or try to win –
let those conquer whom you have granted to do so, Neptune –
but oh, it would be shameful to return last: achieve this for us,
countrymen, and prevent our disgrace.” They bend to it
with fierce rivalry: the bronze stern shudders at their powerful
strokes: and the sea-floor drops away beneath them:
then shallow breathing makes limbs and parched lips quiver.
and their sweat runs down in streams.
Chance brings the men the glory that they long for.
When Segestus, his spirit raging, forces his bows,
on the inside, towards the rocks, and enters
dangerous water, unhappily he strikes the jutting reef.
The cliff shakes, the oars jam against them, and snap
on the sharp edges of stone, and the prow hangs there, snagged.
The sailors leap up, and, shouting aloud at the delay,
gather iron-tipped poles and sharply-pointed boathooks,
and rescue their smashed oars from the water.
But Mnesthus, delighted, and made eager by his success,
with a swift play of oars, and a prayer to the winds.
heads for home waters and courses the open sea,
as a dove, whose nest and sweet chicks are hidden
among the rocks, suddenly startled from some hollow,
takes flight for the fields, frightened from her cover,
and beats her wings loudly, but soon gliding in still air
skims her clear path, barely moving her swift pinions:
in this way Mnestheus and the Sea-Dragon herself furrow
the final stretch of water in flight, and her impetus
alone, carries her on her winged path. Firstly
he leaves Segestus behind struggling on the raised rock
then in shoal water, calling vainly for help,
and learning how to race with shattered oars.
Then he overhauls Gyas and the Chimaera’s huge bulk:
which, deprived of her helmsman now, gives way.
Now Cloanthus alone is left ahead, near to the finish,
Mnestheus heads for him and chases closely
exerting all his powers. Then indeed the shouts redouble,
and together all enthusiastically urge on the pursuer.
The former crew are unhappy lest they fail to keep
the honour that is theirs and the glory already
in their possession, and would sell their lives for fame.
the latter feed on success: they can because they think they can.
And with their prow alongside they might have snatched the prize,
if Cleanthus had not stretched out his hands over the sea
and poured out his prayers, and called to the gods in longing.
“Gods, whose empire is the ocean, whose waters I course,
On shore, I will gladly set a snow-white bull
before your altars, in payment of my vows,
throw the entrailsinto the saltwater, and pour out pure wine.”
He spoke, and all the Nereids, Phorcus’s choir, and virgin Panopea,
heard him in the wave’s depths, and father Portunus drove him
on his track, with his great hand: the ship ran to shore, swifter
than south wind or flying arrow, and plunged into the deep harbour.
Then Anchises’s son, calling them all together as is fitting,
by the herald’s loud cry declares Cloanthus the winner,
and wreathes his forehead with green laurel, and tells him
to choose three bullocks, and wine, and a large talent of silver
as gifts for the ships. He adds special honours for the captains:
a cloak worked in gold for the victor, edged
with Meliboean deep purple in a double meandering line,
Ganymede the boy-prince woven on it, as if breathless
with eagerness, running with his javelin, chasing the swift stags
on leafy Ida: whom Jupiter’s eagle, carrier of the lightning-bolt,
has now snatched up into the air, from Ida, with taloned feet:
his aged guards stretch their hands to the sky in vain,
and the barking dogs snap at the air. He gives to the warrior,
who took second place by his prowess, a coat of mail for his own,
with polished hooks, in triple woven gold, a beautiful thing
and a defence in battle, that he himself as victor had taken
from Demoleos, by the swift Simois, below the heights of Ilium.
Phegeus and Sagaris, his servants, can barely carry its folds,
on straining shoulders: though, wearing it, Demoleus
used to drive the scattered Trojans at a run.
He grants the third prize of a pair of bronze cauldrons
and bowls made of silver with designs in bold relief.
Now they have all received their gifts and are walking off,
foreheads tied with scarlet ribbons, proud of their new wealth,
when Segestus, who showing much skill has with difficulty
got clear of the cruel rock, oars missing and one tier useless,
brings in his boat, to mockery and no glory.
As a snake, that a bronze-rimmed wheel has crossed obliquely,
is often caught on the curb of a road, or like one that a passer-by
has crushed with a heavy blow from a stone and left half-dead,
writhes its long coils, trying in vain to escape, part aggressive,
with blazing eyes, and hissing, its neck raised high in the air,
part held back by the constraint of its wounds, struggling
to follow with its coils, and twining back on its own length:
so the ship moves slowly on with wrecked oars:
nevertheless she makes sail, and under full sail reaches harbour.
Aeneas presents Sergestus with the reward he promised,
happy that the ship is saved, and the crew rescued.
He is granted a Cretan born slave-girl, Pholoe, not unskilled
in the arts of Minerva, nursing twin boys at her breast.
Once this race was done Aeneas headed for a grassy space,
circled round about by curving wooded hillsides,
forming an amphitheatre at the valley’s centre:
the hero took himself there in the midst of the throng
many thousands strong, and occupied a raised throne.
Here if any by chance wanted to compete in the footrace
he tempted their minds with the reward, and set the prizes.
Trojans and Sicilians gathered together from all sides,
Nisus and Euryalus the foremost among them,
Euryalus famed for his beauty, and in the flower of youth,
Nisus famed for his devoted affection for the lad: next
came princely Diores, of Priam’s royal blood,
then Salius and Patron together, one an Arcanian,
the other of Arcadian blood and Tegean race:
then two young Sicilians, Helymus and Panopes,
used to the forests, companions of old Acestes:
and many others too, whose fame is lost in obscurity.
Then Aeneas amongst them spoke as follows:
“Take these words to heart, and give pleasurable attention.
None of your number will go away without a reward from me.
I’ll give two Cretan arrows, shining with polished steel,
for each man, to take away, and a double-headed axe chased
with silver: all who are present will receive the same honour.
The first three will share prizes, and their heads will be crowned
with pale-green olive: let the first as winner take a horse
decorated with trappings: the second an Amazonian quiver,
filled with Thracian arrows, looped with a broad belt of gold
and fastened by a clasp with a polished gem:
let the third leave content with this Argive helmet.”
When he had finished they took their places and, suddenly,
on hearing the signal, they left the barrier and shot onto the course,
streaming out like a storm cloud, gaze fixed on the goal.
Nisus was off first, and darted away, ahead of all the others,
faster than the wind or the winged lightning-bolt:
Salius followed behind him, but a long way behind:
then after a space Euryalus was third: Helymus
pursued Euryalus, and there was Diores speeding near him,
now touching foot to foot, leaning at his shoulder:
if the course had been longer he’d have
slipped past him, and left the outcome in doubt.
Now, wearied, almost at the end of the track,
they neared the winning post itself, when the unlucky Nisus
fell in some slippery blood, which when the bullocks were killed
had chanced to drench the ground and the green grass.
Here the youth, already rejoicing at winning, failed to keep
his sliding feet on the ground, but fell flat,
straight in the slimy dirt and sacred blood.
But he didn’t forget Euryalus even then, nor his love:
but, picking himself up out of the wet, obstructed Salius,
who fell head over heels onto the thick sand.
Euryalus sped by and, darting onwards to applause and the shouts
of his supporters, took first place, winning with his friend’s help.
Helymus came in behind him, then Diores, now in third place.
At this Salius filled the whole vast amphitheatre, and the faces
of the foremost elders, with his loud clamour,
demanding to be given the prize stolen from him by a trick.
His popularity protects Euryalus, and fitting tears,
and ability is more pleasing in a beautiful body.
Diores encourages him, and protests in a loud voice,
having reached the palm, but claiming the last prize in vain,
if the highest honour goes to Salius.
Then Aeneas the leader said, “Your prizes are still yours,
lads, and no one is altering the order of attainment:
but allow me to take pity on an unfortunate friend’s fate.”
So saying he gives Salius the huge pelt of a Gaetulian lion,
heavy with shaggy fur, its claws gilded.
At this Nisus comments: “If these are the prizes for losing,
and you pity the fallen, what fitting gift will you grant to Nisus,
who would have earned first place through merit
if ill luck had not dogged me, as it did Salius?”
And with that he shows his face and limbs drenched
with foul mud. The best of leaders smiles at him,
and orders a shield to be brought, the work of Didymaon,
once unpinned by the Greeks from Neptune’s sacred threshold:
this outstanding prize he gives to the noble youth.
When the races were done and the gifts allotted,
Aeneas cried: “Now, he who has skill and courage in his heart,
let him stand here and raise his arms, his fists bound in hide.”
So saying he set out the double prize for the boxing,
a bullock for the winner, dressed with gold and sacred ribbons,
and a sword and a noble helmet to console the defeated.
Without delay Dares, hugely strong, raised his face
and rose, to a great murmur from the crowd,
he who alone used to compete with Paris,
and by that same mound where mighty Hector lies
he struck the victorious Butes, borne of the Bebrycian
race of Amycus, as he came forward, vast in bulk,
and stretched him dying on the yellow sand.
Such was Dares who lifted his head up for the bout at once,
showed his broad shoulders, stretched his arms out, sparring
to right and left, and threw punches at the air.
A contestant was sought for him, but no one from all that crowd
dared face the man, or pull the gloves on his hands.
So, cheerfully thinking they had all conceded the prize, he stands
before Aeneas, and without more delay holds the bullock’s horn
in his left hand and says: “Son of the goddess, if no one dare
commit himself to fight, when will my standing here end?
How long is it right for me to be kept waiting? Order me to lead
your gift away.” All the Trojans together shout their approval,
and demand that what was promised be granted him.
At this Entellus upbraids Acestes, sitting next to him
on a stretch of green grass, with grave words:
“Entellus, once the bravest of heroes, was it all in vain,
will you let so great a prize be carried off without a struggle,
and so tamely? Where’s our divine master, Eryx, now,
famous to no purpose? Where’s your name throughout Sicily,
and why are those spoils of battle hanging in your house?”
To this Entellus replies: “It’s not that quelled by fear, pride or love
of fame has died: but my chill blood is dull with age’s sluggishness,
and the vigour in my body is lifeless and exhausted.
If I had what I once had, which that boaster enjoys
and relies on, if that youthfulness were mine now,
then I’d certainly have stepped forward, but not seduced
by prizes or handsome bullocks: I don’t care about gifts.”
Having spoken he throws a pair of gloves of immense weight
which fierce Eryx, binding the tough hide onto his hands,
used to fight in, into the middle of the ring. Their minds
are stunned: huge pieces of hide from seven massive oxen
are stiff with the iron and lead sewn into them. Above all
Dares himself is astonished, and declines the bout from a distance,
and Anchises’s noble son turns the huge volume
and weight of the gloves backwards and forwards.
Then the older man speaks like this, from his heart:
“What if you’d seen the arms and gloves of Hercules
himself, and the fierce fight on this very shore?
Your brother Eryx once wore these (you see that
they’re still stained with blood and brain matter)
He faced great Hercules in them: I used to fight in them
when more vigorous blood granted me strength,
and envious age had not yet sprinkled my brow with snow.
But if a Trojan, Dares, shrinks from these gloves of ours,
and good Aeneas accepts it, and Acestes my sponsor agrees,
let’s level the odds. I’ll forgo the gloves of Eryx
(banish your fears): you, throw off your Trojan ones.”
So speaking he flings his double-sided cloak from his shoulders,
baring the massive muscles of his limbs, his thighs
with their huge bones, and stands, a giant, in the centre of the arena.
Then our ancestor, Anchises’s son, lifts up a like pair of gloves,
and protects the hands of both contestants equally.
Immediately each takes up his stance, poised on his toes,
and fearlessly raises his arms high in front of him.
Keeping their heads up and well away from the blows
they begin to spar, fist to fist, and provoke a battle,
the one better at moving his feet, relying on his youth,
the other powerful in limbs and bulk: but his slower legs quiver,
his knees are unsteady, and painful gasps shake his huge body.
They throw many hard punches at each other but in vain,
they land many on their curved flanks, or their chests
are thumped loudly, gloves often stray to ears
and brows, and jaws rattle under the harsh blows.
Entellus stands solidly, not moving, in the same stance,
avoiding the blows with his watchful eyes and body alone.
Dares, like someone who lays siege to a towering city,
or surrounds a mountain fortress with weapons,
tries this opening and that, seeking everywhere, with his art,
and presses hard with varied but useless assaults.
Then Entellus standing up to him, extends his raised right:
the other, foreseeing the downward angle of the imminent blow,
slides his nimble body aside, and retreats:
Entellus wastes his effort on the air and the heavy man
falls to the ground heavily, with his whole weight,
as a hollow pine-tree, torn up by its roots, sometimes falls
on Mount Erymanthus or mighty Mount Ida.
The Trojans and the Sicilan youths leap up eagerly:
a shout lifts to the sky, and Acestes is the first to run forward
and with sympathy raises his old friend from the ground.
But that hero, not slowed or deterred by his fall,
returns more eagerly to the fight, and generates power from anger.
Then shame and knowledge of his own ability revive his strength,
and he drives Dares in fury headlong across the whole arena,
doubling his punches now, to right and left. No pause, or rest:
like the storm clouds rattling their dense hailstones on the roof,
as heavy are the blows from either hand, as the hero
continually batters at Dares and destroys him.
Then Aeneas, their leader, would not allow the wrath to continue
longer, nor Entellus to rage with such bitterness of spirit,
but put an end to the contest, and rescued the weary Dares,
speaking gently to him with these words:
“Unlucky man, why let such savagery depress your spirits?
Don’t you see another has the power: the gods have changed sides?
Yield to the gods.” He spoke and, speaking, broke up the fight.
But Dare’s loyal friends led him away to the ships,
his weakened knees collapsing, his head swaying from side to side,
spitting out clots of blood from his mouth, teeth amongst them.
Called back they accept the helmet and sword,
leaving the winner’s palm and the bullock for Entellus.
At this the victor exultant in spirit and glorying in the bullock,
said: “Son of the Goddess, and all you Trojans,
know now what physical strength I had in my youth,
and from what fate you’ve recalled and rescued Dares.”
He spoke and planted himself opposite the bullock,
still standing there as prize for the bout, then, drawing back
his right fist, aimed the hard glove between the horns
and broke its skull scattering the brains: the ox
fell quivering to the ground, stretched out lifeless.
Standing over it he poured these words from his chest:
“Eryx, I offer you this, the better animal, for Dares’s life:
the winner here, I relinquish the gloves and my art.”
Immediately Aeneas invites together all who might wish
to compete with their swift arrows, and sets out the prizes.
With a large company he raises a mast from Serestus’s ship,
and ties a fluttering dove, at which they can aim
their shafts, to a cord piercing the high mast.
The men gather and a bronze helmet receives the lots
tossed into it: the first of them all to be drawn,
to cheers of support, is Hippocoon son of Hyrtaces,
followed by Mnestheus, the winner of the boat race
a while ago: Mnestheus crowned with green olive.
Eurytion’s the third, your brother, O famous Pandorus,
who, ordered to wreck the treaty, in the past,
was the first to hurl his spear amongst the Greeks.
Acestes is the last name out from the depths of the helmet,
daring to try his own hand at the youthful contest.
Then they take arrows from their quivers, and, each man
for himself, with vigorous strength, bends the bow into an arc,
and first through the air from the twanging string
the son of Hyrcanus’s shaft, cutting the swift breeze,
reaches the mark, and strikes deep into the mast.
The mast quivered, the bird fluttered its wings in fear,
and there was loud applause from all sides.
Then Mnestheus eagerly took his stand with bent bow,
aiming high, his arrow notched level with his eyes.
But to his dismay he was not able to hit the bird
herself with the shaft, but broke the knots of hemp cord
that tied her foot as it hung from the mast:
she fled to the north wind and the dark clouds, in flight.
Then Eurytion who had been holding his bow ready, with drawn
arrow for some time, called on his brother to note his vow,
quickly eyed the dove, enjoying the freedom of the skies,
and transfixed her, as she beat her wings beneath a dark cloud.
She dropped lifeless, leaving her spirit with the starry heavens,
and, falling, brought back to earth the shaft that pierced her.
Acestes alone remained: the prize was lost:
yet he still shot his arrow high into the air,
showing an older man’s skill, the bow twanging. Then
a sudden wonder appeared before their eyes, destined to be
of great meaning: the time to come unveiled its crucial outcome,
and great seers of the future celebrated it as an omen.
The arrow, flying through the passing clouds, caught fire
marked out its path with flames, then vanished into thin air,
as shooting stars, loosed from heaven often transit
the sky, drawing their tresses after them. Astonished,
the Trinacrians and Trojans stood rooted to the spot,
praying to the gods: nor did their great leader Aeneas
reject the sign, but embracing the joyful Acestes,
loaded him with handsome gifts and spoke as follows:
“Take these, old man: since the high king of Olympus shows,
by these omens, that he wishes you to take extraordinary honours.
You shall have this gift, owned by aged Anchises himself,
a bowl engraved with figures, that Cisseus of Thrace
once long ago gave Anchises my father as a memento
of himself, and as a pledge of his friendship.”
So saying he wreathed his brow with green laurel
and proclaimed Acestes the highest victor among them all.
Nor did good Eurytion begrudge the special prize,
though he alone brought the bird down from the sky.
Next he who cut the cord stepped forward for his reward,
and lastly he who’s swift shaft had transfixed the mast.
But before the match is complete Aeneas the leader
calls Epytides to him, companion and guardian
of young Iulus, and speaks into his loyal ear:
“Off! Go! Tell Ascanius, if he has his troop of boys
ready with him, and is prepared for the horse-riding
to show himself with his weapons, and lead them out
in honour of his grandfather.” He himself orders the whole
crowd of people to leave the lengthy circuit, emptying the field.
The boys arrive, and glitter together on their bridled horses
under their fathers’ gaze, and the men of Troy
and Sicily murmur in admiration as they go by.
They all have their hair properly circled by a cut garland:
they each carry two cornel-wood spears tipped with steel,
some have shining quivers on their shoulders: a flexible
torque of twisted gold sits high on their chests around the neck.
The troops of horse are three in number, and three leaders
ride ahead: two groups of six boys follow each,
commanded alike and set out in gleaming ranks.
One line of youths is led joyfully by little Priam,
recalling his grandfather’s name, your noble child,
Polites, seed of the Italians: whom a piebald
Thracian horse carries, showing white pasterns
as it steps, and a high white forehead.
Next is Atys, from whom the Latin Atii trace their line,
little Atys, a boy loved by the boy Iulus.
Last, and most handsome of all in appearance,
Iulus himself rides a Sidonian horse, that radiant Dido
had given him as a remembrance of herself,
and a token of her love. The rest of the youths
ride the Sicilian horses of old Acestes.
The Trojans greet the shy lads with applause, and delight
in gazing at them, seeing their ancient families in their faces.
When they have ridden happily round the whole assembly
under the eyes of their kin, Epytides with a prolonged cry
gives the agreed signal and cracks his whip.
They gallop apart in two equal detachments, the three
groups parting company, and dissolving their columns,
then, recalled, they wheel round, and charge with level lances.
Then they perform other figures and counter-figures
in opposing ranks, and weave in circles inside counter-circles,
and perform a simulated battle with weapons.
Now their backs are exposed in flight, now they turn
their spears to charge, now ride side by side in peace.
Like the Labyrinth in mountainous Crete, they say,
that contained a path winding between blind walls,
wandering with guile through a thousand turnings,
so that undetected and irretraceable errors
might foil any guidelines that might be followed:
so the Trojan children twine their steps in just such a pattern,
weaving battle and flight, in their display, like dolphins
swimming through the ocean streams, cutting the Carpathian
and Lybian waters, and playing among the waves.
Ascanius first revived this kind of riding, and this contest,
when he encircled Alba Longa with walls, and taught the Early
Latins to celebrate it in the way he and the Trojan youth
had done together: the Albans taught their children: mighty Rome
received it from them in turn, and preserved the ancestral rite:
and today the boys are called ‘Troy’ and their procession ‘Trojan’.
So the games are completed celebrating Aeneas’s sacred father.
Here Fortune first alters, switching loyalties. While they,
with their various games, are paying due honours to the tomb,
Saturnian Juno sends Iris down from the sky to the Trojan fleet,
breathing out a breeze for her passage, thinking deeply
about her ancient grievance which is yet unsatisfied.
Iris, hurrying on her way along a rainbow’s thousand colours
speeds swiftly down her track, a girl unseen.
She views the great crowd, and scans the shore,
sees the harbour deserted, and the ships abandoned.
But far away on the lonely sands the Trojan women
are weeping Anchises’s loss, and all, weeping, gaze
at the deep ocean. “Ah, what waves and seas are still left
for weary folk!” They are all of one voice. They pray for
a city: they tire of enduring suffering on the waves.
So Iris, not ignorant of mischief, darts among them,
setting aside the appearance and robes of a goddess:
becoming Beroe, the old wife of Tmarian Doryclus,
who had once had family, sons, and a famous name.
and as such moves among the Trojan mothers, saying:
“O wretched ones, whom Greek hands failed to drag
to death in the war beneath our native walls!
O unhappy people what fate does Fortune reserve for you?
The seventh summer is on the turn since Troy’s destruction,
and we endure the crossing of every sea and shore, so many inhospitable stones and stars, while we chase over the vast sea
after an Italy that flees from us, tossing upon the waves.
Here are the borders of our brother Eryx and our host Acestes:
what stops us building walls and granting our citizens a city?
O fatherland, O gods of our houses, rescued from the enemy
in vain, will no city now be called Troy? Shall I see
nowhere a Xanthus or a Simois, Hector’s rivers?
Come now, and burn these accursed ships with me.
For the ghost of Cassandra, the prophetess, seemed to hand me
burning torches in dream: ‘Seek Troy here: here is
your home’ she said. Now is the time for deeds,
not delay, given such portents. See, four altars to Neptune:
the god himself lends us fire and the courage.”
So saying she first of all firmly seizes the dangerous flame
and, straining to lift it high, brandishes it, and hurls it.
The minds of the Trojan women are startled, and their wits
stunned. Here, one of the crowd, Pyrgo, the eldest,
the royal nurse of so many of Priam’s sons, says:
“This is not Beroe, you women, this is no wife
of Rhoetitian Doryclus: look at the signs of divine beauty
and the burning eyes, the spirit she possesses,
her form, the sound of her voice, her footsteps as she moves.
Just now I myself left Beroe, sick and unhappy, that she alone
was missing so important a rite and could not pay Anchises
the offerings due to him.” So she speaks. At first the women
gaze in uncertainty at the ships, with angry glances,
torn between a wretched yearning for the land
they have reached, and the kingdom fate calls them to,
when the goddess, climbs the sky on soaring wings,
cutting a giant rainbow in her flight through the clouds.
Then truly amazed at the wonder, and driven by madness,
they cry out and some snatch fire from the innermost hearths,
others strip the altars, and throw on leaves and twigs
and burning brands. Fire rages unchecked among
the benches, and oars, and the hulls of painted pine.
Eumelus carries the news of the burning ships to Anchises’s tomb
and the ranks of the ampitheatre, and looking behind them
they themselves see dark ash floating upwards in a cloud.
Ascanius is first to turn his horse eagerly towards the troubled
encampment, as joyfully as he led his galloping troop,
and his breathless guardians cannot reign him back.
“What new madness is this? He cries. “What now, what do you
aim at, wretched women? You’re burning your own hopes
not the enemy, nor a hostile Greek camp. See I am
your Ascanius!” And he flung his empty helmet in front of his feet,
that he’d worn as he’d inspired his pretence of battle in play.
Aeneas hurries there too, and the Trojan companies.
But the women scatter in fear here and there along the shore,
and stealthily head for the woods and any cavernous rocks:
they hate what they’ve done and the light, with sober minds
they recognise their kin, and Juno is driven from their hearts.
But the roaring flames don’t lose their indomitable fury
just for that: the pitch is alight under the wet timbers,
slowly belching smoke, the keel is gradually burned,
and the pestilence sinks through a whole hull,
nor are heroic strength or floods of water any use.
Then virtuous Aeneas tears the clothes from his chest,
and calls on the gods for help, lifting his hands:
“All-powerful Jupiter, if you don’t hate the Trojans
to a man, if your former affection has regard
for human suffering, let the fleet escape the flames now,
Father, and save our slender Trojan hopes from ruin:
or if I deserve this, send what is left of us to death with your
angry lightning-bolt, and overwhelm us with your hand.”
He had barely spoken, when a dark storm with pouring rain
rages without check and the high hills and plains
quake with thunder: a murky downpour falls
from the whole sky, the blackest of heavy southerlies,
and the ships are brimming, the half-burnt timbers soaked,
until all the heat is quenched, and all the hulls
except four, are saved from the pestilence.
But Aeneas, the leader, stunned by the bitter blow,
pondered his great worries, turning them this way
and that in his mind. Should he settle in Sicily’s fields,
forgetting his destiny, or strike out for Italian shores?
Then old Nautes, whom alone Tritonian Pallas had taught,
and rendered famous for his great skill (she gave him
answers, telling what the great gods’ anger portended,
or what the course of destiny demanded),
began to solace Aeneas with these words:
“Son of the Goddess, let us follow wherever fate ebbs or flows,
whatever comes, every fortune may be conquered by endurance.
You have Trojan Acestes of the line of the gods:
let him share your decisions and be a willing partner,
entrust to him those who remain from the lost ships,
and those tired of your great venture and your affairs:
Select also aged men and women exhausted by the sea,
and anyone with you who is frail, or afraid of danger,
and let the weary have their city in this land:
and if agreed they will call it by Acestes’s name.”
Then roused by such words from an aged friend,
Aeneas’s heart was truly torn between so many cares.
And now black Night in her chariot, borne upwards,
occupied the heavens: and the likeness of his father Anchises
seemed to glide down from the sky, and speak so:
“Son, dearer to me than life, when life remained,
my son, troubled by Troy’s fate, I come here
at Jove’s command, he who drove the fire from the ships,
and at last takes pity on you from high heaven.
Follow the handsome advice that old Nautus gives:
take chosen youth, and the bravest hearts, to Italy.
In Latium you must subdue a tough race, harshly trained.
Yet, first, go to the infernal halls of Dis, and in deep
Avernus seek a meeting with me, my son. For impious
Tartarus, with its sad shades, does not hold me,
I live in Elysium, and the lovely gatherings of the blessed.
Here the chaste Sibyl will bring you, with much blood of
black sheep. Then you’ll learn all about your race,
and the city granted you. Now: farewell. Dew-wet Night
turns mid-course, and cruel Morning, with panting steeds,
breathes on me.” He spoke and fled like smoke into thin air.
“Where are you rushing to? Aeneas cried, “Where are you
hurrying? Who do you flee? Who bars you from my embrace?”
So saying he revived the embers of the slumbering fires, and
paid reverence, humbly, with sacred grain and a full censer,
to the Trojan Lar, and the inner shrine of white-haired Vesta.
Immediately he summoned his companions, Acestes first of all,
and told them of Jove’s command, and his dear father’s counsel,
and the decision he had reached in his mind. There was little delay
in their discussions, and Acestes did not refuse to accept his orders.
They transferred the women to the new city’s roll, and settled
there those who wished, spirits with no desire for great glory.
They themselves, thinned in their numbers, but with manhood
fully alive to war, renewed the rowing benches, and replaced
the timbers of the ships burnt by fire, and fitted oars and rigging.
Meanwhile Aeneas marked out the city limits with a plough
and allocated houses: he declared that this was Ilium
and this place Troy. Acestes the Trojan revelled in his kingdom,
appointed a court, and gave out laws to the assembled senate.