The poem is modelled on the Greek epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey, which were written down in the 8th century BC. It follows the quest of Aeneas, a refugee from the Trojan War in Asia, to found a new city in the west. Although the core narrative of his wanderings covers just a few years, the poem constantly projects and resounds through 1,000 years of Roman history, providing a line of divine descent from Jupiter to Augustus.
The set text
At the start of the prescribed text, Aeneas and his followers are near Carthage, having been scattered and shipwrecked by a storm instigated by the malevolent Juno. They do not know where they are, yet Aeneas steps up and motivates his men with food (1) and a pep talk (2).
The story then skips to the divine realm, where Venus, Aeneas’ mother, complains to her father, Jupiter, about her son’s suffering (3). Jupiter foresees the promised city, as well as war in Italy (4), followed by the glory of Aeneas’ son, Ascanius (Iulus), Romulus and the “togaed race” (5). Mercury is sent to make the Carthaginians welcoming to the Trojans, while Aeneas climbs a hill to assess the new location (6). He sees the Carthaginians, as busy as bees, building their new city and feels a pang of envy (7). Then Aeneas sees Dido, the queen of Carthage, for the first time, looking like the goddess Diana herself (8), and he is cheered when he sees his followers from the other ships are still alive (9).
Aeneas climbs a rock and kills seven stags.Aeneas scopulum interea conscendit, et omnem180
prospectum late pelago petit, Anthea si quem
iactatum vento videat Phrygiasque biremes,
aut Capyn aut celsis in puppibus arma Caïci.
Meanwhile interea Aeneas Aeneas climbed conscendit a rock scopulum and et searched petit the whole omnem outlook prospectum far and wide late over the sea pelago, if si he might see videat any quem Antheus Anthea, tossed about iactatum by the wind vento, and -que the Phrygian Phrygias biremes biremes, or aut Capys Capyn or aut the arms arma of Caicus Caïci on in the high celsis sterns puppibus.
interea – i.e. while the rest of his men were otherwise engaged. Aeneas has just landed on the coast near Carthage with seven ships. His men, exhausted after the storm sent by Juno, have lit a fire and are attempting to roast the corn they brought with them. The following scene is reminiscent of Odysseus climbing up to survey Circe’s island in Book 10 of Homer’s Odyssey (Od. 10.148). Like Odysseus, Aeneas will be distracted from his journey by a powerful woman.
conscendit – the first of a series of historic present tense verbs which help to suggest the speed with which Aeneas acts to assess the situation and help his shipwrecked followers. The prefix con– “implies energy or effort” (Connington).
pelago – a poetic word for “sea” (from the Greek πέλαγος), especially the deep, open sea on which Aeneas and his men encountered the storm.
Phrygiasque biremes – Phrygia was an ancient kingdom near Troy; “Phrygian” is thus synonymous with “Trojan.” A bireme was an ancient warship with two (bi-) banks of oars (reme), however their appearance in the Aeneid is anachronistic, since they had not been invented at the time the story is set (c.1200 BC).
navem in conspectu nullam, tres litore cervos
prospicit errantes; hos tota armenta sequuntur185
a tergo, et longum per valles pascitur agmen.
constitit hic, arcumque manu celeresque sagittas
corripuit, fidus quae tela gerebat Achates,
ductoresque ipsos primum capita alta ferentes
cornibus arboreis sternit;
He saw prospicit no nullam ship navem in in view conspectu, (but) three tres stags cervos wandering errantes on the shore litore; whole tota herds armenta were following sequuntur these hos from a the rear tergo, and et a long longum line agmen was grazing pascitur through per the valleys valles. He stopped constitit here hic, and -que seized corripuit with his hand manu a bow arcum and -que swift celeres arrows sagittas, the weapons tela which quae faithful fidus Achates Achates was carrying gerebat, and -que first primum he laid low sternit the leaders ductores themselves ipsos, who were holding ferentes their heads capita high alta with tree-like arboreis antlers cornibus;
tres litore cervos – although Aeneas does not see any ship, he does see three deer. A word denoting contrast, such as at or tamen, should be understood. Virgil skilfully stresses the contrast through asyndeton and a chiasmus.
prospicit – note the polyptoton of “specio” (prospectum… conspectus… prospicit) which helps us to imagine the excellent vantage point Aeneas enjoys at the top of the rock.
omnem prospectum – “a view in all directions” (Fairclough-Brown).
agmen – a military allusion. The following scene is like the routing of an army, perhaps looking forward to the fighting which takes place in the later books of the poem. It also has an Homeric model in Book 9 of the Odyssey (9.155 ff.), when Odysseus and his men hunt goats after landing near Polyphemus’ cave. A notable difference is that Odysseus receives more than his men, whereas Aeneas acts more fairly.
constitit…corripuit – the speed of Aeneas’ reaction is conveyed by the short initial sentence, the change to the perfect tense, the alliteration which runs across the line, and the enjambment of corripuit.
Achates – a close friend of Aeneas, his loyalty is signified here by his usual epithet fidus.
ferentes – “implies conscious nobility” (Connington).
cornibus arboreis – the size of the antlers indicates the age of the stags.
miscet agens telis nemora inter frondea turbam;
nec prius absistit, quam septem ingentia victor
corpora fundat humi, et numerum cum navibus aequet;
hinc portum petit, et socios partitur in omnes.
then tum he confused miscet the masses vulgus and et the whole omnem crowd turbam, driving (them) agens with his weapons telis among inter the leafy frondea groves nemora; nor nec did he stop absistit until priusquam, victorious victor, he was pouring out fundat seven septem huge ingentia bodies corpora on the ground humi, and et equalling aequet the number numerum with cum his ships navibus; from here hinc he made for petit the harbour portum, and et shared (them) out partitur to in all omnes his companions socios.
tum…turbam – The word order here is particularly convoluted, reflecting the confused panicking of the deer.
nec prius absistit, quam = nec abstitit priusquam.
septem ingentia victor – the juxtaposition of these words helps to encapsulate the heroism of Aeneas.
Aeneas shares out wine and gives a pep talk.vina bonus quae deinde cadis onerarat Acestes195
litore Trinacrio, dederatque abeuntibus heros,
dividit, et dictis maerentia pectora mulcet.
‘O socii (neque enim ignari sumus ante malorum),
O passi graviora, dabit deus his quoque finem.
Then deinde he shared out dividit the wine vina which quae good bonus Acestes Acestes had loaded onerarat in jars cadis on the shore litore of Trinacria Trinacrio, and -que the hero heros had given dederat to them as they left abeuntibus, and et he soothed mulcet their grieving maerentia hearts pectora with his words dictis. ‘O O comrades socii (for enim neither neque were we sumus unaware ignari of evils malorum before ante), O O you who have suffered passi worse things graviora, the god deus will grant dabit an end finem to these things his too quoque.
vina – “poetic” plural – translate as singular. The ability to choose freely between the singular and plural forms of nouns, even contrary to sense, was important to the poet, who was composing within a strict metrical pattern (dactylic hexameter).
litore Trinacrio – i.e. the coast of Sicily. Trinacria is an ancient name of the island, due to its triangular shape. Aeneas and his Trojans recently left Sicily (I.34 ff.) and will return there in Book 5.
heros – refers to Acestes; perhaps “like a hero” (Fairclough and Brown). Gift-giving is an essential feature of the heroic world in Homer’s epics.
enim… – Aeneas is explaining passi graviora, not socii.
sumus – translate as perfect tense.
neque…ignari – a litotes, i.e. “(we have been) well aware…”
deus – the masculine singular implies Jupiter, but Aeneas cannot be sure; deus also gives Aeneas’ words universal appeal, like an aphorism. The power of the phrase is increased by the alliteration of dabit deus and the position of finem at the end of the line.
vos et Scyllaeam rabiem penitusque sonantes200
accestis scopulos, vos et Cyclopia saxa
experti: revocate animos, maestumque timorem
mittite: forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit.
You vos have approached accestis both et the madness rabiem of Scylla Scyllaeam and -que her cliffs scopulos sounding sonantes deep inside penitus, and et you vos have experienced experti the rocks saxa of the Cyclopes Cyclopia: call back revocate your spirits animos, and -que dismiss mittite grieving maestum fear timorem: perhaps forsan one day olim remembering meminisse even et this haec will bring pleasure iuvabit.
Scyllaeam rabiem – “the fury of Scylla.” Scylla was a monster who lived inside a cliff face in the Strait of Messina. Famously, Odysseus encounters her in Book 12 of the Odyssey (Od. 12.73 ff.). Her encounter with the Trojans is told by Aeneas in Book 3 (III.431 ff.).
penitus sonantes – the noise is that of barking dogs. Virgil says that Scylla keeps “sea-blue dogs” in her cavern (III.432); in Homer, Scylla herself does the barking.
accestis – syncopated (i.e. shortened) version of accessistis.
experti – supply estis.
revocate…mittite – a rousing sentence, strengthened by the imperatives which frame it. mittite has the sense of dimittite or omittite, as well as an emphatic position at the start of the following line.
forsan et…olim – these words imagine a distant possibility, in contrast to present troubles, enabling Aeneas to make the bold statement haec..meminisse iuvabit.
per varios casus, per tot discrimina rerum
tendimus in Latium, sedes ubi fata quietas205
ostendunt; illic fas regna resurgere Troiae.
durate, et vosmet rebus servate secundis.’
Talia voce refert, curisque ingentibus aeger,
spem vultu simulat, premit altum corde dolorem.
Through per various varios misfortunes casus, through per so many tot hazardous discrimina events rerum we are heading tendimus to in Latium Latium, where ubi the fates fata show ostendunt our place sedes of rest quietas; there illic it is ordained fas that the kingdom regna of Troy Troiae will rise again resurgere. Endure durate, and et save servate yourselves vosmet for favourable secundis affairs rebus.’ He spoke refert such things talia aloud voce, and -que (though) sick aeger with enormous ingentibus worries curis, he feigned simulat hope spem in his face vultu, (and) repressed premit grief dolorem deep altum within his heart corde.
Latium – the region of ancient Italy in which Rome was situated, and where the Latins lived. Modern Lazio. Technically, Aeneas should not know the name of the location yet, but the Aeneid was published unrevised.
fas – supply est, “it is ordained…” fas shares its root with fata (“the fates”) in the preceding line.
vosmet – a slightly more emphatic form of vos.
voce – “out loud.”
spem…dolorem – the Stoical and selfless attitude of Aeneas is underscored by asyndeton, a chiasmus and altum.
Venus appeals to Jupiter.Et iam finis erat, cum Iuppiter aethere summo
despiciens mare velivolum terrasque iacentes
litoraque et latos populos, sic vertice caeli225
constitit, et Libyae defixit lumina regnis.
And Et now iam it was erat the end finis, when cum Jupiter Iuppiter, looking down despiciens from the air aethere on high summo at the sail-winged velivolum sea mare and -que the lands terras lying about iacentes and -que the shores litora and et the people populos far and wide latos, thus sic paused constitit at the top vertice of heaven caeli and et fixed defixit his eyes lumina on the kingdom regnis of Libya Libyae.
finis erat – this probably refers to the mourning and feasting which preoccupied the Trojans in the preceding lines.
velivolum – “sail-winged.” Before Virgil, this epithet had been used to describe (more obviously) ships. He transfers the epithet to the sea itself, perhaps to remind us of Aeneas’ fleet from earlier in the book.
iacentes – “outspread” (Fairclough & Brown).
sic – picks up from despicens, i.e. “looking down thus, he stood…”
vertice caeli – note Virgil’s emphasis on perspective. This phrase reinforces aethere summo in l.223, and both are complemented further by the direction of the prefixes in despiciens and defixit. It is like he is pointing out two scenes in a large wall painting.
regnis – plural for singular, and ablative of place: “on the kingdom…”
atque illum, tales iactantem pectore curas,
tristior, et lacrimis oculos suffusa nitentes,
adloquitur Venus: ‘O qui res hominumque deumque
aeternis regis imperiis et fulmine terres,230
quid meus Aeneas in te committere tantum,
quid Troës potuere, quibus tot funera passis
cunctus ob Italiam terrarum clauditur orbis.
And atque Venus Venus addressed adloquitur him illum, as he was turning over iactantem such tales concerns curas in his heart pectore, sadder tristior, and et soaking suffusa her gleaming nitentes eyes oculos with tears lacrimis: ‘O O you who qui rule regis the affairs res both -que of men hominum and -que gods deum with everlasting aeternis power imperiis and et terrify terres with your thunderbolt fulmine, what (wrong) quid so great tantum (could) my meus Aeneas Aeneas commit committere against in you te, what quid were the Trojans Troës capable of potuere to whom quibus, having suffered passis so many tot deaths funera, the whole cunctus earth orbis terrarum is closed off clauditur on account of ob Italy Italiam.
atque – “marks an important new beginning” (Maclennan).
tales curas – either the events in Libya, or, more generally, human affairs.
tristior – “rather sad” or “somewhat sad.” A standard way to translate the comparative adjective when there is no direct comparison being made. The implied comparison could be with the usually joyful disposition of Venus.
oculos suffusa – “her eyes were flooded.” suffusa is a passive participle, but here takes oculos as an accusative object. This unusual grammar, not uncommon in Virgil, is originally Greek.
O qui…regis – “O you who rule…”
terres – “cause (them) terror.” A direct object can be inferred from res, or omitted altogether. The verb is emphasised by a chiasmus (regis imperiis et fulmine terres) and its position at the end of the line.
quid…tantum – “What offence so great…”
committere – supply potuit, which can be inferred from potuere in the next line: “What offence so great has my Aeneas been able to commit…”
in te – “against you.” The informality of te, especially after Venus’ grand opening address, reveals the closeness between father and daughter.
cunctus terrarum orbis – “the whole world.” Maclennan: “the phrase indignantly spread over the whole line.”
certe hinc Romanos olim volventibus annis
hinc fore ductores, revocato a sanguine Teucri,235
qui mare, qui terras omnes dicione tenerent,
pollicitus – quae te, genitor, sententia vertit?
Surely certe you promised that pollicitus from this hinc, one day olim, as the years annis rolled by volventibus, the Romans Romanos would be fore leaders ductores, from a the restored revocato blood sanguine of Teucer Teucri, who qui were to hold tenerent the sea mare who (were to hold) qui all omnes lands terras with their sovereignty dicione -what quae opinion sententia has changed vertit you te, father genitor?
certe – qualifies pollicitus in l.237.
Romanos – the accusative subject of an indirect statement, introduced by pollicitus (es).
hinc – “from these,” i.e. the Trojans.
fore = futuros esse.
sanguine Teucri – King Teucer was a mythological founder of the bloodline from which the Trojans were descended. Hence they are sometimes called Teucri in the Aeneid.
tenerent – the imperfect subjunctive can be used to represent the future indicative when speech is reported: “(who) would rule…”
pollicitus – supply es.
hoc equidem occasum Troiae tristesque ruinas
solabar, fatis contraria fata rependens;
nunc eadem fortuna viros tot casibus actos240
insequitur. quem das finem, rex magne, laborum?
Indeed equidem I used to take comfort solabar from this hoc for the fall occasum of Troy Troiae and -que her sad tristes ruins ruinas, balancing rependens opposing contraria fates fata with the fates fatis; now nunc the same eadem misfortune fortuna follows insequitur (these) men viros, driven actos by so many tot disasters casibus. What quem end finem do you grant das for their toils laborum, mighty magne king rex?
hoc – “with this promise.”
equidem – “I for my part” or “indeed.” Venus highlights the fact that she took Jupiter for his word.
solabar – The verb has a reflexive sense here: “I was consoling myself for.”
occasum…tristesque ruinas – practically synonymous, and therefore a tautology. Venus is emphasising the loss she has endured, for which she has not yet been repaid.
fatis – “with fates,” i.e. the better times to come. contraria fata are the bad times in the past.
Jupiter reassures Venus: she will see Lavinium.Olli subridens hominum sator atque deorum
vultu, quo caelum tempestatesque serenat,255
oscula libavit natae, dehinc talia fatur:
The father sator of gods deorum and atque of men hominum, smiling subridens at her olli with the face vultu with which quo he calms serenat the sky caelum and -que the storms tempestates, kissed libavit the lips oscula of his daughter natae then dehinc spoke fatur such things talia:
olli – an archaic form of illi (dative singular). This form of the pronoun, ancient even for Virgil’s time, adds gravitas to the scene.
libavit – “gently kissed.”
natae – Somewhat redundant after olli at the start of the sentence, but serves to convey the tenderness of the relationship between father and daughter.
‘parce metu, Cytherea: manent immota tuorum
fata tibi; cernes urbem et promissa Lavini
moenia, sublimemque feres ad sidera caeli
magnanimum Aenean; neque me sententia vertit.260
‘Refrain parce from fear metu, Cytherea Cytherea: the fates fata of your people tuorum remain manent unchanged immota for you tibi; you will see cernes the city urbem and et promised promissa walls moenia of Lavinium Lavini, and -que you will carry feres great-hearted magnanimum Aeneas Aenean elevated sublimem to ad the stars sidera of heaven caeli; and no neque argument sententia changes vertit me me.
parce metu – “Refrain from fear.” metu is dative (the verb parco takes a dative object).
Cytherea – i.e. Venus. She is sometimes called Cytherea after the Greek island of Cythera. According to some mythological accounts, she rose from sea foam around the island, foam which had formed when Uranus was castrated by Jupiter.
immota – “unmoved.” Juno is able to delay Aeneas’ quest (e.g. with the recent storm, the manipulation of Dido, etc.), but she cannot change it.
tuorum – “of your people.”
hic tibi (fabor enim, quando haec te cura remordet,
longius, et volvens fatorum arcana movebo)
bellum ingens geret Italia populosque feroces
contundet moresque viris et moenia ponet,
tertia dum Latio regnantem viderit aestas265
ternaque transierint Rutulis hiberna subactis.
This (son) hic of yours tibi (for enim I will speak fabor further longius, since quando this haec concern cura eats away at remordet you te, and et, unrolling volvens the mysteries arcana of the fates fatorum, I will set them in motion movebo) will wage geret a huge ingens war bellum in Italy Italia and -que will trounce contundet fierce feroces peoples populos and -que will lay down ponet customs mores and et walls moenia for his men viris, until dum the third tertia summer aestas sees viderit him ruling regnantem in Latium Latio and que three terna winters hiberna have passed transierint since the Rutulians Rutulis have been subdued subactis.
tibi – “for you.” An ethic dative: used to express in whose interests something is.
urbem…moenia – tautological, since moenia and urbs are virtually synonymous. Jupiter emphasises the successful end-point of Aeneas’ quest in order to comfort Venus, who is expressing doubts it will ever be reached.
sublimem – “elevated.”
ad sidera caeli – in other words, Aeneas will become a god. Julius Caesar, Augustus’ foster-father and great-uncle, was worshipped as a god after his death. Augustus promoted this worship, calling himself Divi Filius (son of a god).
Aenean – accusative singular (from Greek).
neque me sententia vertit – this directly answers Venus’ question in I.237 (Section 3): quae te, genitor, sententia vertit?.
hic – i.e. Aeneas.
tibi – ethic dative (see note above).
quando – has a causal sense here: “since.”
te remordet – “eats away at you.”
longius – “further” (in terms of content).
volvens – the metaphor is that of a scroll being rolled open, on which destiny is written.
bellum ingens – this war will occupy the second half of the Aeneid (Books 7-12).
populos – “peoples” – i.e. the different ethnic and regional groups of Italy.
mores…moenia – mores are customs and traditions, moenia represent the physical structures. In fact, Jupiter will insist that the customs of the Trojans die out with Aeneas and his men, as part of his peace deal with Juno (12.834 ff.).
Latio reganantem – “him (i.e. Aeneas) ruling in Latium.”
terna…hiberna – hiberna is a winter camp. Aeneas will not even have established a permanent, civilian settlement before he dies. The fact he dies so soon adds to his personal tragedy and sacrifice in return for a greater good.
Rutulis…subactis – “after the Rutuli have been subdued” (ablative absolute). The Rutuli (or Rutulians) were the dominant ethnic group in Latium at the time of Aeneas’ arrival. Led by Turnus, they will meet the Trojans in a brutal conflict (the bellum ingens above).
Ascanius becomes Iulus; Romulus founds the togaed race.at puer Ascanius, cui nunc cognomen Iulo
additur (Ilus erat, dum res stetit Ilia regno),
triginta magnos volvendis mensibus orbes
imperio explebit, regnumque ab sede Lavini270
transferet, et Longam multa vi muniet Albam.
But at the boy puer Ascanius Ascanius, to whom cui the additional name cognomen Iulus Iulo now nunc is added additur (it was erat Ilus Ilus, while dum the state res of Troy Ilia stood stetit in sovereignty regno), will complete explebit, as the months mensibus roll by volvendis, thirty triginta great magnos cycles orbes in power imperio, and -que he will transfer transferet the kingdom regnum from ab the throne sede of Lavinium Lavini, and et he will fortify muniet Alba Longa Albam Longam with much multa force vi.
Iulo – Jupiter now reveals a new cognomen (nickname) for Aeneas’ son, Ascanius. It looks back to their Trojan ancestors (Ilus was one of Troy’s original founders, from whom the city derived the alternative name, Ilium) and forwards to the Julian family (gens Iulia), into which Augustus had been adopted by Julius Caesar. The link between the names is extremely tenuous, but would have brought great pleasure to Augustus, who commissioned the poem: if the Julian family was descended from Ascanius, they could also claim to be descended from the gods (since Venus was Ascanius’ grandmother).
res Ilia – “the state of Ilium (Troy).”
regno – “while there was a kingdom,” ablative of respect (lit. “with respect to there being a kingdom”). Somewhat superfluous, but perhaps reinforces Ascanius’ royal heritage, as well as filling out the line.
triginta magnos…imperio orbes explebit – “will fill out thirty great years in power.” The subject is Ascanius, from three lines above. orbes = orbes annorum. “The tone is oracular” (Fairclough and Brown).
volvendis mensibus – “of rolling months.” mensibus is an ablative of quality. The gerundive here acts like a present participle.
Longam…Albam – Alba Longa was an ancient city situated 12 miles southeast of Rome. The historian Livy says that Ascanius founded the settlement to relieve overcrowding at Lavinium (AUC 1.3), and that Alba Longa was destroyed by the Romans in the 7th century BC (AUC 1.29).
multa vi – “with much violence.” Each stage of Rome’s foundation involves fighting and death.
hic iam ter centum totos regnabitur annos
gente sub Hectorea, donec regina sacerdos
Marte gravis geminam partu dabit Ilia prolem.
inde lupae fulvo nutricis tegmine laetus275
Romulus excipiet gentem et Mavortia condet
moenia Romanosque suo de nomine dicet.
Here hic next iam there will be a kingdom regnabitur for three hundred ter centum whole totos years annos under sub the race gente of Hector Hectorea, until donec the priestess sacerdos queen regina Ilia Ilia, pregnant gravis by Mars Marte, gives dabit birth to partu twin geminam offspring prolem. Then inde Romulus Romulus, rejoicing laetus in the tawny fulvo hide tegmine of his wolf lupae nurse nutricis, will take up excipiet the race gentem and et found condet the city walls moenia of Mars Mavortia and -que will call (them) dicet Romans Romanos from de his own suo name nomine.
hic iam – “Here, next…” iam marks the next part of the prophecy.
ter centum annos – note the pattern: three years for Aeneas at Lavinium, thirty years for Iulus at Lavinium, three hundred years for Iulus and his descendants at Alba Longa. As well as accounting for a large part of the 430-odd years between the traditional dates for the fall of Troy (1184 BC) and the foundation of Rome (753 BC), Virgil’s numbers create a mystical sense of divine destiny.
regnabitur – “there will be a kingdom” (lit. “it will be ruled”). An impersonal use of the passive voice.
gente Hectorea – “Hector’s race,” i.e. the Trojans. Hector, a distant cousin of Aeneas, was the greatest Trojan of all.
Ilia – the mother of Romulus and Remus, more commonly known as Rhea Silvia.
Marte gravis – “pregnant by Mars.” Mars was a Roman god of war and agriculture, and therefore provides the ideal seed for a race of fighting farmers.
partu dabit = pariet “will give birth.”
geminam…prolem – “twin offspring,” i.e. Romulus and Remus.
fulvo…tegmine laetus – “rejoicing in the tawny hide.”
Romulus excipiet gentem – Jupiter glosses over the fact that Romulus murders his brother Remus, in a dispute which he himself oversees.
Mavortia…moenia – Mavortia (“of Mars”) may point at once to the birth of Romulus, the worship of Mars at Rome, and the martial character of the nation.
suo de nomine – “from his name.” A false etymology: the legendary character of Romulus derives his name from the city, rather than vice versa. Fairclough and Brown posit: “Roma (connected with Greek ῥέω, “flow”) is “the town by the river,” and Romulus is “the man from the river-town.”
his ego nec metas rerum nec tempora pono:
imperium sine fine dedi. quin aspera Iuno,
quae mare nunc terrasque metu caelumque fatigat,280
consilia in melius referet, mecumque fovebit
Romanos, rerum dominos gentemque togatam.
For them his I ego place pono neither nec limits metas of deeds rerum nor nec time constraints tempora: I have granted dedi an empire imperium without sine end fine. Indeed quin harsh aspera Juno Iuno, who quae now nunc wearies fatigat the sea mare, and -que the lands terras and -que the sky caelum with fear metu, will change referet her plans consilia for the better in melius, and -que will cherish fovebit the Romans Romanos with me mecum, masters dominos of the world rerum and -que the race gentem that wears the toga togatam.
nec metas rerum nec tempora pono – “I place no limits on their deeds nor time constraints.” tempora denotes finite periods of time.
imperium…dedi – notice the tense of dedi; Jupiter has already granted the empire.
quin – “why” or “indeed.”
quae…fatigat – Juno is running riot over heaven, sea and earth. The extent of her terror is brought out further through the polysyndeton.
consilia in melius referet – “will change her plans for the better.”
rerum dominos, gentem togatam – the two main characteristics of Roman rule: they are masters (dominos) over their subjects, yet exceptionally civilised, as epitomised by their clothing (togatam). The historian Suetonius records that Augustus quoted this line when he saw a shabbily dressed crowd at a public assembly (Aug. 40).
Mercury descends.Haec ait et Maia genitum demittit ab alto,
ut terrae utque novae pateant Karthaginis arces
hospitio Teucris, ne fati nescia Dido
finibus arceret. volat ille per aëra magnum300
remigio alarum, ac Libyae citus astitit oris.
He said ait this haec and et he sent down demittit from ab on high alto the son genitum of Maia Maia, so that ut the lands terrae and -que so that ut the citadels arces of new novae Carthage Karthaginis would be open pateant in hospitality hospitio for the Trojans Teucris, lest ne Dido Dido, ignorant nescia of destiny, fati kept (them) away arceret from her territory finibus. He ille flew volat through per the great magnum air aëra on an oarage remigio of wings alarum, and ac soon citus he stood astitit on the shores oris of Libya Libyae.
Maia genitum – “son of Maia” i.e. Mercury (Greek: Hermes), who was the messenger of the gods, as well as a god of trade and boundaries. His role here is somewhat vague, but he will return in Book 4 (4.238ff.) to urge Aeneas to leave Carthage and press on to Italy. Once again, Virgil is using Homer as a model: in Book 5 (line 43 ff.) of the Odyssey, Zeus sends Hermes to urge Calypso to release Odysseus from her island home.
demittit…volat…facit…accipit – historic present tense verbs to represent the speed with which Mercury operates.
ut utque – the repetition emphasises the grandness of the divine purpose: both the territory and the city should receive the Trojans.
novae Karthaginis – “of new Carthage.” The name Carthage comes from the Phoenician words for “new city.” Virgil is fond of using epithets which reinforce the etymology of place names.
hospitio Teucris – “in hospitality for the Trojans” (hospitio is a “predicative dative” – a use not found on the GCSE language syllabus).
fati nescia – “unaware of destiny.” The destiny in question must be that of Rome, since Dido would not have received the Trojans willingly if she knew of the personal tragedy that awaits her in Book 4.
remigio alarum – “on an oarage of wings.” Another sea-themed metaphor.
citus – “soon.”
astitit – “he stood.” Note the use of the perfect tense, momentarily breaking the sequence of historic present tense verbs.
et iam iussa facit, ponuntque ferocia Poeni
corda volente deo; in primis regina quietum
accipit in Teucros animum mentemque benignam.
And et now iam he enacted facit his orders iussa, and -que the Phoenicians Poeni put aside ponunt their fierce ferocia hearts corda with the god deo willing it volente; among in the first primis, the queen regina adopted accipit a peaceful quietum attitude animum and -que a kindly benignam mind mentem towards in the Trojans Teucros.
iussa facit, ponuntque ferocia..corda – the chiasmus reflects how Mercury’s actions have an immediate effect on the Carthaginians.
volente deo – “with the god willing it.” deo probably alludes to Jupiter rather than Mercury, who is merely an agent for his father’s purpose.
quietum…animum mentemque benignam – another chiasmus, with the words quietum and benignam emphasised by their positions at the end of their lines.
Aeneas ascends.Corripuere viam interea, qua semita monstrat,
iamque ascendebant collem, qui plurimus urbi
imminet adversasque aspectat desuper arces.420
miratur molem Aeneas, magalia quondam,
miratur portas strepitumque et strata viarum.
Meanwhile interea they hurried on their way corripuere viam, where qua the path semita indicated monstrat, and -que now iam they were climbing ascendebant a hill collem, which qui, with mighty mass plurimus, looms over imminet the city urbi and -que looks at aspectat the citadels arces opposite adversas from above desuper. Aeneas Aeneas marvelled at miratur its size molem, previously quondam (mere) huts magalia, he marvelled at miratur the gates portas and -que the noise strepitum and et the paved strata streets viarum.
interea – “meanwhile.” In the 100-odd lines since Mercury descended, Venus, disguised as a hunting-girl, has met Aeneas and Achates and told them Dido’s backstory. She then enveloped them in a cloud of mist, so that they can enter the city without being seen, while she herself went off to Cyprus.
corripuere viam – “they hurried on their way.” corripuere = corripuerunt. This idiomatic expression, perhaps coined by Virgil, gives a sense of the Trojans’ eagerness to reach the city.
plurimus – “with mighty mass.”
magalia quondam – “once mere huts.” Virgil is drawing a contrast between the early settlement of the area and the splendour of Dido’s new city. Rome had similarly humble origins, both historically and as portrayed in the Aeneid when Aeneas meets Evander (8.360-70).
miratur…viarum – the alliteration of m sounds and the repetition of miratur convey the sense of awe Aeneas feels at the sight of the city; the harsher alliteration of strepitum…strata interrupts this, and reminds us of the noise and bustle of large settlements.
The Carthaginians are as busy as bees.instant ardentes Tyrii: pars ducere muros
molirique arcem et manibus subvolvere saxa,
pars optare locum tecto et concludere sulco,425
iura magistratusque legunt sanctumque senatum.
The Tyrians Tyrii eagerly ardentes pressed on instant: some pars traced out ducere walls muros and -que built up moliri the citadel arcem and et rolled uphill subvolvere rocks saxa with their hands manibus, some pars were choosing optare a site locum for a building tecto and et enclosing (it) concludere with a trench sulco, they were choosing legunt laws iura and -que magistracies magistratus and -que a sacred sanctum senate senatum.
instant ardentes Tyrii – the eagerness of the Carthaginians (Tyrii) is emphasised by the meaning, position and tense (historic present) of instant. The juxtaposition with ardentes, itself an emotive word (from ardeo “I am on fire”), shows the passion of the new settlers.
pars … pars – “some … others,” relating to the Carthaginians. The infinitives which follow (ducere, moliri, subvolere, optare and concludere) are probably dependent on instant, but (more usefully if commenting on style) could be considered historic infinitives, to convey a vivid sense of urgency.
ducere muros – either “traced the walls” (i.e. marked the outlines) or “built the walls” (i.e. “led” them outwards).
concludere sulco – “enclosed (the dwelling) with a trench.” A sulcus was usually the boundary ditch dug around an entire city. Its use here, for individual buildings, stresses the care and importance the Carthaginians attach to each element of their new town.
iura magistratusque legunt sanctumque senatum – a very patriotic line. iura refers to the legal rights of Roman citizens and magistratus to the Roman offices of state (consul, praetor, etc.). The importance of the senate is highlighted by the position of senatum at the end of the line, and at the end of a tricolon (crescens), the fact it is described as sanctum (“holy”) and the sibilance that this description provides. The use of legunt with all three nouns constitutes a zeugma. Connington says: ‘Virgil was probably thinking of the Republican constitutions of Rome and her colonies without considering how this action of the people was to be reconciled with the authority of Dido.’
hic portus alii effodiunt; hic alta theatris
fundamenta locant alii, immanesque columnas
rupibus excidunt, scaenis decora apta futuris:
Here hic, some alii were excavating effodiunt a harbour portus; here hic, others alii were laying locant the deep alta foundations fundamenta of a theatre theatris, and -que carving out excidunt vast immanes columns columnas from the rocks rupibus, fitting apta adornments decora for future futuris stages scaenis:
hic … hic … – “here … here …” Once again, it is as if Virgil is guiding us around a large wall painting as he points out the various scenes of industry.
theatris fundamenta – “foundations for theatres.” An example of Virgil “Romanising” the distant past, since theatres were not constructed in the Mediterranean until centuries after the poem is set. Interestingly, the story of Dido and Aeneas in Book 4 is told very much like a Greek tragic play, and this reference could be Virgil’s way of preparing his audience.
qualis apes aestate nova per florea rura 430
exercet sub sole labor, cum gentis adultos
educunt fetus, aut cum liquentia mella
stipant et dulci distendunt nectare cellas,
aut onera accipiunt venientum, aut agmine facto
ignavum fucos pecus a praesepibus arcent;435
fervet opus redolentque thymo fraglantia mella.
just like qualis the work (which) labor occupies exercet bees apes in early nova summer aestate, through per the flowery florea countryside rura under sub the sun sole, when cum they lead out educunt the mature adultos young fetus of the tribe gentis, when cum either aut they compress stipant liquid liquentia honey mella and et swell distendunt their cells cellas with sweet dulci nectar nectare, or aut they receive accipiunt the loads onera of those arriving venientum, or aut, having formed facto a line agmine, they ward off arcent the drones fucos, a lazy ignavum herd pecus, from a the stalls praesepibus: the work opus rages on fervet and -que the fragrant fraglantia honey mella smells redolent of thyme thymo.
quails apes … – One of several bee similes in the Aeneid (e.g. 6.707-9, 12.587-93), and an almost exact reproduction of one from the Georgics, an earlier work of Virgil’s (Geo. 4.162-9). The comparison between the hard-working bees and the zealous Carthaginian settlers is made especially vivid by Virgil’s attention to detail.
agmine facto – “having formed a line.” This phrase alludes to military discipline, which the Romans considered essential to the success of the state.
ignavum fucos pecus – “the drones, a lazy herd.” In defence of their pathetic existence, Maclennan explains: ‘Drones are male bees. They do not, as the worker (female) bees do, gather pollen or nectar. Their only function is to fertilise the queen (a chance which comes to only a very few of them) and to keep the hive warm while the workers are out. At the end of summer they are either killed by the workers or driven out of the hive to die of starvation. Virgil’s view of drones as a plundering bandit group is fanciful.’
‘o fortunati, quorum iam moenia surgunt!’
Aeneas ait et fastigia suspicit urbis.
infert se saeptus nebula (mirabile dictu)
per medios, miscetque viris neque cernitur ulli.440
‘O O lucky ones fortunati, whose quorum city walls moenia now iam rise surgunt!’ Aeneas Aeneas spoke ait and et looked up suspicit at the roofs fastigia of the city urbis. He took himself onwards, infert se surrounded saeptus by a cloud nebula (wonderful mirabile to tell dictu!), through per the middle of them medios, and -que mingled miscet with men viris nor neque was seen cernitur by anyone ulli.
o fortunati – Aeneas envies the Carthaginians because they are able to do what he has wanted to do for a long time: to lay the foundations of a city. This desire for a city, any city, will fuel his attraction to Dido.
suspicit – “he looked up.” Clearly, Aeneas has now descended the hill.
saeptus nebula – “surrounded by a cloud.” The cloud of mist was created by Aeneas’ mother, Venus. The wondrous nature of the cloud is emphasised by Virgil’s turn of address (apostrophe), mirabile dictu.
per medios, miscetque viris neque cernitur ulli – per medios and miscet viris repeat the same idea (tautology), emphasising the magical powers of the cloud, the success of which is confirmed by neque cernitur ulli.
Aeneas spies Dido, looking like Diana.Haec dum Dardanio Aeneae miranda videntur,
dum stupet obtutuque haeret defixus in uno,495
regina ad templum, forma pulcherrima Dido,
incessit magna iuvenum stipante caterva.
While dum these haec wonderful things miranda were seen videntur by Dardanian Dardanio Aeneas Aeneae, while dum he was amazed stupet and -que sat fast haeret, fixed defixus in in one uno gaze obtutu, the queen regina advanced incessit towards ad the temple templum , Dido Dido, most beautiful pulcherrima in appearance forma, with a large magna retinue caterva of youths iuvenum crowding round stipante.
miranda – “wonderful things.” This refers to the images of the Trojan War, decorations on the Temple of Juno, which Aeneas has been admiring.
videntur – passive (“were seen”) not deponent (“seemed”).
Dardanio Aeneae – a dative of agent after videntur. Translate like an ablative (“by Dardanian Aeneas”). “Dardanian” is synonymous with “Trojan,” since Dardanus was an early ancestor of the Trojan race (after whom the Dardanelles are named). The epithet is particularly fitting here since Aeneas has been looking at scenes of the Trojan War.
dum … dum – “while … while …” The repetition (anaphora) creates suspense before Dido’s grand entrance.
stupet … uno – This line describes how Aeneas is awestruck by the images of the Trojan War. Carthage is a long way from Troy and yet the fame of the war, and of Aeneas himself, has already reached these parts.
regina … Dido – Our first view of queen Dido. regina and Dido, which belong together, instead straddle the line for emphasis.
forma pulcherrima – “most beautiful in appearance,” but could also mean “most beautiful in her beauty,” a tautological expression to stress Dido’s comeliness.
incessit – A word for movement which implies majesty and nobility, placed prominently at the start of the line.
qualis in Eurotae ripis aut per iuga Cynthi
exercet Diana choros, quam mille secutae
hinc atque hinc glomerantur Oreades; illa pharetram500
fert umero gradiensque deas supereminet omnes
(Latonae tacitum pertemptant gaudia pectus):
Just as qualis, on in the banks ripis of the Eurotas Eurotae or aut along per the ridges iuga of Cynthus Cynthi, Diana Diana works exercet her chorus choros, whom quam a thousand mille Oreades Oreades have followed secutae (and) are gathering around glomerantur on this side hinc and atque that hinc; she illa carries fert a quiver pharetram on her shoulder umero and -que rises above supereminet all the (other) omnes goddesses deas as she moves gradiens (joy gaudia thrills pertemptant Latona’s Latonae silent tacitum heart pectus):
The simile which follows is lightly adapted from Homer’s description of the Phaeacian princess Nausicaa in Book 6 of the Odyssey (Od. 6.102ff.). While Nausicaa is a very different character to Dido, both are presented as potential brides, threatening weddings which would prevent the respective heroes from completing their quests (Odysseus from reaching his home on Ithaca, Aeneas from reaching Italy).
Diana – Diana was the Roman goddess of hunting and the moon (associated with the Greek goddess Artemis). These attributes are fitting, since Aeneas and Dido will “marry” while out hunting (4.165ff.) and Dido will appear like moonlight when Aeneas sees her in the underworld (6.454). More than this, Diana was a virgin goddess, and Dido has taken a vow of chastity since the death of her husband, Sychaeus.
Oreades – the Oreads were mountain nymphs who would accompany Artemis on hunting expeditions.
deas – i.e. the Oreads.
gradiens – “as she moved.”
Latonae – Latona (Greek: Leto) was the mother of Diana and Apollo.
tacitum pertemptant gaudia pectus – “joy thrills her silent heart,” i.e. she experiences unspeakable joy in her heart.
talis erat Dido, talem se laeta ferebat
per medios, instans operi regnisque futuris.
tum foribus divae, media testudine templi,505
saepta armis solioque alto subnixa resedit.
such talis was erat Dido Dido, she carried ferebat herself se as such talem happily laeta through per the middle medios, urging on instans the work operi and -que the future futuris kingdom regnis. Then tum, at the doors foribus of the goddess divae, in the middle of media the vault testudine of the temple templi, she sat down resedit, surrounded saepta by weapons armis and -que resting subnixa on a tall alto throne solio.
talis … talem – repetition (anaphora and polyptoton) to stress Dido’s heavenly beauty and stature.
laeta – as well as looking like Diana, Dido feels the joy of Latona: she is conscious of her own beauty and magnificence.
instans operi regnisque futuris – “urging on the work and the kingdom-to-be.” operi and regnis are dative after instans. They also form a hendiadys (the single concept being “the work of the future kingdom”). regnis is plural for singular.
foribus divae – “at the doors of the goddess,” the goddess being Juno, to whom the temple is consecrated. foribus probably refers to the doors of the cella (“inner chamber”) rather than the outer doors of the temple. The location of Dido’s throne, so close to the image of Juno which would have been housed inside the cella, provides a tense moment of dramatic irony (since Juno wishes Aeneas and his Trojans dead).
saepta … resedit – the sibilance running through the whole line suggests Dido’s majesty. When she eventually takes her seat to administer business (resedit), it is after a long, descriptive build-up.
Dido administrates; the Trojans head to the temple.iura dabat legesque viris, operumque laborem
partibus aequabat iustis aut sorte trahebat,
cum subito Aeneas concursu accedere magno
Anthea Sergestumque videt fortemque Cloänthum510
Teucrorumque alios, ater quos aequore turbo
dispulerat penitusque alias avexerat oras.
She was giving dabat rules iura and -que laws leges to men viris, and -que dividing up aequabat the toil laborem of the tasks operum in equal iustis parts partibus or aut drawing it trahebat by lot sorte, when cum suddenly subito Aeneas Aeneas saw videt, with a great magno crowd concursu, Antheus Anthea and -que Sergestus Sergestum and -que brave fortem Cloanthus Cloänthum approaching accedere, and -que the other alios Trojans Teucrorum, whom quos the black ater hurricane turbo had scattered dispulerat on the open sea aequore and -que had carried avexerat far away penitus to other alias shores oras.
iura dabat legesque viris – the imperfect tense of dabat could be translated as “she was giving” or “she began to give.” In either case, it sets up Dido’s actions to be interrupted by the crowd of Trojans who are heading noisily to the temple. There is no notable distinction here between iura and leges (“rights” and “laws”), but both words combine to emphasise a very Roman sense of jurisprudence.
viris – Virgil stresses that Dido is a woman wielding power over men; he could have used a more gender neutral word, such as hominibus, if he had wanted to avoid the contrast. In Rome, women had no political voice at all.
partibus aequabat iustis – “(she) was dividing (the toil) into equal parts.” Our first impression of Dido was of her beauty, now we are witnessing her diplomacy and sense of fairness. The same verb (aequo) was used of Aeneas when he shared the stags with his men at the start of the set text, perhaps suggesting their compatibility as partners in power.
sorte trahebat – i.e. Dido draws lots to assign the work which cannot easily be shared equally.
concursu magno – “along with a great crowd.” cursus (from curro “I run”) describes the excitable manner in which the Carthaginians are hurrying around the Trojans.
Anthea Sergestumque … Cloänthum – Aeneas was looking for Antheus in line 181 and wept for Cloänthus in line 222 (not in the set text). Cloänthus and Sergestus will both take part in the boat race in Book 5, where Virgil claims they are the ancestors of two Roman noble families, the Sergii and the Cluenti (5.121-3).
alias oras – “onto other shores,” i.e. shores other than the one Aeneas was washed up on.
obstipuit simul ipse, simul percussus Achates
laetitiaque metuque; avidi coniungere dextras
ardebant, sed res animos incognita turbat.515
At once simul he himself ipse was astonished obstipuit, at once simul Achates Achates was struck percussus both -que by happiness laetitia and -que by fear metu; eagerly avidi they longed ardebant to join coniungere their right hands dextras, but sed the unfamiliar incognita situation res troubled turbat their hearts animos.
simul … simul – “both … and.”
laetitiaque metu – “by joy and by fear.” The juxtaposition reveals the mixed emotions felt by Aeneas and Achates: joy that their comrades are alive, fear of how they will be dealt with by the Carthaginians. Note that each man is similarly struck by these emotions (obstipuit describes Aeneas, percussus (est) Achates).
ardebant – an emphatic verb, stronger than cupio, but similar in that it may be followed by an infinitive (here, coniugere). This longing of Aeneas and Achates to embrace their comrades is heightened by the position of ardebant (enjambment) and the use of avidi, which should be treated as an adverb (“eagerly”).
res animos incognita turbat – the situation (res) is incognita because Aeneas and Achates do not know how they and the other Trojans will be received. The verb turbat echoes the hurricane (turbo) both in position (at the end of the line) and in its sense of danger: they may have survived the storm, but Aeneas and his men are not yet safe. They could still endure a fate like Palinurus, their helmsman, who is stabbed to death by strangers when he is washed ashore on the Italian coast later in the poem (6.355-361).
dissimulant et nube cava speculantur amicti
quae fortuna viris, classem quo litore linquant,
quid veniant; cunctis nam lecti navibus ibant
orantes veniam, et templum clamore petebant.
They hid their feelings dissimulant and et, cloaked amicti in the hollow cava cloud nube, they watched speculantur: what (was) quae the fortune fortuna of the men viris, on what quo shore litore did they leave linquant their fleet classem, why quid did they come veniant; for nam the chosen men lecti from all cunctis the ships navibus were coming ibant requesting orantes grace veniam, and et they were heading for petebant the temple templum in an uproar clamore.
dissimulant – this verb is usually accompanied by an object noun, but here we must supply our own. Either “they hid their feelings” or “they concealed their presence.”
quae … quo … quid – the three (indirect) questions are triggered by speculantur (“they looked to see”) and linked by the polyptoton of quis.
quae fortuna – supply sit.
quid veniant – “why they were coming.”
lecti – “chosen men.”
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GCSE Latin 2017 Verse Lit B – Aeneid I
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In Our Time: The Aeneid
BBC Radio discussion about the content, history and impact of the Aeneid.
Listen to the whole of the first book of the Aeneid, translated into English by Robert Fagles, read by Simon Callow.
Oxford University: Virgil and the Aeneid
Virgil and the historical context of his epic poem as discussed by Professor Stephen Harrison.