The Story of Aeneas
Bk XIII:623-40a Aeneas begins his wanderings
Yet the fates did not allow Troy’s destiny, also, to be overthrown with her walls. Aeneas, Cytherean Venus’s heroic son, carried away on his shoulders her sacred icons, and bore his father, another sacred and venerable burden. He dutifully chose that prize from all his riches, and his son Ascanius, and carried over the sea in his exiled fleet, he left Antandros’s harbour, and the sinful thresholds of Thrace, and the soil drenched in Polydorus’s blood, and riding the favourable winds and tides, he came with his company of friends, to the city of Apollo on Delos.Anius, who ruled the people, and worshipped Phoebus, with the proper ritual, as high priest, received him in palace and temple. He showed him the city, the famous sanctuary, and the two trees to which Latona clung when she gave birth. They gave incense to the flames, poured wine onto the incense, and, in accord with custom, burned the entrails of slaughtered oxen, and then sought out the royal palace, where reclining on high couches, they ate the gifts of Ceres, and drank the wine of Bacchus. Then virtuous Anchises said. . . .
Bk XIV: 68-74 Conclusion of the Glaucus and Scylla episode
Her lover Glaucus wept, and fled Circe’s embrace, she, who had made too hostile a use of her herbs’ powers. Scylla remained where she was, and, at the first opportunity, in her hatred of Circe, robbed Ulysses of his companions. Later she would have overwhelmed the Trojan ships, if she had not previously been transformed into a rock, whose stone is visible even now: a rock that sailors still avoid.
Bk XIV:75-100 Aeneas journeys to Cumae
When the oarsmen of the Trojan ships had escaped Scylla, and rapacious Charybdis, when they had almost reached the Ausonian shore, the wind carried them to the coast of Libya. There Sidonian Queen Dido took Aeneas into her heart and home, she, who was fated not to endure her Phrygian husband’s departure. She stabbed herself with his sword, on a blazing pyre, that was built as if it were intended for sacred rites, deceiving, as she had been deceived.
Fleeing from the new city, Carthage, and its sandy shores, and carried back to the home of his loyal half-brother Acestes, son of Venus of Eryx, Aeneas sacrificed there, and paid honours at his dead father’s, Anchises’s, tomb. Then he loosed the ships, that Iris almost destroyed by fire, at Juno’s command, and passed the Aeolian Islands, smoking with clouds of hot sulphur, the kingdom of Aeolus, son of Hippotes, and passed the rocky isle of the Sirens, the daughters of Acheloüs.
Bereft of its pilot, Palinurus, he follows the coast by Inarime, Prochyte, and Pithecusae, on its barren hill, named after its inhabitants, from pithecium, a little ape. For the father of the gods, Jupiter, hating the lying and deceit of the Cercopes, and the crimes of that treacherous people, changed them into disgraceful creatures, so that, though unlike men, they should seem like them. He contracted their limbs, turned up and blunted their noses, and furrowed their faces with the wrinkles of old age. Their bodies completely covered by yellow hair, he sent them, as monkeys, to this place, but not before he had robbed them of the power of speech, and those tongues born for dreadful deceit, leaving them only the power to complain in raucous shrieks.
Bk XIV:101-153 Aeneas and the Sybil of Cumae
When he had passed those islands, and left the walls of Parthenope behind him to starboard, the tomb of Misenus, the trumpeter, the son of Aeolus, was to larboard, and the shore of Cumae, a place filled with marshy sedges. He entered the cave of the Sibyl, and asked to go down to Avernus, to find his father’s ghost. Then the Sibyl after remaining, for a long time, with her eyes gazing at the earth, lifted them, at last, filled with the frenzy of the god, and cried: ‘You ask great things, man of great achievements, whose hand has been tested by the sword, whose faith has been tested by the fire. But have no fear, Trojan, you will have what you desire, and, with me as your guide, you will know the halls of Elysium, and earth’s strangest realm, and the likeness of your dear father. To virtue, no way is barred.’
She spoke, and pointed out to him a gleaming golden bough, in the woods of Proserpine, the Juno of Avernus, and ordered him to break it from the tree. Aeneas obeyed, and saw the power of dread Dis, and he saw his own ancestors, and the ancient shade of great-souled Anchises. He learned also the laws of those regions, and the trials he must undergo in fresh wars.
Then taking the return path, with weary paces, he eased the labour by talking with his Cumean guide. As he travelled the fearful road through the shadowy twilight, he said: ‘Whether you are truly a goddess, or only most beloved by the gods, you will always be like a goddess to me, and I will acknowledge myself in your debt, who have allowed me to enter the place of the dead, and having seen that place of the dead, escape it. When I reach the upper air, I will build a temple to you, for this service, and burn incense in your honour.’
The priestess gazed at him and with a deep sigh, said: ‘I am not a goddess: and do not assume any human being is worth the honour of holy incense, or err out of ignorance. I was offered eternal life without end, if I would surrender my virginity to Phoebus my lover. While he still hoped for it, while he desired to bribe me beforehand with gifts, he said: “Virgin of Cumae, choose what you wish, and what you wish you shall have.” Pointing to a pile of dust, that had collected, I foolishly begged to have as many anniversaries of my birth, as were represented by the dust. But I forgot to ask that the years should be accompanied by youth. He gave me the years, and lasting youth, as well, if I would surrender: I rejected Phoebus’s gift, and never married.
But now my more fruitful time has turned its back on me, and old age comes, with tottering step, that must be long endured. Though I have now lived seven centuries, three hundred harvests, three hundred vintages, still remain to be seen, to equal the content of the dust. The time will come when the passage of days will render such body as I have tiny, and my limbs, consumed with age, will reduce to the slightest of burdens. I will be thought never to have loved, and never to have delighted a god. Phoebus too perhaps will either not know me, or will deny that he loved me. I will go as far as having to suffer transformation, and I will be viewed as non-existent, but still known as a voice: the fates will bequeath me a voice.’
Bk XIV:154-222 Macareus meets Achaemenides again
As the Sibyl spoke these words, they emerged, by the rising path, from the Stygian regions, into the city of Cumae of the Euboeans. Trojan Aeneas came to the shore that was later named after his nurse Caieta, where he carried out her funeral rites, as accepted, according to custom. This was also the place where Macareus of Neritos, a companion of sorely tried Ulysses, had settled, after the interminable weariness of hardship.
Macareus now recognised Achaemenides, among the Trojans, he, who had been given up as lost, by Ulysses, long ago, among the rocks of Aetna. Astonished to discover him, unexpectedly, still alive, he asked: ‘What god or chance preserved you, Achaemenides? Why does a Trojan vessel now carry a Greek? What land is your ship bound for? Achaemenides, no longer clothed in rags, his shreds of clothing held together with thorns, but himself again, replied to his questions, in these words: ‘If this ship is not more to me than Ithaca and my home, if I revere Aeneas less than my father, let me gaze at Polyphemus once more, with his gaping mouth dripping human blood. I can never thank Aeneas enough, even if I offered my all. Could I forget, or be ungrateful for, the fact that I speak and breathe and see the sky and the sun’s glory? Aeneas granted that my life did not end in the monster’s jaws, and when I leave the light of day, now, I shall be buried in the tomb, not, indeed, in its belly.
What were my feelings, then (if fear had not robbed me of all sense and feeling), abandoned, seeing you making for the open sea? I wanted to shout to you, but feared to reveal myself to the enemy. Indeed, Ulysses’s shout nearly wrecked your vessel. I watched as Cyclops tore an enormous boulder from the mountainside, and threw it into the midst of the waves. I watched again as he hurled huge stones, as if from a catapult, using the power of his gigantic arms, and, forgetting I was not on board the ship, I was terrified that the waves and air they displaced would sink her.
When you escaped by flight from certain death, Polyphemus roamed over the whole of Aetna, groaning, and groping through the woods with his hands, stumbling, bereft of his sight, among the rocks. Stretching out his arms, spattered with blood, to the sea, he cursed the Greek race like the plague, saying: “O, if only chance would return Ulysses to me, or one of his companions, on whom I could vent my wrath, whose entrails I could eat, whose living body I could tear with my hands, whose blood could fill my gullet, and whose torn limbs could quiver between my teeth: the damage to me of my lost sight would count little or nothing then!”
Fiercely he shouted, this and more. I was pale with fear, looking at his face still dripping with gore, his cruel hands, the empty eye-socket, his limbs and beard coated with human blood. Death was in front of my eyes, but that was still the least of evils. Now he’ll catch me, I thought, now he’ll merge my innards with his own, and the image stuck in my mind of the moment when I saw him hurl two of my friends against the ground, three, four times, and crouching over them like a shaggy lion, he filled his greedy jaws with flesh and entrails, bones full of white marrow, and warm limbs.
Trembling seized me: I stood there, pale and downcast, watching him chew and spit out his bloody feast, vomiting up lumps of matter, mixed with wine. I imagined a like fate was being prepared for my wretched self. I hid for many days, trembling at every sound, scared of dying but longing to be dead, staving off hunger with acorns, and a mixture of leaves and grasses, alone, without help or hope, left to torture and death.
After a long stretch of time, I spied this ship far off, begging them by gestures to rescue me, and ran to the shore and moved their pity: a Trojan ship received a Greek!
Now, dearest of comrades, tell me of your fortunes too, and of your leader, and the company that has entrusted itself to the sea with you.’
Bk XIV:441-44 The Burial of CaietaAeneas’s nurse, Caieta, was interred in a marble urn, having a brief epitaph carved on her tomb:
HERE HE WHOM I, CAIETA, NURSED, WHO, NOTED FOR HIS PIETY,
SAVED ME FROM ACHAEAN FIRE, AS IS RIGHT, CREMATED ME.
Bk XIV:445-82 War in Latium: Turnus asks Diomede’s help
Freeing their cables from the grassy shore, and keeping far away from the treacherous island and the home of the infamous goddess, the Trojans sought the groves where dark-shadowed Tiber, rushes, yellow with sand, to the sea. There, Aeneas won the daughter, Lavinia, and the kingdom of Latinus, son of Faunus, but not without a battle.Turnus fights with fury for his promised bride, and war is waged with a fierce people. All Etruria clashes with Latium, and for a long time, with anxious struggle, hard-fought victory is looked for. Both sides add to their strength with outside aid, and many support the Rutuli, many others the Trojan camp. Aeneas did not seek help from Evander in vain, but Venulus, sent by Turnus, had no profit from the city of exiled Diomede. He had founded a major city, Arpi, in Daunus’s kingdom of Iapygia, and held the country given him as a dowry. When Venulus had done as Turnus commanded and asked for help, Diomede, Aetolia’s hero, pleaded lack of resources as an excuse: he did not wish to commit himself or his father-in-law’s people, nor had he any men of his own race he could arm. ‘So that you do not think that these are lies,’ he said, ‘I will endure the telling of my story patiently, though its mention renews my bitter grief.
When high Ilium had been burned, and Pergama had fed the Greek fires, and when Ajax, hero of Naryx, had brought down, on us all, the virgin goddess Minerva’s punishment, that he alone deserved, for the rape of virgin Cassandra, we Greeks were taken, and scattered by storms, over the hostile seas. We suffered lightning, darkness, and storms, the anger of sea and sky, and Cape Caphereus, the culminating disaster. Not to waste time by telling you our sad misfortunes one by one, the Greeks then might even have appeared to warrant Priam’s tears. Warrior Minerva’s saving care for me, however, rescued me from the waves. But I was driven from my native country again, for gentle Venus, remembering the wound I had once given her, exacted punishment. I suffered such great toils in the deep sea, such conflicts on land, that I often called those happy whom the storm, that we shared, and the troubled waters, of Caphereus, drowned, and I longed to have been one of them.’
Bk XIV:483-511 Acmon and others are changed into birds
‘Now my friends lost heart, having endured ultimate misery in war and on the sea, and begged me to end our wanderings. But fiery-natured Acmon, truly exasperated by our disasters, said: “What is left, indeed, men, that your patience would not bear? What more could Cytherean Venus do, do you think, if she wished to? When we fear the worst there is a place for prayer, but when our lot is worst, fear is under our feet, and at the height of misfortune we are unconcerned. Though she herself should hear me, though she should hate, as she does, all those under Diomede’s command, yet we all scorn her hatred. Great powers hardly count as great to us.”
Acmon of Pleuron goaded Venus with these insulting words, and rekindled her former anger. Few of us approved of what he said: the majority of his friends reproved him, and when he tried to answer, his voice and throat grew attenuated; his hair turned to plumage; and plumage covered his newly formed neck, chest and back. His arms received large feathers, and his elbows twisted to form swift wings; his toes took up most of his feet, and his face hardened and stiffened like horn, and ended in a pointed beak. Lycus, and Idas, Rhexenor, Nycteus and Abas, marvelled at him, and while they marvelled, they took the same form. The larger number of the flock rose, and circled the oarsmen on beating wings. If you ask the shape of these suddenly created birds, they were like white swans, though they were not swans. Now I can scarcely hold this house, and its parched fields, as Daunus of Iapygia’s son-in-law, with this tiny remnant of my friends.’
Bk XIV:512-26 The creation of the wild olive
So said Diomede, grandson of Oeneus of Calydon. Venulus left that kingdom passing the Peucetian valleys, and the fields of Messapia. Here he came across a cave, dark with trees, and masked by slender reeds, that now is held by the goat-god Pan, but once was held by the nymphs. A shepherd from that region of Apulia scared them to flight, at first, suddenly inspiring terror in them. When they had collected their wits, scornful of their pursuer, they returned to their dancing, feet skipping to the measure.
The shepherd mocked them, leaping wildly in imitation, and adding foul language, with coarse abuse. Nor was his mouth silent till tree-bark imprisoned his throat: he is indeed a tree: you may know its character, by the taste of its fruit that bears the mark of his speech in the wild olives’ bitterness. The sharpness of his words has entered them.
Bk XIV:527-65 The transformation of Aeneas’s ships
When the ambassadors returned, saying that Aetolia’s arms were denied them, the Rutuli pursued war without their help, and much blood was spilled on both sides. Turnus attacked the pinewood ships, with devouring fire, and the Trojans feared to lose by fire what the sea had spared. Now Mulciber’s flames burned the pitch and wax, and other fuel, and climbed the tall masts to the sails, and the thwarts across the curved hulls were smouldering, when Cybele, the sacred mother of the gods, remembering that these pines were felled on Mount Ida’s summit, filled the air with the clashing throb of bronze cymbals, and the shrilling of boxwood flutes. Carried through the clear air by tame lions, she cried out: ‘Turnus, you hurl those firebrands, with sacrilegious hands, in vain! I will save: I will not allow the devouring fire to burn what was part of my woods and belongs to me.’
As the goddess spoke it thundered, and, after the thunder, heavy rain, and leaping hail, fell, and the winds, the brothers, sons of Astraeus the Titan by Aurora, troubled the air and the sea, swollen by the sudden onrush, and joined the conflict. The all-sustaining mother goddess, used the force of one of them, and broke the hempen cables of the Trojan ships, drove them headlong, and sank them in the deep ocean.
Their rigidity softened, and their wood turned to flesh; the curved sternposts turned into heads; the oars into fingers and legs, swimming; the sides of each vessel became flanks, and the submerged keel down the ship’s middle turned into a spine; the cordage became soft hair, the yards were arms; and their dusky colour was as before. Naiads of the waters, they play, in the waves they used to fear, and born on the hills they frequent the gentle sea, and their origin does not affect them. Yet not forgetting how many dangers they have often endured on the ocean, they often place their hands beneath storm-tossed boats, unless they have carried Greeks. Remembering, as yet, the Trojan disaster, they hate the Pelasgians and with joyful faces they saw the wreckage of Ulysses’s ship, and with joyful faces they saw King Alcinous’s vessel become a rock, its wood turning to stone.
Bk XIV:566-80 The heron is born from Ardea’s ruins
There was hope that the Rutuli, in awe of the wonder of the Trojan fleet being turned into sea-nymphs, would abandon the war. It continued, and both sides had gods to help them, and courage that is worth as much as the gods’ assistance. Now they were not seeking a kingdom as a dowry, nor a father-in-law’s sceptre, nor you, virgin Lavinia, but to win: and they waged war because they were ashamed to surrender. At length Turnus fell, and Venus saw her son’s weapons victorious. Ardea fell, spoken of as a power while Turnus lived. After the savage fires had destroyed it, and warm ashes buried its houses, a bird flew from the ruins, one now seen for the first time, and beat at the embers with flapping wings. Its cry, its leanness, its pallor, everything that fitted the captured city, even its name, ardea, the heron, survived in the bird: and in the beating of its wings, Ardea mourns itself.
Bk XIV:581-608 The deification of AeneasAeneas’s virtues had compelled all the gods, even Juno herself, to bring to an end their ancient feud, and since his young son Julus’s fortunes were firmly founded, Cytherea’s heroic son was ripe for heaven. Venus had sought the opinion of the gods, and throwing her arms round her father’s neck, had said ‘You have never been harsh to me, father, now be kindest of all, I beg you. Grant my Aeneas, who claims you as his grandfather through my bloodline, some divinity, however little - you choose - so long as you grant him something! It is enough that he once gazed on the hateful kingdom, once crossed the steams of Styx.’ The gods agreed, and Juno, the royal consort, did not display her severe expression, but consented peacefully. Then Jupiter said: ‘You are worthy of this divine gift, you who ask, as is he for whom you ask it: my daughter, possess what you desire!’
The word was spoken: with joy she thanked her father, and drawn by her team of doves through the clear air, she came to the coast of Laurentum, where the waters of the River Numicius, hidden by reeds, wind down to the neighbouring sea. She ordered the river-god to cleanse Aeneas, of whatever was subject to death, and bear it away, in his silent course, into the depths of the ocean. The horned god executed Venus’s orders, and purged Aeneas of whatever was mortal, and dispersed it on the water: what was best in him remained. Once purified, his mother anointed his body with divine perfume, touched his lips with a mixture of sweet nectar and ambrosia, and made him a god, whom the Romans named Indiges, admitting him to their temples and altars.