It is with great pleasure that Sabidius has, after a considerable interval, returned to Virgil's "Aeneid" for his next piece of translation. Although Book VIII does not appear, on the face of it, to be one of the work's most exceptional books, quite a number of texts of it have been published for both scholastic and literary purposes, and a translator soon discovers its appeal when he becomes enmeshed in the detail of his work. 
The focus of Book VIII is Aeneas' visit to the old Greek king Evander, who has settled with his Arcadian people on the Palatine Hill within the future site of Rome. While promising Aeneas help, Evander conducts him through the city, and explains the origin of various sites and names familiar to Virgil's Roman audience. Although some of this legendary detail may not be immediately engaging to modern readers, it must have been particularly fascinating to Romans, who, while they would probably not have believed in the actual historic truth of this Virgilian kaleidoscope, would nevertheless have been convinced that the overwhelming power achieved by their city had depended to a very real degree on the favour shown to them by the gods, and who would thus have revelled in the exciting version which Virgil offers to them to explain the genesis of this divine favour. 


Particular highlights of Book VIII include Hercules' destruction of the robber Cacus, as explained by Evander in lines 184-279, a most gripping account, which in its ghoulish details reminds one of the blinding of Polyphemus by Ulysses in Book IX of Homer's "Odyssey", a story memorably resurrected by Virgil in Book III of the "Aeneid". The pathos of lines 572-584, in which Evander laments the departure of his only son Pallas to fight with Aeneas, is very beautiful, and this pathos will be heightened for the reader, when he or she learns that Pallas will be killed by Turnus in Book X. Book VIII, however, is particularly renowned for its very detailed description of the legendary shield made for Aeneas by Vulcan at the request of his wife Venus, Aeneas' mother. This description which encompasses the final hundred lines of the Book (i.e. ll.626-731), is the means by which Virgil introduces Aeneas to the future achievements of his Roman descendants, and above all to the glorious career of his political patron, the Emperor Augustus, whose triumphs are illustrated in the centre of the shield, Augustus will surely have been delighted with the propaganda value of this part of the poem, which complements the prophecies of Rome's future greatness made by Aeneas' father Anchises in Book VI, when his son meets him in the Underworld. The idea of a divinely crafted shield was not a new one, the prototype being the one made for Achilles by Hephaistos at the request of his mother Thetis in Book XVIII of Homer's "Iliad". But, whereas Achilles' shield mainly contains depictions of the Greek countryside, Virgil decided that Aeneas' shield should feature a pageant of Roman history in line with the purpose of the whole poem as a national epic. However, he does not focus his epic upon the recent triumphant campaigns of Julius Caesar or Augustus, but on a story and a hero, Aeneas, taken from early legend, which, of course, allows him to depict the foundation of Rome as a matter of concern to the gods, a perspective very much in line with the views of his audience. The plan of this shield is the subject of an imaginative reconstruction on p. 84 of "Two Centuries of Roman Poetry," edited by E.C. Kennedy and A.R. Davis, 1967. The Shield of Aeneas is an example of the conscious attempt by Virgil in the 'Aeneid' to create for the Romans their own equivalent of Homer in Latin verse. 


Virgil's poetry is, of course, remarkable, and much of this, particularly its rhythm, is, of course, lost in translation. Reading Virgil's Latin verse is a wonderfully exciting and liberating experience. Virgil's skill in using the words and the rhythm to create an atmosphere, or to complement the meaning of the words, was, and possibly still is, unsurpassed. Book VIII includes two particularly splendid examples of how Virgil, can make use of the elastic qualities of hexameter verse, in which a line can vary between 13 and 17 syllables, to complement the meaning by 'onamatopeia'. The first of these examples is line 492:

"ill(i) inter sese multa vi bracchia tollunt" ('between themselves, they raise their arms with great force'); here the rhythm of the line, because it is abbreviated to 13 syllables only, and is thus dominated heavily by long syllables, matches the sense, which is describing the alternative blows upon an anvil by two Cyclopean smiths.

The second example of such 'onamatopeia' is on line 596:

"quadrupedante putrem sonitu quatit ungula campum" ('hooves shake the crumbling plain with the sound of galloping'); here the poet uses the metre, and, on this occasion, all the 17 syllables available to him, to imitate or reinforce the galloping sound he is seeking to describe.

(N.B. in the above Latin lines the long syllables have been underlined.)

These are wonderful examples of the poet's metrical art. Another aspect of his supreme poetic skill is how he avoids any risk of rhythmic monotony occurring in what is after all a very long poem. To understand how Virgil achieves rhythmic variation in his verse the reader is referred to the annex at the end of this translation, in which Sabidius has analysed this matter in some detail.

Nevertheless, the content of the poem, itself, even without the poetry, is exhilarating and the source of endless fascination. One can well understand how this wonderful epic poem became almost the equivalent of the Bible for later generations of Romans. One hopes that those who read it in translation will thereby be inspired to read it in Latin, and it is this that Sabidius is seeking to achieve in the translation of Book VIII below. As usual in his translations, Sabidius endeavours to keep as closely as possible to the actual words and sentence constructions of Virgil. This is not, however, always very easy to achieve, since although the general sense of his passages is usually clear, the vagaries of word order in a poem in order to meet the requirements of the metre, and the question of which noun an adjective or participial phrase is qualifying, can sometimes cause some ambiguity. This is particularly the case when descriptions of scenery or aerial conditions are involved, or when the details of banquets and sacrificial offerings are being highlighted. The fact that these circumstances are the matters of legend and never actually happened scarcely helps the reader to tie down the precise intentions of the poet with regard to meaning. At the same time, there are a number of instances where an adjective goes with one noun according to the requirements of the grammar but another in terms of the sense. This figure of speech, called 'hypallage', involves the mutual interchange of the relations of words in a sentence or clause.  An example of this is line 526 : "Tyrrhenusque tubae mugire per aethera clangor" ('and the blast of an Etruscan trumpet seemed to bray across the sky'), where 'Tyrrhenusque' clearly qualifies 'clangor' but is obviously more attached to 'tubae' with regard to sense. In this case it is fairly clear that the suggested English translation is in line with Virgil's expectation. On occasions, however, where the attachment of an adjective to a noun is uncertain, it is not always easy to determine just what Virgil's exact meaning is. For instance Sabidius has translated line 654, "Romuleoque recens horrebat regia culmo", as "and the palace was rough, fresh with the thatch of Romulus", which is fully in line with the grammar of the sentence. However, if this is seen as an example of hypallage, it could equally well be read as "and the palace of Romulus was stiff with fresh thatch." In this case, the sense is scarcely affected if the alternative translation is adopted; but sometimes the ambiguity is more significant; yet, whatever the effect of such uncertainties on the meaning, these examples well illustrate the difficulty which arises from time to time in precisely translating Virgil's work.  


The text for this translation is taken from "Vergil; Aeneid VIII", edited by H.E. Gould and J.L. Whiteley, first published by Macmillan & Co. Ltd. in 1953 and reprinted by Bristol Classical Press in 1979, and Sabidius has taken the liberty of utilising its text divisions and brief content summaries in the translation below. The editors' words in their foreword are worth repeating here: " ... the editors, believing that the annotated classical texts of the post generation give too little practical help in translation, and yet at the same time have their commentaries overloaded with unnecessary information on points only remotely connected with the text, have sought to write notes of a type better suited to the requirements of the school boy or girl of today ... such pupils will need a great deal of help which in the spacious days of classical teaching fifty and more years ago they were considered not to require, and they will need moreover that such help should at first be given repeatedly, until each difficulty of construction becomes familiar." Remember, this was written in 1952, and their words are even more true today than they were then. (The replacement of 'O' Level by GCSE in 1987 has hardly helped.) As a result of the editors' approach, the notes attached to this text, to which Sabidius has certainly paid close and grateful attention, provide a wonderful means not only to enrich one's understanding of this particular text, but are simultaneously a repository of grammatical knowledge, which, if studied with care, will greatly assist the Latin student to develop a fuller understanding of Latin constructions, and to do this in a more natural way than any Latin grammar book alone can ever do. Sabidius' only disappointment with regard to the work of Gould and Whitely is the absence, whether in their foreword, introduction or notes, of any emphasis upon, or even a reference to, the sheer beauty of Virgil's poetry. 
Perhaps they took such an appreciation by the student for granted, but if so, they were surely mistaken. If teenage, and even university students, are to develop any degree of enthusiasm for reading the Latin language, whether poetry or prose, they need specific encouragement, and the tendency of almost all Latin teachers to concentrate on the technical aspects of Latin grammar to the exclusion of other aspects of classical civilisation, such as literary and historical considerations, which, reflecting their own overriding interest in grammar, usually take a subordinate place in their teaching, helps to frustrate such an outcome. These omissions will inevitably limit the desire of their students to read Latin, and to appreciate why the texts they are reading are such great literature and can only be fully appreciated in the original; yet, it is this acknowledgement which is surely the main reason for continuing to study ancient languages even in the "crowded curriculum" of the present day. 


Ll. 1-17.  
Throughout Latium the Rutulians and their allies prepare for war.

When Turnus hoisted the flag of war on the citadel of Laurentum and the trumpets blared out their harsh music, (and) when he roused his eager steeds and clashed his armour, at once (men's) hearts (are) stirred, and the whole of Latium bands together in a sudden uproar, and their chieftains, Messapus and Ufens and Mezentius, that scorner of the gods, are the first to muster their forces from all quarters and strip the broad fields of their husbandmen. Venulus too is sent to the city of mighty Diomedes to seek assistance, and to report that the Trojans are settling in Latium, that Aeneas (had) arrived and had brought his defeated household gods with his fleet, and that he was required by destiny to call himself the king, that many tribes were joining (lit. attaching themselves to) this Trojan warrior, and that his name was gathering repute far and wide across Latium: (he states) that what he plans from these initial (actions), what outcome of battle he desires, if fortune goes his way, appears more clearly to him than to King Turnus or to King Latinus. 
Ll. 18-65.  Aeneas, harassed and careworn, receives comfort in a vision from the river god Tiberinus, who gives heartening prophecy and counsel. 
Such (things were happening) throughout Latium, (and) the Trojan hero, seeing all these (things), tosses in a great surge of cares, and, now here, now there, he divides his agile (lit. quick) mind and hurries (it) in diverse directions and turns (it) everywhere, like when the quivering light in bronze bowls, struck by the sun(-light) or by the reflection of the glimmering moon, flits far and wide in all directions and rises (lit. raises itself) aloft (lit. up to the breezes) and strikes the panelled ceiling of the roof above. It was night, and throughout the whole world deep sleep took hold of tired creatures, (every) kind of flying (thing) and cattle, when father Aeneas, disturbed in his heart by the dismal warfare, lay down on the river-bank under the vault of the cold sky, and allowed belated sleep (to steal) over his limbs. To him the very god of the place, Tiberinus of the pleasant river, appeared to rise (lit. raise himself) (as) an old man among the poplar boughs (fine linen clothed him in grey raiment and shadowy reeds covered his hair), whereupon he spoke as follows and allayed his cares with these words:

"O (you), begotten of the family of the gods, (you) who brings back to us our Trojan city from hostile (hands), and (who) keeps our Trojan fortress eternal, (O you), awaited on Laurentian ground and Latin fields, here (is) your assured home, your household-gods (are) assured (do not desist [from your enterprise!]); do not be alarmed by the threats of war, (as) all the swelling wrath (lit. swelling and wrath) of the gods has passed away. And even now, lest you should think that sleep fashions these vain (things), a huge sow will be found by you lying under some oak-trees on the shore, having brought forth a litter of thirty heads, lying white on the ground, her brood (gathered) around her teats white (like her). [This (spot) will be the place for your city, a sure rest from your labours.] Within thirty (lit. thrice ten) revolving years of that (time), Ascanius will found a city, Alba of bright name. I utter sure (lit. I do not utter doubtful) (prophecies). Now pay heed, I will instruct (you) briefly (lit. in a few [words]) how (lit. by what means) you may triumphantly extricate (yourself) from what is threatening (you). An Arcadian people, sprung from Pallas, who (as) companions of King Evander have followed his banners, have chosen a place on these shores and have built on these hills a city (named) Pallanteum (N.B. This is the site of the Palatine hill) from the name of their forefather Pallas. These (people) wage a perpetual (lit. unremitting) war with the Latin race; attach them to your camp (as) allies, and make a treaty (with them). I myself will lead you along my banks and right up my stream, so that you may convey (yourself) by oars (and) prevail over the adverse current. Come on, arise, son of the goddess, and, when first the stars are setting, offer prayers in due form to Juno, and neutralise (lit. overcome) her wrath and her threats with a suppliant's vows. (When you are) victorious, you will offer me worship (with sacrifices). I am the dark-blue Tiber, the river most beloved by heaven, whom you see washing these banks and cutting through the rich farmlands in full flood. Here (shall be) my stately home, my source rises among lofty cities!" 

Ll. 66-101. As Aeneas, after grateful prayers to Tiberinus, is preparing for his journey to Pallanteum, the God's prophecy is startlingly fulfilled. 

(Thus) spoke the river, and he concealed himself in the deep of his waters, seeking their depths; night and sleep left Aeneas. He arises, and. looking at the rising light of the sun in the heavens, he duly lifts up water from the river in his hallowed palms, and pours forth the following (words) to the sky: "Nymphs, Laurentine nymphs, from whom streams have their origin (lit. from whom there is generation to streams), and you, O father Tiber with your holy river, receive Aeneas and protect (him), I pray you, from danger. In whatever spring the deep water holds you, who pities our distress, from whatever soil you emerge in such great beauty, ever shall you (as) the horned river, ruler of the waters of Italy (lit. the West), be honoured by my worship, and my gifts. O may you only aid (us) and confirm your will more surely." Thus he speaks, and chooses two galleys from his fleet, and fits (them) for rowing, and equips his comrades with arms. 
Then behold, a portent, sudden and wonderful to our eyes, (gleaming) white through the wood, of the same colour as her white brood, and lying on the green grass, is espied a sow: pious Aeneas, bearing the sacred (vessels), sacrifices it to you, (yes) even to you, supreme Juno, and sets (it) with her litter before the altar. All that long night (lit. during that long night, which is a long [one]), Tiber calmed his swelling flood, and, checking the flow of his (now) silent waves, he stood still in such a way that, in the manner of a gentle pool or of a peaceful marsh, he levelled the surface of his waters so that the rowers might not have to struggle (lit. so that struggle might be absent for the oar). With cheerful cries, the painted (boat made of) fir-wood slides along the shallow waters; even the waves are surprised (and) the woods, unaccustomed (to the sight), marvel at the warriors' shields gleaming from afar off, and the painted keels floating upon the river. They wear out a night and a day in rowing, they pass (lit. surmount) the long reaches, they are overshadowed by various (types of) trees and sail between the wooded banks (lit. cut the green woods on the friendly surface [of the river]). The fiery sun had climbed to the middle of its circuit of the sky, when they see from afar off walls, a citadel and the scattered roofs of houses, (things) which now the might of Rome has made equal with the sky, (but which) at that time Evander possessed (as) a meagre estate.

Ll. 102-151.  Alarmed at first at the approach of Aeneas with his Trojan galleys, Evander and his people become friendly on learning who their visitors are and why they have come. Aeneas asks Evander to grant him an alliance, pleading that they are both sprung from a common ancestor, Atlas. 

By chance on that day, the Arcadian king (i.e. Evander) was offering the customary sacrifice to the great son of Amphitryon (i.e. Hercules) and the (other) gods in a grove before his city. With him his son Pallas, with him all the leading (men) of the warriors and his poor senate were offering incense, and the warm blood was steaming on their altars. When they saw the lofty boats and (saw them) gliding between the shady woods and (their crews) resting on their noiseless oars, they are alarmed at the sudden sight, and they all rise, abandoning the sacrificial banquet. Pallas courageously forbids (them) to break off the sacrifice, and, snatching up a spear, he flies in person to meet (them), and cries from a hillock afar off: "Warriors, what reason has driven (you) to explore these unknown routes, (and) whither are you making your way? What race are you (lit. Who [are you] in respect of your race)? From what home (have you come)? Do you bring peace or war (lit. arms)?" Then father Aeneas speaks thus from his lofty stern, and stretches forth in his hand a branch from the peace-making olive: "You see men of Trojan birth and weapons hostile to the Latins: when we sought refuge (with them), they drove us away by outrageous warfare. We seek Evander. Carry this (message), and say that chosen leaders of Troy have come asking for an armed alliance (lit. allied arms)." Astounded by so great a name, Pallas was stupefied: "Come forth, whoever you are, " he says, "and speak to my father face to face, and enter our home (as) a guest." He welcomes (him) (lit. takes [him] by the hand), and clasps and clings to his right (hand). Coming forward, they enter the grove and leave the river.

Then, Aeneas addresses the king with these friendly words: "(O) noblest of the Greeks, to whom Fortune wills that  I should pray and hold out boughs dressed with (woollen) fillets, I was not at all afraid because (you were) a leader of Greeks and an Arcadian, and because you were allied by birth to the two Atridae (i.e. Agamemnon and Menelaus); (nay) but my own prowess and the sacred oracles of the gods and our kindred fathers, and your fame (which is) widespread upon the earth, have led me willingy to join you and (to obey) my destiny. Dardanus, the first father and founder of the city of Troy, (who is) sprung, as the Greeks relate, from Electra, the daughter of Atlas, sailed to (the land of) the Trojans; mighty Atlas, who sustains the heavenly spheres on his shoulder, begot Electra. Your father is Mercury, whom fair Maia conceived (and) brought forth on the cold summit of Cyllene: but if we believe at all (the reports which) we have heard, Atlas, that same Atlas who supports the constellations of the heavens, is the sire of Maia. So the generation of both (of us) branches (lit. divides itself) from a single bloodstock. Relying on these (ties), (I sent) no envoys nor made my first soundings of you by cunning; as for me, I have exposed myself and my person to risk and have come (as) a suppliant to your court. The same Daunian race, which (pursues) you, pursues (us) with cruel war; they believe that, if they repel us, nothing will prevent them from sending (lit. nothing will be lacking but that they send) the whole of Italy entirely beneath their yoke and possess the sea which washes (it) above and below. Accept our pledge and give (us yours): we have (lit. there are to us) brave hearts in war, we have (lit. there are [to us]) courage and warriors proved in action."

Ll. 152-183.  Evander gives Aeneas a courteous and hospitable reply, and invites him and his comrades to partake some time of a sacrificial feast. 

Aeneas finished speaking (lit. had spoken). The other (i.e. Evander) had now been scanning (lit. traversing with his eyes) for a long time the countenance and the eyes and the whole figure of (the man) speaking. Then, he replies briefly (lit. returns a few [words]) as follows: "How gladly, I welcome and recognise you, (O) bravest of the Trojans! For I remember Priam, the son of Laomedon, when he came to visit the realm of his sister Hesione, while he was seeking Salamis, (and) he went on to visit the cold frontiers of Arcadia. At that time, early youth clothed my cheeks with bloom, and I admired the Trojan chieftains and the son of Laomedon himself; but Anchises towered above (lit. moved more highly than) all (the rest). My heart burned with a youthful desire to address the man and to join his hand with my hand; I made my way (to him) and eagerly led (him) to the walls of Pheneus. On his departure, he gave me a fine quiver and some Lycian arrows, and some cloth interwoven with gold (thread), and a pair of golden bits, which my (son) Pallas now possesses. Therefore, my hand is already joined in the alliance which you seek, and, as soon as tomorrow's dawn shall return (lit. shall give itself back) to the earth, I shall let (you) depart (lit. send [you] away) rejoicing at my assistance, and I shall supply (you) from my stores. Meanwhile, since you have come hither as a friend, celebrate graciously with us this annual festival (lit. these annual rites), which (lit. it is) a sacrilege to defer, and even now accustom yourself to your allies' board."

When these (words had been) said, he commands the feast and the wine-cups, (which had been) removed, to be brought back, and in person he places the men on a grassy seat, and welcomes Aeneas with special honour to a couch and the hide of a shaggy lion, and entertains (him) on a throne of maple-wood. Then, chosen young men and the priest of the altar vie with one another in bringing (lit. emulously bring) the roasted flesh of bulls, and pile the gifts of ground corn into the baskets, and serve the wine. Aeneas, together with his Trojan warriors, feeds on the whole (lit. undivided) chine of an ox and the sacrificial meat.

Ll.  184-279.  Evander explains to his guests that this yearly sacrifice to the hero Hercules is given in grateful memory of his destruction of the monster Cacus, who for so long had preyed on the inhabitants of the district.   

When hunger (has been) driven away and the desire to eat allayed, King Evander speaks: "No vain superstition (which is) ignorant of the gods of old, has imposed (upon us) these solemn rites of ours, this feast (held) in accordance with custom, (and) this altar in honour of a mighty divine power: (O) Trojan guest, we are worshipping (as men) saved from bitter sacrifices, and are renewing sacrifices (which are) justly due. Now first behold this cliff, overhung with rocks, (and see) how boulders (are) strewn far and wide, (how) the mountain dwelling stands desolate, and (how) the rocks have caused enormous havoc. Here there was (once) a cavern, stretching back (lit. moved on) in a vast recess, which, inaccessible to the rays of the sun, the hideous shape of the half-human Cacus was occupying; the ground was ever reeking with fresh slaughter, and, nailed triumphantly to his gate (lit. nailed to his haughty gate) were hanging the pallid faces of men in ghastly decay. Vulcan was the father of this monster: spouting smoky flames from his mouth, he moved (lit. bore himself) in giant bulk. But time at last brought to us in our prayers a god's aid and arrival. For Alcides (i.e. Hercules, the grandson of Alceus), the mighty avenger, was at hand, exulting in the killing of triple Geryon and his (subsequent) spoils (i.e. cattle), and the victor drove the huge bulls in this (direction). But the frenzied mind of the robber Cacus, (fearing) lest any (act) of crime or trickery should prove to have been unattempted or untried, carries off four bulls of outstanding strength (and) a similar number of heifers of exceptional beauty from their stalls. And so that there should not be any tracks with the feet in the right (direction), he hurried these into his cavern dragged by the tail, having reversed the signs of the passage, and he was keeping (them) hidden within the dark (screen of) rock. To (anyone) seeking (them), no marks appeared to lead to the cavern. Meanwhile, when the son of Amphitryon had begun to move his well-fed herds and was preparing to go, the oxen low on their departure, and the whole woodland is filled with their complaints, and the hills are left with their noise. A single heifer returned the cry and lowed in the depths of the vast cave, and, (although) carefully guarded, she baffled the hopes of Cacus. Then indeed the wrath of Alcides blazed forth furiously with black gall: with his hand he seizes some weapons and a club, heavy with knots, and he seeks at a run the heights of the lofty hill. Then, for the first time our eyes see Cacus afraid and troubled: at once he flees, swifter than the south-east wind, and he seeks his cavern; fear adds wings to his feet. When he shut himself in, he broke the chains and dropped the huge rock, which had hung suspended through his father's skill in iron-work, and he secured (and) blocked the doorway by this barrier, but look! the Tirynthian (i.e. Hercules) was there, furious in his wrath, and, scanning every (means of) access, he turned his gaze (lit. moved his face) hither and thither, (while) grinding his teeth. Boiling with rage, he goes around the Aventine hill three times, three times he tries in vain the rocky entrance, three times he sinks down in the valley exhausted. There stood, a tapering (lit. sharp) (pillar of) flint, cut sheer away from the rock on all sides, rising up from the back of the cavern, impressive (lit. most high) to see (lit. in the seeing), a fit place for the nesting-places of fearful birds. This (pillar), as, it happened to slope from the ridge on its left-side, inclined towards the river, he shook violently, pressing on its opposite (side) on the right, and loosened, after he had torn (it) from its lowest roots, and then he suddenly thrust (it) forward; at this shock, the mighty sky thunders, the banks leap apart, and the river flows backwards in alarm. Then, Cacus' cave, (and) his enormous palace, was seen (to be) uncovered (lit. unroofed), and the depths of his gloomy cavern were laid open, just as (lit. not otherwise than) if the earth, gaping wide beneath some force, were to reveal the dwellings of the infernal world, and open to view the pallid realms (so) hateful to the gods, and the frightful abyss were to be seen from above, and the Shades should flitter around in the light (which had been) let in; so, (while he is) caught in this sudden light and trapped in his own hollow rock, bellowing strangely, Alcides attacks (him) from above with missiles, and calls forth all his weapons and threatens (him) with enormous boulders (lit. mill-stones). Then he, for no other (means of) escape from danger is now (left to him), wonderful to relate (lit. in the telling), belches forth a huge (cloud of) smoke and envelops his dwelling in blinding gloom, removing any view from the eyes, and rolls up the smoke-filled night beneath the cave in the darkness intermingled with fire. In his wrath, Alcides (could) not endure (this), and leapt (lit. threw himself) headlong with a bound through the fire, (just) where the smoke swirls most densely (lit. most smoke drives the billow) and the huge cave eddies with the black pall. Here, he seizes Cacus, (still) spouting his ineffectual flames, in a knot-like embrace (lit. having embraced [him] into a knot), and, clinging closely (to him), he squeezes out his eyes, and throttles his throat, (now) dry of blood. At once, after he has torn open the doors, the dark house is laid open, and the stolen oxen and the unlawfully taken plunder are displayed to the heavens, and the misshapen carcase is dragged forward by the feet. Our hearts cannot be satisfied by gazing on the terrible eyes, the face, and the breast of the half-beast, shaggy with bristles, and the quenched flames in its jaws. From that (time) this sacrifice (is) observed, and our posterity (lit. [those] less [by birth]) has joyfully kept the day, and Potitius (was) the original inaugurator, and then the House of Pinarius (has been) the guardian of the rites of Hercules. In the grove he (i.e. Potitius) set up this altar, which will always be called by us the 'greatest' and which will always be the 'greatest'. (N.B. This is the Ara Maxima in the Forum Boarium.) Come, therefore, O warriors, in honour of such glorious deeds, garland your hair with leaves and stretch forth the wine-cups in your right (hands), and call upon our common god and offer the wine with good-will." He had (just) finished speaking (lit. had just spoken), when the two-coloured poplar-tree belonging to Hercules veiled his hair in shade, and hung down fastened (to his hair) with its leaves, and the sacred goblet filled his right (hand). Swiftly, they all pour the libations on to the table in gladness, and offer prayers to the gods.  

Ll. 280-305.  The sacrifice is renewed and hymns are sung in honour of Hercules. 

Meanwhile, as Olympus sinks, the Evening Star draws nearer. And now the priests, with Potitius at their head, went forth, girt with skins in accordance with custom, and they bore torches. They renew the feast and bring welcome gifts for the second course, and they heap the altars with loaded dishes. Then, the Salii, having bound their temples with sprays of poplar, are present around the burning altars to sing (lit. for the purpose of songs), (and there is) one chorus of young men and another of old men, who extol in song the praises and deeds of Hercules: how first he crushed with his hand (and) strangled two snakes, the monsters (sent) by his step-mother, how he also shattered in war famous cities, both Troy and Oechalia, (and) how, through the decrees of cruel Juno, he accomplished a thousand (N.B. this is an exaggeration of the usual twelve) hard labours under King Eurystheus. "You, (O) unconquered (one), slaughter by your own hand the cloud-born double-bodied (centaurs) Hylaeus and Pholus, the Cretan bull (lit. monster) and the gigantic lion under the rock of Nemea. The Stygian lake trembled at you, the door-keeper of Hell (i.e. Cerberus), lying on top of the half-gnawed bones in his blood-stained cave, (trembled) at you; nor could the shape of anything else frighten you, not even the towering Typhoeus, holding weapons in his hands; the Lernaean Hydra did not encompass you with its throng of heads when you were in a panic-stricken state (lit. lacking counsel). Hail, (O) true son of Jupiter, (you) added glory to the gods, and graciously visit us and these your rites with favourable feet." Such (deeds) they celebrate in song; on top of everything else, they add the (tale of) Cacus' cavern, and (the monster) himself, breathing fire. The whole woodland resounds with the clamour, and the hills re-echo (it).

Ll. 306-369.  Evander, escorting Aeneas around his humble city, tells of the golden age of Saturn, and of his own arrival in Italy, and then introduces his guest to what is destined to be the site of the future Rome. 

Then, when all the sacred rites have been completed, they all return (lit. betake themselves back) to the city. The King went along bent down with age, and kept close by him Aeneas and his son (as) companions as he walked. Aeneas is full of wonder and gazes (lit. turns his eyes) all around him with restless eyes, and he is charmed by the sites, and one by one he joyfully enquires and hears (about) the memorials of earlier men. Then (speaks) King Evander, founder of the citadel of Rome: "Native Fauns and Nymphs used to dwell in these woodlands, a race sprung from tree-trunks and hard oak, who had (lit. to whom there was) neither a rule of life nor civilised practices, nor did they know how to yoke bulls or to lay up stores (of food) or to save what they had acquired, but boughs and hunting, rough in the fare (it brings), sustained (them). First came Saturn from high Olympus, fleeing the arms of Jupiter (as) an exile, after his kingdom had been taken away (from him). He made a nation of (lit. gathered together) that untutored race, (who were) scattered among the high mountains, and gave (them) laws and chose that (their land) should be called Latium, as he had hidden safely within its boundaries. Under that king, passed (lit. there were) ages which are called golden: thus, he ruled the people in gentle peace, until gradually an inferior and tarnished age, and the madness of war and the lust for possession (lit. the love of having), succeeded (them). Then came the Ausonian clan and the tribes of Sicania, and the land of Saturn quite often forgot (lit. laid aside) its name; then (came) kings and the fierce Thybris with his huge frame, after whom we Italians call the river Tiber by that name: (as for) myself, cast out from my native-land and following the extremities of the ocean, all powerful Fortune and inescapable destiny settled (me) in these regions, and the dreadful warnings of my mother, the Nymph Carmentis, and the god Apollo (as) instigator, drove (me here).

Scarcely (had) these (words been) said, when he goes forward from there (and) points out an altar and the Carmental Gate, which the Romans call by that name (as) an ancient tribute to the Nymph Carmentis, a prophetic seer, who was the first to prophesy that the descendants of Aeneas would (be) great and that Pallanteum (would be) renowned. Then, (he shows Aeneas) the thick grove, which the valiant Romulus created (as) his sanctuary, and he points out in the cool (hollow of) the rock the Lupercal (cavern), named (the shrine of) Lycaean Pan in the fashion of Parrhasia (i.e. Arcadia). Nor does he fail to point out the wood of sacred Argiletum (i.e. the area to the north-west of the Forum which later specialised in handicraft and book-selling), and he calls the place to witness, and tells of, the death of his guest Argus. From here he leads (him) to the Tarpeian dwelling (i.e. the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus) and the Capitol, golden now, (but) formerly rough with wooded thickets. Even then the fearful sanctity of the place scared the fearful country-folk, even then they trembled at the wood and rock. "A god," he says, "(which god is uncertain), dwells in this wood, (and) this hill with its leafy crest; the Arcadians believe that that they have seen Jupiter himself, when often he shook the dark aegis in his right (hand) and summoned the storm-clouds. Moreover, these two towns, with their walls thrown down, (which) you see, (are) the relics and the memorials of men of old. Father Janus founded one citadel, Saturn the other; the Janiculum was the name of the one, Saturnia (i.e. the Capitoline Hill) of the other." With such words (spoken) among themselves, they drew near to the house of the poor Evander, and everywhere they saw herds (of cattle) lowing in the Roman forum and in the fashionable (district of) Carinae. When they came to his dwelling, he says, "The victorious Alcides entered this doorway, and this royal dwelling received him. Venture, my guest, to scorn wealth and make yourself worthy of divinity also, and come (here) not disdainful of (lit. not harsh to) our needy state." He spoke, and led the lofty Aeneas under the sloping roof of his narrow dwelling, and set him on a couch supported by leaves and the skin of an African bear: night falls (lit. rushes down) and clasps the earth in her dark wings.

Ll. 370-423.  Venus, fearful for her son now that his foes are multiplied, begs her husband Vulcan to make him armour and weapons for the coming struggle. Vulcan accedes to her request and descends to his forge beneath Mount Aetna. 

But Venus, a mother not vainly terrified in her heart, and disturbed by the threats of the Laurentines and their rude uprising, speaks to Vulcan, and in her husband's golden bed-chamber, she begins thus (lit. [to say] these [things]), and breathes (the spirit of) love on her words: "While the kings of Argos were wasting in war the citadel of Troy (which was) due (for destruction) and her towers destined to fall amid hostile fires, I did not ask for any help (or) weapons for these wretched (people) from your skill and resources; nor do I wish to employ you, my dearest husband, or your labours to no purpose, although I owed very much to the children of Priam, and I often wept over the cruel troubles of Aeneas. Now, by Jupiter's commands, he has halted within the borders of the Rutuli: so I come (as) a suppliant, and, (as) a mother of a son, I ask you for arms, (you) a divine power sacred to me, (whom) the daughter of Nereus (i.e. Thetis, the mother of Achilles) and the wife of Tithonus (i.e. Aurora, the mother of Memnon) were able to soften with their tears. See what peoples are gathering, what walled cities have barred their gates and are sharpening their swords against me to destroy (lit. for the destruction of) my (people)." The goddess finished speaking (lit. had spoken), and, as he hesitated, she caresses (him) all around (lit. from this side and from that side) in her snowy-white arms. Siuddenly he welcomes the flame as usual, and the familiar warmth entered his marrow and coursed through his melting bones, just as (lit. Not otherwise than) at times when, bursting with (a peal of) thunder, a cleft of fire runs flashing with dazzling light through the storm-clouds. His wife perceived (it), joyful in her wiles and conscious of her beauty. Then, her lord (lit. father) speaks, enchained by eternal love: "Why do you seek these far-fetched cases (lit. these cases from on-high)? Whither, (O) divine lady, has your faith in me gone? If your concern had been the same, then it would have been right to arm your Trojans also, nor would the Almighty Father or the Fates have forbidden Troy to stand and Priam to survive for another for another ten years. And now if you are preparing to fight a war, and this is your intention, whatever care I can offer in my craft, what can be made from iron or from molten electrum, as much as fire and air (from the bellows) can avail, - cease in your praying to doubt your own strength." Having spoken these words, he gave (her) the desired embrace, and, sinking into his wife's lap, he sought peaceful slumber throughout his limbs.

Then, as soon as rest, already in the middle of the course of departing night, had expelled sleep, (at the time) when some woman, upon whom (it has been) laid to support her life with her distaff and fine weaving, first arouses the ashes and smouldering fires, (thus) adding night to her (day's) work, and she employs her maid-servants at the long task by lamp-light, so that she can keep her spouses's bed unsullied, and bring up her little children: just so (lit. not otherwise) does the Lord of Fire, no slower at that time (than she is), rise from his soft couch to the work of his forge. Near the flank of Sicily and Aeolian Lipare, there rises an island, steep with steaming crags, below which thunder the the cavern hollowed out for the forges of the Cyclopes, (and) the caves of (Mount) Aetna, and powerful blows (are) heard echoing the (sounds of) groans (coming) from the anvils, and the iron bars of the Chalybes hiss in the caverns, and fire pants in the furnaces. (This is) the house of Vulcan and the land (is called) Vulcania by name. Hither then the Lord of Fire descends from high heaven.

Ll. 424-453.  The Cyclopes in their smithy are described, toiling at various tasks: on the arrival of Vulcan to give them this new commission, they set to work with fresh vigour to forge arms for the Trojan hero. 

The Cyclopes, Brontes and Steropes and the bare-limbed Pyracmon, were working upon iron in the vast cave. Shaped in their hands was a thunderbolt, a part having already been polished, (like those) which the Father hurls down on to the earth from the whole of the sky, (while) a part remained unfinished. They had added three shafts of driving rain, three of watery mist, three of red fire, and (three) of the winged south wind. Now they were mingling frightful splendours in their work, the sound and terror and flames with pursuing wrath. In another part (of their workshop) they were hard at work (lit. pressing upon) (making) for Mars a chariot and its flying wheels, by which he stirs up men and cities: and they were vying with one another in (lit. they were emulously) polishing the armour of Pallas (i.e. Minerva) (when she is) aroused, with the golden scales of serpents, and the wreathed snakes and the Gorgon herself on the breast of the goddess rolling her eyes, with her neck having been severed. "Lay aside everything," he (i.e. Vulcan) says, "and stop the tasks you have begun,, and turn your attention to this, (you) Cyclopes of Aetna: armour must be made for a valiant man. Now you need (lit. Now [there is] a need [to you] of) your strength, your quick hands and all your master skill. Cast off all delay." He spoke no more; then they all fell speedily to work and shared out the work equally. Bronze and golden ore flow in streams and lethal steel melts in the vast furnace. They shape a huge shield to face alone (lit. one against all) the weapons of the Latins, and weld one circular layer upon another circular layer seven times (lit. bind seven circular layers on circular layers). Some discharge and draw in blasts of air from their windy bellows, and others dip the hissing bronze into the trough. The cavern rumbles under the anvils placed (on its floor). They raise their arms with great force in rhythmic alternation (lit. among themselves in rhythm), and turn the metal with gripping tongs.

Ll. 454-519.  The scene shifts back to Evander and his guest. It is next day and the two heroes meet. Evander tells Aeneas how the savage cruelty and tyrannical conduct of Mezentius, the Etruscan king, have made his subjects revolt and expel him, so that he has sought refuge with Turnus, the king of the Rutuli. Evander suggests that Aeneas, the foreigner, is the leader appointed by heaven to lead the Etruscan forces wreaking vengeance upon their king. Moreover, Evander will send his own son Pallas to the war under the protection of Aeneas. 

While the lord of Lemnos (i.e. Vulcan) is hastening this (work) in the territories of Aeolia, the kindly light of dawn and the early songs of birds under the eaves rouses Evander from his humble dwelling. The old man arises and clothes his limbs in his tunic and puts his Etruscan sandals on the soles of his feet. Then, he buckles his Tegean sword to his side and shoulder, (while) flinging back the panther's hide hanging from his left (arm). Moreover, two watch-dogs from his high threshold go before (him) and accompany their master as he steps out. Mindful of their conversation and the help (which he had) promised, he was making for the separate lodging (lit. lodging and seclusion) of his guest Aeneas. No less early was Aeneas bestirring himself. With the one went his son Pallas, with the other his companion Achates. When they meet, they join hands and sit down in the central courtyard, and enjoy an unchecked discussion. The king (spoke) first as follows: "(O) mighty leader of the Trojans, in whose lifetime (lit. who [being] safe) I shall indeed never admit that the state of Troy or its realm has been overcome, in proportion to so great a name our strength is little enough (lit. scanty) for the purpose of war: on one side we are shut in by the Etruscan river (i.e. the Tiber), on the other side the Rutuli press (us) hard, and thunder around our wall in arms. But I am ready to unite to you some mighty peoples and a camp rich in kingdoms, a salvation which unforeseen chance offers. You are present (lit. You betake yourself) here at destiny's summons. Not far from here is inhabited the site of the city of Agylla (i.e. Caere), (which) is established on its ancient rock, where once the Lydian race, renowned in war, settled on the ridges of Etruria. This (city) which had flourished for so many years, King Mezentius next possessed through his insolent rule and cruel arms. Why should I relate the unspeakable murders and savage deeds of the tyrant? May the gods reserve (them) for his own head and (those) of his kin. Nay, he would even join dead bodies to the living, fitting hands to hands and faces to faces, a (monstrous) kind of torture, and in that dreadful embrace he slew (them) thus by a lingering death. But, at last, his citizens, weary of his impious raging, surround both him and his home, cut down his retainers and hurl fire(-brands) on to his roof. Amid the massacre, he escaped to the lands of the Rutuli, (and) took refuge (there), and was protected by the arms of his guest-friend Turnus. So all Etruria has risen in righteous fury, and, with instant war, are demanding the king back for punishment. Over these thousands (of men) I shall appoint you, Aeneas, (as) leader. For indeed their ships, packed together along the whole shore, are grumbling, and are bidding the standards advance, (but) the aged seer restrains (them by) uttering these prophecies: 'O chosen warriors of Maeonia, the flower and valour of men of old, whom righteous anger urges on against the foe, and (whom) Mezentius sets on fire with deserved wrath, (it is) not right to harness so great a nation to any Italian (man): choose foreigners (as) your leaders.' At that, the Etruscan battle-line, terrified by these warnings from the gods, then encamped on the plain. Tarchon himself has sent messengers together with his kingdom's crown and sceptre to me, and entrusts its royal insignia (to me), if I  should enter his camp and take hold of the Etruscan throne. But old age, sluggish with cold and worn out by the years, and strength (too) late for brave (deeds), begrudges me such power. I should encourage my son (to take my place), if, (being) of mixed (blood) through his Sabine mother, he did not draw part of his nationality from her. You, to whose years and race alike the Fates extend their favour, (and) whom the divine powers are demanding, enter upon (your destined work), O most valiant leader of Trojans and Italians. Moreover, Pallas here, (who is) my hope and consolation, I shall attach to you; under you (as) his teacher, let him learn (lit. accustom himself) to endure military service and the grim business of war, and to perceive your deeds, and from his earliest years let him look up to (lit. admire) you. To him I shall give two hundred Arcadian cavalrymen, the chosen flower (lit. oak-wood) of our youth, and Pallas (will give) you the same number on his own account."

Ll. 520-553.  Evander's words are confirmed by a sign from Venus, lightning and thunder in a cloudless sky. Aeneas joyfully recognises and accepts the portent of his divine mother. Aeneas and Pallas then make ready to depart. 

Scarcely had he finished speaking these (words), when Aeneas, the son of Anchises, and the faithful Achates kept their gaze (lit. faces) downcast; and they were pondering in their sad hearts on their many troubles, (and would have continued to do so), if Cythera (i.e. Venus) had not given a sign out of a cloudless sky. For, unexpectedly,  a jagged flash of lightning came from heaven with (a peal of) thunder, and, suddenly, everything seemed to totter, and the blast of an Etruscan trumpet (seemed) to bray across the sky. They look upwards, (and) again and again the great clash re-echoes. Through the veil of heaven in a serene space of sky they see armour gleaming red through the cloudless sky and clashing thunderously (lit. thundering, having clashed [together]). The others were astounded (lit. paralysed in their minds); but the Trojan hero recognised the sound (as being) the promise of his goddess mother. Then, he said: "In truth, my guest-friend, (you do) not really (need) to enquire what event these portents signify: I am summoned. My goddess mother foretold that (she) would send this sign from Olympus, if war should threaten, and would bring arms through the air to help (me).

"Alas, what great slaughter threatens the wretched Laurentine (people)! What penalties, Turnus, you will pay to me! How many warriors' shields and helmets and valiant bodies will roll beneath your waves, (O) Father Tiber! (Now) let them demand war and let them break our treaty!" When he had delivered these words, he rises (lit. raises himself) from his high throne, and, first, he stirs the smouldering altar with its fires (sacred) to Hercules, and he happily approached yesterday's Lar and the tiny household gods. Both together, Evander (and) the Trojan warriors sacrifice some choice two-year old sheep in accordance with custom. Afterwards, he (i.e. Aeneas) walked next to his ships, and revisited his comrades, from whose number he chooses (those who are) outstanding in valour to follow him into battle; the rest (lit. remaining part) are carried by the stream (lit. downward flowing water) and glide idly down on the favourable current, to come (as) messengers to Ascanius concerning the fortunes of his father. Horses are provided for those Trojans seeking the lands of the Etruscans; for Aeneas, they lead forth a picked (steed), which the tawny skin of a lion, gleaming with golden claws, wholly covers.

Ll. 554-584.  In words full of tender pathos, Evander regrets his lost youth and prowess, and prays to the gods above to grant a safe return to his son; and, if that may not be, death for himself. The old man is completely overcome at the departure of his son. 

Suddenly, spreading through the little city, flies the rumour that these riders were going swiftly to the gates of the Etruscan king. Through dread, mothers redouble their prayers, and closer to peril goes fear, and the vision of Mars now appears greater. Then the father, Evander, clasping the right(-hand) of his departing (son), clings (to him), weeping insatiably, and saying the following (words): "O, if only Jupiter would bring back to me the bygone years (and make me such) as I was, when, under the very (walls of) Praeneste, I laid low their (whole) front rank, and, (as) victor, set fire to heaps of shields, and, with this (very) hand, sent down to Tartarus King Erulus, to whom, at his birth, his mother Feronia had, horrible to relate, given three lives and three (suits of) arms to be wielded. Three times he had (lit. it was necessary [for him]) to be laid low in death. Yet, at that time, this hand of mine took from him all (three) lives, and stripped (him) of his armour as many times: (if I were now as I was then), I should not now ever be torn away from your sweet embrace, my son, nor would Mezentius, (by) trampling upon this his neighbour's head, have caused so many cruel deaths by the sword, (and) have deprived his city of so many of its citizens. But you, O gods above, and you, (O) Jupiter, supreme ruler of the gods, take pity, I beg (you), upon an Arcadian king, and hear a father's prayer: if your divine will, (and) if destiny, keeps Pallas safe for me, if I may live to see and to meet (him) once more (lit. on one [occasion]), I beg (you) for my life, (and) I have the patience to endure whatever suffering may befall me. But, if you, Fortune, are threatening some unspeakable disaster, O may I now be allowed (lit. it now be permitted [to me)] to break off this cruel life, while my anxieties (are) a matter of doubt, while my hopes for the future (are) uncertain, (and) while I hold you in my embrace, dear boy, my only and belated (source of) pleasure, nor may any graver tidings wound my ears." His father poured forth these words at their last parting; (then) his serving men carried (him) fainting into his house. And now the cavalry had already passed through the gates, Aeneas and his faithful Achates (being) among the first, then the other Trojan chieftains, (and) Pallas himself in the middle of the column, conspicuous in his emblazoned cloak and armour, just as (lit. [such] as) when the Morning Star, which Venus loves more than (all) other constellation fires, (while) drenched in the wave of Ocean, lifts up his holy countenance in the sky and dispels the darkness. Mothers stand trembling on the (city) walls, and follow with their eyes the cloud of dust and the squadrons flashing with bronze. Armed, they make their way through the thicket, where the goal of their journeys (is) nearest; a shout goes up, and, after a column has been formed, hooves shake the crumbing plain with the sound of galloping. Near Caere's cool river there is a large grove, widely reverenced by the piety of their ancestors; curving hills enclosed (it) on all sides, and encircle the wood with dark fir-trees. There is a story that the ancient Pelasgians, who long ago were the first to occupy the Latin lands, had consecrated both this grove and a (festal) day to Silvanus, the god of farmland and cattle. Not far from here Tarchon were occupying a camp (which was) secure by reason of its site, and from a high hill their whole host could now be seen, and was encamped (lit. stretched) over a wide (expanse of) countryside. Hither father Aeneas and his warriors chosen for war ride up, and, tired (by their march) they attend to the needs of their horses and of themselves (lit. of their bodies).

Ll. 608-625.  Venus appears to her son Aeneas, and presents to him the arms wrought by Vulcan.

Meanwhile, the white goddess Venus had come among the clouds of heaven, bearing gifts; when saw in the distance her son withdrawn in a secluded valley with a cool stream, she addressed (him) with these words, and actually showed herself (to him): "Behold the promised gifts, completed by my husband's skill: so that you, my son, may not now hesitate to call either any arrogant Laurentine or fierce Turnus to battle." (So) spoke Cytherea, and sought her son's embrace, (and) she laid the sparkling armour under an oak-tree opposite (him). Delighted at the gifts of the goddess, and the very great honour (which they brought him), he cannot get his fill (of them) and casts his eyes over each piece (of armour), and he wonders at, and turns over in his hands and arms, the helmet with its fearful crests, spouting flames, and the death-dealing sword, (and) the breast-plate of bronze, stiff and blood-red, vast, just as (lit. [such] as) when a dark-blue cloud glows in the rays of the sun and gleams from afar; then, the polished greaves, (made of) electrum and gold smelted again and again, and the spear, and the indescribable texture of the shield.

Ll. 626-651.  A description of the shield, on which Vulcan has (prophetically) engraved important events from Roman history. Aeneas sees first the she-wolf that suckled the twins Romulus and Remus, then the rape of the Sabine women, the invader Porsenna, and a hero and heroine of the early Republic, Horatius, who kept the bridge, and Cloelia. 

There, the Lord of Fire (i.e. Vulcan), not unversed in prophets, or unaware of the age to come, had wrought the story of Italy and the triumphs of the Romans, there (he had included) every generation of the future lineage from Ascanius (onwards) and the wars (which would be) fought in succession. He had also fashioned the mother wolf lying (lit. caused the mother wolf to have lain) in the green cave of Mars, the twin boys hanging around her udders playing, being suckled by (lit. licking) their (foster-)mother without fear, and she, bending back her shapely neck, fondled each in turn and shaped their bodies with her tongue. Near (lit. Not far from) them, he had shown Rome and the Sabine women, lawlessly carried off (lit. carried off without precedent) from the theatre's (seated) throng, while the great Circensian (games) were being held, and the fresh war suddenly arising between the followers of Romulus and old (Titus) Tatius and the stern (people) of Cures. Afterwards, the same (two) kings, having set conflict aside, were (shown) standing before the altar of armed Jupiter, holding their bowls (in their hands), and making an alliance between themselves, as they sacrificed a sow. Next to that scene (lit. Not far from there) a swift four-horse chariot had torn Mettus (i.e. Mettus Fufetius, dictator of Alba, executed by Rome's third king, Tullus Hostilius for his treachery) asunder (lit. had borne Mettus away in opposite [directions]) (O, man of Alba, you should have stood by your word!), and Tullus was dragging the deceitful man's entrails through the the wood and the spattered brambles were dripping with blood. Also, Porsenna (i.e. the Etruscan king, Lars Porsenna of Clusium) was (shown) commanding (the Romans) to take (back) the banished Tarquin (i.e. Tarquinius the Proud, the seventh and last king of Rome, expelled by Lucius Junius Brutus in 510 or 509 B.C.) and threatening the city with a fearful siege: (and) the sons of Aeneas (i.e. the Romans) were rushing to arms (lit. to the sword) for the sake of freedom. You could have seen him, like (a man) both wrathful and threatening at the same time, because Cocles (i.e. Horatius the 'One-Eyed') dared to pull down the bridge and (because) Cloelia, having broken her bonds, swum across the river.

Ll. 652-670.  Then follow the saving of the citadel by the sacred geese, the observances of the state religion, the punishment of the traitor Catiline, and the reward of Cato, the patriot. 

At the top (of the shield), Manlius, the warden of the Tarpeian citadel, was (shown) standing in front of the temple and holding the the lofty Capitol, and the palace was rough, fresh with the thatch of Romulus. And here the silver goose, fluttering through golden colonnades, proclaimed that the Gauls were present at the threshold (viz. this occurred in 387 B.C. after the Gauls had defeated the Romans at the Allia in 390 B.C.); the Gauls, protected by the darkness and by the gift of a shadowy night, had come through the thicket and were about to take hold of the citadel: they had (lit. to them [there was]) golden hair and golden garments, they gleam in their striped cloaks, and their milk-white necks are entwined with gold (necklaces), and each (man) brandishes two Alpine javelins in his hand, (while) protecting their bodies with their long shields. Then, he (i.e. Vulcan) had wrought (lit. hammered out) leaping Salii and naked Luperci, and wool-crested caps and the shields (which had) fallen from heaven, and chaste mothers were conducting the sacred (vessels) through the city in soft(-cushioned) carriages. Some distance from this, he  also depicts the habitations of Tartarus, the tall gateway of Dis (i.e. Pluto) and the punishments for crimes, and you, (O) Catiline (i.e. Lucius Sergius Catilina, whose plot to seize power was uncovered by Cicero in 63 B.C.) hanging from a threatening rock, and trembling at the faces of the Furies, (and) set apart, the righteous, (and) Cato (i.e. Marcus Porcius Cato the Younger, who committed suicide at Utica in 46 B. after Julius Caesar' victory at Thapsus) giving them their laws.

Ll. 671-728.  The book closes with four notable scenes from the career of Augustus: the sea-fight off Actium; the flight of Cleopatra; the triumph of Augustus in Rome; and Augustus receiving the gifts of the nation. 

Amid these (scenes) stretched an image of the broad swelling sea (wrought in) gold, but the dark-blue of the sea was foaming with white waves, and (all) around dolphins glittering in silver were sweeping the surface of the sea in circles with their tails, and cutting through the surge. In the centre (of the shield) it was possible to see the bronze-plated fleets (and) the fight off Actium (viz. in 31 B.C.), and you could have seen all Leucate seething with preparation for war (lit. with Mars having been drawn up), and the waves shining with gold. On one side (was) Augustus Caesar leading the Italians into battle together with senators and people, (and) the household gods and the great gods, standing on his high quarter-deck, while his brows joyfully discharge (lit. spout forth) two rays of light (lit. flames), and his father's star is revealed on his head. Elsewhere Agrippa, towering high (in his ship), (was) leading his column, with the winds and the gods (being) favourable: his brows are shining, adorned with the beaked naval crown, a proud ensign of war. On the other side, Antony with barbarian support and assorted arms, victorious over the peoples of the Dawn and the Red Sea, draws Egypt and the might of the Orient and furthest Bactria with him, and [(what) an outrage!] an Egyptian consort follows (him). All (the ships) are rushing together, and the whole surface of the sea, churned up by oars, drawn back (to the chests of the rowers) and by triple-pronged beaks, is foaming. They seek the deep; you would think that the Cyclades, uprooted (from their beds), are floating, and that lofty mountains are clashing with (other) mountains, in such massive (ships) are the (attacking) seamen standing on their towering sterns. Flaming tow and flying darts of iron are scattered from their hands, (and) Neptune's fields redden with fresh blood. In the centre, the queen calls up her columns by mens of her country's cymbal, and she does not yet see the twin snakes behind her (lit. at her back). Monstrous gods of every kind and the barking Anubis hold weapons against Neptune and Venus, and against Minerva. Engraved in steel, Mars rages in the midst of the battle, and the scowling Furies, (swooping down) from the sky, and Strife, with her torn robe, goes about joyfully, (and) Bellona follows (her) with her blood-stained scourge. Seeing this, Actian Apollo bent his bow from above: at that terror, every Egyptian and the Indians, every Arab, and all the Sabaeans turned and fled (lit. turned their backs). The queen herself was seen to spread her sails to the winds she had invoked, and now, even now, to let the sheets go slack. The Lord of Fire had portrayed her amid the slaughter, pale at impending death, borne by the waves and the West-North-West (wind), while, facing (her), he had portrayed the Nile mourning throughout his great frame, and, opening wide the folds (of his cloak), and, with all his raiment, inviting the vanquished to the bosom of his azure (waters) and his streams full of hiding places.  Next, Caesar entering the city of Rome in his triple triumph (viz. in 29 B.C.), was dedicating his immortal vow to the gods of Italy, three hundred mighty shrines through the whole city. The streets were roaring with rejoicing, merry-making and applause; (there was) a chorus of mothers in every temple, and in everyone (of these there were) altars (with fires kindled), and before these altars slaughtered bullocks lay strewn on the ground. Caesar, himself, sitting at the snow-white threshold of the dazzling (temple of) Phoebus, is inspecting the gifts of the peoples, and is fixing (them) to the majestic door-posts; conquered races, as diverse in tongues as in style of dress and weapons proceed in a long line. Mulciber (i.e. Vulcan) had fashioned a tribe of Numidians and loosely-dressed Africans here, as well as Leleges and Carians and arrow-bearing Geloni; the Euphrates flowed, tamer now in respect of its currents, and the Morini, most remote of men (were there), and the two-horned Rhine and the indomitable Dahae (i.e. Scythians) and the Araxes, resentful of its bridge.

Ll. 729-731.  In wonder and delight at these pictures of a future he will not live to see, Aeneas takes up the divine shield. 

He (i.e. Aeneas) marvels at such (scenes spread) over the shield of Vulcan, the gift of his mother, and, (although) ignorant of the events, he rejoices in their portrayal, (while) lifting on his shoulders the fame and fortunes of his descendants.


Virgil's poetry is justly renowned for the beauty and the grandeur of its rhythms. While these rhythms are, to some extent, circumscribed by the pattern of dactylic hexameters within which this style of heroic verse is written, Virgil manages, at all times, to achieve sufficient variation in the construction of his verses to ensure an absence of monotony.

In order to illustrate the level of variety which is present within his verse, it is necessary to analyse, or scan, each line into its constituent parts, and then to see the extent to which they differ in respect of the incidence of the long and short syllables which each line contains. The usual way in which to analyse a line of hexameter, or heroic, verse is in relation to the six feet ('metra') of which each line consists. The basis of each of these six feet is the 'dactyl' (i.e. - u u), although the sixth and final foot is always 'catalectic' (i.e. its final syllable is 'cut off') or necessarily 'contracted' into a 'spondee' (i.e. - -). In the first five feet, each dactyl can be contracted into a spondee, except in the case of of the fifth foot, where such contraction occurs only on an exceptional basis (e.g. in the 731 lines of the 'Aeneid' Book VIII, only six lines - viz. ll. 54, 167, 341, 345, 402 and 679 - have a spondee in this foot).

Another, and for the purpose of illustrating the level of variation in Virgil's rhythms, a perhaps more appropriate method of analysis, is to divide his lines into 'cola' or 'limbs', i.e. units of 5-10 syllables which can be used in various metrical forms. In this context, each line of Virgil's verse consists of two 'hemiepes' (i.e. half-epic) cola ('D'), (i.e. - u u - u u - ), separated by a contractable 'biceps' element (i.e. u u), and one long syllable is added at the end of each line. Although this final syllable can in fact be a short syllable, it always counts as long for metrical purposes by use of the device of 'brevis in longo'. Thus each line of the 'Aeneid' can be described as follows: - u u - u u - u u - u u - u u - -, or D u u D -. Although it is not possible for the hexameter poet to 'resolve' any of the long syllables into two short syllables, it is permissible for all pairs of short syllables to be contracted into one long syllable, and indeed it is from this available metrical flexibility, as well as from the variation in line length which it facilitates, that the possible variation in rhythm arises.

Although each line of hexameter verse contains two hemiepes cola, the extent of variation in the second of these is strictly limited by the effective requirement that the fifth foot should consist of a dactyl ( - u u), and the final foot of the line is always a spondee (- -). As a result, each line is anchored by the familiar 'shave and a haircut' or 'blackberry pudding' ending, (N.B. long syllables are underlined here) and the only possibility of rhythmic variation in the second half of a hexameter line lies in the first dactyl of the second hemiepes.

In the first hemiepes, however, both of its dactyls are contractable, and, consequently, the first part of each line of hexameter verse can be metrically constructed in four different ways. These four options are indicated below, together with an example in English verse taken from Henry Longfellow's poem 'Evangeline'.

a.  - u u - u u - (i.e. no contractions): "White as the snow were his locks"

b.  - u u - - - (i.e. second dactyl contracted): "Hearty and hale was he"

c.  - - - u u - (i.e. first dactyl contracted): "Fair was she to behold"

d.  - - - - - (i.e. both dactyls contracted): "Fairer was she when, on"
The following four lines (ll. 306-09) from Book VIII indicate the effect in Latin of this metrical variation:

d.  Exim se cuncti divinis rebus ad urbem

c.  perfectis referunt. ibat rex obsitus aevo,

b.  et comit(em) Aenean iuxta natumque tenebat

a.  ingrediens, varioque viam sermone levabat.

The table below shows the extent to which Virgil makes use of each of these four rhythmic possibilities in the first hemiepes of each line:

Ll.                  a.      b.     c.     d.      *     Total.

1-17.              1      7       2       7               17

18-65.           13     17    10      8                48

66-101.         12     12      8      4                36

102-151.       12     14     14    10               50

152-183.       10     10      8      4               32

184-279.       18     30     25    23              96

280-305.         9      7        9      1              26

306-369.       15    20      15    14              64

370-423.       20    10      19      5              54

424-453.        8      8        6      8               30

454-519.       15    17     14     19      1       66

520-553.        7      8      11       8              34

554-584.        7     11       8       5              31

585-607.        7       8       2       6              23

608-625.        3       9       5       1              18

626-651.        6       9       5       6              26

652-670.        4       4       2       9              19

671-728.       17     22      9      10             58          

729-731.         1       0      1       1               3

                    185   223  173  149      1     731

%                25.3  30.5  23.7 20.4   0.1    100

(* The unfinished l.469 does not even complete the first hemiepes.)

The above analysis demonstrates not only the even-handed use made by Virgil of each of these four rhythmic variants, but also the way in which he effects this variety throughout the whole book, thus avoiding any risk of rhythmic monotony. This rhythmic variety also contributes in a very significant manner to the elegant quality of Virgil's compulsive verse, and his exquisite control of its rhythmic patterns,
Last modified onWednesday, 01 November 2017 22:47

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.