Vergil's Aeneid, Books 2-3

Week 5: Ancient Rome - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images

Cassandra is Taken

Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 500 words.

Now the Trojans see Cassandra, the daughter of King Priam, dragged out of the temple of Minerva where she had sought refuge. Cassandra is famous as the prophetess who was ignored by everyone. She had been the lover of the god Apollo, so he had given her the gift of prophecy. But because she had then spurned him, Apollo made it so that no one believed the things she said. Cassandra is given as a captive slave to Agamemnon; he will take her home with him, and there she will be killed, together with Agamemnon, by Agamemnon's wife Clytemnestra (maybe you already read about Agamemnon's bloody homecoming in the Odyssey section).

And at this Coroebus, exultant with courage and success, cries:
"Oh my friends, where fortune first points out the path to safety,
and shows herself a friend, let us follow. Let's change our shields
adopt Greek emblems. Courage or deceit: who'll question it in war?
They'll arm us themselves." With these words, he takes up
Androgeos's plumed helmet, his shield with its noble markings,
and straps the Greek's sword to his side. Ripheus does likewise,
Dymas too, and all the warriors delight in it. Each man
arms himself with the fresh spoils. We pass on
mingling with the Greeks, with gods that are not our known,
and clash, in many an armed encounter, in the blind night,
and we send many a Greek down to Orcus.

Some scatter to the ships, and run for safer shores,
some, in humiliated terror, climb the vast horse again
and hide in the womb they know.
Ah, put no faith in anything the will of the gods opposes!
See, Priam's virgin daughter [Cassandra] dragged, with streaming hair,
from the sanctuary and temple of Minerva,
lifting her burning eyes to heaven in vain:
her eyes, since cords restrained her gentle hands.
Coroebus could not stand the sight, maddened in mind,
and hurled himself among the ranks, seeking death.
We follow him, and, weapons locked, charge together.

Here, at first, we were overwhelmed by Trojan spears,
hurled from the high summit of the temple,
and wretched slaughter was caused by the look of our armour,
and the confusion arising from our Greek crests.

Then the Danaans, gathering from all sides, groaning with anger
at the girl being pulled away from them, rush us,
Ajax the fiercest, the two Atrides, all the Greek host:
just as, at the onset of a tempest, conflicting winds clash, the west,
the south, and the east that joys in the horses of dawn:
the forest roars, brine-wet Nereus rages with his trident,
and stirs the waters from their lowest depths.
Even those we have scattered by a ruse, in the dark of night,
and driven right through the city, re-appear: for the first time
they recognise our shields and deceitful weapons,
and realise our speech differs in sound to theirs.

In a moment we're overwhelmed by weight of numbers:
first Coroebus falls, by the armed goddess's altar, at the hands
of Peneleus: and Ripheus, who was the most just of all the Trojans,
and keenest for what was right (the gods' vision was otherwise):
Hypanis and Dymas die at the hands of allies:
and your great piety, Panthus, and Apollo's sacred headband
can not defend you in your downfall.

Ashes of Ilium, death flames of my people, be witness
that, at your ruin, I did not evade the Danaan weapons,
nor the risks, and, if it had been my fate to die,
I earned it with my sword. Then we are separated,
Iphitus and Pelias with me, Iphitus weighed down by the years,
and Pelias, slow-footed, wounded by Ulysses:
immediately we're summoned to Priam's palace by the clamour.

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • what do Aeneas do with the armor and weapons of the Greek soldiers?
  • who are the Greeks dragging out from the temple of Minerva (Athena)?
  • why do Aeneas and the Trojans turn their attention to Priam's palace?

Source: A.S.Kline, translator. Vergil's Aeneid (2002). Weblink. Kline has made his English translation of Vergil's Aeneid freely available over the Internet.

Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM