Vergil's Aeneid, Books 2-3

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

Aeneas Finds his Family

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

Because Venus has removed the veil from his eyes, Aeneas is able to see that Troy is doomed to fall, the very gods are against them. So he rushes home to his old father, Anchises, and to his wife and son. Aeneas is ready to take them out of the city and to flee to safety, but his father will not leave: he is old, and will not seek another home. He would rather kill himself there in his own house than seek shelter somewhere else. Aeneas and all his family are desperate to change his mind, and they will not leave without him...

Then in truth all Ilium seemed to me to sink in flames,
and Neptune's Troy was toppled from her base:
just as when foresters on the mountain heights
compete to uproot an ancient ash tree, struck
time and again by axe and blade, it threatens continually
to fall, with trembling foliage and shivering crown,
till gradually vanquished by the blows it groans at last,
and torn from the ridge, crashes down in ruin.

I descend, and, led by a goddess, am freed from flames
and enemies: the spears give way, and the flames recede.
And now, when I reached the threshold of my father's house,
and my former home, my father, whom it was my first desire
to carry into the high mountains, and whom I first sought out,
refused to extend his life or endure exile, since Troy had fallen.

"Oh, you," he cried, "whose blood has the vigour of youth,
and whose power is unimpaired in its force, it's for you
to take flight. As for me, if the gods had wished to lengthen
the thread of my life, they'd have spared my house. It is
more than enough that I saw one destruction, and survived
one taking of the city. Depart, saying farewell to my body
lying here so, yes so. I shall find death with my own hand:
the enemy will pity me, and look for plunder. The loss
of my burial is nothing. Clinging to old age for so long,
I am useless, and hated by the gods, ever since
the father of the gods and ruler of men breathed the winds
of his lightning-bolt onto me, and touched me with fire."
So he persisted in saying, and remained adamant.

We, on our side, Creusa, my wife, and Ascanius, all our household,
weeping bitterly, determined that he should not destroy everything
along with himself, and crush us by urging our doom.
He refused and clung to his place and his purpose.
I hurried to my weapons again, and, miserably, longed for death,
since what tactic or opportunity was open to us now?

"Did you think I could leave you, father, and depart?
Did such sinful words fall from your lips?
If it pleases the gods to leave nothing of our great city standing,
if this is set in your mind, if it delights you to add yourself
and all that's yours to the ruins of Troy, the door is open
to that death: soon Pyrrhus comes, drenched in Priam's blood,
he who butchers the son in front of the father, the father at the altar.
Kind mother, did you rescue me from fire and sword
for this, to see the enemy in the depths of my house,
and Ascanius, and my father, and Creusa, slaughtered,
thrown together in a heap, in one another's blood?
Weapons men, bring weapons: the last day calls to the defeated.
Lead me to the Greeks again: let me revisit the battle anew.
This day we shall not all perish unavenged."

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

  • who greets Aeneas when he returns home?
  • what does Aeneas's father Anchises want to do?
  • how does Aeneas react to his father's wishes?

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