Vergil's Aeneid, Books 2-3

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

The Loss of Creusa

Reading time: 5 minutes. Word count: 700 words.

Aeneas, carrying his father, holding his son's hand, and with this wife behind, all rush through the slaughter and confusion, and when the enemy approaches the break into a run. In the confusion, Creusa, Aeneas' wife, disappears. She does not meet them at the rendezvous point. So Aeneas returns into the confusion of the battle, desperately looking for his wife...

And now I was near the gates, and thought I had completed
my journey, when suddenly the sound of approaching feet
filled my hearing, and, peering through the darkness,
my father cried: "My son, run my son, they are near us:
I see their glittering shields and gleaming bronze."

Some hostile power, at this, scattered my muddled wits.
for while I was following alleyways, and straying
from the region of streets we knew, did my wife Creusa halt,
snatched away from me by wretched fate?
Or did she wander from the path or collapse with weariness?
Who knows? She was never restored to our sight,
nor did I look back for my lost one, or cast a thought behind me,
until we came to the mound, and ancient Ceres's sacred place.

Here when all were gathered together at last, one was missing,
and had escaped the notice of friends, child and husband.
What man or god did I not accuse in my madness:
what did I know of in the city's fall crueller than this?
I place Ascanius, and my father Anchises, and the gods of Troy,
in my companions' care, and conceal them in a winding valley:
I myself seek the city once more, and take up my shining armour.
I'm determined to incur every risk again, and retrace
all Troy, and once more expose my life to danger.

First I look for the wall, and the dark threshold of the gate
from which my path led, and I retrace the landmarks
of my course in the night, scanning them with my eye.
Everywhere the terror in my heart, and the silence itself,
dismay me. Then I take myself homewards, in case
by chance, by some chance, she has made her way there.

The Greeks have invaded, and occupied, the whole house.
Suddenly eager fire, rolls over the rooftop, in the wind:
the flames take hold, the blaze rages to the heavens.
I pass by and see again Priam's palace and the citadel.
Now Phoenix, and fatal Ulysses, the chosen guards, watch over
the spoils, in the empty courts of Juno's sanctuary.
Here the Trojan treasures are gathered from every part,
ripped from the blazing shrines, tables of the gods,
solid gold bowls, and plundered robes.
Mothers and trembling sons stand round in long ranks.
I even dared to hurl my shouts through the shadows,
filling the streets with my clamour, and in my misery,
redoubling my useless cries, again and again.
Searching, and raging endlessly among the city roofs,
the unhappy ghost and true shadow of Creusa
appeared before my eyes, in a form greater than I'd known.

I was dumbfounded, my hair stood on end, and my voice
stuck in my throat. Then she spoke and with these words
mitigated my distress: "Oh sweet husband, what use is it
to indulge in such mad grief? This has not happened
without the divine will: neither its laws nor the ruler
of great Olympus let you take Creusa with you,
away from here. Yours is long exile, you must plough
a vast reach of sea: and you will come to Hesperia's land,
where Lydian Tiber flows in gentle course among the farmers'
rich fields. There, happiness, kingship and a royal wife
will be yours. Banish these tears for your beloved Creusa.
I, a Trojan woman, and daughter-in-law to divine Venus,
shall never see the noble halls of the Dolopians,
or Myrmidons, or go as slave to some Greek wife:
instead the great mother of the gods keeps me on this shore.
Now farewell, and preserve your love for the son we share."

When she had spoken these words, leaving me weeping
and wanting to say so many things, she faded into thin air.
Three times I tried to throw my arms about her neck:
three times her form fled my hands, clasped in vain,
like the light breeze, most of all like a winged dream.
So at last when night was done, I returned to my friends.

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

  • what does Aeneas do when he discovers his wife Creusa is missing?
  • what did Creusa's ghost say to Aeneas?
  • what happened when Aeneas tried to embrace Creusa?

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