Vergil's Aeneid, Books 2-3

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


Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 600 words.

If you look on the map, you will see that Crete lies dues south of Delos. Aeneas and his ships sail to Crete and establish a city there, which Aeneas names Pergamum. But then a plague strikes them, a punishment from the gods. The Penates, Aeneas's "household gods," appear to him in a dream and explain that the interpretation of the oracle was all wrong: they were never supposed to come to Crete at all. Their destination is actually supposed to be Hesperia, also known as... Italy.

So saying, he sacrificed the due offerings at the altars,
a bull to Neptune, a bull to you, glorious Apollo, a black sheep
to the Storm god, a white to the auspicious Westerlies.

A rumour spread that Prince Idomeneus had been driven
from his father's kingdom, and the Cretan shores were deserted,
her houses emptied of enemies, and the abandoned homes
waiting for us. We left Ortygia's harbour, and sped over the sea,
threading the foaming straits thick with islands, Naxos
with its Bacchic worship in the hills, green Donysa, Olearos,
snow-white Paros, and the Cyclades, scattered over the waters.

The sailors' cries rose, as they competed in their various tasks:
the crew shouted: "We're headed for Crete, and our ancestors."

A wind rising astern sent us on our way, and at last
we glided by the ancient shores of the Curetes.
Then I worked eagerly on the walls of our chosen city, and called
it Pergamum, and exhorted my people, delighting in the name,
to show love for their homes, and build a covered fortress.

Now the ships were usually beached on the dry sand:
the young men were busy with weddings and their fresh fields:
I was deciding on laws and homesteads: suddenly,
from some infected region of the sky, came a wretched plague,
corrupting bodies, trees, and crops, and a season of death.
They relinquished sweet life, or dragged their sick limbs
around: then Sirius blazed over barren fields:
the grass withered, and the sickly harvest denied its fruits.

My father urged us to retrace the waves, and revisit
the oracle of Apollo at Delos, and beg for protection,
ask where the end might be to our weary fate, where he commands
that we seek help for our trouble, where to set our course.

It was night, and sleep had charge of earth's creatures:
The sacred statues of the gods, the Phrygian Penates,
that I had carried with me from Troy, out of the burning city,
seemed to stand there before my eyes, as I lay in sleep,
perfectly clear in the light, where the full moon
streamed through the window casements: then they spoke
to me and with their words dispelled my cares:

"Apollo speaks here what he would say to you, on reaching Delos,
and sends us besides, as you see, to your threshold.
When Troy burned we followed you and your weapons,
we crossed the swelling seas with you on your ships,
we too shall raise your descendants yet to be, to the stars,
and grant empire to your city. Build great walls for the great,
and do not shrink from the long labour of exile.
Change your country. These are not the shores that Delian
Apollo urged on you, he did not order you to settle in Crete.
There is a place the Greeks call Hesperia by name,
an ancient land powerful in arms and in richness of the soil:
There the Oenotrians lived: now the rumour is that
a younger race has named it Italy after their leader.
That is our true home, Dardanus and father Iasius,
from whom our race first came, sprang from there.
Come, bear these words of truth joyfully to your old father,
that he might seek Corythus and Ausonia's lands:
Jupiter denies the fields of Dicte to you."

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

  • why did the Trojans have to abandon Crete?
  • who appeared to Aeneas in a dream vision?
  • what were the new directions that Aeneas received?

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