Vergil's Aeneid, Books 2-3

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


The Trojans Leave Crete for Italy

Reading time: 3 minutes. Word count: 400 words.

When Aeneas tell his father about this divine relevation, his father realizes the mistake he made and quickly agrees that they should head west. But as they leave Crete behind and set sail across the Mediterranean (see the map), a huge storm blows up and they lose their way... even their pilot Palinurus did not know what direction they were heading.

Amazed by such a vision, and the voices of the gods,
(it was not a dream, but I seemed to recognise their expression,
before me, their wreathed hair, their living faces:
then a cold sweat bathed all my limbs)
my body leapt from the bed, and I lifted my voice
and upturned palms to heaven, and offered pure
gifts on the hearth-fire. The rite completed, with joy
I told Anchises of this revelation, revealing it all in order.

He understood about the ambiguity in our origins, and the dual descent,
and that he had been deceived by a fresh error,
about our ancient country. Then he spoke: "My son, troubled
by Troy's fate, Only Cassandra prophesied such an outcome.
Now I remember her foretelling that this was destined for our race,
and often spoke of Hesperia, and the Italian kingdom.
Who'd believe that Trojans would travel to Hesperia's shores?
Who'd have been moved by Cassandra, the prophetess, then?
Let's trust to Apollo, and, warned by him, take the better course."

So he spoke, and we were delighted to obey his every word.
We departed this home as well, and, leaving some people behind,
set sail, and ran through the vast ocean in our hollow ships.
When the fleet had reached the high seas and the land
was no longer seen, sky and ocean on all sides, then
a dark-blue rain cloud settled overhead, bringing
night and storm, and the waves bristled with shadows.
Immediately the winds rolled over the water and great seas rose:
we were scattered here and there in the vast abyss.

Storm-clouds shrouded the day, and the night mists
hid the sky: lightning flashed again from the torn clouds.
We were thrown off course, and wandered the blind waves.
Palinurus himself was unable to tell night from day in the sky,
and could not determine his path among the waves.
So for three days, and as many starless nights,
we wandered uncertainly, in a dark fog, over the sea.

At last, on the fourth day, land was first seen to rise,
revealing far off mountains and rolling smoke.
The sails fell, we stood to the oars: without pause, the sailors,
at full stretch, churned the foam, and swept the blue sea.


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

  • why was Aeneas's father Anchises not surprised by the instructions to go to Italy?
  • what kind of weather did they encounter when they set sail for Italy?
  • how did Palinurus die?


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