Classical Texts Library >> Virgil, Aeneid >> Book 2




Storm, Aeneas & Dido Part I


Aeneas' Tale: Sack of Troy


Aeneas' Tale: The Voyage


Aeneas & Dido Part II


Funeral Games of Anchises


The Cumaean Sibyl
Journey to the Underworld

BOOKS 7 - 12


[1] All were hushed, and kept their rapt gaze upon him; then from his raised couch father Aeneas thus began:

[3] “Too deep for words, O queen, is the grief you bid me renew, how the Greeks overthrew Troy’s wealth and woeful realm – the sights most piteous that I saw myself and wherein I played no small role. What Myrmidon or Dolopian, or soldier of the stern Ulysses, could refrain from tears in telling such a tale? And now dewy night is speeding from the sky and the setting stars counsel sleep. Yet if such is your desire to learn of our disasters, and in few words to hear of Troy’s last agony, though my mind shudders to remember and has recoiled in pain, I will begin.

[13] “Broken in war and thwarted by the fates, the Danaan chiefs, now that so many years were gliding by, build by Pallas’ divine art a horse of mountainous bulk, and interweave its ribs with planks of fir. They pretend it is an offering for their safe return; this is the rumour that goes abroad. Here, within its dark sides, they stealthily enclose the choicest of their stalwart men and deep within they fill the huge cavern of the belly with armed soldiery.

[21] “There lies in sight an island well known to fame, Tenedos, rich in wealth while Priam’s kingdom stood, now but a bay and an unsafe anchorage for ships. Hither they sail and hide themselves on the barren shore. We thought they had gone and before the wind were bound for Mycenae. So all the Teucrian land frees itself from its long sorrow. The gates are opened; it is a joy to go and see the Doric camp, the deserted stations and forsaken shore. Here the Dolopian bands encamped, here cruel Achilles; here lay the fleet; here they used to meet us in battle. Some are amazed at maiden Minerva’s gift of death, and marvel at the massive horse: and first Thymoetes urges that it be drawn within our walls and lodged in the citadel; either it was treachery or the doom of Troy was already tending that way. But Capys, and they whose minds were wiser in counsel, bid us either hurl headlong into the sea this guile of the Greeks, this distrusted gift, or fire it with flames heaped beneath; or else pierce and probe the hollow hiding place of the belly. The wavering crowd is torn into opposing factions.

[40] “Then, foremost of all and with a great throng following, Laocoön in hot haste runs down from the citadel’s height, and cries from afar: ‘My poor countrymen, what monstrous madness is this? Do you believe the foe has sailed away? Do you think that any gifts of the Greeks are free from treachery? Is Ulysses known to be this sort of man? Either enclosed in this frame there lurk Achaeans, or this has been built as an engine of war against our walls, to spy into our homes and come down upon the city from above; or some trickery lurks inside. Men of Troy, trust not the horse. Whatever it be, I fear the Greeks, even when bringing gifts.’ So saying, with mighty force he hurled his great spear at the beast’s side an the arched frame of the belly. The spear stood quivering and with the cavity’s reverberation the vaults rang hollow, sending forth a moan. And had the gods’ decrees, had our mind not been perverse, he would have driven us to violate with steel the Argive den, and Troy would now be standing, and you, lofty citadel of Priam, would still abide!

[57] “But meanwhile some Dardan shepherds with loud shouts were haling to the king a youth whose hands were bound behind his back. To compass this very end and open Troy to the Achaeans, deliberately, stranger though he was, he had placed himself in their path, confident in spirit and ready for either event, either to ply his crafty wiles or to meet certain death. From all sides, in eagerness to see, the Trojan youth run streaming in and vie in mocking the captive. Hear now the treachery of the Greeks and from a single crime learn the wickedness of all . . . For as he stood amid the gazing crowd, dismayed, unarmed, and cast his eyes about the Phrygian bands, ‘Alas!’ he cried, ‘what land now, what seas can receive me? Or what fate at the last yet awaits my misery? No place at all have I among the Greeks, and the Trojans themselves, too, wildly clamour for vengeance and my life.’ At that wail our mood was changed and all violence checked. We urge him to say from what blood he is sprung and what tidings he brings. ‘Tell us, ‘we cry, ‘on what you rely, now that you are our prisoner.’ At last he lays aside his fear and speaks these words:

[77] “’Surely, king,’ he says, ‘whatever befalls, I will tell all to you, nor will I deny that I am of Argive birth. This first I own; nor, if Fortune has moulded Sinon for misery, will she also in her spite mould him as false and lying. If it chance that speech to your ears has brought some rumour of Palamedes, son of Belus, and the glory of his fame – whom under false evidence, by wicked witnessing, because he forbade the war, the Pelasgians sent down innocent to death, and mourn him, now that he is bereft of light – in his company, being of kindred blood, my father, poor as he was, sent me hither to arms in my earliest years. While he stood secure in princely power and strong in the councils of the kings, we, too, bore some name and renown. But when through the malice of subtle Ulysses – not unknown is the tale – he passed from this world above, I dragged on my ruined life in darkness and grief, wrathful in my heart over the fate of my innocent friend. Nor in my madness was I silent, but, if any chance should offer, if I ever returned in triumph to my native Argos, I vowed myself his avenger and with my words awoke fierce hate. Hence for me the first taint of ill; hence would Ulysses ever terrify me with new charges; hence would he sow dark rumours in the crowd and with guilty fear seek weapons. Nor indeed id he rest until with Calchas as his tool – but why do I vainly unroll this unwelcome tale? Or why delay you? If you hold the Achaeans in one rank, and if it is enough to hear that, take your vengeance at once; this the Ithacan would wish and the son of Atreus buy at a great price!’

[105] “Then indeed we burn to inquire and ask the causes, strangers as we were to wickedness so great and to Pelasgian gilde. Trembling he takes up the tale and speaks with feigned emotion:

[108] “’Often the Greeks longed to quit Troy, compass a retreat, and depart, weary with the long war; and how I wish that they had done so! Often a fierce tempest on the deep cut them off and the gale scared them from going. Above all, when this horse was ready, a structure compacted of maple beams, storm clouds thundered throughout the sky. Perplexed, we send Eurypylus to ask the oracle of Phoebus, and he brings back from the shrine the gloomy words: “With blood of a slain virgin you appeased the winds, when first, Greeks, you came to the Ilian coasts; with blood must you win your return and gain favour by an Argive life.” When this utterance came to the ears of the crowd, they in their hearts were dazed, and a cold shudder ran through their inmost marrow. For whom is fate preparing this doom? Whom does Apollo claim? On this the Ithacan with loud clamour drags the seer Calchas into their midst and demands what this is that the gods will. And now many predicated that I was the target of the schemer’s cruel crime and silently saw what was to come. Twice five days is the seer silent in his tent, refusing to denounce any by his lips or to consign to death. Reluctantly, at last, forced by the Ithacan’s loud cries, even as agreed he breaks into utterance and dooms me to the altar. All approved; and what each feared for himself they bore with patience, when turned to one man’s ruin.

[132] “’And now the day of horror was at hand; for me the rites were preparing, the salted meat, and the fillets for my temples. I snatched myself, I confess, from death; I burst my bonds, and lurked all night in muddy mere, hidden in the sedge, until they should set sail, in case they would. And now no hope have I of seeing my ancient homeland, or my sweet children and the father I long for. Of them perchance they will demand due punishment for my flight, and by their death, unhappy ones, expiate this crime of mine. But I beseech you, by the gods above, by the powers that know the truth, by whatever faith may still be found unstained anywhere among mortals, pity such distress; pity a soul that bears sorrow undeserved!’

[145] “To these tears we grant life and pity him besides. Priam himself first bids his fetters and tight bonds be removed, and thus speaks with words of kindness: ‘Whoever you are, from now on forget the Greeks you have lost; you will be one of us. And explain to me truly this that I ask. To what end have they set up this huge mass of horse? Who is the contriver? What is their aim? What religious offering is it? What engine of war?’ He ceased; the other, schooled in Pelasgian guile and craft, lifted to the stars his unfettered hands: ‘You, everlasting fires,’ he cries, ‘and your inviolable majesty, be my witness; you, altars, and accursed swords which I escaped, and chaplets of the gods, which I wore as victim, grant that I may rightly break my solemn obligations to the Greeks, rightly hate them and bring all things to light if they hide aught; nor am I bound by any laws of country. But Troy, stand by your promises and, yourself, preserve your faith, if my tidings prove true and pay you a large return!

[162] “’All the hope of the Danaans and their confidence in beginning the war always rested on the help of Pallas. But from the time that the ungodly son of Tydeus and Ulysses, the author of crime, dared to tear the fateful Palladium from its hallowed shrine, slew the guards of the citadel-height, and, snatching up the sacred image, ventured with bloody hands to touch the fillets of the maiden goddess – from that time the hopes of the Danaans ebbed and, stealing backward, receded; their strength was broken and the heart of the goddess estranged. And with no doubtful portents did Tritonia give signs thereof. Scarcely was the image placed within the camp, when from the upraised eyes there blazed forth flickering flames, salt sweat coursed over the limbs, and thrice, wonderful to relate, the goddess herself flashed forth from the ground with shield and quivering spear. Straightway Calchas prophesies that the seas must be essayed in flight, and that Pergamus cannot be uptorn by Argive weapons, unless they seek new omens at Argos, and escort back the deity, whom they have taken away overseas in their curved ships. And now that before the wind they are bound for their native Mycenae, it is but to get them forces and attendant gods; then, recrossing the sea, they will be here unlooked for. So Calchas interprets the omens. This image, at his warning, they have set up in atonement for the Palladium, for the insult to deity, and to expiate the woeful sacrilege. Yet Calchas bade them raise this mass of interlaced timbers so huge, and to built it up to heaven, so that it might find no entrance at the gates, be drawn within the walls, or guard the people under shelter of their ancient faith. For if hand of yours should wrong Minerva’s offering, then utter destruction – may the gods turn rather on himself that augury! – would fall on Priam’s empire and the Phrygians; but if by your hands it climbed into your city, Asia would even advance in mighty war to the walls of Pelops, and such would be the doom awaiting our offspring!’

[195] “Through such snares and craft of forsworn Sinon the story won belief, and we were ensnared by wiles and forced tears – we whom neither the son of Tydeus nor Achilles of Larissa laid low, not ten years, not a thousand ships!

[199] “Hereupon another portent, more fell and more frightful by far, is thrust upon us, unhappy ones, and confounds our unforeseeing souls. Laocoön, priest of Neptue, as drawn by lot, was slaying a great bull at the wonted altars; and lo! from Tenedos, over the peaceful depths – I shudder as I speak – a pair of serpents with endless coils are breasting he sea and side by side making for the shore. Their bosoms rise amid he surge, and their crests, blood-red, overtop the waves; the rest of them skims the main behind and their huge backs curve in many a fold; we hear the noise as the water foams. And now they were gaining the fields and, with blazing eyes suffused with blood and fire, were licking with quivering tongues their hissing mouths. Pale at the sight, we scatter. They in unswerving course make for Laocoön; and first each serpent enfolds in its embrace the small bodies of his two sons and with its fangs feeds upon the hapless limbs. Then himself too, as he comes to their aid, weapons in hand, they seize and bind in mighty folds; and now, twice encircling his waist, twice winding their scaly backs around his throat, they tower above with head and lofty necks. He the while strains his hands to burst the knots, his fillets steeped in gore and black venom; the while he lifts to heaven hideous cries, like the bellowings of a wounded bull that has bled from the altar and shaken from its neck the ill-aimed axe. But, gliding away, the dragon pair escape to the lofty shrines, and seek fierce Tritonia’s citadel, there to nestle under the goddess’s feet and the circle of her shield. Then indeed a strange terror steals through the shuddering hearts of all, and they say that Laocoön has rightly paid the penalty of crime, who with his lance profaned the sacred oak and hurled into its body the accursed spear. ‘Draw the image to her house,’ all cry, ‘and supplicate her godhead.’ . . . We part the walls and lay bare the city’s battlements. All gird themselves for the work; under the feet they place gliding wheels, and about the neck stretch hemp bands. The fateful engine climbs our walls, big with arms. Around it boys and unwedded girls chant holy songs and delight to touch the cable with their hands. Up it moves, and glides threatening into the city’s midst. O my country! O Ilium, home of gods, and you Dardan battlements, famed in war! Four times at the gates’ very threshold it halted, and four times from its belly the armour clashed; yet we press on, heedless and blind with rage, and set the ill-omened monster on our hallowed citadel. Even then Cassandra opened her lips for the coming doom – lips at a god’s command never believed by the Trojans. We, hapless ones, for whom that day was our last, wreathe the shrines of the gods with festal boughs throughout the city.

[250] “Meanwhile the sky revolves and night rushes from the ocean, wrapping in its mighty shade earth and heaven and the wiles of the Myrmidons. Through the town the Teucrians lay stretched in silence; sleep clasps their weary limbs. And now the Argive host, with marshaled ships, was moving from Tenedos, amid the friendly silence of the mute moon, seeking the well-known shores, when the royal galley had raised the beacon light – and Sinon, shielded by the gods’ malign doom, stealthily sets free from the barriers of pine the Danaans shut within the womb. The opened horse restores them to the air, and joyfully from the hollow wood come forth Thessandrus and Sthenelus the captains, and dread Ulysses, sliding down the lowered rope; Acamas and Thoas and Neoptolemus of Peleus’ line, prince Machaon, Menelaus, and Epeus himself, who devised the fraud. They storm the city, buried in sleep and wine; they slay the watch, and at the open gates welcome all their comrades and unite confederate bands.

[268] “It was the hour when the first rest of weary mortals begins, and by grace of the gods steals over them most sweet. In slumbers, I dreamed that Hector, most sorrowful and shedding floods of tears, stood before my eyes, torn by the car, as once of old, and black with gory dust, his swollen feet pierced with thongs. Ah me, what aspect was his! How changed he was from that Hector who returns after donning the spoils of Achilles or hurling on Danaan ships the Phrygian fires – with ragged beard, with hair matted with blood, and bearing those many wounds he received around his native walls. I dreamed I wept myself, hailing him first, and uttering words of grief: ‘O light of the Dardan land, surest hope of the Trojans, what long delay has held you? From what shores, Hector, the long looked for, do you come? Oh, how gladly after the many deaths of your kin, after woes untold of citizens and city, our weary eyes behold you! What shameful cause has marred that unclouded face? Why do I see these wounds?’ He answers not, nor heeds my idle questioning, but drawing heavy sighs from his bosom’s depths, ‘Ah, flee, goddess-born,’ he cries, ‘and escape from these flames. The foe holds our walls; Troy falls from her lofty height. All claims are paid to king and country; if Troy’s towers could be saved by strength of hand, by mine, too, had they been saved. Troy entrusts to you her holy things and household gods; take them to share your fortunes: seek for them the mighty city, which, when you have wandered over the deep, you shall at last establish!’ So he speaks and in his hands brings forth from the inner shrine the fillets, great Vesta, and the undying fire.

[298] “On every side, meanwhile, the city is in a turmoil of anguish; and more and more, though my father Anchises’ house lay far withdrawn and screened by trees, clearer grow the sounds and war’s dread din sweeps on. I shake myself from sleep and, climbing to the roof’s topmost height, stand with straining ears: even as, when fire falls on a cornfield while south winds are raging, or the rushing torrent from a mountain streams lays low the fields, lays low the glad crops and labours of oxen and drags down forests headlong, spellbound the bewildering shepherd hears the roar from a rock’s lofty peak. Then indeed the truth is clear and the guile of the Danaans grows manifest. Even now the spacious house of Deiphobus has fallen, as the fire god towers above; even now his neighbour Ucalegon blazes; the broad Sigean straits reflect the flames. Then rise the cries of men and blare of clarions. Frantic I seize arms; yet little purpose is there in arms, but my heart burns to muster a force for battle and hasten with my comrades to the citadel. Frenzy and anger drive my soul headlong and I think how glorious it is to die in arms!

[318] “But, lo! Panthus, escaping from Achaean swords – Panthus, son of Othrys, priest of Phoebus on the citadel – in his own hand bearing the holy things and vanquished gods, and dragging his little grandchild, runs frantic to my doors. ‘Where is the crisis, Panthus? What stronghold are we to seize?’ Scarcely had I said these words, when with a groan he answers thus: ‘It is come – the last day and inevitable hour for Troy. We Trojans are no more, Ilium is no more, nor the great glory of the Teucrians; in wrath Jupiter ahs taken all away to Argos; our city is aflame, and in it the Greeks are lords. The horse, standing high in the city’s midst, pours forth armed men, and Sinon, victorious, insolently scatters flames! Some are at the wide-open gates, as many thousands as ever came from mighty Mycenae; others with confronting weapons have barred the narrow ways; a standing line of steel, with flashing point unsheathed, is ready for the slaughter. Scarce do the first guards of the gates essay battle, and resist in blind warfare.’ By such words of Othrys’ son and by divine will I am driven amid flames and weapons, where the fell Fury, where the roar and the shouts rising to heaven call. Then, falling in with me in the moonlight, comrades join me, and there gather to our side Rhipeus and Epytus, mighty in arms, Hypanis and Dymas, with young Coroebus, son of Mygdon. In those days, as it chanced, he had come to Troy, fired with mad love for Cassandra, and as a son was bringing aid to Priam and the Phrygians – luckless one, not to have heeded the warning of his inspired bride . . . When I saw them in close ranks and eager for battle, I thereupon begin thus: ‘My men, hearts vainly valiant, if your desire is fixed to follow me in my final venture, you see what is the fate of our cause. All the gods on whom this empire was stayed have gone forth, leaving shrine and altar; the city you aid is in flames. Let us die, and rush into the battle’s midst! Once chance the vanquished have, to hope for none.’

[355] “Thus their young spirits were spurred to fury. Then, like ravening wolves in a black mist, when the belly’s lawless rage has driven them blindly forth, and their whelps at home await them with thirsty jaws, through swords, through foes we pass to certain death, and hold our way to the city’s heart; black night hovers around with sheltering shade. Who could unfold in speech that night’s havoc? Who its carnage? Who could match our toils with tears? The ancient city falls, for many years a queen; in heaps lifeless corpses lie scattered amid the streets, amid the homes and hallowed portals of the gods. Nor do Teucrians alone pay penalty with their lifeblood; at times valour returns to the hearts of the vanquished also and the Danaan victors fall. Everywhere is cruel grief, everywhere panic, and full many a shape of death.

[370] “First, with a great throng of Greeks attending him, Androgeos meets us, in ignorance, deeming us an allied band, and hails us forthwith in friendly words: “Hurry, men; what sloth keeps you back so long? Others sack and ravage burning Pergamus; are you but now coming from the tall ships?’ He spoke, and at once – for no reply that he could well trust was offered – knew that he had fallen into the midst of foes. He was dazed, and drawing back checked foot and voice. As one who has crushed a serpent unseen amid the rough briars, when stepping firmly on the ground, and in sudden terror shrinks back as it rises in wrath and puffs out its purple neck; so Androgeos, affrighted at the sight, was drawing away. We charge and with serried arms stream around them; in their ignorance of the ground and the surprise of their panic we slay them on all sides. Fortune favours our first effort. And here, flushed with success and courage, Coroebus cries: ‘Comrades, where fortune first points out the road to safety and where she shows herself auspicious, let us follow. Let us change the shields and don Danaan emblems; whether this is deceit or valour, who would ask in warfare? Our foes themselves shall give us weapons.’ So saying, he then puts no the plumed helmet of Androgeos, and the shield with its comely device, and fits to his side the Argive sword. So does Rhipeus, so Dymas too, and all the youth in delight; each man arms himself in the new-won spoils. We move on, mingling with the Greeks, under gods not our own, and in the blind night we clash in many a close fight, and many a Greek we send down to Orcus. Some scatter to the ships and make with speed for safe shores; some in base terror again climb the huge horse and hide in the familiar womb.

[402] “Alas, it is wrong for man to rely on the gods for anything against their will! Lo! Priam’s daughter, the maiden Cassandra, was being dragged with streaming hair from the temple and shrine of Minerva, vainly uplifting to heaven her blazing eyes – her eyes, for bonds confined her tender hands. Maddened in soul, Coroebus brooked not this sight, but flung himself to death into the midst of the band. We all follow and charge with serried arms. Here first from the high temple roof we are overwhelmed with the weapons of our friends, the piteous slaughter arises from the appearance of our arms and the confusion of our Greek crests. Then the Danaans, with a shout of rage at the maiden’s rescue, mustering from all sides, fall upon us, Ajax most fiercely, the two sons of Atreus, and the whole Dolopian host: even as at times, when a hurricane bursts forth, diverse winds clash, West and South and East, proud of his orient steeds; the forests groan and Nereus, steeped in foam, storms with his trident, and stirs the seas from their lowest depths. There appear, too, those whom amid the shade of the dim night we had routed by stratagem and driven throughout the town; they first recognize our shields and lying weapons, and mark our speech as differing in tone. Straightway we are outnumbered; and first Coroebus falls at the hands of Peneleus by the altar of the warrior goddess; Rhipeus, too, falls, most just of all the Trojans, most zealous for the right, but Heaven’s will was otherwise; Hypanis and Dymas perish, pierced by friends; nor could all your goodness, Panthus, nor Apollo’s fillet shield you in your fall! O ashes of Ilium! O funeral flames of my kin! I call you to witness that in your doom I shunned no fight or hazard, and had the fates willed my death at the hands of the Greeks, that I had earned that death! We are torn from there, Iphitus and Pelias with me, Iphitus now burdened with years, Pelias slow-footed, too, under a wound from Ulysses. Straightway we are called by the clamour to Priam’s house.

[438] “Here indeed is a mighty battle, as if no fighting were taking place elsewhere, as if none were dying throughout the city; so do we see the god of war unbridled, Danaans rushing to the roof and the threshold beset with an assaulting mantlet of shields. Ladders hug the walls, under the very doorposts men force a way on the rungs; with left hands they hold up protecting shields against the darts and with right they clutch the battlements. The Trojans in turn tear down the towers and all the rooftop of the palace; with these as missiles – for they see the end near – even at the point of death they prepare to defend themselves; and roll down gilded rafters, the stately splendours of their fathers of old. Others with drawn swords have beset the doors below, and guard them, closely massed. Our spirits are quickened to succour the king’s dwelling, to relieve our men by our aid and bring fresh force to the vanquished.

[453] “There was an entrance with secret doors, a passage running from hall to hall of Priam’s palace, a postern gate apart, by which, while one kingdom yet stood, Andromache, poor soul, would often unattended pass to her husband’s parents, and lead the little Astyanax to his grandsire. I gain the roof’s topmost height, whence the hapless Teucrians were hurling their useless missiles. A tower stood on the sheer edge, rising skyward from the rooftop, whence all Troy was wont to be seen, and the Danaan ships and the Achaean camp. Assailing this with iron round about, where the topmost stories offered weak joints, we wrenched it from its lofty place and thrust it forth. With sudden fall it trails a thunderous ruin, and over the Danaan ranks crashes far and wide. Yet more come up, nor meanwhile do stones nor any kind of missiles cease . . .

[469] “Just before the entrance court and at the very portal is Pyrrhus, proudly gleaming in the sheen of brazen arms: even as when into the light comes a snake, fed on poisonous herbs, whom cold winter kept swollen underground now, his slough cast off, fresh and glistening in youth, with uplifted breast he rolls his slippery length, towering towards the sun and darting from his mouth a three-forked tongue. With him huge Periphas and Automedon his armour bearer, driver of Achilles’ horses; with him all the Scyrian youth close on the dwelling and hurl flames on to the roof. Pyrrhus himself among the foremost grasps a battle axe, bursts through the stubborn gateway, and from their hinge tears the brass-bound doors; and now, heaving out a panel, he has breached the solid oak and made a huge wide-mouthed gap. Open to view is the house within, and the long halls are bared; open to view are the inner chambers of Priam and the kings of old, and armed men are seen standing at the very threshold.

[486] “But within, amid shrieks and woeful uproar, the house is in confusion, and at its heart the vaulted halls ring with women’s wails; the din strikes the golden stars. Then through the vast dwelling trembling matrons roam, clinging fast to the doors and imprinting kisses on them. On presses Pyrrhus with his father’s might; no bars, no warders even, can stay his course. The gate totters under the ram’s many blows and the doors, wrenched from their sockets, fall forward. Force finds a way; the Greeks, pouring in, burst a passage, slaughter thee foremost, and fill the wide space with soldiery. Not with such fury, when a foaming river, bursting its barriers, has overflowed and with its torrent overwhelmed the resisting banks, does it rush furiously upon the fields in a mass and over all the plains sweep herds and folds. I myself saw on the threshold Neoptolemus, mad with slaughter, and both the sons of Atreus; I saw Hecuba and her hundred daughters, and amid the altars Priam, polluting with his blood the fires he himself had hallowed. The famous fifty chambers, the rich promise of offspring, the doors proud with the spoils of barbaric gold, fall low; where the fire fails, the Greeks hold sway.

[506] “Perhaps, too, you may inquire what was Priam’s fate. When he saw the fall of the captured city, saw the doors of his palace shattered, and the foe in the heart of his home, old as he is, he vainly throws his long-disused armour about his aged trembling shoulders, girds his useless sword, and rushes to his death among his thronging foes. In the middle of the palace and beneath the open arch of heaven was a huge altar, and hard by an ancient laurel, leaning against the altar and clasping the household gods in its shade. Here, round the shrines, vainly crouched Hecuba and her daughters, huddled together like doves swept before a black storm, and clasping the images of the gods. But when she saw even Priam harnessed in the armour of his youth, ‘My poor husband,’ she cries, ‘what dreadful thought has driven you to don these weapons? Where are you rushing to? The hour calls not for such aid or such defenders, not though my own Hector were here himself! Come hither, pray; this altar will guard us all, or you will die with us!’ Thus she spoke, then drew the aged man to her and placed him on the holy seat.

[526] “But lo! escaping from the sword of Pyrrhus, through darts, through foes, Polites, one of Priam’s sons, flees down the long colonnades and, wounded, traverses the empty courts. Pyrrhus presses hotly upon him eager to strike, and at any moment will catch him and overwhelm him with the spear. When at last he came before the eyes and faces of his parents, he fell, and poured out his life in a stream of blood. Hereupon Priam, though now in death’s closest grasp, yet held not back nor spared his voice and wrath: ‘For your crime, for deeds so heinous,’ he cries, ‘if in heaven there is any righteousness to mark such sins, may the gods pay you fitting thanks and render you due rewards, who has made me look on my own son’s murder, and defiled with death a father’s face! Not so did Achilles deal with his foe Priam, that Achilles whose sonship you falsely claim, but he had respect for a suppliant’s rights and trust; he gave back to the tomb Hector’s bloodless corpse and sent me back to my realm.’ So spoke the old man and hurled his weak and harmless spear, which straight recoiled from the clanging brass and hung idly from the top of the shield’s boss. To him Pyrrhus: ‘Then you shall bear this news and go as messenger to my sire, Peleus’ son; be sure to tell him of my sorry deeds and his degenerate Neoptolemus! Now die!’ So saying, to the very altar stones he drew him, trembling and slipping in his son’s streaming blood, and wound his left hand in his hair, while with the right he raised high the flashing sword and buried it to the hilt in his side. Such was the close of Priam’s fortunes; such the doom that by fate befell him – to see Troy in flames and Pergamus laid low, he who was once lord of so many tribes and lands, the monarch of Asia. He lies, a huge trunk upon the shore, a head severed from the neck, a corpse without a name!

[559] “Then first an awful horror encompassed me. I stood aghast, and there rose before me the form of my dear father, as I looked upon the king, of like age, gasping away his life under a cruel wound. There rose forlorn Creüsa, the pillaged house, and the fate of little Iulus. I look back and scan the force about me. All, outworn, have deserted me and flung their bodies to the ground or dropped helpless into the flames.

[567] And now I alone was left, when I saw, sheltered in Vesta’s shrine and silently hiding in the unfrequented fane, the daughter of Tyndareus [Helen]; the bright fires give me light as I wander and cast my eyes, here and there, over the scene. She, fearing the Trojans’ anger against her for the overthrow of Pergamum, the vengeance of the Greeks, and the wrath of the husband she abandoned – she, the undoing alike of her motherland and ours – had hidden herself and was crouching, hateful creature, by the altars. Fire blazed up in my heart; there comes an angry desire to avenge my ruined country and exact a penalty for her sin. ‘So is she to look unscathed on Sparta and her native Mycenae, and parade a queen in the triumph she has won? Is she to see husband and home, parents and children, attended by a train of Ilian ladies and Phrygian captives? For this is Priam to have perished by the sword? Troy burnt in flames? The Dardan shore so often soaked in blood? Not so! For though there is no glorious renown in punishing a woman and such victory gains no honour, yet I shall win praise for blotting out villainy and exacting just recompense; and it will be a joy to have filled my soul with the flame of revenge and satisfied the ashes of my people.’ Such words I blurted out and in frenzied mind was rushing on, when my gracious mother, never before so brilliant to behold, came before my eyes, in pure radiance gleaming through the night, manifesting her deity, in beauty and statue such as she is wont to appear to the lords of heaven. She caught me by the hand and stayed me, and spoke these words besides with roseate lips: ‘My son, what resentment thus stirs ungovernable wrath? Why this rage? Whither has your care for me fled? Will you not first see where you have left your father, age-worn Anchises, whether Creüsa your wife and the boy Ascanius still live? All these the Greek lines compass round on every side, and did not my love prevent it, by now the flames would have swept them away and the hostile sword would have drunk their blood. Know that it is not the hated face of the Laconian woman, daughter of Tyndareus, it is not Paris that is to blame; but the gods, the relentless gods, overturn this wealth and make Troy topple from her pinnacle. Behold – for all the cloud, which now, drawn over your sight, dulls your mortal vision and with dank pall enshrouds you, I will tear away; fear no commands of your mother nor refuse to obey her counsels – here, where you see shattered piles and rocks torn from rocks, and smoke eddying up mixed with dust, Neptune shakes the walls and foundations that his mighty trident has upheaved, and uproots all the city from her base. Here Juno, fiercest of all, is foremost to hold the Scaean gates and, girt with steel, furiously calls from the ships her allied band . . . Now on the highest towers – turn and see – Tritonian Pallas is planted, gleaming with storm cloud and grim Gorgon. My father himself gives the Greeks courage and auspicious strength; he himself stirs up the gods against the Dardan arms. Hasten your flight, my son, and put an end to your toil. Nowhere will I leave you but will set you safely on your father’s threshold.’ She spoke, and vanished in the thick shades of night. Dread shapes come to view and, hating Troy, great presences divine . . .

[624] “Then, indeed, it seemed to me that all Ilium was sinking into the flames and that Neptune’s Troy was being overturned from her base – even as when on mountain-tops woodmen emulously strain to overturn an ancient ash tree, which has been hacked with many a blow of axe and iron; it ever threatens to fall, and nods with trembling leafage and rocking crest, till, little by little, overcome with wounds, it gives on loud last groan and, uptorn from the ridges, comes crashing down. I descend and, guided by a god, make my way amid fire and foes. Weapons give me passage and the flames retire.

[634] “And now, when I had reached the door of my father’s house, my ancient home, my sire, whom it was my first longing to bear high into the hills, and whom first I sought, refused, since Troy was laid low, to prolong his days or suffer exile. ‘You,’ he cried, ‘whose blood has the freshness of youth and whose strength stands sound in native vigour, you must turn to flight . . . For me, had the lords of heaven willed that I should lengthen life’s thread, they would have spared this my home. Enough and more it is that I have seen one destruction, and have survived one capture of the city. To my body, thus lying, yea thus, bid farewell and depart! I shall find a warrior’s death; the foe will take pity and seek my spoils. Light is the loss of burial. Hated of heaven and useless, I have long stayed the years, ever since the father of gods and king of men breathed upon me with the winds of his bolt and touched me with his fire.’

[650] “So he persisted in his speech and remained unshaken. But we were dissolved in tears – my wife Creüsa, Ascanius and all our household – pleading that our father not bring all to ruin along with him, nor add weight to our crushing doom. He refuses, and abides in his purpose and his place. Again I rush to arms, and in utter misery long for death, for what device or what chance was offered now? ‘Did you think, my father, that I could go forth leaving you? Did such a monstrous word fall from a father’s lips? If the gods will that naught remain of our great city, if this purpose is firmly set in your mind and it is your pleasure to cast yourself and your kin into the wreck of Troy, for this death the gate is open wide, and soon will come Pyrrhus, steeped in the blood of Priam – Pyrrhus who butchers the son before the father’s eyes, the father at the altars. Was it for this, gracious mother, that you saved me amid fire and sword, to see the foe in the heart of my home, and Ascanius, and my father, and Creüsa at their side, slaughtered in each others blood? Arms, men, bring arms; the last light of life calls the vanquished. Give me back to the Greeks; let me seek again and renew the fight Never this day shall we all die unavenged!’

[671] “Once more I strap on my sword, pass my left arm into the shield, as I fit it on, and was hurrying forth from the house, when lo! on the threshold my wife clung to men, clasping my feet and holding up little Iulus to his father. ‘If you go to die, take us, too, with you for any fate. But if from past experience, you place some hope in the armour you have donned, guard first this house. To whom do you abandon little Iulus, your father, and men, once called your wife?’

[679] “So crying, she filled all the house with moaning; when a sudden portent appears, wondrous to tell. For between the hands and faces of his ad parents, from above the head of Iulus a light tongue of flame was seen to shed a gleam and, harmless in its touch, lick his soft locks and pasture round his temples. Trembling with alarm, we quickly shake out the blazing hair and quench with water the holy fires. But my father Anchises joyously raises his eyes to the skies and uplifts to heaven hands and voice: ‘Almighty Jupiter, if you are moved by any prayers, look upon us – this only do I ask – and if our goodness earn it, give us your aid, Father, and ratify this omen!’

[692] “Scarcely had the aged man thus spoken, when with sudden crash there was thunder on the left and a star shot from heaven, gliding through the darkness, and drawing a fiery trail amid a flood of light. We watch it glide over the palace roof and bury in Ida’s forest the splendour that marked its path; then the long-drawn furrow shines, and far and wide all about reeks of sulphur. At this, indeed, my father was overcome and, rising to his feet, salutes the gods, and worships the holy star. ‘Now, now there is no delay; I follow, and where you lead, there am I. Gods of my fathers! save my house, save my grandson. Yours is this omen, and under your protection stands Troy. Yes, I yield, and refuse not, my son, to go in your company.’ He ceased, and now through the city more loudly is heard the blaze, and nearer the flames roll their fiery flood. ‘Come then, dear father, mount upon my neck; on my own shoulders I will support you, and this task will not weigh me down. However things may fall, we two will have on common peril, one salvation. Let little Iulus come with me, and let my wife follow our steps at a distance. You servants, heed what I say. As one leaves the city, there is a mound and ancient temple of forlorn Ceres, with an old cypress hard by, saved for many years by the reverence of our fathers. To this one spot we will come from different directions. Father, take in your arms the sacred emblems of our country’s household gods; for me, fresh from fierce battle and recent slaughter, it would be sinful to handle them until I have washed myself clean in running water . . . ‘ So I spoke, and over my broad shoulders and bowed neck I spread the cover of a tawny lion’s pelt and stoop to the burden. Little Iulus clasps his hand in mine, and follows his father with steps that match not his. Behind comes my wife. We pass on amid the shadows; and I, whom of late no shower of missiles could move nor any Greeks thronging in opposing mass, now am affrighted by every breeze and startled by every sound, tremulous as I am and fearing alike for my companion and my burden.

[730] And now I was nearing the gates, and thought I had accomplished all my journey, when suddenly, crowding on my ears, seemed to come a tramp of feet, and peering through the gloom, my father cries: ‘My son, my son, flee; they draw near! I see their glowing shields and glittering brass.’ At this, in my alarm, some malign power stole my distracted wits. For while I plunge down byways and leave the course of the streets I know, alas! my wife Creüsa was snatched from me by an unhappy fate. Did she halt? Did she stray from the path or sit down in exhaustion? I do not know. Never again was she restored to my eyes, nor did I look back for my lost one, or cast a thought behind, until we came to the mound and ancient Ceres’ hallowed home. Here at last, when all were gathered, she alone was missing and had vanished from the company, her child, and her husband. What man or god did I see in the overthrown city? Ascanius, my father Anchises, and the household gods of Troy I put in charge of my fellows and hid them in a winding vale. I myself seek again the city, and gird on my glittering arms. I am resolved to renew every risk, to retrace my way through all Troy and once more expose my life to every peril.

[752] “First I seek again the walls and dark gateway by which I had left the city; I mark and follow back my steps in the night, scanning them with close eye. Everywhere dread fills my heart; the very silence, too, dismays. Then I turn homeward in case – in case she had made her way there! The Danai had rushed in and filled all the house. Forthwith the devouring fire rolls before the wind to the very roof; the flames tower above, the hot blast roars skyward. I pass on and see once more the citadel and Priam’s home. And now in the empty courts of Juno’s sanctuary Phoenix and dread Ulysses, chosen guards, watched the spoil. Here the treasures from all parts of Troy, torn from blazing shrines, tables of the gods, bowls of solid gold, and plundered raiment, are heaped up; boys and trembling matrons in long array stand round . . . Nay, I dared even to cast my cries upon the night; I filled the streets with shouts and in my misery, with vain iteration, called Creüsa again and again. As I rushed in my quest madly and endlessly among the buildings of the city, there rose before my eyes the sad phantom and ghost of Creüsa herself, a form larger than her wont. I was appalled, my hair stood up, and the voice choked in my throat. Then thus she spoke to me and with these words dispelled my cares: ‘Of what avail is it to yield thus to frantic grief, my sweet husband? Not without the will of heaven does this befall; that you should take Creüsa from here in your company cannot be, nor does the mighty lord of high Olympus allow it. Long exile is your lot, a vast stretch of sea you must plough; and you will come to the land Hesperia, where amid the rich fields of husbandmen the Lydian Tiber flows with gentle sweep. There in store for you are happy days, kingship, and a royal wife. Banish tears for your beloved Creüsa. I shall never look upon the proud homes of the Myrmidons or Dolopians, or go to be the slave of Greek matrons, I a Dardan woman and wife of the son of divine Venus; . . . but the mighty mother of the gods keeps me on these shores. And now farewell, and guard your love for our common child.’ When thus she had spoken, she left me weeping and eager to tell her much, and drew back into thin air. Thrice there I strove to throw my arms about her neck; thrice the form, vainly clasped, fled from my hands, even as light winds, and most like a winged ream. Thus at last, when night is spent, I revisit my companions.

[796] “And here, astonished, I find that a vast number of new comrades has streamed in, mothers and men, a band gathered for exile, a piteous throne. From all sides they have come, with heart and fortune ready for me to lead them over the sea to whatever lands I will. And now above Ida’s topmost ridges the day star was rising, ushering in the morn; and the Danaans held the blockaded gates, nor was any hope of help offered. I gave way and, taking up my father, sought the hills.