Vergil, Aeneid I 418-440

Corripuēre viam intereā, quā sēmita mōnstrat,

iamque ascendēbant collem, quī plūrimus urbī

imminet adversāsque aspectat dēsuper arcēs.420

Mīrātur mōlem Aenēās, māgālia quondam,

mīrātur portās strepitumque et strāta viārum.

Īnstant ārdentēs Tyriī: pars dūcere mūrōs

mōlīrīque arcem et manibus subvolvere saxa,

pars optāre locum tēctō et conclūdere sulcō;425

iūra magistrātūsque legunt sānctumque senātum.

hīc portūs aliī effodiunt; hīc alta theātrīs

fundāmenta locant aliī, immānēsque columnās

rūpibus excīdunt, scaenīs decora apta futūrīs:

quālis apēs aestāte novā per flōrea rūra430

exercet sub sōle labor, cum gentis adultōs

ēdūcunt fētūs, aut cum līquentia mella

stīpant et dulcī distendunt nectare cellās,

aut onera accipiunt venientum, aut agmine factō

ignāvum fūcōs pecus ā praesēpibus arcent;435

fervet opus redolentque thymō fragrantia mella.

'Ō fortūnātī, quōrum iam moenia surgunt!'

Aenēās ait et fastīgia suspicit urbis.

Īnfert sē saeptus nebulā (mīrābile dictū)

per mediōs, miscetque virīs neque cernitur ūllī.440

Manuscripts: M 418-436, 437-440 | P 418-437, 438-440 | R 418-432, 433-440 | F 419-439, 440G 418

Aeneas and Achates quickly go ahead, and from a hilltop they marvel at the sight of the Tyrians building their city, as busy and as disciplined as bees (Austin). 

418: corripuere viam: “swiftly pursued” (Frieze). “They have sped on their way.” The verb corripere is properly “to snatch up” (F-B). qua: “whither” (Carter).

419: plurimus urbi imminet: “looms in a mass over the city” (F-B). plurimus: “very high” (Frieze). Adverbial, “hangs massive over” (Walpole). = altissimus, belongs to collem but is drawn into the relative clause (Wetherell). urbi: dat. after imminet (Robertson) (AG 366).

420: adversas...arces: “the towers that face it,” i.e., are rising opposite (F-B). aspectat: Vergil uses aspectare as equivalent to spectare ad or in (Carter). A striking way of representing the stateliness of the towers; the mountain, though higher, “looks them in the face” (Conway).

421: molem: “the massive structures,” or “mass of buildings” (Frieze). magalia quondam: “once a group of huts,” i.e., where huts once stood (F-B).

422: strata viarum: “the paved streets” (Williams). The form of expression ( = stratas vias) emphasizes the mode of construction. In portae and viae the poet is thinking of the famous gates of Rome and the great roads which converged upon the city from all parts of Italy (F-B). It is an instance of a partitive genitive dependent upon a neuter adjective. In such constructions the partitive genitive notion often disappears, as in the present case, and the neuter adj. merely expresses the quality of the thing (P-H).

423–25: “eagerly the Tyrians press on, some to build walls, etc.” (F-B). in apposition with Tyrii (F-B). instant: sc. operi. Then ducere etc. will be historical infinitives, representing pictorially the process of the work. Vergil regularly begins a description with a brief general statement and then fills in particulars, cf. e.g. 15, 54, 159, 210, 257, 347 (Conway). ducere: this and the four infinitives in the two next lines depend upon instant. Some editors, placing a semicolon after Tyrii, make them historical infinitives (Chase) (AG 463).

423: ducere: “extend” (Walpole).

424: moliri: “build” (Walpole). arcem: is the citadel proper (Walpole).

425: tecto: “for a dwelling.” Dative of purpose (F-B) (AG 382.2). A private house, as distinguished from the public buildings (Carter). concludere sulco: Supply eum; “to inclose (the place chosen) with a furrow”; i.e., a plowed line marking, according to the Roman custom, the limits of the estate, or, as we should say, “house-lot.” Some, however, understand here a trench for the foundation-wall of a building (Frieze).

426: legunt: this implies, with iura, a verb like constituunt (“enact”). It is an example of zeugma (F-B).

427: portus…effodiunt: literally true, the harbour of Carthage being artificial (Walpole). [add image] alta: “deep” (F-B). theatris: here again it is the Roman idea of a complete city, which the poet has in view. In Vergil’s day a theater was an essential feature of every Roman city (F-B). Theaters did not exist at the period of the foundation of Carthage; but Vergil seems here, as well as in the account of the paintings below (466–493), and not unfrequently elsewhere, to have had his own times in view (Frieze).

429: scaenis decora alta futuris: “lofty adornments for the future stage.” scaenis is dative of reference (AG 37). alta: “lofty.” This word means “extending vertically,” “up” or “down,” according to the point of view. The stage was usually decorated with columns in the rear (Frieze).

430: qualis...labor: the corresponding talis is not expressed (F-B). The antecedent being supplied, the sentence will be talis labor eos exercebat qualis apes exercet. The English idiom omits the noun, labor, in the second clause (Frieze). aestate nova: “in early summer” (F-B).

431: sub sole: “in the sunshine” (Chase).

432: liquentia: from liquor, not liqueo (F-B). mella stipant: this expression seems to be explained by the words following, dulci distendunt nectare cellas, but it is possible that Vergil uses mella of the pollen or bee-bread. Every bee-keeper has seen the bee go back into the cell and unload the pollen from his pollen-baskets; very soon afterward another bee will go into the same cell head first and carefully pack down (stipo) the lumps of plastic pollen just deposited there (F-B).

433: stipant: “mass together” (Jerram); “pack” (Sidgwick).

434: venientum: = venientium (F-B) (AG 121b.2). I.e., of those that come to the hive from time to time (Knapp). agmine facto: “in a marshalled band,” abl. abs. (Robertson).

435: fucos: “drones” (F-B). Order: arcent fucos, ignavum pecus, etc. (Chase).

436: fervet opus: “the work is briskly carried on” (Robertson). thymo: abl. after redolent (Robertson) (AG 403). The honey of Southern Europe is extremely fragrant of thyme and other high-scented flowers (Chase).

437: fortunati: understand sunt (Bennett). iam: “even now”; in contrast with the fortune of Aeneas, whose promised walls of Lavinium (258) are not yet begun (Frieze). quorum: the antecedent is ei understood, the subject of sunt (Bennett).

438: suspicit: “looks up at.” We thus learn that Aeneas has descended from the hill (419) (F-B).

439: mirabile dictu: “wonderful to relate,” dictu supine in u from dico (Robertson) (AG 510).

440: medios: supply viros (Frieze). miscet: supply se (Frieze). viris: “with the people.” Dative (F-B) (AG 413a note). ulli: for ab ullo (Frieze). Poetical dat. of the agent with cernitur (Chase) (AG 375a).


corripiō, ripuī, reptus, 3, a.: to take completely or eagerly; to grasp, snatch, seize, catch, 1.45; hurry away, 1.100; tear away; hasten on, take, 1.418; raise quickly, rouse, 4.572; sē corripere, to hasten away, 6.472. (com- and rapiō)

intereā: (adv.), amid these things; meanwhile, in the meantime, 1.418, et al.

sēmita, ae, f.: a byway, lane, 9.383; path, 1.418. (sē- and cf. meō, to go)

mōnstrō, āvī, ātus, 1, a.: to show, point out, indicate, 1.444; inform, tell, 1.321; direct, incite, 9.44; ordain, appoint, prescribe, 4.636. (mōnstrum)

collis, is, m.: a hill, freq.

immineō, 2, n.: to rest over; overhang, 1.165; to be at hand; approach, 9.515.

aspectō, āvī, ātus, 1, intens. a.: to look at or upon, behold, 10.4; survey earnestly, 6.186; with admiration, 1.420; with regret, 5.615. (ad and spectō)

dēsuper: (adv.), from above; above, 1.165.

mōlēs, is, f.: a cumbrous mass; a heavy pile or fabric; mound, rampart, 9.35; dike, 2.497; a mass of buildings, vast buildings, 1.421; structure, 11.130; frame or figure, 2.32; bulk, 5.118; weight, 7.589; pile, mass, 1.61; gigantic frame, 5.431; warlike engine, siege tower, 5.439; array, pomp, train, 12.161; body of soldiers, phalanx, 12.575; heavy storm, tempest, 5.790; toil, work, labor, 1.33.

Aenēās, ae, m.: 1. A Trojan chief, son of Venus and Anchises, and hero of the Aeneid, 1.92. 2. Aenēās Silvius, one of the Alban kings, 6.769.

māgālia, ium, n. pl: huts, dwellings, 1.421. (a Punic word)

strepitus, ūs, m.: a noise; an uproar; din, 6.559; stir, noise of festivity, 1.725; confused noise, 1.422. (strepō)

strātum, ī, n.: that which is spread out; a layer, cover; bed, couch, 3.513; pavement, 1.422. (sternō)

īnstō, stitī, 1, n.: to stand on or upon; w. dat., acc., inf., or alone; w. dat., to stand on, 11.529; stand or hang over, 10.196; (w. acc.), to work at, ply work upon, 8.834; (w. inf.), urge on, press on, 1.423; persist, 10.118; (alone), to follow up, press on; pursue, 1.468; struggle, 12.783; be near at hand, approach, threaten, 12.916; to be urgent, important, incumbent, 4.115.

ārdēns, entis: burning, hot, sparkling, flaming, 5.637; bright, 4.482; impassioned, ardent, eager, 1.423; spirited, fiery, 1.472; glowing, lofty, 6.130; fierce, furious, 2.529; angry, 6.467. (ardeo)

Tyrius, a, um: adj. (Tyrus), of Tyre; Tyrian or Phoenician, 1.12; subst., Tyrius, iī, m., a Tyrian, 1.574; pl., 1.747.

mōlior, ītus sum, 4, dep. a. and n.: to pile up; build, erect, construct, 1.424; plan, undertake, attempt, 2.109; pursue, 6.477; cleave, 10.477; contrive, devise, 1.564; occasion, 1.414; prepare, equip, 4.309; arrange, adjust, 12.327; of missiles, discharge, hurl, 10.131. (mōlēs)

manus, ūs, f.: the hand, 1.487; freq.; (meton.), action, movement of the hand; work, art, handiwork, 3.486; prowess, heroic deed, action, 2.434; force, violence, 2.645; a collection of persons; a band, crew, troop; an army, 2.29; forces, 5.623; multitude, 6.660; pl., manūs, workmen, 11.329; dare manūs, to yield, 11.558; extrēma manus, the finishing hand or touch, 7.572.

subvolvō, volvī, volūtus, 3, a.: to roll up, 1.424.

conclūdō, clūsī, clūsus, 3, a.: to shut completely; shut around, inclose, surround, 1.425. (com- and claudō)

sulcus, ī, m.: a furrow, 6.844; furrow, 1.425; track, train, 2.697.

magistrātus, ūs, m.: magistracy; a civil officer, magistrate, 1.426. (magister)

portus, ūs, m.: a port, harbor, haven, 1.159, et al; (fig.), 7.598.

effodiō, fōdī, fossus, 3, a.: to dig out, excavate, 1.427; dig up, 1.443; dig, thrust out, 3.663. (ex and fodiō)

theātrum, ī, n.: a place for seeing; a theater, 1.427; any place suited for public spectacles; theatrī circus, the curving area of a theater, formed by nature, 5.288.

fundāmentum, ī, n.: a foundation, 4.266. (1. fundō)

locō, āvī, ātus, 1, a.: to place, put, 1.213, et al.; lay, 1.428; found, 1.247. (locus)

immānis, e: (adj.), vast, huge, immense, 1.110; wild, savage, barbarous, 1.616; cruel, ruthless, 1.347; unnatural, monstrous, hideous, 6.624; (adv.), immāne, wildly, fiercely, 12.535.

columna, ae, f.: a column, pillar, 1.428; Proteī columnae, the pillars of Proteus; the northern extremities of Egypt, 11.262.

rūpēs, is, f.: a rock, cliff, crag, ledge, freq.; quarry, 1.429. (rumpō)

excīdō, cīdī, cīsus, 3, a.: to cut out, 1.429; cut off, away, or down, 2.481; destroy, 2.637. (ex and caedō)

scaena, ae, f.: the stage of a theatre, 4.471; a sylvan scene, view, 1.164.

futūrus, a, um: about to be; future, 4.622. (sum)

apis (-ēs), is, f.: a bee, 1.430, et al.

aestās, ātis, f.: the summer, 1.265, et al.; summer air, 6.707; a year.

flōreus, a, um: adj. (flōs), flowery, 1.430.

adolescō, olēvī, ultus, 3, inc. n.: to grow up, of animals or plants; become mature, ripen, 12.438; burn, blaze, 4.379; p., adultus, a, um, grown up; mature, 1.431. (adoleō)

fētus, ūs, m.: a bearing or breeding; the young; the new swarm, 1.432; litter, 3.391; of vegetable products, growth, sprig, shoot, 6.207; fruit; product.

liqueō, liquī, 2, n.: to be fluid; p., liquēns, entis, liquid, fluid, 5.238.

mel, mellis, n., pl., mella, abl., mellibus (no gen. or dat.): honey, 6.420.

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Suggested Citation

Christopher Francese and Meghan Reedy, Vergil: Aeneid Selections. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-947822-08-5.