Vergil, Aeneid I 441-463

Lūcus in urbe fuit mediā, laetissimus umbrae,

quō prīmum iactātī undīs et turbine Poenī

effōdēre locō signum, quod rēgia Iūnō

mōnstrārat, caput ācris equī; sīc nam fore bellō

ēgregiam et facilem vīctū per saecula gentem.445

Hīc templum Iūnōnī ingēns Sīdōnia Dīdō

condēbat, dōnīs opulentum et nūmine dīvae,

aerea cui gradibus surgēbant līmina nexaeque

aere trabēs, foribus cardō strīdēbat aēnīs.

Hōc prīmum in lūcō nova rēs oblāta timōrem450

lēniit, hīc prīmum Aenēās spērāre salūtem

ausus et adflīctīs melius cōnfīdere rēbus.

Namque sub ingentī lūstrat dum singula templō

rēgīnam opperiēns, dum quae fortūna sit urbī

artificumque manūs inter sē operumque labōrem455

mīrātur, videt Īliacās ex ōrdine pugnās

bellaque iam fāmā tōtum vulgāta per orbem,

Atrīdās Priamumque et saevum ambōbus Achillem.

Cōnstitit et lacrimāns 'Quis iam locus,' inquit, 'Achātē,

quae regiō in terrīs nostrī nōn plēna labōris?460

Ēn Priamus. Sunt hīc etiam sua praemia laudī,

sunt lacrimae rērum et mentem mortālia tangunt.

Solve metūs; feret haec aliquam tibi fāma salūtem.'

Manuscripts: M | P 441-460, 461-463 | R 441-450, 451-463 | F 441-460, 461-463

Aeneas invisible enters the new temple of Juno. He is startled and consoled by seeing on the walls of the temple representations of the principal incidents in the siege of Troy (Wetherell). 

441: laetissimus: containing the idea of fullness, it is followed by the genitive (Carter) (AG 409). umbrae: gen. after laetissimus (Robertson). “In respect of shade” (Walpole) (AG 349d).

442: quo: with loco (443), “the spot in which the Phoenicians...first dug up the token” (F-B). primum: “in the beginning,” or on their first arrival (Frieze) (AG 322d). This may either be an adj. agreeing with signum, or an adv. modifying effodere (Robertson).

443: effodere: perfect, third plural (Bennett). signum: “the token” (Frieze). “omen” (Carter). regia: a favorite adjective of Juno (Carter).

444: monstrarat: = monstraverat, “had indicated.” She had foretold to them, through some vision or oracle, that from the ground where she desired them to plan their new city, they would dig up as a sign the head of a horse (Frieze). The horse’s head is to the Carthaginians as the white sow is to Aeneas (Conington). caput...acris equi: a horse’s head was the symbol of Carthage, and is common on Carthaginian coins [add image] Acris is a generic adjective, the spirited animal, not a spirited animal (F-B). sic nam fore…: oblique construction, as is at once made clear by fore, dependent on the sense of “telling” contained in monstrarat: “for (she had told them) that so (i.e., if they found the sign, and in agreement with its significance) the race should be glorious in war and plenteous in store throughout the ages” (Page). sic: i.e., if they found the head (F-B). i.e., by such a token as this (Frieze).

445: facilem victu: commentators take victu either as the ablative supine (AG 510) from vivo, “easy in the living”; or as the ablative singular from victus (“sustenance”), and make facilem victu = facilem victum habituram “that would make an easy living,” thanks to the fertility of the land.

447: opulentum donis et numine: zeugma, “enriched by offerings and by the presence of the goddess” (Conington). “Rich with offerings (valuable treasures given by devotees) and with the powerful manifestation (numine) of the goddess” (Frieze).

448–449: “Its threshold of bronze rose on steps; of bronze its posts were bound; on doors of bronze creaked the hinges.” The verb after trabes is not surgebant but erant (understood) (G.P. Goold, “Hypermeter and Elision in Vergil,” in Vertis in Usum, Studies in Honor of Edward Courtney [Munich: Saur, 2002], p. 82). In these two lines, Vergil describes (1) the whole entrance, limina; (2) the superstructure, trabes, covering the lintel over the huge doors, as well as the beams of the architrave; and (3) the doors themselves, fores, through which Aeneas enters the temple (F-B). aerea...aere...aënis: the special point emphasized is the use of costly bronze such as the Romans employed in many of their grand temples. There is perhaps a reference to the Pantheon, which was built by Agrippa in 27 B.C., but the existing Pantheon is a restoration of the time of the Emperor Hadrian (F-B).

448: cui: in the sense of cuius. This is common with Vergil (Cooper). nexaeque aere trabes: sc. sunt (Walpole). “Its lintel-beams were riveted of bronze” (F-B).

449: foribus: dative after stridebat. The hinges or pivots creaked in their sockets in turning the ponderous doors of bronze (Frieze). The expression is a variation for fores cardine stridebant (F-B).

452: ausus: sc. est (Carter). adflictis rebus: “shattered fortunes.” Either ablative or dative (F-B) (AG 431; 367). Confido sometimes takes the dat., sometimes the abl. (Chase).

454: quae fortuna sit urbi: = miratur fortunam urbis (Chase). “Marvels at the city’s fortune.” Indirect question, of exclamatory character: “What a fortune the city has!” (F-B).

455: artificumque manus inter se: literally, “the hands of the artist among themselves,” i.e., “the handiwork of the several artists.” The expression implies that different artists have combined to produce unity of effect (F-B). operum laborem: i.e., the labor bestowed upon the construction of the temple, in contrast with artificum manus, which refers to the works of art (Frieze).

456: ex ordine: with pugnas (Walpole). I.e., there was a series of panels along the wall (Williams).

458: Atridas: Agamemnon and Menelaus, leaders on the Greek side (F-B). saevum ambobus: i.e., both to the Atridae and to Priam, friends and foes alike (F-B). Achilles was cruel to the sons of Atreus (Agamemnon and Menelaus), in refusing so long to aid in the defense of the Greek camp; and to Priam in slaying so many of his sons, and particularly Hector (Frieze).

461–462: sunt hic...tangunt: “even here honor has its due reward; even here tears fall for men’s lot, and mortality touches the heart.” The force of hic etiam continues to the second clause. Aeneas had expected to find himself among barbarians; he now finds that they too have the ordinary emotions of humanity, generous where praise is due, sympathetic to sorrow. The famous words sunt lacrimae rerum must not be divorced from this context. But the beauty of the lines, and the melancholy that seems to predominate, have given them a mysterious universality in the view of many critics; they have been endlessly discussed, and Vergil would surely have been surprised at some of the directions into which his interpreters have gone (Austin).

461: sunt...laudi: “here, too, worth has its (due) rewards.” laudi is used by metonymy of that which wins praise (F-B). praemia: the reward in the present case is fame and human sympathy, as expressed in the following beautiful line (Frieze).

462: rerum: an objective genitive (AG 348), res meaning res adversae, “sorrow” (F-B). 


lūcus, ī, m.: a consecrated wood; sacred grove, 6.259, et al.; in general, a grove, wood, forest.

iactō, āvī, ātus, 1, freq. a.: to throw often or much; toss to and fro; toss, freq.; hurl, cast, 2.459; thrust out, 5.376; aim, 5.433; (fig.), throw out words, utter, say, 1.102; of the mind, revolve, meditate, 1.227; sē iactāre, boast, exalt one's self, rejoice, glory, 1.140; prae sē iactāre, to make pretense of, 9.134; p., iactāns, antis, arrogant, assuming, ambitious, 6.815. (iaciō)

turbō, inis, m.: a tornado, whirlwind; storm, tempest, 1.442; whirling cloud, 3.573; wind accompanying the lightning; lightning-blast, 1.45; 6.594; whirling or stormy force, 11.284, et al.; a whirling top, a child's top, 7.378. (cf. turba)

Poenī, ōrum, m.: the Carthaginians, 1.302; Africans, 12.4.

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

Iūnō, ōnis, f.: Juno, the Sabine and Roman name for the wife and sister of Jupiter, daughter of Saturn, 1.4, et al.; Iūnō īnferna, the Juno of the lower world, Proserpine, 6.138.

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)

Sīdōnius, a, um: (adj.), of Sidon; Sidonian; Phoenician, Tyrian, 1.678, et al.

Dīdō, ūs or ōnis, f.: Dido, daughter of Belus, king of Phoenicia, who fled from her brother Pygmalion to Africa, where she founded the city of Carthage, 1.299.

opulentus, a, um: adj. (ops), abounding in means; wealthy, rich, 1.447; mighty, 8.475.

dīva, ae, f.: a goddess, 1.632, et al.

aereus, a, um: adj. (aes), made of copper or bronze; bronze, brazen (see def. of aes), 1.448; brazen beaked, 5.198; of the copper or bronze plates or scales of a corselet, 10.313.

nectō, nexuī, or nexī, nexus, 3, a.: to tie, bind, fasten, 4.239; bind together or round, 1.448; join, unite, of soul and body, 4.695; (fig.), of arguments, 9.219.

trabs, trabis, f.: a beam; timber, 1.552; post, jamb, 1.449; trunk, 6.181; tree, 9.87; ship, 3.191.

foris, is, f.: a door; often in the pl. with reference to double doors, 1.505; door or entrance. (rel. to θύρα)

cardō, inis, m.: a hinge, pivot, 1.449; the socket in which the pivot plays, 2.493; (fig.), a turning point, crisis, emergency, 1.672.

strīdeō, 2, n., and strīdō, strīdī, 3: to produce a grating or shrill sound; to creak, 1.449; gurgle, 4.689; rustle, 1.397; whiz, roar, 1.102; hiss, 8.420; twang, 5.502.

aēnus, a, um: adj. (aes), of bronze; brazen, 2.470; subst., aēnum, ī, n., a bronze or brazen vessel; caldron, 1.213, et al.

lēniō, īvī or iī, ītus, 4, a. and n.: to render mild; allay; soothe, 4.528; quiet, calm, 6.468; of inanimate things, 8.87. (lēnis)

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.

adflīctus, a, um: dejected, desponding, 2.92; wretched, troubled, 1.452. (adflīgō, flīxī, flīctus, 3, a.)

cōnfīdō, fīsus sum, 3, n. and a.: to put entire trust in; to trust in, w. dat. or abl., 1.452, et al.

lūstrō, āvī, ātus, 1, a.: to purify by atonement, 3.279; go round the fields with the victims; hence to bless, ask for a blessing on; go or dance around an altar or the image of a god, 7.391; traverse, pass across, around, or over, 1.608; pass in review, parade before, 5.578; run through, 2.528; search, 1.577; observe, survey, 1.453; watch, mark, 11.763; of the sun, illuminate, 4.607. (lūstrum)

rēgīna, ae, f.: a queen, 1.9; princess, 1.273. (rēx)

opperior, perītus or pertus sum, 4, dep. a. and n.: to wait for, await, 1.454.

artifex, icis, m.: an artist, 1.455; artificis scelus, the iniquity of the deceiver = the accursed falsifier, 11.407; subtle schemer, artful deviser, 2.125. (ars and faciō)

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.

Īliacus, a, um: (adj.), belonging to Ilium; Ilian, Trojan, 1.97, et al.

vulgō, āvī, ātus, 1, a.: to make common or commonly known; spread abroad, 1.457; divulge, disclose, 10.64. (vulgus)

Atrīdēs, ae, m.: a son or descendant of Atreus; pl., Atrīdae, ārum, the Atridae (Agamemnon and Menelaus), 2.104.

Priamus, ī, m.: 1. Priam, son of Laomedon, king of Troy, 1.458, et al. 2. A Trojan youth, son of Polites and grandson of King Priam, 5.564.

ambō, ae, ō: (adj.), both, 1.458.

Achillēs, is (eos or ī), m.: the son of Peleus, king of Thessaly, and Thetis, daughter of Nereus, 1.468, et al.

lacrimō, āvī, ātus, 1, n. and a.: to shed tears, weep, 1.459. (lacrima)

Achātēs, ae, m.: Achates, a companion of Aeneas, 1.174, et al.

ēn: (interj.), lo! behold! with nom., 1.461; in indignation, 4.597.

mortālia, ium, n.: human affairs; fortunes, woes, 1.462.

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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.