Vergil, Aeneid I 544-560

'Rēx erat Aenēās nōbīs, quō iūstior alter

nec pietāte fuit, nec bellō maior et armīs.545

Quem sī fāta virum servant, sī vēscitur aurā

aetheriā neque adhūc crūdēlibus occubat umbrīs,

nōn metus, officiō nec tē certāsse priōrem

paeniteat. Sunt et Siculīs regiōnibus urbēs

armaque Trōiānōque ā sanguine clārus Acestēs.550

Quassātam ventīs liceat subdūcere classem

et silvīs aptāre trabēs et stringere rēmōs,

sī datur Ītaliam sociīs et rēge receptō

tendere, ut Ītaliam laetī Latiumque petāmus;

sīn absūmpta salūs, et tē, pater optime Teucrum,555

pontus habet Libyae nec spēs iam restat Iūlī,

at freta Sīcaniae saltem sēdēsque parātās,

unde hūc advectī, rēgemque petāmus Acestēn.'

Tālibus Īlioneus; cūnctī simul ōre fremēbant


Manuscripts: M 544-552553-560 | P 544-552, 553-560 | R 544-558, 559-560

Ilioneus continues: “Aeneas was our prince and, if he still lives, will well repay your kindness; we have kinsfolk in Sicily. Grant us permission to refit our fleet so that, if Aeneas survives, we may pursue our voyage to Italy, if not, that we may return to Sicily, whence we came.” (Page) Ilioneus tells of Aeneas and Acestes. He supplicates the queen for aid (Wetherell). Ilioneus, as their spokesman, begs for permission to rebuild their ships, and sail to Sicily or Italy (Walpole). 

544: erat: he speaks of Aeneas in the imperfect tense, as of one dead (Wetherell). nōbīs: dative of possession (AG 373) (Pharr). “Aeneas was our king,” not “we had a king called Aeneas,” which would imply that Aeneas was unknown (Conington). quō: sc. nōn fuit from negatives following (Storr); ablative of comparison with the comparative adjective iūstior (AG 407) (Pharr). “Aeneas was our king, than whom neither has any other been more righteous, nor greater in piety, or in war and in arms” (Frieze). To speak of a man as iūstus pietāte implies that he fulfils all the claims which are imposed on him by duty to the gods (Page).

545: pietāte, bellō, armīs: ablatives of respect / specification qualifying iūstior (G-K) (AG 418); bellō et armīs, i.e., as a leader and as a soldier. Observe the chiasmus in iūstior pietāte bellō māior (Wetherell).

546-7: sī vescitur aurā aetheriā: “if he breathes” (literally “feeds on,” air being as necessary to life as food (G-K). Vescor, along with several other deponent verbs (ūtor, fruor, fungor, potior), governs the ablative (aurā aetheriā) (AG 410). Aetheriā is properly “of the upper air” (Storr), as opposed to that of the lower world (Pharr). The poets sometimes use aether and aetherius for aēr and aērius (Frieze). The adjective aetheria suggests the idea of “light” and so affords an artistic contrast with umbrīs (547).

547: nec adhūc occubat: “and does not yet lie” (F-B). umbrīs: mortis; ablative of place where (AG 429): “in the lower world, Hades” (Pharr); “in the realm of the shades” (Carter).

548–9: nōn metus: i.e., non metuendum est, “have no fear” (Servius). In that case you need have no fear, for Aeneas will repay the obligation (G-K). Sc. est nōbīs (Pharr): “we have no fear,” i.e., as to our ultimate safety (Frieze); “we have no cause to dread” (Conington). officiō…paeniteat: “nor would you regret to have vied (with him) beforehand in kind offices” (Frieze); “nor regret to have been the first in the rivalry of kind offices,” i.e., by making Aeneas your debtor in receiving us hospitably (G-K). Officiō is ablative of respect / specification (AG 418) (Pharr). Paeniteat is an impersonal verb in the jussive subjunctive (AG 439) (Pharr) with an infinitive (certāsse, syncopated form of cert[āv]isse) and accusative (tē) of the person affected (AG 354, note b); paeniteat is equivalent to paenitēbit for metrical reasons (Wetherell). The use of the perfect infinitive assumes that Dido has already done what Ilioneus asks her to do (Conington).

549: sunt: sc. nōbīs: “we have” (Robertson). et = praetereā; the word carries the reader back to 530, with its reference to Italy (F-B). Besides the consideration that there is a hope of recovering our chief, and that he will return your favors, we have also Trojan friends and cities in Sicily ready to receive us, so that you need not fear any attempt on our part to settle here in your country (Frieze).  Siculīs regiōnibus: ablative of place where (AG 429) (Pharr). urbēs: i.e., Eryx, Drepanum, Segesta (Wetherell). In the event of Aeneas’ death (which Ilioneus, to avoid the omen of speaking of such a calamity, does not mention), the cities and fields (arva) of Sicily will be our refuge, and you will have the friendship of Acestes to repay your kindness to us (G-K). The good-will of the ruler of Sicily would be a gain for Carthage (Carter).

550: arma: some manuscripts favor arva (“lands for tillage”), which brings out further the notion of a settlement, and is used repeatedly in connection with the Trojan settlement in Italy (so in 7.45 Latinus ruled over arva et urbēs (F-B)); arma, however, adds a new thought, and one which is natural enough in the mouth of Ilioneus. Arms are a natural addition to a city. The Trojans have arms of their own, but in the absence of Aeneas they must seek armed assistance elsewhere (Conington). Arma is mentioned not as a threat, but merely as an inducement to Dido to win the support of these weapons (Carter). Acestēs: Acestes was king of the country near Drepanum in Sicily. He assisted Priam in the Trojan War, and kindly entertained Aeneas during his voyage, and helped him to bury his father on Mount Eryx (Robertson).

551: After the preliminaries (first politeness, then remonstrance, then reassurance) Ilioneus comes to the point and makes his request (Austin). quassātam ventīs: “racked by the winds” (Wetherell); ventīs is ablative of means (AG 409) (Pharr). liceat: sc. nōbīs, dative with licet as the personal subject of the action (AG 455); liceat is volitive (hortatory) subjective (AG 439), as with paeniteat (550) (Pharr). subdūcere classem: sc. nostram (Pharr): “to beach” (F-B) or “to lay up our fleet,” as opposed to dēdūcere, “to launch” (Conington). “Let it be allowed us to haul up our storm-racked ships” (G-K). In her reply Dido also uses subdūcere (line 573) (Carter).

552: aptāre trabēs: “to fashion planks in the woods,” i.e., beams would have to be hewed and fitted to mend the breaches in the ship’s side (Conington). silvīs: sc. in, ablative of place where (AG 429) (Pharr). With aptare it would be best rendered “from the forest” (358n.), cf. IV. 399. In any case it is an essential part of the petition (Conway). stringere rēmōs: = facere rēmōs (Frieze), to clear branches or trees of their leaves and twigs and smooth them into oars (Wetherell). The oars, hardly more than saplings, would only need to be stripped and slightly trimmed (G-K).

553: sī datur: sc. nōbīs (Pharr); protasis of ut petāmus (Frieze): “that, if it is granted…to sail to Italy and Latium we may joyfully seek” (Page). sociīs et rēge receptō: ablative absolute of attendant circumstances (AG 419) (Frieze), with receptō agreeing in number with the nearer of the two nouns which it modifies (Pharr).

553-4: The order is ut Italiam, si datur… tendere, laeti… petamus. Italiam is accusative of motion towards (Williams).  Ītaliam tendere: sc. cursum ad (Pharr), with tendere dependent on datur (G-K): “pursue our course to Italy” (F-B); accusative of place to which with tendere (AG 427) (Chase).

554: ut Ītaliam…petāmus: subjunctive in a purpose clause (AG 531) (Pharr), i.e., the purpose of subdūcere, aptāre, and stringere (Frieze). The repetition of Ītaliam adds force, showing what the speaker’s first object is (Conington). Latium: Ilioneus has not previously mentioned Latium, while he has spoken of Italy as an unknown country; but Vergil’s love of variety leads him to neglect these minutiae (Conington). To the general name, Italy, the speaker adds the particular district to which they were destined (Chase).

555: sīn: for sī nē by apocope (“a cutting off from the end”), as dīc for dice (Robertson): “but if (on the other hand),” opposed to (553) (G-K). absūmpta: sc. est (Pharr). Notice the indicative verbs: there is a lurking suspicion that the thing is so (Wetherell). salūs: “hope of safety” (G-K). pater optime: a vocative address to Aeneas: an instance of apostrophe, a sudden break from the previous method of discourse and an addressing, in the second person, of some person or object, absent or present (Pharr). Teucrum: syncopated form of Teucr[ōr]um (Pharr).

556: nec iam: “and no longer” (F-B). spēs Iūlī: as Aeneas is their safety (salūs) in the present, so Iulus is their hope (spēs) in the future (Page); he fears that Iulus has also perished and that they now have none of the royal line to lead them (Wetherell). Take Iūlī as an objective genitive (AG 348), i.e., our hope is centered on our young Iulus, in his growing up to found an empire in Italy (Chase): “if we can no longer hope for Iulus,” “if there is no longer hope of his safety” (Frieze).

557: freta: simply “seas” (Wetherell). Sīcania: a name of Sicily from the Sicani, early inhabitants of the island (Chase). sēdēs parātās: sc. in Sīcaniā (Pharr); an allusion to Acestes’ realm (Wetherell), as opposed to those homes which they would have yet to build (Conington).

557-8: at saltem petāmus: sc. ut: “yet at least (even though Aeneas be lost) that we may seek the waters of Sicily” (Frieze); take petāmus as subjunctive in a purpose clause (AG 531) (Chase); volitive (hortatory) subjunctive (AG 440) (Pharr) “let us seek,” or potential subjunctive (AG 446): “we may seek” (Wetherell).

558: unde advectī: sc. sumus (Chase). They have just left Sicily (Frieze). rēgem petāmus Acestēn: rēgem is a predicate noun: “to be our king” (F-B) or “as our king” (Storr); we may seek a king in Acestes, in place of Aeneas (Conington).

559: tālibus: sc. verbīs rēgīnam alloquitur (Wetherell). Īlioneus: sc. dīxit (Pharr). simul: “in assent” (Storr); simul implies agreement, unison (Chase). ōre fremēbant: “shouted assent with their voice(s)” (Page), “shouted applause” (F-B) according to the manners of the heroic age (G-K). Ōre is ablative of means (AG 410).

560: Dardanidae: One of the various names for the Trojans (Carter). Another hemistich, as in line 534.


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.

nec or neque: (adv. and conj.), and not; neither, nor, 1.643, et al.; in prohibition, 3.394, et al.; neque (nec) — neque (nec), neither — nor, 5.21, et al.; nec — et, or -que, may be rendered neither — nor, 12.801; 2.534; nec nōn, and also, nor less, 6.183; nec nōn et, and also, 1.707.

vescor, 3, dep. n. and a.: (with abl., or absolute); to feed upon, 3.622; breathe, 1.546; banquet, feast, 6.657.

aetherius, a, um: adj. (aethēr), pertaining to the upper air; ethereal, heavenly, 1.394, et al.; airy, 8.608.

crūdēlis, e: adj. (crūdus), unfeeling, ruthless, cruel, inhuman, 2.124; relentless, 1.547; unnatural, 6.24; mortal, deadly, 2.561; bloody, 1.355; bitter, 1.361.

occubō, 1, n.: to lie, rest (in death), 1.547.

paenitet, uit, 2, impers. or a. and n.: lit. it repents one; one repents, regrets, 1.549, et al.

Siculus, a, um: adj. (Siculī), pertaining to the Siculi, an ancient race, part of which migrated from Latium to Sicily; Sicilian, 1.34, et al.

Trōiānus, a, um: adj. (Trōia), Trojan, 1.19; subst., Trōiānus, ī, m., a Trojan, 1.286; pl., Trōiānī, ōrum, m., the Trojans, 5.688.

Acestēs, ae, m.: Acestes or Segestus, the son of Crimisus, a Sicilian river god, and Egesta or Segesta, a Trojan woman, 1.195.

quassō, āvī, ātus, 1, intens. a. and n.: to shake violently; shatter, 1.551; 4.53; shake, 5.855; brandish, 9.521. (quatiō)

subdūcō, dūxī, ductus, 3, a.: to haul, draw up, 1.573; w. abl. of place, 3.135; (w. acc. and dat.), draw, rescue from, 10.81; draw or take away stealthily, withdraw, 6.524; draw from beneath, 3.565.

aptō, āvī, ātus, 1, a.: to fit, join, or fasten to; with acc. and dat., 8.721; put on, 2.390; get ready, prepare, 10.259; fit out, prepare, 1.552; with abl. of manner, 8.80. (aptus)

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

stringō, strīnxī, strīctus, 3, a.: to draw tight, bind; of a sword, draw out, draw, 2.334; graze, touch lightly, go near, 5.163; trim up, cut, 1.552; (fig.), touch the mind, 9.294.

rēmus, ī, m.: originally steering-oar; an oar, 1.104.

Ītalia, ae (Ī by poetic (epic) license), f.: Italy, 1.2, et al.

Latium, iī, n.: a country of ancient Italy, extending from the left bank of the lower Tiber to Campania, 1.6; (meton.), for Latīnī, the Latins, people of Latium, 10.365, et al. (2. latus; Virgil, 8.323, derives it from lateō)

sīn: (conj.), but if, if on the contrary, 1.555, et al.

absūmō, sūmpsī, sūmptus, 3, a.: to take away; of death, to end, destroy, 3.654; exhaust, spend, 7.301; consume, devour, 3.257; cut off, end, 1.555.

Teucrī, ōrum, m.: the Trojans, descendants of Teucer, 1.38, et al.; adj., Teucrian, Trojan, 9.779, et al. (Teucer)

Libya, ae, f.: Libya; northern Africa; by poetic license, Africa, 1.22, et al.

restō, restitī, 1, n.: to remain in place; to stand, stop; to be left, 2.142; remain, 1.556; remain for infliction, wait to be repeated, be in reserve, 10.29; w. abl., 1.679.

Iūlus, ī, m.: Iulus or Ascanius, son of Aeneas, 1.267, et freq.

at and ast: (conj., denoting addition either with the notion of difference, or of decided opposition), but, 1.46; yet, still, after conditional propositions; in adding new particulars, and in transitions, but also, but, now, 4.1; denoting indignation, with execration, 2.535.

fretum, ī, n.: a frith or strait; water; the sea, 1.557.

Sicānia, ae, f.: Sicily, 1.557.

saltem: (adv.), at any rate, at least, 1.557.

advehō, vexī, vectus, 3, a.: to carry or convey to; (pass.), advehī, sail to, 1.558; 3.108; foll. by acc., 8.136.

Īlioneus (quadrisyll.), eī, m. (acc. ēa instead of ea, 1.611): commander of one of the ships of Aeneas, 1.120, et al.

fremō, uī, itus, 3, n. and a.: to make a murmuring noise; to roar, 1.56; whinny, neigh, 12.82; raise lamentations, 6.175; whiz, 12.922; resound, 4.668; rage, 5.19; to be fierce, furious, 4.229; fume, rave, 12.535; shout and sing, 4.146; a., rage, rave for, clamor for, 11.453, et al.; ore fremere, applaud, shout applause, 5.385; p., fremēns, entis, raging, 4.229.

Dardanidēs, ae, m.: a son or descendant of Dardanus; Aeneas, 10.545; pl., Dardanidae, ārum (um), the Trojans, 1.560, et al.; adj., Dardanian, Trojan, 2.59.

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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.