Vergil, Aeneid II 250-267

Vertitur intereā caelum et ruit Ōceanō nox250

involvēns umbrā magnā terramque polumque

Myrmidonumque dolōs; fūsī per moenia Teucrī

conticuēre; sopor fessōs complectitur artūs.

Et iam Argīva phalānx īnstrūctīs nāvibus ībat

ā Tenedō tacitae per amīca silentia lūnae255

lītora nōta petēns, flammās cum rēgia puppis

extulerat, fātīsque deum dēfēnsus inīquīs

inclūsōs uterō Danaōs et pīnea fūrtim

laxat claustra Sinōn. Illōs patefactus ad aurās

reddit equus laetīque cavō sē rōbore prōmunt260

Thessandrus Sthenelusque ducēs et dīrus Ulixēs,

dēmissum lāpsī per fūnem, Acamāsque Thoāsque

Pēlīdēsque Neoptolemus prīmusque Machāōn

et Menelāus et ipse dolī fabricātor Epēos.

Invādunt urbem somnō vīnōque sepultam;265

caeduntur vigilēs, portīsque patentibus omnēs

accipiunt sociōs atque agmina cōnscia iungunt.

Manuscripts: M 250-263, 264-267 | P 250-254, 255-267

The Greeks emerge from the horse and take possession of the city (Bennett).

250: vertitur: i.e., westward: the whole sky seems to move (Sidgwick). The ancients believed that the heavens consisted of two hemispheres, one of light and the other of darkness, and by the revolution of those light and darkness were produced (H-H). Ōceanō: ablative of separation (AG 400), or dative of goal (AG 428h)? Narrative context and literary antecedents point to a time before midnight and therefore to night coming on, from the Ocean, comparable to Homeric οὐρανόθεν (Horsfall). Night rises in her chariot from the eastern ocean when the sun sinks in the west (Frieze). ruit: ruit can indicate swift, forwards motion (Horsfall).

251: the prevalence of spondees in this line is admirably suited to the sense (Bennett).

252: Myrmidon(ōr)um: = Graiōrum (Frieze). fūsī: (> fundo) describes the attitude of one who lies down anyhow, without any care or fear of being disturbed (Page). per moenia: “throughout the city”; not here the fortifications merely (Frieze).

254: et iam Argīva: Vergil likes the grammatical pattern of iam with a verb in the imperfect followed by a clause introduced by cum (so 5.159 f., 7.25 ff., 9.371 f., etc.). phalanx: used here to mean simply “army” (Carter).

255: tacitae...lūnae: “through the friendly silence of the peaceful moon.” Vergil dwells on the “light” and “quiet” which make their passage easy, and ignores the danger which attends an attack by moonlight (Page). The utter stillness of the moonlight is well shown (Austin). amīca: “friendly,” because favorable for the attack (F-B). The peaceful moonlight, so beautiful, abets the horrid scheme (Austin).

256–259: cum…extulerat...laxat: Extulerat like laxat is in the inverted cum clause (AG 546a): “they were proceeding when suddenly Agamemnon had given the signal and Sinon is releasing the Greek…” (Williams). The indicative is rightly used after cum, because cum is here purely relative = quo tempore (Sidgwick). Both verbs go with cum, the principal verb being ibat. The shifting of tense is due to the pluperf. (to be translated as if extulit) being used to express an instantaneous act, and to the historical pres. being used for vividness’ sake (C-R). The indicative extulerat is here used for extulisset…, a form not available for the hexameter. (F-B).

256: flammās: here a fire-signal. Signals by light, beacon fires, and smoke were much used by the ancients (Knapp). rēgia puppis: i.e., Agamemnon’s, the leader of the Greeks (C-R). Here puppis = “ship,” as carinae does in 23, 179 (Knapp).

257: defēnsus: i.e., from discovery and punishment (Knapp). iniquīs: i.e., to the Trojans (F-B). It is only on account of divine injustice that Sinon has survivied his evil plotting (Horsfall).

259: laxat: this verb is adapted to both objects, Danaōs and claustra, by zeugma (Frieze). Notice too that the natural sequence is inverted, for the fastenings must be undone before the Greeks are released. The figure is know as hysteron proteron (Bennett). The word-order here is admirable; the whole long sentence, with its complicated structure, leads up to a deliberate climax in Sinon’s name, and the pause that follows is like a sigh after the suspense.

260: sē prōmunt: for prodeunt (Frieze). The Greeks cheerfully decant themselves from the Horse’s depths; the dactylic rhythm and the faintness of the pause at the fourth-foot caesura (cavō sē rōbore is virtually a unit) combine to give an effect of speed (Austin).

261 f.: The men in the horse are in groups of three, each containing one of the leading Greek generals — Ulysses, Neoptolemus, Menelaus. Thessandrus was a son of Polynices, Sthenelus a close friend of Diomedes, Acamas a son of Theseus, Thoas a Homeric hero (Iliad 2.638 f.), Machaon a surgeon, Epeos—as Vergil tells us (cf. Hom. Od. 8.493)—the maker of the horse which Ulysses had planned (Williams).

261–262: Sthenelus and Thoas are from the Iliad: the other names in these two lines are either from other versions of the tale, or are invented (Sidgwick). Thessandrus: not mentioned by Homer; according to other accounts he was killed at the beginning of the Trojan War and hence could not have been present in the Horse (Carter). Sthenelus: son of Capaneus and Evadne, companion of Diomedes (Carter). Acamas: son of Theseus (Howson). Thoās: a leader of the Aetolians (Carter).

263–264: Machāōn, Menelāus, Epēos: notice Gk. quantities (Comstock).

263: Neoptolemus: son of Achilles, whose father was Peleus, hence Pelides (Sidgwick). He was the only hero in the Horse who did not weep, and whose knees did not knock together with fear: so Odysseus told Achilles’ ghost (Od. 9.526 ff.) (Austin). prīmus Machāōn: son of Aesculapius, himself a good physician (Howson). This should probably be understood literally, and then would only show that the speaker, in mentioning the names rapidly, was reminded at the moment when this one occurred, that he was said to have issued first from the horse (Frieze). It is difficult to see if Machaon was the first to issue from the horse why he should be mentioned seventh. It may be an imitation of Homer, Iliad 2.505. Hence some translate it “peerless” (H-H).

264: Epēos: a Greek nom. = Epeus (C-R), whose chief claim to fame lies in his having constructed the wooden horse (Carter).

265: somnō vīnōque sepultum: It is best to make somnō vīnōque an example of hendiadys = somnō vinōsō (H-H). sepultum is an exaggeration for victam or superātam, used to heighten the pathos (Knapp). “Weighed down” rather than the dictionary “buried” (though with a strong hint that this sleep was to be a grave to many) (Horsfall).

266: caeduntur: the passive, interposed between invadunt and accipiunt, is more than just a variation of phrasing; it throws stress on the inertia of the “watch,” who are butchered in their log-like sleep (Austin).

267: agmina conscia iungunt: i.e., those outside with those inside (Sidgwick). conscia: implying that those already in the city and those just arrived have a mutual understanding of the plan of attack (Frieze).


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

ruō, ruī, rutus, 3, n. and a.: to fall with violence; tumble down, fall, freq.; fall in battle, 10.756; of the sun, go down, set, 3.508; rush forward, 2.64; of the chariot of Nox, hasten up; ascend, rise, 2.250; advance, 10.256; plunge, rush, 2.353; flee, 12.505; tremble, quake, 8.525; hasten, pass away, 6.539; cause to fall; cast down, 9.516; plow, 1.35; cast, throw up, 1.85; throw up or together, 11.211.

Ōceanus, ī, m.: the god Oceanus; the waters encompassing the lands; the ocean, 1.287; distinguished as eastern and western, 7.101.

involvō, volvī, volūtus, 3, a.: to roll on or in; cast upon, 12.292; roll along, carry, 12.689; cover up, obscure, 3.198; conceal, involve, 6.100.

polus, ī, m.: the terminating point of an axis; the celestial pole; (meton.), the heavens, sky, 1.90; air, 1.398.

Myrmidones, um, m.: the Myrmidons, Thessalian followers of Achilles, once dwelling in Aegina, where they had been transformed from ants to men in answer to the prayer of Aeacus, grandfather of Achilles, 2.7, et al.

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

conticēscō, ticuī, 3, inc. n.: to become still; be still, hushed, silent, 2.253. (com- and taceō)

sopor, ōris, m.: sleep; sound, deep slumber, 2.253; personified, 6.278.

complector, plexus sum, 3, dep. a.: to embrace; cover, 2.514; hold, 5.31; seize, grasp, 11.743.

artus, ūs, m.: a joint of the body of man or beast, 5.422; a limb, 2.173, et al.; part, member, 6.726; frame, body, 9.490. (generally in the pl., except in later writers)

Argīvus, a, um: adj. (Argos), belonging to Argos; Argive; Greek, 2.254; subst., Argīvī, ōrum, Argives, Greeks, 1.40.

phalanx, ngis, f.: a body of troops in compact array; a battalion, army, host, 6.489; of a fleet, 2.254.

īnstruō, strūxi, strūctus, 3, n.: to build upon; build up; arrange, draw up ships or troops, 2.254; 8.676; prepare, 1.638; furnish, equip, supply, 3.231; support, 6.831; instruct, train, 2.152.

Tenedos, ī, f.: an island in the Aegean about five miles from shore in sight of Troy, 2.21.

silentium, iī, n.: of the absence of any kind of sound; noiselessness, silence, stillness, 1.730; pl., 2.255. (silēns)

puppis, is, f.: the hinder part of a ship; the stern, 5.12; (by synecdoche), a vessel, boat, ship, 1.69; (meton.), crew, 8.497.

efferō, extulī, ēlātus, ferre, irreg. a.: to bear, or bring out or forth, 2.297; bear away, rescue, 3.150; raise, elevate, lift up or high, 1.127; elate, puff up, 11.715; efferre gressum or pedem, walk, go, come forth, 2.753; efferre sē, arise, 3.215. (ex and ferō)

inīquus, a, um: unequal; uneven in surface, rounding, 10.303; of the sun, torrid, 7.227; too narrow, dangerous, 5.203; treacherous, 11.531; morally, unfavorable, hard, inequitable, 4.618; unjust, cruel, 1.668, et al.

inclūdō, clūsī, clūsus, 3, a.: to shut in, inclose, 6.680; secrete, 2.19; for interclūdō, stop, choke, 7.534; to mount, set, inlay, adorn, 12.211. (1. in and claudō)

uterus, ī, m.: the womb, belly, 11.813; cavity, 2.38.

Danaī, ōrum, m.: the Greeks, 2.327.

pīneus, a, um: adj. (pīnus), of pine, made of pine, produced from pine, piny, 11.786; pine-, 2.258; piny, pine-growing, 11.320.

fūrtim: (adv.), by stealth, secretly, 2.18. (fūr)

laxō, āvī, ātus, 1, a.: to loosen, slacken; unfasten, undo, open, 2.259; uncoil, let out, 3.267; open, clear, 6.412; of the body, relax, 5.836; of the mind, relieve, 9.225. (laxus)

claustra, ōrum, n. pl: fastenings; bolts, bars; barriers, 1.56; narrows, straits, 3.411. (claudō)

Sinōn, ōnis, m.: a Greek, son of Aesimus, 2.79, et al.

patefaciō, fēcī, factus (pass, patefierī), 3, a.: to open, 2.259. (pateō and faciō)

cavus, a, um: (adj.), hollow, 1.81; concave, 8.599; arching, vaulted, 2.487; cavae manūs, the palms of the hands, 12.86.

rōbur, oris, n.: hard oak or wood, 6.181; a tree, 8.315; (meton.), timber, a wooden structure; fabric, 2.260; (fig.), sturdiness, strength, firmness, courage, vigor, 2.639; pl., rōbora, wood, timber, 4.399; vigor, flower, 8.518.

prōmō, prōmpsī, prōmptus, 3, a.: to take, give, bring forth, exhibit, put forth, 5.191; with sē, come forth, 2.260. (prō and emō)

Thessandrus, ī, m.: Thessandrus, a Greek chief, 2.261.

Sthenelus, ī, m.: 1. Sthenelus, an Argive chief, charioteer of Diomedes, 2.261. 2. A Trojan slain by Turnus, 12.341.

dīrus, a, um: (adj.), accursed; portentous; fearful, dreadful, awful, dire, cruel, horrible, freq.; accursed, 2.261; unhallowed, impious, 6.373; foul, carrion, 3.262; wild, furious, ardent, 9.185; pl., dīra (adv.), fearfully, 10.572.

Ulixēs, is, eī or ī, m.: Ulysses, son of Laertes, king of Ithaca, and one of the Greek chiefs at Troy, distinguished for shrewdness and cunning, 2.44, et al.

dēmittō, mīsī, missus, 3, a.: to send down, 1.297; shed, 6.455; let down into, receive, admit, (of the mind or the senses), 4.428; consign, condemn, 2.85; convey, conduct, 5.29; transmit, hand down, 1.288; dēmittere mentem, to lose heart, sink into despair, 12.609.

lābor, lapsus sum, 3, dep. n.: to slide, glide down, or slip, freq.; fall down, 2.465; ebb, 11.628; pass away, 2.14; descend, 2.262; glide, sail, skim along, 8.91; flow, 3.281; fall, perish, 2.430; decline, 4.318; faint, 3.309.

fūnis, is, m.: a rope, 2.239, et al.; cord, string, 5.488.

Acamās, antis, m.: Acamas, a son of Theseus and Phaedra, 2.262.

Thoās, antis, m.: 1. Thoas, a Greek chief, 2.262. 2. An Arcadian, follower of Pallas, 10.415.

Pēlīdēs, ae, m.: 1. The son of Peleus, Achilles, 2.548. 2. Neoptolemus or Pyrrhus, grandson of Peleus, 2.263, et al.

Neoptolemus, ī, m.: Neoptolemus or Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, 3.333. See also Pyrrhus.

Machāōn, onis, m.: a Greek prince, surgeon of the Greeks at Troy, and said to have been the son of Aesculapius, 2.263.

Menelāus, ī, m.: son of Atreus, king of Sparta and husband of Helen; who joined his brother Agamemnon in the war against Troy, and after its capture returned with Helen to Sparta, 2.264, et al.

fabricātor, ōris, m.: a constructor, contriver, framer, artificer, builder, 2.264. (fabricō)

Epēos, ī, m.: Epeius, a Greek architect, designer of the wooden horse, 2.264.

invādō, vāsī, vāsus, 3, a. and n.: to go into; enter, 3.382; enter upon, 6.260; invade, violate, 6.623; rush into, 12.712; attack, assail, 2.414; address, accost, 4.265; undertake, adventure, 9.186.

sepeliō, pelīvī or peliī, pultus, 4, a.: to perform the rites of sepulture, whether by interring (humāre), or cremation (cremāre); to bury, 3.41; p., sepultus, a, um, buried, 4.34; of slumber, 6.424, et al.

vigil, ilis: adj. (vigeō), awake, on the watch; sleepless, 4.182; perpetual, 4.200; subst., vigil, ilis, m., a watchman, guard, sentinel, 2.266, et al.

cōnscius, a, um: adj. (com- and sciō), having complete knowledge; conscious, 5.455; conscious of, 2.141; conscious of guilt, guilty, 2.99; witnessing (w. dat.), 4.167; having knowledge in common, or a mutual understanding; confederate, 2.267.

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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.