Vergil, Aeneid II 559-566

At mē tum prīmum saevus circumstetit horror.

Obstipuī; subiit cārī genitōris imāgō,560

ut rēgem aequaevum crūdēlī vulnere vīdī

vītam exhālantem, subiit dēserta Creǖsa

et dīrepta domus et parvī cāsus Iǖlī.

Respiciō et quae sit mē circum cōpia lūstrō.

Dēseruēre omnēs dēfessī, et corpora saltū565

ad terram mīsēre aut ignibus aegra dedēre.

Manuscripts: M | P

This short passage marks the transition from the middle section of the book (the destruction of Troy culminating in the death of Priam) to the final section which is concerned with Aeneas’ family. The tale of public disaster changes to the tale of private concern (Williams).

559: tum primum: hitherto he had felt the courage of despair (Page). Till now, all Aeneas’ thoughts have been concentrated on Troy and on Priam; now for the first time his personal situation comes home to him, and he is filled with dread for what he may find in his own house, if he ever gets back to it (Austin).

560: subiit: “there came to my mind”; understand mentem (Bennett). imāgō: i.e., the thought— not a real phanton (G-K).

561: aequaevum: “of like age” with Anchises (F-B).

562: subiit: the anaphora is effective; note that the word is in a different position in the line from that occupied in 560 (Austin). Creūsa: the wife of Aeneas, and daughter of Priam (Frieze). He means imāgō the “picture” or “thought” of her rises in his mind: but having once used the word, the next time he varies and shortens the expression (Sidgwick).

563: dīrepta: “plundered,” i.e., in Aeneas’s imagination. He later finds it unharmed (Bennett). domus: the final syllable is irregularly lengthened before the caesura (F-B); license of meter sometimes taken where the stress of the foot comes (arsis) (Sidgwick). casus: “the peril” or “the possible fate” (Chase). Iūlī: Whatever the origin of the equation Ascanius-Iulus, Vergil’s use of the name Iulus plainly reflects his wish to connect the gēns Iūlia and the imperial house of Rome with its Trojan past (Austin).

564: respiciō: he has been absorbed in the scene in the court below, and the death of Priam. Now he withdraws his eyes to consider what is going on around him on the battlements (Frieze). cōpia: “force”; for the more usual cōpiae (H-H); sc. mīlitum, as in 11.834 (Storr). lustrō: “I seek to learn” (L-S s.v. lustrō II.D); conative pres. (Knapp). There is an obvious sense of movement here: Aeneas turns his glance all round in his search. This seems a solitary example of lustrō followed by a dependent clause (Austin).

565–566: two sets are distinguished; (1) those who sought to escape by leaping to the ground, (2) those who consigned themselves to the flames (Knapp).

566: ad terram: “they have cast themselves (from the battlements) to the ground” (Frieze). aegra: “faint,” agreeing with corpora (F-B); “exhausted” (Bennett); placed here because it gives the reason (Sidgwick).


circumstō, stetī, 1, a. and n.: to stand around; hem in; threaten, beset, 10.905; encompass, threaten, 2.559.

horror, ōris, m.: a roughening or bristling; (fig.), a shuddering; terror, dread, horror, dismay, 2.559; clashing din, 2.301. (horreō)

obstipēscō, stipuī (stupuī), 3, inc. n.: to become stupefied; to be astonished, amazed, 1.613.

subeō, iī, itus (p. subiēns, euntis), 4, n. and a.: to go or come under, into, or up to; alone, or with acc. and prep., or with dat.; without a case, come up, 2.216; go under, bend, stoop down under, 10.522; come after; follow, 2.725; take one's place, 12.471; enter, 1.171; come into or upon the mind, suggest itself, occur, 2.560; with acc. and prep., go, advance towards, 8.359; with dat., come or go up to, down to, into, 5.203; succeed to, 5.176; come after, follow, 10.371; with acc., approach, enter, 1.400; go under a burden, bear, with abl. of instrument, 2.708; go under the yoke, draw, 3.113; enter the mind of, strike, occur to, 9.757; approach, reach, 3.512; approach, 7.22; meet, encounter, 10.798; attack, 9.344.

genitor, ōris, m.: he who begets; father, sire, 1.155, et al. (gignō)

aequaevus, a, um: adj. (aequus and aevum), of equal age, 2.561.

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.

exhālō, āvī, ātus, 1, a. and n.: to breathe out, 2.562.

Creūsa, ae, f.: the wife of Aeneas, and daughter of Priam, 2.562.

dīripiō, ripuī, reptus, 3, a.: to tear apart or off; snatch, tear away, 3.227; plunder, pillage, sack, 2.563. See also dēripiō. (dis- and rapiō)

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

circum: (adv.), about, around; (prep. with acc.), around, about.

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)

defessus, -a, -um: wearied, tired, fatigued, 1.157. (dēfetīscō)

saltus, ūs, m.: a leap, bound, spring, 2.565; an ascending, 6.515. (saliō)

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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.