Vergil, Aeneid II 526-558

Ecce autem ēlāpsus Pyrrhī dē caede Polītēs,

ūnus nātōrum Priamī, per tēla, per hostēs

porticibus longīs fugit et vacua ātria lūstrat

saucius. Illum ārdēns īnfestō vulnere Pyrrhus

īnsequitur, iam iamque manū tenet et premit hastā.530

Ut tandem ante oculōs ēvāsit et ōra parentum,

concidit ac multō vītam cum sanguine fūdit.

Hīc Priamus, quamquam in mediā iam morte tenētur,

nōn tamen abstinuit nec vōcī īraeque pepercit:

'At tibi prō scelere,' exclāmat, 'prō tālibus ausīs535

dī, sī quā est caelō pietās quae tālia cūret,

persolvant grātēs dignās et praemia reddant

dēbita, quī nātī cōram mē cernere lētum

fēcistī et patriōs foedāstī fūnere vultūs.

At nōn ille, satum quō tē mentīris, Achillēs540

tālis in hoste fuit Priamō; sed iūra fidemque

supplicis ērubuit corpusque exsangue sepulcrō

reddidit Hectoreum mēque in mea rēgna remīsit.'

Sīc fātus senior tēlumque imbelle sine ictū

coniēcit, raucō quod prōtinus aere repulsum,545

et summō clipeī nēquīquam umbōne pependit.

Cui Pyrrhus: 'Referēs ergō haec et nūntius ībis

Pēlīdae genitōrī. Illī mea trīstia facta

dēgeneremque Neoptolemum nārrāre mementō.

Nunc morere.' Hoc dīcēns altāria ad ipsa trementem550

trāxit et in multō lāpsantem sanguine nātī,

implicuitque comam laevā, dextrāque coruscum

extulit ac laterī capulō tenus abdidit ēnsem.

Haec fīnis Priamī fātōrum, hic exitus illum

sorte tulit Trōiam incēnsam et prōlāpsa videntem555

Pergama, tot quondam populīs terrīsque superbum

rēgnātōrem Asiae. Iacet ingēns lītore truncus,

āvulsumque umerīs caput et sine nōmine corpus.

Manuscripts: M 526-554, 555-558 | P 526-530, 531-553, 554-558

One of Priam’s sons, Polites, had been wounded by Pyrrhus and came running, pursued by Pyrrhus, to the altar, where he fell dead before his father’s eyes. Priam’s angry outburst is answered by a sword-thrust, and the old king of Troy lies dead (Williams).

526: ecce: the word brings the scene vividly before us (F-B). Pyrrhī dē caede: i.e., murder at the hands of Pyrrhus (Bennett). Polītēs: mentioned in the Iliad as a son of Priam famed for his speed of foot (Sidgwick).

528: porticibus longīs: “down the long colonnades” (AG 429a).  His escape is given rapidly in its various stages; from the havoc of Pyrrhus, through the missiles, through the foe, down the passages, into the ātria (Sidgwick). vacua: either “empty,” referring to some of the courts not yet occupied by the Greeks, or “open,” “spacious” (Frieze).

529: īnfestō: i.e., with his weapon ready any moment to strike him (Page); properly used of a weapon aimed at the foe; so here with vulnus, a slight variation such as abound in Vergil. The word is the same in origin as īnfēnsus (Sidgwick); vulnere: by a bold use, for tēlō (Bennett); a bold use of metonymy (F-B); “with a deadly aim,” or “thrust” (Frieze). saucius: made emphatic by its position at the end of its clause and the beginning of a line (Bennett).

530: iam iamque tenet: “and now he is just about to grasp him, and closes on him (premit) with the spear”; the repetition of iam pictures the scene, and so makes the impression more lively (G-K). The meaning is not that he actually holds him in his grasp, but he is so close to him that he seems to have caught him (H-H). -que: -que connected the verbs (Frieze).

531: ēvāsit: expresses the escape from the dark corridors to the open ātrium (Storr). parentum: Priam and Hecuba (Carter).

533: in mediā iam morte tenētur: i.e., death is all around him; his son lies before him dead, and his own death impends instantly (Frieze); the preposition elaborates the expression: death holds him, and is all around him (Sidgwick).

534: abstinuit: “restrain himself” (Bennett). vocī iraeque: “angry words” (hendiadys) (G-K). pepercit: “spared (i.e., forbore to use) passionate utterance” (Page).

535: at: indignant use of the particle, common in imprecations (Sidgwick). This use of at is very frequent in imprecations: it marks a sudden outburst of words that will not be controlled—“nay,” he cries, “may the gods…” The pronoun is also regularly placed immediately after at to emphasise at once the person on whom the curse is imprecated (Page). ausīs: “reckless deeds” (Frieze).

536: pietās: here in the sense of “justice” (Bennett); usually of men, here transferred to the gods, the notion being perhaps that the gods were bound to punish such cruelty (Sidgwick). cūret: relative clause of characteristic (AG 535a).

537: persolvant: result clause (AG 441). praemia: = poenās (Carter). Grātēs and praemia are of course ironical (Conington).

538: quī...fēcistī: the clause has causal force—“since you have compelled me.” The antecedent to quī is tibi. The infinitive with faciō is rare (Bennett). coram: adverbial (Williams); equivalent to oculīs meīs (Frieze). cernere: for ut cernerem (H-H) (AG 457a).

539: foedā(vi)stī: nothing to do with sprinkling blood, but simply denotes the contamination which a father must necessarily receive from the very sight of his son’s murder (Conington); it implies both the outrage to his nature as a father and the defiling of his person with the blood of the slain; for the touch, or even the presence, of a corpse, rendered the individual religiously impure (Frieze). fūnere: “by the death” (Bennett).

540: quō: abl. denoting birth or origin (AG 403a). satum: “that you were begotten, sired” (>serō) sc. esse (F-B). mentīris: “you falsely pretend,” for you would dishonor such a father (Frieze). The legitimacy of Neoptolemus seems never to have been questioned in any way, so that Priam means no more than that his nature belies his lineage, as Dido 4.365 says, nec tibi dīva parēns, generis nec Dardanus auctor. So Pyrrhus understands it, dēgenerem Neoptolemum (549, 541) (Conington).

541: in hoste: instead of the more ordinary in hostem “towards the foe” after adjectives (Sidgwick). Priamō: note the effective use of the third person (F-B); more than a substitute for ; the old man’s pride is clear (Austin). iūra fidemque: a suppliant had a right, by the laws of Jupiter, to the protection of him to whose faith he committed himself: cuius in fidem venit. When Priam went to the tent of Achilles to beg the body of Hector, Achilles observed his rights, and the faith due to him as a suppliant (Frieze). Just as Hecuba’s thoughts had turned to Hector, so now Priam in his last moments turns to him. Vergil has in mind the scene described by Homer in Iliad 24.468 ff., the scene that Aeneas had but lately seen depicted on the walls of Juno’s temple at Carthage (1.484 exanimumque aurō corpus vendēbat Achillēs): the listening Dido must again have been deeply stirred. In Homer’s story there was one moment (Il. 24.568 ff.) when Achilles was ready to forget a suppliant’s due; but Vergil’s Priam remembers only his magnanimity, not his ruthlessness—the way of an old man, with an old man’s thought (Austin).

542: ērubuit: ērubesco, properly intransitive, “blush,” is here used transitively (Bennett); “respected,” i.e., blushed to disregard (G-K); = ērubescendō servāvit (Williams). Intransitive verbs expressing emotion by extension of their meaning take an accus., especially in poetry; so pallēre, horrēre, stupēre (Storr) (AG 388a). sepulcrō: dative of purpose (AG 382).

543: corpusque...reddidit: explains iūra...ērubuit (Knapp). Hectoreum: = Hectoris (Knapp). The student will notice many instances of the use of adjectives derived from proper nouns, when it would be more accordant with the English idiom to use the genitive of the name (Chase). The line has a careful pattern of alliteration and assonance, with a verb at beginning and end: and Priam’s last words are proud (Austin).

544: fātus: supply est, as with repulsum in the next line; the effect is rapid and staccato (Williams). sine ictū: “without inflicting a wound” (H-H). The spear struck the shield of Pyrrhus, but too feebly to pierce it and “strike” him (Page).

545: coniēcit: Priam uses all his strength to hurl the spear, and yet it had no power (Austin). raucō: “hollow sounding:” root RU, “roar:” cp. ru-mor, rugire, rumen (H-H). quod: = id enim; the rel. cl. explains sine ictū (Knapp). aere: used for the shield itself (Austin). repulsum: supply est (Frieze). The blow made the metal resound and that was all (Carter).

546: summō clipeī...umbōne: The umbō was a kind of knob in the centre of the shield, intended to cause the spear to glance (Bennett); umbō, connected with umb-ilicus (Howson). nēquīquam: as only piercing the leather covering of the shield (P-H).

547: referēs...ībis: the future indicative, as often, here has imperative force—“report and go” (AG 449b); an instance of hysteron proteron (Bennett). Perhaps jussive, but the cruelty is more cynical if this and ībis are taken as normal futures (“Well, you will soon be telling all this to Achilles”) (Austin). Logically, nuntius ībis should precede referēs, but in such cases Vergil is wont to set first the verb containing the more important idea (Knapp). nuntius: Priam, the King of Troy, is to take a message to Achilles, like some underling (Austin).

548: Pēlīdae genitōrī: = ad Pelidam genitorem (H-H). Achilles (F-B). mea tristia facta: said with scorn (F-B).

549: dēgenerem: a scornful allusion to the comparison between father and son, just made by Priam (Frieze).

550: altāria ad ipsa: thus increasing the impiety of the deed (Bennett).

551: lapsantem: the frequentative form of the verb lābor is very appropriate here (F-B).

552–553: coruscum extulit: the words are vivid: the sword flashes a moment, then is buried in his heart (Sidgwick).

552: comam: Priam wore his hair long, as was the fashion of kings (Carter). laevā, dextrā:  sc. manū.

553: laterī: poetic recipient dat. for in latus (Sidgwick) (AG 363). capulō tenus: post-positive preposition with capulō (AG 221.26) (Carter).

554: haec fīnis: fīnis, regularly masculine, is occasionally used in the singular as feminine by the poets. As verb, understand fuit (Bennett); the feminine gender is an archaism (F-B). Priamī fātōrum: the “fate of Priam” became proverbial as an instance of a great reverse of fortune (Page). exitus: (sc. vītae) often = “death” (Knapp).

555: sorte: strictly, the lot of an individual (G-K). tulit: = abstulit (Bennett); “befell” (P-H).

556–8: Notice the impressive lines which point the contrast between the splendour and the fall. It is characteristic of the poet to feel deeply and paint powerfully whatever illustrates the vanity and sadness of human lots (Sidgwick).

556: populīs: ablative of cause with superbum. Some prefer to take it as a dative of interest with rēgnātōrem (F-B).

557–558: The final picture is one of awful desolation; as his city burns to ashes the proud ruler becomes a mutilated nameless corpse (Williams).

557: rēgnātōrem: perhaps best taken in apposition to illum (Priam), though it is possible to take it with Pergama (Williams). Asiae: i.e., Asia Minor, the Roman province of Asia (F-B). Here, as elsewhere (3.1, 11.268), the extent of Priam's dominion is exaggerated (Conington). iacet ingēns lītore truncus: as if the body were still lying there (G-K). Vergil alludes to the story of Pompey, though he says ingēns, not magnus. lītore, however, refers to what is contained in a tragedy by Pacuvius… lītus, either because his body was dragged to the shore, or else we are to understand lītus as solum, as in the phrase lītoraque et lātōs populōs (Aen. 1.225); or he says lītus to indicate that where Troy used to be there is now merely the seashore, as in campōs ubi Troia fuit (3.331) (Servius). According to the legend here followed by Vergil, and which Pacuvius also is said to have adopted in one of his tragedies, the body of Priam was dragged to the shore, and there left unburied, and a headless trunk (Anthon).

558: sine nōmine: because deprived of the head, that by which the individual is distinguished (Frieze); “unrecognizable” (G-K).


ēlābor, lāpsus sum, 3, dep. n.: to slip or glide forth or away; escape from, 1.242; spring aside, dodge, 5.445.

Pyrrhus, ī, m.: Pyrrhus Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, killed by Orestes, 3.296, et al.

Polītēs, ae, m.: Polites, a son of Priam and Hecuba, killed by Pyrrhus, 2.526.

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.

porticus, ūs, f.: a portico, porch, gallery, pillared hall, colonnade, hall, 3.353. (porta)

ātrium, iī, n.: a rectangular area in the middle of a dwelling, partly open to the sky; and often surrounded with a colonnade; the court or principal apartment of a dwelling; or, in a house containing more than one court, the forecourt or first hall; a court, hall, 2.483, 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)

saucius, a, um: (adj.), wounded, 2.223; pierced, 4.1.

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)

īnfestus, a, um: infested; unsafe, hostile, inimical, 2.571; dangerous, mortal, 2.529; fatal, pernicious, destructive, 5.641.

īnsequor, secūtus sum, 3, dep. a.: to follow up, pursue, follow, 5.321; press on, follow up; succeed, 1.87; persecute, pursue, 1.241; w. inf., proceed, 3.32.

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.

hasta, ae, f.: a spear, 2.50, and freq.; hasta pūra, a headless spear, 6.760; pampinea hasta, a thyrsus, 7.396.

ēvādō, vāsī, vāsus, 3, n. and a.: to go out, forth, or up; ascend, 2.458; come in flight, 2.531; come forth from, w. the idea of danger surmounted; (w. acc.), to escape the dangers of, 2.731; escape, 5.689; 6.425; w. dat., 11.702; 9.99.

concidō, cidī, 3, n.: to fall completely; fall down, fall, 2.532. (com- and cadō)

atque, or ac: (conj.), and in addition, or and besides; and, as well, and indeed, and, 1.575; freq.; even, 2.626; in comparisons, as, 4.90; than, 3.561.

abstineō, uī, tentus, 2, a. and n.: to hold or keep off from, or abstain from, with abl., 7.618; alone; abstain, restrain one's self, 2.534. (abs and teneō)

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.

exclāmō, āvī, ātus, 1, n. and a.: to call or cry out, 2.733.

ausum, ī, n.: a daring deed; outrage, 2.535.

quis, qua or quae, quid or quod: (indef. pron., adj., and subst.), any, some, 2.94, et al.; some one, any one, any body, anything, something, 1.413, et al.; sī quis, nē quis, etc., if any, lest any, etc., freq.; (adv.), quid, as to anything, in anything, at all, freq.; sī quid, if at all, freq.

persolvō, solvī, solūtus, 3, a.: to loosen completely; set free; free one's self from obligation; pay, render, give, return, 1.600, et al.; sacrifice, offer, 5.484.

grātēs: defect. (found only in nom. and acc. pl.), f. (grātor), thanks, 1.600; in a bad sense, return, reward, 2.537.

cōram: (prep. and adv.; prep. w. abl.), in the presence of; before; (adv.), in person, face to face, openly, in presence, 1.520, 595.

lētum, ī, n.: death, destruction, 2.134, et al. (cf. dēleō)

patrius, a, um: adj. (pater), pertaining to one's father or ancestors; a father's, 2.658; paternal, natural to a father, 1.643; exacted by a father, 7.766; due to, felt for a father or parent, 9.294; ancestral, hereditary, 3.249; of one's country, native, 3.281; belonging to the nation, of the country, 11.374.

foedō, āvī, ātus, 1, a.: to make foul; defile, pollute, 3.227; (fig.), disfigure, mutilate, 2.286; lacerate, wound, 12.871; break, tear in pieces, destroy, 2.55. (foedus)

serō, sēvī, satus, 3, a.: to sow or plant; with indefinite object omitted, 6.844; scatter, spread, disseminate, 12.228.

mentior, ītus sum, 4, dep. n. and a.: to devise; falsify, lie, pretend, 2.540; feign, counterfeit; p., mentītus, a, um; (pass.), 2.422. (mēns)

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

supplex, icis, c.: a suppliant, 2.542. (supplicō, beseech)

ērubēscō, rubuī, 3, inc. n. and a.: to redden; to blush; feel shame before; to revere, respect, 2.542.

exsanguis, e: (adj.), without blood; lifeless, 2.542; pale with terror, terrified, 2.212.

Hectoreus, a, um: adj. (Hector), of Hector, 2.543; Hectorean, Trojan, 1.273.

remittō, mīsī, missus, 3, a.: to let go back; send back, 2.543, et al.; send up, 5.99; repay, 4.436; yield up, resign, 10.828; give up, 11.346; forego, lay aside, 5.419; give back, reëcho, 12.929; sē remittere, to submit, yield, 12.833.

senex, senis: (adj.), old, aged, hoary, 7.180; (comp.) senior, ōris, older; very aged, 5.179; hoary, 5.704.

imbellis, e: not fit for war; unwarlike, effeminate, feeble, 2.544; timid.

coniciō, iēcī, iectus, 3, a.: to throw together; pile up, 5.662; throw, cast, hurl, 2.545; turn, 12.483. (com- and iaciō)

raucus, a, um: (adj.), rough-sounding, hoarse; screaming, 7.705; roaring, resounding, 2.545; (adv.), rauca, hoarsely, 9.125.

repellō, reppulī, repulsus, 3, a.: to push or drive back; repel, 2.13; reject, refuse, disdain, 4.214.

clipeus, ī, m., and clipeum, ī, n.: a round shield; a shield, 2.227, et al.

nēquīquam: (adv.), in vain, to no purpose, 2.515.

umbō, ōnis, m.: the boss of a shield, 2.546; a shield, 7.633.

pendeō, pependī, 2, n.: to hang, foll. by abl. alone or w. prep., 2.546, et al.; 5.511; be suspended, 1.106; cling, 9.562; bend, stoop forward, 5.147; (meton.), linger, delay, 6.151; listen, hang upon, 4.79.

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

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

dēgener, eris: adj. (dē and genus), degenerate, 2.549; of base descent, 4.13.

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

meminī, isse, def. a. and n.: (w. acc., gen., or inf.), to have in mind; remember, be mindful, recollect, 1.203; distinguish, 3.202. (rel. to mēns)

altāria, ium, n.: the upper part of an altar; a high altar, 7.211; an altar, 2.515. (altus)

tremō, uī, 3, n. and a.: to tremble, quake, shake, quiver, 5.198; tremble at, fear, dread, 8.296.

lāpsō, āre, freq. n.: to fall down; slip, 2.551. (1. lābor)

implicō, āvī or uī, ātus or itus, 1, a.,: to fold in; involve, entangle, entwine, 2.215; to wheel, 12.743; (w. dat.), bind to, 11.555; infuse, 1.660; insinuate, mingle, 7.355; sē implicāre, cling to, 2.724.

laeva, ae, f. (sc. manus): the left hand, 1.611; ab laevā, on the left side, 8.460.

coruscus, a, um: adj. (coruscō), vibrating, tremulous, waving, 12.701; flashing, 1.164; gleaming, 2.172.

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)

capulus, ī, m.: the handle; hilt, 2.553. (capiō),

tenus: (prep. w. gen. or abl., placed after its case), as far as; up to, 2.553; down to, to, 3.427; to, 1.737; hāc tenus, separated by tmesis, thus far, 5.603.

abdō, didī, ditus, 3, a.: to put away; with the point or place where, in the abl. alone or with a prep., the acc. with prep., or the dative; to hide, shut up, 1.60; to bury, plunge, thrust, 2.553.

ēnsis, is, m.: a sword, 2.393, et al.; knife, 2.155.

exitus, ūs, m.: a going or coming out; departure, exit, passage, 6.894; event, 5.523; end, death, 2.554.(exeō)

Trōia, ae, f.: 1. Troy, the capital of the Troad, 2.625, et al. 2. A city built by Helenus in Epirus, 3.349. 3. A part of the city of Acesta in Sicily, 5.756. 4. The name of an equestrian game of Roman boys, 5.602.

incendō, cendī, cēnsus, 3, a.: to set fire to, burn, 2.353; kindle, 3.279; illuminate, 5.88; (fig.), of the mind, fire, inflame, 1.660; arouse, rouse to action, 5.719; excite, irritate, enrage, madden, provoke, 4.360; disturb, rend, fill, 10.895.

prōlābor, lāpsus sum, 3, dep.: to slip forward, tumble down; p., prōlāpsus, a, um, fallen, in ruins, 2.555.

Pergama, ōrum, n., Pergamum, ī, n., and Pergamus (-os), ī, f.: 1. The citadel or walls of Troy, 3.87; Troy, 4.344, et al. 2. The Trojan citadel of Helenus in Epirus, 3.336.

rēgnātor, ōris, m.: one who reigns; sovereign, lord, 2.779, et al. (rēgnō)

Āsia, ae, f.: 1. Asia, a town of Lydia, near the river Cayster. 2. Asia Minor; Asia, 7.224, et al.

truncus, ī, m.: the stem, stock, or trunk of a tree; stem, trunk, 6.207; trunk of the human body, 2.557.

āvellō, vellī or vulsī, vulsus, 3, a.: to pluck, or tear off, or away from, with acc. and abl., take away, steal, 2.165; to force away, 11.201; p., avulsus, a, um, torn from, 2.608; torn, rent, 3.575.

umerus, ī, m.: the upper bone of the arm; the shoulder, 1.501, and freq.

Text Read Aloud
article Nav

Suggested Citation

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