Vergil, Aeneid IV 198-218

Hic Hammōne satus raptā Garamantide nymphā

templa Iovī centum lātīs immānia rēgnīs,

centum ārās posuit vigilemque sacrāverat ignem,200

excubiās dīvum aeternās, pecudumque cruōre

pingue solum et variīs flōrentia līmina sertīs.

Isque āmēns animī et rūmōre accēnsus amārō

dīcitur ante ārās media inter nūmina dīvum

multa Iovem manibus supplex ōrāsse supīnīs:205

'Iuppiter omnipotēns, cui nunc Maurūsia pictīs

gēns epulāta torīs Lēnaeum lībat honōrem,

aspicis haec? an tē, genitor, cum fulmina torquēs

nēquīquam horrēmus, caecīque in nūbibus ignēs

terrificant animōs et inānia murmura miscent?210

Fēmina, quae nostrīs errāns in fīnibus urbem

exiguam pretiō posuit, cui lītus arandum

cuique locī lēgēs dedimus, cōnūbia nostra

reppulit ac dominum Aenēān in rēgna recēpit.

Et nunc ille Paris cum sēmivirō comitātū,215

Maeoniā mentum mitrā crīnemque madentem

subnexus, raptō potitur: nōs mūnera templīs

quippe tuīs ferimus fāmamque fovēmus inānem.'

Manuscripts: M 198-203, 204-218 | P 198-207, 208-218 | R 198, 199-216

Iarbas, son of Jupiter Ammon, to whom he had reared countless temples throughout his realm, is maddened by the news and addresses his sire with bitter taunts as a powerless deity, who allows his son and suppliant to be scorned by a foreign woman and an eastern adventurer (Page).

198: Hammōne sātus...nympha: “(the one) sprung of Hammon, on the ravishing of a Garamantian nymph,” literally “a nymph having been carried off (by him).” Ammon was a Libyan deity with a ram’s head or horns, usually, as here, identified with Jupiter (Page). Iarbas claims to have introduced his worship into Libya (G-K). The Garamantes were an African people (Austin). Hammōne, ablative of source with sātus (AG 403) (Frieze).

200: posuit: “he erected” a hundred temples, etc., but previously he “had consecrated” (sacrāverat) the ever-burning fire (Chase). If the change of tense means anything it must mean that he built the temples after dedicating, i.e., on spots where he had previously dedicated, “a sleepless fire, the eternal sentry of the gods.” It is then better to take sōlum and līmina as nominatives–“and the ground (in the temples) was fat with blood…,” for if sacrāverat is allowed to govern sōlum and līmina, it is impossible to explain why we have posuit templa but sacrāverat līmina (Page). vigilem ignem: the first was never allowed to go out on the altar of Ammon (G-K). The vigilem ignem is suggested by the ever-burning fire on the hearth of Vesta at Rome (Page). immānia: the temples are bigger than the normal size. This word is another of Vergil’s favorites, and often implies cruelty or horror, “monstrosity” of behavior (Austin).

201: excubiās...aeternās: “the eternal sentry of the gods,” in apposition with ignem (Stephenson). The fire was keeping, as it were, never-ending vigils in the service of the gods (Frieze). divum: = dīvōrum. cruōre: used especially in connection with sacrifices (Austin).

202: pingue sōlum: supply erat (F-B). The ground was pingue from the sacrifices made there (Chase). variīs...sertīs: supply erant; “the entrances were all aglow with gay garlands.” Variīs and florentia support each other, and make a bright and colorful picture. Varius is used of anything “variegated,” especially where the changing colors fuse into a gay whole (Austin).

203: isque: “and so he,” i.e., Iarbas (F-B). āmēns animī: “utterly distraught in mind”; animī is usually taken as a locative (AG 358), and Vergil often has it with adjectives (inops, infēlix, fidēns, furēns, etc.) (Austin). amārō: of the smarting bitterness of a gibe (Austin).

204 f.: dīcitur...ōrāsse: dīcitur is a personal construction, “he is said to have asked” (G-K). media inter nūmina dīvum: “amid the divine presences” (F-B); “in the midst of the images of the gods,” i.e., in Ammon’s temple (Frieze). The expression is probably intended to suggest statues of the gods in whose presence Iarbas makes his appeal to Jupiter (Stephenson). Nūmen is a word that belongs to the old Italian religion; sometimes it means the “will” of the god, sometimes the god himself visualized as a “power” or “spirit.” The gods’ presence seems to fill the ārae (Austin). Whether the numina divum are images (simulacra) as many have thought, or refer merely to divine presence found in or near temples, is dispsuted (Pease).

205: multa Iovem: double accusative with ōrāsse, a verb of asking (AG 396). Multa signifies the intensity rather than the length of his prayer (Stephenson). ōrāsse: syncopated form of ōrā(vi)sse (perfect active infinitive). supīnīs: “turned upwards,” the regular position of the hands in prayer, with the palms turned up (Stephenson).

206: omnipotēns: pointed; the whole burden of Iarbas’ bitter complaint is that Jupiter’s power seems worse than useless (Austin). nunc: “now (and never before)” (Chase). Hitherto the worship of Jupiter has been unknown in this country; it is I, Iarbas, who have honored Jupiter by establishing it here (Frieze). This is opposed to the doubt he raises in 208 that their sacrifices are useless (G-K).

206–207: pictīs...torīs: a general expression for Moorish pomp and luxury (G-K).

207: epulāta: “after feasting,” “after the festive banquet” (Frieze). Aorist use of the perfect participle (AG 473) expressing the action of the verb as accompaniment of another action without reference to time, common with deponents (Stephenson). The libation of wine is made after the feasting is over and the wine has been brought on (H-M). Lēnaeum lībat honōrem: “offers the wine-god’s rich libation,” i.e., makes an offering of wine (F-B). Lēnaeus is a frequent cult-title for Bacchus. Lībāre = “to touch with the lips” and so “to make libation”; honōrem here has the concrete sense of “offering” or “gift,” but there is present also the idea of the beauty and richness of the gift (Austin).

208 ff: “My father, can it be in vain that we shiver as you whirl your thunderbolts? Are they blind, those flames among the clouds that make our hearts to quake? Is it empty mutterings that they stir?” (Austin). The alternative is either that Jupiter does not see what is going on, or that he cares not for mortal affairs at all (which is conceived as unlikely); in the latter case the fear of the gods is idle (G-K). The intense rhetorical emphasis of lines 208–218 must be noted (Page).

208: an tē...horrēmus: intense rhetorical emphasis, with a bitter, almost impious spirit (H-M).

209: nēquīquam, caecī, inānia: emphatic repetition of the same idea (F-B). Vergil prefers nēquīquam to frūstrā. The stress lies upon it here, and upon caecī and inānia (Austin). caecī: “without aim,” “blind,” as not striking those they ought to strike (Chase). Are the lightnings, after all, not under your direction? (Frieze). Caecī ignēs, “blind fires,” is a sort of oxymoron, fire and darkness being opposed (Page). inānia: “meaningless” (G-K).

210: terrificant: a Lucretian word, of a pattern that Vergil likes. Note the admirable use of alliteration and assonance in these lines. To be struck by lightning was the traditional punishment of a perjurer; is it all a fraud, Iarbas asks, is it of no avail to be honest? (Austin). inānia...miscent: “and do they (the lightnings) mingle vain thunders?” i.e., do they occasion thunders which, after all, are not tokens of your displeasure? (Frieze). The subject is ignēs, as if the lightning were the cause of the thunder (Stephenson). Note the alliterative onomatopoeia of murmura miscent (F-B). Miscent means to produce any confused effect; here used of the wild thunder (G-K).

211: fēmina: its position at the beginning of the sentence emphasizes it, and the pause following it produce a contemptuous tone (F-B). “A woman,” and she “a vagrant” (errāns), has “bought the right to build” a “tiny” city; I granted her “the shore to plough” and fixed “the tenant terms,” and yet rather than be my bride she seeks to be Aeneas’ slave (Page). Fēmina is the normal word in poetry for a woman; Cicero only uses it to contrast with vir or when dignity or distinction is implied. Iarbas uses it in contempt; he sees nothing of Dido’s bravery in exile (Austin).

212: urbem exiguam pretiō posuit: “set up a puny city at a price,” i.e., bought (not won) the right to build (F-B). Pretiō (“in return for payment”) is ablative of price (AG 416). For the buying of the site of Carthage see 1.367 (Page). lītus arandum: “a piece of shore to plough”; accusative gerundive of purpose (AG 506); lītus arāre is a proverbial expression, = do something vain and unprofitable (Page). This is meant as another sneer—the land would not be good for pasture, and Iarbas would not realize its value as the site of a port (Austin).

213: locī lēgēs: “terms of tenure,” “jurisdiction,” “dominion over the place” (Chase). As a legal phrase it appears in the Lex Agrāria of 110 B.C., where the Censors are said agrī, aedificī, locī...lēgem dīcere: “to prescribe the conditions of tenure to the tenants” (Papillon). Hence Iarbas considers himself her feudal lord (Austin). cōnūbia nostra: “my offers of marriage” (F-B); nostra at the end of the line adds a touch of self-importance (Austin).

214: reppulit: “has thrust away,” a strong word in an emphatic position (Austin). ac: “and yet” (F-B). dominum: “as master” (compare servīre in line 103), not merely as husband (F-B).

215 ff: In these next lines Iarbas’ anger, hitherto confined to sarcasm, breaks out in open scorn. The rising feeling is clearly marked by the vehement alliteration of lines 216 and 218 (Page). Iarbas has a fierce barbaric contempt for Aeneas, as a dressed-up womanish creature. His attitude is that of the Romans in Vergil’s own time for eastern peoples, but there is something more universal here, for Iarbas shows all the age-old distrust, jealousy, and inward fear felt by the rough and primitive for a softer and more sophisticated people, while his scorn for Aeneas’ dress shows all that suspicion of “foreign fashions” that an untravelled, insular person might feel (Austin).

215: ille Paris: = The term is applied to Aeneas in contempt of his nation, as well as of his present connection with Dido. If Aeneas is “a second Paris,” Iarbas could claim to be another Menelaus (Frieze). Paris is the accepted type of a warrior whose conquests are only over women (Page). sēmivirō comitātū: The reference to his “eunuch train” is suggested (1) by the general character of Oriental courts and (2) by the eunuch priests of the Phrygian goddess Cybele, the Magna Māter of the Gods, whose orgiastic worship was later to spread from Phrygia to Rome (Page). Note the quadrisyllabic ending, a Greek-type ending to suit the “foreign” picture, upsetting the normal pattern (Austin).

216-7: Maeoniā...subnexus: “supporting his chin and reeking love-locks with a Maeonian bonnet” (Page); “with Maeonian band propped up under his chin and essenced locks.” By Maeoniā (i.e., Lydian) he means Phrygian, because Lydia bordered on Phrygia and they shared the same habits of dress. The Phrygian cap had on either side a band or ribbon, which could be tied at the back of the head or (as described here) under the chin (F-B). mītrā: apparently a sort of turban worn by Greek women and Asiatic men (Stephenson) [insert image]. Iarbas is not used to such headgear, and does not quite understand how it works, so he is suspicious and contemptuous of it (Austin). Anything worn on the head, except for defense in battle, was regarded as a mark of effeminacy (G-K). mentum, crīnem: the Greek accusative, also called the accusative of specification, with the participle subnexus being middle voice (literally, “having fastened himself up as to his chin and hair”) (AG 397b). Crīnem probably refers to a bun of thick long hair at the back, bulging out from the supporting mītrā (Austin): madentem: anointing the hair with perfumed oils was also a custom of Asiatic origin (Frieze). It’s clear that Iarbas dislikes the “elegance” of Aeneas (Austin). Note the very marked alliteration, both here and in 218 (F-B).

217: raptō potitur: “wins the spoils,” i.e., Dido and her kingdom (G-K); “takes the prey” (Chase); “enjoys what he has filched.” Iarbas regards Dido as a piece of stolen property. Raptō here is a noun, an ablative object of potitur (AG 410). Note the third-conjugation form potitur with a short i (not the standard long ī associated with 4th conjugation) (F-B). nōs: strong asyndeton in contrast with ille (Page); “(yet) we...” (F-B).

218: quippe: The ironical force of the word is increased by its position—“yet we to your temples—yes, to yours—bring offerings” (Page). Vergil never uses quippe except at the beginning of a line, even if its clause does not begin there. It is an explanatory particle, used in conversational manner, often introducing an answer to a question (either formal or imagined). Like scīlicet and nīmīrum, it is often ironical, as here; it should probably be taken closely with tuīs (“doubtless thine”), although its effect colors the tone of the whole sentence (Austin). fāmam fovēmus inānem: “we hug to our hearts an empty name” (Stephenson). Fāmam inānem refers either to the reputation of Jupiter as a god, or his reputed relation to Iarbas (Chase). Note how this grimly sarcastic speech ends dramatically with the angry adjective inānem; and observe the cumulative f-sounds (unpleasant to Roman ears) (Austin


Hammōn, ōnis, m.: Jupiter, or Zeus Ammon, a god of Egypt and Libya, 4.198.

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

Garamantis, idis: (adj.), f. (Garamas), Garamantian, 4.198.

nympha, ae, f.: a bride, a maiden; a nymph, one of the inferior deities, presiding over fountains, woods, etc., 1.71, et al.

Iuppiter, Iovis, m.: Jupiter, son of Saturn and Rhea, and king of the gods, 1.223; Iuppiter Stygius, Pluto, 4.638.

immānis, e: (adj.), vast, huge, immense, 1.110; wild, savage, barbarous, 1.616; cruel, ruthless, 1.347; unnatural, monstrous, hideous, 6.624; (adv.), immāne, wildly, fiercely, 12.535.

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.

sacrō, āvī, ātus, 1, a.: to set apart to the gods; devote, consecrate, 2.502; w. acc. and dat., devote, 10.419. (sacer)

excubiae, ārum, f.: a lying out; watching; vigils, watch, 4.201. (excubō)

pecus, udis, f.: one animal of a flock or herd; an animal, 1.743; a sheep, 3.120; victim for sacrifices, 4.63.

cruor, ōris, m.: shed blood; gore, 3.43; 4.455; blood.

pinguis, e: (adj.), fat, 1.215; well-fed, 1.635; fertile; reeking, 4.62; fat or rich with victims, 9.585.

solum, ī, n.: the bottom or ground of anything; soil, earth, ground, 1.367, et al.; land, 3.698; foundation, 10.102; the water beneath a ship, as its support; the water, sea, 5.199; support, table, 7.111.

flōreō, uī, 2, n.: to be in flower, bloom; to be adorned with flowers; (fig.), blooming, decorated, 4.202; to be in the bloom, in the flower of age or life; to be prosperous, to flourish; to be bright, to flash, 11.433. (flōs)

serta, ōrum, n.: things entwined; garlands, festoons, wreaths, 1.417, et al. (sero, serere, serui, sertus)

āmēns, entis: out of one’s mind or senses; amazed, beside one’s self, frantic, mad, furious, 2.314; 4.203; distracted, 3.307.

rūmor, ōris, m.: report, rumor, 4.203; a cheer, shout, 8.90.

accendō, ī, cēnsus, 3, a.: to set fire to, light up, enkindle, 5.4; enrage, exasperate, incense, 1.29; incite, rouse, 4.232. (ad and candō, rel. to candeō)

amārus, a, um: (adj.), bitter, brackish, salt, briny; (fig.), bitter, 4.203; biting, 11.337; cruel, 10.900.

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.

supplex, icis: adj. (supplicō, beseech), kneeling, entreating, suppliant, 3.439; subst., supplex, icis, c., a suppliant, 2.542.

supīnus, a, um: adj. (sub), on the back; bent backward; of the hands bent back in supplication, suppliant, 3.176.

omnipotēns, entis: adj. (omnis and potēns), all-powerful, almighty, 1.60; supreme, sovereign, 10.1; subst., The Almighty, 4.220.

Maurūsius, a, um: (adj.), Moorish, Mauretanian, 4.206.

pīctus, a, um: embroidered, 1.708; many-colored, speckled, spotted, variegated, 4.525.

epulor, ātus sum, 1, dep. n. and a.: to banquet, feast, 4.207; w. abl., to banquet, feast upon, 3.224; w. acc., feast upon, 4.602. (epulae)

torus, ī, m.: a bed, couch, 1.708; seat, 5.388; royal seat, throne, 8.177; bank, 6.674; the swelling part of flesh; a brawny muscle.

Lēnaeus, a, um: (adj.), pertaining to the wine press; Bacchic, Lenaean, 4.207.

lībō, āvī, ātus, 1, a.: to taste, sip; to touch lightly; kiss, 1.256; pour out as a drink offering, 1.736; make a libation, 3.354; (w. acc. of the object on which the libation is poured), to pour libations on, 12.174.

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

fulmen, inis, n.: lightning, 10.177; thunderbolt, 2.649, et al.; thunder, 1.230. (fulgeō)

torqueō, torsī, tortus, 2, a.: to wind, turn, twist, 4.575; roll along, 6.551; whirl, hurl, 3.208; shoot, 5.497; cast, dash, 1.108; direct, 4.220; turn away, 6.547; turn, cause to revolve, 4.269; control, 12.180; p., tortus, a, um, whirled, whirling, impetuous, 7.567.

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

horreō, 2, n. and a.: to bristle up or be bristling, 6.419; to bristle, 11.602; (fig.), to shudder, tremble, 2.12; shudder at, fear, dread, 4.209.

nūbēs, is, f.: a cloud, 1.516, et al.; storm, 10.809; the air, 12.856; (fig.), flock, multitude, 7.705.

terrificō, āvī, ātus, 1, a.: to affright, terrify, 4.210. (terrificus)

inānis, e: (adj.), empty, void, 3.304; light; vain, idle, fruitless, 4.210; valueless, trivial; little, brief, 4.433; lifeless, unreal, 1.464; shadowy, 6.269; unsubstantial, shadowy, airy, phantom, 6.651; subst., ināne, is, n., void space, a void, 12.354.

murmur, uris, n.: a murmur, 6.709; uproar, 1.124; roaring, reverberation, 1.55; acclamation, applause, 5.369; thunder, 4.160.

exiguus, a, um: adj. (exigō), minute, scanty, little; insignificant, small, 4.212; few, 5.754; thin, slender, feeble, 6.493.

arō, āvi, ātus, 1, a. and n.: to plow; till, cultivate, 4.212; of navigation, to plow, 2.780; of age, to furrow, 7.417.

cōnūbium (sometimes trisyll.), iī, n.: nuptials, marriage, 1.73; wedlock, nuptial rite, 3.136; marriage tie, nuptial bond, 3.319. (con- and nūbō, wed)

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

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.

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.

Paris, idis, m.: Paris, son of Priam and Hecuba, who occasioned the Trojan war by carrying off Helen from Sparta; slain by the arrow of Philoctetes, 4.215, et al.

sēmivir, virī, adj., m.: half man, effeminate, unmanly, 4.215.

comitātus, ūs, m.: an accompanying or following; a suite, train, retinue, 4.215. (comitor)

Maeonius, a, um: (adj.), of Maeonia; Maeonian, Lydian, 4.216, et al.

mentum, ī: the chin, 4.250; the beard, 6.809. (minor, to project)

mitra, ae, f.: headband; turban, cap, 4.216.

crīnis, is, m.: the hair, 1.480; train of meteors, 5.528; (often in the pl.), the hairs of the head, the hair.

madeō, 2, n.: to be moist, wet; drenched, 12.691; p., madēns, entis, wet, moist; besmeared, perfumed, 4.216.

subnīxus, a, um: resting or seated on, 1.506; sustained, defended by, 3.402; held up by or bound under, 4.217.

raptum, ī, n.: plunder, prey, spoil, 4.217.

potior, ītus sum, 4, dep. n.: to become master or possessor of; get, take possession, w. abl., 3.56; enjoy, 4.217; seize, 12.642; win, 9.363; achieve, execute, 6.624; gain, reach, 1.172. (potitur, 3.56; 4.217) (potis)

foveō, fōvī, fōtus, 2, a.: to keep warm; (fig.), foster, protect, cherish, 1.281; soothe, 12.420; caress, make love to, 1.718; rest, incline, 10.838; to toy away, enjoy, 4.193; cherish, hope, long, desire, 1.18.

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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.