Vergil, Aeneid IV 279-295

At vērō Aenēās aspectū obmūtuit āmēns,

arrēctaeque horrōre comae et vōx faucibus haesit.280

Ārdet abīre fugā dulcēsque relinquere terrās,

attonitus tantō monitū imperiōque deōrum.

Heu Quid agat? Quō nunc rēgīnam ambīre furentem

audeat adfātū? Quae prīma exōrdia sūmat?

Atque animum nunc hūc celerem nunc dīvidit illūc285

in partēsque rapit variās perque omnia versat.

Haec alternantī potior sententia vīsa est:

Mnēsthea Sergestumque vocat fortemque Serestum,

classem aptent tacitī sociōsque ad lītora cōgant,

arma parent et quae rēbus sit causa novandīs290

dissimulent; sēsē intereā, quandō optima Dīdō

nesciat et tantōs rumpī nōn spēret amōrēs,

temptātūrum aditūs et quae mollissima fandī

tempora, quis rēbus dexter modus. Ōcius omnēs

imperiō laetī pārent et iussa facessunt.295

Manuscripts: M 279-292, 293-295 | P

279–295: Aeneas, awestruck by such a warning, ponders anxiously what to do and at last sends orders to prepare the fleet for sea, hoping himself to find a happy opportunity for breaking the news to Dido (Page).

279: at vērō: the use of the two particles makes the statement very strong (F-B). amēns: bewildered rather than frenzied (Pease). aspectū obmūtuit āmēns: “aghast at the sight, was struck dumb” (F-B). Aeneas is brought up with a jolt, and is “distraught and tongue-tied at the vision” (Austin).

280: horrōre: ablative of cause (AG 404); a good instance of horror used partly in a metaphorical sense = “with dread,” partly in a literal one = “bristling,” in this case a situation that causes one’s hair to stand on end (Page).

281: ārdet abīre: “he burns (with desire) to depart” (Page). Here is the dilemma: he is afire to go, and to go quickly (fugā), but the land that he must leave is sweet; in dulcēs we have a fleeting glimpse of Aeneas’ real feelings (Austin). dulcēs: note the striking contrast between dulcēs and ardet abīre, which expresses the conflict in the mind of Aeneas between love and duty (Pease).

283: heu, quid agat?: dubitative (or deliberative) subjunctive (AG 444), the present being a vivid construction for the imperfect (Stephenson). So also audeat and sūmat (284). Aeneas would say directly to himself quid agam? The poet repeats his words in indirect discourse “alas (he says) what is he to do?” (Page). quō...adfātū: “with what address can he now approach the passion-frenzied queen?” (Page). ambīre: “to canvass” (Austin); admirably used here to hint at cunning and treachery (Page): “to approach,” literally “to go round,” as if in danger of a hostile reception (Frieze). The verb implies that the situation is delicate and tact is needed (F-B).

284: quae prīma exōrdia sūmat: “what opening words he should choose first?” The pleonasm of prīma exōrdia emphasizes the embarrassment felt (F-B). The same sense of cunning and falsehood inherent in ambīre (283) is suggested by the rhetorical term exōrdium and also by sūmat “adopt” (284) (Page). exōrdia: properly of the laying down of a web, and so again appropriate; here too I cannot see hoe Page finds a sense of falsehood in it. Vergil simply means “how is he to set about a beginning?” (Austin)

286: in partēsque rapit variās: “hurries (his thoughts) in different directions”; he thinks rapidly of various expedients (Frieze). versat: (intensified), “turns (his thoughts) rapidly” (G-K).

287: alternantī: supply ; “(to him) as he wavered” (F-B), i.e., whether to inform Dido or not (G-K). Alternantī may be used intransitively, but sententiās is easily supplied (Page). Haec goes with sententia (Frieze).

288: Mnēsthea Sergestumque...Serestum: the particularizing by name is characteristic of Vergil (Austin). vocat: his plan is explained by what he does (Frieze). A verb of ordering is implied: “summoning them he directs them to...” (G-K).

289: classem aptent tacitī: “they are to fit out the fleet and never say a word” (Austin). sociōsque...cōgant: “and they must call their mates to join them at the shore (Austin). aptent, cōgant, parent, and dissimulent: present subjunctives in indirect command (preceded by the implied eīs imperat ut...) (AG 588) (Frieze). Again, as with agat, 283, the vivid present instead of imperfect (Stephenson).

290: arma parent: either “arms” (for defense in case of interference) or “equipments,” “tackle” for the ships (G-K). rēbus novandīs: dative gerundive (AG ); “for forming new plans,” or “for renewing their adventures” (Frieze). quae...sit causa: indirect question (AG 574); “hide the cause of changing their plans” (F-B).

291–3: sēsē...temptātūrum: (supply esse); indirect discourse, depending on dīcēns or putāns implied in vocat (288) (Frieze): “saying that he meantime will try...” The subjunctive is an indirect command, while the accusative with infinitive is an indirect discourse (Page). The phrase temptāre aditūs is from military language (F-B).

291–2: quandō...amōrēs: “since Dido, his best, knew nothing and never dreamed of the breaking of so strong a love” (Austin).

291: optima: “best of women” (G-K). An epithet skillfully adapted to intensify Aeneas’ difficulty who felt obliged to act so unkindly toward this “kindest of friends” (Stephenson).

292: nesciat: subjunctive dependent clause in indirect discourse (AG 592) (G-K). spēret: “expect” or “anticipate,” used of ill as well as of good expectation (G-K). Spērō is common with the present infinitive where it means not “hope” but “expect,” and the reference is not to something which may happen in the future but is already happening in the present (Page). rumpī: present infinitive, because the matter is already in progress (Frieze).

293: aditūs: “the approaches,” or “avenues” (to her feelings) (Chase). The ways of addressing her so as to give the least offense (Frieze). quae: supply sint (Chase). Subjunctive in indirect question, depending on the preceding (G-K).

293-4: mollissima...tempora: “the softest moments” are the moments when Dido would be softest (Stephenson); “the tenderest time (i.e., the happiest place and time) for speech (Page).

294: quīs rēbus dexter modus: “what plan propitious for his purpose” (Page). Supply sit, subjunctive in the continuing indirect question; rēbus is dative after dexter; “adapted to circumstances” (Frieze); “for the business” (G-K). dexter: “skillful” and “favorable”; “what is a good way for his purpose” (Austin). ōcius: supply dictō; “quicker than said” (Frieze). omnēs: i.e., the Trojan chiefs (Frieze).


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.

aspectus, ūs, m.: a looking at; (meton.), that which is looked at; a vision, 9.657; a view, sight, 4.314; appearance, presence, 1.613. (aspiciō)

obmūtēscō, mūtuī, 3, inc. n.: to become speechless or dumb; to be silent, hushed, mute, 4.279.

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

arrigō, rēxī, rēctus, 3, a.: to raise up; erect; bristle up, 10.726; (fig.), to excite, rouse; p., arrēctus, a, um, standing up, rising; erect, 5.426; bristling, 11.754; attentive, 1.152; animated, roused, encouraged, 1.579; ardent, intent; intense, 5.138; in fearful expectation, 12.731. (ad and regō)

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

faucēs, ium, f.: the jaws, throat, 2.358; (fig.), mouth, entrance, jaws, 6.241; defiles, 11.516.

haereō, haesī, haesus, 2, n.: to stick; foll. by dat., or by abl. w. or without a prep.; hang, cling, adhere, cling to, 1.476, et al.; stop, stand fixed, 6.559; halt, 11.699; adhere to as companion, 10.780; stick to in the chase, 12.754; persist, 2.654; dwell, 4.4; pause, hesitate, 3.597; be fixed or decreed, 4.614.

abeō, īvī, or iī, itus, īre, irreg. n.: to go away, depart, 2.675; go off, go aside, turn off, 5.162; pass into, sink into, 9.700; go forward, take the lead, 5.318; retreat, 2.382; change or be transformed.

attonō, uī, itus, 1, a.: to thunder at; p., attonitus, a, um, (fig.), stunned; agitated, 7.580; amazed, astonished, 3.172; afflicted, overwhelmed, 12.610; spellbound, hushed, 6.53. (ad and tonō)

monitus, ūs, m.: an admonition, warning, 4.282. (moneō)

heu: (interj.), alas! ah! oh! 2.289, et al.

rēgīna, ae, f.: a queen, 1.9; princess, 1.273. (rēx)

ambiō, īvī or iī, ītus, 4, a. and n.: to go round; encompass, 6.550; (fig.), approach, address, 4.283; entrap, circumvent, 7.333. (amb- and eō)

furō, uī, 3, n.: to be mad; freq., to rave, be frantic, rage, 1.491; to be furious, burn, storm (for war), 7.625; to be burning or mad with love, 1.659; to be frenzied, in a frenzy, 6.100; inspired, 2.345; distracted with grief, 3.313; plunge madly, 9.552; boil, 7.464; with cognate acc., give vent to one's fury, 12.680.

adfātus, ūs, m.: a speaking to; address, 4.284. (adfor)

exōrdium, iī, n.: a beginning; origin, 7.40; opening, beginning, of discourse, 4.284. (exōrdior)

versō, āvī, ātus, 1, freq. a.: to turn much; writhe, 11.753; turn, 5.408; handle, wield, 9.747; to buffet, drive, beat round and round, 5.460; drive to and fro, 12.664; toss about, 6.362; turn, hurry, 4.286; involve in or distract with, 7.336; with or without mente, pectore, etc., revolve, meditate, devise, consider, 1.657. (vertō)

alternō, āvī, ātus, 1, a. and n.: to do by turns; to alternate (attack) by turns; weigh or consider one thing after another, 4.287. (alternus)

Mnestheus, and Menestheus, eī and eos, m.: Mnestheus, one of the Trojan chiefs under Aeneas, 5.117; 10.129, et al.

Sergestus, ī, m.: commander of one of the ships of Aeneas, 1.510, et al.

Serestus, ī, m.: a companion of Aeneas, 1.611, et al.

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)

novō, āvī, ātus, 1, a.: to make new, renew, renovate, repair, 5.752; change, 5.604; build, 4.260; rēs novāre, to change one's purpose or plans; take new measures, 4.290. (novus)

dissimulō, āvī, ātus, 1, a.: to misrepresent the truth or reality; dissemble, hide, disguise; conceal, 4.291; remain disguised, or concealed (others, repress one’s emotions), 1.516. (dissimilis)

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

Dīdō, ūs or ōnis, f.: Dido, daughter of Belus, king of Phoenicia, who fled from her brother Pygmalion to Africa, where she founded the city of Carthage, 1.299.

aditus, ūs, m.: a going to; an approach, avenue, access, passage, entrance, 2.494; (fig.), approach, 4.423. (adeō)

tempus, oris, n.: 1. Time in general, a period, time, 1.278; interval or space of time, 4.433; crisis, circumstance, juncture, 7.37; season, fitting time, opportunity, proper moment, 4.294; ex longō (tempore), in or for a long time, 9.64. 2. The temple of the forehead, 9.418; commonly pl., 2.684; of animals, 12.173.

modus, ī, m.: a method, 4.294; mode, manner, way, 1.354, et al.; a measure, of song, measure, strain, note, 7.701, et al.; bound, limit, end, 4.98, et al.; fashion, of building, 11.328; abl., modō, in the manner or fashion; like, 9.119.

ōcior, ius: adj. comp. (superl., ōcissimus, a, um), swifter, more fleet, 5.319, et al.; (adv.), ōcius, more swiftly; rapidly, speedily, quickly, swiftly, 12.681.

iussum, ī, n.: a thing ordered; command, injunction, order, 1.77, et al. (iubeō)

facessō, cessī, cessītus, 3, intens. a.: to do effectively; perform, execute, 4.295. (faciō)

article Nav

Suggested Citation

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