Forsitan et Priamī fuerint quae fāta requīrās.

Urbis utī captae cāsum convulsaque vīdit

līmina tēctōrum et medium in penetrālibus hostem,

arma diū senior dēsuēta trementibus aevō

circumdat nēquīquam umerīs et inūtile ferrum510

cingitur, ac dēnsōs fertur moritūrus in hostēs.

Aedibus in mediīs nūdōque sub aetheris axe

ingēns āra fuit iūxtāque veterrima laurus

incumbēns ārae atque umbrā complexa Penātēs.

Hīc Hecuba et nātae nēquīquam altāria circum,515

praecipitēs ātrā ceu tempestāte columbae,

condēnsae et dīvum amplexae simulācra sedēbant.

Ipsum autem sūmptīs Priamum iuvenālibus armīs

ut vīdit, 'Quae mēns tam dīra, miserrime coniūnx,

impulit hīs cingī tēlīs? aut quō ruis?' inquit.520

'Nōn tālī auxiliō nec dēfēnsōribus istīs

tempus eget; nōn, sī ipse meus nunc adforet Hector.

Hūc tandem concēde; haec āra tuēbitur omnēs,

aut moriēre simul.' Sīc ōre effāta recēpit

ad sēsē et sacrā longaevum in sēde locāvit.525

    Manuscripts: M | P 506-507, 508-525

    The old king had put on his armor and was on his way to meet death at the hands of the enemy when Hecuba prevailed on him to seek sanctuary with her and her daughters at the altar. (Williams).

    506: forsitan requīrās: “perhaps you may ask” (Bennett); in Vergil forsitan takes the subjunctive: forte, forsan, the indicative: fortasse, once the indicative, otherwise the subjunctive (H-H) (AG 447a). et Priamī: put at the beginning of its clause for emphasis (Bennett). The fate of Priam has just been indicated in general terms, but it is natural to ask the particulars of his death (Frieze). fāta: “the fate,” plural of majesty (Carter).

    507: uti: of time, as ut, in 67 (Frieze). cāsum: “destruction” (Carter).

    508: līmina: “doors” (Knapp). medium: a poetic variation for mediīs (F-B); more lively than mediīs, as agreeing with hostem, but it is required also by the metre (G-K). penetrālibus: the penetrālia of a house were ordinarily entered only by the members of the family. Note then the juxtaposition of contrasts in penetrālibus hostem (Knapp).

    509 ff.: The pitiful details are piled up to show the hopelessness of Priam’s bravery in his helpless age. The juxtaposition of dēsuēta with senior is effective, and senior is deepened by trementibus aevō; the elision with nequiquam suggests his failing strength, and inūtile marks it further; dēnsōs shows the impossible odds against him; moritūrus (here surely of conscious intention, as in 9.400, 554, not ambiguous like peritūrus in 408, nor of unconsciousness of peril as in G. 4.458, moritūra puella) shows his determination to die a soldier’s death, not as a feeble victim. The terrible picture gains in intensity if we set against it the glowing brutality of Pyrrhus in his prime, as Vergil has shown him in 469 ff. (Austin).

    509: diū: with dēsuēta (Bennett). senior: “very old.” More emphatic than senex (F-B).

    510: umerīs: dative indirect object of a compound verb, circumdat (AG 370). ferrum: accusative, after cingitur, by a Greek construction, instead of ablative; “he girds on his unavailing sword” (Frieze) (AG 397c).

    511: fertur: note the conative sense, “tries to rush,” “starts to rush” (F-B) (AG 467); “is hurrying” (Frieze). moritūrus: = peritūrus, 408 (Knapp) (AG 499).

    512: aedibus in mediīs: “in the midst of the palace”; in the inner court (Frieze). nūdō sub aetheris axe: “under the open vault” or “sky” (Frieze); in a Roman house the Penates were kept by the family hearth and altar, in the ātrium, or principal hall, but not in the open air; here, however, is apparently meant a great hall or court, which had a larger opening than the atrium, and contained a garden, or at least a tree or two (G-K). The description is modelled on that of a Roman house, mediā axe, i.e., where the impluvium stood in the centre of the ātrium (Howson).

    513: Vergil has done more than merely “romanize” the Greek tradition; he has made an essentially domestic picture, and his quiet sanctuary, with its “ancient bay, bending over the altar and enfolding the Penates in its shade,” is in striking contrast to the tumult and desolation all around (Austin). veterrima laurus: The aged bay carries back the mind to the good old times, when all was tranquility and peace (Anthon).

    514: complexa: has the force of a pres., “embracing” (Knapp).

    515: nēquīquam: just as Priam’s recourse to the sword was of no avail, so here the women take refuge in the sanctity of the altar in vain (Carter); for, in the end, its sacredness failed to save them (Frieze).

    516: praecipitēs: “driven headlong” (Bennett); for se praecipitantēs (Frieze). tempestāte: abl. of means depending on the idea of “driven” contained in praecipitēs (G-K).

    517: condēnsae: expressive word, “huddled” (Sidgwick). div(ōr)um: the Penates of 514 (Knapp). amplexae simulācra: in the manner of suppliants (Carter).

    519: mēns: “purpose,” “thought,” “resolution” (Chase).

    520: cingī tēlīs: In prose, accingor gladiō (Storr). aut: this usage, found often in Plautus, merely introduces another question not necessarily alternative to the first (Williams).

    521: nōn tālī auxiliō: the emphasis rests on nōn tālī—“not such is the help which the occasion calls for.” Hecuba’s thought is that the altar is their only hope of safety (Bennett). dēfēnsōribus istīs: i.e., those arms of yours, istīs being the demonstrative of the second person (F-B) (AG 297c).

    522: nōn: scil. egēret from the eget preceding (H-H). The principal verb is easily understood, “would arms avail us” or something of the kind (Sidgwick). adforet: = adesset. The apodosis is not expressed; “even his arms would be of no avail” (F-B).

    523: hūc concede: hūc concēde or the like is frequent in Comedy when one person asks another to withdraw for a confidential talk. Vergil has adapted the idiom for his own purpose, making Hecuba speak to Priam just as any ordinary person might speak to another when there is something important to tell him or something urgent for him to do. It is a fine illustration of Vergilian sensitivity to language and tone (Austin). tandem: a word of entreaty or impatience, used here as in questions (G-K) (AG 333a). concēde: observe the double meaning implied in concēde, “come away,” and “give up” (Anthon). omnēs: emphatic, as is simul in  the next line: they will all live or die together (Page).

    524: simul: i.e., along with us (Bennett). recēpit: sc. eum, Priam (Carter); the verb suggests loving care, like locāvit in 525 (Austin).

    525: sacrā longaevum in sēde locāvit: i.e., on the altar, or steps of the altar (Frieze).


    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.

    requīrō, quīsīvī or quīsiī, quīsītus, 3, a.: to seek much or earnestly; seek out, search for, 3.170; demand; ask, question, 2.390; inquire, 2.506; speak with regret of, mourn, 1.217. (re- and quaerō)

    convellō, vellī, vulsus, 3, a.: to pull violently; pluck, tear, pull up, 3.24; wrench forth, 12.774; cut off, 6.148; p., convulsus, a, um, rent, shattered, 1.383; convulsed, 5.143.

    penetrālis, e: adj. (penetrō), innermost, inner, 2.297; subst., penetrālia, ium, n., the interior of a house; sanctuary, shrine, chapel (of a dwelling or temple), 2.484, et al.

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

    dēsuēscō (in poetry trisyll.), suēvī, suētus, 3, a. and n.: to become unaccustomed; p., dēsuētus, a, um, unaccustomed, unused, 6.814; neglected, unfamiliar, unpracticed, 2.509; unused to love; dormant, 1.722.

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

    circumdō, dedī, datus, dare, 1, a.: to put or throw around; (with abl.), to encircle, surround, encompass, inclose with, 1.368; of dress, gird, 9.462; adorn, 6.207; set, 1.593; border, 4.137; (with dat.), throw around, 2.792; twine or coil around, 2.219; put round, 2.510.

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

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

    inūtilis, e: (adj.), useless, 2.510; helpless, 10.794.

    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.

    dēnsus, a, um: (adj.), thick, dense, crowded, compact, in close array, serried, 2.383; frequent, 5.459.

    axis, is, m.: an axle; synecdoche, car, chariot, 5.820; the axis of the heavens, the sky, the heavens, 4.482; the pole; the north pole, the north.

    iūxtā: (adv. and prep. w. acc.), near, close, near by, 2.513; at the same time, 2.666; near to, 3.506.

    laurus, ī, f.: the laurel or bay tree, 2.513; a laurel crown or wreath, 3.81.

    incumbō, cubuī, cubitus, 3, n.: to lay one's self upon; lean or recline upon; (w. dat.), lie on or stretch over, 2.205; fall upon, 1.84; bend to, ply, 5.15; hasten, urge, press on, 2.653; overhang, 2.514; press or bend toward, 5.325; (w. ad and acc.), lean, hang, incline, 8.236; absolute, bend to, urge on the work, 4.397.

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

    Penātēs, ium, m.: gods of the household; hearth-, fireside gods, 2.514, et al.; tutelary gods of the state as a national family, 1.68; (fig.), fireside, hearth, dwelling-house, abode, 1.527. (penus)

    Hecuba, ae, f.: daughter of Dymas and wife of Priam, 2.501, et al.

    nāta, ae: a daughter, 1.256. (nascor)

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

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

    praeceps, cipitis: adj. (prae and caput), head foremost; headlong, 2.307; deep, 11.888; hurried, hasty, quick, speedy, 4.573; flying, running swiftly, 2.516; 3.598; rash, impetuous, fiery, 9.685; prolept., ready to sink, 10.232; subst., praeceps, n., a steep, precipice, verge, 2.460; in praeceps, headlong; downwards, 6.578.

    āter, tra, trum: (adj.), black; dark, gloomy, 1.60, et al.; smoky, lurid, 7.456; 4.384; clotted, dark, 3.622; soiled, blackened, 2.272; (fig.), sad, fatal, 6.429; venomous, deadly; of the odor of smoke, 12.591.

    ceu: (adv. and conj.), as, just as, 5.88; as if, 2.438, et al. (ce-ve)

    columba, ae, f.: a pigeon, dove, 2.516.

    condēnsus, a, um: (adj.), thick, crowded, close together, 2.517.

    amplector, amplexus sum, 3, dep. a.: to embrace, clasp, 3.607; wind, pass around, 5.86; encircle, coil around, 2.214; (fig.), comprehend, embrace, in description.

    simulācrum, ī, n.: an effigy, an image, 2.172; phantom, specter, ghost, apparition, 2.772; representation, image, 5.585. (simulō)

    iuvenālis, e: adj. (iuvenis), pertaining to youth; youthful, 2.518.

    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.

    impellō, pulī, pulsus, 3, a.: to push, thrust, drive to or upon; push onward, impel, 5.242; push, open, 7.621; smite, 1.82; ply, 4.594; put in motion, urge on, 8.3; shoot, 12.856; move, disturb, 3.449; (w. inf.), lead on, impel, induce, persuade, 2.55; force, compel, 1.11.

    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.

    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.

    dēfēnsor, ōris, m.: a defender, protector; applied also to inanimate things, 2.521. (dēfendō)

    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.

    egeō, uī, 2, n.: to be in want or need; (w. abl. or gen.), to want, need, 2.522; to be poor, destitute, 1.384; to feel the need of, be desirous of, 5.751.

    adsum, adfuī, esse, irreg. n.: to be near or by; to be present, at hand, or here, 1.595; to have arrived, 2.132; to be with, attend, 2.701; aid, accompany, 10.547; be propitious, 3.116; to beset, 2.330; inf., adfore, to be about to come, destined to come, 7.270. (imp. subj., adforem, -ēs, -et, -ent)

    Hector, oris, m.: son of Priam, and chief defender of Troy, 1.99, et al.

    concēdō, essī, essus, 3, a. and n.: to retire; come away, come, 2.523; go away, depart, 2.91; subside, come to an end, terminate, 8.41; allow, yield, grant, concede, 5.798; give up to, abandon, 7.305.

    tueor, tuitus or tūtus sum, 2, dep. a.: to look at, gaze upon, behold, regard, 4.451, et al.; watch, guard, defend, maintain, protect, 1.564, et al.; p., tūtus, a, um, secure, safe; in safety, 1.243; sure, 4.373; subst., tūtum, ī, n., safety, place of safety, 1.391; pl., tūta, ōrum, safe places, safety, security, 11.882; adv., tūtō, with safety, safely, without danger, 11.381.

    effor, fātus sum, 1, dep. a. and n.: to speak forth; speak, say, 6.560. (ex and for)

    longaevus, a, um: adj. (longus and aevum), of advanced age; aged, 2.525, et al.

    locō, āvī, ātus, 1, a.: to place, put, 1.213, et al.; lay, 1.428; found, 1.247. (locus)

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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.