Virgil : The Aeneid Book VIII
Translated by A. S. Kline © 2002 All Rights Reserved
This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
When Turnus raised the war-banner on the Laurentine
citadel, and the trumpets blared out their harsh music,
when he roused his fiery horses and clashed his weapons,
hearts were promptly stirred, all Latium together
swore allegiance in restless commotion, and young men
raged wildly. The main leaders, Messapus, Ufens
and Mezentius, scorner of gods, gathered their forces
from every side, stripping the broad acres of farmers.
And Venulus was sent to great Diomedes’s city, Arpi,
to seek help, and explain that the Trojans were planted in Latium,
Aeneas had arrived with his fleet, carrying his vanquished gods,
and pronouncing himself a king summoned by destiny,
that many tribes were joining the Trojan hero,
and his name was spreading far and wide in Latium.
What Aeneas was intending given these beginnings,
what outcome he desired from the war, if fortune
followed him, might be seen more clearly by Diomedes,
himself, than by King Turnus or King Latinus.
So it was in Latium. Meanwhile the Trojan hero of Laomedon’s
line, seeing all this, tosses on a vast sea of cares,
and swiftly casts his mind this way and that, seizing
on various ideas, turning everything over:
as when tremulous light from the water in a bronze bowl,
thrown back by sunshine, or the moon’s radiant image,
flickers far and wide over everything, then angles
upwards, and strikes the panelled ceiling overhead.
It was night, and through all the land, deep sleep gripped weary
creatures, bird and beast, when Aeneas, the leader, lay down
on the river-bank, under the cold arch of the heavens, his heart
troubled by war’s sadness, and at last allowed his body to rest.
Old Tiberinus himself, the god of the place, appeared to him,
rising from his lovely stream, among the poplar leaves
(fine linen cloaked him in a blue-grey
mantle, and shadowy reeds hid his hair),
Then he spoke, and with his words removed all cares:
‘O seed of the race of gods, who bring our Trojan city
back from the enemy, and guard the eternal fortress,
long looked-for on Laurentine soil, and in Latin fields,
here is your house, and your house’s gods, for sure
(do not desist), don’t fear the threat of war,
the gods’ swollen anger has died away.
And now, lest you think this sleep’s idle fancy, you’ll find
a huge sow lying on the shore, under the oak trees,
that has farrowed a litter of thirty young, a white sow,
lying on the ground, with white piglets round her teats,
That place shall be your city, there’s true rest from your labours.
By this in a space of thirty years Ascanius
will found the city of Alba, bright name.
I do not prophesy unsurely. Now (attend), in a few words
I’ll explain how you can emerge the victor from what will come.
Arcadians have chosen a site on this coast, a race descended
from Pallas, friends of King Evander, who followed
his banner, and located their city in the hills,
named, from their ancestor Pallas, Pallantium.
They wage war endlessly with the Latin race: summon them
as allies to your camp, and join in league with them.
I’ll guide you myself along the banks by the right channels,
so you can defeat the opposing current with your oars.
Rise, now, son of the goddess, and, as the first stars set,
offer the prayers due to Juno, and with humble vows
overcome her anger and her threats. Pay me honour as victor.
I am him whom you see scouring the banks,
with my full stream, and cutting through rich farmlands,
blue Tiber, the river most dear to heaven. Here is
my noble house, my fount flows through noble cities.’
He spoke: then the river plunged into a deep pool,
seeking its floor: night and sleep left Aeneas.
He rose and, looking towards the heavenly sun’s
eastern light, raised water from the stream
in his cupped hands, and poured out this prayer to heaven:
‘Nymphs, Laurentine Nymphs, from whom come the tribe
of rivers, and you, O Father Tiber, and your sacred stream,
receive Aeneas, and shield him at last from danger.
In whatever fountain the water holds you, pitying our trials,
from whatever soil you flow in your supreme beauty,
you will always be honoured by my tributes, by my gifts,
horned river, ruler of the Hesperian waters.
O, only be with me and prove your will by your presence.’
So he spoke, and chose two galleys from his fleet, manned them
with oarsmen, and also equipped his men with weapons.
But behold a sudden wonder, marvellous to the sight,
gleaming white through the trees, a sow the same colour
as her white litter, seen lying on the green bank: dutiful Aeneas,
carrying the sacred vessel, sets her with her young before the altar
and sacrifices her to you, to you indeed, most powerful Juno.
Tiber calmed his swelling flood all that night long,
and flowing backwards stilled his silent wave, so that
he spread his watery levels as in a gentle pool,
or placid swamp, so it would be effortless for the oars.
Therefore they sped on the course begun, with happy
murmurs, the oiled pine slipped through the shallows:
the waves marvelled, the woods marvelled, unused to the far-gleaming
shields of heroes, and the painted ships floating in the river.
They wore out a night and a day with their rowing
navigated long bends, were shaded by many kinds of trees,
and cut through the green woods, over the calm levels.
The fiery sun had climbed to the mid-point of the sky’s arc,
when they saw walls and a fort in the distance, and the scattered
roofs of houses, which Roman power has now raised heavenwards:
then Evander owned a poor affair. They turned the prows
quickly towards land, and approached the town.
By chance that day the Arcadian king was making solemn offering
to Hercules, Amphitryon’s mighty son, and other gods in a grove
in front of the city. His son Pallas was with him, and with him
were all the leading young men, and his impoverished senate
offering incense, and the warm blood smoked on the altars.
When they saw the noble ships: that they were gliding
through the shadowy woods, rowing with silent oars:
they were alarmed at the sudden sight and rose together,
leaving the tables. But proud Pallas ordered them not to break off
the rites, and seizing his spear flew off to meet the strangers himself,
and at some distance shouted from a hillock: ‘Warriors what motive
drives you to try unknown paths? Where are you heading?
What people are you? Where from? Do you bring peace or war?’
Then Aeneas the leader spoke from the high stern,
holding out a branch of olive in peace: ‘You are looking
at men of Trojan birth, and spears hostile to the Latins,
men whom they force to flee through arrogant warfare.
We seek Evander. Take my message and say that the chosen
leaders of Troy have come, asking for armed alliance.’
Pallas was amazed, awestruck by that great name:
‘O whoever you may be, disembark, and speak to my father
face to face, and come beneath our roof as a guest.’
And he took his hand and gripped it tight in welcome:
they left the river, and went on into the grove.
Then Aeneas spoke to King Evander, in words of friendship:
‘Noblest of the sons of Greece, whom Fortune determines me
to make request of, offering branches decked with sacred ribbons:
indeed I did not fear your being a leader of Greeks,
an Arcadian, and joined to the race of the twin sons of Atreus,
since my own worth, and the god’s holy oracles,
our fathers being related, your fame known throughout the world,
connect me to you, and bring me here willingly, through destiny.
Dardanus, our early ancestor, and leader of Troy’s city,
born of Atlantean Electra, as the Greeks assert, voyaged
to Troy’s Teucrian people: and mightiest Atlas begot Electra,
he who supports the heavenly spheres on his shoulders.
Your ancestor is Mercury, whom lovely Maia conceived,
and gave birth to on Cyllene’s cold heights:
and Atlas, if we credit what we hear, begot Maia,
that same Atlas who lifts the starry sky.
So both our races branch from the one root.
Relying on this, I decided on no envoys, no prior attempts
through diplomacy: myself, I set before you, myself
and my own life, and come humbly to your threshold.
The same Daunian race pursues us with war, as you yourself,
indeed they think if they drive us out, nothing will stop them
bringing all Hesperia completely under their yoke,
and owning the seas that wash the eastern and western shores.
Accept and offer friendship. We have brave hearts
in battle, soldiers and spirits proven in action.’
Aeneas spoke. Evander scanned his face, eyes
and form, for a long time with his gaze, as he was speaking.
Then he replied briefly, so: ‘How gladly I know, and
welcome you, bravest of Trojans! How it brings back
your father’s speech, the voice and features of noble Anchises!
For I recall how Priam, son of Laomedon, visiting the realms
of his sister, Hesione, and seeking Salamis,
came on further to see the chill territories of Arcadia.
In those days first youth clothed my cheeks with bloom,
and I marvelled at the Trojan leaders, and marvelled
at the son of Laomedon himself: but Anchises as he walked
was taller than all. My mind burned with youthful desire
to address the hero, and clasp his hand in mine:
I approached and led him eagerly inside the walls of Pheneus.
On leaving he gave me a noble quiver
of Lycian arrows, a cloak woven with gold,
and a pair of golden bits, that my Pallas now owns.
So the hand of mine you look for is joined in alliance,
and when tomorrow’s dawn returns to the earth,
I’ll send you off cheered by my help, and aid you with stores.
Meanwhile, since you come to us as friends, favour us
by celebrating this annual festival, which it is wrong
to delay, and become accustomed to your friends’ table.’
When he had spoken he ordered the food and drink
that had been removed to be replaced, and seated
the warriors himself on the turf benches.
He welcomed Aeneas as the principal guest, and invited him
to a maple-wood throne covered by a shaggy lion’s pelt.
Then the altar priest with young men he had chosen
competed to bring on the roast meat from the bulls,
pile the baked bread in baskets, and serve the wine.
Aeneas and the men of Troy feasted on an entire
chine of beef, and the sacrificial organs.
When hunger had been banished, and desire for food sated,
King Evander said: ‘No idle superstition, or ignorance
of the ancient gods, forced these solemn rites of ours,
this ritual banquet, this altar to so great a divinity, upon us.
We perform them, and repeat the honours due,
Trojan guest, because we were saved from cruel perils.
Now look first at this rocky overhanging cliff, how its bulk
is widely shattered, and the mountain lair stands deserted,
and the crags have been pulled down in mighty ruin.
There was a cave here, receding to vast depths,
untouched by the sun’s rays, inhabited by the fell shape
of Cacus, the half-human, and the ground was always warm
with fresh blood, and the heads of men, insolently
nailed to the doors, hung there pallid with sad decay.
Vulcan was father to this monster: and, as he moved
his massive bulk, he belched out his dark fires.
Now at last time brought what we wished, the presence
and assistance of a god. Hercules, the greatest of avengers,
appeared, proud of the killing and the spoils of three-fold
Geryon, driving his great bulls along as victor,
and his cattle occupied the valley and the river.
And Cacus, his mind mad with frenzy, lest any
wickedness or cunning be left un-dared or un-tried
drove off four bulls of outstanding quality, and as many
heifers of exceptional beauty, from their stalls.
and, so there might be no forward-pointing spoor, the thief
dragged them into his cave by the tail, and, reversing
the signs of their tracks, hid them in the stony dark:
no one seeking them would find a trail to the cave.
Meanwhile, as Hercules, Amphitryon’s son, was moving
the well-fed herd from their stalls, and preparing to leave,
the cattle lowed as they went out, all the woods were filled
with their complaining, and the sound echoed from the hills.
One heifer returned their call, and lowed from the deep cave,
and foiled Cacus’s hopes from her prison.
At this Hercules’s indignation truly blazed, with a venomous
dark rage: he seized weapons in his hand, and his heavy
knotted club, and quickly sought the slopes of the high mountain.
Then for the first time my people saw Cacus afraid, confusion
in his eyes: he fled at once, swifter than the East Wind,
heading for his cave: fear lent wings to his feet.
As he shut himself in, and blocked the entrance securely,
throwing against it a giant rock, hung there in chains
by his father’s craft, by shattering the links, behold
Hercules arrived in a tearing passion, turning his head
this way and that, scanning every approach, and gnashing
his teeth. Hot with rage, three times he circled the whole
Aventine Hill, three times he tried the stony doorway in vain,
three times he sank down, exhausted, in the valley.
A sharp pinnacle of flint, the rock shorn away
on every side, stood, tall to see, rising behind
the cave, a suitable place for vile birds to nest.
He shook it, where it lay, it’s ridge sloping towards the river
on the left, straining at it from the right, loosening its deepest
roots, and tearing it out, then suddenly hurling it away,
the highest heavens thundered with the blow,
the banks broke apart, and the terrified river recoiled.
But Cacus’s den and his vast realm stood revealed,
and the shadowy caverns within lay open,
no differently than if earth, gaping deep within,
were to unlock the infernal regions by force, and disclose
the pallid realms, hated by the gods, and the vast abyss
be seen from above, and the spirits tremble at incoming light.
So Hercules, calling upon all his weapons, hurled missiles
at Cacus from above, caught suddenly in unexpected daylight,
penned in the hollow rock, with unaccustomed howling,
and rained boughs and giant blocks of stone on him.
He on the other hand, since there was no escape now
from the danger, belched thick smoke from his throat
(marvellous to tell) and enveloped the place in blind darkness,
blotting the view from sight, and gathering
smoke-laden night in the cave, a darkness mixed with fire.
Hercules in his pride could not endure it, and he threw himself,
with a headlong leap, through the flames, where the smoke
gave out its densest billows, and black mist heaved in the great cavern.
Here, as Cacus belched out useless flame in the darkness,
Hercules seized him in a knot-like clasp, and, clinging, choked him
the eyes squeezed, and the throat drained of blood.
Immediately the doors were ripped out, and the dark den exposed,
the stolen cattle, and the theft Cacus denied, were revealed
to the heavens, and the shapeless carcass dragged out
by the feet. The people could not get their fill of gazing
at the hideous eyes, the face, and shaggy bristling chest
of the half-man, and the ashes of the jaw’s flames.
Because of that this rite is celebrated, and happy posterity
remembers the day: and Potitius, the first, the founder, with
the Pinarian House as guardians of the worship of Hercules,
set up this altar in the grove, which shall be spoken of for ever
by us as ‘The Mightiest’, and the mightiest it shall be for ever.
Come now, O you young men, wreathe your hair with leaves,
hold out wine-cups in your right hands, in honour of such great glory,
and call on the god we know, and pour out the wine with a will.’
He spoke, while grey-green poplar veiled his hair
with Hercules’s own shade, hanging down in a knot of leaves,
and the sacred cup filled his hand. Quickly they all poured
a joyful libation on the table, and prayed to the gods.
Meanwhile, evening drew nearer in the heavens,
and now the priests went out, Potitius leading,
clothed in pelts as customary, and carrying torches.
They restarted the feast, bringing welcome offerings
as a second course, and piled the altars with heaped plates.
of poplar, one band of youths, another of old men, who praised
the glories and deeds of Hercules in song: how as an infant he strangled
the twin snakes in his grip, monsters sent by Juno his stepmother:
how too he destroyed cities incomparable in war,
Troy and Oechalia: how he endured a thousand hard labours
destined for him by cruel Juno, through King Eurystheus:
‘You, unconquerable one, you slew the cloud-born Centaurs,
bi-formed Hylaeus and Pholus, with your hand: the monstrous
Cretan Bull: and the huge lion below the cliffs of Nemea.
The Stygian Lake trembled before you: Cerberus, Hell’s guardian,
lying on half-eaten bones in his blood-drenched cave:
No shape, not Typheus himself, armed and towering
upwards, daunted you: your brains were not lacking
when Lerna’s Hydra surrounded you with its swarm of heads.
Hail, true child of Jove, a glory added to the gods,
visit us and your rites with grace and favouring feet.’
Such things they celebrated in song, adding to all this
Cacus’s cave, and the fire-breather himself.
All the grove rang with sound, and the hills echoed.
Then they all returned to the city, the sacred rites complete.
The king walked clothed with years, and kept Aeneas and his son
near him for company, lightening the road with various talk.
Aeneas marvelled, and scanned his eyes about
eagerly, captivated by the place, and delighted
to enquire about and learn each tale of the men of old.
So King Evander, founder of Rome’s citadel, said:
‘The local Nymphs and Fauns once lived in these groves,
and a race of men born of trees with tough timber,
who had no laws or culture, and didn’t know how
to yoke oxen or gather wealth, or lay aside a store,
but the branches fed them, and the hunter’s wild fare.
Saturn was the first to come down from heavenly Olympus,
fleeing Jove’s weapons, and exiled from his lost realm.
He gathered together the untaught race, scattered among
the hills, and gave them laws, and chose to call it Latium,
from latere, ‘to hide’, since he had hidden in safety on these shores.
Under his reign was the Golden Age men speak of:
in such tranquil peace did he rule the nations,
until little by little an inferior, tarnished age succeeded,
with war’s madness, and desire for possessions.
Then the Ausonian bands came, and the Siconian tribes,
while Saturn’s land of Latium often laid aside her name:
then the kings, and savage Thybris, of vast bulk,
after whom we Italians call our river by the name
of Tiber: the ancient Albula has lost her true name.
As for me, exiled from my country and seeking
the limits of the ocean, all-powerful Chance,
and inescapable fate, settled me in this place,
driven on by my mother the Nymph Carmentis’s
dire warnings, and my guardian god Apollo.’