Aeneid Book 6, lines 450 - 476

Aeneas finds Dido among the shades

by Virgil

On his journey in the underworld, Aeneas finds his lost steersman, Palinurus, among the unburied souls who are unable to cross over the river Styx. Aeneas’s guide, the Sibyl, comforts him by prophesying that he will soon be given a splendid tomb and be allowed to make the voyage. Persuading an initially reluctant Charon to ferry them across, Aeneas and the Sibyl sneak past Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog, by giving him a drugged titbit and press on to the Fields of Mourning, the home of those who have suffered from sorrow in love.

See the illustrated blog post here.

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inter quas Phoenissa recens a vulnere Dido
errabat silva in magna; quam Troius heros
ut primum iuxta stetit agnovitque per umbras
obscuram, qualem primo qui surgere mense
aut videt aut vidisse putat per nubila lunam,
demisit lacrimas dulcique adfatus amore est:
‘infelix Dido, verus mihi nuntius ergo
venerat exstinctam ferroque extrema secutam?
funeris heu tibi causa fui? per sidera iuro,
per superos et si qua fides tellure sub ima est,
invitus, regina, tuo de litore cessi.
sed me iussa deum, quae nunc has ire per umbras,
per loca senta situ cogunt noctemque profundam,
imperiis egere suis; nec credere quivi
hunc tantum tibi me discessu ferre dolorem.
siste gradum teque aspectu ne subtrahe nostro.
quem fugis? extremum fato quod te adloquor hoc est.’
talibus Aeneas ardentem et torva tuentem
lenibat dictis animum lacrimasque ciebat.
illa solo fixos oculos aversa tenebat
nec magis incepto vultum sermone movetur
quam si dura silex aut stet Marpesia cautes.
tandem corripuit sese atque inimica refugit
in nemus umbriferum, coniunx ubi pristinus illi
respondet curis aequatque Sychaeus amorem.
nec minus Aeneas casu percussus iniquo
prosequitur lacrimis longe et miseratur euntem.

Among them Phoenician Dido was wandering in
the great wood, fresh from her death-wound, whom
Aeneas, as he stopped nearby, recognised dimly in
the dark, as one at the start of the month sees, or thinks
he has seen the moon rise through the clouds.
He shed tears and spoke to her in tender love:
“unhappy Dido, so the news was true that you
were no more and had met your end by the sword?
Was I, alas, the cause of your death? By the stars
and Gods I swear, if any trust exists here in the depths
of earth, unwillingly, my Queen, I left your shores.
Orders from the Gods, which force me now to fare
through this shadow, wilderness and darkest night,
made me obey their power, nor could I have thought
that I would bring you such great pain by leaving.
Stop, and do not avoid my sight. Who do you run from?
Fate decrees that what I say to you now will be the last.”
So Aeneas tried to soothe her mind, as she looked askance,
burning in anger, and his tears began to flow.
She, turned away, kept her eyes fixed on the ground, nor
was her expression more changed by what he said than
if she had stood there hard flint or Marpesian stone.
Finally she tore herself away and, still in enmity, fled
into the dark grove, where her first husband, Sychaeus,
responds to her cares and gives her mutual love.
All the same, Aeneas, struck by her unjust fate,
follows her afar with tears and pities her as she goes.


More Poems by Virgil

  1. Turnus is lured away from battle
  2. New allies for Aeneas
  3. King Mezentius meets his match
  4. Sea-nymphs
  5. Aeneas saves his son and father, but at a cost
  6. Virgil’s perils on the sea
  7. Turnus at bay
  8. Dido and Aeneas: royal hunt and royal affair
  9. More from Virgil’s farming Utopia
  10. Rites for the allies’ dead
  11. The farmer’s happy lot
  12. Aeneas tours the site of Rome
  13. The farmer’s starry calendar
  14. Laocoon and the snakes
  15. Omens for Princess Lavinia
  16. Dido’s release
  17. How Aeneas will know the site of his city
  18. Aeneas joins the fray
  19. Aeneas’s oath
  20. Aeneas rescues his Father Anchises
  21. In King Latinus’s hall
  22. Aeneas arrives in Italy
  23. Virgil’s poetic temple to Caesar
  24. Charon, the ferryman
  25. The infant Camilla
  26. The Harpy’s prophecy
  27. Juno is reconciled
  28. The death of Dido.
  29. Signs of bad weather
  30. Palinurus the helmsman is lost
  31. Turnus the wolf
  32. Mourning for Pallas
  33. Aeneas’s vision of Augustus
  34. Catastrophe for Rome?
  35. Hector visits Aeneas in a dream
  36. The natural history of bees
  37. Aeneas learns the way to the underworld
  38. Love is the same for all
  39. King Latinus grants the Trojans’ request
  40. Storm at sea!
  41. Fire strikes Aeneas’s fleet
  42. The journey to Hades begins
  43. The Aeneid begins
  44. The death of Euryalus and Nisus
  45. Rumour
  46. The Syrian hostess
  47. Souls awaiting punishment in Tartarus, and the crimes that brought them there.
  48. The death of Pallas
  49. Jupiter’s prophecy
  50. Laocoon warns against the Trojan horse
  51. Virgil predicts a forthcoming birth and a new golden age
  52. The portals of sleep
  53. Aeneas sees Marcellus, Augustus’s tragic heir
  54. The Trojans reach Carthage
  55. Mercury’s journey to Carthage
  56. Aeneas comes to the Hell of Tartarus
  57. Dido and Aeneas: Hell hath no fury …
  58. Aeneas prepares to tell Dido his story
  59. Virgil begins the Georgics
  60. The Trojans prepare to set sail from Carthage
  61. Anchises’s ghost invites Aeneas to visit the underworld
  62. The Trojan Horse enters the city
  63. Aeneas reaches the Elysian Fields
  64. A Fury rouses Turnus to war
  65. Vulcan’s forge
  66. Aristaeus’s bees
  67. The Fury Allecto blows the alarm
  68. Dido falls in love
  69. Aeneas’s ships are transformed
  70. Help for Father Aeneas from Father Tiber
  71. Aeneas is wounded
  72. The death of Priam
  73. Juno throws open the gates of war