As Book 2 begins, Queen Dido of Carthage has asked Aeneas to tell the story of his wanderings and the fall of Troy. Aeneas dominates the scene: The company cannot take their eyes off him in his elevated place of honour, spellbound by his presence and the dignified emotion with which he speaks. The poem’s audience were no doubt meant to think of Aeneas’s descendant, the Emperor Augustus. The Myrmidons were the followers of Achilles, and Ulixes is Homer’s Odysseus, the trickster-king who thought of the Trojan Horse.
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Conticuere omnes intentique ora tenebant.
inde toro pater Aeneas sic orsus ab alto:
“infandum, regina, iubes renovare dolorem,
Troianas ut opes et lamentabile regnum
eruerint Danai, quaeque ipse miserrima vidi
et quorum pars magna fui. quis talia fando
Myrmidonum Dolopumve aut duri miles Ulixi
temperet a lacrimis? Et iam nox umida caelo
praecipitat suadentque cadentia sidera somnos.
sed si tantus amor casus cognoscere nostros
et breviter Troiae supremum audire laborem,
quamquam animus meminisse horret luctuqe refugit,
All fell silent and kept their gaze intently on him.
From his high couch Father Aeneas began to speak:
Inexpressible, O Queen, is the pain you bid me revive,
how Trojan wealth and its lamented kingdom
were annihilated by Greeks, terrible events I witnessed
and was great part of. Who, telling of such things,
even a Myrmidon, Dolopian, or one of cruel Ulysses’s men,
would not weep? Already, night and dew fall swiftly
from the heavens, and setting stars call us to sleep.
Yet if you would so love to know our disasters
and briefly hear the final agony of Troy,
though my mind, shuddering to recall,shies away in pain,
I shall begin.”