Aeneas is still telling Queen Dido of the fall of Troy. After the death of King Priam, Aeneas’s night again swings wildly. Desperate bloodshed alternates with supernatural and human encouragement to escape, preserve the gods and heritage of Troy and lay the basis for Rome and its imperial family. His mother, Venus, has just told him that it is really the Gods, who cannot be resisted, who are destroying the city, and not the Greeks. Aeneas has tried but failed to persuade his father Anchises to join him in escape. (Anchises has an unusual disability: Jupiter once scorched him with his thunderbolt for boasting about his affair with Venus.) In this extract, signs from Jupiter himself persuade Anchises to relent and allow Aeneas to carry him to safety. As well as being the grandson of Jupiter, the little boy, Iulus, is the ancestor of Julius Caesar and the Emperor Augustus.
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Talia vociferans gemitu tectum omne replebat,
cum subitum dictuque oritur mirabile monstrum.
namque manus inter maestorumque ora parentum
ecce levis summo de vertice visus Iuli
fundere lumen apex, tactuque innoxia mollis
lambere flamma comas et circum tempora pasci.
nos pavidi trepidare metu crinemque flagrantem
excutere et sanctos restinguere fontibus ignis.
at pater Anchises oculos ad sidera laetus
et caelo palmas cum voce tetendit:
“Iuppiter omnipotens, precibus si flecteris ullis,
aspice nos, hoc tantum, et si pietate meremur,
da deinde augurium, pater, atque haec omina firma.”
vix ea fatus erat senior, subitoque fragore
intonuit laevum, et de caelo lapsa per umbras
stella facem ducens multa cum luce cucurrit.
illam summa super labentem culmina tecti
cernimus Idaea claram se condere silva
signantemque vias; tum longo limite sulcus
dat lucem et late circum loca sulpure fumant.
hic vero victus genitor se tollit ad auras
adfaturque deos et sanctum sidus adorat.
“iam iam nulla mora est; sequor et qua ducitis adsum
di patrii; servate domum, servate nepotem.
vestrum hoc augurium, vestroque in numine Troia est.
cedo equidem, nec, nate, tibi comes ire recuso.”
dixerat ille, et iam per moenia clarior ignis
auditur, propiusque aestus incendia volvunt.
“ergo age, care pater, cervici imponere nostrae;
ipse subibo umeris nec me labor iste gravabit;
quo res cumque cadent, unum et commune periclum,
una salus ambobus erit.”
So saying, Creusa filled the whole house with her groans,
when suddenly there came an amazing portent.
Before his sad parents’ very eyes, and between
their hands, a soft glow was seen to pour
down light from the top of Iulus’s head and a flame,
harmless to the touch, to graze on his hair and temples.
Alarmed, we shook with fear, snuffed out his
burning hair and quenched the holy fire with water.
Joyfully, Father Anchises raised his eyes, hands
and voice to the stars and the heavens:
“Almighty Jupiter, if you are moved by any prayers,
look on us and, if by our faith we are worthy,
grant us the boon of confirming this omen!”
No sooner had he spoken, than with a sudden crash
There was thunder from the left, and from the sky
a star shot blazing through the dark with a great light.
We saw it streak over the rooftop and bury
its brightness in the woods of Mount Ida,
to show us the way; far and wide, its track shines
and the land all around smokes with sulphur.
Now convinced indeed, my Father stretches up,
addresses the Gods and worships the holy star.
“Not a moment’s delay; Gods of my Fathers, I follow
Where you lead; save my house, save my grandson!
This sign is yours, and Troy is under your protection.
I yield, my son, and do not refuse to be your comrade.”
As he ceased, at once the roar of fires is heard louder
Through the city, and the blaze rolls its storm closer.
“Come, dear Father, climb onto my back;
I will bear you on my shoulders and the task will be light;
come what may, for us there will be one shared
danger, and one safety for us both.”