Aeneid Book 2 lines 707 - 746

Aeneas saves his son and father, but at a cost

by Virgil

We have already seen in lines 679 – 710 of Book 2 that Aeneas, with the help of divine portents, has persuaded his father Anchises to join him in escaping from the wreck of Troy. This extract takes up the story as Aeneas attempts to get his family out of the city alive. He succeeds, but suffers a tragic loss in the process. As dawn breaks, Aeneas will find himself free of pursuit at the head of an unexpectedly large band of Trojans who are ready to follow him across the seas, and Book 2 will end.

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“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. Mihi parvus Iulus
sit comes, et longe servet vestigia coniunx.
vos, famuli, quae dicam animis advertite vestris.
est urbe egressis tumulus templumque vetustum
desertae Cereris, iuxtaque antiqua cupressus
religione patrum multos servata per annos,
hanc ex diverso sedem veniemus in unam.
tu, genitor,cape sacra manu patriosque penatis;
me bello e tanto digressum et caede recenti
attrectare nefas, donec me flumine vivo
haec fatus latos umeros subiectaque colla
veste super fulvique insternor pelle leonis,
succedoque oneri; dextrae se parvus Iulus
implicuit sequiturque patrem non passibus aequis;
pone subit coniunx. ferimur per opaca locorum,
et me, quem dudum non ulla iniecta movebant
tela, neque adverso glomerati ex agmine Grai,
nunc omnes terrent aurae, sonus excitat omnis
suspensum et pariter comitique onerique timentem.
iamque propinquabam portis omnemque videbar
evasisse viam, subito cum creber ad aures
visus adesse pedum sonitus, genitorque per umbram
prospiciens “nate” exclamat “fuge nate; propinquant.
ardentes clipeos atque aera micantia cerno.”
hic mihi nescio quod trepido male numen amicum
confusam eripuit mentem. namque avia cursu
dum sequor et nota excedo regione viarum,
heu misero coniunx fatone erepta Creusa
substitit, erravitne via seu lassa resedit,
incertum; nec post oculis est reddita nostris.
nec prius amissam respexi animumve reflexi
quam tumulum antiquae Cereris sedemque sacratam
venimus: hic demum collectis omnibus una
defuit, et comites natumque virumque fefellit.
quem non incusavi hominumque deorumque,
aut quid in eversa vidi crudelius urbe?

“Come, dear Father, climb on my back; I will bear you
on my shoulders, the task will be light;
come what may, for us there will be one shared danger,
one safety for us both. Let little Iulus come with me,
let my wife follow our steps at a distance.
Servants, attend to what I shall say. By the way out
of the city is a mound and an ancient temple
of abandoned Ceres, and by it an aged cypress, preserved
through many years by the religion of our fathers.
We shall go by different ways and meet at this spot.
Father, hold the sacred relics and ancestral home-gods
– coming from such slaughter and recent bloodshed,
they would be sinful to touch until I purify myself
in living water.”
Then I clothe my broad shoulders and bowed neck
with the skin of a tawny lion and take up
my burden.Little Iulus grips my right hand,
following his father with smaller steps:
then comes my wife. Through the dark we go;
no flying spears, or Greek bands from the enemy
army troubled me before, but every breeze frightens
and every sound alarms me now, tense and fearful equally
for my companion and my burden. Now near the gates,
I seemed to have made my escape entirely,
when suddenly we seem to hear running feet,
and my Father, peering through the dark, cries
“My son! Flee, my son, they are coming!
I see flashing shields and sparkling bronze!”
Now some malign god snatched away my shaken senses,
for as I missed the way in my flight,
following streets I did not know, alas, whether
my wife Creusa stopped, or was torn away by fate,
or missed her way, or sank exhausted, is unclear,but
we never saw her again. I did not miss her,
look back or think of her until we came
to the mound and the sacred seat of ancient Ceres:
here, when we were all together, only she was lacking to
her son and husband. In my frenzy,
whom did I not accuse of men or gods, or
what sight I saw in the fallen city was crueller?