Aeneid Book 8, lines 347- 369

Aeneas tours the site of Rome

by Virgil

Father Tiber has appeared to Aeneas and advised him to ally himself with King Evander of the Arcadians, and has stilled his flow to allow Aeneas with two ships to row upstream against the current to Evander’s humble city of Pallanteum. Aeneas is well-received by Evander, whom he finds celebrating a festival to Hercules, commemorating the Demigod’s destruction of Cacus, a thieving ogre. The tale is told and the feast concluded, and Aeneas is entertained as a friend (The Arcadians are of course Greek, but that awkwardness is dealt with by demonstrating that Aeneas and Evander have ancestors in common). Now Evander shows Aeneas around Pallanteum, which is none other than the future Rome. Every site and every name on the tour makes a clear topographical reference to the Rome in which Virgil and his contemporary audience lived. It is as if a modern Londoner were shown a forest on the site of Buckingham palace and cattle grazing on the site of Big Ben.

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Vix ea dicta, dehinc progressus monstrat et aram
et Carmentalem Romani nomine portam
quam memorant, nymphae priscum Carmentis honorem,
vatis fatidicae, cecinit quae prima futuros
Aeneadas magnos et nobile Pallanteum.
hinc lucum ingentem, quem Romulus acer asylum
rettulit, et gelida monstrat sub rupe Lupercal
Parrhasio dictum Panos de more Lycaei.
nec non et sacri monstrat nemus Argileti
testaturque locum et letum docet hospitis Argi.
hinc ad Tarpeiam sedem et Capitolia ducit
aurea nunc, olim silvestribus horrida dumis.
iam tum religio pavidos terrebat agrestis
dira loci, iam tum silvam saxumque tremebant.
‘hoc nemus, hunc’ inquit ‘frondoso vertice collem
(quis deus incertum est) habitat deus; Arcades ipsum
credunt se vidisse Iovem, cum saepe nigrantem
aegida concuteret dextra nimbosque cieret.
haec duo praeterea disiectis oppida muris,
reliquias veterumque vides monimenta virorum.
hanc Ianus pater, hanc Saturnus condidit arcem;
Ianiculum huic, illi fuerat Saturnia nomen.’
talibus inter se dictis ad tecta subibant
pauperis Evandri, passimque armenta videbant
Romanoque foro et lautis mugire Carinis.
ut ventum ad sedes, ‘haec’ inquit ‘limina victor
Alcides subiit, haec illum regia cepit.
aude, hospes, contemnere opes et te quoque dignum
finge deo, rebusque veni non asper egenis.’
dixit, et angusti subter fastigia tecti
ingentem Aenean duxit stratisque locavit
effultum foliis et pelle Libystidis ursae:
nox ruit et fuscis tellurem amplectitur alis.

With that Evander pressed on and pointed out what
the Romans call the Carmental altar and gate,
as an age-old tribute to the Nymph Carmentis,
a seeress, the first to prophesy that the line of Aeneas
would be great and that Pallanteum would be noble.
Here he shows the huge grove that fierce Romulus would
turn into the Asylum, the Lupercal under its chilly crag,
by Arcadian tradition named after Pan of Mount Lycaeus.
He points out too the grove of sacred Argiletum,
tells of the death of Argus while his guest, and where
it happened. From here he leads on to the Tarpeian seat
and the Capitol, gold now, once a-bristle with thorn
brakes. Even then the dread aura of the place terrified
the country folk, even then they quaked at the wood
and the crag. “This grove, this leafy hill, a God haunts,
which one is uncertain; we Arcadians believe we have
seen Jove himself, shaking his black aegis with his
own hand to summon the storm-clouds.
Now, you see these two towns with walls in ruins,
the remains and memorials of men of old:
Father Janus founded this citadel, Saturn that one;
This one was called Janiculum, that one Saturnia.”
After their talk they neared the home of Evander, no
rich King, and saw cattle lowing everywhere in
the Roman forum and exclusive Carinae. As they
arrived, he said “Hercules himself crossed this
threshold after his victory, and this palace received
him. Be bold, hold riches in contempt and make yourself
also worthy of the God, do not look askance on our
humble means.” So saying, leading the huge Aeneas
under the roof of his narrow home, he installed him on
a couch of leaves topped with a Libyan bearskin:
night falls taking the world in its dark wings.