Aeneid Book 9, lines 98 - 122

Aeneas’s ships are transformed

by Virgil

As Turnus cannot dstroy the Trojans in battle, he decides that he will at least burn their ships, which they cannot take inside the walls. He does not know, however, about a promise that Jupiter has made to the Goddess Cybele long before. The ships were built from pine from a sacred grove to the Goddess on Mount Ida: she had asked for them to be made immortal and indestructible. Jupiter had replied that he could not extend the privileges of immortality so far, but, speaking as this extract opens, is about to agree to confer a great distinction nevertheless on those of Aeneas’s ships that remain when he has reached Italy.

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“immo, ubi defunctae finem portusque tenebunt
Ausonios olim, quaecumque evaserit undis
Dardaniumque ducem Laurentia vexerit arva,
mortalem eripiam formam magnique iubebo
aequoris esse deas, qualis Nereia Doto
et Galatea secant spumantem pectore pontum.”
dixerat idque ratum Stygii per flumina fratris,
per pice torrentis atraque voragine ripas
adnuit, et totum nutu tremefecit Olympum.
Ergo aderat promissa dies et tempora Parcae
debita complerant, cum Turni iniuria Matrem
admonuit ratibus sacris depellere taedas.
hic primum nova lux oculis offulsit et ingens
visus ab Aurora caelum transcurrere nimbus
Idaeique chori; tum vox horrenda per auras
excidit et Troum Rutulorumque agmina complet:
‘ne trepidate meas, Teucri, defendere navis
neve armate manus; maria ante exurere Turno
quam sacras dabitur pinus. vos ite solutae,
ite deae pelagi; genetrix iubet.’ et sua quaeque
continuo puppes abrumpunt vincula ripis
delphinumque modo demersis aequora rostris
ima petunt. hinc virgineae (mirabile monstrum)
reddunt se totidem facies pontoque feruntur.

“No, but from those that one day have completed the task,
come to the fields of Italy, survived the seas and brought
Aeneas from Troy to the shore of Laurentium, I shall take
their mortal form and ordain that they will be Goddesses
of mighty ocean, and, like the Nereids Doto and Galatea,
sunder with their breast the foaming sea”. He spoke,
and with a nod swore the oath by his Stygian brother’s
stream, its banks burning with pitch about the black gulf,
and at his nod the whole of Olympus quaked. And so
the promised day was come, and the Fates had fulfilled
the time for Turnus’s attack to prompt
the great Mother to ward off fire from the sacred ships.
Now first an unfamiliar light dazzled all eyes, while
from the East an enormous cloud was seen approaching,
accompanied by Idaean choirs, and a tremendous voice
overwhelmed Trojans and Rutuli alike. “Do not trouble,
Teucrians, to defend my ships, and do not take up arms:
Turnus will be allowed to burn up the seas, sooner than
their sacred timbers. You, go in freedom, go as Goddesses
of the sea: your Mother bids you!” And each ship instantly,
breaking its moorings, dipped its beaked prow and dove
dolphin-fashion for the deep, and up, miraculously,
surged as many maiden forms as the prows that earlier
fringed the shore, and were borne away to seaward.


More Poems by Virgil

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