Aeneid Book 5, lines 719 - 740

Anchises’s ghost invites Aeneas to visit the underworld

by Virgil

In a dramatic intervention the image of Aeneas’s father Anchises appears to confirm the advice of the venerable Nautes that he should purge his company of the old, the tired and the discouraged and take only the young, strong and eager with him on his onward journey to his destiny in Italy. He adds an invitation for Aeneas to journey through the underworld to visit him in the Elysian Fields to learn more about the descendance that will follow him and the city that it is his fate to found in Latium. The journey to the underworld in Book 6 of the Aeneid will be one of the highest points of the whole epic.

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Talibus incensus dictis senioris amici
tum vero in curas animo diducitur omnis;
et Nox atra polum bigis subvecta tenebat.
visa dehinc caelo facies delapsa parentis
Anchisae subito talis effundere voces:
‘nate, mihi vita quondam, dum vita manebat,
care magis, nate Iliacis exercite fatis,
imperio Iovis huc venio, qui classibus ignem
depulit, et caelo tandem miseratus ab alto est.
consiliis pare quae nunc pulcherrima Nautes
dat senior; lectos iuvenes, fortissima corda,
defer in Italiam. gens dura atque aspera cultu
debellanda tibi Latio est. Ditis tamen ante
infernas accede domos et Averna per alta
congressus pete, nate, meos. non me impia namque
Tartara habent, tristes umbrae, sed amoena piorum
concilia Elysiumque colo. huc casta Sibylla
nigrarum multo pecudum te sanguine ducet.
tum genus omne tuum et quae dentur moenia disces.
iamque vale; torquet medios Nox umida cursus
et me saevus equis Oriens adflavit anhelis.’
dixerat et tenuis fugit ceu fumus in auras.

Then well and truly he was rent apart in mind for
his cares, moved by what his venerable friend had said:
black Night, borne up in her chariot, ruled the pole.
Then suddenly the shape of his father, Anchises, was seen
descending the sky, saying: “Son, strong from the fates
of Troy, once dearer than life, when life remained me,
I come at the bidding of Jove, who kept the fire
from the fleet and has finally taken pity from on high.
Follow the excellent advice that venerable Nautes gives:
take to Italy picked, youthful men and the stoutest
of hearts. The race is a hard one, raised in a tough school,
that you must battle in Latium. But go first to the depths
of the underworld, Son, and seek my home, through
the chasms of Avernus. For shameful Tartarus and its dire
shadows do not hold me, but the assemblies of the blest
and Elysium are where I dwell. There will the chaste
Sibyl lead you, helped by the blood of many black sheep.
Then will you learn of your whole posterity and the city
you will be given. Now farewell: Night with her dews
bends her middle way and the cruel East
has touched me with the breath of his panting horses.”
He finished, and vanished like thin smoke into the air.