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.

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More Poems by Virgil

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