Sinon, a Greek agent who has infiltrated the Trojans, has released the warriors hidden in the wooden horse. The sack of Troy is starting, and what an electrifying piece of writing it will be. But Virgil has a problem to solve. Epic heroes stand and fight: how can Aeneas flee without forfeiting his honour and mystique? Here, the dead Hector, Troy’s supreme fighting hero, begins the groundwork. He comes to Aeneas in a dream and tells him that the city must fall. Aeneas’s duty is not to die vainly, but to take responsibility for Troy’s sacred relics and bring them safely to a new home. Aeneas wakes and finds himself confronted by a terrible reality.
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ille nihil, nec me quaerentem vana moratur,
sed graviter gemitus imo de pectore ducens,
“heu fuge, nate dea, teque his”, ait, “eripe flammis.
hostis habet muros; ruit alto a culmine Troia.
sat patriae Priamoque datum: si Pergama dextra
defendi possent, etiam hac defensa fuissent.
sacra suosque tibi commendat Troia penates:
hos cape fatorum comites, his moenia quaere
magna, pererrato statues quae denique ponto.”
sic ait et manibus vittas Vestamque potentem
aeternumque adytis effert penetralibus ignem.
diverso interea miscentur moenia luctu,
et magis atque magis, quamquam secreta parentis
Anchisae domus arboribusque obtecta recessit,
clarescunt sonitus armorumque ingruit horror.
excutior somno et summi fastigia tecti
ascensu supero atque arrectis auribus asto:
in segetem veluti cum flamma furentibus Austris
incidit, aut rapidus montano flumine torrens
sternit agros, sternit sata laeta boumque labores,
praecipitesque trahit silvas: stupet inscius alto
accipiens sonitum saxi de vertice pastor.
Tum vero manifesta fides, Danaumque patescunt
insidiae. iam Deiphobi dedit ampla ruinam,
Vulcano superante domus; iam proximus ardet
Ucalegon; Sigea igni freta lata relucent:
exoritur clamorque virum clangorque tubarum.
He says nothing and ignores my empty questions,
but drawing deep and heavy groans, says “Ah, flee,
Goddess-born, snatch yourself from these flames.
the enemy has the walls; Troy crashes from its zenith.
Enough has been given for Troy and Priam: if the citadel
were defensible by deeds, mine would have defended it.
Her sacred relics and her Gods, Troy entrusts to you:
take them to share your fate, seek them a stronghold, one
you will found when long journeys on the sea are done.”
Next, in his hands he brings great Vesta, her fillet
and eternal flame from the holy of holies.
Meanwhile, in the city cries of grief and confusion reign,
and more and more, though my Father Anchises’ house
is secluded and screened by trees, the noise grows
louder, and the grim sound of battle intensifies.
Torn from sleep, I climb to the very top of the roof
and stand listening intently: it is as though flame
were tearing into cornfields as south winds rage, swift
torrents from a mountain river laying flat the fields,
the thriving crops and the fruits of the oxen’s labour,
smashing the woodlands down: confused and dumbstruck,
the shepherd faces the din from the top of his rock.
Now the Greeks’ honour is clear, their betrayals laid
bare. Deiphobus’ mansion, Vulcan’s fire towering above,
has fallen in ruin: by it burns the house of Ucalegon;
the broad Sigean strait blazes with reflected light:
up go the shouts of men and the blare of trumpets.