Aeneid Book 3, lines 374 - 395

How Aeneas will know the site of his city

by Virgil

Continuing the story of his travels to Queen Dido of Carthage, Aeneas tells of his astonishment at finding that Helenus, one of the Trojan King Priam’s sons, has won the kingdom of Pyrrhus, the Greek prince whom we saw killing Priam in Book 2, and is ruling it with Andromache, the widow of the Trojans’ great hero Hector, as his Queen. In a divinely-inspired prophecy, Helenus gives Aeneas hope that, in spite of the Harpy’s curse that he and his followers will be reduced to such misery that they will gnaw their tables, all will finally be well. Ending by telling of his onward journey, including a narrow escape from Polyphemus the blind Cyclops, Aeneas brings his story up to date, and Book 3 ends.

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‘Nate dea, (nam te maioribus ire per altum
auspiciis manifesta fides, sic fata deum rex
sortitur volvitque vices, is vertitur ordo)
pauca tibi e multis, quo tutior hospita lustres
aequora et Ausonio possis considere portu,
expediam dictis: prohibent nam cetera Parcae
scire Helenum farique vetat Saturnia Iuno.
principio Italiam, quam tu iam rere propinquam
vicinosque, ignare, paras invadere portus,
longa procul longis via dividit invia terris.
ante et Trinacria lentandus remus in unda
et salis Ausonii lustrandum navibus aequor
infernique lacus Aeaeaeque insula Circae,
quam tuta possis urbem componere terra.
signa tibi dicam, tu condita mente teneto:
cum tibi sollicito secreti ad fluminis undam
litoreis ingens inventa sub ilicibus sus
triginta capitum fetus enixa iacebit,
alba, solo recubans, albi circum ubera nati,
is locus urbis erit, requies ea certa laborum.
nec tu mensarum morsus horresce futuros:
fata viam invenient aderitque vocatus Apollo.’

“Goddess-born (for it is clear that you sail
under high auspices, so the King of Gods bestows
fate and settles chance, thus events are ordered),
I will tell few things of many, by which you may sail
friendlier seas and gain an Ausonian berth more safely:
the rest, the Fates withhold from Helenus’ knowledge
and Saturn’s daughter Juno forbids their utterance.
First, Italy, that you think close, whose ports,
wrongly,you think you are near and about to enter,
lies far off over the earth, the way there is no way at all.
First you must bend your oar in the Trinacrian sea,
sail your ships across the salt Ausonian waters
past the lakes of the underworld and Aeaean Circe’s
isle before you can found your city in a safe land.
I will give you signs: hold them fast in your mind.
When in your distress by a secluded stream
you find lying under the mighty oaks a sow,
huge and white, with a new litter thirty strong
lying on the ground, the young at her dugs also white,
that will be the site of the city, certain rest from suffering.
And do not shudder at the prospect of biting tables:
the fates will find a way, and Apollo will answer your call.”


More Poems by Virgil

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