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 tell you a sign: hold it 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.”

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