Aeneid Book 7, Lines 166 - 193

In King Latinus’s hall

by Virgil

Arrived in Italy, Aeneas sends envoys to King Latinus to assure him of the Trojans’ friendly intentions and request his permission to settle in peace. Latinus awaits the envoys in his awe-inspiring ancestral hall. In the story about Circe referred to in this extract, her advances were spurned by King Latinus’s forebear Picus, and she punished him by turning him into a woodpecker.

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Cum praevectus equo longaevi regis ad auris
nuntius ingentis ignota in veste reportat
advenisse viros. Ille intra tecta vocari
imperat et solio medius consedit avito.
tectum augustum ingens, centum sublime columnis,
urbe fuit summa, Laurentis regia Pici,
horrendum silvis et religione parentum.
hic sceptra accipere et primos attollere fasces
regibus omen erat, hoc illis curia templum,
hae sacris sedes epulis, hic ariete caeso
perpetuis soliti patres considere mensis.
quin etiam veterum effigies ex ordine avorum
antiqua e cedro, Italusque paterque Sabinus
vitisator, curvam servans sub imagine falcem,
Saturnusque senex Ianique bifrontis imago
vestibulo astabant, aliique ab origine reges
Martiaque ob patriam pugnando volnera passi.
multaque praeterea sacris in postibus arma,
captivi pendent currus curvaeque secures
et cristae capitum et portarum ingentia claustra
spiculaque clipeique ereptaque rostra carinis.
ipse Quirinali lituo parvaque sedebat
succinctus trabea laevaque ancile gerebat
Picus, equum domitor; quem capta cupidine coniunx
aurea percussum virga versumque venenis
fecit avem Circe sparsitque coloribus alas.
tali intus templo divom patriaque Latinus
sede sedens Teucros ad sese in tecta vocavit …

A messenger on horseback brought to the old
King’s ears news that huge men in strange clothing
had arrived. He ordered that they be called to the
palace and in its midst took his ancestral throne.
At the top of the city stood an immense, noble hall,
high on a hundred columns, awesome with dense
woods and the aura of the ancestors, the realm of
Laurentine Picus. Here it was auspicious for kings first
to assume the sceptre and fasces of office, this temple was
their court, the seat of holy feasts; the elders would
sacrifice a ram and assemble at these timeless tables.
Carvings in ancient cedar of the forefathers stood in order,
Italus and old Sabinus the vintner, his curved vine-hook
kept under his image, old Saturn and a statue of two-faced
Janus stood at the entrance, and the other kings since the
beginning, with warriors who had suffered wounds
for the homeland. There too were many sets
of arms on sacred posts, captured chariots
hung there and curved axes, helmet-crests,
bars from immense gates, spears,shields
and rams torn from the prows of ships.
Picus the horse-lord himself sat, first among them with
his regal staff and robe of state, a sacred shield on
his left arm, whom his lady Circe, gripped with desire,
struck with her golden wand, turned him into a bird with
her potions and spread his wings with colours. Such was
the temple of the Gods in which, seated on the throne
of his fathers, Latinus called the Trojans to him in his hall.