Aeneid Book 7, lines 54- 78

Omens for Princess Lavinia

by Virgil

As Aeneas and the Trojans arrive in Latium, its King, Latinus, has no sons and an only daughter, Lavinia. Many would like to marry her: the favourite is Turnus, the handsome chief of the neighbouring Rutuli. In this passage, however, omens suggest to Latinus that fate requires him to look farther afield.

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Multi illam magno e Latio totaque petebant
Ausonia. petit ante alios pulcherrimus omnis
Turnus, avis atavisque potens, quem regia coniunx
adiungi generum miro properabat amore;
sed variis portenta deum terroribus obstant.
laurus erat tecti medio in penetralibus altis,
sacra comam multosque metu servata per annos,
quam pater inventam, primas cum conderet arces,
ipse ferebatur Phoebo sacrasse Latinus
Laurentisque ab ea nomen posuisse colonis.
huius apes summum densae (mirabile dictu),
stridore ingenti liquidum trans aethera vectae,
obsedere apicem, ex pedibus per mutua nexis
examen subitum ramo frondente pependit.
continuo vates: ‘Externum cernimus,’ inquit,
‘adventare virum et partis petere agmen easdem
partibus ex isdem et summa dominarier arce.’
praeterea, castis adolet dum altaria taedis
et iuxta genitorem adstat Lavinia virgo,
visa (nefas) longis comprendere crinibus ignem,
atque omnem ornatum flamma crepitante cremari
regalisque accensa comas, accensa coronam
insignem gemmis, tum fumida lumine fulvo
involvi ac totis Volcanum spargere tectis.

Many men sought her, from great Latium and all Ausonia.
Turnus sought her, more handsome than all others,
powerful by descent and long pedigree, whom the Queen
loved and was determined to make her son-in-law, but
various frightening omens from the Gods stood in the way.
In the lofty shrine in the middle of the house stood
a laurel, with a sacred crown, kept with great care
over many years, which father Latinus himself
was said to have found and consecrated to Apollo
when first he founded the citadel, and named his colonists
the Laurentes after it. Wonderful to say, a dense cloud
of bees was borne through the clear air with a great hum
and settled at the top, locked together by the feet,
and hung all of a sudden in a swarm from the leafy branch.
The seer broke out: “I see a foreigner come, and
a force make for this same place from the same
quarter, and hold sway in the very topmost stronghold.”
Also, as the maid Lavinia worshipped with chaste torches
at the altar, standing by her father, a terrible thing!
they saw her catch fire in her long hair, the whole
of its ornament burning with crackling flame,
her royal locks, her diadem and its bright gems alight,
and she engulfed in smoke and glow, scattering
Vulcan’s sparks all through the palace.


More Poems by Virgil

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