Aeneid Book 4, lines 173 - 195


by Virgil

This passage, following the consummation of Dido and Aeneas’s affair, introduces Rumour personified as a Goddess or Titan with a terrifying ability to spread news both true and false: how she would have loved social media. The death and evils referred to were to include a bitter rivalry and three wars between Rome and Carthage, ending with the total destruction of Carthage and the slaughter of most of its population by the Romans in 146 BCE.

See the illustrated blog post here.

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ille dies primus leti primusque malorum
causa fuit; neque enim specie famave movetur
nec iam furtivum Dido meditatur amorem:
coniugium vocat, hoc praetexit nomine culpam.
extemplo Libyae magnas it Fama per urbes,
Fama, malum qua non aliud velocius ullum:
mobilitate viget virisque adquirit eundo,
parva metu primo, mox sese attollit in auras
ingrediturque solo et caput inter nubila condit.
illam Terra parens ira inritata deorum
extremam, ut perhibent, Coeo Enceladoque sororem
progenuit pedibus celerem et pernicibus alis,
monstrum horrendum, ingens, cui quot sunt corpore plumae,
tot vigiles oculi subter (mirabile dictu),
tot linguae, totidem ora sonant, tot subrigit auris.
nocte volat caeli medio terraeque per umbram
stridens, nec dulci declinat lumina somno;
luce sedet custos aut summi culmine tecti
turribus aut altis, et magnas territat urbes,
tam ficti pravique tenax quam nuntia veri.
haec tum multiplici populos sermone replebat
gaudens, et pariter facta atque infecta canebat:
venisse Aenean Troiano sanguine cretum,
cui se pulchra viro dignetur iungere Dido;
nunc hiemem inter se luxu, quam longa, fovere
regnorum immemores turpique cupidine captos.
haec passim dea foeda virum diffundit in ora.

That first day was the cause
of death and evils; for Dido is not swayed
by appearance or reputation, nor is it
any furtive love she plans: she calls it marriage,
in that name she cloaks her fault.
At once Rumour passes through the great cities of Libya,
Rumour, than which no other evil is faster:
it thrives on movement and gains strength as it goes,
small at the first alarm, then lifts itself to the skies,
walks the ground and thrusts its head among the clouds.
They say that Earth gave her birth, her last child, roused
to anger with the Gods, a sister to Coeus and Enceladus,
swift of foot and with ruin in her wings, a huge,
dreadful monster,
amazing with as many wakeful eyes beneath as there
are feathers on her body, as many mouths and tongues
cry out, she cocks as many ears. By night she flies mid-sky
through the shade of Earth shrieking, nor shuts her eyes
in sweet sleep; by day she sits as watch on the ridge of the
highest roof or on high towers and affrights great cities,
as constant to twisted falsehood as a messenger of truth.
Now, joyful, she fill the nations with clashing tales,
embroidering fact and falsehood; how Aeneas has come,
of Trojan blood, whom lovely Dido thinks fit to join
to herself as husband; how now all winter long they
indulge each other in luxury, forgetful of kingdom
and slaves to base lust: the foul goddess pours
these things in men’s mouths everywhere.


More Poems by Virgil

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