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