Aeneid Book 6, lines 608 - 627

Souls awaiting punishment in Tartarus, and the crimes that brought them there.

by Virgil

On their underworld journey, the Sibyl has already described to Aeneas the frightful prison-fortress of Tartarus before them, and the terrifying powers that guard it. Now she describes some of the sins committed by those imprisoned there to await their punishment. Phlegyas’s crimes included burning the temple of Apollo at Delphi.

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“Hic, quibus invisi fratres, dum vita manebat,
pulsatusve parens et fraus innexa clienti,
aut qui divitiis soli incubuere repertis
nec partem posuere suis (quae maxima turba est),
quique ob adulterium caesi, quique arma secuti
impia nec veriti dominorum fallere dextras,
inclusi poenam exspectant. ne quaere doceri
quam poenam, aut quae forma viros fortunave mersit.
saxum ingens volvunt alii, radiisque rotarum
districti pendent; sedet aeternumque sedebit
infelix Theseus, Phlegyasque miserrimus omnis
admonet et magna testatur voce per umbras:
‘discite iustitiam moniti et non temnere divos’.
vendidit hic auro patriam dominumque potentem
imposuit; fixit leges pretio atque refixit;
hic thalamum invasit natae vetitosque hymenaeos:
ausi omnes immane nefas ausoque potiti.
non, mihi si linguae centum sint oraque centum,
ferrea vox, omnis scelerum comprendere formas,
omnia poenarum percurrere nomina possim.”

“Imprisoned here, there await punishment those
who when alive hated brothers, struck a parent,
entangled a client in fraud, found wealth,
hoarded it for themselves alone and gave no share
to their own (these the greatest crowd!), died
for adultery, took up impious arms, did not fear
to fail their masters in the fight. Do not ask what
punishment, what form the fate that crushed them.
Some roll a huge rock, some hang stretched on the
spokes of wheels, Theseus sits, and for ever will,
and Phlegyas, most miserable of any, warns all comers
and loudly bears witness through the dark:
‘be warned, learn justice, do not scorn the Gods!’
One sold his country for gold, set a harsh tyrant
over it, made, and remade, the laws for pay; one
invaded his child’s bed in forbidden wedlock;
all dared the worst infamy, and carried it out.
Not if I had a hundred tongues and mouths, an iron
voice, could I cover every form of crime, call
every form of retribution by name.”


More Poems by Virgil

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