Aeneid Book 1, lines 1-7

The Aeneid begins

by Virgil

The Aeneid begins, with an echo of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey and using the same metrical verse form. Virgil’s purpose in writing it is not just poetical, but also political – to establish that Rome’s origins and mission were divine, and so were those of its new ruler, Augustus. These first words assert that Aeneas, a near relative of King Priam, founded the state that became Rome, and brought with him the protection of the patron Gods of Troy. Later, Virgil will establish Aeneas as the ancestor of Julius Caesar and the Emperor Augustus. As Venus is Aeneas’s mother, this shows that the Caesars are descended from a God (Julius had already been posthumously deified in 42 BCE). Lavinium was the location of Aeneas’s first Italian settlement. This was followed by another settlement at Alba (hence the mention of “Alban fathers”) and finally by the foundation of Rome.

The mention of the anger of Juno, wife of Jupiter the King of the Gods, is a reference to the mythical origin of the Trojan War, the “judgement of Paris”. Paris, simultaneously a royal Trojan prince and a shepherd, was invited to judge a beauty contest between Juno, Venus the Goddess of love and Minerva the goddess of wisdom. Each goddess offered a bribe: he chose Venus’s as she promised him the most beautiful woman in the world. His choice gained him the (married) Helen of Troy, started the Trojan War and earned Trojans the “unforgetting anger of Juno”, who was the patron god of marriage as well as a very poor loser. She will be on Aeneas’s case as the Aeneid continues.

See the illustrated blog post here.

You can compare this beginning with the opening of the Iliad of Homer here and the Odyssey here: the original Greek is recited with an English translation.

To follow the story of Aeneas in sequence, use this link to the full Pantheon Poets selection of extracts from the Aeneid. See the next episode here.

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To scroll the original and English translation of the poem at the same time - tap inside one box to select it and then scroll.

Arma virumque cano, Troiae qui primus ab oris
Italiam fato profugus Lavinaque venit
litora, multum ille et terris iactatus et alto
vi superum, saevae memorem Iunonis ob iram,
multa quoque et bello passus, dum conderet urbem
inferretque deos Latio, genus unde Latinum
Albanique patres atque altae moenia Romae.
Musa, mihi causas memora, quo numine laeso
quidve dolens regina deum tot volvere casus
insignem pietate virum, tot adire labores
impulerit. tantaene animis caelestibus irae?

I sing of arms, and the man who first from Troy’s shores
exiled by fate came to Italy and Lavinium’s
shores, he who suffered so much on land, and tossed
on the deep by the power of the Gods above, for the
unforgetting anger of divine Juno,And in war, until
he could found a city and bring the Gods to Latium,
whence Alban fathers, Latin race and walls of lofty Rome.
Muse, tell me why, for what slight, what grudge Juno
made a man famous for virtue bear so many disasters’
face so many troubles? Is there
such great anger in the minds of Gods?

`

More Poems by Virgil

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