Aeneid Book 2, lines 526 - 558

The death of Priam

by Virgil

The Greeks have broken into the Trojan royal palace where King Priam and his Queen helplessly look on at the destruction of their realm. Aeneas, still recounting the fall of the city to Queen Dido of Carthage, witnesses Priam’s fate.

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Ecce autem elapsus Pyrrhi de caede Polites,
unus natorum Priami, per tela, per hostis
porticibus longis fugit et vacua atria lustrat
saucius. illum ardens infesto vulnere Pyrrhus
insequitur, iam iamqe manu tenet et premit hasta.
ut tandem ante oculos evasit et ora parentum,
concidit et multo vitam cum sanguine fudit.
hic Priamus, quamquam in media iam morte tenetur,
non tamen abstinuit nec voci iraeque pepercit:
“at tibi pro scelere” exclamat, “pro talibus ausis
di, si qua est caelo pietas quae talia curet,
persolvant grates dignas et praemia reddant
debita, qui nati coram me cernere letum
fecisti et patrios foedasti funere vultus.
at non ille, satum quo te mentiris, Achilles
talis in hoste fuit Priamo; sed iura fidemque
supplicis erubuit corpusque exsangue sepulcro
reddidit Hectoreum meque in mea regna remisit.”
sic fatus senior telumque imbellum sine ictu
coniecit, rauco quod protinus aere repulsum,
et summo clipei nequiquam umbone pependit.
cui Pyrrhus, “ referes ergo haec et nuntius ibis
Pelidae genitori. illi mea tristia facta
degeneremque Neoptolemum narrare memento.
nunc morere.” Hoc dicens altaria ad ipsa trementem
traxit et in multo lapsantem sanguine nati,
implicuitque comam laeva, dextraque coruscum
extulit ac lateri capulo tenus abdidit ensem.
haec Priami finis fatorum; hic exitus illum
sorte tulit Troiam incensam et prolapsa videntem
Pergama, tot quondam populis terrisque superbum
regnatorem Asiae. iacet ingens litore truncus
avulsumque umeris caput et sine nomine corpus.

Now here, escaped from Pyrrhus’s slaughter,
Polites, son of Priam, through foes and spears runs along
the galleries and through the empty halls, injured.
After, burning for the deathstroke, comes Pyrrhus,
seems even now to have him, thrusts with his spear.
Finally as he came before his parents’ very eyes
he fell and poured out his life in a gush of blood.
Here Priam, though in the jaws of death,
did not hold back or spare his voice or his ire:
“May the Gods, if any decency in heaven cares for
such things, give you fit thanks and the reward
you deserve for your iniquity, daring such crimes,
making me watch before my eyes a son killed
and befouling parents’ faces with butchery.
Achilles, who you lie was your father, did not
behave so though my enemy, but blushed for
the rights and faith of a supplicant, gave back for burial
Hector’s bloodless body and returned me to my realm.”
With that, he feebly cast his harmless spear, which,
bounced right off by the ringing bronze,
hung uselessly from the end of the shield boss.
Pyrrhus replied: “You will take the message yourself
as a messenger to Achilles my father. Remember to tell
him all about my wicked deeds and his son’s degeneracy.
Now die!” He drags Priam trembling to the very altars,
slipping in the blood of his son which was everywhere;
winding his left hand in his hair, with his right he drew
and plunged to the hilt in Priam’s side his flashing sword.
That was the close of Priam’s fortunes; the lot he bore,
to see Troy ablaze and its power fallen, once the proud
ruler of so many lands and peoples of Asia.
His great trunk lies on the shore, head hewn
from his shoulders, a corpse without a name.


More Poems by Virgil

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