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