Aeneid Book 6, lines 886 - 901

The portals of sleep

by Virgil

When Aeneas has completed his tour of the Elysian fields and learnt from Anchises, his father, what lies ahead of him in Italy, Anchises shows him the way back to the upper world and both Aeneas’s underworld journey and the sixth book of the Aeneid come to an end.

Why does Anchises send his son through the gate by which the infernal powers send out false dreams and nightmares, and not through the other where true dreams issue? There is no definite answer: perhaps Virgil is making a subtle point that might have been clearer to a Roman audience than to us; perhaps this is a loose end that he might have reconsidered had he lived to give his poem the final revision that we are told he planned.

See the illustrated blog post here.

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Sic tota passim regione vagantur
aeris in campis latis atque omnia lustrant.
quae postquam Anchises natum per singula duxit
incenditque animum famae venientis amore,
exim bella viro memorat quae deinde gerenda,
Laurentisque docet populos urbemque Latini,
et quo quemque modo fugiatque feratque laborem.
Sunt geminae Somni portae, quarum altera fertur
cornea, qua veris facilis datur exitus umbris,
altera candenti perfecta nitens elephanto,
sed falsa ad caelum mittunt insomnia Manes.
his ibi tum natum Anchises unaque Sibyllam
prosequitur dictis portaque emittit eburna;
ille viam secat ad navis sociosque revisit.
Tum se ad Caietae recto fert litore portum.
ancora de prora iacitur; stant litore puppes.

So they wander in the wide expanse of dimness
over the whole region, observing everything.
Then Anchises led his son through every detail
and fired his mind with longing for fame to come,
then tells him of the wars later to be fought,
the Laurentine tribes and the city of Latinus,
and how he can avoid or bear each ordeal.
There are two gates of Sleep, one said to be of horn,
through which true dreams are given an easy way,
and a shining one adorned with snow-white ivory,
but here the powers send up false, bad dreams.
Speaking thus, Anchises brings his son with the Sibyl
and sends them through the ivory gate. He makes his
swift way to the ships and joins his men. Then he sails
directly for the port of Caieta. The anchor is cast
from prows; sterns stand along the shore.

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