Aeneas’s mother, the Goddess Venus, has brought him the new armour forged by her husband Vulcan, the craftsman of the Gods. Recalling a famous passage in Homer’s Iliad describing the scenes on the one made by the same God for Achilles, Virgil gives a long description of Aeneas’s new shield. He says it is “ingens” – enormous – and it must be, as it includes scenes from the entire future history of Rome, from Romulus and Remus up to and including the victory of Augustus over Antony and Cleopatra. The description is much too long to post in full, but here, slightly shortened, is the culminating passage with which Book 8 ends. In the first of two extracts, the warlike Augustus towers over his flagship (and I, as Marcus Agrippa, receive a moment in the spotlight). In the second, he receives the adulation of Rome and the tribute of subjugated peoples in the course of his triumph over his enemies.
It has been said that moderation in sycophancy is dangerous because it might seem to imply reservations. Virgil is playing very safe here.
See the illustrated blog post here.
If you would like to follow extracts from the Aeneid in narrative order, you can use the links from the bottom of Virgil’s poet page here.
To listen, press play:
To scroll both versions of the poem at the same time - tap inside one box to select it and then scroll.
hinc Augustus agens Italos in proelia Caesar
cum patribus populoque, penatibus et magnis dis,
stans celsa in puppi, geminas cui tempora flammas
laeta vomunt patriumque aperitur vertice sidus.
parte alia ventis et dis Agrippa secundis
arduus agmen agens, cui, belli insigne superbum,
tempora navali fulgent rostrata corona.
at Caesar, triplici invectus Romana triumpho
moenia, dis Italis votum immortale sacrabat,
maxima ter centum totam delubra per urbem.
laetitia ludisque viae plausuque fremebant;
omnibus in templis matrum chorus, omnibus arae;
ante aras terram caesi stravere iuvenci.
ipse sedens niveo candentis limine Phoebi
dona recognoscit populorum aptatque superbis
postibus; incedunt victae longo ordine gentes,
quam variae linguis, habitu tam vestis et armis.
hic Nomadum genus et discinctos Mulciber Afros,
hic Lelegas Carasque sagittiferosque Gelonos
finxerat; Euphrates ibat iam mollior undis,
extremique hominum Morini, Rhenusque bicornis,
indomitique Dahae, et pontem indignatus Araxes.
Talia per clipeum Volcani, dona parentis,
miratur rerumque ignarus imagine gaudet
attollens umero famamque et fata nepotum.
Next, Augustus Caesar was leading Italy into battle,
backed by its Senate, people, native and Olympian Gods;
high on the bridge, his serene temples flash twin flames,
his dynastic star displayed above his head. Over there
towers Agrippa, leading his column with favourable winds
and the Gods behind him, his shining brows adorned
with the naval diadem, proud badge of war.
Augustus, within Rome’s walls in triple triumph,
was making a deathless offering to the Gods of Italy,
three hundred mighty shrines throughout the whole city:
the streets seethed with joy, acclaim and celebration.
In all the temples, choirs of matrons sang and altars stood;
victims’ carcasses strewed the ground before them.
Augustus himself, seated at the snow-white door of
spotless Phoebus, receiving the tributes of the peoples
affixes them to the splendid doors; the long procession
passes by of conquered nations, as various in their tongues
as in their modes of dress and weaponry. Here Vulcan set
the race of nomads, and ungirdled Africans; Leleges,
Carians and Gelonian archer-people; next, Euphrates,
flowing with gentler waves, the Morini, remotest of men,
twin-mouthed Rhine, unruly Dahae and Araxes, spurner
of bridges. He marvels at such things across the shield,
a mother’s gift, in joy at images of events unknown, raises
on his shoulder the fame and fates of his descendants.