Sinon, a Greek spy, has allowed himself to be captured, won the pity of the Trojans with a hard-luck story and spun them a line about the wooden horse. One could respect Sinon’s courage, but we see from the lying and sacrilegious oaths he swears that he is unworthy. The horse is, he says, an offering to atone for an exploit by Odysseus and Diomedes which has slighted the Goddess Minerva. Calchas the seer has prophesied to the Greeks that they must seek new omens at Argos to have any chance of success at Troy, and now they are homeward bound. The horse has been built so large because the Greeks do not want the Tojans to get it into the city and reap the good fortune that would follow. Sinon’s story, and the death of Laocoon, convince the Trojans to breach their walls to bring in the horse.
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dividimus muros et moenia pandimus urbis.
accingunt omnes operi pedibusque rotarum
subiciunt lapsus et stuppea vincula collo
intendunt. scandit fatalis machina muros
feta armis. pueri circum innuptaeque puellae
sacra canunt funemque manu contingere gaudent:
ille subit mediaeque minans inlabitur urbi.
o patria, o divum domus Ilium et incluta bello
moenia Dardanidum! quater ipso in limine portae
substitit, atque utero sonitum quater arma dedere:
instamus tamen immemores caecique furore
et monstrum infelix sacrata sistimus arce.
tunc etiam fatis aperit Cassandra futuris
ora, dei iussu non umquam credita Teucris.
nos delubra deum miseri, quibus ultimus esset
ille dies, festa velamus fronde per urbem.
We breach the walls and open the city’s defences.
All ready themselves for the work, slide rollers
beneath the feet and stretch hempen cables round
the neck. The deadly weapon tops the walls,
pregnant with arms. Around, boys and little maidens
sing hymns and joy to touch the cable: menacing,
the horse slides up into the heart of the city.
O Fatherland, Troy, home of Gods, Trojan bulwark
famous in war! Four times on the gate’s very edge
it stopped, four times arms rang from its belly!
But we paid no heed and, blind in our madness,
put the cursed portent in our hallowed citadel.
Even then Cassandra opened her lips to coming doom,
by divine decree never to be believed by the Trojans.
We, wretches whose final day that was to be,
garlanded the shrines of the Gods with gay boughs through the city.