Aeneid Book 1, lines 441-65

The Trojans reach Carthage

by Virgil

After travels which have already lasted many years since Troy fell, Aeneas and his companions have been blown off course to North Africa by a storm arranged by the Trojans’ enemy, the Goddess Juno. They have reached Carthage, later Rome’s great rival and enemy, newly founded by Dido, a Phoenician exile. Here, the sight of sculptures showing the Trojan War gives Aeneas hope of a sympathetic reception. Achates is Aeneas’s right-hand man. “Sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt” is one of the Aeneid’s most famous lines. In context the words can have a fairly restricted meaning (the locals can be moved by misfortune and the fragility of mortal life), but they are also often quoted as a very economical wider summing-up of the whole human predicament.

To follow the story of Aeneas in sequence, use this link to the full Pantheon Poets selection of extracts from the Aeneid. See the next episode here.

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Lucus in urbe fuit media, laetissimus umbrae,
quo primum iactati undis et turbine Poeni
effodere loco signum, quod regia Iuno
monstrarat, caput acris equi: sic nam fore bello
egregiam et facilem victu per saecula gentem.
hic Iunoni templum ingens Sidonia Dido
condebat, donis opulentum et numine divae,
aerea cui gradibus surgebant limina, nexaeque
aere trabes, foribus cardo stridebat aƫnis.
hoc primum in luco nova res oblata timorem
leniit, hic primum Aeneas sperare salutem
ausus et adflictis melius confidere rebus.
namque sub ingenti lustrat dum singula templo
reginam opperiens, dum quae fortuna sit urbi
artificumque manus intra se operumque laborem
miratur, videt Iliacas ex ordine pugnas
bellaque iam fama totum vulgata per orbem,
Atridas Priamumque et saevum ambobus Achillem.
constitit, et lacrimans “quis iam locus,” inquit, “Achate,
quae regio in terris nostri non plena laboris?
en Priamus! sunt hic etiam sua praemia laudi;
sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt.
solve metus; feret haec aliquam tibi fama salutem.”
sic ait atque animum pictura pascit inani
multa gemens, largoque umectat flumine vultum.

In the midst of the city was a grove, lovely with shade,
where first the Phoenicians, tossed by wave and wind,
dug up the token that royal Juno had revealed, the head
of a fiery horse, a sign that the race would excel in war
and prosper in their life down the centuries. Here
Sidon’s Dido was building a huge temple to Juno, blessed
with rich gifts and the Goddess’s holy presence, its steps
ending at a brazen threshold, the posts braced with bronze
and the hinges creaking on the gates, also of bronze.
Here first in this grove something he encountered
relieved his fears, here first he dared hope for safety
and, difficult as his fortunes were, to trust more in them.
For as he looks round in the huge temple,
waiting for the Queen, wondering at the city’s opulence,
at the skill of the craftsmen and the interplay of their
works, he sees the battles of Troy set out in order, the wars
now spread by fame throughout the world, the sons
of Atreus, Priam, and Achilles, savage to them both.
He stopped, and “What place now”, he said, “Achates,
What region in the world is not full of our labour?
Look, there is Priam! Here still are his tributes of praise;
tears for his lot, and mortal affairs touch the mind.
Relax your fears: this fame will bring you some safety”.
He spoke, and fed his spirit on the empty pictures, sighing
heavily, his tears wetting his face in a broad stream.


More Poems by Virgil

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