Omens and prophecy are everywhere in classical literature, as this selection from the work of Virgil shows.

In Book 2 of the Aeneid, the priest, Laocoon, foretells here all too correctly that misfortune will follow if the Trojans bring the wooden horse left by the Greeks into their city.

As Troy falls, Aeneas’s father, Anchises, at first prefers death to escape until omens from the Gods persuade him here that his descendants can be saved and achieve great things.

Thwarted by Aeneas and the Trojans, the leader of the monstrous Harpies predicts here that they will meet hardship so severe that they will gnaw their tables (fortunately the threat will turn out to be exaggerated).

The priest-King Helenus prophesies during Aeneas’s travels here that a white sow will show him the site of the future city of Alba that his son, Ascanius will found.

As Aeneas prepares for his journey to the underworld, the terrifying Cumaean Sibyl prophesies here that his path to settlement in Italy will lie through suffering and war.

As Aeneas arrives in Italy at last, his coming is heralded here by omens involving a swarm of bees and an alarming accident to Princess Lavinia as she sacrifices with the King, her father.

Finally, the prophecy here in one of Virgil’s Eclogues, or pastoral poems, of a birth heralding a future golden age, seen by later Christian ages as possibly foretelling the nativity of the Christ, may be a celebration of a great dynastic marriage.

This selection introduces us to beasts and monsters, starting gently with the wolf that Horace met one day. He was clearly frightened, but with the benefit of nature documentaries we know that the wolf was probably more afraid of him.

Horace’s wolf

A wise Trojan priest pays a terrible price for warning the Trojans about the Trojan horse.

Laocoon

Troy is doomed to fall at the fateful moment when the horse enters the city.

The Trojan Horse

On their wanderings, Aeneas and his band encounter a flock of foul flying creatures.

The Harpies

On his journey to the underworld Aeneas sees Tisiphone, tormenter of the damned in Tartarus.

Tisiphone

The underworld again: this time the poet is Horace, and the visitor the God Bacchus. Fortunatey he is good with dogs, as he must pass the kennel of the fearsome three-headed guardian, Cerberus.

Cerberus

In the illustration, the sea-nymph Thetis is using her shape-changing gift to try to escape the hero Peleus: they became the parents of Achilles.

See the index to Latin selections on PantheonPoets.com here.