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[The following translation by Ian Johnston of Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, Canada, has certain copyright restrictions. For details please use the following link: Copyright. First posted 201o. Revised October 2011.

For the full Table of Contents, click here.]



[Glaucus visits Circe and asks her help; Circe transforms Scylla into a monster; Aeneas continues his voyage; Aeneas abandons Dido, sails on to Italy, and consults the Sybil at Cumae; Aeneas visits the Underworld; the Sibyl tells her story; Achaemenides tells of his escape from Polyphemus; Macareus recounts the adventures he went through with Ulysses: Aeolus and the winds, the Laestrygonians, and Circe; Macareus recounts the story of Picus, Canens, and Circe; the Trojans bury Caiëta; Aeneas reaches Italy, marries Lavinia; Turnus fights the Trojans; Venulus visits Diomedes; Diomedes tells his story; Cybele saves the Trojan ships from fire, then sinks them; the ships change to sea nymphs; Aeneas triumphs over Turnus; Ardea falls and a heron rises from its ashes; Aeneas becomes a god; the first kings of Alba; Vertumnus courts Pomona; Iphis is rejected by Anaxarete, who is turned to stone; Romulus founds Rome; Sabines war against the Romans; Venus saves Rome from Tarpeia’s treachery; peace is declared; Romulus becomes sole king; Romulus and Hersilia enter heaven as gods]. 

Glaucus, who now lived in the swelling seas                               Glaucus and Circe
of Euboea, had left Aetna behind,
(a mountain sitting on a Giant’s jaws),
moved past Cyclops’ fields (where plough and harrow
were unknown and growing crops owed nothing
to straining teams of oxen), past Zancle
and walls of Rhegium across the sea,
and through the narrow ship-destroying strait
between two coasts which mark the boundaries                       
of Italy and Sicily. He forged ahead,                                             
with powerful strokes, across the Tyrrhene sea
and reached the grassy hills and halls of Circe,
daughter of the Sun, whose lands were filled                                         
with various wild beasts.* Once he’d seen her
and the two had greeted one another,
Glaucus cried:

              “Goddess, I’m begging you—
take pity on a god, for you alone
can ease this love of mine, if you believe
I’m worthy of your help. No one understands
more than I do the power herbs possess,                                 
for they once changed my shape. O Titan’s child,
if you are ignorant of why I feel
such frantic passion, I will tell you.
I saw Scylla on a beach in Italy,
facing Messana’s walls. I am ashamed
to talk about my promises, my prayers,
and my entreaties. Scylla scorned them all.
So if your charms have any influence,                                                  
then let your sacred lips recite a spell,
or if some herbs would have more potency,                            
apply the proven force of tested plants.
I am not asking you to make me well
or heal these wounds of mine. There is no need
to end my love. But let her have her share
of the heat I feel.”

                               Now, no one has a heart
more likely to catch fire than Circe does
(the cause of that could be within herself,
or else Venus, upset when Circe’s father
talked about what he had seen her doing,                                  
could have placed those urges deep inside her),                        
so she replied: *

                                        “It would be preferable
to chase someone whose wishes and desires
matched your own, a person captivated
by an equal passion. And you deserved                                               
to be the one pursued (there is no doubt
you could have been), and if you offer hope,
there will be those who court you willingly.
Trust me. If you doubt that and have no faith
in your appearance, then consider me,
a goddess, daughter of the glorious Sun,                                 
who has great power with spells and potions,
and yet I promise to be yours. So spurn
the one who spurns you, and reward the one
who now pursues you. In that single act
let your revenge repay the two of us.”

The goddess tried to tempt him in this way,
but Glaucus answered:

                                 “While Scylla is alive,
forest leaves will flourish in the ocean
and sea weed in the hills, before the love
I feel for her will ever change.”

                                                                   Circe                                60
was annoyed. She could not injure Glaucus                                            
(and, because she loved him, did not wish to),
so she took her anger out on Scylla,
the girl he had preferred to her. Enraged
her love had been rejected, she quickly
ground up some poisonous herbs, whose juices
were well known for their hideous effects,
and, once she had beaten them to powder,
she added certain spells from Hecate.
Wrapped in a dark blue cloak, she left her home,                     
moved through the pack of fawning animals,
and made for Rhegium, across the strait
from Zancle’s rocks. Walking atop the waves
and raging currents, as if setting her feet
on solid ground, and keeping her feet dry,
she skimmed along the surface of the sea.                                              

There was a small bay, shaped like a curved bow,
which Scylla loved for its tranquility.
When the Sun was halfway through his orbit,
at his height, and cast the smallest shadows,                             
she used to go there to escape the heat
from sky and sea. Knowing she would go there,
Circe spikes the waters, polluting them
with monstrous poisons and sprinkling juices
squeezed from noxious roots. Her magical lips
then mutter a cryptic incantation—
thrice nine times!—a dark, mysterious spell.
When Scylla comes and wades into the sea                                
Scylla is transformed
up to her waist, she sees around her groin                                              
some hideous barking monsters. At first,                                   
not thinking they are part of her own body,
she tries to run away and drive them off,
fearful of the creatures’ slavering mouths.
But what she seeks to flee, she drags with her,
and when she checks her thighs and legs and feet,
she finds, instead of these, the gaping jaws
of Cerberus. She stands there, surrounded
by a raging pack of ferocious dogs,
whose backs below her pelvis hold her up
and out of whom her shortened thighs and belly                      
now emerge.

                              Her lover Glaucus wept for her
and ran from Circe’s arms. The way she’d used
her power with herbs had been too cruel.
Scylla remained there. The first chance she got,                                    
she acted on the hate she felt for Circe,
by snatching away Ulysses’ comrades
and later would have sunk the Trojan ships,
if she had not been earlier transformed
into a reef, whose rocks, even today,
protrude above the surface of the sea,                                         
a hazard sailors still avoid.

                                                The oarsmen                                     Aeneas and Dido
in the Trojan ships rowed on past Scylla
and ravenous Charybdis.* As they approached
the shores of Italy, winds drove their ships
back to the Libyan coast, where the queen,
Sidonian Dido, welcomed Aeneas
to her home and heart. But when they parted
and her new Trojan husband went away,
she found the loss impossible to bear.*
Pretending to offer up a sacrifice,                                                 
120         [80]
she had a pyre built, then took a sword
and killed herself, deceiving everyone,
just as she had been deceived.

moved off once more, fleeing the brand new walls
of Dido’s city in the sand. Carried back
to the land of Eryx and loyal Acestes,
he made a sacrifice and offered presents
at his father’s tomb.* Then, after Iris,
on Juno’s orders, almost burned his ships,
Aeneas set sail, moving past the realm                                       
of Aeolus, grandson of Hippotas,
and lands with clouds of boiling sulphur fumes,
past those island rocks where the Sirens dwell,
the daughters of Acheloüs.* His ship
had lost its pilot, but kept sailing on
past Inarime, Prochyte, and Pithecusae,                                                  
built on a barren hill, a place whose name
is taken from the tiny apes that live there.*
Once long ago, the father of the gods,                                         
Cercopes are transformed
disgusted with the frauds and perjuries                                      
of the Cercopes and the criminal acts
of that deceitful people, changed them all
into misshapen beasts, making them look
like human beings and yet unlike them, too.
He shrunk their limbs and made their noses flat,
bent up towards the forehead, scarred their cheeks
with furrows and the wrinkles of old age,
and then, after covering their bodies
with yellow hair, he sent them to this place,
but not before he took away their speech,                                  
the power of those tongues born for deceit,
thus leaving them unable to complain                                                    
except with strident shrieks.

                                                      When Aeneas                              aeneas and the Sibyl
had passed these places and left behind him
on his right the walls of Parthenope
and on his left the tomb of Misenus,
a trumpeter and son of Aeolus,
he moved on to the swampy shores of Cumae,
full of marshy sedge, and then into the cave
of the long-lived Sibyl, entreating her                                         
to let him venture through Avernus to find
his father’s shade below.* For a long time,
the Sibyl kept her eyes fixed on the ground,
but then, inspired by the god within her,
she finally replied:

                                                                       “You are a man
who has done great things, whose right hand has stood
the test of war, whose faith was proved in fire.
What you are seeking is a mighty gift!
But, Trojan, do not fear, for you will have                                           
what you desire and, with me to guide you,                            
will see the dwellings of Elysium,
the strangest kingdom in the universe,
and the shade of your beloved father.
There is no path which virtue cannot tread.”*

As the Sibyl said this, she pointed out                                         Aeneas in the Underworld
a branch of shining gold among the trees
sacred to Avernian Juno, telling him
to break it from the trunk.* Aeneas did so
and beheld the power of dread Pluto.
He saw his ancestors and the old ghost                                      
of Anchises, his great-hearted father.
He also learned about that region’s laws
and all the dangers he would have to face
in future wars.

                                On his way back from there,                                      [120]
as with weary steps he trudged along the trail,
Aeneas tried to ease the tiring effort
by conversing with his guide from Cumae,
and, while moving up the daunting pathway
through the darkening twilight, said to her:

“Whether you are actually divine                                               190
or someone truly favoured by the gods,
you will always be just like a goddess
in my eyes, and I will confess my life
comes as a gift from you, for you let me
observe the places of the dead and then,
when I had seen them, led me back again.
To repay your kindness, when I return
and reach the upper air, I will construct
a temple in your honour and offer
gifts of frankincense to you.”

                                                          The priestess                           200
looked at him and, with a heavy sigh, replied:

“I am not a goddess. And you should not                                             [130]
honour a human being with a gift
of holy frankincense. Just to make sure
you do not, in your ignorance, do wrong,
I will tell my story. Phoebus Apollo                                         
Apollo and the Sybil
was in love with me and made an offer—
I could have eternal, never-ending life,
if I surrendered my virginity.
While he was still hoping to persuade me                              
and before I had agreed to his request,
he wished to bribe me with some gift and said:

‘Virgin of Cumae, choose what you want.
You will have whatever you desire.’

                                                          I pointed
to a heaped-up pile of dust and asked him
if he would give me as many birthdays
as those particles of dust, but like a fool,
I did not ask that all those years should come
with ageless youth, as well. Still, he offered me                                 
the years and eternal youth, provided                                      
I would have sex with him. I spurned his gift
and stayed unmarried. Now my happier years
have passed me by and, on tottering steps,
a sick old age comes on, which I must bear
a long time yet. I have already lived
through seven generations and still must see
three hundred harvests, three hundred vintages,
to match the number of those bits of dust.
The day will come when that long stretch of time
will shrink my body from its present shape                            
and my appendages, worn out with age,
will shrivel to a trifling size. And then,
it will not seem that I was ever loved
or that I pleased a god. Phoebus himself                                             
may well not recognize me or perhaps
he will deny he was my lover once.
I will be changed so much that men will say
they cannot see me. But they will know me
by my words, for the Fates will leave my voice.”

As the Sibyl said this, climbing along                                           240
the rising path, Trojan Aeneas moved
from the Stygian realm up into Cumae,
a city men from Euboea had built.
When, following his usual practices,
he had offered sacrifice, he went out
along the shore, which later on was named
after the nurse who once had cared for him.

Here, too, Macareus from Neritos,                                                Achaemenides
a comrade of adventurous Ulysses,
had settled after long and weary travels.                                    
He saw the Trojan group and recognized
Achaemenides, who he thought was dead,
abandoned years before on Aetna’s rocks.                                              
Amazed to see him so unexpectedly—
and still alive—Macareus shouted:

“Achaemenides! What god or chance
saved you from death? Why are you, a Greek,
on board a boat of barbarous Trojans?
And that ship of yours, where is it heading?”

Achaemenides, no longer wearing rags                                        260
and bits of clothing held in place by thorns,
was now the man he used to be.* He said:

“May I look on Polyphemus once again
and those jaws of his dripping human blood,
if this ship is not a finer place to me
than home and Ithaca and if I honour
Aeneas any less than my own father.                                                   
If I did everything I could for him,
there is no way I’d ever demonstrate
sufficient gratitude. Could I forget                                            
or not give thanks that I can speak and breathe
and gaze upon the sky and glorious sun?
Aeneas saw to it that this soul of mine
did not pass through the cyclops’ gaping mouth.
Even now, if I were to lose my life,
I know I would be buried in a tomb
and not that monster’s belly. How did I feel,
when you left me behind and I saw you
sailing out to sea? Well, my fear wiped out
all sense and feeling. I wanted to call out,                               
but was afraid I’d give myself away                                                      
to Polyphemus. Even Ulysses,
when he gave those shouts, almost sunk your ship.*
I saw the Cyclops tear a colossal rock
away from the mountainside and toss it
far out into the middle of the sea.
I watched again as his gigantic arms
hurled massive stones, just like a catapult.
Forgetting I was not aboard the ship,
I was terrified the waves and boulders                                     
might sink us all. But when you got away,
escaping certain death, Polyphemus
wandered all across Mount Aetna, groaning,
groping with his hands among the trees,
and, without his eye, stumbling on the rocks.
He stretched his bloodstained arms towards the sea,
cursed the race of Greeks, and cried:

                                  ‘O if some chance
would only bring Ulysses back to me
or one of his companions, then I would
vent my rage on him and eat his innards.                            
My hands would rip apart his living flesh,
and I would fill my gullet with his blood.
His torn-off limbs would quiver in my teeth.
And then losing my eye and going blind
would be no loss, or else a trivial one.’

He was so enraged, he kept on shouting
things like this and more. A ghastly terror
gripped me, as I saw his face still soaked in gore,
his savage hands, his eye ball’s gaping socket,                                   
his limbs and beard still caked with human blood.               
Death was there, right before my eyes, and yet
of all my troubles that mattered least of all.
I thought that any moment he would seize me
and then stuff his stomach with my innards.
My mind kept seeing a picture of the day
I watched the bodies of my two companions
being smashed repeatedly against the ground
and Polyphemus, like a shaggy lion,
jumping on them, swallowing their organs
and their flesh, with bones and marrow, too,                         
cramming their trembling limbs, still half alive,
in his voracious gut. I shook with fear                                                 
and stood there shocked, blood draining from my face,
as I observed him at his bloody feast,
chewing and belching and vomiting up
pieces of human bodies mixed with wine.
I thought he was preparing a fate like that
for me, as well, and so for several days
I hid myself, startled by every sound,
afraid of death, but longing to be dead,                                   
relieving my hunger pangs with acorns
and a mix of grass and leaves—all alone,
without hope or help, left abandoned there
to my afflictions and my death. But then,
after some time, I saw a ship far off.
I ran down to the shore and by waving
begged them to rescue me. And they were moved—
that Trojan ship welcomed a Greek on board!                                    
And now, my dearest comrade, you tell me
what you’ve experienced with Ulysses                                     
and that group of men, who, along with you,
risked life and limb to sail the open sea.”

Macareus then spoke about how Aeolus,                                     Ulysses and Aeolus
grandson of Hippotas, ruled the Tuscan sea,
and how that god had shut up all the winds
in an ox-hide bag, which Aeolus then gave
to the man from Ithaca, their leader,
an amazing gift. Sailing on from there
with favourable breezes for nine days,
Ulysses and his men could see the land                                      
they wished to reach. But when the tenth day dawned,
Ulysses’ crew were overcome with greed
and a desire for plunder, so the men,
thinking the leather bag contained some gold,
untied the strings which kept the winds confined.                                
These winds then blew the ship away from land,
back through the seas it had just sailed across,
until it once more sailed into the port
of Aeolus, their king.

continued with his story:

                                               “From there,                                   360
we went to the ancient town of Lamus,
a Laestrygonian, where Antiphates ruled.                               
I was sent to him with two companions.
We had to run away. I only just escaped,
with a single comrade. The other man,
the third one in our group, was eaten
by the Laestrygonians—their evil jaws
turned red with his dark blood—and as we fled,
Antiphates came after us, urging
his people to attack. They charged at us,                                 
hurling rocks and tree trunks, destroying ships                                 
and drowning men. But one ship got away,
with Ulysses and the two of us on board.
Full of grief and mourning our lost comrades,
we reached that land which you can see out there,
in the distance (and trust me when I say
that island is best seen from far away).
You are a goddess’ son and the finest
of the Trojans—for now the war is over,
I cannot hold you as an enemy—                                              
but, Aeneas, I warn you—stay away
from Circe’s coast!

                 We dragged our boat ashore                                     Circe and Ulysses
on Circe’s island, but, remembering
Antiphates and the savage Cyclops,
we too refused to move on any further.                                               
Not knowing anything about the place,
we held a lottery to choose some men
to go and check the house. My name was drawn,
so I was sent to enter Circe’s walls
with Eurylochus, faithful Polites,                                              
Elpenor (who was much too fond of wine),
and eighteen comrades.* But when we got there
and stood right by the entrance to her home,
a thousand wolves, with bears and lions, too,
rushed up to us. We were all terrified.
But there was no need for us to afraid.
The beasts had no desire to injure us.
They fawned on us, wagging their friendly tails,
and followed our tracks, until some servant girls
received us and led us through a hallway                                
400        [260]
roofed in marble to their mistress, Circe,
who was sitting in her lovely chamber
on a stately throne, dressed in a fine robe,
with a golden cloak around her shoulders.
Nereïds and nymphs are there together.
Their deft fingers are not working fleeces
or spinning slender thread, but setting herbs
in proper order, sorting out in baskets
flowers and variously coloured grasses
lying strewn in piles. Circe oversees                                         
the work they do, for Circe understands
the power of each leaf and the effects
herbs have when they are properly combined.
She watches closely and inspects each batch                                      
as it is weighed.

                                      When Circe saw us
we had greeted one another, her face
looked pleased and seemed to us to indicate
our prayers were answered. Without delay
she gave orders for a drink to be prepared
from toasted barley grains, honey, strong wine,                     
and curdled milk, all combined together.
Secretly she added special juices,
whose taste the sweetness of the drink would hide.
Her divine right hand offered us some cups,
and we accepted them and had a drink,
for we were thirsty, and our lips were parched.
Then that fearful goddess picked up her wand
and with it quickly tapped us on the head.
And then—I am ashamed to tell this part,
but I’ll continue—hair began to grow                                       
all over me, I could no longer speak,                                                    
but gave out raucous grunts instead of words.
I began to bend, till my entire face
was staring at the ground. I felt my mouth
harden into a turned-up snout, my neck
grew strong and fat, and these hands of mine,
which, a minute before, had raised the cup,
now were leaving footprints in the ground.
I was shut up in a sty with others,
all in the same state (that’s how powerful                              
those magic drugs can be!). But we noticed
Eurylochus was the only one of us
whom Circe had not changed into a pig,
the only one who had declined the cup
when it was offered. If he’d not done that,
I’d still be there, one of those bristly swine,
even today, for he would not have run
and told Ulysses of the great disaster,
and Ulysses would not have come to Circe                                         
to pay her back. Peace-bearing Mercury                                  
gave him a whitish flower growing out
from a dark black root (gods call it moly).
Protected by that plant and heaven’s warnings,
he entered Circe’s home, where she asked him
to take the poisoned cup. But when she tried
to stroke his hair, he knocked away her wand,
drew his sword, and terrified the goddess.
She backed away. But then the two of them
pledged their good faith by shaking their right hands,
and Circe took Ulysses as her husband,                                   
welcoming him in bed. There he asked her,
as a wedding gift, to give his comrades
their old bodies back. So she sprinkled us
with more wholesome juices of unknown herbs,
reversed her wand, and tapped us on the head,                                  
while muttering some charms to neutralize
the ones she used before. The more she spoke,
the more we stood erect, moving upward
from the ground. The bristles on our bodies
all dropped off, in our cloven feet the split                             
soon went away, our shoulders reappeared,
with arms and forearms properly in place.
With tears of joy, we embraced our leader,
hanging on his neck (and he had tears, as well).
We told him nothing of what we’d been through,
until we had expressed our gratitude.

We stayed on Circe’s island one whole year,
and in that time I witnessed many things
with my own eyes and ears. Among them all,
there is a story one of the servant girls                                    
480        [310]
who used to take part in the sacred rites
told me in secret. While Circe was away,
spending time with Ulysses on her own,
this servant took me to a young man’s statue,                       
Picus and Canens
a figure carved from marble white as snow,
and on his head he had a woodpecker.
It stood in a sacred shrine and was wreathed
with many garlands. Well, I wished to know
who the young man was, why he was worshipped
in a temple, and why the bird was there.                                 
So I asked the servant girl, and she replied:                            

‘Listen, Macareus. Pay attention
to what I say, and you, too, will find out
the powers of my mistress, Circe.
Picus, a son of Saturn, was a king                                                      
who ruled Ausonia.* He loved horses
trained for use in warfare. This hero looked
the way you see him here. You get a sense
of how good looking he was and, from this,
a statue of him, you can recognize                                        
his true appearance. And his character                                 
matched his good looks. As for how old he was,
he could not yet have seen four times those games
they hold in Grecian Elis each fifth year.*
His handsome looks made him enticing
to dryads born on Latium’s mountain hills.
Nymphs of the fountains sought his company,
and naiads, too, the ones Albula bore,
those born in waters of Numicius,
and in Anio’s stream and flowing Almo                               
(whose stretch of water is so very short),
and from the rushing Nar and Farfarus,                                           
with its dark shade, and those who haunt the pool
of Scythian Diana in the woods
and nearby lakes.* But Picus spurned them all
and fixed his heart on just a single nymph,
the daughter of a god, two-faced Janus.*
They say Venilia gave birth to her
on Palatine hill. When she was mature
and ready to get married, she was given                              
to Picus of Laurentum, whom she preferred
to all her other suitors. Her beauty
was exceptional, but her skill in singing
even rarer still and, given that gift,
they called her Canens.* That sweet voice of hers
could attract the trees and rocks, tame wild beasts,
hold back the flowing streams of lengthy rivers,
and arrest birds in their wandering flight.                                       
One day, when she was singing melodies
in her delightful voice, Picus left home                                
astride a lively horse, to hunt wild boar
who roamed around the lands of Laurentum.
He wore a purple cloak pinned with a clasp
of yellow gold. His left hand held two spears.

Now, Circe, daughter of the Sun, had left                              Circe and Picus
Circaean fields (which get their name from her)
and come to those same woods, wishing to pick
fresh herbs from fertile hills. Hidden by trees,
she glimpsed the youth and right away was stunned.
Her hand let go the herbs she had collected,                      
540        [350]
and she felt as if a burning flame had seared
her bones right to the marrow. When the shock
had passed and Circe had regained her wits,
she was about to say what she desired,
but could not come up close enough to him,
for his horse moved fast and his companions
formed a group around him. So Circe cried:

‘Although the wind may carry you away,
you will not escape, if I know my skill,
if my herbs have not lost all their power,                         
and if I am not wrong about my spells.’

After she said this, Circe conjured up
an insubstantial image of a boar
and ordered it to run out past the king,
right before his eyes, and then seem to go                                      
into a thick clump of forest, where the trees
were really dense and no horse could enter.
Without a moment’s pause, Picus instantly
followed the image of his prey, not knowing
it was false, quickly jumping off the back                            
of his sweat-soaked horse, to move ahead on foot,
proceeding through the deep part of the wood,
in pursuit of a vain hope. Meanwhile, Circe
muttered prayers and magic incantations,
worshipping unknown gods with unknown chants,
the ones she used for darkening the face
of the snowy Moon and drawing thirsty clouds
across her father’s head.* So back then, too,
as Circe sang her spells, the sky grew dark
and the ground breathed mist. The king’s companions     
570        [370]
wandered along blind trails, and Picus lost
the escort guarding him. Having prepared
the time and place, Circe said:

                                                     ‘By your eyes
which have captivated mine, by your form,
you most beautiful of men, which makes me,
though I am a goddess, your suppliant,
accept this love of mine, and take the Sun,
who sees all things, as your father-in-law.
Do not treat Circe harshly and reject
a Titan’s daughter.’

                                                 Circe’s plea ended.                   580
Picus fiercely spurned her and her appeals,
crying out:

                               ‘I am not the one for you,
no matter who you are. Another woman
holds me captive, and I pray she holds me
for a long, long time. As long as the Fates
keep Janus’ daughter Canens safe for me,
I will never break the vows that bind us                                       
by having an affair with any stranger.’

Circe kept repeating her entreaties,
but in vain. So she said:

                                        ‘You will not leave here                590
without being punished. Nor will you return
to Canens. Now you are going to learn
what a woman slighted in her love can do,
for Circe is a woman who’s in love,
and you have spurned her!’

                                                Circe turned around,                 Picus is transformed
twice towards the west, twice towards the east,
then touched young Picus with her wand three times
and three times uttered spells. Picus ran away
but was amazed to find that he could run
more quickly than before. On his body                                
he saw wings appear. Then he grew annoyed
that he had so suddenly been added
to the strange new birds of Latium’s woods                                    
and pecked hard oak trees with his solid beak
and, in his rage, inflicted injuries
on their long branches. Feathers on his wings
took on the purple colour of his cloak,
and the golden brooch holding it in place
turned into feathers, so around his neck
there was a ring of gold. Nothing remained                        
of what Picus had been, except his name.*

Meanwhile, his comrades call out repeatedly,
shouting for Picus throughout the countryside,
without success. Then they come on Circe
(by this time she has cleared away the mists
and let the sun and wind disperse the clouds).                               
They badger her with charges (which are true),
demand their king, make threats they will use force,
and are prepared to fight her with their spears.
She starts to sprinkle venomous juices                                
and harmful potions, calling on the Night
and gods of Night from Erebus and Chaos,
and prays to Hecate in long wailing cries.
Then (amazingly!) the trees spring upward
from their places, the ground begins to groan,
the neighbouring woods turn pale, and the grass
where Circe sprinkled is soaked with drops of blood.
It seems as if the rocks are groaning harshly,
dogs are barking, black snakes are slithering                                  
along the ground, and thin shades of the dead                   
are flitting about. The men all shake with fear,
astonished at these marvellous events.
As they watch in terrified amazement,
Circe taps their faces with her magic wand,
and, at its touch, those youthful men are changed
into wild animals of various kinds.
Not one retains the human form he had.

The setting Sun had bathed Tartessian shores,                    Death of Canens
while Canens’ eyes and heart waited in vain
for her husband to return.* The people                                
and her servants carried lamps and rushed around
all through the forest, trying to find him.
Although the nymph wept and tore her hair                                   
and beat her breast, all that was not enough.
She forced herself outside and moved around
in a frantic state through the Latian fields.
Six nights and six returns of the sun’s light
saw her going over hills and valleys,
as chance might lead. She did not eat or sleep.
River Tiber was the last to see her,                                       
as she laid her body down on his wide banks,
worn out by grief and wandering. And there
she wept and, as she mourned, sang quietly,
pouring out her sorrow, just as a swan
on the point of death sings its funeral song.                                   
At last her grief dissolved her very bones,
down to the tender marrow. Gradually
she pined away and vanished in thin air.
But where she died still recalls her story,
for ancient muses rightly called the place                           
after the nymph and named it Canens.’

In that long year at Circe’s home, I heard
many tales like that and witnessed many things.
But when we had grown lazy and lethargic
from relaxing for so long, we were ordered
to hoist sails again and set out to sea.
When Circe, the Titan’s daughter, told us
our voyage would be long and perilous,
with many dangers from the raging sea
lying in wait for us, I must admit                                              
I was afraid, so when I reached these shores,                                      
I went no further with them and stayed here.”

Macareus ended. Then they buried
Aeneas’ nurse in an urn of marble.
On it the Trojans carved this brief inscription:

The man I nursed, whose piety men praise,
saved me, Caïeta, from the Argive blaze
and here cremated me in righteous ways.

Loosening cables from the grassy shore,
they left that treacherous island far behind,                               
where the notorious goddess had her home,
and sailed on towards those wooded regions
where the river Tiber, covered in shade,
pours out his yellow sands into the sea.
And there Aeneas seized the royal house                                   
Aeneas in Italy
and married the daughter of Latinus,
son of Faunus, though not without a fight.                                             
He had to war against a hostile people,
and Turnus fought hard for his promised bride.*
All Etruria clashed with Latium,                                                   
an anxious, drawn-out struggle, with both sides
seeking hard-won victory.

                                                           Both armies                            Diomedes
tried to increase their ranks with foreign help.
Many men supported the Rutulians,
and many helped defend the Trojan camp.
Aeneas was successful seeking help
from Evander’s walls, but Venulus
made a futile trip to Diomedes,
who was now an exile, but had founded
a great city in the realm of Daunus,                                             
in Iapygia, and held land there
awarded to him as a marriage gift.*
Venulus carried out what Turnus ordered                                              
and requested aid, but Diomedes,
an Aetolian hero, declined to help.
He was unwilling to commit himself
or the forces of his father-in-law
in such a fight. He claimed he had no men
of his own race whom he could arm for war.
He said to Venulus:

                                 “In case you think                                        710
these are excuses, I will force myself
to tell my story, though to talk of it
rekindles painful grief.

                                  After high Ilium
was on fire and its citadel had fed
the Grecian flames and Locrian Ajax
had seized a virgin in a virgin’s shrine,
bringing to all of us the punishment
which he alone deserved, the Argive fleet
was scattered, its ships driven by the wind                                         
across unfriendly seas.* We Greeks on board                         
had to cope with rain, thunderbolts, darkness,
raging skies and waves, and, last but not least,
the Caphereus rocks.* I won’t detain you
with every detail of these sad events,
but back then even Priam might have thought
Greece deserved some pity. Still, in my case,
warrior Minerva took good care of me,
kept me alive, and saved me from the deep.
But then I was forced out of my homeland
once again, for that gentle goddess Venus,                             
remembering the old wound I gave her,
demanded punishment.* I had to face
such mighty hazards on the open sea
and such great challenges in war on land,
that many times I called those soldiers happy                                   
who perished in that storm we all went through
and in the restless Caphereus waves.
I often wished I had been one of them.
By now my comrades had experienced
the utmost miseries of war and sea                                          
and had lost their courage. So they begged me
to put an end to all our wandering.
But Acmon, who had a fiery temper
and at that time was even more incensed
by our disasters, shouted:

                                             ‘At this point, men,
what is there still left which your endurance
would refuse to bear? What more can Venus do,
beyond all this, assuming she might wish to?
While there are still more dreadful things to fear
there is room for prayer, but when men’s lot                      
is as bad as it can get, they trample fear
beneath their feet, and the most grievous ills                                 
do not concern them. Let Venus herself
hear what I say. Let her despise the men
Diomedes leads—and she does despise us—
we still scorn her hatred. Her great power
is hardly great to us.’

                                     These words of Acmon,                           
who came from Pleuron, insulted Venus
and stirred her ancient rage. Few of the men
approved of what he’d said, and most of us,                           
who were his friends, told Acmon he was wrong.
But when he tried to speak, his voice grew thin,                    
Acmon is transformed
as did his throat, his hair turned into feathers,
his shrivelled neck, his chest and back had plumage,
with larger feathers covering his arms.                                                
His elbows bent around to form light wings,
his feet were mostly toes, his mouth grew stiff
and hardened to a horny pointed beak.
Lycus, Idas, Abas, and Nycteus
watched in amazement, with Rhetenor, too,                          
and, as they stared, they took on the same form.
Most of my crew flew up on beating wings
and circled round the oarsmen. If you ask
what these birds formed so suddenly looked like,
they were quite similar to snowy swans,
although they were not swans. As for myself,
though I’m a son-in-law of royal Daunus,                                            
Iapygia’s king, I find it difficult
to hold this home as well as these dry fields
with the small group of comrades who remain.”                    

Diomedes, grandson of Oeneus,
had nothing more to say. So Venulus left
the realm of Calydon, then travelled on
past Peucetia’s gulf and reached Messapia,
where in the fields he saw a hidden cave
concealed in reeds, with many trees for shade.*
At that time goat-god Pan lived in the cave,
but it had once been occupied by nymphs.
A shepherd from that region of Apulia                             
had scared these nymphs and sent them running off                
in sudden fear. They soon regained their wits
and, ignoring the man pursuing them,                                         
A shepherd is transformed
resumed their choral dance, moving their feet                                       
to match the rhythm. The shepherd mocked them,
mimicking their dance with ungainly jumps
and adding foul abuse and filthy insults.
He did not shut his mouth until his throat
was wrapped in wood, for he became a tree,
and from its juice you sense his character,
for bitter berries of wild olive trees                                             
bear traces of that man’s insulting tongue.
The harshness of his words moved into them.

When the ambassadors returned from there
and reported Diomedes had refused
to assist them with Aetolian troops,
the Rutulians still carried on the war                                          
Turnus burns the ships
they had prepared for, without that help.
Plenty of blood was shed on either side.
Turnus attacked, bringing his hungry flames                                         
against the pinewood fleet, and Trojans feared                         
those ships the waves had spared would sink in fire.
Already Vulcan’s flames had set alight
pitch and wax and whatever else would burn
and were moving up the high masts to the sails.
In the curving ships the benches smouldered.
But then the sacred mother of the gods,
remembering these pines had been cut down
on Ida’s summit, filled the air with sounds
of beating cymbals and shrill boxwood pipes.*
As her tame lions drew her through thin air,                              
the goddess cried:

                             “Turnus! Your profane hands
are hurling fire in vain. I will save the ships!                                       
I will not allow your ravenous flames
to burn what once was part of my own grove.
Their bodies are my own.”

                                                 Once Cybele spoke,                        The ships are transformed
there was at first a growl of thunder and then
a heavy rainstorm fell, with pelting hail.
The four fraternal winds, Astraeus’ sons,
rushed into battle and with sudden gales
whipped up the air and swollen heavy seas.*                             
Then all-nourishing mother Cybele,
using one wind’s force, snapped the hempen ropes
on the Trojan fleet, swept the ships away
headlong out towards the sea and sank them.
As the drowned wood softened, it turned to flesh,
and curving stern posts changed to heads with faces.                           
Oars were transformed to toes and swimming legs.
What used to be a hull became a flank.
The central keel, running below the ship,
changed to a spine, the rigging and the ropes                            
were now soft hair, and yardarms turned to limbs.
Their colour stayed the same, a dark blue green.
As naiads of the sea, with young girls’ games
they splash around in waves they used fear,
and though they come from rocky mountainsides,
they dwell in gentle seas, quite unconcerned
about their origin. But those naiad nymphs
do not forget the numerous dangers
they had to face so often from the sea,                                                    
and frequently they place their helping hands                           
on ships tossed by a storm, except for those
which have had Greeks on board. For to this day,
they still remember the collapse of Troy
and hate the Greeks. They watched with happy smiles
when Ulysses’ ship was wrecked and felt great joy
to see that boat of Alcinoüs transformed
into a rock, as stone replaced its wood.*

When the fleet turned into living sea nymphs,                           The fall of Ardea
there was some hope the Rutulian force,
through fear of this amazing miracle,                                          
might end the fight. But Turnus would not stop.
Each side had its gods, and each had courage,
which matters just as much in war as gods.
But now they were no longer waging war
to obtain a dowry or a kingdom,
or the sceptre of a father-in-law,
or even you, virgin Lavinia.                                                                       
They fought because each wanted victory
and would have felt disgraced if he had stopped.
Finally Venus saw her son prevail,                                               
and Turnus fell, as did Ardea, too,
a city which, while Turnus was alive,
was thought to be so strong. When savage fires
had consumed the place and all its houses
were buried in hot ash, a bird flew out,
a kind no one had ever seen before.
It rose up from the middle of the ruins,
beating the embers with its flapping wings.
Everything that fits a captured city
was in that bird—in its cry, its leanness,                                    
and its pallor. In it the city’s name
lives on, for people call it ardea,
or heron, and every time it beats its wings,
the people of Ardea mourn their fate.                                                     

The virtues of Aeneas had now forced                                          Aeneas becomes a god
all the gods, including even Juno,
to bring their ancient quarrels to an end.*
And since the fortunes of young Iülus,
his growing son, had been firmly secured,
it was time for the heroic son of Venus                                       
to enter heaven. Venus had petitioned
gods above on her son’s behalf and now,
throwing her arms around her father’s neck,
she said:

              “You’ve never been unkind to me,
but now I’m begging for a special favour.
Please grant my Aeneas, who, through my blood,
is your grandson, a touch of the divine,
however small, so long as you give some.                                               
He has already crossed the river Styx
and seen the hateful kingdom of the dead.                                 
One visit is enough!”*

                                             The gods agreed.
Even Jupiter’s wife did not look unmoved
and nodded her consent, and her face showed
that she was satisfied. Then Jupiter spoke:

“You are worthy of this gift from heaven,
both you who ask and he for whom you ask.
My daughter, you may have what you desire.”

Jupiter spoke. Venus was overjoyed.
She thanked her father and then, borne away
through light air by her harnessed pair of doves,                       
reached Laurentum’s shore, where the reedy stream
of the Numicius winds its way down
to the nearby sea. Venus told the stream                                                
to cleanse Aeneas of all those part of him
which could be harmed by death and carry them
in his silent currents deep into the sea.
The river god with horns performed the task
that Venus had assigned, and his waters
purged Aeneas of what was mortal in him,
washing it away. His best parts remained.                                 
Once his body had been purified, his mother
anointed it with heavenly perfume,
wiped a special ointment on his lips,
a mixture of ambrosia and sweet nectar,
and transformed Aeneas into a god.
The Roman people called him Indiges
and welcomed him with altars and a shrine.

After that, Alba and the Latin realm                                             The kings of Alba
were under the rule of Aeneas’ son
who had two names, Ascanius and Iülus.                                    
Silvius succeeded him, and his son,                                                         
Latinus, took the name and ancient sceptre
of his ancestor. After Latinus
famous Alba reigned, and then Epytus.
The first king following him was Capys,
then Capetus. After them, Tiberinus
inherited the realm and, when he drowned
in a Tuscan stream, it acquired his name,
the Tiber. He had two sons—Remulus
and fierce Acrota. Remulus was older,                                         
but was wiped out by a strike of lightning                                  
while trying to imitate its fiery flash.*
More moderate Acrota passed the sceptre
to valiant Aventinus, who was buried                                                     
on the very hill where he had once been king,
a hill to which he gave his name. After him,
Proca ruled the people of the Palatine.*

Pomona lived during king Proca’s reign.                                      Pomona and Vertumnus
In Latium no other hamadryad
had more skill than she did in her garden                                   
or was more attentive to the fruit trees
from which she got her name.* Streams and forests
did not interest her. She loved the countryside
and branches bearing ripening apples.
In her right hand she did not clutch a spear,
but held a pruning knife she used sometimes
to cut back plants whose growth became too lush,
or slice off branches spreading here and there.
Sometimes she slit the bark to graft a stem,                                          
providing nourishment for different stock.                                 
She never let her plants get dry and thirsty,                               
but trickled water on the winding tendrils
of the roots to let them drink. Pomona
loved her orchard. It was her great delight.
She did not want the love which Venus brings,
but still, afraid of some uncouth attack,
she built a wall around her orchard grounds,
to stop men, whom she shunned, from reaching her.
What did those men not do in their attempts
to get their hands on her—the youthful satyrs,                         
whose age made them well suited for a dance,
the Pans with wreaths of pine around their horns,
Sylvanus, always younger than his years,
and Priapus, the god whose pruning hook                                              
and massive penis frighten thieves away?*

Now, Vertumnus adored this nymph, as well.
He loved her more than any of the rest.*
But he had no more luck than other men.
O how many times did he disguise himself
as a simple reaper and bring her baskets                                    
filled with ears of grain, the very image
of a farmer who has just brought in his crop!
He frequently showed up with fresh-cut hay
around his head, as if he could have come
from turning new-mown grass, and many times
he clutched an ox goad in his solid fist,
so one could take an oath he had just finished
unharnessing his weary team of bulls.
If given a knife, he was a pruner
who dressed and tended vines, if a ladder                                  
lay across his shoulder, you could well think                                         
he was setting out to pick some apples,
if he held a sword, he was a soldier,
and with a rod, he was a fisherman.
In fact, with these numerous disguises
he often was allowed inside the garden,
where he could enjoy himself by gazing
at Pomona’s beauty. Once he even came
as an old woman leaning on a stick,
wearing a coloured scarf, with graying hair                                
around his temples. He gained admittance,
walked in the beautifully tended garden,
admired the fruit trees there, and said to her:

“It makes you seem even more attractive!”

And to emphasize his praise, he kissed her
a few times in a way no real old woman
ever would have done. Then, stooping over,
he sat down on the grass and gazed upward
at branches loaded down with autumn fruit.                                          
There was a splendid elm tree facing him                                   
holding clumps of shining grapes. Vertumnus
stared at the tree and its companion vine,
and said:

                       “But if this tree stood by itself
and was not wedded to the vine, it would
have nothing anyone would want to take
except its leaves. And the vine now resting
on the elm and joined to it would lie there
on the ground, if not wedded to the tree
and leaning on it. And yet you are not moved
by this example of the tree and vine,                                       
for you shun marriage and have no desire
to join with anyone. O I wish you did!
You would have more suitors pestering you
than Helen did or Hippodamia
who made the Lapiths fight the centaurs,                                           
more than Penelope, Ulysses’ wife,
when he spent all that time away from home.
Even now, when you reject all suitors
and run from them, a thousand men want you,
along with gods, demi-gods, and spirits,                                 
all those deities who haunt the Alban hills.
But if you are wise and want a good man
for your husband and wish to hear the words
of a woman who is older and loves you
more than all the others, more than you think,
then decline all common offers and choose
Vertumnus as a partner for your bed.
I can vouch for him, for I know him well,
just as well, in fact, as he knows himself.
He is not one to wander round the world,                               
1040       [680]
roaming everywhere. He remains right here
and farms the land. And unlike most of those
pursuing you, he does not fall in love
with some young girl he’s only just now seen.
No. You will be his first and final love.
To you alone he will devote his life.
Besides, he is young with natural charm.
He can also quickly disguise himself
in any shape. And if you order him
to go through all of them, he will become                               
whatever you command. What’s more, you both
like similar things. He is the first to get
the apples which you grow and is so happy
when his hands are holding gifts from you.
But this time he does not desire the fruit
from your orchard trees or those garden herbs                                   
with their sweet juice. The only thing he wants
is you. Take pity on his flaming love,
and imagine that the one who loves you
is here in person pleading through my lips.                            
You should fear the avenging deities
(for Idalian Venus hates unfeeling hearts)
and the wrathful memory of Nemesis.*
To make you fear them more, I will recount
a tale from Cyprus, a well-known story
(for my old age has taught me many things).
It may make you easier to persuade
and help you change your mind.

                                    Once, long ago,                                         Iphis and Anaxarete
Iphis, a man of humble parentage,                                            
saw noble Anaxarete, a girl                                                        
descended from the blood of ancient Teucer.*
When he saw her, he felt the flames of love                                        
in every bone. He fought against that fire
for quite some time, but once he realized
his reason could not overcome his passion,
he went as a suppliant to her door,
where he talked about his aching feelings
to the young girl’s nurse and appealed to her,
by the hopes she had for Anaxarete,
not to be too hard on him. At other times,                             
he spoke to each of the servant women,
complimenting them and trying very hard
to win goodwill and ask for favours.
Often he gave them tablets to deliver,
full of his flattering words. And sometimes
he hung garlands damp with dewy tears
up on the doorpost and would lie down there,
across her threshold, with his tender ribs
resting on hard stone, cursing the harsh bolts                                    
that barred his way.

                                                         But Anexarete,                     1090 
crueler than the surging sea when the stars
of those Young Goats sink down, harder than iron
refined in fires at Noricum or rock
in its natural state, still fixed in place,
spurned and mocked him.* And to these spiteful acts,
she added proud, insulting words, as well,
robbing the man who loved her of all hope.
Iphis could not endure the agony                                                
Death of Iphis
of his long torment, and before her door
he cried out these last words:

                                                     Anexarete,                            1100
you win! You will no longer have to bear
my pleas to you, which you find tedious.
Prepare your joyous triumph and call on
Paean, god of victory! Crown your brows                                         
with splendid laurel! For you have conquered,
and I am glad to die! Your iron heart
should start rejoicing, for surely you must now
find something you can praise about my love,
an action I have done to make you happy,
and admit I had some worth. Remember                             
that the love I feel for you did not end
before my death. Now, in the same instant,
I lose the lights of life and love together.
No rumour will announce my death to you,
for I will come in person. Do not doubt that.
I will be there. You will see me present,
and you can feast those cruel eyes of yours
on my lifeless corpse. But, you gods above,
if you see what mortals do, remember me
(my tongue can pray for nothing more than that).             
1120        [730]
In times to come let people tell my story,
and to my fame add on those extra years
you’ve taken from my life.’

                                                            Iphis finished.
He raised his weeping eyes up to the doorposts
where he had often hung his wreaths of flowers.
Then, lifting his pale arms up to the lintel
he attached a rope, made a noose, and cried:

‘Here’s a garland you will find delightful,
you mean and vicious girl!’

                                                           He thrust his head
inside the noose and hung there, his throat crushed,            
a mournful, heavy sight. And even then
he was still facing her. His twitching feet
kept kicking at the door, making a sound
which seemed to be demanding to come in,                                       
and when the door was opened, people saw
what he had done. The servants gave a shout
and cut him down, but it was now too late.
They took the body to his mother’s home
(for his father had passed on). She hugged him
to her breast, embracing the icy limbs                                     
of her own son. When she had said the words
a mourning parent says and done those things
a grieving mother does, she walked, in tears,
and led the mourners in a funeral march
through the centre of the city, bearing
the pale corpse on a bier toward the fire.
As it so happened, the sad procession
made its way down a street close to the home
of Anarexete, and their laments
came to the ears of that hard-hearted girl,                              
whom now some god of vengeance forced to act.                              
For all her stony heart, the sounds of mourning
moved her, and she said:

                                            ‘Let us take a look
at this sad funeral.’

                                       She went upstairs                                  Anexarete is transformed
to a rooftop room with open windows
and, looking down, saw Iphis lying there,
stretched out on his bier, and in that instant
her eyes froze, the warm blood left her body,
and she turned pale. She tried to step away
but both her feet were rooted to the floor,                              
and when she strove to turn her face aside,
she found that was impossible, as well.
Little by little, the stone which had lived
so long in her hard heart gained possession
of her body. And if you think this tale
is just a story, there is a statue
of that lady still kept in Salamis,
a place which also has a temple shrine
which people call Venus Prospiciens,                                                   
the Venus who looks on.

                                               Remember this,                              1170
my nymph. I beg you put aside your pride,
which has gone on too long, and join yourself
to the man who loves you. Then cold weather
will not hurt your budding fruit in springtime,
and gusting winds will not remove your flowers.”

The god Vertumnus, in old woman’s clothes,
told the story, but it had no effect.
So he took off his costume and returned
to being a young man once again. To her
he seemed just like an image of the Sun                                     
when his most brilliant light breaks through the clouds
that hide his face and shines out unopposed.
Vertumnus is ready to use force with her,
but there’s no need. The beauty of the god                                             
has seized the nymph, and she feels a passion
equal to his own.

                                          Unjust Amulius                                      The Sabine War
was the next king to rule Ausonia,
relying on military force. But then,                                              
old Numitor, who had lost the kingdom,
got it back—a present from his grandson—                               
and on the day of Pales’ festival,
they marked the founding of their city, R0me.*

*The Sabine chieftains, led by Tatius,
waged war against them, and when Tarpeia
showed them the way to take the citadel,
she received the punishment she deserved,
being crushed beneath a pile of weapons.*
Then some men from Cures, their voices hushed                      
Venus saves Rome
like silent wolves, attacked the Roman guards
while they were fast asleep and charged the gates                    
1200       [780]
which Romulus, son of Ilia and Mars,
had closed and firmly barred. But then Juno,
Saturn’s daughter, opened one of the gates,
which swung back on its hinges silently.
Venus was the only one to notice
that bars holding the gate had fallen off.
She would have pushed them back, except no god
ever is permitted to reverse the acts
of other gods.

                             The naiads of Ausonia
lived close to Janus’ temple, in a spot                                          
kept moist by waters from an ice-cold spring.
Venus went to these naiad nymphs for help.
They did not refuse, for what the goddess
asked of them was just. So they called upon
the streams and rivers which supplied their spring.
But not even they could block the Janus gate.
It was still open. The flowing water                                                         
had not barred the way. And so those nymphs
placed yellow sulphur deep in the bubbling spring
and warmed its hollow veins with burning pitch.                      
By this and other forceful means, the heat
moved down the spring, to the very bottom,
and those waters which, a moment ago,
could dare to rival freezing Alpine cold,
were now so hot they matched the heat of fire!
Both doorposts by the entranceway now smoked
from fiery spray, and the gate which promised
to let tough Sabines through the city walls
was now, thanks to these new waters, blocked,
until the warlike Romans armed themselves.                            
After that, Romulus led his armies
outside the walls, and Roman ground was strewn                                 
with Sabine bodies and with Rome’s own sons.
The blood of son-in-law and father-in-law
was mixed by evil swords, until at last
they all resolved they would not fight it out
to the bitter end but let peace end the war
and Tatius have a share in ruling Rome.

When Tatius died, then you, Romulus,                                        Romulus is made a god
ruled both people equally. At that point,                                    
Mars removed his helmet and spoke these words
to the father of both gods and men:

now the Roman state has firm foundations
and does not depend on just one champion.
It is time for you to hand out that reward
you promised me and your worthy grandson.                                     
Raise Romulus from the earth, and set him
here in heaven. For you once said to me
when we were in a council of the gods
(I well recall the gracious words you spoke                            
and made a note of them):

                                           ‘There will be a man
whom you will raise to the azure heavens.’

That’s what you said. So let those words of yours
be carried out in full.”

                                               Jupiter nodded.
Then the all-powerful father of the gods
hid the sky behind dark clouds and terrified
the world with thunder rolls and lightning strikes.
Mars knew this was a sign allowing him
to carry off his son, as he’d been promised.
Leaning on his spear he boldly vaulted                                       
1260       [820]
into his chariot. The horses were in place,
straining underneath the blood-stained pole.
With a flick of his whip he urged them on,
and, driving his team headlong through the air,
landed on the top of wooded Palatine.
There he swept up the son of Ilia,
who was administering royal laws
to his own people. The mortal body
of the king disappeared into thin air,
just as, in mid flight, a lead ball often melts                              
when the broad strap of a catapult sends it
hurtling through the sky. After that, his form
was beautiful and more appropriate
for the lofty couches of the heavenly gods,
like Quirinus in ceremonial robes.*

Romulus’ wife, Hersilia, mourned him
when he was gone. But then royal Juno
ordered Iris to go down her curving path                                                
and tell the widowed queen of her commands:

“O queen and chief glory of your people,                                  1280
the Latin and the Sabine race, worthy
in earlier days to have been the wife
of such a mighty hero, you now deserve

to be with Quirinus as his consort.
So end these tears of yours. If you desire
to see your husband, follow where I lead,
to that lush grove on the Quirinal hill,
which shades the temple of the Roman king.”

Iris obeyed and, gliding down to earth
on her coloured rainbow, spoke to the queen,                           
as Juno had commanded. Hersilia
found it difficult to look at Iris                                                                 
and, in all modesty, replied:

                                                       “O goddess,
(for though I cannot tell who you might be
you clearly are divine), lead the way, then.
Lead on and let me see my husband’s face.
If Fates will give me just one glimpse of him,
I will declare that I have entered heaven.”

They did not linger. With Thaumas’ daughter
Hersilia climbed the hill of Romulus.                                          
There a star fell, gliding from sky to earth.
Its fiery light set the queen’s hair ablaze,
and with that star she rose up in the sky.
The founder of the Roman city held her
with the hands she knew so well and changed her,
both her name and the way she looked before.                                      
Now he calls her Hora. She is a goddess,
united with her partner Quirinus.


*The Giant under Aetna was Typhoëus, who had fought against Zeus and was imprisoned underground in Sicily, with Mount Aetna above his head. Zancle was a city in Sicily on the Straits of Messina and Rhegium the city in Italy directly across from it. The Tyrrhene Sea is alongside the west coast of Italy. Glaucus is moving around the end of Italy and northward up the coast. Circe, as mentioned previously, was in Greek mythology the daughter of Helios, the Titan god of the sun. She was not a daughter of Apollo, whom Ovid usually identifies as the god of the sun. [Back to Text]

*The Sun had observed the adulterous affair of Venus and Mars and had informed Vulcan, Venus’ husband. For Ovid’s treatment of the story see 4.249 ff. above. [Back to Text]

*Charybdis was a monster in the form of a whirlpool on the side of the strait opposite Scylla. [Back to Text]

*Aeneas married Dido, who was building the city of Carthage in North Africa, but then left her in order to fulfill his destiny of founding his own city in Italy. [Back to Text]

*The land of Eryx is Sicily and Acestes is a king there. Aeneas’ father, Anchises, had died on the journey. Ovid is here offering a very compressed summary of events told in much greater detail in Virgil’s Aeneid. [Back to Text]

*For the story of how the daughters of Acheloüs became the Sirens, see above 5.859. [Back to Text]

*These names refer to islands off the west coast of Italy. [Back to Text]

*Sibyls were prophetesses who could read the will of the gods. Avernus was a region in Italy where people believed there was access to the underworld. Parthenope was the name of the city that later became Naples. [Back to Text]

*Elysium was a special place for those shades of the dead who had been given an afterlife much happier than the one in Hades. [Back to Text]

*Avernian Juno is a title sometimes given to Proserpine, goddess of the Underworld. [Back to Text]

*Achaemenides was one of Ulysses’ comrades sailing back from Troy. He and a few others were captured by Polyphemus, the Cyclops. In Homer’s Odyssey Polyphemus eats a number of the men he has trapped in his cave. Ulysses tricks Polyphemus, blinds him, and leads his men back to their ship. [Back to Text]

*As Ulysses was sailing away from the island, he shouted taunts at the blind Cyclops on the shore. Polyphemus hurled two rocks in the directions of the sound and almost swamped the Greek ship. [Back to Text]

*In Homer’s Odyssey, Elpenor has too much to drink and, as a result, falls off the roof of Circe’s house, killing himself. [Back to Text]

*Ausonia is the name of a region in southern Italy and sometimes refers to Italy generally. [Back to Text]

*This reference is to the games held at Olympia, in the Peloponnese. [Back to Text]

*Albula was an old name for the Tiber river, running through the site of Rome. The Numicius was a river in central Italy. The Anio was a tributary of the Tiber, as were the Almo, a very short stream, and the Nar. The Farfarus was a river in Umbria. Riley notes that Diana is called Scythian because her worship is said to have come into Italy from Scythia. [Back to Text]

*Janus was an Italian god with two faces looking in opposite directions. The Palatine was one of the hills in Rome. [Back to Text]

*Canens, from the verb cano, means singing. [Back to Text]

*Circe’s father, as mentioned before, was in Greek mythology, the Titan god of the Sun. [Back to Text]

*Picus is the Latin for woodpecker. [Back to Text]

*The name Tartessus is a reference to the western coast of Europe. [Back to Text]

*The daughter’s name was Lavinia. She had already been promised to Turnus, king of the Rutulians, a people in Latium. [Back to Text]

*Evander had founded a town on the future site of Rome. Venulus was an ambassador sent by Turnus. Diomedes was an important warrior chief in the Achaean forces at Troy (as we learn in Book 13). He had been forced out of his own city in Greece (as he explains below). Daunus was a king in Iapygia, a region in south-east Italy. [Back to Text]

*Locrian Ajax (the Lesser Ajax) was the son of Oïleus. Ovid calls him the hero of Naryce, a town in Locris. During the sack of Troy, Ajax assaulted Cassandra, a daughter of Priam, in the temple of Minerva, thus bringing divine anger down on the Greek forces during their return home. Ajax, along with a number of others, was drowned in a shipwreck. [Back to Text]

*Capareus was a headland on the island of Euboea where several of the ships returning from Troy were wrecked. [Back to Text]

*In Homer’s Iliad, Diomedes wounds Aphrodite/Venus on the battlefield (scratching her wrist). In Homer’s account of the war, Venus consistently supports the Trojans. [Back to Text]

*The land controlled by Diomedes, given to him as a wedding gift, was called Calydon after the Greek city. Peucetia and Messapia were regions in southern Italy. [Back to Text]

*The sacred mother of the gods is Cybele. [Back to Text]

*Astraeus was a Titan who fathered the four major winds. [Back to Text]

*Alcinoüs, king of Phaeacia, organized a ship to take Ulysses back home to Ithaca. Neptune was outraged and turned the boat on its return journey to a rock in the sea. [Back to Text]

*The ancient anger of the gods goes back to the Judgment of Paris, when the Trojan prince gave the apple “for the fairest” to Venus, rather than to Juno or Minerva, an action which led to the abduction of Helen, the Trojan War, and the animosities among various gods who took sides in that human conflict. [Back to Text]

*For Aeneas’ trip to the Underworld, see 14.153 ff. [Back to Text]

*Apparently, in order to impress his subjects, Remulus constructed machines to imitate the noise of thunder and the flash of lightning. [Back to Text]

*The Aventine Hill was one of Rome’s seven hills. Palatine was another. [Back to Text]

*Pomum is the Latin for fruit. [Back to Text]

*Sylvanus was a Roman god of the fields, wood, and flocks. Priapus was a minor rural deity noted for his huge, permanently erect penis. The Pans are deities of the woods. [Back to Text]

*Vertumnus was an Italian god of the changing seasons. [Back to Text]

*Here, as before, Ovid refers to the goddess of retribution by the name of Rhamnus (see 3.623). The phrase Idalian Venus refers to Idalium, a mountain in Cyprus. [Back to Text]

*Teucer, the Greek warrior leader at Troy, survived the war and arrived home, but was banished by his father Telamon for not avenging the death of Ajax. Teucer went to live in Cyprus, where he founded the city of Salamis. [Back to Text]

*The Haedi or young goats were two stars in the constellation Auriga. Their setting was associated with severe storms. Noricum, a region between the Alps and the Danube, was famous for its iron. [Back to Text]

*Numitor had been removed from the throne by his younger brother Amulius. Numitor’s grandson, Romulus, killed Amulius and restored Numitor to the throne. Pales was a goddess of flocks and herds. The walls of Rome were built by Romulus. [Back to Text]

*The Sabines were a people living near Rome. Tarpeia was the daughter of the Roman commander of the citadel. She let the enemy in, demanding some payment. Tatius ordered his soldiers to give her, as her reward, their shields, telling his troops to throw them at her, all at once, so that she was killed. [Back to Text]

*Quirinus was a Sabine deity, identified with Romulus. [Back to Text]


[Back to Table of Contents for Ovid’s Metamorphoses]



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