5.2 Vergil, Aeneid, Book 4 Lines 259-295

5 min readseptember 26, 2020

Jack Marso

Jack Marso

AP Latin 🏛

24 resources
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Book 4

After Iarbas insults 🤬 his father and asks him to act upon the “marriage” of Dido and Aeneas, Jupiter comprehends his request and sends Mercury, the messenger ✉️ god, to Aeneas. Mercury is instructed to inform Aeneas to leave Carthage where Mercury will now spot Aeneas managing the building of the new city. Let’s watch how this conversation plays out.
Before we dive into breaking down the Latin lines into the text we can more clearly comprehend, we will answer some questions based on the designated skill categories! The skill categories for these lines are Translation and Contextualization

Lines 268-276

Ipse deum tibi mē clārō dēmittit Olympō
rēgnātor, caelum et terrās quī nūmine torquet,
ipse haec ferre iubet celerēs mandāta per aurās:
quid struis? Aut quā spē Libycīs teris ōtia terrīs ?
Sī tē nūlla movet tantārum glōria rērum
nec super ipse tuā mōlīris laude labōrem,
Ascanium surgentem et spēs hērēdis Iūlī
respice, cui rēgnum Ītaliae Rōmānaque tellūs
  1. What is the Roman AND Greek name for the “king of the gods”?
  2. What mountain do the gods inhabit?
  3. What does Vergil refer to as “Libyan lands"?
  4. Why does Vergil include naming Aeneas's son both Ascanius AND Iulus?
  5. What lands does Mercury say that Aeneas will ultimately create?

Answers (Don't peek!👀)

  1. Roman; Jupiter, Greek; Zeus
  2. Mount Olympus
  3. Carthage: Libya was on the coast of the city of Carthage
  4. It’s a reference to Roman dictator Julius Caesar: Gens Julia is commonly known as the Roman clan that Julius Caesar belonged to. Julius Caesar always pronounced that he descended from Ascanius, the son of Aeneas, and thus of relation to Venus.
  5. Rome: This was prophesied by Apollo in Book III of the Aeneid.

Lines 279-286

At vērō Aenēās aspectū obmūtuit āmēns ,
arrēctaeque horrōre comae et vōx faucibus haesit.
Ārdet abīre fugā dulcēsque relinquere terrās,
attonitus tantō monitū imperiōque deōrum.
Heu, quid agat? Quō nunc rēgīnam ambīre furentem
audeat adfātū? quae prima exordia sumat?
atque animum nunc hūc celerem nunc dīvidit illūc
in partēsque rapit variās perque omnia versat.
Translate these lines as literally as possible

Translation (don’t peek👀!) Remember if you have different words than I did, that’s perfectly acceptable 😀 Just make sure they have the same meaning attached to them.

Aeneas, bewildered at the sight, was astonished, and his hair rose in shock, and his voice fixed in his throat. He was glad to have departed, fleeing, and leave that glorious land, startled by the warning and the divinity's command. Alas! What do I do? With what words shall I take up for the love-sick queen? What opening words should I select? And he drew his mind back and forth quickly, contemplated the situation from all perspectives, and altered it in every way.

Breakdown of Lines 259-295 🔎

  • Mercury has now “reached the builder’s huts” and caught sight of Aeneas creating towers 🗼and houses 🏠. Aeneas’s sword was starred with “yellow jasper” and a cloak draped from his shoulder glowing with a “Tyrian purple” that could only be created with tens of thousands of snails that produce a color that doesn’t die out as it grows older but brighter and more elaborate. Simply, it’s an extravagant and rich gift that was given to Aeneas by the elegant queen Dido that she even made by “interweaving the cloth with golden thread.”
  • Mercury immediately scolds Aeneas by in a nutshell 🥜 wondering why Aeneas is building out Carthage when he should be building the lofty walls of Rome. Mercury marvels to think that his only reason for doing this was because he is “married” to Dido and has forgotten his “kingdom and his fate.”
  • Mercury shifts his discussion in why he has come to talk with him in the first place stating that Jupiter sent him down from Mt. Olympus ⛰️, ordering Mercury to relay a message through “the swift breezes” emphasizing the urgency of the situation. Mercury asks what his intentions are in Carthage and ponders why he’s wasting time when it can be reapplied in better ways.
  • Mercury concludes that if Aeneas won’t contemplate the “glory of fortune 💰” or push himself towards “his own fame 😎” that instead, he should think about his heir of the future “kingdom of Italy and the Roman lands” his own son, Ascanius, who’s becoming older while his expectations are growing. As Mercury speaks, he “vanished from the sight of men” and “dissolved into thin air.”

Depiction of the Roman messenger god, Mercury. Image Courtesy of Amsterdam Municipal Department for the Preservation and Restoration of Historic Buildings and Sites

  • Aeneas is stunned at the sight of Mercury, speechless even, as “his hairs are standing on end” and “his voice obstructed his throat.” Aeneas burns to leave the scene fleeing, leaving the glorious land while remaining in disbelief of the warning ⚠️ and the order from the divinity.
  • Aeneas begins to speak to himself as he asks three questions surrounding what he should do and how he should tackle speaking 🗣️ or even deceiving Dido in means of potentially departing. However, Aeneas hasn’t made up his mind quite yet as his mind is “cast back and forth swiftly” while considering the decision 🤔 from every possibility or route. Should Aeneas stay in Carthage or comply with the orders of the gods?
  • Aeneas has officially made his decision, although it originally isn’t known to the readers, just known that it was the best decision, barring the circumstances. However, once Aeneas called his three most trusted men, it became clear what his decision was.
  • Aeneas orders Mnestheus, Sergestus, and Serestus to “ready the fleet 🚢 in silence”, “marshal the men on the shore”, “ready the ship’s tackle” and “hide the cause of renewing plans.” While those orders are being completed, Aeneas will move forward in action with Dido. Aeneas, “since magnificent Dido knows nothing 🤫” and wouldn’t expect him leaving after recently being wed, he would attempt an approach of times most pleasant for speaking and of the right manner. In the end, all of the Trojans happily 😃 and quickly obeyed his orders while completing his commands.
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