8.1 Vergil, Aeneid, Book 6, Lines 295-332

5 min readmarch 11, 2023

Mick Polito

Mick Polito

AP Latin 🏛

24 resources
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In Unit 5, we read Book IV of the Aeneid. After reading Book V, VI and VII of Caesar’s Gallic War in unit 6 and 7, it may have been a LONG time since your class has discussed the Aeneid, so if you need a refresher (it’s perfectly ok if you do), take a look at our Unit 5 Guides.
Alright, now that that's out of the way, it's go time... let's review Unit 8!

Section One: Book VI: Descent to the Underworld

Lines 295-332

Book IV begins in the aftermath of Aeneas lamenting the loss of Palinurus, the previous helmsman of his ship. Aeneid and Sibyl, a guide to the Underworld, arrive at Cumae and prepare their descent to the Underworld, but Sibyl informs Aeneas that he will be halted by Charon at Acheron as unburied souls must wait one hundred years to cross. Let’s take a look at the lines for this section of the book.
Before we dive into breaking down the Latin text thought, so that we can more clearly comprehend, we'll answer some questions based on the designated skill categories. The skill categories for these lines are Reading and Comprehension and Translation, so be aware of that when you answer these questions and review these lines!

Lines 295-301

Hinc via Tartareī quae fert Acherontis ad undās
Turbidus hīc caenō vastāque vorāgine gurges
aestuat atque omnem Cōcytō ērūctat harēnam.
Portitor hās horrendus aquās et flūmina servat
terribilī squālōre Charōn, cui plūrima mentō
cānitiēs inculta iacet, stant lūmina flammā,
sordidus ex umerīs nōdō dēpendet amictus.
  1. Parse the Latin verb fert in line 1
  2. Identify the case of the Latin word caenō in line 2 (pay close attention)
  3. Identify the case AND number of the Latin words omnem and harēnam in line 3?
  4. What syntactic structure is terribilīs squālōre in line 5?
  5. Translate the word in context qui in line 5 and identify the case.

Answers (Don't peek!👀)

  1. Third-person singular present active indicativeFert comes from the third conjugation irregular Latin verb fero, the present infinitive ferre, the perfect active infinitive tuli, and the supine latum. In this case, the subject is Aeneas, of which is a “he” making it a third-person singular verb. Fero is declined initially without adding any vowels as most conjugations would rather do, but there is an “e” added in the imperfect and future tenses to distinguish the present tense. It’s active mainly because there is no “tur” instead of simply a “t”. Lastly, it’s indicative because there is the vowel “a” added in the subjunctive in third declension verbs, and there is not one shown in fert. Therefore, fert is translated as leads in this particular translation.
  2. Accusative singular: Omnem is from the masculine third declension adjective omnis, omnis in the nominative and genitive. Similarly, harenam is from the feminine first declension noun harena, harenae in the nominative and genitive. They both translate exactly like the nominative, thus making it accusative.
  3. Ablative: Caeno comes from the second-declension neuter word caenum, caeni in the nominative and genitive. In this particular translation, it means with mud meaning it can only be ablative now. Ablatives are translated as by, with, from, in, at, or on ___.
  4. Ablative of Description or Ablative of Quality: Ablative of Description is the ablative that becomes modified by a genitive or an adjective that denotes a quality for or of something else. In this particular translation, it means dreadful in his squalor. Here dreadful is the adjective that denotes the quality of Charon’s squalor.
  5. To whom or to which; dative singular: Cui is a phrase that is just as important as qui, quae, or quod, but often not taught to the same extent. Cui comes from qui itself and is translated as to whom or to which Charon in means of describing his dreadful appearance. Therefore, the dative is the only case that it can be because datives are translated as to or for ___.

Lines 317-320

Aenēās mirātus enim mōtusque tumultū. “Dīc,” ait, “ō virgō, quid vult concursus ad amnem? Quidve petunt animae? Vel quō discrīmine rīpās hae linquunt, illae rēmīs vada līvida verrunt?
Translate these lines as literally as possible.

Translation (don’t peek👀!)

Then Aeneas, stirred and astonished at the confusion, said: ‘O virgin, tell me, what does this crowding to the river mean? What do the souls want? And by what criterion do these leave the bank, and those sweep off with the oars on the leaden stream?
Remember if you have different words than we did, that’s perfectly acceptable! Just make sure they have the same meaning attached to them.

Breakdown of Lines 295-332 🔎

  • At the beginning of the required lines for Unit 8, Vergil vividly describes the filthiness of the Underworld. From the road to Acheron “thick with mud” and Coctyus filled with sand. Then, he shifts his attention to Charon himself, visualizing him in great detail.
  • Although we don’t nearly cross the river until the next section, Sibyl’s experience informs Aeneas of his details. Charon is “dreadful in his squalor” and “unkempt” in all aspects of his personal build, only reiterating how disgusting it truly is. He is old, not “fresh and green” anymore, which references the Old Testament and symbolizes his own Christian beliefs.
  • Vergil continues by shifting his attention to the depth of bodies within the river: “men and women,” “noble heroes,” and “boys and unmarried girls” in vast numbers by comparing it to leaves falling at “the first frost of Autumn” and the number of birds that flock during the “cold of the year." It’s clear that the river is full of bodies, dead in countless ways, with lives lived in innumerably diverse ways. The scene of the “cold” continues to bring the err of death as well.

Aeneas and the Sibyl, in the top right corner, near the shores of the Cocytus river as the undead enter through the mouth of the Underworld while Charon ferries Shades across the river. Image courtesy of University of Hieldelberg

  • The spotlight is then refocused back to Charon, who would be “denying others away,” including Aeneas, but accepting “now these,” which refers to the dead. Aeneas is astonished by this supposed denial and asks Sibyl what the big deal is about the masses of souls across the shoreline. Sibyl explains that these souls were “destitute and unburied” and that “those that the waves carry were buried.”
  • Therefore, Charon cannot carry them across the Styx until “their bones are at rest in the Earth” or their unburied souls must wait years before crossing. In retrospect, Vergil exposes Aeneas’s soft spot once more as he thinks deeply about the sad situation of the unburied souls and in turn pities their “sad fate in his heart.”
That's it! You're done with section one of this Unit. Keep going strong with us as we continue Unit 8!
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