reading Virgil, if you cannot read Latin yet: II of III / by Anthony Gibbins

At the end of last year, I was playing around with a model for introducing the Aeneid to folks who can’t read Latin yet. I don’t have time to pursue this hoc tempore at this time, but I thought I’d share the format in case anyone else sees value in it. No doubt they could do with an edit, but I will present them as is. Over three posts I will cover lines 1-49. nb: Contrary to custom, I will post them UNDER the picture and translation. They are quite long.

But, when I afterwards returned to the dumpster, the suitcase was not there. Perhaps she has an accomplice. 'She?' Monas asks. 'She,' the woman repeats.

Recap: Virgil introduces the theme of his poem, arms and a man. The man (not yet named) is Aeneas, distinguished for his pietas, but tossed about on land and sea. Virgil wants to know why Juno, the queen of the gods, would force such a man to undergo such trials. He asks the Muse. There was a city, she says, Carthage, which Juno loved more than all others. She wished it to be the kingdom of all races. If by any means the Fates might allow it.


progeniem sed enim Troiano a sanguine duci
audierat, Tyrias olim quae verteret arces;
hinc populum late regem belloque superbum
venturum excidio Libyae: sic volvere Parcas.                                     lines 19-22


progeniem sed enim Troiano a sanguine duci audierat: The Muse, or Virgil, continues. enim for sed however audierat she* had heard (*Juno) progeniem an offspring duci to be being drawn a from Troiano sanguine Trojan blood. This offspring, the audience knows, is the Romans, descendants of the Trojan Aeneas.

Tyrias olim quae verteret arces: The Relative Pronoun quae refers here to the offspring. Normally, we would understand this as ‘who’, but Latin has a clever trick of changing the Mood of a Verb to achieve various effects. Done in conjunction with the Relative Pronoun, as here, it can express Purpose. Therefore, quae verteret is understood as to overthrow. olim at some time Tyrias arces Tyrian citadels. She had heard that an offspring was being drawn to at some time overthrow Tyrian citadels. You may remember that the Carthaginians came originally from Tyre in Phoenicia.

hinc populum late regem belloque superbum venturum excidio Libyae: The Muse continues narrating what Juno had heard. (Whom had she heard this from? That is one of the great mysteries of the Aeneid). hinc from here venturum would come populum a people regem ruling (this is actually a poetic use of the word ‘king’, but we must understand it as ruling) late widely -que and superbum proud (or arrogant, it all depends on your point of view) bello in war excidio for the destruction Libyae of Libya. Libya was the region of North Africa in which the Tyrians had settled and founded Carthage.

sic volvere Parcas: This concludes what Juno had heard. sic thus Parcas the Parcae volvere were unrolling. The representation of Fate in the Aeneid is somewhat fluid. The Parcae, for example, are three sisters, Clotho (Spinner), Lachesis (Measurer) and Atropos (Inevitable) who collectively spin the lives of women and men. Are we to believe them also responsible for the rise and fall of world powers?


id metuens, veterisque memor Saturnia belli,
prima quod ad Troiam pro caris gesserat Argis—
necdum etiam causae irarum saevique dolores       
exciderant animo: manet alta mente repostum
iudicium Paridis spretaeque iniuria formae,
et genus invisum, et rapti Ganymedis honores.                                lines 23-28


id metuens: metuens fearing. id this. We will hear of other reasons why Juno is forcing Aeneas to suffer, but it behoves us to keep the destined destruction of Carthage in mind.

veterisque memor Saturnia belli: Fearing this -que and; there are further reasons why Juno is upset. First, however, we are reminded of her impressive lineage; Saturnia daughter of Saturn. Saturn was Juno’s father, supreme among the previous generation of gods until Jupiter, Juno’s brother and husband, usurped his throne. The Adjective, memor remembering, is now employed to describe Juno. Twenty lines ago it was used to describe her anger. Remembering what? Remembering the veteris ancient belli war.

prima quod ad Troiam pro caris gesserat Argis: Another Relative Pronoun; the war quod which gesserat she had waged prima as leader ad Troiam at Troy pro on behalf of caris Argis [her] dear Argos. Argos was a city in Greece, another location considered sacred to Juno. In many cases, where individual Greek cities are named, Virgil means Greece more broadly.

necdum etiam causae irarum saevique dolores exciderant animo: The first word is really two smashed together; nec nor dum yet etiam also causae the causes irarum of [her] anger -que and saevi [her] fierce dolores sorrows exciderant had fallen out animo from [her] mind. Virgil takes us back, to the causes of anger and fierce sorrows that predate (and perhaps explain) the Trojan War.

manet alta mente repostum: manet there remains repostum stored away alta in her deep mente mind. This is only half a sentence. What follows are brief illusions to three memomories, each stored up in Juno’s deep mind, and each a cause of her anger.

judicium Paridis spretaeque iniuria formae: First Cause. iudicium Paridis the judgement of Paris -que and iniuria the insult spretae to her spurned formae beauty. A famous episode from the broader story of the Trojan War; the Trojan prince Paris is approached by three goddesses, Juno, Minerva and Venus, and tasked with choosing the most worthy (or beautiful, depending on the version). He chooses Venus and is rewarded with the love of Helen, which indirectly starts the war. Juno’s anger, moreover, outlasts the destruction of the city.

et genus invisum: Second Cause. et and invisum the hated genus race. Juno already had it in for the Trojans. According to legend, Dardanus, the founder of Troy, was the son of Jupiter, Juno’s husband, and Electra. This was reason enough.

et rapti Ganymedis honores: Final Cause. et and honores the honours rapti of snatched Ganymedis Ganymedes. Ganymedes was the brother of the current Trojan king. When both were young, Jupiter, in the form of an eagle, carried Ganymedes to Mount Olympus and made him his cup bearer. Juno had wanted this honour to stay with their daughter, Hebe.


his accensa super, iactatos aequore toto
Troas, reliquias Danaum atque immitis Achilli,
arcebat longe Latio, multosque per annos
errabant, acti fatis, maria omnia circum.
tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem!                                 lines 29-33


his accensa super: A new sentence with accensa enflamed describing Juno. Enflamed his by these things super in addition. In addition, that is, to the Trojan War and the destined destruction of Carthage.

iactatos aequore toto Troas, arcebat longe Latio: Enflamed by these things arcebat she was keeping away Troas the Trojans iactatos tossed about toto on the whole aequore sea longe far Latio from Latium. Latium, remember, is the region in Italy where Aeneas will found Lavinium.

reliquias Danaum atque immitis Achilli: A bleak description of the Trojans. They are the reliquias Danaum leftovers of the *Danaans (*another word for Greeks) atque and immitis Achilli of fierce Achilles. Achilles was, of course, the most formidable warrior of the Greeks.

multosque per annos errabant, acti fatis, maria omnia circum: -que and errabant they* were wondering (*the Trojans) per throughout multos many annos years acti driven on fatis by the Fates circum around omnia every maria sea.

tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem! erat it was tantae of so great molis a burden condere to found Romanam gentem the Roman people! This is the end of the poem’s introduction. The next line begins the narrative proper.