reading Virgil, if you cannot read Latin yet: III 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.

'Then I will find the thief -or thieves,' Monas declares. 'Do not worry yourself Ms... - excuse me, what is your name?' 'Ravena,' she says.

Recap: The goddess Juno is keeping the Trojan refugees from reaching Latium, in Italy. She is opposed to the Trojans for a number of reasons, primarily their fated destiny to found the Roman race, the race which will one day destroy her beloved city of Carthage. She keeps the Trojans at sea. As the story proper opens they have been wandering for many years.

Please Note: There is description of sexual violence in lines 39-41 and violent death in lines 42-45.


vix e conspectu Siculae telluris in altum

vela dabant laeti, et spumas salis aere ruebant,

cum Iuno, aeternum servans sub pectore vulnus,

haec secum: 'mene incepto desistere victam,

nec posse Italia Teucrorum avertere regem?                                                lines 34-38


vix e conspectu Siculae telluris in altum: The narrative now begins. But not at the beginning – that would be dull. Instead it begins mid-wandering, as the Trojans sail from the island of Sicily. vix barely e out of conspectu sight Siculae telluris of the land of Sicily in altum into the deep.

vela dabant laeti: There is an evocative sailing idiom in Latin, to give the sails to the wind. And now, barely out of sight of Sicily, dabant they* were giving (*the Trojans) vela the sails. And the rest? It appears that the idiom was so well known, that Virgil did not feel the need to finish it. The Adjective describing the Trojans is laeti happy. This seems strange considering what has come before.

et spumas salis aere ruebant: et and ruebant they were driving before them spumas froth(s) salis of salt aere with the bronze. This makes little sense, until we realise that the prows of the Trojan’s ships were bronze-coated. Then it becomes quite the image.

cum Iuno, aeternum servans sub pectore vulnus: Before long, Juno enters the narrative. cum Juno when Juno servans preserving aeternum vulnus the eternal wound sub pectore beneath her chest.

haec secum: [said] haec these things secum to herself. It is quite common to leave out – gap – Verbs of speaking, as here. Especially when what is spoken follows on immediately.

'mene incepto desistere victam: -ne indicates that what follows is a question (albeit a rhetorical one). But the particular Forms of the Verbs and Pronouns used* indicate a certain indignation. me* Am I victam defeated desistere* to desist incepto from my undertaking. It continues.

nec posse Italia Teucrorum avertere regem? nec nor posse* to be able avertere to turn away regem Teucrorum the king of the Teucrians Italia from Italy. Teucrians is another name for Trojans, after an early Trojan king Teucer. Aeneas is not a king, but he has become their leader.


quippe vetor fatis. Pallasne exurere classem

Argivum atque ipsos potuit submergere ponto,

unius ob noxam et furias Aiacis Oilei?                                              lines 39-41


quippe vetor fatis: quippe Surely vetor I am forbidden fatis by the Fates. Juno is not happy, and there may be a touch of sarcasm in quippe. Notices the link between ‘forbid’ and ‘veto’.

Pallasne exurere classem Argivum atque ipsos potuit submergere ponto: Juno now compares her situation with that of Pallas. Pallas is an honorific title of Minerva, the Roman equivalent of Athena, and Juno’s inferior. –ne indicates another question, again rhetorical; she knows full well what happened. Did Pallas exuere Pallas destroy with fire classem Argivum the fleet of the Argives atque and submergere sink ipsos the men themselves ponto in the sea. The question continues.

unius ob noxam et furias Aiacis Oilei? ob on account of noxam the guilt et and furias the madness unius of one man Aiacis Oilei Ajax Oileus? As the Greek soldiers ransacked Troy on the night of its destruction, Ajax dragged a Trojan priestess, Cassandra, from a temple of Pallas, where she had taken refuge, and raped her.


ipsa, Iovis rapidum iaculata e nubibus ignem,

disiecitque rates evertitque aequora ventis,

illum expirantem transfixo pectore flammas

turbine corripuit scopuloque infixit acuto.                                         lines 42-45


ipsa, Iovis rapidum iaculata e nubibus ignem: Juno recounts the actions of Pallas, responding to her own question. ipsa she* herself (*Pallas) iaculata hurling rapidum the swift ignem fire Iovis of Jupiter e from nubibus the clouds. The swift fire of Jupiter is, of course, the lightning bolt.

disiecitque rates evertitque aequora ventis: -que both disiecit she scattered rates the rafts –que and evertit she overturned aequora the sea(s) ventis with the winds. Having recently referred to the ‘fleet’ of the Argives, Juno now calls their ships ‘rafts’. Is this perhaps a comment on their vulnerability when faced with the power of Pallas and the lightning bolt of Jupiter?

illum turbine corripuit: corripuit she snatched up illum him* turbine in a whirlwind. *He is Ajax, the rapist.

expirantem transfixo pectore flammas: Now Juno describes Ajax in his final moments, struck with lightning and lifted through the sky. expirantem breathing out flammas flames transfixo from his pierced pectore chest.

scopuloque infixit acuto: -que and infixit she fixed [him] acuto on a sharp scopulo crag.


ast ego, quae divum incedo regina, Iovisque

et soror et coniunx, una cum gente tot annos

bella gero! et quisquam numen Iunonis adoret

praeterea, aut supplex aris imponet honorem?'                               Lines 46-49


ast ego, quae divum incedo regina: Juno’s continues to compare Pallas’ power with her own seeming impotence. ast but ego I quae who incedo parade around regina as queen divum of the divine ones.

Iovisque et soror et coniunx: -que and et soror both sister et coniunx and spouse Iovis of Jupiter. Jupiter and Juno were both the children of Saturn. After Jupiter usurped his father’s power, the two were wed.

una cum gente tot annos bella gero! gero I wage bella wars tot for so many annos years cum with una one gente people! The Trojans, of course.

et quisquam numen Iunonis adoret praeterea: Juno now asks herself two (connected) questions. The first. et literally and, but better understood here as expressing Juno’s indignation. praeterea afterwards quisquam will anyone adoret entreat numen the divinity Iunonis of Juno.

aut supplex aris imponet honorem?' aut or supplex as a supplicant imponet place honorem honor aris on [my] altars? Here end’s Juno’s monologue. In the lines that follows we will watch as she puts a new plan into action.