Virgil's Aeneid

Book 1

Part 1: Juno's hatred; the storm (lines 1-156)

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Virgil's theme: a man dogged by the implacable hatred of an unforgiving goddess.

My epic theme is war, and a man who, through fate, came as a refugee from Troy's coasts to Italy, and the shores of Lavinium. This man was battered helplessly both on land and at sea by the viciousness of the higher powers, thanks to the obdurate wrath of Juno the savage. Much, too, did he suffer through war, until he could establish a city, and bring his gods home to Latium. This is how the Latin peoples came to be, whence the forefathers in Alba, and the walls of mighty Rome. [7]

Muse, remind me of the reasons: through what damage to her power, what wound, did the queen of the gods drive a man famous for his respect to live through so many agonies? Can so potent a fury blaze in a god's heart? [11]


There was an ancient city (colonists from Tyre had founded it) - Carthage, opposite Italy and the mouths of the Tiber, though distant, rich in resources but hardened through its focus on war, a city which Juno is supposed to have sponsored, the one place in all the world she loved more than Samos. Here she kept her armoury, here her war-chariot was housed. The goddess intended it to rule the world, should fate allow: already then she was grooming it and nurturing it. But she had heard that a race sprung from Trojan blood was on its way, one day to conquer the Tyrian city, and then a people - unchallenged in rule and dominant in war - would bring extinction to Libya: for so the Fates were intending. [22] Saturn's daughter dreaded this, and recalled the just-finished war, which she had masterminded at Troy for her beloved Argos. The triggers of her rage, and her unbearable hurts were still vivid in her memory: fixed in her mind were Paris' choice, with its deadly insult to her beauty, his loathed family, and the preference given to Ganymede, plucked [from Troy by her husband].Fuming at these outrages, she had been keeping some Trojans, survivors from the Greeks and implacable Achilles, far away from Latium, storm-tossed hither and yon across the ocean, and for many years they had been drifting, blown by the fates around the world's seas. To plant the Roman nation was a mountainous task. [33]

The Storm

They were only just out of sight of the land of Sicily, and light-heartedly hoisting sail for the sea-crossing, as their ships breasted the waves that foamed around the bronze bows, when Juno, keeping open the wound to her heart, [was thinking] to herself: "Am I beaten? Must I give up the attempt? Can I not keep the Trojan leader away from Italy? I am forbidden by the fates. Really? Was Pallas able to burn the Greek fleet and drown the crews in the sea over the crime and madness of Ajax son of Oileus - just one man? She flung Jove's instant fire from the clouds and shattered their ships, with winds churning the seas, while she snatched him up in a whirlwind breathing out flames from where his chest had been blasted, and impaled him on a rock. Meanwhile I, who am titled queen of the gods, and am both Jove's sister and his wife, wage war with a single family for years on end. And does anyone honour the might of Juno any more, or kneel at my altars to show me respect?" [49]

With her heart fired up as she brooded on concerns like these, the goddess arrived in the land of the storm-clouds, a womb-like place swollen with pent-up raging winds, Aeolia. Here, in an immense cavern, king Aeolus controls the boisterous winds and the booming storms with his power, and disciplines them with shackles in their prison. They, rejecting this, protest, their murmurs magnified as they strain to burst the barred gates around the mountain. Aeolus sits on a high vantage-point holding his rod, and calms their passions, and cools their rage. If he did not, most assuredly they would take the seas and the vault of heaven with them, as they swept through the air. But the almighty father, fearing this, has confined them in the dark cave, and placed an immovable mass of mountain peaks above them, and has given them a ruler who knows, according to fixed procedure, how to tighten the reins and, when ordered, how to loosen them. To him Juno then appealed, showing full respect, with these words: [64]

"Aeolus, it was to you the father of gods and men gave the task both of stilling of the waves and whipping them up with wind. A people that are my enemies sail the Tyrrhenian sea transporting Troy and its beaten gods to Italy. Let rip the winds! Swamp the ships and sink them! Or blow them apart and scatter the corpses over the ocean! I have fourteen Nymphs of exceptional loveliness; I will give the most beautiful of them, Deiopea, to you in a lasting marriage and make her yours, so that in return for this service she may spend all her days with you, and make you the father of beautiful children." [75]

This was Aeolus' reply: "It is your prerogative to ask for whatever you desire. My duty is to execute your orders. You allow me this modest domain, you win me the protection and favour of Zeus, you permit me to be entertained at the feasts of the gods, and make me ruler of the storm-clouds and tempests." [80]

So saying he aimed his trident at the shell of the mountain, and drove it into the wall: the winds like an invading army surged to where he had made the opening, and blasted out across the world with hurricane force. Eurus and Notus together descended on the sea, and set all of it in motion, right from its lowest depths, while Africus, specialist in squalls, simultaneously rolled mighty breakers towards the coastline: what followed was men screaming and ropes creaking. Suddenly clouds removed the sky and the daylight from the Trojans' sight. Inky darkness hovered over the water. The heavens resounded, and the horizon sparked with a myriad lightning flashes: everything seemed to the crews to threaten instant extinction. [91]

At once Aeneas' limbs grew stiff with cold: he groaned, and extending both arms towards the sky he voiced such thoughts as these: "How blest indeed were those who had the good fortune to fall in front of their parents, before the walls of Troy! Diomedes, strongest of the Greeks, could you not have slain me, and released this soul of mine with your right hand on the plains of Ilium, where brave Hector lies, thanks to Achilles' spear, and mighty Sarpedon too, where the river Simois washes over so many shields and helmets sucked beneath its waters, and so many corpses!" [101]

As he cried out these words, a rasping head-on blast from Aquilo smacked his sail, and a wave lifted the ship skywards. With the oars now smashed, he was forced to gybe and expose the ship beam on to the waves: a mountain of water towered above them like a cliff. Some were poised on a wave crest, others could see where the tide sucking back exposed the sea-bed amid the waters. The surf and the sand seethed. Three times Notus captured the ships and spun them on to the lurking shoals (the Italians call these rocks among the waves "the Altars", a great hog's back just below the surface), three times Eurus drove them from the deep water into the shallows and the quicksands - a sight to bring tears - and stranded them on a bank, clogging them with piles of sand. [112]

One ship, which carried the Lycians and stalwart Orontes, was swamped before the leader's eyes by a massive sea that crushed its stern: its helmsman was thrown clean off head first; but as for the boat itself, three times the wave spun it round violently on the same spot, before the churning whirlpool sucked it down into the deep. A few could be seen swimming on the surging tide, amid weapons and wreckage and Troy's treasure. Now the storm takes the sturdy ship of Ilioneus, now that of brave Achates, and the one Abas sailed in, and old Aletes' too. With the joints in their hulls weakened, all the ships surrendered to the attacking waters pouring through the cracks. [123]

Neptune objects to Aeolus' action

But meanwhile Neptune felt the sea moving and grumbling mightlily, as he realised that a storm had been launched. He was greatly displeased, and calmly lifted his head above the wave crests, looking out far over the deep. He saw Aeneas' fleet strewn across the entire ocean, the Trojans swamped by the waves as destruction rained from the sky. And Juno's treachery and evil temper did not escape her brother's notice. He summoned Eurus and Zephyrus, and spoke to them thus: [131]

"Is that all loyalty to a parent means to you? Do you dare, winds, without my authority, to throw land and sea into confusion, and to destroy such mighty achievements? You, whom I ...! But the first task is to smooth the surging waves. Afterwards you shall pay for your crimes with a suitable punishment. Fly as fast as you can, and say this to your king: it was not to him that the harsh trident and dominion over the seas were given, but to me. He controls a vast cavern, Eurus, your home; let him discipline himself in that vault, and let Aeolus rule with the door of the prison of the winds shut." [141]

So he spoke, and no sooner had he done so than he sedated the heaving waters, gathered the clouds and dispersed them, and restored the sun. Cymothoë and Triton working together dislodged the ships from the jagged reefs; Neptune himself brought peace with his trident as he uncovered the huge sandbanks, and glided lightly above wave-tops in his chariot. Just as happens when a riot breaks out in a great city, and the ignorant crowd goes wild; now firebrands and stones begin to fly, and insanity fuels the fight; but then, if it happens that they see a man they look up to and respect for his achievements, a hush descends, they patiently lend him their ears. When he speaks, he wins control, and brings peace to their hearts and minds. So all that sea noise subsided, after its father, taking in the problem, travelled across the sky for all to see, guiding his horses, and, letting out the chariot reins as he accelerated. [156]

What was happening to Aeneas meanwhile?  [Next Page?]