Aeneid for Boys and Girls - Alfred J. Church

The Arms of Aeneas

The old man Evander got up from his bed very early the next morning, put on his tunic and his sandals, girded his sword on his side, and, with the skin of a panther over his left shoulder, went to call Æneas. Pallas his son went with him, and two great dogs, which had lain all night by the door of his room, followed him. Æneas he found already awake and dressed, for, indeed, it was not a time when a man who had so much to think about could sleep long.

Evander said: "Great chief of Troy, we have all the good-will in the world for you, but we are poor and weak. There are but few of us, as you see, in this little town, and we can help you but little. Yet there is something which I can do for you; I can tell you of a people with whom you may make friends. They are neither few nor poor; they can help you much, as you also can help them. There is a city not far from this place which was built long ago by men from the land of Lydia; you know the Lydians well, for they are neighbours of Troy and fought for you. Long ago, when there was a great famine in their country, some of them came over the sea to Italy, and built a city, Agylla by name. Now the king of this city, Mezentius, was one of the most wicked of men, and after a while his people made a rebellion against him, and killed his guards, and set fire to his palace. The man himself escaped with his life, and fled to Turnus. So there is war between the people of Agylla—Tuscans they are called—and Turnus; for Turnus wishes to bring back the king and to set him over the people again. But when the Tuscans gathered their army together, and would have gone forth to war, a prophet said to them: 'Tuscans, you do well to be angry with your king, and to fight against him and his friends; but mark this, or you will not prosper,—no man of Italy must be your leader. You must have a stranger to command you.' When the Tuscans heard the prophet say this, they came to me and would have had me to be their leader. But I am old and feeble; and when they would have had Pallas my son, the prophet forbade, because the mother of Pallas was a women of Italy. You, therefore, are the man whom they look for: you are in your prime, and you are altogether a stranger in race. Do you then stand forth and be the leader of these Tuscans. And Pallas shall go with you and learn from you to be a good soldier. Two hundred horsemen I will send with you, and there are two hundred men who follow Pallas my son."

While the king was still speaking there was heard a great clap of thunder, though the sky was clear, and after the thunder the sound of a trumpet such as the Tuscans use. And Æneas knew that these were signs of good; and he said to the king: "Be of good cheer; all shall go well." Then he made ready to go. Some of his company he kept with him; to the rest he said: "Go back to the camp, for they may want you there."

So when he was ready to depart, Evander took him by the hand, and said: "How I wish that Jupiter would give me back the years that are gone. For I, too, was a good soldier in my youth. Did I not kill King Herulus, the man with three lives? Twice I killed him, and he came to life again, and then I killed him for the third time. If I were but such a one now, then either I had gone in my son's place or we had gone together. But now this is my prayer to the Gods: If it be their will that my son should come back safe and sound, then let me live to see him; but if not, then may I die this very day while he still lives and is my own."

When he had said this, he fell back fainting, and his people carried him into his palace.

Then the horsemen rode out from the city, four hundred of them in all, with Prince Pallas in the midst, fair as the Morning Star, the star which is fairer than all others, and which Venus calls by her own name. And they came to a grove where the Tuscans, under their leader, whose name was Tarchon, had pitched their camp.

And Venus had not forgotten her dear son. While he slept, she said to Vulcan her husband: "My husband, while the Greeks were fighting against Troy, I never asked you to make arms for my dear son, as did the goddess of the morning for her son Memnon; and the goddess of the sea for Achilles. For I said to myself: 'The gods have decreed that Troy shall fall: why should he waste his time and his labour in giving help where help cannot be of any use?' But now all things are changed. My son is come to this land of Italy by the will of the gods; but all the nations are gathering themselves together against him. I pray thee, therefore, to help him and me, that he may the more easily gain that which it is the pleasure of the gods that he should have. Make arms for him that he may conquer his enemies and be safe against their spears and swords."

Very early the next morning, as early as a woman who makes her living by spinning gets up to light her fire and set her servants to work so that her husband and her children may have food to eat, so early did the god of fire rise. He went to a certain island which is near to Sicily, where he had set up his forge. There the one-eyed giants, who were his servants, were hard at work. Some of them were making thunderbolts for Jupiter. Of these thunderbolts one was unfinished, and one could see the things of which it was made. There were three parts of hail, and three of storm-cloud, and three of red fire and of the south wind; and now they were putting in the lightning and noise and fear. Others of the giants were busy with other things. One was making a chariot for Mars, another a shirt of mail for Minerva. But the god cried: "Come, all of you, and do this new work which I have for you. Make arms and armour for the hero Æneas." So they set to work. Some of them melted gold and copper and tin, and some worked at the bellows, and some held the hot metal in pincers, and some dipped it in water.

They made a helmet with a nodding plume that blazed like fire, and a sword, and a shirt of mail, and greaves of gold for the legs, and a spear. But the greatest and most wonderful thing that they made was a shield. For on this the god wrought all the story of Rome and the Romans that were to be. There you might see the she-wolf in the cave of Mars suckling the two babes, for these had been put out to die by a cruel king, and the she-wolf found them, and carried them to her den, and suckled them as if they had been her own young ones. They lay, not fearing her at all, and she was turning her head and licking them as they lay. Also you might see how the Romans were carrying off the Sabine girls to be their wives; in another place there was the battle being fought, where their fathers and brothers came to take them back; in yet another the two kings making peace, so that thereafter the Romans and Sabines should be not two nations but one. Also King Porsenna was to be seen. For the Romans had driven out their king, and Porsenna had come to bring him back. There he stood with his hand stretched out, and on the other side the Romans stood in arms against him. Also the brave Horatius was guarding the bridge by which the enemy would have crossed the river, and the Romans were breaking it down behind him. And yet again the girl Clœlia, having been given as a hostage, had broken her bonds, and was swimming across the river. Also in another place you could see the hill of the Capitol, which, when all the rest of Rome was taken by the Gauls, yet remained. The enemy were creeping up the side, through the trees, and climbing up from rock to rock. Their hair was worked in gold, and so were their cloaks; they carried in each hand a spear, and each had a shield. But at the top the geese were fluttering about, for they were awake, though the very dogs were asleep. They were worked in silver, and the place where they were was worked in gold. And in the middle of the cliff stood the brave Manlius, thrusting down the Gauls just as they laid their hands on the very edge of the cliff. Other things were there to be seen. But the most wonderful of all was the great battle of ships between the East and the West. On one side was Augustus with the men of Italy behind him; on the other Antony, leading to battle Persians and Egyptians and many another barbarous tribe, and close behind him—a shameful sight—his Egyptian wife.

When Venus saw that Æneas was alone, for he had wandered away from his companions, she brought the arms, and laid them at his feet, saying: "These the god of fire has wrought for you. With these you need fear no enemy, no, not Turnus himself." Then she vanished.