Aeneid for Boys and Girls - Alfred J. Church


The next day Æneas set forth to see what the land to which they had come might be. First he hid the ships in a bay which was well covered with trees, and then he went, and Achates with him. In each hand he carried a spear with a broad point. As he went his mother Venus met him. She had taken the shape of a girl, wearing the dress of a Spartan huntress. On her shoulders she carried a bow, and her hair was loose, and her tunic was short to the knees, and her upper garment fastened with a knot. The false huntress said to them:

"Stranger, tell me whether you have seen one of my sisters hereabouts. She has a bow and a quiver, and has the skin of a spotted lynx round her."

Æneas answered: "O lady, I have not seen such an one as you speak of! Lady, I call you, but you seem to be more than mortal woman, such is your look and such your voice. Surely you must be a goddess, perhaps the sister of Phœbus, or one of the nymphs who wait upon her. Whoever you are, look kindly on us, and help us. Tell us now what is this land to which the winds have driven us, for we know not what it is, or who dwell in it."

Venus said: "I am no goddess as you think, stranger. It is the custom for us girls of Tyre to carry a bow and a quiver, and to wear the dress of a huntress. For it is a Tyrian city to which I belong though the country is Africa. Our queen is Dido, and she came to this land from Tyre, flying from the wicked king, who was brother to her husband. This husband was a certain Sichæus, who was the richest of the Tyrians, and there was great love between him and his wife. But the king of the country was very greedy after gold, and he made a quarrel with his brother Sichæus, and took him unaware, even when he was doing sacrifice at the altar, and killed him. For a long time the king hid the matter from Dido, saying that he had sent her husband on some great business from which he would get much honour, and that he would soon come again. But at last she saw in her dreams the likeness of her husband, and he showed her his wounds, and told her how he had been killed. Then he bade her fly from the land as quickly as she could, and he told her of a place where much treasure, silver and gold and precious stones, was hidden in the earth. So Dido made everything ready for flight, and when she looked for companions, she found many; for not a few hated the king, and not a few feared him. So they laid hold of certain ships that were ready—and there were many ships at Tyre—and laded them with gold, and fled across the sea. And all this was done by the leading of a woman, even Dido. So they came to this place, where they are building the city of Carthage. So much land did Queen Dido buy from the king of the country as could be enclosed with a bull's hide. Only know that they cut the bull's hide into many strips, so that they could enclose a large space with it. And now tell me; whence do you come, and whither are you going?"

Æneas answered: "O lady, if I should tell all my story, the night would fall before I could come to an end. We are men of Troy; we have wandered over many seas for now seven years, and have been driven by a storm on to this land of Africa. As for me, men call me Æneas. My race is of Jupiter himself, and the land which I seek is Italy. With twenty ships did I set sail from the island of Sicily, going on the way on which the gods sent me. Twenty ships I had, and now I have but seven; Europe and Asia have cast me out, and now I am wandering over the desert plains of Africa." Venus answered him: "Do not think, stranger, whoever you are, that the gods are against you; they are your friends if they have brought you to this city of Carthage. Go on, therefore, and show yourself to Queen Dido. As for your ships and your companions, do not be afraid, for they are safe. Look up now into the sky. Do you not see those twenty swans, flying happily in the air? See now an eagle swoops down upon them, and they are scattered. You look again; they are in order once more, and now they are coming down to the earth, and some are settling on the ground, and some are about to settle. So shall it be with your ships."

When the false huntress had said this, she turned away, and there seemed to shine a rosy light from her neck as she turned, and there was a sweet smell, as of some heavenly perfume, and the tunic that was short to the knee seemed to grow to her feet. Then Æneas perceived that she was indeed his mother, and he cried: "O my mother, why do you mock me again and again with these false shows? Why do you not let me put my hand in yours and speak with you face to face?" Then he went on towards the city, and Achates with him. But no one could see them, for Venus covered them with a mist lest any should stop them to inquire their business or hinder them in any way. So the two hastened on, and they came to a hill which overlooked the city, and they saw how great and fine it was, with high gates and broad streets, and a great multitude of men and women walking to and fro. Some were building the walls and the citadel, and others marked out the places where houses should be built. Also they were choosing judges and magistrates. And some digged harbours, for Carthage was to be, as Tyre, a city of many ships, and others laid the foundations of a theatre, and cut out columns from the rock to make it fine to look at. They were like bees in the early summer. The young swarms go out from the hive, and they labour, filling the cells with honey, and some take the loads from those that come back, and others keep off the drones. When Æneas saw them, he cried: "Happy men who have found a city to dwell in!"

Now there was in the very middle of the city a thick wood of trees. Here, when Dido and her people had first come to the place, there had been digged out of the ground a horse's head; and when they saw it, they were very glad, for it had been told them that this should be a sign to them of good things, namely that their city should be great in war, and should have great riches. Here Dido was building a great temple to Juno. Very splendid it was, with door-posts and gates of bronze, and a great flight of steps leading to it. Into this temple Æneas and Achates entered, and he saw upon the walls pictures of the battles which the Trojans and Greeks had fought at Troy. Then Æneas said to his companion: "Is there any land which is not filled with our troubles? Yet it is good to know that these are not barbarians, that they have praise to give to courage, and tears for the sorrows of men. Fear not, my friend. It will be good for us that these people know what we have done and suffered." Then he turned to look at the paintings which were upon the walls, and was well pleased to see them. In one he saw how the Trojans were driving the Greeks before them, and in another how they were flying from Achilles. Also he saw the white tents of Rhesus, King of Thrace, who came to help the Trojans, and was slain by Diomed, and his horses driven to the camp of the Greeks, before they had eaten the grass of the Trojan plains or drunk of their streams. For it had been prophesied that if they should do this but once, Troy never should be taken. Also they saw how Troilus had met Achilles in battle, and had been conquered by him, for, indeed, he was no match for him. There he lay dead in his chariot, his hand holding still the reins, but his head and shoulders were dragged upon the earth, and the point of his spear made a trail in the dust. In another place the Trojan women went as suppliants to the temple of Minerva, taking a most beautiful robe for an offering; they stood before the goddess, beating their breasts, but the goddess turned away her head. Also he saw Achilles dragging the body of Hector round the walls of Troy. In another place he was selling the body for gold. Æneas groaned to see the man whom he had loved, and old Priam the king, whom he had himself beheld slain by Pyrrhus. And he saw, moreover, himself fighting in the midst of the Greek chiefs; also black Memnon, son of the morning, who had come from the eastern land to help the Trojans, bringing a great host with him, and the Queen of the Amazons, and her warrior women with her, all of them carrying shields shaped like the moon. She was very fierce to look at; one of her breasts was bare, and she had a girdle of gold about her. She was but a girl, yet she dared to fight with men.