Aeneid for Boys and Girls - Alfred J. Church

The Funeral Games of Anchises

Meanwhile the ships of Æneas were sailing across the sea. As they looked back to the shore which they had left they saw great flames rising up into the sky. What this meant they did not know; but they were sure that Dido was very angry, and they feared that she might do some very terrible thing.

Before long there were signs of a great storm. And Palinurus, who was the chief pilot, seeing how dark the sky had grown, said: "What do these clouds mean? What is Father Neptune going to do next?" Then he turned to Æneas and said: "We cannot get to Italy while the wind blows from this quarter; no, not even when Jupiter himself has promised it to us. Let us clear the decks, and let the men put out their oars to row, and let them shift the sails. The harbours of Sicily are near; let us make for them." Æneas answered: "You say well; let us shape our course for Sicily. There is no country which I would sooner see, for there my dear father Anchises is buried."

So they shifted their course, and let their ships run before the wind, and came in a very short time to the island of Sicily. Now Acestes, the king of the country, was the son of a Trojan woman. He had before entertained Æneas and his people very kindly, and now, when he saw their ships coming toward the land, for he happened to be standing on the top of a hill, he was very glad, and he made haste to meet them. He came to the shore, having a lion's skin about his shoulders, and carrying a spear in his hand. He greeted them with many words of kindness, and sent a supply of food and drink to the ships.

The next day, early in the morning, Æneas called all the Trojans to an assembly, and said to them: "My friends, it is a full year since we buried my dear father in this land of Sicily; yes, if I remember right, this is the very day. Let us keep it holy therefore. That, indeed, would I do, wherever I might be, whether sailing over the sea, or wandering among the lands of Africa, or even if I were shut up in some city of the Greeks. Much more, therefore, let us keep it here, seeing that we are in a friendly land, and keep it as solemnly as we can. And let us make a vow to keep it year by year in the land of Italy, if so be that we ever come to it. And now King Acestes gives us oxen for our feasts, two oxen for every ship. Therefore let us make merry and rejoice. And if the ninth day from this be fair, then we will have great games in honour of my dear father. There shall be a contest of ships, and running in a race, and games of throwing the javelin, and of shooting with the bow, and of boxing. And now make ready for the sacrifice."

First he put on his head a wreath of myrtle, for myrtle was the plant which his mother most loved. King Acestes did the same, and so did the boy Ascanius and all the Trojans. Then he came up to the tomb of his father, and poured out on it two cups of wine and two cups of pure milk, and scattered flowers over it, and said: "These gifts to thee, my father! The gods did not suffer thee to see the land of Italy, but we will do thee honour to-day."

While he was speaking a great snake came out of the tomb. Very big he was, and all the colours of the rainbow seemed to be mixed on his back. Æneas looked, wondering to see him; while he looked, the snake crept up to the altar, and tasted the sacrifice which had been put upon it, and the wine and the milk. Æneas could not think what this strange thing might mean. So he made fresh offerings, two sheep and two pigs, and two black oxen. Other Trojans also brought sheep and oxen, and sacrificed them on the tomb. And they roasted the flesh with fire—only some parts they burnt—and feasted on it.

And now the ninth day came, and the weather was fine. There came great crowds of people to see the games, for all that dwelt in the island knew the name of King Acestes. Many came to see the Trojans, and many for the sake of the games, desiring to win the prizes if they might. First the prizes were put in the midst for all to see. There were crowns of palm, and swords, and spears, and purple garments, and talents of gold and silver. And at the time that had been appointed the trumpet sounded to show that the games should begin.

First came the race of ships. Four ships there were to try for the prize. The four were the Sea-Horse, of which Mnestheus was the captain, the Chimæra  of Gyas, the Centaur  of Sergestus, and the Scylla  of Cloanthus. Far out to sea there was a rock. The waves beat over it when the sea was rough; but on a calm day it could be seen above the water, and the sea-birds loved to stand on it and bask in the sun. On this rock Æneas fastened a bough of an oak tree; the ships were to go round it and so home. First the captains cast lots for places. Then they took their places, each on the stern of his ship, wearing purple cloaks with gold lace upon them. The rowers had each a garland upon his head, but they were stripped for rowing, and their bodies were anointed with oil. So they sat upon the benches, with their hands stretched out, ready to dip their oars in the water for a stroke. And when the trumpet sounded the rowers dipped their oars, and rowed with all their might, and each ship leapt forward. Great was the noise of the shouting, for the people favoured this captain or that. First of all came Gyas with the Chimæra, and next to him Cloanthus with the Scylla. He had the stronger crew, but his ship was by much the heavier of the two. After these two came the Sea-Horse  and the Centaur, being about equal, for now one was ahead, and now the other. When they were now near to the rock Gyas cried out to his steersman: "Why do you go so much to the right? Keep closer to the rock. Let others choose the sea if they will; I like the shortest course." But the man was afraid of rocks that could not be seen beneath the sea, and still kept the ship's head seaward. Gyas cried again: "Now make for the rock!" While he was speaking the Scylla  came up and took the inner course between the Chimæra  and the rock, and passed it, taking the first place. Then Gyas was so angry that he wept for very rage, and he took the steersman by the waist and threw him into the sea, and he took the rudder himself, and turned the ship to the rock. As for the steersman, being old and cumbered with his cloak, he could scarcely reach the rock. And when the people saw him thrown into the sea, and they saw how he swam to the rock, and climbed on it and sat, spitting out the salt water, they laughed. When the captains of the other two ships saw what had happened they began to hope that they too might win a prize. Mnestheus in the Sea-Horse  seeing that the Centaur  still kept in front of him ran among his men as they rowed—there was a plank from one end of the ship to the other—crying out: "My friends, do your best, as you have always done, whether in battle or in storms. The first place I do not seek, but I would not come back last." Then the rowers stretched out forward and threw themselves back, rowing with all their might. The Centaur  they soon passed, for it was steered so close to the rock that it struck on a piece which jutted out, and the oars were broken and the bow stuck fast. While the crew were pushing it off with poles and the like the Sea-Horse  got well ahead. And next it passed the Chimæra, for this had lost its steersman, and the captain did not know how to keep a straight course. And now only the Scylla  was left, and the Sea-Horse  pressed hard on it. And all the people shouted out, for it pleased them much to see that the ship which had been last was now likely to be first. Then Cloanthus, who was captain of the Scylla, stretched out his hands and prayed to the gods of the sea that they would help him. "Help me," he said; "help me, and I will offer a milk-white bull and much pure wine at your altar." And they heard the prayer, and one of them put out his hand, and caught hold of the keel of the ship, and sent it on, as quick as an arrow flies from the bow-string, so that it came to the shore first of the four. Then Æneas put a crown of bay-leaves about the captain's head, and gave to the rowers three oxen and jars of wine and a talent of silver. The other two also had gifts. And when Sergestus came with the Centaur, with half of its oars broken, just like to a serpent which the wheel of a waggon has maimed in the road, Æneas gave him a reward, for he had at least brought the ship and the crew safely back.

Next came the foot race. For this there came many, both Trojans and men of Sicily. Foremost among them all were Nisus and Euryălus, between whom there was a very close friendship. After them came Diōres, who was of the house of King Priam; after him Salius, a Greek, and two young hunters, who were of the court of King Acestes, and many others. Æneas said: "I will give gifts to all who run; none shall go away empty. To the first three I will give crowns of olive. The first also shall have a horse with its trappings; the second a quiver full of arrows, and a belt with which to fasten it; the third must be content with a Greek helmet."

Then all the men stood in a line, and when the signal was given they started. For a short time they were all close together. Then Nisus outran the rest. Next to him came Salius, but there was a long space between them; and next to Salius was Euryălus. The fourth was one of the king's courtiers, Helymus by name, and close behind him the Trojan Diōres. When they had nearly come to the end of the course, by bad luck Nisus slipped in the blood of an ox which had been slain in the place, and fell. But as he lay on the ground he did not forget his friend Euryălus, for he lifted himself from the ground just as Salius came running in, and tripped him up. So Euryălus had the first place, Helymus was second, and Diōres third. But Salius loudly complained that he had been cheated. "I had won the first prize," he cried, "had not this Nisus tripped me up." But the people favoured Euryălus, for he was a comely lad; Diōres also was on the same side, for otherwise he had not won the third prize. "Then," said Æneas, "I will not change the order; let them take the prizes as they come—Euryălus the first, Helymus the second, and Diōres the third. Nevertheless I will have pity on the man who suffered not from his own fault." And he gave to Salius a lion's skin, of which the mane and the claws were covered with gold. Then Nisus said: "If you are giving prizes to these who are beaten, then think of me, for I was first, and slipped, having the same bad luck of which Salius complains." And he showed his face and body all covered with filth. And Æneas laughed and gave him a noble shield.

After this came the boxing match. The winner's prize was an ox with gilded horns, the loser would have a sword and a helmet. Immediately Dares stood up; he was a giant in height and breadth. He was the only man who had ever dared to meet Paris, the strongest boxer in Troy; he had also vanquished a famous champion, Butes by name, hurting him so that he died of his wounds. So mighty a man did he seem that no one had the courage to stand up against him. So Dares came to Æneas where he sat, and said: "If there is no man to meet me let me take the prize." But King Acestes said to his friend Entellus, who was sitting next to him on the grass: "Entellus, will you suffer this prize to be taken in this fashion? Did you not learn this art from Eryx himself? Has not your fame gone through this land of Sicily? Is not your house full of prizes that you have won?" Entellus answered: "Think not, O king, that I am afraid, or that I do not care for honour; but I am old, and I have lost my strength. If I had been as young as that boaster there I should not have wanted a prize to make me go and meet this bragging fellow."

Then he stood up and threw onto the ground two boxing gloves which the great boxer Eryx had used of old. All who saw them were astonished, so big were they, heavy with bull's hide and lumps of lead and iron. As for Dares, he said: "I will not stand up against such as these." And when Æneas took them up, trying their weight, Entellus said: "What would this Trojan have thought if he had seen the gloves which Hercules wore when he fought with this same Eryx and killed him? These Eryx himself—he, O Æneas! was your mother's son—gave me. See the marks of blood and brains upon them! These are of the men who fought with him. But if Dares likes them not, be it so; I will put them away, and he shall put away his."

Then he threw off the cloak which he wore, and showed his shoulders and arms, how big and strong they were.

Then Æneas gave to each gloves of equal weight, and the two stood and faced each other. Dares was more nimble and quick, for he was young; Entellus, though a giant in height and breadth, was slow and scant of breath. Many blows they aimed at each other, and sometimes one would strike the other on the breast or the cheek, but neither struck home. Entellus stood in the same place, swaying one way and the other, with eyes always watching his enemy. As for Dares, he was like a general who attacks a city, and tries first one part and then another, if he can find the weakest. At last Entellus, thinking that he could reach the other, dealt him a great blow; but Dares, seeing it coming, leapt out of the way; and the old man wasted his strength in the air, and fell with a crash, as a pine tree falls on the side of a hill. All the men of Troy and the men of Sicily ran up to see what had happened; and Acestes ran, and would have helped the old man to rise. But he got up of himself, for shame and anger, as it were, made him young again. Dares fled before him, and Entellus followed him over the plain, hitting him, now with the right hand, and now with the left; and the blows were like hail when it rattles on a roof. Then Æneas cried: "Be not angry, my friend;" and to Dares he said: "See you not that the gods are against you to-day? Do not fight against the gods." So he commanded that the battle should cease. Dares was led away by his friends in sad plight, spitting out blood, yea, and his teeth, for they were broken in the fight. And they took with them the shield and the helmet; but the crown of palms and the ox they left to Entellus. And he said: "See, Æneas and you men of Troy, what I could do when I was young." And he lifted up his hand, and struck the ox between the brows. And the beast fell dead upon the ground. And the old man said: "Eryx, take this offering. I give you this ox instead of the life of Dares: and, indeed, it is the better thing of the two. And here I lay down my gloves for ever."

Next to this came the trial of shooting with the bow. Æneas set up the mast of a ship, and to the top of the mast he tied a dove by a cord. This was the mark at which all were to shoot. The first hit the mast, and shook it, and all could see how the bird fluttered his wings. Then the second shot. He did not touch the bird, but he cut the string by which it was fastened to the mast, and the bird flew away. Then the third, a man of Lycia, aimed at the bird itself, and struck it as it flew, and the dove fell dead to the earth with the arrow through it. Last of all, King Acestes shot his arrow. And he, having nothing at which to aim, shot it high into the air, to show how strong a bow he had and how he could draw it. Then there happened a strange thing to see. The arrow, as it went higher and higher in the air, was seen to catch fire, and to leave a line of flame behind it, till it was burnt up. When Æneas saw this, he said to himself: "This is a sign of good to come," for he thought how the fire had burnt on the head of his son Ascanius, and how a star had shot through the air when he was about to fly from Troy. And as this had been a sign of good at the beginning of his wanderings, so was this a sign of good at the end. Then he threw his arms about King Acestes, saying: "I thank thee, my father. This is a message which Jupiter sends by you." And he gave him a great bowl of silver which his father Anchises had had before him. The other archers also had gifts according to the skill which they had shown.

Last of all, there was a new game which none had seen before. Ascanius and his young companions came riding on horses, three companies of twelve each with a leader. They had crowns on their heads, and collars of gold on their necks, and carried spears in their hands. They rode this way and that way, making a show of fighting. Sometimes they seemed to charge, and sometimes to fly. And all the people shouted, so fair were the lads, and so well did they ride.