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F. Descent into the Underworld

F. Descent into the Underworld

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‘‘Woods claim everything in between’’: He o√ers a reason why the return

of souls isn’t easy, since all things are polluted and stained: for by ‘‘woods’’

he means ignorance and debauchery in which animality and lust hold sway.


2. (Pseudo-)Bernardus Silvestris, Comment on Aeneid 6

See below, III.G.3 and IV.Q.

On Aeneas’s descent into the underworld. (Text: Commentum quod dicitur

Bernardi Silvestris super sex libros Eneidos Virgilii, ed. J. W. Jones and E. F. Jones

[Lincoln, Nebr., 1977])

Quoniam in hoc sexto volumine descensus Enee ad inferos enarratur, idcirco in primis de locis inferorum et de descensu intueamur et quia profundius philosophicam veritatem in hoc volumine declarat Virgilius, ideo non

tantum summam, verum etiam verba exponendo in eo diutius immoremur.

Since in this sixth book Aeneas’s descent into the underworld is narrated, let us

therefore consider first the places of the underworld and the descent; and since

Virgil propounds philosophic truth more profoundly in this book, let us linger

at greater length not only on a summary of the book but on interpreting

individual words in it. (Commentary on the First Six Books of Virgil’s Aeneid by

Bernardus Silvestris, trans. E. G. Schreiber and T. E. Maresca [Lincoln, Nebr.,

1979], 758, modified by MP)


1. Macrobius, Saturnalia 5.19.2

See below, IV.C.

Macrobius quotes the philosopher and teacher Lucius Annaeus Cornutus

(see below, IV.A.4). (Text: J. Willis, ed., 2nd ed. [Leipzig, 1970])

Hanc Vergilius non de nihilo fabulam fingit, sicut alias doctissimus Cornutus existimat, qui adnotationem eius modi adposuit his versibus: unde

haec historia ut crinis auferendus sit morientibus, ignoratur: sed adsuevit

poetico more aliqua fingere ut de aureo ramo.

Now this tale [of Iris cutting o√ a lock from the dying Dido’s hair] is not pure

invention on Virgil’s part, as Cornutus (in other respects a very learned man)

holds in the following note which he appended to the passage: ‘‘The origin of

this story of the need to take a lock of hair from the dying is not known, but

Virgil was accustomed to imagining some matters after the manner of poets,

as, for example, in regard to the golden bough.’’ (Macrobius, The Saturnalia,

trans. P. V. Davies [New York, 1969], 368)


I I I . V I R G I L’ S T E X T S A N D T H E I R U S E S

2. Servius

See below, IV.B.

a. Comment on Aeneid 6.136–37: Latet arbore opaca / aureus . . . ramus

(There lies hidden on a dark tree a golden bough)

(Text: Thilo-Hagen 2:30–31)

Licet de hoc ramo hi qui de sacris Proserpinae scripsisse dicuntur, quiddam

esse mysticum adfirment, publica tamen opinio hoc habet. Orestes post occisum regem Thoantem in regione Taurica cum sorore Iphigenia, ut supra

[on Aeneid 2.116] diximus, fugit et Dianae simulacrum inde sublatum haud

longe ab Aricia collocavit. In huius templo post mutatum ritum sacrificiorum fuit arbor quaedam, de qua infringi ramum non licebat. Dabatur autem

fugitivis potestas, ut si quis exinde ramum potuisset auferre, monomachia

cum fugitivo templi sacerdote dimicaret: nam fugitivus illic erat sacerdos ad

priscae imaginem fugae. Dimicandi autem dabatur facultas quasi ad pristini

sacrificii reparationem. Nunc ergo istum inde sumpsit colorem. Ramus enim

necesse erat ut et unius causa esset interitus: unde et statim mortem subiungit Miseni: et ad sacra Proserpinae accedere nisi sublato ramo non poterat. Inferos autem subire hoc dicit, sacra celebrare Proserpinae. De reditu

autem animae hoc est: novimus Pythagoram Samium vitam humanam divisisse in modum Y litterae, scilicet quod prima aetas incerta sit, quippe

quae adhuc se nec vitiis nec virtutibus dedit: bivium autem Y litterae a

iuventute incipere, quo tempore homines aut vitia, id est, partem sinistram,

aut virtutes, id est, dexteram partem sequuntur: unde ait Persius traducit

trepidas ramosa in compita mentes [Satires 5.35]. Ergo per ramum virtutes

dicit esse sectandas, qui est Y litterae imitatio: quem ideo in silvis dicit

latere, quia re vera in huius vitae confusione et maiore parte vitiorum virtus

et integritas latet. Alii dicunt ideo ramo aureo inferos peti, quod divitiis

facile mortales intereunt. Tiberianus aurum, quo pretio reserantur limina


Although those who are reported to have written about the sacred rites of

Proserpina assert about this bough that it is something allegorical, nonetheless

common opinion holds as follows: after killing King Thoas in the land of the

Tauri, Orestes fled, as we reported above, with his sister Iphigenia, removed

from there the image of Diana, and placed it not far from Aricia. After the

ritual of sacrifices had been changed in her temple, there was a certain tree

from which it was not permitted to break o√ a bough. However, authority was

granted to fugitives that if anyone could take away a bough from it, he would



fight in single combat with the priest of the temple, himself a fugitive; for the

priest there was a fugitive, on the model of the original flight. What is more,

the opportunity of fighting was granted by way of reenacting, as it were, the

original sacrifice. Therefore it now took its color from that. For the bough was

needed so as to be the cause of one death. For this reason he adds immediately

the death of Misenus, and he could not proceed to the sacred rites of Proserpina unless the bough had been removed. Moreover, approaching the underworld means celebrating the sacred rites of Proserpina. What is more, this is to

be said about the return of the soul: we know that Pythagoras of Samos

divided human existence in the manner of the letter upsilon [represented as a

Y], which is to say, that the first part of life is uncertain, insofar as it has not

given itself yet over to vices or virtues; but the splitting into two routes of the

letter Y begins from young manhood, at which time people pursue either

vices, which is to say, the left side, or virtues, which is to say, the right side.

For this reason Persius says ‘‘brings over trembling souls into boughlike

crossroads.’’ Therefore by the bough he says that virtues must be followed,

which is imitation of the letter Y. On this account he says that it lies hidden in the woods, because indeed in the confusion of this life and in the

greater part of vices virtue and wholeness lie hidden. On this account others

say that the underworld is sought with a golden bough, because mortals

perish readily through riches. The poet Tiberianus [late third or early fourth

century c.e.] speaks of ‘‘gold, by price of which the thresholds of Dis are

opened.’’ (JZ)

b. Comment on Aeneid 6.295: Tartarei quae fert Acherontis

([The road] that leads to Tartarean Acheron)

(Text: Thilo-Hagen 2:53)

Sequitur illud Pythagoricum, dicens tenuisse eos viam post errorem silvarum, quae vel ad vitia vel ad virtutes, ut diximus, ducit.

He follows that Pythagorean notion, saying that, after wandering in the

woods, they kept to the road which, as we said [on Aeneid 6.136], leads either

to virtues or to vices. (MP)

c. Comment on Aeneid 6.477: Arva tenebant ultima

([And now] they reached the farthest fields)

(Text: Thilo-Hagen 2:72)

Sed dixit quantum ad Y pertinet litteram: in his enim quae dixit mixta sunt

virtutibus vitia, in his autem quae dicturus est nocentum poenas a piorum

segregat meritis. Nam inferi, ut diximus supra, humanam continent vitam,


I I I . V I R G I L’ S T E X T S A N D T H E I R U S E S

hoc est animam in corpore constitutam [on Aeneid 6.127]. Haec autem quae

dixit mixta esse manifestum est: licet enim in viris fortibus laudetur virtus,

est tamen vituperabile alienum imperium caedibus occupare; item amare

privignum crimen est, virtus maritum.

But he had said how much [the journey] relates to the letter Y: in these

[verses] that he uttered vices are commingled with virtues, but in these that he

is about to utter he separates the punishments of the wicked from the rewards

of the holy. For the underworld, as we said above, contains human life, that is,

the soul positioned in the body. It is clear, moreover, that these which he has

uttered are commingled: for though virtue be praised in brave men, nevertheless to seize someone else’s empire by carnage is worthy of censure; likewise to

love a stepson is a crime, a husband, a virtue. (MP)

3. (Pseudo-)Bernardus Silvestris, Comment on Aeneid


See above, III.F.2, and below, IV.Q.

The lines in question are:

Accipe quae peragenda prius. Latet arbore opaca

aureus et foliis et lento vimine ramus.

Hear what must first be done. There lurks in a shady tree a bough, golden in

leaf and pliant stem.

(Discussion: VME 120–30) (Text: Commentum quod dicitur Bernardi Silvestris

super sex libros Eneidos Virgilii, ed. J. W. Jones and E. F. Jones [Lincoln, Nebr.,

1977], 58–59)

Ramus integumentis vocatur quodlibet quod in diversa scinditur ut virtutes, vicia, scientie. Ramus ergo aureus hoc loco intelligitur philosophia

quia quemadmodum ramus per alios furcatur, ita philosophia quasi quidam

stipes in duas alias, scilicet theoricam et practicam que rursus in alias secernuntur. . . . Hic ramus est in arbore. Arborem Pitagoras appellavit humanitatem que in duos ramos, id est, in virtutem et vitium se dividit. Cum enim

in initio continuat, deinceps quidam in dextrum, quidam in sinistrum, id

est, quidam in vitium, quidam in virtutem se dividunt. Hec autem arbor

gravedine carnis opacca est. Quia humanitas ad modum arboris dividitur,

ideo hoc loco arbor vocatur et a Pitagora per y caracterem furcate arboris

formam habentem figuratur.

By the coverings [of allegory] anything which is split into diverse parts (such

as the virtues, the vices, and knowledge) is called a branch. Therefore the

golden bough is here interpreted as philosophy, since just as a branch has

smaller divisions, so too philosophy is like a tree with trunk subdivided into



two di√erent areas, namely, theoretical and practical, which in turn are divided

into others. . . . This bough is on a tree. Pythagoras called humanity a tree

which is divided into two branches, that is, into virtue and into vice. For

although they are joined together in the beginning, some people divide themselves to the left and some to the right, that is, some toward vice and some

toward virtue. This tree is shaded by the heaviness of the flesh. Since humanity

is divided like a tree, so here it is called a tree, and it is depicted by Pythagoras

as the letter U, forked like a tree. (Commentary on the First Six Books of Virgil’s

Aeneid by Bernardus Silvestris, trans. E. G. Schreiber and T. E. Maresca [Lincoln, Nebr., 1979], 758, modified by MP)

4. John of Salisbury, Policraticus 8.25

See above, II.C.12 and below, IV.X.3.d and V.A.2.

John of Salisbury compares the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in

the Bible with the golden bough in Virgil’s Aeneid. (Text: C. C. J. Webb, ed.

[Oxford, 1909], 2:420–21)

Nec vereatur quis ad arborem scientiae boni et mali manum extendere

primae prohibitionis exemplo, quia exulem et erroneum ad illam invitavit

ille qui docet hominem scientiam [Psalms 93.10] et iuxta promissionem

propheticam ignaro indicat quid sit bonum [Micah 6.8]. In arbore ergo scientiae quasi quidam virtutis ramus nascitur, ex quo tota vita proficientis

hominis consecratur. Neque enim ad genitorem vitae, Deum scilicet, alter

redit, nisi qui virtutis ramum excisum de ligno scientiae praetendit. Sed qui

cito avellet ramum, cum vel ipsam arborem, id est, quid fieri oporteat, perpauci noverint? Numquid ramus facile innotescet, ubi prae multitudine desipientium et male agentium ipsa arbor occulitur?

Hoc ipsum forte sensit et Maro, qui, licet veritatis esset ignarus et in

tenebris gentium ambularet, ad Eliseos campos felicium et cari genitoris

conspectum Eneam admittendum esse non credidit, nisi docente Sibilla,

quae quasi siòw boulh´ consilium Iovis vel sapientia Dei interpretatur, ramum hunc Proserpinae, quae proserpentem et erigentem se a vitiis vitam

innuit, consecraret. Ait ergo:

Accipe quae peragenda prius. Latet arbore opaca

aureus et foliis et lento vimine ramus

Iunoni infernae dictus sacer; hunc tegit omnis

lucus et obscuris claudunt convallibus umbrae.

Sed non ante datur telluris operta subire

auricomos quam quis decerpsit ab arbore fetus.

Hoc sibi pulchra suum ferri Proserpina munus

instituit; primo avulso non deficit alter

aureus, et simili frondescit virga metallo [Aeneid 6.136–44].


I I I . V I R G I L’ S T E X T S A N D T H E I R U S E S


Plane quid penarum lateat in terrenis vel quid in his possit mereri solus

agnoscit qui de arbore scientiae ramum bonae operationis avellit. Eoque

avulso alter non deficit, quia quo amplius exercentur, eo magis subcrescunt

et proficiunt scientiae et virtutes. Non tamen eatenus Maronis aut gentium

insisto vestigiis ut credam quempiam ad scientiam aut virtutem propriis

arbitrii sui viribus pervenire. Fateor gratiam in electis operari et velle et

perficere [Philippians 2.13]; ipsam veneror tamquam viam immo revera

viam quae sola ducit ad vitam et quemque boni voti compotem facit.

Let no one fear to stretch out his hand to the tree of knowledge of good and

evil on account of the precedent of the original injunction, because the wandering exile has been invited to it by the one who teaches man knowledge and

who points out (according to the promise of the prophet) to the unknowing

what is good. Therefore, on the tree of knowledge a bough of virtue (as it

were) comes to life. On the basis of it the entire life of a person as he moves

forward is hallowed; for no one else returns to the creator of life, which is to

say, God, except him who holds out the bough of virtue cut o√ from the tree of

knowledge. But who will pluck away the bough, since very few know even the

tree itself, that is, what it is fitting to do? Does the bough become known

readily, when the tree itself is concealed on account of the throng of fools and

wrongdoers? By chance Maro himself was aware of this very thing. Although

he was ignorant of the truth and walked in the shadows of the pagan peoples,

he did not believe that Aeneas was to be admitted to the Elysian fields of the

blessed and into the sight of his dear father, unless, at the instruction of the

Sibyl (who is interpreted as sios boule, ‘‘counsel of Jupiter’’ or ‘‘wisdom of

God’’), he dedicated this bough to Proserpina, who signifies life creeping

forward and raising itself from vices. Therefore he says:

Hear what must be accomplished first. There lies hidden on a dark tree a bough,

golden in both leaf and pliant twig, called sacred to Juno of the underworld

[Proserpina]; this all the grove hides and shadows enclose in dark vales. [140] But

it is not granted to enter the concealed places of the earth before someone has

plucked from the tree its golden-leafed shoot. Beautiful Proserpina established

that this would be borne to her, as her gift; when the first has been torn o√,

another one of gold is not wanting, and the branch leafs out with the same metal.

Plainly he alone who plucks from the tree of knowledge the bough of good

works recognizes what punishments lie hidden in earthly things or what can

be earned in their opposites. And when it has been plucked, another is not

wanting, because the more knowledge and virtues are applied, the more they

grow and avail. Yet I do not follow so hard upon the heels of Maro or the pagans as to believe that anyone arrives at wisdom or virtue by his own strength

of judgment. I acknowledge that grace works upon both will and completion



among the chosen; I respect this as the road—on the contrary, as truly the

only road that leads to life and that grants possession of good wishes to

everyone. (JZ)


If the cento embodies the Virgilianism characteristic of late antiquity, the

florilegium manifests the devotion to the poet that was common in the Middle

Ages, perhaps particularly in the twelfth century. Florilegia are assemblages of

‘‘purple passages’’ (important in style, content, or both) from authors, often

classical poets. Although the collections known as the Florilegium angelicum

and Florilegium Gallicum were associated especially with the school of Orléans,

they came to be studied and copied throughout Europe. Virgil is not always

the most quoted poet, but excerpts from his texts are usually well represented.

(Discussion: B. L. Ullman, ‘‘Virgil in Certain Medieval Florilegia,’’ Studi Medievali, n.s. 5 [1932], 59–66; B. Munk Olsen, ‘‘Vergil i middelalderen,’’ Museum

Tusculanum 32–33 [1978], 96–107; VME 35–36; Verfasserlexikon 10:256)


(circa 1160)

Freely adapted from Virgil’s Aeneid, the Old French Roman d’Énéas (Romance

of Aeneas: 10,156 verses) belongs to an important subgenre of medieval

French romance known as the Romances of Antiquity. This group includes the

anonymous Roman de Thèbes (circa 1150, adapted from the Latin Thebaid of

Statius: see above, II.G.5); the Roman de Troie, by Bent de Sainte Maure

(1165, adapted from the accounts of the Trojan war by supposed eyewitnesses

from each side, Dares of Phrygia and Dictys of Crete); and three shorter tales

(or lays) that draw on episodes in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, one of which, Philomena, has been attributed to Chrétien de Troyes (see above, I.C.51). All

these texts were composed in rhyming octosyllabic couplets, a sort of standard

twelfth-century (non-lyrical) form that anticipates prose narrative. The Énéas

survives in a number of manuscripts, notably the oldest, MS A (Florence,

Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, MS Plut. 41.44), dating from the late twelfth

or early thirteenth century, and the latest, MS D, dating from the fourteenth

century (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, MS fr. 60).

Much of the Virgilian mythological scheme has been eliminated, although

the anonymous romancer does follow the weft of the Aeneid. Though the basic

plot and structure are intact, the religious, political, and dynastic aims (the

Latin epic’s august pretext) have been subsumed and subtly converted for

his Norman-Angevin patrons. To reach his audience more e√ectively, the romancer has transformed many characters and situations into a medieval con550

I I I . V I R G I L’ S T E X T S A N D T H E I R U S E S

text. At the same time, counterbalancing the many suppressions, the medieval

poet has inserted significant amplifications on, for example, the Judgment of

Paris (structurally and thematically crucial to his story), as well as many ‘‘marvels of antiquity,’’ which draw on a panoply of ancient sources. His visionary

story of reciprocal love, in which Aeneas (called Eneas in the Old French)

becomes enamored of his future bride Lavinia, draws principally on Ovidian

sources and intersects with the battlefield scenes in the later sections, clashes in

Italy between native Rutulians and newly arrived Trojans. Myopic modernday critics have censured this romance as a travesty or betrayal of Virgil, but

that simplistic view has been dismissed.

The partial translation below follows the edition by Aimé Petit, based on

MS D, which has not been put into English before. Thus it di√ers from the

version by John Yunck, which follows MS A, as edited by Salverda de Grave.

For the aims of this volume, the translation focuses upon the episodes of Dido

and the golden bough. The former (lines 220–2229) begins with Aeneas’s

post-storm harangue to his men on the coast of Carthage and ends with Dido’s

death and epitaph, just before the beginning of book 5. The latter (lines 2346–

2643) concludes just before a description of Cerberus. (Discussion: R. J.

Cormier, ‘‘Synchronizing Myth: Transmission and Continuity in the Judgment of Paris Episode [Roman d’Énéas, verses 99–182],’’ Miscellanea Bibliothecae Apostolicae Vaticanae 8 [2001], 135–58) (Text and translation from MS

A: Énéas: Roman du douzième siècle, ed. J.-J. Salverda de Grave, Classiques

franỗais du moyen õge, 2 vols. [Paris, 192527]; ‘‘Énéas’’: A Twelfth-Century

French Romance, trans. J. Yunck [New York, 1974]) (Text: Le Roman d’Énéas:

Edition critique d’après le manuscrit B.N. fr. 60, traduction, présentation et notes, ed.

A. Petit, Lettres Gothiques [Paris, 1997]; selections now translated, R. B.

Palmer, Medieval English and French Legends: An Anthology of Religious and

Secular Narratives [Glen Allen, VA, 2006], 165–282) (RC)

1. Dido (lines 220–2229)

[220] ‘‘Lords and noble knights, dread not, though at sea you experienced

misfortune, suffering, and fear, for you will remember all this later with

pleasure. Whoever travels to a foreign land to win success and advantage,

comes to profit only by bearing life’s miseries. He who suffers a little misfortune, and misses out on all his desires, will appreciate more his later

achievements. Distress, suffering, and trouble will show the way to our

kingdom, in Lombardy, the realm promised us by Jupiter. Our large numbers and limited means now require a search for food in this savage land, so

uncultivated, undeveloped, and quite uninhabited.’’

[244] My lord Aeneas then chose four brave and bold men to reconnoiter



and report what they could learn of the land and of its inhabitants. The

messengers departed in order to explore the countryside, traveling through

hill and dale, woodland and plain, but to no avail: they found no one,

nothing alive except some animals. They advanced across the forest and

entered a path that led to the main road.

[260] They marched along the paved high road until they discovered the

town of Carthage, ruled by the consummate Lady Dido, a woman whose

royal regime was unrivaled. She was a native not of Carthage but rather of

Tyre. Her husband, named Sychaeus, was murdered by her rapacious brother,

anxious to seize her wealth, who then sent his sister into exile. With a throng

of followers, Dido fled across the sea, carrying away a great treasure of

fabric, vestments, silver, and gold. Once within this land she very cunningly

asked the reigning prince to sell her only enough territory that could be

covered by a bull’s hide. The unsuspecting prince accepted the deal. Dido

cut the skin into thin strips and measured out enough land all around to

build a fortified town. Then, through wisdom, power, and valor, she subjugated the land and its chieftains.

[294] Called Carthage, the town, fearlessly impregnable and ingeniously

situated on the seaside coast of Libya, faced huge swamps, large ponds, and

trenches all staked up, palisaded, and dug out in the Libyan manner—with

enclosures, barriers, and raised bridges to add more protection. Beyond that,

even the approach to Carthage meant difficult crossings. At the corner overlooking the water there was a massive natural rock, and beyond rose the

ramparts of dark marble, white, indigo, and vermilion stone. All this was

meticulously and grandly laid out—in marble and adamant. The walls were

made of pillars, built with ornament and niches—all constructed so as to

appear like trompe l’oeil. Thus were the exterior walls painted but without

vermilion and without azure. On the town side the road led to where there

were vaulted colonnades of copper, with pillars of marble. The enclosed

town walls were high and quite thick, of stones sealed up with iron and

lead, and all mortared with blood, so that they could be knocked over by

neither iron nor steel nor stone nor rock, by neither pick nor hoe nor shears.

The walls were hard and resistant: near each of three mid-wall perches there

rose a thick and solid tower—this was the overall structure of the ramparts. The town possessed four extremely solid entryways all made of ivory,

sculpted so densely that the seams were obscured. The four gates had hinges

and hinge plates of silver, and above each sat a tower and keep. Four chieftains guarded the towers, each holding his land and fief therefrom, headquartered and lodged there with one thousand key knights, gathered in case

of need. Within the town were marble palaces holding one thousand citi552

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zens, intrepid before an attacking army, steadfast in a siege. The townsfolk

were wealthy beyond measure, the town opulent with abundant wares.

Expensive imported miniver and ermine were sold there, as well as silk

featherbeds and coverlets, heavy multicolored silks, costly curtains and carpets, taffeta, ribbed silks, and princely materials, in addition to precious and

authentic purple furs. It would be impossible to imagine the wealth found

in this town. In the sea close by were caught certain rather small and quite

rare fish, their short tails cut open to let red droplets run out: this is how the

precious purple Carthaginian dye was made, while the black came from

crocodiles that existed on a neighboring island. The town was extraordinarily wealthy, lacking in nothing, with an abundance of supplies and foodstuffs brought in from afar both for those inland and those near the sea. Seen

from a distance—with its vast breadth and width—along with the palace

chimneys, the town had no equal in wealth. It was enclosed by walls and

the entrance was guarded by a keep, furnished with a stairway of a thousand

steps not of wood but of marble. Down below lay the playing field for pagan

festival games, where townsfolk gathered for amusement.

[406] At one corner of the town Dido had established her fortress: the

castle was girded with high walls, many towers, and mangonels. At the

entrance [ . . . ] the gates were all ivory and the sculpture all inlaid, but so

much gold was present that it was apparent within the work as well. With

just a thousand knights as fiefs, the porter himself, powerful and wealthy,

wore only vair, miniver, and ermine. The main tower with high thick walls

rested upon a grayish cliff, offering abundant protection, security, and provisions for any siege or assault. Up above, on the highest floor, dwelled the

lady of Carthage.

[430] The palace was extraordinarily magnificent, a work constructed

with noble art. Gilded paintings hung everywhere, representing the seven

arts, the sky, the earth and the sea, and everything else imaginable. Made of

cypress was the whole framework, so befitting the distinguished lady. Neither Darius nor Octavius nor Nero nor Julius Caesar possessed so much.

Better than any king’s or emir’s, the table of honor and benches—with ebony

legs, inlaid gold, and ivory—stood against the gable. In the middle sat the

royal throne, crystal inlaid with gold, along with a silver footstool decorated

below by two carved lion cubs. The dais where the lady sat to eat was

ingeniously made. Near the wall behind it and placed there by the queen

grew a huge, unpruned golden vine stock—all of fine sculpted tendrils and

branches. The branches curled out artistically and harmoniously, decked

with marvelous and rich clusters of very diverse and precious stones.

[464] Above the table, the vine was finely and brilliantly sculpted, its



stake of silver supporting the vine shoot. Inhabiting the trellis were ten

thousand large and small birds, all of highly refined gold—the smallest

worth a fortress. The vine itself was huge and entirely hollow, with torches

on top. The wind made the birds sing and flit, each according to its size, and

the very unusual sound made one wonder whether it was the plucking of a

harp or hurdy-gurdy one heard. Each bird sang in its own way when the

lady was seated at table, and whether she remained there or left, they all

would chirp away ceaselessly, and the whole palace would resound in deafening song. Throughout the ample and spacious hall were the knights’ tables, constructed from a tree that dripped incense. When the queen dined

there was no door or doorman, for she would have rather been captured or

dead than close up a portal or doorway or even brandish a staff or pole to

secure her garrison. The hall had numerous windows and many apartments

of stone, below which was the cellar with many other features. Dido had

erected this town according to Lady Juno’s wish, as she was worshipped

there, and thus Carthage’s sovereign fame would last as an empire without

end. The capitol and the senate were established to make judgments and

legal edicts, and the government was later transferred to Rome. At this time

the town was unfinished: Dido was still reinforcing the walls and towers.

Now the messengers sent by Aeneas, to learn about the queen and the land,

finally arrived in the town. In its midst, the queen was very intently constructing a great temple dedicated to Juno, filled with considerable wealth,

much gold and silver. She stood now just in front, enfolded in Alexandrian

purple fitted close to her naked flesh. The queen wore an expensive mantle

of white ermine, covered with Tyrian cloth of quality, bordered in sable. Her

hair in ribbons and crowned in gold, Dido, the most beautiful, courtly, and

wise, held a golden staff as she admonished the workers and directed her

citizens. The Trojan messengers came before her, and Ilioneus, the wisest,

spoke first: ‘‘Lady, the unfortunate ones from Troy have escaped to your

shores. The Greeks have captured the town, destroyed its walls and towers,

and killed the king and the lords. Led by our brave, wise, and courtly king,

Lord Aeneas, we fled by night. We are in sore need of help, as our goal is

Lombardy, where we hoped to land. But out there on the high seas, an

extremely wicked storm met us, its wind so hostile that we lost one of our

twenty ships and it cut us off from a part of our company. We still do not

know if they are drowned or lost. The stormy winds blew us to these shores,

and Lord Aeneas sent us here to seek protection. War is not our business, so

we beg you to allow us to remain long enough to repair and refit our ships.

May we then be secure among your people until we have favorable winds?’’

[576] Dido the Tyrian replied: ‘‘Indeed I know of the Trojan adventure,


I I I . V I R G I L’ S T E X T S A N D T H E I R U S E S

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F. Descent into the Underworld

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