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K. Middle Irish Wanderings of Aeneas

K. Middle Irish Wanderings of Aeneas

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The Wanderings of Aeneas is one of six classical texts translated into Irish

between 1000 and 1200. The others are Statius’s Achilleid and Thebaid; Lucan’s

De bello civili (On the Civil War); the anonymous fifth- or sixth-century Troy

‘‘journal’’ De excidio Troiae historia (History of the Destruction of Troy), ascribed to Dares of Phrygia, a fictive eyewitness of the war; and, finally, the

account of Alexander the Great from the third book of Paulus Orosius’s earlyfifth-century Historia adversus paganos (History against the Pagans). This

choice of texts betrays the Irish translators’ interest in historiographical material as well as their penchant for heroic epic. The influence of native saga style

on the translations has been commented on.

The interest in these classical texts as sources for the history of pagan antiquity is evident from the historical prologue of The Wanderings of Aeneas, which

is based on non-Virgilian sources including Dares, and takes a less favorable

view of Aeneas. The story of Aeneas’s exile is told in chronological order,

beginning with the fall of Troy. Rather than restructuring Virgil’s narrative,

however, the Irish adaptor supplies the missing information from Dares, retaining Aeneas’s own account of his travels at Dido’s court (Poppe, The Irish

Aeneid, 7). (Discussion: G. Murphy, ‘‘Vergilian Influence upon the Vernacular

Literature of Medieval Ireland,’’ Studi Medievali 5 [1932], 372–81; E. Poppe,

The Irish Aeneid: The Classical Epic from an Irish Perspective. A New Introduction to Imtheachta Aeniasa [Dublin, 1995]. Though not specifically about The

Wanderings of Aeneas, the best comprehensive overview of the Latin-Gaelic

interface in the Middle Ages is W. B. Stanford, ‘‘Towards a History of Classical

Influences in Ireland,’’ Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy C3 70 [1970], 13–

91.) (Text: Imtheachta Aeniasa, G. Calder, ed. and trans., Irish Texts Society 6

[London, 1907], with very literal translation) (BH)

1. Historical Prologue (lines 1–62)

[1] When the Greeks had finished plundering and sacking and destroying Troy, the royal city of Phrygia and capital of all Asia in importance and

dignity, the Greek kings came to the hill of Minerva in Troy, where they all

gathered in one place. Agamemnon, their high king, asked them what decision they should reach with regard to those who had betrayed the city. Some

of the Greeks said that they should not keep faith with them, ‘‘for it was not

out of love for us that they betrayed their city, but out of fear, and in order to

save themselves; they did us harm as long as they were able to, and they

would do it again if they could.’’ Then Nestor spoke. [ . . . ] [41] ‘‘It should

be clear to you that Aeneas’s friendship for you, were he to stay in Troy,

would be not a whit better than Priam’s friendship was for the Greeks.

Woe to the Greeks if they believe Aeneas, for Aeneas will always remain



an enemy to us Greeks. Countless Greek soldiers and warriors and battle

champions fell by his hand in the 167 battles fought against us in the defense of Troy.’’

When the Greeks heard Nestor’s speech, the counsel they voiced and

resolved on was to lay Troy waste and drive out the traitors, but not to kill

them, since Pyrrhus had vouched his honor to spare them in return for

delivering up the city. Agamemnon then ordered Aeneas and Antenor, by

counsel of the Greeks, to leave Troy uninhabited. Antenor was to go to

Illyricum, a country located to the west, between Greece and Italy. Aeneas

and all his followers went to Mt. Ida, a mountain on the shore of the Mediterranean, and they came to a beautiful forest there. The forest provided

them with timber for shipbuilding, and Aeneas had twenty ships constructed there. When he had finished building the fleet, he set out on the

Mediterranean with the first fair weather at the beginning of summer. He

was accompanied by his old father Anchises, his son Ascanius, and all his

comrades. Theirs was a sad leavetaking, gloomy, tearful, anxious, and sorrowful. They were not leaving of their own free will. Wretched were their

laments and their wails and the smiting of hands, as they looked back on

their country and their native land from which their enemies had driven

them. (BH)

2. Dido (lines 329–931)

After being separated from Aeneas and shipwrecked near Carthage, Aeneas’s

companions Ilioneus and others approach Dido to ask for her protection.

[329] When they had come into the presence of the queen, Ilioneus addressed her and said: ‘‘Take pity, queen, on these wretched Trojans, tossed

by the winds across many an ocean. We come to your land and territory

having been shipwrecked. Do not allow our ships to be burned, but have

mercy on this pious race, for we have come here with no evil intent. Give us

leave to stay in this port until we have repaired our ships and oars. We had a

pious king: no one could match him in courage and valor; no one was braver

in battle than he. If Aeneas our king is alive, and if he joins us, he will set out

for Italy, our destination. If not, we will go back to Sicily, to Acestes.’’

Dido replied: ‘‘We have heard of the land of Troy, and of the Trojans, and I

welcome you. You will find hospitality here, and be given land and territory.

You can stay here until Aeneas joins you, and Aeneas, too, will get a hero’s

welcome if he comes.’’

When Aeneas heard this, he promptly cast off the cover of invisibility and

stepped out toward them into the bright light. He was fair, handsome, noble, captivating. He had fair hair the color of gold, a beautiful ruddy counte610

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

nance, and deep-set shining eyes. Venus, his mother, bathed his face in the

splendor of love and made him appear like a god, so that everyone who saw

him fell in love with him. He addressed the queen and said:

‘‘You alone, queen, are taking pity on our trouble and our wretchedness

and are welcoming us into your home and into your city. We are not able to

repay your kindness, but may the gods of heaven reward you for the favor

you show us. The fame and renown and great praise of your good deeds will

live, as long as streams and rivers, mountains and ancient forests endure.’’

When Aeneas had said those words, Ilioneus, Serestus, Gyas, Cloanthus,

and Antheus went toward him and happily joined him, rejoicing to find

their lost comrade.

Dido fell silent when she saw that sight.

‘‘If you are Aeneas, the son of Anchises and of the goddess Venus,’’ she

said, ‘‘we have heard of your accomplishments and intelligence, your honesty and courage and valor, your nobility and generosity. You are welcome

here with us.’’

After that Dido ordered twenty cows and twenty steers, twenty flitches of

pork, and twenty sheep with their lambs to be sent to those remaining on

the ships, but Aeneas himself she took with her into her own royal palace. It

was a magnificent building they entered: there were many draperies of silk

and satin there, and embroidered coverings of every color; many embossed

drinking horns, goblets, and other ancient cups of gold and silver, served by

boys of noble lineage. There were many kinds of delicious food served

generously on graceful dishes with inlays of silver and white gold, and

garnet gemstones of every color. Many old intoxicating liquors, made from

every kind of drink, were being served to that gay noble company, which

Dido, daughter of Belus, their illustrious young queen, had gathered around

her. That palace was indeed a place of delight.

Then Aeneas sent Achates to the ship to fetch Ascanius, and instructed

him to bring some gifts for Dido back from the ship: the fringed purple cloak

that Helen had brought with her from Mycenae; and the royal scepter of gold

that used to belong to Ilione, daughter of Priam; and a necklace of gold.

When Venus, the mother of Aeneas, learned that Ascanius had been sent for,

she went to see Cupid, son of Jupiter, because of the great esteem the pagans

had for him. She asked him to assume the shape of Ascanius and in that

shape to accompany Achates to see Dido, so that he might instill love for

Aeneas in Dido’s heart. Cupid promised to do her bidding. Then Venus put

Ascanius into a deep sleep and moved him asleep to the top of Mt. Idalia.

Cupid, son of Jupiter, however, in the guise of Ascanius joined Achates.

Carrying Dido’s presents, they came to her throne, where the lords and



nobles of Tyre and Troy were gathered around Dido and Aeneas for a pleasant splendid feast.

Having inspected the gifts, Aeneas presented them to Dido. Dido marveled at them, as did the nobles of the palace, and all praised the presents,

and the queen was very grateful. Dido summoned Cupid to her in the shape

of Ascanius, and made him welcome, because she thought it was Ascanius

himself; little did she know it was really Cupid. Mindful of the promise he

had given to Venus, Cupid instilled love for Aeneas in Dido’s heart, so that

the greatness and intensity of her love for him became unbearable. Tyrians

and Trojans rejoiced, and that night was spent in gladness and good cheer.

Dido’s heart was full of love, and she delighted in talking to Aeneas because

of the greatness of her love for him. She asked him much about the tales of

Priam and Hector and Memnon, and she wanted to know what kind of man

Diomede was, and Achilles, and how they had prevailed against Troy in the

end, and how he himself had escaped from there, and what lands he had

traveled in before he reached Africa. When Dido asked Aeneas for those

tales, everyone became quiet, the courtiers anticipating the stories that

Aeneas was about to tell. Aeneas replied to Dido, daughter of Belus:

‘‘I am loath to tell these stories, queen, and it is painful for me, because

telling them I remember anew my sorrow and grief and sadness. But since it

is your wish, I will briefly tell you some part of my story. [. . .]

[664] ‘‘We came away from there through great danger and shipwreck

until we reached you, queen. This, then, is the gist of the story you have

asked me to tell. Remembering that story fills me with great sorrow and

grief, and I would have been slow to tell it, if it weren’t for your noble


Aeneas and Dido passed the night with those tales. Listening to Aeneas

was the best entertainment Dido could wish for in her heart, and the intensity of her great love for Aeneas became unbearable, until it would not let

her eat or sleep.

When the next morning came, she spoke to her trusted sister Anna, saying:

‘‘Faithful sister, he is noble, stately, and highborn, this man; his features

are fair and his words are sweet. He has great courage and valor, yet he is

gentle and charming. How easy it is to love him: he is surely descended from

the gods. Had I not determined after my first husband’s death not to take

another man, I have so much love for him that I could marry him, if I were

not ashamed of myself. Dear sister, since we are talking in confidence, I

don’t want to hide from you that my love for Aeneas has taken away my

sense and my reason. But for all that I would rather the ground would

swallow me alive than that I should disgrace myself.’’


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

And Queen Dido wept bitterly until her tunic was wet with tears. When

Dido had finished speaking, her sister Anna replied, saying:

‘‘Beloved sister, although a host of the kings and princes of Africa came to

woo you, you refused them all, and no one found favor with you. Now that

you have found one who has won your heart and who is worthy of you, one

for whom you feel unconquerable love, you should banish anxiety and care.

Enjoy your country and your wealth, living a life of pleasure, grace, and

delight, and marry the man you love; it is the only cure for your anxiety and

apprehension, and will restore your pleasure and joy in life.’’ [. . .]

[705] The words Anna had spoken fanned the love in Dido’s heart. She

became restless and took to walking about in the city; love for Aeneas consumed her and did not let her stay still in any one place. She brought Aeneas

with her everywhere she went, and showed him her treasure and her wealth

and all her belongings, gold and silver, satin and silk, drinking horns and

goblets, and much other wealth besides. She often tried to speak to Aeneas to

confess her great love for him, but out of modesty she could not bring herself

to do so. Nothing would please her but talking to Aeneas and hearing his

tales. Her mind would not let her rest; she found no peace sitting up or lying

down, sleeping or eating, and she could accomplish nothing: the excess of

her love for Aeneas took her reason away and drove her to distraction.

The thought entered Dido’s mind to go hunting, with Aeneas in her company, and Aeneas agreed. Then Queen Dido daughter of Belus set out to

meet the hunt, and she was beautiful to behold. She was riding on a lively

horse, with a well-made saddle on it. She wore a tunic of variegated colors,

with a border of red gold around it. She carried a golden quiver. The youth of

Tyre and of Sidon was gathered around her. When they had reached the

mountain, they arranged the course of the hunt. Everyone was assigned his

proper place, and the game was driven from the mountain toward them.

While the hunt was in full swing, the weather broke; a thunderstorm with

hail showers, thunder, and lightning came down on them. Everyone dispersed and, unable to continue the hunt, fled home, overcome by fear and

dread. Aeneas and Dido were left alone together and, looking for shelter,

came to a nearby cave, and the two of them consummated their union there,

since they were wretched.

Meanwhile, the goddess who keeps an eye on everyone, that tell-tale,

Fama, daughter of Terra, was watching them. [. . .] [742] The goddess Fama

told the inhabitants of Africa that Aeneas and Dido had married, and she

told the same thing to King Iarbas. Iarbas was furious at that report; he felt

greatly insulted that Dido should reject him and marry Aeneas instead. This

is what he did: he offered great sacrifices to Jupiter, and complained of



Dido’s treatment. [. . .] [757] When Jupiter heard Iarbas’s prayer he said

to Mercury:

‘‘Go and speak to Aeneas, who is with Dido building her city. Tell him:

‘Leave this city and go to Italy.’ For it is in Italy that he is destined to fight

valorous bloody battles and to forge for himself a kingdom; out of Italy he

will gain the high sovereignty over the entire world for his descendants. Let

him therefore go to Italy, and let him not stay in Carthage, since it is in Italy

that good fortune awaits him and his descendants after him.’’

Then Mercury set out to deliver that message. He donned his feather

cloak, and he traversed sea and land with equal ease. In his hand he held his

messenger’s staff; with one end he could kill, with the other revive anything

it touched. He went to where Aeneas was busy building the city, wearing a

purple fringed tunic, and carrying in his hand a gold-hilted sword inlaid

with garnet gemstones. [. . .] [789] Then the goddess Fama, daughter of

Terra, came to Dido and told her that the Trojans were readying the fleet and

that Aeneas was going away to Italy. She was terrified when she learned that

news; her reason forsook her, and she was possessed by frenzy and madness. She went to Aeneas and said:

‘‘Cruel and inconstant man! Did you think you could get away from me

like that, without my noticing? Will you not recall our mutual love and

friendship? You know well that I will die of love for you if you leave me, as

you intend to. Don’t you realize that you are venturing out with your fleet in

time of great bad weather? For the sake of these tears I shed, and of my

anguish, and for the sake of the tender bond that has been between us, and

our mutual love, take pity on me and don’t leave me. Don’t go, if you have

any respect or concern for me.’’ [. . .]

[840] Then Dido fell silent and wept bitterly, until her tunic was wet with

her tears. She turned away from Aeneas then and headed back to her palace,

and her maids attended her and laid her on her bed, for she had fallen into a

swoon and fainted after returning from talking to Aeneas.

Though Aeneas was reluctant to part with Dido, and longed to do what

she wanted, and even though leaving her seemed like rending body from

soul, he nevertheless obeyed the command of the gods and went to his fleet.

The Trojans carried all their belongings with them to their ships, and Aeneas

joined them there. [. . .]

[890] Then the light of morning dawned, and the queen rose early in her

chamber. She saw the shoreline and the sea stretching before her, and saw

that the landing places were empty and the fleet was sailing away over the

ocean. She beat her breast three times, and tore her hair, and burst out

weeping. She cried:


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

‘‘Ochón och! They are gone now. Gods of heaven and earth, how shamefully have we been deceived by the treacherous man who came to us! [. . .]

[910] May the gods of heaven avenge the wrong he has done me, since I cannot avenge myself. If the gods have really decreed that he reaches Italy, may

his life there be difficult. May the gods cause stubborn violent warlike opposition against him by the tribes of Italy, rising against him sharply, angrily, bloodily, in violent martial battles. May they gain victory over him,

and kill his people before his eyes without his being able to save them. May

he himself be killed then, and may his body be left to the dogs and ravens

and birds of the air, with no one to bury him, in revenge for what he has

done to me. This is my dying legacy to you, Tyrians: that there will be

everlasting war between that race of Trojans bound for Italy and you, your

sons and grandsons.’’

After Dido had said all that, she went to the bedroom where she used to

sleep with Aeneas; she got into the bed in which they used to lie, and she

wept. Then she raised herself up in bed, and, baring the sword that was in

her hand, she fell upon it and killed herself, because she preferred death to a

life without Aeneas.

When Dido’s people saw what she had done, they began to cry and keen,

and their lamentations could be heard to the high heavens. Dido’s sister

Anna came and took her sister’s head in her lap, and she wept, sad and

sorrowful because of her sister’s death.

And that was the end of the love of Aeneas and Dido. (BH)

3. Golden Bough (lines 1259–1454)

[1259] Sibyl the prophetess answered:

‘‘It is easy for you to enter Hades, for the doors of Hades are always open:

it is coming back out that is difficult. But if, for all that, you still wish to go

there and find Anchises, first go into the forest. In the middle of the forest

there is a tree with golden foliage; if you find that tree, tear off a branch. If the

gods assent, another branch will grow immediately in its place. If they do

not, you will not be able to cut any part of it, either by hand or with iron,

however much you try.’’ [. . .]

[1275] Then Aeneas went into the forest to look for the golden branch, as

the Sibyl had instructed him, and he began to pray to Venus to show him the

branch he was looking for. It was not long before he saw two doves fluttering about until they settled on the ground before him. He knew then that it

was Venus who had sent him the birds to guide him on his way; he was to

follow the birds wherever they went. The doves flew before him, hovering

low, and he followed them until he came upon the tree with the golden



leaves. When Aeneas had reached the tree on which the doves were sitting,

he broke off a branch and rejoiced; the foliage was as if it were fashioned of

gold. He returned with the branch to the Sibyl’s dwelling. As he had been

instructed by the Sibyl, he offered sacrifice to the gods of Hades, and when

he had finished, he sent his people away to the ships. He alone stayed on

with the Sibyl to venture together on their journey to Hades, for the gods of

Hades did not like anyone except the dead to come to Hades. When everyone

had left, the Sibyl said to Aeneas:

‘‘Tonight you must act boldly,’’ she said, ‘‘and you need to take courage.

Evil and fearsome is this road we are venturing on.’’

Then the Sibyl went before him into the forecourt of Hades, and Aeneas

followed her bravely and with a bold heart. [. . .]

[1344] Then the Sibyl and Aeneas came to the ferry across the river Acheron. Charon turned toward them with a fierce angry hostile mien, and said:

‘‘What has brought you here, Aeneas, a corporeal being, alive and armed,

in defiance of the command of the gods of Hades? Leave, and do not come

here again. Go back to the place you have come from.’’

The Sibyl said to Charon, ‘‘Leave off your present intention, for this man

has not come to do you wrong, but to speak with his father, Anchises, who is

in Hades. Show Charon your golden branch, Aeneas, since he does not seem

well-disposed toward us at present.’’

When Charon saw the branch, his fury subsided, and he steered the boat

toward Aeneas. Aeneas and the Sibyl got in the boat with him, and they

crossed the river to the other side. Cerberus rushed toward them, the fierce

frightful hound of Orcus, but the Sibyl threw him his share of food, and the

dog became quiet after that, so that Aeneas and the Sibyl could pass by him

unhindered. [. . .]

[1449] After Anchises had finished showing Aeneas the great multitude

that would be descended from him in Italy, the Sibyl and Aeneas bade

farewell to Anchises, and left Hades by the ivory door. Then the Sibyl returned to her cave, and Aeneas went to his fleet; and of all that he had seen

he remembered nothing but a faint vision, like a man waking from a dream,

or one brought back from the verge of death. (BH)


(thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries)

In medieval Iceland, interest in Virgil’s poetry centered on the Aeneid; no

evidence exists for awareness of the Eclogues and Georgics there. Because of the

Icelandic taste for tales of doomed heroism and courageous struggles against

heavy odds, the part of the Aeneid that received the most attention was the


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

account of the fall of Troy in book 2. The Trojan War was of su≈cient interest

in Iceland to warrant the production of three di√erent redactions of a saga

called Trójumanna saga (Saga of the Troy-Men): mid thirteenth century in the

case of the Alpha redaction, somewhat later in the thirteenth century for the

Beta redaction, and early fourteenth century for the third redaction (which is

found in the literary compilation named Hauksbók, after its creator, Haukr

Erlendsson, an Icelander who died in Norway in 1334). The anonymous

redactors of this saga drew on sources other than Virgil, chiefly on the prose

De excidio Troiae historia (History of the Destruction of Troy, fifth or sixth

century), falsely ascribed to Dares of Phrygia, a Trojan priest of Hephaestus

(mentioned in Homer, Iliad 5.9). They supplemented this rather laconic and

dry account with other works concerning the Trojan War, such as the Ilias

latina (a Latin epitome of the Iliad in 1,070 hexameters that is conventionally

dated to the first century c.e. and has been ascribed to Baebius Italicus),

Ovid’s Heroides, and Virgil’s Aeneid.

The most extensive Virgilian passage in any redaction of this saga is the

passage that occurs in both the Beta and Hauksbók redactions after the end of

the Daretian account of how the Greeks won the war. (Text: J. Louis-Jensen,

ed., Trójumanna saga, Editiones Arnamagnaeanae, series A, vol. 8 [Copenhagen, 1963]. Because the text at this point is substantially the same in both

redactions, only the Hauksbók passage is translated below.) The Daretian

approach is rationalistic, avoiding marvels and the supernatural in its telling of

the Trojan War, and omitting even the stratagem of the Trojan horse as being

too unlikely and impractical. Though the Beta redactor and, following his

lead, Haukr Erlendsson adhere quite faithfully to Daretian tradition through

most of the saga, they evidently felt the need to follow up the rationalized

Daretian account with an alternative account that includes the Trojan horse

and devotes considerable attention to Aeneas. Book 2 of the Aeneid is clearly

the source of the account of Troy’s fall presented below.

The account of Troy’s fall in the Alpha redaction of the saga is very di√erent.

The Alpha redactor did not append an alternative Virgilian account of the fall

of Troy to his Daretian account; he simply followed the course of events set

down in De excidio Troiae historia, but with a single Virgilian interpolation: a

brief statement mentioning, rather incongruously, a wooden horse filled with

troops. (Text: J. Louis-Jensen, ed., Trójumanna saga: The Dares Phrygius Version, Editiones Arnamagnaeanae, series A, vol. 9 [Copenhagen, 1981]) At two

other points in the narrative, however, the Alpha redactor inserted two descriptive details that closely resemble details in the Aeneid. Both are concerned

with the Greek warrior Neoptolemus, or Pyrrhus, as he is also known, and

are inspired by Virgil’s description of him in book 2. In the translations of



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K. Middle Irish Wanderings of Aeneas

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