Analysis Of The Selected Pessage From Virgil’s The Aeneid

This passage is taken from Vergil Aeneid. Aeneas tells Dido his story, in which he describes the city and his fellow Trojans the night Sinon released Greeks from the Trojan Horse. Aeneas describes a scene that was happening at the time, but he does not actually see it. He omits the details of what he did not witness in order for his audience to feel sympathetic towards the Trojans. The passage contrasts Trojans’ blind faith in gods and their ignorance with the dangers that are not yet revealed and the cruelties of fate. It helps the Greeks by any means possible.

The Trojans are celebrating the Horse. Sinon, who was captured by the Greeks, had told them that this creature is a Greek gift, a sacrifice to appease Pallas Athena. The Greeks, he says, have gone home to pray more effectively to Athena. The Trojans are good god-servants and wheel the “delubra”, a device, into the temple Minerva. They deck it with “festa…fronde,” which is a symbol of life, in contrast to the Horse, who carries death and impiety. The Aeneid’s first “delubra”, at II.225-6 is immediately preceding this passage. It says “delubra to summadracones/effugiunt”, which means “delubra to kill family Laocon” who told the Trojans they should not accept the horse. The repetition of “delubra” gives the passage an ominous tone that highlights the hostility the gods have towards Troy. Aeneas accentuates the danger in his words “miseri, qubus ultimus” (Ille Dies). The unnecessarily included “nos”, though not necessary, highlights Aeneas’ point of view and sympathies. The placement of “ille” after the verb, at the start of the line and slightly offset from the original position emphasizes that the Trojans’ fate would be sealed on this day. The Greeks ruined them on the day of worship because they allowed the Horse to enter their city.

The next lines abruptly change the tone, shifting our focus from Troy to nightfall across the globe. The scene is described in Greek as “vertitur”, while “interea” emphasizes that the Trojans are also celebrating the same event. The phrase “caelum and ruit Oceano nox” is a reference to events of a greater scale. This is also indicated by the size of “magna”, or the shadows. The Greeks are more interested in the night than the Trojans. The word “caelum,” which is often used to denote the home of gods, doesn’t help Troy. But the “nox,” at the end, “ruits” unstoppably. Vergil is known to use phrases like “nox-ruit”, but this one stands out. The following line, “involvensumbra magna Terramque Polumque,” continues this foreboding through a series spondees that reflect a relaxed, almost leisurely night in contrast with the hidden hazards. The line’s “m” consonant sounds are rumbling and dangerous, adding to its integrity. The line is beautiful because it has no context. It’s composed of natural words, with similar endings, syllable counts, and syntactical functions. Like the Trojans, we are suddenly jolted away from our peaceful contemplation by the small tricolon crescendo at the end of line two, “terramque-polumque/ Myrmidonumque-dolos”. This brings us back down to earth, from the cosmological scale, to the battlefields. The beauty and power of darkness helps the Greeks in their first appearance under cover at night.

After the initial shock, the focus shifts back to Troy. There, the Trojans, still “fusi,” are calm, unaware, and protected by the “moenia,” a structure that, once opened to the Horse’s attack, won’t do much for the Trojans. It is quiet and safe inside the city; everyone “conticuere”. They are defenseless. “Et iam,” again, emphasizes that the Trojans are resting and at the same time the “Argiva phalanx,” a Greek word, is attacking Troy. The assonances “iam Ariva phalanx”, “instructis Navibus Ibat” and “Tenedo Taitae” seem like gods’ favors to the warlike Greeks. Yet, they are sailing with beauty like night. The chiasmic expression “tacitae par amica quietia lunae”, which shows nature’s love for the Greeks, is a chiasm. The word “silentia”, along with “tacitae”, emphasises the quietness of the night, and is likely referring to the Greeks’ fleet. “Tacitae”, almost an epithet, is a transfer. It is true that the moon is silent, but moons in silence are not noteworthy. The fleet would benefit more from its light than its quietness. The Greeks are almost invisible because of this adjective.

Greeks love the beach. They camp at the same place for so long, they are familiarized with it. As with “flammas”, war and convenience collide. To the Trojans “flammas”, a word that signifies danger, signals a burning town. For the Greeks however, it’s just a helpful signal. Sinon deceived Trojans with the story of his escape from human sacrifice. He worked “furtim”, or in the dark, to achieve “fatisque Deum defensus Iniquis”. Minerva favored the Greeks who exploited their Trojans’ generosity and their desperation in order to gain her favor. The gods support Greece and not Troy. And the fates aren’t just.

Anchises explains in III.540-3 how horses can either be a good sign or a bad one. In fact, the horse represents Neptune who was once the beneficent patron of Troy and is now tearing down its walls.

The Greeks are certainly responsible for the destruction of Troy. The description changes from the Greeks’ entire fleet to “tacitae…lunae,” from where it then moves on to a more specific “regia pappis,” expanding to “fatisque dum,” before finally narrowing down to Sinon. By placing his name at a long sentence’s end, the author builds up suspense to emphasize Sinon’s betrayal. This long list shows the extent and danger of the Greek attack. Sinon is said to have “laxat,” both “Danaos”, and “claustra.” This slight zeugma does not confuse, but there are many hyperbatons in the final two and half lines, “inclusos Danaoset pinea futim/Laxat Claustra Sinon.”

The Greeks are dominant in this part of the story, even though it’s a Trojan telling the tale of Troy. The shifting scale reveals that powerful forces like fate, the Gods, and weather are working in tandem with the Greek army at all levels. This includes the fleet as well as Sinon. The subdued tone throughout the passage contrasts the celebrations of the Trojans. Hector warns Aeneas that a new war is on its way and it’s too late to stop it. Hector and Aeneas are good Trojans. Creusa is a kind woman, Anchises is a brave man, Priam was a good man, Hector is a good man, and Hector’s goodness can change destiny, but not Aeneas. The fate is now on the side of Aeneas but will soon be on that of the Greeks. The gods and the other factors will eventually bring about the destruction of Troy.

Work Cited

Austin, R.G. Aeneidos Liber Secvndvs. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1964.

Vergil; Pharr, Clyde, ed. Vergil’s Aeneid. Books I to VI. Wauconda, Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc. 1998.



I'm Spencer Knight, a 29-year-old educational blogger and teacher. I write about a variety of topics related to education, from teaching strategies to student success stories. I hope to help others achieve their educational goals and help them develop a lifelong love of learning.

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