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259–278: Back To The Future

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Mercury touches down in Carthage to pass on Jupiter’s orders and get (Aeneas’) destiny back on track. The Homeric model is Hermes’ appearance to Calypso in Odyssey 5, telling the nymph that she has to let the hero go. There is, then, a shift from the clinging host in Homer to the lingering guest in Virgil. (One could have imagined a divine messenger appearing to Dido: but she is cut off from communication with Olympian divinities and later on also doubts that Aeneas has been the beneficiary of a genuine theophany: see 4.379–80.) Mercury displays notable independence in his address to Aeneas: far from repeating Jupiter’s discourse virtually word for word (as some characters in Homer are wont to do who act as messengers), he gives his speech an idiosyncratic spin. In part, he is reacting to the shocking scene he encounters at Carthage. For far from being idle, as Fama had it, Aeneas is in fact hard at work at building a city—just not the one he is supposed to. Mercury takes in the proceedings in lines 259–265a; bursts into speech (and Aeneas’ sight) in lines 265b–276a; and abruptly disappears again at lines 276b–278.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 259: ut primum alatis tetigit magalia plantis: magalia (here in the neuter accusative plural, object of tetigit) are ‘North African huts, of lowly and temporary character’, here, specifically, ‘the first rude and hasty dwellings of the immigrants, not yet replaced by the newer houses which are in the next line represented as under construction. For this contrast of the temporary and the permanent styles of building, cf. 1.421.’[1]

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 260–261: Aenean fundantem arces ac tecta nouantem/ conspicit: the present participles fundantem and nouantem, which form a chiasmus with their accusative objects (arces, tecta) beautifully capture Aeneas misplaced energies: far from lording it over Dido as dominus, as Iarbas supposes, he is doing her work. (The following lines show that he is amply rewarded for his efforts.) The correlation of Aenean and conspicit at the beginning of two successive lines nicely underscores what catches Mercury’s eyes upon touching down: that the proto-Roman hero lays the foundations of Carthage. (The enjambment of conspicit, following suddenly upon the heavily spondaic line 260, which labours just as much as Aeneas, and the diaeresis thereafter, convey something of the shock value.)

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 261: conspicit: after cernit in 246, Virgil switched into the past tense, first the perfect (253: constitit; 255: misit, both placed dramatically at the beginning of a verse), then, to emphasize the duration of the flight, the imperfect (256: uolebat; 257: secabat, both placed soothingly at the end of a verse). Now he is back to the present. conspicit recalls both cernit (in terms of semantics) and constitit (in terms of alliteration and assonance, scansion, and placement in the verse).

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 261–264: atque illi stellatus iaspide fulua/ ensis erat Tyrioque ardebat murice laena/ demissa ex umeris, diues quae munera Dido/ fecerat, et tenui telas discreuerat auro: the –que after Tyrio links erat and ardebat, which takes laena as subject; munera, which is the antecedent of quae but has been attracted into the relative clause, stands in apposition to laena (‘the coat glowed, a gift, which…’: quae is in the neuter accusative plural). Diues, pulled up front before the relative clause in which it belongs, modifies Dido (note the paronomasia created by the alliteration diues Dido). After the initial focus on Aeneas’ activity, we get a detailed account of the hero’s ornate apparel, specifically his sword (ensis) and cloak (laena). A laena is a thick woollen cloak; depending on design it could be used in a military context or for representational purposes; here it is clearly an Eastern luxury item that assimilates Aeneas to Dionysus (and Antony): ‘luxurious robes dyed crimson or yellow and trailing down to the feet are thoroughly typical of Dionysus and so figure repeatedly in descriptions of the god’—as well as the Roman who went East and promoted himself as Dionysus reborn, that is, Mark Antony.[2] A sword studded with precious gems (iaspis is jasper, a loanword in Latin; more generally ia with vocalic i-a, as in Iarbas, is un-Roman stuff) and a purple cloak shot through with threads of gold are items designed for ostentatious display rather than everyday use: that Aeneas actually wears them while building the city would seem to suggest that he oversees the building efforts, rather than getting his own hands dirty in the trenches. The cloak will reappear at 11.72–75, as one of the garments Aeneas uses to cover the corpse of his protegee Pallas, the son of Euander:

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 tum geminas uestis auroque ostroque rigentis
extulit Aeneas, quas illi laeta laborum
ipsa suis quondam manibus Sidonia Dido
fecerat et tenui telas discreuerat auro.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 [Then Aeneas brought forth two garments stiff with gold and purple, which Sidonian Dido, glad of the labour, had once made for him herself with her own hands, interweaving the web with fine gold.]

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 The death of Pallas fulfills part of the curse Dido utters before her suicide where she wishes Aeneas to see the shocking deaths of his friends (4.617–18: uideatque indigna suorum/ funera). That Dido’s garments should reappear at this moment of utter despair hints at the efficaciousness of her imprecation.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 261: illi: dative of possession.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 262: Tyrio … murice: the murex is the sea-snail out of which purple dye was extracted; the best and most expensive variant came from the snails whose habitat was Dido’s native Tyre in Phoenicia. See above 134–135: ostroque insignis et auro.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 262–263: laena/ demissa ex umeris: the placement of demissa ex umeris in enjambment nicely enacts the way the coat is hanging down from Aeneas’ shoulders.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 264: et tenui telas discreuerat auro: Dido had interwoven (discreuerat) the fabric (telas) with finely spun gold (tenui auro).

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 265: continuo inuadit: Mercury displays a decisiveness that startles. Without hesitation (continuo) he attacks (inuadit) if with words. The forceful approach corresponds to the shock and disgust at what he is seeing. Virgil does not even comment on the fact that a theophany has occurred, though he will remark on Mercury’s disappearance (below, 276–78).

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 265–267: ‘tu nunc Karthaginis altae/ fundamenta locas pulchramque uxorius urbem/ exstruis?: Pease cites the insightful comment of the Scholia Danielis on the first two words of this sentence: ‘tu’ invectio est, et ‘nunc,’ id est, hoc tempore, quo tibi navigandum vel pro tua spe laborandum est (‘ “tu” is an invective attack, and “nunc” means “at the very moment when you ought to be sailing or exerting yourself on behalf of your own future” ’).[3] Karthaginis altae/ fundamenta: the placement of fundamenta in the line under high Carthage iconically mirrors the actual architecture by means of verse design.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 266: uxorius: ‘too much beholden to his woman/ wife.’ A passage in Dio Cassius suggests that accusations of enslavement to a foreign woman formed an important theme in Octavian’s propaganda warfare against Mark Antony and Cleopatra in the run-up to the battle at Actium in 31 BC (50.26.5–27.1):[4]

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 … τῇ δὲ γυναικὶ δουλεύων τόν τε πόλεµον καὶ τοὺς κινδύνους τοὺς ὑπὲρ αὐτῆς αὐθαιρέτους καὶ καθ’ ἡµῶν καὶ κατὰ τῆς πατρίδος ἀναιρεῖται, τί λοιπὸν ἄλλο πλὴν ἀµύνασθαι καὶ τοῦτον µετὰ τῆς Κλεοπάτρας ἡµῖν προσήκει; µήτ’ οὖν Ῥωµαῖον εἶναί τις αὐτὸν νοµιζέτω, ἀλλά τινα Αἰγύπτιον, µήτ’ Ἀντώνιον ὀνοµαζέτω, ἀλλά τινα Σαραπίωνα•

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 [… but being a slave to that woman, he undertakes the war and its self-chosen dangers on her behalf against us and against his country. In view of all this, what is left to us but the duty of fighting him, together with Cleopatra, and repelling him? Therefore let no one count him a Roman, but rather an Egyptian, nor call him Antony, but rather Serapion.]

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 Mercury, in other words, joins in the ethnic abuse that Aeneas suffers from several other characters in the poem (notably Iarbas and Turnus), who cast him as an effeminate Eastener who lacks proper virility and heroic stature. In contrast to the human characters, however, who believe to have pinpointed ‘the essence’ of Aeneas, Mercury knows that his present condition is simply a momentary aberration: Aeneas has slipped into ‘un-Roman’ behavioural patterns, prefiguring in myth the historical liaison between Mark Antony and another African Queen, i.e. Cleopatra. This wider horizon endows Mercury’s wake-up call with special urgency, at least for Virgil’s readers: Aeneas, the ancestor of Octavian, is running the danger of turning into a prototype of Mark Antony.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 267: heu, regni rerumque oblite tuarum!: oblite is the vocative form of the masculine singular perfect participle of obliuiscor, i.e. oblitus; it governs the two objective genitives regni and rerum tuarum. Mercury here reuses the idiom of 221, where Jupiter’s eyes fall on oblitos famae melioris amantis.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 268–270: ipse deum tibi me claro demittit Olympo/ regnator, caelum et terras qui numine torquet,/ ipse haec ferre iubet celeris mandata per auras: after giving Aeneas the treatment on his own account, Mercury moves on to report why he has come in the first place: Jupiter sent him. Mercury gives the king of the gods appropriate prominence: note the pattern ipse—regnator—ipse at the beginning of the three verses, a quasi-hymnic design reinforced by the massive hyperbaton deum (= deorum) … regnator (the noun on which the objective genitive depends). regnator is etymologically related to regnum (267), so Mercury here obliquely hints at the affinity of Aeneas and Jupiter, as prospective and present rulers of empire and cosmos.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 269: caelum et terras qui numine torquet: qui is in postpositive position.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 270: ipse haec ferre iubet celeris mandata per auras: iubet introduces an indirect statement: the implied subject accusative is me (easily supplied from the previous clause in which me is the direct object of demittit), the infinitive is ferre, which takes haec … mandata as accusative object. mandata harks back to the beginning of Jupiter’s speech at 222: ac talia mandat, reinforcing the (erroneous) impression that Mercury has just delivered a verbatim message from Jupiter. The phrasing celeris (= celeres) … per auras generates a similar effect: it harks back to 226 (Jupiter speaking): et celeris defer mea dicta per auras. Mercury reuses this and other Jovian speech-fragments to underscore that what he has just said is a faithful reproduction of what he was told by Jupiter. But the switch from compound verb (defer) to simple (ferre) and the elegant switch from mea dicta to mandata gives the game away even here: Mercury does not consider Jupiter’s speech unalterable gospel.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 271: quid struis?: Jupiter’s question precisely: see 235 above: quid struit?.

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 271: aut qua spe Libycis teris otia terris?: teris is the second person singular indicative present active of tero. Note the mocking homoioteleuton Libycis—teris—terris, with the last two items also featuring an alliterative paronomasia as well as a figura etymologica: see Varro, de Lingua Latina 5.4.21: Terra dicta ab eo, ut Aelius scribit, quod teritur. Itaque tera in augurum libris scripta cum R uno. (‘Terra is called like this, according to Aelius, because it is trodden upon. This is why in the books of the augurs tera is written with one R only.’). otium, here in the accusative plural (otia), means ‘leisure’. In recasting 235 of Jupiter’s speech (aut qua spe inimica in gente moratur?) Mercury suppresses Jupiter’s anticipation of future historical hostilities between Rome and Carthage and falls back into Iarbas’ perspective, disregarding for a moment the fact that Aeneas is busy at work building up Carthage. So the sense of otia here is probably something akin to ‘idling away time better spent on advancing your own mission.’

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 272–276: si te nulla mouet tantarum gloria rerum/ [nec super ipse tua moliris laude laborem,]/ Ascanium surgentem et spes heredis Iuli/ respice, cui regnum Italiae Romanaque tellus/ debetur.’: the final part of Mercury’s speech remains fairly close to Jupiter’s wording and ideas, but also significant alterations on the level of detail:

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 232: si nulla accendit tantarum gloria rerum ~ 272: si te nulla mouet tantarum gloria rerum

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 233: nec super ipse tua molitur laude laborem ~ 273: nec super ipse tua moliris laude laborem [though most editors and commentators consider this line an interpolation]

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 234: Ascanione pater Romanas inuidet arces? and 236: nec prolem Ausoniam et Lauinia respicit arua? ~ 274–276: Ascanium surgentem et spes heredis Iuli/ respice, cui regnum Italiae Romanaque tellus/ debetur.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 Specifically, Mercury drops Jupiter’s invidious speculations about the psychology behind Aeneas’ dallying with Dido (some sort of resentment over his son’s future career in Italy) and takes exactly the opposite approach: he presents the filial prospects (spes heredis Iuli more likely refers to the hopes Iulus harbours, rather than the hopes others have invested in him) as a prime motivating factor. The placement of Ascanium and Iuli at the beginning and the end of the line hints at the temporal development: Ascanius as Iulus will fully come into his own in Italy. These departures from Jupiter’s script also enable Mercury to streamline Jupiter’s rhetorical questions (inuidet? respicit?) into one imperative: respice! Overall, Mercury’s version is much more economical and to the point: in the main clause, we get two sturdy phrases as accusative objects (Ascanium surgentem, spes heredis Iuli) followed by the verb (respice) in enjambment, attached to which is a relative clause that repeats this pattern with slight variation: regnum Italiae and Romana tellus are two resonant and compact subjects (the chiastic placement of the geographical indicators reproduces the stylistic effect of Jupiter’s prolem Ausoniam and Lauinia arua in 236); the verb, debetur, is again placed in enjambment. Mercury thereby neatly turns Jupiter’s somewhat idle rhetorical questions into a powerful image of the future and a command. What he leaves out, though, is the concluding order (237: nauiget!).

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 277: mortalis uisus medio sermone reliquit: an elegant if abrupt ending: adjective + noun (accusative object), adjective + noun (ablative of time), verb. Mercury’s is indeed a sermo interruptus: he does not even pass on Jupiter’s command to set sail (237: naviget!), perhaps because he knows or suspects that what he has said is quite enough to get Aeneas going. medio, here as elsewhere, is placed in the middle of the verse.

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 278: et procul in tenuem ex oculis euanuit auram: Mercury comes out of nowhere and vanishes again into thin air: no wonder Aeneas is under shock.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0  


32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 [2]
Weber (2002), pp. 337–38. See Plutarch’s Life of Antony, which was one of Shakespeare’s primary sources for his Antony and Cleopatra.

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0  

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 [4]
See Syed (2004), p. 188, cited by O’Hara (2011), p. 49. Translation by Earnest Cary in the Loeb Classical Library, 9 volumes, Greek texts and facing English translation (Cambridge, MA, 1914–1927). This is now in the public domain. See: http://penelope.uchicago.edu.ezphost.dur.ac.uk/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/home.html

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0  

Source: http://aeneid4.theclassicslibrary.com/2012/11/30/259-278%E2%80%82back-to-the-future-2/