Nisus erat portae custos, acerrimus armis, et iuxta comes
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GCSE Set Texts
NISUS & EURYALUS (Virgil Book IX) Recitations of the text start automatically at the beginning of each slide. Then click for questions and answers
There is on the VLE in Year 11/ Verse Texts/ Background an interactive map of Aeneas’ voyage from Troy to Italy, useful background to this story. These are three links from the Cambridge Schools Classics Project Site which may be useful. http://www.cambridgescp.com/ws2_tlc/explore_ cla/ws2_ets_cla.php?p=^947^ This gives all the Latin with hyperlinks for each word to give meanings and grammar. http://www.skidmore.edu/academics/classics/co urses/metrica/preface.html A super site which gives excellent outline information on hexameter metres and how to read them. http://www.cambridgescp.com/ws2_php/ws2_go _to_url.php?url_id=3069 This site is not currently working. CSCP have promised to tell me when it is. From the description it will have good information about word order in Virgil’s poetry.
Nisus erat portae custos, acerrimus armis, et iuxta comes Euryalus, quo pulchrior alter non fuit Aeneadum Troiana neque induit arma,
Where are the Trojans at this point in the story? They are in camp near the mouth of the River Tiber, at what in the future would be Ostia
What has just happened in the story? Turnus, king of the Rutuli, formerly the suitor of Lavinia, daughter of King Latinus, now promised to Aeneas, has attacked the Trojan camp and burned their ships; both sides have dug in for the night.
Nisus erat portae custos, acerrimus armis, et iuxta comes Euryalus, quo pulchrior alter non fuit Aeneadum Troiana neque induit arma,
Where is Aeneas? Why is he absent? Aeneas has sailed up the River Tiber to Pallanteum (the future site of Rome) to seek an alliance with the enemy of the Latini, King Evander. What are the words that Virgil uses that express the relationship between Nisus and Euryalus?
The equivalent in Homer’s Iliad ~ Achilles and his lover Patroclus
“comes” ~ companion (here almost boyfriend) expresses that they stay close together and “iuxta” that they stick together also as soldiers and take the same duties. Virgil’s listeners would take it for granted that this was an erotic, homosexual relationship between an older man and a youth.
Nisus erat portae custos, acerrimus armis, et iuxta comes Euryalus, quo pulchrior alter non fuit Aeneadum Troiana neque induit arma, Explain how these words “set us up” for what is going to happen later in the poem. We are set up for a contrast between this beginning and the final outcome. Both N and E in these lines are together and doing their duty; N is warlike and E is young and beautiful. N and E are friends and lovers. They go out in the night both to get to Aeneas and tell him what is going on and also to get the prizes of slaughter and plunder – still positive in the context of epic poetry. The pathos of the story lies in the contrast between the fresh beauty of E and the violence and ugly horror of war. It also lies in the fact that N who is acerrimus armis wants to prove his battle credentials; he does not want to endanger his young lover but E insists on accompanying him – he too wants to prove his credentials in war. Another aspects of the pathos of the story is that they start out with high hopes but in their eagerness for slaughter and plunder they make errors and E is caught. N is acerrimus armis and also the comes of E and those two factors make it almost inevitable that he will attack and in the end sacrifice himself to avenge his lover.
Orestes and Pylades ~ another pair of lovers in epic
Nisus erat portae custos, acerrimus armis, et iuxta comes Euryalus, quo pulchrior alter non fuit Aeneadum Troiana neque induit arma, Explain the pathos of the word “pulchrior” in the second line.
There is a contrast between the young fresh beauty of E and the horror and ugliness of war: later in the poem Virgil goes into graphic details of slaughter to make this contrast more explicit. There is a contrast between the E pictured here with his beautiful body complete and what later happens to him with this body disfigured. Comment on the positions and the effects of pulchrior alter non fuit These words occupy the strong positions at the end and beginning of lines; the effect is to emphasise just how beautiful E is. Aeneadum: explain why Virgil uses this word here
Mosaic of Virgil being inspired by the Muses of History and Tragedy
Literally the sons of Aeneas; not really his sons but he is the pater patriae – the father of his country – and therefore the Trojans are metaphorically his children. Another reason is that these “patronymics” are commonly used in Homer’s epic poems and Virgil uses them partly at least to give a strong epic flavour to his poem.
his amor unus erat pariterque in bella ruebant; tum quoque communi portam statione tenebant. his amor unus: what loving relationship would Virgil assume his readers would remember? Why would he want them to? The relationship in Homer’s Iliad betweeen Achilles and Patroclus. These are characters in the greatest of epics; Virgil is composing a Roman equivalent. Aeneas is an important step in the foundation of Rome; he came from Troy and “comes out of” the story being told in the Iliad. All these points are resonating in this phrase. How in these lines does Virgil emphasise the close relationship of N and E? There are three words in two lines which describe their relationship: amor unus, pariter .. ruebant; communi..statione. The “grammatical rhyme” of ruebant and tenebant at the ends of each line also help to pull the ideas together, to emphasise the relationship. tum quoque: comment on the position of these words and what perhaps they convey. At the beginning of the line for great emphasis. Virgil is perhaps conveying that they go off to fight together (pariter ruebant), which is to be expected, but were so close that even on boring guard duty they still could not bear to be apart.
cetera per terras omnes animalia somno laxabant curas et corda oblita laborum: How do these two lines “set the listener up” for what follows? The contrast of sleepfulness and wakefulness is common in epic poetry. Contrast is immediately with the bustle and business of the Trojan council of war which follows, and more generally with all the violent activity that follows as N & E slaughter the Rutulians and are then trapped and killed in turn. How does the picture in these two lines underline the whole theme of the Aeneid and in particular the second half of the poem? One of the themes of the Aeneid is reaching the end of care and toil (curas ..laborum) after years of effort. Aeneas could have achieved it when he was with Queen Dido but the mission still needed to be carried out – only then could he relax. Also Virgil’s own time is part of the picture for his listeners – Augustus is emperor and has brought stability and prosperity to Rome after years and years of civil war, and Virgil is reminding his listeners of that, perhaps. Comment on the sound of curas et corda. An example of assonance – emphasises the idea discussed in the last question and also in structure straddles and ties together the two ideas of giving up cares and forgetting toil.
ductores Teucrum primi, delecta iuventus, consilium summis regni de rebus habebant, quid facerent quisve Aeneae iam nuntius esset. What are the summae res the Trojan leaders are holding a council about? They are discussing what they should do following the attack on their camp and who should go and tell Aeneas what is going on. Comment on how Virgil’s choice of words helps to underline the crisis the Trojans face. The repetition of the interrogative quid …quis highlights the discussion taking place among the leaders of the Trojans and emphasises that they have questions but presumably at this moment no answers. The use of –ve to link questions is apparently a very colloquial usage so again using that helps to make the questions more “real” perhaps: these are not orators making speeches but real people wrestling with real problems.
stant longis adnixi hastis et scuta tenentes castrorum et campi medio. What are the Trojans doing as they discuss the issues? They are leaning on their spears and holding their shields and standing in an open area either in the middle of the camp or outside the camp.
What is Virgil communicating about the Trojans in these two lines?
Looking back to what has happened prior to this episode, the Trojans have had a hard day’s fighting but still late at night though exhausted they are still on duty, still ready for action if need be. In Virgil’s view they are therefore the ideal of the warrior.
tum Nisus et una Euryalus confestim alacres admittier orant; rem magnam pretiumque morae fore. Comment on the position of una.
It is at the end of the line which is always a powerful and emphatic place. It emphasises strongly the togetherness of N & E as they put their proposal to the Trojan council of war. Which two words communicate N & E’s state of mind? confestim – immediately, - and alacres – eager; they are put together for extra effect and before the two verbs they go with. admittier: what part of the verb is this? Why does Virgil use it? This is a very archaic, older, form of the Passive Infinitive – you would expect it to be admitti. Three possible reasons for its use: a) This is epic so it gives a bit of grandeur to it b) it fits the metre! c) Read the line – it helps to give sounds of urgency (that is obviously a subjective view!)
primus Iulus accepit trepidos ac Nisum dicere iussit.
Who is Iulus? Why does he seem to be in charge. This is another name for Ascanias, Aeneas’ son. Iulus is a powerful name since it traces a line from the earliest days of Rome through the gens Iulia to Julius Caesar and on to his adopted son, the emperor Augustus. He is in charge because his father Aeneas is away talking to Evander, king of the Arcadians, in Pallanteum.
Aeneas escaping from Troy, his father Anchises on his back, his son Ascanias at his side.
Comment on Virgil’s use of the word trepidos and the two different meanings he seems to be conveying by using it. It needs to be seen in connection with alacres two lines before. The best translation here is probably ‘excited’. They are trembling but with excitement about the adventure and search for glory that they are proposing. However at the same time they are two youngish soldiers going in to talk to the leaders in the council of war, so perhaps they are also trembling with fear.
tum sic Hyrtacides: 'audite o mentibus aequis, Aeneadae, neve haec nostris spectentur ab annis quae ferimus Comment on Virgil’s use of Hyrtacides and Aeneadae.
These are patronymics – ‘son of..’. They are very frequent in Homer’s epics. This is a key moment in the story, as decisions are made which will lead to the death of N & E, and Virgil gives it more weight, makes it more formal, more epic, by using these forms here. Translate neve to ferimus. ‘and let not these (words) be viewed in relation to the years which we bear (our age)’
The o goes with Aeneadae. Why does Virgil put it out of position? With its ‘shock value’ it helps to keep the sense of urgency which Virgil has built up in the previous lines with confestim, alacres and trepidos.
Rutuli somno vinoque soluti conticuere; locum insidiis conspeximus ipsi, qui patet in bivio portae quae proxima ponto. somno vinoque: this phrase comes up again later and can be found several times in the Aeneid. Why is it used more than once?
These are called formulaic expressions, are common in Homer’s poems, and help to give the Aeneid that epic flavour. They are little bits of lines which can easily be assembled with other elements. Also they are a nice easy bit of metre to fit in. They can help like shorthand to sum up easily the difference between the Italians – ‘soft lazy drunkards’, - and the Trojans, - still on guard and on duty late in the night. What part of the verb is conticuere? Comment on how the sound and the sense go together. conticuere is the Perfect Tense, 3rd person plural = a shortened form of conticuerunt. If you read it it is long, short, short, long, short. The long –e towards the end gives a sense of sinking, into sleep perhaps.
Rutuli somno vinoque soluti conticuere; locum insidiis conspeximus ipsi, qui patet in bivio portae quae proxima ponto. Why do you think Virgil puts into Nisus’ speech all this exact detail about the place for a breakout?
The poetry is designed to be listened to. There is only a limited range of images in the background of people’s lives (unlike our own, bombarded with images in print, TV, DVD) so listeners probably need some help to build up an imaginative picture about what Nisus is describing. Comment on the position of ipsi. ipsi is in the powerful position of the end of the line and therefore is heavily emphatic; ‘we ourselves’ have sussed out a place to secretly leave the camp; we are not leaving the decision to chance or taking secondhand information.
interrupti ignes aterque ad sidera fumus erigitur; What is Nisus trying to convey about the situation by the use of these images? The fact that the line of watch fires is not complete and some of the fires are just smoking indicates that the guards have become sloppy or are also drunk and asleep.
In these lines and the previous ones what are the three factors Nisus says will make their venture successful? a) The Trojans are drunk and asleep. b) N & E have carefully worked out a route away from the camp. c) The fires show there are gaps in the ring of guard posts.
si fortuna permittitis uti quaesitum Aenean et moenia Pallantea, mox hic cum spoliis ingenti caede peracta adfore cernetis. What are the moenia Pallantea? These are the walls of the city of Pallanteum, the city of King Evander, king of the Arcadians. Pallanteum will become the site of Rome. Why do they need to go and seek for Aeneas? He has gone to Pallanteum to try to make an alliance with King Evander. In the meantime, the Latins and the Rutulians under Turnus have attacked the Trojans. The Trojans are without their supreme commander. How does N make the mission ‘tasty’ for the leaders? In addition to finding Aeneas, they will achieve the epic hero’s desire for glory and everlasting fame by slaughtering lots of the enemy and coming back with lots of plunder.
si fortuna permittitis uti quaesitum Aenean et moenia Pallantea, mox hic cum spoliis ingenti caede peracta adfore cernetis. Explain the pathos in what Nisus says in mox hic cum spoliis ingenti caede peracta adfore cernetis N & E do make much slaughter of the enemy (read the English bridging section on p 8) and E at least gets plunder in the form of the helmet. The pathos is that the shine on the helmet is what betrays them and they are then slaughtered in their turn; they do not return covered in glory.
What resonance might these lines have for Virgil’s listeners? They might think back to the history of the end of the republic and the endless bitter civil wars in which so many young men had died in great slaughters and think that their emperor Augustus was to be thanked for bringing all that to an end and establishing peace. How do these lines help to make Virgil’s poem ‘epic’?
a) The ponderous line quaesitum …… with its very unusual metre b) The reference to slaughter – it is what epic heroes do! c) The reference to plunder – gathering plunder is one of the ways in which epic heroes show that they have got what it takes.
nec nos via fallet euntes: vidimus obscuris primam sub vallibus urbem venatu adsiduo et totum cognovimus amnem. What are the three factors N puts forward that he thinks will make the mission successful? a) They know the route they need to take.
b) They have seen their goal, the city of Pallanteum. c) They have explored the whole of the river valley.
What is the name of the river? The future site of Rome, with its seven hills
The River Tiber (statue below).
Comment on Virgil’s use of obscuris, totum and adsiduo. N frequently stresses how carefully he has looked at things: they have found a good way out, they have observed that the Rutuli are not vigilant. These words emphasise that picture of N. He has spied from the dark woods (obscuris), they have been out regularly hunting and reconnoitering (adsiduo) and they have been thorough (totum). Contrast all this care with what happens when the blood lust takes over later – all the careful preparation means nothing. That is the pathos of it.
protinus armati incedunt; quos omnis euntes primorum manus ad portas, iuvenumque senumque, prosequitur votis. A procession scene from the Ara Pacis.
Comment on the position of protinus. In the emphatic position at the start of the line to underline how eager N & E are to get going.
Virgil paints a vivid picture in these lines; how does he emphasise the importance of N & E’s mission? He emphasises that all the leading Trojans, older (senum) and presumably less impetuous people as well as the gung-ho younger warriors (iuvenum), accompanied N & E all the way to the gate. That older people are supporting the mission implies that they think it is carefully thought out and likely to end in success. Age in this culture is revered! Comment on the position and the effect of votis. You should be used now to words at the end of their sentences being in an emphatic position. Vota are prayers and entreaties to the gods to keep those setting out safe from harm. The position emphasises how ceremonial and how important this praying is.
nec non et pulcher Iulus, ante annos animumque gerens curamque virilem, multa patri mandata dabat portanda; sed aurae omnia discerpunt et nubibus irrita donant. nec non: why does Virgil use a ‘double negative’ here? nec non is always emphatic, particularly here at the beginning of the sentence; often you can translate as ‘even’ to get the flavour of it – even Iulus/Ascanias (in command in his father’s absence) comes to see them off: that is how important the mission is. Iulus is described here as pulcher; why? He is young and heroic, from an epic time, so it is natural to imagine him as almost godlike; the statue shows how for example a god like Apollo is imagined – youthful and ‘perfectly formed’. The description of Iulus here puts him in the same league. How is Iulus described in the second line? What resonance might this have for Virgil’s listeners? He has spirit and responsibility beyond his years: this ‘precocious maturity’ can be found in other characters too. It is emphasised by the assonance of annos and animum. The resonance might be that Augustus, as Octavian, also took responsibility at an early age, after the assassination of his uncle Julius Caesar.
nec non et pulcher Iulus, ante annos animumque gerens curamque virilem, multa patri mandata dabat portanda; sed aurae omnia discerpunt et nubibus irrita donant. Comment on the position of omnia. In a strong position at the beginning of the line. It emphasises how totally the orders of Iulus became useless and without effect. The winds scatter Iulus’ messages to his father and make them irrita: how does this event “set us up” for what is going to happen in the story now? The event makes us think: ‘so what is going to happen to make the messages useless?’ The messages are the whole point of the mission and it is N & E’s less than mature behaviour and desire for heroic glory that means that in the end the messages do not get to Aeneas, and the purpose of the mission is eventually negated.
Aeneas wounded with Iulus/ Ascanias by his side; in our story Iulus is to be imagined as
egressi superant fossas noctisque per umbram castra inimica petunt, multis tamen ante futuri exitio. Whose camp is described as inimica ? What are the two simultaneous meanings of the word? The camp of the Rutulians is being described. Is Virgil playing with words here: the word means on the surface ‘belonging to the enemy’; does it also mean ‘hostile to N &E’ as some writers think; strictly the people who slaughter N & E do not come from the camp but it seems legitimate to lump all the enemy together, inside or outside the camp. tamen in the second line: despite what are N & E going to be ‘a source of destruction to many people’? Although the enemy, represented by the inimica castra, are going to destroy N & E and although we have had hints already that the mission will not end well, nevertheless (tamen) before it ends badly for N & E they will have brought death and destruction to many people.
passim somno vinoque per herbam corpora fusa vident, arrectos litore currus, inter lora rotasque viros, simul arma iacere, vina simul. Comment on the repetition of simul. Weapons and wine jars clearly do not belong together; the repetition of simul ‘in the same place’ helps to point up the juxtaposition and the contrast. There is a detailed picture of the scene in these lines; what is Virgil’s purpose in painting this picture here?
a) To feed the imagination of his listeners and put a picture in their minds b) To point up the difference between the dissolute and careless Rutulians and the ‘on mission’ Trojans
c) To give a preface and an explanation about what is now going to happen with N & E’s slaughter of the unsuspecting enemy.
prior Hyrtacides sic ore locutus: 'Euryale, audendum dextra: nunc ipsa vocat res. hac iter est. What is Virgil’s purpose in using Hyrtacides here? Using this ‘patronymic’ gives a very epic flavour. This is a key moment in the story, as the great adventure of N & E begins, and Virgil marks it by using this very formal, ‘posh’ expression. For the same reason he says ore locutus, ‘he spoke with his mouth’ – a very epic expression, - rather than simply locutus. What effect is Virgil aiming for with the word lengths he uses for Nisus’ speech?
Almost all the words are one or two syllables. The sentences are very short. The effect Virgil is after is brisk and military: ‘game on; let’s get on with it!’.
tu, ne qua manus se attollere nobis a tergo possit, custodi et consule longe; haec ego vasta dabo et lato te limite ducam.' What do Nisus’ words here tell us about the relationship with Euryalus? a) N trusts E and his military ability since he gives him the job of keeping guard and watch behind b) N gives E the possibly less dangerous job because he cares for him [earlier in the story he had tried to persuade him not to come]; while he cuts a way through the enemy E will be protected. c) N will clear a wide path (lato limite) along which E can advance; the implication is that N will clear the route of any enemy who could threaten E’s safety, again showing his love for him.
sic memorat vocemque premit, simul ense superbum Rhamnetem aggreditur, qui forte tapetibus altis exstructus toto proflabat pectore somnum Why is Rhamnes mentioned by name? It gives more immediacy, more vividness, to the narrative to have the listeners thinking about a specific individual. It adds a bit of ‘local colour’.
[Rhamnes, along with other names later on, refers to aspects of early Roman history.] tapetibus altis: what contrast is Virgil making by using this little detail? It makes a contrast between the softness and degeneracy of the Rutulians, - drinking and sleeping on soft cushions, - and the military hardness of the Trojans; Romans would resonate with this since their view of people to the east, particularly, Greeks, Asiatics, Egyptians, tended to be exactly the same. toto proflabat pectore somno: why does Virgil not just say stertuit? This is epic poety and Rhamnes is about to be slaughtered; stertuit is rather an ‘ordinary’ word for the situation perhaps. It is also a very graphic phrase for describing someone who is totally abandoned to sleep, in a drunken stupor. What do Nisus and Euryalus now each go on to do? Check against the translated section on page 18 of the Anthology.
interea praemissi equites ex urbe Latina cetera dum legio campis instructa moratur, ibant et Turno regi responsa ferebant, ter centum, scutati omnes, Volcente magistro. What sudden danger threatens N & E at this point? 300 cavalry, with shields, led by Volcens
What has happened immediately before this event? Euryalus has put on the helmet of one of the slaughtered enemy.
What is the name of the urbs Latina? Lavinium Who is Turnus? Turnus is king of the Rutuli. He had wanted to marry Lavinia, daughter of King Latinus. Latinus however promised Lavinia to Aeneas, so Turnus is now an enemy to the Trojans and had attacked the Trojan camp before our story begins.
iamque propinquabant castris murosque subibant cum procul hos laevo flectentes limite cernunt,
How does the first line help to heighten the drama of the episode? ‘And already they (the 300 cavalrymen) were approaching the camp and going under the wall’; N & E so nearly made it – the cavalrymen were almost inside their camp and out of line of sight presumably to N & E when they were spotted. ‘So near and yet so far’!
et galea Euryalum sublustri noctis in umbra prodidit immemorem radiisque adversa refulsit.
What adjective describes Euryalus? immemorem Why does Virgil describe him in this way? In the excitement and bloodlust of the fighting he has just done and the excitement of getting plunder in the shape of a helmet, he forgot elementary military craft and camoflague. How had Euryalus acquired this helmet? Why is it a ‘poisoned chalice’? Euryalus had taken the armour and the sword belt of Rhamnes and the helmet of Messapus. He took them as plunder, one of the ways epic heroes proved their courage and manliness.
So far, so good. However he forgot it was a moonlit night and the helmet gleamed in the night so strongly that the Latin cavalry spotted it. Although E in his pride had taken the helmet and put it on it did not in the end do him any good.
haud temere est visum. conclamat ab agmine Volcens: 'state, viri. quae causa viae? quive estis in armis? quove tenetis iter?'
How does Virgil convey the authority of Volcens in these lines? By the short, clipped, military, no-nonsense language of a command and three sharp questions.
haud temere est visum: explain what Virgil means by this phrase. The Latins did the seeing and what they saw was the gleam of the helmet on E’s head. It was ‘not for nothing’ (temere) because as a result Volcens challenged them and then goes on to pursue them.
nihil illi tendere contra, sed celerare fugam in silvas et fidere nocti.
What part of the verb are tendere, celerare, fidere? What effect is created by their use here? These are infinitives; they are called ‘historic infinitives’. Since they do not have the ‘distractions’ of tense and person endings, their meaning is that much more immediate and they are used in narrative where the author wants to move the action along fast and hard.
obiciunt equites sese ad divortia nota hinc atque hinc, omnemque abitum custode coronant.
What actions do the horsemen take to try to trap N & E? They place themselves to block all the known paths out of the forest on all sides and they surround every exit with a guard.
What do N & E do at this point? They flee through the forest but become separated. When Nisus retraces his steps he sees from the distance that Euryalus has been captured. He launches two spears from his hidingplace and kills two of the enemy.
saevit atrox Volcens nec teli conspicit usquam auctorem nec quo se ardens immittere possit. Who is the auctor of the telum? Nisus Why does he attack Volcens? What has just happened? He and Euryalus were separated as they fled through the woods. He has now just seen that his lover has been captured by Volcens’ men and he tries to free him.
Discuss the effect of the words Virgil uses to describe Volcens The words he uses to describe him are saevit (he rages), atrox (fierce), ardens (in hot rage). A tricolon – a set of three words, - which together have great power in communicating Volcens’ state of mind. Volcens, like N & E, goes into a ‘blood lust’ and it was N & E’s blood lust which brought them to this situation.
'tu tamen interea calida mihi sanguine poenas persolves amborum' inquit; simul ense recluso ibat in Euryalum. tu – who is Volcens addressing?
Nisus What is the point Volcens is making when he says tamen interea Volcens cannot see the person who is throwing spears at him so he cannot attack him at the moment; however (tamen) in the meantime (interea) he can take out his rage on Euryalus whom he has captured. simul … ibat – why is this tense used here? The tense being used is the Imperfect; Virgil uses it to make clear that Volcens’ speech and his attack on Euryalus were taking place simultaneously. amborum: comment on position and effect Last word in the sentence so emphatic; reminds us of the relationship between N & E and how their love has brought them to this situation.
tum vero exterritus, amens, conclamat Nisus nec se celare tenebris amplius aut tantum potuit perferre dolorem: . Explain why Nisus is exterritus and amens He is terrified (exterritus) because his lover Euryalus has been captured and from what Volcens has threatened is about to die. He is out of his mind (amens) because it looks as if he is about to lose his young lover and from earlier in the story we can imply that he is blaming himself totally for allowing E to come on the mission, for not ensuring he behaved safely and not keeping him close in their escape through the forest.
Comment on the positions of tantum and dolorem. ‘such great grief’: these two words bracket the verbs – ‘he was able to bear’, - and help to emphasise Nisus’ despair in the face of the situation he has found.
'me, me, adsum qui feci, in me convertite ferrum, o Rutuli! mea fraus omnis, nihil iste nec ausus nec potuit; caelum hoc et conscia sidera testor; tantum infelicem nimium dilexit amicum.' There is much pathos in these lines; identify the different ways in which Virgil emphasises the pathos.
a) He starts with me, me: turning Volcens’ and the listeners’ attention totally to him. b) He takes on all the blame for what has happened: E could not have done it or dared to; in despair he lies about the facts. c) He calls the gods to witness, underlining the seriousness d) He reminds us that it happened because E loved him too much to not go with him on the mission Comment on the word order and the word sounds in the last line.
As above, infelicem amicum (unfortunate friend) brackets nimium dilexit (he loved too much); the bracketing therefore emphasises the unfortunate nature of the friendship. The line is also held together by the assonance of -um and -em all along the line. [note also that these are Nisus’ last words]
talia dicta dabat, sed viribus ensis adactus transabiit costas et candida pectora rumpit. volvitur Euryalus leto, pulchrosque per artus it cruor inque umeros cervix collapsa recumbit: Who was speaking, who was wielding a sword, who was being stabbed?
What is the effect created by describing his limbs as pulchros?
Nisus; Volcens; Euryalus
There is a pathetic contrast with the blood staining his limbs and the horror of his neck collapsing onto his shoulders.
candida: why is E’s breast described in this way?
This is the ideal of young male beauty (look back to the statue of Apollo). Sun browned is a sign of an outside worker; the whiter the better for men and women; hairiness of chest is not fashionable; a sign of barbarism.
Death of Sarpedon
Why do you think Virgil makes such a graphic description of E’s death?
This is E’s last moment and this provides an emphasis for the event. One of Virgil’s themes is the tragedy of war and these lines make a beautiful contrast between the young beauty and love of Euryalus and the horror and violence of his end.
volvitur Euryalus leto, pulchrosque per artus it cruor inque umeros cervix collapsa recumbit:
These are the last moments of Euryalus’ life. How does Virgil make the lines memorable for us? a) There is a tricolon of verbs: volvitur, it, recumbit which gradually step up the finality of death b) In the second line the two verbs frame the rest of the meaning and hold it all together to make it more striking
c) There is alliteration of –c all through the second line, which does the same job of holding the meaning together. d) recumbit – the absolutely final action of Euryalus and the absolutely final word in the description.
purpureus veluti cum flos succisus aratro languescit moriens, lassove papavera collo demisere caput pluvia cum forte gravantur How effective is this simile? Find as many points of comparison as you can. 1) The flowers like Euryalus are cut down in their prime
2) The flowers are purple and red as is E’s blood 3) E’s head/neck sinks onto his shoulders and in the same way the stem of the poppy bends with a weak stem in the rain
4) The hyacinth goes weak and unvigorous as it dies; so does E. 5) The hyacinth is cut by the iron ploughshare; E is cut by the iron sword.
6) The poppy is weighed down by rain; E is metaphorically weighed down by blood.
at Nisus ruit in medios solumque per omnes Volcentem petit, in solo Volcente moratur. Comment on the repetition (anaphora) of solum and solo. This strong emphasis on Volcens being the only target for Nisus, particularly when put in between in medios and per omnes, creates a vivid mental picture of the melee of war with this one warrior breaking his way through to his enemy for the final combat. It is a scene often seen in films – e.g. Troy, Braveheart for two. [not something you might be expected to know or even care about: In the second line, the natural place for the break in the metre (caesura) would be after in; in fact it comes half a foot earlier after petit; Virgil’s listeners, being more attuned to hexameter rhythms than we can be, would notice that change and sense something unusual.]
quem circum glomerati hostes hinc comminus atque hinc proturbant. instat non setius ac rotat ensem fulmineum, donec Rutuli clamantis in ore condidit adverso et moriens animam abstulit hosti. What effect is created by describing Nisus’ sword as fulmineus? It brings up a picture of a flashing sword, moving so fast (rotat) that it can hardly be seen. Perhaps also some resonance with the gods and Jupiter’s thunderbolt and the idea that these early heroes are semi divine. Another image is of Nisus flashing like lightning one last time before he goes off into the eternal darkness of death. Its position is also very effective. Comment on the juxtaposition of clamantis and in ore. This creates a powerful image of Volcens with his mouth wide open as he shouts (clamantis) his battle cries and then the sword being buried (condidit) in that mouth.
Comment on the juxtaposition of moriens and animam abstulit. Putting them together underlines the simultaneity of the dying of Nisus and the killing of Volcens and makes a very clean rounded end to the fight.
tum super exanimum sese proiecit amicum confossus, placidaque ibi demum morte quievit. Comment on the position of confossus. Comes at the end of its sentence and at the beginning of a line – two very emphatic positions; it emphasises the finality and enormity of N’s wounding. morte is described as placida; discuss why Virgil uses this adjective here. It provides at the end a powerful contrast between everything that has gone before, with its busyness, stress and violence, and what is to come with death which is everlasting basically hanging about in the underworld with no worries or stresses.
Discuss the effect of the positioning of demum. It might be expected to be earlier in the sentence, often with tum; postponing it like this adds to its power as does the placing of it between placida and morte – at last the quiet of death.
There is huge pathos in these lines; how does Virgil achieve it? The final embrace with his lover, in death, although he is full of wounds (confossus) and dying; the final word of the story (quievit) brings his violent and active life to a quiet close, led up to by the earlier placida.