Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art

Page: 172

Apparition of Anchises.

This prayer was instantly answered by a sudden severe shower, which quenched the devouring flames. Soon after this miracle, Anchises appeared to Æneas, and bade him leave the women, children, and aged men in Sicily, and travel on to Cumæ, where he was to consult the Sibyl, visit the Infernal Regions, and there receive further advice from him.

“First seek the halls of Dis below,
Pass deep Avernus’ vale, and meet
Your father in his own retreat.”
Virgil (Conington’s tr.).

Æneas again dutifully obeyed; but when Venus saw him afloat once more, she hastened to Neptune, and bade him watch over her unfortunate son. Neptune listened very graciously to her appeal, and promised to take but one of all the many lives intrusted to his care. That one was Æneas’ pilot, Palinurus, who, falling asleep at the helm, fell overboard and was drowned.

The Cumæan Sibyl.

As for the fleet, it reached the Cumæan shore in safety; and Æneas hastened off to the Sibyl’s cave, made known his wish to visit Hades, and entreated her to serve as his guide in that perilous journey. She consented, but at the same time informed him that he must first obtain a golden twig, which grew in a dark forest.

“None may reach the shades without
The passport of that golden sprout.”
Virgil (Conington’s tr.).

Refer to caption

CUMÆAN SIBYL.—Domenichino. (Borghese Gallery, Rome.)

[372] Almost despairing, Æneas now prayed for assistance; for how could he find a tiny golden sprig in the midst of the dense forest foliage without the gods’ aid? In answer to this appeal, Venus, ever mindful of her son, sent two of her snowy doves to lead the way and alight on the tree, where Æneas readily found the object of his search.

Armed with this branch as key, he and the Sibyl boldly entered the Lower Regions, where all the ghastly sights and sounds we have already described (p. 167) met them on every side. Charon quickly ferried them over the Acheron, on whose bank they saw the wandering shade of Palinurus, who had no obolus to pay his way across, and that of Dido, with a gaping wound in her breast.

They did not pause, however, until they reached the Elysian Fields, where they found Anchises, gravely considering among the unborn souls those who were destined to animate his race and make it illustrious in the future. These he carefully pointed out to Æneas, foretelling their future achievements, and called by name Romulus, Brutus, Camillus, the Gracchi, Cæsar,—in fact, all the heroes of Roman history.

Anchises showed Æneas, in long line,
The illustrious shades of those who were to shine
One day the glory of the Italian shore.”
Tomas de Iriarte.
Arrival in Latium.

After a prolonged conversation with his father, Æneas returned to his companions, and led them to the mouth of the Tiber, whose course they followed until they reached Latium, where their wanderings were to cease. Latinus, king of the country, received them hospitably, and promised the hand of his daughter Lavinia in marriage to Æneas.