The Aeneid Memory and The Past Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Line). We used Robert Fitzgerald's translation.
Then Ocnus came, who roused his company
From the paternal waterways: a son
Of sibylline Manto and the Tuscan river.
Mantua, it was he who gave you walls
And named you for his mother—Mantua,
Rich in forebears, not of a single stock,
But three distinct tribes, each with four communes,
The chief one Mantua, whose vigor came
From Tuscan blood. (10.272-280)
Although this moment might not seem like much when you read through the Aeneid for the first time, it is actually a detail of great personal significance to Virgil. Here, the ancient past that Virgil is remembering is the history of Mantua, his hometown. According to legend, when Virgil was on his deathbed, one of the things he did (aside from ordering that the unfinished manuscript of the Aeneid be burned) was to write his own epitaph. This consisted of two lines, which ran as follows: "Mantua me genuit; Calabri repuere; tenet nunc / Parthenope. Cecini pascua, rura, duces." This translates to "Mantua gave birth to me; Calabria stole me away; now Parthenope / holds me. I sang of pastures, fields, and leaders." The first line of the poem refers to the places he had lived; the second to his three poems: The Eclogues (about shepherds), The Georgics (about farming), and the Aeneid (about warfare – among other things). As you can see from this epitaph – assuming Virgil actually wrote it, though of course we can't be sure about that – Virgil was a bit homesick. This little reference to his own hometown woven into the fabric of his poem brings us full circle back to the nostalgia of Aeneas's lines in the first quotation for this theme.