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The Aeneid

The Aeneid


by Virgil

The Aeneid Primitiveness Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Line). We used Robert Fitzgerald's translation.

Quote #1

There's a spot
Where at the mouth of a long bay an island
Makes a harbor, forming a breakwater
Where every swell divides as it comes in
And runs far into curving recesses.
There are high cliffs on this side and on that,
And twin peaks towering heavenward impend
On reaches of still water. Over these,
Against a forest backdrop shimmering,
A dark and shaggy grove casts a deep shade,
While on the cliffside opposite, below
The overhanging peaks, there is a cave
With fresh water and seats in the living rock,
The home of nymphs. Here never an anchor chain,
Never an anchor's biting fluke need hold
A tired ship. (1.216-233)

These lines describe the natural harbor where the Trojans first come to land on the shore of Libya. Although we don't know it yet when we first read these lines, on returning to them they can be interpreted as a reminder that Carthage is only in its infancy when the story begins. They also look forward to the scenes of primitive Italy, which will appear in the second half of the poem.

Quote #2

Their tarry hulls with bubbling wakes behind
Slipped through the water, and the waves were awed,
The virgin woods were awed at this new sight:
The soldiers' shields that flashed in distant air,
The painted ships afloat upon the river. (8.122-128)

In these lines, the Trojans sailing up the Tiber river to visit King Evander appear as representatives of a modern (comparatively) civilization entering the primitive wilderness. It is difficult to read these lines today without being reminded of countless images we have seen of the Europeans' first arrival in North America. Based on Virgil's poem, do you think the consequences of this arrival will be as dire for the local civilizations of Italy as they were for the original inhabitants of North America?

Quote #3

"These woodland places
Once were homes of local fauns and nymphs
Together with a race of men that came
From tree trunks, from hard oak: they had no way
Of settled life, no arts of life, no skill
At yoking oxen, gathering provisions,
Practicing husbandry, but got their food
From oaken boughs and wild game hunted down.
In that first time, out of Olympian heaven,
Saturn came here in a flight from Jove in arms,
An exile from a kingdom lost; he brought
These unschooled men together from the hills
Where they were scattered, gave them laws, and chose
The name of Latium, from his latency
Or safe concealment in this countryside.
In his reign were the golden centuries
Men tell of still, so peacefully he ruled,
Till gradually a meaner, tarnished age
Came on with fever of war and lust of gain." (8.415-433)

In this extended passage, Evander describes the primitive state of Latium, before it became the home for settled, human communities. Despite the contrast he draws between past and present, however, it is clear that the Arcadians live in relative harmony with nature.

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