Gateway to the Classics: The Aeneid for Boys and Girls by Alfred J. Church
The Aeneid for Boys and Girls by  Alfred J. Church

Of the Voyage of Æneas

A S long as the Greeks remained in the land of Troy, Æneas and his friends lay hid among the hills. But they had not to do this for very long. The Greeks were glad enough to go to their homes, which they had not seen for ten years. So they put the spoils which they had taken out of the city, with the prisoners, into their ships, and set sail. Then the Trojans came out of their hiding-places, and began to cut down pine trees on Mount Ida—this was the name of the biggest of the hills, among which they had taken refuge—and to build ships. They had made up their minds to leave the land of Troy, and to find a new home somewhere else. This was the second time that the city had been destroyed, and the place seemed to be unlucky. By this time a great number of people had come together. Some had escaped in one way or another from the city; some had been sold as slaves, and had run away from their masters, or had been set free. Many ships, therefore, had to be built; but in the spring all was ready, and they set sail; very sorry they were to go, for they were leaving their country for ever, and they did not know where they should find another home.

They had sailed but a very little way when they came to a country called Thrace. For a time they thought that this was just the place which they wanted. The Thracians had been very good friends to Troy in former times. While the war was going on many of their warriors had come to fight for King Priam. So Æneas began to make a plan for a city, laying the foundation, and marking out the lines of streets and squares. But while he was busy with these things, he found out in a very strange way, that a very dreadful deed had been done by the King of Thrace, and that he had better go away as fast as he could. What had happened was this. While Troy was still standing, King Priam had sent away one of his sons, and with him a very large quantity of gold, to the King of Thrace. This man was an old friend, and Priam thought to himself: "If anything should happen to Troy and to me, still there would be something safe. There would be the boy to keep up the old name, and he would have plenty of money to help him." But when Troy was taken by the Greeks this wicked king murdered the poor boy, and kept the gold for himself. When Æneas found this out, he said to himself, "A country where such wicked things are done is no home for us," and he set sail again.

The next place which he came to was an island called Delos. Once, it was said, it had been a floating island, but then it was fixed and firm, and it was the place where Apollo and his sister dwelt, who were the same, as men believed in those days, as the sun and the moon. Here there was a very famous temple of Apollo, and the priest of the temple was also the king of the island. Now Apollo had always been a friend to Troy, and when the priest knew who the strangers were that had come to the island, he went to meet them, and gave them a kind welcome, and took Æneas into his own palace. Then Æneas thought to himself: "I will ask the god to tell where I should go." So he went to the temple, and made an offering according to custom, and said: "O Apollo, hear me, for thou wert always a friend to Troy. Give, I pray thee, a place where we, who alone are left, may rest, a land of our own, and a kingdom that shall endure for ever. Tell us whither we should go, whom we should follow, and what we may look for. And speak plainly, I beseech thee, so that I may understand." Scarcely had he ended these words, when there was heard a loud rumbling sound, and the temples, and the laurel grove which stood about it, and the very hills around, were shaken. After this there came from out the middle of the temple a clear voice, speaking these words: "Sons of Troy, go boldly forth; seek the land where your fathers, who lived in the old time were born; the country which first sent you out shall welcome you again; then the house of Æneas shall grow and prosper till it shall reign over the whole world."

Great was the joy with which Æneas and his followers heard these words. But then they began to think to themselves: "What is the land of our fathers? what is its name? where is it?" nor could any one answer these questions till old Anchises, after much turning of the matter over in his mind, said: "My children, be not troubled or doubtful any more. I know the meaning of what the god has told us. There is a famous island in the southern part of this sea where now we are, and its name is Crete. This is the place where great Jupiter himself was born, and it is sacred to him. Far and wide it reaches; there are a hundred cities in it; and there is a Mount Ida, even as there is in our own land of Troy. It is from this island of Crete that our fathers came in old time. One Teucer was their chief; he came to the land which we have just left, and dwelt in it in the old days before Troy was built. Let us set sail without delay, having first made such offerings as it is meet to make. If the winds be favourable, we shall come to Crete on the third morning from now." So they made the offerings; one bull to Neptune, god of the sea; another to Apollo; a white sheep to the gentle winds, and a black one to the stormy. They knew, too, that the King of Crete, who was one of those that had come to fight against Troy, had been banished; and they were glad to think that they should not find an enemy in the country.

When these things were done, Æneas and his men set out. They set their sails, and rowed with their oars, and the sailors shouted "Crete!" "Crete!" so glad were they to think that they were about to find a home. In due time they came to the island. And here again Æneas, being quite sure that he had found the right place, began to make plans for a city. In Thrace he had called it Ænos after himself; but this was to be Pergamos, for this had been the name of the citadel in old Troy. But after a time everything seemed to go wrong. The air seemed to be poisoned, and the winds that blew seemed to parch the grass and to blast the corn. The cattle were destroyed by plague, and some of the people died, while nearly all suffered from fever and agues. All this greatly grieved Æneas, and he made up his mind to go to Delos and ask Apollo whether he had made any mistake and whither he really ought to go.

That very night, when all were asleep, he only being awake, for he was in too great trouble to sleep, he saw before him in the light of the moon, which was shining through the window of his room, the household gods which he had carried away from Troy. Quite plainly did he see them, and he heard them say these words: "What you are going to Delos to ask, Apollo bids us tell you here. We are the gods whom you saved out of the ruins of burning Troy; we are your companions; we share your fate, we will bring you to the country which is meant for you, and from which your children's children will rule the world. Do not grow weary of wandering. You must look for another home, for Crete is not the place in which Apollo told you to dwell. There is a country called Hesperia, the land of the West; it is an ancient land; its people are strong and brave. That is our proper home; it was from this that our first father came. Tell this then to the old man, your father, that Apollo bids you go to Hesperia which men also call Italy. As for Crete, it is not meant for you."

Æneas lay in his bed and listened in a great fear, for he saw the gods quite plainly and not at all as if he were dreaming. Then he got up from his bed, prayed and offered sacrifice, and afterwards went and told his father what he had seen and heard. The old man said: "I was wrong when I said that Crete was the place from which our fathers came. And now I remember that in the days when Troy still stood Cassandra used to speak about Hesperia and Italy. But who would have thought that we who dwelt in Asia should ever go to the land of the West? And no one at that time believed the things which Cassandra spoke. But now let us obey the commands of Apollo and depart."

So the Trojans put all that they had on board their ships and departed. As soon as they were out of sight of land a great storm arose. The wind blew fiercely, and the waters were like mountains, and there was much thunder and lightning. For three days they did not see the sun, and for three nights they did not see the stars, nor did they know where they were. On the fourth day they came in sight of land, with hills, and smoke rising as it might be from the houses of men. So the sailors rowed with all their might and soon brought the ships to land.

They found that it was a pleasant island, with fields in which there were herds of oxen and flocks of goats feeding; but they could not see any one who was looking after them. By this time the Trojans were very tired and hungry; so they took some of the oxen and of the goats, and killed them, and cooked their flesh. Also they fetched wine from their ships, and sat down, and began to eat and drink. But they did not know what the place to which they had come really was or what kind of creatures lived there. These creatures were called Harpies, a name which means "Snatchers." These were wicked women who had been changed into a horrible kind of birds. They were like vultures which feed on dead bodies, and they had the wings of birds, and claws instead of hands; they had the faces of women, but with a look on them as if they were starving. Suddenly, then, the Trojans, while eating and drinking, heard a great noise of wings, and in a moment the Harpies had come down, and snatched the flesh which the men were eating, and carried it off; and what they did not carry off they made so dirty that no one could bear to have it near him. Then the Trojans went to another place, which was close to a rock, and so sheltered in a way. There they made another dinner ready; but scarcely had they begun to eat, when the Harpies came down again—whether from the same place as before or from another no one knew—and snatched away the meat again, and spoilt what was left. Then the Trojans went to a third spot, and prepared their food; only this time they hid their swords and spears in the grass by their sides. When they saw the Harpies come again, they jumped up and laid hold of the swords and spears and tried to kill the creatures. But it was of no use; their skin was too hard to be wounded; the steel could not be driven through the feathers. Still, though they could not be killed, they were driven away, and flew to their holes among the cliffs. Only one remained; this settled on a rock out of the reach of the men, and said these words in a man's voice:

"Listen; was it not enough that you should kill our cattle? Will you drive us away from our own island? Hear my words, for these are the words of fate. This is what the gods, Jupiter and Apollo, whom you think to be your friends, decree. You will come at last to the land of Italy; that is settled. But know that before you build the walls of your new city you will be so hungry that you will be driven to eat the very tables on which you set your meat."

When the dreadful creature had said these words, she flew away. Then the old man Anchises lifted up his hands to the skies, and prayed that these things might not come upon them or might be turned to their good.

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