Version classiqueVersion mobile

Sacrifices humains

 | 
Pierre Bonnechere
, 
Renaud Gagné

The Poetics of Human Sacrifice in Vergil’s Aeneid

Bill Gladhill

Texte intégral

  • 1 For the evidence of actual human sacrifice in Rome see J.S. Reid, “Human Sacrifices at Rome and Oth (...)
  • 2 On this aspect of Greek tragedy see R. Girard, La Violence et le Sacré, Paris, 1972. For Vergil (an (...)
  • 3 I follow A. Henrichs, “Drama and Dromena: Bloodshed, Violence, and Sacrificial Metaphor in Euripide (...)
  • 4 For a clear description of the sacrificial ‘elements’ and ‘modes’ in Greek tragedy see J. Gibert, “ (...)
  • 5 F.E. Brenk, “Unum pro multis caput: Myth, History, and Symbolic Imagery in Vergil’s Palinurus Incid (...)
  • 6 See Panoussi, o.c. (n. 2), p. 45-56. Panoussi (generally following Hardie, o.c. [n. 2], p. 29) sets (...)
  • 7 Hughes, o.c. (n. 1), p. 47 remarks with respect to Polydorus that the episode is one of a number of (...)
  • 8 7.546-547: dic in amicitiam coeant et foedera iungant./ quandoquidem Ausonio respersi sanguine Teuc (...)
  • 9 12-948-50: ‘Pallas te hoc vulnere, Pallas/ immolat et poenam scelerato ex sanguine sumit.’ Hoc dice (...)

1Outside of hostia humana, a phrase Cicero (pro Fonteio, 31), Sallust (Hist. 1.55.14), and Livy (22.57.6, 38.47.12) unambiguously use to describe the ritual sacrifice of a human being, the evidence for human sacrifice in Rome is scant, negative, and largely literary.1 The nature of the evidence necessitates that one approaches Roman human sacrifice through literary representations. Roman authors utilized the ritual slaughter of a person to signal to the audience that the literary world the reader has entered is suffering from a deep social crisis that has caused a perverse inversion of normative systems of human society, which brings into focus the norms and standards of human culture.2 It functions essentially as a literary ritual of reversal. While the sacrifices of Iphianassa in Lucretius’ de rerum natura 1.80-101 and of the children of Thyestes gruesomely depicted by Seneca offer the most representative prototypes of hostia humana in Roman literature, the literary world of the Aeneid is awash in the ritual slaughter of humans.3 The signs and codes of animal immolation are mapped upon human death in a broad range of contexts.4 The poet might focalize the narrative from the perspective of the gods who demand that a human be sacrificed on behalf of the community at large. The death of Palinurus at the end of Aeneid 5 is the most lucid example of this representation of human sacrifice in which the divine perspective construes his death in terms of unus pro multis.5 The suicide of Dido is so entangled in the language and ritual of oath sacrifice that the text does not allow for a clear delineation between suicide and sacrifice. By substituting herself in place of an animal the force of the sacrificial suicide becomes all the more potent, and perhaps even essential for the fulfillment of her profound oath-curse.6 The mere presence of arae is enough to suggest that sacrificial ideology plays a role in the meaning of the episode in question. In this sense the proximity of altars to the deaths of Orontes, Sychaeus, Priam and Pyrrhus suggests that each character represents human sacrifice in some capacity. In the same vein, the monstrum of gurgling gore spurting from Polydorus’ hidden tomb in the context of altar building at the opening of Aeneid 3 marks the limits of representational human immolation.7 Even more significantly, Allecto’s statement at Aeneid 7 (especially in light of Jupiter’s intra-textual reference to it in Aeneid 10) suggests that the entire matrix of epic slaughter during the second half of the epic is an extended sequence of human sacrifice that continually repeats the ritual performance of a foedus (ritual oath and sacrifice of alliance) famously described by Livy at 1.24, but with the marked substitution of human blood for that of the piglet.8 The global perspective of this sacrificial violence telescopes until it focuses solely upon two individuals who perform a foedus (infectum) by means of a human sacrifice in the final lines of the poem.9

  • 10 Girard is crucial in each of these studies, but his study of human sacrifice does not do justice to (...)
  • 11 Rives, l.c. (n. 1), p. 70. His point on peripheral sacrifice comes in his discussion of ethnographi (...)

2Outside of the corpus of Attic dramatists (Euripides most of all), and this is if we take it en masse, no other text in classical literature is so replete with human sacrifice as the Aeneid. The question that arises from this general point is not so much why the Aeneid contains so many representations of human sacrifice— after all, any work that reports to be a song of events beginning from the fall of Troy is heavily implicated in the tragic landscape of Athenian and (just as importantly) Roman republican drama—but rather what does human sacrifice mean within the economy of the Aeneid as a whole, and what do the poetics of human sacrifice say about Vergil’s Rome? Human sacrifice is a narrative tool that allows the poet to explore the limits and peripheries of humanity where ritual and religion become markers of transgression and liminality, encoding the text with negative, neutral, and positive ideologies which reveal the nature of civil, social and religious crises. But the syntax of this crisis has yet to be articulated fully in the Aeneid although Bandera, Farron, O’Hara, Hardie, Dyson and Panoussi have provided a clear map of the literary territory.10 The Aeneid is a particularly poignant point of entry into Roman human sacrifice since it runs counter to the general trend in Greco-Roman narratives about this transgression, namely that this ritual event occurred on the periphery of the known world (outside of conspiracy narratives).11 The Aeneid sets the ritual perversion at the heart of Roman foundation, while these sacrifices at the same time occur on the far periphery of Homeric topography. In the following paper I will offer a series of close readings of various instances of human sacrifice in the Aeneid in order to develop a more refined appreciation for the function and meaning of human sacrifice in the poem. I will not attempt to apply an overarching model of sacrifice since the number and kinds of sacrifice do not neatly cohere to theoretical structures on human sacrifice outside of platitudinous expressions that could be applied to any narrative in any culture. The paper will first consider the underlying Roman principles transgressed by human sacrifice, then it will turn to the crux of human sacrifice in the etiological tale of Rome’s foundation.

Fides and Human Sacrifice in Rome

3What is at stake when we talk about human sacrifice and Rome? A brief excursus into Cicero’s pro Fonteio, Lucretius’ de rerum natura, and Seneca’s Thyestes will provide important evidence through which one may contextualize the implications of human sacrifice in the Aeneid.

  • 12 On human sacrifice being contrary to pietas see Farron, l.c. (n. 1), p. 23. Rives, l.c. (n. 1), p.  (...)

4Cicero’s discussion of Gallic immolation is usually constructed along the binary opposition between barbarian and Roman, uncivilized and civilized, where a people on the Roman periphery practice a religious perversion. This is not an inaccurate assessment, but it neglects Cicero’s main argument, that is the nature of fides and pietas that would bring to realization ritualized human sacrifice.12

postremo his quicquam sanctum ac religiosum videri potest qui, etiam si quando aliquando metu adducti deos placandos esse arbitrantur, humanis hostiis eorum aras ac templa funestant, ut ne religionem quidem colere possint, nisi eam ipsam prius scelere violarint? quis enim ignorat eos usque ad hanc diem retinere illam immanem ac barbaram consuetudinem hominum immalandorum? quam ob rem quali fide, quail pietate existimatis esse eos qui etiam deos immortalis arbitrentur hominum scelere et sanguine facillime posse placari? (pro Fonteio, 31)

Finally, can anything appear sacred and religious to men who, even if now and again they are lead on by fear and surmise that they must placate the gods, they pollute the gods’ altars and temples with human sacrifices, so that they are not even capable of practicing a religion unless they have first violated religiosity itself through their criminal sacrifice? Who is not unaware that people to this very day hold onto that monstrous and barbaric habit of sacrificing human beings? What sort of fides, what sort of piety do you think characterizes men who believe that even immortal gods can most easily be placated by criminal acts against humans and their blood.

  • 13 For a similar and more expansive statement on human sacrifice and religion see Plutarch, de superst (...)

5Cicero asks a series of rhetorical questions that are conditioned on the assumption that whoever performs human sacrifice is incapable of anything sacred or religious.13 The presence of hostia humana upon arae and in templa is an act of pollution, making it impossible to cultivate a religious system, since this system would be predicated on criminality. Cicero is emphatic that it is common knowledge that human sacrifice is a monstrous and barbarous act. For Cicero the debate over human sacrifice is not about whether or not this is a barbarian custom since he assumes that everyone is in agreement on this point, nor are his thoughts on human sacrifice a moment for Roman self-definition in the face of barbarian culture. Romans usually used themselves as their own other. The more crucial question is the ontology of the fides and pietas that would make it acceptable for a society to perform human sacrifice. By situating human sacrifice within the social constraints of fides and pietas Cicero is expanding the conversation beyond merely the irreligious immolation of human beings. A society that practices human sacrifice enjoys a kind of fides and pietas that by extension would subvert all standards and norms of humanity. Human sacrifice is a sign for Cicero that Gallic fides is as good as having no fides at all.

  • 14 De rerum natura 1.80-101.

6Lucretius offers a fuller examination on the fundamental social principles that are betrayed when one performs a human sacrifice out of religious obligation.14 It is not often remarked, but the broader importance of the sacrifice of Iphianassa by her father Agamemnon is not fully revealed until the narrative arrives at the development of human societies (5.925-1457) four books later. The genus humanum was unable to look after the commune bonum, and the force of mores and leges had little influence on human interaction (958-959) until humans began to soften through copulation and the recognition that prolis ex se creata ( “offspring were born from them”). Lucretius then offers a more detailed explanation of this process:

et Venus imminuit viris puerique parentum
blanditiis facile ingenium fregere superbum.
tunc et amicitiem coeperunt inugere aventes
finitimi inter se nec laedere nec violari,
et pueros commendarunt muliebreque saeclum
vocibus et gestu cum balbe significarent

imbecillorum esse aequum misererier omnis.
nec tamen omnimodis poterat concordia gigni,
sed bona magnaque pars servabat foedera caste;
aut genus humanum iam tum foret omne peremptum

nec potuisset adhuc perducere saecla propago.
(De rerum natura 5.1017-1027)

and Venus diminished their physical prowess and the children
easily broke the haughty nature of their parents with their charms.
and then neighbors began to join in compacts of friendship, wishing
that there be no acts of physical harm and violence between themselves, and they agreed to protect their children and women
by their grunts and gesticulations, since they were meaning
by these noises that it is just for everyone to pity the weak.
still, concord could not manifest itself in all matters,
but the good majority of them virtuously preserved the agreements;
or the entire human race at that time long ago would have been
destroyed and its descendents would have been incapable of
prolonging the generations to the present day.

7The realization that sex between the genders not only results in children, but children whose blanditiae are able to break the ingenium superbum of their parents leads to the creation of amicities, concordia, and foedera between finitimi. Among the many points this passage addresses, I am interested specifically in the creation of fides, first between men and women, and then households and broader communities. After the creation of wealth, the rise and fall of the reges and the formation of political offices, leges and iura that preserve the communia foedera pacis (5.1155), humans develop religio (5.1161-1240), which Lucretius characterizes as quantos tum gemitus ispi sibi, quantaque nobis/ vulnera, quas lacrimas peperere minoribu’ nostris! ( “how many were the laments for the human race at that time, how many are our wounds, what tears you [genus humanum] produced for our children!” 5.1196-1197). While it is equivocal whether Lucretius is directly alluding to the sacrifice of Iphianassa in these lines, it is clear that the human sacrifice in Book 1 is positioned within a broader scope of human development in Book 5. When king Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter he not only violates the communia foedera pacis, but he transgresses the elemental contracts that allowed societies to develop according to the notion of a commune bonum. The wonderfully civilizing blanditiae of the children have been replaced by Iphianassa’s muta metu. For Lucretius the fides and pietas of religion actually result in the violation of familial and social foedera. Religion has the capacity to devolve human beings into their pre-civilized state. Lucretius applies Cicero’s Gallic fides across the board to all aspects of religion, but the overarching principle connecting the two passages is that human sacrifice negates fides.

  • 15 Human sacrifice is present in each of Seneca’s tragedies in some way. Seneca clearly understood the (...)
  • 16 Caesar states the Gauls sacrifice to Mercury as their tutelary deity. There may be a connection bet (...)

8The teleological implications of Cicero’s and Lucretius’ short discussions find their most pronounced expression in the human sacrifice performed by Atreus in Seneca’s Thyestes.15 The sacrifice befits the dark and gruesome landscape set deep inside the depths of the house of Tantalus, and the presence of ferales dei (668), manes (670) and monstra (673) all suggest that the pubescent victims are perfectly suitable to the numina of this locus foedus.16 The children have purple fillets (686) tied around their heads signifying their status as victims, while their hands are bound behind their backs in a clear reference to Vergil’s Aeneid and the sacrifice of the sons of Ufens and Sulmo in book 11 (see below). Present are all the requisite sacrificial accoutrements such as tura, wine (sacer Bacchi liquor), culter and salsa mola (686-688). The nuntius stresses that the sacrifice (tantum nefas) occurs rite (689-690). Atreus is himself called a sacerdos (691): he sings a letale carmen while standing beside arae (692-693). The pious impiety continues as Seneca stresses the ritual aspects of the sacrifice in the words mactet (714), immolet (715) and the description of Tantalus the younger as prima hostia (718). Furthermore, the bodies of the children are cooked and eaten as in animal sacrifice. Like the pro Fonteio the sacrifice is a manifestation of the type of fides that bonds Atreus to Thyestes. When Atreus sees Thyestes after he has eaten the children he states hic est, sceptra qui firmet mea/ solidamque pacis alliget certae fidem ( “this is the one who makes firm my rule and binds the solid fides of a sure peace,” 974-975). Thyestes, in turn, upon realization that he has consumed his children, asks hoc foedus? haec est gratia? haec fratris fides? ( “This is the agreement? This is his favor? This is my brother’s fides,” 1024). Human sacrifice in Rome cannot be constructed or interrogated without the implicit social code that this ritual violation is a transgression of an elemental kind of fides that binds families, neighbors and cities together.

  • 17 Servius auctus adds that the phrase foedera solvere furto may allude to Venus’ saving of Paris in I (...)
  • 18 It is notable that fides and pietas are often found together as an hendiadys.

9As we move from Cicero and Lucretius to Seneca, from Republic to Neronian Rome, the underlying causes of human sacrifice as expressed in terms of transgressed fides remain unchanged. This continuity suggests that human sacrifice in the Aeneid should depend upon a similar crisis of fides. Given that the temporal and spatial frames of the epic are universal and ultimately without bounds (imperium sine fine), the crisis of fides implied in the continual presentation of actual or metaphorical human sacrifices throughout the poem should ideally extend beyond mere Gallic dystopia, violations of the social contract or fraternal feuding. In fact, the Aeneid situates the entire epic cycle within the frame of a vast, dysfunctional, discordant fides. During the concilium deorum Juno clearly states that the epic cycle is a function of violated fides in the loosening of foedera: quae causa fuit consurgere in arma/ Europamque Asiamque et foedera solvere furto ( “what catalyzed Europe and Asia to surge into war and to dissolve deceitfully its obligations of alliance,” 10.90-91). Servius offers a number of insightful comments on these lines. He relates that it was read in historiae that the Trojans and Greeks were bound by a foedus (foedus habuerunt), and while Paris had been accepted under the obligations of hospitium by Menelaos, he committed adulterium, and therefore the phrase foedera solvere furto could be rephrased amicitias adulterio dissipare. Servius then offers the vera causa of the destruction of Ilium. The foedera between the Greeks and Trojans were loosened because when Hercules, after sacking the city, refused to give back Hesiona according to the ius belli, Priam sent Paris along with an army to seize either a wife or daughter of a king. Paris besieged Sparta and snatched away Helen. Servius points out that Vergil fuses historia and fabula in his presentation of events (ad Aen. 10.90). While Harrison’s note to these lines suggests that Servius is inventing this material, the verb legitur reveals that the commentator is relying on rationalizing sources of the rape of Helen that do not accept the judgment of Paris as the prime mover of the epic cycle.17 Foedera, hospitium and amicitia are granted their cohesive rites of obligations and conditions by fides. This global East-West/ Asia-Europe adversarial axis is a product of violated fides, and the rupturing of foedera between Europe and Asia has caused a cascading crisis of the ontology of fides within Vergil’s epic universe that poses the fundamental problem of a pious man’s place within a world of distorted and corrupt pietas.18 The most gruesome image a Roman poet could utilize in order to emphasize the depth of polluted fides is human sacrifice (which might include the consumption of the sacrificial meats), and the very meaning of the sacrificial accumulations in the course of the Aeneid is an overt sign that Aeneas and the Trojans are operating in a world where the very nature of fides is in flux, if not wholly absent.

10The ruptured foedera between Europe and Asia has resulted in crises of fides that become immediately apparent within the first one hundred lines of the epic in the context of fidus Orontes’ death upon Arae:

tris Notus abreptas in saxa latentia torquet
(saxa vocant Itali mediis quae in fluctibus Aras,
dorsum immane mari summo), tris Eurus ab alto
in brevia et Syrtis urget, miserabile visu,

inliditque vadis atque aggere cingit harenae,
unam, quae Lycios fidumque vehebat Oronten,
ipsius ante oculos ingens a vertice Pontus
in puppim ferit: excutitur pronusque magister
volvitur in caput, ast illam ter fluctus ibidem
torquet agens circum et rapidus vorat aequore vertex. (1.108-117)

With three blasts did the South Wind twist about the ships which had been carried off against submerged rocks, (the Italians call these rocks in the middle of the watery swells the Altars, their huge peaks jutting out from surface of the sea), with three blasts did the East Wind urge them on from the sea’s depths into the narrow banks of the Syrtis, a marvel to witness, and it dashed them against the shallows and enclosed them in a wall of sand, but one ship, which carried the Lycians and loyal Orontes, before his very eyes, the huge sea from its wave’s summit struck: the captain is put off balance and topples headlong down, but three times does the sea swell turn the ship, driving it in circles in the same place and a whirlpool rushing along the sea’s surface sucks it down.

  • 19 Nicoll, l.c. (1988, n. 5), p. 469.

11Orontes does not perish so much because the Pontus struck the ship (ferire), throwing him overboard into the sea; his death is conditioned on the presence of the Arae, and thereby becomes a sign to the reader that the epic landscape is part of a sacrificial topography. Ferire is an ambiguously rich word in this respect, since it can describe the strike of a sword in war or the smiting of a sacrificial instrument in the context of ritual. But in the present case it is the pontus that acts as the ritual agent in performing the sacrifice of Orontes beside the Arae.19 Significantly, it is the very landscape of the poem, which performs the first human sacrifice, which highlights the total profundity of the poem’s crisis as even the poem’s foedera naturae, so to speak, have been implicated. The first death of the Aeneid occurs in the environment of altars and is described with sacrificial language, which sharply defines the poetic syntax of human sacrifice that continues to develop through the course of the epic.

  • 20 Notably, Dido is fleeing a brother who murdered his sister’s husband upon altars.

12Servius (ad Aen. 1.108) relates that the Arae were some kind of rock formation situated between Africa, Sicily, Sardinia and Italy. The rocks were so named because it was there where the Africans and Romans entered into a foedus as they came to signify the fines imperii of each state. But the commentator also connects them closely to Dido’s curse at 4.658, litora litoribus contraria, fluctibus undas imprecor, as the narrative course of the Aeneid through Dido’s Carthage should color one’s impression of the Arae at the poem’s beginning. Like Vergil’s merging of fabula and historia in Juno’s ponderous question quoted above, the Arae at one moment memorialize the historical spheres of influence between Rome and Carthage, while locating the aition for this conflict in the legendary love affair between Aeneas and Dido.20 As the Trojans move from Asia to Europe they introduce Africa to this continental crisis of fides. The death of Orontes upon Arae suggests that the landscape through which the Trojans move is imbued with the memory of the future, a future which will be marred by further transgressions of fides, while also being implicated in prior violations. A Roman audience would have been well aware that Orontes’ epithet fidus is wholly ironic as it describes a victim of human sacrifice. The death of Orontes near the Arae shows how mythical human sacrifice cannot be isolated from geopolitical, historical Roman realities.

13Asia, Europe, and Africa give way to Italy where Allecto and Juno define the new kind of fides that is operational in the formation of the proto-Roman state:

‘en, perfecta tibi bello discordia tristi;
dic in amicitiam coeant et foedera iungant.
quandoquidem Ausonio respersi sanguine Teucros,
hoc etiam his addam, tua si mihi certa uoluntas:
finitimas in bella feram rumoribus urbes
accendamque animos insani Martis amore
undique ut auxilio ueniant; spargam arma per agros.’
tum contra Iuno: ‘terrorum et fraudis abunde est:
stant belli causae, pugnatur comminus armis,
quae fors prima dedit sanguis nouus imbuit arma.
talia coniugia et talis celebrent hymenaeos
egregium Veneris genus et rex ipse Latinus.’ (7.545-556)

See, for you has discord been brought to perfection through woeful war; come, let them enter into the rites of friendship and join in an alliance. Since I have splashed the Teucrians with Ausonian blood, I will even add this to my accomplishments, if I have ascertained the certain intent of your will: I will carry into wars the neighboring cities through rumors and I will set aflame their minds with the love of insane Mars, so that from all corners they might come in aid; I will scatter weapons through the fields.’ Then in response Juno: ‘Abound do the terrors and deceits: the causes of war are established, they fight hand to hand with their weapons, new blood has stained their arms, which are the beginnings fortune has granted. Such are the marriages and weddings songs the outstanding offspring of Venus and the king himself, Latinus, might celebrate.

14The goddesses’ social code accords with the system constructed by Cicero, Lucretius and Seneca, but here the fides of foedera and amicitia are actualized through the bloodshed of human beings (respersi sanguine) rather than porci or rites such as a iunctio dextrarum. Fraudis abunde est, in fact, is an antonym of fides and as such the coniugia and hymenaei that are to be celebrated between Aeneas and king Latinus are to be realized by antithetical notions of fides and the disruption of the myriad of social systems it generates and coheres. But the goddesses are merely verbalizing the unwritten social contract within the epic as a whole since the rupturing of foedera between Europe and Asia. Just as Carthage is brought into this matrix of violated fides in Aeneid 4, Italy and its populations become participants of this pollution in Aeneid 7. From the point of view of Lucretius’ ages of mankind, the goddesses have assimilated the violation of the primitive social contract with the language that brings this social contract into being in the first place. Human sacrifice now performs the fides of amicitia, coniugia, and foedera.

  • 21 On devotio generally see H.S. Versnel, “Two Types of Roman Devotio,” Mnemosyne 29 (1976), p. 365-41 (...)
  • 22 F. Hickson-Hahn, “Vergilian Transformation of an Oath Ritual: Aeneid 12.169-174, 312- 315,” Vergili (...)
  • 23 12.819-828.
  • 24 Both parts of the oaths spoken by Aeneas during the ritual of the foedus come to pass. See B. Gladh (...)

15This crisis continues through until Aeneid 12 where a foedus is conditioned on a human sacrifice. Aeneid 12 is itself modeled on, in Servius’ words, the homericum foedus of Iliad 3, yet another moment of violated fides in the rupturing of the horkos between the Greeks and Trojans. Aeneid 12 follows this theme of subverted fides: arae—which are wholly absent from the Iliadic model—are built and a foedus is struck upon the condition that either Turnus or Aeneas will die within the ritual space created for the certamen. This episode is ritually complex since the foedus itself shows elements of Greek, Trojan, and Italian elements while also being infused with the rites of devotio and, if we follow Julia Dyson, the rites of Diana Nemorensis.21 The crisis of fides has been fully ritualized in Book 12. The unfettered sacrificial acts and violation of religious space in the previous 11 books of the epic have become contained and ritualized, while the oaths are spoken upon the sacrifice with one possible outcome of the certamen being that aeterna foedera will join the peoples: paribus se legibus ambae/ iunctae gentes aeterna in foedera mittant ( “may both peoples joined under equal laws release themselves into everlasting alliances,” 12.190-191). The phrase aeterna foedera has a special valence in the works of Vergil, since its purely political semantics cannot be read apart from its cosmological implications at Georgics 1.60-61: continuo has leges aeternaque foedera certis/ imposuit natura locis ( “Nature then immediately established in steadfast places these laws and everlasting alliances”).22 In fact, the epic begins with a human sacrifice performed by an element of natura (Pontus) and ends with one by a man. This sacrifice of Turnus has pretensions of creating an everlasting fides with cosmological consequences as Juno’s and Jupiter’s agreement at the end of the Aeneid is brought into dialogue with the foedus of Turnus and Aeneas.23 The foedus of Aeneid 12 is the ultimate performative event as it constructs a unified cosmology according to a new kind of fides.24

16But this ritualized act of human sacrifice is delayed by the very violation of the altars that have been constructed in order to solemnize the ritual. Vergil describes this moment in this way:

… quos agmina contra procurrunt Laurentum,
hinc densi rursus inundant Troes
Agyllinique et pictis Arcades armis
sic omnis amor unus habet decernere ferro.
diripuere aras, it toto turbida caelo
tempestas telorum ac ferreus ingruit imber,
craterasque focosque ferunt. fugit ipse Latinus
pulsatos referens infecto foedere divos. (12.279-286)

And the Laurentians charge against them; but here again the compact ranks of Trojans pour out—together with Agyllines and Arcadians with ornamented armor. They all have just one passion: for the sword to settle the dispute. They strip the altars for firebrands; across the skies a dense tempest of shafts, a rain of iron falls. Within the storm some of the Latins carry libation cups and braziers toward the city. And king Latinus, bearing back his repulsed gods and the infected treaty, now retreats.

  • 25 See TLL for foedus, foederis.
  • 26 pace Nicoll, l.c. (2001, n. 5), p. 195 among others. See Gladhill, l.c. (n. 24).

17The defilers of the altars kill one another in ways that move through representations of human sacrifice. Messapus (described as avidus confundere foedus) “smites” (ferit) the Etruscan Aulestes upon the arae, who becomes a victima divis: hoc habet, haec melior magnis data victima divis (12.296). The Itali then “spoil” the calentia membra (which may refer to the burning limbs of Aulestes himself, 12.297) as Coryaenus, a Trojan, tears a flaming log from the altar and shoves it down Ebysus’ throat, smiting (ferit) his latus (12.298-299). The two uses of ferit, one in reference to an Italian, the other to a Trojan, suggest that this foedus has been struck, a foedus that is infected (infectum foedus). Infectum is a gloss on the ancient etymology connecting foedus to foeditas (see for example Catullus 64.223- 224: canitiem terra atque infuso pulvere foedans, / inde infecta vago suspendam lintea malo, “befouling my white hair with dirt and dust mixed in, from there I will hang a bleak sail upon a swaying mast”).25 All parties are ritually polluted; they are violators of the foedus as well as agents of the striking of this infected compact. But the sentence diripueraras—marked by a significant elision that obfuscates formal syntactic categories—undermines any attempt at assigning blame for the violation because the blame is ubiquitous.26 At the very moment Aeneas, Latinus and Turnus attempt to control and contain the profound and pervasive sacrificial slaughters through reestablishing a world based on aeterna foedera, the potential impossibility of this is brought into sharp focus, only to dissipate during the concluding lines of the poem when the final human sacrifice of the epic cycle is performed by Aeneas. The creation of aeterna foedera is accomplished by the killing of Turnus, but this slaughter brings to a formal conclusion the kind of fides that allows human sacrifice to exist in the first place. With its finality comes Roman civilization.

Sacrificial Revolutions and the Making of Rome

18In Rome human sacrifice signifies that human relationships lack fides, but this point is of limited value in and of itself; it merely pinpoints the particular social code upon which human sacrifice pivots, without allowing for a more critical evaluation of the role of human sacrifice within the narrative as a whole. I will now investigate how Vergil constructs human sacrifice as an element of narrative and the meanings his articulation of human sacrifice offers to readers. To begin, each representation of human sacrifice moves down along a spiraling trajectory in which each novel immolation becomes a repetition of all prior sacrifices, yet as the spiral descends the ontology of human slaughter becomes recontextualized within the broader narrative themes and forces of the text. Neoptolemus and Aeneas act as immolative bookends to the poem, and as we shall see, they share a number of characteristics that have caused scholars considerable consternation in their evaluation of the pious hero, but these similarities do not negate their differences, differences which are closely connected to memory and its obliteration.

19In the course of the katabasis of Aeneid 6, Aeneas asks the Sibyl about the shades waiting at the banks of the river Styx. After she explains that only buried bodies might be ferried across the river, Aeneas recognizes three Trojan companions he lost during the course of his travels. The moment is described in this way:

cernit ibi maestos et mortis honore carentis
Leucaspim et Lyciae ductorem classis Oronten,
quos simul a Troia ventosa per aequora vectos
obruit Auster, aqua involvens navemque virosque.
ecce gubernator sese Palinurus agebat. (6.333-337)

There he discerns gloomy men, who are deprived of the honor of death, Leucaspis and the leader of the Lycian fleet, Orontes. Capsizing the ship and its sailors with waves the South Wind rushed against them at once, after they sailed over the windblown seas. Look there, the captain Palinurus was leading himself along.

  • 27 For Orontes and Palinurus standing for Aeneas see O’Hara, l.c. (n. 10), p. 104-111.

20Leucaspis (mentioned only here), Orontes and Palinurus are mortis honore carentis. While Leucaspis curiously comes before the reader’s eyes, Orontes and Palinurus are figures of some notoriety in the text. While the reader encounters them in isolation earlier in the epic, here they stand side by side, the meaning of one shading that of the other.27

  • 28 Ibid., p. 19.
  • 29 Hardie, o.c. (n. 2), p. 32-33.

21Not only are Orontes and Palinurus paired because they are unburied bodies, their deaths at sea are imbued with parallel sacrificial intonations, one death moving in and out of the other.28 While Orontes dies upon Arae as the Pontus smites (ferit) his una puppis, casting headlong the magister into the sea (excutitur pronusque magister/ volvitur in caput, 1.114-18), Palinurus is killed by the allegorical Pontus, Neptune, where the death of the captain of Aeneas’ ship has often been viewed in terms of scapegoat ritual: unus erit tantum amissum quem gurgite quaeres;/ unum pro multis dabitur caput ( “There will be One whom you will search for, a man completely lost in the vortex; One life will be given on behalf of the many,” 5.814-815).29 Both episodes focus on the sacrifice of a single individual for the sake of the many (or at least this is the effect Palinurus’ death has on one’s re-reading of the death of Orontes), an individual whose caput becomes the central point for the sacrificial event. For Orontes, Arae and the language of sacrificial ritual (ferit) suggest human sacrifice, while for Palinurus human sacrifice is implied by the language of Neptune. Orontes’ sacrifice is the mirror of Palinurus’; one sacrifice is experienced on the human plane (altars and all), the other is sacrificial only from the divine perspective. Vergil’s presentation of the events articulates how closely one sacrifice is related to the other, a point all the more highlighted by the sequence of their presentation in the underworld.

  • 30 Brenk, l.c. (1988, n. 5), p. 72-74 adds the further points that (1) the second narrative ‘reintrodu (...)

22While these sacrifices are designed to convey the ways the poet might utilize sacrificial ideology, connecting two characters whose closely paralleled deaths may have escaped notice had Vergil not made them stand together at Styx, their significance is in their allusive gesture to a third ritual slaughter in the Aeneid. Aeneas sees Orontes and Palinurus on the banks of the Styx; the reader sees Priam. The location of Palinurus’ body as imagined by Aeneas at the end of Aeneid 5 is striking in this regard; Aeneas states, nudus in ignota, Palinure, iacebis harena (5.871), a statement which the dead Palinurus more or less confirms in his own description of the location of his corpse at Aeneid 6.362, nunc me fluctus habet versant in litore venti. While Aeneas is mistaken about the actual location of Palinurus’ body, that we are given two locations for it is significant, and it is best to read the two passages as a complimentary pair.30 Aeneas’ attribution of nudus to Palinurus does not refer to the state of his body, but rather to the fact that Aeneas’ vocative Palinure is not enough to grant a name to this destitute body on an unknown shore, i.e. a shore where no one will know who Palinurus is. Nudus suggests that his is a corpse without a referent, a sign without a signified. Palinurus is a sine nomine corpus. On Styx the reader moves from Orontes to Palinurus, from a death beside Arae to a nudus corpse on an ignota harena (ignota is a transferred epithet), which Aeneas thinks will lie (iacebis) on the shore, but which in fact is eddying in litore. Arae, capita, an unknown body, iacere and litus suggest that Orontes and Palinurus embody the single most descriptive human sacrifice in the Aeneid, that of Priam in Aeneid 2. The two dead Trojans signify the absence of the great Trojan king. The question is why?

23Orontes and Palinurus re-present both the slaughter of Priam upon the arae of Zeus Herkeios as well as the curious location of his body after it is slaughtered:

vidi ipse furentem
caede Neoptolemum geminosque in limine Atridas,
vidi Hecubam centumque nurus Priamumque per aras
sanguine foedantem quos ipse sacraverat ignis. (2.499-502)

I saw Neoptolemus in a slaughter induced rage and the twin Atridae in the threshold, I saw Hecuba and hundred wives of her sons and Priam as he befouled with his blood all over the altars the very fires he himself had sanctified.

‘at tibi pro scelere,’ exclamat, ‘pro talibus ausis
di, si qua est caelo pietas quae talia curet,
persolvant grates dignas et praemia reddant
debita, qui nati coram me cernere letum
fecisti et patrios foedasti funere vultus.
at non ille, satum quo te mentiris, Achilles
talis in hoste fuit Priamo; sed iura fidemque
supplicis erubuit corpusque exsangue sepulcro
reddidit Hectoreum meque in mea regna remisit.’
sic fatus senior telumque imbelle sine ictu
coniecit, rauco quod protinus aere repulsum,
at summo clipei nequiquam umbone pependit.
cui Pyrrhus: ‘referes ergo haec et nuntius ibis
pelidae genitori. illi mea tristia facta
degeneremque Neoptolemum narrare memento.
nunc morere.’ hoc dicens altaria ad ipsa trementem
traxit et in multo lapsantem sanguine nati,

implicuitque comam laeva, dextra coruscum
extulit ac lateri capuo tenus abdidit ensem.
haec finis Priami fatorum, hic exitus illum
sorte tulit Troiam incensam et prolapsa videntem
pergama, tot quondam populis terrisque superbum
regnatorem Asiae. iacet ingens litore truncus,
avulsumque umeris caput et sine nomine corpus. (2.535-558)

‘But against you, in recompense for your crime, ’ he calls out, ‘for such daring acts, may the gods, if some piety remains in the universe, which cares for such things, render worthy thanks and return destined punishments, you who forced me to watch before my own eyes the death of my son and befouled my fatherly visage with his corpse. But he was not like this, from whom you falsely state you were born, Achilles, when he was upon his enemy Priam; he blushed before the rights and faith of a suppliant and he returned the bloodless corpse of Hector for burial and he sent me back to my kingdom.’ So the old man spoke and he cast a powerless spear without striking force, which was instantly repelled by the bronze as it hung in vain upon the outer surface of the shield’s boss. In response Pyrrhus says: ‘then you will report these things and you will go as a messenger to my father Peliades. Remember to tell him about my gloomy deeds and of his degenerate Neoptolemus. Now die.’ With these words he dragged to the altars themselves Priam as he shook and slipped in the considerable pool of his son’s blood, and he entwined Priam’s hair with his left hand, with his right he unsheathed his gleaming sword and hid it in his ribs up to its hilt. This was the end of Priam’s fates, this finality by chance bore him away as he beheld Troy in flames and Pergamon’s collapse, when long ago for so many peoples and lands he was the proud ruler of Asia. A huge trunk lies on the shore, its head lopped off from the shoulders and a body without a name.

  • 31 For the broader implications of burial or lack thereof see S. James, “Establishing Rome with the Sw (...)

24The final verb in the second passage (iacet) is marked. The narrative is dominated by a sequence of perfective verbs until Aeneas’ epitaphic description of Priam’s corpse, where he shifts to the present tense. While Aeneas sits in Carthage singing of the excidium Troiae he envisions Priam’s body still lying on the beach, a body without a name (in marked contrast to the noun-adjective pair corpus Hectoreum). The absence of his burial has in effect become fossilized by the present tense. For all intents and purposes Priam’s body has always been and will always be unburied upon Trojan shores.31

25That Orontes’ death upon Arae and the location of Palinurus’ body allude to two separate moments of Priam’s sacrifice fits a general law of Vergilian poetics: the narrative of the Aeneid is constructed of a series of episodes that continually repeat (often framed in terms of narrative closure and narrative dilation) and in each moment of repetition the prior episode engages in a dialogic interplay, which illuminates features of both episodes, deconstructing and reconfiguring the meaning of the text. In the process of this intra-textual resonance important links are made that bind together what at first sight might appear to be unrelated episodes or that fill in gaps in clearly connected narratives. In the present case, Orontes, Palinurus and Priam all share in the dismal commonality of human sacrifice, and yet the links between them are designed to highlight the absence of Priam in the underworld. Unlike his two sacrificial surrogates, both of whose deaths focus on their caput, Priam’s sacrifice results in the loss of his head, his name, and his complete obliteration, even from the world beyond the living. Just as his body will lay forever unburied on Trojan shores, so too it remains forever a headless shade on the banks of the Styx, only to be viewed through allusion.

26Priam’s absence becomes all the more marked once we note that Vergil’s phrase sine nomine corpus is a reference to Odyssey 8.552-554 ( “there has never been a man without a name…”). The phrase entices Odysseus to sing of his trials and tribulations, and it highlights that not only are songs, memories and klea inseparable from bodies and names, but that both operate together to create narrative itself, poetic or otherwise. Priam’s sacrifice and subsequent mutilation are acts of a poetic damnatio memoriae. One even wonders whether we should interpret the subtle allusion to Pompeius Magnus in Priam’s death (a parallel noticed since Servius) in the context of an Odyssean intertext, to suggest the potential narrative that died with Priam-Pompey, a narrative that would have resulted in changing history—and literary history—had the events of Troy or Pharsalia turned out differently. Vergil seems to show an awareness of the significance of historical events and literature’s response to these events. To put it another way, it was only through the death of Priam-Pompey that the Aeneid itself could be brought to realization.

  • 32 Il. 18.336-337, 21.27-32, 23.22-23, 23.175-182. While these lines are not themselves describing a h (...)

27The sacrifice of Priam at the hands of Neoptolemus gains greater interpretative valence eight books later where in Aeneid 10 Aeneas performs a series of human sacrifices. One of the many narrative hinges of the Aeneid pivots upon the death of Pallas, a teenager whom Aeneas accepts into a mentoring relationship, modeled loosely on that of Patroklos and Achilles in the Iliad. Upon hearing of the death of Pallas at the hands of Turnus, the leader of the Italian faction, the narrative blurs the thematic and narrative lines between the Iliad and Aeneid, Patroklos and Pallas, Hektor and Turnus, and, for my purposes, Achilles and Aeneas. Aeneas replays the first human “sacrifice” in Western literature, the ritual slaughter of twelve Trojan kouroi upon Patroklos’ pyre by Achilles32:

nec iam fama mali tanti, sed certior auctor
advolat Aeneae tenui discrimine leti
esse suos, tempus versis succurrere Teucris.
proxima, quaeque metit gladio latumque per agmen
ardens limitem agit ferro, te, Turne, superbum
caede nova quaerens. Pallas, Evander, in ipsis
omnia sunt oculis, mensae quas advena primas
tunc adiit, dextraeque datae. Sulmone creatos
quattor hic iuvenes, totidem quos educat Ufens,
viventis rapit, inferias quos immolet umbris
captivoque rogi perfundant sanguine flammas. (10.510-20)

Not a rumor of the misfortune so great, but a more sure author flew to Aeneas relaying that his men were upon the thin line of death and it was time to help the routed Teucrians. He mows down with his sword those closest to him and aflame through the broad battle throng he makes his way with his weapon searching for you, Turnus, proud in your fresh slaughter. Pallas, Evander, everything is in his very eyes, the tables which he then approached as a foreigner, and the right hands joined in alliance. Four young men, born from Sulmo, and as many Ufens rears, Aeneas seizes them alive so that he might sacrifice them, sacred victims to the shades, and might pour upon the flames of Pallas’ pyre captive blood.

  • 33 Farron, o.c. (n. 1), p. 22 argues that Aeneid 10.513 is modeled on Catullus 64.353, which would pla (...)
  • 34 For connected themes see C. Segal, The Theme of the Mutilation of the Corpse, Leiden, 1971 (Mnemosy (...)

28The sacrifice of two sets of four sons of Ufens and Sulmo is performed at Aeneid 11.81-82: vinxerat et post terga manus, quos mitteret umbris, / caeso sparserus (sparseros) sanguine flammas ( “He chained their hands behind their back so that with flames splattered with blood he could cast them forth to the souls of the dead”).33 There are two important differences between the respective human sacrifices of Achilles and Aeneas. The slaughter of the Trojan boys in the Iliad is contingent on two events, the slaughter and desecration of Hektor’s body and the burial of Patroklos. The sacrifice will occur after these conditions are met. Human sacrifice, the violation of Hektor’s corpse and the absence of burial rites for Patroklos are interrelated in the Iliad.34 Human sacrifice participates in a broader corporeal crisis concerning friends and family members. The sacrifice of the children of Sulmo and Ufens, on the other hand, is conditioned only on the burial of Pallas while the killer of Pallas himself becomes a sacrificial victim.

29Another law of Vergilian poetics states that every reference to Homer acts as a complex, interpretative environment, designed to signal particular additions made by Vergil to the model text. It is in the poetic accretions to the master text that supplies the critical nuances that organize the reader’s interpretative and analytical frames. One such accretion is found in the genealogy of the Aeneas’ sacrificial victims in contrast to the nameless and ambivalent kouroi of the Homeric model. The sacrifice of the children of Ufens and Sulmo has a profound force in the context of an etiological epic not only of Rome, but of the inhabitants and populations throughout Italy, whose ancestors are deeply enmeshed in Rome’s future. The slaughter of two sets of four brothers born from two Italian commanders—both of whom die in the course of the narrative—completely obliterates familial lines from the Italian landscape and the future of Roman history. The scope of this sacrifice extends beyond the brothers to become a species of genocide within the vast temporal frame of the narrative. Ufens’ and Sulmo’s lineage follows Priam into oblivion.

30But the sons of Ufens and Sulmo are just the first example of an extended sequence of sacrificial deaths performed by Aeneas that, like Orontes and Palinurus, all allude to the central human sacrifice in the poem. The parallel begins with the phrase (quoted above) sanguine flammas (10.520), which recalls sanguine… ignis at 2.502. Immediately after planning to sacrifice the children to the umbrae, Aeneas turns his attention to Mago. After Mago supplicates Aeneas, offering him talents of unminted silver and gold, Aeneas kills him in a way that S.J. Harrison calls a “disturbing parallel” since it shows a clear allusion to the sacrifice of Priam by Neoptolemos:

sic fatus galeam laeva tenet atque reflexa
cervice orantis capulo tenus applicat ensem (10.535-536)

implicuitque comam laeva, dextra coruscum
extulit ac lateri capulo tenus abdidit ensem (2.552-553)

So he spoke and with his left hand he took hold of the crest and bending
Back the throat of the suppliant he drove his sword through to the hilt.

He grabbed the hair with his left hand, with his right he unsheathed his
Gleaming sword and sunk it deep into his ribs through to the hilt.

31The death of Mago is mapped upon the sacrifice of Priam, a reference that suffuses this scene with sacrificial echoes, continuing the thematic trajectory begun with the slaughter of the young brothers. Immediately after overtly linking Aeneas to Achilles through the insertion of Aeneas’ human sacrifice into an Iliadic frame, Vergil characterizes the actions of the hero with Neoptolemean sacrificial violence as constructed earlier in the Aeneid. Aeneas even surpasses Neoptolemus by cutting Mago’s throat, which more boldly portrays Aeneas’ sacrificial intent. Vergil moves from Iliadic to Aenedic sacrificial ideology, leaving the model text behind as he alters and constructs the thematic matrices according to the broader movements of his own narrative.

  • 35 Henrichs, l.c. (n. 3), p. 182.
  • 36 On the allegorical sacrifice of Haemonides and the vast number of associations he motivates see Far (...)

32Albert Henrichs remarks in the context of Greek literature that ‘warriors in battle are never compared to animal victims in extant epic or tragedy.’35 The antithesis is untrue with respect to Aeneid 10. The sacrificial language of human slaughter intensifies with increasingly forceful imagery in the course of the narrative. After Mago, Aeneas sacrifices Haemonides.36 He is a sacerdos, meaning one who performs sacra, but in the present context, he ironically becomes one who is given as sacra.

nec procul Haemonides, Phoebi Triviaeque sacerdos,
infula cui sacra redimibat tempora vitta,
totus conlucens veste atque insignibus albis.
quem congressus agit campo, lapsumque superstans
immolat ingentique umbra tegit… (10. 537-41)

nor was Haemonides, the priest of Apollo and Diana, far off, whose temples a woolen band ringed with a sacred fillet, shining completely in his attire and white insignia. Attacking Aeneas drives him from the field of battle, and standing over the fallen man he immolates him and covers him in a huge shade…

  • 37 See S.J. Harrison, Vergil: Aeneid 10 with Introduction, Translation and Commentary, Oxford, 1991, p (...)

33The line infula cui sacra redimibat tempora vitta motivates a threefold interpretation of Haemonides’ death: he is a priest in ritual attire recalling Laocoon, but the Lucretian allusion results in his sacred fillets covering his head echoing Iphianassa’s sacrificial marriage accoutrement (cui simul infula virgineos circum data comptus/ex utraque pari malarum parte profusast [ “at the same time the sacrificial fillet was added to her maidenly headdress and it hung down equally from each side of her cheeks,”] 1.87-88), while the headdress also extends into animal sacrificial imagery in the outfitting of a bull’s horns as it is led to slaughter; in this case it is an outstanding bull shining with whiteness (insignibus albis).37 These multivalent moments of reference then (perhaps) yield an allusion to Priam in the word lapsum, subtly recalling, in multo lapsantem sanguine nati (2.551). The verb immolat caps the human sacrifice, a word used only two other times in the Vergilian corpus, in reference to the sacrifice of the children of Ufens and Sulmo and to Turnus. The multiplicity of allusions suggests that Aeneas and his victims are imprisoned in a narrative (re) cycle that in one instant reenacts Iliadic human sacrifice, then Lucretian ritual slaughter, and then prior representations of human sacrifice within the Aeneid itself.

34The extended allusion to prior moments of sacrifice continues. Aeneas rages in a line that recalls Aeneas’ description of Pyrrhus in Book 2 (vidi ipse furentem):

Dardanides contra furit …
ille reducta
loricam clipeique ingens onus impedit hasta,
tum caput orantis nequiquam et multa parantis
dicere deturbat terrae, truncumque tepentem
provolvens super haec inimico pectore fatur
‘istic nunc, metuende, iace … (10.545-557)

In turn the descendent of Dardanus rages…, he takes hold of the breastplate and the huge burden of the shield after retrieving his spear. Then he pummeled into the earth the head of the man as he begged in vain and was trying to speak, and as he rolled over the warm corpse over him Aeneas spoke these things from his hateful heart, ‘here now, you fearsome one, lie dead’…

35The truncus belongs to Tarquitus, the son of Faunus and Dryope, but given the evidence that this sequence of sacrificial slaughters connects Aeneas to both Achilles and Neoptolemus, the torso also points to the body of Priam, a point emphatically pronounced by Aeneas with the important imperative iace in reference to the body’s perpetual state of exposure as fodder for fish, an odd statement given the absence of a ready sea for the body’s exposure (non te optima mater /condet humi patrioque onerabit membra sepulcro: /alitibus linquere feris, aut gurgite mersum/unda feret piscesque impasti uulnera lambent [ “the best of mothers will not bury you in the earth and she will not cover you in your ancestral tomb: you will be left exposed to winged beasts or sunk down in the vortex the water will bear you away and feasting fish will lick your wounds,”] 10.557-561). The Homeric allusion in the sacrifice of the children of Sulmo and Ufens quickly disintegrates, as Aeneas continually mimics Vergil’s Neoptolemus in the deaths of the next three individuals. With each new slaughter the intratext between Aeneid 2 and 10 results in a polyphony of sacrifices that blurs the identity of Aeneas, as it quickly shifts between Achilles, Neoptolemus, and Agamemnon, while the victims themselves move between a Lucretian Iphianassa and a Vergilian Priam.

36Vergil’s imitation of the Iliadic depiction of human sacrifice finds that the allusion moves back into the Aeneid to the slaughter of Priam. The evidence presented above suggests that each new representation of the human sacrifice offers a moment of reinterpretation of the various sacrificial representations that have come before or will follow. These allusions are never innocent or random, but rather they participate in a dialogue of human sacrifices that operate as a single conversation about the meaning of these acts within the epic landscape of the Aeneid. For instance, Vergil’s allusion to Iliadic human sacrifice fits a general narrative pattern that aligns Achilles-Patroklos, Aeneas-Pallas, Turnus-Hektor, but this clear matrix quickly yields to a sustained and forceful narrative dilation of the imagery of human sacrifice, where at each moment of epic slaughter a particular moment of Priam’s death is referenced. The Iliadic allusion finds itself layered in verbal and intratextual accretions from the Aeneid. Vergil takes a single episode of human sacrifice from the Iliad and profoundly enlarges its interpretative force in order to create a vibrant intellectual environment. It is not a coincidence that by the end of the Aeneid Aeneas has been implicated in 13 sacrificial slaughters, one more than Achilles at his worst. No character in literary history performs more human sacrifices (or their representations) than Aeneas.

  • 38 D. Williams, Virgil: Aeneid 7-12, London, 1973, p. 355, n. 510.
  • 39 Farron, o.c. (n. 1), p. 32, n. 31.
  • 40 Harrison, o.c. (n. 37), p. 201, at 501-605.

37These echoes and reverberations between texts and their referents have led to disastrous misinterpretations of Aeneas’ various sacrifices. Achilles’ actions are of a singular motivation, his anger at the death of Patroklos (σέθεν κταμένοιο χολωθείς). Based upon the Iliadic parallel it is too often claimed that Aeneas is also motivated out of anger at the death of Pallas. For example it is not uncommon to find statements such as the following concerning Aeneas’ motivations: “The motivation for Aeneas’ frenzied behavior is his feeling of guilt at having failed to protect Pallas from Turnus, and his need to expiate it by deeds of vengeance38.” I have assumed that Aeneas’ human sacrifice and the other brutalities he commits while avenging Pallas were intended to remind Vergil’s contemporaries of Octavian during the Civil War.39 Aeneas, enraged by Pallas’ death, launches a furious offensive imitating that of Achilles after the death of Patroklus… it also shows that Aeneas is susceptible to an excess of vengeful anger.40

38There is no textual evidence for these assured and confident pronouncements. These conclusions are motivated by the Iliadic intonations of Aeneas’ actions. If Pallas is akin to Patroklos, then clearly anger and vengeance impel Aeneas to behave in parallel to Achilles. The matter is not so clear.

39Prior to the series of human sacrifices performed by Aeneas, Vergil offers a description of the images before Aeneas’ eyes, which catalyze Aeneas’ actions. In this series of images there is no evidence that Pallas’ death is Aeneas’ prime motivation, let alone vengeance for his death: Pallas, Evander, in ipsis/ omnia sunt oculis, mensae quas advena primas/ tunc adiit, dextraeque datae… ( “Pallas, Evander, everything was in his mind’s eyes: the tables he approached first then, a stranger, and the joining of right hands in alliance” 10.515-517). Vergil grants a very privileged perspective to the reader, as the poet reveals the exact images moving before the eyes of Aeneas at the moment he hears of Pallas’ death in battle. This complicates considerably the interpretations of this episode. These images result in a conflict of subjectivity between Aeneas’ human sacrifice in Aeneid 10 and the one he himself says he witnessed in Aeneid 2. The reader sees both Pyrrhus’ and Aeneas’ slaughters through the same set of eyes. The importance of this double subjectivity is threefold: it results in competing and conflicting perspectives of human sacrifice by the same character; it allows the reader to supply Neoptolemus’ precluded and silent point of view; and the information contained in the presentation of Aeneas’ perspective allows the reader to understand better the underlying causes and implications of human sacrifice in the Aeneid.

40Let us reflect on Aeneas’ description of Neoptolemus’ slaughter of Priam in order to investigate the consequences of Aeneas’ conflicting impressions of human sacrifice:

vidi ipse furentem
caede Neoptolemum geminosque in limine Atridas,
vidi Hecubam centumque nurus Priamumque per aras
sanguine foedantem quos ipse sacraverat ignis (2.499-502)

I saw Neoptolemus in a slaughter induced rage and the twin Atridae in the threshold, I saw Hecuba and hundred wives of her sons and Priam as he befouled with his blood all over the altars the very fires he himself had sanctified.

  • 41 Catullus 64. 368-370 also stands in the background of these lines: alta Polyxenia madefient caede s (...)
  • 42 1.85-86: Aulide quo pacto Triviai virginis aram/ Iphianassai turparunt sanguine foede ( “at Aulis w (...)

41Aeneas sees Neoptolemus’ raging, furens. He then describes the sacrificial blood as it befouls the altars. From Aeneas’ point of view, Pyrrhus appears to be in a rage because of caedes41 (something like bloodlust), and his slaughter of Priam is a form of religious and moral pollution as intimated by the verb foedare, a word whose semantic sphere crosses over into the verbal phrase turpare foede in Lucretius’ depiction of Iphianassa’s sacrifice.42 But Lucretius modeled Iphianassa’ sacrifice on Ennius’ (sc 98 f. V) slaughter of Priam: Priamo vi vitam evitare/ Iovis aram sanguine turpari. Vergil’s Priam replays Lucretius’ Iphianassa who is replaying Ennius’ Priam, like a closed loop of human sacrifice, one prior to the Trojan war—in fact, necessary for the war’s inception—and the other the final act of Troy’s demise. The epic cycle has become a sacrificial cycle. Be that as it may, the perspective of the narrative is completely subjective, and any moral evaluation the reader makes of Pyrrhus has already been filtered through the eyes of Aeneas. It is precisely this moralizing subjectivity that is responsible for Harrison’s description of Mago’s death as a “disturbing parallel,” since Aeneas becomes implicated in his own moral evaluation of Neoptolemus’ actions earlier in the epic. It is significant in this regard that the verbs perfundere, spargere, and immolare are used of the human sacrifices in Aeneid 10, verbs which are devoid of moral condemnation, being merely unmarked verbs of sacrificial ritual. Clearly Sulmo and Ufens would describe Aeneas’ actions differently, but the narrator demotes their gaze to a place of inconsequence, while Aeneas provides two competing perspectives on the nature of human sacrifice in the poem.

  • 43 D. Fowler, Roman Constructions: Readings in Postmodern Latin, New York, 2000, p. 104-105.

42A minor point by Don Fowler points the way to the correct interpretation between subjectivity and human sacrifice in the text: “Pyrrhus’ brutality in Aeneas’ account is patent, but we recognize a familiar pattern from the Iliad which will be recapitulated at the end of the Aeneid: Priam makes a big mistake in mentioning to Pyrrhus his father whom the Trojans had killed, just as Lycaon makes the same mistake of mentioning Patroclos to Achilles in Iliad 19.946.43

43It is apparent that subjectivity plays an important role in any evaluation of human sacrifice, and I think it is essential in determining the differences between the similar actions of Neoptolemus and Aeneas. It is a grave misreading of the text to argue that Aeneas is motivated by fury and vengeance. Aeneas is furens, but his motivation is far more subtle and complex than mere revenge. Aeneas’ sacrificial acts are compelled by the following images: Pallas, Evander, in ipsis/ omnia sunt oculis, mensae quas advena primas/ tunc adiit, dextraeque datae ( “Pallas, Evander, everything was in his mind’s eyes: the tables he approached first then, a stranger, and the joining of right hands in alliance”). To put it textually, Aeneas sees Aeneid 8 before his eyes at the very moment he flies into a fury and begins to perform his series of human sacrifices.

44The phrase is a summation of the entire series of events that occurred upon Aeneas’ visitation to the future site of Rome. Immediately after Pallas addresses Aeneas, the Trojan hero offers his peace bearing hand (pacifera manus) and the they perform a iunctio dextrarum: excepitque manu dextramque amplexus inhaesit ( “he takes hold of Aeneas with his hand and cherishing his right hand he clings close to him” 8.124). This is the first stage in the fulfillment of the god Tiber’s command to Aeneas at 8.56: hos castris adhibe socios et foedera iunge. It becomes apparent that the iunctio dextrarum between Aeneas and Pallas is a re-performance of the fides enacted by Evander and Anchises during Evander’s boyhood:

tum mihi prima genas vestibat flore iunventas
mirabarque duces Teucros, mirabar et ipsum
Laomedontiaden; sed cunctis altior ibat

Anchises. mihi mens iuvenali ardebat amore
compellare virum et dextrae coniungere dextram (10.160-164)

At that time youth covered my cheeks with its first stubble and I stood amazed at the Teucrian leaders, and I admired especially the descendent of Laomedon himself; but more lofty than all of them did Anchises come. My mind was burning with youthful love to talk to him and join my right hand to his right hand.

45These rites move beyond merely the formal categories of hospitium and amicitia and enter into a particularly marked kind of fides that is closely connected to mental stimulation and amor. Almost immediately after Evander outlines the relationship enjoyed by Anchises and himself, Aeneas and Evander enter into a foedus: ergo et quam petitis iuncta est mihi foedere dextra (8.169). In his lament of Pallas at 11.55-57, it is precisely his failure in performing his duties of fides that he invokes: haec mea magna fides? at non, Evandre, pudendis/ vulneribus pulsum aspicies, nec sospite dirum/ optabis nato funus pater ( “Is this my grand sign of faith? But, Evander, you will behold your boy struck with wounds not to be shamed, you, father, will witness a dire burial, your son left unfortunate”). Essentially Aeneid 8 moves from Pallas, through Evander, to dextrae datae, the very sequence of images that Aeneas beholds the moment before he performs his sacrificial slaughters.

46Let us now turn to mensae and ipsis omnia sunt oculis. Mensae refer to lines 8.278-284 in reference to an annual festival to Hercules at the Ara Maxima in Rome, a moment of ritual prolepsis that connects the pre-Roman past to Rome’s future and Vergil’s present:

… ocius omnes
in mensam laeti libant divosque precantur.
devexo interea propior fit vesper Olympo.
iamque sacerdotes primusque Potitus ibant
pellibus in morem cincti, flammasque ferebant
. instaurant epulas et mensae grata secundae

dona ferunt cumulantque oneratis lancibus aras.

They all so quickly to the table in mirth pour their sacred draughts and call upon the gods. In time vesper comes nearer to Olympus’ slope, and the priests, and Potitus at the head, came covered in animal hides as was their way, and they carried torches. The priests set the tables and offer gifts in thanks of the kindly table and they erect altars with their heaped up spears.

  • 44 At ad Aen. 8.269, Servius astutely reads the Hercules and Cacus myth in terms of the ius hospitii i (...)

47The tables are markers not only of Hercules’ victory over the monster Cacus, of culture over nature, but furthermore, as has been discussed by a number of scholars, the episode is an allegory for the conclusion of the Civil Wars between Antony and Octavian.44 The Ara Maxima represents a moment when arae bring closure to violence rather than the locus of violence and human sacrifice (which is to be paralleled to 8.718-710 in reference to the images of sacrificial animals upon altars in celebration of Octavian’s triple triumph).

48Just as the mensae in Book 10 recall Book 8 and a festival to Hercules, ipsis omnia sunt oculis ought to be read from the perspective of Aeneid 8.310-13, the very moment Aeneas looks at the future sight of Rome:

miratur facilisque oculos fert omnia circum
Aeneas, capitur locis et singula laetus
exquiritque auditque virum monimenta priorum.
tum rex Evandrus Romanae conditor arcis.

Aeneas stands in awe and easily moves his eyes around everywhere, he is taken by the places and in joy he asks about every detail and hears about the monuments of the early inhabitants, then king Evander, the founder of the Roman citadel…

  • 45 The ancient notion of ecphrasis was much more broadly conceived in antiquity, including description (...)

49The tour moves from the Ara Maxima in the Forum Boarium, the Carmentalis Porta, the Asylum, the Tarpeian Rock, the Capitoline/Palatine Hills, and the Forum Romanum. This pastoral ecphrasis of the future of urban Rome is connected to the final lines of Aeneid 8, when Aeneas has finished looking at the series of images of Roman history in Vergil’s ecphrasis of Aeneas’ shield, beginning with the birth of Romulus and Remus (8.630-634) and ending with the battle of Actium and Octavian’s triple triumph (8.675-728).45 Like during the awe he experiences (miratur) during his tour of Pastoral Rome, miratur characterizes his perception of the shield (talia per clipeum Volcani, dona parentis, / miratur rerumque ignarus imagine gaudet/ attollens umero famamque et fata nepotum [ “he marvels at such things throughout the shield of Vulcan, the gifts of his mother, and ignorant of their meaning he rejoices in the imagery, lifting up upon his shoulder the fame and fortune of his future lineage,”] 8.729-31). Although omnia does not occur in these lines, the verb miratur and the semantic association between gaudet and laetus, recalling 8.310-11, juxtaposes Aeneas’ tour through pre-Roman Rome and his visual journey through Roman time on the shield. The phrase in ipsis omnia oculis encompasses the spatial and temporal images and events experienced by Aeneas in Aeneid 8. The hyperbaton of ipsis… oculis, as it encapsulates omnia sunt, focuses on the very visual experience through which miratur in the passages above derives its force. What Aeneas sees in Book 8 “is everything that is,” including Vergil’s Rome.

  • 46 D. Quint, “Repetition and ideology in the Aeneid,” MD 24 (1991), p. 9-54 and see Hardie, o.c. (n. 2 (...)

50While Aeneas’ behavior is characterized by overt associations to Achilles and Pyrrhus, Vergil reveals that the hero’s motivation is his memory of Aeneid 8, an etiological memory of the future Republican and Augustan Rome. Neoptolemus’ sacrificial acts are motivated by the death of a loved one, but the result of his actions is the obliteration of his victim from all time and space. In essence, David Quint’s argument that one can find two species of repetition in the Aeneid, a ‘regressive repetition’ versus a ‘repetition-as-reversal, ’ is clearly seen here, but Vergil has framed repetition as a problem of memory.46 As was discussed above, corpus sine nomine is a sign that within the economy of the poem the regnator Asiae has been erased from the literary landscape of the epic. The significance of his sacrifice becomes all the more marked when we gesture to Orontes, whose name recalls the Orontes river that winds through Lebanon, Syria and Turkey, and to Palinurus, whose body was pulled from oblivion to become an etiological signpost for modern Cape Palinuro. Neoptolemus’ sacrifice is an act of anti-etiological apocalypse that not only results in the obliteration of a man, but by synecdoche the annihilation of Troy and Asia themselves. Ultimately, the subjectivity of Neoptolemus and his resulting actions give way to a cataclysmic closure that has the potential of negating any productive future, since time will hold in an eternal present of sacrificial repetition that occludes memory. Furthermore, the sacrifices of Orontes and Palinurus are antitheses to Priam’s slaughter; their deaths allow for the survival of the community, Priam’s death reflects the complete annihilation of the community. The crisis of human sacrifice formulated by Girard is articulated in the Aeneid as a crisis of closed, circular time without the possibility of memorialization.

  • 47 E.V. George, Aeneid 8 and the Aitia of Callimachus, Leiden, 1974.

51In addition, the poetics of etiology have been fused with the theme of repetition and closure. That the phrase Pallas, Evander, in ipsis/ omnia sunt oculis, mensae quas advena primas. Tunc adiit, dextraeque datae ( “Pallas, Evander, everything was in his mind’s eyes: the tables he approached first then, a stranger, and the joining of right hands in alliance”), is a summary of Aeneid 8 is beyond doubt. However, Aeneid 8 is itself a narrative of etiology heavily indebted to Callimachus’ Aetia.47 The Aetia, for all its artistry and complex shifts of perspective and narrative, follows a general pattern whereby a character within the narrative relates an etiological tale about the past that affirms the present reality. The etiological perspective of Aeneid 8, on the other hand, operates according to a different temporal system: Aeneas moves through etiologies of future events, which stand outside of his present perspective. Aeneas is motivated to perform human sacrifices because of future etiologies that will result in the foundation of Rome and imperium sine fine. On the level of poetics, at the very moment Vergil alludes most directly to the Iliadic ethos of Achilles and Pyrrhus, he situates this Homeric material within an etiological program that bends the rules of Callimachean aitia; all Roman etiologies run through Aeneas and his relationships. Vergil effectively joins human sacrifice and the origins of Rome in a way that honors the heroic tradition Aeneas is a part of and the antiquarian tradition moving through Aeneid 8. But by raising the specter of human sacrifice Vergil suggests that this etiological future might also become obliterated through the cycle of human sacrifice.

52It is often not said, but within the epic cycle of slaughter outlined above, there must be a final human sacrifice, a last act of sacrificial transgression that concludes the crisis. Within the scope of the Aeneid, this final sacrifice coincides with the final lines of the epic:

hoc dicens ferrum adverso sub pectore condit
fervidus, ast illi solvuntur frigore membra
vitaque cum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbra (12.950-952)

So speaking he seething buries his sword in Turnus hated breast, but Turnus’ limbs grow slack with chill and his life flees with a grown, a thing unworthy under the shadow.

  • 48 James, l.c. (n. 31).
  • 49 On the oath in Aeneid 12 see Hickson-Hahn, o.c. (n. 22) and Mackie, o.c. (n. 22), p. 190-196.
    It is (...)

53Sharon James has shown how the radical usage of condere at 950 functions within the broader themes of city foundation and the human cost of empire.48 In addition to its connection with prior usages within the Aeneid, it also gestures to the phrase conditor Romani arcis in reference to Evander. Aeneas is both burying his sword in Turnus’ chest, but this final sacrificial act brings to realization the series of etiological images in Aeneid 8. Evander only becomes the conditor Romani arcis at 12.950. Furthermore, Turnus’ sacrifice, which should be a sign of a crisis of fides, in fact, actualizes Aeneas’ oath at 12.190-1: paribus se legibus ambae/ iunctae gentes aeterna in foedera mittant ( “may both peoples joined under equal laws release themselves into everlasting alliances”).49 The implications of the sacrifice of Turnus are the creation of a new political and cosmological reality that are functions of everlasting laws of alliance, the creation of a city and empire that embody this new reality, and the end of human sacrifice as force of obliteration and chaos. No other event emblematizes this dramatic break from the cycles of sacrificial violence than the obliteration of Trojan language and fashion per the agreement of Juno and Jupiter. Rather than the victim of sacrifice undergoing a kind of oblivion, the sacrificer and his race become sublimated into another culture, not to be entirely forgotten, but only granted the privilege of memorialization in a pre-Roman past, eventually to be effaced like Priam in Aeneid 2. The sacrifice of Priam and Turnus move in parallel as slaughters contributing to the loss of Trojan identity. Pius Aeneas performs acts which deny the force of pietas in his present, but like his vision of a future Rome, Aeneas’ epithet characterizes him as a force of future pietas, a pietas that can only be brought into being through acts of impiety as constructed by Roman thought.

Notes

1 For the evidence of actual human sacrifice in Rome see J.S. Reid, “Human Sacrifices at Rome and Other Notes on Roman Religion,” JRS 2 (1912), p. 34-45; C. Cichorius, “Staatliche Menschenopfer,” in Römische Studien, Leipzig, 1922, p. 7-16; A.M. Eckstein, “Human Sacrifice and the Fear of Military Disaster in Republican Rome,” AJAH (1982), p. 69-95; D. Porte, “Les enterrements expiatoires à Rome,” RPh 58 (1984), p. 233-243; S. Farron, “Aeneas’ Human Sacrifice,” AClass 28 (1985), p. 21-33; J. Rives, “Human Sacrifice among Pagans and Christians,” JRS (1995), p. 65-85. I follow D.D. Hughes, Culture and Sacrifice: Ritual and Death in Literature and Opera, Cambridge, 2007, p. 2 in including in the definition of human sacrifice, “the literal, ritual, and religious sacrifice of a human victim,” as well as sacrifices that are “narrowly averted, or used as a powerful and deliberate symbol.”

2 On this aspect of Greek tragedy see R. Girard, La Violence et le Sacré, Paris, 1972. For Vergil (and so much else) see P. Hardie, The Epic Successors of Virgil: A Study in the Dynamics of a Tradition, Cambridge, 1993, p. 19-56, and V. Panoussi, Greek Tragedy in Vergil’s Aeneid: Ritual, Empire, and Intertext, Cambridge, 2009, p. 18-25.

3 I follow A. Henrichs, “Drama and Dromena: Bloodshed, Violence, and Sacrificial Metaphor in Euripides,” HSPh 100 (2000), p. 174: “[B] y reconceptualizing and verbalizing murder as a rite of sacrifice, tragedy turns mundane acts of self-motivated aggression into quasi-religious events, thereby magnifying them and elevating them to a rank compatible with its ritual frame, moral authority, and interest in the divine.” This expression is particularly relevant to my discussion of Aeneas’ actions in Aeneid 10 discussed below.

4 For a clear description of the sacrificial ‘elements’ and ‘modes’ in Greek tragedy see J. Gibert, “Apollo’s Sacrifice: The Limits of a Metaphor in Greek Tragedy,” HSPh 101 (2003), p. 161-163.

5 F.E. Brenk, “Unum pro multis caput: Myth, History, and Symbolic Imagery in Vergil’s Palinurus Incident,” Latomus 43 (1984), p. 776-801; idem, “Palinurus and Polites: Shades of Shades (Virgil, Aeneid 6.337-383),” Latomus 46 (1987), p. 571-574; id., “Wind and Waves, Sacrifice and Treachery: Diodoros, Appian and the Death of Palinurus in Vergil,” Aevum 62 (1988), p. 69-80; W.S.M. Nicoll, “The Sacrifice of Palinurus,” CQ 38 (1988), p. 459-472. On the connection between the sacrifices of Palinurus and Turnus see W.S.M. Nicoll, “The Death of Turnus,” CQ 51 (2001), p. 196-198.

6 See Panoussi, o.c. (n. 2), p. 45-56. Panoussi (generally following Hardie, o.c. [n. 2], p. 29) sets her death within a broader ritual plot that links marriage, distorted devotio, and human sacrifice, but her oath-curse does not need the ritual of devotio to grant it ritual meaning.

7 Hughes, o.c. (n. 1), p. 47 remarks with respect to Polydorus that the episode is one of a number of deaths characterized by sacrifice ‘without being fully developed ritual sacrifices.’

8 7.546-547: dic in amicitiam coeant et foedera iungant./ quandoquidem Ausonio respersi sanguine Teucros. 10.105-106: quandoquidem Ausonios coniungi foedere Teucris/ haud licitum.

9 12-948-50: ‘Pallas te hoc vulnere, Pallas/ immolat et poenam scelerato ex sanguine sumit.’ Hoc dicens ferrum adverso sub pectore condit fervidus. See Nicoll, l.c. (2001, n. 5) and Panoussi, o.c. (n. 2), p. 57-66.

10 Girard is crucial in each of these studies, but his study of human sacrifice does not do justice to the complexity of Vergil’s unique articulation of human sacrifice in his poem. C. Bandera, “Sacrificial Levels in Virgil’s Aeneid,” Arethusa 14 (1981), p. 223 statement, ‘ [T] his general sacrificial law, as it is revealed by the Aeneid, ’ is explicitly formulated as follows: unum pro multis dabitur caput only accounts for a few sacrifices, ones which never needed Girard to be understood. Bandera makes a mistake in suggesting that the selection of the one is arbitrary. Nothing is arbitrary in the Aeneid. J. Dyson, King of the Wood: The Sacrificial Victor in Virgil’s Aeneid, Norman, 2001; Farron, l.c. (n. 1); Hardie, o.c. (n. 2); J. O’Hara, Death and the Optimistic Prophecy in Vergil’s Aeneid, Princeton, 1990, p. 104-111; Panoussi, o.c. (n. 2).

11 Rives, l.c. (n. 1), p. 70. His point on peripheral sacrifice comes in his discussion of ethnographic writings.

12 On human sacrifice being contrary to pietas see Farron, l.c. (n. 1), p. 23. Rives, l.c. (n. 1), p. 69- 70 argues that cultural relativism and barbarism are the underlying principles in Roman and Greek considerations of non-Roman human sacrifice. To quote Rives (p. 70), ‘ [I] n the majority of cases, the difference it marks carried a strong negative connotation, so that it was essentially a sign of barbarism; in other cases it functioned as a proof that accepted ideas about civilization were merely conventional. In all cases, however, it functioned as a marker of cultural distance between people who told the stories and the people about whom they were told.’

13 For a similar and more expansive statement on human sacrifice and religion see Plutarch, de superstitio, 171c-e. Plutarch argues that atheism is a better intellectual position than the superstition which might give rise to human sacrifice. His analysis sets Scythian and Gallic animal sacrifice within a broad Greek intellectual tradition, unlike Cicero who is only interested in how to understand human sacrifice according to the fundamental religious qualities of fides and pietas.

14 De rerum natura 1.80-101.

15 Human sacrifice is present in each of Seneca’s tragedies in some way. Seneca clearly understood the utility of human sacrifice in Greek tragedy.

16 Caesar states the Gauls sacrifice to Mercury as their tutelary deity. There may be a connection between Gallic human sacrifice and Mercury in his capacity as pychopompus. And his relation to wealth (Pluto) may also be relevant.

17 Servius auctus adds that the phrase foedera solvere furto may allude to Venus’ saving of Paris in Iliad 3 or the violation of the horkos by Pandarus in Iliad 4.

18 It is notable that fides and pietas are often found together as an hendiadys.

19 Nicoll, l.c. (1988, n. 5), p. 469.

20 Notably, Dido is fleeing a brother who murdered his sister’s husband upon altars.

21 On devotio generally see H.S. Versnel, “Two Types of Roman Devotio,” Mnemosyne 29 (1976), p. 365-410 and in the Aeneid in particular see Panoussi, o.c. (n. 2), p. 56-66; Dyson, o.c. (n. 10).

22 F. Hickson-Hahn, “Vergilian Transformation of an Oath Ritual: Aeneid 12.169-174, 312- 315,” Vergilius 45 (1999), p. 24. For a brief discussion, see also C.J. Mackie, The Characterization of Aeneas, Edinburgh, 1988, p. 190-196.

23 12.819-828.

24 Both parts of the oaths spoken by Aeneas during the ritual of the foedus come to pass. See B. Gladhill, “The Poetics of Alliance in Vergil’s Aeneid,” Dictynna 6 (2009), p. 47.

25 See TLL for foedus, foederis.

26 pace Nicoll, l.c. (2001, n. 5), p. 195 among others. See Gladhill, l.c. (n. 24).

27 For Orontes and Palinurus standing for Aeneas see O’Hara, l.c. (n. 10), p. 104-111.

28 Ibid., p. 19.

29 Hardie, o.c. (n. 2), p. 32-33.

30 Brenk, l.c. (1988, n. 5), p. 72-74 adds the further points that (1) the second narrative ‘reintroduces the violence missing in Neptunus’ selection, while the two actions together constitute the essential aspects of the propitiatory sacrifice’ and (2) the sacrifice of the agna at 5.772-776 is a ritual prolepsis of Palinurus’ sacrifice. The slaughter of Palinurus on the shore may owe something to Herodotus 4.103.1, which describes the custom of the Taurians to sacrifice shipwrecked men and Greeks to a maiden (Rives, l.c. [n. 1], p. 67-68).

31 For the broader implications of burial or lack thereof see S. James, “Establishing Rome with the Sword: Condere in the Aeneid,” AJPh 116 (1995), p. 627-633 who states (632-633), ‘ [D] enial of burial constitutes not only a personal act of revenge but a political act, a sign of conquest, as well.’ At 633, n. 31 she connects Priam and the destruction of Asia to this theme. On Priam as a Pompey surrogate see A.M. Bowie, “The Death of Priam: Allegory and History in the Aeneid,” CQ 40 (1990), p. 470-481.

32 Il. 18.336-337, 21.27-32, 23.22-23, 23.175-182. While these lines are not themselves describing a human sacrifice per se (rather a ποινή), that Vergil frames Aeneas’ actions in terms of human sacrifice suggests that his reception of the slaughter of the twelve Trojan youths is drawing from the latent sacrificial undertones in the Iliad.

33 Farron, o.c. (n. 1), p. 22 argues that Aeneid 10.513 is modeled on Catullus 64.353, which would place the sacrificial intonations five lines before his decision to immolate the brothers.

34 For connected themes see C. Segal, The Theme of the Mutilation of the Corpse, Leiden, 1971 (Mnemosyne, supplement 17),

35 Henrichs, l.c. (n. 3), p. 182.

36 On the allegorical sacrifice of Haemonides and the vast number of associations he motivates see Farron, o.c. (n. 1), p. 29.

37 See S.J. Harrison, Vergil: Aeneid 10 with Introduction, Translation and Commentary, Oxford, 1991, p. 207-208 on these lines and the crux of armis and albis.

38 D. Williams, Virgil: Aeneid 7-12, London, 1973, p. 355, n. 510.

39 Farron, o.c. (n. 1), p. 32, n. 31.

40 Harrison, o.c. (n. 37), p. 201, at 501-605.

41 Catullus 64. 368-370 also stands in the background of these lines: alta Polyxenia madefient caede sepulcra;/ quae velut ancipiti succumbens victima ferro/ proiciet truncum summiso poplite corpus ( “the high tombs will drip with Polyxena’s slaughter; she, like a sacrificial victim bending to the double-edged sword, will offer up her mangled body on bent knee”).

42 1.85-86: Aulide quo pacto Triviai virginis aram/ Iphianassai turparunt sanguine foede ( “at Aulis where they foully polluted the altar of Artemis with the sanctioned blood of the maiden”).

43 D. Fowler, Roman Constructions: Readings in Postmodern Latin, New York, 2000, p. 104-105.

44 At ad Aen. 8.269, Servius astutely reads the Hercules and Cacus myth in terms of the ius hospitii in a time when such a social institution had yet to take root: apud maiores nostros raro advenae suscipiebantur, nisi haberent ius hospitii; incertum enim erat quo animo venirent. unde etiam Hercules primo non est ab Euandro susceptus; postea vero cum se et Iovis filium dixisset et morte Caci virtutem suam probasset, et susceptus et pro numine habitus est ( “Among our ancestors rarely were strangers admitted, unless they had the right of hospitality; for it was uncertain with what intent they came. From this even Hercules was not admitted by Evander at first; but afterwards when he said he was the son of Jupiter and he proved his manliness with the death of Cacus, Hercules was both admitted and treated as a divinity”). The ease with which Pallas embraces Aeneas is in marked contrast to Evander’s testing of Hercules’ virtus.

45 The ancient notion of ecphrasis was much more broadly conceived in antiquity, including descriptions of all kinds, including landscapes.

46 D. Quint, “Repetition and ideology in the Aeneid,” MD 24 (1991), p. 9-54 and see Hardie, o.c. (n. 2), p. 15-16.

47 E.V. George, Aeneid 8 and the Aitia of Callimachus, Leiden, 1974.

48 James, l.c. (n. 31).

49 On the oath in Aeneid 12 see Hickson-Hahn, o.c. (n. 22) and Mackie, o.c. (n. 22), p. 190-196.
It is notable that the death of Cacus in Aeneid 8 occurs at a time when ius hospitii (as Servius saw it) may not have been so honored. Likewise, the death of Turnus occurs at the moment a new system of alliance is taking shape. See Gladhill, l.c. (n. 24).

Auteur

McGill University
(PhD Stanford, 2008) is Assistant Professor of Classics at McGill University. He specializes on Roman poetry with an eye towards religion, cosmology and space. In addition to publishing articles on Vergil, Ovid and Suetonius, he is finishing Rethinking Roman Alliance, a book about literary representations of Roman ritualized relationships and the tensions in forming them. He and Matteo Soranzo are producing the first English translation and commentary of Pontano’s elegiac masterpiece, the Parthenopaeus.

Le texte et les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont sous Licence OpenEdition Books, sauf mention contraire.

Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search