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Aeneid lines 268-280 `Aeneas' dream of Hector'
In this section of the Aeneid, Aeneas begins to dream, and for the first time he himself comes into his
story. The passage is very dramatic, with the contrast of the happy sleep of Aeneas (who believes
that the Greeks have gone and that all will be well) and the terse statements of disaster which he
receives from Hector's ghost, while Hector warns him that he must flee.
268-269: there is a lilting softness to these lines and sound effects which mirror the sleep.
Note the preponderance and regularity of the `s' on the end of quies mortalibus aegris and
gratissima serpit (= zzzzzz)
aegris: this may be a generalising reference to the human lot or it may be intended to
introduce a note of foreboding the pleasant sleep will not always be so.
prima and incipit emphasise that this is the start of sleep early in the night, and emphasise
perhaps the welcome nature of it. Note that the sleep is most welcome (gratissima
superlative) and it is the gift of the gods (dono divum) for the mortals (mortalibus)
It is also possible to see a further note of foreboding in these lines. Serpit is connected with
the word for serpent (and the alliteration of the `s' may also reflect this in addition to the zzzz
270 continues at the start with the sleep in somnis, but then abruptly the ecce makes it very
immediate emphasising the reality, and this emphasis is continued with ante oculos. Yet the
reality and immediacy is actually a dream his eyes are shut in sleep! Thus this signals the
start of the vision. Then we get maestissimus very sorrowful there is bad news and finally
the identity of the ghost Hector. He is the greatest warrior on the Trojan side, and his
emotion is unexpected. In the Iliad, the heroes like Hector go out and fight. They follow the
heroic code which demands that they fight and win glory. If they die in so doing their death is
glorious. Yet Hector here is very sorrowful.
271: visus adesse mihi again emphasises the reality he really did appear to be there, and to
pour out many tears (largosque effundere fletus) again emphasising the maestissimus. Note
also the alliteration of the `f' mimicking the weeping?
In the next lines, Virgil places emphasis on Hector's appearance: the vocabulary is strong and
violent, and evokes pathos for Hector.
raptatus (dragged) is an emotive word and it refers to Hector after his death being dragged
behind his chariot by Achilles. Note the colour and violence: Hector is ater (black) with
cruento pulvere (bloody dust); he is traiectus (pierced), his feet swollen (tumentes). Note
also the alliteration of the `p' in pulvere perque pedes (273).
ei mihi (274) `ah me': we are taken away from Hector and back to Aeneas momentarily, and
then the emphasis is on how Hector was changed ab illo Hectore from that Hector almost
a different man and two of Hector's great achievements are mentioned. The first is when
he returns from battle indutus exuvias Achilli. The verb is in the present tense possibly this
is intended to emphasise Aeneas' remembrance of the past event side by side with the
present vision. The second achievement of Hector is when the Trojans almost burnt the
Greek ships. The contrast between the two opposing sides is emphasised by the
juxtaposition of Danaum Phrygios. But then the narrative returns to the appearance of Hector
now the contrast again with the glory days. 277: his beard is squalentem unkempt, his
hair (crines) is matted with blood (concretos sanguine). He is wearing wounds (vulnera
gerens) lots of them, plurima, which he received (accepit) around the walls of the homeland
(muros patrios). Hector was wounded fighting for his country. Aeneas reacts weeping too -