The Shield of Aeneas – Virgil from the Aeneid, Book 8 (608-731 abridged)
But Venus, the goddess shining among the heavenly clouds
Was present, bringing her gifts; and she saw her son in a remote valley
At a distance, cut off [from the others] by a cold river,
She spoke to him with such words and appeared suddenly:
‘Behold, finished by the skill my husband promised are your 5
Gifts. Do not hesitate, my son, soon to call up to battle
Either the proud Laurentines or violent Turnus.’
She spoke, and she made for her son’s embraces,
She laid the gleaming armour under an oak tree facing [him].
He, delighted by such a great honour of the goddess’ gifts 10
Could not look enough and gazes at every single piece,
He is amazed and he takes [them] into his hands and arms and turns over
The helmet terrible with its crests and pouring out flames,
And the deadly sword, the breastplate hard with bronze,
Blood-red, huge, just as when a dark cloud 15
Is set on fire by the rays of the sun and flashes back from afar;
Then the smooth greaves made of reforged amber metal and gold,
The spear and the indescribable fabric of the shield.
There the events in Italy and the triumphs of the Romans,
Not unaware of the prophets and not without knowledge of the ages to come 20
Had the master of fire crafted, there the whole race of the future offspring
Of Ascanius and in order are the wars fought.
(lines 671 – 731)
Between these there flowed a picture of a broad expanse of swelling sea
Golden, but the blue sea was foaming with white surf,
And around it in a circle dolphins bright in silver 25
Were sweeping the waters with their tails and were cutting through the tide.
In the middle it was possible to see the bronze-armoured fleets, the battles of Actium,
And you might see the battle drawn up and the whole
[headland of] Leucate seething and the waves shining with gold.
Augustus Caesar’s fleet:
On this side was Augustus Caesar, leading the men of Italy into battle 30
Along with the senators and the people, the Penates and the great gods,
Standing high on the poop; and his radiant temples pour out twin flames
And his father’s star comes into view (lit: is shown) from the top of his head.
On another part with favourable winds and gods is Agrippa
At their head as he drives the battle line forward, his temples adorned 35
with ships’ beaks gleam with the Naval Crown, his proud decoration of war.
Antony and Cleopatra’s fleet:
On the other side Antony with barbaric wealth and different kinds of soldiers,
[he comes] as conqueror from the peoples of the Dawn and the red shore,
He brings with him Egypt and strength of the East and furthest
Bactra, and there follows (how shameful!) his Egyptian wife. 40
The battle of the fleets:
They all rushed on together,…