AEOLUS' BRIBE vis-a-vis ROMAN LAW

Aeneid I, 64 ff.



1 ad quem tum Iuno supplex his vocibus usa_st
2 "Aeole, namque tibi divum pater et hominum rex
3 et mulcere dedit fluctus et tollere vento
4 gens inimica mihi Tyrrhenum navigat aequor
5 lIium in Italiam portans et victos Penates.
6 Incute vim ventis et summersasque obrue puppes
7 aut age diversos et disice corpora ponto.
8 Sunt mihi bis septem praestanti corpore nymphae
9 quarum quae forma pulcherrima, Deiopeia,
10 conubio iungam stabili propriamque dicabo,
11 omnis ut tecum, meritis pro talibus, annos
12 exigat, et pulchra faciat te prole parentem."

13 Aeolus haec contra: "tuus, O Regina, quid optes
14 explorare labor. mihi iussa capessere fas est.
15 tu mihi quodcumque hoc regni, tu sceptra Iovemque
16 concilias, tu das epulis accumbere divum,
17 nimborumque facis tempestatumque potentem."

18 Haec ubi dicta, cavum conversa cuspide montem
19 impulit in latus, ac venti.....

This passage is so rich in innuendo and sub-meanings of words that one hardly knows where to begin. But at 1) the whole wheedling tone of Juno's sly approach rolls out on a slippery series of hissing sibilants, even down to the prosy word utor (usa_st) which Vergil rarely touches. The stage is being set beforehand.......

"Aeole". How simple and openly friendly that vocative rolls out on its vowels, then switching immediately to the Supreme Authority and vested power for role and his function of smoothing the seas. But since Heraclitus, each thing has its opposite, so she inserts "raising the seas in storm" --- not part of his contract at all.. Now at 3) "some people who hate me..." are mentioned calmly, sailing the seas and smuggling something foreign into a port of ours, actually religious damaged goods (victos penates). This was all controlled, quiet, but suddenly...

Everything breaks loose in raging anger at 5) and 6), roaring winds, ships cracked apart, bodies in an instant floating dead on the waters. But just for a second in her mind's eye, then the anger hides, and the tone abruptly reverts to smoothness, much like a flash storm on the Adriatic Sea.

8) "I have 14 lovely ladies......"(Recall Schubert's Erlkoenig with a similar Grimm fairy tale bribe of a siren.)...... and the fairest of them all, Deiopeia, is a rolling name that lingers on the tongue as spoken. But this is no simple pandering, this is serious business with "conubio stabili", honest to goodness marriage. She says "conubium" which is marriage between parties in different status, but still not the same as first-class Roman "coniugium". But in case the point needs driving home, look at 11) which is bracketed with acc. of duration "omnes...annos", while inserted stands that official Roman phrase from the inscriptions: "meritis pro talibus". When Vergil (as Homer) writes a word over a line to be the start of the next one, that gives a massive, dominant emphasis. So here "exigat" virtually puts the stamp and seal on this contract, and so it will be henceforth! But 12) has a different message, the most restrained and almost unmentionable reference to something which will convince the gaping Aeolus, who is ready to be bribed finally by ---- SEX.

With 13) we turn to Aeolus, leaving out words and compressing the answer in his groveling Uriah Heep-like manner, jamming words together in haste, writing over lines, and making some bad mistakes of judgment. "YOUR role is deciding what you want, MINE is taking orders." The tu and mihi are too close, too familiar, he continues with three more "tu" 's, too familiar and too much repeated, tiresome tutoiement. But watch that word "iussa", an official word emanating from the high authority of Iovis, as from the Roman Emperor. He adds "fas est" quite incorrectly, since fas is a word with religious meaning, and there is no pietas in this situation.

How typically at 15) this small- minded grub even demeans his own role, "this little kingdom of mine, such as it is...", proceeding to the great honor of sitting at the celestial banquets.

And again with this striking line-emphasis at 16) "concilias", a most interesting word which he misuses badly. It is a term from Roman business, "you are acting as my agent..... with God", you are fixing it up with Him, but there is also the use of conciliare for "matchmaking", which is what she had been doing for him with a Nymph. In his excitement he uses the matchmaking word for the deal between her and the Pater Divum Hominumque. Aeolus is not only wormlike and ugly, he makes official errors and misjudgments, which Vergil no doubt witnessed in court actions during the legal training of his early years.

It may have been for passages like this that Agrippa blamed him for "tastelessness and mixing common and poetic dictions"(Donatus). But back in the Augustan world, Horace was aware of Agrippa's preferences, which were apparently well known in their literary circle; in Odes I, VI, 7 ff., speaking to Agrippa, he slips in the phrase " Pelidae stomachum" (!), clearly twitting the stolid Agrippa with something like "Achilles' being pissed-off". But to us this wide use of the total word resources is part of Vergil's immense sense of language, in a way not unlike Shakespeare's.

With 18) we come to action, marked by the hard unvoiced guttural -c- (cavum... conversa cuspide) and in true Homeric fashion with the emphatic word starting off line 19) "IMPULIT" we smash into the side of the mountain in a flurry of tough, resonant sounds (the nasals and liquids of montem, impulit, latus). From there on it is all action on the waters and music on the palette of Vergil's wonderful sense of tonalities.




William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College
www.middlebury.edu/~harris