previous next

HYGINUS criticizes 1 a passage in Virgil's sixth book and thinks that he would have corrected it. Palinurus is in the Lower World, begging Aeneas to take care that his body be found and buried. His words are: 2
O save me from these ills, unconquered one;
Or throw thou earth upon me, for you can,
And to the port of Velia return.
“How,” said he, “could either Palinurus know and name 'the port of Velia,' or Aeneas find the place from that name, when the town of Velia, from which he has called the harbour in that place 'Veline' was founded in the Lucanian district and called by that name when Servius Tullius was reigning in Rome, 3 more than six hundred years after Aeneas came to Italy? For of those,” he adds, “who were driven from the land of Phocis 4 by Harpalus, 5 prefect of king Cyrus, some founded Velia, and others Massilia. Most absurdly, then, does Palinurus ask Aeneas to seek out the Veline port, when at that time no such name existed anywhere. Nor ought that to be considered a similar error,” said he, “which occurs in the first book: 6
Exiled by fate, to Italy fared and to Lavinian strand,
[p. 257] and similarly in the sixth book: 7
At last stood lightly poised on the Chalcidian height,
since it is usually allowed the poet himself to mention, κατὰ πρόληψιν, 'by anticipation,' in his own person some historical facts which took place later and of which he himself could know; just as Virgil knew the town of Lavinium and the colony from Calchis. But how could Palinurus,” he said, “know of events that occurred six hundred years later, unless anyone believes that in the Lower World he had the power of divination, as in fact the souls of the deceased commonly do? But even if you understand it in that way, although nothing of the kind is said, yet how could Aeneas, who did not have the power of divination, seek out the Veline port, the name of which at that time, as we have said before, was not in existence anywhere?”

He also censures the following passage in the same book, and thinks that Virgil would have corrected it, had not death prevented: “For,” says He, “when he had named Theseus among those who had visited the Lower World and returned, and had said: 8

But why name Theseus? why Alcides great?
And my race too is from almighty Jove,
he nevertheless adds afterwards: 9
Unhappy Theseus sits, will sit for aye.
But how,” says he, “could it happen that one should sit for ever in the Lower World whom the poet mentions before among those who went down there and returned again, especially when the story of [p. 259] Theseus says that Hercules tore him from the rock and led him to the light of the Upper World?”

He also says that Virgil erred in these lines: 10

He Argos and Mycenae shall uproot,
City of Agamemnon, and the heir
Of Aeacus himself, from war-renowned
Achilles sprung, 11 his ancestors of Troy
Avenging and Minerva's spotless shrine. 12
“He has confounded,” says Hyginus, “different persons and times. For the wars with the Achaeans and with Pyrrus were not waged at the same time nor by the same men. For Pyrrus, whom he calls a descendant of Aeacus, having crossed over from Epirus into Italy, waged war with the Romans against Manius Curius, who was their leader in that war. 13 But the Argive, that is, the Achaean war, was carried on many years after under the lead of Lucius Mummius. 14 The middle verse, therefore, about Pyrrus,” says he, “may be omitted, since it was inserted inopportunely; and Virgil,” he said, “undoubtedly would have struck it out.”

1 Fr. 7, Fun.

2 Aen. vi. 365 ff.

3 578—534 B.C., traditional chronology.

4 Phocis, a district of Greece west of Boeotia, was confused by Hyginus with Phocaea, a city on the western coast of Asia Minor.

5 Probably an error for Harpagus.

6 Aen. i. 2.

7 Alen. vi. 17.

8 Aen. vi. 122.

9 617.

10 Aen. vi. 838. The rendering is by Rhoades, except for “spotless” in the last line.

11 Neoptolemus, also called Pyrrus (or Pyrrhus), the son of Achilles and Deidameia.

12 Probably either Gellius or Hyginus misquotes Virgil. With their version we have a transfer of the epithet intemerata from Minerva to her shrine.

13 280—275 B.C.

14 146 B.C.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Introduction (John C. Rolfe, 1927)
load focus Latin (John C. Rolfe, 1927)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: