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[121] Gossrau, Ladewig, and Henry are, I think, right in following Serv. against the later editors, and explaining ‘alae’ as the “alatores,” who appear from Isid. Orig. 10 quoted on G. 3. 413 and other old authorities to have been a distinct class of huntsmen. They are generally supposed to have been mounted like cavalry, of which the ‘alae’ of the Roman army originally consisted: Mr. Long, however, thinks that they were beaters or drivers, so called from their position on the flank, the people for whom the game was driven answering to the legions in the centre. The other interpretation, understanding it of the red feathers with which the game was scared (see on G. 3. 372), is not in Virg.'s manner, though it may suit a more modern taste, dwelling as it does on an unimportant circumstance, with the object of producing a picturesque effect. The change of nom. at ‘cingunt,’ too, is an objection to this view, though a slight one. A similar question has been raised on the use of ‘ala’ in a passage in Silius Italicus (2. 418), describing this very scene: “Hinc et speluncam furtivaque foedera amantum
Callaicae fecere manus: it clamor ad auras
Latratusque canum, subitoque exterrita nimbo
Occultant alae venantum corpora silvis.

There however the proprieties of the description, as well as the word ‘silvis,’ require that we should connect ‘venantum’ with ‘alae,’ the hunters being supposed to take shelter in the woods, not, as Heyne would have us think, behind the feathers of the net. ‘Trepidant’ then is to be understood of hurrying hither and thither. ‘Indago’ here and elsewhere seems to mean the process of catching wild beasts by stopping up the outlets of the woods with nets, men, dogs, &c. (see on E. 6. 56.)

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  • Commentary references from this page (3):
    • Vergil, Eclogues, 6
    • Vergil, Georgics, 3.372
    • Vergil, Georgics, 3.413
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