NISUS ET EURYALUS
Virgil, Aeneid IX. 176~502 (edited extracts)
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The night expedition of Nisus and Euryalus - characters who only figure in the Aeneid - is a dramatic episode of friendship, love, loyalty and heroism that results in the pathos of a failed quest for heroic glory and heroic adulthood. It is one of the great tragic stories of Virgil's epic. Virgil may also have wished to highlight the irony that while Aeneas is being joyously shown around the future site of Rome - the centre of the pax Romana - Nisus and Euryalus are unleashing a bloodbath among the sleeping enemy; Rome may not have been built in a day but it was certainly built upon loyalty and military might.
Latin Texts and English Translations
The Cambridge Latin Anthology selection Nisus et Euryalus is composed of the following lines from Virgil's Aeneid Book V: 176, 179-180,182-183,224-245,308-326,367-380,420-445
Book IX of the Aeneid in full.
Modern translation by A.S.Kline that sticks reasonably close to the Latin.
is written in a poetic form or "meter" known as dactylic hexameter
Find out more about the forms of Roman poetry in the section LATIN POETRY: Meters, Rhythms & Scansion
on the Verse Authors
The two comrades attack the sleeping Rutulians; note Rhoetus hiding behind a jar.
Book illustration from 1927.
Nisus, fatally wounded, collapses onto his dead comrade Euryalus.
Marble sculpture by Jean-Baptiste Roman, 1827; in the Louvre, Paris. Here is another picture
with better lighting.
Preview pages from Philip Hardie's commentary on Aeneid IX which contain much useful material.
The friends are introduced to us in Book V of the Aeneid when they race together at the funeral games for Aenaeas' father. Here's an English translation of their foot-race (Aeneid V.286-361).
Aeneas is with Evander at the future site of Rome while Nisus and Euryalus' night expedition takes place. Here's a reconstruction of what the marshy area of future Rome looked like. The Palatine is the large hill in the foreground; the Capitoline is the hill with twin-summits in the middle with the sheer Tarpeian cliff quite visible. Here's a labelled map of the hills
Rome grew into the largest city in the world
when only the Capitoline and the Palatine were really noteworthy with their temples and palaces respectively.
Map showing sites including Lavinium (aka Laurentum), Alba Longa and, of course, Rome.
He grows from a boy who can hardly keep up with his father Aeneas while fleeing a burning Troy to a youth in command of the troops in this episode in Book IX of the Aeneid.
This Roman fresco depicts Aeneas hugging an upset Ascanius while having his wounded leg treated; it was originally in the House of Sirico in Pompeii; now in the National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
Terrific series of literary and cultural questions with follow-up answers and pointers that help illuminate the Anthology text. Especially valuable for those preparing for GCSE exams.
Created by Godfrey Evans of Chelmsford County High School for Girls.
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Other Classical Comrades-in-Arms
Wikipedia entry on the Greek warrior Patroclus which gives some background to his friendship with, and affection for, the great hero Achilles.
The image is from the inside of a famous Greek cup depicting Achilles tending to his wounded comrade Patroclus. Painted by Sosias, c.490 BC; now in Altes Museum section of the National Museum, Berlin.
"Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus".
Achilles refuses the comfort of his Greek comrades as he grieves over the dead body of his devoted attendant and friend, Patroclus, who was killed by the Trojans. Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus. Painted by Gavin Hamilton, 1760-1763; in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, UK.
Friends willing to die for each other...
The greatest Athenian hero, Theseus, had a life-long friendship with Peirithous, King of the Lapiths. They got into all sorts of scrapes including fighting centaurs and venturing down to the Underworld!