in Language, Literature, Reception

Verbal Artistry in Vergil: Word-Order in Aeneid 1.368

As Venus tells Aeneas the story of Dido, she tells him how Dido and her allies (socios, 360) acquired the territory of Carthage: they bought as much land as they could surround with a bull’s hide:

  1. mercatique solum, facti de nomine Byrsam,
  2. taurino quantum possent circumdare tergo.

Again, word-order reinforces the sense: the words for “bull’s” (taurino) and “hide” (tergo) themselves surround or encircle “how much land they could surround/encircle” (quantum possent circumdare). The repeated “t” sound at the beginning of these two words that go together and begin and end the line gives extra balance.

Incidentally, Pharr notes that the famous line-ending dux femina facti (364) was “stamped on the medals struck to commemorate the defeat of the Spanish Armada by the British in 1588, while Elizabeth was queen of England.” I’m not sure if this is true: see here, for instance; though it at least seems to have been used in such a way retrospectively. Anyone out there know if such medals were made during Elizabeth’s reign?

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