in Language, Literature

Verbal Artistry in Vergil: Soundplay in Aeneid 2.19

This may be a bit of a stretch, but given Vergil’s Alexandrianism I’m going to go with it.

In Aeneid 2.19, in the first description of the Trojan Horse, Vergil says that the Greeks enclose chose men caeco lateri, “in the hidden side.” I propose that we are supposed to think here also of the etymologically unrelated latere, “to hide, lurk, be concealed.” The sound of the word calls forth another word that is appropriate to the context. This is perhaps confirmed, or at least given plausibility, when Capys and some others shortly thereafter (9 lines) urge the Greeks to “test the hiding-places” of theĀ  horse (temptare latebras, 38) and when Laocoon warns (10 lines after that) that “some error lurks [in the horse]” (aliquis latet error, 48). He then throws a spear into its side (in latus, 51). But the fates of the gods were against them befouling the hiding places (ferro Argolicas foedare latebras, 55).