Rumors and RUMOR! A Plautine Road Leads to Vergil (Aeneid 4. 173-188)

Earlier today, I tweeted a quote from Plautus

An old and dear friend of mine, probably still licking wounds from high school Latin responded asking about Vergil’s Rumor. His description in the Aeneid is memorable.


“Rumor traveled immediately through the cities of Libya–
Rumor, no other evil can move more quickly:
She grows with speed and acquires strength in motion,
At first, she is small from fear, but soon she raises herself to the sky
and walks onto the land hiding her head among the clouds.
The Earth gave birth to her because she was nursing rage at the gods,
This final daughter—as they claim—a sister to Coeus and Enceladus,
Her feet are swift and her wings are hateful,
A dread creation whose huge body bristles with feathers.
And beneath them all are watchful eyes, chilling to describe
And as many tongues within whispering mouths and between attentive ears.
At night she flights mid-sky and over the shadowed earth,
Hissing, refusing to rest her eyes in sweet sleep.
At day she stands guard at the highest roof-peak
Or on looming towers as she brings the cities terror.
She sticks at times to base lies and other times to truth.”

Extemplo Libyae magnas it Fama per urbes—
Fama, malum qua non aliud velocius ullum;
mobilitate viget, viresque adquirit eundo,
parva metu primo, mox sese attollit in auras,
ingrediturque solo, et caput inter nubila condit.
Illam Terra parens, ira inritata deorum,
extremam (ut perhibent) Coeo Enceladoque sororem
progenuit, pedibus celerem et pernicibus alis,
monstrum horrendum, ingens, cui, quot sunt corpore plumae
tot vigiles oculi subter, mirabile dictu,
tot linguae, totidem ora sonant, tot subrigit aures.
Nocte volat caeli medio terraeque per umbram,
stridens, nec dulci declinat lumina somno;
luce sedet custos aut summi culmine tecti,
turribus aut altis, et magnas territat urbes;
tam ficti pravique tenax, quam nuntia veri.

2 thoughts on “Rumors and RUMOR! A Plautine Road Leads to Vergil (Aeneid 4. 173-188)

    1. Maybe it is Vergil, maybe it comes from the Latin teachers of our generation, but as soon as you mentioned the passage, I knew where it was. I remember reading it the first time more vividly than I remember my son’s first steps! Horribile dictu!

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