The Aeneid

by: Virgil

Important Quotations Explained

4
Amata tossed and turned with womanly
Anxiety and anger. Now [Allecto]
Plucked one of the snakes, her gloomy tresses,
And tossed it at the woman, sent it down
Her bosom to her midriff and her heart,
. . .
Slipping between her gown and her smooth breasts
. . .
While the infection first, like dew of poison
Fallen on her, pervaded all her senses,
Netting her bones in fire.
          (VII. 474490)

This vivid and disturbing description of the means by which the Fury Allecto incites Amata’s rage against Aeneas occurs in Book VII. Virgil plays on our senses, using images of fire, disease, poison, and sex to describe the passionate anger Amata feels at seeing her daughter’s proposed marriage thwarted and at hearing that a Trojan exile is to become part of her household. Virgil expresses the idea of being hot with anger by employing the images of things that, literally or figuratively, can heat a human’s blood. The invisible snake deployed by Allecto acts to enhance emotions already latent within Amata, since Amata already feels “womanly / Anxiety and anger” of her own. Even though Amata has perfectly good reason to despise Aeneas and the Trojans, Virgil explains her hatred by placing it physically in her body, suggesting that she incites war in the way she does because there is something wrong inside her. The snake unleashed by Juno essentially has a sexual encounter with Amata—it is as though Juno has impregnated Amata with madness.