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A ship struck by waves during a storm over the Black Sea

An example of the kind of storm the seas in this region experience even in modern times: A fierce storm with winds of up to 67mph (108kph)batters the northern shores of the Black Sea, sinking several ships.

by Astyages

And while the pious prince bewailed his fate, fierce Boreas, the cold north wind, drove against his flying sail and rent the sheets. The raging billows rose and lifted the storm-tossed vessel to the skies and when it fell broke all the oars as the ship slewed around and turned her prow, while those astern, as they slid down the steep slope of the deck, through the gaping waves beheld the boiling deep.

Three ships were blown by the south wind who cast them furiously upon those hidden rocks, which the Ausonian sailors call the Altars, when upon occasion they rise above the flood into view and bared their spacious backs. Three more were driven angrily by Eurus, onto the shallows of moving sandbanks which left them stranded in the middle of the ocean.

Orontes’ ship, which bore the Lycian crew, before Aeneas’ very eyes, oh, horrid sight, was washed by waves from stem to stern and finally the pilot was washed overboard, torn from his rudder and hurled headlong into the sea, in which he circled the ship three times before a huge wave sucked him under and he was lost to the deep; while here and there, floating on the waves were arms, pictures, precious goods and floating men, as the stoutest of the Trojan vessels gave way before the storm, her shivered timbers and loosened planks letting in the rushing sea. Iloneus was her captain, and old Alethes was in her crew; while faithful Achates and the bold and youthful Abas endured no less in their own ships, which both let the briny sea in through gaping seams.

Meanwhile, Neptune, hearing the sound of the raging tempest, was displeased and, fearing some usurpation of his watery reign, raised his mighty head above the sea with serene majesty, then rolled his eyes and looked around him. He saw the distress of the dispersed Trojan fleet, oppressed by winter’s stormy winds. He knew all about his sister, Juno’s envy, and what she intended for the Trojans. He summoned Eurus and the West Wind, and cast an angry glance on both of them as he rebuked them:

“Audacious winds! Where did you get the insolence to make such a bold move! Do you now take it upon yourselves to ravage the seas and the land without my supreme command? To raise mountainous waves on the troubled sea? But first let me restrain the billowing seas and then you shall be taught obedience to my reign! You may remind your lord, Aeolus that the realms of the air and the ocean are mine; not his. The trident of the sea and the liquid realm, fell by fatal lot to me. From now on Aeolus’ power is confined to hollow caverns, where he can keep the winds and boast and bluster in his empty hall!”

And as he spoke, he smoothed the troubled sea, dispelled the darkness and restored the daylight, as Cymothoe, Triton and their sea-green train of beautiful nymphs, the daughters of the sea, cleared the Trojan vessels from the rocks with their hands, while the god himself, standing with his trident ready, opened the deep and, spreading the moving sands, then heaved the vessels off the shoals. And wherever Neptune guided his finny coursers, the waves unruffled and the sea subsided, while the Trojan sailors plied their shattered oars and made for the nearest land, which, as Fate would have it, turned out to be the shores of Libya.

Within a long, recessed stretch of coast, they found a bay, hidden from the sea by an island and the two stretches of land on either side which jutted out into the sea, which also protected it from the wind, making it safe for the Trojan ships to ride within the bay even without anchors. Between the two rocky promontories on either side, a cool, green and friendly grotto was formed, whose lichen-covered rocks were the resting place of the Nereids, where they could hide from the heat of the day, while a crystal waterfall provided pure, clean drinking water. Within this harbor, seven ships met; the thin remainders of the scattered Trojan fleet. As soon as they arrived, the sailors, worn out from toil and spent with woes, leaped onto the welcome land to seek repose from their troubles.

First, the good Achates struck flints together repeatedly over the dry tinder and withered leaves he’d collected until first a small flame sprouted among the dry leaves; within a few minutes the fire had caught and as Achates piled on more fuel, the flames rose towards the skies. Wet and dripping, the Trojans dropped to the ground in front of the fire and lay along the ground, or stood around the cheerful blaze. Some dried their corn, which had been thoroughly soaked with brine, and then ground it into a flour to prepare their meal.

Aeneas climbed the brow of the mountain and took in the prospect of the sea below, to see if he could find some sign of the rest of his ships; those captained by Capys, perhaps, or Antheus; perhaps he would see the pennant streamers of Caicus flying somewhere out on the main. But there were no vessels to be seen. However, on the plain below him he saw three well-muscled stags leading a lordly train of does and fauns which grazed contentedly as they moved slowly along. Standing up he took the bow which Achates had given him and let fly his arrows, bringing down first the stags of the herd and then does, until he had felled seven magnificent beasts; one for each of the ships.

He returned to the port triumphant from this little war and broached the large jars of wine which Acestes had generously given him when they left the Trinacrian shore and prepared for a feast, sharing the meat out into equal portions; and as he passed the portions round, the pious leader tried to ease the common grief, “Endure, and conquer! Jove will soon turn our present woes into future good. You have braved the rocks of Scylla with me; and defied the inhuman Cyclops in his den. How much more are you able to bear? Dismiss your cares and keep courage within your breast and Fate will ensure that the hour will come when, with all your sorrows left behind, you relate all these adventures with pleasure for the amusement of your friends. Though we have passed through various hazards and events, we are still on our way to Latium and those realms fore-ordained by Jove, where Trojan kingdoms once again may rise! So, endure your present hardships and survive… live and preserve yourselves for a better fate.”

Thus spoke Aeneas, but he was speaking in order to put heart into his melancholy crew; and not speaking from his own heart; his outward smiles hid his own inward hurt. But for the present the men forgot their own troubles and made haste to prepare the feast. Some skinned the beasts while others cut up the meat; the limbs, still trembling, were put into a huge caldron to boil, while the reeking entrails were roasted on the fire. Stretched out on the grassy turf, they dined at their ease, restoring their strength with meat and cheering their souls with wine.

But once their hunger and thirst were sated, their minds turned once more to the doubtful fortune of their absent friends and hope and fear alternately possessed their minds. They did not even know whether or not their comrades were dead or in some dire distress. Above all, Aeneas mourned the fate of brave Orontes, and the uncertain fate of Gyas, Lycus, and Amycus. Thus the day, but not their sorrows, ended.

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