Bk 1 xxxiv 4 De vitiis (cont)

(detail) Brit.Lib. MS Royal MS 6 C I f.11v

The passage from Aen. 5.287 reads:

Hoc pius Aeneas misso certamine tendit gramineum in campum …

This contest sped, loyal Aeneas moves to a field of grass …

but here, perhaps, Vergil intends us to register (albeit unconsciously) a commonality and a distinction between the various fields his readers knew: the ‘fields of stars’ and the ‘fields of memory’ and ‘of Elysium’.  Thus ‘campus gramineum’ – fields [made] of grass forms a chord with others, as ”fields [made of] stars’ – campus stellae’.

Soon – in the next book – Vergil will take us to Elysium’s fields, where  again atheletes train on a level area of grass:  ‘gramineis’:

.. ars exercent membra in gramineis palaestris,  (Aen. VI: 642-3)

” ars exercent membra in gramineis palaestris… “

By  such  imperceptible touches and echoes Vergil plays – as it were contrapuntally – on the readers’ apprehension of earthly- and of hyper-realities; of eternal and of ephemeral action.  In this second instance Virgil leads the reader toward a dawning sense that these fields  are no  imitation or extension of the physical world, but in a  dimension quite other; Elysium is a made world, certainly, but of such perfection as our dreams present, or which are achieved to please omnipotence.  Vergil’s use of  graminaeis  here is, of course, quite right.

Fields of Elysium as a field of flowers. detail of a fresco from the Octavian Hypogaeum (mausoleum) 3rdC AD. Made in memory of a child named Octavia Paolina.

Flowers of  Memory: the ‘rose’ and the palm                 
Rose and palm.Christian girl saint and martyr.
“..et venio in campos et lata praetoria memoriae”

(detail) Brit.Lib MS Arundel 98 f.26v (The Arundel Pliny)





  1. Composite (hills and plants) – detail from a manuscript in the Morgan Library.( I have been unable to discover which – see below).
  2. flower-gatherer.  Detail of a fresco from Pompeii 1stC AD.  The caption comes from Augustine  (Conf. 10.8.12): “the fields and spacious palaces of my memory.” In fact her ‘flowers of the field’ are asphodel, but the Romans often picture roses.
  3. picture of Christian saint; modern image of a saint believed to have lived in the days of Domitian; inscription – inscription on a lead tablet, one of three forming a funerary dedication; taken from the Catacombs of Pricilla in Rome and presented by the Pope in 1827 to the Sanctuary of S. Filomena in Avellino.
  4. motifs – (1) detail from a mosaic, inscribed in Greek, showing Zeus taming the Eagle. 2ndC AD; (2) from the Arundel Pliny.
  5. bands  – (1) detail from Brit.Lib. MS Add 42130 f.68v ; (2) edited from a detail in Brit.Lib.MS Harley 2823 f. 46


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