In the beginning of Book V of The Aeneid, Aeneas and the Trojans sail away from Dido and the kingdom of Carthage. Although they seek Latium, the promised land, a storm pushes them east and they head towards the shores of Eryx in northwestern Sicily (“litora fida…fraterna Erycis portusque Sicanos” the friendly, brotherly shores of Eryx and Sicilian habors: lines 23-24). Eryx is known today as Erice, renamed by “lover of Classics,” Benito Mussolini.
As the Trojan ships pull into shore, Vergil notes that Acestes observes them from the top of a hill overlooking the sea (“ex celso miratus vertice montis adventum…Acestes” from the lofty peak of a mountain, Acestes wondered at their arrival lines 35-36). He also describes the shore as being surrounded by woodlands (“consonat omne nemus” the whole forest made noise: line 149). In addition, during the boat race, we learn that sharp rock ridges that jut out into the water (“procurrentibus saxis” rocks jutting out: line 204; and “acuto in murice” in the sharp shellfish/rockridge: line 205) line parts of the shore. I fantasized that the view (pictured above) from the hill which we were climbing was the same sight which Acestes himself would have taken in as he saw the Trojans ships approach his shores. I traced my eyes along the rocky coastline and imagined the boats of Mnestheus, Gyas, Sergestus, and Cloanthus racing to finish in first place. The twenty or so minutes climbing up this hill very well might have been my most cherished twenty minutes of the entire Spedzione Siciliana.