Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 September 2020
After witnessing her son’s shipwreck in Aeneid 1, the goddess Venus begs Jupiter to explain the apparent discrepancy between the Trojans’ current plight and Jupiter’s previous promises of their eventual, Roman dominion. Her most important words lie at the exact center of her speech, twelve lines from its beginning and end: quem das finem, rex magne, laborum? (“What end do you give to their toils, great king?” 1.241). Besides the meta-poetic reversal of epic convention – beginning in the middle – the centrality of ending is more than a matter of formalism and aesthetics: finis is the trigger that activates both Jupiter’s response and the future to be realized by Aeneas and Rome.