Deiphobos, Helen, Hector and Troilus in Virgil's Aeneid

        Chaucer sees himself as something of a populizer of classical texts for his Middle English readers, introducing them to tales from Ovid's Metamorphoses, tales about Theseus and Thebes (in "Knight's Tale"), a guest appearance by Pluto and Persephone (in "Merchant's Tale"), and countless other off-hand references to classical characters and plots.  Many of those in his audience probably only knew vaguely the general outlines of the Latin texts he referred to, and none, including Chaucer, himself, would have known the Greek "ancestor" texts of the Latin works.  Homer was known to be a great poet, but his works were still lost to the English, who knew of Troy only through later Latin plot summaries known as "Dares and Dictys," after their pseudonymous authors, "Dares Phyrgensis" and "Dictys Cretensis," Dares of Troy and Dictys of Crete.  Each gave a partisan account of the Troy story, the former from Troy's point of view and the latter from the Greeks' persepctive.  The best-educated of Chaucer's audience members, however, would have known a great Latin epic about Troy, Virgil's Aeneid, which filled in the gaps in Homer's narratives and gave the events a profoundly pro-Trojan bias as the story of Rome's founding by Trojan refugees.  Those readers would have known, as Chaucer did, that we know what happens at Deiphobos' house the night Troy fell, and what happened to Deiphobos, Helen, Hector, and Troilus.  The excerpts below are from the Loeb parallel text edition, books 1 and 2.

The following excerpts occur in Book 2, when Aeneas replies to Dido, the Carthagenian queen when she asks him what happened the night Troy fell.  It picks up after the end of the Iliad with Hector’s death at Achilles’ hands, and this passage occurs just after Sinon, a Greek left behind to deceive the Trojans, tells them the horse is an offering to the gods that the Greeks left to atone for their impiety in attacking the city:

 [250] “Meanwhile the sky revolves and night rushes from the ocean, wrapping in its mighty shade earth and heaven and the wiles of the Myrmidons. Through the town the Teucrians lay stretched in silence; sleep clasps their weary limbs. And now the Argive host, with marshaled ships, was moving from Tenedos, amid the friendly silence of the mute moon, seeking the well-known shores, when the royal galley had raised the beacon light – and Sinon, shielded by the gods’ malign doom, stealthily sets free from the barriers of pine the Danaans shut within the womb. The opened horse restores them to the air, and joyfully from the hollow wood come forth Thessandrus and Sthenelus the captains, and dread Ulysses, sliding down the lowered rope; Acamas and Thoas and Neoptolemus of Peleus’ line, prince Machaon, Menelaus, and Epeus himself, who devised the fraud. They storm the city, buried in sleep and wine; they slay the watch, and at the open gates welcome all their comrades and unite confederate bands.

[268] “It was the hour when the first rest of weary mortals begins, and by grace of the gods steals over them most sweet. In slumbers, I dreamed that Hector, most sorrowful and shedding floods of tears, stood before my eyes, torn by the car, as once of old, and black with gory dust, his swollen feet pierced with thongs. Ah me, what aspect was his! How changed he was from that Hector who returns after donning the spoils of Achilles or hurling on Danaan ships the Phrygian fires – with ragged beard, with hair matted with blood, and bearing those many wounds he received around his native walls. I dreamed I wept myself, hailing him first, and uttering words of grief: ‘O light of the Dardan land, surest hope of the Trojans, what long delay has held you? From what shores, Hector, the long looked for, do you come? Oh, how gladly after the many deaths of your kin, after woes untold of citizens and city, our weary eyes behold you! What shameful cause has marred that unclouded face? Why do I see these wounds?’ He answers not, nor heeds my idle questioning, but drawing heavy sighs from his bosom’s depths, ‘Ah, flee, goddess-born,’ he cries, ‘and escape from these flames. The foe holds our walls; Troy falls from her lofty height. All claims are paid to king and country; if Troy’s towers could be saved by strength of hand, by mine, too, had they been saved. Troy entrusts to you her holy things and household gods; take them to share your fortunes: seek for them the mighty city, which, when you have wandered over the deep, you shall at last establish!’ So he speaks and in his hands brings forth from the inner shrine the fillets, great Vesta, and the undying fire.

[298] “On every side, meanwhile, the city is in a turmoil of anguish; and more and more, though my father Anchises’ house lay far withdrawn and screened by trees, clearer grow the sounds and war’s dread din sweeps on. I shake myself from sleep and, climbing to the roof’s topmost height, stand with straining ears: even as, when fire falls on a cornfield while south winds are raging, or the rushing torrent from a mountain streams lays low the fields, lays low the glad crops and labours of oxen and drags down forests headlong, spellbound the bewildering shepherd hears the roar from a rock’s lofty peak. Then indeed the truth is clear and the guile of the Danaans grows manifest. Even now the spacious house of Deiphobus has fallen, as the fire god towers above; even now his neighbour Ucalegon blazes; the broad Sigean straits reflect the flames. Then rise the cries of men and blare of clarions. Frantic I seize arms; yet little purpose is there in arms, but my heart burns to muster a force for battle and hasten with my comrades to the citadel. Frenzy and anger drive my soul headlong and I think how glorious it is to die in arms! 

In the passage I boldfaced, you can see Virgil’s clue that Deiphobus’ house was set afire first, because of what the Greeks sought there (Helen).  Then Virgil brings Aeneas face-to-face with Helen, herself, and only his mother (Venus) can stop him from killing her:

 [567] And now I alone was left, when I saw, sheltered in Vesta’s shrine and silently hiding in the unfrequented fane, the daughter of Tyndareus [Helen]; the bright fires give me light as I wander and cast my eyes, here and there, over the scene. She, fearing the Trojans’ anger against her for the overthrow of Pergamum, the vengeance of the Greeks, and the wrath of the husband she abandoned – she, the undoing alike of her motherland and ours – had hidden herself and was crouching, hateful creature, by the altars. Fire blazed up in my heart; there comes an angry desire to avenge my ruined country and exact a penalty for her sin. ‘So is she to look unscathed on Sparta and her native Mycenae, and parade a queen in the triumph she has won? Is she to see husband and home, parents and children, attended by a train of Ilian ladies and Phrygian captives? For this is Priam to have perished by the sword? Troy burnt in flames? The Dardan shore so often soaked in blood? Not so! For though there is no glorious renown in punishing a woman and such victory gains no honour, yet I shall win praise for blotting out villainy and exacting just recompense; and it will be a joy to have filled my soul with the flame of revenge and satisfied the ashes of my people.’ Such words I blurted out and in frenzied mind was rushing on, when my gracious mother, never before so brilliant to behold, came before my eyes, in pure radiance gleaming through the night, manifesting her deity, in beauty and statue such as she is wont to appear to the lords of heaven. She caught me by the hand and stayed me, and spoke these words besides with roseate lips: ‘My son, what resentment thus stirs ungovernable wrath? Why this rage? Whither has your care for me fled? Will you not first see where you have left your father, age-worn Anchises, whether Creüsa your wife and the boy Ascanius still live? All these the Greek lines compass round on every side, and did not my love prevent it, by now the flames would have swept them away and the hostile sword would have drunk their blood. Know that it is not the hated face of the Laconian woman, daughter of Tyndareus, it is not Paris that is to blame; but the gods, the relentless gods, overturn this wealth and make Troy topple from her pinnacle. Behold – for all the cloud, which now, drawn over your sight, dulls your mortal vision and with dank pall enshrouds you, I will tear away; fear no commands of your mother nor refuse to obey her counsels – here, where you see shattered piles and rocks torn from rocks, and smoke eddying up mixed with dust, Neptune shakes the walls and foundations that his mighty trident has upheaved, and uproots all the city from her base. Here Juno, fiercest of all, is foremost to hold the Scaean gates and, girt with steel, furiously calls from the ships her allied band . . . Now on the highest towers – turn and see – Tritonian Pallas is planted, gleaming with storm cloud and grim Gorgon. My father himself gives the Greeks courage and auspicious strength; he himself stirs up the gods against the Dardan arms. Hasten your flight, my son, and put an end to your toil. Nowhere will I leave you but will set you safely on your father’s threshold.’ She spoke, and vanished in the thick shades of night. Dread shapes come to view and, hating Troy, great presences divine . . .

Virgil knew that Helen appears in the Odyssey (Book 4) as the queen of Menelaos’ dinner table when Ody’s son, Telemachus visits seeking word of his lost father.  In Book 6 of the Aeneid, A’s journey to the Underworld, he meets Deiphobos’ shade, horribly mutilated, and the ghost tells him that Diomede and Ulysses (Odysseus) did that to him when they surprised him asleep with Helen, to whom he had been married after Paris’ death in battle.  All in all, it’s a pretty wretched future for such a nice little gathering.  In Book 1, of course, Aeneas already had seen (foreseen?) Troilus death at the hands of Achilles, "the man-breaker."