Off the northerncoast of Sicily lies a group of small islands, still called the AEolian Isles, after AEolus, king of the winds, whose palace stood upon the largest. Here he lived in a rock-bound castle, and kept the boisterous winds fast bound in strong dungeons, that they might not go forth unbidden to work havoc and destruction. But for his restraining hand they would have burst forth and swept away land and sea in their fury. To this rocky fortress Juno came with a request to AEolus. “Men of a race hateful to me are now crossing the sea. I beseech you, therefore, send a storm to scatter the ships and drown the men in the waves. As a reward I will give you one of my fairest nymphs in marriage.” Thus she urged, and at her bidding AEolus struck the rock and the prison gates were opened. The winds at once rushed forth in all directions. The clouds gathered and blotted out sky and daylight, thunder roared and lightning flashed, and the Trojans thought their last hour had come. Even AEneas lost heart, and envied the lot of those who fell before Troy by the sword of Diomede. Soon a violent gust struck his ship, the oars were broken, and the prow turned round and exposed the side to the waves. The water closed over it, then opened again, and drew down the vessel, leaving the men floating on the water. Three ships were dashed against sunken rocks, three were driven among the shallows and blocked with a mound of sand. Another was struck from stem to stern, then sucked down into a whirlpool. One after another the rest succumbed, and it seemed as if each moment must see their utter destruction.
Meantime Neptune in his palace at the bottom of the sea had noticed the sudden disturbance of the waters, and now put out his head above the waves to learn the cause of this commotion. When he saw the shattered Trojan ships he guessed that this was Juno’s work. Instantly he summoned the winds and chid them for daring to disturb the waters without his leave. “Begone,” he said, “and tell your master AEolus that the dominion of the sea is mine, not his. Let him be content to keep guard over you and see that you do not escape from your prison.” While he spoke Neptune was busy calming the waters, and it was not long before he put the clouds to flight and brought back the sunshine. Nymphs came to push the ships off the rocks, and Neptune himself opened a way out of the shallows. Then he returned to his chariot, and his white horses carried him lightly across the calm waters.
Thankful to have saved a few of his ships, all shattered and leaking as they were, AEneas bade the helmsman steer for the nearest land. What was their joy to see within easy reach a quiet harbor closed in by a sheltering island. The entrance was guarded by twin cliffs, and a forest background closed in the scene. Once within this shelter the weary vessels needed no anchor to secure them. Here at last AEneas and his comrades could stretch their aching limbs on dry land. They kindled a fire of leaves with a flint, and dried their sodden corn for a scanty meal.