I ran into this hexameter verse by Vergilius when researching for an answer to another question:

exuit, et gressu gaudens incedit Iuli.
(Aeneis I.690)

The only way I seem to able to scan this line is by taking the fifth foot to be spondee. In my experience this is very rare, so I am in doubt. Wikipedia tells me that spondee in the fifth foot was almost never used by Roman poets, and rarely (5 %) by Homeros.

Is my scansion correct? Should I treat this as a highly exceptional case, or something to be expected from Vergilius?

It just occurred to me, after posting the question, that perhaps Iuli could have three syllables: Ĭ-ū-lī. This would save the dactyl but it sounds otherwise weird.

  • If I'm not mistaken, Iulus is always trisyllabic.
    – TKR
    Sep 19, 2016 at 21:55
  • @TKR, I didn't know that. I took considerable amount of time for that option to cross my mind, and I still found it unlikely. If you can find support for three syllables (elsewhere in the epic, perhaps), that would make a good answer.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Sep 19, 2016 at 22:03

1 Answer 1


The name Ĭūlus is trisyllabic. It's listed as such in dictionaries, e.g. L&S, and there's ample metrical evidence for this, though much of it is indirect.

A search for forms of Iūlus in the Aeneid finds that it never occurs at the beginning of a line -- in fact, it's almost always line-final, as in the line you quote. This itself is suspicious since if the name was Jūl-, beginning with a consonant, there would be no reason for it not to begin a line. Further, if you look at the final syllables of the words that precede these line-final forms of Iūlus, they always contain short vowels (like the -dit of incedit in your line). This is because they're the second syllables of dactyls. If they were the second syllables of spondees, this would be an odd coincidence.

Finally, I've found one case where the scansion seems unambiguously trisyllabic, namely a line from Propertius, Elegies 4.1a.48:

felix terra tuos cepit, Iule, deos.

This is the second line of an elegiac couplet, and the second half of such a line is always dactylic, which means the last two-and-a-half feet must be cepit I|ule de|os.

The reason this sounds weird to you is maybe the association with the name Iūlius, in which the I is consonantal.

  • Many thanks! It added to my confusion that in Finnish Iulus is often called "Julus". It's also good to know that Iulius is different from Iulus in that respect.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Sep 19, 2016 at 22:46
  • Let me add that the name is "Julus" (with a consonantal J) also in the metric Finnish translation by Alpo Rönty. I just checked my copy. I found no comment about changing the name.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Sep 19, 2016 at 23:03
  • @JoonasIlmavirta♦: I've always pronounced it Julus in my head as well, but perhaps that pronunciation, and the ensuing spelling with a j, is just a postclassical error?
    – Cerberus
    Sep 20, 2016 at 19:49
  • @Cerberus, could be. And one could insist on using the consonantal pronunciation at the cost or producing spondees, although I don't find it very convincing.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Sep 20, 2016 at 19:56
  • @JoonasIlmavirta♦: Another thought: could it be that Iulus is entirely unrelated to Iulius, the former Trojan, the latter Roman, only conexed artificially by Virgil for obvious reasons?
    – Cerberus
    Sep 20, 2016 at 19:59

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