I’m getting a tattoo of the line from the Aeneid “The descent into hell is easy” and wasn’t sure if it is “fascilis descensus averno” or “fascilis descensus averni”. Which one is it? What’s the difference?

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    Apr 2, 2018 at 9:54

1 Answer 1


I checked Perseus and The Latin Library. Both use facilis descensus Averno. You misspelled facilis ("easy"); it is not related to fascis. Did you find the version Averni somewhere?

Anyway, both forms make sense. I would read descensus Averno as "descent through the entrance of the underworld" and descensus Averni as "descent of the entrance of the underworld". The word Avernus actually means literally "birdless" and refers to a place considered to be an entrance to the underworld. It does not mean "hell" directly, but by metonymy it makes sense to say that descensus Averni/Averno is "descent to hell".

I would recommend facilis descensus Averno. As I said, the difference to Averni is insignificant, but I wouldn't use that before finding it in an edition of the Aeneid. [As noted in the comments, there are editions with Averni, but Averno seems to be preferred. Both are valid choices.]

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    "Averni" is a variant reading in some manuscripts of the Aeneid, but "Averno" is favoured by modern editors, surely for some good reason that I am not able to investigate at the moment.
    – fdb
    Mar 29, 2018 at 10:42
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    The most recent Teubner edition (2011, ed. Gian Biagio Conte) also has "facilis descensus Auerno"
    – Alex B.
    Mar 29, 2018 at 22:44
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    Google Books search gives 13,800 results for "facilis descensus Averni" and 7,320 results for "facilis descensus Averno". Not implying anyone is wrong or anything, just found this data interesting in itself.
    – Rodia
    Apr 1, 2018 at 21:53
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    Sometimes quantity is less important than quality. No one is trying to imply that Averni is non-existent; however, all the major scholarly editions of Aeneis of the twentieth and twenty first centuries are clear on this matter - the preferred choice is "Averno". The most recent Teubner edition (2011, ed. Gian Biagio Conte, not Conti - mea culpa) says: auerno MPbnrx, schol. Bern. ad buc. 5, 6, Tib. (auerno est ): auerni P²Rωγ; utrumque agnoscit Seru.
    – Alex B.
    Apr 2, 2018 at 1:56
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    although Collinge (in Collinge 1959), who I highly respected, insisted on Averni, not Averno.
    – Alex B.
    Apr 2, 2018 at 2:11

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