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The pilot of the fleet taking the Trojans under Aeneas to Italy, where they would found the Roman people. In the Aeneid Virgil describes how he steered his ship between Scylla and Charybdis, but when a great tempest arose he realized that nothing, not even a god's promise, could enable them to reach Italy then, and he advised making for Sicily.

When they leave Sicily, Venus the mother of Aeneas begs Neptune to hold back the storms and allow them safe passage, against the wishes of Juno. Neptune agrees that one alone will fail to make it. He sends Sleep in the form of an old companion Phorbas to ask Palinurus to step away from the tiller and rest. But Palinurus refuses to cease his vigilance, so Sleep casts a lethean branch in his eyes.

Palinurus falls into the sea, taking the tiller and rudder with him. Three days he floats, then when he is cast upon the shore he is set on by barbarous natives, and killed. (Apollo had promised he would reach Italy safely, so this makes it true to the letter.) Because his body is unburied, his manes (ghost) cannot rest.

Aeneas meets him in his quest to the Underworld, and Palinurus claims his attention and requests decent burial. Aeneas promises to name the cape where they had landed after him. To this day it is called Cape Palinuro.

Cyril Connolly used Palinurus as his pen-name in his meditative book The Unquiet Grave, and explains and speculates on the story in great detail, weaving it into his private mythology.

Pal`inu"rus (?), n. [So called from L. Palinurus, the pilot of Aeneas.] Naut.

An instrument for obtaining directly, without calculation, the true bearing of the sun, and thence the variation of the compass


© Webster 1913.

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