Virgil: The Aeneid
Written in Latin between 30–19 BC, Roman.
A huge snake emerges from under the mound, coils around the barrow and slides over the altars, eating something of the offerings intended for Anchises.
When Aeneas left Troy and sailed westwards in search of the land he had been fated to reach, he had to cremate his father Anchises on the island of Sicily before sailing onwards to Carthage. Now, he leaves Carthage behind him and sails for the west coast of Italy where destiny draws him. A storm, however, blows his ships onto the shores of Sicily once again. Here he visits Anchises’ tomb and realises that it is exactly a year since they buried his ashes, so he performs the customary rites of observance and respect at the tomb of his father.
Cattle are slaughtered, offerings poured into the soil above the tomb, two bowls of wine, two of milk, two of blood. Aeneas lays some flowers.
A huge snake emerges from under the mound, coils around the barrow, slides over the altars, eats something of the offerings and returns to its lair at the base of the mound.
Aeneas hardly knows what to make of it. But he doesn’t ask his father when they meet in the underworld, where Aeneas has been guided by the Sibyl into a land beyond the grave. The significance of the snake coiling around Anchises' tomb is lost in the grandure of the moment, when Aeneas encounters his father gazing from the meadows of Elysium at the Trojan souls waiting to be reborn into the city of Rome that his son is soon to found.