Palinurus, in Roman mythology and especially Virgil's Aeneid, is the helmsman of Aeneas's ship. Later authors used him as a general type of navigator or guide.

Palinurus in the Aeneid

Cape Palinuro: "Those living near will build you a mound. Through the remainder of time that site will be named Palinurus" (Aeneid 6.378-81).

In Book 3, which tells of the Trojans' wanderings after The Fall of Troy, he is singled out as an experienced navigator.[1] In Book 5, when the Trojans have left Carthage, he advises Aeneas to forestall sailing to Italy and to wait out a terrible storm on Sicily, where they hold the funeral games honoring Aeneas's father, Anchises. After they leave Sicily for Italy, Palinurus, at the helm of Aeneas's ship and leading the fleet, is singled out by Virgil in second person[2] when it becomes clear that he is the one whom the gods will sacrifice to guarantee safe passage to Italy for the Trojans: unum pro multis dabitur caput, "one single life shall be offered to save many." Drugged by the god of sleep, he falls overboard;[3] Aeneas takes over the helm and, unaware of the gods' influence, accuses Palinurus of complacency: "You, Palinurus, placed too much trust in the sky and the ocean's / Calm. You'll lie naked and dead on the sands of an unknown seashore."[4][5]

Aeneas next encounters Palinurus in the underworld, before he crosses Cocytus (which the ghosts of the unburied dead cannot cross into the underworld proper), where he asks how it came to be that he died despite a prophecy from Apollo, that he would reach Italy unscathed. Palinurus responds that he survived the plunge into the sea and washed ashore after four days near Velia, and was killed there and left unburied. The Cumaean Sibyl, who has guided Aeneas into the underworld, predicts that locals will come and build him a mound; the place will be named Cape Palinuro in his honor.[6][7]

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