A character in Virgil's Aeneid, the son of Hyrtacus, appearing solely in Book 9, where he and his friend Euryalus set out from the besieged Trojan camp by night to find Aeneas, but are caught in the Latian camp, where they kill many Rutulian heroes before themselves being killed, caught in flight by Volscens.

The tale of Nisus and Euryalus takes up over half of Book 9. It is a story of loyalty between friends - a very important stoic value, and the waste of youth in war, one of Virgil's main themes of the Iliadic half of the epic, encompassing books 7 to 12. Virgil's tribute to them after the incredibly moving account of their deaths explains the raison d'ĂȘtre of his account - to give glory to two friends who encompassed much of the Stoic philosophy.

O happy friends! for, if my verse can give
Immortal life, your fame shall ever live,
Fix'd as the Capitol's foundation lies,
And spread, where'er the Roman eagle flies!

Coincidentally, as Webster 1913 has so lucidly and concisely told us, nisus comes from the latin verb nitor, meaning 'I struggle'. It is unclear whether the etymology of Nisus' name is related, but considering the strong stoic influences of the book, and indeed the whole work, it seems likely.

Translation by John Dryden. The text is in the public domain and it can be found, in its entirety, on this site, at Aeneid.

To get all philosophical for a moment, nisus is a fairly central component of Aristotle's theory of nature. If you remember, he thought (and convinced most of our intelligent ancestors until the Renaissance )that the world consisted of objects that were striving to find their natural place of rest, or where they most wanted to be.

So nisus is this force driving changes in nature that we observe. Ie a leaf falls because it wants to touch the ground, you visit your lover because you want to, yearn to, and won't be at rest until you do, the same is true of the sun making it's way into the heavens, the water falling in the form of droplets, each and everything concievable yearns to go to it's natural place.

It's such an intuitive, all pervading philosophy that it's hard to find fault with it.

Nevertheless Newton and his laws swept all this away, as did the realization that bodies in the universe, especially inanimate ones follow simple universal laws of motion, and don't deviate from their paths, simply 'because they want to'.

Ni"sus (?), n. [L., fr. niti, p. p. nisus, to strive.]

A striving; an effort; a conatus.

A nisus or energizing towards a presented object.


© Webster 1913

Ni"sus (?), n. (Physiol.)


The periodic procreative desire manifested in the spring by birds, etc.


The contraction of the diaphragm and abdominal muscles to evacuate feces or urine.


© Webster 1913

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