Aeneas of Troy
Aeneas was son of Aphrodite and the Trojan Anchises. When Troy fell, Aeneas managed to escape. He took his old father on his back, and his son Askanios by his hand and had his wife Creusa walk behind him. His divine mother helped them out of the city safely.
Somewhere along the way Creusa disappeared, but Aeneas made it safely to Italy. There, he became the ancestor of Romolus and Remus, the fathers of Rome.
Virgil’s “Aenid” is about this hero and his adventurous journey
The Aeneid like the Iliad and Odyssey, is a tale of Troy, and Virgil did not hesitate to imitate Homer in his treatment of the subject. As the Odyssey narrates the wanderings of a Greek hero after the final battle, so the Aeneid describes the escape of a Trojan hero from the ruins of his city, and his perils by land and sea until he settles in the new country which the gods had promised him.
Aeneas was the mythical representative of a younger branch, as Priam was of the elder branch of the royal house of Troy. In the Iliad he is addressed as the counsellor of the Trojans, and Neptune prophesies that he, and his sons, and his sons’ sons shall reign over them.
Virgil at once dashes into the heart of the story
Aeneas has just set sail from Sicily, when Hera catches sight of him, and, at her bidding, Bolus, the king of the winds, lets them loose against the Trojan fleet.
The ships are scattered, and one goes down before their leader’s eyes. But Neptune comes to the rescue, and orders the winds to stop. The tempest is stilled, and Aeneas, with seven of his ships, reaches a harbour on the coast of Carthage. Venus, his reputed mother, also intercedes for him with Zeus, who reveals to her that he shall reach Latium safely, and reign there three years. His son Lulus, or Ascanius, shall then succeed him, and for three hundred years his race shall rule, until Rome is founded by Romulus.
The object of the poet being to claim for his countrymen a Trojan descent.
Attended by his friend Achates, the hero is exploring the strange coast, when his mother, in the guise of a Tyrian maid, informs him that the inhabitants are a colony from Tyre, and that their queen Dido is founding a new city with the wealth she has brought with her, after escaping from her false brother Pygmalion. He also learns from her that all his ships, except one, are safe. He and his companion then view the rising city from a hill, from whence they are transported by Venus, in a mist, to the temple of Hera, the doors and walls of which they find sculptured with the incidents of the siege of Troy. While they are studying the several groups, the queen approaches and tells them, that she is not ignorant of woe and compassion.
The strangers are hospitably entertained, and the royal bard sings to them not of heroic deeds, but of the wonders of nature and creation. The queen fancies she is fondling the son of Aeneas, but Venus has substituted Cupid for the boy, and already she is feeling a tender interest in the hero, whom she asks to relate his seven years’ adventures since leaving Troy.
He begins with the later history of the siege and capture of the city, and the stratagem of the Wooden Horse, which Sitton induced the Trojans to bring within the walls. The priest Laocoon, who would have prevented them, and his sons, were crushed to death by two huge sea serpents and then the structure was dragged through a breach in the fortifications, with nine Greeks concealed within it fully armed. At night their fleet, which had pretended to depart for home, returned, and they emerged from their hiding place. The ghost of Hector warns Aeneas that Troy must fall, and entrusts him with the sacred fire of Vesta to be carried to the new land which he is to colonise. He is aroused from his vision by the war cries of the Greeks, and the clash of arms, and is summoned by a comrade, Panthus, with the despairing words “We have been Trojans, Troy has been, She sat, but sits no more, a queen”.
He assures Helen that resistance is vain, for Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, is approaching like a serpent after casting its skin and old Priam, who totters forth to meet his fate, is slain by him at the altar. Aeneas then tells how his blood was fired to quit Troy’s fall by killing Helen, but that his hand was stayed by Venus, who bade him save his father, and his wife Creusa, and their infant son. Anchises, however, refused to escape until he saw a flame of light playing on the child’s head, accompanied by thunder, and a flashing meteor pointing out their path, which he recognised as signs from heaven. So he is lifted on his son’s shoulders, bearing in his hands the household gods, Lulus walking by his side, and Creusa following behind. Losing sight of her, they retrace their steps as far as the ruins of Priam’s palace, where her shade bids them not grieve for her death and they make their way, with other fugitives, to Mount Ida. There, during the winter, they build a fleet of galleys, and in the early summer set sail, in ignorance of their destination but relying on the guidance of heaven, to the Land of the West.
Their first resting place was on the coast of Thrace, where, whilst plucking a sapling, Aeneas noticed that the ends dropped blood, and a voice from below warned him that it was the grave of Polydorus, a son of Priam, who had been murdered for the sake of some treasure he had brought there. Next they landed at the isle of Delos and from thence made for Crete. From there they reached the islands of the Harpies monster sisters, half women and half birds one of whom prophesied that before they arrived at the promised Hesperia they would be forced to eat their tables.
Continuing their voyage they came to Actium, where they rested and celebrated games. In Epirus they found Andromache, the widow of Hector, had become the wife of his brother Helenus.
Helenus foretells that their voyage will be long and weary, and that on reaching their destination they will find a white sow with a litter of thirty young ones there they are to build their new town Alba Longa.
The following day they landed under Mount Aetna, and Homer’s story of Polyphemus is introduced. Sailing onwards, Aenea buries his father at Drepanum and from Sicily the winds had driven him to the shores of the Tynan queen’s new colony.
Dido had been an eager listener, and was love-stricken. Her sister encourages the passion and Hera, seeing with satisfaction a chance of preventing the foundation of Rome, persuades Venus to let Carthage be the seat of their joint power. A royal hunt takes place on the morrow, in the midst of which a storm arises; Aeneas and Dido seek shelter in the same retreat, and become man and wife. But Mercury is sent to remind the hero of his high destiny, and he bids his comrades prepare secretly for continuing their passage to Italy. Dido’s passion when learning his Change of purpose occupies the whole of the fourth book of the poem, the defence of Aeneas being that he must obey the behest of heaven. Under the pretence of burning his armour as a spell to detain him, she causes a lofty pile to be prepared and, having seen his ships already far away in the offing, she mounts it, and stabs herself with his sword, predicting the fierce wars between Carthage and Rome.
Being overtaken by a storm, Aeneas ran his ships into a sheltered bay under Mount Eryx in Sicily and the next day, being the anniversary of the burial of Anchises, he instituted a solemn sacrifice and funeral games to commemorate it.
Meanwhile Hera sends Iris, in the guise of one of the Trojan matrons, to instigate them to set fire to the ships, which are drawn up on the beach, rather than endure a wandering life any longer. Ascanius gallops down to remonstrate with them, and his father appeals to Zeus, who sends a thunder shower which quenches the flames, and all but four of the galleys escape with little damage. But Aeneas is troubled, and takes counsel from an old sailor, Nautes.
It is then settled that the women, and the old men, and all who are weary of faint hearted, shall be left behind to found a new city and starting with the rest once more, in quest of their western home.
Neptune sends them prosperous gales, but Palinurns, the pilot of the leading ship, falls asleep at his post and slips overboard, near the coast of the Sirens. Aeneas discovers his loss by the unsteady motion, and, taking the helm himself, steers the fleet into the harbour of Cumx, where Daedalus alighted when he flew from Minos. Having disembarked his crews, Aneas consults the Sibyl who in a paroxysm of inspiration, gives her response, sitting on a tripod, in a cave with a hundred doors, which all fly open when the oracle is uttered. The wanderers shall reach Latium safely, but will wish they had never reached it. The hero is then permitted to visit the Shades below.
He must also take with him, as a gift to Proserpine, a golden bough from the neighbouring forest, which, accompanied by Achates, he goes in quest of and is guided to by two white doves sent by Venus.
They then come in sight of the rivers of hell, Acheron, Cocytus, and Styx, where the surly Charon drives back the spirits whose bodies have not received the rites of burial, and who are condemned to wander on the other side for a hundred years amongst them Aeneas recognises his pilot Palinurus. Charon at first warns them off, but the golden bough acts as a passport, and they enter his ferry. Cerberus is silenced by the Sibyl with a medicated cake, and then she leads Aeneas through the various regions of the world below. First they hear the cries of the infants who have died soon after birth. Next are those who have been unjustly condemned then those who have thrown away their lives. They now approach the victims of love, a passion which the poet describes as excusable in man, but either to be reprobated or pitied in woman. Here the hero encounters Dido. Thence the Sibyl leads him to the field of the heroes,
The poet reserves till the last a touching sketch of the shade of young Marcellus the son of Octavia, the emperor’s sister, who was looked upon as his uncle’s successor, but had lately died. Anchises utters some prophecies as to his son’s fortunes in Italy.
Rejoining his companions, and sailing from Cuma, Aeneas stops at Caieta, to bury his old nurse. Then they pass the promontory of Circe, where they hear the yells of the unhappy captives who have been changed by the sorceress into the forms of animals and with the morrow’s dawn, the fleet enters the mouth of the Tiber. On reaching Latium they lay the wild fruit they gather on their wheaten cakes, with which they complete their meal, having eaten the fruit first, when Iulus exclaims “We are eating our tables” as the Harpies had predicted.
The king of the land is old Latinus, for whose daughter, Lavinia, Turnus of Ardea, the chief of the Rutuli, is a suitor. Aeneas despatches an embassy to the palace, and Ilioneus, as spokesman, tells their errand. The king has been warned by auguries of the hero’s coming as a bridegroom for his daughter, and sends a chariot of honour to convey him to an interview. Hera’s hatred is stirred once more, and she summonses the fury Alecto from the infernal regions to sow discord between the Latins and the Trojans.
First she maddens the queen, and incites her to call upon the mothers of Latium to rescue her offspring from a foreign marriage. She next rouses the jealousy of Turnus, wha marches at once to expel the intruders, and to demand the princess. Meanwhile, Ascanius kills a tame deer belonging to the ranger of the royal forest, which is a pet of the country folk, whose anger is excited, and they attack the young prince and his party. The Trojans rush from their entrenchments, and the ranger’s son and an old ploughman are slain. Their bodies are carried through the streets as an appeal to the people, and there is a universal cry for war.
Turnus now arrives, and shouts for instant battle, but the old king refuses to fight against destiny, and abdicates. Hera, however, in person, unbars the Temple of Janus, and the Latin clans impetuously arm. The general muster, the details of costume, the devices on the shields, and the description of the chiefs, are quite in the Homeric style, with Latin names substituted for those of Greek descent. The pageant closes with the troop of the Volscian huntress Camilla, who has been exercised from her infancy in the use of the bow, and vowed to maidenhood and Diana.
Disquieted by all these preparations, Aeneas has a vision, in which a figure rises before him, wrapped in a grey mantle, with his brow encircled by reeds he is Tiber who come to remind him of the prophecy of Anchises respecting the white sow, and to tell him of allies within reach a colony of Arcadians under their king Evander. The sow with her thirty young ones is soon found, and Evander, after a long story of his reminiscences, and of the local traditions, enters into a league with the Trojans, and proposes Aeneas to his allies the Etruscans as a heaven sent leader of their joint forces. He also trusts his young son Pallas with him to learn the art of war, and Aeneas sets out with his new army for the capital of Turnus. At the behest of Venus, Vulcan undertakes to forge the armour and weapons for her son, in the caverns under the Lipari Islands, where the Cyclopes are ever at work.
The scene now changes to Olympus, where Zeus is troubled, as in the Iliad, with the dissensions between his wife and daughter, and swears, with an awful nod, that the Trojans and Rutulians shall fight it out. The contest is renewed the following morning, but succour for the Trojans is at hand. During the night Aeneas is leading the Etruscan ships along the Tyrrhenian coast, with young Pallas by his side, when suddenly his galley is surrounded by the nymphs into which his vessels have been changed, who warn him of his companions’ danger.
At daybreak he enters the Tiber, and raises aloft his shield, which the Trojans recognise with shouts, and Turnus hurries down to oppose the landing of their leader with his reinforcements. The Arcadian horsemen get into confusion on the beach but Pallas rallies them, and has disabled the Rutulian twin brothers, Thymber and Larides, when he encounters Turnus, and, venturing a combat with him, is slain. Aeneas, hearing of the young prince’s death, rushes furiously towards Turnus, but Hera beguiles him into a ship which carries him to Ardea, he turns upon Mezentius, the father of Camilla, and, having wounded him, kills his son. The crippled sire remounts his charger, and desperately hurls his javelins at the Trojan chief, who at last spears his opponent’s horse, which, rolling over, pins his rider to the ground.
Wrapped in a robe embroidered by Dido, with his horse following the bier, and his lance and helmet borne in the procession, the body of Pallas is escorted to Laurentum, his father Evander’s capital, with military honours and there is a truce of twelve days between the armies for the burial of their dead. The Latins now seek the aid of Diomed, one of the Trojan heroes who has settled in Italy, but he declines to fight against Aeneas, who, while they are debating a compromise, marches on their city. Turnus deputes Camilla, with her Volscian horsemen, to meet the enemy, while he lays an ambuscade in a wooded valley. She singles out Chlorus, a soldier-priest, whose brilliant accoutrements attract her, and chases him over the field. Next day Turnus announces his intention to meet Aeneas in single combat, the challenge is sent and joyfully accepted. Aeneas declares that, if the victory falls to Turnus, the Trojans will make war no more against Latium and that should he be the conqueror.
The fight becomes general, and Aeneas, while endeavouring unarmed to stay it, is struck by a cowardly arrow. But Venus heals her son’s wound, and he at once seeks out Turnus, who, with a presage of his fate, becomes pale and unnerved and his sister, a demi-goddess and a favourite of Hera, acting as his charioteer, drives him in another direction. Baffled in his search, Aeneas suddenly throws all his forces against the town, and Turnus sees it already in flames. His courage now returns, and, leaping from his chariot, he makes for the wall where the hero is leading the attack. The two chiefs advance, and the combat between them commences, first with spears, and next with swords. Now Turnus’ is broken, and he takes to flight pursued by his foe, against whom he hurls a stone which twelve degenerate men could hardly lift but he is unmanned, and the stone failed of the measure of its cast.
Aeneas strikes with all his frame, and pierces him through the thigh he begs his life and the conqueror half relents, until his eye falls upon the belt of Pallas which Turnus had girded in triumph over his armour. And as he spoke his sword he drew and with a fierce and heavy blow and kills his foe.
And thus the Aeneid ends.