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The Aeneid
By Publius Vergilius Maro, Known as Virgil  (70-19 BC)
A Study Guide
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Compiled by Michael J. Cummings...© 2003
Revised and Enlarged in 2009
Type of Work and Years of Composition

The Aeneid is an epic, a long narrative poem in a lofty style about the exploits of a hero. In The Aeneid, that hero is Aeneas, a Trojan destined to found a new civilization in Italy. The work contains twelve books, which are actually long chapters. Virgil (alternate name: Vergil) wrote The Aeneid between 30 and 19 BC. The language of the epic is Latin, spoken in the Roman Empire during Virgil's day and later. 


Aeneid: uh NE id
Aeneas: uh NE ihs 

Mythology Background

In the ancient Mediterranean world, feminine beauty reaches its zenith in Helen, wife of King Menelaus of Greece. Her wondrous face and body are without flaw. She is perfect. Even the goddess of love, Aphrodite, admires her. When Aphrodite competes with other goddesses in a beauty contestin which a golden apple is to be awarded as the prizeshe bribes the judge, a young Trojan named Paris, promising him Helen in exchange for his vote. After Paris selects Aphrodite, the goddess directs him to the household of Menelaus, where he woos Helen, and absconds with her to Troy, a walled city in Asia Minor (in present-day Turkey). 

The elopement is an affront to all the Greeks. How dare an upstart Trojan steal the wife of one of their kings! Which Greek family would be next to fall victim to a Trojan machination? Infuriated, King Menelaus and his friends assemble a mighty army that includes the finest warriors in the land. Together, they cross the sea in one thousand ships to make war against Troy and win back their prideand Helen. After ten years of battle, the Greeks present the Trojans a gift of a gigantic wooden horse, pretending that they have given up the war and are returning to Greece. Although the prophetess Cassandra and the prophet Laocoön warn against accepting the gift, the Trojans pull it into the city. At night, Greek warriors concealed in the belly of the horse drop down through a trap door and open the gates of Troy. The Greeks pour in, slaughter most of the Trojans, and lay waste the city. Aeneas, the main character of The Aeneid, escapes with his father and son after his wife dies in the burning city. The Aeneid picks up the story of Aeneas, who has been prophesied to found a new civilization.


The time is the Twelfth Century, BC. The action takes place in lands in the Mediterranean region, including Troy (in flashback), Carthage, Sicily, Italy, and various islands. Troy was in northern Anatolia, a region in Asia Minor that is part of modern-day Turkey. Anatolia is east of Greece (across the Aegean Sea) and north of Egypt (across the Mediterranean Sea). Carthage was on the northern coast of Africa in present-day Tunisia. In the language of the Phoenicians, who founded Carthage, the city was Kart-hadasht, meaning New Town. Sicily, an island off the southwestern coast of Italy, is about 100 miles northeast of Tunisia. In the concluding episodes of The Aeneid, most of the action takes place in Latium, a region in west-central Italy through which flows the Tiber River. Its inhabitants were known as Latins. 

One episode in The Aeneid takes place in the Underworld, the residence of the souls of the dead in the afterlife. This place is called Hades (also referred to as Dis and Orcus). The lowest section of the Underworld, reserved for the wicked, is Tartarus. The Underworld also contains a kind of heaven called Elysium. There, Aeneas meets the soul of his father, Anchises.


Virgil mainly imitates the lofty tone and style of Homer’s great epics—The Iliad and The Odyssey, in particular the latter—and incorporates some of their content. Like Odysseus (Roman name, Ulysses) in The Odyssey, Aeneas wanders the Mediterranean after the Trojan War, encountering perils and diversions. But he never loses sight of his ultimate goal. Like Odysseus, he has a love affair, visits the Underworld, retells parts of his adventures in flashback, and faces one last fight upon reaching his destination. 

Virgil also borrows freely from Annales, an epic poem by Quintus Ennius (239-169 BC) that recounts the Aeneas legend. In addition, he draws to a limited extent upon the style and content of Argonautica, by Apollonius of Rhodes (295-215 BC), which tells the story of Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece and his love affair with Medea. 

Verse Form

In The Aeneid Virgil uses the verse form Quintus Ennius (239-169 BC) introduced, dactylic hexameter. In Latin, this form contains six metrical feet that each consist of one accented syllable followed by two unaccented syllables. 

The Invocation of the Muse

Virgil opens The Aeneid by asking a muse to inspire his writing. In ancient Greece and Rome, a poet always requested a muse to fire him with creative genius when he began an epic about godlike heroes and villains. In Greek Roman mythology, there were nine muses, all sisters, who were believed to inspire poets, historians, flutists, dancers, singers, astronomers, philosophers, and other thinkers and artists. If one wanted to write a great poem, play a musical instrument with bravado, or develop a grand scientific or philosophical theory, he would ask for help from a muse. 

When a writer asked for help, he was said to be “invoking the muse.” The muse of epic poetry was named Calliope [kuh LY uh pe]. Following is the invocation that begins The Aeneid. In it, the author says he "sings [writes about] of arms [battle, conflict] and the man [the Trojan hero Aeneas]," who fled Troy and went on a long and perilous journey to Italy to found a new city. Throughout his journey, the queen of the gods, Juno—an unremitting enemy of the Trojans—harried Aeneas. The author then asks the muse to reveal to him the necessary information to write a successful story. 

I sing of arms and the man, he who, exiled by fate,
first came from the coast of Troy to Italy, and to
Lavinian shoreshurled about endlessly by land and sea,
by the will of the gods, by cruel Juno’s remorseless anger,
long suffering also in war, until he founded a city
and brought his gods to Latium: from that the Latin people
came, the lords of Alba Longa, the walls of noble Rome.
Muse, tell me the cause: how was she offended in her divinity,
how was she grieved, the Queen of Heaven, to drive a man,
noted for virtue, to endure such dangers, to face so many
trials? Can there be such anger in the minds of the gods?

Virgil tells the story in third-person point of view, although he uses the pronoun I at the beginning of the narrative when he invokes the muse. From time to time, Virgil narrates through Aeneas, speaking in first-person point of view, as in Books II and III. The tone is generally dignified, as befitting an epic.


Plot Summary
By Michael J. Cummings...© 2003 and 2009
The Escape From Troy
When Troy falls to the marauding Greeks, Aeneas rescues his father and son but loses his wife, Creusa, in the burning city. She dies. After escaping to nearby Phrygia, Aeneas rounds up other Trojan refugees, builds a fleet, and sets sail for a new land and a new life. But a powerful enemy—Juno, queen of the Olympian gods—imperils his voyage at every opportunity. She despises the Trojan race for two reasons. First, a Trojan, Paris, had insulted her when he selected Aphrodite over her in a beauty contest before the war. Second, another Trojan, Aeneas, had been selected by the Fates to found a civilization that would one day vanquish her favorite city, Carthage. Consequently, she visits calamity upon Aeneas time and again, tossing and whirling his ships and pointing their prows into uncharted waters. 

For seven years, Aeneas and his followers—including his father, Anchises, and son, Ascanius (known also as Iulus)—roam the trackless oceans as Juno’s playthings. In a final attempt to thwart Aeneas, Juno persuades the king of the winds, Aeolus, to loose powerful tempests against Aeneas’s fleet. Many ships go down, and their crews and passengers with them. However, the great god of the sea—earth-shaking Neptune, who had built Troy’s walls and who had once saved Aeneas on the Trojan battlefield from terrible Achilles—calms the waters to the smoothness of glass. The remaining ships, seven in all, find safe harbor in north Africa. There, the refugees kill stags, make fire, and pacify raging hunger. Aeneas heartens his followers, reminding them that on their voyage they had survived monsters, treachery, and roiling seas.

When Venus—the mother of Aeneas—appears to him in disguise, she directs him to Carthage, ruled by beautiful Dido. Dido had founded the city after abandoning her native Phoenicia to escape her brother, Pygmalion, who had murdered her husband, Sychaeus, for his wealth. Dido then vowed never to remarry, never again to look with love upon another man. However, Venus the goddess of love, directs her son Cupid, the god of love, to smite Dido with overpowering love for Aeneas to ensure his safety once he arrives in Carthage. 
Aeneas Tells His Story
After receiving the Trojans, Dido orders a sumptuous banquet for them and asks Aeneas to tell of Troy and his wanderings across the seas. Dutifully, Aeneas tells the tale, though it grieves him to recall the horror of it all. Here is his story:

Ten years of war between the Greeks and the Trojans bring only a stalemate. One day, the Greeks abandon the battlefield and leave behind a gigantic wooden horse, apparently a peace offering. It is a wondrous thing, a mountain of planking cut from fir trees, that stands at the gates of Troy. As the Trojans gaze upon the horse in amazement, shepherds bring into the city a Greek captive, Sinon, bound at the wrists. A talented liar who had allowed himself to be captured, Sinon persuades the Trojans that the horse is an offering to the goddess Minerva. If they accept it, they will prosper as a mighty Asian power; if they destroy it, they will bring calamity upon themselves. A Trojan priest, Laocoön, warns the people not to receive it. “Beware the Greeks bearing gifts,” he cries, hurling a spear into its side. At that moment, two serpents rise from the sea, come ashore, and seize Laocoön and his two sons, girding them in coils, then disappear. The Trojans interpret this ghastly event as a sign that the gods prize the horse as a holy offering; Laocoön had received just punishment for desecrating it. 

Because of its size—verily, its breadth spans a hundred cubits and its mane touches the clouds—the Trojans take hammer and axe to the city walls, opening a breach big enough to receive the horse into Troy. Cassandra—the daughter of Troy’s king, Priam—admonishes her countrymen to cease their madness. The horse, she says, is indeed a trick that will bring ruin to Troy. Cassandra is singularly talented in the prophetic arts; she can see into the future and beyond, knowing the outcome of events before they happen. But the god who gave her this gift of prophecy, Apollo, also emplaced in her a most cruel and debilitating handicap: Whenever she pronounces a prophecy, no one will believe her. So it is that the Trojans ignore her and pull the horse into the city. 

After nightfall, its belly opens and releases armed Greeks who bring sword and torch to sleeping Troy. The rest of the Greek horde—hidden behind rocks and hills and in folds of valleys—merge into a river of destruction that rages through the breach in the wall. They burn, pillage, destroy. Aeneas saves his father and son but, in the tumult of fire and smoke and fleeing citizens, loses his wife, Creusa, who later dies. 

In Phrygia, the surviving Trojans construct ships, gather wind in their unfolding sails, and set a course for Thrace. There Aeneas founds a city, Aeneadae. But the voice of a dead Trojan, Polydorus, warns Aeneas to seek haven elsewhere, for Thrace is an evil land that betrayed Troy during the war, first stealing Trojan gold sent to Thrace for safekeeping, then pledging allegiance to the Greeks. 

Taking the advice of Polydorus, Aeneas and his men sail on to the island of Delos, the birthplace of the god Apollo. Anius, king of Delos and high priest of Apollo, greets Aeneas and welcomes him and his father. At the temple of Apollo, Aeneas prays for guidance, and the voice of Apollo tells him to seek the land that was once a home for the Trojan race. Anchises interprets these words as referring to Crete. It was once the home of Teucer, who later became an early settler of Troy. 

Aeneas then sails on, passing through "foaming straits thick with islands" and picking up a wind that carries him on to Crete. There, Aeneas establishes another city, Pergamum, and his men plow the fields while he makes laws and plans for the future of the "new Troy." But after pestilence descends upon the land, the harvest fails and hunger rules. In a dream, Aeneas learns that Italy, not Crete, is to be the home of the new Trojan civilization, for Italy was the birthplace of the progenitor of the Trojan race, Dardanus. 

Encounter With the Harpies

After Aeneas and his followers take to their ships once more, peril besets them in the form of storms, raging seas, and mists. Day becomes night, and they wander in dark fog until at last that they put in at the Strophades, islands in the Ionian Sea. There they slaughter goats and cows and feast on them along the beach. Suddenly, monstrous birds called Harpies descend upon them, snatching at the food. These beasts with clawed hands and the faces of young virgins emit foul excrement from their bellies. After the men battle the Harpies, one of the winged beasts—Celaeno, a prophetess and eldest of the Furies—tells Aeneas to leave the island and seek his destiny in Italy. The frightened crewmen put aside their weapons. Aeneas's father, Anchises, makes sacrifices to the gods, calling on them to protect the travelers, and then they set sail once again, eventually landing at Actium on the western coast of Greece. There they set up altars to the gods and spend their time holding athletic games, such as wrestling bouts. 

Reinvigorated and ready to pursue their destiny again, they move on through peaceful seas, passing Epirus, and eventually put into the harbor of Chaonia and visit its city, Buthrotum. There, Aeneas meets and speaks with Andromache, widow of Hector, the greatest Trojan warrior, who was slain by the greatest of all warriors in all the world, the Greek Achilles. She tells Aeneas that when Troy fell to the Greeks, the son of Achilles, Pyrrhus, took her as his captive, and she bore him three sons as his slave. When Pyrrhus pursued another woman, Hermione, he placed Andromache in the care of Helenus, the brother of Hector. Meanwhile, Hermione's husband slew Pyrrhus, and Andromache and Helenus gained their freedom and made their home in Chaonia. 

After Andromache completes her account, Helenus, a prophet, learns from Apollo the trials Aeneas yet must undergo before fulfilling his destiny, then advises Aeneas on how to cope with them. With Helenus's advice in mind, Aeneas and his men resume their journey, traveling all the way to Sicily. There, a Greek named Achaemenides warns them of a great danger on the island, a race of one-eyed giants called the Cyclopes. Achaemenides had been a member of the crew of Ulysses, the great Greek warrior who had designed the Trojan horse, when Ulysses sojourned in Sicily while on his way home to Ithaca, Greece. When Ulysses and his crew escaped the island, Achaemenides was left behind. He now urges Aeneas to flee the island. Aeneas does so, taking Achaemenides with him. 

Eventually, before the seas carry them to the land of Dido, they stop at several other islands, the last of which is Drepanum. There, his elderly father dies. Aeneas tells Dido, "This was my last trouble, this the end of my long journey."
Afterward, he says, he traveled to North Africa, to the realm of Dido. His tale is complete.
The Great Love Affair
In the following months, Dido—now desperately in love with Aeneas—spends all her time with him, and he with her. They seem frozen in time, unaware of past or present, and scandalous tales are told about them. Mighty Jove then sends the messenger god, Mercury, to Carthage to remind Aeneas of his destiny. It is wrong for him to dally, Mercury says, when he has an important mission awaiting him. When heedful Aeneas secretly prepares to leave, Dido discovers his plans and implores him to stay. But he is deaf to her pleas. Wounded, angry, bitter, she curses him and his kind and importunes the gods to drive a wedge of everlasting hatred between his future country and Carthage. As the Trojans set sail, she falls on a sword left behind by Aeneas and dies in the arms of her sister, Anna. 

Far from shore now, as the fleet gathers wind and speed and Carthage glows with the flames of Dido’s funeral pyre, a storm forces Aeneas off course to Sicily. There, a Trojan, Acestes, who has founded a kingdom near Mount Eryx, welcomes Aeneas. Aeneas then holds funeral games in memory of his father, including a boat race, a footrace, a boxing match, an archery match, and a competition in horsemanship. 

Meanwhile,ever meddlesome Juno stirs dissent among the Trojan women, who are weary of traveling from port to port. When they set the ships ablaze, great Jupiter—answering a hurried prayer of Aeneas—quenches the fire with rain. Before leaving Sicily, Aeneas learns from the ghost of his father that he is to travel next to Cumae, Italy, to meet with his father in the Underworld. At Cumae a prophetess called the Sybil informs Aeneas that the land in which he will establish the new Troy is Latium, a region along the west coast of central Italy. But he first must fight a war caused by his marriage to a woman of Latium. 

After the Sybil escorts Aeneas into Hades, he sees wondrous and terrifying sights—centaurs, giants, serpents, hideous monsters, crying babies, the wandering ghosts of the unburied dead, the pitiful forms of those who died by their own hand, and the personifications of Disease, Hunger, War, Grief, and Old Age. And he sees Dido, too. But she turns away, preferring darkest hell to the still-burning embers of love in his eyes...

By and by, Aeneas and his guide come upon a world of light—a world of grassy meadows, gentle streams, and shaded groves. In this heavenly corner of the Underworld, Elysium, he meets and embraces his father, Anchises, who tells Aeneas of the glorious future in store for him and the Roman civilization he is to found. Aeneas’s progeny will become rulers of the world, he says. Anchises even mentions Augustus Caesar by name, saying he will preside over a great golden age in which Rome rules a vast empire that is the jewel of human civilization.

Resuming his journey, Aeneas sails along the Italian coast until he reaches the Tiber River, then turns and enters its mouth, moving on to Latium. There, he wishes to establish his new home and sends a hundred envoys to Latinus, the king of Latium, with a message. One of the envoys, Ilioneus, presents gifts to the king—relics from Troy—and recites the message. Aeneas, he says, asks Latinus to grant him and his compatriots enough land to build a city and live in peace with Latinus. Having heard from an oracle that his daughter, Lavinia, was destined to marry a foreigner, Latinus tells Ilioneus that he will grant Aeneas the land he desires. What is more, he proposes to betroth his daughter to Aeneas even though Latinus has already pledged Lavinia to Turnus, King of the Rutulians, a tribe in Latium. Latinus then gives the visitors gifts of horses for themselves and a chariot and twin horses for Aeneas. 

The War

When the Trojans begin building their city, Juno observes them from the heavens. She had done all in her power to thwart their plans to establish a new homeland, but failed. Angry, she summons Alecto, one of the snake-haired Furies, who is so treacherous a troublemaker that even her own Father—Pluto, the ruler of the Underworld—despises her. She tells her, 

You’ve the power to rouse brothers, who are one, to conflict,
and overturn homes with hatred: you bring the scourge
and the funeral torch into the house: you’ve a thousand names,
and a thousand noxious arts. Search your fertile breast,
shatter the peace accord, sow accusations of war:
let men in a moment need, demand and seize their weapons.
Alecto then does her dirty work. First, with a snake from her hair, she envenoms Latinus's wife, Amata, with hatred for Aeneas. Amata then lashes out at her husband for promising Lavinia to Aeneas. But he refuses to back down. So Amata goes into the land and, overcome with frenzy, inflames other women against Aeneas and the Trojans. Alecto then goes to the palace of Turnus to inflame him against Aeneas. Appearing to him in the guise of an old woman named Calybe, priestess of the temple of Juno, she tells, him, " The king denies you your bride and the dowry looked for / by your race, and a stranger is sought as heir to the throne."

Finally, while young Ascanius is hunting in the woods, she inflames his hounds to track down the prize stag of the king, a magnificent animal nurtured by Tyrrhus, the keeper of the king's herds. His daughter, Silvia, dotes on the deer and even adorns its antlers with garlands. After the dogs corner the stag, Alecto likewise inflames Ascanius and guides his hand when he shoots an arrow into flank and belly of the stag. The deer returns home to its stall, bleeding profusely and crying out. Alecto sounds the call of the herdsmen, and they come running with axes, staffs, and metal stakes. A clash ensues between the herdsmen and the Trojans. Innocent men who happen to be at the scene are killed, including Galaesus, an old man who was praying for peace at the time. 

This skirmish makes war appear inevitable, and the two sides make the necessary preparation. Aeneas sails to Pallantium to seek the aid of Evander, king of Arcadia and its colony of Greeks. 

Etruscans under Mezentius ally with Turnus, and Evander allies with Aeneas. Gods and goddesses take sides. Venus calls upon her husband, Vulcan, the god of the forge, to make weapons and armor for the Trojans. Juno sends Iris to rouse Turnus to war, and he in turns mobilizes his men and attacks at Pallantium. The fury of the warfare is reminiscent of the raging violence of the Trojan War. After this early clash, Aeneas returns from Pallantium and a pitched battle ensues on land. Aeneas wields a mighty sword and spear, downing one warrior after another. During the fighting, Turnus seeks out and kills brave Pallas, son of Evander, with a steel-tipped oak spear. His death deeply saddens Evander and Aeneas. Aeneas had taken a great liking to the youth. Even as he mourns the youth, terrible rage fires his blood with vengeance and he now kills furiously and frequently in hopes of coming across Turnus. But Juno intervenes and withdraws Turnus from the battle. 

Aeneas and his men appear to have the upper hand. The Latins then convene a council at which King Latinus proposes to offer concessions to Aeneas as part of a peace treaty. Drancës, a prominent Latin who blames Turnus for the problems arising from the war, supports Latinus's proposal and tells Turnus, 
Pity your people,
set your pride aside, and conquered, give way. Routed,
we have seen enough of death and made broad acres desolate.
Turnus angrily rejects the idea that the Trojans have conquered his army, saying.
I, beaten? You total disgrace, can anyone who sees
the Tiber swollen with Trojan blood, and all Evander’s
house and race toppled, and the Arcadians stripped
of weapons, say with justice I am beaten?
In the end, the conflict comes down to hand-to-hand combat between Aeneas and Turnus. Now is the Trojan hero's opportunity to avenge the death of Evander and end the war. When Aeneas drives his sword through Turnus, peace descends over the land and Aeneas becomes the founder and progenitor of the greatest nation in history: glorious Rome. 


Aeneas: Noble Trojan warrior destined to found the great Roman civilization. He is the protagonist. When the Greeks entered Troy and burned the city, he fled with his son and father after his wife died in the Greek onslaught. After rounding up other refugee soldiers from Troy, he and his men go on a long and perilous journey, facing angry seas and monsters, before arriving in Italy only to go to war again. But he defeats his enemy and fulfills his destiny. 
Anchises: Father and advisor of Aeneas. After he dies on the journey to Italy, he continues to advise Aeneas when he appears to him in dreams and visions. He also escorts Aeneas through the Underworld. 
Ascanius (Iulus): Son of Aeneas. Ascanius, who exhibits the same noble qualities as his father, represents the future of the Trojan immigrants as Romans.
Creusa: Wife of Aeneas and mother of Ascanius. She dies during the fighting at Troy but later appears to Aeneas to urge him to pursue his destiny. 
Dido: Queen of Carthage; she falls desperately in love with Aeneas.
Anna: Dido's sister. 
Pygmalion: Dido's brother.
Sychaeus: Late husband of Dido. After Dido's brother, Pygmalion, killed him for his gold, Dido vowed never again to marry.
Achetes: Trusted friend of Aeneas.
Anius: King of Delos and high priest of Apollo. He welcomes Aeneas to Delos. 
Latinus: King of the Latins, who occupy central Italy. He welcomes Aeneas to his domain and promotes the marriage of his daughter, Lavinia, to Aeneas. 
Lavinia: Daughter of Latinus; she is betrothed to Aeneas after first being pledged to Turnus
Amata: Wife of Latinus. She supports a marriage between Lavinia and Turnus. Amata commits suicide when it becomes apparent that Aeneas will defeat Turnus and marry Lavinia.
Turnus: King of the Rutulian tribe on the coast of Latium in Italy. He is the chief battlefield foe of Aeneas. 
Juturna: Sister of Turnus and a minor goddess of rivers and lakes. At the request of Juno, she persuades the Rutulians to break their treaty with the Trojans, saying that the Trojans plan to subjugate the Rutulians.
Pilumnus: Father of Turnus.
Camilla: Female ally of Turnus. After the Trojan warrior Arruns kills her during battle, the goddess Diana causes the death of Arruns.
Arruns: Trojan warrior who kills Camilla.
Mezentius: Estruscan leader allied with Turnus. 
Messapus: Leader of Turnus's front ranks at the beginning of the war. 
Caicus: Trojan warrior who spies the army of Turnus approaching and alerts his comrades.
Evander: King of Pallantium, Italy. He supports Aeneas against Turnus.
Pallas: Son of Evander. His death in battle deeply grieves Aeneas and Evander. Aeneas slays Turnus in revenge, ending the war with the Latins.
Drancës: Prominent Latin who blames Turnus for the problems arising from the war in Italy. He supports Latinus's proposal for a peace treaty with the Trojans. 
Palinurus: Navigator of Aeneas's ship. 
Teucer: Early settler of Troy who came from Crete.
Dardanus: Founder of the House of Troy and ancestor of Aeneas. 
Tyrrhus: Keeper of the king's herds of deer and manager of his lands. 
Almo: Oldest of the sons of Tyrrhus. An arrow brings him down in a clash between the Trojans and Latins.
Silvia: Daughter of Tyrrhus.
Galaesus: Peaceful and just man who is killed in the early clash between the Trojans and Latins after Ascanius kills the king's prize stag.
Calybe: Priestess of the temple of Juno in Latium. Alecto disguises herself as Calybe when she rouses Turns from sleep to go to war.
Trojan Athletes: These are men and boys who take part in the Sicilian games Aeneas holds in honor of his deceased father. They include Mnesthus, Sergestus, Cloanthus, Menoetes, Cleanthus, Diores, Salius, Patron, Helymus, Panopes, Dares, Entellus, Hippocoön, Eurytion, Phegeus and Sagaris, Nisus, Euryalus, Little Priam, Polites, and Atys.
Acestes: Native Trojan who founds the kingdom of Drepanum in Sicily. After a storm forces Aeneas and his crew to shore, Acestes hosts them. He wins the archery contest during the athletic competition.
Eumelus: Trojan Warrior who alerts others to the burning ships.
Priam: King of Troy.
Hecuba: Priam's wife.
Hector: A son of Priam and Hecuba and the greatest of the Trojan warriors in the Trojan War.
Helen: Beautiful wife of King Menelaus of Greece. 
Paris: A son of Priam. He started the Trojan War by stealing the beautiful Helen from Menelaus.
Menelaus: Greek king and warrior; husband of Helen.
Agamemnon: Greek king and commanding general of the Greek armies in the Trojan War.
Achilles: Greatest of the Greek warriors in the Trojan War. He kills Hector.
Ajax the Great (Greek: Aias): Gigantic Greek warrior, second only to Achilles in battlefield prowess.
Ulysses: Wily Greek warrior who proposed the idea of the wooden horse. Hero of Homer's Odyssey.
Epeus: Designer of the wooden horse.
Sinon: Greek youth who persuades the Trojans to accept the wooden horse as a gift.
Eurypylus: Greek whom Sinon says was sent to consult the oracle of Apollo.
Panthus: Trojan who informs Aeneas that the wooden horse concealed Greek warriors. 
Andromache: Widow of Hector, the great Trojan warrior slain by Achilles.
Hermione: Daughter of Helen. While married to Andromache, Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, pursued Hermione. 
Orestes: Husband of Hermione and slayer of Pyrrus. 
Helenus: A son of Priam. He marries Andromache after the death of Pyrrhus.
Laocoön: Trojan seer who warns his fellow citizens not to accept the wooden horse. When a sea serpent kills him and his two sons, the Trojans believe their deaths are a sign from the gods that Laocoön was lying. He was, of course, telling the truth.
Cassandra: Trojan prophetess who also warns against accepting the wooden horse.
Sybil: Prophetess of the god Apollo. She tells Aeneas of the tribulation that awaits him in Italy and urges him to meet his challenges courageously.
Caieta: Aeneas's nurse.
Belus: Grandfather of Dido
Faunus: Father of King Latinus.
Marica: A nymph and mother of Latinus. 
Diomede (Greek: Diomedes): Powerful Greek warrior during the Trojan War.
Orontes, Amycus, Gyus, Cloanthus: Trojans who die in the storm created by Aeolus.
Deiphobus: A son of Priam who dies at Troy. Aeneas sees him—his entire body torn and mutilated—in the Underworld.
Calchas: Greek prophet during the Trojan War.
Greek Warriors in the Wooden Horse: Thessandrus, Sthenelus, Acamas, Thoas, Neoptolemus, Machaon.
Ripheus, Epytus, Hypanis, Dymas, Coroebus: Trojan warriors who, with Aeneas, fight for their lives in the burning city of Troy. 
Iphetus, Pelias: Trojans who accompany Aeneas to the palace of Priam during the burning of Troy.
Polites: A son of Priam. He dies during the burning of Troy.
Abas: Trojan warrior.
Aletes: Elder Trojan who offers advice during the war in Italy.
Sarpedon: Trojan who died heroically in the war with the Greeks.
Theron, Lichas, Cisseus, Gyas, Pharus, Maeon: Warriors whom Aeneas kills first after returning from Pallantium.
Souls of Trojans in the Underworld

Deities, Monsters, and Figures in Various Myths

Jupiter or Jove (Greek: Zeus): King of the gods. When Trojan ships are burning at Sicily, he sends rain that extinguishes the fire.
Juno (Greek: Hera) Queen of the gods. She opposes the Trojans and attempts to sabotage their voyage at every opportunity.
Venus (Greek: Aphrodite): Goddess of love and mother of Aeneas; she works on behalf of her son. The Aeneid also refers to her as Cytherea.
Neptune (Greek: Poseidon): God of the sea. He calms stormy waters for Aeneas and his fleet.
Triton, Cymothoë: Sea gods who assist Neptune.
Vulcan (Greek: Hephaestus): God of the forge and husband of Venus. He makes weapons and armor for the Trojans.
Aeolus: God of the winds. At Juno's behest, he causes raging winds to harry the Trojan fleet.
Apollo: God of prophecy, music, poetry, and medicine; supporter of the Trojans. He is sometimes referred to as Phoebus Apollo, or simply Phoebus.
Deiopea: Beautiful nymph whom Juno promises to Aeolus for sending his winds against the Trojan ships.
Celaeno: One of the Harpies. She prophesies that Aeneas will not reach his future homeland until he and his men encounter plague and hunger. 
Alecto: One of the Furies. She helps Juno in her efforts to thwart Aeneas and the Trojans. 
Tiberinus: God who rises from a stream in Latium and speaks to Aeneas in a dream, telling him the place of the new Troy and prophesying that Aeneas's son, Ascanius, will found the city of Alba within thirty years.
Cupid: God of love and son of Venus.
Saturn (Greek: Cronus): Father of Jupiter and Juno. 
Minerva (Greek: Athena, or Pallas Athena): Goddess of wisdom and war. She was born fully grown in a suit of armor, issuing from the forehead of Jupiter. Her Greek name is Athena.
Mars (Greek: Ares): God of war.
Pluto (Greek: Hades): God of the Underworld.
Proserpine or Prosperpina (Greek: Persephone): Goddess of the Underworld.
Diana (Greek: Artemis): Goddess of the moon and of hunting.
Mercury (Greek: Hermes): Messenger god..
Maia: Mother of Mercury. 
Charon: Ferryman who takes souls across the River Styx to the Underworld.
Scylla: Six-headed monster.
Charybdis: Sea monster that creates a whirlpool by gulping water.
Polyphemus: King of a race of one-eyed giants known as the Cyclopes (or Cyclops).
Romulus and Remus: Twin sons of Mars and legendary founders of Rome. Romulus is also called Quirinus.
Aurora (Greek: Eos): Goddess of dawn.
Vesta (Greek: Hestia): Goddess of the hearth.
Ceres (Greek: Demeter): Goddess of agriculture.
Hecate: Underworld goddess.
Hercules: Son of Zeus; subject of myths telling of his great strength.
Orpheus: Musician who fails in his attempt to bring his wife, Eurydice, out of the Underworld. 


Main Theme: Glorification of Rome

Virgil's goal in writing The Aeneid was to glorify Rome and exalt its emperor. During Virgil’s lifetime, Rome achieved the pinnacle of its greatness under Augustus Caesar, earlier known as Octavian, who was by adoption the grandnephew of Julius Caesar. Octavian (63 BC-AD 14) became emperor in 29 BC, two years after defeating Mark Antony in the Battle of Actium. In 27 BC, the senate bestowed on Octavian the title “Augustus” to call attention to his superior qualities. Augustus Caesar instituted many political and social reforms, constructed roads linking imperial cities, promoted the arts, and inaugurated an era of peace (known as the pax romana) that endured long after his death. Virgil, who benefited from the emperor’s patronage, decided to extol Caesar in The Aeneid, conferring on him a noble heritage and lineage brought from Troy to Italy in the person of the princely Aeneas, whose courage, nobility, perseverance, and ingenuity seeded Italy with greatness. Although Aeneas was a figure of myth, not fact, all-powerful Augustus welcomed Virgil’s tale as a fitting metaphor for historical truth.

Other Themes

Fate Cannot Be Overturned

Even Juno, queen of the Olympian gods, cannot thwart the destiny of Aeneas to found a great civilization. Nor can Dido, passionately in love with Aeneas; nor can Turnus, rabidly in hate with Aeneas. 

It Pays to Know People in High Places

In overcoming obstacles, Aeneas receives the help of his divine mother, Venus, the goddess of love, as well as her father, Jupiter, the king of the gods, and his brother, Neptune, the god of the sea.


As a literary work intended to glorify Rome, The Aeneid had to present the legendary founder of Rome as an almost superhuman hero. So it was that Virgil endowed Aeneas with great courage, nobility, fortitude, and ingenuity. During his voyage to Italy, he overcomes the wrath of the gods, battles monsters, mourns the death of his father, and fights a war. But perhaps his most difficult feat was to abandon the beautiful Dido, the queen of Carthage. His commitment to destiny trumped his desire for personal fulfillment.

Rome Was Not Built in a Day

It takes centuries for the foundation and development of the great Roman civilization. Virgil takes the reader back to the beginning, to the destruction of Troy, and shows him the tortuous path that led to the birth of Rome.

Paying Homage to the Dead

In ancient Rome and Greece, it was important to conduct dignified funeral rites for the dead, to acknowledge their achievements, and to remember them in prayers and keep their memory alive in tales handed down from generation to generation. In The Aeneid, the author continually alludes to noble figures from the past, sometimes digressing from the main plot to tell stories about them. 


The climax appears to occur when Turnus kills Evander's son, Pallas, enraging Aeneas, who then kills furiously and frequently in hopes of coming across Turnus. It is now only a matter of time before Aeneas quenches his wrath. After Turnus rejects a proposal to make peace with the Trojans, Aeneas slays him and the war ends.

Role of Nonhuman Enemies

During his voyage, Aeneas must overcome the wrath of gods, monsters, and beasts. These opponents seem to represent the obstacles and the bad luck, or fate, that humans must face on their voyage through life. 


Epic Conventions

The Greek writer Homer established literary practices, rules, or devices in his two great epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey. They became commonplace in epic poetry written in ancient, medieval, and later times. These rules or devices are now known as epic conventions. They include the following:

  • The invocation of the muse, in which a writer requests divine help in composing his work. 
  • Beginning the main story in the middle of a hero's adventures, then flashing back to recount previous events. Such an epic device is known by a Latin term, in medias res, meaning in the middle of things. In The Aeneid, Aeneas is already under way in his sea voyage. After he arrives in Carthage, Africa, he recounts previous events—those occurring at the end of the Trojan War—at the request of Dido.
  • Telling a story with which readers or listeners are already familiar. Most of the great writers of the ancient world—as well as many great writers in later times, including Shakespeare—frequently told stories already known to the public. Thus, in such stories, there were no unexpected plot twists, no surprise endings. If this sounds strange to you, the modern reader and theatergoer, consider that many of the most popular motion pictures today are about stories already known to the public. Examples are The Passion of the Christ, Titanic, The Ten Commandments, Troy, Spartacus, Pearl Harbor, and Gettysburg
  • Conflict in the celestial realm. Divine beings fight and scheme against one another—and against humans—in the epics of Homer and Virgil, and they do so in John Milton's Paradise Lost on a grand scale, with Satan and his forces opposing God and his forces.
  • Digressions from the main plot, such as the episode about the Sicilian athletic games in The Aeneid.
The Gods of Olympus
Encyclopedias and mythology books generally list twelve deities as the chief gods in Greek mythology  and as residents of Mount Olympus. However, two of these important deities spent most of their time in the domains which they governed, the sea and the underworld. In addition, the Greeks of one era sometimes differed with the Greeks of another era on who were the most important gods. Consequently, the list of the favored twelve sometimes changed, omitting one god in favor of another.

The Olympian gods were the successors of an earlier dynasty of gods known as Titans. The Titan ruler, Cronos (also Cronus), believing that one of his children might attempt to overthrow him, swallowed each of them after his or her birth. However, one child, Zeus, was rescued by his mother and hidden on the island of Crete. Later, Zeus forced his father to vomit the other children from his stomach. Then, with the help of his siblings, he overthrew Cronus to become lord of the universe. 

The names of the chief Olympian deities are listed below. Writers in ancient Greece—such as Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides—used the original Greek names, the English transliteration of which appears at left in the list. Writers in ancient Rome, including Virgil, used the Latin version of the names, the English transliteration of which appears in parentheses. 

Some English language writers, past and present, use the transliteration of the Greek version; others prefer the transliteration of the Latin (or Roman) version. For example, William Shakespeare uses the transliteration of the Latin version in his plays and poems. Instead of referring to the king of the gods as Zeus (the transliteration of the Greek name), he refers to him as Jupiter and Jove, the transliterations of the Latin names (Iuppiter and Iovis). Here are the names of the Olympian gods and a brief description of each:

Zeus (Jupiter and Jove): King and protector of the gods and humankind. As ruler of the sky, he made rain and thunder and wielded lightning bolts. Zeus was the youngest son of the Titans Cronus and Rhea.
Hera (Juno): Queen of the gods and protector of marriage. She was the wife of Zeus and, as the daughter of the Titans Cronus and Rhea, also his sister.
Athena or Pallas Athena (Minerva): Goddess of wisdom and war. She was born fully grown in a suit of armor, issuing from the forehead of Zeus. The Greeks highly revered her and built many temples in her honor.
Ares (Mars): God of war and the son of Zeus and Hera.
Poseidon (Neptune): God of the sea and brother of Zeus.
Hades (Pluto): God of the underworld and brother of Zeus.
Hephaestus (Vulcan): God of fire and metalwork who built the palaces in which the Olympian gods lived. He also forged their armor and made their jewelry. He was the son of Zeus and Hera.
Apollo, Phoebus Apollo, or Phoebus (Same as Greek Names): God of prophecy, music, poetry, and medicine. His alternate name, Phoebus, means brightness, and he was thus also considered the god of the sun. He was the son of Zeus and Leto, the daughter of Titans. The Greeks highly revered him and built many temples in his honor. One such temple at Delphi was the site of a famous oracle, the Pythia, who pronounced prophecies as the mouthpiece of Apollo.
Artemis (Diana): Goddess of the hunt. She was the daughter of Zeus and Leto (see Apollo) and the twin sister of Apollo.
Aphrodite (Venus): Goddess of love and beauty. According to Homer, she was the daughter of Zeus and Dione, the daughter of a Titan; according to the Greek poet Hesiod, she was born from the foam of the sea. 
Hermes (Mercury): Messenger god who wore a winged hat and winged sandals. He was also the god of science, luck, commerce, and cunning. He was the son of Zeus and Maia, the daughter of a Titan.
Hestia (Vesta): Goddess of the home and hearth and sister of Zeus.

.......Other lists of the major Olympian gods omit Hades in favor of Hebe, a cupbearer of the gods. Still others rank Dionysus (Roman name, Bacchus), the god of wine and vegetation and a patron of the arts, as one of the elite twelve.

Study Questions and Essay Topics
  • Identify other heroes in myth or history who traveled a great distance to found new civilizations, reap the riches of virgin lands, find new navigation routes, or institute trade with native cultures. 
  • In an informative essay, discuss Virgil's debt to the great Greek epic poet, Homer. 
  • Does Aeneas's abandonment of Dido suggest that he is at heart cruel and unfeeling or that he is fiercely dedicated to the goal of founding the "new Troy"?
  • In an essay, explain the extent to which ancient Romans and Greeks relied on soothsayers.
  • In the opening of The Aeneid, Aeneas "invokes the muse." What was a muse? What does it mean to invoke a muse? 
  • Why does Juno despise the Trojans?
  • Write an essay that compares and contrasts The Aeneid with Homer's Odyssey.
  • Write an essay that explains dactylic hexameter, the verse form Virgil used in The Aeneid.