Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Aeneas (ee-NEE-uhs), the legendary progenitor of the Roman rulers whose son Ascanius, in fulfillment of a prophecy, founded Alba Longa and whose later descendants, Romulus and Remus, founded Rome. The son of Venus and of Anchises, the king of Dardanus, Aeneas is somewhat more diffident than the warrior heroes of other ancient epics, and he displays the Latin virtues of moderation and filial devotion. Only occasionally does he indulge in righteous indignation. Twice during the siege of Troy, he is saved from death by the intervention of his divine mother. After the fall of the city, he flees, carrying his aged father on his shoulders and leading his son Ascanius by the hand. In the confusion, his devoted wife Creusa is lost. Aeneas searches for her in vain until her shade appears to tell him that he will find his destiny in a distant land. After long wandering, Aeneas and his small band of followers arrive in Italy, where he engages in warfare with the people of Latium and Rutuli. Eventually, a truce is arranged and he marries Lavinia, the daughter of King Latinus. In her honor, he founds the city of Lavinium.
Anchises (an-KI-seez), the king of Dardanus, King Priam’s ally in the Trojan War, and the father of Aeneas. A man of great wisdom, he guides his son through many dangers during the wanderings of Aeneas and his followers from Troy to...
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Themes and Characters
One of the most discussed ideas in the Aeneid is commonly termed the "Imperial Theme" and concerns the glory and significance of the Roman Empire. For a long time, the poem was considered the cleverest piece of propaganda for Rome ever created. However, modern scholars have noted how sympathetically Vergil treats the enemies of Aeneas and contend that Vergil could not have intended his work as mere propaganda. Perhaps it would be fair to say that Vergil believed the founding of Rome to be divinely fated, but also realized how much sacrifice was necessary in the achievement.
Sacrifice is another major theme in the work. Aeneas, in effect, sacrifices all that he holds dear in order to settle his people in a new land and establish a line of kings that eventually produces Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome. In one moving episode, in which the theme of sacrifice takes on a special poignancy, Aeneas abandons a comfortable life and his true love, Queen Dido of Carthage, when a messenger of the gods demands that he leave to complete his mission. Possibly because he spent years studying the Stoic philosophy, Vergil greatly emphasizes the necessity of doing one's duty, no matter what the cost. Thus, Aeneas follows the calling of his duty at great personal sacrifice.
After Aeneas leaves Carthage, pays funereal homage to his father, Anchises, and visits the Underworld, the wandering Trojans reach Italy, which by portents is...
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Prince of Troy and chief protagonist of this work. There are as many readings of his character as there are readers of The Aeneid. Virgil's narrative repeatedly puts Aeneas into situations in which he finds his duty to the gods and to the future in conflict with his own personal desires, freedom, and autonomy—when he wants to stay with Dido, Queen of Carthage, for example, and the god Jupiter sends a messenger reminding him that it is his destiny to leave and lead his people on to Italy.
Aeneas often seems to be confused about what he should do. He sometimes makes choices that seem clearly wrong to many readers. The classic epic pattern generally shows its protagonist becoming a true hero by learning through experience the importance of wisdom, tolerance, compromise, and justice. While Aeneus shows these qualities intermittently, some interpretations of the Aeneid indicate that at the end all his painfully acquired knowledge is thrown away in an act of bloody and violent revenge when he slays Turnus in a rage.
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Widow of Hector, given as a prize of war to Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles. She later marries Helenus. In a twist of fate, they come to reign over part of Pyrrhus's kingdom after Pyrrhus is killed by Orestes, son of Agamemnon. She never forgets either her adored Hector, or their little boy Astyanax, whom the victorious Greek threw from the walls of Troy for fear he would grow up and avenge his father.
The god of the winds. He is indebted to Juno for his role among the gods, and at Juno's request causes the storm that drives Aeneas's fleet onto the coast of North Africa in Book 1.
Latinus's wife. The goddess Juno encourages her to think of Aeneas and the newly-arrived Trojans as dangerous interlopers on Italian soil. She opposes the proposed match between Aeneas and her daughter Lavinia.
A prince of Troy, Aeneas's father and Priam's second cousin. Aeneas is the son of a union between Anchises and the goddess Venus. One tradition holds that Jupiter crippled Anchises with a thunderbolt when he boasted of being Venus's lover.
Dido's sister. She persuades Dido that an alliance with Aeneas is in her own best interests as well as those of her city, Carthage.
The son of Aeneas and Creusa. The Roman tribe (extended family) of Julius claims him as an ancestor. He is the founder of Alba. His boyish...
(The entire section is 1820 words.)