The Poem (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Aeneas, driven by a storm to the shores of Libya, is welcomed gladly by the people of Carthage. Because Carthage is the favorite city of Juno, divine enemy of Aeneas, Venus has Cupid take the form of Ascanius, son of Aeneas, so that the young god of love might warm the heart of proud Dido, queen of Carthage, and Aeneas will come to no harm in her land. At the close of a welcoming feast, Aeneas is prevailed upon to recount his adventures.
He describes the fall of his native Troy at the hands of the Greeks after a ten-year siege, telling how the armed Greeks entered the city in the belly of a great wooden horse, and how the Trojans fled from their burning city, among them Aeneas, with his father, Anchises, and young Ascanius. Not long afterward, Anchises advised setting sail for distant lands. Blown by varying winds, the Trojans at length reached Buthrotum, where it was foretold that they would have a long and arduous journey before Aeneas would reach Italy. Setting sail once more, they reached Sicily. There Anchises, who was his son’s sage counselor, died and was buried. Forced to leave Sicily, Aeneas was blown by stormy winds to the coast of Libya. Here he ends his tale, and Dido, influenced by Cupid disguised as Ascanius, feels pity and admiration for the Trojan hero.
The next day, Dido continues her entertainment for Aeneas. During a royal hunt, a great storm drives Dido and Aeneas to the same cave for refuge. There they succumb to the passion of love. Aeneas spends the winter in Carthage and enjoys the devotion of the queen, but in the spring, he feels the need to continue his destined course. When he sets sail, the sorrowing Dido kills herself. The light of her funeral pyre is seen far out at sea.
Again on the shores of Sicily, Aeneas bids his men refresh themselves with food, drink, and games. First, there is a boat race in which Cloanthus is the victor. The second event is a foot race, won by Euryalus. Entellus engages Dares in a boxing match, which Aeneas stops before the clearly superior Entellus achieves a knockout. The final contest is with bow and arrow. Eurytion and Acestes make spectacular showings, and each is awarded a handsome prize. Following the contests, Ascanius and the other young boys ride out to engage in war games. Meanwhile, the women grieve the lost guidance of Anchises and, at the instigation of Juno, set fire to the ships. Aeneas, sustained by the gods, bids his people repair the damage. Once more, the Trojans set sail.
Finally, they reach the shores of Italy, at Cumae, which is famous for its Sibyl. The Sibyl grants Aeneas the privilege of visiting his father in the underworld. After due sacrifice, Aeneas and the Sibyl begin their descent into Hades. At length, they reach the river Styx and persuade the boatman, Charon, to row them across. Aeneas sees the spirits of many people he knew in life, including...
(The entire section is 1178 words.)
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
*Troy. Site of the Trojan War, located in Turkey, in northwestern Asia Minor. Homer sets the Iliad (c. 800 b.c.e.; English translation, 1616), the Greek epic that directly influenced the Aeneid, in the last days before the city’s defeat at the hands of the Greek forces. Vergil chooses to have Aeneas describe Troy’s destruction through the ruse of the Trojan horse. This element establishes an ethnic connection between the Trojans, who fled the dying city to establish what Vergil calls a “New Troy” in Italy, and the Romans. Southern Italy was called Magna Graecia by the Romans because of its extensive Greek colonization, and Vergil establishes the Roman race as comprising other groups, including Greeks, Anatolians, Etruscans, and native Latin peoples. Connecting Augustus’s Rome to Troy thus establishes what the emperor most desired for his city: a noble antiquity that could account for Imperial Rome’s preeminence.
*Carthage. Ancient North African city in what is now Tunisia. The same storm that sends Homer’s Odysseus and his crew to Circe’s island also strikes Aeneas and the Trojans, who successfully escape from burning Troy. The storm, recorded in the Aeneid, brings the Trojans to Carthage, a city particularly noteworthy in Roman history. Located in Tunisia, Carthage was, in Vergil’s time, in the Roman province known as Numidia Proconsularis. Vergil emphasizes the longstanding connections between Rome and Carthage. For Aeneas, Carthage is where he is granted the chance to rest and recuperate by two goddesses, themselves enemies: Juno, who wishes to delay the founding of a new Troy, and Venus, Aeneas’s mother, who wants some respite for her hero son. The casualty of this episode is Dido, Carthage’s brave, widowed queen, who has founded Carthage after the...
(The entire section is 766 words.)
Book 1 Questions and Answers
1. What three reasons does Virgil give for Juno’s anger?
2. Where have the Trojans just left?
3. What is ironic about the incipient romance between Dido and Aeneas?
4. Why can Aeneas walk about Carthage unseen?
5. On which two occasions do references to hunting appear in this book?
6. What omen does Venus say predicts the safe arrival of Aeneas’ fleet?
7. Who killed Dido’s husband?
8. What epithet is used most frequently to describe Aeneas?
9. Who does Jupiter list last as Aeneas’ descendant?
10. How does Cupid sneak into Dido’s arms?
1. Juno’s anger...
(The entire section is 252 words.)
Book 2 Questions and Answers
1. Who is the first to tell Aeneas of his future in Italy?
2. What two opinions exist concerning the nature of the Trojan horse?
3. What pastoral metaphor describes the Greeks’ murderous entry of Priam’s palace?
4. How does Sinon repay the kindness of the Trojans?
5. What do the Greek ships do while the Trojans debate over the nature of the horse?
6. What action of the murderous sea snakes convinces the Trojans that Minerva does not want them to harm the horse?
7. What double blasphemy does Pyrrhus commit?
8. Who is really to blame for Troy’s fall?
9. What other names are used for Troy?
(The entire section is 275 words.)
Book 3 Questions and Answers
1. What curse does Celaeno cast on the Trojans?
2. What sign does Helenus say will show Aeneas where to found his city?
3. To whom does Helenus advise Aeneas to make sacrifices?
4. Why do the Trojans found a colony on Crete?
5. What religious practices are discussed in this book?
6. How was Polyphemus blinded?
7. What happens when Aeneas attempts to pull branches off the Thracian myrtle?
8. How did Andromache come to be married to Helenus?
9. Aside from Scylla and Charybdis, what must the Trojans avoid on their way to Italy?
10. Where does Helenus advise Aeneas to take no count of time during his...
(The entire section is 281 words.)
Book 4 Questions and Answers
1. To whom does Dido tell of her love for Aeneas?
2. What bad effects does Dido’s passion have on her city?
3. Why do Juno and Venus cooperate to bring Dido and Aeneas together?
4. What simile describes Aeneas as he leaves the city to go
5. How is Jupiter alerted to Aeneas’ dalliance?
6. How does Mercury insult Aeneas’ efforts to build Carthage?
7. What does Dido say would confront her in the face of Aeneas’ departure?
8. What differing views do Aeneas and Dido hold of their affair?
9. What curse does Dido wish upon Aeneas?
10. What service does Iris perform for Dido?...
(The entire section is 239 words.)
Book 5 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Aeneas believe the sacrifice to his father’s shade has been well-received?
2. What is symbolic about the prize Cloanthus receives?
3. To what is Sergestus’ boat compared?
4. Why do the gloves of Eryx enable Entellus to kill an ox?
5. How does Pyrgo know that the disguised Iris is a goddess?
6. Who is it that actually hits the dove in the shooting match?
7. What are the Trojan women complaining about when Iris arrives?
8. What final, non-competitive event ends the day’s festivities?
9. What “sacrifice” does Neptune want for providing the Trojans safe passage to Italy?
(The entire section is 257 words.)
Book 6 Questions and Answers
1. How does Misenus die?
2. What birds are sacred to Venus?
3. To whom does Dido turn for comfort?
4. Why does Aeneas not attack the monsters within the cave of hell?
5. What sort of activities do the dead enjoy in Elysium?
6. What similes does Virgil use to describe the gathering of the souls on the banks of the Lethe?
7. Who inhabit the Fields of Mourning?
8. What is symbolic about the father of Romulus?
9. What indicates that Numa is a priest?
10. What simile describes Dido’s response to Aeneas’ pleas?
1. He challenged Triton to a trumpeting duel and was...
(The entire section is 255 words.)
Book 7 Questions and Answers
1. What simile is used to describe Amata when the snake’s venom has made her mad?
2. How did Galaesus die?
3. Whom does Amata pretend has possessed her?
4. Why does Turnus enter the war?
5. Why does King Latinus offer his daughter in marriage to Aeneas?
6. Where do bees appear in this book?
7. What power does the priest Umbro have?
8. What does Latinus do when his people ask him to declare war?
9. What relatively trivial incident triggers the war?
10. Where has the image on Turnus’ helmet previously appeared in the Aeneid?
1. She is like a top, whipped...
(The entire section is 207 words.)
Book 8 Questions and Answers
1. How does Virgil describe Tiberinus?
2. What offering does Aeneas make to Juno?
3. Why does Evander recognize Aeneas?
4. How does Cacus attempt to hide the location of the cattle he steals?
5. How do Hercules’ troubles parallel Aeneas’?
6. How did Cacus decorate the outside of his cave?
7. Why is Mezentius no longer on his throne?
8. Who forges Aeneas’ wonderful armor?
9. What two people does Augustus face at Actium?
10. What different names are given for the forces whose aid Aeneas seeks?
1. Tiberinus is dressed in sea-green linen, with a crown of reeds on...
(The entire section is 184 words.)
Book 9 Questions and Answers
1. What is Turnus compared to as he paces the Trojan’s walls?
2. What does Euryalus say is a cheap price for honor?
3. Why does Euryalus not bid his mother good-bye?
4. What three things foreshadow the death of Nisus and Euryalus?
5. What final attempt does Nisus make to save his friend?
6. What two gods are used in the simile describing Turnus hauling a Trojan down from the fort’s walls?
7. Why doesn’t Bitias’ spear hit Turnus?
8. What simile is used to describe the death of the giant Bitias?
9. What mistake does Turnus make once within the Trojan camp?
10. How does the Tiber respond to...
(The entire section is 255 words.)
Book 10 Questions and Answers
1. Whose prophecies does Juno say the Aeneidae have been
2. Why is Pallas not afraid of Turnus?
3. How does Pallas’ belt mirror Pallas’ own fate?
4. Why does Hercules cry?
5. What curse does Aeneas pronounce over Tarquitus’ corpse?
6. Who is Turnus’ sister?
7. Why is Juno allowed to interfere in the battle?
8. Give two similes used to describe Mezentius on the battlefield.
9. Why is Aeneas distressed by the death of Lausus?
10. What is Mezentius’ last wish?
1. She says they have been following “the prophecies of mad Cassandra”...
(The entire section is 194 words.)
Book 11 Questions and Answers
1. What does Diomedes say has been the fate of the Greeks who participated in the Trojan War?
2. Along with gold and ivory, what gift does Latinus want presented to the Trojans?
3. Why does Evander want Aeneas to avenge Pallas’ death?
4. What difference is there between the Trojan and the Latin funerals?
5. How does Turnus insult Drances?
6. What metaphor is used to describe Turnus?
7. What aid do the gods improperly offer during the meeting of the forces outside of Laurentum?
8. What metaphor is used to describe the struggle between Tarchon and Venulus?
9. What second big opportunity does Turnus’ rage...
(The entire section is 305 words.)
Book 12 Questions and Answers
1. Who tries to discourage Turnus from fighting?
2. What sign does Juturna make appear in the sky?
3. How do Aeneas’ and Turnus’ responses to the disintegration of the truce differ?
4. What simile is used to describe Turnus as he races around in his chariot?
5. What simile describes Aeneas as he leads his troops back on the field?
6. What sign tells Turnus that his plans in Laurentum are all to come to nothing?
7. What other character dies exactly as Turnus dies (“with a moan...fled to shades below”)?
8. What animal simile is used for both Turnus and Aeneas?
9. Why does Juturna curse her status as an...
(The entire section is 271 words.)
Compare and Contrast
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What Do I Read Next?
For Further Reference
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Cairns, Francis. Virgil’s Augustan Epic. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1989. An outstanding piece of criticism that opens the poem to the reader. Explains the role of games in the narrative, the significance of numerous characters, and geographical and mythological references. Accessible and pleasantly written.
Gransden, K. W. Virgil: The “Aeneid.” Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Stresses the character of Aeneas, his moral burdens, his ambition, and his suffering. Also useful in understanding Vergil’s epic ambition and the political goals of his poem within the context of Augustan...
(The entire section is 330 words.)