Study Guide

Aeneid

by Virgil

Aeneid Analysis

The Poem (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

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 ill-fated Dido. Then they come to the beginning of a forked road. One path leads to the regions of the damned; the other leads to the land of the blessed. Following the latter road, they come at last to Anchises, who shows Aeneas in marvelous fashion the future of Rome and commands him to found his kingdom at the place where he would eat his tables. On his return to the upper regions, Aeneas revisits his men and proceeds to his own abode.

Again the Trojans set sail up the coast of Italy, to the ancient state of Latium, ruled by Latinus. On the shore, they prepare a meal, laying bread under their meat. As they are eating, Ascanius jokingly observes that in eating their bread they are eating their tables. This remark tells Aeneas that this is the place Anchises foretold. The next day, the Trojans come to the city of King Latinus on the Tiber. Latinus was warned by an oracle not to give his daughter Lavinia in marriage to any native man but to wait for an alien, who would come to establish a great people. He welcomes Aeneas as that man of destiny.

A Latin hero, Turnus, becomes jealous of the favor Latinus shows Aeneas and stirs up revolt among the people. Juno, hating Aeneas, aids Turnus. One day, Ascanius kills a stag, not knowing that it is the tame favorite of a native family. From this incident, there grows such a feud that Latinus shuts himself up in his house and ceases to control his subjects. Aeneas makes preparations for battle with the Latins under Turnus.

In a dream, he is advised to seek the help of Evander, whose kingdom on the Seven Hills will become the site of mighty Rome. Evander agrees to join forces with Aeneas against the armies of Turnus and to enlist troops from nearby territories as well. Venus presents Aeneas with a fabulous shield made by Vulcan, for she fears for the safety of her son.

When Turnus learns that Aeneas is with Evander, he and his troops besiege the Trojan camp. One night, Nisus and Euryalus, two Trojan youths, enter the camp of the sleeping Latins and slaughter a great many of them before they are discovered and put to death. The enraged Latins advance on the Trojans with fire and sword and force them into open battle. When the Trojans seem about to beat back their attackers, Turnus enters the fray and puts them to flight. The thought of Aeneas inspires the Trojans to such bravery that they drive Turnus into the river.

Aeneas, warned in a dream of this battle, returns and lands with his allies on the shore near the battlefield, where he encounters Turnus and his armies. Evander’s troops are being routed when Pallas, Evander’s beloved son, urges them on and himself rushes into the fight, killing many of the enemy before he is slain in combat with Turnus. Aeneas seeks to take the life of Turnus, who escapes through the intervention of Juno.

Aeneas decrees that the body of Pallas should be sent back to his father, with appropriate pomp, during a twelve-day truce. The gods watched the conflict from afar; now Juno relents at Jupiter’s command but insists that the Trojans must take the Latin speech and garb before their city can rule the world.

Turnus leads his band of followers against Aeneas, in spite of a treaty made by Latinus. An arrow from an unknown source penetrates Aeneas, but his wound is miraculously healed. The Trojan hero reenters the battle and is again wounded, but he is able to engage Turnus in personal combat and strike him down. Aeneas kills his enemy in the name of Pallas and sacrifices his body to the shade of his dead ally. No longer opposed by Turnus, Aeneas is now free to marry Lavinia and establish his long-promised new nation. This is Rome, the greatest power of the ancient world.

Aeneid Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Troy

*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

*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 overthrow of Tyre, in Phoenicia, and the murder of her husband Sychaeus. The divinely contrived love affair between Dido and Aeneas results in the queen’s suicide and her curse, which results in the three Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage. Vergil has Jupiter specifically refer to Hannibal’s invasion of Italy in the Aeneid. By doing so, he continues to provide plausible mythic links to Roman history through indisputably real sites, which would have been known to readers of his time.

*Cumae

*Cumae. Ancient site of Apollo’s temple and of the Sybil, its priestess. The town is located near Pozzuoli just north of Naples. The soft tufaceous rock and its seismically active topography made this site appear to be a point of access to the realm of the dead. Indeed, in the Aeneid it is Apollo’s Sybil who guides Aeneas to the underworld to consult the shade of his mortal father Anchises on what fate holds in store for the Trojan people. Anchises warns his son that he will have to fight what is in effect a second Trojan War, this one in Italy, to marry the princess Lavinia and establish Lavinium.

The temple of Apollo described by Vergil would have been familiar to Imperial Roman visitors to Cumae. Here again he ties Roman prehistory to a place that would have been familiar to Romans of his time. By the time of Augustus, Cumae was more a resort than a place of pilgrimage, another of the sulfur-bath towns frequented by wealthy Romans. However, the shrine and the sibylline priesthood continued to be maintained until the early Christian church decreed destruction of the Sibylline Books. Augustus used many of the caves that dotted the Bay of Naples as storage facilities for his legions.

*Latium

*Latium. Roughly equivalent to the region of Lazio, the region of Italy that includes the city of Rome. Latium in the Aeneid also incorporates Lavinium, the city of King Latinus, father of Lavinia, the future bride of Aeneas. Lavinium thus becomes the site of a second Trojan War for a second contested bride. In 1975 archaeologists determined that the modern Prattica di Mare, a small farming community south of Rome, contains the citadel of Lavinium. They have unearthed thirteen ancient altars used for farm offerings as well as several late Mycenaean grave sites, one given the appellation “Grave of Aeneas” based on a problematic inscription.

*Pallanteum

*Pallanteum. Vergil’s name for the Etruscan settlement on the Palatine Hill at the future site of Rome. Aeneas tours this site with King Evander, his new ally in the battle to overcome the native Latin tribes living near Rome. All the details of topography that would have been familiar to Imperial Romans are present in Vergil’s description. There was, in fact, an Etruscan settlement on the site of Rome.

Aeneid Historical Context

Roman Government
Rome was founded in 753 BC. For nearly 250 years it was a monarchy. The last king was a tyrant whose son...

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Aeneid Setting

The action of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey covers the ten years of the Trojan War and the ten years following the Greek defeat of...

(The entire section is 195 words.)

Aeneid Quizzes

Book 1 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
1. Juno’s anger...

(The entire section is 252 words.)

Book 2 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

10....

(The entire section is 275 words.)

Book 3 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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...

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Book 4 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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
hunting?

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?

...

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Book 5 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

10. How...

(The entire section is 257 words.)

Book 6 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
1. He challenged Triton to a trumpeting duel and was...

(The entire section is 255 words.)

Book 7 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
1. She is like a top, whipped...

(The entire section is 207 words.)

Book 8 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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?

Answers
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

Study Questions
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

Study Questions
1. Whose prophecies does Juno say the Aeneidae have been
following?

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?

Answers
1. She says they have been following “the prophecies of mad Cassandra”...

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Book 11 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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...

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Book 12 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
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.)