Books 1 & 2 Summaries

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Last Updated January 30, 2023.

Book 1 Summary

Juno, still angry with the Trojan refugees, sends Aeolus, a powerful wind, to destroy their fleet as they sail from Sicily. She has been keeping them from Italy, where they are trying to go, for years, believing that they will one day destroy Carthage, her favorite city.

However, Neptune intervenes and calms the waters so that some of the ships can make it safely to Libya. Aeneas kills seven deer for his comrades then gives an inspiring speech before wondering what has become of his lost companions. 

Venus approaches Jupiter and reminds him he has sworn that Trojans will reach Italy and become the ancestors of the Romans, who will rule sea and land. Jupiter reassures her and prophesies about Rome’s greatness in the future and the lineage of rulers who shall extend Rome’s empire across the world. 

Jupiter sends Mercury to Carthage to ensure the Trojans are well received. There, Queen Dido sees a vision and is inspired to welcome them warmly by Venus's appearance as a maiden huntress disguised goddess. 

Aeneas, accompanied by Achates, reconnoiters the territory and is met by Venus who reveals that he has landed in Queen Dido’s kingdom of Libya. From atop a hill they are amazed to see the construction of Carthage and enter unseen, thanks to a spell placed on them by Venus, to the temple where Dido is constructing for Juno. Aeneas and Achates watch as several Trojans, who they believed were lost at sea, approach her. Seeing her beauty, Ilioneus asks permission for the Trojans to land and repair their ships. Dido agrees and even offers them settlement in Carthage with good treatment promised. 

The fog dissipates and reveals Aeneas's presence to Dido and the room. She welcomes him open arms and calls for a feast, during which Ascanius, Aeneus’s son, brings presents for Dido. However, Venus has Cupid take Ascanius’s place to ensure Aeneas's fortune and Dido’s love for him. 

Finally, at everyone's request, including Dido’s, Aeneas narrates his wanderings since Troy fell seven years prior.

Book 2 Summary

Aeneas shares the tale of his people’s wanderings since Troy fell.The Greeks and Trojans had been fighting for many years until the Greeks left behind a giant wooden horse, which was filled with well-armed soldiers. 

Laocoon, a priest, almost convinced the gathered crowd that the horse needs to be destroyed. However, a group of shepherds appears with Sinon, a Greek soldier, who told them it was an offering to win Minerva’s favor. 

Suddenly, a pair of giant snakes appear from the sea and kill Laocoon and his two young sons then slither to Minerva’s temple, taking this as a sign they should keep it. 

That night, Sinon lets out warriors from within the belly of the wooden horse and opens up Troy's gates for the other Greek forces. Hector warns Aeneas in a dream that he must take Troy's household gods away before leaving himself. While attempting to defend Troy against attack by Pyrrhus, Polites is killed at his own altar along with his father, Priam. Aeneas contemplates killing Helen, but Venus appears and orders him to go home instead. 

At home Anchises refuses to leave until a heavenly fire appears around Ascanius’s head, convincing him that it's time for them all to flee Troy. In the chaos Creusa gets separated from them; when Aeneas returns looking for her he finds only her ghost who tells him of his future destiny elsewhere with another bride and kingdom at the Tiber river. When morning comes they are joined by refugees waiting on Aeneas's leadership before leaving together towards the mountains.

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Books 3 & 4 Summaries