Book 3 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 942

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New Characters:
Polydorus: murdered son of Priam

Celaeno: leader of the Harpies

Helenus: Priam’s son

Andromache: Hector’s widow, now married to Helenus

Achaemenides: an abandoned member of Ulysses’ crew

Palinarus: a Trojan pilot

Polyphemus: the cyclops blinded by Ulysses

Acestes: king of Sicily

The Trojan exiles build a fleet at the base of Mount Ida. When summer arrives, Anchises bids them to set sail. Their first settlement is in Thrace, which was formerly allied with Troy.

While tearing a myrtle branch from a nearby bush, Aeneas is dismayed to find blood dripping from it. A voice from the ground below announces that he is Polydorus, slain by the king of Thrace. He bids Aeneas leave this country. After holding a proper funeral ceremony for Polydorus, the Trojan exiles depart.

The Aeneidae (followers of Aeneas) land in Delos, home of the shrine of Apollo. Aeneas prays to Apollo for guidance. They are told to return to their ancient home. Anchises says that the oracle must return to Crete, ancestral home of the long-dead Trojan King Teucer.

The Trojans arrive in Crete and build a new home there. Not long after their arrival, a pestilence falls on the people and the crops. Before they can return to Delos for further advice, the household gods appear to Aeneas and tell him that he is supposed to go to Italy, birthplace of ancient King Dardanus of Troy.

En route to Italy, a storm washes the fleet upon the shores of the Strophades, home of the foul Harpies. Aeneas and some of his men kill some of the Harpies’ goats and cattle. The Harpies contaminate their meal twice, and when the Trojans try to fight the Harpies off they find they cannot hurt them. Celaeno curses them for stealing their animals and then attacking them, saying that the Aeneidae will not found their settlement in Italy until hunger has forced them to eat their tables. The Trojans leave and sail to Actium, where they spend a year.

The fleet then goes to Buthothrum, where they find Helenus has become king and taken Andromache as his wife. Aeneas first encounters Andromache, who is praying at the empty tomb of Hector. She tells Aeneas that she was Pyrrhus’ concubine, but that Agamemnon’s son Orestes had killed Pyrrhus, making Helenus heir to a small kingdom. Helenus then approaches and takes them into the city. He prophecies the route the Aeneidae will have to take to Italy, warning them to avoid Scylla and Charybdis and advising a visit to the Sibyl before the journey’s end.

After reluctantly departing this friendly land, the Trojan exiles unknowingly come to the island of the Cyclops. After a frightening night, they encounter Achaemenides, who begs them for sanctuary. He warns them to quickly depart this land of man-eating monsters. Upon seeing the blinded Polyphemus the fleet quickly departs, barely escaping his clutches.

After more sailing, Aeneas’ group docks in Drepanum, on the island of Sicily. There Anchises dies, and from there the Trojans came to Carthage. Aeneas at last ends his tale.

Over the course of the third book, Aeneas experiences a quiet revolution. From being a man who follows his father’s occasionally wrong advice, Aeneas becomes a man accustomed to leadership. His divine sanction as leader is confirmed in the vision of the household gods, which announces Aeneas’ troop’s destination to Aeneas—not his father. Roman society highly valued “patria potestas”—the power of the father. Had Anchises survived, Aeneas would have still been obliged to give him a leadership position. With Anchises gone, it is Aeneas who now leads, acquiring the epithet “Father Aeneas.”

As Aeneas has now been repeatedly told of his destiny to found a city, he also becomes a man with a mission: to take his people not just to a new land, but to Italy. For this reason, despite the many obstacles placed in his way, Aeneas continues to push on. The supernatural nature of the oracles he has received make it almost impossible for him to do otherwise. Indeed, settling in Italy becomes not just a goal; it becomes a duty that Aeneas must fulfill. This devotion to duty over personal pleasure is what makes Aeneas a true leader in the Roman vein.

Virgil’s imitation of the Odyssey is apparent in Aeneas’ visit to the island of the Cyclops where he meets a member of Ulysses’ crew. Other similarities exist in Aeneas’ near encounters with the enchantress Circe and the monsters Scylla and Charybdis. Like Ulysses, Aeneas will also visit the underworld in book six, which concludes the Odyssey-inspired half of the Aeneid. The second six books are often called the Iliad half, but they do not follow Homer’s plot so closely. Instead, they incorporate lesser events of the Homeric epic while emulating the Homeric style.

After the high drama of the fall of Troy, Book Three provides a break in what has been a tense story line. This pattern of following a momentous book with a less dramatic one is one of the basic structural features of the Aeneid. Virgil’s preference for variety is at odds with Homer’s style. The difference can be explained by the contrast in Homer’s and Virgil’s intended audiences. Homer’s repetitive style aided memorization and was appropriate for oral story telling. Virgil, however, wrote with the intent of being read. For this reason not only does he carefully organize the books into alternating patterns of action and relaxation, but Virgil also, according to R. D. Williams, “varies his accounts of landings and departures to avoid any repetition” (Williams, 43).


Book 2 Summary and Analysis


Book 4 Summary and Analysis