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 Sicily, where Anchises dies. From the underworld, he foretells the greatness of Rome and commands Aeneas to end his travels at the place where he will eat his tables. Although he appears only as a shade within the poem, the old man figures as a sage patriarch in the recital of earlier events.
Ascanius (as-KA-nih-uhs), sometimes called Iulus, the son of Aeneas. He fulfills Anchises’ prophecy of the place to settle when he declares, while the Trojans are eating food heaped on large pieces of bread, that they are eating their tables. He takes part in one battle, in which he acquits himself with bravery befitting the future founder of a city and a kingdom.
Creusa (kree-EW-suh), Aeneas’s wife. After she becomes separated from her husband and son during the flight from Troy, Aeneas searches for her despairingly until her shade appears to tell him that she is lost to Troy forever and that in Italy an empire awaits him.
Dido (DI-doh), the queen of Carthage, whose love for Aeneas causes her death. When Jupiter sends Mercury, the messenger of the gods, to remind Aeneas of his mission, the hero prepares to continue his wanderings, in spite of the vows he has sworn and Dido’s pathetic pleas that he remain with her. On the pretext of burning the love tokens he gave her, Dido prepares a funeral pyre and, lamenting her betrayal, kills herself after the departure of Aeneas and his band. Considered one of the most wronged women in all literature, Dido has beauty, charm, and character, though the latter she sacrifices to the whims of Venus.
Anna, Queen Dido’s sister and confidante.
Latinus (leh-TI-nuhs), the king of Latium. Because the oracles have foretold that a stranger will appear, marry his daughter, and rule his kingdom, Latinus befriends Aeneas and promises him the hand of Lavinia, the royal princess, in marriage. The prophecy is not immediately fulfilled, however, for Juno, the enemy of Aeneas, sends the Fury Alecto to turn Amata, the wife of Latinus, against Aeneas. Amata finds a confederate in Turnus, the leader of the Rutulians, her choice as a husband for Lavinia. Bewildered and grieved by this dissension, Latinus goes into retirement. Turnus takes command of the Latiums and Rutulians in the war with the Trojans and their allies.
Lavinia (leh-VIH-nih-uh), the beautiful young daughter of King Latinus and his wife Amata. Loved by Turnus but betrothed to Aeneas, she becomes the prize for which the leaders contend in a bloody tribal war. She becomes the bride of Aeneas after the hero has killed Turnus in single combat and peace has been restored.
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