Aeneid Summary
by Virgil

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Aeneid Summary

The Aeneid is an epic poem by Virgil about Aeneas, a Trojan hero who escapes the fall of Troy and founds the kingdom that will be become Rome.

  • The story begins as Aeneas sailing for Italy, gets caught in a storm, and lands near Carthage.
  • In Carthage, Aeneas tells Queen Dido about the Trojan War and how afterword he traveled to the oracle of Apollo, who prophesied that he would found a great nation.
  • Aeneas and the Trojans settle in Latium and go to war with the native Italians. Aeneas kills their leader and marries their princess, Lavinia.

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Summary of the Poem
The Aeneid is an epic poem, detailing Aeneas' journey. The first six books of the Aeneid recount the adventures of Aeneas, the future founder of Rome. The last six books tell of the settlement of the Trojans in Italy and the war with the Italians.

After the fall of Troy, a small group of refugees (the Aeneidae) escaped, and Aeneas became their leader. Several prophecies predicted that this group would settle in Italy and become ancestors of the Romans. The Aeneidae suffer many hardships; similar to those suffered by Odyseus (attacks by the Cyclops, Scylla and Charybdis.) After wandering for years, the Aeneidae arrived in Italy, settling in Latium. Before they are accepted, they have to fight a terrible war. After slaying Turnus, Aeneas is free to marry Lavinia, the princess of Latium.

Virgil begins the poem as Aeneas is sailing on the last leg of his predestined journey to Italy. Tremendous storms batter his ships and they take refuge on the nearest land. Aeneas hears that Queen Dido is constructing Carthage. The Queen falls in love with Aeneas and begs him to tell her the story of the fall of Troy.

Aeneas relates the tale at the request of the Queen. After the fall, the band of exiled men sailed to Delos where the oracle of Apollo predicted that they would found a great nation. He details his adventures up to the present time for the Queen. Dido and Aeneas' love is ill-fated. He must follow the destiny the Gods have made for him. When he leaves Dido commits suicide.

The ships finally arrive in Italy, near Cumae. Aeneas visits the temple of Apollo to consult a prophetess. She appears to him and tells Aeneas of the war he will fight and of his enemies. He asks to descend into Hades, where he meets his father, Anchises. Anchises shows Aeneas his future heirs and the heroes of Rome.

The Trojans continue on and settle in Latium. Aeneas realizes his prophecy has been fulfilled. A war breaks out and Aeneas is given magical armor by the Gods for protection. Turnus, the leader of Latium's defense, attacks the Trojan camp, and many lives are lost. Turnus announces that the husband of Lavinia will be determined by a duel between Aeneas and himself. Aeneas kills Turnus in battle. The prophecies of the gods have been fulfilled.

The Life and Work of Virgil
Born in 70 BC, Publius Vergilius Maro grew up in northern Italy on a gentleman's farm. His parents recognized his talents and gave him a good education, hoping he would take up a career in law. After studying in northern Italy at the schools of Cremona and Milan, he went to Rome in 53 BC to complete his training as a lawyer. Neither the city nor the occupation appealed to him, and after pleading his first case he returned permanently to the countryside.

From the Bay of Naples, Virgil (as he is called in English) began to write poetry. Ignoring the tide of chaos overwhelming Rome, he chose to focus on pastoral subjects. His first work, the Eclogues ("selections"), were presented as poems of shepherds. The descriptions of happy flocks and bucolic love were well received by the Roman public, who wanted to hide from the turmoil of their lives in poems that celebrated and romanticized the simple life. Two years later, in 42 BC, Virgil found his estates confiscated by Julius Caesar's heir Octavius. Fortunately, his work had won for him the attention of Maecenas, Octavius's good friend and the premier literary patron of the time. With...

(The entire section is 3,198 words.)