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The Aeneid

The Aeneid


by Virgil

Aeneas Timeline and Summary

  • While sailing past Sicily, Aeneas and his fleet get hit by a storm whipped up by Juno.
  • Aeneas's first reaction is to exclaim how it would have been much better to die at Troy than die at sea.
  • After losing some ships to the storm, the fleet manages to make it to shore in Libya. Aeneas's first instinct is to head for high ground; he wants to scan the sea for signs of his lost comrades.
  • Even though he doesn't find them, he does manage to shoot seven deer – one for each of his remaining ships. He brings these down to the shore for his men to eat.
  • When he gets there, he gives the men an encouraging speech. We are told that, on the inside, Aeneas is more upset than anyone else.
  • The next day, Aeneas goes out exploring again with his buddy Achates. This time they run into a young huntress, who happens to be Aeneas's mom, the goddess Venus, in disguise.
  • Once the pretence has been done away with, Venus fills Aeneas in on the political situation he's walked into, and on the fate of his lost comrades (they're OK).
  • Then the goddess turns to go, and, as she does, Aeneas recognizes her. "Hey, mom!" he calls out, "What's with the disguises? I just want to spend some quality time with you!"
  • But Venus doesn't answer. Instead, she leads him and Achates in a cloud of mist (making them invisible) into the heart of Carthage.
  • Aeneas, who has city-building on the brain, is jealous of what he sees.
  • Then he goes up to the temple of Juno and admires its nifty decorations based on the Trojan War.
  • From this vantage point, he sees Dido come in, take her seat, and welcome representatives from the ships he thought he lost.
  • At a certain point, Venus dispels Aeneas and Achates's cloak of invisibility. She also makes Aeneas look great, so that Dido will fall in love with him.
  • Dido is suitably impressed, and she invites Aeneas to dinner with her. Aeneas, always a family man, sends Achates back to the camp to get his son Ascanius. (As it turns out, Venus replaces the real Ascanius with the god of love, made to look like him.)
  • That night, after Dido asks, Aeneas begins to tell the story of what's happened to him.
  • Aeneas's story begins with the fall of Troy. After explaining how the wooden horse ended up being brought into the city, Aeneas reveals how he was asleep in his house when the Greeks started attacking the city.
  • At that point, the Trojan warrior Hector appeared to him in a dream and told him to get up and get moving.
  • Aeneas and other Trojans fought bravely in defense of the city, but it wasn't enough to save it.
  • Then, after Aeneas saw Neoptolemus kill Polites and his father, King Priam, he suddenly thought of his own father, Anchises, back home, and ran off to find him.
  • On the way, he came across Helen. He was about to kill her, as punishment for causing the whole war, but then his mom, Venus, appeared to him and told him it wasn't Helen's fault. Then she revealed the role the gods were playing in the destruction of the city.
  • Then Aeneas went home. At first, the family was confused over whether they should stay or go.
  • Then, flames started shooting out of the head of Ascanius, Aeneas's son. Anchises prayed to the gods, who sent a shooting star as a sign that they should go together.
  • Aeneas finally left the house carrying his father, Anchises, on his shoulders, and leading his son, Ascanius, by the hand. His wife, Creusa, followed behind.
  • When they came to the rendezvous point, however, Aeneas realized that Creusa had been left behind. He ran back through the burning city to find her, but without success.
  • Then, suddenly, Creusa appeared to him as a ghost, and said, "Go found a new city."
  • Aeneas said, "OK," and went back to the others. By now there were other others: a whole bunch of refugees from Troy. They hid out on the slopes of scenic Mt. Ida until springtime, when they sailed out.
  • First they went to Thrace, which seemed like a good place for a settlement. Aeneas prepared to make a sacrifice. Unfortunately, when he went to pluck some myrtle saplings to decorate the altar, blood came out of the ground.
  • It turned out that this was the burial mound of Polydorus, a Trojan. They found this out because Polydorus told them, speaking from underground.
  • Aeneas and company decided to leave.
  • Then they went to Delos, where the oracle of Apollo told them to go to the original home of the Trojan people. Anchises thought this was Crete, but after they went there and set up shop, they were struck with a plague and other maladies.
  • The night before Aeneas was set to go back to Delos and ask for clarification, his household gods told him in a dream that Italy was actually the original home of the Trojan people. (Who knew?)
  • The next day, Aeneas consulted with Anchises and they decided to head for Italy.
  • After sailing for a little bit, they were driven by storms onto another island. This one looked pretty sweet, because there was lots of livestock on it; unfortunately the livestock was the property of the Harpies, who wouldn't let the Trojans chow down.
  • Next the Trojans went to Chaonia in Epirus, where they visited the Trojan prince Helenus, who
  • was now married to Hector's widow Andromache and ruling over a community of Greeks. Helenus gave the Trojans directions, which basically boiled down to: steer clear of Scylla and Charybdis.
  • This advice came in handy (after a close call with the Cyclopes), and the Trojans ended up sailing around the south coast of Sicily. That's where they buried Anchises, who happened to die at this point. Then the Trojans were hit by the storm that drove them to Carthage. This is the end of Aeneas's story.
  • By the time the story is over, Dido has a big crush on Aeneas. A few days later, while Dido and Aeneas are out hunting, Juno and Venus set things up so a thunderstorm forces them to share a cave.
  • That's not all they share. Soon, Dido and Aeneas are the newest celebrity couple.
  • When the local tabloids make their way to the North African King Iarbas, who was once jilted by Dido, he complains to his father, Jupiter, who gets mad that Aeneas has gotten distracted from his mission of founding Troy; he sends Mercury down to set things right.
  • Mercury finds Aeneas dressed up in fancy Carthaginian clothes, and overseeing the construction of the walls of Carthage. Mercury tells Aeneas not to destroy his son Ascanius's legacy. Aeneas is like, "Rats. You're right." He tells the Trojans to get their stuff ready.
  • Even though he tries to keep it a secret, word reaches Dido. She confronts Aeneas, who basically says, "It's not my fault." Then he goes back down to the shore.
  • That night, as Aeneas is sleeping on his ship, Mercury comes down again and tells him to leave immediately. Aeneas does as he's told.
  • The next morning, as the Trojans are hitting the high seas, they catch sight of Dido's funeral pyre on the shore behind them, and have a good idea what happened.
  • Then a storm catches them again, and they head for the nearest shore, which happens to be Sicily – at the exact point where they buried Anchises a year earlier.
  • Aeneas decrees a feast day and ritual commemoration of his father; nine days later, he hosts athletic contests in his honor. Aeneas gives out the prizes to the winners.
  • The contests end when Juno convinces the women to set fire to the ships. The ships are only saved when Aeneas prays to Jupiter, who sends down some rain.
  • After this disturbing incident, Aeneas is confused about what to do.
  • Nantes, a wise old Trojan, suggests that they should leave behind in Sicily the number of people the burned ships would have carried. They can leave the women and the old, who can found a new city in Sicily.
  • Aeneas isn't sure about this, but then, in the sky, he sees an image of Anchises. The image tells him to follow Nantes's plan. This convinces Aeneas.
  • The image also tells him that, upon arriving in Italy, he will first have to visit his father in the underworld, where he will learn the future of his people.
  • With his new leaner, meaner team, Aeneas sails off to Italy, putting it at Cumae in the Bay of Naples. There, he visits the Sibyl, a priestess of the god Apollo.
  • He asks her to show him the way down to the underworld. She tells him where to find the golden bough, which will act as his passport. But then she tells him that the Trojans first have to purify themselves because one of their number has died and remains unburied.
  • It turns out this is some moron named Misenus. After Aeneas gives the orders for his funeral, he prays for a sign that the Sibyl's other predictions will come true. Venus sends down two doves.
  • Next Aeneas asks to be shown where the golden bough is. The doves fly off and lead him there.
  • When Aeneas finds the bough, he breaks it off, even though it clings to the tree. This is kind of weird, because the Sibyl said that you can't force the bough to come off. Oh well.
  • Then Aeneas and the Sibyl descend to the edge of the underworld. Charon, the ferryman, takes them across.
  • Once on the other side, Aeneas sees Dido and tries to speak to her. Of course, he says that he's sorry, and that it wasn't his fault that he had to leave her, but she doesn't listen.
  • After seeing and hearing about a lot of freaky stuff, Aeneas and the Sibyl eventually make it to where Anchises is watching over the souls waiting to be reborn.
  • Aeneas asks, "Why would they want to?"
  • Then Anchises reveals to Aeneas the secrets of the universe – including a form of reincarnation.
  • Next Anchises shows Aeneas the souls of future Romans, including some of his own descendants. This makes Aeneas super fired up to finish his mission.
  • Then Anchises shows his son and the Sibyl the way out of the underworld – through the ivory gate of false dreams.
  • After Aeneas rejoins his companions, they keep sailing up the coastline, eventually stopping at Latium.
  • Aeneas and company unload their stuff on the shore, and feast on some pizza-like food. This fulfills an earlier prophecy saying they would end up being hungry enough to eat their tables. (The pizza dough is like a "table," sort of.)
  • Aeneas recognizes this as a sign from the gods and throws a party.
  • The next day, they go out exploring, and Aeneas sends emissaries to King Latinus. He offers them his daughter Lavinia, saying she can marry Aeneas. He also gives the Trojans permission to settle on the coastline.
  • Juno doesn't like this, however, and engages in various machinations to start a war between the Italians and the Trojans.
  • While Aeneas is wondering what to do about this, he falls asleep.
  • In his sleep, Aeneas sees Tiberinus – the god of the River Tiber – appear before him. Tiberinus tells Aeneas to sail up…uh…himself, and meet up with a guy called Evander, who is king of the Arcadians. He tells Aeneas to make an alliance with Evander.
  • Aeneas wakes up and gets two ships ready. Then he sees a white sow nursing thirty piglets, something Tiberinus had said would be a sign he was in the right place. Aeneas says, "Hot dog!" and promptly sacrifices them to Juno.
  • Then Aeneas sails up to the river, finds King Evander, and convinces him to ally himself with them. Evander also puts Aeneas in charge of his young son Pallas and tells them to get the Etruscans on their side too.
  • The next day, they head off. On their way, they are met by Venus, who gives Aeneas some nifty armor she got her husband – Vulcan, the god of fire – to make for him. On the shield are depicted images of Rome's future glory. Aeneas doesn't understand it, but thinks it's pretty cool.
  • Then we lose track of Aeneas for a while. During that time, the Trojan fort on the beach is attacked by an army of assorted Italians, commanded by the Rutulian prince Turnus.
  • Finally, Aeneas shows up with a bunch of allies, Etruscan and Arcadian.
  • They immediately join the battle, and Aeneas kills a lot of guys. In the same fight, Pallas gets killed by Turnus.
  • This makes Aeneas really mad. He kills a bunch of guys, and takes four other guys prisoner, planning to sacrifice them at Pallas's funeral.
  • He also kills various guys who are surrendering and begging for mercy.
  • The most prominent guys he kills are Lausus, the young son of the fearsome Mezentius. Then, when Mezentius comes after Aeneas for revenge, Aeneas kills him, too.
  • After the battle, Aeneas makes offerings to the gods in gratitude for his victory. He also gives orders for Pallas's body to be taken back home to his father, Evander.
  • Aeneas also agrees to a twelve-day truce with the Italians to bury their dead.
  • Three days later, however, the truce is broken.
  • The day after that, Turnus challenges Aeneas to a one-on-one, winner-take-all duel. Aeneas agrees.
  • Unfortunately, thanks to some divine meddling, the two armies end up fighting a battle anyway.
  • Finally, Aeneas and Turnus come head-to-head. The other soldiers back off and clear a space for them.
  • Aeneas chases Turnus around for a while, but finally succeeds in wounding him with a spear.
  • Turnus surrenders, and asks for mercy. Aeneas thinks about sparing him, but then sees that Turnus is wearing a belt taken from Pallas.
  • This makes Aeneas enraged, and he kills Turnus with his sword.

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