The Aeneid 2
Want a study guide too?
Pious Aeneas strikes again. This time, with more destiny and hand-to-hand combat! (Of course, since we're talking about Aeneas, he's still harping about that whole duty thing.)
|Author||Virgil - Virgil|
Fate and Free Will
Memory and the Past
War and Warfare
Here’s the opening line of the Aeneid:
I sing of arms and of a man.
So which is it? What exactly is the Aeneid about? Arms, or a man?
First, let's make one thing clear. We're not talking about arms… we're talking about
Like… more weapons than we can count.
So you could definitely argue that the Aeneid is about arms.
After all, this is a bloody story of war. In that way, it takes after Homer's Iliad.
For comparison, the opening line of Homer's Iliad is:
Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus' <<peel-ee-us>> son Achilles.
The anger in this case being, you guessed it… war.
Blood. Guts. Dismemberment. All the juiciest details of conflict.
But Virgil wasn’t inspired by the Iliad alone.
Ever heard of the Odyssey?
Just as the Odyssey was about Odysseus… The Aeneid is about Aeneas <<uh-NEE-iss>>.
In case you’ve misplaced your copy of the Odyssey, we’ll remind you of its first line,
Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven.
That’s right… the man.
The Aeneid follows in these footsteps and tells the story of a dude on a quest who ends
up in some seriously sticky situations. But maybe the first line is deceiving. Is
it possible that the Aeneid is about neither arms nor a particular man?
It might just be about the whims of the gods and the founding of Rome.
And those gods are fickle. 
They’re just as likely to turn you into a sheep as they are to bless you with a bountiful
You don’t ever want to be on their bad side.
Is the Aeneid about arms?
Is it about a man?
Is it just an origin story about the chosen city of the gods?
Or is it all of the above? Shmoop amongst yourselves.
This is utterly and completely not true. The epic was not sung. It was recited.
The only reason that the epic starts with "I sing" is because he was copying Homer.
There was really no singing in Rome. This is wrong. It's PEEL-ee-us
I mean…it really is about all of them…so, the question posed at the end doesn't really
have a lot of substance. This is really only part of the story.
Because Aeneas is the son of a goddess, and Augustus, the first emperor, is supposedly
descended from the goddess and is therefore divine. So, although you could say that the
gods are fickle, the gods are actually pretty authoritative. And the whole point is that
the founding of Rome was divinely determined—it was fate—and so the city is basically the
chosen city of the gods.