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Barron's Booknotes-The Aeneid by Virgil-Free Book Summary
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But the women's irritability and weariness have given Aeneas new doubts. He can see their point. An old and wise sailor suggests that they leave the women, as well as the old and sick, behind in Sicily under the protection of King Acestes. Aeneas can't decide what to do until the spirit of his dead father appears to him and tells him that the sailor's advice is good. Anchises also tells Aeneas that when he gets to Italy, he must descend to the underworld and visit Anchises. Then Anchises will be able to show Aeneas what the future holds for his people.

Note that leaving the women behind changes the character of the Trojan group. The men who will land in Italy are warriors. Instead of a band of homeless exiles, with their wives and children, this group looks much more like an invading army. You'll see that this becomes an important asset in the second half of the Aeneid.


Venus wants to make sure that this time the Trojans really get to Italy. So she asks Neptune to give them calm sailing. He agrees but demands one life in return. The unlucky victim is Palinurus, Aeneas' faithful pilot. In the middle of the calm night, as the ships glide gently over the water, the god of sleep makes Palinurus fall asleep and then throws him overboard. Aeneas wakes up to discover the ship drifting aimlessly and his pilot gone. Mourning for his lost comrade, he guides the boat himself to Italy.

NOTE:

In this scene you see a good example of a theme we find hard to understand today-the belief that the gods demand the sacrifice of innocent victims. The Trojans-and the Romans of Virgil's day-often sacrificed animals. Sometimes the gods demanded people as well. In a way, wasn't Dido sacrificed to the gods' larger plans?

But you can also think about this incident in another way. You don't have to believe in the gods to imagine how this accident could have happened naturally. Palinurus is sitting up all night with no one to talk to. The ship is rocking gently. It's not hard to see why he falls asleep; anyone might. You might begin to suspect that the gods can be seen as forces or tendencies that are part of every person. Thus, the god of sleep isn't outside Palinurus; it's part of him.


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Barron's Booknotes-The Aeneid by Virgil-Free Book Summary
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