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Free MonkeyNotes Book Notes-The Aeneid by Virgil-Free Online Summary
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

Written between 29BC and 19BC, this Roman epic traces the journey of the last Trojan warrior Aeneas. After the fall of Troy, Aeneas is entrusted the task of founding a new city in Italy. So, the epic traces his course from Troy in Anatolia, Turkey (formerly Asia Minor) to Italy.

The epic starts however with unfavorable winds driving the ships to Carthage (Tunisia) in North Africa, when they set out from Sicily. Fleeing the attraction of Dido in Carthage the ships stop by Sicily again on their way to the mainland of Italy where they land at the mouth of the River Tiber in Latium (the Lazio region) after visiting the Sibyl at Cumae.

LIST OF CHARACTERS

Major Characters

Aeneas

The son of a mortal Trojan Prince Anchises and the goddess Venus, Aeneas has valiantly defended Troy until it was burnt down by the Greeks after ten years of war. Now the oracles prophesize a destiny for him as the founder of the city state of Rome, where he must lead his son Iülus or Ascanius, as he is called and the remaining Trojans, who have fled their cityís ruin.

Dido

Queen of Carthage who grants refuge to the shipwrecked Trojans. But her passion for Aeneas, makes her want to detain him in her kingdom, instead of letting him proceed to Rome. When Aeneas leaves Carthage to fulfill his destiny, she kills herself cursing the Romans as perpetual enemies of Carthage.


Turnus

The Rutulian prince of Ardea in Italy was to marry King Latinusís daughter. He becomes the leader of the Latins, the natives of Italy (Rutulians, Ausomans) and starts the war against the Trojans. He is described as the fairest and foremost prince but is misguided.

Minor Characters

Anchises

As Aeneasís father functions as a moral authority and experienced guide for the Trojans even after his death. He also symbolizes the Trojan way of life.

Iülus/Ascanius

Is Aeneasís son and hope of the future of the Trojan race. A little of his leadership is revealed and much more of his dutiful and affectionate character as a son.

Evander & Pallas

The old Arcadian king and his son instantly ally their forces with the Trojans. Evander is another father figure in the later part of the epic.

Aceste

Is the king of Sicily of half-Trojan blood who welcomes Aeneas on his way to Italy. He even allows the old and weary Trojans to settle in his kingdom.

King Latinus

King Latinus of Latium on the banks of the Tiber, the father of Lavinia whom he is willing to give as a wife to Aeneas as the oracles decree. However he is old and too weak to control even his wife.

Queen Amata

The consort of Latinus supports Turnus whom she favors as a son- in-law. She sparks off the revolt among the Latin against the Trojans.

The Warriors

A few will be remembered for unusual exploits - Nisus and Euryalus, the athletes whose valiant exploits while the Trojans were besieged in Latium, in addion to Mnestheus, Sergestus, Gyas, Cloanthius and other leaders, are some of the hundreds of fighters among the Trojans listed besides the Etruscans who support Aeneas. Camilla, Mezentius and his son Lausus, Messapus and many others are mentioned in the roll call of the armies of Italy (Book Seventh) and they support Turnus.

The Immortals

The Gods and the Goddesses

Among the supernatural forces, the controllers of human actions in classical epics, Jupiter or Jove as the ruler and maker of the destinies of men and nations is most important. He has also to maintain the balance between the two warring goddesses Juno and Venus who are linked to the destinies of the men in the epic. Juno the wife of Jove is the goddess whose hatred of the Trojans places all the obstacles in the fulfillment of Aeneasís destiny. She has no qualms of calling up even the forces of evil the Furies to aid her cause. Venus as the mother of Aeneas and the protector of the Trojans must remain alert and make complaints to Jove to salvage the situation wrought by Juno.

Poseidon or Neptune

The sea god is significant because the ships and the voyages depend on him. In general he aids the Trojans, but he must have his sacrifice too. Mercury functions as the messenger of Jove. He reminds Aeneas of his destiny and helps mortals according to Joveís commands. Apollo or Phoebus the sun god is central to any pagan epic, because the sooth-sayers depend on him. His oracles counsel the hero and interpret the omens. The Sibyl and Hercules as two peculiarly Roman deities figure in minor roles along with Cybale the mother of gods, Maia the Earth goddess and Diana. The forces of Dis (Pluto), the Furies, Acheron the boatman of Styx, Iris the Rainbow (a bridge between the two worlds) and Allecto the Fury of strife are all a part of the epic. Mars remains peripheral but Vulcan makes an armor for the hero to oblige Venus just as Cupid appears once to strike an arrow of passion. In the last book appears the purely Latin deity of lakes and streams Juturna, Turnusí sister.

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