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Free MonkeyNotes Book Notes-The Aeneid by Virgil-Free Online Summary
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BOOK THIRD - The story of the seven years wandering


At the foot of the mountains near the Trojan mount Ida, Aeneas and his men build a fleet and at the start of summer, Anchises desires them to leave the coast of Asia. They land on Thrace, which have been friendly to Priam while, his luck lasted. They begin to lay the foundations of a city. But as Aeneasí goes to pluck green boughs for the sacrificial alter, raised to the gods, he finds the branches plucked, ooze blood and do not yield easily. At his greatest effort to uproot a myrtle, a voice identifying itself as the Trojan Polydorus stops him. Then Polydorus reveals, how he had been sent by his father Priam to buy the support of, the King of Thrace. The King seeing Greeks, as likely victors murdered Polydorus and took away all the gold Priam had sent to buy aid. Polydorus then advised the Trojans to leave the land defiled by his blood. Aeneas approaches his elders and lays the case before them. They rebury Polydorus with appropriate rites and leave for the oracle of Apollo, at Delos.

Aeneas urges Apollo to guide them, to a new home. The answer of the oracle is that they seek out the land from which the race of Dardanus came to Troy. Anchises unrolling the old records, points to Crete from where Teucer, their forefather had sailed to the Rhoetean coasts. A rumor reaches them that Idomeneus had abandoned Crete, so they sail through the Greek isles and land at Crete, where Aeneas starts distributing homesteads and laying down the laws and the people start farming, when a pestilence attacks them destroying trees and crops. The draught continues causing deaths and misery. Anchises suggests consulting the oracle of Ortygia. But before that can be done, Aeneas has the dream vision, of his household gods coming before him. They tell him to seek out Hesperia, now called Italy, where Dardanus was born.

When Aeneas tells Anchises his vision Anchises realizes, the two- fold descent of the Trojans from Dardanus and Teucer and later wanderings, which had deceived him. He also recalls Cassandraís prophecy unbelieved by Trojans when she told them their fate was Hesperia. So they start out from Crete but three days of stormy weather cause the helmsman Palimirus to declare he can no longer steer. When on the fourth day they discern a shore, it is the island in the Ionic sea, which is inhabited by the Harpies. Here they find good cattle for their meal, but as they start eating the Harpies fly out from their mountain homes and attack the food.

Aeneas and his company move to another hidden cavern, but the Harpies reappear and Aeneas calls upon his men to attack them. They are unscathed by the steel but fly away, all except their queen Celoeno who prophesizes doom on them for attacking the Harpies in their own kingdom. She curses them, that they will reach Italy but, not build their city till great hunger makes them gnaw the platters on which their meat is carved. In great terror the crew urges Aeneas to pray to avert the disaster and after Anchises prays they set sail and pass kingdoms in the Ionic sea. After anchoring for a while on an island, they land at Buthortum town. Here on hearing that, Priamís son has succeeded to Pyrrhusís Greek kingdom and married Andromache, Aeneas and company desire to meet him. They encounter Andromache, who tells them of Pyrrhus/Neoptolemusí death at the hands of Orestes, whose bride he wooed.

Aeneasís travel weary people, have a short rest in Helenusís little replica of Troy. Then as the winds are favorable, Aeneas asks Helenus, to predict how his ensuing journey will be. Helenus is allowed only to give partial revelation by Junoís command. He warns Aeneas, to avoid certain islands like Circeís and be prepared for a long circuitous journey to Italy. He will recognize the spot on which to found the city, by the appearance of a milk-white sow with thirty newborn piglets, at her teats. He must avoid the Greek isles and steer towards the left after Sicily, to avoid the monster Scylla or the whirlpool of Charybdis and steer towards Trinacrian waters.

Helenus then instructs Aeneas to remember to worship Juno first and win her over with gifts and prayers while in Trinacria. Then on arriving at the woods of Avernus, he must spend time with the prophetess Sibyl, whom he must urge to give him her prophesy in her own voice and to collect the leaves on which it is written because it would inform him of the whole future of Rome and the nations of Italy and the wars to come. He also tells them to cover their heads with a purple cloth ever after when they worship the gods. Helenus then equips the ships with arms, horses and gifts. Aeneas in return hopes, for a unification of his city with that of Helenusís Epirus in future times.

Once at sea the helmsman, Palinurus from the position of the stars and the turn of the winds directs the fleet and at dawn they rejoice, as they see afar the outline of the coast of Italy. Seeing a fort of Minerva, they disembark to pay their respects to the goddesses and then sail again, experiencing the smoke of Mount Etna and the whirlpool of Charybdes they row left but in the Cyclops. There they find a Greek of Ulyssesí company left behind on the island. He tells them of Ulyssesí encounter with Polyphemus in the cave where, he lost two men and avenged their death by blinding Polyphemus. Taking this Greek on board they retrace their journey and sailing through more places finally reach Sicily, where Anchises passes away to Aeneasís great grief. Then setting out from Sicily they were waylaid to Carthage. Thus ends Aeneasís story.


The obvious source of Virgilís presentation of the wanderings of Aeneas is Homerís Odyssey. This section like the Odyssey, presents a brief geography of the region between Troy and Rome. Virgil has laid a lot of stress on, the realistic details of the preparations, hardships and obstacles in the course of this voyage, the utter dependence on winds and harbors and the dangers of inhospitable inhabitants.

At Thrace, Aeneas is told the grisly story of the bleeding forest resulting from the betrayal of Polydorus, Priamís son. The myrtle shrubs are the special offerings, associated with Venus. Venus, as the protector of Trojans has covered the unspulchred Polydorus, with myth. The opportunism and ruthless greed of the Thracian Greek King show the suspicion with which Romans viewed Greeks. Thrace is in Southeast Greece. From there they go, to the island of Delos. In the misinterpretation of the oracle, a subtle point is made by Virgil Anchises, despite his age and wisdom falls into error causing the suffering of his people by leading them to Crete. The message seems to be that oracles are liable to misinterpretation and may cause great harm. Anchises had looked up the wrong records of the first King of Troy, Teucer and Aeneas had not realized the significance of the oracle calling the Trojans, ďRace of Dardanus.Ē Dardanus, was the legendary figure, who came in over the mountains to settle in Anatolia, the mountains, the Dardanelles get their name from him. Teucer came from Crete and built the city of Troy, as a colony.

Idomeneus, was one of the Kings who had fought with Agamemnon in Troy. At the fall of Troy, Neptuneís wrath makes him promise to sacrifice the first person he sees on landing home in Crete. This happens to be his son so Idomeneus tries to wriggle out of his promise. This causes more turmoil in Crete till he abdicates his throne. Now the Trojans mistakenly expect to settle there ,but the pestilence-a common device of the godsí displeasure, as in Oedipus Rex drives them to consult the oracle again. It is rather amazing that, Aeneas does not acknowledge that Creüsaís apparition had named Hesperia, as their new homeland. Is this a reflection, of the total lack of esteem for Romans wives? The case of Cassandra being disregarded, has a divine command behind it. It is inexplicable how Virgil should have overlooked this early reference by Creusa in Book second where, she names Tiber.

The Harpies are well described as, the Furies used by the gods to punish men. Virgil has used them effectively here, to teach Aeneas a lesson about usurping anotherís land without divine decree. Celaenoís curse ironically becomes an omen, which assures Aeneas that they have reached the right place, when their food is short and his son quips that they would be eating the wooden platters in Book Seventh (l.114-15).

Through the story of Andromache, Virgil seems to give a definitive version of what became of this character after Hectorís death, where the Iliad stops. Briefly in Book second she is with the women at the fall of Priamís palace. Then a prize for Pyrrhus she is cast aside and given to Helenus, Priamís son who early on had defected to the Greek side (an aspect overlooked here). The really significant part of this narrative, is the death of Pyrrhus, by Orestes. Orestes himself had murdered his mother and was chased by Furies. As is made plain, war does not bring any real happiness even to the victors. Except Menelaus, who was the only really wronged one, all the other warriors on the Greek side return home to strife and are murdered like Agamemnon and Orestes, his son is driven out for avenging the murder. Others are displaced and flee their homes. Only Nestor, who is absent from Virgilís story died peacefully at Pylos. Troy is somehow avenged but that does not lessen the Trojan suffering. The futility of war and the importance of a peaceful submission to a superior authority is Virgilís message, throughout The Aeneid. Moreover, the unification of nations, under Roman rule is a necessity mentioned by Aeneas to Helenus and conveys the need for staunch unity among people of the same race, which was sadly lacking among Romans who in cliques sided with Pompey or Juluis Caesar, Octavian (later Augustus) or Marc Antony and caused a waste of resources in civil wars.

In this book Third, where navigation is so important, the helmsman Palinurus and his perfect knowledge of the stars and the winds is highlighted to show what a loss his death in Book Fifth is to be. Neptune, for the safe journey he provides must have his sacrifice, but it is remarkable that the sacrifice is almost at the point after which his skills would not be in much demand.

The Scylla and Charybdis warnings and the adventures of Ulysses in the land of the Cyclops is a reworking of two perils faced in the Odyssey. This invoking of vignettes from early works shows how Virgil found these stories worth retelling and it also is a form of homage to the Greek epic. Taking Achemenides, a Greek on board, shows the compassion and generosity of the Trojans. It also reflects by contrast Ulyssesí irresponsible adventuring nature compared to the father-figure care and concern Aeneas bestows throughout The Aeneid on the men in his company.

Aeneasí narrative ends with the death of Anchises at Sicily. His grief and reverence for his father shows Aeneasí sense of values. All the physical pains predicted by Celaeno, the Harpie and the dangers warned about in Helenusí prophesy are not as important to Aeneas as this emotional suffering at parting with his father whose spiritual strength and prayers supported Aeneasís own.

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