Virgil begins his poem with a statement of his theme (Arma virumque cano..., "I sing of arms and of a man...") and an invocation to his Muse (Musa, mihi causas memora..., "O Muse, recall to me the reasons..."). He then explains the cause of the principal conflict of the plot; in this case, the resentment held by Juno against the Trojan people. This is in keeping with the style of the Homeric epics. Boxing scene from the Aeneid (book 5), mosaic floor from a Gallo-Roman villa in Villelaure (France), ca. 175 AD, Getty Villa (71.AH.106) Boxing scene from the Aeneid (book 5), mosaic floor from a Gallo-Roman villa in Villelaure (France), ca. 175 AD, Getty Villa (71.AH.106)
Also in the manner of Homer, the story proper begins in medias res, with the Trojan fleet in the eastern Mediterranean, heading in the direction of Italy. The fleet, led by Aeneas, is on a voyage to find a second home. It has been foretold that in Italy, he will give rise to a race both noble and courageous, a race which will become known to all nations. Juno is wrathful, because she had not been chosen in the judgment of Paris against Aeneas's mother Venus, and because her favorite city, Carthage, will be destroyed by Aeneas' descendants. Juno proceeds to Aeolus, King of the Winds, and asks that he release the winds to stir up a storm in exchange for a bribe (Deiopea, the loveliest of all the sea nymphs, as a wife). He agrees, and the storm devastates the fleet. Neptune takes notice: although he himself is no friend of the Trojans, he is infuriated by Juno's intrusion into his domain, and stills the winds and calms the waters. The fleet takes shelter on the coast of Africa. There, Aeneas's mother, Venus, in the form of a hunting woman very similar to the goddess Diana, encourages him and tells him the history of the city. Eventually, Aeneas ventures in, and in the temple of Juno, seeks and gains the favor of Dido, Queen of Carthage, the city which has only recently been founded by refugees from Tyre and which will later become Rome's greatest enemy.
At a banquet given in the honour of the Trojans, Aeneas recounts the events which occasioned the Trojans' fortuitous arrival. He begins the tale shortly after the events described in the Iliad. Crafty Ulysses devised a way for Greek warriors to gain entry into Troy by hiding in a large wooden horse. The Greeks pretended to sail away, leaving a man, Sinon, to tell the Trojans that the horse was an offering and that if it were taken into the city, the Trojans would be able to conquer Greece. The Trojan priest Laocoön, who had seen through the Greek plot and urged the horse's destruction, hurled his spear at the wooden horse. Just after, in what would be seen by the Trojans as punishment from the gods, Laocoon was suddenly grabbed and eaten, along with his two sons, by two giant sea snakes. So the Trojans brought the horse inside the fortified walls, and after nightfall the armed Greeks emerged and began to slaughter the city's inhabitants. Aeneas woke up and saw with horror what was happening to his beloved city. At first he tried to fight against the enemy, but soon he lost his comrades and was left alone to fend off tens of Greeks. Venus intervened directly, telling him to flee with his family. Aeneas tells of his escape with his son Ascanius and father Anchises, his wife Creusa having been separated from the others and subsequently killed in the general catastrophe. He tells of how, rallying the other survivors, he built a fleet of ships and made landfall at various locations in the Mediterranean (including Thrace, Crete and Epirus). One of these locations was Buthrotum, a city which tried to replicate Troy. There, he met Andromache, the wife of Hector. She still laments for the loss of her valiant husband and beloved child. There, too, Aeneas saw and met Helenus, one of Priam's sons, who had the gift of prophecy. Through him, Aeneas learned the destiny laid out for him: he was divinely advised to seek out...
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