What does Aeneas learn in Book II of the Aeneid?
Book II of Virgil’s epic takes place in Carthage where Aeneas recounts his exploits at Troy to the assembled Carthaginians and their queen, Dido, as well as the surviving Trojans. Aeneas’ tale fits into roughly three sections; the discovery of the wooden horse and Sinon, the ensuing battle of Troy, and finally Aeneas’ flight from the fallen city. This is clearly a distressing subject for Aeneas who says “no man could speak of such things and not weep”. The fact that the vast majority of this book is in retrospect lends and interesting angle to Aeneas’ narration, the power of hindsight. This colours Aeneas’ language with his own thoughts on what transpired and how he reacted towards these events. But most importantly of all this book details the early characterisation of Virgil’s hero and we see him develop, fulfilling the role that Virgil has in mind for him. This is achieved by Aeneas learning several important matters about not only his destiny, but also who he is required to be.
Throughout this book, Aeneas must come to terms with the inevitability of the events unfolding around him, events which he is powerless to resist. He is slow to realise that he has to shatter this illusion of free will and accept that the beloved Troy of his past must fall for Rome to be founded. The gods have arguably the most prominent role in Troy’s downfall, and for mortals, there is no greater enemy to have. The gods are mentioned in a general sense as a fixed adversary of Troy continually in lines such as “if the minds of the gods had not been set against us” and the description of the divinely inspired wooden horse as “the engine of fate” which give the indication of a doomed city, or as Virgil says himself “the last day of a doomed people”. However the gods are also referenced for more explicitly and individually as architects of Troy’s destruction. Pallas Athene is possibly the most involved of the gods in this sense....
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