Aeneas shows up in the Iliad as an important Trojan hero, and in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, he is born when Zeus fed up with Aphrodite’s mischievousness in making gods fall in love with mortals, makes her fall in love with Anchises. Thus he was immortal and the Romans attached themselves to this early background by the third century BCE about Aeneas being the founder of Rome as the Trojans were very old and the Romans were unwilling to claim that they came from the Greeks. The story of Aeneas begins when he leaves Troy after the sack of the city hoisting his father on his shoulders and carrying his household gods Troy’s divine protectors with his son Ascanius and a few Trojan survivors on the quest of a new country. This is the beginning of the poem when Virgil relates the long and hazardous journey until Aeneas reaches Italy at the mouth of the Tiber near the place where generations later the city of Rome would be erected.
Their peregrination is of course not without obstacles and adversities as Juno’s hatred for the Trojans has not abated and thunder shakes and rocks the sky while their vessels sink and others are broken on the ridges. Neptune moved by Aeneas pleas and prayers calms down the waters and they survive with only seven ships reaching the coasts of Libya in Carthage, a city founded by Queen Dido who welcomes the shipwrecked persons. The gods have other plans and Venus with the help of her son Cupid makes Dido fall in love with Aeneas who charmed by the Queen’s softness & life in Carthage tarries too long there. Later Venus reminds him of his duty and asks him to sail towards the promised land of his ancestors for Rome has to be founded far away from Africa’s coasts and so the hero leaves Carthage abandoning Dido. Driven by despair and sorrow she curses him and asks her sister to light a fire to help in her magic curse to purge away Aeneas and commits suicide by stabbing herself upon the pyre with Aeneas’ sword. Their pursuit to reach the Italian coast is once again thwarted by the goddess Juno’s wrath for this time she unleashes the hatred of the native Latins and the Rutulis of the region. Forntunately with the help of the Etruscan army they are able to overcome the enemies and Aeneas would finally marry Lavinia, Saturn’s descendant and would be the founder of the Roman race.
In the first six books of his epic, Virgil presents his hero as an Odysseus wanderer while in the last six books he must prove himself in the war in Italy as an Illiadic warrior. Virgil reverses the chronological order of the Homeric epics and both Odysseus and Aeneas start their journey from Troy. In the twelve books of the Aeneid, Virgil condenses the forty-eight books of Homer’s Illiad and the Odyssey.
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