Aeneid Poem Summary and Story
Aeneid is the first literary epic written according to the conventions denied from Homer’s epics. The poem is a national epic designed to celebrate the origin and growth of the Roman Empire. The groundwork is the legend that Aeneas after the fall of Troy and long wanderings founded a Trojan settlement in Latium, the source of the Roman race. It is an epic poem in twelve books of hexameter.
Book I relates Aeneas’ journey to Latium for seven years after the fall of Troy, Juno knowing that a race of Trojan origin will threaten her beloved city Carthage incites Aeolus to raise a storm on the Trojan fleet. Some of the ships are wrecked but the remaining ships arrive at Carthage and were kindly received by Dido, the widow queen of Carthage.
In Books II and III Aeneas relates the fall of Troy and subsequent events at the request of Dido. In Book IV, Dido confesses her passion for Aeneas. A hunting expedition is interrupted by a storm, Dido and Aeneas take refuge in a cave and are united by the design of Juno and Venus. Jupiter orders Aeneas to leave Carthage. Dido makes piteous appeal and when Aeneas sails away in the Trojan fleet, she takes her own life heaping in her frenzy curses on Aeneas and his race.
Book V relates the return of the Trojans to Sicily. The anniversary of the death of the Anchises, is celebrated with sacrifices and games – race of ships, this boxing match, shooting match etc. The Trojan women weary of their long wanderings fire the ships.
Book VI relates the visits of the Cumacan Sibyl who foretells his wars in Latium. After plucking by her direction the Golden Bough, he descends with her to the underworld. He meets his father Anchises. This book contains the memorable lines on the destiny of Rome.
Book VII describes the arrival of the Trojans at the mouth of the river Tiber. Latinus is the king of the land Latium. His daughter is Lavinia. Her father has been divinely warned to marry her to a stranger who shall come. The embassy sent by Aeneas is welcomed by Latinus who offers alliance and the hand of his daughter. Turnus, the suitor of Lavinia and Amata, the mother of Lavinia are stirred by Juno to show hostility to the Trojans. The wounding of a stag from the royal herds by Ascanius causes an affray. The Italian tribes gather to expel the Trojans.
Book VIII describes Aeneas facing the war encouraged by the god of river Tiber. The Arcadian Evander, the founder of the city on the Palatine hill, part of the future Rome promises support and urges alliance with the Etruscans. Vulcan, at the request of Venus forges armour for Aeneas. The shield is described.
Book IX relates the blockade of the Trojan camp by Turnus and the burning of Trojan ships. Neptune turns them into sea nymphs. Aeneas is summoned by Nisus and Euralus. Ascanius performs his first exploit.
In Book X Aeneid, the gods debate in Olympus. Aeneas secures the alliance of Tarchon, king of the Etruscans, and returns to the seat of war, accompanied by Pallas and Tarchon. Turnus kills Pallas: he pursues a phantom of Aeneas contrived by Juno and is borne away to his city. Acneas wounds Mezentius whose son Lausus tries to save him.
In Book XI Aeneid, Aeneas celebrates the Trojan victory and laments Pallas. A truce with the Latins is arranged. It is suggested that the issue shall be settled by single combat between Turnus and Aeneas. Aeneas and his army move against the city. Camilla is killed.
Book XII shows the dejection of the Latins. A single combat between Aeneas and Turnus is arranged. But Juturna, sister of Turnus stirs up the Rutulians, and the general fighting is resumed. Aeneas is wounded by an unknown hand, but healed by Venus. The Trojans seeing the city of Latinus left unguarded attack and fire it. Amata takes her life. Turnus returns from the pursuit of Trojan soldiers, meets Aeneas and the two fight. Aneneas kills him to take revenge on the death of Pallas.
Mythical and supernatural elements predominate in the Aeneid. The striking feature of the poem is the conception of Italy as a single nation, and of Roman history as a continuous whole from the founding of the city of the full expansion of the Empire. Its mythology is said to be stiff and conventional; characters lack force and distinctness.
The episode of Dido and Aeneas is criticised for Aeneas’ shabby rejection of her suit. Dido’s passion has entangled Aeneas, but the will of the gods would prevail. Virgil draws on the Iliad and the Odyssey combining in his poem the travel-adventures of the latter with the warfare of the former. He models on Homer many episodes the funeral games in Book V, the visit to the underworld in Book VI, the description of the shield in Book VIII. The epic poem has the structural development through adventures and wars of Aeneas and the final establishment of the Roman Empire.