The Aeneid Context Books

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Book 1 Summary

  • Juno is angry with Aeneas' men because they have escaped Troy and because she has heard they will found a race who will overthrow Carthage.
  • She promises Aeolus a nymph bride if he releases the winds Aeneas. He does, and Neptune is angry that the storm has displaced his sea. He restores the ships.
  • They reach land and Aeneas helps gather supplies while they mourn their lost friends. Venus cries to Jupiter because Aeneas is suffering, and he says the Romans will be great.
  • Jupiter sends Mercury to make Dido hospitable to the Trojans, and the next day Venus appears to the men as a Spartan girl. She tells him where they are and Dido's background, and Aeneas only recognises her when she leaves. Aeneas admires the busy Carthaginians.
  • A frieze of the Trojan War is on the Temple of Juno. Dido appears, but Aeneas and his men are veiled in mist from Venus. Their lost friends appear at the temple and beg suppliance.
  • Dido welcomes them, and says she wishes Aeneas was here, at which point the mist disappears, Venus makes Aeneas beautiful and he speaks to Dido.
  • Dido takes him to her palace and he sends for Ascanius and gifts. Venus puts Ascanius to sleep and takes him to one of her safe places while Cupid disguised as him is sent instead.
  • During the feast Aeneas tells his stories of the Trojan War and Cupid sits on Dido's knee, breathing fire and mad passion into her heart.
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Book 1 Quotes

Gods: "A great God was sitting there, marking her out to suffer"

Narrative techniques (dramatic irony): "To satisfy the great love of his father who was not his father"

Honour and reputation: "Is there anywhere now on the face of this earth that is not full of the knowledge of our misfortunes?"

Family: "Why do you so often mock your own son by taking on these cruel disguises?"

Narrative techniques (juxtaposition): "Lifted his head high above the crests of the waves and looked serenely out" / "Jupiter was looking down from the height of heaven"

Rome's imperial destiny: "On them I impose no limits of time or place"

Narrative techniques (foreshadowing): "The doomed Dido was drawing out the night with all manner of talk" / "The unfortunate Dido, doomed to be the victim of a plague that was yet to come"

Portrayal of war: "Aeneas groaned from the depths of his heart to see the armour stripped"

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Book 2 Summary

  • Aeneas talks about Troy's fall. Laocoon guesses that the Trojan Horse is full of Greeks, and throws a spear into its belly. Some shepherds bring Sinon to Priam.
  • Sinon lies and says the Greeks have left, and that Ulixes was plotting against him so Sinon would become a sacrificial victim but that he escaped and is afraid.
  • He says the Horse is an offering to Pallas because they defiled the Palladium.
  • Two serpents come from the sea and eat Laocoon and his children before resting at the feet of Pallas' statue in her temple. The Horse is dragged into the city.
  • That night, the Greeks come out, burn the city and start killing. Hektor appears to Aeneas in a dream telling him to leave Troy with the household Gods. 
  • Aeneas arms himself and defends the city with some men. They kill some Greeks and take their armour and kill more. Cassandra is kidnapped by Greeks.
  • At Priam's palace, Hecuba and 100 women are gathered round an altar with their household Gods. Priam arms himself but sits with them. Pyrrhus kills Polites in front of them.
  • Priam throws a spear and Pyrrhus kills him on the altar. Aeneas sees Helen hiding at the Temple of Vesta and goes to kill her but is stopped by Venus who makes him go home.
  • Anchises refuses to leave, until Jupiter sets Iulus' head on fire. Aeneas carries Anchises and holds Iulus' hand while Creusa walks behind. He becomes separated from her.
  • When he returns to look for her, her ghost appears and tells him to leave, so he does.
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Book 2 Quotes

Moral values: "We had never met villainy on this scale before. We were not familiar with the arts of Greece"

Narrative techniques (hindsight / foreshadowing): "Four times it stopped on the very threshold of the gate, and four times the armour clanged in its womb"

Rome's imperial destiny: "I bowed down and took up my burden"

Family: "So afraid both for the man I carried and for the child at my side"

Women: "Wipe away the tears you are shedding for Creusa whom you loved"

Narrative techniques (irony): "This was the last day of a doomed people and we spent it adorning the shrines of the Gods all through the city with festal garlands"

Honour and reputation: "So ended the destiny of Priam (...) his mighty trunk lay upon the shore, the head hacked from the shoulders, a corpse without a name"

Narrative techniques (pathos): "The old man feebly threw his harmless spear. It rattled on the bronze"

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Book 4 Summary

  • Dido is in love with Aeneas but doesn't want to break her vows to Sychaeus. Anna convinces her to pursue the love and not be unhappy forever because Sychaeus wouldn't want that.
  • They sacrifice to the Gods to ask their blessing. The Carthaginians stop their work as Dido is taken over by the love. Juno and Venus make a false agreement to marry Aeneas and Dido.
  • Everyone goes out to hunt, and thunder and hail trap Aeneas and Dido in a cave together. Juno blesses their 'marriage'. Rumour spreads, and Iarbas prays to Jupiter Ammon to not let him be shamed like this. Jupiter sends Mercury to tell Aeneas to leave.
  • Rumour gets to Dido and she finds Aeneas and begs him not to leave, but he refuses. She asks Anna to ask Aeneas to stay a bit longer, but he refuses.
  • Omens like consecrated milk turning black and wine turning to gore haunt Dido. She asks Anna to build a pyre so she can burn Aeneas' remaining possessions.
  • Dido lays an effigy of Aeneas on the pyre, on their mariage bed along with his weapons.
  • An image of Mercury comes to Aeneas and tells him to leave immediately so they sail away. Dido sees the fleet leave, and she curses Aeneas, setting enmity between his people and hers.
  • She falls on his sword, and Anna arives, lamenting and blaming herself, and climbs the pyre to hold her dying sister and share her death.
  • Juno takes pity on Dido and sends Iris to free her from her body.
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Book 4 Quotes

Narrative techniques (foreshadowing): "Dido was casting about in her mind how she could most quickly put an end to the life she hated" / "This was the beginning of her death"

Moral values: "But no griefs moved Aeneas" / "Could I not have put his men to the sword, and Ascanius, too, and served his flesh at his father's table?"

Family: "With these words Anna lit a fire of wild love in her sister's breast"

Narrative techniques (pathos): "Dido was on fire with love and wandered all over the city in her misery"

Gods: "Let us allow her to become the slave of a Phrygian husband"

Narrative techniques (Homeric simile): "Like a wounded doe which a shepherd hunting in the woods of Crete has caught off guard" 

Rome's imperial destiny: "You owe him the land of Rome and the kingdom of Italy" / "Let there be no love between our peoples and no treaties"

Narrative techniques (comparison to Cleopatra): "Pale with the pallor of approaching death"

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Book 6 Summary

  • Aeneas visits the Sibyl of Cumae. The doors of the Temple of Apollo show Cretan myths. Apollo speaks through the Sibyl, asking for vows and prayers.
  • Aeneas promises to set up temples to Apollo and Diana in his city, and to the Sibyl too, if he can be free of the luck of Troy. He is told he will reach Latium and will suffer, that there will be wars and a second Achilles is waiting for him there. 
  • The Sibyl says he cannot enter the Underworld until he has found the golden bough, and buried his friend. Venus' doves guide Aeneas to the golden bough, and he discovers the dead friend is Misenus. He holds burial rites for him, and enters the Underworld.
  • He sees concepts of suffering, shades of monsters, and ghosts on the banks of the Styx, and meets Palinurus. Charon reluctantly ferries them across when he sees the bough.
  • He sees Dido among the victims of unhappy love, but she runs from him. 
  • He meets Deiphobus and other Trojans among the brave warriors, and the Greeks run away.
  • Next they pass Tartarus and its great punishments.
  • Finally they reach the land of joy, Aeneas sprinkles himself with water and fixes the bough in the doorway to enter. The warrior shades are peaceful.
  • Anchises shows him the souls who will be reincarnated into great Romans, including Romulus, Augustus, and Marcellus.
  • Aeneas and the Sibyl leave through the Gate of Ivory (the gate of false dreams).
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Book 6 Quotes

Moral values: "Until you have prayed the great mouths of my house are dumb and will not open"

Omens and prophecy: "I see wars, deadly wars, I see the Thybris foaming with torrents of blood" / "O my sons, do not harden your hearts to such wars"

Narrative techniques (comparison): "A second Achilles is already born in Latium"

Gods: "Apollo shook the reins upon her in her frenzy and dug the spurs into her flanks"

Heroism: "It resisted, but he broke it off impatiently"

Narrative techniques (pathos): "Phoenician Dido with her wound still fresh"

Honour and reputation: "They entered the land of joy, the lovely glades of the fortunate woods, and the home of the blest" / "This is the greatest grief that you and yours will ever suffer"

Rome's imperial destiny: "These are the souls to whom Fate owes a second body" / "Augustus Caesar, son of a God" / "Your task, Roman, (...) will be to govern the peoples of the world in your Empire"

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Book 7 Summary

  • Aeneas performs funeral rites. Neptune keeps them safe as they sail past Circe's island.
  • They arrive up the Tiber. Latinus is descended from Saturn. Lavinia is his only child and Amata wants her to marry Turnus.
  • A swarm of bees around a laurel tree foretells the arrival of a stranger and his conquering army. Lavinia's hair setting fire shows she will be great but that war is coming.
  • Latinus visits the oracle of Faunus, his father, and is told to marry Lavinia to a stranger.
  • Aeneas and his men fulfil the prophecy of eating their tables. He prays and they feast.
  • The next day he orders his men to take olive branches to Latinus. He brings them into his palace, which is well-decorated with depictions of his ancestors.
  • They tell him that they arrived deliberately to join their races, and he sends for Aeneas.
  • Juno, angered, summons Allecto and tells her to spread war in the country.
  • Allecto sends Amata mad with a black viper in the heart, and she runs madly through the city. She makes Lavinia dance for Bacchus in the woods and rouses the other mothers.
  • Allecto visits Turnus in his sleep and tells him to go to war, he rebuffs her so she throws a black torch in his heart, filling him with anger and war-lust. He rouses men to arms.
  • Allecto draws Iulus' dogs to Silvia's pet stag. He kills it, and the Latins start war.
  • Juno sends Allecto away. Latinus refuses to open the Gates of War so Juno does.
  • A list of all the men going to war ensues, and lastly Camilla is mentioned.
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Book 7 Quotes

Omens and prophecy "By their blood to raise our names to the stars"

Narrative techniques (juxtaposition/pathos): "A young man (...) fell to the ground" / "Old Galaesus (...) the justest man"

Honour and reputation:"Statues of their ancestors from time long past" / "Many races have wished to be joined to ours"

Rome's imperial destiny: "The descendants of that stock will see the whole world turning under their feet and guided by their will" / "This Aeneas is the man the Fates demand"

Narrative techniques (imagery):"Without her knowing it, it breathed its viper's breath into her and made her mad"

Women:"Made the heavens ring with whimpering and wailing" / "War is the business of men"

Narrative techniques (comparison): "His forefathers were Inachus and Acrisius of Argos" / "And above all, anger"

Gods: "The cruel goddess saw (...) that this was a moment when harm might be done"

Narrative techniques (metaphor/peripeteia): "A great terror burst in upon his sleep"

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Book 8 Summary

  • War is raging in Latium. Thybris comes to Aeneas in his sleep and tells him to make a peace treaty with Evander. Aeneas sacrifices the white sow and her piglets to him.
  • Evander is making sacrifices to Hercules when Aeneas arrives. Pallas goes to see them first, and Aeneas tells him their families are related, so they are welcomed as friends.
  • They join the ritual, and Evander explains how Hercules saved them from Cacus.
  • Evander tells Aeneas about the places' history, and Virgil links it to the contemporary.
  • Aeneas goes to sleep, and Venus is afraid of the Laurentines. She begs Vulcan to make Aeneas some armour, because she never asked him for anything in the Trojan War.
  • Vulcan sleeps with her and says she has no need to beg. The next morning he tells his Cyclopes to stop their work for the Gods and make Aeneas some armour.
  • Evander tells Aeneas about the tyrant Mezentius, and about a prophecy which says that the Etruscans shall not be ruled by an Italian. Pallas can't rule as he is half-Italian.
  • Venus flashes thunder in the sky, the sign that war and armour are on their way.
  • Aeneas is sad for the Laurentines and Evander says a sad goodbye to Pallas.
  • Venus brings his armour. The shield depicts Romulus and Remus, Rome, the **** of the Sabines, Mettus, Porsenna, Cloelia, Gauls, Catiline, Cato, Augustus, Agrippa, Antony and Cleopatra, and nomadic tribes. Aeneas wears them without knowing what they are.
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Book 8 Quotes

Narrative techniques (irony): "Marvelling at it, and rejoicing at the things pictured on it without knowing what they were"

Rome's imperial destiny: "Aeneas lifted on to his shoulder the fame and fate of his descendants" / "What Roman power had now raised to the heights of the sky, in those days was a poor land ruled by Evander" / "My head waters rise among lofty cities"

Portrayal of war:"Anubis barked, and all manner of monstrous Gods levelled their weapons at Neptune and Venus and Minerva"

Narrative techniques (comparison to Dido):"Pale with the pallor of approaching death"

Honour and reputation:"Augustus Caesar, leading the men of Italy into battle alongside the Senate and the People of Rome, its Gods of home and its great Gods"

Moral values: "Alas! What slaughter waits upon the unhappy Laurentines!"

Omens and prophecy: "You are the man the Gods are asking for"

Heroism: "Armour has to be made for a brave hero"

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Book 9 Summary

  • Juno sends Iris to tell Turnus to attack the Trojan camp. He prays to Heaven.
  • When his army appears, the Trojans disappear inside the camp to defend it, as Aeneas had told them not to have a battle without him.
  • Cybele convinces Jupiter to turn the Trojan ships into nymphs to keep them safe.
  • Turnus says the Trojans are trapped, and that the Rutulians are better than Greeks.
  • They camp outside for the night, and Nisus and Euryalus decide to find Aeneas.
  • Ascanius and other Trojans bless their mission. They kill part of the sleeping Rutulian camp. Euryalus steals armour and Messapus' helmet, and its glinting alerts the Latin army.
  • Nisus loses Euryalus in the woods, and when he goes back to look for him he finds the Latins have already captured him. He kills some of them but they both eventually die.
  • Their heads are stuck on spears, and the Trojans weep. Euryalus' mother, the only woman to follow the Trojans to Latium, loudly laments the son to whom she never said goodbye.
  • The Rutulians try to break into the camp, and the Trojans throw rocks at them, but they are protected by their tortoise formation. Helenor and Lycus are killed.
  • Remulus insults the Trojans, and Ascanius kills him. Apollo tells him to stop fighting.
  • Pandarus and Bitius open the gates and the Rutulians are slaughtered, but Turnus kills many before the Trojans gang up on him and attack him until he leaps into the river and escapes.
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Book 9 Quotes

Moral values: "Offered up prayer upon prayer to the Gods and burdened Heaven with his vows" / "Does every man's irresistable desire become his God?"

Narrative techniques (hubris): "But the boldness and confidence of Turnus never wavered"

Omens and prophecy: "Destiny and Venus were satisfied the moment Trojans set foot on the fertile fields of Italy" / "You have become a man, young Iulus, and we salute you! This is the way that leads to the stars"

Narrative techniques (pathos): "Sorrow like this was too much for the Trojans to bear"

Women:"Your mother will be my mother in everything but the name Creusa" / "The woman who gave birth to such a son will receive no ordinary gratitude"

Narrative techniques (juxtaposition): "Left the blood gurgling out of his trunk and warming the ground as the black gore soaked through the bedding"

Portrayal of war:"Their heads were lolling. He cut them off" / "The wound was hideous"

Narrative techniques (comparison): "We shall not be hiding in the blind belly of a horse"

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Book 10 Summary

  • Jupiter summons a council of Gods to tell them not to interfere with the war. Venus says the Trojans have obeyed the Gods, and that she will let Aeneas die if she can save Ascanius.
  • Juno says that she has done nothing wrong and neither has Turnus. The Gods mutter to themselves, and Jupiter silences everything to say each man will face his own fate.
  • The fighting continues, with Aeneas on the way and Pallas asking him lots of questions. The army coming with Aeneas is described.
  • The ship-nymphs come to Aeneas and tell him his camp is under attack. Fire blazes on Aeneas' head and the Rutulians see it, but Turnus rouses them.
  • Aeneas and Pallas join the fighting. Juturna advises Turnus to take Lausus' place in the battle, and he declares that only he is allowed to kill Pallas. Pallas throws a spear at Turnus.
  • Jupiter comforts Hercules, who is sad because he is forbidden to help Pallas. Turnus kills Pallas and steals his baldric. Aeneas hears of his death and starts killing en masse.
  • Juno asks Jupiter to save Turnus, but he only grants him a stay of death.
  • Juno creates a phantom Aeneas, and Turnus follows it into a boat, at which point she keeps him away from the land. He is distraught, and so is she.
  • After more fighting, Aeneas wounds Mezentius. Lausus sees and charges at Aeneas, but is killed. Aeneas feels remorse when he sees his body and gives him back for burial.
  • Mezentius hears of his death and rides at Aeneas. He becomes trapped under his dead horse and knowingly dies by Aeneas' sword.
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Book 10 Quotes

Family: "Allow my grandson to live. As for Aeneas, let him be tossed by storms in unknown waters" / "The boy Ascanius is trapped behind a wall and ditches"

Gods: "The earth trembled to its foundations and the heights of Heaven were hushed"

Narrative techniques (comparison to Augustus): "Jupiter is the same king to all men"

Narrative techniques (Homeric simile): "Like the gloomy, blood-red glow of a comet (...) shedding its sinister light across the sky"

Heroism: "The task of the brave man is to enlarge his fame by his actions"

Narrative techniques (pathos): "In desperation Pallas tore the warm blade out of the wound, and blood and life came out together" / "Now for the first time does a wound go deep"

Narrative techniques (symbolism): "On this great belt an abominable crime was embossed"

Moral values: "He groaned from his heart in pity (...) the thought of his own devoted love for his father"

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Book 12 Summary

  • Latinus creates a treaty which says the winne shall marry Lavinia, and if Aeneas is defeated then the Trojans will settle with Evander in Pallanteum.
  • Amata begs Turnus not to fight because she says she will kill herself if he dies.
  • More fighting ensues, and Juno convinces Juturna to help Turnus.
  • Aeneas and Latinus sacrifice to declare that Trojans and Italians will be equal if Aeneas wins. The Rutulians are worried that Turnus seems defeated while he prays.
  • Juturna rouses the Rutulians to fight, and sends an omen of an eagle attacking a swan.
  • Aeneas doesn't believe the treaty has been broken until he is wounded by someone.
  • Turnus, hopeful, starts to kill more. Aeneas is taken away to be healed, but nothing works (depite the healer having been taught by Apollo), until Venus brings some dittany.
  • Aeneas kisses Ascanius before he starts fighting again. Juturna disguised as Metiscus, Turnus' charioteer, drives him away from Aeneas. Aeneas tries to take Latium by fire.
  • Amata thinks Turnus is dead, and hangs herself. Turnus tells Juturna that he knows who she is. He runs into battle after hearing of the siege and telling her he is ready to die.
  • Aeneas chases Turnus ten times around the city. Aeneas' spear gets caught in the stump sacred to Faunus. Juturna gives Turnus his sword back and Venus frees Aeneas' spear.
  • Jupiter and Juno agree to peace if the name of Troy is no longer used.
  • Juturna finally leaves Turnus when a Dira attacks him. Aeneas wounds him but then, after seeing the baldric of Pallas, he kills him while he is begging for his life.
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Book 12 Quotes

Omens and prophecy: "The current of the Thybris is even now warm with our blood" / "The most powerful portent that ever confused and misled men of Italy"

Women: "His mother the Goddess will not be at hand with her woman's tricks"

Portrayal of war: "Sharpening his spirit and rousing himself to anger"

Narrative techniques (pathos): "Learn now the grief that is yours, Juturna"

Narrative techniques (foreshadowing): "His cheeks were like a boy's" / "Turnus was thunderstruck"

Honour and reputation: "The shining glory of the deed is lost in darkness, and no man boasted that he had wounded Aeneas"

Heroism: "Her son's underserved suffering" / "I am resolved to suffer what bitterness there is in death" / "Burning with mad passion and terrible in his wrath"

Family: "Let your spirit rise at the thought of your father Aeneas and your uncle Hector"

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