the aeneid chapter summaries


Book 1

Book 1: Aeneas, a prince of Troy is struggling to find his ancestral homeland, but Juno opposes him. She hates the Trojans because of the Judgment of Paris, which insulted her beauty, the theft of Helen, which violated Juno's position as the goddess of marriage, and the future fall of Carthage, her favorite city. After seven years of confused wandering, Aeneas has gotten near his goal of Italy, but Juno interferes. She arranges for a storm to drive him toward North Africa and Carthage. Dido, founder and queen of Carthage welcomes Aeneas and his companions. Although Jupiter assures Venus that her son Aeneas will prevail and found the Latin race in Italy, Venus is a worrier, so she sends Cupid to poison Dido with love for Aeneas, so she will not harm him.

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Book 2

  • Book 2: Dido is gracious to Aeneas and his companions and interested in the story of the fall of Troy. Aeneas tells her how the Greeks created the deception of the Trojan Horse and how the gods confused the Trojans when a priest, Laocoon, struck the Trojan Horse with his staff and was promptly devoured by serpents. A treacherous Greek, Sinon, released the Greeks from the Horse, now inside the city of Troy, and the slaughter began. Aeneas relates the final battle, and his furious fighting until his mother Venus revealed to him that the gods themselves were destroying Troy and instructed him to leave Troy with his father (Anchises), son (Ascanius) and the household gods of his family and of Troy. While fleeing Troy, Creusa, Aeneas' wife was parted from them and killed.

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Book 3

Book 3: Aeneas tells Dido how his band of Trojans searched for a new Troy. First they went to Thrace where they encountered the Trojan Polydorus in the form of a bleeding bush that warns them of treachery. They perform funeral rites for Polydorus and quickly leave Thrace. Next they travel to an island where a prophetic voice advises them to "seek out your ancient mother." However, they don't know for sure where that is. Anchises thinks it's Crete, where they try to found a city, but soon they start dying of pestilence. The household gods appear to Aeneas to tell him that Italy is their true ancient mother. Then they encounter the horrid Harpies in the Strophades. Caelano, a Harpy prophetess of sorts, warns them that when they get to Italy, they'll be so hungry they'll eat their plates. Next they land at Actium in N.W. Greece, where they hold Trojan Games. After this, they sail to Buthrotrum, where the Trojan Helenus, Apollo's priest, directs them to Italy, but first Aeneas must go to the Cumaean Sybil and the Underworld. They safely pass through the Sicilian Ulyssesland: Cyclop's island, Scylla and Charybdis. But before they can reach their goal of Italy, Anchises dies and then the storm, concocted by Juno, drives them to Africa. So here they are in Carthage.

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Book 4

Book 4: The Dido Affair. Dido had been married to a Tyrian, Sychaeus, who was treacherously killed by her brother. Dido fled Tyre with a band of followers and came to North Africa, where she acquired land to found the city of Carthage. Poisoned by Cupid, Dido fell madly in love with Aeneas, which conflicted with her vow to her dead husband Sychaeus to remain faithful to him. Juno and Venus cooperate, each thinking to further her own cause. Juno wants to keep Aeneas from founding Rome, which will eventually conquer Carthage; Venus wants to keep her son safe from Dido's potential treachery. So, Juno and Venus set up the "marriage." Dido and Aeneas are out hunting, there is a storm, they seek refuge in a cave. Here they mate, while Juno sets off lightning and nymphs cry out. Dido calls it marriage; Aeneas does not. The lovers are negligent of their duties; Dido ceases working on her city; Aeneas forgets his destiny. Finally, Jupiter sends Mercury to chide Aeneas about his neglected duty to his son and their future descendants in Italy. Immediately dutiful to the will of the gods and Destiny, Aeneas secretly arranges his departure. When Dido discovers that he is leaving, she begs him to stay. He cannot, will not, so she raves and rages, curses the Trojans and kills herself on a pyre heaped with Aeneas' belongings and items of witchcraft. Meanwhile, Aeneas and the other Trojans are in their boats sailing away.

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Book 5

Book 5: This book is the prelude to the world of the dead. First, Aeneas goes back to Sicily where he arranges Memorial Games for Anchises, who has been dead for a year. Here, Aeneas displays his skills as a leader, carrying out rituals, presiding at the games, encouraging his men, restraining anger, preventing injuries. Meanwhile, Juno has been biding her time. She sends her messenger, Iris, to inflame the Trojan women with fury, encouraging them to burn the Trojan ships so they will not have to travel any further. A torrential rain saves all but four of the ships. Aeneas leaves the reluctant behind; the remaining Trojans continue on toward Italy and the underworld

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Book 6

Book 6: The Cumaean Sibyl gives prophecies about Aeneas' future in Italy and leads Aeneas into the underworld. Unlike Homer's dim and wretched Hades, Virgil's Hades is a place of remediation and rebirth, where the lifetime deeds of the dead are examined and judged. They are chastised, as need be, punished and purged until they are purified. Then these cleansed souls can wander happily in Elysium, the groves of blessedness, until after a thousand years it is time to be reborn. Aeneas meets the shade of his father Anchises in Elysium, where Anchises tells him about the World Soul and rebirth, and shows Aeneas a procession of his descendants over twelve centuries, culminating in Augustus. Aeneas now knows his Destiny--to found the Roman people.

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Book 7

The second half of the Aeneid, Books 7-12, tells the story of the escalating wrath inspired by Juno that forces Aeneas to go to war in Italy.

Book 7: Aeneas finally arrives in Latium, where he is welcomed by King Latinus, whose only child is Lavinia. A powerful neighbor, Turnus, King of the Rutulians, wants to marry Lavinia, but omens and oracles have foretold that a stranger would become her husband, so Latinus is willing to marry his daughter Lavinia to Aeneas. Juno is not ready to give up her struggle against Destiny, although she knows she cannot win. She fetches the Fury Allecto from the underworld and urges her to stir the Latins into frenzy. Allecto instills poisonous rage into Amata, Lavinia's mother and into Turnus, Lavinia's suitor. Then she sets up Ascanius (Iulus) to shoot a pet deer belonging to Sylvia, a local peasant girl; Allecto blows her hellish horn, stimulating the local farmers to attack the Trojans. Latinus tries to avoid the conflict, but Juno opens gates of war. Lines of alliance are drawn and the troops start to gather.

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Book 8

Book 8: Aeneas travels to the king of the Arcadians, Evander, seeking alliance. Evander welcomes him, introduces him to the ancient rural piety of the region, and offers Aeneas troops led by his own son Pallas. Meanwhile, Venus persuades her husband Vulcan to make new armor for Aeneas. The shield portrays critical moments when Rome was saved. At the center of the shield is the Battle of Actium. As in the underworld, where the procession of descendants leads from Aeneas to Octavian, the shield connects the beginning of Roman history in Aeneas to its culmination in Octavian's decisive battle at Actium that finalized the Augustan peace.

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Book 9

Book 9: Here, the battle goes on at Trojan Camp; Aeneas has not yet returned from seeking alliances. Two best friends, Nisus and Euryalus, foray into the sleeping enemy camp and slaughter many before being killed themselves. Ascanius gets his first real taste of battle and kills his first man, Numanus. Turnus gets into the Trojan stockade and rages furiously, slaughtering men. Finally the Trojans rally and Turnus, exhausted, jumps into the river and escapes.

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Book 10

Book 10: Jupiter wants peace, but Juno and Venus are still bickering, so he lets the battle continue, since "the Fates will find their way." Finally Aeneas returns with numerous allies. Turnus and Aeneas both rage in battle. Pallas fights bravely, but is finally killed by Turnus, who strips off Pallas' heavy decorated belt as a trophy. Juno recognizes by now that it's about over, but begs Jupiter to let her spare Turnus' life for a little while. He agrees and Juno fashions a phantom resembling Aeneas which lures Turnus out of the battle onto a ship which then drifts away carrying the bewildered Turnus to safety while the battle continues without him.

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Book 11

Book 11: Aeneas learns that Pallas has died, and he prepares to send him back to his father for his funeral. Both sides bury their dead. The Latins hold a quarrelsome council over whether or not to sue for peace. King Latinus wants to make peace and share his land and rule with the Trojans. Turnus is in favor of continuing the war, which resumes. Camilla, a woman warrior ally of Turnus, enters the fray, fights bravely, and is killed.

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Book 12

Book 12: Turnus challenges Aeneas to a duel that will settle the war. Meanwhile, Juno tells the nymph Juturna, Turnus' sister, to help him if she can, because Turnus is no match for Aeneas in single combat. Juturna provokes the Latins into general battle. Aeneas seeks Turnus, but Juturna, disguised as Turnus' charioteer, races around, not letting Turnus stop and fight. Aeneas is now furious. He starts to burn down King Latinus' city, to root out the resistance once and for all. Queen Amata hangs herself. Turnus tells his sister to stop interfering, because fate has won, and he wants to fight Aeneas honorably before he dies. Turnus and Aeneas begin to duel, and Jupiter holds up his scales to confirm their fates. Turnus' sword breaks; he panics and runs away, Aeneas pursuing. However, gods are still interfering. Juturna hands the fleeing Turnus a sword, while Venus pulls Aeneas' spear free from a tree it had lodged in. Jupiter is fed up by now and confronts Juno, who finally gives up, asking only that the ensuing people be called Latins and the Trojans lose their identity. Jupiter agrees to create a single Latin race from the two warring peoples. Jupiter sends two Furies to chase Juturna away from Turnus, and Aeneas throws his spear, wounding Turnus. Turnus begs for his life, but Aeneas sees the belt of dead Pallas on Turnus and, enraged, kills Turnus. End of story.

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