This book takes the form of a flashback, as Aeneas tells the banqueters the story of the fall of Troy. The Greeks had erected a huge wooden horse and persuaded the Trojans to drag it into the city. In the dead of night Greek soldiers pour from the horse and open the gates to their comrades. The Trojans put up a fierce but hopeless resistance, and Aeneas escapes from the city with his father and his son.
The Deception of the Trojans
After ten years of hard fighting aroung Troy, the Greeks act as though they are giving up the siege. They build a huge wooden horse outside the walls, fill it up with their best soldiers and sail away, pretending that it is an offering for their safe return to Greece. But they go only as far as the offshore island of Tenedos and leave Sinon behind to persuade the Trojans to take the horse into the city. Laocoon, the priest of Neptune, warns the Trojans not to trust the Greeks. 'I am afraid of Greeks,' he says, 'even when they bear gifts.' But Sinon is at once an expose of the decadence of contemporary Greeks in Roman eyes, and a satire on the corruption of ancient rhetoric, a satire sharpended by several interjections by a naive and gullible audience. (The nearest thing in English is Antony's funeral oration in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar with the inane interjections of the crowd.) Once again, Laocoon protests, but the gods are against the Trojans. Two serpents come out of the sea and kill the priest of Neptune and his two sons. The Trojans breach their walls and drag the horse.
The Courage of Aeneas
In all of this book Virgil has a difficulty. His hero is the leading Trojan warrior and he has survived the sack of his city. Since Aeneas himself is speaking, he cannot blatantly advertise his own courage to give him words which leave no possibility that he could be thought guilty of cowardice or even of misjudgement. The first example of this is that Aeneas is not said to be one of the Trojans who ignored the warnings of Laocoon or were duped by Sinon. He does not enter the stage until a third of the way through the book, when Hector, appearing to him as…