Book 8 - Aeneas in Rome

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With the blessing of the god of the River Tiber, Aeneas goes to the village of Pallenteum, on what is later known as the Palatine, one of the seven hills of Rome. Here King Evander describes how Hercules had saved them from the ravages of the monster Cacus and tells the story of Mezentius, a brutal Etruscan desopt who has been dethroned by his subjects and is being harboured by Turnus. Evander tells Aeneas of a prophecy which forbids the Etruscans to be led by an Italian, and advises him to go with a detatchment of cavalry led by his son Pallas, to claim leadership of all the armies opposed to the Latins. Venus, concerned for her son's safety against these formidable enemies, persuades Vulcan to make new armour for Aeneas, including a prophetic shield depicting the future wars of Rome.

The Politics

This is not a book of intense dramatic incidents of heroic deeds, but it is vital to the argument of the Aeneid. On the face of it the Trojans are invaders in a foreign country, seizing land and power from the rightful inhabitants. But these aggressors are the ancestors of the Romans, and their leader Aeneas is the founder of the Julian family. A vital part of Augustus' policy was his claim to be the beneficent leader of the Italians as well as Romans against the barbarian East, and yet here at the dawn of Roman history his ancestor Aeneas is leading Orientals, that is the Trojans, against the native people of Italy. Book 8 tackles this difficulty and provides justification not only for Aeneas but also for Augustus' rule over Italy.

The Romans lover their river, and Virgil's first step is to show Father Tiber welcoming Aeneas to Latium. The opening of the book makes it clear, on the evidence of the god of the river, that atium, in the centre of Italy, is the home decreed by the gods for Aeneas and his people. The second ste is to provide historical warrant for the presence of the Trojans on Italian soil. This is achieved when Aeneas visits the future site of Rome, Pallanteum, a settlement of Greeks from Acardia, and points out to its kingm Evander, that Dardanus, father of the Trojan people, had been born in Italy, and that Evander and himself were both descended from the god Atlas. Evander in turn recognises Aeneas as the son of Anchises whom he had known and admitted in his youth and explains that the two families are therefore linked by the sacred tie of guest-friendship. Hence the lengthly genealogical discussions when Aeneas first meets Evander.

We have seen that Virgil expresses contemporary issues in his legendary tale by means of prophecies and visions, but there is another subtler technique at work in this book. Hercules had saved the settlement of Pallenteum from the ravages of the monster Cacus and had deigned to accept Evander's hospitality. Now, on the very day of Hercules' festival, arrives Aeneas who…

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