protagonist of the Aeneid.
Aeneas is a survivor
of the siege of Troy, a city on the coast of Asia Minor. His defining
characteristic is piety, a respect for the will of the gods. He
is a fearsome warrior and a leader able to motivate his men in the
face of adversity, but also a man capable of great compassion and
sorrow. His destiny is to found the Roman race in Italy and he subordinates all
other concerns to this mission. The Aeneid
is about his
journey from Troy to Italy, which enables him to fulfill his fate.
in-depth analysis of Aeneas.
queen of Carthage, a city in northern Africa, in what is now Tunisia,
and lover of Aeneas. Dido left the land of Tyre when her husband
was murdered by Pygmalion, her brother. She and her city are strong,
but she becomes an unfortunate pawn of the gods in their struggle
for Aeneas’s destiny. Her love for Aeneas proves
to be her downfall. After he abandons her, she constructs a funeral
pyre and stabs herself upon it with Aeneas’s sword.
in-depth analysis of Dido.
ruler of the Rutulians in Italy. Turnus is Aeneas’s major antagonist
among mortals. He is Lavinia’s leading suitor until Aeneas arrives.
This rivalry incites him to wage war against the Trojans, despite
Latinus’s willingness to allow the Trojans to settle in Latium and Turnus’s
understanding that he cannot successfully defy fate. He is brash
and fearless, a capable soldier who values his honor over his life.
in-depth analysis of Turnus.
young son by his first wife, Creusa. Ascanius (also called Iulus)
is most important as a symbol of Aeneas’s destiny—his future founding
of the Roman race. Though still a child, Ascanius has several opportunities
over the course of the epic to display his bravery and leadership.
He leads a procession of boys on horseback during the games of Book
V and he helps to defend the Trojan camp from Turnus’s attack while his
father is away.
father, and a symbol of Aeneas’s Trojan heritage. Although Anchises
dies during the journey from Troy to Italy, he continues in spirit
to help his son fulfill fate’s decrees, especially by guiding Aeneas through
the underworld and showing him what fate has in store for his descendants.
wife at Troy, and the mother of Ascanius. Creusa is lost and killed
as her family attempts to flee the city, but tells Aeneas he will
find a new wife at his new home.
Greek youth who pretends to have been left behind at the end of
the Trojan War. Sinon persuades the Trojans to take in the wooden
horse as an offering to Minerva, then lets out the warriors trapped
inside the horse’s belly.
king of the Latins, the people of what is now central Italy, around
the Tiber River. Latinus allows Aeneas into his kingdom and encourages
him to become a suitor of Lavinia, his daughter, causing resentment
and eventually war among his subjects. He respects the gods and
fate, but does not hold strict command over his people.
daughter and a symbol of Latium in general. Lavinia’s character
is not developed in the poem; she is important only as the object
of the Trojan-Latin struggle. The question of who will marry Lavinia—Turnus
or Aeneas—becomes key to future relations between the Latins and
the Trojans and therefore the Aeneid’s
of Laurentum (a region of Latium, in Italy) and wife of Latinus.
Amata opposes the marriage of Lavinia, her daughter, to Aeneas and
remains loyal throughout to Turnus, Lavinia’s original suitor. Amata kills
herself once it is clear that Aeneas is destined
of Pallanteum (a region of Arcadia, in Italy) and father of Pallas.
Evander is a sworn enemy of the Latins, and Aeneas befriends him
and secures his assistance in the battles against Turnus.
of Evander, whom Evander entrusts to Aeneas’s care and tutelage.
Pallas eventually dies in battle at the hands of Turnus, causing
Aeneas and Evander great grief. To avenge Pallas’s death, Aeneas
finally slays Turnus, dismissing an initial impulse to spare him.
Latin leader who desires an end to the Trojan-Latin struggle. Drancës
questions the validity of Turnus’s motives at the council of the
Latins, infuriating Turnus.
leader of the Volscians, a race of warrior maidens. Camilla is perhaps
the only strong mortal female character in the epic.
sister. Juno provokes Juturna into inducing a full-scale battle
between the Latins and the Trojans by disguising herself as an officer
and goading the Latins after a treaty has already been reached.
Trojan and a personal friend of Aeneas.
Gods and Goddesses
queen of the gods, the wife and sister of Jupiter, and the daughter
of Saturn. Juno (Hera in Greek mythology) hates the Trojans because
of the Trojan Paris’s judgment against her in a beauty contest.
She is also a patron of Carthage and knows that Aeneas’s Roman descendants
are destined to destroy Carthage. She takes out her anger on Aeneas
throughout the epic, and in her wrath acts as his primary divine
goddess of love and the mother of Aeneas. Venus (Aphrodite in Greek
mythology) is a benefactor of the Trojans. She helps her son whenever
Juno tries to hurt him, causing conflict among the gods. She is
also referred to as Cytherea, after Cythera, the island where she
was born and where her shrine is located.
king of the gods, and the son of Saturn. While the gods often struggle
against one another in battles of will, Jupiter’s will reigns supreme
and becomes identified with the more impersonal force of fate. Therefore,
Jupiter (also known as Jove, and called Zeus in Greek mythology)
directs the general progress of Aeneas’s destiny, ensuring that
Aeneas is never permanently thrown off his course toward Italy. Jupiter’s
demeanor is controlled and levelheaded compared to the volatility
of Juno and Venus.
of the sea, and generally an ally of Venus and Aeneas. Neptune (Poseidon
in Greek mythology) calms the storm that opens the epic and conducts
Aeneas safely on the last leg of his voyage.
messenger god. The other gods often send Mercury (Hermes in Greek
mythology) on errands to Aeneas.
god of the winds, enlisted to aid Juno in creating bad weather for
the Trojans in Book I.
son of Venus and the god of erotic desire. In Book I, Cupid (Eros
in Greek mythology) disguises himself as Ascanius, Aeneas’s son,
and causes Dido to fall in love with Aeneas.
of the Furies, or deities who avenge sins, sent by Juno in Book
VII to incite the Latin people to war against the Trojans.
of fire and the forge, and husband of Venus. Venus urges Vulcan
(Hephaestus in Greek mythology) to craft a superior set of arms
for Aeneas, and the gift serves Aeneas well in his battle with Turnus.
river god associated with the Tiber River, where Rome will eventually
be built. At Tiberinus’s suggestion, Aeneas travels upriver to make
allies of the Arcadians.
father of the gods. Saturn (Chronos in Greek mythology) was king
of Olympus until his son Jupiter overthrew him.
goddess who protects the Greeks during the Trojan War and helps
them conquer Troy. Like Juno, Minerva (Pallas Athena in Greek mythology)
is motivated against the Trojans by the Trojan Paris’s judgment
that Venus was the most beautiful among goddesses.
son of Jupiter and god of the sun. Apollo was born at Delos and
helps the Trojans in their voyage when they stop there. Because
he is often portrayed as an archer, many characters invoke his name
before they fire a shaft in battle.
Characters from Homer’s Iliad Relevant
to the Aeneid
hero of Homer’s Odyssey,
and one of the captains of
the Greek army that takes Troy. Ulysses (Odysseus in Greek lore),
like Aeneas, must make a long and treacherous voyage before he finds
home again, and references to his whereabouts in the Aeneid
situate Aeneas’s wanderings in relation to Ulysses’.
greatest of the Greek warriors. Achilles slew the Trojan hero Hector
during the war and is the tragic hero of the Iliad.
greatest of the Trojan warriors, killed at Troy. Hector is in some
ways a parallel figure to Turnus, who also defends his native city
to the death.
wife, who survives the siege of Troy. Andromachë meets Aeneas in
his wanderings, tells him her story, and advises his course to Italy.
Trojan prince, son of Priam and Hecuba, and brother of Hector. The
handsomest of men, Paris is asked to judge which goddess is most
beautiful: Venus, Juno, or Minerva. Venus promises him Helen as
his wife in exchange for his judgment, so Paris selects Venus. This selection
inspires the permanent wrath of Juno against the Trojans. Stealing
Helen from her Greek husband, Menelaus, Paris provokes the Trojan
most beautiful of mortal women and wife of Menelaus. Helen’s abduction
to Troy by Paris sparks the Trojan War.
Greek king who wed Helen and made a pact with her other suitors
to fight anyone who tried to steal her. When Paris took Helen, the
pact was invoked and the Trojan War began.
leader of the Greek army at Troy, and the king of Argos, a city
in Greece. Upon his return from the war, Agamemnon is killed by
his adulterous wife, Clytemnestra.
king of Troy. Priam is slain before Aeneas’s eyes during the Greeks’
sacking of Troy.
son of Achilles. Pyrrhus, also called Neoptolemus, appears in Aeneas’s
account of the siege of Troy as the brutal murderer of Priam and