The Aeneid

by: Virgil

Ascanius

At my side Little Iulus links his hand in mine, Following his father with unequal steps.

Aeneas’s young son Ascanius accompanies his family as they flee Troy.Iuluswas a surname of one of ancient Rome’s ruling families, so by dubbing Ascanius “Iulus,” Virgil creates a connection between the bloodline of Aeneas and the family of Julius Caesar. This scene also emphasizes the journey Ascanius will take. Now he is subservient to his father but he will become a man on this journey, even learning how to make war.

But the boy Ascanius through the valleys bounds along Rejoicing, on his mettled steed[.]

Virgil’s description of Ascanius riding on his horse while hunting stands out as an unexpected cheerful moment in the poem, centered on one of the few youthful characters. Virgil’s choice of words emphasizes Ascanius’s age and the joy he feels, creating juxtaposition between what Ascanius’s life might have been and what his life actually is. Soon enough, Ascanius will leave his innocence behind and become a murderous warrior, a transformation that reminds the reader that more than lives are taken by war.

Then for the first time in the war, it is said, Ascanius aimed his swift shaft at the foe, Before this accustomed only to pursue The wild beasts of the chase, and with his hand Struck down the strong Numanus, whose surname Was Remulus; who lately had espoused The younger sister of Prince Turnus.

Virgil describes the moment Ascanius lets fly his first arrow in battle, which hits its mark. This shot is significant for several reasons. The kill marks Ascanius’s official entry into battle as a soldier. The arrow echoes the shot Ascanius took at the stag, which was the cause of the war in the first place. Further, the dead soldier was a member of Turnus’s family, which makes the kill personal.

“Go on, increase in early valor, boy; Such is the pathway to the starry heights, Descendant and progenitor of gods! All wars that are ordained by fate shall end In justice, when Assaracus’ great line Shall rule, nor Troy be able to contain Your growth.”

After Ascanius’s successful first kill in battle, Apollo praises the Ascanius from above and refers to his vaunted lineage as justification to his right to spawn a new Roman power. Ascanius is both Trojan royalty through Assaracus and a grandson of a goddess. Apollo’s use of inflated language underscores the great heights that Ascanius will reach, including bring peace to the region, as he engenders his own family of godlike leaders.

So by command Of Phœbus, they restrain Ascanius now., Who thirsts to join the battle. They themselves Again renew the combat, and expose Their lives to open perils of the war.

At Apollo’s behest, the Trojan soldiers remove Ascanius from the lines of battle despite Ascanius’s protests. Apollo knows that the inexperienced Ascanius must be protected. Virgil draws a comparison between Ascanius, who must remain safe, and his men, who risk their lives and fight, to show that Ascanius has a more important destiny than just killing the enemy on the battlefield.