Aeneas’s son Ascanius represents Aeneas’s future and the destined founding of Rome. Over the course of the epic, Ascanius grows from a boy who follows his father out of Troy with “unequal steps” to a young warrior. The poignant image of young Ascanius escaping Troy holding Aeneas’s hand and barely able to keep up emphasizes how much growth he must undergo. Ascanius’s aging differentiates him from the other, fairly static characters in the Aeneid. Watching him grow reminds us of the passage of time, emphasizing how long the Trojans wander before founding Rome.
In Book 9, Ascanius defends the Trojan camp from Turnus’s attack, even killing a relative of Turnus. Without Aeneas’s presence at camp, Ascanius’s authority shows that he has grown to be on equal footing with his father, successfully inheriting his heroism. However, Apollo’s subsequent removal of Ascanius from the battlefield emphasizes that Ascanius’s true role in the epic is the destiny of Aeneas’s line. In keeping with Ascanius’s symbolism of Rome’s glorious future, Virgil assigns him a nickname, Iulus, which evokes Augustus’s family name, Julius (the letter I before a U makes a J sound in Ancient Latin), once again connecting his patron to Aeneas’s mythic line.