TheAeneid begins after the fall of Troy. The Trojan fleet carrying the surviving warriors is being battered by a storm in the Mediterranean Sea south of Sicily. The storm has been sent by Juno, queen of the gods. She holds a grudge against the Trojans and their leader, Aeneas, over past injustices done to her by Trojans and because in the future, the descendants of Aeneas will destroy her favorite city, Carthage. Just as it seems the Trojans will be destroyed, the sea god Neptune guides their ships to shore. They discover they are near the city of Carthage, ruled by Queen Dido, who welcomes them warmly. The Trojans have been traveling since Troy was destroyed, trying to find a new home. Worried that Aeneas, her son, will have no place to rest, the goddess Venus makes Dido fall passionately in love with him.
Aeneas Tells of His Feats
Aeneas tells Dido the story of their travels so far, beginning with the destruction of Troy. He describes how the Trojans were manipulated into bringing a giant horse left by the Greeks into their city. It was filled with Greek soldiers, who sneaked out in the night and let in the Greek army. Aeneas fought through the streets but could not save the city. Venus sent him back home to save his family before the fall of the city. He got his father and son safely out of Troy, but his wife disappeared as they fled the city. When he returned to look for her, he found only her ghost, who told him to seek a new queen in Italy.
Aeneas and the other survivors from Troy built their fleet and then sailed to neighboring Thrace and tried to settle there. However, a terrible omen of future treachery sent them back to sea. They stopped at Delos, an island sacred to the god Apollo, where Aeneas was given a prophecy to settle in his ancestor's land. Thinking of the wrong ancestor, they tried to settle on Crete, but a plague drove them back to sea. As they sailed on, encountering monsters and old friends, the prophecy was clarified—their new home would be in Italy. Unfortunately, Aeneas's father, Anchises, died before they reached it. Aeneas buried him in Sicily, and the Trojans set sail again, this time getting waylaid by Juno's storm.
A Tragic Love Affair Ends as New Adventures Begin
Dido is impressed by Aeneas and his feats, and succumbs to her feelings for him. Hoping it will keep Aeneas out of Italy and prevent his fate, Juno maneuvers Dido into having sex with Aeneas. However, it is not an official marriage, and the winged monster Rumor flies to tell people in other towns about their union. Noticing Aeneas is getting too comfortable, Jupiter sends his messenger Mercury to remind Aeneas of his fate and duty. Dido is terribly distraught to learn he is leaving and foresees her death. Aeneas is regretful, but nothing can delay him or change his mind. Dido climbs on her funeral pyre, where her dead body will burn, and fatally stabs herself with his sword as he sails away.
Fighting unfavorable winds, the Trojan fleet stops again in Sicily, just in time to celebrate the first anniversary of Anchises's death. Aeneas and his people make sacrifices and feast before the games of speed and skill. Trojans and Sicilians distinguish themselves, while others are embarrassed. Aeneas richly rewards both winners and other notable competitors. Meanwhile, Juno incites the women in the fleet, who are tired of traveling, to burn the ships. Jupiter puts the fires out before the ships are destroyed, but it shakes Aeneas's confidence. The ghost of his father appears, telling him to sail to Italy and visit him in the underworld.
Aeneas's first stop in Italy is Cumae, where the Sybil delivers prophesies to Aeneas and where the door to the underworld lies. The Sybil foretells a terrible war before Aeneas can make his home in Italy. She directs Aeneas to the golden bough he must find to enter the underworld and then guides him into its depths. They cross the river Acheron and the marshes of the Styx, where the ferryman Charon waits for the dead, meeting many spirits. Aeneas sees Dido and tries to apologize, but she refuses to speak to him. He finds his father in the Elysian Fields, and Anchises shows him many of his Roman descendants who will build the Roman Empire. They include Romulus, Julius Caesar, and Augustus Caesar.
The Trojans finally find the Tiber River, where they are meant to settle. Aeneas sends an envoy to make peace with the king of Latium. Following a prophecy, King Latinus offers his daughter, Lavinia, in marriage. But before the deal can be made, Juno sends the Fury of Rage to turn both Latinus's queen and Turnus, king of a neighboring city and one of Lavinia's suitors, against Aeneas. Between the three of them, they rouse Italy to war with the Trojans.
Turnus gathers allies, and Aeneas needs to find allies of his own to fight with him. The god of the Tiber River tells Aeneas to go up the river to Pallanteum, which often fights against Latium. There, King Evander tells Aeneas of another potential ally, the Etruscans. They have overthrown their cruel king and are gathered to attack Turnus, with whom the former king has taken refuge. However, a prophecy says their leader cannot be from Italy. Evander sends horsemen and his son, Pallas, with Aeneas to meet the Etruscans. Wanting to ensure the safety of her son in battle, Venus asks her husband, Vulcan, the god of fire, to make Aeneas weapons and armor. He creates a great shield that shows the future glory of Rome.
Turnus's army attacks the Trojans left behind when Aeneas went to Pallanteum, a group that includes Aeneas's son, Ascanius. They retreat safely within their fort, so Turnus instead tries to burn their ships. However, Jupiter turns them into sea nymphs, and they swim away. The Trojan comrades Nisus and Euryalus make a daring attempt to get through the enemy camp surrounding them and summon Aeneas back, but a lust for plunder betrays them to their tragic death. When Turnus attacks the fort itself, a few of the Trojans open the gates to better fight the enemy. The gates are closed again, but Turnus is already inside. He kills many Trojans before he is driven out.
Aeneas sails back with the Etruscan fleet, and a great battle begins. Aeneas and Turnus are effectively invincible against anyone except each other. Pallas, commanding the cavalry from Pallanteum, fights bravely and catches Turnus's attention. Pallas attacks first, but Turnus's attack is deadlier, and Pallas dies with a spear in his chest. Fatefully, Turnus takes Pallas's sword belt to wear as a trophy. Aeneas, enraged by news of Pallas's death, finally frees the Trojan fort. Fearing Aeneas's strength, Juno whisks Turnus away from the battlefield. The cruel Etruscan king Mezentius is still fighting, though. Aeneas wounds him with a spear throw, but his son, Lausus, protects him so he can get away. Unfortunately, that costs the noble Lausus his life. Mezentius returns to avenge him and is also killed by Aeneas.
Aeneas sends Pallas's body home with a great procession. When an envoy from Latium arrives, he suggests he and Turnus fight in single combat to decide the war. In Latium, King Latinus and Turnus learn they won't be joined by a powerful ally, and Turnus reluctantly agrees to single combat. However, before it can be arranged, part of Aeneas's army approaches the city. While Turnus unsuccessfully tries to trap Aeneas and the other half of his army, the warrior princess Camilla defends the city. Camilla is as deadly as Turnus or Aeneas, but she gets distracted, allowing an Etruscan soldier to get a spear through her defenses. Camilla's patron goddess Diana ensures that vengeance is taken on her killer, but the defense of Latium is broken.
Settling Things One-on-One, with the Gods' Help
Turnus agrees to single combat with Aeneas. Latinus asks him to consider another bride, but Turnus is fatalistically determined to win Lavinia or die. On the morning of the duel, Juno convinces Turnus's sister, Juturna, to save her brother by provoking the armies to fight again. When Aeneas tries to stop the escalating hostilities, he is struck by an arrow, but Venus helps heal him. Juturna disguises herself as Turnus's charioteer and keeps her brother away from Aeneas. When Aeneas attacks the city, Turnus finally returns for the duel. Turnus is no match for Aeneas assisted by the gods. Wounded and humbled, he asks for mercy. Aeneas is about to grant it when he sees Turnus is wearing Pallas's sword belt. In a blaze of fury, Aeneas stabs Turnus through the heart.