Publius Vergilius Maro, aka Vergil or Virgil, is the greatest of the Classic Roman poets. Is it because he was the court poet for Augustus? Is it because Vergil has become the benchmark for Augustan Literature? Or is it simply because Vergil was born on October 15th just like
me somebody else I know? A strong case can be made for all of these. However, I think he is tops for his writing of “The Aeneid“.
Vergil has been said to write in the same style as Classic Greek poet, Homer. In fact The Aeneid is said to be the Roman combination of Homer’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey“. That’s neither here nor there. The Aeneid is about our hero, Aeneas, and his journey from the burning and sacked city of Troy to establish a new home for his people in Latium, Italy. The twist? Italy was the home of those people that founded Troy. Mind blown.
Our journey begins in Ancient Troy, in what has become modern day Turkey. The now legendary Trojan Horse was brought inside the city walls allowing Achilles, Ulysses, and other Greeks bring the mighty city to the ground.
Since his present home is being destroyed, and his goddess mother Venus has instructed him to gather the remaining Trojans, Aeneas and his people trek across country to find safety in Antandros, which is still in Turkey. Due to its location on the coast, near the Gulf of Adramyttium, this is where Aeneas chooses to build his fleet before setting off for Italy.
Since this is an epic poem, and nothing is ever direct in ancient adventures, Aeneas and his fleet leave Antandros and sail North into the Aegean Sea where they make landfall in Thrace. The location is not exactly known but it’s believed to be the no-longer-existing Aenos which would be located still in Turkey, near the Greek border. Here in Thrace the reamains of fellow Trojan, Polydorus, are found.
All Aeneas wants to do is build a wall and establish a city. Not too much to ask for. While clearing the land in Thrace to create the wall, the plants that are uprooted spout blood and begin speaking to Aeneas. It’s Polydorus
not crazy at all to have a dead person speak as a plant explaining what happened to him and to venture on.
More expelled Trojans are found as the group finally leaves Turkey and lands in Delos, Greece. Known as the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, Delos was home to a sacred oracle. Aeneas believes this is the place they have been searching for only to have Apollo say it’s not quite right for them. The sails are set again. Now it’s out into the Mediterrananean Sea and the Island of Crete. It’s basically the same story for Aeneas et al on this Greek island. They think the location is the one for them. Construction gets underway. Then one of the gods tells them to get moving.
As they hug the Greek coast, Aeneas and the fleet are driven to Strophados. This tiny set of twin islands was a perfect fit. Aeneas then encountered the Harpies and found Strophados to be their dwelling place. The Harpies kept stealing all of the Trojan’s food and made life even more difficult for these expatriots. I don’t think Aeneas to be wrong for leaving these female monsters that had the bodies of a bird with the head and face of a human.
After fleeing from the Harpies, Actium is the next place for landfall and to see if this is the right spot. This again is not the right place so the group sets sail. As they head North the fleet halts at Buthrotum in ancient Northwestern Greece, but the location is now modern Albania.
Aeneas was happy to find Buthrotum the home of Helenus, another son of King Priam of Troy. Unlike his brother Polydorus who was killed after escaping Troy, Helenus was a survivor. This could be due to the fact that Helenus was a seer. It was Helenus who told Aeneas this was not the place for him and to carry on. Helenus had a vision that Aeneas would go on to found Rome, so they kept moving.
Upon rounding Italy’s boot, the fleet arrives the ancient town of Aetna on Trinacria, or modern day Sicily. This is also the Land of Cyclops. So the group shoves off hugging the island’s coastline. It is during this time that Anchises, the father of Aeneas, passes away. They end up at on the western coast at Drepanon. Just like at every other stop before, Aeneas and clan find that as they prepare to end their journey it is not the right spot. So they pack on up and head back out to see once again.
The vengeful Juno takes advantage of this and blows the Aeneas’s fleet off course, yet again. They now land in Carthage and are greeted by Queen Dido.It is here with Dido that Aeneas, just as Ulysses did on his travels, gets halted. The Carthaginians welcome in their Trojan guests and want Aeneas to be their king. During a mystical evening alone, Dido and Aeneas are thought to have relations, thus causing Dido to believe Aeneas is now her king too. This is when the messenger god Mercury, sent via Jupiter, reminds Aeneas he is not to stay in Carthage with his new-found love, Dido, but to sail on to Italy and found Rome.
Again landing on the western coast of Sicily, Aenea’s throws funeral games honoring the anniversary of his father’s death. While only the men are partaking in the games some women, under the spell of Juno, burn some of the boats so the men can no longer travel. The plan is to have Aeneas never reach Italy. This plan does not work and those that can sail on head out.
The fleet lands next at Cumae, where Aeneas is told he must venture into the underworld for guidance.
In the underworld, Aeneas meets his father once again. They discuss the prophetic future that is Rome and how Aeneas is to achieve it.
Upon returning to the land of the living, Aeneas knows what he must do. His people follow him once again to sea. They stop briefly at Caeita. It is here that Aeneas burries his wet-nurse prior to pressing on for his final destination.
Juno once again meddles with the happiness of Aeneas and his people by tricking the Latium Queen into starting trouble for the Trojans. The hatred for Aeneas get Turnus of the Rutuli people to battle The Trojans.
Since the story is meant to be a positive outcome for the survivors of Troy (Spoiler Alert) they are victorious in this outcome. Aeneas goes on to found Lavinium. The prophecy is now complete.
Although he did not found Rome himself, it Aeneas’s Lavinium was the center of the Latin League. It was from here that the people of Rome sprang, thus linking the the royal house of Troy to the newer Roman Republic.
Travel by land, sea or air and you too can now have your own Aeneid. Tutus Itinerarium (safe travels).