Follow TV Tropes

Following

Literature / The Aeneid

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/12912_sx318.jpg

"Arms and the man I sing of Troy, who first from its seashores,
Italy-bound, fate's refugee, arrived at Lavinia's
Coastlands. How he was battered about over land, over high deep
Seas by the powers above! Savage Juno's anger remembered
Him, and he suffered profoundly in war to establish a city,
Settle his gods into Latium, making this land of the Latins
Future home to the Elders of Alba and Rome's mighty ramparts.
Muse, let the memories spill through me. What will was wounded,
What deep hurt made the queen of the gods thrust a famously righteous
Man into so many spirals of chance to face so many labours?
Anger so great: can it really reside in the spirits of heaven?"
Virgil, The Aeneid 1.1-11 (translation by Frederick Ahl)

The Aeneid is an epic poem written by the poet Publius Vergilius Maro—more commonly known as Virgil. It's considered one of the great masterpieces of literature, and many later works are deliberately based off the style Virgil used. Of course, Virgil himself was deliberately writing in the style of Homer, his literary hero, also basing his portrayal of certain characters off of stars of The Iliad or The Odyssey.

The Aeneid is a continuation set after the end of The Trojan War, following the story of the Trojan hero Aeneas. Prophesied to found a city whose empire will cover the whole world and rule forever, he travels all over the known world (i.e. the Mediterranean) trying to reach the fated place. After suffering many tragedies and getting kicked out of most places, he realises that the gods want him to go to Italy. When he gets there, however, he still doesn't have it easy: he has to pretty much conquer the whole area before he can settle down.

The city he eventually founds is the one from which Roman founders Romulus and Remus supposedly come. The Aeneid was intended as a propaganda piece for the emperor-in-all-but-name Augustus, who had recently become the supreme power in Rome, then ravaged by civil war, by defeating Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII. Aeneas, who is pious,note  dutiful and brave was held as the Roman ideal and is obliquely compared with Augustus at several points in the poem.

Standard material for Latin students; the U.S. AP Latin exam assumes its takers know the story in its entirety.

The poem may well have made some tropes, and used others cheerfully. This guarantees that all those tropes are at least Older Than Feudalism, if built at all. The story also got a continuation of sorts in the form of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae which has Aeneas' descendant Brutus of Troy sail to England to found a new empire and largely focuses on a certain legendary medieval king from British folklore.

Part of the story was used as the basis for Christopher Marlowe's play Dido, Queen of Carthage, as well as Henry Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas based on a libretto by Nahum Tate.


Tropes Used:

  • 0% Approval Rating: The Etruscans ally with the Trojans due to their hatred of the tyrant Mezentius, who has been protected by Turnus since fleeing from the wrath of his people.
  • Action Girl: Camilla of the Volsci. Huntress and worshipper of Diana, she's one of the few female war leaders and warriors in The Aeneid. Even Dido got her kingdom through guile and smarts rather than martial prowess.note 
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • In The Odyssey, Aeolus is in charge of a thriving kingdom and tries to help Odysseus. Here, he is bribed by Juno into loosing the winds on Aeneas's ships. Helen is also treated less sympathetically than she is in The Iliad, betraying Deiphobus to the Greeks.
    • Most of the Greeks in general are portrayed unsympathetically. Odysseus, for example, is a slimy Manipulative Bastard compared with the Guile Hero Only Sane Man in Homer's epics.
    • This also applies to the Gods that were on the Greeks' side. Hera's grudge against Aeneas is incredibly petty and excessively destructive. Athena doesn't make an appearance but sends snakes to kill off Laocoön simply for figuring out the trap and warning the Trojans.
  • Aerith and Bob: Amongst the exotic-sounding Greek and Latin names, it may surprise some to find names still used today, like Anna and Camilla. However, in Anna's case it's a subversion, as the commonplace name Anna we use today is of Jewish origins and not etymologically connected to the one in the Aeneid.
  • Affectionate Nickname:
    • Aeneas is known as "pius Aeneas", often translated as "pious", but it's one of the most complex words in Latin: other meanings include "steadfast", "dutiful", "kind", "righteous", and "good".
    • Aeneas is one of many many characters referred to with epithets. Juno is "Saturnia", Dido is "infelix Dido" or "miserrima Dido" (referring to her destiny and doomed love), etc. Virgil is homaging Homer, who also refers to various heroes and gods with epithets.
  • Afterlife Tour: The Trope Codifier. While still alive, Aeneas makes a journey through the underworld under the guidance of a likewise still-living Sybil. His purpose is to speak with his deceased father, which he does, but the Sybil also shows him around the underworld in general.
  • Altar Diplomacy: The importance of Aeneas marrying Lavinia is mostly about the Trojans becoming united with the Latins to form the Roman nation.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • In The Iliad and The Odyssey, Homer described battles fought with bronze-tipped spears. In The Aeneid, Virgil describes those same battles as having been fought with steel-tipped spears. Steel-making was unknown in Homer's time.
    • Escaping from the destruction of Troy, Aeneas lands at Carthage, even though Carthage was founded some four centuries after The Trojan War.
    • There are multiple references to Aeneas taking the "penates"—statues of the gods to be kept in households—with him when he leaves Troy. Romans had these, but Greeks actually did not.
    • The text references a type of ship called a bireme multiple times, which did not exist at the time of the story.
  • Angel Unaware:
    • Downplayed with Aeneas when he meets his mother Venus when he lands near Carthage. Venus is disguised as a Spartan huntress, but Aeneas recognizes that she's a divine being; he can't tell which one. At least, until she walks away and lets her dress stream down to her ankles.Evidently, he is not happy when he discovers this.
    • The queen of the gods sends the goddess Iris to disguise herself as an old maid and inspire the Trojan women to set Aeneas' fleet on fire. Unfortunately, some women see through her disguise, and only some of Aeneas's fleet is torched.
    • Alecto, a minister of the Fates and one of three Furies, disguises her infernal visage with the appearance of an old priestess so she can convince Turnus to declare war with some lies about divine visions. When Turnus tells her to Stay in the Kitchen, she throws away the disguise and uses the threat of torture to get Turnus to do as she desires.
  • Ascended Extra: Aeneas was a minor character in The Iliad and in most accounts of the Trojan War prior to Virgil's interpretation (however, it was implied that he was important for, at the time, unknown reasons).
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Venus begs Vulcan to make her son Aeneas some armor, reminding him that she never asked anything of him during the Trojan War. Vulcan’s response? “Why seek so far your argument? Why should your faith in me, O queen divine, grow less? Had such been your desire, even Troy I might have helped with arms; not mighty Jove nor fate forbidding her proud walls to stand; and ten more years to Priam’s life have given. And now, if you prepare a war—your will so fixed—whatever lies within my art, of labor or of skill, in molten gold and silver, or in steel, through fire, and breath of winds, I promise you.”
  • Badass Boast: Allecto has a great one in Book 7, when she appears to Turnus as an old woman and tries to persuade him to fight the Trojans. He sneers at her and basically tells her to leave fighting to the men. So she unveils her true form, scaring the crap out of him, and says respice ad haec: adsum dirarum ab sede sororum, / bella manu letumque gero, or in English, "See what I've brought. I have come from the realm of the Sisters of Terror, / I decide wars, and death, with my own hand" (4.454-5).
  • Battle Couple: Nisus and Euryalus are the homosexual kind. They are tied at the hip. They start a night raid against the Latins together. It doesn’t end well.
  • Because Destiny Says So:
    • Largely deconstructed. Aeneas's destiny goes against his desires for love, stability, and comfort, but his devotion to the gods prevents him from doing anything but suffering as the gods command. His lover kills herself, half his men abandon him, a friend's son dies, and he's nearly poisoned to death, all so the decrees of the Fates can be fulfilled.
    • It doesn't matter whether Lavinia really wants to marry Turnus (implied at one point) or how long they've been promised; it's decided the minute he arrives that she's gonna marry Aeneas, who never shows any interest in her. Which means Turnus is doomed to die, just for being her former fiancé. And that's that.
    • Juno knows that there is nothing she can do to change the fact that Aeneas and the Trojan remnants were fated to found the Roman nation; all she can do is make the journey as miserable for them as possible. At the end of the epic, Juno resigns and leaves the Trojan remnants be, but on the condition that they assimilate with the Latins and lose the name of "Trojan".
  • Big Bad: Juno. While she never directly confronts Aeneas, she does spark the most conflict for him in her efforts to prolong his suffering, even manipulating Turnus to start a war.
  • Blood from the Mouth: It's easy to tell Dares would be dead if he didn't concede the boxing match because of the flood of purple blood coming from his mouth and nose.
  • Blood-Splattered Warrior: Implied Trope; Alecto appears in Book 7 covered in Gorgon poison at Juno's summon. As established in the Argonautica, the Gorgon's poison is its blood, meaning Alecto is drenched in acidic blood just before she goes to bring war to Italy. John Dryden's translation of the text makes this explicit.
  • Bolt of Divine Retribution: Aeneas tries to invoke this on himself in Book 5, after the Trojan women set fire to the fleet. He says "let your own hand / Blast me to death with a lightning bolt that expresses your anger." Instead, Jupiter sends a torrential rainstorm that puts the fire out.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: One of the Furies sends an invisible, insensible snake to circle around the queen of the Latins and inject her with a venom of rage and madness. From then on, the queen loses her rational faculties and fears as she kidnaps the princess bound to marry Aeneas and takes her into the forest to prevent the marriage in time for war to commence.
  • Break-Up Bonfire: After Aeneas abandons her, Dido orders to build a pyre to burn Aeneas's clothes and weapons, an image of Aeneas, and also the bed on which she slept with him, claiming this ritual will heal her of her lovesickness. But when the pyre is ready, she stabs herself with Aeneas's sword on it, and the Breakup Bonfire becomes her funeral pyre.
  • Breather Episode: Anchises's funeral games in Book 5, after fleeing from Troy, a series of wanderings, and a liaison that has ended terribly for them both. At least, until the Trojan women burn some of the ships.
  • The Cassandra: Cassandra appears in Aeneas's flashback in Book 2. He acknowledges that even though Cassandra's prophecies have come true, the gods have cursed her by having nobody believe her.
  • Caught in the Rain: Aeneas and Dido are out hunting and take shelter from the rain in the same cave. The rain was part of Juno's successful plan to hook them up.
  • Cock Fight: Aeneas and Turnus are fighting for Lavinia’s hand, but their fight is more about the position as son-in-law to Latinus than Lavinia herself. In fact, no consideration is shown for Lavinia’s feelings at all.
  • Continuation: In the 15th century, an Italian poet named Maffeo Vegio wrote a continuation for it, which was widely printed in later editions.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Pyrrhus vs. Priam. Priam's a broken old man having suffered the death of his numerous children and the downfall of his family and kingdom. His son being killed galvanizes him to fight, but his spear bounces off Pyrrhus's shield and he's dragged to an altar and slaughtered.
  • David Versus Goliath: Inverted Trope in Book 5; the boxing match between Entellus and Dares pits a giant, veteran warrior against a cocky, younger fighter who has to rely on his speed and his wits to defeat the terrifying champion. Problem is, Dares is portrayed as an arrogant antagonist in this account and loses to the Goliath-like Entellus, who only takes the challenge to teach a lesson in humility.
  • Deadly Dodging: Dares replies on his youthful limbs to slip past the giant, but aged fists of Entellus. Eventually, his evasion pays off when it causes Entellus to miss a heavy stroke and fall to the ground. Unfortunately, it doesn't help Dares get past Entellus's Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs.
  • Dead Person Conversation: In Book 2, Hector warns Aeneas to get out of Troy, and after Aeneas escapes, Creusa's ghost tells him not to wait for her.
  • Death by Materialism: The deaths of Euryalus, Camilla and Turnus are all indirectly caused by their desire to loot their foes. See Fatal Flaw below.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Juturna, Turnus’s sister, happens to be a goddess of springs and streams; “this honor Jove had given to her, for violated maidenhood.” Surprisingly, Juno is fond of her.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The metrical restrictions of Latin epic, as well as a hefty bit of Virgil's personal style, make for awkward (if not downright humorous) translations. Aeneas's entrance into the "cavernous cavern" is just one of dozens of examples. Virgil also seems fond of his characters "pressing footsteps" rather than just walking.
  • Destructive Saviour: Venus's idea of 'saving' her son often causes everyone a great deal of grief, including Aeneas himself.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Iarbas, while ordering Jupiter to intercede on his behalf, adds: "We, meanwhile, consecrate offerings / Made in your temples, and place our faith in what's just idle Rumor." In other words, Iarbas is saying that all his prayers, all the temples and altars he erected in Jupiter's honour, might be all for nothing, That is enough to prod Jupiter into ordering Mercury to remind Aeneas of his duty.
  • Dirty Coward: Arruns, who lurks on the edge of the battlefield to avoid Camilla, shoots her In the Back while she's distracted and immediately tries to run away.
  • Disposable Woman: Creusa, Aeneas's first wife, who dies during the razing of Troy.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Juno is still pissed about not being chosen as the fairest by the long-dead Paris. Her hatred for the Trojans is the direct cause of the war that fills the second half of the epic.
    • Seems even more fitting seeing as 1) some of her reasons are even more stupid, like the fact that Ganymede was chosen as "cup-bearer" to the gods instead of her daughter and he happened to be a Trojan and 2) in the end, she ends up going along with the creation of Italy and Rome anyway, making all of her resistance pointless.
      • Juno doesn't hate Ganymede just because he's Trojan (and therefore ultimately responsible for the destruction of her beloved city Carthage), but because he was her rival for Jupiter's affections.
  • Divine Intervention: Juno and Venus intervene throughout. Juturna intervenes in an attempt to save Turnus by steering him away from Aeneas. Turnus’s prayer to Faunus is implied to have affected Aeneas’s sword being stuck in the consecrated wild olive tree that the Trojans cut down.
  • Divine Parentage: Aeneas is the son of Venus. King Latinus’s father is Faunus. Both of these divine lineages go back to Saturn. Aeneas is descended from Saturn through Jupiter and Venus; Latinus is descended from Saturn through Picus and Faunus. Messapus, a warrior on the Rutulian side, is mentioned to be Neptune’s son almost every time he’s mentioned.
  • Doomed Hometown: Aeneas's odyssey is set off by the Greeks' destruction of Troy.
  • Downer Ending: Somewhat; while Aeneas is victorious and peace is ensured, the epic ends on the death of Turnus.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: A band of Trojans disguise themselves in Greek armour; however, the other Trojans are also fooled, and the Greeks eventually see through the disguise.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Queen Dido stabs herself and jumps on her funeral pyre in grief and rage at being abandoned by Aeneas.
    • Queen Amata hangs herself at the conclusion of the war, blaming herself for the impending defeat by the Trojans.
  • Dying Curse: Immediately before Queen Dido of Carthage commits suicide because Aeneas left her, she prays to the gods that Aeneas's mission may fail and that the Carthaginians may forever be enemies to the descendants of Aeneas's Trojans and may one day avenge her. While part of the curse comes true, it ultimately fails: Aeneas succeeds despite many obstacles, and although Carthage came close to defeating Rome in the Second Punic War, in the end, Rome turned out victorious.
  • Entitled to Have You: Iarbas, an African king Dido spurned, hears of Dido's affair with Aeneas. He then complains to Jupiter that Dido has rejected him in favor of Aeneas, whom he likens to Paris, and he concludes that all his devotional practices to Jupiter, all his prayers to him and all the temples and altars he built in his honor, might be all for nothing.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: While Juno is perfectly willing to unleash Allecto on Latium to stir up a bloody war to eliminate Aeneas, she immediately dismisses her back to the Underworld once she starts gloating that she can expand the war to affect neighboring states that have nothing to do with Juno's grudge against Aeneas.
  • Fan Sequel: To The Iliad. Actual Greek traditions held that:
    • Aeneas left Troy after an omen of impending doom—the death of Laocoön and his sons—and returned to Mt. Ida.
    • Or he did survive the sack of Troy, making a Last Stand until the Greeks let him leave intact.
    • Aeneas ruled over a rebuilt Troy after The Trojan War, as the Iliad hints that the kingship would pass from Priam's line to him.
  • Fatal Flaw: Love of spoils.
    • Androgeos urging his men to loot to their hearts content gets him killed when it turns out he is not talking to his men, but to a contingent of Trojan warriors.
    • Euryalus was unable to escape the Rutulian patrol because he was weighed down by the spoils he stole from their camp. The Rutulian patrol only spotted Euryalus and Nisus because of the richly adorned helmet of Messapus, which Euryalus took and put on, which gleamed in the moonlight and revealed their presence.
    • Camilla chases after Chloreus, who is on the other side of the battlefield, so she can loot his golden armour. This gives the Dirty Coward Arruns his opening to shoot her In the Back without having to get too close.
    • Turnus stole Pallas’s sword belt. When Aeneas has Turnus at his mercy, he is nearly convinced by Turnus to spare him. Then the sight of this sword belt reminds Aeneas of the killing of his friend Pallas, bringing up feelings of rage that drive Aeneas to kill Turnus.
  • Flashback: Books 2 and 3 are Aeneas telling the story of the fall of Troy to Dido.
  • Foreshadowing: In Book 4, we are repeatedly told that Dido is "burning" with love for Aeneas. At the end of the book, this becomes rather unpleasantly literal.
    • Their whole badly-ended affair is this for the Punic Wars.
  • Forging Scene: Venus gets Vulcan to forge armor for Aeneas.
    • This article gives details on the comparisons between the shields.
  • Give My Regards in the Next World: A rather villainous version.
    Priam: How dare you make me witness my own son's death! You're no son of Achilles—he had respect for those begging for mercy!
    Neoptolemusnote : You'll get to see my father yourself! Be sure to tell him how wicked his son is. Now die.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!:
    • While her husband is a good, if not a very proactive king, Queen Amata of Latium sides with Turnus against Aeneas. Then there's Juno, who also causes some trouble for Aeneas.
    • Dido goes a bit love-crazy after Aeneas arrives, and it worsens after he dumps her. By that point, virtually all her subjects are against her.
  • Golden Age: The story of Saturn, a deity in exile who fled to Latium and brought about a golden age in brought up several times. This serves to further the implications that Aeneas, another exile that fled to Italy, will bring about a new golden age from Rome.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: Aeneas is a courageous, pious, and dutiful leader, but he also commits morally questionable acts, such as abandoning Dido without warning and slaying an unarmed Turnus at the end of the poem. The Trojans' enemies are likewise portrayed sympathetically despite being antagonists.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Aeneas is the son of Venus.
  • Hat of Power: Turnus has a helmet crested with a metal chimera that breathes real fire.
  • Heaven's Devils: The infernal Furies are sent away from their work in the Underworld by Juno, goddess of the heavens. She uses them to start a war between Aeneas and Turnus to delay Aeneas's fated victory, an unnatural plan that earns Juno Jupiter's reprimand. And even Jupiter himself turns to one of the Furies to get Juturna out of the battlefield so Aeneas can kill Turnus.
  • How We Got Here: Books 2 and 3 are an extended flashback to the events of The Trojan War and the long period of wandering that followed it, leading up to the Trojans' arrival in Carthage at the beginning of Book 1.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Evander tells the story of Cacus, a fire-breathing giant who would drag men back to his cave to devour them before Hercules stopped him. Polyphemus, the man-eating Cyclops of the Odyssey, also makes a brief appearance.
  • Intangibility: As they reunite in Elysium, Aeneas tries to hug the soul of his father, only to touch his hands to his own chest three times. Turns out that while the souls of Elysium look solid, living people cannot touch them.
  • Intro Dump: Book 7 ends with a series of paragraphs listing the background and army of more than a dozen heroes who have answered Turnus' call to wage war on Aeneas.
  • Ironic Echo: Aeneas refers to himself as "pious (roughly "righteous") Aeneas" during his remorse following the death of Lausus.
  • Ironic Nickname: Virgil uses the Homeric technique of applying epithets to his characters, but unlike Homer, he sometimes uses them ironically, e.g., in Book 4, immediately after Dido has just given Aeneas her epic denunciation of his faithlessness, Virgil describes "pius Aeneas" as going back to his ships. Sarah Ruden in her translation renders "pius" as "right-thinking", to underline how poorly Aeneas has defended himself. note 
  • In the Back: Camilla is fatally shot through the back by Arruns, who is himself shot in the back by Opis moments later.
  • It's Personal: Aeneas would have been perfectly content to show his rival, Turnus, mercy and let him live... if he hadn't killed his friend a few books ago. Mezentius and Aeneas's conflict also turns personal after the death of the former's son.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Juno calls Venus out for her hypocrisy when Venus, who had already intervened in the Trojan War and in favor of Aeneas during his exploits, for complaining that gods were intervening in battle and supporting mortals.
  • Judgement of the Dead:
    • King Minos is seen judging the newly dead in between the ghosts of infants and the suicides as Aeneas enters the realm of Pluto.
    • Apollo's priestess explains that those damned to the Fields of Punishments are first interviewed by Rhadamanthus, who they are compelled to tell their every crime.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Neoptolemus/Pyrrhus brutally kills the defenseless Priam and gets away with it; while Greek tradition held that he was eventually killed by Orestes, his fate isn't relevant to Aeneas's story, so Virgil doesn't mention it beyond a vague mention by Diomedes of something bad having happened to him after the war.
    • Helen of Troy, here reimagined as a cackling villain who murdered Deiphobus in his sleep, is spared by Aeneas in her only scene in the epic and gets to return home to Sparta.
    • Messapus participates in violating the truce and dishonourably kills Aulestes while he's supplicating at the altar, but as far as we know he survives the war. That said, it's not entirely clear if the death of Turnus, the epic's end point, ends the war or not, so he may die some time afterwards.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: The Etruscans' reason for joining the war: their former tyrant Mezentius had escaped to Rutulia after being overthrown and is now fighting alongside Turnus, so they hope that winning the war will allow them to avenge themselves on him.
  • Kick the Dog: Just before killing Pallas, Turnus gloats that he wishes Evander were here to see him murder his son.
  • Lady Macbeth: Queen Amata actively encourages the war between the Latins and Trojans. She encourages Turnus to fight for Lavinia’s hand, and she does all she can to discourage her husband, King Latinus, from simply giving Lavinia to Aeneas.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • The Greek warrior Androgeos is slain when he urges who he thinks are his comrades to Rape, Pillage, and Burn, not realising they're actually Trojan warriors.
    • Mezentius rejects the gods just before his duel with Aeneas and is killed almost immediately.
    • Dirty Coward Arruns prays to Apollo that he will kill Camilla by shooting her In the Back. Apollo grants his prayer, but is so disgusted by his cowardice he decrees that Arruns himself will die immediately afterwards. Arruns is indeed killed when he himself is shot In the Back by Opis, a handmaiden of Diana sent to slay whoever kills Camilla, and his comrades don't even notice that he's gone.
    • Turnus kills Pallas and plunders his belt from his dying corpse. In the poem's final lines, Aeneas contemplates sparing Turnus when he has him at his mercy, then catches sight of Pallas's belt and strikes Turnus dead in a rage.
  • Like Father, Like Son: Averted, Priam explicitly condemns Pyrrhus as not being like Achilles. Specifically, Achilles held some measure of honor and compassion by returning Hector's body. Pyrrhus just killed Polites in front of Priam.
  • Love at First Sight: Dido for Aeneas. Justified in that Cupid, Aeneas's half-brother, personally caused it.
  • Love Hurts: For both Dido and Aeneas. After Aeneas tells his story to the Carthaginians, Dido, stirred by Cupid, falls in love with him and catches him in a liaison, while Aeneas, though not intending to stay in Carthage, eventually gets comfortable. Later, Mercury appears to Aeneas in a dream and snaps him out of it by ordering him to leave Carthage. Although Aeneas did not intend to be in the liaison, he also reluctantly does so out of duty, but Dido finds out and is outraged and heartbroken about it. She eventually kills herself as a result.
  • Love Ruins the Realm: Dido's liaison with Aeneas causes them both to neglect their kingdoms and the rumours to spread. Not that Dido is concerned. It certainly ended with Dido killing herself in a fit of lovesick rage, and it would have also ended disastrously for Aeneas himself were it not for Mercury snapping him out of it.
  • Lover and Beloved: Nisus and Euryalus at first embody this dynamic that was characteristic of homosexuality in Ancient Greece, with Nisus as the older loving mentor and Euryalus as the younger beloved follower. However, their relationship shifts to one of more equal footing as they embrace more Roman values.
  • Mama Bear: Venus goes to great lengths to make sure Aeneas's destiny happens on schedule. Not only does Aeneas resent it, she really does more damage than good.
  • Medal of Dishonor: Salius gets tripped during a foot-race and gets a pity reward from the king, prompting another loser to demand a pity reward for being the first runner to fall over. The king obliges and gives the loser a nice shield.
  • Mission from God: The prophecy that Aeneas will found Rome. He finds other nice places to settle three times, and every time the gods say, "Nope, you gotta keep going."
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Aeneas' people may be just as annoyed about him knocking boots with Dido as hers are, but she's the one who pays for it.
  • Nay-Theist: Mezentius is one of the first known examples. His whole shtick is, essentially, "screw you Jupiter!"
  • No Ending: The poem ends the second Aeneas kills Turnus, with no resolution to whether Aeneas marries Lavinia or how the Latins and Trojans settle into peace. It is debated to this day whether Virgil had other intentions and died before he could complete/change the ending, or whether he intended the Downer Ending. The latter is more plausible if you subscribe to the pessimistic reading.
  • One-Hit Kill: Entellus demonstrates what would have happened had Dares continued their boxing match by crushing a bull's skull with a single punch.
  • One-Steve Limit: Pallas is the name of Evander’s son and also another name for Minerva (Athena).
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: The nine-acre-tall Tityus, a child of Jove and the Earth, appears in the Fields of Punishments. His many entrails serve as an eternal feast for an infernal vulture.
  • Patriotic Fervor: One of the whole points of the work! "Remember, Roman, these will be the arts for you, to rule peoples by command, to impose the custom of peace, to spare the conquered, and to wear down the proud with war." (6.851-3)
  • Perspective Flip: While the Iliad and the Odyssey told the story from the Greeks' point of view, this work tells it from that of the surviving Trojans.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    • Pyrrhus to King Priam.
    • Aeneas to Turnus: "This wound will come from Pallas: Pallas makes this offering, and from your criminal blood exacts his due!". All the more famous because it sparks a What the Hell, Hero? moment, and dishes out an abrupt, rather Downer Ending.
  • Pretty Boy: Young men such as Ascanius, Pallas, Euryalus, and Lausus often have their almost feminine beauty described at length (since it was highly valued in Rome). Turnus' good looks are apparently enough to inspire other men to fight and die for him.
  • Propaganda Piece: The poem was more or less state propaganda promoted by Augustus to link the emerging and brand-new The Roman Empire with antique origins. It aimed to provide an alternative founding narrative to the Roman tradition that their city was founded by Romulus. (The Romans did not create the myth of Aeneas founding Lavinium—speculated to have come from the Etruscans or the Greek colonists on Italy—but the story of Romulus was a Roman creation.) The Julio-Claudian family of which Augustus was a descendant claimed descent from the Trojans and the Goddess Venus, both origins linked Augustus and Caesar to Aeneas, thereby creating a continuity of the ruling family with their ancestors, and insisting that the foundations of Rome were imperial rather than republican. Aeneas likewise embodies virtues more amenable to Augustan Roman: piety, family honor, stoicism, differing from the more capricious and earthy nature of the Homeric attitude.
    Jupiter: His ego nec metas rerum nec tempora pono;
    Imperium sine fine dedi.
    ["For these I set no limits, world or time,
    But make the gift of empire without end"].
    Lines 278–279 (tr. Robert Fitzgerald)
  • Prophecy Twist: The Harpy Celaeno's prophecy that they will get so hungry that they'll eat their tables... which they do when they eat a meal served on big pieces of flatbread. Young Ascanius making direct reference to the pun only makes it better.
  • Racial Remnant: The Trojan War ends with nearly all the Trojans killed while the remnants of Troy escape. The Aeneid definitely contributed to the idea of the surviving Trojans being the founders of other countries—for example, several medieval works had them as the founders of Britain. Especially pronounced since Juno concedes defeat, but on the condition that the Trojans will not pass on their culture but fully assimilate with the Latins instead.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: The fate of Troy at the hands of the Greeks.
  • Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs: After falling on his face, Entellus ends his fight with Dares by attacking him so fast he can't even breathe. The blows are compared to a storm, a tempest, and hail before Aeneas stops the fight and declares Entellus victorious while blood floods out of Dares's mouth.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Dido gives Aeneas one in Book 4 after discovering that he's planning to leave Carthage and hasn't told her. When Aeneas replies, Dido's rage erupts, and she gives him another.
  • The Rival: Turnus, Aeneas's rival for the land of Latium. He's even called a "second Achilles".
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: After Pallas is killed, Aeneas goes on a brutal killing spree against the Rutulians in emulation of Achilles. Eventually, he almost spares Pallas's killer when he has him at his mercy, then catches sight of him wearing the belt he plundered from Pallas's body, which provokes him into stabbing him.
  • Robbing the Dead: Some characters loot their dead foes, and often pay for it (Nisus and Euryalus are caught because the moonlight glints off their spoils, Camilla gives Arruns an opening to shoot her by running across the battlefield to loot Chloreus' armour, Turnus stealing Pallas's belt drives Aeneas to kill him when he was previously going to spare him).
  • Seers: King Tolumnius, one of Turnus' allies, is renowned for his ability to divine the future from the movement of birds. Turnus mentions this ability to bolster his army's confidence, but Tolumnius's divination allows the goddess Juno to trick the Turnus' army into thinking fate is on their side, prolonging the war.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: Nisus tries to save Euryalus by pleading with the Latins to kill him instead, but the Latins kill them both.
  • Sex Signals Death: Aeneas and Dido both suffer consequences from their affair. Dido stabs herself in a botched suicide and burns to death on her funeral pyre, having lost all the respect of her people, other leaders, and herself, but before dying, she prophesies the Punic Wars.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The first words, "I sing of arms and a man," are meant by Virgil as a callback to The Iliad and The Odyssey respectively, to connect his epic with the works of Homer. Specifically, The Iliad begins by proclaiming itself to be about the rage (mania) of Achilles, a great warrior, in the war between the Greeks and the Trojans, while The Odyssey begins by proclaiming itself to be about a man, Odysseus. Virgil starts by saying that his poem is going to be about both.
  • Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: When Aeneas sees that the Trojan women set the fleet on fire in Book 5, Aeneas urges Jupiter to either put the fire out or strike him down with a lightning bolt. Jupiter opts for the former.
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Ascanius goes from a small child in the first book to being able to go hunting at Carthage and then fighting and killing in the Latin wars.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Dido and Aeneas, though because of circumstances out of their control. When Aeneas sails to Carthage and tells Dido his story, Dido, under the influence of Cupid, becomes lovesick for him and catches him into trysting with her, especially when they flee into the cavern for shelter during a rainstorm; Aeneas, though he has no intentions of staying in Carthage permanently, evidently has become comfortable with her, and it is not until Mercury snaps him out of it, reminding him of his duty to sail to Italy. Though Aeneas experiences a lot of anguish, he ultimately decides to remain resolute in carrying out the command, while Dido, in a fit of lovesick rage, kills herself and prophesies her people meeting Aeneas' as combatants.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Turnus dismisses the advice of his elderly maid because women are better suited to stay in the temple and let men handle the affairs of war. Unfortunately for him, his maid reveals herself to be a Fury of the Underworld and threatens him into taking her womanly counsel.
  • Sword over Head: Subverted. Aeneas almost decides to spare Turnus when he has him cornered at swordpoint until he remembers how Turnus killed his friend.
  • Temporary Love Interest: Dido. Her love keeps Aeneas in Carthage and away from his destiny, so the gods send Mercury to remind him to continue his journey.
  • To Hell and Back: Book 6. In a homage to The Odyssey, Aeneas enters the underworld to talk to the ghost of his father.
  • Tragic Intangibility: Virgil uses this device twice, closely copying the example from The Odyssey:
    • Book 2: Aeneas ignores his wife's commands to stop grieving her and tries to hug her three times, passing through all three times as she fades into shadow.
    • Book 6: As they reunite in Elysium, Aeneas tries to hug the soul of his father, only to touch his hands to his own chest three times. It turns out that while Elysium's souls look solid, living people cannot touch them.
  • Transflormation: Aeneas finds the kingdom of Polydorus abandoned and overrun by a forest. The Trojans have no idea where all the people could have gone until one of them breaks off a tree branch and the voice of Polydorus screeches out a warning about this cursed land. Aeneas leaves the tree-man and doesn't come back.
  • Trojan Horse: Book II contains the beginning of the fall of Troy and shows the horse from the view of the Trojans.
  • Unwanted Rescue: Juno separates Turnus from the battle and his troops by luring him to a ship with a phantom of Aeneas. Turnus is extremely upset about this because he will be seen as a coward who fled battle and abandoned his men. He tries to jump off the ship to get back to the battle three times, but Juno restrains him. Turnus even considers falling on his sword.
  • We Will Meet Again: Dido's last words are that her people and Aeneas' will meet again in war; she essentially prophesies the Punic Wars.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Aeneas does a few things to provoke this reaction, among them abandoning Dido without warning and slaying the helpless Turnus at the end of the poem. While the ancient Romans would have viewed these actions somewhat differently than modern readers do, the discrepancy is not so great that Aeneas' less heroic moments wouldn't have caused them some pause.
    • Some have argued that this was deliberate; since Aeneas was supposed to be a stand-in for Augustus, many believe that Virgil worked in a Take That! or two out of resentment for having his farm confiscated to give to soldiers.
    • Priam also calls out Pyrrhus, sadly to no effect:
    Priam: You are no child of Achilles, you liar. He never mistreated / Priam, his
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Juturna wishes she were mortal when she realizes that she can’t accompany her brother Turnus’s shade to the afterlife.
  • Woman Scorned: Dido really goes off the deep end, even though Aeneas obviously didn't want to leave, and wouldn't have if the gods (mostly Juno) told him to move on. (For bonus points, much of the imagery Vergil uses is the same imagery commonly used for Medea.)
    • "Could I not have torn apart his snatched-away body, and scattered it on the waves? Could I not have murdered his companions and Ascanius himself, and served them on the father's table to be feasted upon?"
    • Additionally, Juno's whole reason for being miffed at the Trojans (and therefore Aeneas) is that Paris didn't pick her.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Some historians believe that the reason Camilla isn't killed by Aeneas was so that Virgil could avoid having his hero kill a woman. Even a badass Action Girl kind of woman.
  • Wring Every Last Drop out of Him: In Virgil's version, Queen Dido decides to commit suicide for having betrayed her late husband's memory by falling in love with Aeneas. She recruits her sister Anna's help in building a pyre under the pretense of getting rid of everything that reminds her of her lover. Dido lies down in the pyre but gets impaled by one of Aeneas' swords before she can even immolate herself. Anna rushes to her side and embraces her while everybody else mourns their dying queen. Then, Goddess Juno is sent to release Dido's spirit from her suffering in a dramatic scene. On top of that, Aeneas glimpses the glow of Dido's funeral pyre from afar as he's shipping off Cartague. Thus making this one Older Than Feudalism.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Juno knows that there is nothing that she can do to avert Aeneas's fate (she hooks him up with Dido to distract him, supports the Rutuli, tries to kill him multiple times). All that she can do is make the journey miserable for him. She eventually relents and spares Aeneas and his crew, but on the condition that they assimilate with the Latins and give up the name of "Trojans".
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Troy has been razed by Greek soldiers; the premise of the poem is Aeneas providing the groundwork for Rome as he tries to re-establish Troy.
  • You Have Waited Long Enough: Dido's sister Anna says this when Dido believes that having an affair with Aeneas would betray her deceased husband.

Alternative Title(s): Aeneid

Top