The Aeneid

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Aeneas Character Analysis

Aeneas is the protagonist of the Aeneid. He is the son of Anchises and Venus. He is the father of Ascanius, with his Trojan wife, Creusa, who died at Troy. He has a fling with Dido, the queen of Carthage, before leaving her (to her despair) and continuing on to reach his destined home in Italy, where he'll marry Lavinia and become the forefather of the Latin-Trojan people, whose descendents will found Rome and include Julius and Augustus Caesar. Aeneas is famous for his piety—his devotion to his friends, the gods, and, most important, fate. When he faces difficult decisions, he piously choses his fate over his own wants or any other human emotion. But at the end of the Aeneid, his anger overcomes him and he mercilessly kills Turnus. Despite his piety and great leadership, he's a complex and imperfect man.

Aeneas Quotes in The Aeneid

The The Aeneid quotes below are all either spoken by Aeneas or refer to Aeneas. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of The Aeneid published in 2006.
Book 1 Quotes
A joy it will be one day, perhaps, to remember even this.
Related Characters: Aeneas (speaker)
Page Number: 1.239
Explanation and Analysis:

Immediately after setting out to sea, Aeneas and his men had been beset by storms and chaos, a plague sent by Aeolus, the god of winds, following the wish of Juno. Having lost some of their men to the sea already, the group now rests on an island and takes stock of their situation. Aeneas attempts, here, to rally his men and encourage them, even while acknowledging the real pain and grief that they have already experienced.

This now-famous line suggests Aeneas's mature, critical distance to suffering. He does not let himself be overwhelmed by difficulties, but rather steps back and convinces himself and others that such difficulties serve a broader purpose. If, as he claims, the group is fated to ultimately succeed, they will look back on this moment as an inevitable step on the way to that final victory. Aeneas thus shows his willingness to remain devoted to a cause greater than his own personal grief or suffering, as well as a willingness to persuade others of the righteousness of this attitude.

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Even here, the world is a world of tears and the burdens of mortality touch the heart.
Related Characters: Aeneas (speaker)
Page Number: 1.558-559
Explanation and Analysis:

As he is led through the city of Carthage, Aeneas stops at a temple to Juno and examines a portrayal of the Trojan War, with some of his friends and fellow combatants depicted on the walls. Aeneas is incredibly touched by this depiction, recognizing that a struggle that had seemed so unique to him and his fellow fighters is actually known far away. While people tend to disagree on the exact meaning of this passage, what is certain is Aeneas's feeling of solidarity with people and societies that are not his own, and that indeed are far displaced from what he knows. He may well be affected by the realization that the suffering of the Trojan War is actually not at all alien to foreign peoples, because war and death are things that all people experience; but he is still moved to know that people far away care about what happened to him. Aeneas thus shows himself once again to be thoughtful and careful in judgment, always considering the broader meaning of symbols and actions.

Book 5 Quotes
You trusted—oh, Palinurus—far too much to a calm sky and sea. Your naked corpse will lie on an unknown shore.
Related Characters: Aeneas (speaker)
Page Number: 5.970-973
Explanation and Analysis:

Palinurus, a skillful navigator, has been put in charge of the fleet, but at night the sleep god causes him to doze off, and he falls overboard and drowns. As Aeneas takes over the navigation, he mourns Palinurus, recognizing that his beloved friend will not be able to have a funeral ceremony that does justice to his greatness. At the same time, Aeneas seems to believe that it is Palinurus's human weaknesses that contributed directly to his death - even as the interjection, "oh, Palinurus," underlines the fact that Aeneas's rebuke comes from grief and not scorn.

Aeneas does not, of course, know about the divine intervention that contributed to Palinurus's death. Although Aeneas often does recognize the greater forces of destiny that are directing his own and others' lives, he is also at times tempted to assign individual responsibility to people's actions. As he does so, he slips away from his devotion and forgets that there are broader powers inextricably entwined in human lives, even when they seem so autonomous.

Book 12 Quotes
I shall not command Italians to bow to Trojans, nor do I seek the scepter for myself. May both nations, undefeated, under equal laws, march together toward an eternal pact of peace.
Related Characters: Aeneas (speaker)
Page Number: 12.225-228
Explanation and Analysis:

Even as Aeneas prepares for battle against Turnus, brave enough to embrace this fight heroically, he is mindful enough of the larger goals that he is pursuing to look past his own individual actions. He knows that the founding of Rome lies at the end of all this warfare, and he hopes that such a goal will still be possible even if he falls. Aeneas dismisses the usual terms of defeat, that is, the complete submission of the conquered enemy to the winners, and he also hopes that the Latins will be similarly gracious. Once again, Aeneas thinks beyond himself and shows pietas, great devotion to the cause that he is fated to fulfill. 

Decked in the spoils you stripped from the one I loved—escape my clutches? Never—Pallas strikes this blow, Pallas sacrifices you now, makes you pay the price with your own guilty blood!
Related Characters: Aeneas (speaker)
Page Number: 12.1105-1108
Explanation and Analysis:

Aeneas has carefully considered Turnus's pleading words, and he initially seems undecided. However, as soon as he catches a glimpse of Pallas's belt, which Turnus wears as a triumphant trophy, Aeneas's decision is made. His loyalty to his friend will trump any sense of mercy or forgiveness that he may have.

Here as elsewhere, Aeneas is forced to choose between competing interests - piety versus individual choice, mercy versus loyalty. Even the pietas for which Aeneas is so well-known, however, does not entirely help him here: part of devotion is, for him, remaining steadfast towards others whom he loves. Although the Romans will be known for their mercy and graciousness to those they conquer in war, Aeneas does not set such an example by the way he kills Pallas. And many critics have grappled with and debated about the way the Aeneid ends here, in hate and not in joy or reconciliation.

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Aeneas Character Timeline in The Aeneid

The timeline below shows where the character Aeneas appears in The Aeneid. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1
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..."Wars and a man I sing…" and says that he will tell the story of Aeneas, who has fled from Troy and is fated to eventually reach Latium in Italy, where... (full context)
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The winds blast the Trojan ships, and Aeneas prays to the gods. He then wishes that he could have died at Troy, killed... (full context)
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...land their remaining seven ships at a cove in Libya, and Achates, a friend of Aeneas's, starts a fire. Aeneas hikes up a mountain to try to see if any other... (full context)
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Returning with the deer to feed his men, Aeneas gives a stirring pep talk. He recalls their difficulties with Scylla and the Cyclops, but... (full context)
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...the scene from the heavens. Venus asks Jove when there will be an end to Aeneas's suffering. Jove tells her not to worry, and foretells more of Aeneas's fate. Aeneas will... (full context)
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Aeneas and Achates go into the woods, where they come upon a virgin warrior, who is... (full context)
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As he walks through Carthage, Aeneas envies the productive and happy town with its workers building up the city like busy... (full context)
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...the temple, and is not only beautiful but shows herself to be a capable leader. Aeneas (still invisible) is astonished to see friends whom he thought had drowned standing next to... (full context)
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Dido generously offers them land and help in finding Aeneas. Just then, the mist of invisibility breaks away, revealing them, and Venus uses her powers... (full context)
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Venus, still concerned about Juno's wrath and mistrustful of Carthaginian hospitality, sends Cupid, disguised as Aeneas's son Ascanius, to make Dido fall in love with Aeneas. Cupid brings the gifts to... (full context)
Book 2
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Aeneas begins to tell the story of his wanderings. (Book 2 and Book 3 are therefore... (full context)
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The bloody ghost of Hector, a great, deceased Trojan warrior, appears to Aeneas in a dream and warns Aeneas of a fire and the enemy within the city.... (full context)
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A band of Trojans, led by Aeneas, slay a group of Greeks and disguise themselves in the Greeks' armor. They kill many... (full context)
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...kills Priam, telling him to complain to Achilles in the underworld about his bad behavior. Aeneas, horrified, fears for the safety of his own father, wife, and son. (full context)
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Returning to his house, Aeneas sees Helen, the woman whose beauty started the war. He envies her fortune and longs... (full context)
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...confirmed by a shooting star. Anchises changes his mind, and the family hastens to depart. Aeneas carries Anchises on his back, with Ascanius by his side and Creusa behind. (full context)
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In the confusion of fleeing, Aeneas loses Creusa. Leaving Anchises and Ascanius safely hidden, Aeneas seeks Creusa in the ravaged city,... (full context)
Book 3
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Aeneas's continues to tell his story to Dido, as before in first person from his point... (full context)
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...king killed him and took his gold. The spears that struck Polydorus became the plants Aeneas uprooted. Aeneas gives Polydorus a proper funeral before setting sail again. (full context)
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...island, Ortygia, blessed by Apollo, to a city ruled by Anius, a friend of Anchises. Aeneas goes to pray for guidance from Apollo. Apollo speaks to him, telling him to find... (full context)
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...return to Ortygia to consult Apollo again. But that evening, the household gods appear to Aeneas in a dream, and tell him that their homeland is actually the distant Italy. Aeneas... (full context)
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...they enjoy themselves with games and wrestling, happy to have sailed unnoticed past Greek territory. Aeneas leaves a shield he took from a Greek he fought as a symbol that he... (full context)
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Andromache, Hector's widow, is so shocked to see Aeneas that at first she thinks he might be a ghost. Andromache explains that she was... (full context)
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Before leaving, Aeneas asks Helenus what the future holds, and how he can avoid Caelano the Harpy's prediction... (full context)
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At Drapenum, Sicily, Anchises dies. Aeneas mourns that his father survived such great risks only to die. Aeneas then sadly remarks... (full context)
Book 4
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Anna encourages Dido to let herself love. Anna argues that a marriage with Aeneas makes emotional sense (since Dido won't waste her youth in loneliness) and tactical sense (since... (full context)
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...realize that a hunter's arrow is still stuck in her side. Dido makes sure that Aeneas sees how wealthy she is, yet, love-struck, she can hardly bring herself to speak with... (full context)
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...addresses Venus for putting Dido in such a state. Hoping to protect Carthage and block Aeneas's fate, Juno asks to solidify a balanced union by getting Aeneas and Dido to marry.... (full context)
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Juno explains the wedding plans to Venus. When Aeneas and Dido join a hunting group tomorrow, Juno will create a huge storm. The couple... (full context)
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...rumor, the "swiftest of all the evils in the world," spreads gossip about Dido and Aeneas's shameful union around the entire region, and about how they've forgotten their leadership roles, shirked... (full context)
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...spurned, hears the rumors and, jealous, appeals to his father Jove to intervene. Iarbas criticizes Aeneas for becoming like a woman, perfuming himself and letting his men become "eunuchs." After checking... (full context)
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Aeneas struggles to decide how to break the news of his departure to Dido. He decides... (full context)
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When Dido hears rumors that Aeneas is leaving, she comes to him in a rage, railing against him for planning to... (full context)
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Aeneas is sorry, but he suppresses his emotions as he remembers Jove's orders. He tells Dido... (full context)
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Dido insults Aeneas, saying that he's not a goddess's son, but was instead born from the earth and... (full context)
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Meanwhile, Dido asks Anna to hurry to the shore and ask Aeneas to remain in Carthage until the winter ends and better sailing weather arrives. Anna attempts... (full context)
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...Trojans sleep in their ships, planning to leave the next day. Dido endures nightmares about Aeneas. Dido prepares for her death, hiding her intentions from Anna and pretending to be happy.... (full context)
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During the night, Mercury again appears to Aeneas, telling him to leave quickly, before the Carthaginians come to attack their ships. Aeneas wakes... (full context)
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...dawn, Dido sees the ships have sailed away. Crazy with heartbreak, she wishes she'd killed Aeneas when she had the chance. She prays that he will have to fight and watch... (full context)
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...wishes that the Trojans had never come. She will die without having gotten revenge on Aeneas, but hopes he's sorry to hear of her death. Finally, she stabs herself. (full context)
Book 5
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As Aeneas's ships sail from Carthage, he and his men notice a bright point in the city,... (full context)
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...offerings to him, and comes from behind to win. At the end of the race, Aeneas gives all the captains gifts. Sergestus is the last to return, embarrassed by his crash.... (full context)
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...two great Trojan friends, join the race, as well as five others. Before they start, Aeneas reminds them that they'll all get a prize. Nisus slips and knows he can't win,... (full context)
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...to shoot the targeted bird. Acestes shoots last, and his arrow catches fire in midair. Aeneas interprets this as a sign from Jove, and gives Acestes the first prize, Anchises's decorated... (full context)
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Aeneas prays to Jove to either stop the fire or to kill him now with lightning.... (full context)
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Aeneas still isn't sure, until Anchises's ghost appears to him at night. Anchises tells Aeneas to... (full context)
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...to doze off. Palinurus falls overboard and calls for help, but no one hears. Eventually, Aeneas takes over steering, and grieves for his friend, but blames him for putting too much... (full context)
Book 6
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Aeneas and the Trojans arrive at Cumae. While his men go hunting and exploring, Aeneas climbs... (full context)
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The Sybil urges Aeneas and Achates to sacrifice animals to Apollo. They do, and she calls out, her voice... (full context)
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Aeneas asks how he can descend to the Underworld to see Anchises again. The Sibyl answers... (full context)
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...body of their countryman Misenus on the shore, the Trojans build a tomb for him. Aeneas prays to find the tree with the golden bough, and Venus sends two doves to... (full context)
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The Trojans bury Misenus, then Aeneas performs sacrifices for good luck in the Underworld. The Sibyl leads Aeneas to the Underworld's... (full context)
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...were not properly buried and therefore must wait a hundred years before crossing the river. Aeneas sees the ghost of Palinurus among those who are waiting. Aeneas says that Palinurus shouldn't... (full context)
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Charon tells Aeneas he cannot take a living person across the river, but the Sibyl displays the golden... (full context)
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The fascinated ghosts crowd around Aeneas—except for the fallen Greeks, who are frightened of him and avoid him. Aeneas speaks with... (full context)
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Aeneas leaves the golden bough at the gate to the happy part of the Underworld, the... (full context)
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Aeneas then notices the souls crowded near a river. Anchises explains that those souls have passed... (full context)
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The time comes for Aeneas to leave the Underworld. There are two exits to the underworld. One is the gate... (full context)
Book 7
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The Trojans sail towards Italy. Caeita, Aeneas's old nurse, dies and the Trojans name the land where she's buried after her. Not... (full context)
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...tables—so the Harpy Caelano's prophesy of famine has been harmlessly fulfilled. Anchises had also told Aeneas in the Underworld to build his home on the spot where he eats his tables.... (full context)
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A delegation of Trojans (without Aeneas) journeys to Latinus's city. Latinus invites them to the palace, which is richly decorated with... (full context)
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Latinus realizes that Aeneas must be the foreigner destined to marry Lavinia. He tells the Trojans they may stay,... (full context)
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...each other. Allecto throws one of her evil magical snakes at Amata, poisoning her against Aeneas and making her angry that Lavinia won't marry Turnus. Amata tries to convince Latinus to... (full context)
Book 8
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...to win him as an ally. Meanwhile, the spirit of the Tiber river appears to Aeneas in a dream, and tells him not to fear the war—he's finally reached his homeland... (full context)
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Aeneas thanks the Tiber god and sails with some of his men along the river. They... (full context)
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...arriving, Pallas, Evander's son, goes to greet them so that the feast won't be interrupted. Aeneas explains he wants to ally with Evander in the coming war. Pallas is immediately impressed... (full context)
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Evander gives Aeneas a tour of his city, and tells its history. During the peaceful, plentiful Golden Age,... (full context)
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Venus asks her husband Vulcan to build a set of armor for Aeneas, and kisses him as encouragement. Vulcan says he would even have built armor for Aeneas... (full context)
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In the morning, Evander and Aeneas meet to talk war. Evander says he would like to fight but is too old,... (full context)
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Red light, accompanied by thunder, appears in the clear sky. Aeneas explains that it's a sign from Venus that war nears. Evander passionately prays that Pallas... (full context)
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Aeneas's group finds the Tuscans and camps with them. As they camp, Venus comes down from... (full context)
Book 9
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Iris, sent by Juno, instructs Turnus to attack the Trojans' camp, since Aeneas has left it to find Evander. Turnus thanks the gods for the help and prepares... (full context)
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...act. Nisus wants to sneak out through the Rutulian camp surrounding the fortress to find Aeneas and get help for the upcoming battle. Euryalus thinks it's a great idea and wants... (full context)
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...middle of a nighttime meeting trying to decide who should go as a messenger to Aeneas when Nisus and Euryalus come to volunteer. Aletes and Ascanius praise and encourage them, and... (full context)
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Mnesthus, a Trojan, encourages his friends, telling them to remember Aeneas and Troy. The Trojans manage to stop Turnus's progress. Jove sends Iris down to tell... (full context)
Book 10
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...begs Jove at least to save Ascanius, saying he can do whatever he wants with Aeneas. She proposes that the Trojans return home to rebuild Troy. (full context)
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Juno angrily responds that Aeneas chose to make Turnus his enemy, and that he brought war to a peaceful land.... (full context)
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Back on earth, as the battle rages on, Aeneas continues to search for allies. He finds Tuscans (also called Etruscans), whose king, Tarchon, along... (full context)
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Aeneas and the Tuscan troops arrive at the battle in the morning, and Aeneas's Vulcan-made shield... (full context)
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When Aeneas hears of Pallas's death, he goes into a killing frenzy. He takes several Latins alive... (full context)
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...to use this as an excuse to change the whole war. Juno sends a phantom Aeneas down from the heavens. Turnus throws his spear at the fake Aeneas, then chases the... (full context)
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Aeneas searches unsuccessfully for Turnus. Meanwhile, Turnus realizes he's floated away, and makes a desperate speech... (full context)
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...battlefield like the giant Orion, so tall that his head is in the clouds. When Aeneas catches up with Mezentius, Mezentius throws his spear at Aeneas. Aeneas deflects it with his... (full context)
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...and Virgil praises Lausus's bravery as deserving lasting recognition. Lausus jumps in to protect Mezentius. Aeneas tells Lausus he's being foolish. Lausus refuses to move, and Aeneas kills him, stabbing him.... (full context)
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...acknowledging that his son's sacrifice saved him. Mezentius gets on his horse, ready to kill Aeneas or die trying. He finds Aeneas and denounces him for taking his son, and fails... (full context)
Book 11
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The next morning dawns. Aeneas sets up a display of Mezentius's armor as an offering to Mars. Despite his sadness... (full context)
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Returning to the camp, Aeneas finds a delegation of Latins carrying olive branches, asking for a temporary truce during which... (full context)
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...to ask King Diomedes, a Greek now living in Italy, to ally with them against Aeneas. Now that delegation of Latins returns with news that Diomedes doesn't want to ally, because... (full context)
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...hates Turnus, and with an angry, convincing speech, he tells Latinus to promise Lavinia to Aeneas. Then he speaks directly to Turnus, telling him either to surrender or to go meet... (full context)
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...like Camilla, a ferocious warrior and queen of the Volscians. He declares that he'll fight Aeneas, even though Aeneas wears Vulcan-made armor just as Achilles did in the Trojan war. (full context)
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A messenger arrives with news that Aeneas's army is on the move. The townspeople are in chaos, and Turnus uses the moment... (full context)
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...about the unfortunate turn from Acca and returns to the city. Just after Turnus leaves, Aeneas and his men march through the gorge. He sees Turnus from afar, but night is... (full context)
Book 12
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...the turn of events against the Latins, Turnus announces to Latinus his intention to fight Aeneas and win Lavinia's hand. Latinus begs Turnus to reconsider, but Turnus is resolute. He says... (full context)
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On the Trojan side, Aeneas accepts Turnus's challenge, and comforts his friends and Ascanius by talking about fate. Morning comes... (full context)
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Latinus, Turnus, and Aeneas enter in separate chariots. Aeneas prays and asks Juno to be more kind. He says... (full context)
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...see how uneven the duel will be, with Turnus looking scared and weak compared to Aeneas. Juturna sees her chance, and, disguising herself as the soldier Camers, she tells the Rutulians... (full context)
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...and then invisibly mixes it into Iapyx's treatment. The arrow now comes out easily, and Aeneas feels well enough to fight. Iapyx realizes that his human skills couldn't have cured Aeneas—it's... (full context)
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Aeneas's return to the battle demoralizes the Latins and the Trojans kill many enemies. Juturna sees... (full context)
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Messapus, Turnus's ally and a son of Neptune, knocks off Aeneas's helmet with a spear. Aeneas, frustrated by this and by Turnus's flight, gives up just... (full context)
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Venus suggests to Aeneas that he attack Lavinium. Aeneas agrees. As the Trojans rush into Lavinium, Aeneas yells to... (full context)
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Aeneas halts the assault on the city when he hears that Turnus is coming. The armies... (full context)
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Aeneas chases Turnus, like a hunting dog chasing a deer. Aeneas pauses to try to pull... (full context)
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...when this will all end, and what hope she still has. They both know that Aeneas is fated to win. So why bother to get Turnus back his sword? He tells... (full context)
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Aeneas asks Turnus why he's dawdling. Turnus says he fears Jove, not Aeneas. Turnus picks up... (full context)
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Aeneas then strikes Turnus with his spear. On his knees, Turnus reaches up to Aeneas. He... (full context)
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Aeneas considers Turnus's pleas, but then he sees Pallas's belt that Turnus had removed and wears... (full context)