The Aeneid

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Themes and Colors
Fate Theme Icon
The Gods and Divine Intervention Theme Icon
Piety Theme Icon
Rome Theme Icon
War and Peace Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Aeneid, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Rome Theme Icon

Rome stands at the center of the poem. The city's founding, and the empire that will grow from it, is the endpoint of Aeneas's fate. Once Aeneas learns of Rome explicitly in Anchises's descriptions of it in the Underworld, the city comes to symbolize for him the pinnacle of his eventual achievement, spurring him on through all of his subsequent trials and tribulations. For Aeneas and his people, Rome also stands as an embodiment of a new home to replace the one they lost in Troy, a place where he and his people can build a community, can worship their gods, can play out their fate. In short, a home is the source of identity, the place where they can build all the things that are worth being pious to.

At the same time, the Aeneid holds up Aeneas as a justification of Rome's greatness. Virgil wrote the poem during the "Golden Age" of Rome, and the poem stands as a founding myth that both connects Rome to the ancient Greek tradition of the Odyssey and the Iliad, and, by showing how Roman is founded on the values of piety and just leadership exemplified by Aeneas, explains how Rome surpasses that tradition. In the Underworld, Anchises goes so far as to explain Rome's superiority to the Greeks and all other nations. He explains that Rome has the unique capacity to spare the conquered and overcome the arrogant. In other words, Rome's greatest virtue is the ability not just to conquer new territories, but also to make them a part of the peaceful whole. And Anchises is right! Rome really was exceptional for that very reason. Rome managed to conquer much of the known world, including all the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, and sustained two hundred years of peace, a feat that no other civilization since has ever matched.

Rome ThemeTracker

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Rome Quotes in The Aeneid

Below you will find the important quotes in The Aeneid related to the theme of Rome.
Book 1 Quotes
Wars and a man I sing.
Related Characters: Virgil (speaker)
Page Number: 1.1
Explanation and Analysis:

In many Greek and Latin epic poems, the first words of the work are meant to set the stage for what follows. Here, by beginning with the words "wars" and "man," Virgil immediately introduces both the context and the protagonist of his tale. Into a society beset by constant warfare, Aeneas will fulfill his own fate as well as, ultimately, bring an end to the conflicts with which the poem begins. 

Homer, the great Greek poet with whom Virgil would have inevitably compared himself, began both his Odyssey and Iliad by talking about the individual "men" that the poems would follow. By adding the general idea of war to this heritage, Virgil emphasizes the social implications of his tale. This will not only be a story of one man's heroic fight with or against fate: instead, it will be closely bound to the very history of the place where Virgil is now writing. 

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Book 3 Quotes
Search for your ancient mother. There your house, the line of Aeneas, will rule all parts of the world.
Related Characters: Apollo (speaker)
Page Number: 3.17-18
Explanation and Analysis:

Aeneas and his followers have sailed to Ortygia, a land under the guidance of Apollo, and Aeneas has prayed to the god for guidance. Apollo has largely stayed out of Aeneas's affairs before, but here his piety in humbling himself before the god, rather than presuming to know exactly what to do and how to act, prove impressive to Apollo. As a result, he does intervene, not just revealing to Aeneas his fate but giving him advice on what to do. Of course, the two are inextricable, since Apollo knows that Aeneas's fate is indeed to found Rome, but Apollo takes pity on Aeneas enough to want to steer him towards this fate more easily.

Indeed, this passage is composed of one part guidance, one part foretelling. Rome is described as Aeneas's "ancient mother," an interesting phrase that suggests that it is not something to be created out of nothing, but rather a place preexisting Aeneas's search, in close relation to his life and simply waiting to be discovered. Only once Aeneas can surmount the difficulties in his path and find this "ancient mother" will his house become the world's most powerful. 

Book 6 Quotes
Others, I have no doubt, will forge the bronze to breathe with suppler lines, draw from the block of marble features quick with life, plead their cases better, chart with their rods the stars that climb the sky and foretell the times they rise. But you, Roman, remember, rule with all your power the peoples of the earth—these will be your arts: to put your stamp on the works and the ways of peace, to spare the defeated, break the proud in war. — Anchises
Related Characters: Anchises (speaker)
Page Number: 6.976-984
Explanation and Analysis:

At this crucial moment in the epic poem, Anchises shares with Aeneas the defining characteristic of the Romans, the goal toward which Aeneas and his followers should strive as they seek to find Rome and found their nation there. "Others" may well include the Greeks, who would for a long while compete with the Romans in terms of cultural and political prowess: here, for instance, Anchises refers to armor-making, sculpture, rhetoric, and astronomy. But what will distinguish the Romans will be a power and graciousness in war that no other peoples have embraced. 

Even as the Romans grow powerful, Anchises says, they will never become ruthless or cruel. As a result, they will deserve even more their status as the greatest people of the world, since their moral strength backs up their political and martial might. Anchises thus justifies the establishment of Rome, even with all the suffering and difficulties that still lie in its way, by the moral superiority that the Romans are fated to espouse.

Book 8 Quotes
He fills with wonder—he knows nothing of these events but takes delight in their likeness, lifting onto his shoulders no the fame and fates of all his children's children.
Related Characters: Virgil (speaker)
Related Symbols: Aeneas's Shield
Page Number: 8.856-859
Explanation and Analysis:

Venus has come down from the heavens to give Aeneas a shield forged by her lover, Vulcan. The shield (which bears some resemblance to the famous shield of Achilles described in Homer's Iliad) depicts on it many events and stories from the future peoples of Rome. This description thus gives Virgil the chance to portray what for Aeneas is the future, but for his readers is their shared past and collective memories. By inscribing those events on the shield, Virgil emphasizes that they were fated to take place, that indeed they were only waiting to be fulfilled while Aeneas sought to found Rome.

The bittersweet element of these depictions is that Aeneas, of course, will not live to see them fulfilled. He cannot understand what is depicted on the shield because it is his fate to lead his people to Rome, not to live in peace with them there. But because he is committed to a cause greater than himself, he is willing and eager to carry the "fame and fates" of all his descendants along with him, confident and happy for these future times.

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. 

Now what god can unfold for me so many terrors? Who can make a song of slaughter in all its forms—the deaths of captains down the entire field, dealt now by Turnus, now by Aeneas, kill for kill? Did it please you, great Jove, to see the world at war, the peoples clash that would later live in everlasting peace?
Related Characters: Virgil (speaker)
Page Number: 12.584-589
Explanation and Analysis:

Just as peace was about to be made, an errant throw of an arrow relaunches the battle between the Trojans and the Latins. Aeneas, frustrated that he cannot reach Turnus and settle counts once and for all, kills as many as he can as he strives to find his enemy. At other points in the book, including the very beginning, Virgil has called upon the Muses to inspire his epic and to breathe force into his tale. Now, for the first time, he expresses skepticism that even the gods can make beauty out of such senseless slaughter. 

Virgil's words suggest a questioning of the idea of fate as a driving, meaningful force in life. Virgil's rhetorical question at Jove is despairing but also provocative, as he wonders whether it was just a whim to set these peoples at war (or even, perhaps, whether there is a guiding force directing these actions at all). Speaking from a later historical position, knowing that Romans would live in peace long afterward, Virgil shows himself to be part of the chosen nation of Rome, unique in its promotion of peace over war. Looking back at the destruction that preceded the founding of Rome, however, Virgil cannot help but remain aghast at the utter devastation that seemed to be motivated by little other than tragic chance.

Go no further down the road of hatred.
Related Characters: Turnus (speaker)
Page Number: 12.1093
Explanation and Analysis:

After a long, drawn-out battle between Aeneas and Turnus - and between the gods who are directing the actions of both of them - Aeneas finally has his enemy on his knees, and must decide whether to kill or to spare him. Here, Turnus begs Aeneas to spare him. He seems to suggest by his words that Aeneas will act out of free will: it is up to his individual conscience to direct his next move. Of course, we as readers know that there are many more characters at play here than the two soldiers facing each other. However, we are certainly not meant to see Aeneas as passive or lacking any will of his own. Guided by fate, Aeneas must nonetheless choose how to respond to his own fate, knowing as he does that he is tantalizingly close to the goal that has defined his life.