Notes on Characters from The Aeneid

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The Aeneid Major Characters

Aeneas: The hero and protagonist of this epic, Aeneas is the son of Venus and Anchises. He is pictured in the Iliad where he is rescued repeatedly by the gods. His depiction in this tale is a little more noble. He is empowered by the gods with the task of leading the Trojan refugees from their destroyed city to Italy where they will make the beginning of an empire. His status as a hero is different than the status of the Greek heroes. He is a social hero. He is responsible not only for winning his own glory but also the glory of his father and son, representing the past and the future. His failure with Dido and his slaying of Turnus reiterates that he may be the son of a god, but he is human. He does all the great things of the Homeric heroes: he wages war; gets lost at sea; and travels to the underworld. His endeavors, however, are controlled by a strict fate that constantly redirect his attentions.

Juno (Hera): Juno is Aeneas’ chief antagonist. She is opposed to Aeneas for two primary reasons. The first is that she sided with the Greeks in the Trojan war and the second is that he is fated to found an empire that will destroy her favorite city: Carthage. She uses any means to delay the Trojans: storms; love; war. She knows that the fate is insurmountable, but she means to make it difficult. She watches in anguish as her Queen Dido is destroyed by love for Aeneas. She takes the opposite side of the war in Italy and must watch Turnus die also. She suffers in this play also: she must struggle with the conflict between her status as an immortal and her inability to alter fate.

Neptune (Poseidon): Neptune is the god of the sea who is friendly to the Trojans on many occasions. He helps them finally make landfall in Italy. He was partially against them in the Trojan war because of complex alliances, but originally he was a friend and protector to the Trojans: he built the walls of their city.

Venus (Aphrodite): Venus is Aeneas’ mother. Her role in this epic is very difficult because she is simultaneously the goddess of lust and a mother figure. Her role is mainly to facilitate Aeneas’ journey. She takes no prisoners. She thinks nothing of destroying Dido for her son’s sake, perhaps even delighting in the fact that she defeated her rival Juno. She repeatedly appeals to Jupiter to have him help her son and she guides her son in many small ways. She shows him paths, heals his wounds and brings him honor. It must not be forgotten that the Trojans are exiles to begin with because of her deal with Paris. If she had not helped him steal Helen, there would have been no war. In some small way, her help to the Trojans is a kind of atonement.

Jupiter (Jove): The king of the gods, husband of Juno and grandfather of Aeneas by some accounts, uncle by others. His job in this epic is mainly that of peacekeeping between Juno and Venus. Both of these goddesses are constantly appealing to him for solutions to their problems. He favors the Trojans to a certain extent because he still feels bad that their city had to fall. He gives omens and prophesies Rome in the first book.

Dido: Queen Dido is one of the first heroines of western literature. She is a female parallel to Aeneas. She led her people as exiles from their home and founded a city in a foreign land. Her brother betrayed her and killed her husband Sychaeus. She does not want to fall in love with Aeneas but is trapped by Cupid and led by the words of her sister. Once she gives into love, she loses her masculine strength and her city begins to falter. When Aeneas leaves her she becomes frantic, desiring a child as a ‘consolation’ prize. Having broken her vow of chastity and feeling absolutely forlorn, she kills herself but not without cursing the Trojans and foretelling the wars between Carthage and Rome. She appears in the underworld but does not speak to Aeneas.

Ascanius (Iulus): Son of Aeneas, he represents hope for the future and the line of Roman emperors. His actions are primarily boyish. He is always eager to hunt and Juno manipulates this eagerness into causing the beginning of the war in Italy. He shows new maturity, however, during the siege, when he fights and offers prizes to the men who go to inform Aeneas of their plight.

Anchises: Aeneas’ father. Anchises was a brave and beautiful young man who slept with Venus. When he bragged about this, Jupiter made him lame with a thunderbolt. Anchises represents the past and the traditions of Troy. He leads them over the islands and towards Italy. He is an omen-reader and priest for the Trojans until he dies. When he dies, he becomes a prophet in the underworld.

Latinus: The Italian king who wants to give his daughter to Aeneas but is prevented by his wife. He truly regrets the conflict that ensues, but is powerless to stop it.

Turnus: Turnus is styled as the new Achilles who rises to fight the Trojan wife stealer. This champion, however, has no one but Juno to look over him, and he is fated to lose. He struggles and is truly a great fighter. He dies in vain.

Minor Characters

Minerva (Athena): Goddess of wisdom and war. In this epic she is responsible for little other than receiving prayers. She was very involved in the Odyssey and the Iliad where she played an intervening role very similar to Venus’ in this epic.

Oilean Ajax: The lesser Ajax, one of the heroes in the Iliad. He raped Cassandra, the virgin priestess to Minerva. This action caused Minerva to take her vengeance from him. She killed him and his crew at sea. This is what Juno thinks she can do to the Trojans.

Aeolus: King of the winds who also appears in the Odyssey. In this epic he gives Juno his winds to cause the storm of Book 1.

Achates: Aeneas’ right hand man. He accompanies Aeneas into the city of Carthage in the first book and helps him when he is wounded in the twelfth.

Sychaeus: Dido’s husband who was killed by her brother Pygmalion. He appears with her as a ghost in the underworld in Book 6.

Cloanthus: A Trojan chief who appears first as one of the lost Trojans in Carthage. He wins the galley race in the games of Book 5 and fights against the Latins in the last books.

Sergestus: Another of the lost Trojan chiefs with whom Aeneas is reunited in the first book. He fights valiantly in the siege of the Trojans’ camp.

Antheus: One of the lost Trojans, he appears in Book 1 and again as one of the men who helps Aeneas limp back to camp after he is wounded in Book 12.

Ilioneus: A Trojan chieftain who often speaks in Aeneas’ absence. His name is taken from ilium which means Troy. He is also one of the lost Trojans who is reunited with Aeneas in Carthage.

Cupid: Child of Venus, he is used by her to inflame Dido with a destructive love for Aeneas. He takes the form of Ascanius and sits in her lap.

Achilles: Hero of the Iliad, he is mentioned several times in this epic. He has died by the time Aeneas begins his narrative of the wooden horse, but his memory lingers. He was the best of the Achaeans, a warrior by whom all other warriors were to be measured.

Priam: King of Troy, father of Paris, Cassandra and Hector, as well as the Helenus who appears later in this text. He is an old man who watches a young son get cut down by Pyrrhus. He is also killed.

Laocoon: A Trojan Priest who insists that they not bring the horse into the city. When he isn’t listened to, he goes to sacrifice but this ceremony is interrupted by two snakes that eat him and his sons.

Sinon: The Greek who stays behind and pretends that he has run away from his companions because they wanted to sacrifice him. Sinon convinces the Trojans to take the horse into the city and then he lets the Greeks out at night.

Coroebus: A Trojan in love with Cassandra, he rushes off to his death when he hears that she has been raped.

Pyrrhus: Achilles’ son and chief antagonist in the sack of Troy, he kills Priam and his son. A terrible fate befell him when he was killed by Orestes and his kingdom was divided.

Menelaus: Husband of Helen and brother of Agamemnon on whose account the Trojan war was undertaken. He appears in the Odyssey .

Agamemnon: King of Argos who led the allied Greek troops to Troy. His death by the hands of his wife’s lover is reported in the Odyssey.

Helen: The woman on whose account the Trojan war was waged. She was taken from her husband’s house by Paris with the help of Venus in gratitude for declaring her the fairest of the immortals by giving her the golden apple. Helen was the most beautiful woman in Greece, Her father is Jupiter. When Aeneas ran into her during the sack of Troy, he wanted to kill her in rage.

Creusa: Aeneas’ wife who is left behind when Troy falls.

Polydorus: Trojan envoy to Thrace who was killed by the King there. Aeneas encounters his spirit when he tries to start a colony in Thrace.

Teucer: A legendary ancestor of the Trojans.

Dardanus: A legendary ancestor of the Trojans who came from Italy.

Cassandra: Virgin priestess of Minerva who was cursed to give true prophecies which no one would believe. Her rape by Ajax incites the wrath of the goddess.

Celaeno: The queen Harpy who gives Aeneas a dark prophecy for the founding of his city after his men kill some of her sisters.

Helenus: Trojan prophet married to Hector’s wife, Andromache, and rules over part of Pyrrhus’ dominion. He gives Aeneas a lengthy prophecy about the founding of his city.

Andromache: Wife of Hector, she appears alongside Helenus in another group of Trojan refugees.

Orestes: Son of Agamemnon who avenged his father by killing his mother and her lover. He also kills Pyrrhus, his rival in love.

Sibyl: Witch-prophetess who guides Aeneas into the underworld. She represents a darker, wilder sort of divinity than Helenus. She has Aeneas pick the golden bough.

Palinurus: Helmsman of Aeneas’ ship on numerous occasions. He falls from the ship on the way to Italy because he brags to Neptune. He appears to Aeneas in the underworld as an unburied spirit.

Achaemenides: The Greek man abandoned by Ulysses who appeals to the Trojans for help on the island of the Cyclops.

Anna: Dido’s sister who encourages her to seek a match with Aeneas. She unknowingly helps her sister prepare for suicide and laments at her death.

Iarbas: Numidian chief who feels slighted by Dido’s relationship with Aeneas. His plea to his father, Jupiter, prompts the king of the gods to send Mercury to Aeneas to order him to leave Africa.

Mercury: Messenger of the gods, Mercury does the bidding of Jupiter and carries his orders to men, most commonly to Aeneas.

Iris: Iris is Juno’s messenger. She takes Dido’s soul and bears it to the underworld.

Acestes: The king on Sicily who hosts the Trojans and whose arrow bursts into flames in the archery contest, winning him first place.

Mnestheus: One of the Trojan chiefs who competes in the galley race placing third. He fights against the Italians.

Gyas: The Trojan who loses first place in the boat race and throws his helmsman into the sea.

Nisus: Older companion of Euryalus. When he slips in blood in the footrace, he trips the next person so that Euryalus can win. When the camp of the Trojans is besieged, he runs to take a message to Aeneas with Euryalus. When Euryalus is caught, he turns and attacks the Latins. He dies soon after killing his friend’s murderer.

Euryalus: Nisus’ younger companion who wins the footrace. He is caught by the Latins after he gets hindered by brush. He is killed. His mother mourns and wishes to die.

Dares: The young boxer whom everyone is afraid to challenge.

Entellus: The old boxer who defeats Dares brutally, prompting Aeneas to stop the match.

Apollo: God of the sun and the lyre as well as prophecy, Apollo inspires a major portion of the prophecies in this Epic.

Misenus: Trojan trumpeter who was killed after he challenged the divine Triton to a trumpeting match.

Charon: Ferryman of the river Styx. He is hesitant to take Aeneas and the Sibyl across.

Amata: Queen of the Latins, mother of Lavinia and wife to Latinus. She wants her daughter to marry Turnus not the stranger Aeneas. When the city is besieged, she hangs herself.

Allecto: The beast-like fury Juno sends to Italy to cause a war between the Trojans and the Latins.

Mezentius: A former king of the Tuscans who was overthrown by his people. They wait to kill him. He fights with the Latins and dies soon after the death of his son Lausus.

Clausus: One of the Latin chiefs who dies.

Lausus : Son of Mezentius who is killed by Aeneas.

Messapus: A Latin chief.

Camilla: The virgin warrior who was raised in the wilderness by her father. She is the bulwark of the Latins’ defense against the Trojans. When she is mortally wounded, Diana avenges her.

Diomedes: A Greek hero from the Iliad who settled in Italy because he was not allowed to return home. His refusal to fight against the Trojans again sets back the Latin ambitions.

Tiberinus: God of the river Tiber who helps Aeneas by telling him to go up river to seek help.

King Evander: King of the Tuscans who welcomes Aeneas and offers his son and some of their men to fight the Latins. He tells Aeneas a tale of Hercules and makes him promise to protect his son.

Pallas: Son of Evander who is killed by Turnus. Aeneas buries him and mourns his death. His belt on Turnus makes Aeneas kill the Latin in book 12.

Vulcan (Hephaestus): God of the forge and fire, he is married to Venus. He makes armor and weapons for Aeneas just as he did for Achilles in the Iliad.

King Tarchon: King of the Tuscans who agrees to come and fight with Aeneas.

Volcens: The Latin who kills Euryalus and is killed by Nisus.

Pygmalion: Dido’s brother who killed her husband and took over as King of Tyre. This action forced ehr to flee to North Africa.

Drances: Latin politician who is impressed by Aeneas. He tries to get Latinus to drop the war and offer Lavinia to Aeneas. Turnus shouts at him and ridicules him.

Lavinia: Daughter of Latinus and Amata whose hand in marriage is under dispute.

Diana: Twin sister of Apollo, she is the goddess of the moon and the hunt as well as the patron of Camilla.

Arruns: The Greek who stalks and kills Camilla only to be struck down by Diana.

Juturna: Turnus’ sister who was turned into a nymph by Jupiter because he raped her. Juno gets her to spirit her brother away from the battle. Jupiter must unleash a fury to chase her away.

Iapyx: The healer who works on Aeneas’ wound and admits that his success is attributable to a god.

Ulysses (Odysseus): Hero of the Odyssey, he is the villain in this story because he brought about the fall of Troy. He is depicted negatively throughout the epic.

Calchas: A prophet of the Greeks who appears in the Iliad.

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