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Book 1 Notes from The Aeneid

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The Aeneid Book 1

The narrator begins with the major themes of the epic:

"I sing of arms and of a man: his fate
had made him fugitive; he was the first
to journey from the coasts of Troy as far
as Italy and the Lavinian shores.
Across the lands and waters he was battered
beneath the violence of High Ones for
the savage Juno's unforgetting anger;"
Book 1, lines 1-7

Juno is so upset with Aeneas because Carthage is fated to be destroyed by the descendants of his Trojan refugees. The Trojan refugees have wandered the seas for several years. Near Sicily, Juno goes into a fit of rage because they are so close to Italy where they are supposed to found the city that leads to the Roman empire. She uses Minerva's retribution on Oilean Ajax as a model of revenge. Invoking that fact that she gave him his powers, Juno asks King Aeolus to use the winds to waylay the Trojans. For this, she offers him his choice of her nymphs as a reward.

A dark storm comes over the Trojans and Aeneas feels the chill. He wishes that he had died in the war at Troy. The storm heaves and overturns many of the ships. Aeneas watches one overcome by waves and loses sight of others in the chaos. Neptune looks up to the sea and sees the tempest. He calls to the winds and demands that they stop disrupting the sea because their master's dominion is over land not water. As the sea calms, a silence overtakes the Trojans. They realize they are on a strange shore. Aeneas has only seven ships left out of twenty. He looks over a cliff for the others as Achates builds a fire. He sees a group of bucks and slays several of them. With this feast, Aeneas tries to calm his survivors. He puts on a false air of confidence, but worries inside. As they eat, they mourn their lost companions.

Meanwhile, Venus goes to Jupiter complaining about the plight of the Trojans. She wants to know what Jupiter is thinking by allowing their suffering and she invokes the survival of other war refugees as an example. Jupiter smiles and tells her not to fear. He prophesies the founding of Rome, after several generations of Trojan descendants are born in Italy:

"'For full three hundred years, the capital
and rule of Hector's race shall be at Alba,
until a royal priestess, Ilia,
with child by Mars, has brought to birth twin sons.'"
Book 1, lines 380-3

The king of the gods outlines Roman history down to the point of the Caesars. He stops speaking and sends Mercury to assure that the Trojans are welcomed in Carthage.

Aeneas worried all night long and decided that the best option was to go out and investigate. He leaves with Achates and runs into his mother in the forest. She is disguised as a young huntress. She asks him if he has seen her sister and he says he hasn't. He thinks she must be a goddess. She explains that the city is a refugee group of Tyrians led by a queen named Dido. Dido's husband, Sychaeus, was secretly killed by her jealous brother Pygmalion. His ghost came to her in a dream and revealed what had happened. He instructed her to leave and showed her the location of a treasure that would help her. She gathered all the Tyrians who opposed Pygmalion and came to North Africa where she leased all the land she could surround with the skin of a bull from the natives. Venus asks him where he is from and how he came from there and he responds that such a tale would take much too long to tell. He complains that he has lost his ships. She replies, assuring him that the gods do not hold a grudge against him. Pointing to twelve swans in the sky, she says this means his twelve ships have come to Carthage. She turns to leave and Aeneas recognizes her as his mother. He cries out that she is unfair for deluding him and then turns towards Carthage.

Venues cloaks Achates and Aeneas so that no one will hinder their progress towards the city. Aeneas sees the workmen of the city laboring "[j]ust as the bees in early summer, busy/ beneath the sunlight through the flowered meadows," Book 1, lines 611-12. He wishes his city were being built as he walks unseen into the center. Here there is a shrine to Juno. In the middle of this there are bronze pictures of the Trojan war. Aeneas cries out to see Priam, Achilles and the weeping Trojan women. He gazes at this scene as Dido enters the temple compared to Diana. She sits on her throne and gives laws to her people. Aeneas and Achates see their lost Trojan chiefs Cloanthus, Sergestus, Antheus and Ilioneus entering the temple and they want to rejoice, but they remain hidden. Ilioneus, the eldest, appeals to the queen for shelter because the natives of North Africa refuse to give any aid. Dido speaks and assures them that she will help them recover and continue on to wherever they wish to go. First, she says she will send scouts to look for their missing ships. She laments that their leader is not with them. Achates turns to Aeneas but before he can say anything, the cloud disappears and Aeneas addresses the queen:

"'The man you seek is here. I stand before you,
Trojan Aeneas, torn from Libyan waves.
O you who were alone in taking pity
on the unutterable trials of Troy,
who welcome us as allies to your city
and home- a remnant left by Greeks, harassed
by all disasters known on land and sea,'"
Book 1, lines 836-842

He blesses Dido and promises to praise her taking the hands of his friends. Dido is startled by him and she asks him about his trials. She compares their destinies: both are exiles commanded to make a new city. She sends food and wine to the other Trojans. Aeneas has his son Ascanius sent from the ship with gifts for Dido: A pearl necklace; a veil; and a crown.

While this happens, Venus goes to her other son Cupid . She asks him go to Dido imitating Ascanius. In this form, he will incite her to love Aeneas. Cupid is willing to do as his mother asks. Dido leads him around and holds him in her lap. Venus puts the real Ascanius to sleep for awhile. Achates gathers the remaining Trojans and the gifts and returns to the city. Affected by Cupid, Dido calls for a feast and says a prayer to Jupiter, Bacchus and Juno. They pour libations and she asks Aeneas many questions about his suffering. She begs, "'tell us all/ things from the first beginning: Grecian guile,/ your people's trials, and then your journeyings.'" Book 1, lines 1049-51.

Topic Tracking: Historical Subtext 1
Topic Tracking: Women 1
Topic Tracking: Omens 1
Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 1

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