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Book 2 Notes from The Aeneid

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The Aeneid Book 2

Everyone becomes silent as Aeneas begins his tale. He asserts that it would be hard for a warrior from either side of the battle to tell the story without weeping. He begins when the Greeks were pushed back by the tide of the war after the death of Achilles. Minerva inspired them to build a great wooden horse and fill it with armed men. They left it in front of the gates of Troy and sailed to the island Tenedos. The Trojans flooded out of the city rejoicing and raided the empty camps. Some of them wanted to lead the wooden horse into the city; others wanted to destroy it. Laocoon, a priest, addressed the assembled men and women:

"'"Do you
believe the enemy have sailed away?
Or think that any Grecian gifts are free
of craft? Is this the way Ulysses acts?
Either Achaeans hide, shut in this wood,
or else this is an engine built against
our walls...
I fear the Greeks, even when they bring gifts."'"
Book 2, lines 60-70

He threw a spear at the horse and cries came from within but no one paid attention. Some Trojans dragged in a man they found in the camps and they asked who he was and where he was from. He laments that he has no place in the world and when they ask him what is wrong, he tells them that his name is Sinon. His protector had been falsely put to death by Ulysses and because of this, Ulysses was forever suspicious of Sinon. He stopped his tale and begged for the Trojans to kill him, but they wanted to hear the rest of his story. He told them that the Greeks wanted to go home, but Calchas prophesied that they would not be able to return home unless they sacrificed a human, just as they did before they left Greece. Ulysses pressed Calchas to name Sinon as the chosen victim, but he wouldn't. He was confined to his shelter for many days until he finally came out and named Sinon the gods' chosen sacrifice. Sinon fled from the sacrifice to avoid death. Priam bent down and unchained the lying Greek and welcomed him to the city. He continued to tell the Trojans that the Greeks ending up losing because they had alienated Minerva. They stole her image from a shrine and brought it in front of the siege. They left the horse as a symbol of the Trojans' triumph over Greece.

While Sinon told his tale, Laocoon was sacrificing a bull. Twin snakes came across the sea from Tenedos and ate his sons at the altar. When they finished with them, they attacked and ate Laocoon. They came to rest at the altar of Minerva. All the Trojans thought this meant that Laocoon was wrong and the horse should be led into the city. After pulling down part of the ramparts to fit the massive horse, they struggled at the gates:

"'four times it stalled
before the gateway, at the very threshold;
four times the arms clashed loud inside its belly.
Nevertheless, heedless, blinded by frenzy,
we pressed right on and set the inauspicious
monster inside the sacred fortress.'"
Book 2, lines 335-340

As the night set, the Trojans feasted and fell to sleep. The Greek army returned from Tenedos and Sinon let the Greeks out of the horse. They killed the guards and let the army into the city. While Aeneas slept, Hector came to him in a dream and told him to flee the enemy who had just taken the city. He advised him to take Troy's people and gods and run. Aeneas sprung from sleep and looked out over the burning city. He grabbed his weapons, intending to fight to the death, but an old man with his grandson came up to him announcing their defeat. Aeneas, heedless of this warning, rushed into the city and found companions. He led them to fight off some of the invaders. They hunted through the city like a pack of wolves. One Greek band mistook them for Greeks and were slaughtered. Given inspiration by this mistake, the band of Trojans donned the Greek armor and continued their killing spree. One of their companions, Coroebus rushed off to death when they found out that Cassandra was raped.

Soon the band was decimated and Aeneas returned to the palace dodging invaders. The Greeks rushed into the building and pillaged the house. There were sounds of women wailing as Pyrrhus burst in with Menelaus and Agamemnon. The men of Priam's house fell one by one and Priam put on his armor despite his old age. As he went to leave, his wife huddled with her daughters like doves and pleaded with him saying, "'"Poor husband, what wild thought drives you/ to wear these weapons now? Where would you rush?"'" Book 2, lines 699-700.

He did not heed her plea for him to pray, because at that moment Pyrrhus rushed in and killed his young son on the altar. Priam cursed him and asked the gods for victory as he flung his spear towards the invader. Pyrrhus laughed as the old man missed and then he killed him. Aeneas rushed back to his house thinking of his father. He passed Helen who was afraid of Greeks and Trojans alike. He thought of striking her down then for causing the war. His mother appeared and asked him why he was so bitter and not thinking about his own family. She showed him that the gods were working against Troy emphasizing that they had no hope. She sped him along to his father, Anchises.

Anchises, unable to flee because he was crippled, begged Aeneas to abandon him. Aeneas' wife, Creusa helped him beg the old man. Aeneas described to his father the horror of Priam's death. Then he raged again and wanted to go back into battle. Creusa pleaded with him:

"'"If you go off to die, then take us, too,
to face all things with you; but if your past
still lets you put your hope in arms, which now
you have put on, then first protect this house."'"
Book 2, lines 914-7

Ascanius' face lit up with a divine light as if it were on fire and Anchises asked Jupiter to confirm the omen. They watched a shooting star streak through the sky and Anchises decided that he should leave. Aeneas slung his father over his shoulders and led his child by the hand. Creusa was to follow behind him. After he got his father and son to safety, he turned around and Creusa was gone. He rushed into the city, maddened, searching for her. Her ghost came to him and said that she was not fated to go with him. She foretold that he would have to go to Italy. He tried to embrace her three times, but she disappeared. Refugees poured out of the city overnight and they hid in the mountains.

Topic Tracking: Women 2
Topic Tracking: Omens 2
Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 2

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