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Book 8 Notes from The Aeneid

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The Aeneid Book 8

The entire region leaps into war with Turnus. He sends an envoy to the city of Diomedes asking for help. Diomedes has settled in Italy because he was fated not to return to his home city. When Aeneas sees the attackers his mind rages like light in a copper bowl of water. Night comes and Aeneas lies awake thinking of his men. The god of the river Tiberinus comes to him and tells him not to panic because he will soon find the white sow prophesied. Then he tells him to become an ally with King Evander of the Arcadians who has been an enemy of the Latins for a long time. He also advises him to appease Juno and honor him when he is a victor.

Aeneas rises in the morning and blesses the river. He prepares two ships for the trip upriver and finds the white sow in the process. He sacrifices the sow to Juno and other gods. Then he rows upstream. When Evander sees the ships he wants to know who is coming, but his son Pallas will not allow the sacrifices to be stopped. He runs to the ships and Aeneas announces who they are and why they have come. He addresses the king and tells him that he does not care that he is related to Menelaus and Agamemnon. He says that since Evander's father is Mercury whose grandfather is Atlas, and Dardanus was also a grandson of Atlas by Elektra, they are relatives. Evander recognizes him because he had seen the young Anchises before he was crippled. He agrees to fight with him and promises they will leave the next day. They finish the feast and sacrifice. When this is over, Evander explains that they have this yearly ritual for Hercules who killed a great beast named Cacus who was a child of Vulcan. Hercules was driving his great cattle through the area when the beast ate some of them. Hercules killed it and established an altar near its lair. Evander pours a libation as the priest prays to Hercules and invokes his labors. The feast ends and Aeneas walks with the king and his son. Evander tells the history of the land:

"'These groves were once the home of fauns and nymphs
and of a race of men sprung from tree trunks
and sturdy oaks. They had no rule and no
refinements; for they could not yoke their bulls
or gather wealth or save what they had gained;'"
Book 8, lines 412-16

The gods made a nation here but then others entered the land and created their own kingdoms. On a hill in the city, there is a grove people believe shelters a god, but they don't know which one. As they enter the king's home, he apologizes for his poverty but assures Aeneas that Hercules received the same lodging.

Meanwhile, Venus turns to her husband Vulcan and asks him to make arms for Aeneas to help him in war. Vulcan tells her that he will not deny her anything. In the morning he goes to his workshop on the island of the Cyclops. He stops the work going on there and begins to make the strongest weapons possible. They make a seven-ply shield.

Evander rises and goes to the quarters of Aeneas admitting that he has only so many men to offer him. He tells him of a Tuscan tribe that was betrayed by their leader Mezentius. They expelled him but are not allowed to fight or get revenge until they are led by a foreign king. Evander says he is too old to do it and his son is half native. He assures him that if he sails upriver and entreats these men they will join him. He also offers his son and 400 men. Aeneas and Achates worry about this but Venus sends a sign through the sky. Everyone is shocked but Aeneas tells them that this is his mother's sign:

"'[T]hat, if war were at hand, then through the air
she would bring Vulcan's weapons to my aid.
What slaughter menaces these sad Laurentians!
What penalties will Turnus pay to me!'"
Book 9, lines 695-98

Aeneas lights fires at the altars of Heracles and makes an offering. He sends some men downriver to the Trojans and the rest depart with him on horseback to find the Tuscans. Evander tells his son that he wishes he could fight in his place and he asks the gods to keep him safe. He faints when his son rides away. They all ride together and after a while they find the Tuscans and their King Tarchon. Venus gives her son the arms and he is delighted. The armor is engraved with scenes of Roman days to come: Romulus and Remus, the founding of the republic, the sack of the city by Gauls. Catiline, Cato, the Gracchi, the battle of Actium with Marcus Antonius, and Cleopatra fighting Augustus with Agrippa as his general. Aeneas marvels at all this and is glad for the symbols he does not understand.

Topic Tracking: Historical Subtext 5
Topic Tracking: Omens 8
Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 7

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