Notes on The Aeneid Themes

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The Aeneid Topic Tracking: Omens and Prophecy

Omens 1: Jupiter's detailed prophecy in the middle of this book sets the path for most of the epic. He foretells the forming of the Roman empire from a small roaming band of refugees. Venus is happy with this prophecy. To assure Aeneas that everything is all right, Venus shows him the omen of the twelve white swans, representing the twelve Trojan ships that arrived in Carthage.

Omens 2: There are parts of prophecies contained in the speeches of Hector and Creusa as they hint that Aeneas must go on a journey with the refugees on Troy and found a city. The omens are announced to represent the future and the need to attend to it.. Ascanius' face lights up as Aeneas considers going back to battle. Jupiter thunders to confirm the omen for Anchises.

Omens 3: Book 3 is filled with prophecy. It begins with the gruesome omen of Polydorus, then goes in rapid succession from the prophecy of the tripod, the gods come to life, the dire words of Celaeno and finally the long prophecy of Helenus. All of these prophecies serve not only to outline the action of the rest of the epic but also to give Aeneas painstaking instructions so that he won't fail along the way.

Omens 4: Dido gives the only serious prophecy in this book, foretelling the hatred between their nations.

Omens 5: The two major omens in this book are both favorable for the Trojans. The snake on Anchises' grave is a pleasant omen of fertility. The arrow bursting into flame is a mysterious, but not foreboding, omen.

Omens 6: Both the Sibyl and Anchises give lengthy prophesies to Aeneas. The Sibyl tells Aeneas about the immediate future and his wars in Italy, while Anchises foretells the history of his descendants.

Omens 7: Latinus has been convinced by repeated prophecies that his daughter must marry a foreigner, but this notion does not prevent his wife and her choice for son-in-law from beginning a war that will result in both of their deaths.

Omens 8: Tiberinus prophesies that the Trojans will be helped and sends Aeneas upstream. Venus sends a sign through the sky that indicates war will come soon but she has brought help to her son in the form of fine weapons.

Omens 9: The ships turn into nymphs and the Trojans thinks that this is a positive sign for them because their ships were not destroyed and they were divine to begin with. The Rutulians take it as a bad omen for the Trojans because their ships were changed and, ultimately, destroyed.

Omens 10: Zeus prophesies to Juno that the Trojans will not be beaten anymore and that they will win. As a reaction, Juno tries to get Turnus out of the war.

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