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An Introduction to:
The Aeneid
“Augustus and the Principate”
T. Tiemermsa
Takes most of the period.
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Publius Vergilius Maro
Studied rhetoric, medicine,
and astronomy at early age
Abandoned those pursuits to
study philosophy
Spellings and variations of
a. Virgil
b. Vergil
c. Virgilius
You do not have to copy
all of
this information.
Augustus & the Principate
Another Level to the Aeneid
(Some background information)
A National Poem
• Written at a time of optimism, to represent a new and
exciting time.
• It gave the Romans an equivalent to Homer and
explored what they were like, what they should be like
and what they could achieve.
• The majority of Virgil’s life, Rome was in a period of civil
war, or civil war was around the corner.
• The Aeneid combines the Homeric age, with the
Augustan period, merging myth with historical fact.
• Virgil manages to include the past, present, and
future, in a way that we do not see in Homer, through
the use of prophecy, myth, Roman legends, and
finally, Stoic (“virtue is sufficient for happiness”)
philosophy used by the humans and gods in the
A Brief History of Rome…
• After the founding of Rome, there were
seven kings – most were Etruscan
• The last king was ousted by Brutus and
the Republic was created in 509 B.C.
• The Romans were very proud of the way
Rome was run and feared those who
sought absolute power.
This was the problem with Caesar.
Social Unrest and Revolt:
Before the Death of Caesar
Emergence of the
First Triumvirate:
 Julius Caesar, Crassus, Pompey
 Crassus killed by Parthians 53
 Senate support of Pompey versus
 Crossing the Rubicon – civil war
b/t Pompey and Caesar
 Defeat of Pompey
 Caesar made dictator 47 BCE
Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar Initiates Reforms
• Adopts Egyptian solar calendar – Julian Calendar
with 365 days (July)
• Libraries, Theatres, Public Works
• Citizenship to people in Gaul and Spain
– Killed by senatorial
opponents (led by Brutus
and Cassius – hailed as
saviours of the Republic)
– Instigated by his
usurpation of power and
their fear that he would
become emperor
– Died March 15, 44 BC
• Stabbed by 20 senators
• Brutus and Cassius
After Caesar dies:
• At this point Octavian (Caesar’s nephew)
returned to Rome to claim his inheritance
• Octavian returns with Marc Antony and
fights a civil war against Brutus and
Brutus and Cassius are defeated!
Suetonius wrote:
“Octavian showed no
mercy to his beaten
enemies. He sent
Brutus’ head to Rome to
be thrown at the feet of
Caesar’s statue.”
The Second Triumvirate
• There is another possibility of civil war
with Antony over leadership, but
Octavian splits the empire three ways
between himself, Antony, and Lepidus -
Tension between
Octavian and Antony
• Tension rises with Antony and Octavian but Antony
marries Octavian’s sister
• Lepidus and Octavian fall out – Octavian now has
complete power over the west, whilst Antony has the
• Antony had been living in the East with Cleopatra, who
had an illegitimate son with Caesar called Caesarion,
Antony called him “King of Kings” – direct attack on
Octavian’s inheritance.
• Octavian used this to portray Antony as a defector from
Rome, who had created an independent Eastern Empire.
• When senators loyal to Antony attack Augustus
in the senate, Augustus reacts so strongly that
they flee to Egypt.
• Augustus then claimed that they were setting up
their own senate in Egypt.
• Octavian then seized Antony’s will and published
it – within it Antony stated he wanted to be
buried next to Cleopatra in Egypt
• Octavian showed this to be a betrayal of Rome
and his sister, and waged war against Cleopatra
– not another civil war.
Battle of Actium
• Cleopatra and Antony were easily defeated in Egypt.
• They both committed suicide and their son and
Caesarion were killed by Octavian.
• Octavian had now become the single most powerful
man in the Roman world and had to protect his
• Aware of the Romans’ feelings about dictatorship
Octavian did everything he could to show he did not
want absolute power.
• If he was ever bestowed with honours, he made it
appear as though it was the senate’s idea and often
• He even claimed he would resign at one point, and the
senate fearing another civil war (by those who sought
his position) begged him to stay.
• Octavian “restores”
power to the Senate
• Awarded titles of
Augustus and
• Expands into Balkans,
• Establishes Praetorian
Caesar Augustus (Octavian)
The Customs of the Ancestors
• More power than any other citizen, yet no
one could claim he wanted to be king or
• Augustus - return to the golden age, or
returning to the mos maiorum, customs of the
• Long period of civil war, the Romans were
optimistic and believed Augustus could save
• Augustus promoted piety, marriage, proper
behaviour, peace, family life and started a
building regime.
Augustan Propaganda
• Augustus presented himself as the ideal Roman
citizen – pietas, auctoritas (like Aeneas)
• He wanted to be viewed as a father to the
Roman people and under Maecenas, his friend,
many poets were encouraged to write pro –
Augustan literature.
• Maecenas supported and influenced struggling
• This literature highlighted and praised Augustus’
ideals, e.g. Horace’s ode on the battle of Actium.
The Aeneid
• Virgil attempted to write an epic both showing
the greatness of the Roman race (and what they
could become) and linking the hero with their
hero – Augustus.
• The legend was developed, made more well
known and used to highlight a link between
Augustus and both Aeneas and the gods.
• Augustus is represented as the culmination of
years of history and his rule is made to appear
• He would make Rome glorious again.
Refer to the
I. The Aeneid:
• written in 12 books in Homeric fashion (it is an EPIC)
• not like the Iliad (an inherited part of Greek national
– it was a deliberate attempt to glorify the nation and to
elaborate on the ideals and achievements of the Roman
state under its first emperor, Augustus
– it was a work of Imperial PROPAGANDA
– all events of the Roman past (esp. the civil wars) found their
fulfillment in the peaceful and prosperous age of Augustus
– it is a legendary narrative – a story about the imagined
origin of the Roman nation in times long before the
foundation of Rome itself
Virgil’s Masterpiece
• Virgil spent 11 years on this poem, but
unfortunately died before he was finished (20-22
unfinished lines)
• He wanted the poem to be burnt, but the
emperor Augustus would not allow this and had
it published after his death.
• The poem is now over 2000 years old and is still
considered to be one of the greatest poems ever
II. Opening Lines:
“I sing of arms and the hero”
The first 6 books, roughly, of the Aeneid relate
Aeneas's-- 'the man's'-- wanderings after the
fall of Troy, just as Homer's Odyssey narrates
Odysseus's various peregrinations on his return
voyage home. The last six books, concern the
bloodshed and battle-- 'weapons'-- which greet
Aeneas in his quest to found a new city on the
coast of Italy.
• Next, Virgil invokes the muse.
“I pray for inspiration…”.
• Vergil enlists the muse of Epic, Calliope, as a
companion in the enterprise of recalling Aeneas'
story. Vergil singles out Juno, queen of the gods,
as the impetus for the events leading to both
Aeneas' fantastic voyage and subsequent
warfare; it is her wounded numen, her injured
sense of self as a goddess and supernatural
being, that spurs her vendetta against the mortal
Aeneas, and which turns the wheels of the
divine machinery omnipresent in the epic.
First 11 Lines, Dactylic Hexameter Scanned
After which, he poses an epic question.
“Is it in a god’s nature to nurse an abiding fury?”
In other words…
“Can divine beings have such enormous wrath?”
The final line-- "can immortal souls indeed harbor such terrible
wrath?"-- is a novel twist to a prologue, a sudden anxious query on
the part of the narrator about the ramifications of the story which he
causing to be told. It is true enough that the story of Aeneas may be
seen as a triumphant tale: Aeneas founds the city that shall, in time,
become the most powerful in the western world. But throughout his
journey Aeneas encounters so much wrath, ira, both from mortals
[Dido, Turnus, Mezentius] and immortals [Juno, Aeolus' winds,
Allecto] that this violent, intemperate force threatens to color darkly
our view of the poem.
III. Characters:
• son of Venus and Anchises
• husband of Creusa
• father of Ascanius
• leader of the Trojan quest for a new
• Trojan prince, allied to, but not
descended from Priam
• son of Aeneas and Creusa
• founder of Alba Longa
• also called IULIUS – to relate him to the
Julian family of Julius Caesar and Augustus
• daughter of Belus, King of Tyre (Phoenicia)
• her husband, Sychaeus, was murdered by
her brother, Pygmalion
• she was warned in a dream by Sychaeus to
escape (went to Libya) and founded Carthage
IV. Stock Epithets
Aeneas, the great of heart
steadfast, Aeneas
Aeneas, the true
Aeneas, son of a goddess
Juno, the generous
Juno, Queen of all the divine
Venus, the kind life giver
Venus, the Cytherean (Cythera – island near
Greece where she was worshipped)
V. Epic Similies
• picture of Neptune calming a storm –
Neptune is like a statesman calming a
noisy assembly
• when Aeneas comes to Carthage, he
compares the workmen to bees
• Queen Dido is likened to Diana
• When the mist around Aeneas
dissolved, he is likened to a work of art
in ivory or in gold and silver
VI. Rules of Conduct
• “Avoid Excess” – the Aeneid depicts
many examples of thoughtless excess
leading to disaster (esp. when someone
is carried too far by an exclusive love
for some person or thing)
• “Be True” – loyal to the gods, to the
homeland, and to family, friends, and
dependents [i.e., Aeneas, the True]
Aeneas arrives at Carthage
Banquet with Dido at her Palace
Venus sends Cupid to Dido
Dido Meets Ascanius
Aeneas Relates his Story to Dido
Hector Appears to Aeneas in a
Dream: “Save Yourself!”
Creusa tries to Restrain Aeneas
Aeneas Gets his Family
holds the
You follow behind, Woman
if you
keep on
going to
get lost!”
where are
Gee, she
was right
Trojan Refugees at the Shore
Penates to Aeneas
“Leave Crete, It’s not the Destined Land!”
The Cyclopes
at Sicily
Aeneas and Followers
Flee Cyclopes
Dido Shows Carthage to Aeneas
Scenes from the Year
spent with Dido
Aeneas and Achates Building Carthage
Aeneas and Dido in their “Marriage Cave”
A False Marriage
Dido Burns with Love for Aeneas
Mercury Calls
on Aeneas
Dido confronts Aeneas and Begs Him to Stay
Dido Watching Aeneas Leave
Dido Abandoned
Dido Prepares for Suicide
Dido Commits Suicide
The People of
Lament the
Death of Dido
Farewell to Dido
Aeneas has Left Carthage
Funeral Games
for Anchises at
Drepanum, Sicily
The Boxing Contest
Aeneas and Men Sail Past Scylla and Charybdis
Passage to the Sibyl’s Cave
Descent to the Underworld
Venus Disguised as Huntress
“These people work like bees!”
1. Primarily, story is fiction
a. No Trojans or Greeks settled in Latium in
12th Century BC
b. First signs of civilization are from much later
c. Ethnically, Romans a are blend of
Etruscans and local peoples in the Italian region
(not Greek or Trojan)
Aeneas and
Sibyl sacrificing
to gods of the
2. Influenced heavily by Homer’s Iliad (which is based
on at least some fact) and Odyssey (but Aeneid is still
distinct; more to come on that later)
3. References to events and people from centuries just
preceding composition are accurate
4. Although difficult to determine for certain, seems
that Romans saw as a fictionalized account of true
Shared Characteristics with Homeric epics
1. Considered literary or secondary epic (to set apart
from primitive or primary epics, like Homer’s)
a. Shows that Homer’s works were oral,
b. Virgil’s created in the epic tradition but
written and designed to be read rather than
Circe transforms
Aeneas and men into
beasts. Aeneid 8.10.
2. No repetition of formulas
(as in Homeric works) but
imitation of Homeric language
3. Similar heroic
characteristics, though they do
differ in some ways
a. Homer celebrates
individualism (i.e.
b. Virgil celebrates
working within society
and sophistication
Trojans crown Latinus king.
Detail. Aeneid 7.195ff.
Venus and Neptune. Aeneid 5.216.
4. Book 12
5. Recurring and Descriptive
i. Iliad (swift for Achilles,
ii. Aeneid (furor and furere
[verb form]--also
6. Recurring images
i. Iliad (fire, gods speaking
directly to humans, gore)
ii. Aeneid (snakes, wounds,
fire, hunting, storms)
Differences from Homeric epics
Trojan Horse. Aeneid 2.67ff.
1. Symbolism is not as
evident in Homeric
2. Symbolism and
symbolic meaning
important in Aeneid
(especially in
reference to Roman
history and current
a. Aeneas’ journey to found Rome follows to
link with Octavian/Augustus
b. Destruction of Troy and wanderings of Aeneas
= history of Rome in 1st century B.C.
(collapse of the Republic, creation of
peace/order by Augustus via creation of the
Aeneas' voyage
from Delos to
Naxos. Aeneid
c. “Civil war” between
Trojans and Italian allies
= Roman civil wars
(Brutus and Cassius v.
Mark Antony,
Octavian/Augustus, and
Lepidus and Mark
Antony v.
d. Aeneas’ relationship
Dido reproaches Aeneas. Detail. Aeneid
with Dido = Mark
Antony’s relationship
Horrible History – clip
with Cleopatra
MA and C
appear to
Aeneas in a
Aeneid 3.147.
3. Philosophical basis in Aeneid is not present in Homeric
a. Use of stoicism
i. School of thought teaching that self-control,
moral/emotional strength, and detachment from
distracting emotions would make one a clear
thinker, unemotional, and unbiased
ii. Developed in Hellenistic period
iii. Very popular among
educated elite at the time
iv. Relies on jus naturale
(“natural law”) [some
things are just because
they are—i.e. “All men
are created equal…”
based on “We hold these
truths to be selfevident…”], which
would be included and
influential on
Latinus' farewell to Trojan
ambasssadors. Aeneid 7.274.
Sow with 30 pigs. Detail. Aeneid 8.68.
b. Examples:
i. Connection
between fate and
founding of Rome
(Book 1)
ii. Preference by
Zeus for Roman race
(Book 1)
iii. Anchises’
discussion of nature
and human existence
(Book 6)
Assigned Task:
Watch Video Clip Located on the Class website:
Aeneas Narration
Read “The Adventures of Aeneas”
Edith Hamilton’s Mythology
answer the accompanying questions.

File - Latin and Classical Studies at BCSS