Aeneid written by Vergilius is the saga myth of the Trojan hero Aeneas. The book is composed of 12 sections. It tells the story of the Trojan hero Aeneas, beginning from his escape from the Trojan War with his father, son and the other survivors until he reaches and settles around Rome.
In fact the book begins in Sicily, when seven years since the Trojan War. Aeneas reaches Carthage seven years after leaving Antandros and tells the tale of the past years to Queen Dido. Thus, the events are told by Vergilius in flash-backs.
Many of the post Iliad sagas like the dragging in of the Trojan horse, murder of Laokoon, escaping of Aeneas with his father Ankhises, his son Anskanius and Palladion the sacred figurine of Troy are told in this saga.
Who is Aeneas?
Aeneas is the son of Ankhises of Trojan royal family and Goddess Aphrodites (Venus). He is the second biggest hero in the Trojan War following Hector. In fact we can see him advising Priamos’ son, great Trojan, great hero Hector from time to time. The duty bestowed upon Aeneas is to leave Troy, find and build a new home and sustain the Trojan ancestry in the new lands for centuries.
Escape from Troy and Antandros
The Trojan hero Aeneas escapes from the great Trojan fire under the protection of his mother Aphrodites; his father Anchises on his shoulders, his son Ascanius holding his hand and the survived Trojans following him. He arrives at Antandros which lies on the skirts of Mount Ida. They are ready to search for a new home for themselves under the leadership of Aeneas. They build ships in Antandros, and at the beginning of the spring, they leave Antandros with 20 ships.
After a couple of day’s journey, they land in the Thracian shore. Thracia used to be a place that had good relations with Priamos. Priamos had even given his son Polyoros to the Thracian king Lykurgos for protection. But Lykurgos hands the boy to the Greeks and buys peace in return and the boy is murdered under the Trojan rampart before the eyes of his father. Aeneas does not know where he drops anchor exactly and they happily start building houses for themselves. He names the city Aeneas. Aeneas goes to the side of a near-by hilltop filled with cranberries and blueberries to sacrifice a bull for his mother Aphrodites (Venus) and Zeus (Jupiter), the God of Gods. He starts to prepare altars from grass so he picks up bushes and grass. Every time he picks up a bush, black drops of blood spatter over the place. When he picks another set of bush he hears a moaning and Polydoros’ voice speaks to Aeneas. He says he was murdered before the Trojan ramparts and the merciful Thracians buried his bones there, and that those lands were accursed, so they should leave at once. Aeneas tells all these to his father and his people. They hold a funeral ceremony for Polydoros and they leave the Thracian shores.
Aeneas and his company reach the sacred Delos Island where there is an Apollonian sanctuary. Aeneas prays in front of the sanctuary and asks Apollo where he should head. A voice from inside the sanctuary says; “Undaunted youths, go, seek that mother earth from which your ancestors derive their birth. The soil that sent you forth, her ancient race in her old bosom shall again embrace. Through the wide world the Aeneian house shall reign, and children's children shall the crown sustain.” (Vergilius)
Anchises interprets this prophecy and says; “The fruitful isle of Crete, well known to fame, sacred of old to Jove's imperial name, in the mid ocean lies, with large command, and on its plains a hundred cities stand. Another Ida rises there, and we from thence derive our Trojan ancestry.” (Vergilius). The immigrants set to the sea again and land in Crete on the third day. They receive friendly welcome there and they start building houses for themselves again. The immigrants marry the locals, they share land, and they start making new laws. They name the new city Pergamon. But a disaster happens. A very hot summer burns away all the fields, the crops fade away and people start to die. Anchises proposes that they should again go to Delos to consult where they should go.
The Phrygian House Gods Tell Apollo’s Prophecy to Aeneas
While at Cretan shores, Phrygian House Gods speak to Aeneas and tell him to leave these shores and go to Italy. They say his ancestors Dardanos and Iasios come from those lands. Aeneas runs to tell what he has heard to his father. Then, Ankhises remembers what Priamos’ oracle daughter Kassandra had told him. She had said their ancestry will go to a country called Italy or Hesperia. He says;
The Trojan ancestry stands on two people and two places: Dardanos and Teucer. Dardanos came from Italy, Teucer from Crete. So then we should go to Italy.
Leaving Crete Landing where Harpies Live
Aeneas and his people leave Crete for Italy. They are caught in a storm in the sea that lasts three days. The first piece of land they lay eyes upon after the storm is Strophades shores. There live the wild Celaeno and the other Harpies. Harpies are creatures with the face of a young woman and the body of a bird. They dump their filth everywhere they go. Aeneas and his friends see goat and cattle herds right at the shore. They make a sacrifice killing for Zeus and also prepare food for themselves. When they are just about to take a bite, the Harpies descend upon them and spoil everything with their foul breath and dirt. The men draw their swords and try to kill the foul birds but their feathers are strong. All the harpies except one fly away. The Harpy called Celaeno says;
You seek the Italian shores, foredoomed by fate: The Italian shores are granted you to find, and a safe passage to the port assigned but know, that before your promised walls you build, my curses shall severely be fulfilled fierce famine is your lot for this misdeed, Reduced to grind the plates on which you feed.”
Leaving the Harpy Lands
After leaving the lands of the harpies, they pass through Zachynthos, Dulichium, Same, Neritos, Ddasi and Ithaca respectively. Then, they see the foggy climax of the Mount Leucate. They reach the Apollo sanctuary, and very tired now; they come to a small town. They make offerings to Zeus and move on. They leave Phaec castle behind, pass the Epirus shores and come to Bouthrotium through Chaonia port.
They hear rumours that Helenos, son of Priamos conquered the Greek cities and married Hector’s wife Andromache They start walking around in an attempt to learn whether these rumours are true. Aeneas bumps into Andromache and she verifies what he had heard. Helenos has named these lands Chaonia when his close friend Chaon died there in a hunting accident and he has built a small Trojan city. Andromache and Helenos welcome Aeneas and his men in their palace. Days pass and it is again time to sail off. Aeneas consults with a priest of Apollo. The priest after retailing some events they will encounter and places they will visit during their journey, makes the following prophecy advising Aeneas to settle at the place where he sees a female pig milking its 30 cubs:
When, in the shady shelter of a wood, and near the margin of a gentle flood, thou shalt behold a sow upon the ground, with thirty sucking young encompassed round; the dam and offspring white as falling snow, these on thy city shall their name bestow, and there shall end thy labours and thy woe.
While bidding farewell, Andromache gives Aeneas and his friends many gifts. Ascanius receives clothes sewed with golden threads and a Phrygia style shirt. On departure Aeneas cites these meaningful words:
Your fortune, happy pair, already made, leaves you no farther wish. My different state, avoiding one, incurs another fate. To you a quiet seat the Gods allow: You have no shores to search, no seas to plow, nor fields of flying Italy to chase: (…) If ever the Gods, whom I with vows adore, conduct my steps to Tiber’s happy shore; If ever I ascend the Latian throne, and build a city I may call my own; as both of us our birth from Troy derive, so let our kindred lines in concord live, and both in acts of equal friendship strive. [let Hesperia and Epirus be one, both of whom ancestor is Dardanos.] Our fortunes, good or bad, shall be the same: The double Troy shall differ but in name; that what we now begin may never end, but long to late posterity descend.
As soon as they leave Bouthrutium the sea takes them near Ceraunia. It is a short journey from there to Italy. When the sky becomes bright and stars shine they make haste and take off with their ships.
Castro III.530 VD
After sailing for a long time, when it is dusk, brave Akhates shouts ‘Italy!!’ Ankhises fills his goblet with wine, he stands at the quarter deck and prays Gods for good wind and a safe journey. Far away, they see a harbour winding like a bow and an Athena sanctuary. A wall made up of stones piled upon each other reaches the sea from right and from left. These rocks hide the sanctuary from both sides. They see four white horses grazing at the shore. Anchises first predicts this as war, then changes his reading of the sign and says it may also be a hope for peace. After giving their offerings to Goddess Hera, they leave the shores of Castro as they do not regard the land as a secure place.
Doç Dr. Yasemin POLAT
Ege University Faculty of Letters, Department of Classical Archaeology