The Aeneid, Book III

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Wanderings

Firstly the Trojans sailed in the direction of Greece, coming first to Thrace and they prepared to start building a city. The ghost of Polydorus, however, the youngest son of Priam, appeared. He had been sent by his father with Trojan gold to Thrace for safety as they were allies but when Troy began to lose the war the Thracians changed sides and murdered Polydorus. Aeneas re-buried him and set sail again, landing next on the island of Delos. It’s king was an old friend of Anchises and welcomed them. Aeneas prayed to Apollo for direction as to where they should sail to and settle and was told to go to their ancestral home.

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Map of Aeneas’ journey.

Explore his wanderings on this Digital Map.

Anchises interpreted this as meaning Crete as their ancestor, Teucer, had sailed from there. Having landed in Crete the Trojans began to build a new city which Aeneas named Pergamea. A plague struck the people and their crops. The Trojan household gods spoke to Aeneas in a dream and told him Crete was not their fated destination but a land called Hesperia where a race called Italians, named after their king, Italus, lived. The Trojans’ other ancestor, Dardanus, came from here and Anchises remembered that Cassandra had prophesied this was to be the Trojans’ final destination.

The Trojans left Crete but a storm soon blew them off course. After three days they landed on the Strophades islands, home of the Harpies, birds with the faces of women who had an insatiable hunger. They attacked the Trojans as they feasted on the Harpies’ cattle and goats. Celaeno, the leader of the Harpies, prophesied that the Trojans would reach Italy but, because they had eaten the Harpies’ food, they would suffer famine before building their city. Anchises prayed to the gods that they did not suffer this fate as they set sail again, next landing on the island of Leucas.

Ancient Greek Monsters | Greek monsters, Greek, Ancient
Attic red-figure Hydria depicting Phineus and the Harpies, c. 480 BC.

They celebrated their safe passage thus far with sacrifices to Jupiter and performed celebratory wrestling games. Aeneas dedicated a bronze shield captured from the Greeks at Troy and they set sail again and next landed at Epirus. Here to his amazement he met Andromache, wife of Hector. She was pouring a drink offering to Hector’s ashes at an empty tomb which she had prepared for him. She could not believe she was really seeing Aeneas and the other Trojan exiles. After the fall of Troy Andromache told Aeneas she had been enslaved and married to Pyrrhus, Achilles’ son, with whom she had had a son. Then Pyrrhus gave her to Helenus, another of Priam’s sons, as he wanted to marry Hermione. But Orestes was in love with Hermione and so he killed Pyrrhus. Helenus inherited some of Pyrrhus’ kingdom and built a Pergamum, a citadel, and other buildings modelled on Troy.

Andromache in Captivity by Frederic Leighton, c. 1886.

The Trojans enjoyed hospitality from Helenus. Before leaving Pyrrhus confirmed Aeneas was fated to reach Italy but it would be a long and dangerous journey. In Italy he should build his new city where he found a white sow with thirty piglets. Pyrrhus warned Aeneas to avoid the Italian shore opposite as hostile Greeks lived there. Upon landing in Italy Aeneas must cover his head with a purple cloth and build altars to honour the gods for their safe arrival. This was how his descendants must worship in the future. Upon reaching Sicily they must sail to the south of the island and so avoid the dangerous waters of Scylla and the whirlpool Charybdis. Aeneas should also worship Juno primarily if he wished to reach Italy (which Aeneas did as he left Greece). Once he landed there he should go to Cumae and find beside the lakes of Avernus the cave of the prophetess whom he should beg for a prophecy of what will happen to him in Italy.

Helenus gave Aeneas and the Trojans many rich gifts while Andromache gave Ascanius a Trojan cloak as he reminded her of her dead son, Astyanax. Aeneas promised that once he had built his new city his descendants should unite it with Epirus as they were all Trojans. The Trojans continued on their journey and soon had their first sighting of mainland Italy in the distance as they headed for Sicily, avoiding Scylla and Charybdis, as they had been warned. The next morning on Sicily they met a Greek, a companion of Odysseus, who had been left behind after Odysseus blinded the Cyclops, Polyphemus, and escaped from the island. Polyphemus unsuccessfully tried to capture Aeneas and the Trojans after calling the other Cyclops to help him. Anchises died on Sicily at a place called Drepanum. This was the end of Aeneas’ story to Dido.

Polyphemus attempts to crush the boat of the escaping Odysseus by Arnold Bocklin.

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