The Aeneid, Book VIII

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Pallanteum & the Future Site of Rome

Aeneas was grief-stricken when he saw Latium preparing for war against the Trojans. As he slept the god of the Tiber reassured him saying that Italy had been waiting for him; he should not be intimidated by war. Aeneas would find on the shore a white sow with thirty piglets, signifying that in thirty years Ascanius would found the city of Alba, meaning white and glorious. Aeneas should ally himself to and make a treaty with the Arcadians whose king was Evander. Tiber said he would take Aeneas to him. He should appease Juno with prayers and sacrifices.

Roman bas-relief of Aeneas landing in Latium, leading Ascanius; the sow identifies the place to found his city, 2nd c. AD.

When he awoke Aeneas promised to always honour the river and its nymphs. He found the white sow and sacrificed it and the piglets to Juno. Then he rowed upstream on calm waters as Tiber had promised and arrived at Pallanteum, Evander’s city. He found Evander and his son, Pallas, sacrificing to Hercules outside the city. When challenged by Pallas, Aeneas offered an olive branch of peace and said he had come to seek Evander as an ally against the Latins even though Evander was a Greek and related to Agamemnon and Menelaus. Evander and Aeneas were also related through Atlas. Aeneas was welcomed by Evander who said he had met Anchises in his youth when he visited with Priam. Anchises had given him a quiver, a soldier’s cloak and a pair of golden bridles which now belonged to Pallas. Evander promised Aeneas men and supplies and invited the Trojans to join in their feast. He explained that they worshipped Hercules because he had killed a local monster, Cacus, who had stolen four bulls and four heifers from Hercules.

As they returned to the city Evander explained to Aeneas how Saturn had civilised the area and called it Latium because he had hidden there from Jupiter. His reign was a Golden Age because of the peace and civilisation he brought. However, war and cruel leaders followed. Fate had brought Evander here. They passed the Altar and Gate of Carmentis, who had first prophesied the greatness of Aeneas’ descendants, and Pallanteum. He then led him past other important and famous Roman sites: the sanctuary of Romulus, the Lupercal, the house of Tarpeia, the Capitol, the Janiculum and the Roman Forum, all in a basic form at that time. Evander took Aeneas into his humble home at which Hercules had once been a guest.

Landscape with Hercules and Cacus. Nicolas Poussin
Landscape with Hercules and Cacus, painting by Nicolas Poussin.

Venus was terrified by the threat of war from Latium and asked her husband, Vulcan, to make weapons for Aeneas. Vulcan went to his forge on the island of Vulcania where he called on three Cyclops to help him make a shield for Aeneas. Evander met with Aeneas on the next day and gave him thousands of troops from a nearby city once ruled by Mezentius; because of Mezentius’ cruelty his people had rebelled against him and he had taken refuge with Turnus; it had been prophesied that a stranger from across the sea would lead them against Mezentius to demand his punishment; although Evander qualified to be this leader he said he was too old; Aeneas was the one fated to do this.

Evander would give him two hundred horsemen along with his young son, Pallas, for Aeneas to train in warfare; Pallas would provide a further two hundred men. Venus sent a sign in the sky that war was threatening and Aeneas was saddened at the imminent slaughter of the Laurentines. Aeneas returned to his ships and chose the bravest Trojans to follow him to war. The rest he sent to tell Ascanius what had happened. As Pallas left with Aeneas Evander prayed to Jupiter that he might live so he could see his son again; but if Pallas was fated to die Evander asked to die before that happened. Venus brought to Aeneas the armour made by Vulcan: a fire-spurting helmet, a sword, a bronze breastplate, greaves made of electrum and gold, a spear and a shield on which was engraved the story of Italy, Roman triumphs, Ascanius’ descendants and the wars they would fight:

Digital Maps of the Ancient World on Twitter: "The Shield of ...
A break down of the Shield of Aeneas.

the she wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, the rape of the Sabine women and the subsequent war, Mettus being torn apart, the expulsion of Tarquinius Superbus, Horatius Cocles tearing down the bridge, Cloelia swimming across the Tiber, Manlius defending the Capitol, the geese warning of the approaching Gauls, the Salii and Luperci, Tartarus and Elysium, the circle of the sea with dolphins, the battle of Actium with on one side Augustus standing on his ship, a double flame and his father’s star above his head, and Agrippa, and on the other Anthony and Cleopatra opposing them; Roman and Egyptian gods took part in the battle; Augustus Caesar rode in victorious triumph into Rome; he was receiving gifts from the nations of the world outside the temple of Apollo, built in thanks for his victory. Aeneas lifted onto his shoulder the shield which illustrated the exploits and fame of his descendants.

Raising Romans #0: The Generations of Ascanius - Gus Cadle - Medium
An etching of the Shield of Aeneas.

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