Aeneas

Aeneas was a Trojan prince and the first true Roman hero.

Parents: Anchises and Venus
Consort: Creusa, Dido and Lavinia
Children: Ascanius/Iulus

Aeneas flees burning Troy by Federico Barocci, 1598, Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy.

Escape from Troy

Aeneas was one of the few Trojans who was not killed or enslaved when Troy fell to the Greeks. Aeneas, after being commanded by the gods to flee, gathered a group of survivors, who then travelled to Italy and became the progenitors of the Romans. These included Aeneas’s trumpeter Misenus, his father Anchises, his friends Achates, Sergestus and Acmon, the healer Iapyx, the helmsman Palinurus, and his son Ascanius (also known as Iulus). He carried with him the Lares and Penates, the statues of the household gods of Troy, and brought them to Italy.

A coin issued by Julius Caesar depicting Venus on the obverse and Aeneas and Anchises on the reverse.

Several attempts to find a new home failed; one such stop was on Sicily, where in Drepanum, on the island’s western coast, his father, Anchises, died peacefully.

Carthage

After a brief but fierce storm brought about by Juno, Aeneas and his fleet made landfall at Carthage after six years of wandering. Aeneas had a year-long affair with the Carthaginian queen Dido, who proposed that the Trojans settle in her land and that she and Aeneas reign jointly over their peoples. A marriage of sorts was arranged between Dido and Aeneas at the instigation of Juno, who was told that her favourite city would eventually be defeated by the Trojans’ descendants.However, the messenger god Mercury was sent by Jupiter and Venus to remind Aeneas of his journey and his purpose, compelling him to leave secretly. When Dido learned of this, she uttered a curse that would forever pit Carthage against Rome, an enmity that would culminate in the Punic Wars. She then committed suicide by stabbing herself with the same sword she gave Aeneas when they first met.

Aeneas tells Dido about the fall of Troy by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin.

The Underworld

After leaving Carthage, the Trojans returned to Sicily, where Aeneas organised funeral games to honour his father, who had died a year before. The company travelled on and landed on the western coast of Italy. Aeneas descended into the Underworld, where he met Dido and his father, who showed him the future of his descendants and thus the history of Rome, including figures such as Julius Caesar and Augustus.

Italy

Latinus, king of the Latins, welcomed Aeneas’s army of exiled Trojans and let them reorganise their lives in Latium. His daughter Lavinia had been promised to Turnus, king of the Rutulians, but Latinus received a prophecy that Lavinia would be betrothed to one from another land, namely Aeneas. Latinus heeded the prophecy and Turnus consequently declared war on Aeneas at the urging of Juno, who was aligned with King Mezentius of the Etruscans and Queen Amata of the Latins. Aeneas’s forces prevailed. Turnus was killed and Aenas founded the city of Lavinium on the Latium coast in honour of his new wife.

Aeneas defeats Turnus by Luca Giordano, 1634–1705.