Aeneas' Escape From Troy

This is taken entirely from Virgil's Aeneid.

When Troy fell to the Greek army, Aeneas at first attempted to fight off the invaders with the rest of the remaining Trojans.  He and his men fought bravely, and witnessed their king Priam's own death at the hands of Pyrrhus.

Aeneas would have gladly died there in combat, but his mother Venus appeared to him, reminded him of his family and told him to leave the doomed city.  Aeneas returned to his home in order to rescue his family.

Aeneas fled from the burning city with his lame father Anchises on his back, his gods in one hand and his son Ascanius clinging to the other.  His wife Creusa followed behind.  In the confusion, however, she was lost.  Once out of the city, Aeneas returned to find her, exposing himself to great peril.

In the city, Creusa's ghost appeared to Aeneas.  She told her husband that she was now dead, and not to mourn for her now.  She said that he had a long journey ahead of him, but he would one day settle in Italy and find a new bride for himself.  After seeing his wife for one last time, Aeneas once again left Troy and found his  father and young son.  Now, however, many more displaced Trojans had gathered there.  Aeneas led the group to safety on Mt. Ida.

Homeless, the Trojans set about building a fleet of twenty ships.  Not knowing where to go, they stopped at the island of Delos and sought Apollo's advice.  The god advised them to seek the land of their ancestors, to seek their ancient mother.  Anchises believed that Apollo must surely have been referring to the island of Crete, where the first Trojan king Teucer was born.

The Trojans sail to Crete, and begin to build themselves a city there.  But a pestilence soon comes and forces them to leave.  In a dream, Aeneas' penates (household gods) advise him that he must sail to Italy.

From Crete, the Trojans sail to Buthrotum and are there given advice by the seer Helenus.  He gives them directions on how to safely reach Italy.  Relying on his advice, Aeneas and his followers sail without incident (unlike Odysseus) as far as the western shore of Sicily.  While staying there, Anchises died and was buried.

When they set sail north towards Italy from Sicily, Juno bribed Aeolus with a nymph into releasing a storm upon AeneasJuno was still angry at the Trojans, because of the insult she received when Paris awarded to Venus.  She was also angry at the Trojan Ganymede, who received much attention from her husband Jupiter.  Moreover, she knew that Aeneas was fated to be the ancestor of the Romans, who would one day destroy her favored city, Carthage.

The huge storm drove the Trojan fleet southward, and would have soon destroyed the ships killed Aeneas and his followers.  Fortunately, Neptune was awoken by the storm and calmed the winds which were disturbing his sea.  With the storm now subsided, Aeneas and his ships were allowed to sail safely to the shores of Africa.

Once on land, Aeneas set out to explore this unknown territory.  He soon found men busy building a city, which turned out to be Carthage.  While exploring the city, he encountered the queen of the new town, Dido.

She had already heard much about the Trojan War, and invited the hero and his companions to a feast that night.  That night, Aeneas tells her of the final events of the during the fall of Troy, which fascinated the queen.  She begins to fall in love with the Trojan hero.

Seeing that Aeneas was now in Carthage, Juno sought to keep him there.  If Aeneas' descendants were Carthaginian, they would never destroy Carthage as was fated.  She went to Venus and convinced the goddess of love that it was best for her son to stay where he was.  During a hunt, Venus sent down a storm to drive the two into a cave together.  She then sent down her son Cupid, who used his arrows to make the two become lovers.

Though the two were unmarried, Aeneas and Dido became inseparable and their two peoples continued work on the city together.  Dido became infatuated with Aeneas and neglected her duties as queen.  For his part, Aeneas was perfectly happy to spend the remainder of his life in Africa with Dido.

Mindful of fate, Jupiter would not allow Aeneas to remain in Carthage.  He sent Mercury down to order Aeneas to leave.  Although Aeneas did not want to leave, he had to obey the will of the gods.  He ordered his men to prepare the ships for departure.

When Dido discovered his attentions, she became angry and warned him not to leave, saying that she would kill herself.  Having no choice in the matter, Aeneas departed before dawn on the next morning.

When Dido awoke and saw that the Trojans had left, she prepared a funeral pyre prepared.  She then climbed to the top and stabbed herself with a dagger.  Dido was not fated to die, however.  Juno's actions had caused Aeneas to come to Carthage, which was not supposed to have happened.  Proserpina had not yet cut a lock of her hair to allow entrance into the underworld.

As Dido lay there in pain, Jupiter took pity on her.  He sent Iris down to earth to cut a lock of Dido's hair and bring it to the underworld, which resulted in her death.  The pyre was then lit under the dead queen.  Looking back towards shore, Aeneas could see the smoke rising towards heaven, and must have realized what had happened.

Aeneas first sailed back to Sicily, and held there funeral games for his dead father Anchises.  Weary of traveling, some of the older members of Aeneas' crew were allowed to remain in Sicily with a friendly king, Acestes.

While sailing north along the coast of Italy, Aeneas visited a sibyl, whom he asked to guide him to the underworld.  After so many years of hardship, he wanted to revisit his dead father and ask why all of this was necessary.

With the sibyl as his guide, Aeneas visited the underworld, which is a far more structured place than was seen in earlier tales.  In the land of fallen lovers, he met the shade of Dido, who just stared coldly at him as he tried to apologize.  In the land of fallen warriors, he sees many of the dead princes from the Trojan War.  In Elysium, Aeneas is reunited with Anchises.  The father gives his son hope, by showing him a line of souls waiting to return to earth.  Among these men are many of the great leaders of Rome, all of whom are the descendants of Aeneas.   

With renewed vigor, Aeneas leaves the underworld and sails north to the Tiber River and a land called Latium.  Sailing up the river, they beach their ships and soon meet the king of the land, Latinus.  He welcomes the travelers, and offers to Aeneas the hand of his daughter Lavinia

Turnus, the king of the Rutulians, also desired Lavinia.  Encouraged by the still vengeful Juno, his love for Lavinia caused a war between the Latins and the Trojans.  King Latinus wanted no part in the war, and so abdicated his throne.

Alone, the Trojans and Aeneas would not have been able to stand against the Rutulians.  Turnus, however, had many enemies.  The Arcadians, led by the young prince Pallas, and the powerful Etruscans sent armies to aid Aeneas.  To counter this, Turnus enlisted the aid of Mezentius, an exiled Etruscan king, and the Volscians and their queen, the Amazon-like Camilla.  This small dispute had now come to involve much of Italy.

Paralleling the Iliad, the ensuing war was a back and forth, bloody battle.  During the fighting, Aeneas and Pallas come to be close friends.  The young Pallas, however, is soon killed by Turnus in battle.  Turnus took the prince's armor as his prize and proudly wore it in battle.

Since little was being accomplished in the fighting, Turnus suggested to Aeneas that the war be settled by a dual.  Aeneas accepted.  Knowing that the Trojan would win, Juno sabotaged their dual before it could begin.  At her instigation, a Latin soldier fired an arrow at the Trojans, which caused the battle to be rejoined.

After more fighting, Turnus once again suggested a dual.  This time, Juno did not prevent it.  The son of a goddess, Aeneas was able to overcome Turnus, seriously  wounding the king with a spear to the thigh.  With Aeneas standing over him, Turnus pleaded that he be returned to his father's side, or at the very least his lifeless body be returned for a proper burial.  Aeneas was about to let him go, when he recognized the armor of Pallas.  Filled with rage, Aeneas sunk his sword deep into the king's heart.


  1. VirgilAeneid.