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The Aeneid: 29 - 19 BC

In the Aeneid Virgil provides Rome with its own epic continuation of Homer. As described by Homer in the Iliad, Aeneas is a minor member of the royal house of Troy; but Poseidon promises him that his descendants will be great rulers. From this brief hint Roman tradition, seeking the dignity of ancient roots, develops the legend that Aeneas and his family depart from the Aegean after the fall of Troy. They wander through the Mediterranean until Aeneas founds a colony in Italy - Lavinium, on the coast, from which Rome is later settled.

Virgil, deeply influenced as a writer by Homer, fashions his own great epic from these shreds.


The first six of the twelve books of the Aeneid are similar in tone to the Odyssey, for they follow the wanderings of Aeneas - and provide him with an amorous adventure, with Dido in Book IV, so emotionally powerful that it becomes one of the great tragic tales of western art. The first half of the Aeneid ends with Aeneas' discovering his destiny. In Book VI he visits his father Anchises in the underworld, where he is shown the unborn heroes of Rome and their future exploits.

With his mission evident, and his resolve strengthened, Aeneas is ready for the remaining six books. They are akin to the Iliad in that their subject is warfare - the prolonged struggle of the hero to win a foothold in Italy.


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