Aeneas' Journey Ends

From far out at sea, Aeneas saw a bright glow of light coming from the shores of Carthage. But he did not know that a fire had consumed the body of his beloved Queen Dido.

As he stood staring off into the distance, he heard his pilot, Palinurus, shouting to him that a storm was brewing and that they must set a course toward the coast of Sicily.

Only the year before they had encountered the same bad luck. Storms had blown the fleet from Sicily to the coast of North Africa, and now they were being blown back to Sicily again. Aeneas’ only consolation was that in Sicily, he would be able to visit the grave of his father, Anchises.

The young Trojan leader was not prepared for the terrible sadness that overcame him when he visited his father’s grave. To dull the ache in his heart, Aeneas organized a great festival in his father’s honor. The Trojans played games, competed in athletic contests, feasted, and socialized for many months while the women tended the camp and did their daily chores.

But the festivities lasted too long, and the Trojan women became restless. They began to complain to each other that they were eager to leave Sicily, find their ancestral homeland, and settle down forever.

Juno seized this opportunity to stir up trouble in the Trojan camp. The goddess sent her messenger, Iris, disguised as an old lady, to mingle among the women. Iris convinced the women that they should stay in Sicily and make a new home.

The women gathered firewood and began to burn the ships. When Aeneas saw the flames, he rushed down to the shore and offered prayers to Jupiter. Pleased that the young Trojan had finally forgotten his revelries and had come to his senses, Jupiter sent down a torrential rainstorm that extinguished the flames before all the ships could be destroyed.

At last, Aeneas realized that while the men had been enjoying their stay in Sicily, the Trojan women were yearning to find their destined homeland. He called his men together and told them to repair the remaining ships so that they could leave the island.

Venus, anxious to see the Trojans reach their true homeland, asked the sea god, Neptune, to provide calm seas for the ships until they reached the mainland of Italy.

Along the Italian coast, the Trojans dropped anchor at Cumae, where Aeneas consulted with Apollo through the Sibyl of Cumae, a priestess who delivered Apollo’s oracles. The Sibyl went into a trance and soon related to Aeneas that Apollo’s prophecy was very gloomy. The oracle predicted that the Trojans would experience great struggles, even war, after they landed in Italy:

The Dardan [Trojan] race will reach Lavinian country -
Put that anxiety away - but there
Will wish they had not come. Wars, vicious wars
I see ahead, and Tiber foaming blood.

Aeneas assured the Sibyl that he was accustomed to hardship and that he could deal with whatever difficulties the Trojans had yet to face. He did, however, want to consult with his father, Anchises, before leaving Cumae. The Sibyl, who had access to the Underworld, took the young Trojan down into a cave and through a long tunnel. Along the way, they passed through many gates and saw horrifying visions before reaching a beautiful grassy plain where the handsome ghost of Anchises sat chatting with his ghostly friends.

Anchises was thrilled to see his son and eager for him to meet his Trojan descendants: Romulus, the founder of Rome; Numa, the second king of Rome, who would institute religious customs; Augustus Caesar, who would restore the Golden Age to Italy; and other famous Romans. He also told Aeneas that order, peace, mercy, and justice were to become Rome’s gifts to mankind.

Once again, Aeneas became excited about the possibility of finding the true homeland of his people, and he asked to leave the Underworld right away. Anchises, pleased that Rome’s descendants had inspired his son to complete his journey, encouraged him to leave.

So the Trojans sailed until they came to the mouth of the Tiber River, where they changed course and sailed up its calm waters. Convinced that they were home at last, women and children climbed onto the grassy riverbanks of the area called Latium and cheered.

But food supplies were low, and the women were forced to make flat, tasteless pancakes to hold the freshly picked berries they placed on top. The Trojans were so hungry that they devoured the tasteless pancakes along with the fruit, just as the Harpies had predicted they would do when they reached their homeland.

Ascanius remarked:

Look, how we’ve devoured our tables even!

Aeneas heard his son and immediately offered a prayer to the gods.

A blessing on the land
The fates have held in store for me, a blessing
On true gods of Troy! Here is our home,
Here is our fatherland

The following day, King Latinus, ruler of Latium, greeted the Trojans and asked them why they had come. Aeneas’ ambassador, Ilioneus, told the king about the fall of Troy and the Trojans’ long journey to find the ancestral homeland of their people. He then offered the king many gifts, including King Priam’s robes and the golden cup from which Anchises customarily drank when he made offerings to the gods. King Latinus accepted these precious gifts and gave the Trojans permission to settle.

King Latinus was pleased to meet the foreigners. In a recent vision, he had been told that his beautiful daughter, Princess Lavinia, would marry a foreigner and that the couple’s descendants would make Latium a great country. The king believed Aeneas was the foreigner who was destined to marry his daughter.

He was careful, however, to avoid telling Aeneas that his daughter had already been promised in marriage to Turnus, a Greek prince from a small tribe called the Rutulians that lived south of Latium. The king also withheld from Aeneas the fact that his wife, Queen Amata, was happy about the engagement.

When Juno realized that King Latinus was not only willing to allow the Trojans to settle in his land, but that he was also offering his daughter’s hand in marriage to Aeneas, the goddess became angrier than she had ever been before. The Trojans had already thwarted her efforts to destroy them, and her own gods and goddesses had failed to help her. Still, Juno remained determined that the Trojans would not claim Italy through marriage, so she watched and waited for an opportunity to cause trouble.

At last, Juno decided to visit the Underworld. There she sought the help of the Furies, creatures who delighted in undertaking evil chores. Juno asked the Fury named Allecto to pay a visit to Turnus, the princess’ Rutulian fiancĂ©, and warn him that Aeneas intended to marry Princess Lavinia.

Allecto did as Juno asked. She went to Turnus’ palace and cautioned him that he would undoubtedly lose the princess to Aeneas if he did not drive away the Trojans. However, Turnus ignored Allecto’s warning, and the old witch stormed out of the palace.

Allecto then visited Ascanius, who was out hunting. She directed one of the boy’s arrows at a pet deer belonging to the Rutulians. When Lavinia saw the young fawn fall to the ground, she became hysterical and ordered her attendants to find the culprit. The attendants started shooting at Ascanius and his Trojan companions. During thefighting, several Rutulian soldiers were killed.

When Turnus learned what had happened, he seized the opportunity to declare war on the Trojans. Although it was customary for a king to open the Twin Gates of War, guarded by Janus, after war was declared, King Latinus refused to acknowledge what was happening and kept the gates closed. Furious with the king and eager to get the fighting started, Juno came down and opened the gates herself.

Aeneas realized that he would need more soldiers to fight against Turnus and his men, so he sailed up the Tiber River to seek the help of King Evander, whose ancestors had been Trojans. The king welcomed Aeneas and proudly showed him his kingdom, which was little more than a village on the Tarpeian Hill. Pallas, the king’s young son, offered to join Aeneas and suggested they cross the Tiber
River to Etruria and seek alliance with some Etruscans who would join forces with them because they were angry with their own king.

Before Aeneas and Pallas reached the river, however, Aeneas’ mother, Venus, appeared carrying a full suit of armor for her son. It had been made by Vulcan, the god of fire, at his forge. On the shield, Vulcan had hammered out scenes depicting Rome’s future:

All these images on Vulcan’s shield,
His mother’s gift, were wonders to Aeneas.
Knowing nothing of the events themselves,
He felt joy in their pictures, taking up
Upon his shoulder all the destined acts
And fame of his descendants.

Soon, Turnus discovered that Aeneas was away from the city of Lavinium, and he organized his men, who attacked with force. But the Trojans remained inside the walls of the city and did not respond. Turnus attacked a second time. Still, the Trojans refused to respond.

Turnus, unaware that Aeneas had instructed his men to refrain from fighting until he returned with additional forces, set the Trojans’ ships on fire in an effort to draw the Trojan men out of the city. But Jupiter, who had been watching over Aeneas’ men, turned the ships into sea nymphs and sent them bobbing out to sea.

The following day, when Turnus attacked Lavinium for the third time, the Trojans threw open the gates of the city and came storming out, hurling rocks and spears at the Rutulian soldiers. Turnus rode boldly into the city ahead of his men and cut down every Trojan soldier in sight. The tall Rutulian warrior frightened the remaining Trojans, and they retreated, until one of the soldiers reminded the others that they were running away from only one man. Turnus’ presence had been so majestic that the Trojan men had not realized that he was riding alone. Suddenly, they turned around and charged at him. Turnus backed away toward the Tiber and jumped into the river, wearing all his armor.

Aeneas, who had by now succeeded in organizing a large contingent of Etruscan soldiers in addition to Evander’s men from the area of the Tarpeian Hill, returned home and joined the fighting. He saw Turnus, who had come out of the water and was chasing Evander’s son, Pallas. But before Aeneas could help the boy, Turnus had driven his spear through the young man’s chest, taken Pallas’ ornate sword belt, and slung it over his own shoulder. Evander threw himself on his son’s body and

Suddenly, Aeneas’ sadness turned to rage. He plunged into the battle and killed as many Rutulian soldiers as he could find. The killing went on for many days until, at last, both sides agreed to a truce so that they could bury the dead.

Evander, still mourning the death of Pallas, did not regret that he had given the Trojans land in Latium - but he wanted Aeneas to avenge his son’s death by fighting Turnus one-on-one and killing him.

Unfortunately, the war went on for many years until, at last, Turnus’ Latin allies held a meeting and agreed to withdraw their support from the Rutulians because Turnus’ battle was becoming impossible to win. Their decision angered Turnus, who organized his remaining forces and returned to battle once again.

Juno, who had been watching the battles from high above the golden clouds, realized that Turnus was doomed. At last, she appealed to her husband, Jupiter, to allow the Latins to retain their name and language and, in exchange, she would put an end to the war:

I yield now and for all my hatred leave
This battlefield. But one thing not retained
By fate I beg for Latium, for the future
Greatness of your kin: when presently
They crown peace with a happy wedding day -
So let it be - and merge their laws and treaties,
. . . Let Latium be.
Let there be Alban kings for generations,
And let Italian valor be the strength
Of Rome in after times. Once and for all
Troy fell, and with her name let her lie fallen.

Jupiter agreed to grant Juno her wish. He assured her that the marriage between Latins and Trojans would produce an indomitable race. Through the marriage of Livinia and Aeneas - it was implied - their descendants would embody the strength, courage, and virtue of the people from whom they came.

Meanwhile, Turnus continued to be defeated on the battlefield. Eventually, however, the arrogant young Rutulian agreed to deal with Aeneas. Aeneas, pleased to be able to fulfill his promise to King Evander to avenge the death of Pallas, made the necessary arrangements. On the day of the face-off, Turnus mistakenly picked up the wrong sword, and when he swung at Aeneas, it shattered against
the heavy shield made for Aeneas by Vulcan.

Turnus called to his men to bring him his proper sword, but it was too late. Aeneas pinned the jealous warrior to the ground and ran his spear through one of his thighs. Turnus knew that the next stab would be into his chest, and before he died, he begged Aeneas to return his body to his father for proper burial.

Aeneas hesitated for a moment, and even considered sparing Turnus’ life, but then his eyes fixed on young Pallas’ sword belt slung over Turnus’ shoulder and his heart turned cold. Without hesitation, Aeneas thrust his sword into Turnus’ chest and killed him.

After Turnus’ death, the fighting ended and Latins and Trojans began to live together in peace. The subsequent marriage of Aeneas and Princess Lavinia gave the Roman people the Trojan ancestry they so desired.

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