The Human Characters
Acestës (uh-sehs-teez) The king of Drepanum, in western Sicily, he gives refuge to Aeneas and his people in Books III and V after storms drive them off course.
Achaemenidës (a-kuh-mihn-ih-deez) A Greek crewman of Ulysses, he is accidentally abandoned on Sicily, home of the Cyclopes, when his companions flee from the angry one-eyed giants. The Trojans rescue him in Book III.
Achatës (uh-kay-teez) Known as "the faithful Achatës," he is Aeneas's armor-bearer and a devoted follower of the Trojan hero throughout the epic poem.
Aeneas (uh-nee-us) Romans regarded Aeneas as the ancestor of Augustus — the emperor for whom Virgil wrote the Aeneid — and of the entire Roman state, since Romulus and Remus, Rome's legendary cofounders, were believed to be descended from the race of kings established by Silvius, Aeneas's son by his second wife, Lavinia. Aeneas became the object of exceptional veneration by the Romans, the embodiment of all of the virtues that they prized most: steadfastness, courage, patience, obedience to the will of the gods, and reverence for ancestors. As such, he was not only the ancestor of Rome's first emperor but also Augustus's moral prototype, or model, exemplifying in his heroic person all the qualities that loyal Romans attributed to their first emperor.
As a result of this patriotic role assigned to him, Aeneas sometimes appears too good to be true. He possesses a superhuman excellence that makes it hard for us to believe he is a man and not a symbol or a god. Still, Virgil endows him with his share of human qualities: He is subject to discouragement in Book I when his fleet is struck by Aeolus's storm; in Book II, he is uncertain as to what course of action to take on the night that Troy is invaded by the Greeks; and in Book IV, he is torn between his love for Dido and his need to fulfill his mission. Only gradually does he obtain heroic stature, but he is all the more believable because of his initial weaknesses.
Amata (uh-mah-tuh) The wife and queen of Latinus, her name — Latin for "beloved" — ironically contradicts the actual nature of this highly disagreeable character. From the moment of her first appearance in Book VII, she is an obstacle to the harmony that Latinus and Aeneas seek. Her influence is always negative: Favoring Turnus rather than Aeneas as the husband for her daughter, Lavinia, she is easily swayed by the fury Allecto, sent by Juno, and becomes a human agent of that goddess's campaign against the Trojans.
Anchises (an-ky-seez) As the father of Aeneas by the goddess Venus, Anchises is a venerable figure of wise counsel and instruction, above all in Book VI, when he reveals Rome's future to Aeneas. Aeneas's respect for Anchises exemplifies an important aspect of the Roman virtue pietas, the appropriate deference one shows to parents, gods, and country. Virgil strongly implies that the respect paid by Aeneas to Anchises, especially in Book V in the form of funeral games, foreshadows the pietas shown by Augustus to his father by adoption, Julius Caesar.
Andromachë (an-drah-muh-kee) The widow of the Trojan prince Hector, and later the wife of his brother, the prophet Helenus. She and her husband are visited by Aeneas in Buthrotum in Book III.
Anna (ahn-nuh) The warmhearted and impulsive sister of Carthage's Queen Dido, Anna has little importance as a character in her own right, but with her unwise counsel she initiates a series of actions and events that have overwhelmingly important consequences. Good-intentioned, she disastrously encourages Dido to give in to her love for Aeneas and forget her vow to remain chaste and faithful to the memory of her dead husband. Anna's only wish is to see her widowed sister find happiness; ironically, she puts Dido in jeopardy and prepares her to become the victim of two overpowering goddesses, Juno and Venus.
Ascanius (as-kay-nee-us) Also known as Iulus; the son of Aeneas and his first wife, Creusa.
Camilla (kuh-mihl-uh) A female warrior of the Volscians and Turnus's ally in his battle against Aeneas's forces. In Book XI, she leads a courageous but doomed cavalry attack against the Trojans and their allies. Slain by the Etruscan Arruns, she is avenged by the goddess Diana, who sends the nymph Opis to slay Arruns in turn.
Creusa (kray-ooh-suh) Aeneas's first wife, Creusa is a one-dimensional, colorless character, whose sole function is to appear as a sacrificial victim to the great cause of the future Roman Empire by exhorting Aeneas to escape Troy without her.
Dido (dy-doh) Unlike most female characters in the Aeneid, Dido is a strong woman who possesses heroic dimensions and a will of her own. Leading her people from Tyre after her brother murders her husband, she founds the new city of Carthage, whose construction she is directing when Aeneas arrives there.
Virgil portrays Dido as Aeneas's equal and his feminine counterpart. Her hopeless passion for him is not a flaw in her splendid character: She is forced by Juno and Venus to become his lover, a role that she cannot play for long because fate wills otherwise. Her decision to commit suicide gives her a tragic stature.
Diomedes (dy-oh-mee-deez) A Greek hero of the Trojan War. In Book XI, he refuses, via a messenger, Turnus's request to fight against the Trojans and their allies.
Drancës (dran-seez) A Latin nobleman, in Book XI he acts as an ambassador between Latinus and Aeneas, decrying Turnus's aggressive stance and calling for a peaceful settlement with the Trojans.
Euryalus (yu-ry-uh-lus) A young Trojan warrior and the inseparable companion of Nisus, in Book IX, he is slain by the Rutulians while attempting to inform Aeneas of Turnus's attack on the Trojan camp.
Evander (ee-van-duhr) Pallanteum's king and Pallas's father, he allies himself with Aeneas, who visits him in his city, built on the site of the future Rome. Related to Aeneas through their common descent from Atlas, Evander is depicted as a benevolent ruler who favors the Trojans's mission.
Hector (hehk-tuhr) A son of Troy's King Priam and Queen Hecuba, and the first husband of Andromachë. Hector's ghost appears to Aeneas in Book II on the night Troy is invaded by the Greeks and warns the Trojan prince to flee the stricken city.
Hecuba (heh-kyoo-buh) Priam's wife and Troy's queen.
Helenus (heh-lay-nus) The ruler of a group of Trojan exiles living in the city of Buthrotum, and Andromachë's second husband. In Book III, he warns Aeneas of the dangers along the sea route to Italy and advises him to consult the sibyl of Cumae.
Laocoön (lay-ah-koh-uhn) In Book II, suspecting trickery on the part of the departing Greeks, Laocoön warns his fellow Trojans against bringing an immense wooden horse, left behind by the Trojans's enemy, inside Troy's walls. He and his two sons are slain by two giant sea serpents sent by the goddess Minerva.
Latinus (luh-tee-nus) Because the civilization of Rome was supposed to have arisen from the cooperation of the Latin natives with the Trojan newcomers, Virgil found it appropriate to depict the Latin king, Latinus, as a man of moderation and goodwill, ready from the very start to marry his daughter, Lavinia, to Aeneas.
Although Latinus is an admirable character, he is rather ineffectual. He has little place in the action after Book VII, in which he makes his futile bid for peace after having experienced supernatural portents that dispose him in favor of the Trojans. In Book XI, when it appears certain that the Trojans will win, he is again eager to make peace with them, and his terms are generous.
Lausus (law-sus) Mezentius's son, killed by Aeneas in Book X.
Lavinia (luh-vihn-ee-uh) This sole surviving child of Latinus and Amata is probably the most passive and one-dimensional character in the Aeneid, even more so than Creusa, Aeneas's first wife. Destined to become Aeneas's second wife, Lavinia has no will of her own, no personal expression. In Book XI, she is designated as the prize that will be awarded either to Aeneas or to Turnus, depending on who wins their personal battle.
Mezentius (muh-zihn-tee-us) The former king of the Etruscans, he was deposed by his own subjects because of his cruelty toward them and becomes Turnus's ally. Virgil portrays him as a complex character: Villain though he is, he is devoted to his son, Lausus, who is slain by Aeneas while defending his father. Mezentius's attempt to avenge his son's death by killing Aeneas endows him with a tragic nobility.
Nisus (ny-sus) A Trojan warrior and Euryalus's inseparable companion. In Book IX, he is slain while trying to rescue his friend from Rutulian troops, who waylay the two young Trojans as they are crossing enemy territory with a message for Aeneas.
Palinurus (pa-lih-noo-rus) Aeneas's steadfast and loyal ship's pilot, whose life Neptune exacts as the price of the Trojans's safe crossing from Sicily to Italy in Book V. Murdered by savages as he swims ashore after Somnus, the god of sleep, induces him to fall overboard, Palinurus, more than any other character in the epic poem, dies as the result of a god's mere caprice.
Pallas (pal-luhs) The son of Evander, Pallas resembles Lausus, Mezentius's son, in his youth, bravery, beauty, and pietas. Pallas's death at the hands of Turnus in Book X is avenged when Aeneas kills Turnus, who brazenly wears Pallas's swordbelt slung unceremoniously over his shoulder.
Pandarus (pan-duh-rus) A courageous Trojan warrior slain by Turnus in Book IX while defending the Trojan encampment.
Priam (pry-am) Troy's aged king, who is cut down in his palace by Pyrrhus in Book II during the Greeks's siege of the city.
Pyrrhus (pihr-rus) One of the warriors who hide in the wooden horse, he slays Priam's son Politës and then the king himself.
Sinon (see-non) The Greek warrior who cleverly persuades the Trojans to bring the wooden horse inside Troy's protective walls.
Sychaeus (sy-kee-us) Prince of Tyre and husband of Dido, he is already dead at the time of the Aeneid's action. His spirit is united with Dido's in the underworld, where Aeneas sees them together in Book VI.
Tarchon (tahr-kahn) The leader of Aeneas's Etruscan allies.
Turnus (toor-nus) A prince of the Rutulian tribe and the leader of the Latin forces who oppose the settlement of the Trojans in Latium, Turnus is the only male human character in the Aeneid whose stature is comparable to Aeneas's. However, unlike the Trojan hero, who always tries to act for the good of his people, Turnus is motivated by intense pride and a desire for personal fame. His doomed future, sealed by fate, signifies the triumph of the ideal of civic virtue embodied by Aeneas.
The Gods and Other Non-Human Characters
Aeolus (ee-oh-lus) The god of the winds, who, at Juno's request, unleashes the storm that drives the Trojans off course after they leave Sicily in Book I.
Allecto (al-lehk-toh) One of the three furies, female deities who drive their victims mad with rage. In Book VII, Juno uses Allecto's evil influence to incite war between the Trojans and the Latins.
Apollo (ah-pahl-loh) The god of prophecy and civilization, he favors the Trojans's mission. Although he appears in person only once in the Aeneid, his guiding influence is manifested indirectly through his priests, as in Book III, and through the sibyl of Cumae in Book VI. The emperor Augustus regarded Apollo as his patron and protector.
Celaeno (seh-ly-noh) The leader of the Harpies, a band of vicious bird-women, who attack the Trojans in Book III.
Charon (kay-run) The old ferryman who rows the spirits of the dead across the Acheron, one of the underworld's rivers. In Book VI, although Aeneas is a living being, Charon rows him across.
Cupid (kyoo-pihd) The god of love. His mother, Venus, has him inspire Dido with passion for Aeneas in Book I.
Cymodocea (ky-mah-doh-kee-uh) The leader of the sea nymphs, formerly the ships of Aeneas's fleet.
Deiphobë (day-ee-foh-bee) The sibyl of Cumae. A prophetess and priestess of the god Apollo, she predicts the future for Aeneas and accompanies him on his visit to the underworld in Book VI.
Diana (dy-an-uh) The goddess of hunting and protectress of women, especially of virgins like herself. She favors the warrior maiden Camilla, whose death she avenges in Book XI.
Janus (jay-nus) A god associated with beginnings, gates, and doorways. In Book VII, Juno throws open the mighty gates of Mars's temple, of which Janus is the guardian, to signify the official beginning of the war between the Trojans and the Latins.
Juno (jyoo-noh) The queen of the gods and Jupiter's wife. As the Trojans's most powerful opponent, Juno strives to frustrate and delay the fulfillment of their destined mission to create a new home in Italy. Her hatred, which originates chiefly in events connected with the Trojan War, is aggravated by her knowledge that Rome will surpass her favorite city, Carthage, in world dominance. Only at the very end of the epic, when she is instructed by Jupiter, does she end her opposition to the Trojans.
Jupiter (jyoo-pih-tuhr) Also known as Jove, he is the king of the gods and Juno's husband. Although he cannot alter destiny, otherwise he is all-powerful and regulates the actions of all gods. In the Aeneid, his role is that of a wise, prophetic father who favors the Trojans.
Juturna (juh-tour-nuh) A river nymph of Italian origin, she is the supernatural sister of Turnus, whom she vainly tries to help in Book XII.
Mercury (muhr-kyoo-ree) The messenger of the gods. In Book IV, Jupiter sends Mercury to Aeneas in Carthage, to command the Trojan prince to abandon Dido and continue his voyage.
Minerva (min-nuhr-vuh) A daughter of Jupiter and the goddess of wisdom, during the Trojan War, she generally favors the Greek cause. In Book II, she lures the Trojans into bringing the wooden horse, which they are told is a Greek offering to her, within Troy's protective walls.
Neptune (nehp-tyoon) The god of the sea, who, in Book I, quiets the storm raised by Aeolus. In Book V, he exacts the sacrifice of Aeneas's pilot, Palinurus, as the price of a calm sea during the final stage of the Trojans's voyage to Italy.
Polyphemus (pah-lih-fee-mus) A Cyclops — a one-eyed giant — who lives as a shepherd on the island of Sicily. In Book III, he and his fellow Cyclopes attack the Trojans when they land near Mount Aetna.
Venus (vee-nus) The mother of Aeneas by her mortal lover Anchises, she acts on Aeneas's behalf in opposition to Juno, although she allies herself with the rival goddess in Book IV in an attempt to get her son to settle safely in Carthage as Dido's husband. Eventually, like Juno, Venus resigns herself to the dictates of fate.
Vulcan (vuhl-kun) The god of fire and metalworking, whom Venus persuades to forge the arms and protective armor that she presents to Aeneas in Book VIII.