Religion Wiki

Aeneas flees burning Troy, Federico Barocci, 1598.

In Greco-Roman mythology, Aeneas (pronounced: /ɪˈniːəs/; Greek: Αἰνείας, Aineías, derived from Greek Αἰνή meaning "to praise") was a Trojan hero, the son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite. His father was the second cousin of King Priam of Troy, making Aeneas Priam's second cousin, once removed. He is a character in Greek mythology and is mentioned in Homer's Iliad, and receives full treatment in Roman mythology as the legendary founder of what would become Ancient Rome, most extensively in Virgil's Aeneid.

Literary genealogy

Aeneas carrying Anchises, black-figured oinochoe, ca. 520–510 BC, Louvre (F 118).

In the Iliad, Aeneas is a minor character, where he is twice saved from death by the gods as if for an as yet unknown destiny. He is the leader of the Trojans' Dardanian allies, as well as a third cousin and principal lieutenant of Hector, son of the Trojan king Priam. Aeneas' mother Aphrodite frequently comes to his aid on the battlefield; he is a favorite of Apollo. Aphrodite and Apollo rescue Aeneas from combat with Diomedes of Argos, who nearly kills him, and carry him away to Pergamos for healing. Even Poseidon, who normally favors the Greeks, comes to Aeneas' rescue after he falls under the assault of Achilles, noting that Aeneas, though from a junior branch of the royal family, is destined to become king of the Trojan people. He kills 28 people in the Trojan War, and his career during that war is retold by Roman historian Gaius Julius Hyginus (c. 64 BCE – 17 CE) in his Fabulae.[1]

The history of Aeneas is continued by Roman authors. building on different myths and histories. During Virgil's time Aeneas was well-known and various versions of his adventures were circulating in Rome, including Roman Antiquities by Greek historian Dionysius of Halicarnassus (relying on Marcus Terentius Varro, Ab Urbe Condita by Livy (probably dependent on Quintus Fabius Pictor, fl. 200 BCE), and Gnaeus Pompeius Trogus (through an epitome by Justin). Likewise important in Virgil's day was the account of Rome's founding in Cato the Elder's Origines.[2]

Aeneas in Virgil

As seen in the first books of the Aeneid, Aeneas is one of the few Trojans who were not killed in battle or enslaved when Troy fell. When Troy was sacked by the Greeks, Aeneas, after being commanded by the gods to flee, gathered a group, collectively known as the Aeneads, who then traveled to Italy and became progenitors of Romans. The Aeneads included Aeneas' 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, Julus, or Ascanius Julius). He carried with him the Lares and Penates, the statues of the household gods of Troy, and transplanted them to Italy.

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

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.

After a brief but fierce storm sent up against the group at Juno's request, Aeneas and his fleet made landfall at Carthage after six years of wanderings. Aeneas had a year-long affair with the Carthaginian queen Dido (also known as Elissa), who proposed that the Trojans settle in her land and that she and Aeneas reign jointly over their peoples. A marriage of sorts is arranged between Dido and Aeneas at the instigation of Juno, who was told of the fact that her favorite city would eventually be defeated by the Trojans' descendants, and Aeneas's mother Venus (the Roman adaptation of Aphrodite), who realizes that her son and his company need a temporary reprieve to reinforce themselves for the journey to come. 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, Dido 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.

After the sojourn in Carthage, the Trojans returned to Sicily where Aeneas organizes funeral games to honor his father, who had died a year before. The company travels on and lands on the western coast of Italy. Aeneas descends into the underworld where he meets Dido (who turns away from him to return to her husband) and his father, who shows him the future of his descendents and thus the history of Rome.

Aeneas defeats Turnus, by Luca Giordano, 1634–1705. The genius of Aeneas is shown ascendant, looking into the light of the future, while that of Turnus is setting, shrouded in darkness.

Latinus, king of the Latins, welcomed Aeneas' army of exiled Trojans and let them reorganize their lives in Latium. His daughter Lavinia had been promised to Turnus, king of the Rutuli, 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 Virgil's account ends abruptly.

The rest of Aeneas's biography is gleaned from Livy: Aeneas was victorious but Latinus died in the war. Aeneas founded the city of Lavinium, named after his wife. He later welcomed Dido's sister, Anna Perenna, who then committed suicide after learning of Lavinia's jealousy. After Aeneas' death, Venus asked Jupiter to make her son immortal. Jupiter agreed and the river god Numicus cleansed Aeneas of all his mortal parts and Aphrodite anointed him with Ambrosia and Nectar, making him a god. Aeneas was recognized as the god Jupiter Indiges.

Family and legendary descendants

Aeneas and the god Tiber, by Bartolomeo Pinelli.

Aeneas had an extensive family tree. His wet-nurse was Caieta, and he is the father of Ascanius with Creusa, and of Silvius with Lavinia. Ascanius, also known as Iulus (or Julius), founded Alba Longa and was the first in a long series of kings. According to the mythology outlined by Virgil in the Aeneid, Romulus and Remus were both descendants of Aeneas through their mother Rhea Silvia, making Aeneas progenitor of the Roman people. Some early sources call him their father or grandfather,[3] but considering the commonly accepted dates of the fall of Troy (1184 BCE) and the founding of Rome (753 BCE), this seems unlikely. The Julian family of Rome, most notably Julius Caesar and Augustus, traced their lineage to Ascanius and Aeneas, thus to the goddess Aphrodite. Through the Julians, the Palemonids make this claim. The legendary kings of Britain trace their family through a grandson of Aeneas, Brutus.

Physical appearance

In Virgil's Aeneid, Aeneas is described as strong and handsome, but his hair colour or complexion are not described.[4] In late antiquity however sources add further physical descriptions. The Daretis Phrygii de excidio Trojae historia of Dares Phrygius describes Aeneas as ‘‘auburn-haired, stocky, eloquent, courteous, prudent, pious, and charming.’’[5]

There is also a brief physical description found in John Malalas' Chronographia:

‘‘Aeneas: short, fat, with a good chest, powerful, with a ruddy complexion, a broad face,
a good nose, fair skin, bald on the forehead, a good beard, grey eyes.’’[6]

Literature, theatre and film

Aeneas is the subject of the French mediaeval romance Roman d'Enéas.

Aeneas is also a titular character in Henry Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas (c. 1688), and one of the principal roles in Hector Berlioz' opera Les Troyens (c. 1857).

In modern literature, Aeneas appears in David Gemmell's Troy series as a main heroic character who goes by the name Helikaon.

Aeneas is a main character in Ursula K. Le Guin's Lavinia, a re-telling of the last six books of the Aeneid told from the point of view of Lavinia, daughter of King Latinus of Latium.

Aeneas is one of the mythical founders of the Ventrue Clan in the role-playing game Vampire: the Requiem by White Wolf Game Studios.

Despite the many Hollywood elements, Aeneas has received little interest from the film industry. Portrayed by Steve Reeves, he was the main character in the 1961 sword-and-sandal peplum Guerra di Troia (The Trojan War). Reeves reprised the role the following year in the film The Avenger, about Aeneas's arrival in Latium and his conflicts with local tribes as he tries to settle his fellow Trojan refugees there.

The most recent cinematic portrayal of Aeneas was in the film Troy, in which he appears as a youth charged by Paris to protect the Trojan refugees, and to continue the ideals of the city and its people. It is at this point that Paris gives Aeneas Priam's sword, in order to give legitimacy and continuity to the Royal Line of Troy – and lay the foundations of Rome.


  1. Hyginus, Fabulae 115.
  2. Stout, S.E. (1924). "How Vergil Established for Aeneas a Legal Claim to a Home and a Throne in Italy". The Classical Journal 20 (3): 152–60. 
  3. Romulus by Plutarch
  4. What Does Aeneas Look like?, Mark Griffith, Classical Philology, Vol. 80, No. 4 (Oct., 1985), p. 309.
  5. "Classical E-Text: Dares Phrygius, The Fall Of Troy". Retrieved 2012-08-28. 
  6. Illuminated prophet books: a study of Byzantine manuscripts of the major and minor prophets, John Lowden, Penn State Press, 1988, p. 62


  • Homer, Iliad II, 819–21; V, 217–575; XIII, 455–544; XX, 75–352;
  • Bibliotheca III, xii, 2;
  • Apollodorus, Epitome III, 32–IV, 2; V, 21;
  • Virgil, Aeneid;
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses XIV, 581–608;
  • Ovid, Heroides, VII.
  • Livy, Book 1
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Aeneas. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.