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The Aeneid | Discussion Questions 21 - 30

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How does Virgil use fire to symbolize Aeneas's fate in Book 7 of The Aeneid?

After the sign that the Trojans have found their home, Aeneas prays to the gods of their new home and Jupiter, who answers with a "cloud on fire with rays of gold"—an omen for all the Trojans that they are in the place Aeneas is fated to build their city. As Ascanius's hair did in Troy, Lavinia's hair catches fire (presumably without burning) when Aeneas's arrival is foretold, signaling both Lavinia's fame through Aeneas's fate and the outbreak of war. Because of the prophecy he received from Faunus, King Latinus foresees the fate of Aeneas's heirs to "blaze in courage," and he says he will accept him as a son-in-law.

Why does Queen Amata act like a Maenad in Book 7 of The Aeneid?

After the Fury Allecto infects Queen Amata with rage against Aeneas, Amata begins to act more and more like one of the Maenads, wild women who follow Bacchus, god of wine and madness. Allecto's rage is certainly a kind of madness—Amata is "whipped insane by ghastly horrors"—but she seems to pretend a different kind of madness to prevent Lavinia from marrying Aeneas. She hides Lavinia in the woods, "feigning she's in the grip of Bacchus's power," and offers her to the god. This inflames the mothers of her kingdom with "the same fury, the same frenzy," and they begin to join Amata and act like Maenads as well.

How does Virgil use appeals to the Muses in The Aeneid?

Virgil appeals to the Muses to tell important parts of the story, especially events related to the gods that a mortal could not know or the overwhelming vastness of war. Virgil first appeals to a Muse in Book 1 to tell why the goddess Juno is so angry with a pious man like Aeneas. In Book 7 Virgil specifically calls on Erato, the Muse of love, to tell the story of a war fought for the right to marry a woman (Lavinia). When the Mother of the Gods asks Jupiter to save the Trojan ships from being burned by Turnus, Virgil once again appeals to the Muses for his knowledge. He also appeals to the Muses, including Calliope, Muse of epic poetry, in Books 9 and 10 for help telling of huge armies or the confusion of war.

How does Virgil portray Caesar Augustus as similar to Aeneas in The Aeneid?

When in Book 6 Anchises shows Aeneas his descendant Caesar Augustus waiting in the Underworld to be reborn, he says he is the son of a god, like Aeneas. In the scene of the Battle of Actium on Aeneas's shield in Book 8, Virgil's description points out that Augustus is also pious, like Aeneas. He is fighting to honor his country, including its people, and the gods: "leading Italy into battle,/the Senate and People too, the gods of hearth and home." Flames shoot from Augustus's head as he commands the battle, just as fire shoots from the crest of Aeneas's helmet as he arrives to fight Turnus's army in Book 10, symbolizing their related destinies.

What two things do the Nile and Ganges rivers represent in Book 9 of The Aeneid?

On the surface the two rivers represent the strength of Turnus's army. The Nile in Egypt and the Ganges in India are both famously large and powerful rivers. However, Virgil creates images of these rivers that are relatively calm—the Ganges "rising, fed by seven quiet streams" and the "life-giving Nile ebbing back from the plains/to settle down at last"—creating the impression of an orderly movement, at least before the fighting begins. Second, the fact that Roman readers would recognize both these rivers shows the long reach of the Roman Empire. The Nile in Egypt became part of the Roman Empire after Augustus's victory at Actium, and Rome traded with far-away India.

In Book 9 of The Aeneid how does Nisus's question to Euryalus about the gods relate to the will of the gods?

Before Nisus proposes the mission to fetch Aeneas to Euryalus, he asks whether the "gods light this fire in our hearts/or does each man's mad desire become his god?" He is asking one of the ageless human questions—do people act as they do because the gods will them to, or do humans create their own gods out of their desires? Is there such a thing as free will, or is all determined by the will of the gods? It is easy to see how someone eager to fight might justify that desire as the prompting of a god of war. In Nisus's case, he finds an outlet for his desire for "some great exploit" in his idea of a mission to sneak through Turnus's army surrounding the Trojan fort and bring trophies back to Aeneas. Virgil doesn't show this as the will of any god, seeming to blame the tragic consequences for Nisus and Euryalus on their "mad desire" for war.

In The Aeneid how are Nisus's and Euryalus's deaths in Book 9 similar to Creusa's death in Book 2?

Similar to Aeneas's loss of Creusa as they flee Troy in Book 2, Nisus and Euryalus lose each other as they flee through the woods. When Nisus gets through the woods, he realizes that Euryalus is not behind him, just as Aeneas realizes Creusa is not behind him when they escape the burning city. Both Nisus and Aeneas go back to search for their loved one. Aeneas finds that his wife is already dead and there is nothing he can do, so he escapes; Nisus is unfortunately not so lucky—he finds Euryalus outnumbered, and they both die. This parallel could be another argument for Nisus and Euryalus's relationship being romantic rather than simply friendship.

How is Ascanius's piety for family, gods, and country shown in Book 9 of The Aeneid?

Ascanius shows piety, or honor and respect, for the gods, family, and country in Book 9. He displays honor and respect for family most strongly, saying "my life depends/on father's safe return." Ascanius also promises to treat Euryalus's mother as his own if he does not return and follows through on the promise after Euryalus is killed. His promise to Euryalus also demonstrates care for his people—all that is left of his country of Troy. He also would have rewarded Nisus and Euryalus with riches had they been successful. He demonstrates piety to the gods equal to his father, swearing "By our great household gods,/by Assaracus' hearth-god and white-haired Vesta's shrine" and promising offerings to Jove (Jupiter) before successfully shooting the bragging Numanus in the battle.

What does the god Apollo will for Ascanius in Book 9 of The Aeneid?

After Ascanius successfully shoots and kills a bragging enemy, Apollo intervenes to stop him from continuing to fight. He praises Ascanius for his bravery but then disguises himself as his grandfather's comrade to restrain Ascanius from more fighting. He indicates that there is often a price to be paid in war, telling Ascanius he is lucky not to have to pay it this time. Apollo says Ascanius will father "gods to come" and "all fated wars to come will end in peace," seeming to make peace Ascanius's ultimate goal rather than war.

In Book 10 of The Aeneid why is the appearance of the Fury Tisiphone in battle significant?

Tisiphone is the Fury of vengeance, whom Aeneas has also seen in Book 6 guarding the gates of Tartarus, where souls are punished, in the Underworld. Her appearance on the battlefield in Book 10 symbolizes one of the most negative features of war: a vicious cycle of vengeance that contributes to the fury of battle and leads to more killing. Not even Aeneas is exempt from this cycle—because Turnus killed Pallas, Aeneas ultimately kills Turnus even though his better side is inclined to spare him.

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