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The Aeneid | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


What does the conflict between Venus, Juno, and Jupiter in Book 10 of The Aeneid show about the will of the gods?

When Jupiter calls the gods together, he asks why Italians and Trojans are fighting despite the fact that he has forbidden it, revealing that his will can be circumvented by the will of other gods. Venus, of course, immediately points the finger at Juno, listing how she has interfered. Saying she is only concerned for the survival of her grandson, Ascanius, her arguments are generally truthful but seem to also employ some passive aggression. In her response, Juno mostly vents her anger and tries to deflect blame through deception: It wasn't the Fates but Cassandra's madness that led the Trojans to Italy. Neither she nor Iris caused the fighting. (She conveniently doesn't mention Allecto.) Obviously, the gods can be just as biased and deceptive as people, making the consequences of their will dangerous and unpredictable; by pointing this out, Virgil encourages his readers to question the authority of the gods. Although Jupiter demonstrates later that he can control the gods when he needs to, he decides to be neutral this time. He swears not to intervene between Aeneas and Turnus (probably only in that day's battle since he does intervene later), letting each man's choices take their course: "How each man weaves his web will bring him to glory or to grief."

How is Aeneas's shield an instrument of his fate in Books 10 and 12 of The Aeneid?

Since Aeneas is fated to go on to found a new city for his people that will ultimately lead to the founding of Rome, and his fate is inevitable, he will inevitably survive the battles in the last few books of the poem. The shield that his mother has Vulcan make for him both shows how his fate leads to the destiny of Rome and helps ensure his fate by protecting him from many spears and other weapons. Apparently because it was made by a god, it never fails as other fighters' shields do, to greater or lesser degrees.

How does Virgil use the rhetorical question "am I?" in The Aeneid?

Virgil puts the rhetorical question "am I?" in the mouths of the angriest characters, usually to question something they are trying to deny. It appears most frequently in Juno's speech: her first words in Book 1 are "Defeated, am I?"—they begin her angry rant before she goes to Aeolus to cause the storm. It is also part of her angry speech before she dispatches Allecto in Book 7: "What, am I to believe my powers broken down at last ... ?" In the same book it appears in the Fury Allecto's angry reaction (pretending to be a priestess of Juno) to Turnus's mocking, saying "a mockery of a prophet, am I?" In Book 11 it is spoken by Turnus himself in his angry reaction to Drances's argument for peace. His words—"Beaten, am I?"—nearly exactly repeat Juno's first words in Book 1.

What function do dreams serve in The Aeneid?

Dreams in The Aeneid are mainly a way for spirits and the gods to talk to people. The first dream mentioned in the poem is during Venus's telling of Dido's story in Book 1: the spirit of Dido's dead husband warns her that her brother is a killer. Hector's spirit also warns Aeneas to flee Troy in Book 2. Many of Aeneas's dreams serve to clarify or confirm his fate: in Books 3 and 4 Aeneas's household gods point him toward Italy after the failed settlement in Crete. Mercury's second message to Aeneas, to leave Carthage immediately, is also delivered in a dream. Aeneas mentions dreaming of his dead father, Anchises, as early as Book 4, and Anchises tells Aeneas to continue to Italy in a dream in Book 5. In Book 7 the river god Tiber sends Aeneas to Evander in Pallanteum. Also in Book 7 Allecto's visit to Turnus apparently happens in a dream—he wakes up after she throws a flaming torch at him to ignite his rage.

Analyze the golden eagle and snake simile in Book 11 of The Aeneid.

The golden eagle, which is a symbol of Jupiter, represents the Etruscan Tarchon (fighting on Aeneas's side), not only because he dominates the fight, but because he has been prompted by Jupiter to counteract Camilla's charge. The snake, then, represents the Latin Venulus, whom Tarchon is attacking. Throughout the poem, snakes symbolize death and destruction, making the snake a fitting symbol of a dying soldier. Virgil's description of the struggle between the eagle and the snake paints a vivid picture of Venulus's fierce but ultimately unsuccessful struggle to survive Tarchon's attack.

In The Aeneid Book 11 why doesn't Apollo grant the second half of Arruns's prayer?

In Book 11 the Etruscan Arruns prays to Apollo to kill Camilla, stopping her rampage against Aeneas's forces, and return home safely. Unlike most other prayers in The Aeneid, this one is only partially answered. Apollo guides Arruns's spear to strike Camilla a fatal blow, but he scatters the other half of the prayer rather than granting it. This may be partly out of respect for his twin, the goddess Diana, who has already sent a nymph to take revenge on whomever harms Camilla. But it is also bowing to the will of the Fates, who have by now condemned Arruns. In contrast to Juno, Apollo does not try to pit his will against the inevitability of Fate.

Compare and contrast the flower similes for Euryalus in Book 9 and Pallas in Book 11 of The Aeneid.

Euryalus's death after being caught in the Latin camp in Book 9 is compared to a blood-red flower cut down by a farmer's plow. His bending neck is also compared to the weak stems of poppies (also a red flower) bending under heavy drops of rain. As Aeneas sends Pallas's body back to his father in Book 11, Virgil compares Pallas to a "tender violet bloom or drooping hyacinth" (both blue/purple flowers) cut by a young girl. Both similes use flowers to emphasize the beauty of the dead young man and the inherent frailty of the human body that allows them both to be cut down. However, there are also contrasts. Euryalus's simile illustrates the random chance that leads to his death, and the red of the flowers emphasize the rush of blood as he dies. In contrast, the flower in Pallas's simile was cut intentionally, reflecting that he was targeted by Turnus. The color of violets and hyacinths calls to mind the bluish hue of a body in which blood no longer circulates.

What does Virgil use fire to symbolize in Book 11 of The Aeneid?

Fire has previously been used to symbolize rage, in or out of battle, and passionate love. In Book 11 Virgil adds to this symbolism one more strong emotion—grief. Arcadians light the way for Pallas's procession with traditional funeral torches, and the wailing of Arcadian mothers "set the walls on fire with grief." The Trojans also burn funeral fires for their dead. Other fire references in Book 11 echo earlier symbolism. The anger of the Latin people over family members lost in battle sparks a "fiery controversy." After Aeneas's army drives them into Latium, battle fury makes them "all burn to be the first to die." As in other places, fire is also connected with the divine; Arruns mentions building fires and fire-walking to worship Apollo.

Is Camilla's death in Book 11 of The Aeneid an inevitable fate?

Camilla's death does not seem to be the same kind of inevitable fate that drives Aeneas. In her description of Camilla's background, Diana says "a terrible destiny drives her on!" However, the word fate is never used. Diana wishes Camilla had "never been carried away to serve in such a war—/bent on challenging Trojans," implying that her destiny is more related to her eagerness to fight the Trojans than something decreed by the Fates. The same is not true of her killer, Arruns, whose fate is set.

In Book 11 of The Aeneid, why is Diomedes's refusal to fight Aeneas significant?

In Book 1 Aeneas calls Diomedes the "strongest Greek afield." This is at variance with Homer's epic, in which Achilles is given that heroic distinction. Virgil does not directly contradict Homer, while at the same time pointing out the superiority of Aeneas over the "strongest of the Greeks," as personified not by Achilles (who was not defeated by Aeneas), but by Diomedes, who refuses to fight Aeneas again, almost seeming afraid to lose if he faces him a second time. He says if there had been two more of Aeneas in Troy, "Greece would now be grieving, Fate turned upside down." Diomedes's fear and respect of Aeneas elevates Aeneas's importance and relative strength above what it was in The Iliad, making him a fitting forefather of Rome's great destiny and symbolizing Rome's conquest of Greece.

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