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The Aeneid | Discussion Questions 41 - 50

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Is Turnus ever actually engaged to Lavinia in The Aeneid?

Although Queen Amata "burns with a will" to marry Lavinia to Turnus before Aeneas's arrival in Book 7, it seems that the signs and prophecies that she would marry a stranger prevented a formal engagement. When Aeneas sends an envoy to Latium, King Latinus feels free to offer him his daughter's hand in marriage. However, some sort of understanding with Turnus seems to have been formalized after the start of the war. In Book 12 Latinus says he ignored the prophecy and bowed to his love of Turnus and his "wife's heartrending tears." They to refer to each other like family—Latinus calls Turnus "my boy," and Turnus calls Latinus "Father" and Amata "mother"—implying a closer tie between them.

Compare Amata's suicide in Book 12 of The Aeneid to Dido's suicide in Book 4.

Although Queen Amata's suicide in Book 12 is described much more briefly than Dido's in Book 4, there are similarities in their situations. Both women kill themselves over frustrated expectations of love. Amata's expectations are for Lavinia rather than herself, but she also clearly cares very much for Turnus. Both women seem to see little alternative to suicide, foreseeing their deaths as soon as they see the end of their deeply held hopes. Dido fights it longer, holding onto hope, whereas Amata instantly gives up when she assumes Turnus has been killed. However, they are both generally "bent on death." It seems more than a coincidence that the gods have played with both women's emotions, perhaps pushing them beyond their normal reactions: further evidence of Virgil's intention to portray the human costs of pietas in the face of the meddling of the gods.

What is the effect of the nightmare simile in Book 12 of The Aeneid?

Virgil compares Turnus's unsuccessful attempt to crush Aeneas by throwing a boulder to one of those universal nightmares in which dreamers finds themselves unable to do things they should be able to, like talk and run. As in that nightmare, Turnus's strength and/or coordination fail him, and the stone doesn't even reach Aeneas. Invoking this nightmare quality, and intimately involving the reader by using a first-person perspective ("we sink down, consumed, our tongue won't work"), Virgil prompts the reader to identify with the helplessness that Turnus feels when he finally comes face-to-face with Aeneas and his inevitable fate.

In Book 12 of The Aeneid why does Juno finally give up blocking Aeneas's fate?

Jupiter finally orders Juno to stop blocking Aeneas after Juturna gives Turnus back his sword in the single combat with Aeneas. Juno argues she has already withdrawn, letting Juturna fail or succeed on her own, though Jupiter points out she is using Juno's power. However, Juno's manner is now different than it has been for the majority of the poem—most of her anger is gone and she seems resigned. When Jupiter grants her last request that the Trojans become Latins, she yields completely to the will of the king of the gods. Virgil shows sympathy even for the "brutal" and "ruthless" Juno in this scene, highlighting her pride and allowing her to yield with dignity and even joy. This fits both Virgil's style and Roman history because Juno becomes a principle goddess of Rome.

How is Turnus both heroic and unheroic in The Aeneid?

Physically, Turnus fits the heroic mold—he is the son of a goddess and is exceptionally large, strong, and handsome. He also fits the heroic requirement of demonstrating superior bravery and skill in battle. He is not generally a coward, strenuously objecting that he is letting down his army when Juno lures him away from the battle in Book 10. However, Turnus fails to demonstrate the nobility of character that heroes usually show. Even before Allecto infects him with rage, he demonstrates arrogance and a sense of self-importance that leads to his downfall. He cannot admit, until it is proven beyond a doubt, that he might not be able to beat Aeneas in a fight. Whatever reason and restraint he might have had are certainly not helped by the fiery anger sparked by Allecto. Even in Book 12, he flies into an unreasonable rage at the suggestion he might not win against Aeneas. When it becomes clear Aeneas will win the duel, he loses his courage and becomes disabled by fear.

What does the ending of The Aeneid signify for Rome?

As the father of Rome, Aeneas's defeat of Turnus at the end of The Aeneid allows him to fulfill his fate and ensures the great destiny of Rome as shown on his shield. Symbolically, Aeneas's victory also represents the patriotic Roman belief that Rome will always defeat those who fight against her. If Virgil is drawing a parallel between Aeneas's anger in battle and the war-making of Rome, it might express some pessimism about the possibility of Rome freeing itself of a culture that glorifies war and living by Anchises's direction in Book 6 to "spare the defeated." In Book 12 Aeneas achieves his fate and peace by killing Turnus, but at a cost to his humanity.

Based on Aeneas in The Aeneid, what are the qualities of an ideal Roman leader?

Like Aeneas, Romans should be shining examples of pietas, dutifully honoring and respecting their gods, their families, and their country. Aeneas puts these values above personal glory, and so should Romans—something not always done in the power struggles of the civil wars. The care Aeneas shows toward his family, especially his father and son, illustrate the value Romans placed on their family lines. Aeneas also demonstrates what a Roman leader, such as Augustus, should be. He takes his responsibilities to his people seriously, putting them first and taking their cares on himself. He only goes to war when forced to it by Turnus, and he worries about its cost to his people.

In The Aeneid, how is Ascanius associated with fire and light?

In Book 2 a divine fire that does not burn plays over Ilus's (Acanius's) head. This primarily serves as a sign to Anchises that he should escape Troy with his son and grandson, but it also represents the destiny that Ascanius will achieve through his father. In Book 5 Ascanius and his troupe who perform the horseback demonstration are "glittering in the light" as they ride past their parents. It seems the light of Aeneas's fate is again shining on his son.

Compare and contrast the gods Juno, Jupiter, Venus, and Apollo in The Aeneid.

The gods who play major roles in The Aeneid each have their own personalities. Juno is angry and holds a grudge, whereas Venus is more lighthearted and playful but also protective of her son and grandson. She is frequently petulant with Jupiter and quarrelsome with Juno. Jupiter is calm and reassuring as he mediates between the two of them. The reader sees less of Apollo directly, but the many prophecies he sends Aeneas and his protection of Ascanius hint at a fair and serious god. Juno is the main deity who tries to interfere with Fate. She enlists the help of more minor gods and goddesses she can order or manipulate, such as Aeolus and Iris, but it is her will that drives them. As Aeneas's mother, Venus functions as his main divine advocate and protector. All her will is focused on preserving him and his fate. Jupiter must ensure Aeneas's fate is realized, but he also tries to balance the feelings of his wife and daughter. Apollo also works toward the fulfillment of Aeneas's fate, sending him many prophecies to guide him, but otherwise stays out of the conflict between Juno and Venus.

How does Aeneas change throughout The Aeneid?

In the earlier portions of his journey, Aeneas seems both forgetful of and uncertain about the fate he is supposed to be following. Readers can see Virgil does not present Aeneas as the ideal hero, even though he did eventually commit to his fate. His first attempt to build a new home for the Trojans is nowhere near Italy, and misunderstanding a prophecy leads to a second unsuccessful settlement in the wrong place. After the Trojans reach Carthage, Aeneas seems inclined to settle there as well, especially after he and Dido become involved with each other. Even after the gods and the ghost of his father remind him he is supposed to be going to Italy, he debates whether he should just settle in Sicily since his people are tired of wandering. However, after Aeneas finally leaves Sicily and visits Anchises in the Underworld, he seems much more committed to his inevitable fate. He worries about the consequences of a war, but he doesn't turn away from the fight or consider leaving Italy. After seeing his Roman descendants, he never stops working toward fulfilling the destiny of Rome.

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