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The Aeneid | Quotes

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1.

Wars and a man I sing.


Narrator, Book 1

The opening phrase of The Aeneid sets forth Virgil's purpose: to tell an epic story about a warrior in the tradition of Homer.

2.

Romans/On them I set no limits, space or time.


Jupiter, Book 1

After Juno nearly wrecks the Trojan fleet in a storm, Venus goes to Jupiter in tears, worried that her son will not reach his fated destination. Jupiter tells her not to worry; Aeneas's fate has not changed. He will reach Italy and father the Romans—and there will be no limits to what they will achieve. Jupiter foresees them conquering the world and ruling forever.

3.

I am Aeneas, duty-bound./I carry aboard my ships the gods of house and home.


Aeneas, Book 1

This is how Aeneas introduces himself to his mother, who is in disguise before she guides them to Carthage. It is one of the many passages in which Aeneas is labeled pius in Latin—"pious" or, as translated here, "duty-bound." One of his obligations is to find a new home for his people, represented by the household gods he carries.

4.

But, oh/how wrong to rely on gods dead set against you!


Aeneas, Book 2

During the destruction of Troy, most of the gods turn against the city and rampage with the Greeks. Cassandra, who has taken refuge in the temple of Minerva, is raped and dragged away by Ajax (the lesser). They have relied on the gods for preservation, but they are on the wrong side of Fate. It is a pattern that repeats for Dido and Turnus, others who come between Aeneas and his fate.

5.

To what extremes won't you compel our hearts,/you accursed lust for gold?


Aeneas, Book 3

In Thrace the Trojans' first attempt to build a new city is blocked by the blood of Polydorus, who was sent to secure Thracian support for Troy but was killed for the gold he brought. In the poem the desire for gold is almost as destructive as the lust for war. Dido's first husband was killed by her brother for gold. The destructive power of gold and war are often intertwined. Both Camilla and tragic Nisus and Euryalus are brought down by a desire for rich plunder in battle. Turnus's fate turns on a golden sword belt.

6.

Stop inflaming us both/with your appeals. I set sail for Italy—/all against my will.


Aeneas, Book 4

This is the conclusion of Aeneas's somewhat lacking justification for why he is leaving Carthage and Dido. It gets at the heart of the matter—that he would stay if his fate did not lie elsewhere—but it also dismisses Dido's feelings. Perhaps he is trying not to give in to his own feelings, but there is a suggestion that she is a hysterical woman. This is Aeneas at his most humanly flawed.

7.

Here is the man ... / Caesar Augustus!/ ... he will bring back the Age of Gold.


Anchises, Book 6

When Aeneas visits his father, Anchises, in the Underworld, he is shown a parade of Romans, most notably Virgil's ruler, Caesar Augustus. Through Anchises, Virgil predicts that Augustus's reign will be a new golden age of Rome, connecting it to the Age of Gold the god Saturn was said to rule over after he was kicked out of the heavens by his children, the new gods such as Jupiter and Juno.

8.

But you, Roman, remember ... / ... spare the defeated, break the proud in war.


Anchises, Book 6

Contrasting the Romans to come with "others" (the Greeks), Anchises lays out Rome's mission: to rule all the peoples of the earth, in peace if at all possible, practicing mercy and fighting only for a righteous purpose. Many interpret this as a directive for Aeneas as well, because he is the father of the Romans. He is fighting for a great purpose, to found Rome, but he fails to follow the path of mercy in his final battle with Turnus.

9.

If I cannot sway the heavens, I'll wake the powers of hell!


Juno, Book 7

This is Juno's furious response when Aeneas is on the verge of sealing a pact with King Latinus that will fulfill his fate. She has previously worked with other gods—Aeolus, Iris, and even Venus (who lets Juno think she is working with her)—to create trouble for Aeneas. Now she turns to the Fury Allecto, twin sister of Tisiphone, who guards the gate of Tartarus in the Underworld. Allecto infects Amata and Turnus, and through them the people of Latium, with her hellish rage, starting the war that tears Italy apart.

10.

Limp as a crimson flower/cut off by a passing plow, that droops as it dies.


Narrator, Book 9

In one of his many epic similes (extended comparisons in the form of similes that can extend several lines), Virgil compares the dying Euryalus to a blood-red poppy cut down in a field. The flower represents the blood from his fatal wound and the way his head sags over his shoulder as he dies. The farmer has no intention of cutting down that particular flower; it just happens to be in the path of the plow. So, too, is the death of Euryalus (and Nisus) tragically random.

11.

Each man has his day ... /But to lengthen out one's fame with action,/that's the work of courage.


Jupiter, Book 10

This is Jupiter's response to Hercules, now a god in the heavens, after Pallas prays to him for success against Turnus. Hercules weeps not to be able to answer Pallas's prayer and preserve his life. The Romans highly valued the glory of war, so the fame of a great death in battle provides some consolation for Pallas's death. Jupiter goes on to point out that Turnus's fate also awaits him—Pallas's killer will not go unpunished.

12.

Vengeance waits ... /you'll lie here in the same field—very soon.


Orodes, Book 10

As Mezentius gleefully kills him, the Trojan soldier Orodes foreshadows Mezentius's own imminent death by predicting their fates will be the same. Tisiphone, the Fury of vengeance, roams the battlefield. Mezentius has been the killer this time, but he will soon come up against Aeneas, and Orodes's death will be avenged.

13.

The same dark fate of battle commands me back/to other tears.


Aeneas, Book 11

Aeneas speaks these words as he sends the procession with Pallas's body back to Pallanteum. He accompanies it part of the way, paying his respects and saying goodbye, but he cannot accompany the procession all the way to Pallas's home—the war isn't over yet. Significantly, Aeneas sees the battles ahead as causes of more death and tears rather than paths to glory, emphasizing the cost of war.

14.

Learn courage from me, my son, true hardship too./Learn good luck from others.


Aeneas, Book 12

These are Aeneas's parting words to Ascanius as he prepares to enter the final battle of the war—the last words Aeneas speaks to his son in the poem. Aeneas has demonstrated courage in the face of many hardships, but he definitely has not benefited from good luck in his travels. Juno's efforts have seen to that. Like any parent, Aeneas wants his son to benefit from his successful experiences, but to avoid his difficulties. This exchange carries an extra level of meaning because of the Roman concept of pietas, which includes a reverence for family, especially fathers and sons.

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