Aeneas is troubled about the war that is brewing, he
is, in fact, "heartsick at the woe of war."
The Tiber river god appears to him in a dream and
The foci that "frame" Aeneas in this book, and that
interpret his preparations for war, are the story of
HERCULES that Evander tells and Vulcan's depiction on the
shield of AUGUSTUS' victory over Antony and Cleopatra at
Actium; the account of one of Aeneas' own violent and
impious adversaries, MEZENTIUS, is placed between the frame
of Hercules and the Shield.
HERCULES AND CACUS,
- Once upon a time the countryside had been ravaged
by a VIOLENT, FIRE-BELCHING, BESTIAL hulk of a man or
monster named CACUS; note the symbols of impiety and
furor that are clustered around him.
- When HERCULES came through driving the cattle he
had taken from Geryon, CACUS stole some of them, making
them walk backward to his cave; he closes himself in by
letting an overhanging rock fall in front of the
- HERCULES, in a perfect rage, breaks off the top of
the mountain and goes in after the FIRE AND SMOKE
BELCHING CACUS. HERCULES strangles CACUS, frees his
cattle, and the countryside is amazed at the sight of the
Aeneas learns that the Etruscans will help him because
of a grudge they have against Turnus (for giving asylum to
MEZENTIUS, another impious man of uncontrolled passions) and
he leaves to seek an alliance with them.
THE SHIELD OF AENEAS,
VIII. 833 to end
- Venus has asked her husband, Vulcan, to forge arms
for Aeneas (which invites us to compare Aeneas' shield
with Achilles' in the Aeneid).
- The scenes on the shield start with the
twins suckled by the wolf, but
unlike the scene in Elysium (Book VI), in which many and
varied of Aeneas descendants are shown, the scenes on the
shield are confined to WAR.
- The center of the shield depicts the BATTLE OF
ACTIUM. Against AUGUSTUS, the embodiment of PIETAS, are
pitted the barbarian forces of the East, with the
zoomorphic gods and their impassioned female leader
CLEOPATRA, together with her traitor-lover, ANTONY (all
embodiments of impiety and furor).
About the war in Italy. . .
One of the questions we brought to Book VIII was the
problem of war and whether the war in Italy would be shown
as differing in any significant respect from the Trojan War.
Without simplifying a deeply ambivalent approach to the
destruction wrought by pietas (the example of Dido is
never far from our minds!), it seems reasonable to say that
in Book VIII, war gives rise to CIVILIZATION/CULTURE
(Hercules) and ULTIMATE PEACE (Augustus).
and the first century civil wars in Rome. . .
The images of war in the Aeneid invite comparison with
Virgil's own day: the years of bloody civil war and the
peace of Augustus. Anderson suggests that Virgil deploys the
dual levels to set Aeneas' Italian war in perspective as
- Aeneas will crush unholy FURY in Italy and so
enable the growth of Rome throughout the peninsula of
- as Augustus will crush unholy FURY in the
Mediterranean and so establish Roman rule and creative
peace in all the known world.
Be sure to read Aeneid Book XII carefully for
the next class session. Here are a few notes about the
advancement of the plot in the intervening books that may be
- The battle between the Italians and the Trojans
begins when the Italians attack the Trojan encampment
while Aeneas is still away. Aeneas had left instructions
to defend the wall if they were attacked, but not to wage
all out war.
- Book 10: Turnus kills Pallas in a fair (though not
evenly matched) fight and takes his sword-belt, though
without engaging in inappropriate vaunting, mutilation of
the body, or even stripping him of his armor. Virgil does
fault Turnus for lusting after the decorated sword belt
and putting it on himself.
- Aeneas turns from a methodical warrior-conqueror
to a savage killer; he exceeds the limits of pietas: he
denies victims mercy, engages in grisly killings,
- Book 11 includes a truce to bury the dead which
seems as though it may lead to a permanent treaty, but
the Latins are divided on that matter. They ask Turnus to
give up claim to Lavinia and the kingship OR that he take
Aeneas on in a duel. Turnus argues that it is not time to
give up yet and, when Aeneas makes a move toward the
city, Turnus quickly rouses the Latins to the battle,
which the Trojans are winning decisively when Book 12