Aeneas was the son of Anchises and Aphrodite, and born on Mount Ida. On his father's side he was a great-grandson of Tros, and thus nearly related to the royal house of Troy, as Priam himself was a grandson of Tros.1 He was educated from his infancy at Dardanus, in the house of Alcathous, the husband of his sister.2
At the beginning of the war of the Greeks against Troy he did not take any part in it, and the poet intimates that there existed an ill feeling between him and Priam, who did not pay sufficient honor to Aeneas.3 This probably arose from a decree of destiny, according to which Aeneas and his descendants were to rule over Troy, since the house of Priam had drawn upon itself the hatred of Cronion.4
One day when Aeneas was tending his flocks on Mount Ida, he was attacked by Achilles, who took his cattle and put him to flight. But he was rescued by the gods. This event, however, and the admonition of Apollo, roused his spirit, and he led his Dardanians against the Greeks.5 Henceforth he and Hector are the great bulwarks of the Trojans against the Greeks, and Aeneas appears beloved and honored by gods and men.6 He is among the Trojans what Achilles is among the Greeks. Both are sons of immortal mothers, both are at feud with the kings, and both possess horses of divine origin.7 Achilles himself, to whom Hector owns his inferiority, thinks Aeneas a worthy competitor.8 The place which Aeneas occupies among the Trojans is well expressed in Philostratus,9 who says that the Greeks called Hector the hand, and Aeneas the soul of the Trojans. Respecting the brave and noble manner in which he protects the body of his friend Pandarus, see Iliad v, 299.
On one occasion he was engaged in a contest with Diomedes, who hurled a mighty stone at him and broke his hip. Aeneas fell to the ground, and Aphrodite hastened to his assistance,10 and when she too was wounded, Apollo carried him from the field of battle to his temple, where he was cured by Leto and Artemis.11
In the attack of the Trojans upon the wall of the Greeks, Aeneas commanded the fourth host of the Trojans.12 He avenged the death of Alcathous by slaying Oenomaus and Aphareus, and hastened to the assistance of Hector, who was thrown on the ground by Ajax
The last feat Homer mentions is his fight with Achilles. On this as on all other occasions, a god interposed and saved him, and this time it was by Poseidon, who although in general hostile towards the Trojans, yet rescued Aeneas, that the decrees of destiny might be fulfilled, and Aeneas and his offspring night one day rule over Troy.13
Thus far only is the story of Aeneas to be gathered from the Homeric poems, and far from alluding to Aeneas having emigrated after the capture of Troy, and having founded a new kingdom in a foreign land, the poet distinctly intimates that he conceives Aeneas and his descendants as reigning at Troy after the extinction of the house of Priam.14
According to the Homeric hymn on Aphrodite,15 Aeneas was brought up by the nymphs of Mount Ida, and was not taken to his father Anchises, until he had reached his fifth year, and then he was, according to the wish of the goddess, given out as the son of a nymph. Xenophon16 says, that he was instructed by Chiron, the usual teacher of the heroes. According to the Cypria, he even took part in carrying off Helen. His bravery in the war against the Greeks is mentioned in the later traditions as well as in the earlier ones.17
According to some accounts Aeneas was not present when Troy was taken, as he had been sent by Priam on an expedition to Phrygia, while according to others he was requested by Aphrodite, just before the fall of the city, to leave it, and accordingly went to Mount Ida, carrying his father on his shoulders.18 A third account makes him hold out at Troy to the last, and when all hopes disappeared, Aeneas with his Dardanians and the warriors of Ophrynium withdrew to the citadel of Pergamus, where the most costly treasures of the Trojans were kept. Here he repelled the enemy and received the fugitive Trojans, until he could hold out no longer. He then sent the people ahead to Mount Ida, and followed them with his warriors, the images of the gods, his father, his wife, and his children, hoping that he would be able to maintain himself on the heights of Mount Ida. But being threatened with an attack by the Greeks, he entered into negotiations with them, in consequence of which he surrendered his position and was allowed to depart in safety with his friends and treasures.19 Others again related that he was led by his hatred of Paris to betray Ilion to the Greeks, and was allowed to depart free and safe in consequence.20
Livy21 states, that Aeneas and Antenor were the only Trojans against whom the Greeks did not make use of their right of conquest, on account of an ancient connexion of hospitality existing between them, or because Aeneas had always advised his countrymen to restore Helen to Menelaus.22
For the story of Aeneas in Latium, see Aeneas in the Roman mythology area.
In the Aeneid, Aeneas' most common epithet is "pius," and Virgil presents him as the exemplar of the Roman virtues of devotion to duty and reverence for the gods. He is also called Cythereïus heros, as the son of Cytherea (an epithet of Aphrodite).
Aeneas is frequently portrayed on early Greek vases, occasionally in Phrygian attire but usually in Greek clothes and carrying Greek weapons, such as in the fight for Achilles' body (Chalcidian amphora ca. 550 BCE) and the fall of Troy (Attic hydria by the Cleophrades painter, ca. 480 BCE; in Naples). The flight of Aeneas with his father on his back and holding his son by the hand is depicted on many gem stones, coins, vases, and terra cottas.23 He is also portrayed on murals in Pompeii (such as a house at the Via dell'Abbondanza) and Herculaneum (a caricature with animal heads). His image is carved on the famous peace altar of Emperor Augustus (Ara Pacis Agustae).
- Homer. Iliad xx, 215 ff.; ii, 820; v, 247 ff.; Hesiod. Theogony, 1007 ff.
- Iliad xiii, 463 ff.
- ibid. xiii, 460 ff.; xx, 181.
- ibid. xx, 307.
- ibid. xx, 89 ff., 190 ff.; ii, 819 ff.
- ibid. xii, 58; xvi, 619; v, 180, 467; vi, 77 ff.
- ibid. v, 265 ff.
- ibid. xx, 175.
- Heroicus, 13.
- Iliad v, 305.
- ibid. v, 345 ff.
- ibid. xii, 98.
- ibid. xx, 178 ff., 305 ff.
- Comp. Strabo. Geography xiii, 608.
- 257 ff.
- De Venatione i, 15.
- Hyginus. Fabulae, 115; Philostratus, l.c.
- Dionysius of Halicarnassus, i, 48.
- Dionysius, i, 46 ff.; Aelian. Varia Historia iii, 22; Hyginus. Fabulae, 254.
- Dionysius, l.c.
- i, 1.
- Comp. Strabo. Geography l.c.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 21.2; v, 22.2; Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia xxxv, 10.36.
- Aken, Dr. A.R.A. van. (1961). Elseviers Mythologische Encyclopedie. Amsterdam: Elsevier.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.