Aeneas was the son of Anchises and Venus (Aphrodite), 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.
Later writers anxious to put him in connexion with the history of Latium and to make him the ancestral hero of the Romans, state that he went to Italy, though some assert that the Aeneas who came to Italy was not the son of Anchises and Venus, and others that after his arrival in Italy he returned to Troy, leaving his son Ascanius behind him.1
A description of the wanderings of Aeneas before he reached the coast of Latium, and of the various towns and temples he was believed to have founded during his wanderings, is given by Dionysius,2 whose account is on the whole the same as that followed by Virgil in his Aeneid, although the latter makes various embellishments and additions, some of which, as his landing at Carthage and meeting with Dido, are irreconcilable with chronology.
From Pallene (Thrace), where Aeneas stayed the winter after the taking of Troy, and founded the town of Aeneia on the Thermaic gulf,3 he sailed with his companions to Delos, Cythera (where he founded a temple of Aphrodite), Boiae in Laconia (where be built Etis and Aphrodisias),4 Zacynthus (temple of Aphrodite), Leucas, Actiam, Ambracia, and to Dodona, where he met the Trojan Helenus. From Epirus he sailed across the Ionian sea to Italy, where he landed at the Iapygian promontory. Hence he crossed over to Sicily, where he met the Trojans, Elymus and Aegestus (Acestes), and built the towns of Elyme and Aegesta.
From Sicily he sailed back to Italy, landed in the port of Palinurus, came to the island of Leucasia, and at last to the coast of Latium. Various signs pointed out this place as the end of his wanderings, and he and his Trojans accordingly settled in Latium. The place where they had landed was called Troy.
Latinus, king of the Aborigines, when informed of the arrival of the strangers, prepared for war, but afterwards concluded an alliance with them, gave up to them a part of his dominions, and with their assistance conquered the Rutulians, with whom he was then at war. Aeneas founded the town of Lavinium, called after Lavinia, the daughter of Latinus, whom he married.
A new war then followed between Latinus and Turnus, in which both chiefs fell, whereupon Aeneas became sole ruler of the Aborigines and Trojans, and both nations united into one. Soon after this, however, Aeneas fell in a battle with the Rutulians, who were assisted by Mezentius, king of the Etruscans. As his body was not found after the battle, it was believed that it had been carried up to heaven, or that he had perished in the river Numicius. The Latins erected a monument to him, with the inscription "To the father and native god."5
Two other accounts somewhat different from those mentioned above are preserved in Servius,6 and in Tzetzes.7 Dionysius places the landing of Aeneas in Italy and the building of Lavinium about the end of the second year after the taking of Troy, and the death of Aeneas in the seventh year. Virgil on the other hand represents Aeneas landing in Italy seven years after the fall of Troy, and comprises all the events in Italy from the landing to the death of Turnus within the space of twenty days.
The story about the descent of the Romans from the Trojans through Aeneas was generally received and believed at Rome at an early period, and probably arose from the fact, that the inhabitants of Latium and all the places which Aeneas was said to have founded, lay in countries inhabited by people who were all of the same stock — Pelasgians: hence also the worship of the Idaean Aphrodite in all places the foundation of which is ascribed to Aeneas. Aeneas himself, therefore, such as he appears in his wanderings and final settlement in Latium, is nothing else but the personified idea of one common origin. In this character he was worshiped in the various places which traced their origin to him.8
For the Homeric story, see Aeneas in the Greek mythology area.
Aeneas was frequently represented in statues and paintings by ancient artists.9 On gems and coins he is usually represented as carrying his father on his shoulder, and leading his son Ascanius by the hand.
- Lycophron, 1226 ff.; Dionysius, i, 53; Livy. History of Rome i, 1.
- i, 50 ff.
- Livy. History of Rome xl, 4.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece iii, 22.9.
- Jovi Indigeti, Livy. History of Rome i, 2; Dionysius, i, 64; Strabo. Geography v, 229; xiii, 595; Ovid. Metamorphoses xiii, 623 ff.; xiv, 75 ff.; xv, 438 ff.; Conon. Narratives, 46; Plutarch. Romulus, 3.
- on Virgil's Aeneid ix, 264, from the work of Abas on Troy.
- on Lycophron, 1252.
- Livy. History of Rome xl, 4.
- Pausanias. Description of Greece ii, 21.2; v, 22.2; Pliny the Elder. Naturalis Historia xxxv, 10.36.
- 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.