THE AENEID BOOK 3
BOOK 3 VS. THE ODYSSEY • Book 3 has aspects that imitate that of the earlier epic – The Odyssey. • In the Odyssey, Odysseus (Ulysses) recounts to the Phaeacians his travels, with his narration forming books 9-12 of the epic. Aeneas is doing the same in Carthage – retelling his story to Dido and her followers at the banquet. • Book 3 also depicts the voyage of the hero to many lands and places (just as Odysseus’ did). • However, Aeneas ensures his companions make it to Latium. Odysseus fails to do this and arrives back in Ithaca alone.Virgil emphasises Aeneas’ responsibility for others over Odysseus’ loss of companions. • At the end of book 3, Virgil brings Aeneas to a spot that Odysseus visited in the Odyssey – the land of the Cyclops – and has him rescue one of Odysseus’ own companions.
SUMMARY • Book 3 is narrated by Aeneas to Dido (but may have been placed here at a later stage). • In the first sentence Aeneas attributes the destruction of Troy to the gods and emphasises the whole course of exiled journeys is directed by omens from the gods. • Aeneas has left Troy in a search of a western land across the sea (Rome). Aeneas begins to understand his mission more clearly in this book. • Aeneas tries to obey the vague orders of the Gods, and keeps making false starts for seven long years. • Most of the prophecies in book 3 are concerned with first getting Aeneas to Italy and then to the right spot in Latium. • First he tries to settle in Thrace, but an evil omen drives him away and he consults the oracle at Delos for directions (but oracles are vague and ambiguous). This is one of the many prophecies that they receive in this book. • .
THRACE • Aeneas narrates how he founded a city, Aeneadae, which he named after himself. The real interest of this first episode is the story of Polydorus. The image that appears is blood and a voice that emerge from a plant that Aeneas tries to uproot. This ‘omen’ – the voice of Polydorus confirms that Thrace is a violently, inhospitable land of treachery and death.
The story of Polydorus: He was sent as a guest to the Thracian king, Lycurgus, to be raised away from the besieged Troy as a sort of insurance policy so that whatever happened Priam’s male line would not die out. As soon as the king learned of the Greek victory, he killed Polydorus and kept the money.
DELOS • The Trojans stop here to learn the advice from Apollo’s famous oracle. • King Anius displays a model of positive hospitality. • In response to Aeneas request to Apollo “preserve the second citadel of Troy” the oracle tells him to seek “your ancient mother”, the land that first bore the Dardan line.
Anchises decides that “seek out your ancient mother” means Crete, home of Teucer, a founder and king of Troy. • Aeneas and his followers try to settle in Crete but drought and disease show they are wrong. • The gods then tell Aeneas that the correct western land is Italy, home of ancestors Dardanus and Iasius. • Anchises admits his mistake, and remembers Cassandra once made this prediction, so it must be right. • The Trojans set sail and once again a storm blows the fleet off course
Aeneas makes his way up the coast of Greece. • At Actium he holds games to offer thanks to the gods and puts up a trophy of arms captured form the Greeks. • To the Romans of Virgil’s time Actium was renowned as the place where Octavian defeated Antony and Cleopatra in 31BC to become sole ruler of the Roman world. These lines commemorated the victory and peace of Octavian, now Augustus
BUTHROTUM • An interlude look back to Troy. • Two former royal Trojans, Andromache and Helenus, gained freedom from slavery and built another city Buthrotum (or little Troy). • Aeneas’ visit here comprises the final and most significant episode of the second stage of his travels as he realises that he must stop looking back to Troy. As much as he longs for his old city, his destiny lies in a new land and Helenus tells him how to get there.
The issue of Greek imitation in book 3 is underscored by the circumstances of Helenus and Andromache. Andromache tells the story of how Phyrrus (Achille’s son) took her as part of his war booty and how he made her his concubine. Helenus, a priest, was enslaved. When Phyrrus decided that he was going to marry Helen’s daughter Hermione, he gave Andromache to Helenus – “a slave to a slave”. However, Hermione had already been betrothed to Orestes, who was enraged by this and murdered Phyrrus. • Helenus and Andromache now owe everything they have, and now are, to a Greek.
Aeneas sets sail again, across the heel and toe of Italy and around Sicily, avoiding all the Greek cities. • In Sicily he picks up one of Ulysses’ sailors who is left by mistake in the Cyclops’ cave. Even though he is Greek, Aeneas takes him on board. • At Drepanum Anchises dies and Aeneas sets out again for Italy but he meets Juno’s storm which drives him to Carthage. This is where book 1 begins.
AENEAS’ DIVINE MISSION • In Delos he is told to “seek out your ancient mother” which Anchises assumes is Crete, home of Teucer. • In Crete he is told the land is Italy, home of Dardanus. • Helenus tells him he will reach Italy but only after a long and dangerous voyage, and there he should consult the Sibyl of Cumae about the wars he has to fight.
The gods are not particularly unkind in this book (exception of Apollo) but they aren’t much help either. • Storms seem to occur at the wrong times and the messages are vague. • Anchises dies. He is no longer able to remind Aeneas of his divine mission so he forgets his duty for a while in Africa. • The whole Dido episode would not have occurred if Anchises was still alive.