Publius Vergilius Maro (70-19 BCE), better known to the English reader of classics as Virgil, lived in a Rome, which was going through a period of upheaval. This was a period of civil strife that culminated in the defeat of Marc Anthony by Augustus Octavian. (This happened when Virgil was around 40 years of age) Once the Emperor Augustus consolidated his position, the power of Rome grew, and it witnessed what historians referred to as the Golden Age. Virgil was a personal friend of the Emperor, and his book, the Aeneid, justifies the rule of Augustus, and his conquests of nearly half of the then-known world. The hero of Aeneid is Aeneas, and the poet shows that it is destiny that makes him flee to Italy; later his descendants build the Roman Empire. All this happens because it is willed by the gods.Aeneas survives the Greek siege of Troy. The Greeks enter the city by hiding themselves in a large wooden horse. This epic poem is in two parts-the first part (Books 1-6) is about Aeneas' flight from Troy accompanied by his father, Anchises, and son, Ascanius (his wife dies in the sack of Troy), and the terrible troubles he has to deal with, till he finally reaches Rome. He travels across the sea, stops at Carthage, where he falls in love with the queen Dido, and lives with her. He is forced to leave, sacrificing his love to the call of duty. Fate sends him to Italy. In the second part (Books 7-12) Aeneas wins the hand of Princess Lavinia, after defeating her suitor, Turnus.
The events of part I-preceding the lines 347 to 398 (52 lines)-are as follows. Fate has destined Aeneas for Latium, but Juno is opposed to him and delays him. In a beauty contest, Paris, a Trojan, had judged Venus to be superior to Juno. Aeneas is a Trojan and the son of Venus, and hence incurs Juno's hostility. Aeolus, the god of the winds is persuaded by Juno to create a storm. Aeneas is in deep despair, and a Trojan ship is also lost. Neptune, the god of the seas, comes to know of Juno's plot and he allays the storm. On Mount Olympus, Venus observes the storm and is distressed. She appeals to Jupiter. She tells him that it was he who had predicted that although Aeneas will abandon Troy, he would reach Italy safely. But now, because of the wrath of one person (Juno) Aeneas has to face so many troubles. And Venus pleads with Jupiter to help her son.
The lines 1.347 to 398 are Jupiter's reply to Venus' pleas. He smiles and clears the storms. He reassures her that he has not forgotten his earlier words-that Aeneas' fortunes will one day shine. He talks of how Aeneas will reach Italy and crush the fierce tribes there. He will build cities and wield power over Lavinium. And later on, his son Ascanius would rule for thirty years. Subsequently, Ascanius would found Alba, and the line would continue for three hundred years. Then Romulus and Remus-twin brothers-his descendants would be born. He would build a city, and the Roman race would be remembered by his name. Jupiter assures Venus that there would be no limits to the expansion of the empire thus created by Romulus, and eventually even Juno, who was then harassing Aeneas, would calm down, and help the Roman line to flourish and succeed. Jupiter predicts that even proud Mycene (Greece) would bow down to this empire which evolved from Trojan (Aeneas') ancestry. He mentions the name of Julius Caesar, the great emperor who would, by his conquests, would bring glory to Rome. And he mentions Julius' successors, who would ensure that the gates of Janus would remain closed. (The gates of the temple to Janus, during Virgil's time were kept open during war-so Jupiter implies that there would come a time of peace for the land.)
Thus, the scene is set for Aeneas to land at Carthage. The lines discussed above are crucial to the poem, because through them we are told that Aeneas is meant for great things. The audience is also given the message that Emperor Augustus, whose lineage can be traced to Aeneas, has the sanction