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"Arma virumque cano..."[1]
Opening words

The Aeneid is an epic poem written by the poet Publius Vergilius Maro - more commonly known as Virgil. It's considered one of the great forerunners of literature and many later works are deliberately based off the style Virgil used. Of course, Virgil himself was deliberately writing in the style of Homer, his literary hero, also basing his portrayal of certain characters off of stars of The Iliad or The Odyssey.

The Aeneid is a Continuation fic set After the End of the Trojan War, following the story of the Trojan hero Aeneas. Prophesied to found a city whose empire will cover the whole world and rule forever, he travels all over the known world (i.e. the Mediterranean) trying to reach the fated place. After suffering many tragedies and getting kicked out of most places, he realises that the gods want him to go to Italy. When he gets there, however, he still doesn't have it easy: he has to pretty much conquer the whole area before he can settle down.

The city he eventually founds is the one from which Roman founders Romulus and Remus supposedly come. The Aeneid was intended as a propaganda piece for the emperor-in-all-but-name Augustus, who had recently become the supreme power in Rome, then ravaged by civil war, by defeating Mark Anthony and Cleopatra. Aeneas, who is pious, dutiful and brave, was held as the Roman ideal and is obliquely compared with Augustus at several points in the poem.

Standard material for Latin students; the U.S. AP Latin exam assumes its takers have read at least a requisite 1800 lines, as the entire test is about the epic.

The poem may well have made some tropes, and used others cheerfully. This guarantees that all those tropes are at least Older Than Feudalism.

Tropes Used:

  • Action Girl: Camilla of the Volsci.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In The Odyssey, Aeolus is in charge of a thriving kingdom and tries to help Odysseus. Here, he is bribed by Juno into loosing the winds on Aeneas's ships. Helen is also treated less sympathetically than she is in The Iliad, betraying Deiphobus to the Greeks.
  • Aerith and Bob: Amongst the exotic sounding Greek and Latin names, it may come as a surprise for some to also find names still used today like 'Anna' and 'Camilla'.
    • Ironically, the Semitic name 'Anna' would have been one of the more exotic names in the poem to a Roman reader.
  • Anachronism Stew: In The Iliad and The Odyssey, Homer described battles fought with bronze-tipped spears. In The Aeneid, Virgil describes those same battles as having been fought with steel-tipped spears. Steel-making was unknown in Homer's time.
    • It should also be noted that, at the time Aeneas lands there, nobody should be living at Carthage for another four centuries.
    • There are multiple references to Aeneas taking the "penates" - statues of the gods to be kept in households - with him when he leaves Troy. Romans, like Virgil, had these, but the Trojans actually did not.
  • Angel Unaware: Aeneas meets his mother Venus when he lands near Carthage, but she is disguised as a huntress. She shows him the way to Carthage.
    • Partially subverted, since Aeneas does realize she's a divine being, he just can't tell which one.
  • Author Existence Failure: Virgil died in Augustus' arms with the poem not yet completed to his satisfaction. He ordered Augustus to burn it. Luckily, Augustus ignored his wishes and published it instead. The poem still contains half-lines that Virgil included as placeholders while he figured out what the full line should say.
  • Badass: It's a continuation of The Iliad, so half the cast counts. Turnus, Camilla, Aeneas in the later chapters, and without a doubt, Mezentius, the Etruscan Tyrant who comes to Turnus's aid. He's so badass he can ignore the gods, and still give Aeneas one of the best fights in the book.
    • Even in the early books, Aeneas shows hints of his badass nature. When he goes hunting for dinner, he manages to take down seven deer with a bow and arrow.
  • Battle Couple: Nisus and Euryalus are the homosexual kind.
  • Beam Me Up, Scotty: "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts." The original line, "Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes," actually means, "I fear the Greeks, even when they bear gifts." [2]
  • Because Destiny Says So: Largely deconstructed. Aeneas's life is hell because of this trope. He breaks up with Dido by citing this trope, which doesn't exactly go well to say the least.
    • Doesn't matter whether Lavinia really wants to marry Turnus (implied at one point) or how long they've been promised, it's decided the minute he arrives that she's gonna marry Aeneas, who never shows any interest in her. Which means Turnus is doomed to die, just for being her former fiancé. And that's that.
  • Blood Knight: Turnus. Juno only makes him worse.
    • Pyrrhus during the Siege of Troy.
  • Break-Up Bonfire: Dido and her sister set fire to Aeneas's things after he abandons Dido.
  • Breather Episode: Anchises' funeral games.
  • Brick Joke: Aeneas is mentioned in The Iliad, and it is stated that he shall be the future leader for all Trojans yet to come. Homer never mentioned this again, and the lost epics of the Trojan Cycle have him either fleeing Troy before the sack or being captured and spared by the Greeks. 800 years later, Virgil resolves the story.
  • Bury Your Gays: Nisus and Euryalus.
    • Notable because it is an accidental trope. Virgil would not have intended, nor his audience understood or expected, this trope. All the same, to a modern reader, it fits it oddly exactly.
      • Given that in Roman society Everyone Is Bi, this might not even count, since the distinctions of homo and heterosexuality didn't even exist at that time.
  • Caught in the Rain: Aeneas and Dido are out hunting and take shelter from the rain in the same cave. The rain was part of Juno's successful plan to hook them up.
  • Continuation: In the 15th century, an Italian poet named Maffeo Vegio wrote a continuaton for it, which was widely printed in later editions.
  • Curse: Dido directs a rather epic one at Aeneas at the end of Book Four. It's several pages long.
  • Dead Person Conversation: Most of Book VI. It happens other times as well. In Book 2, Hector warns Aeneas to get out of Troy, and after Aeneas escapes, Creusa's ghost tells him not to wait for her.
  • Death by Sex: Aeneas and Dido both suffer consequences from their affair: Aeneas gets a slap on the wrist from the gods, and Dido stabs herself in a botched suicide and burns to death on her funeral pyre, having lost all the respect of her people, other leaders and herself.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The metrical restrictions of Latin epic, as well as a hefty bit of Vergil's personal style, make for awkward (if not downright humorous) translations. Aeneas' entrance into the "cavernous cavern" is just one of dozens of examples. Vergil also seems fond of his characters "pressing footsteps" rather than just walking.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Mezentius has made a career out of this.
  • Disposable Woman: Creusa, Aeneas' first wife who dies during the razing of Troy.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Juno is still pissed about not being chosen as the fairest by the long-dead Paris. Her hatred for the Trojans is the direct cause for the war that fills the second half of the epic.
    • Seems even more fitting seeing as 1) some of her reasons are even more stupid, like the fact that Ganymede was chosen as "cup-bearer" to the gods instead of someone else she wanted and he happened to be a Trojan and 2) in the end, she ends up going along with the creation of Italy and Rome anyway, making all of her resistance pointless.
      • Juno doesn't hate Ganymede just because he's Trojan (and therefore ultimately responsible for the destruction of her beloved city Carthage), but because he was her rival for Jupiter's affections.
  • Doomed Hometown: Troy
  • Downer Ending: Somewhat; while Aeneas is victorious and peace is ensured, the epic ends on the death of Turnus.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: A band of Trojans disguise themselves in Greek armour; however, the other Trojans are fooled as well, and the Greeks eventually see through the disguise.
  • Executive Meddling: Written as propaganda to make Romans proud of their powerful and noble history.
    • Virgil had wished it to be burned after his death. Augustus thought otherwise.
  • Fan Sequel: To The Iliad. Actual Greek traditions held that:
    • Aeneas left Troy after an omen of impending doom - the death of Laocoön and his sons - and returned to Mt. Ida.
    • Or he did survive the sack of Troy, making a Last Stand until the Greeks let him leave intact.
    • Aeneas ruled over a rebuilt Troy after the Trojan War, as the Iliad hints that the kingship would pass from Priam's line to him.
  • Flash Back: Books II and III.
  • Foreshadowing: In Book IV we are repeatedly told that Dido is "burning" with love for Aeneas. At the end of the book, this becomes rather unpleasantly literal.
  • Forging Scene: Venus gets Vulcan to forge armor for Aeneas.
  • Genre Savvy: Some critics read that Aeneas knows he's in a version of The Odyssey and Iliad, but he misunderstands exactly what's happening to him. For example, when Odysseus lands on Phaeacia, he meets Princess Nausicaa who welcomes him and considers marrying him. So when Aeneas lands in Africa and sees a girl there on the shore, he assumes she's his version of Nausicaa and starts acting like Odysseus did to her (he compares her to Diana, a direct reference to the corresponding passage in The Odyssey). Turns out she's not supposed to be Nausicaa, she's his mom Venus; and when he meets the real Nausicaa stand-in (Dido) he doesn't recognise that fact at all.
  • God Save Us From the Queen: While her husband is a good if not very proactive king, Queen Amata of Latium sides with Turnus against Aeneas. Then there's Juno, who also causes some trouble for Aeneas.
    • Dido goes a bit love-crazy after Aeneas arrives, and It Gets Worse after he dumps her. By that point virtually all her subjects are against her.
  • Gray and Gray Morality: Aeneas is a courageous, pious, and dutiful leader, but he also commits morally questionable acts such as abandoning Dido without warning and slaying an unarmed Turnus at the end of the poem. The Trojans' enemies are likewise portrayed sympathetically despite being antagonists.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Aeneas is the son of Venus, and Turnus, his rival, is the son of a nymph.
  • Implacable Man: Mezentius, particularly after the death of his son.
  • In Medias Res / How We Got Here: Books II and III are an extended flashback to the events of the Trojan War and the long period of wandering that followed it, leading up to the Trojans arrival in Carthage at the beginning of Book I.
  • It's Personal: Aeneas would have been perfectly content to show his rival, Turnus, mercy and let him live... if he hadn't killed his friend a few books ago. Mezentius and Aeneas' conflict also turns personal after the death of the former's son.
  • Jerkass Gods: Pretty much all of them, but Juno is in her own category.
  • Last of His Kind: Aeneas and the other Trojans are part of a handful of survivors of their city-state after it was exterminated by the Greeks. The Aeneid definitely contributed to the idea of the surviving Trojans being the founders of other countries — for example, several Medieval works had them as the founders of Britain.
  • Love At First Sight: Dido for Aeneas, justified in that Cupid, Aeneas' half-brother, personally causes it.
    • Aeneas and Pallas seem to have become friends at first sight. I mean seriously, a Roaring Rampage of Revenge for a guy you've known for a week or two?
  • Love Ruins the Realm: Could have been the title of Dido's autobiography.
  • Mama Bear: Venus goes to great lengths to make sure Aeneas' destiny happens on schedule. Not only does Aeneas resent it, she really does more damage than good.
  • Mission From God: The prophecy that Aeneas will found Rome. He finds other nice places to settle three times, and every time the gods say, "Nope, you gotta keep going."
  • Morality Pet: Lausus to Mezentius. The former's death sets off a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    • Also his faithful horse Rhaebus.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Aeneas' people may be just as annoyed about him knocking boots with Dido as hers are, but she's the one who pays for it.
  • Nay Theist: Mezentius is one of the first. His whole shtick is essentially, "screw you Jupiter!"
    • Iarbas, an African king spurned by Dido, rhetorically asks Jupiter to his face whether or not he's powerful enough to be worth worshipping.
    • Virgil himself could be seen to take this stance, since the Aeneid can be read as saying "look what horrible people the gods are".
  • Nice Hat: Turnus has a helmet crested with a metal chimera that breathes real fire.
  • Papa Wolf: Aeneas and Mezentius being the main examples.
  • Patriotic Fervor: One of the whole points of the work!
    • "Remember, Roman, these will be the arts for you, to rule peoples by command, to impose the custom of peace, to spare the conquered, and to wear down the proud with war." (6.851-3)
    • As mentioned above, though, it can be read as satire against that same Patriotic Fervor.
  • Perspective Flip: While the Iliad and the Odyssey told the story from the Greeks' point of view, this work tells it from that of the surviving Trojans.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Pyrrhus to King Priam.
    • Also, Aeneas to Turnus: "This wound will come from Pallas: Pallas makes this offering, and from your criminal blood exacts his due!". All the more famouse because it sparks a What the Hell, Hero? moment, and dishes out an abrupt, rather Downer Ending.
  • Pretty Boy: Young men such as Ascanius, Pallas and Lausus often have their almost feminine beauty described at length (since it was highly valued in Rome). Turnus' good looks are apparently enough to inspire other men to fight and die for him.
  • Prophecy Twist: The Harpy Celaeno's prophecy that they will get so hungry that they'll eat their tables...which they do when they eat a meal served on big pieces of flatbread.
    • Young Ascanius making direct reference to the pun only makes it better.
  • Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic
  • The Rival: Turnus, Aeneas' rival for the land of Latium. He's even called a "second Achilles".
  • Second Hand Storytelling
  • Sexy Walk: How Aeneas recognizes Venus in her disguise at the beginning of the book. ("And by her stride she showed herself a goddess.")
  • Shaming the Mob: Only in metaphor, but cool all the same.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The first words, "I sing of arms and a man," are meant by Vergil as a callback to The Iliad and The Odyssey respectively, to connect his epic with the works of Homer.
    • The whole book is chock full of shout outs of various kinds to both epics.
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: Ascanius goes from a small child in the first book to being able to go hunting at Carthage and then fighting and killing in the Latin wars.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Dido and Aeneas.
  • Sword Over Head: Subverted — Aeneas almost decides to spare Turnus when he has him cornered at swordpoint, until he remembers how Turnus killed his friend.
  • Temporary Love Interest: Dido.
  • To Hell and Back: Book VI. Possibly the Trope Namer.
  • Trojan Horse: Book II. Virgil seems to have invented it, as it wasn't mentioned in The Iliad at all.
    • Homer refers to the Trojan Horse (the "Wooden Horse" in Greek) in books 4 and 8 of The Odyssey. Vergil just expanded on the incident.
  • Watching Troy Burn: The Trope Namer.
  • We Will Meet Again: Dido's Last Words are that hers and Aeneas' people will meet again in war — Virgil's fictional cause of the Punic Wars.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Aeneas does a few things to provoke this reaction, among them abandoning Dido without warning and slaying the helpless Turnus at the end of the poem. While the ancient Romans would have viewed these actions somewhat differently than modern readers do, the discrepancy is not so great that Aeneas' less heroic moments wouldn't have caused them some pause.
    • Some have argued that this was deliberate; since Aeneas was supposed to be a stand-in for Augustus, many believe that Virgil worked in a Take That or two out of resentment for having his farm confiscated to give to soldiers.
  • Woman Scorned: Dido really goes off the deep end, even though Aeneas obviously didn't want to leave, and wouldn't have if the gods (mostly Juno) told him to move on.
    • "Could I not have torn apart his snatched-away body, and scattered it on the waves? Could I not have murdered his companions and Ascanius himself, and served them on the father's table to be feasted upon?"
    • Additionally, Juno's whole reason for being miffed at the Trojans (and therefore Aeneas) is that Paris didn't pick her.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: Some historians believe that the reason Camilla isn't killed by Aeneas was so that Virgil could avoid having his hero kill a woman. Even a Badass Action Girl kind of woman.
  • Yandere: Dido, Hera, Amata (once Allecto has her way with her).
  • You Can't Fight Fate: What we would call an Overused Running Gag.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Troy has been razed by Greek soldiers; the premise of the poem is Aeneas trying to found a new one.
    • Well, for a while Aeneas certainly does try to make a new Troy and actually meets someone else who successfully does so however the point of the story is really more him realizing that it is not his place to reproduce Troy but instead to lay the groundwork for Rome.
  • You Have Waited Long Enough: Dido's sister Anna says this when Dido believes that having an affair with Aeneas would be betraying her deceased husband.
  1. I sing of arms and the man...
  2. The error comes from thinking that "et" means "and", as it usually does. Here, however, it's short for "etiam", which means "even".