“The Aeneid” is an EPIC POEM
In keeping with the conventions of epic
poetry, Virgil begins his story at its most
dramatic and crucial moment; postponing
the chronological start point until Book II.
This technique is called in Latin “in medias
res”, and means “in the middle of things”.
In medias res
Using this technique,
• Virgil immediately engages the reader’s attention
and gets the story underway at a crucial point.
• Virgil can explain the background to the events
once the reader is already hooked and keen to find
out more about the story.
• Virgil allows Aeneas to narrate the story of Book II
directly to Queen Dido (and the reader), which
makes the story more intimate and gives Dido
more reason to fall in love with him as he
unintentionally presents himself as a model of
In medias res
This technique also
• Enhances the sense that the story of
Aeneas’ journey up to the point where he
reaches Carthage is in the past, and that
they are looking forward to the future.
• This means Aeneas’ meeting with Dido
becomes a dividing line in the story.
• At the beginning of Book I, Virgil calls for
inspiration from the Muse. This was another
convention of the epic poem and allows Virgil
to write comprehensively, and with authority,
about the events.
• This convention allows Virgil to claim that his
poem is both accurate and objective.
• This also lends credibility to his visions for
the future. So, when he claims that Rome
will rule forever, it is the Muse, not Virgil, who
makes the claim.
Point of View
• Virgil changes the point of view to reveal different
aspects of Aeneas’ character.
• The early books emphasise Aeneas’ character.
They are told almost exclusively from Aeneas’ point
• In the early books, even when Virgil is telling the
story, Aeneas’ heroism is highlighted.
• In Book IV, Aeneas’ betrayal of Dido is described
almost entirely from Dido’s point of view. Aeneas
says very little to defend himself, but Virgil uses the
image of an oak tree (p.110) to symbolise Aeneas’
true feelings and his internal conflict.
Point of View
• Later in the book, Virgil uses the voice of the
narrator more and more.
• This shows us that as Aeneas learns to
accept his fate and grows to become the
great leader he is destined to be, he has
fewer internal conflicts.
• Either that, or, as Aeneas develops into a
great leader he cannot afford to let his
internal conflicts take precedence over his
Furor and Pietas
• Furor = (Greek idea), the world is naturally
disordered. Furor is represented by forces
of chaos, passion, rage and fighting. Juno
• Pietas = (Roman idea), the world is
naturally ordered. Pietas is represented
by feelings of duty, honour and self-
sacrifice. Aeneas comes to represent
• Virgil uses many images, but few appear
through all the books.
• Images include:
– Shooting stars
– Storms at sea
Structure of “The Aeneid”
Books I – VI
Aeneas’ journey from
Troy to Latium.
Books VII – XII
and victories after he
arrives at Latium.
“THE AENEID” can be organised in several different ways:
Books I – IV
The tragedy of Dido in Carthage, including the fall
of Troy, told by Aeneas.
Books V – VIII
Roman-centred. Describes the Trojan arrival in
Italy and Aeneas’ trip to the underworld, where
he is shown the future of Rome.
Books IX - XII
The war in Italy and Aeneas’ triumph over
Turnus and the tragedy of Turnus.
Books I and VII
I Arrival at a strange land
VII Friendship offered
Books II and VIII
II Troy destroyed by the
VIII Latium founded
Books III and IX
III Aeneas inactive and the
action centres around
IX Aeneas absent and action
centres around Ascanius
Books IV and X
IV Aeneas in action, inner
conflict between love and duty
X Aeneas’ outer conflict with
Books V and XI
Each begins with a funeral and ends
Books VI and XII
VI Aeneas sees the future
XII Aeneas fulfills his destiny
The even-numbered books
• Reach higher emotional peaks
• Contain more dramatic events
The odd-numbered books
• Less serious books
• Contain less dramatic events
I Juno and the storm
III Aeneas’ wanderings
V Funeral games
VII Juno and war
IX The Trojan camp
XI Truce: end of war
II Destruction of Troy
IV Tragedy of Dido
VI Aeneas in the
VIIIBirth of Rome
X War against Turnus
XII Aeneas’ victory
• Fate and destiny
• Rome’s world mission
• Furor and pietas
• Aeneas’ personal search
• Search for new identity
• Meaning of life and life after death
• Explaining the “rancour of the Gods”