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Vergil timeline and outline of the Aeneid

Vergil Timeline and Summary of the Aeneid

Erin K. Moodie, 3/21/05


The Timeline:

70 BC-Publius Vergilius Maro is born in Andes, a town in the Roman province of Gallia Cisalpina (northern Italy), to a wealthy farming family.

approx. 60-Vergil starts his studies at Cremona.

approx. 58 or 57-Vergil moves to Milan to study there.

approx. 53-Vergil moves to Rome to continue his studies in rhetoric, philosophy, and law.

49-Julius Caesar crosses the Rubicon, invading Italy.  He seizes control of Rome.  Soon after, Vergil moves to Naples and studies with Greek (perhaps Epicurean) scholars there.

45-Vergil begins work on the Eclogues (ah, the joys of cowherding!).

44-Julius Caesar killed on March 15 (Beware the Ides of March!!), civil war breaks out as various factions try to fill the power void.  Octavian eventually emerges as the big cheese.

42-Octavian begins seizing farmland throughout Italy so he can reward the men who had fought on his side in the civil war.  Vergil reportedly loses his family's farm, but regains it with the help of some powerful friends.

37-Vergil completes the Eclogues and publishes them.

approx. 36-Vergil begins work on the Georgics at the behest of Maecenas, a powerful and wealthy man who also happens to be the literary patron to many of Rome's most famous poets.

29-having completed the Georgics (ah, the joys of farming!), Vergil reads them aloud to Octavian, who also happens to be one of Maecenas' closest friends.

29-Vergil begins work on the Aeneid at Octavian's behest.  As he works on it for the next 11 years, he reads portions to Octavian (soon to be known as 'Augustus' from 27 BC on).

19 BC-Vergil dies at Brundisium on September 21 as he makes his way back from Greece.  Despite Vergil's deathbed request that his complete, yet unpolished Aeneid be burned, Augustus has Vergil's friends Varius and Tucca emend the text and publish it.

19 BC-now-generations of students learn from and about Vergil's Aeneid, as it fundamentally changes how the Romans (and therefore their cultural successors) think about poetry.



The Summary:

Book 1: Begins in medias res ('in the middle of things')-while sailing to Italy, Aeneas is blown off course by a storm caused by Juno.  He winds up on the North African coast, believing all of the Trojan ships other than his own have been lost.  With the aid of his mother Venus, Aeneas arrives in Carthage and meets Queen Dido, who asks to hear about the fall of Troy.

Book 2: Aeneas' account, part 1-our Trojan hero describes how, as Troy was falling, he fled from the city with his father Anchises, son Ascanius, and family gods (penates) and escaped with the gods' help.  Sadly, his wife Creusa got lost on the way out of the city, and was killed.

Book 3: Aeneas' account, part 2- our Trojan hero describes how, after leaving the area around Troy, the Trojans visited a bunch of places before they eventually realized they would have to go to a new land in the west.  Also, Aeneas' dad Anchises died.

Book 4: Back to real time.  Dido (with help from Venus) has fallen in love with Aeneas, who must leave Carthage because of his destiny.  Dido is NOT HAPPY about this, kills herself, and curses Aeneas, prophesying eternal hatred between her descendants and his.

Book 5: The Trojans stop in Sicily to perform funeral games in Anchises' honor.

Book 6: Aeneas must consult with the Sibyl at Cumae and travel to the underworld, where he meets dead friends and comrades Deiphobus, Dido, Palinurus, and Anchises.  His father shows him Rome's distant future and heroes.

Book 7: Encouraged by his father's advice, Aeneas stops at the Tiber River, recognizes the land promised to him, and makes a pact with a king conveniently named Latinus.  Juno sends the fury Allecto to wreck the pact by maddening queen Amata and the Rutulian prince Turnus.

Book 8: Given divine advice, Aeneas leaves his son behind in a fortified camp with most of the Trojans and heads up the Tiber to king Evander (whose name conveniently means 'good man').  From Evander he receives allied troops (Evander's Arcadians and any Etruscans who are angry with their cruel king Mezentius) and becomes a mentor to the young Arcadian prince Pallas.  From his mother Aeneas receives Vulcan-made armor and a shield showing all of Roman history.

Book 9: The Trojan camp is faring poorly in Aeneas' absence-Turnus and his allies are winning.  Two brave Trojans, Nisus and Euryalus, try to get word to Aeneas but are caught by the enemy because of their greed and are killed.

Book 10: Aeneas and his allies return to the Trojan camp and turn the tide.  Turnus kills Pallas in combat and takes his swordbelt.  In turn Aeneas kills Mezentius, Turnus' most powerful ally.

Book 11: Having won the battle, Aeneas mourns his fallen mentee, the Arcadian prince Pallas.  Aeneas tries to convince his opponents to make peace with him, but they refuse.  Turnus attacks, and in the ensuing battle the Italian warrior princess Camilla falls and is avenged by Artemis.

Book 12: Turnus is forced to accept a duel with Aeneas to determine the outcome of the entire war.  Turnus' sister Juturna (a nymph) and Juno break the truce and start battle, however.  Jupiter affirms that the Trojan side will be victorious, and Juno is forced to reconcile with her husband, although he concedes that no part of the Trojan name will survive with this new people.  Aeneas finally defeats Turnus in single combat, and hesitates, wondering whether he should spare Turnus' life.  Then Aeneas sees that Turnus is wearing Pallas' swordbelt, at which point he kills Turnus angrily, and Turnus' spirit groans as it flees to the underworld.

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