Characters convey an author’s ideas and beliefs and relationships with the world and the human beings around them. Some of the major characters from Virgil’s The Aeneid are discussed below.
Characters in The Aeneid
Aeneas is the major character of Virgil’s phenomenal epic, The Aeneid, because of his origin as well as his role. The son of Anchises, a Trojan man, and the goddess Venus, he enjoys divine protection and safety whenever he is on expeditions. He is the founder of the Roman Empire, which is the reason that Rome stays prominent during this entire epic. However, it seems that his rise is the handiwork of Fate, destined to make Romans great. As a leader, he tries to bring reconciliation between prophecies and his actions despite finding conflicts between both. However, his grace lies in his acceptance of the divinely preferred path which bestows him with honor and dignity among the Trojans. His heroism also lies in his compassionate feelings for others and sympathies with his warriors.
On a personal level, Aeneas grows as a leader when sailing to Italy or when visiting the Underworld and meeting his father. He then wins the hearts and minds of his warriors to allow the disabled and weak to stay behind and performs proper funeral rites of even the enemy soldiers. In fact, his historical role is confirmed in the Underworld where Anchises meets him and he adopts this persona to meet the challenges of that role. Despite having various moments where it seems that he has lost his way, specifically during his time with Dido, a divine intervention brings him back on track. Despite being a source of divine conflict himself, the character of Aeneas wins the hearts of the readers on account of his manly qualities.
The character of Turnus is important on account of his being another protege of Juno who perishes when he encounters Aeneas. As a representative of illogical forces against the composed Aeneas, he suffers from excessive fury and pride that come into sharp contrast with the cool-headedness and composure of Aeneas. Despite having great skills in swordsmanship, he is destined to lose by decree of Jupiter. He loses Juno’s favor and dies trying to save his sister, Juturna.
A highly resolute leader and determined to preserve the memory of her late husband, Dido is the queen of Carthage. She falls victim to Cupid and discloses her love for Aeneas to her sister. In doing so, she risks her rule as well as her right to rule. After compromising her royal position, she comes close to committing suicide. Virgil paints her as full of passion and impulsivity in contrast to the reserved and ordered nature of Aeneas to make her appear unfit for the great hero. Although Aeneas, too, is enamored of her passions, he chooses his duty over love, which he later admits when he visits the Underworld. However, when he meets his father, who predicts the glory of Rome, he regains his composure and sense of responsibility.
Depicted as a moderate of good character, Latinus’ importance in the epic lies in that he is to cooperate with the Trojans to cause the rise of the Roman civilization. He is ever ready to give the hand of his daughter to Aeneas to lay the foundation of Rome. Despite winning the admiration of readers, he is an ineffectual character having little place in the narrative except that he offers generous terms to the Trojans to make peace and save his land.
Amata is the wife of Latinus. Despite being a highly disagreeable person, her name means “beloved.” She becomes a hindrance to the reconciliation between Aeneas and Latinusand supports Turnus as her daughter’s suitor. When Juno sends a fury toward her, she easily embraces it and becomes an agent of the goddess against the Trojans.
Anchises is the father of the main character, Aeneas. He fathers Aeneas with the goddess, Venus. A composed and wise person, Anchises meets his son in the Underworld and tells him of the future glory of Rome whose foundation his son is going to lay. The honor and respect that Aeneas shows toward his father lie in the pietas of Romans, a virtue associated with the Roman people that they show toward their elders and dignified figures.
As a sister of Dido, the queen of Carthage, she is an important figure. However, her significance within the context of the epic lies in the counsels that she gives to her sister to forget her dead husband and vows made to him and leanings toward Aeneas. However, her intention is not bad, for she wants her sister to stay happy. By doing so, she has brought her sister within the divine conflict of Venus and Juno to ensure her elimination from the scene.
Hector is another major character and very important on account of his link to Troy. He is the son of Priam and Hecuba. However, it is interesting that Virgil only shows his ghost in the second book when the Greeks unleash their first onslaught on Troy. He warns the prince of Troy to flee for his life.
A minor character, Camilla is important in that she is a warrior who is with Turnus when he battles against Aeneas in their first confrontation. She appears in the eleventh book, leading a cavalry attack on the Trojans; she fails miserably and leads all her allies to destruction. The goddess Diana exacts revenge for her after Arruns kills her by sending the nymph Opis to kill Arruns.
Helenus is a significant character in that he leads a group of exiled Trojans living in Buthrotum. He is the one who warns Aeneas of adopting the sea routes first. He also shows him the way out by asking him to consult Cumae, the sibyl.