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Historical Context in Aeneid

Historical Context Examples in Aeneid:

Book I

🔒 15

"Now purple hangings clothe the palace walls..."   (Book I)

Purple is always symbolic of royalty due to its history of having been difficult and costly to acquire. In ancient Greece and Rome, the color purple is reserved for royalty; use of it by people of lesser rank was rare and punishable.

"Teucer..."   (Book I)

Teucer refers to an ancient king of Troy, pre-dating King Priam, said to be the son of the river Scamander and the nymph Idaea—before Troy existed, the area was named after Teucer, called Teucria.

"Cynthus' ..."   (Book I)

Cynthus is a mountain near Delos, Greece, and is considered the birthplace of Apollo and Diana.

"Eurotas' banks..."   (Book I)

The Greek city-state Sparta, the home of Menelaus, husband of Helen (whose beauty started the Trojan War), is on the banks of the river Eurotas.

"Paphos and her native clime..."   (Book I)

Paphos is a city on the island of Cyprus and was once a center for the worship of Venus.

"Punic land..."   (Book I)

The "Punic land" is the territory in North Africa near Carthage, which later became the battleground for a series of wars between the Romans and Carthaginians (Hannibal, their most famous general) known as the Punic Wars.

"Fury..."   (Book I)

In Greco-Roman mythology, there are usually three female Furies, all of whom are avengers of crime and wrong-doing, especially crimes against kinship. In later Roman times, they were depicted as ugly women, but they were originally, in Greek mythology, beautiful. Eventually, one of the three, named Megaera, became associated with Medusa, who could kill men with a glance.

"Vestal fires..."   (Book I)

Vestal fire were lit in the temple of Vesta, the goddess of the Roman State, and kept lit by virgins known as Vestal Virgins.

"Caesar from the Julian stock shall rise..."   (Book I)

Venus foretells the reign of Julius Caesar. "Julius" is the family name (Julian) originally of Iulus, an alternate name for Ascanius, son of Aeneas. Caesar, then, is in a direct line from the founder of the Roman people. Virgil's inclusion of such details helps establish the mythological, and therefore sacred, underpinnings of Roman civilization.

"galley..."   (Book I)

The Greek and Roman galley was a large ship usually propelled by two or three groups of rowers, all of whom were either slaves, captured soldiers, or criminals.  The galley was used to punch a hole in an enemy ship with its copper ram at the bow.

"Simois..."   (Book I)

Simois is a river near Troy, and the town thought to be the historical Troy is in Turkey.

"Tuscan..."   (Book I)

This refers to the Etruscans, a group, possibly from Asia Minor, who settled in an area north of Rome (before the Romans). Much of their art survives and appears to have strong Greek influences.

"Samian..."   (Book I)

This is the adjectival for the island of Samos in the Aegean Sea, site of the most well-known temple to Juno and reportedly one of Juno's favorite places.

"Carthage..."   (Book I)

Carthage is a city in North Africa considered under the protection of Juno and Rome's most powerful enemy until its defeat during the Punic Wars.

"Tyrian..."   (Book I)

This is the adjectival for the city of Tyre in Phoenicia, a center of trade and most well known as a source of purple dye, the color reserved for the garments of royalty.

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