Aeneas is a Trojan hero in both Greek and Roman mythology, though he is more prominent in the Roman tales. His origin story is told in the Homeric “Hymn to Aphrodite”. Aphrodite caused Zeus to fall in love with mortal women, and Zeus decided to get payback. He provoked her infatuation with a cattle farmer named Anchises. After the goddess and mortal conceived Aeneas, Aphrodite revealed her true identity as a goddess to her lover. Anchises feared for his safety, but was convinced by Aphrodite that he would be protected as long as he never mentioned his encounter with her to anyone. Aphrodite brings her baby to the nymphs of Mount Ida to be raised until he reaches the age of five, and then Aeneas returns to his father.
Aeneas plays a small role in Homer’s The Iliad. He is the primary lieutenant of Hector as well as the leader of the Dardanians, allies of the Trojans. He is frequently aided by his mother and Apollo. For instance, the two rescued him from nearly dying in combat to Diomedes. Aeneas is even given the assistance of Poseidon, who is normally on the side of the Greeks, when he is attacked by Achilles.
The Aeneid by Virgil continues the story of Aeneas. He is told to be one of the few remaining Trojans who was not killed or forced into slavery. He united a group of men, who became known as the Aeneads, and set off for the land of Italy. After a six year search for a new home the group finally settled in Carthage, where Aeneas ruled alongside the queen Dido. Aeneas’ mother then sent him a message convincing him to quietly leave Carthage.
Upon her hearing of this, Dido voiced a curse that caused everlasting hatred between Carthage and Rome, resulting in the Punic Wars. Aeneas and his crew traveled to the western coast of Italy and were allowed by Latinus, the king of Latins, to start their lives in Latium. A prophecy providing insight that the king’s daughter would be engaged to Aeneas instead of the man to whom she was promised caused that man to wage war against Aeneas. Aeneas won, and his descendants—Remus and Romulus—founded Rome on the land of Latium.
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