My last post we left Troy in flames—its heroes fallen and the women and children brutalized and enslaved. A few, however, escaped. Aeneas, one of Troy’s heroes who was honored second only to Hector, led a small group of refugees out of the city when the gods ordered him to leave. He escaped the doomed city carrying his elderly father Anchises and his son Ascanius. His wife Creusa was lost in the confusion of the burning city and when he returned for her he was greeted by her spirit who told him about his destiny and sent him on his way.
Aeneas’ father Anchises was a cousin to King Priam; his mother, the goddess Aphrodite. Aeneas is mentioned as a hero of Troy in Homer’s Iliad. The Latin poet Virgil’s Aeneid, an epic poem, chronicled the life of Aeneas as he left Troy, wandered much of the known world and eventually ended up in Italy, where he became the progenitor of Rome. Julius Caesar’s family claimed descent from Aeneas’ son, Ascanius.
Aeneas’ most famous stop on his journey was outside of Carthage (a city in North Africa) where he fell in love with Queen Dido. He later deserted her to fulfill his destiny and she committed suicide in her anguish. On a personal note, Virgil’s Aeneid was the bane of my senior year in high school when the homework for my Latin IV class involved nightly struggles translating multiple stanzas of the damned poem.
The statue on the right by Gian Lorenzo Bernini was commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1618. It was completed in 1619 when Bernini was only twenty years old and is housed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. The statue depicts the moment that Aeneas carries his father, the elderly Anchises, and his son Ascancius from burning Troy.