David Bruce: “Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’: A Retelling in Prose”

Chapter 1: Arrival in Carthage

My theme is war and a particular man — a man driven by destiny to abandon Troy and sail to western Italy to fulfill his fate of founding the people who would build Rome. Fulfilling his destiny was not easy. Juno, the wife of Jupiter, the king of gods and men, opposed him, as did many warriors. They did not want him to bring his household gods — the Penates — to Latium on the western coast of Italy, to marry Lavinia, to found the city of Lavinium, and to become the ancestor of the Romans.

Muse, remind me of the reasons why Juno hated Aeneas, a man renowned for his pietas, for his devotion to duty, whether to the gods, to his family, or to his destiny. Aeneas had respect for those things to which respect is due. Why did Juno make his fulfilling his destiny so difficult? Are the immortals capable of such anger?

Phoenicians from the city of Tyre founded a city named Carthage on the coast of north Africa. Carthage and Rome were the two competitors for worldwide empire, and Juno loved Carthage even more than her beloved island of Samos. In Carthage, Juno kept her armor and her chariot. Juno was willing for Carthage to have a worldwide empire, but the Fates were not. Juno did all she could to make Carthage strong, but gods and goddesses know fate, and Juno knew that a city founded by the descendants of men from Troy would conquer Carthage. Rome, not Carthage, would have a worldwide empire. For that reason, Juno hated Aeneas.

Juno also hated Aeneas because she hated all Trojans. A jealous wife, Juno hated the many affairs that her husband, Jupiter, had had over the centuries. She especially hated the children who resulted from these affairs. One of these illegitimate children, Dardanus, became an early king of the city of Troy.

Also, Paris, prince of Troy, had insulted Juno. Asked to judge a beauty contest of the goddesses Juno, Minerva, and Venus, Paris had accepted a bribe from Venus, the goddess of sexual passion, who offered him the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris went to Sparta and ran away with the most beautiful woman in the world: Helen, the lawfully wedded wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta. Helen became Helen of Troy, and the Trojan War was fought so that Menelaus could get Helen back. Because Juno’s beauty had been insulted, Juno hated the Trojans.

Juno also hated the Trojans because of Ganymede. A jealous wife, Juno hated the affairs of her husband Jupiter, who chased more than just skirts. Ganymede was a beautiful young son of Tros, a king of Troy, and Jupiter kidnapped Ganymede to be his cupbearer and his paramour.

For these reasons, Juno hated Aeneas and the other Trojans, and she did her best to keep them away from western Italy, forcing them to wander the seas and strange lands despite their destiny. Founding the Roman people was a huge burden bore by many people.

Aeneas and his Trojans had set sail from Sicily in twenty ships. Their mood was good; Juno’s mood was not. Juno said to herself as she watched Aeneas’ ships, “Am I powerless to cause trouble for Aeneas and keep him away from western Italy? True, he has a destiny, and fate decrees that he will fulfill that destiny, but at least I can make that difficult to do. Why should it be easy for Aeneas to reach western Italy?

“I have power, as does another goddess: Minerva. Minerva was angry at Little Ajax, the Greek who during the fall of Troy raped Cassandra in a temple dedicated to Minerva. Anyone in a temple is under the protection of the god or goddess whose temple it is — the mortal has sanctuary. By raping Cassandra in Minerva’s temple, Little Ajax disrespected Minerva. Minerva got revenge when Little Ajax attempted to sail home to Greece after the fall of Troy. Minerva hurled one of Jupiter’s thunderbolts at Little Ajax’ fleet, and she caused a storm with high waves. Little Ajax’ ship burned and a cyclone swept him up into the air and then impaled him on a rock.

“Minerva got her well-deserved revenge — quickly! But I am the queen of gods and men, and I have to battle Aeneas and his Trojans continually — for years! Don’t I have more power than that? Who among men will worship me unless I show that I can triumph over Aeneas and his Trojans?”

Juno flew to Aeolia, the island ruled by Aeolus, king of the winds. In a cave, Aeolus keeps the winds. They howl and want to break out and cause storms, but Aeolus calms them enough to keep them from breaking out of the cave and destroying the world. Jupiter had been afraid that the winds would cause massive destruction, so he shut them up in a cave, put a mountain over the cave, and gave the winds a king to rule them. Aeolus decides when to keep the winds shut up in the cave and when to allow them to blow freely.

Juno said, “Aeolus, Jupiter gave you great power over the winds. You can either calm them or rouse them. Right now, Aeneas and the Trojans — all of whom I hate — are on the sea carrying their household gods from Troy to Italy. I want you to release the winds and allow them to attack the Trojans ships and sink them.

“I will reward you if you do what I say. I will give in marriage to you the most beautiful of fourteen sea-nymphs I have much influence over: Deiopea. She will live with you as your wife and bear your children. I reward well those who serve me.”

Aeolus replied, “You, Juno, should have everything you want. I, Aeolus, should do everything you tell me to do. You have always been good to me. You are responsible for making me the god of the winds. You have made sure that Jupiter treats me well, and you have made sure that I am invited to the feasts of the Olympian gods. Because of you, I am the lord of the storm winds.”

Aeolus struck the mountain over the cave holding the winds with his spear and created a hole through which the winds rushed to the sea. They made huge waves, and they made clouds that blotted out the sun. The sailors shouted, and the ships rose and fell on the huge waves. Thunder roared and lightning bolts crashed, and sailors saw death everywhere.

Aeneas, in private, groaned and said, “So many Trojan warriors died on the plain before Troy as they defended wives, children, parents, and city. They were the lucky ones. They died an honorable death in battle, not an ignoble death by drowning. I would have been better off if the Greek Diomedes had killed me on the battlefield. I would have been better off if I had been buried at Troy with Hector, the greatest Trojan warrior, and Sarpedon, a Trojan ally from Lydia, and other heroes!”

Copyrighted by Bruce D. Bruce

Note: The above is an extract from my book Virgil’s Aeneid: A Retelling in Prose, available here:






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