The travels of Aeneas, from the fall of Troy to the founding of Lavinium The travels of Aeneas, from the fall of Troy to the founding of Lavinium are very important myths by which the Romans modeled themselves, and from which they were able to derive a sense of past and ‘who they were’. Archeological evidence shows that Aeneas and his story were well known throughout ancient Rome as coins and urns were found depicting Aeneas’ myth. Some of these coins were found prior to the lives of Livy and Virgil proving that the myth had been told prior to the writing of both Livy and Virgil.
The storybook version told by Virgil describes the escape and travels of Aeneas as blessed by the gods, where Aeneas puts his father on his shoulders, grabs his son by the hand and under the protection of the goddess Venus, escapes the city as it is being ransacked by the Greeks. As Virgil writes the storybook version, Livy’s recount is much more historical, as Livy gives meaning to situations, such as Aeneas having friendship ties with the Greeks, who allowed him to leave the city unharmed.
It is likely that much of the narrative is based on non-historical details which mean to portray a strong, just and blessed man as the founding father of Rome, however this essay will focus on How Livy’s portrayal of Aeneas and his journey after the Fall of Troy to the founding of Lavinium correlates or differs from other sources and authors or archeological evidence of its time. In the beginning of Livy’s “Rise of Rome – Book 1″, Livy portrays Aeneas and his journey after the Fall of Troy as a lucky escape from the ransacked city. There is general agreement, first of all, that when Troy fell the Greeks punished the other Trojans mercilessly but refrained from exercising any right of conquest in the case of two men, Aeneas and Antenor, who were connected to them by long-standing ties of friendship and have always advocated the return of Helen” (Livy). Whereas the myth states that Aeneas escapes Troy with his mother’s (Venus’) protection. “And here, amazed, I found that a great number of new companions had streamed in, women and men, a crowd gathering for exile, a wretched throng.
They had come from all sides, ready, with courage and wealth, for whatever land I wished to lead them to, across the seas. And now Lucifer was rising above the heights of Ida, bringing the dawn, and the Greeks held the barricaded entrances to the gates, nor was there any hope of rescue. I desisted, and, carrying my father, took to the hills” (Virgil, Book II: 796-804). Here we see the difference between both author’s accounts of the tale.
Both Virgil and Livy show Aeneas to be a powerful man, however Virgil makes him seem much more independent, perhaps even divine as he shapes his future by his own hand, guided by the gods. Livy, on the other hand gives us a much more realistic and believable account, indicating that Aeneas must have been indeed a powerful man, having long friendship ties with the Greeks, which is why they gave him safe passage out of the city. It is interesting to note that Livy shows that basically the Greeks allowed Aeneas to live, and therefore allowed the ancestor of Rome to establish himself.
This realism may have been un-tasteful to the Romans, seeing as they conquered the Greeks, although they acknowledged their culture. Overall, it is likely that much of the narrative is based on non-historical details which mean to portray a strong, just and blessed man as the founding father of Rome, however Livy’s recount brings him back to the mortal level. Following the leave of Troy, Aeneas journeys many places before he reaches Italy and the lands of king Latinus. In Virgil’s Aeneid, Aeneas travels and has adventures similar to those of Odysseus. and he turns over in his mind old Faunus’s oracle: this must be the man, from a foreign house, prophesied by the fates as my son-in-law, and summoned to reign with equal powers, whose descendants will be illustrious in virtue, and whose might will take possession of all the world. At last he spoke, joyfully: ‘May the gods favour this beginning, and their prophecy. Trojan, what you wish shall be granted. I do not reject your gifts: you will not lack the wealth of fertile fields, or Troy’s wealth, while Latinus is king.
Only, if Aeneas has such longing for us, if he is eager to join us in friendship and be called our ally, let him come himself and not be afraid of a friendly face: it will be part of the pact, to me, to have touched your leader’s hand. Now you in turn take my reply to the king: I have a daughter whom the oracles from my father’s shrine, and many omens from heaven, will not allow to unite with a husband of our race: sons will come from foreign shores, whose blood will raise our name to the stars: this they prophesy is in store for Latium,. I both think and, if my mind foresees the truth, I hope that this is the man destiny demands. (Virgil, Book VII: 254-273). This portrayal resembles a sort of over the top storytelling by which Virgil attempts to show Aeneas’ travels to be equal in divinity and adventure to those of the Greek hero, Odysseus. Livy mentions that before arriving in Italy, Aeneas definitely traveled quite a fair distance to Carthage and Sicily, however he does not state that any mythological creatures appeared nor does he recount any tales of Queen Dido nor Aeneas’s trip to the underworld, he plainly states that the end of their voyage brought them to Italy, to the lands of King Latinus. When he learned that they were Trojans and their leader, Aeneas, son of Anchises and Venus, and since their native land had been put to the torch, they were exiles seeking a place to found a city, he was much impressed by the fame of both people and the leader and their spirit, prepared as they were for war or peace. He extended his right hand and pledged future friendship. Thereupon the two leaders struck a treaty, while the two armies saluted one another.
Aeneas, the story continues, became a guest of Latinus at his home, where the king before his household gods added a personal alliance to the public one by giving Aeneas his daughter in marriage” (Livy). It is very interesting to compare both accounts because it seems that both Livy and Virgil are saying very similar accounts for the meeting between king Latinus and Aeneas. It is interesting to note that Virgil’s account is much more detailed and elegant, whereas Livy just seems to get to the point faster and more accurate.
It seems as if it is difficult to trace history this far back, since Livy has more of a historian-type view when writing the Rise of Rome, meaning he will omit many exaggerated things such as oracles mentioning that Aeneas was prophesized to king Latinus. Livy’s recount sheds light and seems to offer a ‘logical’ reasoning. Livy states that Aeneas and the Trojans were famous throughout the lands and therefore king Latinus must have heard of them, thereby making Aeneas a powerful man worthy of aligning with.
The problem I see with Livy’s recount is that he was impressed by the spirit of the people after the sacking of Troy, and extended his right hand in friendship and alliance. In olden times it seems that without personal relationships, a king would not marry off his daughter to a man that used to be a part of a great city, and I think this is where Virgil decided to insert the idea of a prophecy which indicated that Aeneas carried the future of Rome on his shoulders and that the gods would intervene and persuade king Latinus to offer his services and lliance with the Trojans. Livy, however understands that prophecies are a little far-fetched notions and wishing to create a more realistic history, omits it, however he omits much detail, meaning he does not want to write much about a topic he himself must be unsure of. By writing; “He was much impressed by the fame of both people and the leader and their spirit, prepared as they were for war or peace.
He extended his right hand and pledged future friendship” (Livy) Livy writes true scenarios, since it is common knowledge that the Trojans were famous, were probably armed and did indeed form an alliance with king Latinus, therefore writing no more and no less allows Livy to create a true, if not full, account of what must have happened. There are some archeological evidences that prove that Aeneas existed and that the stories of his pursuit of finding a new home were not invented.
As Livy writes about Aeneas, the founder of the Roman people we are able to confirm his existence by the findings of coins dating as far back as 420-350BC showing Aeneas in different situations, however the most common coin images show Aeneas wearing a Phrygian cap or carrying his father, Anchises. The depiction of Aeneas wearing the phrygian cap shows us that there must be truth in the legend of Aeneas’s travels to found a new city since the phrygian cap is also known as the cap of liberty in the roman culture, indicating that it was a well known fact that Aeneas and his people were seeking freedom and liberty, from their current situation.
The current situation most probably being the loss of their city and therefore their liberty and security. Since wearing the cap signifies liberty and Rome was well known for accepting all sorts of people into its city when it was in its growing stages, the coins help in solidifying the concept of Aeneas as a founder of Rome. The mixing bowl dating back to 470-460BC, shows Aeneas carrying his father. Since these images were painted well before Livy and Virgil, this evidence also seems to confirm the characteristics of Aeneas being a good son who took care of his father.
Finally, the travels of Aeneas, from the fall of Troy to the founding of Lavinium are very important myths which the Romans used as tools to recount their past ancestors. It is likely that much of the narrative is based on non-historical details which mean to portray an over exaggerated founder of the Roman people, however archeological evidence as well as accounts from both Livy and Virgil seem to indicate that perhaps there is truth to the myth, albeit the divinity and mythological creatures part.
It seems to me that Aeneas was indeed able to escape or leave the ransacked city of Troy with or without the help of the Greeks and that he did indeed leave with his father, showing a deep root in family values. It also seems that Aeneas valued liberty highly since most of the coins portraying him show a phrygian cap on his head. Although Livy’s accounts differ slightly from other accounts of Aeneas’s myth, it seems that Aeneas must have existed, although there is no direct proof to show the world, meaning it could very well have been a very popular old myth.
Sources: Virgil, The Aeneid. Translated by Robert Fitzgerald “Mixing Bowl depicting Aeneas carrying his father, Anchises 470-460BC” http://www. calvin. edu/academic/phys/observatory/images/asteroid_names-Rhipeus/Aeneas. jpg Coin – Macedonia, Aineia. Ca 424-350 BC. 17mm Aeneas wearing Phrygian Cap http://numismaticmythology. com/TrojanWar. aspx