The Greeks: Homer used many names for the Greeks in the Iliad, and Virgil copies him. You will find the Greeks called Danaans, Achaeans, Argives, Dolopians, Dorians indiscriminately.

Priam was the king of Troy, and father of many of the Trojan princes and princesses, especially Hector, Paris and Cassandra. He was married to Hecuba, and they supposedly had fifty sons and fifty daughters. All were killed in the sack of Troy, apart from Cassandra .

Pallas was one of the names of the goddess Athena, in full Pallas Athena. The Romans usually called her Minerva. She was the daughter of Jupiter, from whose head she was supposed to have sprung fully armed. She was the goddess of wisdom and war, as well as patroness of Athens. She supported the Greeks against Troy, and her special favourite was Ulysses. In art she is normally portrayed in full armour with helmet, sword and shield.

Ulysses (Ulixes in the Latin) is the same as the Greek Odysseus. Odysseus is of course the wily and resourceful hero of Homer's Odyssey. There he is a brilliantly successful trickster and the reader is expected to admire him. In Virgil, however, he is very much a villain, the evil genius behind the Greek victory (although Aeneas' wanderings after the fall of Troy mirror his and are very much based on the Odyssey). He was responsible for the idea of the wooden horse (the actual builder was Epeos) and Sinon as you will see trades on the Trojan hatred for Ulysses. He is also called "the Ithacan" from his homeland, the island of Ithaca off the west coast of Greece (near Corfu)

One of the cities of Greece: Mycene or Mycenae belonged to the acknowledged leader of the Greek contingent, Agamemnon. Mycene was excavated in the 19th century by the German archaeologist Schliemann. Although the city of Argos is distinct and some miles away, Virgil often confuses them, and the name "Argives" (men of Argos) is also used as a general term for Greeks. (compare "Danaans")

Cassandra, one of the daughters of Priam and Hecuba, refused to give herself to Apollo. He punished her by giving her the gift of prophecy, but no one would ever believe her. Thus she foretold the sack of Troy, and foresaw her own death and that of Agamemnon, who had taken her back to Mycene as his concubine. They were both murdered by Agamemnon's wife, Clytemnestra.See also Coroebus.

Heinrich Schliemann was so obsessed by the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer which he read as a boy in Germany that when he became a millionaire, he used his money to try and find the places he had read about. He believed he had found Homer's Troy, and at Mycene he found graves containing gold death-masks which he immediately assumed were those of Agamemnon and Menelaus. Even if modern scholars believe the masks are too early for the Homeric heroes (they can be seen in Athens museum) he certainly found Mycene, described by Homer as "rich in gold", and his stunning finds really inspired what became the science of archaeology.

Dorian: yet another name for "Greek". Strictly the Dorians, who included the Spartans, were one of the three races of Greeks, and the last one to settle in Greece proper, which they probably did some centuries after the Trojan War. The Ionian and Aeolian Greeks were already there when the Dorians arrived. But Virgil is a poet and not an anthropologist! (And the Romans would associate Dorian with the still warlike Spartans of their own day)

Achilles: the greatest of the Greek warriors at Troy. His quarrel with the leader Agamemnon threatened to give victory to the Trojans, until Patroclus, Achilles' best friend, who was wearing Achilles' armour, was killed by Hector. Achilles returned to battle in a blazing temper and killed Hector, insulting his body by dragging it three times round the walls of Troy tied behind his chariot. But when Priam came to Achilles' tent to beg for the body, Achilles, remembering his own aged father in Greece, granted his request (this is the last scene of the Iliad). Achilles was invulnerable except for his heel (which his mother the sea-nymph Thetis had held as she dipped her baby into the river Styx). Shortly before the fall of Troy Achilles (who had said he would prefer to die young, but famous) was killed, shot in the heel by Priam's son Paris.

Paris was partly responsible for the whole Trojan War. While working as a shepherd on Mount Ida outside Troy, the goddesses Juno, Minerva and Venus asked him to be the judge for their beauty-contest. Juno and Minerva offered as inducements power and wisdom respectively, but Venus' bribe was the most beautiful woman in the world for his own. He duly gave Venus the prize (the golden apple), and turned Juno and Minerva irrevocably against Troy. His reward was Helen, already married, unfortunately, to Agamemnon's brother Menelaus. He went to Greece to claim her, and carried her off. The Greek chieftains had all vowed to stand by Helen's husband (because the'd all wanted her but she chose Menelaus), and so the expedition to Troy was mounted to get her back.

Thymoetes: just the name of a Trojan - no one special.

Laocoön: a Trojan, priest of Neptune.

Neptune (Greek Poseidon) : brother of Jupiter and god of the sea. He was a co-founder of Troy, with Apollo, and a staunch supporter of the Trojans. But here, as you will soon see, he is outgunned by Minerva.

timeo Danaos et dona ferentes One of the most famous "quotations" from Aeneid II, which has become a proverbial saying in English. "Greek gifts" means gifts which are designed to con you, to soften you up for some major coup.

TenedosNothing to add: just as it says, an island off the coast of Troy where the Greeks hid, pretending to have sailed all the way back home to Greece.

Jupiter was the acknowledged king and leader of the gods. However, he was not all-powerful, and lesser gods could (and did) frequently defy him. In the Aeneid he has a very important role. He has a long-term plan for the universe in which he has selected Aeneas as a key performer - although Aeneas doesn't know it yet, and will not really understand the part he's been chosen to play until he has visited the Underworld (in Book VI). The plan involves the destruction of Troy (and so ultimately all attempts to save it are futile) and the escape of Aeneas and his son Iulus, who are destined eventually to reach Italy. There Aeneas's descendants through his Italian wife Lavinia will found Rome, while Iulus's descendants (to be called Iulii after him) will ultimately give rise to Iulius Caesar and his (adopted) son Augustus. Augustus is to be Jupiter's instrument for finally bringing order and peace to the world. Virgil is of couse writing during Augustus' reign, and the story apparently justifies the special monarchic powers that Augustus has been given.

Imperator Iulius Caesar Augustus, the first, and current, Roman Emperor. Adopted by Julius Caesar at the age of 18 (a fact only publicly revealed after the assassination of Caesar in 44 B.C.) the future emperor had fought a series of civil wars (which had ravaged Italy in Virgil's youth) in order to emerge as unchallenged ruler of the Roman world in 31 B.C. after his victory at the battle of Actium. Although he had in effect seized power by armed force (i.e. he was just as much a dictator as Caesar - or Mussolini), he was anxious to persuade the Romans (and history) that his rule was really part of the continuing tradition. Hence Virgil (whose poetic skills had already impressed Augustus in his Georgics) was commissioned to write a Roman epic (as grand in scale as the Iliad and Odyssey) to justify and glorify Augustus' "destined role" in the history of Rome. But the eventual poem is far more than mere flattery of Augustus, and ends on a severely critical note.

Aeneas, the hero of the story, has escaped the ruin of Troy, and after many experiences , been shipwrecked on the coast of North Africa, in what is now Tunisia. He found there a new city being built, Carthage, and its young and beautiful queen, Dido, on discovering that Aeneas and his companions were refugees from Troy (even in North Africa they've heard of the story), has invited them to dine. After the meal she has asked Aeneas to tell her the whole saga.

The city of Troy stood near the entrance to the Black Sea, in the North-western corner of what is now Turkey. Its fabulous wealth must have come from its position. The Hellespont would have been too difficult to sail up for ships going into the Black Sea, and the Trojans would have charged to carry ships and cargo overland. Neither Homer nor Virgil are interested in such sordid economics, however, and prefered a more colourful explanation for the Trojan War (see Paris).

The Myrmidons were the troops of the Greek warrior Achilles.

Aeneas was the son of the goddess Venus, and the Trojan Anchises. His wife, Creusa, was the daughter of King Priam, and they had a son, who is called both Iulus and Ascanius. After Creusa's death during the flight from Troy, Aeneas eventually married Lavinia, the daughter of King Latinus, ruler of the Italians. She had been betrothed to the local prince Turnus, and the struggle between him and Aeneas for the hand of Lavinia is fully developed in Book XII. The image of Aeneas carrying his aged father from the smoking ruins of Troy is very important. Aeneas has depended on his father, and even after his death (end of Book III) still needed to consult him in order to understand his divine mission. Hence Aeneas' visit to the Underworld in Book VI, where Anchises shows him the future greatness of Rome to inspire him through the hardships he has to face even after he finally reaches Italy.

Auster is the South Wind. Why was this a bad one for the Greeks?

Apollo's oracle was at Delphi in Central Greece. Oracles were consulted in the ancient world whenever an important decision had to be made. Apollo's oracle was the most famous and most trusted: Sinon refers to it to make his lies more convincing.

In order to get a wind to sail from Greece towards Troy, the Greeks demanded the sacrifice of Iphigeneia, eldest daughter of Agamemnon, the commander of the army. He put his job before his family, and agreed. Her mother Clytemnestra never forgave Agamemnon, and she murdered him when he returned from Troy. (see Cassandra)

Agamemnon was the commander-in-chief of the Greek forces, although his leadership, rather like that of Jupiter on a higher plane, was often challenged: most famously by Achilles, who refused to continue fighting as a result of a quarrel over a woman. He was married to Helen's sister Clytemnestra, and they had three children. The eldest- Iphigeneia - was sacrificed by her father to secure a fair wind for Troy. In revenge for this Clytemnestra and her lover murdered Agamemnon on his return home from Troy. Electra and Orestes, the other two children, avenged their father's murder by killing their mother.


Calchas: the "official" prophet to the Greek army at Troy. Very much under the thumb of Ulysses, who had also used him to undermine Agamemnon's authority over the sacrifice of Iphigeneia.

The young man's name was Sinon: he claimed to have been victimised by Ulysses for being an associate of Palamedes, a rival of his whom he had had executed. Notice how Sinon continually exploits the Trojan hatred of Ulysses.

Eurypylus: just the name of a Greek!

The dramatic death of Laocoon and his two sons is the subject of a famous ancient Greek sculpture, known from a Roman copy in the Vatican Museum. Virgils' zoologically improbable sea-snakes exhibit every possible feature of snakes, both real and imagined. In fact sea-snakes (possibly the most abundant reptile on earth) are confined to the warm water of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They are highly poisonous, but swim - like all snakes - with transverse movements. Interestingly they can tie themselves in knots. This passage may be the origin of the "Loch Ness Monster" type of sea-monster which swims with "humps"!

Diomedes: a powerful Greek warrior. In the Iliad, he was not afraid of wounding the gods Mars and Venus when they entered the battle on the Trojan side.

The convincing lie that Sinon has just told explained how Minerva had ordered the Greeks to build the wooden horse to make amends for the desecration of her sacred image, the Palladium. The Palladium, so he said, would have protected Troy as long as it remained inside Troy: so Ulysses and Diomedes stole it, but spoiled the whole operation by killing some guards and touching the sacred statue with blood still on their hands. They now had to leave the wooden horse and return to Greece, in order to begin the whole expedition afresh. The horse had been deliberately made too big to pass through the gate into Troy, because if the Trojans damaged it their city would be destroyed: while if it were brought into the city intact, Troy would be strong enough to attack the Greeks in their homeland. Note that Sinon could hardly have used Minerva's name to back up his lies unless she was in fact supporting him.

Virgil is thinking of a fixed, and probably flat earth, which is surrounded by a river called Oceanus (Ocean). The sky is a series of seven nesting spheres surrounding the earth, on one of which is fixed the sun, one the moon, one the stars, and one each for the planets known to them. These spheres revolved independently inside each other. Each as it turns emits a single note of the scale ("the music of the spheres"). Hence the rather stange description of night falling. Most intelligent people in the ancient world continued to believe this theory (as they did until Copernicus), although individual scientists such as Eratosthenes knew that the earth revoved round the sun, and that the earth itself was a sphere: he even calculated its circumference with quite remarkable accuracy.

Neoptolemus, also called Pyrrhus,was the son of Achilles, and grandson of Peleus. The three generations of this family were all heavily involved in the Trojan story. It was at the marriage of grandfather Peleus to the beautiful sea-nymph Thetis where the first act of the drama took place. Jupiter had fancied Thetis for himself, but had backed off when warned that if he married her, their son would be mightier than his father. Accordingly he arranged for her to marry the harmless mortal Peleus, and all the immortals were invited to the party - except one. Unfortunately they didn't include Eris (Strife), but she gatecrashed, and caused havoc by throwing among the revelling goddesses a golden apple, marked "for the fairest". The three most powerful of them each claimed it, but Jupiter said they should be judged on their beauty by a mortal - Paris, the son of king Priam. See "Paris" for the rest of the story. See also Neoptolemus and Achilles.

The mound sacred to Ceres was where Aeneas and his friends had previously agreed to meet outside the walls of Troy if they could escape. Ceres (in Greek Demeter) was the corn goddess (hence "cereal") and in charge of agriculture and all growing crops.

Ascanius is Iulus' other name: Anchises is Aeneas' father. They represent the past and the future. The continuity between Troy and the new city which will some day be founded ( Aeneas himself knows nothing about it yet) will be provided by the Penates. These are the sacred objects representing the "household gods" of Troy, responsible for its safety and protection. As the city is now beyond saving (even the gods are joining in the destruction) the Penates must be rescued and taken to a new home. (Eventually of course to Rome)

Phoenix was A Greek who, after being thrown out of his home after a quarrel with his father was taken in by Peleus. He acted as a sort of tutor to Achilles, and went with him to Troy.

Neoptolemus, also called Pyrrhus, was the youngest and most savage of the surviving Greek warriors. Aeneas witnesses his callous murder of the courageous old king Priam who has taken refuge at the holy altar. His behaviour is contrasted with that of his father Achilles, who at least had the humanity to allow Priam to reclaim the body of his arch-enemy Hector. But the incident serves to remind Aeneas of his own father Anchises, and he goes at once to rescue him.

Juno (Greek Hera), Jupiter's sister and wife, queen of the immortals, was the most uncompromising of all the gods in hatred of the Trojans (because of the Judgment of Paris). She persecutes Aeneas throughout the Aeneid, responsible for the tragedy of Dido (Book IV) and also for Turnus, the Italian hero whom Aeneas has to defeat when he reaches the "promised land".

Olympus: the highest mountain in Greece. It is usually snow-capped, even in summer, and the summit is frequently shrouded in mist. It was the obvious choice for the home of the main Greek gods (the twelve Olympians). The ruler is of course Jupiter (Zeus in Greek).

Jupiter (Zeus)            The sky, thunder, king of the gods
Juno (Hera)               Queen of the gods
Minerva (Athena)          Wisdom - "The Warrior Maid"
Apollo                    The sun, music, the arts, prophecy
Mercury (Hermes)          The messenger, luck, streets, thieves, guide of the dead
Ceres (Demeter)           Agriculture
Dis (Pluto / Hades)       The underworld
Neptune (Poseidon)        The Sea, earthquakes, horses
Vulcan (Hephaestus)       "The Lame Smith"
Diana  (Artemis)          "The Virgin Huntress"   
Mars (Ares)                War
Venus (Aphrodite)          Love

Hesperia means "the land of the evening" - that is the west. The western land in question turned out to be Italy, although Aeneas has no inkling of this as yet.

This refers somewhat cryptically to the river Tiber, on which Rome would be founded. It was sometimes called "Lydian" (although it is nowhere near Lydia which was part of Asia Minor - not far from Troy in fact), because it flowed along the border of Etruria, where the Etruscans lived. The Etruscans were popularly believed to have migrated originally from Lydia. So this reference to the river of the future homeland of his descendants will not exactly be clear to Aeneas!

In fact he is going to have to fight hard and undergo many terrible ordeals before he finally wins his new bride, Lavinia, daughter of Latinus king of the Itali, and brings the Trojans and Italians together to form a new race.

Dardanid means daughter, or, as here, descendant of Dardanus. Dardanus was Priam's father (or maybe grandfather) who founded Troy. Creusa was one of Priam's daughters.

Venus : Mother of Aeneas, but also the goddess of Love and Desire. She had been awarded the golden apple by Paris, and was thus, unlike Minerva and Juno, a staunch supporter of the Trojans. She was also the mother of Cupid (Greek Eros) by her husband Mars (Ares). PICTURE

Lucifer: the morning star. ("Bringer of Light")

Ida: the mountain near Troy. The scene of the Judgment of Paris.

PUBLIUS VERGILIUS MARO. Born 70 B.C. and died in 19 B.C. He came from a village called Andes in northern Italy, near Mantua. His background was humble, but whatever estates his family had acquired were lost when they were among land given to veterans in the Civil War which followed the murder of Caesar (44 B.C.) He had been educated at Rome and became a friend of Horace, a fellow poet, and of Maecenas, the future emperor Augustus' propaganda chief. He wrote the Eclogues (short poems about life in the country), the Georgics (four linked long poems about agriculture) and finally spent the last ten years of his life working on the Aeneid. The Aeneid ("Story of Aeneas") was to be an epic in twelve books about the past, present and future of Rome. It was a massive undertaking, and Virgil needed encouragement from Augustus to continue with the work. Virgil intended to give up poetry to study philosophy as soon as the Aeneid was finished, but he fell ill and died, leaving orders for it to be burned.

Dido had to leave her homeland of Phoenicia and her city of Tyre when her husband Sychaeus was brutally murdered by her brother Pygmalion. Arriving in North Africa the local ruler granted her and her followers as much land as could be covered by an ox-hide: by cutting it into fine strips, she won enough land to build the city of Carthage. Carthage was still incomplete when Aeneas arrived. She immediately, assisted by Juno and Venus, fell in love with him as he told his story. Aeneas stayed on, and gave Dido to believe that they had entered into a form of marriage. But Jupiter was displeased that his plans for Aeneas were being thwarted, and sent Mercury to tell Aeneas to pack up and leave. Ignoring Dido's pleas, Aeneas sailed away, and Dido climbed on to the funeral pyre and stabbed herself. In Book VI they meet again, but Dido's ghost turns away without speaking to Aeneas, and rejoins her former husband Sychaeus.

The home of Menelaus, Agamemnon's brother. It was from here that Paris abducted Menelaus's wife, Helen, and took her back with him to Troy. In historical times, Sparta was a leading city of Greece, famous for her dedication to war. Despite her victory over Athens in the 5th century B.C., Sparta's supremacy did not last.Capital city of modern Greece with a population of over 8,000,000. It was not an important place at the time of the Trojan War, but in the 5th century B.C. Athens became the leading city of mainland Greece, celebrated for its art, literature, drama and philosophy.

Coroebus had come recently to Troy, in order to marry Cassandra.

Machaon In the Iliad he is the doctor to the Greek army - he operated on Menelaus when he was shot by Pandarus.

Ucalegon : Aeneas' next door neighbour.This is the only time his name is mentioned.

Capys A Trojan - with the right idea about the Horse. He went all the way with Aeneas and was supposedly the founder of Capua in Italy.

Helen. Daughter of Tyndareus (or sometimes Jupiter) ans sister of Clytemnestra(who married Agamemnon) In Trojan eyes the evil cause of the War : in Homer she is as beautiful in her character as she is to look at (and she can't stand Paris) - but Virgil follows the tradition of Greek tragedy which paints her as an evil bitch (all apart from Euripides' Helen).

Menelaus Brother of Agamemnon : together they are called the Atridae - the sons of Atreus. He is a not very clearly characterised in the Aeneid. In Greek tragedy, he is usually tough, uncompromising and brutal.

Epeos Ulysses had the idea for the Wooden Horse, but Epeos was the man who actually designed and built it.

Deiphobus Son of Priam, brother of Hector. He became Helen's third husband after the death of Paris - Menelaus singles him out for especially brutal treatment therefore when he catches up with him. Aeneas hardly recognises his obscenely mutilated body when he meets him in the Underworld in Book 6.

Sigeum A town on the actual strait between Europe and Asia.

Panthus A priest of Apollo, who was the second person to tell Aeneas to leave Troy and escape (the first was the ghost of Hector who appeared in a dream). Aeneas takes no notice of him either.

Snakes - a recurrent motif in the book : the two sea-snakes kill Laocoön; Androgeos is like a man who stepped on a snake, and Neoptolemus (Pyrrhus) is compared to a snake who's just sloughed its skin.

The Winds Zephyrus is the West wind (usually balmy and gentle - but not this time), Notus is a South Wind (compare Auster) and Eurus is the East

Scyros - an island midway bbetween Greece and Troy where Neoptolemus grew up. Achilles had been sent there by his mother, who wanted him to dodge the draft when the heroes were being called up for Troy - improbably he was dressed as a girl, and lived among the king's daughters - unsurprisingly, after Achilles disguise was rumbled by Ulysses, one of the maidens found herself pregnant - and gave birth to Neoptolemus some months later.