Virgil's Aeneid Book 6 - The Underworld

The story of the Aeneid so far ...

Aeneas, a Trojan prince, was one of the very few to escape when the Greeks sacked Troy. He would have preferred to die, like most of his friends, fighting to save the city he loved. But Troy was doomed: after a siege of ten years, even the gods who'd help build the city and always supported it agreed that it could survive no longer. Aeneas, as he himself only gradually came to realise, had been selected by the gods for a special mission - that is why he was allowed to escape the carnage with his young son Iulus and his aged father Anchises. Aeneas was destined to discover a new homeland in the west, where he would find a new wife and a new family, and a new and greater Troy would be founded by his descendants.

After several adventures, and much suffering - including the death of his father - Aeneas was shipwrecked on the coast of North Africa. There he found a new city already being built, ruled by Dido, a beautiful young queen who soon fell passionately in love with him. Aeneas enjoyed an affair with the queen, who offered him marriage and a joint share in the kingdom. Aeneas may have been tempted to believe that Dido's city, Carthage, was the one the gods intended for him, but this was not the case. Anxious that Aeneas would not reach the promised land of Italy, Jupiter despatched Mercury to tell him to pack up and leave at once. Reluctantly, Aeneas did so, leaving Dido furious and heart-broken.

Unaware that the plume of smoke on the horizon was coming from Dido's funeral pyre, Aeneas' ships headed for Italy; but a storm forced them ashore in Sicily. It was now a year since they'd left Sicily after the death of Anchises: finding themselves back in the island unexpectedly, Aeneas decided to honour his father's memory and restore the morale of his men with a festival of games and athletics. While the men were involved in this, the goddess Juno - whose hatred for Aeneas and the Trojans dominates the Aeneid - disguised herself as one of the Trojan women, and persuaded the others that they were tired of wandering and looking for a new home. What was wrong with Sicily? Inspired by the evil goddess they set fire to the ships: prompt action by Iulus and a timely thunderstorm saved only four of the fleet. Aeneas decided to allow the women and any others not fully committed to the struggle ahead to stay in Sicily. Aeneas sailed on to Italy with a picked band of the bravest young men.