The Aeneid, Books V-VII
Study Questions

Book V

1. In some ways, the beginning of Book 5 resembles the beginning of Book 1: the Trojans are driven off course by a storm and then decide to stick around for a while. Are we supposed to compare or contrast the two visits, or are the resemblances coincidental?

2. In other ways, the latter part of Book 5 resembles the end of Book 4: a woman driven mad by love and despair (Dido) tries and fails to burn the Trojan ships, then a bunch of women driven mad by homesickness and despair (the Trojan wives) try to burn the ships and partly succeed. Again, are we supposed to compare or contrast the two visits, or are the resemblances coincidental?

3. In the funeral games, different contestants find different paths to success and failure. What do the outcomes of the various events tell us about the balance between human skills and divine intervention, and between human intelligence and human passion?

4. It seems that in these contests, even the losers get prizes, and there are extra prizes for unusual occurrences (i.e. cheating). What does this tell us about Aeneas' leadership skills? (Specific instances may tell us different things.)

5. There seem to be a lot of what we might call 'substitute sacrifices' in the Aeneid. Two examples in Book 5 are the bull that dies instead of Dares after the boxing match and Palinurus, who must die that the other Trojans may arrive in Italy safely. Is this a theme, and if so what does it mean? Can you think of other examples in other books? And how does this fit with their leaving the women and some of the men behind?

6. This book seems to include more than its share (or at least more than we have seen so far) of glimpses into the Roman future. Can you think of some specific examples? Are the Trojans already turning into Romans, or is the poet just anticipating their imminent transformation?

Book VI

1. How is the Labyrinth on the temple doors like the Underworld? Like life in general? Like anything else you might be tempted to compare it to?

2. The first dead souls Aeneas sees include (a) those who died as babies, (b) those who were executed unjustly, and (c) suicides. What do these three groups have in common?

3. Why does the Sibyl tell Aeneas to bring his sword (260), and then tell him (290) he doesn't need it, since the monsters cannot harm him?

4. How do the various parts of the Underworld fit together? On the one hand, we have Tartarus for sinners and the Elysian Fields for the good, which sounds very Christian. On the other hand, we have reincarnation, which doesn't.

5. Aeneas meets his helmsman, his ex-girlfriend, and his father in the Underworld. The Aeneid is in many ways modeled on the Odyssey, in which Odysseus visits the Underworld and meets a crewman who fell off a roof while drunk, his mother, and the prophet Teiresias. The last gives him advice on his further voyages. Are these differences significant? (Easy question: why doesn't Aeneas meet his mother in the Underworld?)

6. How does Vergil define the contrast between Greek excellence and Roman? And how does this fit in with the parade of unborn Roman heroes? To put it another way, what does he see as the peculiarly Roman contribution to civilization?

7. What does Aeneas learn in the Underworld? Was it worth the trip?

8. Here's one that has stumped all the professors: Why does Aeneas exit the Underworld through the gate of false dreams?

Book VII

1. How is Circe significant? The Trojans sail past her island safely, but she is mentioned more than once later on.

2. What tells the Trojans that they have finally arrived at their fated destination?

3. Is Aeneas' arrival as dramatically effective as it ought to be?

4. Vergil says that the second half of his book is a 'greater theme' than the first. How so? Is war more important than peace, or is there more to it than that?

5. How is Celaeno's prophecy (Book III) fulfilled?

6. We have already been told that war with the Latins is inevitable. How do the actions of gods and men combine to make it happen?

7. Why doesn't Aeneas lead the embassy to Latinus?

8. Is Turnus right to feel cheated when told that someone else will marry Lavinia? Is she his fiancée?

9. Turnus laughs at Allecto when she comes to him in a dream disguised as the priestess of Juno. What does that tell us about his character?

10. In what ways is the relation of Latinus and Amata like, and unlike, that of Jupiter and Juno?

11. In the parade of Italian leaders that ends the book, is it significant that Mezentius comes first, and that Turnus comes between Virbius and Camilla? If so, how?