Parent-Child Relationships in The Aeneid

Throughout The Aeneid, we see a plethora of relationships between a parent and a child. The Aeneid, it seems, is filled with characters that are somehow related to another, creating quite the family tree to try to follow. The theme of parent-child relationships is prevalent in The Aenied. The most easily noticable examples of this type of relationship are between Aeneas with his mother, Venus, Aeneas and his son, Ascanius, and Aeneas and his father, Anchises.


Aeneas and Venus

            We first see a type of parent-child relationship displayed in the first book of the epic. The book starts off immediately informing the reader about Juno’s grudge against Aeneas, for his destiny is to be the founder of Rome, enemy of her favorite city, Carthage. Determined to keep her son safe, Venus advises Aeneas as he makes his long journey to fulfill his fatum, or fate, and keeps him from straying too far from his chosen path. For example, in Book I, when Troy is falling and all hope seems to be lost to Aeneas, Venus addresses Jupiter, asking him, “how can Aeneas…and the other Trojans given you offense so grave?” (I, 34). Venus asks Jupiter to spare the Trojans so that her dear son can live and fulfill his destiny of finding Rome. Venus ensures that Aeneas makes it to Carthage safely, where he meets the beautiful Queen Dido.  And while Aeneas would like very much to complain about his hardships, Venus, being the typical mother that she is, “would not listen to more complaints from him, and she interrupted his lament…”(I, 39) by telling him that Heaven cannot hate him and he has a destiny that he must fulfill. Aeneas is called Aeneas the True for a reason, that reason being his piety, or acceptance of one’s fate as pre-determined by the gods.


Aeneas and Ascanius

We next see a parent-child relationship in The Aeneid between Aeneas and his son, Ascanius. Virgil draws attention to how good a father Aeneas is to Ascanius by describing him as "father Aeneas" and "fond father, as always thoughtful of his son." ‘This is a direct statement of the father's great love for his son, and it has great significance later in the poem”(Davis 1). Aeneas' role as a dutiful father is expanded in book three to include paternal responsibility not only for Ascanius and the Trojans in his immediate care, but for the entire Roman race to come. Helenus tells Aeneas "let your progeny...Hold to religious purity thereby."(III, 88) This statement reflects the later generations of Aeneas' ancestry. Andromache made a similar statement, who, concerned for Ascanius's health, asks Aeneas if he is fostering "old-time valor and manliness" in his son. Aeneas in his conduct toward Ascanius was certainly a model parent; he loved him, cherished him, and protected him, and he unselfishly gave up his own plans and desires in order that Ascanius might fulfill his destiny during the big fight scene at the end of the epic.

Aeneas and Anchises

Another glimpse at the parent-child relationships in The Aenied we see with Aeneas and his father, Anchises. The Romans viewed their relationships with their fathers as utmost important. As a son, it was your duty to respect your father, and by doing so, you were honoring your ancestors/household gods. Honoring your household gods was very important to the Trojans, for it was considered bad luck almost to disrespect them. (Putnam, 151). Aeneas has a vision of his father on page 151 after Anchises’s death, he is receiving guidance from the family genius, or guiding family wisdom or spirit (Putnam, 149) to continue on his journey to reach his destiny. Anchises waits for Aeneas, almost as if he cannot ‘move on’ to the next world until he knows Aeneas knows what his course of action should be.



Parent-child relationships were obviously just as complicated then as they are today. There is nothing new about a neurotic, protective mother and a caring, loving father who just wants the best for his child. The Aenied shows the reader several different types of parent-child relationships, centering around the main hero, Aeneas. Aeneas and his mother, Aeneas and his son, and Aeneas and his father, are all mentioned in the epic, and essential to the epic’s development. These relationships are pertinent to the structure of the Aeneid and show the deep respect Vergil had for familial relationships.



Pg. 69 (at the top)
"You must not fear a mother's command, nor decline to obey her bidding."

-This is spoken by Aeneas, in regards to his mother, Venus, telling him what he should do after the fall of Troy. This shows the respect they had for their mothers.


Pg. 72 (in the middle of the page)
 "Now you, Father, take up the gods of our ancestral home, our holy symbols. I cannot touch them without sin, until I have washed my hands in a living spring, for coming as I do straight from the fury of war, I have fresh blood still on them."

-This is spoken, again, by Aeneas. The household gods represent honoring your ancestors. Aeneas respects his ancestors so much, he refuses to touch the representatives with fresh blood on his hands.