IN SEARCH OF AENEAS
IN SEARCH OF AENEAS: CLASSICAL MYTH OR BRONZE AGE HERO?
Published in hardback 15 October 2023
‘It is fated, moreover, that he [Aeneas] should escape, and that the race of Dardanos, whom Zeus loved above all the [other] sons born to him of mortal women, shall not perish utterly without seed or sign’ – Poseidon to Hera and Athena, Iliad 20.
Published by Amberley, 352 pages, four maps, two important genealogical tables (of the rulers of Rome, and of the family of Aeneas showing his ancestry back to the dawn of time), and 42 colour pictures. Anthony Adolph
Hardback, ISBN 9781398105362, cover price £25.
Aeneas is one of the most prominent heroes who fought at Troy, as told in Homer’s Iliad, and he is the subject of Virgil’s Aeneid, works that lie at the heart of western civilisation. In this first ever full-length biography of one of the most pivotal figures in Greek and Roman mythology, genealogist and historian Anthony Adolph reports and analyses all the Greek and Roman myths about Aeneas to create the biography of a character who, though heavily fictionalised, may well have been a real person after all.
In Search of Aeneas and opens a fresh window onto the ancient world, the Fall of Troy and the rise of Rome. Opening with the steamy encounter on Mount Ida between his parents, the young shepherd-prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite (as told in the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite), this book retells the extraordinary story of Aeneas’s involvement in the bloody Trojan War (as related in Homer’s Iliad); his escape from the Fall of Troy; his journey to Sicily and ill-fated detour to Carthage; and his eventual arrival in Italy, where he fought his war against Turnus (all as told in Virgil’s Aeneid); and how he laid the foundations of Rome, and then ascended up to Mount Olympus to become a god (as described in Ovid’s Metamorphoses).
In Search of Aeneas provides a full and accessible analysis of the often contradictory stories about Aeneas, seeking always to understand their origin and purpose in the contexts of the times in which they were created, and the places where the events were said to have taken place.
This book reveals the symbiotic relationship between Aeneas’s myth and Mediterranean history, as we undertake two journeys running parallel to his own: one through the history of Anatolian, Greek, Roman and Christian civilisation over the last three and a half thousand years, and the other across the Mediterranean, from the peaks of Mount Ida and the ruins of Troy in modern Turkey, to Greece, Albania, Sicily, Carthage and mainland Italy.
Whilst the vast majority of Aeneas’s myths sprang out of human imagination, this biography presents the case for important events in his life being rooted in real history and physical phenomena. At the core of his story it is possible, as many modern scholars agree, that a real prince called Aeneas fought in a real war at the site in Turkey widely accepted by archaeologists as Homer’s Troy.
The story of Aeneas’s conception on Mount Ida as the son of a goddess may have been inspired by real and very ancient goddess-cults in the area, based on magnetic rocks which have been seen and tested. Similarly, the myth of the watery birth of his mother Aphrodite can be traced to an actual meteorite, which can be seen in Cyprus. And, at the end of his life, his deification, along with that of Julius Caesar (who claimed descent from him), were inspired by a real comet reported in contemporary Roman sources. These deifications in turn inspired subsequent claims of the ascension into Heaven of the resurrected Christ, making Aeneas’s myth a clear, cultural contributor to the birth of Christianity.
This book is aimed at general readers who love Classical mythology, ancient history and travelling in the Mediterranean. Although much has been written about Aeneas in text books and academic papers, many of these can be impenetrable to non-specialist readers (and pretty hard going for specialists too). This book cuts through the complexities and explains the ideas and theories about Aeneas in straightforward terms. By rooting the myths in real places, this book makes them more approachable, especially for newcomers to the story.
In Search of Aeneas is a fantastic adventure story of sex and war, journeys across the wine-dark seas, the destruction and founding of cities, and the way enemies, fear of death and the darker side of human nature can be overcome by the hope and perseverance inherent in us all.
In Search of Aeneas reveals the way mythology and empire inspired and fertilised each other for over three millennia soaked in Aeneas’s radiant glory.
Bullet points for buyers and reviewers:
- Reports and analyses all the Greek and Roman myths about Aeneas, from Homer onwards, to create the biography of a character who, though heavily fictionalised in myth, was probably, at the core of it all, a real person.
- Aeneas is one of the most prominent heroes who fought at Troy, as told in Homer’s Iliad, and he is the subject of Virgil’s Aeneid, works that lie at the heart of western civilisation.
- Within his myth, Aeneas was the son of the goddess Aphrodite, who lived a life of exceptional human hardship until becoming, in Roman belief, god.
- Roots Aeneas’s myths in the times and places in which they were created
- Takes the reader on a journey, in Aeneas’s footsteps, across the Mediterranean from Troy to Rome.
- Shows how the story that Aeneas was son of Aphrodite was rooted in real, Bronze Age Anatolian religious practises and identifies the hitherto unknown religious site where his real mother, a priestess of the Anatolian Mother Goddess, is likely to have taken place. This is in line with, and builds on, the contemporary academic view that the core of the Iliad is based in real events.
- Explores afresh the location of Aphrodite’s temple on Kythera, an alleged scene of Paris’s abduction of Helen.
- Identifies the obscure Phoenician archaeological site in Sicily that is likely to have inspired the story of Dido and Aeneas.
- Provides new insights into Virgil’s writing of the
- Reveals why both the Caesars and the Tudors were keen to claim Aeneas as their ancestor.
For more information about Aeneas please see my web page Aeneas – a Life in Pictures.
THE ADVENTURES OF IN SEARCH OF AENEAS
An extract from the book (on Aeneas’s ancestor Dardanos) was published on the Ancient Origins website, under the title ‘The Prestigious Pedigree Of Aeneas, Descendant Of Dardanos’, on 4 October.
On 18 October 2023 I will be interviewed by Dr Micki Pistorius about In Search of Aeneas on the popular Ancient Origins (premium) website.
The book was also featured on the main Ancient Origins page under ‘Suggested Books’.