Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | MonkeyNotes
Latinus, king of the Latins, is the first native king Aeneas meets in Italy. Latinus has heard many omens that his daughter Lavinia is destined to marry a stranger, and that together they will start a new race that will rule the world. So Latinus is well disposed toward Aeneas when Aeneas first arrives.
But Latinus has not reckoned with the fact that his people are opposed to sharing their kingdom with strangers. He completely overlooks the problems that will arise from his refusal to let Turnus marry Lavinia, as he had planned to do. Even though Latinus wants to do what is in line with fate, and his wish to welcome Aeneas to Latium is a rational act, he does not have the authority to enforce his wishes. He can't even explain his plans convincingly to his wife. Finally, he allows himself to be bullied into making war against the Trojans.
Latinus is an old man who has lost most of his power. You can see him as a real person and feel sorry for the terrible trap he is in, but you can also see him as a symbol of the weakness of the Latin society before Aeneas' arrival. Latinus' inability to control his people strongly suggests that the Latin people needed a new leader. This fact helps Virgil justify or overlook the fact that the Trojans were invaders of Italy.
Latinus can also be compared with other senior citizens in the Aeneid. Like Priam, the king of Troy right before the Greeks destroyed it, he makes fatal mistakes that lead to the fall of his city. He also resembles Anchises because he wishes for the right things but he doesn't know how to attain them. Just as Priam and Anchises belonged to the old world of Troy-a world that must die-so Latinus belongs to the old world of Italy-one that must die to make room for Rome and its new order.
Evander is a very symbolic character. His city, Pallanteum, is on the exact spot where Rome will be built. Evander illustrates some of the qualities that the Romans were particularly proud of. Pallanteum and its king are simple and rustic, without finery or luxury of any kind. You know that Americans admire the pioneers for being able to survive in the wilderness. The Romans liked to think that they had these same types of people in their background, too. When Aeneas sleeps on a bed of leaves in Evander's tiny hut, he shows that he has given up the old luxuries that he may have enjoyed in Troy or in Carthage with Dido.
Evander also becomes a substitute father figure, replacing Anchises. Aeneas treats him with great respect and his family loyalty is transferred to a father with roots in Italy. Evander also shows the greatest of Roman virtues: good political judgment. He knows how and where Aeneas can find allies.