The Aeneid is an epic poem, written in Latin by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan warrior who fled the city of Troy at its destruction and travelled to Italy, where (according to legend) he became the ancestor of the Romans – and of the Julian family, hence Augustus himself. As such, it has sometimes been seen as a piece of imperial propaganda designed to legitimize the new emperor and his family.
Virgil is said to have recited Books 2, 4 and 6 to Augustus in person; the mention of her son, Marcellus, in book 6 apparently caused Augustus’ sister Octavia to faint. The poem was unfinished at Virgil’s death in 19 BC; the poet died leaving a wish that the manuscript of the Aeneid was to be burned.
Augustus ordered Virgil’s literary executors to disregard that wish, instead ordering the Aeneid to be published with as few editorial changes as possible. As a result, the existing text of the Aeneid may contain faults which Virgil was planning to correct before publication. However, the only obvious imperfections are a few lines of verse that are metrically unfinished. Upon publication, the Aeneid appears to have been a great success.