The Aeneid

Serpent Imagery in Virgil's Aeneid

An important recurring image throughout Virgil's Aeneid is that of the serpent, which appears both realistically and metaphorically. The serpent icon is a harbinger of death and a symbol of deception. These two elements represented by the snake are important to the whole epic, but even more so to Book II because it describes how the Greeks, in order to finally take Troy, used deception to gain access into the city.

In spite of the mighty Greek heroes like Achilles and Ajax and the sheer numbers in their army and navy, in the end it was the snake-like craftiness of Sinon combined with an omen of death embodied in twin serpents that proved to be the downfall of Troy. Aeneas recounts,

"This fraud of Sinon, his accomplished lying,

Won us over; a tall tale and fake tears

Had captured us, whom neither Diomedes

Nor Larisaean Achilles overpowered,

Nor ten long years, nor all their thousand ships." (II:268-272)

Virgil does not directly utilize snake imagery with Sinon's character, but he emphasizes the concepts of lies and deception, which are associated with the serpent metaphor. By speaking in lies, Sinon takes on the characteristics of Virgil's serpent images. While Sinon's acting was very convincing in favor of...

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