The edition I'm reading mentions the different gods in the annotations. For instance, the Carthaginians worshipped Astarte among others, who is somewhat the equivalent of Venus. So the Romans just considered her Venus under another name.
Originally Posted by HarryT
The Greeks believed that everyone worshipped the same gods. They may, perhaps, call them by different names, but they were the same gods. When Greek travellers such as Herodotus visited Egypt, for example, they equated each of the Egyptian gods with a Greek god.
The Greeks were probably onto something then. The different groups of gods probably all started from a similar place, and then broke off and evolved separately, similar to the way Judaism, Christianity and Islam all evolved from a similar place.
Separately, it's very interesting reading this after The Odyssey. I never had any clue how similar they both are. It seems as if Virgil decided to basically copy the structure of the Odyssey very closely and try to insert his own story about Aeneas into it, and, as issybird mentioned, even starting media res.
One difference I've noticed is that Virgil can be smaller in scope. He uses the gods less, includes less fantastic things, and he keeps action smaller and tighter more often. An example is the scene in the beginning where Aeneas and his friend hunt for dear near Carthage. In that scene, I visualise the forest on top of the cliffs, and I feel as if I'm close by the two men and seeing deer run by in the distance. Whereas in Homer, I'd imagine he may start that way but then start zooming back by talking of the entire forest, then the entire area and finally the gods above and it would be more as if I were viewing the scene from far away with Homer. Or rather, using film terms, Virgil employs more close-ups and zoom-ins while Homer likes the panoramic shots and zoom-outs.
Another difference is in the way they were written. Homer's was oral, and though they sprung from tradition it seems he may have made a lot of the structure up. On the other hand, Virgil is trying to take literally every myth and legend and story related to Aneas' odyssey and his settlement in Italy, even contradictory ones, and fit it into this one epic. With the annotations I'm also reading its interesting seeing how he's doing this. However, I do think, along with this epic occurring in the known world unlike Odysseus' more mythical unknown ends of the world, it lends a little less excitement to the epic since the structure he was working with was much more constrained.
For instance, in regard to it being interesting seeing how he fit contradictory myths all together, apparently in some myths it wasn't Dido who falls in love with Aeneas and kills herself but instead was her sister Anna. So what does Virgil do but make Dido and Anna "soul mates" and insinuate that Anna was also in love with Aeneas and perhaps even seeing him on the side. And when Dido kills herself Anna climbs up on the pyre as well and laments her own soul dying since her soulmate is. There are many other instances of intertwining of separate contradictory myths into one throughout what I've read so far.
Finally, I do have two questions for anyone who may know the answer.
The first is concerning Virgil's account of the Trojan Horse trick. He, or rather Aeneas, mentions that Laocoon, who originally pierced the Trojan horse with a spear, ends up getting eaten by two monstrous serpents in retaliation for hurting the "gift to a god".
I don't understand what is trying to be explained here. The Trojan Horse ruse was supposed to be a trick and Sinon a liar, yet something really happens that proves that Sinon is telling the truth (even though we still know he's a liar)? It seems contradictory.
The best I can think of is that either Aeneas is lying about the serpents to make his people's gullibility seem less blame-worthy to the Carthaginians, or Virgil himself is trying to make the Romans' mythical ancestors gullibility seem less blame-worthy by including this contradictory event. But wouldn't Virgil have noticed the contradiction?
Second is concerning the time travel to Dido's Carthage. My edition explains how the Romans in Virgil's time knew Carthage wasn't built in Aeneas' time, and Dido lived long after Aeneas, so the whole Carthage segment is a bit of not only traveling through space but also time for Aeneas and the other Trojans.
What I wonder is, is that intentional? Is Virgil purposefully meaning for Aeneas to be traveling in time, or instead is he trying to rewrite history to make them all contemporaries? The annotations in the edition I'm reading suggest the former, citing evidence such as the Carthaginians building their city with art depicting the fall of Troy and many specifics including even Aeneas himself, which wouldn't seem likely only a few years after the fall in a non-Trojan city far away from Troy. Also, the Carthaginians and Dido seem to know all about Aeneas. But then, it's odd that no one seems to mention this time-travel if that were Virgil's intention. They all seem to take it in stride.