What happened to Creusa?

It is often thought, and sometimes written, that when Aeneas finally escapes from Troy, Creusa is dead. Was she?

In the unfinished scene at the end of Book Two, she does appear to him as an imago,  telling him to seek her no more:

infelix simulacrum atque ipsius umbra Creüsae
visa mihi ante oculos et nota maior imago.

The first of these two lines might give the impression that she is dead, and that may be what Aeneas at first thinks. But in the second line, nota maior imago gives a clue to something different: her appearance as larger than life suggests an immortal.

After she has given her prophecy—of Aeneas’s long exile, his wandering over the sea, his arrival in Hesperia to find rich lands beside the Tiber, his future happiness and kingship with a royal wife—she says that she herself has escaped slavery in Greece, and ‘the great mother of the gods keeps me on these shores.’

In Book Six, when Aeneas descends to the underworld several years later, he meets many departed comrades from Troy, and his late father. But he does not meet Creusa—either wandering on the shore waiting for a proper burial, or over the river; and there is no suggestion that he might do so.

Book 6 is perhaps the most completed part of the Aeneid, as one might expect, given its content and its relevance to Augustus, who had it read to him and was deeply moved. In that book, Aeneas has already understood that his wife is not dead, and that he is not to mourn for her, as she herself ordered him: lacrimas dilectae pelle Creusae.

So what has happened to her? Perhaps the only other clue is something Pausanias says:

ἐπὶ δὲ τῇ Κρεούσῃ λέγουσιν ὡς ἡ θεῶν μήτηρ καὶ Ἀφροδίτη δουλείας ἀπὸ Ἑλλήνων αὐτὴν ἐρρύσαντο, εἶναι γὰρ δὴ καὶ Αἰνείου τὴν Κρέουσαν γυναῖκα…

‘As for Creusa, they say that the mother of the gods and Aphrodite rescued her from slavery with the Greeks, for she was, after all, the wife of Aeneas…’       Pausanias 10:26.

Venus was not going to allow her daughter-in-law to be humiliated as a captive woman. And as for the mother of the gods—Rhea to Greeks and Romans, and to Phrygians Cybele—well, Virgil perhaps intended at the end of Book Two, the most unfinished, to give details of what Creusa now became: one of the immortals who attended on Cybele.

Virgil is attentive to pedigree: and the mother of Iulus and ancestor of Augustus deserved such honour.