In The Aeneid, Virgil introduces the post-Homeric epic, an epic that immortalizes both a hero’s glory and the foundation of a people. The scope of the Aeneid can be paralleled to the scope of the Oresteia of Aeschylus, which explores the origins of a social institution, the Areopagus of Athens, and presents this origin as coinciding with a shift from the archaic matriarchal society ruled by the ties of blood to a civilized patriarchal society ruled by a court of law. Likewise, in the Aeneid, the founding of a civilization carries its own destructive consequence: the symbolic death of Turnus, and with it, the passing of an entire way of being. Virgil offers Turnus as a foil to Aeneas, in character and in culture, and TurnusÃ¢ÂÂs death, though relayed with compassion, is necessary to effect this transition from an archaic past to the creation of the Roman civilization.Virgil articulates the conflict between the existing structures of the home and city, a conflict that appears throughout the Aeneid, through his characterization of Aeneas and Turnus. In counterpoint to Aeneas and his essentially political orientation, Virgil gives Turnus a domestic nature. These associations arise in their actions during battle: Turnus chooses to burn Aeneas’ ships instead of setting aflame the newfound fortress of the Trojans. In contrast, looking towards Latium, Aeneas sees “the city / free from the stress of war, intact, at rest. / Straightway the image of a greater struggle has kindled him” (12.751-4). Though this is to be his “promised land,” Aeneas sets fire to the walls of Latium, begrudging this kingdom for its peace, rest, and walls, and recognizing that something must fall to allow something else to arise (7.153). This, Aeneas’ “greater labor,” moves him to act (7.55). While Aeneas razes walls, the structural images of domesticity, Turnus razes ships, symbols of imperialism, conquest, and the spread of civilizations. To further support the characterization of Turnus as oikos-centric, Turnus is championed both by Amata, the matriarch of Latium, and Juno, the goddess of marriage and hearth. AeneasÃ¢ÂÂ entry into the city will violate VirgilÃ¢ÂÂs image of the tender housewife at the hearth, “her first task to sustain life,” and forces the unraveling of the family structure (8.536). As Queen Amata looks out from her high palace and fails to see the Rutulians and Turnus, she commits suicide; her daughter Lavinia Ã¢ÂÂtears at her bright hair and cheeks;” King Latinus Ã¢ÂÂdefiles his aged hairs with filthy dust” (12.813, 819). The social order of domestic life must be sacrificed for the genesis of a new and manifestly political Roman order.If Aeneas stands apart from the pulls of the domestic sphere, why does the family play such a prominent role in the Aeneid? How is this view of Aeneas as the debaser of the home reconciled with VirgilÃ¢ÂÂs account of an epic hero who bears his father and his household gods upon his back and his young son by hand as he flees, an exile from Troy? Although Aeneas has filial piety and fatherly love, these characteristics are analogous to his historical and political duty. For Aeneas, the preservation of his genealogical line and the founding of a civilization are of far more importance than the preservation of a household. As such, his sonsÃ¢ÂÂ sons, with unlimited fortune, unlimited time, and an Ã¢ÂÂempire without end,” play an instrumental role in bringing about the Roman Ã¢ÂÂrulership of nations” (1.390, 6.1134). Yet in this, too, in conserving Anchises and Ascanius, one must fall by the wayside. Aeneas journeys in the night through the fiery remnants of his captured city, Ã¢ÂÂin fear for son and father,” as his wife Cresa follows behind, and upon reaching the safety of the shrine, discovers that Ã¢ÂÂshe alone / [is] missing Ã¢Â” gone from husband, son, companions” (2.984, 1002-3). Cresa is the first in a line of persons sacrificed for the completion of AeneasÃ¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂgreater labor.” Dido, a victim of a quasi-marriage to Aeneas, questions AeneasÃ¢ÂÂ piety and exposes its apparent contradiction:Ã¢ÂÂThis is the right hand, this the pledge of onewho carries with him, so they say, the householdgods of his land, who bore upon his shouldershis father weak with years?” (4.823-6)Finally, Lavinia, whose hand, land, and kingdom inspires the Rutulians and Trojans to war, is pursued by Aeneas not through love or a desire for family, as in the case of Turnus, whose Ã¢ÂÂlove drives [him] wild” and makes him “even keener now for battle,” but through a desire for civilization and walls (12.95-6). AeneasÃ¢ÂÂ three marriages traced through the Aeneid show increasing distortions of the household and hearth. Domestic sanctity is necessary primarily to allow divine prophecies to achieve historical realization, and is always secondary to political compulsion. Aeneas does not bear simply his father upon his back. He carries a greater labor: Ã¢ÂÂUpon his shoulder he / lifts up the fame and fate of his sons’ sons” (8.954-5).In addition to the juxtaposition of the domestic/matriarchal and political/patriarchal orientations of Turnus and Aeneas, Virgil portrays Turnus as being linked to the past but paints Aeneas with an eye to the future. Turnus spurs his men to battle by recalling the glory of their hearth and past, saying, Ã¢ÂÂLet each / remember wife and home, recall the bright / acts and glories of his ancestors” (10.390-2). When inspiring his men, Aeneas instead looks toward the future:Ã¢ÂÂPerhaps one day you will remember eventhese our adversities with pleasure. Throughso many crises and calamitieswe make for Latium…Hold out, and save yourselves for kinder days” (1.283-9).Tied to this opposition of past and future is the identification of Turnus with the traditional, insular, and self-contained kingship, while Aeneas is identified with a new system of social and political organization, that of the empire. The founding of this empire requires a breaking from tradition and custom, symbolically captured as the desecration of the wild olive tree of Faunus, where the Latins once hung votive garments and offerings.”…Heedless of this custom,the Teucrians had carried off the sacredtree trunk to clear the field, to lay it barefor battle” (12.1020-3).As he prepares to dual Turnus, Aeneas cannot wrench free his spear from the deep root of the tree. Turnus cries for Faunus and Earth to hold fast the steel, citing the rites he has kept, the rites that “Aeneas’/ men have profaned by war” (12.1032-3). But with Venus’s help, Aeneas regains his spear. Custom, embodied in the tree, yields, and so, the necessary profanity of establishing a civilization is legitimized, allowing the shift from the traditional and archaic worldview to one that looks towards what is to come.Analogous to this characterization of Turnus as a dweller in the past and Aeneas as a creator of the future is the portrayal of Turnus as representative of a more lawless society, one that will be supplanted by the ordered society Aeneas will found, though this order will first be shadowed by warfare and conflict. King Latinus welcomes the Teucrians into his palace, asking them not to forget that the Latins need:”No laws and no restraint for righteousness;they hold themselves in check by their own willand by the customs of their ancient god” (7.269-71).Virgil presents the Rutulians, breakers of the truce, and Turnus, “driven by the Furies,” as restrained and driven by both their own free will and ancient gods (12.137). In contrast, Aeneas acts responsive of the orders of the gods but is fully aware of his own human agency: “if fate had willed my end,” he says, “my hand had earned it” (2.583). The hand of Aeneas, poised at the cusp between the primitive society he must displace and the ordered civilization he must found, has much labor ahead of him, but as Jupiter decrees:”…With battleforgotten, savage generations shallgrow generous. And aged Faith and Vesta,together with the brothers, Romulusand Remus, shall make laws” (1.408-12).As in the Oresteia, the succession of institutions comes with a transition to greater order.As a foil to Aeneas, Turnus embodies the domestic and ancestral concerns of mankindÃ¢ÂÂs domain, which in the Aeneid must be supplanted by a new order that gives the state and future priority. The closing book of the Aeneid gives a disturbing account of the death of Turnus, a “man [who] does not know the end / or future fates” (10.690-1). Virgil writes, “His limbs fell slack with chill; and with a moan / his life, resentful, fled to Shades below,” capturing through his diction the hesitation and unease of TurnusÃ¢ÂÂs death (12.1270-1). However, his death should not be viewed as an impious and inconclusive act performed by the epic hero; rather, it is an obligatory and conclusive act, the compelling event that drives out the old establishment and allows the new establishment to enter.The necessity for Turnus’s death is linked to VirgilÃ¢ÂÂs treatment of PallasÃ¢ÂÂs belt. Throughout the Aeneid, works of art serve as triggers to AeneasÃ¢ÂÂ emotions, as in DidoÃ¢ÂÂs palace, when the frieze depicting the fall of Troy moves him to tears. Likewise, when he encounters the fallen Turnus, AeneasÃ¢ÂÂ wrath is initiated by the recognition of the belt of Pallas upon the Latin’s shoulders. PallasÃ¢ÂÂ belt is described as “ponderous,” containing an engraving of “a band of fifty bridgegrooms, foully slaughtered / one wedding night, and bloodied marriage chambers” (10.683-6).And when his eyes drank in this plunder, thismemorial of brutal grief, Aeneas,aflame with rage Ã¢Â” his wrath was terrible Ã¢Â”…he sinks his sword into the chest of Turnus (12.1262-9).In this, the final recognition scene of the epic, Aeneas associates Turnus with the violence, plunder, and marital desecration to which he himself has had to resort in order to found his fated city. In addition, he associates Turnus with the destructive dwelling in grief from which he seeks to liberate himself, as the belt is both a Ã¢ÂÂmemorial of brutal grief” and a memorial to brutal grief. In order to divorce himself from both the violence and the grief, Aeneas kills Turnus. TurnusÃ¢ÂÂs death is the transitional climax of the grand-scale shifting of powers, lands, and peoples, but it is also the transitional climax of AeneasÃ¢ÂÂ heroism, allowing him to set aside once again a warrior ethos and human pathos and to embrace his role as founder of Rome, his greater labor. This role includes the building of great walls, the teaching of peace to the conquered, the sparing of defeated peoples, and the taming of the proud (6.1136-7). But like the shade of Turnus, who descends to the underworld unwillingly, and like the golden bough which yields to Aeneas only hesitantly, both transitions will not be easy, wrought with war, conflict, and suffering.
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 tearsHad captured us, whom neither DiomedesNor 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 bringing the horse within the city walls, two real snakes from the sea serve to complete the ruse and convince the Trojans to accept the horse.Even though Laocon was the only man whose insight into the true nature of the horse was correct, the twin snakes kill him and his two sons. “Laocon had paid… For profanation of the sacred hulk.”(II:308-310) Since he had flung a spear at the horse in contempt prior to being attacked, the Trojans assumed that the horse was a divine object protected by the gods, and so they felt obligated to pull it into the city. The men become so blinded by Sinon’s lies and the deceptive behavior of the serpents, that they do not notice the “four times the arms/ In the belly thrown together made a sound,”(II:325-6) each time that the horse halts. Unbeknownst to these men was the fact that these snakes were an omen that represented the utter destruction of their city. In describing the death of Laocon and his sons, Virgil is preparing the reader for the snake that will be the death of Troy itself.The serpent that does destroy the city is not an actual snake, but the wooden horse, which Virgil imparts with snake-like qualities. He describes its movement, “Deadly, pregnant with enemies, the horse/ Crawled upward to the breach.”(II:317-318) Like a venomous snake laden with deadly offspring, the deceptive contraption moves into the heart of the Trojan City. The horse has taken on the role of the twin serpents, while Troy, whose destruction is imminent, assumes the role of Laocon and his sons.Virgil uses snake imagery one last time in Book II by giving serpentine qualities to the Danaan Pyrrhus, who appears to Aeneas,”As a serpent, hidden swollen underground…Renewed and glossy, rolling slippery coils,With lifted underbelly rearing sunwardAnd triple tongue a-flicker.”(II:614-619)This description of Pyrrhus foreshadows death to come as it is this very same Greek who becomes the bane of Priam and his son Polits, “That was the end of Priam’s age, the doom that took him off.”(II:722-723) Virgil subtly sets the reader up to expect the worse from Pyrrhus’ actions because up to that point, every snake image the reader has encountered has been followed by death and destruction.Sinon’s lies, the snakes from the sea, the wooden horse and Pyrrhus all reflect the qualities of death and deception that Virgil associates with the serpent. Throughout the remainder of the epic, the snake image retains these symbolic characteristics. Virgil uses the imagery to bring a lust for war onto Amata and to predict the death of Rome’s future enemies.The fury Allecto, who single-handedly incites war between the Trojans and the Latins, is, by her physical and character description alone, one of Virgil’s serpents. She is,”Grief’s drear mistress, with her lust for war,For angers, ambushes, and crippling crimes.Even her father Pluto hates this figure…For her savage looks, her headAlive and black with snakes.”(VII:445-450)Allecto’s persona reeks of death and she is employed by Juno precisely for this trait, because the goddess knows that this serpentine creature will gladly and effectively stir up war among the Latins and Trojans. Considering the mass amount of tragic deaths that result from the war, Allecto can be classified as a harbinger of death, which her snake-like qualities already suggest.Allecto uses one of her serpent tresses to fuel the anger already harbored by Amata towards the Trojans to the point of uncontrollable rage. This snake is similar to the wooden horse, because it came upon its victim insidiously and resulted in destruction. While Troy is burned as a result of the horse, Amata’s mind is corrupted by the snake to the point of insanity, “The serpent’s evil madness circulated… And with insane abandon (she) roamed the city.”(VII:517-520) The queen’s mind has been destroyed and remains in ruins like the Trojan City.While the reader witnesses the destruction wrought by Allecto and the other serpent images within the context of the story, Virgil also uses snake imagery to comment on forthcoming events. Aeneas’ shield, which is crafted by Vulcan, depicts many accomplishments of the future Roman Empire, not the least of which is the defeat of Marc Antony and Cleopatra. In order to convey the future victory of Rome over the Egyptian Queen to the reader, Virgil uses serpents to represent death once again. He describes Cleopatra as, “Never turning her head as yet to see/ Twin snakes of death behind.”(VIII:944-945) The snakes precede other icons of death such as the furies, Mars and Bellona, which demonstrates their importance to Virgil as a true harbinger of death.The serpent is a necessary element of the Aeneid, because the death and deception that it represents are essential to the events that take place within the epic. If the Greeks had never sacked Troy, Aeneas would never have left, and Rome might not have been founded. Deception is what brought victory to the Greeks and Virgil realizes this fact, so he chooses the snake to represent this concept. By remaining consistent in his use of the image, Virgil helps the reader to identify the presence of deception and looming death.
In lines 2.730-2.742 of Virgil’s Aeneid Aeneas is describing the terror that hefelt when he finally realized that Troy was falling to the Greeks. In these ten linesVirgil uses careful diction to create an image of a solitary Aeneas pausing for a briefmoment to observe the demise of his city. By elaborately detailing each of Aeneas’sthoughts Virgil achieves an effect of time slowing down: To the reader, it seems thatthe frenzied action of a city coming to its knees is slowed down while one mancollects his thoughts. On another level, Aeneas is describing his terror to QueenDido and her court, and he is attempting to evoke a strong sense of pity from hislisteners, the Carthaginians, whom he will soon need to help him build boats. In thispassage, Virgil’s wording, imagery and subtle parallel meanings help him to create apassage that can be appreciated for the tremendous mental picture it elicits as wellas the numerous interpretations that can be found within it.Virgil’s precise choice of words greatly accommodates the metaphoricalmeanings of the passage. In the first line Aeneas says that for the “first time thatnight” he began to realize the dire state of affairs in that had befallen Troy. Thewords “first time” indicate that Aeneas has been in a sort of dream state in theevents that occurred previously. Since Aeneas is relating this story to a crowdstating that it is the “first time” he has felt fear or “inhuman shuddering” it appearsthat he is bragging about his courage; in other words, neither the ominoussnake-signs of the previous day nor his nightmare of Hector, nor awakening to findhis city in flames, nor his dangerous skirmishes with Greeks were enough to scarethe brave Aeneas. In fact, if “night” is interpreted to mean the bad luck of war thathas befallen Troy for the past ten years Aeneas is telling the crowd that he was neverscared throughout the entire war with the Greeks! Either way, Aeneas was notscared and did not even realize the desperateness of his situation until he saw KingPriam killed. Only then did the “inhuman shuddering” take him “head to foot”.Virgil’s description of Aeneas’s shuddering as “inhuman” is interestingbecause it causes the reader to ask What is inhuman? This adjective lends itself to acouple different interpretations. If “inhuman” is read as “not human” – godlike-then the reader can assume that the gods have filled Aeneas with fear for somereason, possibly to make him flee and save his life. If “inhuman” is read as “nothumane” then it is possible that Virgil is pointing out that the Greeks are acting ininhuman ways and are therefore creating an atmosphere in which Aeneas isquaking with “inhuman shuddering”. Finally, it should be noted that Aeneas didnot willingly shudder. In a brilliant use of a verb Virgil has Aeneas say that”inhuman shuddering took me” implying that Aeneas played a passive role inexperiencing fear: Aeneas didn’t fear, fear took Aeneas.Virgil’s careful word choice manifests itself again when Aeneas describeshimself standing “unmanned” – a word that has several different connotations. Onthe one hand “unmanned” can be interpreted as meaning that Aeneas is standingalone, without anyone to help him as he watches the blazing conflagration of Troy.On another level “unmanned” can mean that Aeneas himself has been “unmanned”,i.e. he is helpless and no amount of manly bravery will get him out of this disaster.In the lines that follow, Aeneas gives a dissertation about his loved ones. Heimagines his father dying in the same fashion as King Priam has just died. It ishard to imagine that Aeneas would be more heartbroken by any other event thanseeing his own father killed by a Greek. By comparing Anchises to King PriamVirgil is inferring that Aeneas’s love for his “kingly” father outweighs everything inAeneas’s heart. Aeneas’s first thought when he realizes that his homeland is beingdestroyed is to preserve the life of his father, who represents all of the glory andtradition of Troy in its better days. Next, Aeneas thinks of his wife “left alone”: It ispossible that Aeneas is picturing what Creusa’s life will be like if he dies in a final,pointless battle with the Greeks. Then Aeneas thinks of his “house plundered”which signifies the corruption of the household gods – another symbol of Trojancivilization. Finally he realizes that there might be “danger to little Iulus” whorepresents the hope that one day the surviving Trojans will be able to rise again.”Danger to little Iulus” equals danger to the Trojan race, which will be unable tothrive without a future leader.In the final lines of this passage Aeneas looks about him to see how hiscomrades are dealing with the destruction of their city. Aeneas says “But all hadleft me” indicating that Aeneas is truly “unmanned”. Aeneas describes his men asbeing “utterly played out” – a phrase which yields an image of men giving up theirlives in absolute despair because there is no reason left to live. It is interesting thatVirgil chooses the word “played out” when perhaps a more appropriate choicewould be “worn out”, “tired out” or “fought out”. By using “played out”, however,Virgil suggests that the ten year long war and its culmination on one dreadful nightis like a game in which whoever is “played out” first loses. Being “played out” isparalleled in the Iliad when the Greeks are happy to play war games even afterwatching dozens of their countrymen die and in the fifth book of the Aeneid whenthe surviving Trojans participate in warlike games after narrowly escaping the realgame of war. Virgil’s use of “played out” gives a morose irony to his next lines inwhich the men are “Giving their beaten bodies to the fire/ Or plunging from theroof”.The fact that his countrymen are giving up, some even committing suicide,emphasizes the grave situation in which Aeneas finds himself. As he stands andwatches his fellow Trojans kill themselves Aeneas thinks to himself “It came tothis,/That I stood there alone”. These last two lines indicate that Aeneas is totallyalone; no one will help him to fulfil his destiny. In this moment of despair he hasthree choices: to commit suicide like the other men, to make one more fruitlessattempt to save the city and die gloriously at the hands of a Greek, or to run to theunknown path of the future. Virgil subtly commends Aeneas’s character when hehas Aeneas choose the last, smartest, and possibly riskiest option. Aeneassimultaneously commends himself because he is describing all of this to QueenDido’s court, and at that point in the story it is obvious to all that he made the rightdecision.In conclusion, Virgil makes Aeneas seem even braver than before by havinghim admit that he has been taken by fear. Virgil is also able to point out thestrength of Aeneas’s character by highlighting the fact that unlike other Trojans,Aeneas did not give up by committing suicide. The magnitude of the moment whenAeneas pauses to realize he is scared and think about those whom he loves isenhanced by the vivid imagery Virgil supplies of a lone man standing in the midst ofthe holocaust of his civilization. By choosing the right words at the right timesVirgil is able to show that Aeneas stands apart literally and figuratively from otherTrojans and that he alone has the mental character to pick up the pieces of hisfatherland and start afresh somewhere else.
The Aeneid clearly reflects the influence which Homer’s Odyssey had on Virgil’s writing. Among the several common aspects shared by these two epic poems, each author’s depiction of the Underworld provides an interesting basis for comparison. Although the resemblance appears extraordinary at first, several important differences can be discovered upon closer examination. These differences enable the poems’ reader to draw comparisons not only between the two poets, but between their characters as well namely, Aeneas and Odysseus. Two particular passages one can compare are Book VI, lines 335-489 from The Aeneid and Book X, line 560 through Book XI, line 62 from The Odyssey. The characters of Aeneas and Odysseus are revealed through their respective journeys to the Underworld. One sharp contrast lies in the steps each hero must take in order to reach his destination. The process which Aeneas must go through is much more involved. The beginning of the said passage (lines 331ff.) from The Aeneid describes the last step of this process, when they make the formidable journey across the Sibyl’s cave. They reach this last trial only after making the proper sacrifices to the gods and finding the Golden Bough, which grants them access across the river Styx. For Odysseus, the process described in XI.23-45 from The Odyssey seems simple by comparison. After he sacrifices the animals and promises his best heifer to the dead, he simply calls up the lost souls and converses with them. He achieves his goal without a long, arduous journey like that which Aeneas has to go experience. The journey that Aeneas makes can be interpreted as a test of his determination. He says to the Sibyl, “No novel of hardship, no surprises…I foresaw them all, went through them in my mind” (Aeneid VI.156-158). Aeneas has been through so much that there is no form of struggle or danger he cannot face. And because he endured all those hardships, his resolve has been proven, whereas there is little testing of Odysseus’ resolve. Aeneas, however, does have the help of a guide throughout the arduous process. Apollo’s prophetess, the Sibyl, accompanies him to the Underworld, showing him the way and helping him understand what he sees. For example, when they are in the Sibyl’s cave, she instructs Aeneas to “enter the path here, and unsheathe your sword” (Aeneid VI.359). She continues to dispense similar commands to him throughout the journey. His dependence on the Sibyl makes the reader question whether he would have succeeded without her assistance. Odysseus, on the other hand, embarks on his journey entirely on his own. He has no guide and this difference reflects the character of the heroes. Aeneas’ passive nature causes him to always look toward the fulfillment of his destiny, and is helped along or hindered by the gods. Odysseus, however, pushes his own way through the trials that fate has dealt him. Aeneas’ passivity can also be seen in the fact that he receives help even before he journey to the Underworld. The Sibyl informs him, “Your friend’s dead body…lies out there unburied…First give the man his rest” (Aeneid VI.217-221). She commands him to first bury Misenus’ body which he does. Odysseus has no such advisor: he too had lost a friend, Elpenor, but this one had remained unburied, and so lamented to Odysseus when they met in the Underworld. Elpenor asks Odysseus, “…do not go and leave me behind unwept, unburied” (Odyssey XI.72). Aeneas’ passivity is subtly present even in something as minor as the person in which the story is told. Aeneas’ journey is related to the reader by the narrator in the third person, while Odysseus himself tells of his hardships as he sits with Alkinoös and Arete. The striking difference in the character of these two heroes can also be seen in their intentions for going to the Underworld. Odysseus is there only because Circe commanded that he do so, saying to him, “First here is another journey you must accomplish and reach the house of Hades…to consult with the soul of Teiresias” (Odyssey X.490-492). He must go to the Underworld before he can go home. As such, it is decreed by fate that he complete this task before reaching final destination. For Aeneas, it is a rather different matter: he is fulfilling the last wishes of his father, who had begged him, saying, “Come meet me son” (Aeneid, V.952). He wants Aeneas to journey to Hades after his father’s death for one last moment to speak to him. Being the “duty-bound” hero that he is, Aeneas obeys his father’s wishes even when he is dead.Another aspect of their character is revealed in the words they said to those they meet in the Underworld. When Odysseus encounters Elpenor, the first thing he asks him is, “Elpenor, how did you come here beneath the fog and the darkness? You have come faster on foot that I could in my black ship” (Odyssey XI.57-58). Elpenor beat him to the Underworld as if this were a race between them. Here Odysseus is immediately concerned more for his own pride than for the welfare of his friend, who had died unburied. Odysseus changes the event into a competition, wanting to win above all. Aeneas, on the other hand, expresses his concern for fulfilling his destiny upon encountering his friend, Palinarus, who had recently drowned. He quickly asks Palinarus, “Tell me. In this one prophecy Apollo, who had never played me false falsely foretold you’d be unharmed at sea and would arriave at the Ausonian coast. Is the promise kept? (Aeneid VI.464-468). Worried that if Palinarus’ destiny as revealed had not been realized, Aeneas became concerned that his own destiny might not come true. By experiencing this immediate concern, he reveals his sense of responsibility and destiny-consciousness. He is always looking forward to achieving his goal. Odysseus, on the other hand, reveals his pride and self-concern when he inquires Elpenor about how he managed to get to the Underworld before Odysseus did. The comparison between the two passages gives insight into the two heroes. Through the actions, words and thoughts of Aeneas and Odysseus, their character is revealed in sharp contrast to the other. The comparison also shines light on the authors’ views on the afterlife. Virgil envisions the Underworld as a place that cannot be reached easily. Even the hero Aeneas needs a guide to ensure his journey’s success. And even then, there is a whole process he must go through before getting to the Underworld. For Homer, it is much simpler. The Underworld which he envisions is not too far out of reach. Odysseus had a relatively easy time reaching it. Homer pictures the Underworld as a place that almost anyone can reach, whereas Virgil believes that the individual’s resolve will be tested before the possibility of reaching the Underworld can be considered.
Mythological accounts constantly transform themselves in crossing cultures and enduring time, but two versions of the story of Dido and Aeneas, one by a shy, serious, government-sponsored poet; the other by an often lighthearted author, a future exile, show that even among contemporaries living in the same city, an author’s sensibilities can shape an ancient story. Vergil’s tale of Dido and Aeneas, forming the most memorable portion of the Aeneid, is sympathetic to both players while ultimately serving the poem’s goal of revealing the toil and tears that went into Aeneas’ founding of an empire. Ovid’s letter from Dido to Aeneas, on the other hand, forms a part of the Heroides, a work sympathetic to the women whose fictional letters it contains, and subverts the themes of the epic upon which it is based.Vergil’s Dido calls on Aeneas’ promises to hold him back. Whether these promises ever existed is unclear, but in Dido’s mind “[her] plighted right hand” (IV.307), “[their] marriage” (IV.316), and “undertaken marriage songs” (IV.316) should suffice to bind Aeneas to her. Aeneas swears that “[He] never came into a [marriage] pact with [Dido]” (IV.338-9); from their own points of view both characters are right. To Vergil, this domestic scene has universal implications; whether Aeneas stays or goes will decide the fate of an empire, and the gods themselves are involved in the struggle. Juno, patron of Carthage and Venus, mother of Aeneas, arranged the marriage of Dido and Venus, but neither did so in good faith. Venus “felt that Juno had spoken [of the marriage] with feigned purpose in order to turn aside the Italian kingdom to Libyan shores” (IV.105-6), and indeed Juno suggests, “‘let it be permitted for [Dido] to serve a Phrygian husband and for you [Venus] to entrust the Tyrians as a dowry'” (IV.103-4). Aeneas and the Carthaginian Queen are exalted pawns in the divine plan. Dido and Creusa, Aeneas’ former wife, both had to die for dramatic expedient so that Aeneas can marry Lavinia and effect peace between the Teucreans and Latins.Though Aeneas’ departure is his destiny, Dido takes the fact with less grace than he. In the Aeneid, we see Dido’s entire buildup of passion: her initial love, her fears of unfaithfulness to Sychaeus, her acceptance of Aeneas, and here, her rejection of him. We see that she has considerable right to be angry, and angry she is; she treats his task with sarcasm even while realizing the cruelty of the gods, saying, “‘doubtless this work is from the gods; this concern disturbs the quiet ones'” (IV.378). She wishes for Aeneas to “drink in punishments in the middle of the rocks” (IV.383) and looks forward to his death. We get little of Aeneas’ own emotions, as he is trying to be a good stoic, but Vergil does tell us of the hero’s regret, that “he desires to calm the sorrowing woman by consoling her and to put away her cares with words, he much lamenting and shaken in his soul by her love” (IV.393-5). We even are allowed glimpses of secondary characters’ emotions, such as the jealousy of Iarbas and the loyal sorrow of Anna.Ovid, on the other hand, has Dido write in the first person and he focuses entirely on her emotions. Where Vergil provides a section of epic that reaches from Aeneas’ shipwreck on the shores of Libya to Dido’s rejection of her former love in the underworld, Ovid’s tale focuses on Dido’s feelings just after Aeneas has left. Since Ovid based his account on Vergil’s, he must have felt there was something to be gained by narrowing and concentrating his range, making his own version not a thematically broad and sweeping epic but a concentrated torrent of emotion that nevertheless touches upon many of Vergil’s themes. In fact, Dido’s letter implicitly reverses the fate found so often in the Aeneid; she sees herself as the main character and, while not outright denying Aeneas’ fate, views him as though he never had one. Dido’s first argument is sound sense and something that never occurred to her in the Aeneid: that “[Aeneas] flees the achieved and seeks that which must be achieved” (VII.13), that he has a cozy job as King of Carthage and would be foolish to leave. She worries earnestly about his fate, even more than her own, complaining that “I am not of such worth[…]that you should perish as you flee me” (VII.45-6), a position it took Vergil’s Dido a great deal of time to reach. But Dido here takes the theme much further than her counterpart did. “‘What did the boy Ascanius, what did the Penates do to deserve this?'” (VII.77) she asks, subverting the Aeneid’s theme of sacrifice; Aeneas is not sacrificing his own happiness for the good of his people if “whatever lightning bolts fall [on his ship] are sent for [him]” (VII.72). Dido even attacks that most sacred of epic character marks, the epithet; Aeneas is not “pius” (his epithet in the Aeneid, meaning “faithful”) if he worships with a hand that is “inpia” (VII.130) the Penates he brought from Troy.Dido, having destroyed the rest of Aeneas’ credibility, goes on to attack his fate. “‘Where is the mother of beautiful Iulus? She died, left behind all alone by her flinty husband!'” (VII.83-4) exclaims Dido, putting aside the fact that Aeneas went back to flaming Troy to look for Creusa and saw her ghost telling him to go on. Dido’s point is that Aeneas has a fairly suspicious and self-serving “fate”. It is a destiny that will lead him to abandon the race it is his duty to save; where in the Aeneid Dido explicitly wishes she had had a child by Aeneas, Dido here is pregnant, and “[Aeneas] will be the cause of his unborn son’s death” (VII.136) when Dido commits suicide. Dido hammers home the uselessness of Aeneas’ fate by showing its cruelty and arbitrariness. Tyre would be as just as good a spot as Latium to build a city; “there is place [there] for the laws of peace, place for arms” (VII.156).It seems to Dido in Ovid’s tale that Aeneas must leave because it is her own fate to be miserable; “fate pursues [her]” (VII.112). Destiny is by no means benevolent to her; it is not even the mixed draught that Aeneas must drink, of punishments and rewards, lost love and gained empire. Aeneas never curses the relentless lot that drives him all over the seas, but not everyone has such great forbearance, or such opportunity for gain from the endeavor. The fate that in the Aeneid occasionally seems excessive and cruel is nonetheless good; Aeneas is often tested, but never for a pointless cause. Ovid, however, by focusing on Dido’s pain and making it seem much more reasonable than it did in the Aeneid, shows that while Aeneas suffered much to build Rome, those whom fate brought low suffered much more.
This passage from Vergil’s Aeneid comes from Aeneas’ tale to Dido, as the Trojan leader describes his city and comrades on the night when Sinon released the Greeks from the Trojan Horse and opened the gate for the Greek armies on the beach. Aeneas did not observe most of the scene he describes, and eschews details that he could not know in favor of obtaining aid from the Carthaginians and enthralling his audience, eliciting sympathy for the doomed Trojans. The passage contrasts the Trojans’ ignorance and trust in the gods with imminent, unrevealed danger and the cruelty of fate, helping the Greeks in every way possible.The first event in the passage is the Trojans’ celebration of the Horse. Sinon, a captured Greek, has told them that the creature is a gift from the Greeks, an offering to placate Pallas Athena. He also tells them that the Greeks have sailed home, where, for some reason, they can better pray to Athena. The Trojans, good servants of the gods, wheel the device into the temple of Minerva and deck the “delubra” with “festa…fronde,” symbols of life that provide an ironic contrast to the Horse’s load of death and impiety. The first instance of “delubra” in the Aeneid occurs just prior to this passage, at II.225-6, when “delubra ad summa dracones/effugiunt” to kill the family of Laocoön, who urged the Trojans not to accept the horse. The word’s repetition gives the passage a sinister tone, highlighting the hostility of the gods toward Troy. This sense of danger is elaborated by Aeneas when he mentions “miseri, quibus ultimus esset/Ille dies.” The initial and unecessary inclusion of “nos” calls attention to Aeneas’ viewpoint and sympathies (not that they have not been well established elsewhere) as he recounts his own experience as one of these worshippers. The slightly displaced location of “ille dies,” after the verb and at the beginning of a line, as well as the use of “ille,” emphasize that this very day of festivity would be the end for the Trojans. They allowed the Horse into their city out of piety, and they are undone by the Greeks on a day of worship.The tone of this passage abruptly changes in the next lines, moving our gaze from the city of Troy to the nightfall over the entire world. The scene literally “vertitur” to the Greeks, while “interea,” like the “ille dies” before it, emphasizes the simultaneity of the event with the Trojan rejoicing. The phrase “caelum et ruit oceano nox” indicates events on a larger scale, as does the size of the “magna” shadows. Night is indifferent to the Trojans, and, if anything, helpful to the Greeks. The “caelum,” a word often used to indicate the home of the gods, does nothing to help Troy; the “nox,” placed emphatically at the end of a line, “ruit” inexorably on. (though, in fairness, the phrase “nox ruit” is often used by Vergil) Harsh “t,” “c,” and “x” sounds throughout the line (“vertitur interea caelum et ruit oceano nox”) underscore a harshness and menace as yet unconnected to any sign of danger. The next line, “involvens umbra magna terramque polumque,” continues the foreboding with a series of somber spondees, whose unhurried pace reflects a leisurely, almost relaxed night, contrasting with the hidden dangers. Its consonant “m” sounds rumble dangerously and contribute to the integrity of the line. Pairs of words with the same endings and numbers of syllables, as well as equivalent syntactical function, “umbra magna” and “terramque polumque,” follow each other; consonance resonates in almost every word, and the content is natural, almost pastoral; the line has a beauty divorced entirely from its context. But we, like the Trojans, are jolted from this calm meditation in the beginning of the next line, with the end of the tiny tricolon crescendo, “terramque polumque/ Myrmidonumque dolos,” moving us back from the cosmic scale to the battlefields again, ending on the polysyllabic “Myrmidonumque” whose length, placement, and scale catch the reader by surprise. The darkness, in all its beauty, is an aid to the Greeks, who make their first appearance in this passage under cover of night.After this jolt, the lines shift focus again to Troy, where the Trojans lie “fusi,” still unaware and calm, throughout the protection of the “moenia,” which, having been opened to the Horse, will not do the Trojans much good. The interior of the city is silent and momentarily safe; everyone “conticuere.” They are defenseless; “sopor fessos complecitur artus.” The next line shifts to the Greeks outside the walls, who, unlike the sleeping Trojans, industriously are at work on war, sailing the fleet from Tenedos. “Et iam” again stresses the simultaneity of the Trojans’ rest and the attack of the “Argiva phalanx,” both Greek words, menacing to Troy. The assonance of “iam Argiva phalanx,” “instructis navibus ibat,” and the alliterative “Tenedo tacitae,” like the gods’ favor, seem sadly bestowed on the warlike Greeks, but everything is working out for them; they sail in beauty, like the night. The chiasmic “tacitae per amica silentia lunae” shows the “amica” toward the Greeks of nature itself. The use of both “tacitae” and “silentia” emphasize the quiet, which probably refers to the Greek’s fleet rather than the night in general; while Vergil leaves no doubt that the night is quiet, there is no reason why that would help the Greeks, since if anything the lack of additional noise would make it easier for the Trojans to hear their approach. “Tacitae” is almost a transferred epithet. The moon is quiet, but quiet moons are hardly noteworthy; its light, not its silence, would be helping the fleet. The adjective’s placement thus makes the silent Greeks almost a part of their surroundings.Indeed, the Greeks are right at home on the beach. They seek the shore, “nota” not only because they know where it is, but because they have camped there so long that it has become familiar to them. War and convenience collide, as they do again with the “flammas” seen from the city. The word presages danger of a burning city to the Trojans, but to the Greeks it is merely a useful signal. Sinon, who deceived the Trojans with a story about how he escaped human sacrifice, works “furtim” in the darkness, “fatisque deum defensus iniquis.” The often impious Greeks, favored by Minerva, overcome the inhabitants of Troy by exploiting the Trojans’ good-naturedness and their desperation to win the goddess’s favor. The gods side with Greece, not Troy, and the fates are not just. As Anchises observes in III.540-3, horses can be a sign of good or ill; the horse itself is a symbol of Neptune, once Troy’s beneficent patron god, who is now breaking down the city walls.Of course, the Greeks deserve some of the credit for Troy’s destruction. The description moves once from the whole Greek fleet, “instructis navibus,” to the “tacitae…lunae”; from there the scale focuses on a particular “regia puppis,” expands to encompass “fatisque deum,” and then contracts upon Sinon. His betrayal of the Trojans’ hospitality is emphasized by the placement of his name at the very end of this long sentence, in a build-up of suspense and shock. With his name begins a long list of invaders, showing the magnitude and threat of the Greek invasion. In a slight zeugma, Sinon “laxat” both the “Danaos” and the “claustra.” The final two and a half lines of the sentence, “inclusos utero Danaos et pinea furtim/Laxat claustra Sinon,” are not confusing, but they do contain much disjointing hyperbaton, as the order and peace of the night are broken by the freed Greeks, born from the “utero” of a wooden horse. Although it is a Trojan who relates the story of Troy’s fall, the Greeks dominate this section of it. The shifting scale reveals powerful forces, such as fate, the gods, and the weather, working alongside the Greek armies at all levels, helping the fleet and Sinon alike. The overall tone, contrasting with the Trojans’ doomed celebrations, is of subdued menace, consistent throughout the rest of the passage. War is about to begin anew, and, as Hector tells Aeneas, it is too late to save Troy. The goodness of the Trojans we see, of Creusa and Anchises, Priam and Hecuba, Hector and of course Aeneas, cannot change fate, but it can allow a new city to be founded. Fate now sides with the Greeks, but soon it will be with Aeneas. So will the gods, eventually, and all the tiny factors that here bring Troy’s ruin.Works Cited:Austin, R.G. Aeneidos Liber Secvndvs. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1964.Vergil; Pharr, Clyde, ed. Vergil’s Aeneid, Books I-VI. Wauconda, Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc. 1998.
Duty is a recurring theme throughout Virgil¹s The Aeneid. It plays a crucial role as a key character trait for the individuals that we encounter. If one takes the protagonist Aeneas aside and analyzes his persistent adherence to his own destiny, along with his unending concern for the welfare of his Trojan people, one could entertain the idea that his dedication and responsibility foreshadow the concept of duty to the Republic and obedience to Caesar that might have prevailed in Virgil¹s Roman society. “Duty-bound Aeneas”, as Virgil often describes him (The Aeneid, p. 110, l. 545), often has to make difficult decisions, sometimes at the expense of his own immediate happiness, to fulfill his destiny as founder of Rome. Throughout his journeys, he encounters various trials where each refines a different aspect of his character, evolving him into a hero and a leader. Indeed, his romantic affair with Dido of Carthage forces him to make the difficult choice of duty over love (p. 107), and the remorse that he displays as he placates her spirit in the Underworld demonstrates his sincere regret for having hurt her (p. 175). Concerning Dido, one clearly sees that responsibility holds a greater importance than emotion for Aeneas. However, in the war with the Latins, one no longer perceives such a defined moral code. Aeneas¹ inconsistent behavior is apparent in his last battle with Turnus. Turnus pleads with Aeneas to return his dead body to his father Daunus for a proper burial (p. 402, l. 1270-3), yet Aeneas, at the site of his fallen comrade¹s swordbelt on the shoulder of Turnus, fills with rage and kills Turnus without answering his request. It is evident that one can only explain such a display of savagery on the part of Aeneas through a loss of emotional control. Indeed, Aeneas lost his sense of duty and respect for his fellowman in the instant he took Turnus¹ life.Turnus was an enemy of Aeneas, very much the same way Hektor was with respect to Achilleus in The Iliad. However, throughout his travels, one can gather that Aeneas is in fact not an individual devoid of sympathy and benevolence for his enemies. Take for instance the compassion he shows toward the Danaan sailor, left by Ulysses (Odysseus) on the island of the Cyclops (p. 87). The sailors clothing betrayed his identity as an enemy of the Trojans, yet this fact did not stop Aeneas from showing pity toward this individual. Aeneas extended kindness to the Greek as a fellow human, rather than an archenemy, by adopting him as one of their own (p. 89). The Trojan War has just ended at this point, and Troy fell at the hands of the invading Greek army; surely, one could imagine the amount of hatred both peoples still had toward the other. Yet Aeneas acted as a true leader and a role model for his fellow Trojans to follow by extending kindness to a sworn enemy. Aeneas shows this similar humanitarian compassion on another occasion, and in this case the individual was a Latin, just like Turnus. When Lausus, son of Mezentius, dies at the hands of Aeneas, Virgil describes Aeneas as moved by “profound pity” when he beholds how young the boy was (p. 324). He proceeds to tell the dying child that he will not strip him of his armor, a conqueror¹s prize; he even returns Lausus¹ body to the Latin people to be given a proper burial. So given both this encounter and the one with the Danaan sailor, one can conclude that Aeneas has the capacity to show mercy to anyone, friend or foe alike. It seems uncharacteristic, then, that Turnus did not benefit from this compassionate side of Aeneas. When Turnus beseeches him on his knees to grant his request for a proper burial, he requests that Aeneas remember the relationship he had with his own father Achises (p. 402, l. 1268-9). Turnus merely asks that his body, dead or alive, be returned to his father after Aeneas is done with him. At this moment, it almost seems as if our hero will extend his greatest act of compassion yet to be seen in the epic so far by granting Turnus his life and letting him go home in peace (p. 402, l. 1277-81). In fact, one could argue that if Aeneas does grant Turnus his life, doing so would be a very wise political maneuver in attaining a valuable friend, or potential ally, in the region. Which path does Aeneas choose to take concerning the fate of this great Latin prince?Alas, Aeneas chooses not to extend such a prudent, political gesture. This decision [to kill Turnus without even granting his request] was not a product of rational thought. Virgil tells us: “Then to [Aeneas¹] glance appeared the accurst swordbelt surmounting Turnus¹ shoulder  the strap young Pallas wore when Turnus wounded him and left him dead upon the field” (p. 402, l. 1281-5). At the sight of the swordbelt that once belonged to his dear Trojan brother, Aeneas “raged at the relic of his anguish” and blazed with a terrible anger (p. 402, l. 1287-1290). The intensity of feeling is so vividly portrayed in Virgil¹s writing. This flood of emotion and fraternal love for his fellow Trojan clearly overpowers his thought processes of deciding the right course of action to take concerning Turnus. If concept of duty is so important to Aeneas, could one logically conclude that he faltered in this moment of indecision and abrupt action? What happened to the benevolent, humanitarian Aeneas that saved the life of one enemy and honored the death of another? Both the Greek and Latin mentioned earlier who were recipients of his mercy must have killed Trojans in the past. They were not any different than Turnus, since they too were enemies of the Trojan people. Hence, it is difficult not to conclude that Aeneas¹ better sense of judgement was clouded by violent passion when he took Turnus¹ life.However, one can ponder if such drastic behavior really was uncharacteristic of Aeneas. For instance, in his affairs with Dido, it required the goading of the god Mercury to get him back on track to Italy (p. 105). Before that, it seemed as if he was quite content with his life in Carthage, overcome with love for Dido and the comfortable feeling of permanence and stability away from the tumultuous sea. Although in the end, duty did prevail over passion, one cannot validly say that Aeneas came to such conclusions on his own. One does not need to read so far into the epic to see how Aeneas is so easily swayed by emotion. When Troy was burning to the ground, Aeneas, filled with shame and frantic rage, was prepared to die fighting, neglecting his future destiny as the progenitor of Rome. Yet, it took both the pleading of his wife as well as a divine sign from heaven to persuade him, as well as his father, to flee the city (p. 105-6). In fact, throughout The Aeneid, Aeneas frequently relied on oracles and other divine messengers for guidance and direction. One could even say that if it were not for such instances of divine intervention, Aeneas would have strayed off his fated path much more frequently, and with greater consequences, because of his emotional spontaneity. So perhaps the murder of Turnus was not so uncharacteristic of Aeneas after all. No god or divine oracle was present to prevent Aeneas from taking his life; there was no one by his side to help him make the more benevolent decision in the heat of his passion. Perhaps “duty-bound Aeneas” might be too misleading of a phrase to describe our hero¹s character; rather, “pushed-to-duty, divinely-goaded Aeneas” might be a more appropriate classification.On a different note, one could also approach Aeneas¹ sense of duty from another angle. While he might have had compassion for certain enemies, given the circumstances and his emotional state, Aeneas¹ love for his fellow Trojans and his concern for their futures have always been constant and the purveying influence of thoughts and actions. Aeneas takes his destiny as the founder of a great future empire very seriously. However, he does not seemed to be so concerned with the status he would achieve as ruler as much as he desires to leave his people, particularly his son Ascanius, a rich and stable legacy in Italy (p. 108). One can witness how he his sense of duty toward his traveling companions places their safety above convenience, as can be seen in his decision to sail around the length of Sicily rather than risk losing a few of his men to Scylla and Charybdis, monsters of the narrow pass between Italy and Sicily (p. 80-1, 85). Aeneas is always concerned about the welfare of the collective, and perhaps his foremost sense of duty stems from this fraternal love. This sort of love and loyalty can be seen in other members of his company, hence reinforcing the idea that this devotion to one¹s fellow brother is actually a defining characteristic of the Trojan people rather than just Aeneas himself. Palinurus is a prime example of an individual who placed the safety of his fellow Trojans ahead of his own (p. 155). He died while attempting to navigate Aeneas¹ ship safely through rough waters; even in the Underworld, his concern for the well-being of Aeneas and the other Trojans over his own eternal fate is astounding. Nisus, too, was overcome with anger and remorse for his fallen comrade Euryalus and succumbed to emotional fury in his drive for vengeance (p. 275-6). Although Nisus could have contributed much more to the war-effort by rejoining the ranks of Aeneas, instead his fraternal love for Euryalus prompted a suicidal rush at Volcens, the Latin troop-leader who killed his friend. In this latter example, one might wonder if Nisus lost his sense of duty to his Trojan people by sacrificing his life in a rash impulse to avenge the life of another. On the other hand, this entire scene was so touching that one admires the love that these Trojan soldiers have for each other.Such a display of brotherly affection between Nisus and Euryalus might help explain why Aeneas killed Turnus in the heat of emotional rage. Both the stranded Greek sailor and Lausus killed Trojan men, but neither of them possessed a trophy so blatant, or antagonistic, as did Turnus. Metaphorically speaking, the swordbelt of Pallas that Turnus wore as a war-trophy acted as a red flag flashing before the eyes of a raging bull. Aeneas¹s love for Pallas created a fury so powerful that he even dedicated his kill to his dead friend by crying out: “This would will come from Pallas: Pallas make this offering and from your criminal blood exacts his due.” (p. 402, l. 1292-4) Given these facts, it seems as if fraternal love actually holds a greater weight than romantic love for Aeneas; for in the case with Dido, duty prevailed, while in the case with Pallas, emotion prevailed.Now if one could rationalize Aeneas¹ cold-blooded killing of Turnus by attributing his behavior to intense love, there are other instances in The Aeneid that cause the reader to question his sense of duty to others who were not enemies of the Trojans. For instance, if we turn to the attack on Latinus¹ city near the end of the epic, the analysis of the impulses behind Aeneas¹ warrior-like behavior is not so straightforward. One can understand how the war between Turnus and Aeneas engendered hatred between the two parties, since Turnus was clearly a threat and the initial aggressor. However, Latinus accepted Aeneas as the one fated to both marry his daughter and rule his kingdom; he graciously opened his city to the Trojans, welcoming them to Italy (p. 204-5). Furthermore, the Trojans approached Latinus in a very peaceful, almost obsequious, manner by claiming that they ask only for “a modest settlement” in Italy and that they “bring harm to no one” (p. 203). Aeneas even swore to King Latinus that he would “not make Italians underlings to Trojans.  Let both nations, both unconquered, both subject to equal laws, commit themselves to an eternal union.” (p. 374, l. 255-9) Hence, one finds it harder to justify the Trojan attack on King Latinus given the circumstances of this peaceful pact between both nations. The violent tone of Aeneas¹ words as he gave the command to besiege Latinus¹ city contrasts greatly with the promises of peace and prosperity he gave earlier. In fact, Latinus did not attack the Trojans at all, but rather it was the uncooperative nature of Turnus and his armies that brought about Aeneas¹ decision to attack the city. He himself said: “Unless our enemies accept our yoke and promise to obey us, on this day I shall destroy their town, root of this war, soul of Latinus¹ kingdom.” (p. 388, l. 771-81) A farmer puts a yoke around the neck of an ox to plow the fields. Is this subservient metaphor an accurate definition of Trojan equality? If Aeneas demands that everyone must obey the decrees of the Trojans, I sincerely doubt that the Trojans would be subjected to the same laws. Rather, it appears as if Aeneas would rather have a kingdom for his Trojan brethren that consists of a conglomerate of subservient, conquered nations. One could then logically ask, does Aeneas keep his promise with Latinus in not making his people slaves of the Trojans? Was his attack on the kingdom of Latinus a momentary lapse of honor and duty or a permanent transition in his treatment of the Italian people? One only needs to examine the glance at the power of Rome in Virgil¹s day, or even in the days of Jospehus¹ Jewish Wars, to see how hated the Romans were by those whom they have conquered and enslaved. Indeed, Rome became a great empire with many colonies and ruled by a powerful and reputably ruthless military. Therefore, it would not be terribly erroneous to conclude that Aeneas and his descendants did indeed break their promises for peace and equality with the Italian people. Although most agree that the war with Turnus and Latinus is fictitious, perhaps as a story concerned with the founding of the Rome, it provides some historical or sociological explanation for the evolution of a cruel Roman imperialistic empire.So in the end, I suppose the real question would be: “As an ever-evolving character, did Aeneas permanently lose his compassion and humanitarian nature, only to evolve into a malicious despot in the end?” Virgil does not give a clear answer to this question, but given the development of events in the epic poem, as well as the historical facts of Roman Imperialism, one could safely conclude that Aeneas most likely did break his promise to King Latinus. The Aeneas that saved the Danaan sailor and honored the body of Lausus the Latin is not the same Aeneas that attacked Latinus and murdered Turnus. Consequently, one could also confidently conclude that Aeneas did not honor Turnus¹ last request for his body to be returned to his father for a proper burial, although Achilleus eventually did just so concerning the body of Hektor. Driven constantly by passion and emotion throughout his journeys, it would seem that Aeneas retained, if not strengthened, his sense of duty and fraternal love for his fellow Trojan, but on the other hand lost his sense of duty and respect for his fellowman.
Sympathy arises from an instinctive desire to identify with the emotions of others. It can lead people to strive to maintain good relations with their fellow human beings and provide the basis both for specific benevolent acts and for the general social order. In dramatic and narrative power, Virgil’s Aeneid is the equal of its great Homeric predecessors, The Iliad and The Odyssey. At the same time, it surpasses them in the intense sympathy it displays for its human actors — a sympathy that makes events such as Aeneas’s escape from Troy and his search for a new homeland, the passion and the death of Dido, the relationship between Nisus and Euryalus, and the defeat of Turnus among the most memorable and civically valuable in literature. This notion of sympathy, or “representative thought,” can be explored and is summoned in these episodes in the Aeneid through vivid imagery, rhetorical figures, the inherent nature of the characters, and the invocation of memory throughout the epic. Ultimately, the sympathetic relation that Virgil constructs between the text and the reader affects the way in which we communicate complex ideas and emotions, changes the way we view the world, and sharpens our moral judgments.However, in order to fully comprehend the epic’s capacity to summon sympathy, first we must define sympathy. According to Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, men are driven by sympathy: we imagine ourselves in the shoes of another and, through that act of imagination, feel a part of what they feel. He also explores the role of the “impartial spectator,” the view we attempt to acquire when we wish to judge the morality of our own actions or someone else’s. Smith argues that people feel pleasure from the presence of others with the same emotions as one’s self, and displeasure in the presence of those with “contrary” emotions. Thus, this pleasure is not the result of self-interest: others are more likely to assist oneself if they are in a similar emotional state. Smith also makes the case that pleasure from mutual sympathy is not derived merely from a heightening of the original felt emotion amplified by the other person. Smith further notes that people get more pleasure from the mutual sympathy of negative emotions than positive emotions, but we feel “more anxious to communicate to our friends” (Smith 13) our negative emotions. This idea of sympathy, as Smith defines it, can be seen throughout the compelling imagery and emotional appeal in the Aeneid.The story of Dido, the tragic queen, conjures up an overwhelming sense of sympathy and pity in the reader. Although Dido had pledged not to marry after the death of her first husband, she finds herself irresistibly attracted to Aeneas. Virgil’s description of the overwhelming feelings of Dido for Aeneas liken love (especially the love of a woman) to an all-consuming fire: “But the queen — too long she has suffered the pain of love, hour by hour nursing the wound with her lifeblood, consumed by the fire buried in her heart” (Book IV, 1-3). The love of Dido is no fleeting feeling; Virgil emphasizes the long-lasting effects of the love spell of Cupid in his diction: “The man’s courage, the sheer pride of his line, they all come pressing home to her, over and over. His looks, his words, they pierce her heart and cling — no peace, no rest for her body, love will give her none” (IV, 4-7). Virgil draws out her pain in the phrases “too long,” “hour by hour,” and “over and over.” The harsh sounds in words such as “pressing” and “pierce” emphasize the pain Dido feels. The repetition of the word “no” and the use of “none” in the seventh line amplifies the absolute, intense ache Dido feels, allowing the reader to realize the extent of her pain. Dido has “no peace, no rest” because “love will give her none.” The use of the hyphen accentuates the word “cling” in line 7, since the reader must continue reading to the next line, clinging to each word. The passage builds upon itself from the beginning, creating a crescendo that climaxes in the last line, which demonstrates the building of passion inside Dido.In an attempt to seek the approval of the gods in winning Aeneas as her husband, Dido prays at the shrines of the gods, making sacrifices, further appealing to the audience’s emotions. She looks for signs from the gods in the entrails of the sacrificed animals. This, however, is useless to someone so caught up in the insanity of love: “But, oh, how little they know, the omniscient seers. What good are prayers and shrines to a person mad with love? The flame keeps gnawing into her tender marrow hour by hour and deep in her heart the silent wound lives on. Dido burns with love — the tragic queen” (IV, 82-86). Virgil reinforces the uncontrollable passion of love by utilizing irony in line 82, stating that the “omniscient seers” actually know very little when love is involved. The fire allusion reappears in line 84 and again in line 86. The fire of love devours the queen from the inside out. Virgil names Dido “the tragic queen,” separating the Homeric epithet from the rest of the passage with both a hyphen and a period to accentuate the finality of her fate. The use of the verb “gnawing” likens love to a carnivorous animal, eating at the “tender marrow” of Dido.This predator-prey relationship continues: “She wanders in frenzy through her city streets like a wounded doe caught all off guard by a hunter stalking the woods of Crete, who strikes her from afar and leaves his winging steel in her flesh, and he’s unaware but she veers in flight through Dicte’s woody glades, fixed in her side the shaft that takes her life” (IV, 87-92). Dido has been driven insane by her love. The word “frenzy” depicts the queen’s whirlwind state of mind. She “wanders,” lost because of her love, yet also lost because of her impending doom. Her love will end in her death; her love is “the shaft that takes her life.” The pacing of the passage enhances the reader’s sense that Dido is a lost cause, caught up in love. The passage wanders from line to line, taking the reader along winding paths of thought all within the same sentence. Dido has no control; she is merely a “wounded doe.” Although Virgil expresses love as a “hunter,” this hunter is “unaware” of the damage it wreaks. This imagery personifies an emotion as a tangible entity.The internal turmoil created by uncontrollable love forces Dido to cling to any part of Aeneas she can obtain: “She’d speak her heart but her voice chokes, mid-word. Now at dusk she calls for the feast to start again, madly begging to hear again the agony of Troy, to hang on his lips again, savoring his story” (IV, 95-98). The word “chokes” abruptly ends the clause, demonstrating the inability to speak. The hyphen in “mid-word” further illustrates this point by creating a physical break in the sentence and in the word itself. Dido has lost all propriety as she “madly beg[s]” Aeneas to tell his story just to hear his voice. And once again, love is depicted as insane and uncontrollable. The metaphor “to hang on his lips” and the subsequent use of “savoring” illustrate the hunger that love has instilled in Dido for Aeneas. The addition of the final clause “savoring his story,” reiterates the reluctance of Dido to let go of the words of Aeneas. Dido “flings herself on the couch that he left empty” (IV, 102). His choice of the verb “flings” shows the desperation of the queen. Line 102 exemplifies the need of Dido to be with Aeneas. The couch becomes empty when he leaves, but the heart of Dido also feels empty in his absence. Virgil juxtaposes the wanderings of Aeneas with the path the heart of Dido by writing, “Lost as he is, she’s lost as well, she hears him, sees him” (IV, 103). While Aeneas is considered lost on his journey to fulfill his destiny, Dido is lost in her love for Aeneas, driven mad by her feelings.During the fateful storm that forces Aeneas and Dido to seek shelter in a cave, the tragic fate of the queen is sealed. Virgil begins his description of the event with the two-word phrase “Too late” (IV, 202). The finality of the phrase shows that fate is already decided: Dido is doomed. According to Virgil, the wedding day is more like a funeral: “Primordial Earth and Juno, Queen of Marriage, give the signal and lightning torches flare and the high sky bears witness to the wedding, nymphs on the mountaintops wail out the wedding hymn. This was the first day of her death, the first of grief, the cause of it all” (IV, 209-214). This wedding lacks the typical torches; instead, lightning flashes in the sky. Virgil uses the verb “wail” to describe the nymphs singing the wedding hymn. As “wailing” is usually associated with a sad event, the word is unfit to describe a joyful wedding. Virgil writes out the fate of Dido, stating the inevitable. Once the wedding occurs, it is only a matter of time before Dido dies. The coordination of the nouns “death” and “grief” just after the mention of a “wedding hymn” sharply contrasts the joy of a wedding with the sadness of a funeral, which further summons sympathy in the audience.Once Aeneas heeds the message of Mercury and the will of Jove, the love of Dido comes out in full force. She stoops to both taunting and tears to keep Aeneas with her, but her attempts amount to nothing. Virgil once again compares Dido to prey, running from “Aeneas the hunter, savage in all her nightmares” (IV, 584). The tragic queen “always feels alone, abandoned, always wandering down some endless road, not a friend in sight” (IV, 585-587). Dido loses herself when Aeneas leaves. The wandering direction of the passage reiterates the wandering of Dido down an “endless road.” Her despair leads her to contemplate suicide; Dido cannot live without Aeneas. As at the start of her infatuation, Dido is given no rest, even at night when all others sleep:But not the tragic queen […] torn in spirit, Dido will not dissolve into sleep — her eyes, her mind won’t yield tonight. Her torments multiply, over and over her passion surges back into heaving waves of rage — she keeps on brooding, obsessions roil her heart. (661-666) Once again, Virgil refers to Dido as the tragic queen. He emphasizes the role of fate in her life and in her death. Instead of “dissolving into sleep” and lessening her pain, her passion “multiplies” and “surges.” The word “multiply,” coordinated with “over and over,” demonstrates the building passion inside of Dido. The verbs “surges,” “brooding,” and “roil” give the reader a sense of foreboding, and the “heaving waves of rage” express the emotional turmoil of Dido. Mercury spurs Aeneas on his journey, appearing to him in a dream while the warrior slept peacefully on his ship. The god insists Aeneas leave at once, claiming “woman’s a thing that’s always changing, shifting like the wind” (IV, 710-711). Mercury acts as the voice of Virgil, depicting women as fickle in their love. The punctuation and arrangement of lines further emphasize the idea of change. Dido climbs up on the pyre created from the belongings of Aeneas and proceeds to stab herself. Rumor carries the news, and the city reacts through “sobs, and grief, and the wails of women ringing out through homes, and the heavens echo back the keening din.” The “wails” of the women are similar to the “wails” of the nymphs during the fateful wedding of Dido and Aeneas, once again demonstrating how the wedding was more like a funeral. Virgil only mentions the women mourning, not the men. This implies the emotional instability of women in general, an appeal to emotion and sympathy toward women.Fated from her encounter with the love spell of Cupid, Dido is doomed to die from the day of her wedding. The Trojan sword Dido uses to commit her deed seems fitting; Dido uses the sword, a gift from her lover, to end the pain he caused her. Although she stabs herself, Dido is not set free from her pain until the last line of Book IV, as though to highlight the length and intensity of her pain. In the final two lines, Iris releases Dido from her body and, consequently, from her pain. She can find solace only in death as “the warmth slipped away, the life dissolved in the winds” (IV, 876). Dido does not “dissolve into sleep” (IV, 662), but death eventually becomes her sleep. Intense, powerful love controls Dido and ultimately leads to her death. Indeed, her love grows into an uncontrollable obsession which later morphs into rage and despair at abandonment. Virgil emphasizes the strength of love and the inevitability of her fate throughout Book IV in his use of language to summon sympathy in the reader. Furthermore, the episode of Nisus and Euryalus is one of extreme friendship and devotion to comradeship, two qualities that also clearly evoke sympathy in the audience. In the opening lines, it is clear their friendship is admirable: “Near him stood Euryalus, his comrade” (IX, 239-237). Nisus, wiser in years than Euryalus, is prepared to go on a journey alone in order to prevent the death of the younger, more handsome Euryalus. Euryalus is less courageous; his bravery is characterized as mere hunger for action and honor to such a degree that even Nisus, who marked the path through killing many Rutulians, had to calm him “when Nisus, with few words (for he could sense his comrade was berserk with lust for carnage) stopped him” (IX, 470-472). Although the expedition failed and the two comrades died because of their extreme devotion to one another, Virgil — in his praise: “Fortunate pair! If there be any power within my poetry, no day shall ever erase you from the memory of time” (IX, 592-594), and in the lines of the Trojans weeping: “How much more sad — when they can suddenly make out, impaled, held high, the heads of men known too well by their unhappy comrades” (IX, 625-627) — suggests that these characters were still very much admirable and that their shared death does not fail to create an emotional, poignant event in the epic. Although Euryalus has much devotion to Nisus, a reader cannot help but ask whether Euryalus is wholly devoted to Nisus or more motivated by personal glory since he doesn’t even say his farewells to his mother. When his mother grieves upon witnessing his decapitated head, Virgil seems to ask if it was really worth it: “At once the warmth abandons her poor bones” (IX, 631-632) and “a moan of sorrow passed through all” (IX, 663), thus evoking the sympathy of the audience.Turnus, undoubtedly, is one of the most complex and remarkably strong characters in the Aeneid. He is even introduced by Virgil in an invocation to the muses: “inspire me: I must sing of the slaughter and the deaths that Turnus spread with his swords” (IX, 696-702). Virgil’s tone in the description of him also seems to be very respectful when he uses two powerful similes – namely, an “eagle” and ”wolf of Mars” (IX, 745-752). The inevitability of destiny is portrayed once and for all in Book X when Jupiter allows Juno to alter the events slightly, but urges her to stop and “give up this useless madness” (X, 1105). Virgil creates a sense that even the mighty Jupiter, the father of all gods, feels a little sympathy for the brave Turnus, yet Jupiter is also tired of Juno’s vengeance against the Trojans. Like Dido, Turnus holds his complexity in the fact that he is fated to lose, yet he still continues to fight on the battlefield. Although Turnus is the most probable antagonist, Virgil still allows his audience to feel sympathy for him because a man who knows he will die and yet continues to fight until the very end is indeed heroic, if not more so than Aeneas, who knows he shall at least succeed. Virgil succeeds in creating tension and suspense in the battlefield scenes. Both Dido and Turnus are emotionally passionate; they are driven by immense love, as Turnus desires Lavinia greatly. How can one scorn a man that fights for a woman he loves? Yet love seems to take a back seat to destiny.In due course, there is the fascinating ending in which the readers experience the last sad moments of Turnus’s life. Instead of the epic ending with celebration and victory, it concludes with Aeneas killing Turnus, showing Virgil’s amazing ability to create multi-layered, complex characters in complex situations. Virgil invests Aeneas with flaws and humanity in order to create a real person, but other characters are made real as well. For example, Turnus is not a simple villain since his misdeeds are motivated by his inner flaws: his deep love for Lavinia and his ambition as a fighter on the battlefield. His motivations are not less pure than those of Aeneas. Virgil creates a moment of pity when he is begging on his knees — “then I beg you, pity old Daunus” (XII, 1245-1246) — and although Aeneas has victory, it is not one without a downside or loss. By using these two characters, especially in the final scene, Virgil teaches a realistic, moral lesson: there will always be loss as a consequence of following one’s destiny. Not only have many died, but also the noble hero Aeneas, driven by madness at the sight of Pallas’s sword-belt, lost his mercy in the final moment of victory. Here, Virgil sets out to introduce the theme of justice in the form of revenge, a feeling that most people can relate to and sympathize with.Virgil’s characters are ultimately just like his readers: complex, multilayered humans who deserve sympathy and pity, scorn and praise. They are real people who face many challenges and cannot always make the right decisions because powers of anger, hatred, and revenge sometimes get the better of them. The most powerful message that comes from the Aeneid, I believe, is that all humans have a noble side, and one must try to pursue this side for the greater good, just as Aeneas did to found Rome.
Virgil borrows many stories and themes from the Homeric epics and revises them for the Roman tradition in the Aeneid. Aeneas’ journey in search of the Latium shores parallels Odysseus’ journey to Ithaca, except the latter knows what home he is going to. The war with the Latins is literally a second Trojan War, paralleling the Iliad, only the Trojans win. But both Homeric epics come to a relatively peaceful, definite ending (funeral for Hector, and restored order in Ithaca). In comparison, the Aeneid ends with a violent death, the equivalent of ending as Achilles drags Hector’s body around the wall of Troy or when Odysseus kills all the suitors. One reason for this difference and for the suitability of the ending in the Aeneid is that it has a larger cultural directive than either of the Homeric epics. Homer was never commissioned to speak his plays. More than just a story of heroes, war, and art in its various forms, the Aeneid is also about the founding of Rome. Aeneas killing Turnus at the very close of his story is directly a step toward the founding of Rome and also relates to the reestablishment of Rome under Augustus. Much of the scene where Aeneas kills Turnus can be cast in a positive light. First, Aeneas kills Turnus after seeing wearing the belt he stole off of Pallas, Aeneas’ ally. In this way, he is avenging his friend and being pious, Aeneas’ constant attribute. It is worth noting though, that Aeneas does not say he kills Turnus as pious Aeneas, as he otherwise readily identifies himself, but says, “It is Pallas who strikes, who sacrifices you, who takes/this payment from your shameless blood”(XII.1266,7) Additionally, the scene ends the book on a definitively masculine note. For much of the Aeneid, Aeneas does not appear in the worthy hero status of Achilles or Odysseus. He’s easily distracted from his mission and must be reminded of his purpose repeatedly by the gods. Virgil in turn makes the very enemies who called Aeneas a second Paris look the more feminine party. By killing Turnus, Aeneas can join the ranks of the emotion charged heroes before him, and more importantly, become the great man that Romans of Virgil’s time could actually see founding their great city. The final scene of the Aeneid can also show the dark side of empire. Throughout the epic, many people, unknowing pawns of fate, are crushed don the path to Roman greatness. Most of them are women, Aeneas’ wife Creusa, Dido, Camilla, but armies of young Latin men fall in their war with the Trojans. “was it/ your [Jupiter] will that nations destined to eternal/ peace should have clashed in such tremendous turmoil”, asks Virgil (xii. 678-80). What taints Aeneas’ most classically heroic action even more is the fact that he and Turnus share a connection through pre-Roman heritage. The Latins and the Trojans go on to make up the Romans, making Turnus and Aeneas like brothers; fratricide is generally frowned upon. Also, Aeneas direct compulsion to kill Turnus comes from seeing him with young Pallas’ studded belt. While Virgil’s description of Turnus’ actions “[Pallas] whom Turnus had defeated, wounded, stretched/upon the battlefield” (xii. 1258-60) makes the taking of plunder from defeated enemies seem a gross deed, it is far from unheard of. Aeneas himself does it when he takes armor or weaponry from the Greeks. Whether or not his reason is entirely justified does not explain Aeneas’ uncharacteristically emotional reaction, at least for Roman culture. For most of the epic, Aeneas is successful at the stoic mentality, subverting his emotions for his higher goal, but here Aeneas steps into the space of Achilles, “aflame with rage-his wrath was terrible” (xi.1264), brutally killing an opponent over the loss of a friend.When Aeneas kills Turnus, it provides something deeper than just commentary on the cost of empire or value of stoicism and masculinity. The closing image is reminiscent of the Battle of Actium, also described by Virgil on the shield of Aeneas, the result of which was Augustus Caesar taking sole control over Rome. In this case, Aeneas is analogous to Augustus and Turnus plays the role of Antony. For one, throughout the epic Augustus is prophesized to Aeneas; the two have a cosmic and distant blood connection to start. Aeneas is the founder of Rome and Augustus refounds Rome. Antony does not share blood with Turnus, at least in a significant way, but they do share a character flaw. Both men lose their senses and rationality because of women. Antony loses his senses, and much respect from Romans because of his marriage to the Egyptian Cleopatra. Virgil, who treats most women in a similar way says, “and-shamefully-/behind him follows his Egyptian wife” (viii.894-5) as Antony marches to face Augustus bringing with him monsters and barking gods from the decadent East. Likewise, Turnus was originally the Latin’s best warrior, stubborn, strong, and sane, but he is literally driven wild by sexual longing for Lavinia despite Queen Amata’s plea to keep him from fighting, Turnus is “even keener now for battle”(xii.96). His lust drives him to kill Pallas and leads to his final fatal encounter with Aeneas. Both characters therefore fit their individual roles in the analogy. Furthermore, Aeneas, as mentioned earlier, kills Turnus who is nearly his brother and at least a fellow nearly-Roman. So too, Augustus defeats Antony (who later kills himself) even though the two helped establish the second triumvirate in Rome. But even with the multi-dimensional interpretations and the connection to Augustus, Virgil could have continued his epic to another point. In addition to making the moment infinitely more important by closing the epic with it, he also keeps from having to fill in the rest of Roman history through Augustus. Virgil’s original audience would probably have recognized the illusions in the last scene to the Battle of Actium. Knowing also how Rome was entering into a sort of golden age of peace under Augustus, a similar era of greatness can be applied to Aeneas. The same logic can be worked in the opposite direction. By closing the story of the founding of Rome with a violent death committed by the father of Rome, it lends validation to the violent ascension of Augustus and places greater emphasis on it by casting it as a founding of Rome.
Admirable qualities of men in Virgil’s The Aeneid include bravery, honor, and courage, but a woman’s value is based less on their power, wit and brains and more on their beauty, or lack of beauty. There are many instances within The Aeneid where both male and female characters value a woman based on how beautiful she is. Although he is the hero of the epic, it can be argued that Aeneas follows patriarchal suit in equating feminine beauty with value by analyzing his three wives and how long their respective relationships were. Similarly, many of the female figures, other than his wives, that shape and help Aeneas through his journey exist in a society where beauty was a priority for both mortal and immortal women. Often there are political reasons to why decisions are made, but beauty still remains an overlooked subplot in The Aeneid The first instance of beauty as power can be found in the opening pages of The Aeneid. Aeneas’ journey was prompted by the anger of the goddess Juno. Her rage was based on two determinants: vanity and favoritism. Virgil describes how Aeneas was destined to destroy Carthage, a city favored by Juno, in Book I. Within this description on lines 38-44, there is an allusion to a past judgment made by Paris in parentheses. “The causes of [Juno’s] bitterness, her sharp and savage hurt, had not yet left her spirit; for deep within her mind lie stored the judgment of Paris and the wrong done to her scorned beauty” (I.39-43). This coy parenthetical addition calls attention to itself declaring that there is more than one reason why Juno is angry. Juno’s anger is not simply based on politics and favoritism; it is also because of vanity. Paris, a Trojan prince, was given the task of selecting the most beautiful between Juno, Venus and Minerva. When Paris declared Venus as the fairest of the three, Juno became undeniably bitter with Paris. Paris, only one miniscule fraction of the Trojan empire, became representative of his whole nation, and after Juno was not dubbed the fairest of the Goddesses, she directed her bitterness to anyone with a Trojan bloodline. Unfortunately for Aeneas, he was 1) the son of Venus, who could be considered the source of Juno’s envy, 2) a Trojan, 3) destined to ruin Carthage. Juno’s anger toward Paris reveals that she puts a great deal of value in beauty, while her displacement of anger to Aeneas shows her pettiness. In the world of The Aeneid, beauty equals clout. Juno’s drive and plans to sabotage Aeneas’ journey to found the Roman Empire was based on both politics and vanity. Another example of the importance of beauty can be seen through the wives of Aeneas. Within The Aeneid, the physical traits of Creusa, Aeneas’ first wife, and Dido, the second, are never discussed. Creusa was obviously loved by Aeneas, because he mourns her loss when recounting the events after the Trojan War in Book II with Queen Dido. However all of Aeneas’ references to Creusa exemplified her helplessness, loyalty and tragic death, but her appearance is never discussed. One could assume that it is a given that Aeneas would choose a good looking wife, but a definite argument can be made that the lack of mention of her physical appearance is worth taking a second look at. This lack subliminally signals that Creusa’s appearance is not worth mentioning, which is odd, because when Virgil describes his characters, a lot of physical detail is usually involved. Virgil does away with this character, because it is imperative that Aeneas moves on from Creusa to Dido, because this is a part of his journey. But it is interesting that a physically faceless character is so easily disposed. Perhaps it is because Creusa is a minor character, but the equally faceless description of Dido follows suit. Like Creusa, Dido is not described using physical characteristics. Instead, she is described as having a kind spirit, “gracious mind,” brave, a loyal wife, a just queen, outspoken, and luckless. She is considered Aeneas’ equivalent, if not superior, is admired by her followers, and she is excessively hospitable toward Aeneas, which is a trait cherished in this time period. Her virtues are penned onto the pages like a list, but Virgil never mentions her physical appearance. There are two instances when readers are given a slight hint to what Dido may look like. The first is when Virgil equates her to Diana, goddess of the hunt, but even this is problematic. When Paris judges the most beautiful between the goddesses, Diana does not win the competition. Diana is not even included. Diana is known for her gracious behavior and mind, not her beauty, much like Dido. The second time Dido’s physical self was somewhat described takes place in the moments that culminated to her suicide. The closest image to beauty is when her hair is described as having gold ornament in Book IV, but her actual hair, which could be a potential emblem of beauty, is never described. The absence of the description of Dido’s appearance is odd. Perhaps it is because Dido’s virtues outweigh her physical appearance. It could also suggest that her physical appearance is too bland and not worth mentioning. Reading between the lines helps identify why these characters, who Aeneas’ obviously loves, become casualties in this storyline. The fact remains that these Creusa and Dido, two “faceless” characters, exit Aeneas’ life so that Lavinia, a character coincidently only known for her physical beauty, could enter his life and become his final wife and the queen of a great empire. Lavinia, unlike Aeneas’ previous wives, is described as beautiful. Aeneas’ attraction to Lavinia works on a political and superficial level. Although the main reasons that Lavinia is sought after are based on politics and a prophecy that she will be both Aeneas’ future wife and the queen of the Roman Empire, her beauty is also emphasized and given immense value. Despite being an important figure in Aeneas’ life and the prophesized queen of the great Roman Empire, Lavinia is not given a speaking role. Any chance of wit and intelligence are pushed aside, and her beauty becomes the focus of her character. Lavinia’s blush is paralleled to a “kindled fire,” stained “Indian ivory,” and “white lilies mixed with many roses” (XII.90-94). The flower imagery used to describe Lavinia is perhaps the most obvious signal of her beauty. Her femininity is emphasized through the use of “lilies” and “roses.” But the other images are particularly interesting. For example the “ivory” reference promotes delicacy. Even more interesting is how Lavinia’s blush is not equivalent to a raging fire. Instead it is controlled and “kindled.” Because Lavinia is the destined queen, this suggests that a controlled woman is a valued woman. It is undeniable that Lavinia’s worth to Aeneas is based on politics and prophecy, but it does not seem like a coincidence that Lavinia’s traits parallel feminine qualities admired in Virgil’s time. She is beautiful, controlled and silenced. Beauty is also shown as value in The Aeneid by describing the polar opposite of beauty. The Harpies, characters best known for their unfortunate physical appearance, are considered worthless. To be a beautiful woman is to be valued. To be an ugly woman is to be of no value. Interestingly, the Harpies are the only group in The Aeneid to be composed of solely women. They are women of the underworld who are described as foul and birdlike. Despite being immortal, they are shunned from the divine Gods and Goddesses. Aeneas’ men confused these creatures for goddesses, because their femininity was constantly being emphasized. However, their femininity was completely different from other female characters in The Aeneid. It was described in an extremely negative light. ““These birds may wear the face of virgins, but their bellies drip with a disgusting discharge, and their hands are talons, and their feature pale and famished” (III.284-287). Historically, paleness is often associated with delicacy or aristocracy, but this is not the case with the Harpies. The Harpies are pale from hunger, as if they are eager to suck the life and energy out of another being. The belly areas of the Harpies are also described with great detail. Normally in literature, the female stomach area is celebrated, because it is often a reference to fertility and the beauty of birth. Instead, pus drips and reeks from the mid-area of the Harpies suggesting the ability to pollute and taint, which gives Virgil’s audience an extremely negative perception of the “ugly woman.” They are perhaps the ugliest group of creatures that Aeneas encounters and are considered worthless. The Harpies, or the “ugly women” of The Aeneid are exiled rejects of the immortal world and a threat to Aeneas and his men. Like Lavinia’s beauty gives her value, the Harpies lack of beauty hinders their worth greatly. Although beauty is not a main concern of The Aeneid, it is a noticeable subplot, which develops itself through its female characters. Lavinia is an example of what the ideal Roman queen should be. Although Virgil does not blatantly say that beauty is essential, the fact that Lavinia’s physical appearance and political worth are her only mentionable characteristics is significant. The main reason behind Juno’s anger toward Aeneas is based on politics and favoritism. But there is another reason behind her drive to wreck Aeneas’ journey that is less obvious. Her bitterness is also due to her jealousy, a result from her great desire to be considered the most beautiful of the goddesses as if the title would give her more power or clout. Beauty is both important in the mortal and immortal world. Women who lack beauty are pushed aside, and women who are the opposite of beautiful, such as the Harpies, are seen as rejects of the world. While male characters, like Aeneas, are admired for heroism, beauty is the focus of his female counterparts. Beauty is a reoccurring theme in The Aeneid, which gives readers insight into the undeniably sexist Latin world, which Virgil was apart of.