A Power Of Fate And Justice In “The Aeneid” By Virgil
Virgil does an outstanding job at making the Aeneid filled with contradictory dynamics. He creates a drama that stresses countermotion to the series of events that are set to transpire, in a way that will not allow them travel in a straightforward line. These events add hurdles that allow the intensity of the epic to increase in a way that parallels many other works by the Greeks or Romans. These include either divine intervention by gods and goddesses who took an active role in participating in mortal events (such as in the Odyssey), or simply by the unavoidable force that is Fate (such as in Oedipus the King). The Aeneid employs both of these motives of powers which are supplied by Fate, who ordained Aeneas to be the founder of Rome, and Juno who is persistent in making Aeneas suffer in his journey to Italy. Juno, as the antagonist in the epic, is the main retarder of advancement in the Aeneid. She, in her bitterness and perverseness, is the divine opposer to Aeneas who is fate-driven in his journey to found Rome.
There is no denying that Juno plays a vital role in the epic and her wrath, through cause and effect, is responsible for the main actions and interests in the Aeneid. For these reasons, I wish to dive deep into analysis and synthesis on a particular passage in the Aeneid which I believe truly displays Juno’s character and actions in a way that can relate to the work as a whole. In Book XII, Juno claims, “Mars had the power to kill the giant race of Lapiths, and the Father of Gods himself gave up old Calydon to Diana’s wrath: and what great sins brought Calydon or Lapiths justice so rough? How differently with me, the great consort of Jove, who nerved myself to leave no risk unventured, lent myself to every indignity. I am defeated and by Aeneas. Well, if my powers fall short, I need not falter over asking for help wherever help may lie. If I can sway no heavenly hearts I’ll rouse the world below. It will not be permitted me – so be it – to keep a man from rule in Italy; by changeless fate Lavinia waits his bride. And yet to drag it out, to pile delay upon delay in these great matters – that I can do: to destroy both countries’ people, that I can do.” This passage deals heavily with the theme of fate, divine intervention, and justice which connects it to the rest of the work as a whole, likewise Virgil employs this passage to persuade readers to show how justice shows has a double standard by using very deliberate arrangements, comparisons, relationships, and testimonies to support Juno’s argument that she is being treated unjust in this well-crafted passage.
While the passage outlined above is extremely dense in information and ideas, there are three unique themes that I believe are bounded in this passage which play an enormous role in the work as a whole. The power of fate is one that in particular conflicts with Juno in the passage. She, as the divine opposer towards Aeneas and the Trojans, is in direct opposition to fate which has declared that Aeneas will succeed in traveling to Italy and founding Rome. Juno states, “It will not be permitted me – so be it – to keep a man from rule in Italy; by changeless fate Lavinia waits his bride.” Virgil has given Juno extreme base human emotions that seem to go beyond that of human capacity, she is undoubtedly obsessed with her desire for revenge where she cares little for the will of the fates and instead is hell bent on making Aeneas suffer as much as possible. Juno proclaims, “And yet to drag it out, to pile delay upon delay in these great matters- that I can do: to destroy both countries’ people, that I can do.” Virgil makes it clear that these two themes of fate and divine intervention, have a direct relationship with each other. And when it comes to the queen of the gods, Juno, this relationship is always in opposition towards one another, fighting for control and power in our hero’s journey.
The theme of justice is one that is prominent in Greek and Roman mythology, and this passage dives heavily into this subject as well. In writing this passage Virgil is attempting to persuade his readers into changing their stance on Juno and her relation to justice. Throughout the epic, we believed Juno to be an unjust being whose goal was to make people suffer for the sake of making their journey difficult. But the fact of the matter is that the divine hold justice in a different light than mortals do. In Juno’s mind, she was the one that was being treated unjustly. She was being held to a different standard than the other gods, as she claimed in the passage, “Mars had the power to kill the giant race of Lapiths, and the Father of Gods himself gave up old Calydon to Diana’s wrath: and what great sins brought Calydon or Lapiths justice so rough? How differently with me, the great consort of Jove, who nerved myself to leave no risk unventured, lent myself to every indignity.” The gods are being hypocritical when they shame Juno and deny her the power to do as she pleases with the Trojans, when they have done similar acts to her in the past and gotten their way. Juno, who’s the wife of the king of the gods, has felt nothing but shame, ridicule, and undeserved treatment in her pursuit of revenge. The more she tries to express her power, the more defeat and agony she receives. Virgil is masterfully exposing that justice is as unfairly given in the divine world as it is in the mortal one. In doing this Virgil is attempting to persuade the readers into believing that Juno is as much the victim as Aeneas is, if not more.
While this claim is certainly bold, Virgil uses many different techniques that assist him to persuade readers into agreeing with Juno’s beliefs. Virgil very deliberately orders his sentences to best display Juno as the victim in her story. She starts this passage by using testimonies and examples of gods who have done acts that compare to her own actions in this epic; by drawing comparisons to herself and the other gods such Mars and the “father of the gods”, she is free to compare her treatment in the divine world to that of the other gods and thus shows the readers the negative relationship between herself and the other gods. She complains how gods use a double standard in the divine world, as she is ridiculed and oppressed by the gods who have done the very thing that she is being scorned for. This hypocrisy connects with readers who have gone through similar experiences and persuades them to change their view and feel apologetic towards Juno. Juno ends this passage by proclaiming how she will keep making the Trojans lives as difficult as possible, despite the obstacles in her way. Having this section be after her remarks about injustice pushes the reader to see her actions as a form of defiance to her oppression and mockery by the other gods. Virgil is attempting to do the impossible and persuade readers into not only feeling remorseful towards Juno but actually approving of her actions towards the Trojans. Virgil intentionally uses language and tone such as “lent myself to every indignity” and “If I can sway no heavenly hearts I’ll rouse the world below” to show to the readers that Juno’s determinism and persistence in the face of defeat is something we should all be supportive of.
I truly believe that this is one of the most important passages in the entire epic. This was the moment that Juno realized that although she lost the war, she wasn’t going down without a fight. This led to a shift in tone that was quite startling, as she goes on to release furies unto the world and meddles with the battlefield in ways that we haven’t seen before. I believe that this tone shift from Juno had as much to do with her sense of anger and betrayal as it had to do with her feeling of hopelessness and desperateness. Without this passage Juno never realizes how alone she is in the divine world, she never realizes how unfair she is being treated. This passage shows the readers plenty of things but hidden in it all is the breaking point for Juno. She is ready to risk it all in her attempt to break out from the ridicule, shame, and double standards that she has been receiving all along. She might not be able to change the outcome, but she realizes she can get some revenge for the injustice she has been dealt throughout The Aeneid.
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Virgil does an outstanding job at making the Aeneid filled with contradictory dynamics. He creates a drama that stresses countermotion to the series of events that are set to transpire, […]