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Transcript
Virgil’s Roman Epic: The
Aeneid
Ch. 19
Virgil
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Publius Vergilius Maro (70-19 BC)
Supporter of Augustus regime
Victim of civil wars (his family estate was
lost)
Wrote 3 works:
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Eclogues (aka Bucolics)
Georgics
Aeneid
Aeneid: Significant Themes
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Greek Connection
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Hoping to elevate Latin literature, Virgil wrote
works in conscious imitation of Greeks
Georgics – imitation of Hesiod’s Works and Days
 Aeneid – imitation of Homer’s Odyssey (Aeneid IVI) and Iliad (Aeneid VII-XII)
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Aeneas is a character in Homer’s Iliad – and was
destined to lead Trojans to new home in the West
Aeneid: Significant Themes
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Historicizing of Myth
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The story set in the mythic past connected to
the historical reality of Rome
Aeneas sees Roman heroes yet to be born in
Aeneid VI
 Aeneas visits site of Rome (still farmland) and gets
shield with scenes of Roman history in Aeneid VIII.
 Aeneas’ dalliance with Dido in Aeneid I-IV recalls
Rome’s greatest foreign threat -- Carthage
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Aeneid: Significant Themes
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Role of the city
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City allows for culture to bloom
City’s boundaries must be maintained
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Dido’s forgetting her role as ruler of Carthage is a
cautionary tale (and as temptress keeping Aeneas
from his task, she calls to mind Cleopatra)
City (Rome) has job to do – spread peace and
culture by subduing outlaw realms
Aeneid: Significant Themes
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Roman Hero
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Hero is patriot, working for his group or state,
not for himself
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Aeneas fits this role; his opponent, Turnus, does
not
Hero does not need the reward – doing right
by the state is reward enough
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Aeneas will not see Rome, and will live only 3
years after the conclusion of the epic
Aeneas: the Exemplary Roman
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Aeneas demonstrates pietas
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He demonstrates disciplina
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He accepts his destiny, even when painful
He loves Dido, but leaves her because it is his
duty
He does not give in to bloodlust as do some
of his foes
But in Aeneid XII, he does display rage
Women in the Aeneid
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Creusa, the good wife, willingly disappears
so Aeneas can be free to marry Lavinia
Dido, the queen of Carthage, displays
many noble qualities, but gives in to an
irresistible passion – loses reason
Lavinia, Aeneas’ wife to be, willing to
marry Aeneas, though the war caused her
family so much pain
Two moms: Thetis and Venus
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Thetis does all she can to keep her son
from dying – she would rather he have no
glory, but live…
Venus is willing to let Aeneas suffer, so
that Rome will rise
Other figures, who represent
irrationality
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Juno, still motivated by hatred of Trojans,
and love of Carthage
Amata, Queen of the Latins, who sides
with Turnus against Aeneas and her
husband
Juno will ultimately submit. Irrational
humans who stand in the way of Rome,
die
Gods and Human Fate
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Jupiter, though he is not omniscient, has
inside information about Rome, a city that
will continue to rise, and never fall
The pii (“loyal” or “dutiful”) submit to their
part in the destiny of Rome; the others
resist, though resistance is futile.
Aeneas’ trip to Underworld
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Goes to see Anchises, his father, thus
demonstrating pietas
Anchises shows him parade of future Roman
heroes
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His destiny is not his alone, but that of Rome itself
Is this meant ironically?
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Aeneas and the Sibyl come back through the Gate of
Ivory (the portal of false dreams) – is Rome’s destiny
a dream gone wrong?
Final Battle
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Aeneas kills Turnus in the last lines of the
poem in a fit of rage
Does his final act, that of unreasoning
hatred, suggest a criticism?
Must he get rid of Turnus, who is like
Achilles – an old-style hero focused on
himself?