Discuss the Role of the Supernatural in the Aeneid

3022 Words Feb 27th, 2013 13 Pages
Discuss the role of the supernatural in Aeneid 3

In ancient poetry, gods were people too; early epic was history but a history adorned by myth. This fantastical, mythical element came via the gods, envisaged as anthropomorphic deities. In Virgil’s Aeneid these gods function in epic as literary vehicles and as characters no less detailed and individual than the people in the poem. In this world where the mortal and the supernatural not only coexist but interweave with one another, the Aeneid follows the mortal Trojans as their world moves from war to peace and as they attempt, often unsuccessfully, to overcome the supernatural obstacles put in their path.

Before any attempt can be made to discuss religion in the Aeneid Book 3, a little
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Virgil ensures that the reader believes his initial claim that these are “no prodigy more vile than these, nor plague more pitiless ere rose by wrath divine from Stygian wave” (“tristius haud illis monstrum, nec saevior ulla pestis et ira deum Stygiis sese extulit undis”) and also appreciates this, just one of many, new hardships for the ever “enduring” (“duri”) and ever suffering Trojans. On many occasions, Virgil almost seems to be simply showing off as he shows how the divine elements can be deadly, terrifying but often beautiful too. For example from lines 173-180 when he describes how Aeneas “marvelled” (“attonitus”) at the “heavenly presences so vocal and bright, for it was not sleep but face to face I deemed I could discern each contenance august and hoyl brow, wach mantled head; and from my body I ran a cold sweat of awe” (“visis et voce deorum—nec sopor illud erat, sed coram adgnoscere voltusvelatasque comas praesentiaque ora videbar; tum gelidus toto manabat corpore sudor corripio e stratis corpus, tendoque supinas ad caelum cum voce manus, et munera libo intemerata focis”) the reader cannot help but to be drawn into his sense of wonder, helping us to understand the faith and dedication of a man who is willing to follow
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