Fitful and Changing: Femininity in Virgil's Aeneid

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As a child, I was fascinated by Greek mythology and history, and I made it my business in elementary school to read as much as possible about the subject, including the outstanding stories and the pantheon of gods presented. I thought of them as fantastic, supernatural tales with fitful gods and brave heroes, and I never stopped to consider that the mythologies could be representative of the cultural views and habits of the Greeks, specifically regarding gender roles. One such representaton is Virgil's epic Aeneid, which contains depictions of women in positions of power, and also characterizes these women as irrational, emotional to the point of hysteria, and consequently, unfit rulers. Historically, much information about the role of…show more content…
Once Aeneas is rather harshly reminded of his duty, he apparently snaps back into his role as a founder of cities rather than a role of a tame husband (in Mercury's words), and he successfully fights down his emotions and makes a clean break from Dido with no long lasting ill effects on his psyche. Dido, on the other hand, is first enraged and incredibly bitter, then desperate, and finally, crazed by passion to the point of suicide. She finds herself unable to function any longer as a successful builder of Carthage, and her honor has been tainted by her affair with Aeneas to the point where she cannot see a future for herself as a ruler. She can no longer command any respect from her people or other neighboring rulers, and in her pain, she sets up a funeral pyre for herself out of Aeneas' possessions. Here again we find the emotions of women bringing them to extreme lows as Dido's lost passion consumes her, not only spiritually, but physically in her suicidal bonfire. However, this negative portrayal of women also extends to the immortal women in the Aeneid, specifically, the goddess Juno. As the wife and sister of Jove, she wields a great deal of power and influence, especially in the life of Aeneas, who she attempts to foil at every turn. She feels protective of Carthage, and she holds a deep seated grudge against him as the fated eventual founder of Rome, which is also fated to destroy Carthage. As a goddess, we can imply that

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