Is Virgil's Aeneid an Anti-War Poem?
Virgil opens the Aeneid' with the words ARMA virumque cano ( I sing of arms and of men). The central role that war plays in this Roman epic is made apparent from the very first word of the Aeneid' by the emphatic placing of the word arma at the very beginning of the poem. A fair chunk of Virgil's Aeneid' is set on the battle field but its violent and gory descriptions of death and its frequent battles alone cannot make this poem an anti-war poem. Virgil does not merely use the notion of war to further his plot but deals with many types and aspects of war throughout the entirety of his book; mythological wars; recent wars; their effects; their causes; and often one is able to find Virgil's own …show more content…
This Augustan reference comes at the end of a passage prophesising Rome's future starting with Aeneas' war against the Latins and leading up to this reference and so it is implied that Augustus is merely continuing what our protagonist first embarked upon centuries earlier. When reading this epic, we hope that Aeneas eventually finds peace in Latium and his war-related sufferings come to an end. Therefore to a Roman reader this comparison may have encouraged them to express this same desire for harmony in their own world. Augustus wanted Romans to believe that he symbolised peace and a better way of life and so by including a reference to ultimate peace among many prophecies that had already come to pass, Virgil makes Augustus' goal seem all the more possible.
A clearer example of Virgil's use of myth to influence Roman readers' views on situations relevant to their time, is the use of "the second half of the Aeneid' as a pre-enactment of the Social War" in Italy. The Social War would still have remained fresh in many Romans' minds and so even without any outside influence, many would have probably already been hoping for peace and calm. The echo of the Social War in the battles at Latium would have only refreshed many readers' already existent desire for a life without conflict. Aeneas is eventually successful in ending his war and bringing about a temporary peace. In book six, he is shown the spirits
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2)”One view of Augustus went like this: filial duty and national crisis had been merely pretexts...After that, there had certainly been peace, but it was a bloodstained peace”-Tacitus, Annals
While the ending of The Aeneid might be seen to have multiple significances, I believe that Virgil ended the poem the way he did to make a statement about the use of power to achieve dominance and rulership: namely, that a lust for nothing but power will ultimately consume. The poem ends with Turnus and Aeneas facing each other one-on-one on the battlefield. However, it should be noted that there are fundamental differences between the philosophies of the two combatants which should first be grasped to fully understand the significance of Aeneas’s actions in ending the war. Before the battle between Aeneas and Turnus begins, the reader gets a glimpse of Turnus’s philosophy regarding the stakes of the battle. “Either I’ll send, with my hand, this deserter of Asia, this Dardan, / Down to the Pit of the Damned—and the Latins can sit down and watch while / My lone sword is refuting the charge of dishonor we all share; / Or you [Latinus] must share my defeat. And Lavinia must go as this man’s wife.” (12.14-17) Turnus believes that in war, there is no possible outcome but for one leader and his entire army to be wiped out in the other side’s pursuit of honor and glory. Aeneas’s views on the battle are displayed earlier in the poem, when he journeys down into the underworld and is instructed in Trojan battle philosophy by his deceased father Anchises. “You, who are Roman, recall how to govern mankind with your power. / That will be your special ‘Arts’: the enforcement of peace as
Augustus Caesar: According to Kline’s translation, Virgil introduces Augustus Creaser in verse 791, “This is the man, this is him, whom you so often hear promised you, Augustus Caesar, son of the Deified, who will make a Golden Age again in the fields where Saturn once reigned, and extend the empire beyond the Libyans and the Indians…” (Virgil VI.791-795) Virgil in this passage introduces Augustus Caesar and tells us of his great expansion of territory during his reign.
In Julia Hejduk’s article, “Jupiter’s Aeneid: Fama and Imperium”, she defends her position against other scholars in her discipline, that the Jupiter that Virgil depicts in his epic poem, “the Aeneid” is concerned solely with power (imperium) and adulation (fama), and that he cannot be trusted to act unless driven by others praising these values or desecrating them. Her argument extends the callous descriptions and actions of Jupiter to those of Augustus Caesar. In summary, Hejduk argues that through depicting Jupiter in this way, Virgil criticizes both Augustus and his values, and as an extension the values the entire Roman Empire has been built upon. He emphasizes how war is depicted as more significant than peace or happiness since the founding of Rome. Virgil’s
As a work written by a Roman about the Romans, The Aeneid is the product of the Roman perspective. It reveals what the Romans thought themselves to be, and describes where and what the Romans believed they should be. This is shown in the text through vaticinium ex eventu, prophecies describing events the author already has knowledge of. In The Aeneid, these prophecies are respected as destiny by both man and gods, and even when either attempts to contradict them, they immutably fail. The Romans not only desired to be the masters of the world 's peoples, they believed they were destined and obligated to. In writing their own destiny, the Romans envisioned their ultimate success, but not without realistically predicting pain and grief along their path. When Anchises grants Aeneas a glimpse of the Trojans ' fate, he also describes the Roman view of their Manifest Destiny: their justified and inevitable expansion in spite of individual loss.
Virgil opens the ‘Aeneid’ with the words ARMA virumque cano ( I sing of arms and of men). The central role that war plays in this Roman epic is made apparent from the very first word of the ‘Aeneid’ by the emphatic placing of the word arma at the very beginning of the poem. A fair chunk of Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’ is set on the battle field but its violent and gory descriptions of death and its frequent battles alone cannot make this poem an anti-war poem. Virgil does not merely use the notion of war to further his plot but deals with many types and aspects of war throughout the entirety of his book; mythological wars; recent wars; their effects; their causes; and often one is
In Book Four, Virgil describes how Dido, utterly heartbroken by Aeneas’ desertion, prays to the gods to curse him (TA: 12.973-4): … let him be plagued in war by a nation proud in arms, torn from his borders, wrenched from Iulus’ embrace, let him grovel for help and watch his people die a shameful death… may he never enjoy his realm… let him die before his day, unburied on some desolate beach. In this instance, Dido’s prophecy does not come to pass in the epic although there is an anxiety created for the reader that this fate is a possibility for Aeneas. However ‘The Punic Wars’, which broke out between Rome and Carthage in the 3rd and 2nd Centuries B.C. (Lazenby, 1996: XV) would seem to be the fulfillment of the curse Dido places on Aeneas and his future when he abandons her and sails to Italy to fulfill his fate. The internal failure of Dido’s curse reminds us however that Aeneas is a slave to an altogether more important and powerful prophecy: the prophecy of Rome.
Prophecies are very important to Virgil’s The Aeneid. Early on, Virgil does not hide what will happen, but instead, he allows the reader insight through many prophecies. In the first few lines, Juno makes the statement “that generations born of Trojan blood would one day overthrow her Tyrian walls.” (32). In predicting this, she allows us, the reader, to understand that all of the characters knows what is happening and it is just a matter of time before the Trojans will take over Carthage. The prophecy Virgil projects through Juno is not only a prophecy seen in the book, but Virgil also wants the reader to acknowledge that this prophecy is a representation of what will happen to Rome in the future.
Rome was experiencing a great deal of internal turmoil during the period when Virgil wrote the Aeneid. There was somewhat of an identity crisis in Rome as it had no definitive leader, or history. With the ascension of Augustus to the throne, Rome was unified again. Still, it had no great book. The Greeks had their Odyssey, giving them a sense of history and of continuity through time. A commonly held view is that the Aeneid attempts to provide the Romans with this sense of continuity or roots. There is a great deal of textual evidence to support this interpretation. Virgil makes numerous references to the greatness of Rome through "ancient" prophecies. Clearly, the entire poem is an account of
Before Augustus came to power, Civil war had ravished the basic principle of the Roman people. Piety, the warning to “fulfil our duties towards our country, our parents, or others connected with us by ties of blood” was undermined by faction. The duty towards country, parents and relatives was less of a bond because faction determined duty rather that Pietas. Thus Rome, a city founded in pietas, was that foundational principle. internal faction undermined the principles of pietas and corrupted its role in the city. Rome needed a moral reform towards pietas; Rome needed a refocus on the roots of the empire, its duty towards its ancestors, and unity based in pietas. Commissioned by Augustus, Virgil constructs the Aeneid so that it portrays the cruciality of pietas by redefining Greek epic heroism to include pietas. Each comparason of aeneas to another greek hero emphasises the pietas within him, showing how he is better because of it and combining the heroism of all the Greek heroes into Aeneas. By doing this, virgil shows that to unify Rome through pietas is to harness Rome’s power. Thus, Virgil reveals to the Romans a virtue which allows the individual Roman citizen embody and partake in the glory of Rome.
‘Why did she drive a man famous for his piety to such endless hardship and such suffering?’ [line 11] virgil lets us know that Aeneas is not even at fault but the queen of the gods has such hatred for him.
Thanks to Neptune, though, they are only thrown off course, and Venus assures that they will not be harmed in Carthage. At times in the Aeneid, it seems as if the story is less about the deeds of the mortal characters than about the bickering of the gods, who continuously disrupt or manipulate events on Earth. The one common theme, though, is that fate always comes true. Aeneas is destined to settle in Italy, and nothing can prevent this. Jupiter sees to it that his overall plan will come to pass by helping out Venus.
Aeneas is a man who cares more about the community than his own desires, which is an essential Roman characteristic. When Troy is falling to the Greeks, Aeneas has a “burning desire / to avenge Troy and make [Helen] pay for her sins,” (Aen. 2.673-674) but he knows that there would be “no heroic name / in killing a woman,” (Aen. 2.682-683) so he decides to restrain himself. Aeneas can contain his strong desire to kill Helen because he realizes it would not be beneficial to his community because it would only cause grief and that grief would lead to further complications. This worry for how the community would be affected by his actions conveys how pietas can restrain personal passions so that nobody is harmed at the hands of self-interest alone.
Virgil’s the Aeneid follows the founder of Rome, Aeneas, following the fall of Troy. Through his exploration of themes such as power, warfare, and duty, Virgil attempts to illustrate the glory of Rome. This is seen throughout the epic through the presentation of imperialism, a characteristic of Rome that would have been highly valued by its citizens. We see this presented in Book 6 when Aeneas travels to the underworld, “under his auspices, watch, my son, our brilliant Rome will extend her empire far and wide as the earth, her spirit high as Olympus.” Here, Virgil alludes to Rome’s ability to grow through conquering other nations thus functioning as a form of glorification of imperialism, which would have likely satisfied Caesar’s request.
Ultimately, Levi-Strauss’s approach to this myth just focuses on the Roman’s embrace of blood relations over voluntary associations and the demonization of the latter. Of course, this interpretation fails to mention any sort of detail that would describe the implications Aeneas’s choice and his relationship with Dido leaving the reader with a partial analysis of the myth.