Culture Analysis: Virgil

Culture Analysis: Virgil

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Culture Analysis Paper 3: Virgil

Within the selected reading, there are quite a few major and minor characters, those most notable being : Juno (Mack 473), Aeneas (Mack 475), Venus (Mack 475), Jupiter (Mack 478), Ascanius (Mack 479), Dido (Mack 477), Achatës (Mack 478), Ulysses (Mack 483), Minerva (Mack 490), Laocoön (Mack 490), Sinon (Mack 485), Hector (Mack 491), Pyrrhus (Mack 498), Priam (Mack 476), Anchises (Mack 504), Anna (Mack 508), Mercury (Mack 512), Deiphobë (Mack 529), Turnus (Mack 537) , Diomedes (Mack 477), Vulcan (Mack 536), Pallas (Mack 477), and Juturna (Mack 541) . Each lived within the time period of ancient Rome’s foundation, with the theme of the story centering on men and women who struggled intensely to build a mighty nation. As for the genre of the story, it is categorized as an epic poem, written in dactylic hexameter, which reads as a dramatic narrative.
In Book 1, Virgil, the author of the Aeneid, called upon the muse (goddess of poetry and inspiration) to aid him in telling the story of Aeneas (Mack 473-475). The epic began with the Trojan fleet sailing from Sicily, seven years after the fall of Troy. The goddess Juno goads the god of wind, Aeolus, to unleash a great storm on the travelers, causing their ships to wreck near the city of Carthage. Though the goddess Venus appealed to the god Jupiter for their lives, he assured her in prophecy of what would be their glorious future. Shortly thereafter, Venus, appearing to her son Aeneas disguised as a Carthaginian huntress, told him of Queen Dido and the settlers from Tyre who had formed the colony at Carthage, surrounded by potentially hostile peoples.

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Shrouded by a shield of invisibility by his mother, Aeneas and scouting party led by the visible Ilioneus observed the temple under construction. Upon making her acquaintance, Dido reassured and warmly welcomed Aeneas (after reappearing) and his fellow travelers to her budding nation. Meanwhile, Venus arranged for her son Cupid, to take the form of Aeneas' son Ascanius, so as to cause Aeneas and Dido to fall in love, thereby ensuring his safety. As the festivities progressed throughout the night, Dido became increasingly enamored with her guest of honor, Aeneas (Mack 473-482).
In Book 2, Aeneas recalled tale of the Trojan Horse and the fall of Troy at Dido's request. Aeneas told of a captured Greek named Sinon, who misleadingly informed the Trojans that the horse was intended to appease the goddess Minerva, following their attack on her temple. Laocoön, a priest who spears the horse in his zeal to prove its dubious intent, is summarily eaten by two serpents, along with his sons. Seeing this as a sign of anger by Minerva, the Trojans breached their wall and moved the ill-fated horse inside the city limits. When night came, the Greeks, having made it seem earlier as if they were departing, instead sailed back to the shore. Sinon then opened the horse's hatch, allowing the hidden Greek death squad within to spill out into the city. Meanwhile, a vision of the fallen warrior Hector appeared to Aeneas as he slept, warning him to flee the impending destruction of Troy, and to relocate the Trojans to a new land. With the palace under heavy attack, King Priam is brutally slaughtered by Pyrrhus, the son of the warrior, Achilles. While searching for his family, Aeneas happened upon a chance meeting with Helen; seeing her as the root of Troy's destruction, he wished to kill her outright, though Venus intervened in her favor, sparing her life. While evacuating his family from their pursuers, Anchises (Aeneas' father) refused to flee, but is persuaded by a divine portent appearing over the head of Ascanius, Aeneas' son. Taking that supernatural event as a sign from the gods, Aeneas and his family continued their flight from Troy. Though Aeneas' wife Creusus somehow became separated from the group and perished, her spirit came to him and foretold of his destiny as the progenitor of a great nation (Mack 483-508).
In Book 6, Aeneas sought out the sibyl Deiphobë at Apollo's temple. Upon reaching her, Deiphobë foretold of the impending war and the trials to come. Aeneas asked of her to help him see his father in the underworld to obtain guidance. After obtaining a golden bough to allow his entrance, proceeded into the abyss, witnessing horrible fiends and tortured souls. After Aeneas encountered several old friends and enemies as he ventured on, he discovered Dido, the woman he scorned in Carthage. Only able to offer her excuses for abandoning her, she turned away from him in disgust to instead find her former husband. Aeneas also met with Deiophobus, the Helen's third husband; it was then revealed how Helen actually betrayed Troy, leading to its fall. Aeneas also learned of Tartarus, a place of eternal suffering and punishment for those found guilty of foul depravities. Reaching the threshold of Elysium, the dwelling place of the righteous, Aeneas offered the golden bough to enter. After a seemingly long journey, he finally reached his father. While inquiring about the nature of Elysium, Aeneas learned that spirits long passed await reincarnation after drinking the waters of the river Lethe, which erases memories. Lastly, Anchises foretold of Rome's founders, its great rulers and its contributions to government. Instilled with confidence, Aeneas left the underworld and reemerged nearly ready to fulfill his destiny (Mack 529-536).
In Book 8, Aeneas finally received from Venus the great arms of Vulcan that would be necessary for victory against Turnus, the ruler of the Latins. The shield was of great significance, as its ornate designs foretold of future victories won by the very nation he was to create (Mack 536-541). The epic poem concludes in Book 12, as Turnus made preparations for war. At dawn, the Latins and Trojans gathered on the plain outside the city to face one another in combat. Juno plots with Turnus' sister Juturna (a sea-nymph) to spare him from death. Aeneas prayed and swore an oath that his victory would lead to peaceful coexistence and equality, and that if he was defeated, the Trojans would depart forever. After agreeing to the terms for the battle, Juturna intervened and lead the Latin forces into battle, instead of allowing the duel. Aeneas attempted to stop the fighting, but was instead wounded by a stray arrow. After hastily leaving the front, a healer was successful in treating the warrior's wound due to Venus' intervention. Returing to battle, Aeneas fought his way through enemy forces seeking out Turnus. Juturnus assumed form of Turnus' chariot driver, so as to keep her brother from harm. After slaying numerous foes, Aeneas considered the burning of the Latin city with fire. Though chaos ensues between the forces, Aeneas and Turnus eventually found each other on the battlefield. While their duel ensued, Juno asked Jupiter to cease her meddling with the predestined outcome; she finally relented, on condition that the nation of Troy be forgotten to history, the Latin customs upheld and the language of the integrated nation remain Latin. Reaching agreement, Jupiter sends an omen in the form of an owl to Turnus, spelling his doom. Nearing defeat, Turnus attempted to crush Aeneas with a large rock, but failed. Sensing victory, Aeneas seriously wounded Turnus with his spear. Nearly sparing him, Aeneas remembers a fallen comrade when he noticed his sword belt around Turnus’ waist; the warrior instead exacted vengeance, plunging his sword through Turnus' chest (Mack 541-547).
Based on the selected reading, the culture of the Trojans appeared to be the product of an ambitious desperate people who functioned in a monarchial society (Mack 473-482). It is clear that the role of men was to carry out the orders of his superiors, while obtaining honor, glory and victory on the battlefield (Mack 473-475). Women, though not the head of the family, appeared to be (implied and explicitly) responsible for general housework, as well as the very important task of caring for the children. As for the children themselves, they do not appear to have a clear role in the story, thought they were likely responsible for completing various household chores. As for religious views, it is clear these people followed a polytheistic faith, consisting of greater gods (i.e. Juno, Jupiter) and lesser gods (i.e. Venus, Vulcan). They wore simple clothing, such as tunics, loincloths and robes, and brought with them the basic necessities of survival (i.e. food, water, weaponry, etc.); it would seem appearances and sociocultural attributes applied to both the subjects of the stories as well as the authors who wrote about them. Furthermore, it appears as though the subjects in the story had a fundamental understanding of hunting and agrarian techniques, using weapons and tools, respectively. Though some characters enjoyed various luxuries for their time, this was more the exception than the rule (i.e. Dido), and rarely the case for the Trojans. According to the text, these people expressed themselves in honoring the dead, greatly valuing their families and devoting themselves to honor and their destiny. One example of this is Aeneas’ long journey to see his dead father (Mack 529-536).
It is not entirely clear in the story itself whether or not the people engaged in a significant amount of reading or writing, though the level of sophistication in developing city-states in pre-Rome seems to demonstrate proficiency in both disciplines. Politically speaking, men were largely responsible for the daily affairs and administration of order and law, and were carefully managed in a structured hierarchy, all the while governed by monarchs who were the final authority in all affairs (Mack 475-482, 541-547).
After so many thousands of years, mankind still finds itself fascinated by the writings of Virgil and the ancient Romans, as it continues to explore this civilization through intense study and discovery. For example, historians have long sought additional evidence of the existence of the Trojans during the time of the Aeneid. According to the Archaeological Institute of America, such anecdotal and physical evidence does exist, when referenced between Virgil’s historical accounts, as well as artifacts discovered in the region (Korfmann, paragraphs 1-11). Furthermore, archaeological evidence appears to indicate the actual existence of civilization in pre-Roman Italy in the form of languarge (Etruscan Language, paragraphs1-19). It would seem there is far more to learn about the Trojans/pre-Romans.
The amazing and telling stories of ancient Roman literature serve as the basis for both literal (i.e. Troy) and interpretive (i.e. Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator”) present-day stories. In the case of Troy, the film is a dramatized (and slightly fictionalized) account of the events that occurred in the text. As for Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator”, themes such as devotion to family, and worship of the dead are greatly emphasized. These are but two of nearly countless examples of modern works which draw or owe its basis on Virgil’s Aeneid.

Works Cited
Mack, Maynard. “Virgil” The Norton Anthology of World Masters. W.W. Norton
& Company. New York, 1987.
Korfmann, Manfred. "Was There a Trojan War?" Archaeology. 2004. 6 Feb. 2006
"Etruscan Language." The Mysterious Etruscans. 12 Dec. 2005. 6 Feb. 2006
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