are a reflection of his devotion to the ideals of an honorable Roman hero. A roman hero is one whose actions are guided by pietas and stoicism. Aeneas is fated to found the great Empire of Rome. On this journey, he endures many instances of great personal suffering yet continues to act in accordance with the fate, which has been imposed upon him by the gods, exemplifying his adherence to the standards of a Roman hero. Beginning in Book Ten, however, when the gods withdraw from human affairs, the death of a comrade, Pallas, ignites an ineradicable anger in Aeneas, causing him to perform actions in direct contrast with the ideals of a Roman hero. This withdrawal of the gods reveals Aeneas’ true character, as he acts according to his own will, exposing his ignoble nature. illustrates the pinnacle of Aeneas’s betrayal of Roman heroism. Rather than enact clementia , Aeneas chooses to indulge in his rage and kill Turnus, ignoring his invocation of familial piety and violating the characteristics of a truly pious Roman Stoic hero.
Aeneas, the Anti-hero of Aeneid
Many people seem to be under the impression that the Aeneid is a celebration of Roman glory, led by the hero of fate Aeneas. I find these preconceived ideas hard to reconcile with my actual reading of the text. For starters, I have a hard time viewing Aeneas as a hero at all. Almost any other main characters in the epic, from Dido to Camilla to Turnus, have more heroic qualities than Aeneas. This is especially noteworthy because many of these characters are his enemies.
Caesar Augustus’ rise to absolute power in the year 31 BCE motioned to a deviation in the politics of Rome, shifting from a republic to a monarchy, though shielded in evident conservatism. It was through the formation of a prescribed mythology to the Julii family name that Augustus and his reign were cemented. By way of the insistence of Augustus, Vergil created the Aeneid to illustrate the mythological underpinnings of the Julii line, and how Augustus offered the hope of prosperity for Rome after a period of civil wars, as the gods supposedly directed it.
The Aeneid is riddled throughout with veiled pieces of Augustan propaganda, reflected in Augustan architecture, highlighting the prominence of the Aeneid as a means of advertising the appeal of Augustus.
What is a hero? We would like to think that a hero is someone who has achieved some fantastic goal or status, or maybe someone who has accomplished a great task. Heroes find themselves in situations of great pressure and act with nobility and grace. Though the main character of Virgil's Aeneid, Aeneas, is such a person, it is not by his own doing. He encounters situations in which death is near, in which love, hate, peace, and war come together to cause both good and evil. In these positions he conducts himself with honor, by going along with what the gods want. Only then goes on to pave the way for the Roman Empire. His deeds, actions, and leadership would never have come to be if it were not for the gods. The gods took special interest in Aeneas, causing him misfortune in some cases, giving him assistance in others. On the whole, the gods constantly provide perfect opportunities for Aeneas to display his heroism. Without them, Aeneas would not be the hero he is. This gift does not come without a price, though; he must endure the things heroes endure to become what they are. Despite his accomplishments and the glory associated with his life, Aeneas only achieves the status of hero through divine intervention, and this god-given position causes him just as much grief as it does splendor.
It is clear when reading the Aeneid that Virgil was familiar with the earlier works of Homer, The Iliad and The Odyssey. Virgil, more than just being aware of these earlier works, uses themes and ideas from these poems in his own. Far more than just copying scenes and ideas, Virgil expands and alters these themes to better tell his story, unique from the Greek originals he is drawing from. Virgil reveals what qualities he regards as heroic through the juxtaposition of Aeneas’ character and the negative aspects of the underworld. By looking at which qualities are esteemed and derided respectively, we can identify the qualities that Virgil would like to emphasize positively to his readers. Also, we can argue that Virgil is indeed trying to convey a particular set or morals to those readers. Beyond the underworld, it is possible to clearly identify these traits in the other sections of the poem where Virgil is borrowing and making his own alterations. Using these distinctions we can very clearly derive Virgil's morality from the poem, and see where Virgil's ideal characters veer away from the Greek ideal that came before.
... prominent source of his weighty troubles. They are helpless to withstand the gods, restrain Aeneas from advancing towards Italy, and burn at women’s torches. Yet, his ships are invaluable to the overall success of his journey and the expression of his character. Aeneas is a ship, chugging toward western shores and providing refuge for his people. However, this extended analogy has greater importance to Virgil and the rest of human society. After the destruction of Troy, Aeneas has no country to protect or call his home. The cargo and soldiers aboard his ships are the remnants of his past civilization, but they are also the seeds for a new empire. Aeneas, just as his ships, is the invaluable carrier and protector of one of the greatest empires in all of human history – Rome.
I believe that the ending of the Aeneid shows that Aeneas is very heroic. According to Webster’s New Dictionary, “a man of distinguished bravery” and “admired for his exploits.” Aeneas is very brave when he fights Turnus, especially because it is known that the gods are on his side. He successfully killed Turnus, which is an achievement that calls for admiration.
Virgil's Aeneid as Roman Propaganda
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.
In addition, the overall theme of the poem highlighted morality, which was a definitive tenet of Greco Roman civilization. In many ways, Virgil wrote the poem as a means of lauding the moral virtues of Roman society and as a personal challenge to outdo Homer’s epic compositions, The Illiad and The Odyssey. Virgil was successful because he had incorporated many of the same tales shared in the works of Homer into one epic poem which presented a linear storyline in the books that detailed the life and times of Aeneas and the Trojans. That being said, Virgil did not stray far from the approach that many writers had used before him; his primary focus throughout the Aeneid was placed squarely upon the back of idealized Greek and Roman moral principles, which were the dedication to ones’ honor, family, and country. By no means is there anything wrong with this approach, but in many ways, the entire poem could be viewed as a “propaganda” piece; while it might have served to enlighten, educate, and create a cohesive and uplifting story for the Roman populace, the poem lacked depth and a more profound exploration of human intricacies. While Virgil’s epic poem has stood the test of time and remains one of the greatest pieces
His actions following his dialogue with the priest demonstrate his tendency to engage in rash behavior, as he charges blindly into a battle that he was just told was pointless. Aeneas recalls that at the time, "...[Panthus] heaves a long-drawn breath: / ' 'Tis come, our fated day of death. / We have been Trojans: Troy has been: / She sat, but sits no more, a queen... Greece holds a city wrapt in flames....' So, stirred by Heaven and Orthys' son, / Forth into flames and spears I run..." (Virgil 307-308). Aeneas relates that Panthus informed him that Troy is facing its end as a city set aflame, and that its inhabitants have arrived at the day of their death, but these words served only to strengthen Aeneas's resolve and prompt him into the fray. Aeneas demonstrates his recklessness by charging into a battle immediately after being told the grim circumstances, which was a decision appropriate to the persona of a hero, but irrational nevertheless. His decision to enter the battle in the first place was the first indication of his character during the eventful fall of Troy, showcasing a person who values dramatic heroics over logic and forward thinking. His decision would contribute to the events that were yet to occur, and his behavior during such events would provide further insight into this aspect of his