Compare and Contrast the Portrayal of the Gods in Virgil's Aeneid and Metamorphoses

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There is a significant difference in the treatment of the gods in the

Aeneid and the Metamorphoses, even though both authors were writing in

the epic tradition.

Virgil wrote his Aeneid in the last ten years of his life, between

29BC and 19BC, after the Battle of Actium, in 31BC, which was

significant, as it established Octavian as the sole emperor, Augustus,

of Rome. The Aeneid is a celebration of Augustus' achievements and

rejoices in the development of Rome. There is a great sense of

political propaganda, as well as an historical element, as it

illustrates the origins of the Roman people.

In contrast, Ovid conceived a different purpose for his epic. He wrote

fifteen books, compared to Virgil's twelve, with many of his stories

originating from Greek and Roman myth, concerned with the

transformations of shapes, from the creation of the world to Julius

Caesar's death and deification. He focuses on entertaining the reader

in a humorous fashion, and rather than establishing Rome's origins in

history, he is more concerned with establishing his own fame, for the

future ages.

These different backgrounds of the two authors illustrate that they

each had contrasting agendas for their books. Thus, the portrayal of

the gods differs greatly-Virgil's are austere and purposeful, whereas,

Ovid's are humorous, reflecting his neoteric style, and intentionally

different from the Virgilian gods.

Firstly, we must take into consideration that Homer's Iliad and

Odyssey, were the only main models of epic for Virgil and Ovid.

There is a strong element of Homeric influence on the Virgilian gods,

for example, Juno has been likened to the Homeric Hera, as she

portrays many of her characteristics. That is, Juno displays a deep

hatred for the Trojans, due to the judgement of Paris, and her

husband's high regard for the Trojan youth, Ganymede; more

significantly, she dislikes the Trojans because they will destroy her

beloved Carthage. Virgil highlights this resentment, when he describes

Juno hounding Aeneas and his men:

'Aeneas, fugitive, this captain, buffeted cruelly on land as on the

sea by blows from powers of the air-behind them baleful Juno in her

sleepless rage.'[1]

Likewise, Hera despised the Trojans, for example, both she and


... middle of paper ...

...usly. It is also significant that he has intentionally

broken away from the stereotypical austere images of the gods, and has

set his gods at the opposite end of the scale to the Virgilian gods.



Translated by A.D.Melville


Translated by R.Fitzgerald

D.C.Feeny The Gods in Epic

G.K.Galinsky Ovid's Metamorphoses

R.O.A.M.Lyne Further Voices in Virgil's Aeneid

Wilkinson Ovid Recalled

C.H.Wilson Jupiter and the Fates in the Aeneid


[1] Virgil's Aeneid: book: 1.5 ff.

[2] Homer's Iliad: books 13 &14.

[3]Aeneid: book: 1.144 ff.

[4] Aeneid: book: 1.88-89.

[5] Ovid's Metamorphoses: translated by A.D.Melville: p.16.

[6] Galinsky: Ovid's Metamorphoses: p.168.

[7]Metamorphoses: p.7.

[8] Metamorphoses: p.6

[9] Aeneid: book 1.344 ff.

[10]Metamorphoses: p.243.

[11] Aeneid: book 1.558.

[12] Metamorphoses: p.214-215.

[13] Metamorphoses: p.70.

[14] Aeneid: book 4.289 ff.

[15] Lyne: Further voices in Virgil's Aeneid: p.85.

[16] Aeneid: book 4.323-324.

[17] Aeneid: book 1.13.

[18] Aeneid: book 12.1069 ff.

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