Love and Duty in Virgil’s Aeneid and Augustine’s Confessions

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In his Confessions, Augustine relates that, in his school years, he was required to read Virgil’s Aeneid. The ill-fated romance of Aeneas and Dido produced such an emotional effect on him. Augustine says that Virgil’s epic caused him to forget his own “wanderings” (Augustine 1116). He wept over Dido’s death, but remained “dry-eyed to [his] own pitiful state” (Augustine 1116 – 7). Augustine later rejects literature and theater because he believes that they distract the soul from God. Nonetheless, Augustine shares many of the same experience as the characters in the Aeneid. Augustine discovers that love can be destructive, just as it was for Dido. Both Aeneas and Augustine of them give up love for the sake of duty. Aeneas leaves Dido to fulfill his calling given by the gods. Augustine ends his lustful affairs in order that he may devote himself to his God.

In the Aeneid, love is depicted as an uncontrollable emotion. Venus and Juno promote the romance between Dido and Aeneas. Dido, the queen of Carthage, begins to fall in love with Aeneas, even though she has vowed to her late husband that she would set her “face against marriage” (Virgil 975). Aeneas falls in love with Dido and remains with her in Carthage, even though he knows that he must continue his travel to Rome. Love is a passion which consumes the soul in spite of its will. It is an “inward fire” (Virgil 976). Juno arranges it so that Dido and Aeneas consummate their love in a cave during a storm. Again, mortals have little or no control over their loves. The gods are the ones who cause people to fall in love.

The story of Dido and Aeneas also shows what happens when one loves too much. Dido’s love is destructive. Dido falls so deeply in love with Aeneas that she c...

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...estructive. Love led to Dido’s physical death and it lead to Augustine’s spiritual death. Virgil and Augustine further demonstrate that there our ideals greater than love. Aeneas ends his romance with Dido in order to fulfill his destiny to become founder of Rome. Aeneas must obey the gods before his passion. Augustine forsakes his life of lust when Christ calls him. He obeys his God and learns to love and esteem Him above all else. Aeneas fulfills his duty to his gods and to his country; Augustine fulfills his duty to His God and his church. Duty should take precedence and overpower love.

Works Cited

Augustine. “Confessions”. The Norton Anthology of Western Literature. 8th ed. Vol. 1. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006. 1113-41. Print.

Virgil. “The Aeneid, Book IV”. The Norton Anthology of Western Literature. 8th ed. Vol. 1. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006. 974-95. Print.

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