The Aeneid

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The Aeneid The Aeneid begins and ends with parallels to the Iliad, inviting the reader to consider Virgil's poetry in light of Homer's. The Aeneid is both a tribute to the Homeric style--by imitating it--and an attempt to better it. It is the story of a man who is destined to succeed, and its strength lies more in its secondary characters than in the person of Aeneas. From the very beginning of the poem, when Aeneas flees Troy, there is a sense that he has left part of himself behind there. It may be that he will go on to eventually find a new home in Italy, but he is not so much moving from one place to another as he is being stretched across the poem and across the seas. He does not have the vitality of other mythical heroes, such as Odysseus, because he is more or less been reluctantly dragged along towards his destiny, rather than single-mindedly pursuing it. This is why he is so willing to find diversions or temporary homes along the way, in Crete, Carthage and Sicily--that is, until the gods force him to continue on. As Aeneas is stretched further, his character becomes less consistent and prone to fits of anger, cruelty, sadness and kindness, but not in a particularly coherent fashion--that is, these powerful expressions of emotion, however well Virgil puts them into words, do not really define a personality. This is where the personalities of more powerful characters take over: Juno, Dido, and Turnus. They all have their homes in the play, and their characters are well-defined, powerful, and consistent -- with the exception of the turnabout in Book XII, which prevents Juno and Turnus from taking over the poem entirely. They are personalities in their own right, all strong-willed. Aeneas, on the other hand, is obligated everywhere he turns. He always has one foot back in Troy, but he must fulfill the will of the gods, while enduring the wrath of other gods, all the while being a worthy predecessor of Augustus and founder of the Roman people. All of these necessities pull at Aeneas' character and prevent Virgil from creating him for his own sake. Of course, the Trojan is successful because he gives himself up to these other obligations, while those who resist the will of the gods--Dido, Turnus-- die sad deaths. However, in their failure they are in fact the most interesting and attractive

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