The Aeneid: Virgil's Heroic Underworld

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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.

Virgil's heroes bear a strong resemblance to the heroes of the earlier works of Homer, however there are some differences that are not merely the result of differences in character. Virgil is depicting his ideals through the traits of his heroes and villains, and some of these traits are different from the Greek traits from The Iliad and The Odyssey. The best way to identify the specific traits that Virgil is trying to plant in the mind of his readers is to look at the main hero, Aeneas. Through Aeneas we see a slightly different variation on the Greek hero. Aeneas is strong and deadly in battle, but fa...

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...tory, allowing those familiar with the older works to see where the alterations were made and how important these differences are to his characters. To really drive his point home, Virgil writes his underworld in such way to allow his reader to see what horrors await those who fail to adhere to these specific traits. During these scenes he at times speaks directly to the reader, warning them of the dangers of ignoring his lessons. This had such a profound impact that Virgil's version of the underworld has been used as the basis of many works and is the source of a vision of hell that many people adhere to even to this day.

Works Cited

Knox, Bernard and Robert Fagles. The Odyssey. City: Penguin Classics, 2006.

Knox, Bernard and Robert Fagles. The Iliad. New York: Penguin Books, 1991.

Knox, Bernard and Robert Fagles. The Aeneid:. City: Penguin Classics, 2008.

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