The Imagery of Fire in Virgil’s Aeneid Essay

The Imagery of Fire in Virgil’s Aeneid Essay

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The Imagery of Fire in Virgil’s Aeneid

In discussing fire imagery in the Aeneid I will attempt in the course of this paper to bring in an analytic device to aid in assembling the wide array of symbols into a more uniform set of meaning. Consistently throughout the Aeneid, fire serves to provoke the characters to action. Action which otherwise it is not clear they would enter upon. Fire clears the way for the juggernaut plot to advance. Juno, first of all, described as burning - pondering (with her hatred of the Dardans) goes to Aeolus with the idea of sending the winds to create an under-handed storm to destroy the Trojans, at the sight of their fleeing ships and successful escape from the Greeks (I.75)1. Fire from the Greeks burns down Troy. Forced by necessity to flee for their lives, Aeneas can gain his fathers acquiescence only with the portent of two flaming omens. Cupid in the form of Ascanius induces Dido with a fated love for Aeneas, consummated by their union in the cave. Jupiter with these words on his lips sends Mercury down to a lingering Aeneas at Carthage.

Mercury, carry across the speeding winds the words I urge: his lovely mother did not promise such a son to us; she did not save him twice from

Grecian arms for this–but to be master of Italy a land that teems with empire...to place all earth within his laws. But if the brightness of such deeds is not enough to kindle him...does he–a father–begrudge Ascanius the walls of Rome? (IV.310-311)

Mercury flies down to Aeneas and delivers these very words among others, Aeneas is struck dumb by this (and not for the last time) and afterwards He burns to flee from Carthage (IV.375). Much later , but significantly, the Fury Allecto is sent by Juno to Amata, wife of...


... middle of paper ...


...ld end here, it is just this absence of this full light the dimness of the darkness visible which constitute Virgil's true and deliberate commentary on his world.



Bachelard, Gaston. the Psychoanalysis of Fire. trans. Alan CM Ross,pref. Northrop Frye Boston: Beacon Press, 1964. (Orig pub. in French under the Title La Psychoanalyse du Feu 1938 by Librarie Gallimard)

Eliade, Mircea. ch. 3 the Misfortunes of History, Ch. 4 the Terror of History Cosmos and History: the Myth of the Eternal Return. trans. Willard R. Trask. New York: Harper and Row, 1959 (Orig. pub. in French under the title Le Myth de Eternal Retour... 1949 by Librarie Gallimard)

Johnson, W R. Darkness Visible, a study of Vergil’s Aeneid. Berkeley: Univ. California Press, 1976.

Mandelbaum, Allen, the Aeneid of Virgil: a verse translation by Allen Mandelbaum. New York Bantam: Books, 1971-1981.

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