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The subtlety in the differences between Aneas and Turnus, reflect
the subtlety in the differences between the Aeneid and the Iliad. Although
both characters are devout and noble, Aneas does not possess the ardent
passion of Turnus. Unlike Turnus, Aneas is able to place his beliefs in
the fated establishment of Latium before his personal interests. Although
Turnus is not a bad person, the gods favor Aneas in their schemes. The
roles of Aneas and Turnus are reversed as the Aeneid progresses. The
erasure of Aneas' free will accounts for his triumph and success.
Time and time again, Aneas' courage, loyalty, and will are tested
in the Aeneid. Through seemingly endless journeys by sea, through love left
to wither, and through war and death, Aneas exhibits his anchored
principals and his unwavering character.
"Of arms I sing and the hero, destiny's exile...
Who in the grip of immortal powers was pounded
By land and sea to sate the implacable hatred
of Juno; who suffered bitterly in his battles
As he strove for the site of his city, and safe harboring
For his Gods in Latium" (Virgil 7).
As a slave to the gods and their plans, Aneas assimilates his mind and
sacrifices his life to the establishment of Latium. As the greatest of all
warriors, Aneas displays his superb strength and his leadership
capabilities, by guiding the Trojans to victory over the latins and
establishing Latium. The selflessness of Aneas and his devotion to the
Gods, enables him to leap over and break through any obstacles that
obstruct his destiny. Patterned after Homer's Hector, Virgil's Turnus is
also a courageous and devout hero. As the most handsome of Rutilians,
Turnus' nobility reflects his physical appearance; he is a god-fearing,
libation-bearing soldier. Turnus was greatly admired and respected by his
subjects: "by far the fairest (of Italian men) / Was Turnus, favored both
in his noble forbears / And by the queen who advanced his claims with
eager devotion" (Virgil 147).
Unlike Turnus, Aneas is able to place his beliefs in Rome before
his own interests; that is the defining characteristic of Aneas' heroism.
Leaving Dido, the beautiful and passionate Carthaginian Queen, was
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extremely difficult for Aneas, and he delayed leaving her as long as
possible. Aneas laments, "If the Fates / Allowed me the life I would
choose to live for myself... it is not / Of my own free will I must seek
Italy" (Virgil 84). Aneas had suffered greatly at sea and lost many men, he
did not long to sail again. Aneas did not want a war to erupt between
Trojan and Latins, but he knew that nothing could keep him from
establishing Latium where the gods had prophesied. Both Aneas and Turnus
are spurred on to action by visions. In the underworld, Aneas is goaded
by the image of his father:
"'Father, it was you--
Your grief-engendering spirit time and again
Appeared to me and constrained me to make my way
To the edge of this world'" (Virgil 139).
Turnus' hatred for Aneas, inspired by the goddess Allecto, was the only
stimulation that Turnus required.
Will you stand by and see so much of your effort wasted?
And what is yours transferred to Trojan settlers?
The king is refusing to give you your bride, or the dowry
Won with you blood, and a stranger is being imported
To inherit the throne! Go on expose yourself
To unmerited dangers! Be mocked!" (Virgil 158).
Consequently, Turnus leads the war against the newcomers blindly and filled
with rage. Turnus fails to surrender or make an agreement even when all is
on the virge of destruction, because he was not fighting for his patria--he
was fighting for his pride.
Destiny best distinguishes the outcome of the lives of Aneas and
Turnus. Turnus simply lacks the heavenly sanction that Aneas possesses.
Since the battle at Troy in the Iliad, when Aneas was rescued from death by
a goddess, the divine purpose of Aneas was being secured. Aneas is made
aware and reminded of his purpose by Mercury:
"What are you doing? ...
If no ambition spurs you, nor desire
To see yourself renowned for your own deeds--
What of Ascanius, earnest of your line?
The realm of Italy the Roman inheritance
His due" (Virgil 82).
Aneas' armor, constructed by the god of craftsman, is both exquisite and
exceedingly resistant. Turnus also had divine support form Juno, but Juno
could not over step her boundaries--namely, Zeus' will. Juno was forced to
relinquish control of Turnus' fate, and it was then when Aneas was able to
murder Turnus in battle.
"I (Juno) am sick and afraid
Of your ruthless bidding. Oh, but if there were
That influence in my love which once there was,
And it is right there should be still, All-Powerful,
You would not have denied me this at least--
The power to extricate Turnus form the battle...
As it is, let him perish. Let him give
His sinless blood to slake the Trojan vengeance" (Virgil
Although it may seem as though Turnus' temperament was his downfall,
Turnus' only fault was that he was not destined to conquer Aneas. In
addition, it was not the fault of Turnus that he fought so violently and
primal, because the goddess Allecto planted the seeds of hatred and
violence in him. Cosecuently, it was not the fault of Turnus that he was
blinded by rage, and did not seek any methods for peace.
As the story progresses, The jugs of Zeus seem to empty themselves
into each other. At the beginning of the epic, Aneas had suffered greatly
at the hands of mother earth (9-10).The death of Entices in book three,
also affected Aneas greatly. Depicted as a wonderer and a refugee, Aneas
landed on the shores of Carthage without anything but his reputation.
Aneas' suffering continued when he was forced to leave Dido, reminiscent of
the time when Aneas left his family. Meanwhile, Turnus, the prince of the
Rutilians, was at the top of the hierarchy of Rome; he was greatly
respected by his subjects. However, "sinister signs from heaven stood in
the way" (Virgil 147). Once Aneas settled on the lands of Latium, and
Allecto instilled the violencia inside Turnus, Turnus' luck embarked on a
downward spiral. The plummet does not end until Turnus is dead at the hands
of Aneas. The triumphant Aneas stands over the fallen, tragic Turnus.
In a world where conformity was rewarded, and free will was
abolished, the devout Aneas sacrificed his mind and heart for the gods;
leaving true love and true understanding behind in Carthage. As a result,
an empire was erected for the "ruthless" gods.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Camps, W. A. An Introduction to Homer. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980.
Goodrich, Norma. Myths of the hero. New York: Orion Press, 1962.
Harrison, S. J. Vergil, Aeneid. With Introduction, Translation, and Commentary. Oxford. 1991.
Homer: Iliad. Trans. Stanley Lombardo. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 1994.
MacKay, L. "Hero and Theme in the Aeneid." TAPA 94 (1963) 157-166.