The Violence of Virgil's Aeneid

The Violence of Virgil's Aeneid

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The Violence of Virgil's Aeneid


     The story of Virgil's Aeneid was drawn from many sources, the most

influential being the work of the Greek poet Homer.  Virgil based the first six

books of the Aeneid on the Odessey and the last six books on the Iliad both

written by Homer.  The Aeneid describes the adventures of Aeneas, the legendary

Trojan hero who survived the fall of troy, sailed westward to Italy and founded

Rome.  During the time that Virgil wrote the Aeneid he incorporated all known

Rome history up to his own time.


      The book is world renowned and also is said by many to be one of the

best works ever.  The last chapter of the Aeneid has caused some problems for

readers.  The first problem that is evident is the manner in which Aeneas deals

with Turnus.  In book XII Turnus states that the fight should be between the two

men as apposed to both armies fighting any further.  Turnus had every right to

dislike Aeneas who came unannounced, tried to take his fiancé, Aeneas' son

killed their sacred deer, and he took his land.  They have a great dual and

Aeneas disarmed Turnus by striking him in the leg.  With his sword to his chest

Turnus makes a last request for his body to be returned to his family, as Aeneas

is considering the request he notices that Turnus is wearing the sword belt of

Pallas and the stoic ways of Aeneas leave him as rage, fury, and anger run

through his body.  He kills Turnus in anger and dedicates his death to Pallas.

This loss of control and act of violence is the opposite of stoicism and the way

Aeneas had been portrayed the rest of the epic.


      Turnus has to die for the founding of Rome to occur but he should not

have been killed in such a way.  The killing was payback for the dishonorable

way that Pallas was killed.  The sword belt had images that reflect Augustinian

Rome as did the shield in book eight.  The theft of the belt from Pallas can be

compared to the stolen helmet and the youth slain when his guard was down and

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greed had taken over.  All if this represents the theme of greed and each

incident resulted in death of the thief.


      Another problem that the last book of the Aeneid provided for the

readers was how the last scene was written in relation to the rest of the epic.

At the end of the novel Aeneas kills Turnus for many reasons, most them were

dishonorable.  Aeneas had gone through many barriers in the epic.  At the

beginning of the epic Aeneas knew his duty to the people very well, this was

shown in many instances such as returning for his wife during his flight from

troy.  But throughout the epic this theme becomes less and less vivid and the

fact that he starts to understands the Gods becomes more and more evident.   Due

to the fact that Aeneas is half devine shows that he can be in either side of

the line that divides the two.  Usually a being in this state is either more

devine or more human.  At the beginning of the epic Aeneas is portrayed as a

very human person who understands human needs.  As the epic progresses this

fades, his divinity states to show.  At the end of the novel he is very much the

opposite is of when it started and his will to understand human behavior is gone.

 Due to the fact that the piety that he had throughout the epic was no longer

within him.  Aeneas has no need for piatos because in a very short time he will

become a god and he must prepare for this instead of gaining piety.  The last

scene changes our view of Aeneas that has been built up throughout the epic.  He

becomes enraged and clearly not the Aeneas that started out during the fall of

Troy.  This is not necessary a bad thing because the he has ahead of him needs a

strong man and the occurrences throughout the book actually made him the man

that the founding of Rome required him to be.


      The third problem that appears in the final act of Aeneas is that his

actions are really not like him at all and is not consistent with the character

which is shown in the rest of the epic.  I feel that for the founding of Rome to

occur Turnus had to die but Turnus did not have to die the way he did.  If

Turnus did live he would have been a constant nuisance and a trouble maker.  He

would have also posed a constant threat to the life of Aeneas.  The fact that he

stole the sword belt of Pallas and killed him with such dishonor does somewhat

justify the act of Aeneas but it goes back to the question of who is the better

man out of the two.  Aeneas let his emotions overcome him and this in turns

shows weakness.  On the other hand Turnus showed strength in accepting his

defeat and making a last request.


      Aeneas' character throughout the epic was ever learning.  He went

through much to get to the point where he is at during the battle.  He fought

the walls that Juno put up throughout his journey and became a stronger man at

the end.  Aeneas deals with Turnus in a bad way but this should not totally

dishonor him.  He did make it to his destination and sacrificed much to get

there.  Although Aeneas did make it to found Rome.  Juno also is a victor in the

epic.  The root of Juno's anger was that the prophecies proclaimed that Aeneas

would take over Carthage and he is Trojan.  But now that Aeneas is no longer

Trojan but Roman and Rome will love Juno more than Carthage ever did.


      If Aeneas had stuck to stoicism in the story could he have accomplished

his mission without resorting to such violence?  Obviously the Stoic way would

have been much better and much quicker.  If he had not let his emotions get the

better of him he would not have spent seven years with Dido and her death would

not have happened.  Also if he would have gone straight to Italy he would have

arrived long before Turnus was engaged to the princess and there would have been

no war.  Although there is a strong argument that the events throughout the book

built the character Aeneas needed to be the founder of Rome and become a God.

Another point is that the prophecies stated that Aeneas would have to fight many

battles to found Rome the fact remains that if he had gotten there sooner there

would still have been some sort of war awaiting his arrival.  On the other hand

in the last book Jupiter did make a statement that suggested that it was

possible for him to interfere with fate if he wished and change the prophecies.

There is no telling what he could have done had he made different choices

throughout his journey and many people ponder the same questions about life

itself and the choices made in their lives.  The fact is there is no way of



      In my opinion the last scene insinuates that Rome was founded in

violence.  This in not necessary bad, roman people were very proud of their

heritage and the way that the city was founded.  The Romans fell in love with

Virgil's Aeneid and so did Augustus.  The book was praised by Romans as it

showed Rome as strong and powerful.


      The character of Aeneas was modeled after Augustus and the book agreed

that Augustus was a strong leader.  The book actually helped his image and the

love for him grew threw Rome after the publication of the book.  For that

society in that time the epic was written perfectly to suit the need of the


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