Essay for the glory of the Roman Empire.

Essay # 3
Virgil’s The Aeneid is a story of true heroism in the face of war. A
hero often proves himself through war. Many of the characters in the
Aeneid throw themselves into warfare enthusiastically for the glory and
honor of their names. Aeneas, however, has a sense of responsibility
toward his people and their destiny rather than a wish for his name to be
honored after his death, which makes him more of a modern epic hero, unlike
the earlier Greek heroes such as Homers Odysseus. The duty-bound Aeneas is
determined to follow his fate wherever it leads even if he must suffer
unbearable losses and receive no reward or glory on Earth. His ability to
accept his destined path despite his unhappiness in doing so is the
defining attribute of Aeneas’s heroism.

Aeneas was destined, even before his own birth, to lay the foundations
in Italy for the glory of the Roman Empire. The direction and destination
of Aeneas’s journey are predetermined, and his various sufferings and
glories in battle and at sea over the course of the story merely postpone
this unchangeable destiny. As the son of Venus, the goddess of beauty and
love, he enjoys a special divine protection which, at certain points
throughout his voyage, helps guide him to his destiny. Although Aeneas is
fortunate enough to have a goddess as a mother, even the workings of the
gods cannot tamper with fate. There are some instances on this voyage in
which a few of the gods try to interfere with Aeneass life in order to
advance their own personal interests. However, none of these gods attempts
to manipulate Aeneas has any
effect on the overall outcome of events. For example, in Book IV Juno
plans a marriage between Dido and Aeneas in hopes that Carthage will
prosper from the union. Juno exclaims, Dido consumed with passion to her
core. Why not then, rule this people side by side with equal authority?
…Now Venus knew this talk was all pretence, all to divert the future
power from Italy to Libya. (99) Even though Junos plot for the union of
Aeneas and Dido was successfully carried out, and Aeneas bore a deep love
for Dido, he would not steer away from his destiny. As soon as Mercury
came to him to remind him to leave Dido, he did so, ignoring his hearts
strongest desires knowing that Dido would suffer greatly.

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While other powerful characters in the epic (especially those opposed
to Aeneas’s founding of Rome in Italy) try to fight against fate, Aeneas
stays true to his calling. Turnus and Juno both resist destiny every step
of the way until the very end in Book XII in which they finally accept
their inability to control destiny, allowing fate to triumph. Even Dido
denies fate when she attempts to lure Aeneas into staying and building his
city in her homeland. Aeneas is stronger than these figures because he is
so pius and bound by his duty to Troy and to the wishes of fate.

Another aspect of Aeneas’s graceful heroism is his compassion for the
sufferings of others, even as he is determined to always put his duty
first. He constantly delivers encouraging speeches to his fellow Trojans
during times of great suffering in order to keep their spirits high. Also,
in Book V, Aeneas shows sympathy for the weak as he allows the crippled and
unwilling to stay behind. He also is compassionate towards the souls of
the underworld when he visits his father, Anchises in Book VI. He has
feels especially for the unburied dead, whose sufferings he witnesses. He
carries this compassion with him throughout his battles, and later tries to
make
sure that all the dead are buried properly, including enemies.

Aeneas places a particularly high value on family. This is certainly
evident near the end of Book II as he is journeying back home. Aeneas
carries his frail father upon his back, and takes his sons hand to guide
them. When Creusus, his wife, falls behind, he goes back in an attempt to
look for her. He values his divine mother equally. He respects her
greatly, and obeys every word of her advise. Aeneas’s love for his family
both aids him and distracts him during his long journey. He suffers at the
loss of his wife and his father, and questions the will of the gods. He
begins to lose faith in the importance of his duty, but the love for his
son and his obedience toward his mother encourage him to continue along his
path. This value of family, and loyalty to his duty in the face of grief
and loss add to Aeneas’s heroic qualities.

Aeneas’s faith that his destiny would result in the founding of a
great and powerful political empire is one of the major reasons for his
strong loyalty to his duty. Aeneas travels for years to many foreign
lands, fighting countless battles in an attempt to start a city. He has
little knowledge of where he is for a large part of the journey, and he has
even less knowledge of where he is supposed to be going. He tries to
settle his people in lands which turn out to be the wrong places.He has
no place to call home. He loses family members, friends, and fellow
Trojans to death or abandonment as a result of loss of hope and faith in
this journey, or because they are simply to weak to go on. To most men,
this voyage would seem pointless, even destructive. Yet Aeneas has
complete faith in his declared fate. He understands that he must follow
his destiny no matter how hopeless it seems to be. He does not find
happiness or peace of mind in doing his duty. Instead he struggles with
it, thinking at times that he may give up. But his piety urges him on.


Amazingly, Aeneas is able to act nobly and with dignity every step of
the way up until his final battle with Turnus in Book XII. At this point
he is exhausted and full of wrath. He at first decides to spare Turnus,
but changes his mind when he thinks of the way in which Pallas was slain by
Turnus. This is the first act of vengeance displayed by Aeneas, and quite
a different way to end the story of an epic hero. Virgil does this for a
reason, however. Through this epic poem in its entirety, Virgil portrays
the human condition. A dignified and heroic being follows his destiny at
all times, doing what is right not for himself but for the good of his
people. This being faces many triumphs and defeats throughout his
lifetime. He experiences love, friendship, and happiness, but also suffers
grief, loss, and pain. There are many times throughout life when he may
question the value of his life and his work. A dignified hero, however,
will push through all the way until his destiny is met, fighting and
struggling to the very end. It is only human, that at the end of such a
struggle (which in no way benefits himself), he displays rage and hatred.

Such a hero may never witness glory in his lifetime, but as Virgil has
proven, his name will be praised for centuries, even millenniums to come.

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