Tuesday, 6 May 2014

THE AENEID - VIRGIL (continued)

The Aeneid                                                                                              VIRGIL    ……continued
On the way to Sicily, Aeneas and his fleet are caught in a whirlpool of Charybdis and driven out to sea. Soon they reached the land of the Cyclops. There they meet a Greek named Achaemenides who belonged to Ulysses and he was left alone on the island when all his comrades escaped the cave of Polyphemus.  Shortly after, Anchises dies peacefully of old age. Now they have reached the shores of Carthage.
Meanwhile, Venus (Aphrodite) sends Cupid to Dido, the queen of Carthage and makes her fall in love with Aeneas. Venus goes to her son Cupid who is the half- brother of Aeneas and tells him to disguise himself as Ascanius and goes to Dido with gifts. Cupid goes to Dido and offers the gifts expected from a guest. With her motherly love revived in the presence of Aeneas’ boy, Dido’s heart falls in love with both the boy and his father. During the banquet, Dido realizes that she has fallen madly in love with Aeneas Dido had promised her husband Sychaeus that she would be for ever loyal to him even after his death. Sychaeus had been murdered by her brother Pygmalion. Juno seizes this opportunity to make a deal with Venus, the mother of Aeneas. Juno wants to distract Aeneas from his destiny of founding a city in Italy. Aeneas is inclined to return Dido’s love, and during a hunting expedition, a storm drives both Aeneas and Dido into a cave in which they have sex and thereby Dido violated her fidelity to her late husband. Dido thinks that it is a sign of her marriage with Aeneas.
 But when Jupiter sends Mercury to remind Aeneas of his duty and destiny, Aeneas has no choice, but to part with Dido. It is so shocking to Dido that her heart broken, she commits suicide by stabbing herself with upon her funeral pyre, the sword of Aeneas which, was given to her as gift. Before her death she curses and predicts eternal strife between Aeneas’ people and the people of Carthage. She said, “Rise up from my bones, avenging spirit”.  Looking back from the deck of his ship, Aeneas sees the smoke rising from the funeral pyre of Dido and knows its meaning very clearly. Nevertheless, destiny calls, and the Trojan fleet sails on the winds and waves towards Italy.
The Trojan fleet of Aeneas reaches Sicily.  Here Aeneas organizes funeral games on the anniversary of his father’s death. A boat race, a foot race, a boxing match, and an archery contest. In all those contests, Aeneas is careful to reward both winners and losers, showing his leadership qualities.  Each of these contests comments on past events or prefigures future events.
 The boxing match is a preview of the final fight between Aeneas and Turnus. The dove, the target during the archery contest is connected with the death of Polites and King Priam in Book 2 and that of Camilla in Book 11. Finally the boys’ military parade led by Ascanius and mock battle is a tradition that Aeneas will teach the Latins when Aeneas and the Trojans reach Italy.  The participants of all these funeral games are men only. While the games are going one, Juno incites the womenfolk to burn the Trojan fleet and prevent the Trojans from ever reaching Italy, but her plan was spoiled by the timely inter vention of Aeneas and his son Ascanius.
Aeneas prays to Jupiter to put out the fire, which the god does excellently with a torrential rainstorm. Besides, at night Aeneas is comforted by a vision of his father Anchises, who tells him to go to the underworld to get a vision of his and Rome’s future. Jupiter promised a safe journey to Italy and all the gods and goddesses will help him and in return for these divine services, they will receive one of Aeneas’ men as a sacrifice. Palinurus, while steering Aeneas’ ship at night falls overboard!
Under-world  In Book 6, Aeneas, with the guidance of the Cumaean Sibyl, goes down to the underworld through an opening atg Cumae; there Aeneas speaks with the spirit of his father and is offered a prophetic vision of the destiny of Rome.
Books 7 – 12 describe war in Italy. Upon coming back from the underworld, Aeneas leads the Trojan fleet to Italy. At Latium, Aeneas falls in love with Lavinia, the beautiful daughter of King Latinus.  Although Aeneas wished to avoid a war, hostilities break out between the Trojans and the Latins. Juno is actively involved in bringing about this war. Juno has persuaded the Queen of Latium to demand that Lavinia be married to Turnus, the ruler of local people of Rutuli. Juno tries her best to stir up trouble and she even brought the fury Alecto to ensure that a war takes place. In the war between Aeneas and Turns. In the battles that follow, many are killed notably Pallas who is killed by Turns; and Mezentius, Turnus’ close friend.  Another notable, Camilla a sort of Amazon character, fights bravely but is killed. She has been a virgin devoted to Diana and to her nation; the man who kills her is struck dead by Diana’s sentinel, Opis.  Single combat is then proposed between Aeneas and Turnus, but Aeneas is so obviously superior that the Italians, urged on by Turnus’ divine sister Juturna break the truce and war resumed between Aeneas and Turnus, but when Aeneas makes a daring attack at the city of Latium, causing the queen of Latium to hang herself in despair, Aeneas forces Turnus into single combat once more. Turnus tries to hurl a rock at Aeneas, his strength spoiled and Aeneas struck him in the leg with a spear.
 Finally when Turnus is begging on his knees for his life, Aeneas is angry at him on seeing Pallas’ belt worn by Turnus, and kills him. The epic Aeneid ends here.  Critics say that the tone the poem is pessimistic and politically subversive to Augustus Caesar’s government. But some of the critics are of the opinion that the Aeneid is the mark of celebration of the Battle of Actium in 31BC when Augustus Caesar became the master of the great Roman Empire. Some scholars say that there is strong association between Aeneas and Augustus, the one as founder and the other as re-founder of Rome.  The Aeneid is full of prophecies about the future of Rome, the deeds of Augustus, his ancestors, the famous Romans, and the Carthaginian Wars; the shield of Aeneas even depicts Augustus’ victory at Actium in 31 BC. As a protagonist of the epic poem, Aeneas seems to constantly waver between his emotions andc commitment to his prophetic duty to found Rome; Critics note the breakdown of Aeneas’ emotional control in the last sections of the poem where the “pious” and “righteous” Aeneas mercilessly kills Turnus.
Briefly describe the various themes depicted in the epic poem “Aeneid”?
                  Virgil’s epic poem “The Aeneid” contains many major themes. They are Pietas, Divine intervention,   Fate, Violence and Conflict, propaganda and Allegory.
                  Pietas  The Roman ideal of pieta(“piety,dutiful respect”), which can be loosely translated from the Latin as a selfless sense of duty toward one’s filial, religious, and societal obligations, was a crux of ancient Roman morality.  Throughout “The Aeneid”, Aeneas serves as the embodiment of pietas, with the phrase “pious Aeneas” occurring 20 times throughout the poem thereby fulfilling his capacity as the father of the Roman people. For instance, in Book 2 Aeneas describes how he carried his father Anchises from the burning city of Troy: “No help/ Or hope of help existed./So I resigned myself, picked up my father,/And turned my face toward the mountain range.  Furthermore, Aeneas ventures into the underworld, thereby fulfilling Anchises’ wishes. His father’s gratitude is presented in the text by the following lines: “Have you at last come, has that loyalty/ your father counted on conquered the journey? However, Aeneas’ pietas extend beyond his devotion to his father; we also see several examples of his religious ferver. Aeneas is always obedient to the gods, even if it is contradictory to his own desires as he says, “I sail to Italy not of my own free will” In addition to his religious and familial pietas, Aeneas also displays fervent patriotism and devotion to his people, particularly in a military capacity. For instance, as he and his followers leave Troy, Aeneas swears that he will “take up/ the combat once again. We shall not all/ Die this day un-avenged.  Thus Aeneas is a symbol of pietas in all of its forms, serving as a moral paragon to which every Roman should aspire.
                 Divine Intervention
                 One of the themes that occur in The Aeneid is that of divine intervention. Throughout the poem the gods are constantly influencing the main characters and trying to change and impact the outcome, regardless of the fate that they all know will occur. For instance, from the very beginning of the voyage of Aeneas from Troy to Italy, Juno tries her best to intervene and change the fate, but fails.
                 Fate, described as a preordained destiny that men and gods have to follow, is a major theme in The Aeneid. One example is when Aeneas is reminded of his fate through Jupiter and Mercury while he is falling in love with Dido.
                 Another theme of the epic poem is “Violence and conflict”. This is used as a means of survival and conquest.  Aeneas’ voyage is caused by the Trojan War and the destruction of Troy.  This violence continues as Aeneas makes his journey.  Dido kills herself in an excessively violent way over a funeral pyre in order to end and escape her worldly problem.  Dido’s violent suicide leads to the violent nature of the later relationship between Carthage and Rome.  Finally when Aeneas arrives in Latium, conflict inevitably arises. There are wars between Latins and Trojans under the leadership of Turnus and Aeneas and finally Aeneas kills Turnus leading to the end of the epic poem “The Aeneid”.
                 Propaganda is also a theme of the epic poem of Virgil. Written under the reign of Augustus Caesar, “The Aeneid presents the hero Aeneas as a strong and powerful leader which in turn represents the progressive and powerful leadership of the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar himself. In The Aeneid, Aeneas is portrayed as the singular hope for the rebirth of the Trojan people.  Augustus as the light of saviour and the last hope of the Roman people is a parallel to Aeneas as the saviour of the Trojans.
                  Allegory    The epic poem “The Aeneid” abounds with smaller and greater allegories. Two of the most important allegories are the exit of Aeneas from the underworld and to Pallas’s belt.  There are two gates of Sleep, one said to be of horn, whereby the true shades pass with ease and the second gate is all white ivory, yet false dreams are sent through this one by the ghost to the upper world. Anchises let his son Aeneas and Sibyl go by the Ivory Gate.  Aeneas’ leaving the underworld through the gate of false dreams has been variously interpreted. One interpretation is that all of Aeneas’ actions in the rest of the epic poem are somehow “false”. It has been suggested that Virgil believes that the history of the world since the foundation of Rome is but a lie.


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