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How does Virgil present the character of Aeneas in books 1, 2 and4 of the 'Aeneid'?

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How does Virgil present the character of Aeneas in books 1, 2 and 4 of the 'Aeneid'? Virgil opens by declaring his subject: "I sing of arms and of the man." (I.1) The man is Aeneas, fleeing the ruins of his native city, Troy, with its survivors. The tale opens in a similar vein to that of Homer's Odyssey, which is perhaps an attempt by Virgil to immediately settle the two on the same plane. Like Homer, Virgil attempts to appeal to the audience sympathies, by declaring 'Great too were his sufferings in war' when he speaks of Aeneas. It is impossible to continue without again mentioning Homer. The very fact that Aeneas, too, has incurred the wrath of the Gods (or, more specifically, Juno) as Odysseus had managed with Neptune again gives us reason to compare the two, which was probably Virgil's aim. He wanted the reader to take the two, Odysseus as the witty but sly hero whereas Aeneas seems to come across more as the self sacrificing, long suffering hero. ...read more.


Dido only dies, for example, because she kills herself. She would have never done such a thing if a) she hadn't been struck by Cupid's arrow, or b) Aeneas had been told by Jupiter that he was to leave in search of Italy. Although the Gods where involved in the Odyssey, it seems a book cannot pass by in the Aenied with more than its fair share of interaction from the Gods. This basically makes Aeneas an unwilling pawn of Fate, and while Virgil valiantly tries to show how this makes him suffer, we can only ever think that he is not fully committed to the quest for which the Gods have chosen for him. Aeneas has even descended from the Gods (certainly a one over on Odysseus) and in his descriptions he is frequently likened to a God "He was like Appollo/...his streaming hair caught up and shaped into a soft garland of/ green and twined round a band of gold...and his face shone with equal radiance and grace."(VI. ...read more.


And so Virgil tries to minimize the humiliation of the Trojans. He must admit that they were duped by the Trojan Horse that the Greeks constructed; but through his hero the poet implies that they were not all fooled, or foolish. In the end they still took it into Troy, not because of their own gullibility, but because of the gods. Thus, while Aeneas and the Trojans lost a battle they could have won, in the end they had no choice but to follow the will of the gods anyway. On the other hand, if it were not for the help of the gods no one would have escaped from Troy; again, behind all the infighting on Olympus, fate is always fulfilled. The sufferings of Aeneas in Troy will be made up, eventually, by his glory in Italy. The soul of his wife comforts him with this message, and from here forward Aeneas will always have at least one eye on his foretold destiny, far off though it may be. Kirsty Singleton Classical Civilisation ...read more.

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