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'Aeneas is little more than a puppet controlled by the actions of the gods.' Is this a fair assessment of Aeneas in books 1, 2, 4 and 6 of Virgil's Aeneid?

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Introduction

'Aeneas is little more than a puppet controlled by the actions of the gods.' Is this a fair assessment of Aeneas in books 1, 2, 4 and 6 of Virgil's Aeneid? This description of Aeneas is a very controversial one and so I will analyse the quote in some detail. Fate plays a huge role in Books I, II, IV and VI of the Aeneid. From the very beginning of the Aeneid Fate decrees that Aeneas must reach Italy with all of his crew and go on to found Lavinium: "He was a refugee chased by Fate from the land of Troy, first to reach Italy where Lavinium was to be built." From Lavinium, Aeneas' son, Iulus, will leave to found Alba Longa. Years later Romulus and Remus will be born and their tale of how Rome was founded will become reality. Does Aeneas have a choice in whether these events happen? The answer is simple: no. This is because Fate is final and cannot be altered even by the gods. Whether Aeneas has feelings, emotions and wishes along the path to completing his fate, will in the end determine whether he is a puppet or not. It is important to realise that Fate is a greater power than Gods and Goddesses. ...read more.

Middle

He wanted to fight at Troy but Fate, through his father, Anchises, did not allow him: "My son, I consent, and no longer refuse to go with you." This scene at Troy shows that Aeneas had wishes but was not given the privilege of being able to follow them. In Book II Aeneas is free to act and follow his different impulses but ultimately his not staying to fight and die is decided for him by Fate. In the same book Hector and Creusa visit Aeneas in dreams and are representatives of Fate and through them Aeneas finds out that though he had thought that he had free will the Fall of Troy "has happened just as the Gods decreed." However, to show that Aeneas has wishes in Book IV he says: "...if the Fates allowed me to live my life as I wished." This clearly shows that Aeneas does have feelings and emotions and puppets do not have these qualities. However, Aeneas now finally understands his destiny that lies in Italy (as decreed by Fate): "But Italy, great Italy, is the land I must make for..." Gods other than Athena's role (mentioned above) intervened in the Greek siege of Troy. ...read more.

Conclusion

It seems that Juno and Venus acted on whims to encourage love between Dido and Aeneas. Ultimately, the final result of the love between Dido and Aeneas is that Dido curses Aeneas' descendants; and because of the curse Rome and Carthage will always be bitter enemies. There is a view taken by some that humans (therefore Aeneas) are puppets to the arrogant and omnipotent Gods, and that through disguises and tricks the gods are trying to either, help Aeneas successfully complete and meet his destiny of founding Rome, or to discourage him. The Gods and Goddesses (especially Juno and Venus) use Aeneas as a puppet and exploit his mortal qualities in an attempt to help or destroy him. Venus, unlike Juno is trying to help Aeneas fulfil his destiny. This is obviously because Aeneas is her son. It is true that all in all, the Gods and Goddesses use Aeneas, the Greeks and the Trojans for their own purposes in a show of their divine power and inner feuding. However, this view portrays Aeneas as a pure puppet of the Gods, which simply is not true as he has feelings, emotions and pietas. Aeneas is a mixture between a puppet and a free mortal because the end result of his actions in general are decided by Fate and when the Gods are not intervening, he does have Free Will. ...read more.

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