Aeneid Essay, Research Paper
The Importance of Parent/Child Relationships in the Aeneid
The importance of parent and child relationships is prevalent throughout the Aeneid. There are many different circumstances that stress the importance of these relationships. The most perceptible examples of this type of relationship are between Aeneas and his son Ascanius, and Aeneas and his father Anchises. However, this is not the only example, other less noticeable relationships, but still important: Aeneas and Venus, Polites and Priam, Achilles and Pyrrhus, Creusa and Ascanius, Hecuba and Polites, Priam and Hector, Hecuba and Hector, and Hecuba and Creusa. These relationships are pertinent to the structure of the Aeneid and show the deep respect Vergil had for familial relationships.
The first example of one of these relationships is portrayed in the first book between Aeneas and his mother Venus. Throughout the Aeneid Juno is a major impediment to Aeneas’ unfortunate struggles to found a homeland. During the first book it is significant that Juno’s appearance as the epic’s chief divine antagonist should be followed soon afterward by the entrance of Venus, who, as the hero’s protective and indulgent mother, opposes Juno with strength that will ultimately prevail(sjc). For example, she causes Dido to fall in love with Aeneas out of fear that the queen otherwise might harm either her son or grandson. However, Venus is not personally against Dido; rather, she is for Aeneas. She does not harm Dido as Juno would harm Aeneas.
The first mention of the relationship between Ascanius and Aeneas is also portrayed in the first book. Vergil draws attention to how good a father Aeneas is to Ascanius by describing him as “father Aeneas” and “fond father, as always thoughtful of his son.” This is a direct statement of the father’s great love for his son, and it has great significance later in the poem(Davis 1).
During book two Pyrrhus rashly murdered Priam’s son, Polites, in front of the king. This tragic event suddenly reminded Aeneas about the fate of his father, Anchises, his wife, Creusa, and his son, Ascanius, all of whom were still at home. While making his way home through the streets of Troy, Aeneas is once again reminded by Venus of his duty to his family. Aeneas, deciding to flee from Troy with his family, returned home at last, but Anchises, who declared that he would rather die than face exile at his age, refused to abandon his home and urged the others to leave without him, which they would not do. This once again shows Aeneas’ pietas and his loyalty to his father. His deep respect for Anchises is best demonstrated by his physically carrying him through the streets of Troy to the rendezvous point(enloe).
The admirable role of a good father to Ascanius continues throughout the epic. Worried for the boy’s safety, Aeneas’ steering his son away from danger emphasizes the human nature of his character. After lifting Anchises onto his back, Aeneas recalls how “little Iulus put his hand in mine and came with shorter steps beside his father(sjc).” Aeneas’ devotion to his son is exemplary.
There are several prophecies and omens in the Aeneid that call attention to the importance of the safety of Ascanius. The first two are in the prophecy of Jupiter. The second occurs just before the departure from Troy, when the omens of flame, thunder on the left, and a shooting star indicate Ascanius’ future greatness(Davis 2).
Aeneas’ role as a dutiful father is expanded in book three to include paternal responsibility not only for Ascanius and the Trojans in his immediate care, but for the entire Roman race to come. Helenus tells Aeneas “let your progeny Hold to religious purity thereby.” This statement reflects the later generations of Aeneas’ ancestry. Andromache made a similar statement, who, concerned for Ascanius’ well being, asks Aeneas if he is fostering “old-time valor and manliness” in his son.
In book four Aeneas’ responsibilities as a father to Ascanius are called into question. Knowing that the familial relationship between father and son is of great importance to Aeneas, Jupiter questions Aeneas’ honor as a forbear who has apparently forgotten his son’s rightful ancestry. Aeneas is becoming too consumed by his own directives and has forgotten about the future of the Trojans. He vows never again to forget his responsibilities as a father.
After the Trojans leave Carthage they sail for the coasts of Sicily. Here Aeneas summons his people and announces that he is going to celebrate funeral rites in memory of his father. Anchises, who died on their previous visit to Sicily a year earlier, was buried there. He makes ceremonial sacrifices at his father’s tomb when an ominous serpent appears and creeps by the temple.
After nine days on Sicily, Aeneas and his companions set forth for Italy. All appears to be going well, but Venus, concerned about the safety of her son, asks Neptune to guarantee a safe journey for the Trojans. Neptune complies, but says one life must be sacrificed.
Later on in the epic there are other examples of how familial relationships are stressed and the importance of them in the Aeneid. In book eight, King Evander shows how important his son is to him by praying to the gods saying that if his son Pallas dies then let him die also. In book ten the close bond between Mezentius and his son Lausus is shown. After Aeneas has struck Mezentius with a spear, Lausus risks his own life by going up and shielding his father from Aeneas. Mezentius does not immediately die, but Aeneas instead kills Lausus. After Aeneas kills Lausus he thinks about his own father. When Aeneas kills Mezentius, Mezentius’ only request is that he be buried so he can be with his son.
The importance of familial relationships, especially between parent and child can be clearly seen in the Aeneid. Aeneas in his conduct toward Ascanius was certainly a model parent; he loved him, cherished him, and protected him; he unselfishly gave up his own plans and desires in order that Ascanius might fulfill his destiny(Davis 2). Venus also fulfilled her role as a model parent, protecting Aeneas and the Trojans throughout the epic.