Virtues In The Aeneid Essay, Research Paper
Virtues to the Romans were of the utmost importance. Their virtues were much like ours in the fact that they are a particular excellence in a person that is commendable and a standard of morality. The family, country, and gods were the most valued aspects of a Roman citizens life as stated in Religion in Virgil by Cyril Bailey The pietas, then, which is the expression of man s relation to the gods, extends itself to the other members of these groups: it is part of pietas to the gods to be in the right relation and to act aright toward the members of your own family and toward your state (Bailey p.80). There were many virtues to be loyal to, but the ones the Romans prized most were steadfastness, courage, patience, obedience to the will of the gods, and reverence for ancestors. Through the epic, the Aeneid, Aeneas gains the most important Roman virtues and becomes a true epic hero.
Aeneas is by no means a hero at the start of the story. This can be seen by his reactions to the situations he is faced with at the beginning of the epic. He often lets his emotions get the best of him, but always listens to his father. By giving Aeneas these human feelings Virgil makes the hero a more believable character. This point is made by Jackson Knight in Roman Virgil .
Aeneas has high dignity, the divine protection of his love-goddess mother, valor, and righteousness. But the Aeneas of Virgil has the piety and loyalty and tenderness of a true Roman and simultaneously, in the usual way, of Homer s Hector; and he has too the courage and force of Homer s Achilles, and the reflectiveness in some degree, though not the self-dependance, of Homer s Odysseus. There might seem some danger of a character which would be all good, and not human or sympathetic, if the good qualities were thus to be taken from everywhere, and the bad left behind. But Virgil knew how to make Aeneas real and imperfect in a real way, in a way real to men of his, and of later, times ; and he made him, unlike most, or even all, ancient characters, grow in moral stature, with time. (Knight 142)
The flaws that Aeneas had would make a person listening to this story able to relate with him. During the story he shows the valued virtues in all the things he does and the only time he is seen as flawed is when his emotions take control over him. When his emotions get the best of him a god ultimately gets him back on track. The gods help the hero out because it is his fate to found the new location of the city of Troy. The gods do not help him for the sole purpose of his destiny, but he is obedient of their wills and is liked by all the gods, except Juno. His journeys are not easy even with the help of the gods, Aeneas is the one who is doing the will of the gods and in some instances is not sure about what he is getting into.
Aeneas attitude testifies to the Roman sense of duty which is in sharp contrast to the Greek sense of existence, for whatever the Homeric heros do, they do in fulfillment of their nature rather than their duty. Aeneas is a hero of duty (Poschl 39). Aeneas knows that he has a job to do and does all he can to get the job done. He shows that he embodies the virtue of steadfastness by being loyal to his duty. He appears to have had this virtue from the beginning of the story when he sets sail to find a new land for him and his people, his duty is only halted when the human side of Aeneas is shown. The hero is never allowed to belong completely in the moment. If and when, as in Carthage, he seems to be caught up in the moment, a god reminds him of his duty (Poschl 38). He does not have to be reminded often, when he does get side tracked the cause usually can be traced to Juno, who always tries to slow the hero in anyway possible. The gods play a very important role in the Aeneid, they both help and hurt Aeneas.
During the time the Aeneid was written there was no such thing as Christianity and the Romans were polytheistic. The Romans had a god for just about everything and a pius man would be obedient to the will of these gods. This is acknowledged by Cyril Bailey: The root of pius and pietas seems to be harmony and conformity with the will of the gods (Bailey 80). By doing what the gods wanted Aeneas is showing to the reader that the Romans are and will be favored in the future by the gods. Even the god Juno was calmed down when it was promised that the Romans would inherit the Latin culture before Aeneas defeated Turnus.
The last battle is a time when the gods played a big role for both of the characters. Aeneas had armor made for him and Turnus has Juturna stir up trouble at the command of Juno. Aeneas get magically healed by Venus for a battle wound and helps Aeneas pull his spear out of a tree. This last battle shows how Aeneas has evolved into a better person by knowing what his duty is and showing gravitas. In the beginning of the story with the invasion of Troy, Aeneas gets dressed and is ready to die in battle fighting for Troy and in the last battle after Juturna starts the conflict, Aeneas searches exclusively for Turnus instead of trying to kill as many enemies as possible. And after the skirmish Turnus realizes that his fate is inevitable and goes ahead and faces Aeneas one-on-one. Fate also plays a big role in the Aeneid as it is pointed out by Bailey, Fate has been seen shaping the lots of men and nations and in a wider sense guiding the destiny of the world, which over rules the purposes and even the fates of men. But as one reads the Aeneid fate seems not to be the only disposer of events; the gods, too, have their wills to which men must conform (Bailey 220).