Women And Virgil Essay, Research Paper
How Virgil Saw Women
Maxwell C. Bedley
In The Aeneid of Virgil, Virgil creatively discusses his view of women in Roman society. He used characteristics that were common among all of his women roles yet each woman had strength in one of the categories. The characteristics of the women can be broken down into a group that is called pietas, which are the virtuous displays of courage with undying love for family, country and the gods. I believe that Virgil wanted to show his readers that the women of Rome were virtuous people that have the ideal characteristics of all the Romans; he used Creusa, Camilla, and Dido as his main female roles to show that women had courage and the virtues of piety.
Creusa, Aeneas first wife, played a central role to the poem complimenting the heroic males. The virtue that was deeply rooted in her was dedication to ones family. She wants to be with her son and her husband regardless of whether it means death or to stay and fight. In death, Creusa comes back to the land of the living to make sure that her husband looks after their son.
Creusa is the first woman that we are introduced to in the Aeneid. She is also the first woman to characterize women as having courage and being pious. In our first description of her, she is clinging to Aeneas feet beside the threshold of their bedroom. At the same time she is passionately lifting their son Iulus to Aeneas while saying; If you go off to die, then take us, too, to face all the things with you; but if your past still lets you put your hope in arms, which now you have put on, then first protect this house (The Aeneid of Virgil, Book II Line 910). Virgil wanted to show that women understood that family is important, which is why he has her trying to keep their family together at all costs. Not only does she have the characteristics of courage and dedication to her family, she teaches Aeneas about piety. While his head is set to fight, she reminds him that he has the responsibility of a family.
Late in the second book, when Creusa s family is fleeing from Troy, Creusa is left behind by Aeneas and is then killed by the Greeks. When Aeneas comes back to find her instead of finding her, he finds her ghost. He is shocked that he could let such a thing happen to his family. Rather than being upset at the turn of events Creusa keeps a level head and speaks to Aeneas saying; And now farewell, and love the son that we share (Bk. II L. 1064). These few short words in death show that she is still looking to the well being of her family.
Creusa has great power and great courage in life and even in death. In life, she was willing to die in order to keep her family together. Now in death she tells Aeneas that he need not worry because if the gods had not wanted her dead then she would still be alive. Nevertheless, the gods had wanted her dead so now he must move on with his life and the building of a new home for the Romans and their son. She is a great character who portrays the ideals of pietas and courage. Virgil is expressing his feelings of women with the use of Creusa s representation of dedication to ones family and courage.
Camilla, having very little family, considers the country of Latvia as her country so she is willing to defend it. She was brought up in the woods and it is there that she became dedicated to the gods, especially Diana. In taking up arms against Aeneas, she is upholding the characteristic of pietas, because the Trojans are threatening her country. Her most amazing characteristic is her courage. She is filled with courage especially when she prepares for war with the Romans. Even though Camilla fights against the Romans and kills many of them, Virgil uses her as an example of a woman who resembles piety, and courage.
The gods are very dear to Camilla and she is dear to them, especially Diana. Diana is the goddess of the woods and of the hunt, which is why she is so fond of Camilla. Camilla grew up in the woods and she gave dedication to Diana by hunting and preserving the woods by living in harmony with them. Speaking of Camilla to the other gods shortly after Camilla joins the fight against Aeneas men Diana says; Camilla goes to cruel war and wears in vain our armor-she who is more dear to me then any other (Bk. XI L. 700). Although Diana has great love for Camilla, above all other humans, she cannot save her from death because she is getting in the way of the future of Rome. Virgil may have used this to keep Augustus happy because Camilla, although she had great courage and dedication to the gods, was still fighting against Rome
As a woman, Camilla s courage was unparalleled. The fact that she would walk into battle alone with so many men who were all skilled in fighting makes her a courageous person. She is someone that all could look to as an inspiration at person as a result of her courage. When she arrived in Latium she saw that none were fighting against the Romans and she asked; Turnus, if the brave deserve to trust in their own selves, why, then I dare and promise to oppose Aeneas squadrons, to ride out alone against the Tuscan horse (Bk. XI L.660). She was the only one to try her skill against the army of Aeneas near the city, due to this; she had the courage that a whole city of men could not equal.
Much like that of Creusa and Camilla, Dido is a woman who is comprised of the characteristics of piety. She does not fight against men and she does not have children that she could leave to someone else. However, she is the founder of a new land and much as Aeneas is destined to do later on in the poem. Dido also gives dedications to the gods that is written in the poem. Her dedication to family comes to us again when she takes her life out of desperation after Aeneas leaves.
As chapter IV starts, Dido is telling the reader of a love that must be, referring to the love that she wishes to share with Aeneas. In the first few pages, Virgil expresses her dedication to her sister Anna. Next we see the dedication to the gods, near the end of the poem we learn of the dedication that she has for her country.
Dido fled from her murderous brother with her followers and founded Carthage, the place where she now lives. She knew that in leaving she was leaving, everything that she had ever known. She also knew that she had nowhere to call home and neither did the people that went with her. She had to make the decision to try her luck with a new land. In the time that she was founding Carthage, she married, and she accumulated great wealth and possessions to beautify her city and make it handsome. She owed all of this to the fact that she had the courage to leave her land and attempt to make a home in a new land.
Dido understood that the gods played a vital role to accomplishing the things she needed to in order to found Carthage. She also understood that the gods were necessary in all other earthly and heavenly matters. When she decided that she wanted to burn the pyre of Aeneas she sent for her sister via Sychaeus s nurse Barce. When the nurse left to get Anna, Dido looked at the pyre and saw the sword that Aeneas left and she took it down. Then she saw Aeneas s clothes and killed herself because the pain of losing all that she had lost in her life was too great for her to handle anymore. When Jove heard of this, he had pity for her because of all the things she had been through, and for the fact that even through all of the hardships she went through, she had remained dedicated to the gods.
Though Dido came from another country, she made her home in Carthage when she founded it and thus Carthage became her country. She was dedicated to Carthage for the entire time that she lived there. Dido s last words were; I have built a handsome city, I have seen the walls rise up (Bk. IV L. 903). Virgil used this to show that women are proud of their accomplishments, especially when they are due to piety. She believed that she was a good person, who lived her life with courage and dedication to the gods, her country, and her family. Due to this, she deserved some pity from them in the afterlife
After she had taken her own life, Juno found her to be a pious person and took pity on her for all that her spirit had been through and he sent down Iris to free her struggling spirit. Dido had many hardships in her life and although it would have been easier for her to let someone else take over to run and build a country she knew that the people had followed her out of her brothers land because they saw her as a leader. Because of their dedication to her, she in exchange showed dedication to them by building a spectacular city that was free of her brother s oppression.
Virgil effectively portrayed the women in the poem to have much in common with the men in Rome. The women made it hard for the men to ignore them and the qualities that they had. In some cases as with the dedication of family that Creusa displayed and the courage that Camilla exhibited and the dedication to ones country that Dido demonstrated the men in the poem were shown by example the things that they should have already been doing. In Creusa s case, Aeneas learned that he needed to pay more attention to his family. The others either directly or indirectly taught the men in the poem that they need to better resemble the qualities that are pietas. This is how Virgil showed that he felt the women of Rome were virtuous people.