Both Vergil and Ovid imbedded underlying meanings in their epics The
Aeneid and Metamorphoses. In this paper I will focus on the underlying meaning
in the Underworld scene in Vergil's The Aeneid (lines 356 through 1199). I will
also focus on three scenes in Ovid's Metamorphoses. Both epics contain a larger
message about the importance of the Roman past for its present and future under
The story of Aeneas in the Underworld can be interpreted as a brilliant
rendition of the story of Rome's past, present, and future. When Aeneas
descends into the Underworld, he is escorted by the Sibyl (lines 347 - 349).
This gives the readers a clue that what is to happen in the upcoming text is a
foretelling of Roman future because the Sibyl was a prophetess (Course Packet,
As Aeneas enters the Underworld, he sees numerous horrible sights: Grief,
Disease, Old Age, Fear, Hunger, and several others. (Lines 356 - 379) These
unsettling and dark words bring difficult images to the reader's mind. These
lines foretell that there will be difficulties while Rome is in its infancy
through phrases like "lonely night" and "phantom kingdom". Rome did indeed have
difficulties in its infancy; in the 7th and 6th centuries BCE it was ruled by
Etruscan kings and was only "... a little hill town." (Short Histories, p20)
Lines 390 through 549 in The Aeneid deal with the crossing of the River
Styx. This represents a great transition period in Rome. It symbolizes the
founding of the Republic. The multitude of rushing and swarming people (Line
402) represents those that suffered the "internal turmoil" in the early stages
of the Republic. (Short Histories, p21) When Aeneas mentions, "... and by what
rule must some keep off the bank ..." (Lines 419 - 421) he may symbolically be
referring to the "Struggle of the Orders" that the early Republic experienced.
(Short Histories, p22)
As Aeneas wanders through the Underworld, he... [continues]
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