Fate and Destiny in the Aeneid

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Destiny, the Gods, and Fate in the Aeneid
Playwright Lucius Annaeus Seneca said that “Fate leads the willing, and drags along the reluctant,” (Beautiful Quotes) and perhaps nowhere is this idea better illustrated than in Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid. Fate drives the course of events throughout the twelve books of The Aeneid, pushing both the mortal and divine, to the unwavering destinies laid before them, and destroying those who attempt to defy, or even hinder, the course of destiny. Today, fate is regarded as a benign force which can be easily combated with free will. However, As Virgil conveys in his epic, fate was once considered to be so unyielding that not even the gods themselves could intervene to prevent its coming to fruition. There are those in Virgil’s epic who recognize the great power that is fate, and their inability to change it, such as Aeneas, a man who carries, perhaps the largest mantle of destiny on his shoulders. However, even though Aeneas accepts his fate, this does not free him from tribulation, as others, both human and immortal, attempt to resist fate, and alter its course according to their will. Juno, queen of the gods and the main antagonist in Virgil’s foundational fiction, is not affected by the same fate that rules over humans. Nevertheless, she actively attempts to obstruct Aeneas in his journey to fulfill his own destiny, which Juno suspects will be responsible both for the downfall of her favorite city, Carthage, and the death of her most cherished mortal, Turnus. Although some may argue that Venus is responsible for foiling Juno’s intentions, it is ironically Juno herself, in her actions to thwart Aeneas, who brings about the fated events she tries to prevent. This is demonstrated by Dido’s death coupled with Carthage’s fated demise as well as Aeneas’ prophesied founding of Rome. Upon learning that he is fated to destroy her city of Carthage, Juno vows to do everything possible to hinder Aeneas’ course of destiny. However, even this divine god realizes that there is no way to change what is fated, and all she can do with all of her power is meddle, perhaps even helping Aeneas’ destiny along, as Jupiter says “Even haughty Juno, who, with endless broils, Earth, seas, And heaven, and Jove himself turmoils; At length atoned, her friendly power shall join, to cherish and advance the Trojan line,” (Book 1). Juno is never informed explicitly that Aeneas will be the one responsible for destroying Carthage, though she “had heard long since that generations of Trojan blood would one day overthrow her Tyrian walls,” (Book 1). To stem this threat the Trojans pose, Juno instructs Aeolus to cause a storm which will destroy the Trojan fleet. Venus intervenes to save the Trojans, though the initial disturbance drives their ships off-course, away from Italy and onto Carthaginian shores. Thus, in trying to destroy the Trojans and contradict fate, Juno’s storm sends Trojan ships to the very place she is trying to keep them away from, while she inadvertently elicits Venus’ protection over the Trojans. Juno therefore makes possible the first step leading to Carthage’s prophesied downfall; Aeneas’ exposure to Dido, queen of Carthage. Not all those that go against fate have the benefit of being immortal, and Aeneas’ Carthaginian love Dido meets her demise when trying to stay him from his course. Although under the influence of Venus’ subordinate Cupid, and driven mad with love, her attempt to possess Aeneas for herself fails completely, proving that even a power such as love has no effect on the greater force of fate. Aeneas’ willingness to part with her whom he loved in pursuit of the destiny laid before him alludes to his acceptance of the role of fate within his life. This determined pursuit of destiny is illustrated most clearly after Mercury visits Aeneas from Jupiter, who understanding that fate must be obeyed sends the message “What means thy lingering in the Libyan land?...
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