Gods in the Aeneid

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In the Aeneid, Virgil narrates the legendary story of Aeneas as he flees Troy and heads towards Italy to found a new empire and become the ancestor to the Romans. The first six of the poem’s twelve books tell the tale of his twisted journey from Troy to Italy, constantly delayed and hardened by the impulsive decisions of the gods, and the latter half describes Aeneid finally reaching his unchangeable destiny upon the Trojans’s arduous victory against the Latins. The rivalry and disputes of the gods looms so heavily throughout the poem that at times it seems that the poem is more about the bickering of the gods than it is about Aeneas’ voyage. The omnipresent difference in status between divine beings create tensions and rivalries that dramatically affects Aeneas' journey therefore indicating the inherent presence of gods in the human world of the text. This presence of divine power within the human world of the Aeneid, which is so largely due to whimsical decisions linked to jealousy and disputes within the divine community, suggests that the human world at the time of Vigil saw fate as being in the hands of the gods, and that a gods ability to control the moral world was entirely dependent on the hierarchical chain of command of the gods.

Throughout the poem, the queen of gods, Juno, constantly attempts to fight fate in order to prevent Aeneas from reaching Italy and destroying Carthage. Although probably unclear to a modern audience, the reasons behind Juno's enduring antagonism towards the Trojans was well known to Vigil's Roman audience who was aware of Greek culture. Eris, the goddess of strife, offered to prize the most beautiful goddess on Olympus with a golden apple and Juno, Venus and Minerva all claimed that they deserved it. It was decided that the contest was to be resolved by the verdict of Paris, the most handsome mortal man. All three women secretly bribed him, but in the end, Venus won him over by offering Helen, the fairest woman on the...
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