Aeneas’ relationship with his own father and son is central to the action of The Aeneid. The image of him fleeing the burning city of Troy carrying his father, Anchises, and accompanied by his own son Iulus is one of the most symbolic images of family devotion and perfectly encapsulates the theme of parental fidelity; the notion of leaving his father and son behind to die in Troy would have been a “sacrilege” (Book 2, pg 44) to Aeneas. An important theme throughout the Aeneid, is the pietas of Aeneas towards his father.The concept of pietas “captures the unity in the Roman attitude that individual lives are part of the whole, that is, the family, the state and the universe ” and highlights the unbreakable bonds between the individual and their family. After saving him from Troy, together they share the leadership of the Trojan expedition until the death of Anchises in Sicily. The funeral games which Aeneas holds in memory of his father in Book 5 of the poem highlights the reverence and respect the Roman‘s had for the position of the father and his sadness at his beloved father’s death is obvious in his words to the Sibyl in Book 6:
“I pray to be allowed to go and look upon the face of my dear father….pity the father, O gracious one, and pity the son.” (Book 6.117, pg 118) It is Aeneas’ devotion to Anchises which drive him to brave the terrors of the underworld:
“I knew your devotion would prevail over all the rigour of the journey and bring you to your father” (Book 6.686-687, pg 134) Anchises has a similar love and devotion to his son. W.A Camps writes that Anchises is “a source of encouragement and inspiration to his son in the execution of his mission .” It is Anchises who encourages Aeneas to break ties with his old home and search for a new one and his ghost appears several times, in both Carthage and in Sicily when Aeneas’ resolve is waning. Again, it is parental love and devotion which spurs on the action of the poem and changes its structure from the love story of Aeneas and Dido to the battle in Latium. Aeneas chooses to leave Carthage for the sake of his son and future glory for his descendents:
“…ask him if he grudges the citadel of Rome to his son Ascanius” (Book 4.232 pg 76) Mercury’s words to Aeneas are in a similar vein:
“If the glory of such a destiny does not fire your heart, spare a thought for Ascanius as he grows to manhood for the hopes of this Iulus who is your heir. You owe him the land of Rome and the kingdom of Italy” (Book 4.274-277, pg 77). Virgil stresses Aeneas’ paternal instincts, frequently referring to him as “Father Aeneas,” perhaps not only to Iulus but also to the rest of the Trojans, and the Roman race itself.
Virgil also shows us the maternal aspect of parent/child relationships through the characters of Venus and the mother of Euryalus. Vigil frequently alludes to mothers throughout the poem, from...