The gods in The Aeneid are as much a part of the story as any of the mortal characters whom they try to manipulate. The God's in the epic have very distinct characteristics, and their alliances and conflicts within Aeneas' story do much to drive the actions of the mortals, and thus ultimately the entire course of the story. This action mostly refers to Aeneas' quest to fulfill his destiny by travelling to Italy in order to establish a new city and empire for his descendants. Although many of the gods Endeavour to alter Aeneas' course, it seems as though his end is fixed. To what extent does Aeneas have free will, or the gods power over his destiny? How resolute is the inevitability of his fate?
It is logical then, to first examine the actions of Aeneas himself, in order to determine to degree to which his volition is any kind of contributing factor to the way in which events of the story unfold. Perhaps Aeneas alone is the one who chooses the path he shall follow, and it is his decisions that determine his own fate and that of his followers. It certainly seems as though he is in control of some situations. One example in book two is when he has the choice to rally troops and try to fight until a valiant death in Troy, but instead he opts to flee the city, upon the urging of his mother Venus.(II 580-95). Another instance is when he begins to court the Carthaginian queen Dido. He first chooses to stay and linger in Carthage, and then decides later to pack up and leave to Italy, again upon the urging of the gods(IV 343-48).
If we examine these situations again, however, we can see that Aeneas really had no choice at all in any of his given situations. Were he to turn and fight in a valiant last effort against the assaulting Achaeans, however brave, it would have resulted in sure death for not only him but his family as well. His duty to his family, mainly to his son Ascanius, as well as to the gods, made it a necessity for him to leave Dido's city. As devoted to the gods and to his family as he was, he is left with no alternative, as he explains in lines 353-57 of book IV: ...I see / in my dreams the troubled spirit of my father Anchises coming / to me with warnings... I see my son Ascanius and / think of the wrong I am doing him, cheating him of his kingdom / ...and the
lands the fates have decreed for him. And / now the messenger of the gods has... / ...brought commands from Jupiter himself.
It was the working of Juno which drove him to seek refuge in Libya in the first place, and the Sybil as well as Anchises were the force that drove him to war with the Latin people.
Of course, this is no accident on Vergil's behalf. It was a very deliberate effort to establish Aeneas' character as unyieldingly pious and devoted to his family. Due to his own inherent nature, he is driven by his convictions to take the actions he takes out of necessity. This provides the motivations with which Venus is able to incite her son to action along the path which suits her desires as opposed to Juno's, and thereby also enables him to still fall within the workings of an inevitable fate.
Among the other keys players in the action of the story are two goddesses of the Roman Pantheon, Venus and Juno, who are characterized by Vergil with distinct personalities and convictions. The two gods both seem to have a preoccupation with the lives of mortals, and can't seem to resist meddling with their lives in order to have things turn out in a manner which appeases them. Venus, with the help of some of the other gods and goddesses, tries to put events in motion which work to facilitate Aeneas' quest towards his purported destiny, while Juno, due to her own personal agenda, works to set events in motion that will hopefully hinder Aeneas' progressions towards what is said to be his fate.
The first goddess to attempt to sway Aeneas from his path is Juno. She is introduced by Vergil within the first 30 lines of the poem in book I. This is...
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