October 17, 2012
The Ideal Roman Ruler
The Aeneid was written during a time of great political change in Rome. Civil conflict had brought about the fall of the republic and its replacement with a strong executive that was given the title of emperor. In 31 B.C.E., the emperor Augustus, who controlled the western half of the Roman empire, would win a decisive victory over Mark Antony, the ruler of the eastern half of the empire, and unite Rome under one authority and bring about a long period of peace. However, these changes caused many of the people to lose their faith in the greatness of Rome. Virgil wrote The Aeneid in an attempt to bring back traditional Roman values and to legitimize the rule of Augustus Caesar by connecting him to the origin story of Rome through the descendants of Aeneas. Virgil's The Aeneid, shows that Aeneas is the ideal Roman ruler because he follows the Roman virtues of moderation, planning ahead, and toughness. Aeneas displays moderation when he leaves Dido, he shows his forward planning by putting all other interests in his life behind the task of establishing the city of Rome, and he shows his toughness in his journey to the underworld.
Aeneas is a prototype for the ideal Roman ruler because he follows the virtue of temperantia, or moderation. He shows this moderation in his leaving Dido to go establish the great city of Rome. Aeneas does not want to leave Carthage or his love, Dido, but it is his task "to found the Roman people" and he is "devoted to his mission" (Virgil 797, 796). Aeneas displays moderation because he controls his desire "to calm and comfort [Dido] in all her pain", but he "took the course heaven gave him" (Virgil 815). Furthermore, the queen was very rich and had given him gifts of "yellow jasper" and a cloak with "gold thread in the fabric" (Virgil 811). However, his value of moderation drives him to put his own passions and wants in subjection to his duty. This is a...