The Women of the Aeneid

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The Roman epic of Virgil's Aeneid describes the hardship and misadventures of Aeneas and the Trojans quest from Troy to Italy. Like Homer’s famous epics, the Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s narrative style and structure portrays similar attributes in the finding of Rome. Aeneas encounters several women on his journey who play a significant role throughout this epic in assisting or destroying his journey to Rome. His representation of female characters provides the readers with a better understanding of gender politics and reasons why some female leaders failed. Each of Virgil's female characters demonstrates a combination of traits throughout the epic; however, such behaviors of these women tend to develop unwanted conflict due to emotions. Like in every great story the female characters tend to have a enormous influence on the main character in both positive and negative ways. The first female that Virgil introduces is Dido, the queen of Carthage, in Book I of the Aeneid. Virgil provides evidence that Dido is a strong and powerful leader. "In her stride she seems the tallest, taller by a head than any At the door... Of the goddess' shrine, under the temple dome, All hedged about with guards on her high throne, She took her seat.". This statement illustrates just how supreme and crucial she is. Virgil portrays Dido with a goddess type of image. Not only did she rule Carthage with a strong hold, but she also provided fairness and equality. “Then she began to give them Judgments and rulings, to apportion work With fairness, or assign some tasks by lot”. This quote certainly demonstrates Dido’s type of rulership. Even though, she is commanding the people of Carthage to do their duties, which provides evidence that she is feared because the people do as she says without questioning her demands; she distributes the work evenly and fair throughout the citizens. Usually people would assume that the men go to the king for help or advice, but ironically, the men of Troy, leaded by Aeneas, were taken to Queen Dido for help. “When suddenly Aeneas saw approaching, Accompanied by a crowd, Antheus and Sergestus And brave Cloanthus,1 with a few companions... He was astounded, and Achates too Felt thrilled by joy and fear:” I feel as though Aeneas and his men did not know what to expect when they came forward to Queen Dido. They were nervous of what was going to happen. Until Dido laid eyes on Aeneas. In every great epic, love plays a key role in bringing people together but also destroying plenty in its way. Even though Dido is characterized as this powerful leader, she slowly starts to fall as her passion for Aeneas starts to grow. As Aeneas tells his story to all the people, Dido slowly starts falling more and more in love with Aeneas. Throughout this Book you slowly start to see the demise of Queen Dido. "Towers, half-built, rose no farther; men no longer trained in arms... Projects were broken off, laid over, and the menacing huge walls with cranes unmoving stood against the sky". Virgil provides images of how Carthage is being affected by the downfall of Queen Dido. Dido is so infatuated with love that she cannot see how she is running Carthage to the ground for the love of Aeneas. The goddess Juno, the queen of gods, saw this as an opportunity to keep Aeneas from reaching Italy. Dido even broke her vow of chastity and surrenders to her desires for Aeneas. “Dido had no further qualms as to impressions given and set abroad; She thought no longer of a secret love but called it marriage”. This statement demonstrates how she is becoming weak-minded. She is starting to trick her mind into making something that she knows is not moral in her eyes, into something that seems right. Only to find out that she will regret it in the end. When Mercury, the messenger god, reminds Aeneas that his destiny is not in Carthage and that he must leave for Italy immediately, Aeneas is not too excited to leave Dido, but he knows he has to obey. Dido at first...
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