30 June 2010
Vergil’s, Aeneid: Not only a Literary Masterpiece, but also a Guideline for the Future of Rome’s Greatness
If ever there was an author who could transcend the way people would view literature -- Vergil, and his epic poem, Aeneid, did just that. Vergil, living in ancient Rome, witnessed nearly twenty-years of civil war after the death of Julius Caesar that finally ended with Octavian Caesar’s defeat of Cleopatra and Marc Antony for the control of Rome and the end of The Roman Republic. In the epic poem Aeneid, we witness Vergil’s own perspectives on identity, humanity, and the social and political issues of the time. He attempts to grasp his readers’ attention by using detailed descriptions and by arousing his readers’ pity and fear. Vergil was not the only atypical writer of the time; his friend Horace also wrote famous works that are still known today. Both Vergil and Horace were the leading voices in the Golden Age of Roman literature. However, Vergil’s innovative methods in descriptions, diction, digressions, simile and his persistence in always giving the reader both sides of a story - made Vergil unmatched. French Critic, M. Pierron, maintains that “Virgil, if born 50 years earlier or later, would still have been Virgil – while Horace would not have been Horace any other time”(Reaveley 2-3). Meaning Vergil’s poetry was so unique, that he stands out as Rome’s greatest poet. Vergil was clearly influenced by Homer – as he modeled parts of Aeneid from Homer’s Illiad and Odyssey. Aeneid begins after the conclusion of the sack of Troy by the Greeks. The main character, Aeneas, fleeing the ruined Troy, goes on an elongated journey where he encounters both tragic and triumphant events until he eventually ends up in Italy to found Rome. Not only does Aeneid have historical significance, it also illustrates Vergil’s vision of a destiny for Rome.
In Aeneid, part of the author’s brilliance is shown by his ability to grasp his reader with his ingenious uses of poetic diction and simile. An example of such simile use is in Book VI: “It is easy to go down into Hell; Night and day, the gates of dark Death stand wide; but to climb back again, to retrace one's steps to the upper air - There's the rub, the task.” This verse is not only metaphoric; but, it also resembles the Romans’ trait of endurance. The Punic Wars with Carthage (about 150 years earlier) shows proof of that, as Rome was nearly defeated by Hannibal’s army, before rebounding and winning the war against Carthage. Although, some of Vergil’s diction use could be complex, he “used techniques of combination, operating for the most part with ordinary words” (Lyne 17-18). By doing that, even the simplest Roman could comprehend the writing.
Vergil’s philosophical belief in showing two sides to everything is shown throughout the epic with every character. We feel love and hate for the Carthaginian queen, Dido. During Aeneas’ journey, the queen of the gods, Juno, tries everything in her power to destroy Aeneas and the Trojans. Juno causes a storm that sent Aeneas’s ship to the shores of Carthage, knowing that the Carthaginians were not welcoming to foreigners. The goddess of love, Venus, who is the mother of Aeneas, counters Juno’s attempts throughout the epic. In an attempt to secure the safety of her son, Venus sends a magical drink to Dido that causes Dido to fall in love with Aeneas, which causes “long droughts of love” (Vergil Book 4). Prior to this, Dido swore to stay faithful to her dead husband, but she was now unable to overcome the power of the gods. Early on we see a sentimental side to Dido, as she was quite welcoming to the Trojans. By now (book four), Dido is hopelessly in love with the Trojan hero, “a wound of inward fire eating her away” (Vergil Book 4). With his new relationship with Dido,...