Essays

How Are the Gods presented in the Aeneid?

by christos1

How Are the Gods presented in the Aeneid?

In Virgil’s Aeneid, gods play a vital role and are irreplaceable. They determine the destiny of mortals, including Aeneas, himself who draws much attention from the gods, especially since his mother Venus is a goddess herself. The king of the gods is Jupiter, who is able to overpower any of the gods, and has a supreme control. The other gods cannot act against his will forever as Jupiter upholds destiny. The most another god can do is postpone the outcome temporarily. The rest of the gods seem to bicker between each other, but intertwine humans into their problems, helping or harming mortals, just to avenge their rival. This epic was written after the Iliad, and has been greatly influenced by Homer, as it is clear to see the many similarities and parallels that Virgil makes with Homer. However, it is evident that each poet out strides the other in particular areas, such as similes scenes and building momentum.

The Aeneid involves much divine intervention, which is apparent as soon as the poem begins. Juno has always despised the Trojans ever since the “Golden Apple” incident, where Paris, a Trojan had to pick the fairest woman out of Juno, Venus and Minerva. He chose Venus, mother of Aeneas, who promised him the most beautiful mortal woman, Helen. Also because she has heard a rumour that Trojans will destroy her favourite city, Carthage. Ever since Juno had despised the race of Trojans and this anger is taken out of Aeneas. She is the first god to intervene, as she persuades Aeolus, the wind god to conjure up a storm, to destroy Aeneas’ fleet while he is on his way to Italy (ref. 1.5-2). However, Neptune the sea God, manages to calm the storm and Aeneas is left with seven ships and takes refuge at an African port, Libya. This scene parallel to Homer’s Odyssey, where Odysseus is sailing home when disrupted by a terrible storm caused by a Poseidon, (Neptune) who also had his reason for being spiteful towards him, and similar to the Aeneid, another god comes to his rescue for being spiteful towards him, and similar to the Aeneid, another god comes to his rescue and his is spared. This is a clear example of how the gods are able to interfere with the lives of mortals so easily, even if they do not have the supreme power of changing their fate. They still are able to manipulate them like puppets for their own purposes.

Venus inspires another Divine Intervention that has life altering effect by causing Dido, the Queen of Carthage, to fall in love with her son Aeneas. So that he would be welcomed, without having to wage a war against Carthage. Then Juno arranges for the consummation of the queen’s love so that Aeneas would be held in Carthage for good. Therefore unable to reach Italy, found Rome and destroy Carthage. This begin during one day when Dido, Aeneas and her court are out hunting, Juno brings a storm down upon them, sending them scattering for shelter, and arranges for Aeneas and Dido to end up in the same cave by themselves. Dido having been inflamed with love by Cupid’s arrow makes love to Aeneas. During this whole conflict, it is interesting to note that Venus is the goddess of love, and Juno the goddess of marriage. Their fighting could simply imply that these two things do not necessarily mix well. But once Juno realises that he is destined to be the founder of Rome she attempts to stop him by burning his fleet. Juno sends her messenger Iris down to the beach where the women are watching the men play games by the ships. Iris then incites the women to set fire to the ships so that they will be forces to build their new city in Sicily. The men try to save the ships but are unable to put out the raging flames. Aeneas then prays to Jupiter to save his fleet and suddenly it begins to rain and the flames are put out (5.680ff). This shows the status of the mortal who has to pray to the God for his destiny in which he has no choice. Venus is worried for them; fearing more tricks from Juno, she pleads to Neptune to let Aeneas reach Italy in safety(5.746-78). Neptune holds a grudge against the Trojans, but consents to have only on e of them dies on the voyage, as a sort of sacrifice for the others. It also shows how much Venus, cares for her son, because he will the change the future of Rome, and be renowned, achieving great status which was vital to a hero, since they were not mortals for their own pleasure, just because Neptune holds a grudge against the Trojans, Palinurus has to be killed without knowing why and by who. He has not committed Hubris, offended the gods in anyway, but because he has no status they are able to dispose of mortals with ease.

Once Aeneas leaves Libya, he finally arrives in Italy and we find out Juno , however, still has not satisfied her anger against the Trojans; unable to prevent them from reaching their promised land, she vows to at leas delay the founding of their city and cause them further pain. When Aeneas and his captains finally break their curse by eating their ‘tables’ on the beach, Virgil shows that he has some good humour about the way Trojans have been abused by the fates ever since the fall of troy. Juno, on the other hand, now puts herself squarely against the fates; for the first rim she openly admits that she cannot win, and yet this does not change her determination to make Aeneas’ life miserable in the least. She says; ‘I cannot keep him form the Latin Kingdoms: / so be it, as the dates have fixed. But I can still hold off / that moment and delay these great events,/ can still strike down the nations of both kings’ (VII. 313-16)

The goddess Allecto (one of the Furies) down to Latium to incite anger against the Trojans. First Queen Amata, the wife of Latinus is turned against the proposed marriage of Lavinia and Aeneas. Then Allecto goes to Turnus and inflames his anger, at the idea of losing Lavinia and having to bow down to a Trojan King. Turnus gather together his army and prepares to drive the Trojans out of Italy. The fight begins with the shepherds; Ascanius is hunting in the woods and due to Juno’s wiles, happens to shoot a stag which is the favourite pet of Latinus herdsmen. The animal staggers back to his master before dying. This herdsmen calls out the other shepherds to seek out the hunter, and Ascanius seeing them coming calls for support from the Trojan ranks. A few of the Italians are killed in a brief skirmish and each side retreats for a while. The shepherds go to King Latinus, carrying the dead, and plead for him to launches an all out assault on the Trojans. The king does not wish it, but all the court (and his own wife) calls angrily for war; in the end he throws up his hands and goes to his chambers unable to stop what the gods have already begun. Turnus gathers together a great host, with all the greatest fighters in Italy as captains. Juno persistently tries to postpone Aeneas’s destiny, which causes a lot of problems for him and his crew. What seems to be Juno’s stupidity is that she is the wife and sister of Jupiter who controls, or at least knows the line of fate which destination cannot be changed. Especially when Venus pleads Jupiter for him to help his son.

This further intervention by Juno and Venus reveal that the Epic poem is much more about their argument than Aeneas himself. The arguments between the gods in the Aeneid seem to take up most of the plot. Since it is them who are the driving force of the poem. Rather than the Protagonist, Aeneas, who seems to be strung along by what the gods are doing and not taking the primary role in the Aeneid. Juno and Venus, especially in the first half of the poem are involved more than the main character himself.

The primary role-playing gods seems to manipulate the other lesser gods to interfere with mortals on their behalf. This apparent when in several cases , it is evident the start when Juno Persuades Aeolus to conjure up a storm which is counteracted by Venus making Neptune calm the seas. She cures his wound from Rutuli, just before his duel with Turnus, another incident where this sort of action followed is when Juno asks Iris to go and persuade the women of Carthage to set fire to Aeneas’ fleet. Jupiter sends Mercury to Aeneas in Carthage, telling him to continue on this quest and leave Carthage and Dido behind. So at some points in the epic poem, it seems as if it is just about the gods and their quarrels.

Juno does play as significant role in the Aeneid, although she is portrayed as a quite juvenile at times. She tries to avenge the Trojans because of two distinct reasons; the ‘Golden Apple’ when Paris chose Venus instead. Secondly, she learns that once Rome is founded her favourite city Carthage will destroyed. Her efforts to stop Aeneas are futile and it is inevitable that he will reach Italy. However, she insists on making it difficult for Aeneas.

Venus seems to have only one concern her, which is made clear throughout the poem. She does everything in her power to see that Aeneas makes it to Italy to found Rome. Venus goes to great extents from pleading with Jupiter to taking precautions with Neptune. She appears to be rather sensible when compared to Juno.

Jupiter, the supreme God, has complete control over the rest of them. Yet it is obvious that he likes to have a bit of humour, as he leads Juno his own wife and sister on. For instance, in Carthage, when Zeus lets her manipulate the consummation of Dido and Aeneas, Zeus knowing full well that Aeneas will have to leave and eventually destroy the city of Carthage. The lesser gods, such Aeolus, Allecto, Mercury, Iris and Neptune simply act as instruments for the more significant gods to play.

 
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