Friday, August 28, 2009

Aeneid Short Essay Response #1

Please answer the following prompt in a concise, well-argued essay. Be sure to cite as directly from the Latin text as you can. Responses must be dated by 11:59 pm, August 30th, to receive full credit.

Book 1.1-11 of the Aeneid sets forth the dominant themes of the poem to follow--the struggles endured by the Trojan Aeneas in his mission to found a city. Drawing both on the text & your supplemental readings from this week, outline the particular historical tradition Vergil drew on for this poem, as well as the particular circumstances under which Vergil himself was working. As you do, offer reasonable, text-based analysis of the role Vergil allots to fate in the narrative that he sets out.


George said...

The Aeneid recounts the story of Aeneas, the Trojan warrior who went on to found a kingdom, which would eventually lead to the establishment of Rome. The story of Aeneas had its roots in the Greek stories and myths and indeed he even appears a few times in the Iliad. Along with this nod to Homer, Vergil also bases the structure and some of the themes of the Aeneid of his Greek counterpart’s epics. Not only does Vergil unmistakably open his poem in the same manner, invoking a Muse, but he also adopts the theme of journey from the Odyssey in the first half of the poem, and the theme of war from the Iliad in the second half. However the Aeneid was also intended to be a national story, a unifying historical banner behind which the entirety of the Roman people could rally behind and take pride in. Augustus commissioned it himself for this purpose because he realized that Rome had no unified national epic as well as no great piece of poetry. Vergil goes about establishing the Aeneid as the national epic by stating that the hero was “fato profugus” (driven by fate, line 2) in order to “conderet urbem, inferretque deos Latio, genus unde Latinum” (he should build a city and bring the gods to Latium, from which cam the Latin race, line 5-6). Vergil repeatedly establishes throughout the poem that the founding of Rome was ordained by Fate and therefore no mere accident that it rose to the powerful empire that it became.

Christina said...

The greatest source from which Vergil drew was the Homeric Epics from Greece. Much of the plotline of the Aeneid, as well as many of the details are so similar it almost looks like an imitation. In the Aeneid, a hero faces a long journey, many trials along the way, and a major war to reach a place he can call home. Although the order of the events, and even the events themselves are different, they are the same kinds of problems.
Vergil also drew on the existing legends and folklore of the Roman people to set down a basis for his legend, although he slightly alters some details. He relies on the Aeneas that already has a place in local legends, as well as the stories of the escapades of the gods to build up a hero and a story that would fit easily into people's minds. Many references are made to historical and mythological events, such as how "Tyrias olim quae verteret arces"(line 20, mentioning the destruction of Carthage), how Aeneas is "Albanique patres"(line 7, how Aeneas' offspring founded Rome, and a retelling of the story of the judgement of Paris.
The Emperor Augustus influenced the poem as well, wanting to be seen not only as a patron of the arts, but as a leader how could bring people together with a glorified celebration of Roman culture. At that time, no major epic poem had been penned by a Roman poet. At the same time, Greece had two prominent works of art, the Homeric Epics and the Arhonautica. Augustus wanted to ensure that his people thought of themselves as prosperous as well.
Fate plays a large part in the Aenead as the inescapable end that will eventually come about no matter what the actions of the mortals. Virgil attributes almost everything to fate, from the destruction of Troy "Trojae qui primus ab ortis Italiam, fato profugus..."(line 2), to Aeneas' journey and the founding of the new city of Rome a few generations later. The gods are strange intermediaries, delivering the messages and prophesies of fate, but are seemingly unable to change what has been called fate.

Anonymous said...

Vergil draws from the previous Greek epics the Iliad and Odyssey allowing him to write the Aeneid during the reign of Augustus as a logical result of fate.

Vergil expected his readers to be well-versed in the Greek Epics as shown by his extended allusions to these epics in his writing. In the Iliad, Poseidon states that Aeneas will rule over the Trojans. Vergil advances this prophecy by having Aeneas become the founder of Rome (“genus unde Latinum…altae moenia Romae”, 6-7). Vergil uses the Odyssey as a map for the Aeneid in that Aeneas establishes civilization. The Editor’s Introduction states that Odysseus restores the “civilized order and moral insight following the temptations of military and sexual adventurism”(Author, 8). It is made clear that Juno is to be Aeneas’ main adversary throughout the epic by the line “Tantaene animis caelestibus irae?, Can there be this much anger in the soul of the gods?” Ancient authorities thought that Vergil had plagiarized the Greek epics upon the Aeneid’s release because it drew so much upon the Greek Tradition, but they failed to take into account Vergil’s conception of the Roman mission for future power inspired by Poseidon; in this pursuit Vergil’s adaption of the Greek epics was a novelty.

Fate has already decided that Aeneas is going to succeed in his mission to establish Rome from the Aeneid’s introduction. Aeneas came through fate “fato profugus, 2” to Italy and would survive the tribulations of Juno until he could establish a city“conderet urbem,5”. The beginning is the end, as some say, and in this case it is true. The reader already knows that Aeneas will endure the trials of Juno and complete his quest which was determined by fate.

In Conclusion, Vergil draws on the past to perpetuate the present image of Rome in an epic which connects the history of Aeneas to Romulus. By extenstion, this history glorifies Augustus, who is the current Leader of the Romans, and asserts his rule through the divine right of fate.