Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Amor Vincit Omnia: Love in the Aeneid (In Honor of V-Day)

Longing, infatuation, desire, and love have proven to be deeply embedded in the human character. What makes it all interesting, however, is the fact that love itself has a wide variety of intended meanings- for example: Romantic love (a deep, ineffable feeling of attraction- mostly intimate), Platonic love (affectionate without the physical aspect...Plato's ideal of love!), Religious love (for Him), Familial love (for your family, of course), Selflessness, Friendship, etc. The diverse range of meanings in the concept of "love" reflects its depth, versatility, and complexity. The best part, though, is that love, in its plethora of forms, makes frequent appearances in the context of Virgil's Aeneid! So...let's take a look at two of our main lovers in the story- how their decisions affect their infatuation, and (while partually ruining what we have of the plot up until the end of Book 1).

Aeneas and Love: Choices and Consequences

As a Trojan leader, Aeneas respects prophecy and attempts to incorporate the idea of his own destiny into his actions throughout the story. However, as we have first seen him, Aeneas is filled with conflicting emotions. One part of him is still grieving for his lost city and all the friends and family who died there (like in Bk. 1, line 470 when he is crying as he looks at the artwork depicting the Trojan War). Another part of him is worn out with troubles and worries about whether or not he will ever find a place where his people can settle (as we know, Juno, described as a "force of disorder", is not very happy with Aeneas, and will be looking to bring about the downfall of both Aeneas and the Trojan race). We as readers see that Aeneas has the capacity to hold strong, in spite of emotional impulses that conflict with his fated duties. Yet, we will undoubtedly see Aeneas fall as a result of his desires (nobody, not even characters in novels, are perfect), and be led astray on his path to fate. His compassion for the sufferings of others, even in conjunction with a single-minded devotion to his duty (piety comes into play again), will be a major factor in both Aeneas' decisions, as well as the outcome of the story. Plus, we are nearly upon the description of perhaps the most important the relationship of the journey: that between Dido and Aeneas! <3

Dido Unveiled: From Infatuation to Personal Destruction (SPOILER WARNING)

From what we know of Dido thus far, she is the confident and competent ruler of Carthage, a city she founded on the coast of North Africa. She is resolute, we learn, in her determination not to marry again and to preserve the memory of her dead husband, Sychaeus, whose murder at the hands of Pygmalion, her brother, caused her to flee her native Tyre. Despite this turmoil, she maintains her focus on her political responsibilities. Virgil depicts the suddenness of the change that love provokes in the queen with the image of Dido as the victim of Cupid’s arrow (in the upcoming lines with which we will end Book 1), which strikes her almost like madness or a disease. Dido tells her sister that a flame has been reignited within her. While flames and fire are traditional, almost clich├ęd images associated with love, fire is also a natural force of destruction and uncontrollable chaos. Dido risks everything by falling for Aeneas, and when this love fails, she finds herself unable to reassume her dignified position. By taking Aeneas as a lover, she compromises her previously untainted loyalty to her dead husband’s memory. Her irrational obsession drives her to a frenzied suicide, out of the tragedy of her situation and the pain of lost love, but also out of a sense of diminished possibilities for the future. She is a figure of passion and volatility, qualities that contrast with Aeneas’s order and control, and interestingly, traits that Virgil associated with Rome itself in his own day. However, until the story of Aeneas and Dido unfolds for us, we must realize that love plays a key role not only in Dido's death, but also in Aeneas' final decision to leave Dido (specifically, his love for the Trojans and his desire to find them a place of rest).

In ending this sequence about love, we must recall one of the most famous Latin proverbs, attributed to our one and only Virgil (written in his Eclogues- 10:69):

amor vincit omnia, et nos cedamus amori
Translation: Love conquers all, let us too yield to love.

In a sense, love will always remain "in medias omnia res" among the characters in the Aeneid, and perhaps in our own everyday lives.

Sources Include:

1. Wikipedia
2. Loeb Edition
3. Pinkmonkey
4. Sparknotes
4. Virgil's Aeneid (by Barbara Weiden Boyd)
5. Google Images

1 comment:

Khauser said...

<3 ^_^ Love is so much cooler in latin. I espcially like the lil cupid (nice touch).