Monday, February 12, 2007

Virgil Journal 3: Aeneas' Pietas

The character and legend of Aeneas, which was first established in Homer’s Illiad, reappears in Virgil’s Aenied. Virgil drew Aeneas’ future role as the ancestor of the Romans from Achilleus’ rampage in the Illiad. In this scene, Aeneas, encouraged by Apollo, challenges Achilleus to a battle. During the battle Poseidon says:

“But why does this man, who is guiltless, suffer his sorrows
for no reason, for the sake of others’ unhappiness, and always
he gives gifts that please them to the gods who hold the wide heaven.
But come, let us ourselves get him away from death, for fear
the son of Kronos may be angered if now Achilleus
kills this man. It is destined that he shall be the survivor,
that the generation of Dardanos shall not die, without seed
obliterated, since Dardanos was dearest to Kronides
of all his sons that have been born to him from mortal women.
For Kronos’ son has cursed the generation of Priam,
and now the might of Aineias shall be lord over the Trojans,
and his sons’ sons, and those who are born of their seed hereafter. (20.297-308)”

This passage sets the basis for Virgil’s Aenied. It is evident Aeneas was destined to survive at Troy and will one day lead over its decedents. While researching I also found an interesting connection to why Virgil chose Aeneas as the founder of the Roman race:
“As the Romans came into contact - and conflict - with the Greeks in the third and second centuries B.C., they sought to link themselves with Greek legends, and gradually adopted Aeneas - an enemy of the Greeks - as an ancestor and a founder of a city, Lavinium, that was a precursor of Rome itself. In the Aeneid, Virgil elaborated upon these legends, reworked some of them, and organized them into a grand epic that stressed Aeneas’ role as the ancestor of the Roman people and linked his personal destiny with the historical destiny of Rome to become the seat of a great empire. At its core, though, is the hero whom Homer destined for survival in the Iliad (Virgil’s Aeneid: Introduction).”

The piety of Aeneas, attributed to him by Poseidon in the Illiad, develops into a defining characteristic throughout the Aenied. I also noted, that Virgil used the words of Poseidon as his own starting point for the Aenied. In the Illiad, Aeneas is described as a “guiltless” man who must “suffer his sorrows for no reason”. Similarly, Virgil begins the Aenied by saying, “Tell me, O Muse, the cause; wherein thwarted in will or wherefore angered, did the Queen of heaven drive a man, of goodness so wondrous, to traverse so many perils, to face to many toils.”

It is in these lines we are first introduced to Aeneas, described as a man of insignem pietate (Aenied 1.10). Later, I noticed that Aeneas introduces himself to the huntress by declaring, “I am the loyal/pious Aeneas” (“sum pius Aeneas”, Aenied 1.378). It appears as if Virgil uses Aeneas to portray the Roman hero, displaying the qualities of pietas and duty. He is a good man who is forced to suffer at the hands of a larger divine plan. Roman pietas consisted of three main duties: duty towards the Gods, duty towards country, and duty towards family/followers (Wikipedia). It is already evident that Aeneas has submitted himself to the will of the gods. From Jupiter’s prophecy we learn that Aeneas will rage a great war in Italy, crush proud nations, establish Latium, and found the Roman race. Reading ahead, I know that Aeneas’ pietas will cause him to leave Dido in order to continue to fulfill his destiny. This example provides evidence of his duty of country and the gods, but not to his family.

Curious, I decided to search the Internet for a peek ahead. From my research I learned that Virgil greatly explores the relationship between fathers and sons as the poem continues. Apparently, Aeneas had rescued his father, Anchises, and son, Ascanius, from Troy. The image of him departing with Ascanius, while carrying the Trojan ancestral gods in his arms and his father on his back, is the epitome of the three duties associated with pietas.

On a side note, I also found that many scholars believe Aeneas’s piety was a direct attempt by Augustus to establish himself as a pious ruler. Virgil had been commissioned by Augustus to write the Aenied. This would explain his obvious flattery of the Roman’s and the rulers during Jupiter’s speech. As Mr. O’Donnell put it, “he was sucking up to his commissioner.” Virgil may have in way alluded to Augustus through Aeneas. It heavily suggested that gods “work their ways” through humans. The people of Rome must accept their fate, just as Aeneas accepted his fate to found Rome, and Augustus’ fate to lead it. In a way, this gave Augustus an unquestionable god given power.

From what little we have already seen of the Aenied, and the additional information I have learned online, I can tell pietas will be a resounding theme. Its obvious importance will make it a likely AP question (2005 AP asked about it), so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for more supporting evidence!

3. Wikipedia
5. Loeb Translation


Mia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mia said...

Karen did a wonderful job of illustrating the sources of Aeneas' pietas in the Aeneid using both online sources as well as her love for Latin...what more could we ask for as eager AP students, yearning for an extensive knowledge of our subject? Well, an interpretation of one other aspect of this subject will lead us to the answers we want: the roots of piety itself.

Like Karen says, Aeneas' pietas is undoubtedly a reoccurring theme in our story- for all we know, it is crucial to the final outcome (which first-time readers can only speculate about as we reach the end of Book 1). However, what really IS "piety"?

Well, according to Wikipedia, piety comes in 3 distinct parts. First off, the definition: "a desire and willingness to work toward spiritual goals through our actions in this world." In Aeneas' case, we as readers are sure of his fate (as we had that confirmation from Jupiter that his mind has not been turned)- he (Aeneas) will fulfill his destiny and lay the foundation for the Roman race and what not...However, we know that constant interference from the gods will surely, in one way or another, lead Aeneas on strayed paths as he works to reach his final destination...Virgil instills in Aeneas such strength and perseverance that we know he will be in for a long and wild ride...anything to make it all more interesting, and to further support the theme of Aeneas' piety!

Part I: Winning Favor of the Gods
Wikipedia asserts: "Some people consider piety a way to win the favor or forgiveness of deities, that is, to 'propitiate' them." We can easily tie this aspect of piety in to the Aeneid: in order for Aeneas to survive, a satisfactory relationship with a god or gods will be more than necessary. As of now, we know that the goddess Juno isn't very happy- she knows that Aeneas will eventually overtake the city of Carthage (her favorite place), etc. We have seen her working against Aeneas and his crew since the first lines (shipwrecks and more). This relationship will surely have an effect on Aeneas' future, but let's remember, he has some gods working for him: his mother, Venus, and newly introduced Dido (his lover...). Can we safely assume that Aeneas' pietas will help him develop lasting, meaningful relationships with the gods?...Perhaps, but remember that gods have wills of their own...will Aeneas ever have the capacity to win the favor of dear Juno???

Part II: Intimate Relationship- Man and Goddess
The next part of Wiki's explanation of piety is as follows: "Others consider authentic piety something that engages more than the physical body of a person. In this view, the heart and mind of a person are engaged in an intimate, revitalizing, deepening relationship with deities." This can be directly attributed to Aeneas' relationship with the goddess, Dido (which will hopefully prove to be intimate in many ways). Dido, as a prominent figure in the Aeneid, will provide more than just a romantic touch to our story- her impact upon Aeneas and upon us as readers will be significant. Aeneas' piety, once again, will lead him to develop this relationship with Dido (and who knows which direction it will point him this Karen said: family vs. country?!?!).

Part III: All Hail the Gods
The final part to Wiki's description of piety is: "It results in external signs, such as humility and pacificity before God or 'the gods'." So, who's all-poweful now? Yes, we know the gods have been the whole time, but still...Will Aeneas' piety direct him in a direction in which he serves the gods before his people? There's no way...or is there?

Well, that's about it for this week's Virgil Journal for me...I'll just add that, like Harry Potter, every time one goes back and reflects upon what one has read this far, one always discovers something new, and becomes interested in another aspect of the story...who knows, it provoked me to discover the meaning of piety! Anyways...Amo Latinam ad Vitam!

P.S. Karen: I applaud you for your use of the internet...but I'm not giving up my title as "Online Latin Queen" quite yet... ;)

John said...

Wow u girls did a good job

dodonnell said...

This is great stuff....please keep it up. I am very impressed with both your curiosity and depth of understanding.

MasterJung said...

Wonderful... these should keep me interested. May be I should post my Virgil Journals (?)

bryn said...

yeah...this works! Aeneus is definitely a confusing guy...but so are all men!