Virgil creates the character of Aeneas to symbolize the good qualities of the founder of Rome, and of Rome itself. Although there are similarities between Aeneas and the Greek epic heroes who came before, such as Odysseus, there are also differences, as there are differences between Greece and Rome.
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Aeneas as Divine
As a typical epic hero, Aeneas is partly divine; his mother is the goddess Venus, although his father is a human being. Therefore, he is capable of superhuman acts (second best warrior after Hector, capable of going to the underworld) but is also human, meaning that he makes mistakes and has flaws (vain and selfish). He has a great mission to accomplish: the founding of Rome, and as is the case with most ancient heroes, some gods send him on to get his quest accomplished (Mercury and Jupiter), and some try to keep him from doing it (Venus and Juno). As a hero, he has to show that he has the qualities of the civilization that he represents. In Aeneas’ case, he is pious and dutiful, showing the Roman ideal of acting in the interests of the fatherland. Sometimes he has to put his own wishes to one side in order to obey his destiny. An example of this is his leaving his wife Creusa behind (she does not matter any more to Rome’s destiny), and saving his son, who will represent Rome’s future.
Aeneas' Darker Side
On the other hand, your Aeneas term paper may see that a number of his deeds seem quite unheroic to the modern reader.
- He is afraid of the storm at sea and only thinks of his own glory, wishing that if he has to die, it could be in a famous battle.
- He thinks that Priam did not pay enough attention to him, and refuses to fight any more until his friends coax him to.
- He has an affair with Dido of Carthage (because the goddess Venus forced them to fall in love), and then leaves her behind. Once again, he does this because the gods require him to fulfill his mission, but he tries to sneak off without explaining it to her. She seems much more sympathetic and understandable than he does, in the way they break up.
- He more or less slithers away from Creusa’s shade as well; he seems to think that his mission justifies everything and he should not even have to explain the harm it causes to others.
- Finally, he fights with Turnus, and even though Turnus repents of his actions, he kills Turnus in cold blood. In these ways, he seems cowardly, vain and self-centered.