Analysing The Aeneid
The link between love and violence’:
Analysing The Aeneid
The Aeneid is a one of the most renowned Latin poems which was written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC depicting a legendary tale of a Trojan named Aeneas who left his city with many Trojans after a war and found the Roman Empire (Fagles, 2006). When one reads the poem and understands the story, there are several themes which come alive with its well-written lines. And extreme violence is definitely one of those central themes. But as claimed by most, the violence being talked in The Aeneid is borne out of love somewhere. This essay aims at illuminating the fact that in The Aeneid, the emergence of love is always accompanied with violence. Most of the battle and bloodshed depicted in the story is related to love in the background.
A Brief Overview
The poem of The Aeneid comprises 9,896 lines in written in dactylic hexameter with certain variation at places due to the fact that the poem was left unedited by Virgil due to his sudden death (Fagles, 2006). The poem has been divided into twelve books, each denoting a chapter in the historical context of The Aeneid. The first six of the twelve books portray the mournful story of Trojan suffering and how Aeneas strives to leave Troy and reach Italy. The rest of six poems depict how extreme violence and war led to the victory of Trojans upon the Latins.
The Central Theme of Love and Violence
It is one the strongest claims about The Aeneid that there has been a link between love and violence in numerous places. In fact, it is asserted that the emergence of love is always accompanied by violence. The first argument in the support of this thesis statement comes from one of the central themes of the tale- Fire. Yes, fire is one factor which simultaneously covey positive as well as negative emotions. It on one hand, symbolizes true love, passion and eroticism. On the other hand, it signifies anger, jealousy, revenge, holocaust and devastation. When the fundamentals of the story is checked, it becomes clear how it was the very emergence of fire of love in Paris’s heart for Helen of Troy which lead to such massive massacre. It was the love which lead to destruction of Troy and that is why, Aeneas wanted to kill Helen, the root cause of the fierce battle between Greeks and Trojans. But Venus stopped him.
Again, when one reads between the lines, the reason behind Juno’s hatred for Trojans becomes clear. It was all because of jealousy! She was not chosen as the most beautiful Goddess by a Trojan judge in a divine beauty contest which made her be so violent in her jealousy, which was ultimately a result of desire to be loved and appreciated by the judge and others as most beautiful.
But the strongest of evidence for the link between violence and love comes from the love story between Dido, the Queen on Carthage and Aeneas. When Aeneas along with other Trojans reaches her kingdom, she falls for him as Gods inspired her to do so. There is a romantic relationship between Dido and Aeneas for quite some time. They not only fall in love but also get into physical relationship. That is when the Gods remind Aeneas of his divine duty and inspire him to move on in his journey to reach Italy and establish the Roman Empire.
When Dido witnesses Aeneas leaving the land with his fleet of Trojans, she is greatly shattered by the pain of separation. Her love and eventually the pining take a very violent form. She orders to get all the souvenirs of Aeneas’s love and presence be burnt in pyre. Her despair blinds her and she decides to suicide. She climbs upon the pyre, kills herself with Aeneas’s sword and curses him for he left her alone. But the story of violence does not end here. When Dido’s subjects get to know about her death, they are infuriated and strongly blame the Trojans for this loss. They take Dido’s final words, the curse to their heart and swear to avenge. Thus, it is love again which lays the foundation of such vengeance and violent relationship between Carthage and Rome in later years.
The story of love leading to violence does not end here; there is another evidence to prove this. When Trojans reached Italy, it was not a very fierce or violent affair. But again, it was love which spoils it. An Italian King named Latinus, the Italian ruler welcomes the Trojans, especially Aeneas warmly. He has a motive in mind- to get his daughter Lavinia married to Aeneas to fulfil a prophecy he believed in. But King Latinus’s wife, Queen Amata wanted Lavinia to marry an Italian named Turnus. Hence, it again led to beginning of a subtle animosity which grows wildly after the killing of a pet stag of the local Italians by a Trojan. Turnus ends up killing Pallas, who was dear to Aeneas for more than one reason and deserved his protection as he was the son of Aeneas’s new friend Evander. This act drives Aeneas in fury and eventually leads to the killing of Turnus by Aeneas.
The entire 9896 lines tell a saga of disturbing endings where either one or other loses love, life or peace. There is extreme bloodshed and violence in every place Aeneas went because it all started
at Troy due to God’s acts and hence, the repercussions followed. It is a matter of shame when love becomes a reason for violence. Love should be so deep that it never leads to vengeance but only forgiveness. But love was totally mistaken in The Aeneid as something to be either in prized possession or at violent disposal. If Dido had loved Aeneas that deeply, she would have understood the reason behind his departure. She would have never cursed him that severely. If love could be taken positively, there could be no reason for war.
But there was ego in every character of The Aeneid, much more ego than love. Cursing, killing and jealousy overtook what could be a foundation for peace. If in the very beginning, the war between the Gods could be settled with peace, there could be less of bloodshed later.
In a personal opinion, the emergence of love is never related to violence but sadly, it is true for The Aeneid as one can analyse from the various evidences.
- Fagles, Robert (translation). The Aeneid by Virgil. United States of America: Viking Press. 2006.