Violence in the Aeneid: The Instances of Conflicts in the Epic Poem

Violence in the aeneid all you need to knowViolence in the Aeneid explores the subjects of conquest and defeat, glory and infamy, that characterized the establishment of the Roman Empire. The poem depicts the exploits of Aeneas whose heroic acts led to the founding of Rome, which later became an empire under Julius Caesar. 

Though the poem is filled with violence, the brutality yields little to no results, a reflection of today’s society. Discover violence in Virgil Aeneid and how it affected the people and civilizations.

What Is Violence in the Aeneid?

Violence in the Aeneid is the cause of war and destruction in the epic poem and the devastating losses that follow in its wake. It explores the frivolous reasons why wars began in the poem and how they affected the characters involved in the conflict.

The Violence in Aeneid: Book 1

Aeneas and his fleet were on a voyage to find a second home when violent winds sent by Aeolus attacked them. Before that, Aeolus had been bribed by Juno, who hated Aeneas and his fleet.

First, Aeneas was a Trojan, and Juno hated the Trojans because their prince, Paris, chose Aphrodite as the most beautiful among the goddesses. Secondly, it had prophesied that Aeneas would destroy her choicest city, Carthage.

As if that was not enough, Juno’s daughter, Hebe, had been replaced as cupbearer to Jupiter by the Trojan prince, Ganymede. All these issues boiled up in Juno, and she conspired with Aeolus, the King of the Winds, to destroy Aeneas’ fleet.

Aeolus blows his fiercest winds but Neptune, the god of the Sea, intervenes and calms the waters. Though Neptune doesn’t like the Trojans, he interrupts the plans of Aeolus and Juno because he feels they are intruding in his territory.

Thus, right from the 1st Book or chapter, the poem records violence between the gods and man, Juno and Aeolus against Aeneas. Also, there is violence between the gods – Juno and Aeolus against Neptune.

However, the violence is pointless as Juno’s efforts to destroy Aeneas and his ships are thwarted. Aeneas can brave the storm and take shelter off the coasts of Africa, where he encourages his men not to lose heart but continue to strive with him. They build another fleet of ships and set sail to continue their travels.

The Violence at the Beginning of the Poem

The Aeneid summary begins with the destruction of Troy by the Achaeans, and it depicts the epic hero, Aeneas, fleeing from the carnage and carrying his father, Anchises, with him. He later narrates how his fellow citizens fought valiantly, knowing they had already lost.

He recounts how the Greeks gifted a wooden horse to the Trojans but unknown to the Trojans; the Greeks had hidden their men in the horse. The Greeks then pretended to give up on the war and sail away.

However, a Trojan priest, Laocoon, saw through the ruse of the Greeks and warned the Trojans against bringing the wooden horse into the city. Unfortunately, his warnings fell on deaf ears, and to convince his people, and he threw a spear at the horse.

Sadly, the gods sent two giant sea serpents to kill Laocoon and his sons. Tragically, the people of Troy interpreted Laocoon’s tragic death as a sign that he was lying. Thus they brought the wooden horse into the city.

Once night fell and the Trojans were sound asleep, the Greek warriors climbed out of the horse and opened the gates for their colleagues who had returned. The Greek warriors pillaged the city, killing the Trojans in droves and burning Troy to the ground.

Luckily, for Aeneas, Hector, who died in the battle, appeared to him in a dream and warned him to flee Troy with his family. On their way, he realized that he had left his wife behind, and he returned for her only to meet her ghost, indicating she was dead.

Effects of Violence in the Aeneid

The violence subsides as we read of Aeneas’ numerous wanderings after his encounter on the seas. This chapter tells of the effects of the violence as Aeneas meets Andromache, his widowed wife of Hector. Andromache’s story reminds everyone that though the war heroes may receive honor and glory, their relatives and descendants bear the brunt of their absence. Hector died defending the city of Troy and was honored as the greatest warrior in Trojan history.

However, his widow, Andromache, continued to feel his absence and mourn his death. Andromache also lost her son, Astyanax, during the war, and her sorrow could not be contained. She has lost her family through the conflict in Troy and nothing in this world could placate or replace the loss that she felt. Virgil conveys the idea that clashes are violent and have untold psychological, emotional, physical, and financial effects on their survivors.

Aeneas and his men also discover the dead body of Polydorus, a prince of Troy, and they are moved to sorrow. Polydorus’ remains remind them of the Trojan warriors that lost their lives in defense of Troy. It also paints the horrid picture of the horror of war and why it should be avoided at all costs especially given the frivolous cause of the Trojan War. The effects of violence can be devastating even on the warriors that partake in it, as we encounter in Book 3 of the Aeneid.

The Fate of Dido and Other Violent Acts

Dido, the Queen of Carthage, committed suicide by stabbing herself with the sword of Aeneas and dying on a funeral pyre. In this part, we witness a slight shift from the violence of wars and conflicts to violence perpetrated on oneself.

Dido killed herself because Aeneas couldn’t reciprocate her sacrificial love for him. She gave her all in the relationship she built with the epic hero, but Aeneas put his mission of founding Rome above Dido.

Unknown to Dido, she was just a tool that Juno used to prevent Aeneas from fulfilling his destiny of founding Rome. However, Jupiter sends Mercury, the god of messages and communication, to remind Aeneas of his mission.

Nonetheless, Mercury then advises him to leave in the dead of night to avoid Dido’s pleas and tears. Aeneas obliges and waits till everyone is asleep, and he creeps out of Carthage when Dido finds out the following day, that she had killed herself.

The Carnage at Latium

However, we return to the destructive acts of war when Aeneas arrives in Latium and marries Princess Lavinia. The princess had earlier been betrothed to the leader of the Rutuli people, Turnus, but her father, King Latinus, changed his mind and gave her to Aeneas.

On the other hand, Juno, who has always hated Aeneas, causes Alecto, one of the Furies, to incite Lavinia’s mother to thwart the marriage. Lavinia’s mother, Amata, hides her daughter in the woods and prompts the women of Latium to instigate a war between Aeneas and Turnus.

Alecto also causes Ascanius to wound the sacred deer of Sylvia, the daughter of Tyrrheus. This sparks another disastrous war that destroys several lives and property in Latium. The Aeneid ends with further violence as notable warriors like Pallas, Camilla, Arruns and Lausus lose their lives. Aeneas then faces off with Turnus as they agree that single combat should end all hostilities.

The gods also take sides and try to influence the duel’s outcome, but Aeneas wins. Queen Amata also kills herself by hanging after learning that Aeneas killed Turnus in the duel. Once again, we encounter the destructive effects of war as the people of Rutulli lose their revered champion, and King Latium loses his beloved wife.

Conclusion

So far, we’ve discussed the various instances of conflicts in the Aeneid and their catastrophic effects on the warriors and their relatives. Here is a summary points of all that this article has covered:Violence in the aeneid what to expect

  • The Aeneid is an epic poem filled with various forms of violence, including suicide, from the beginning to the end.
  • Aeneas narrates how Troy fell at the hands of the Greeks and how he had to escape with his family from the city only to realize that he had left his wife behind.
  • He encounters the widow Andromache, the wife of Hector, who is still mourning the loss of her family, and we learn how war affects the relatives of the warriors.
  • Aeneas’ encounter with Dido introduces us to another form of violence, suicide, which Dido commits after she learns that her husband, Aeneas, has abandoned her.
  • The Aeneid ends in a war when the epic hero and Turnus face off in a duel after princess Lavinia’s hand is given in marriage to Aeneas instead of Turnus as promised.

Though violence in the epic poem is a means of conquering and surviving, its damages the spirit of both the victor and the vanquished as they both suffer terrible losses.

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