Virgil’s Aeneid is an example of antique poetry that represents the specific mythological worldview of pagan Rome. One of the most important characteristics that concern such a text is the prominent position of personified gods who act as well as people and take an active part in the plot’s development. The research of forms and different aspects of divine intervention helps to understand better the specifics of the author’s and his contemporaries’ worldview and the position concerning the relations between mortals and gods typical for the ancient Romans. One more important point is that Aeneid has a political function to describe the mythological history of Rome and in such a way provides a plausible interpretation for events contemporary for Virgil himself. Such detail attaches to the fact of gods’ presence in the narrative some political feature. Thus, gods in Aeneid play the roles of both characters and literary symbols used for the current political situation legitimization because of their divine authority.
One of the best illustrations of divine intervention in Aeneid is that Aeneas himself is a Venus’ son (Virgil 62). In fact, it shows the degree to which the worlds of mortals and gods are interrelated. Venus helps her son with different problems and provides some pieces of advice concerning his voyage and mission. In this point, there are at least two important details. At first, Virgil describes Venus (as well as other gods) engaged to the mortals’ affairs. For example, Venus and Cupid help Aeneas to seduce Dido when he comes to Carthage with other Trojans (Virgil 71). In the same manner, other gods (especially Venus’ rivals in the Trojan War – Juno and Minerva) try to make some obstacles on the way of Aeneas’ success during his deeds. For instance, Juno spirits Turnus from the battle in order to save Turnus from the battle with Aeneas (Virgil 92-293). Such cheating is Juno’s way to interact with the world of mortals, and the most important detail here is that she (as well as other gods and goddesses) does not use some supernatural powers in order to coerce the mortals to do something, but she acts mostly indirectly.
The second detail is that both Trojan War and the foundation of Rome are the results of the gods’ intention. The conflict between three goddesses each of who wanted to be praised as the most beautiful one, caused the historical events in the world of mortals where after the destruction of the city of Troy Aeneas became a hero who had to save the rest of the Trojans. In the same way, the creation of Rome as an alternative of the city of Troy also has to be the result of divine intervention (Virgil 247). In fact, through such a prism, the whole plot of Aeneid can be understood as the description of direct and indirect ways the gods use to intervene into the mortals’ lives and make some impact on them.
In this respect, the image of Jupiter has a specific feature of god that overcomes others. As Virgil writes, “King Jupiter is the king to all alike” (276). Through such a description, the author shows both Jupiter as a king (in some degree similar to mortal kings) and both the gods and the mortals as equally obedient to his supreme divine will. For example, one of the central motives of the poem is the inevitable essence of the Fate. The phrase “The Fates will find the way” is repeated twice (Virgil 113; 276). The latter passage concerns the king’s power of Jupiter connected with the Fates (Virgil 276). The mentioned passage when Juno spirits Turnus serves as a good example of Jupiter’s authority. Before that, she asked Jupiter to permit her such an act, and he said: “if you acknowledge the limits I lay down, then whisk your Turnus away, pluck him out of the closing grip of Fate&rdqquo; (292). Thus, the main point of the passage is to show that Jupiter possesses the power that allows him to govern even the Fates as well as other gods and goddesses. Through the prism of political context, the image of Jupiter demonstrates the supreme position of the Roman Emperor during Virgil’s life because this interpretation is obvious in this case, especially as long as the central theme of the poem is the foundation of Rome. This means all people are equal under the Roman Emperor just as the supremacy of Jupiter equalizes the whole world.
Through the description of Jupiter’s power and might as well as Rome’s glory, Virgil in fact glorifies his own political leader (247). Another important detail is that each divine help Aeneas had in Rome’s foundation is an author’s device to legitimize the existence of Rome and prove its Trojan origin. Through this prism, the gods of Virgil do not only show the religious beliefs of Romans, but also serve as the political symbols actual for Virgil’s epoch. Such a point of view provides the interpretation of divine intervention as an ideological metaphor.
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In this way, Virgil uses the motive of divine intervention in two aspects. At first, he mentions gods as a part of his society’s beliefs. In this statement, the author appeals to the common images that help in his ideas’ expression. In this respect, he shows gods similar to people but possessing some supernatural powers. Another Virgil’s point is the political aspect of the poem, in accordance with which he glorifies the Emperor and Rome through the appellation to mythological motives and the use of divine intervention as an effective way to legitimize the Emperor’s authority and the Rome’s superiority over other cities. For such a purpose, the author also uses the images of personified gods who represent the people obeying to their king Jupiter.
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