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Aeneas and Turnus: Their Roles in the Plot

In The Aeneid, Virgil introduces the post-Homeric epic, an epic that immortalizes each a hero’s glory and the foundation of a folks. The scope of the Aeneid can be paralleled to the scope of the Oresteia of Aeschylus, which explores the origins of a social institution, the Areopagus of Athens, and presents this origin as coinciding with a shift from the archaic matriarchal society ruled by the ties of blood to a civilized patriarchal society ruled by a court of law. Likewise, in the Aeneid, the founding of a civilization carries its own destructive consequence: the symbolic death of Turnus, and with it, the passing of an whole way of being. Virgil provides Turnus as a foil to Aeneas, in character and in culture, and Turnus’s death, although relayed with compassion, is required to effect this transition from an archaic past to the creation of the Roman civilization.

Virgil articulates the conflict in between the existing structures of the house and city, a conflict that seems throughout the Aeneid, by means of his characterization of Aeneas and Turnus. In counterpoint to Aeneas and his primarily political orientation, Virgil offers Turnus a domestic nature. These associations arise in their actions for the duration of battle: Turnus chooses to burn Aeneas’ ships as an alternative of setting aflame the newfound fortress of the Trojans. In contrast, hunting towards Latium, Aeneas sees “the city / free from the pressure of war, intact, at rest. / Straightway the image of a higher struggle has kindled him” (12.751-four). Though this is to be his “promised land,” Aeneas sets fire to the walls of Latium, begrudging this kingdom for its peace, rest, and walls, and recognizing that some thing must fall to let some thing else to arise (7.153). This, Aeneas’ “greater labor,” moves him to act (7.55). While Aeneas razes walls, the structural photos of domesticity, Turnus razes ships, symbols of imperialism, conquest, and the spread of civilizations. To further assistance the characterization of Turnus as oikos-centric, Turnus is championed each by Amata, the matriarch of Latium, and Juno, the goddess of marriage and hearth. Aeneas entry into the city will violate Virgil’s image of the tender housewife at the hearth, “her initial job to sustain life,” and forces the unraveling of the household structure (8.536). As Queen Amata looks out from her higher palace and fails to see the Rutulians and Turnus, she commits suicide her daughter Lavinia tears at her bright hair and cheeks” King Latinus defiles his aged hairs with filthy dust” (12.813, 819). The social order of domestic life need to be sacrificed for the genesis of a new and manifestly political Roman order.

If Aeneas stands apart from the pulls of the domestic sphere, why does the family play such a prominent function in the Aeneid? How is this view of Aeneas as the debaser of the property reconciled with Virgil’s account of an epic hero who bears his father and his household gods upon his back and his young son by hand as he flees, an exile from Troy? Though Aeneas has filial piety and fatherly love, these qualities are analogous to his historical and political duty. For Aeneas, the preservation of his genealogical line and the founding of a civilization are of far a lot more importance than the preservation of a household. As such, his sons sons, with limitless fortune, unlimited time, and an empire with out end,” play an instrumental part in bringing about the Roman “rulership of nations” (1.390, six.1134). Yet in this, also, in conserving Anchises and Ascanius, one must fall by the wayside. Aeneas journeys in the night by way of the fiery remnants of his captured city, in worry for son and father,” as his wife Cresa follows behind, and upon reaching the safety of the shrine, discovers that she alone / [is] missing” gone from husband, son, companions” (two.984, 1002-3). Cresa is the 1st in a line of persons sacrificed for the completion of Aeneas higher labor.” Dido, a victim of a quasi-marriage to Aeneas, queries Aeneas piety and exposes its apparent contradiction:

This is the correct hand, this the pledge of one particular who carries with him, so they say, the household gods of his land, who bore upon his shoulders his father weak with years?” (four.823-6)Ultimately, Lavinia, whose hand, land, and kingdom inspires the Rutulians and Trojans to war, is pursued by Aeneas not by means of really like or a need for loved ones, as in the case of Turnus, whose “love drives [him] wild” and tends to make him “even keener now for battle,” but by means of a desire for civilization and walls (12.95-6). Aeneas three marriages traced through the Aeneid show escalating distortions of the household and hearth. Domestic sanctity is required mainly to permit divine prophecies to achieve historical realization, and is often secondary to political compulsion. Aeneas does not bear simply his father upon his back. He carries a greater labor: Upon his shoulder he / lifts up the fame and fate of his sons’ sons” (8.954-5).

In addition to the juxtaposition of the domestic/matriarchal and political/patriarchal orientations of Turnus and Aeneas, Virgil portrays Turnus as becoming linked to the previous but paints Aeneas with an eye to the future. Turnus spurs his guys to battle by recalling the glory of their hearth and previous, saying, “Let every single / don't forget wife and residence, recall the vibrant / acts and glories of his ancestors” (10.390-2). When inspiring his men, Aeneas instead appears toward the future:

Possibly a single day you will remember even

These our adversities with pleasure. Through

So several crises and calamities

We make for Latium…

Hold out, and save yourselves for kinder days” (1.283-9).

Tied to this opposition of previous and future is the identification of Turnus with the conventional, insular, and self-contained kingship, even though Aeneas is identified with a new method of social and political organization, that of the empire. The founding of this empire needs a breaking from tradition and custom, symbolically captured as the desecration of the wild olive tree of Faunus, exactly where the Latins when hung votive garments and offerings.

“…Heedless of this custom,

The Teucrians had carried off the sacred

Tree trunk to clear the field, to lay it bare

For battle” (12.1020-three).

As he prepares to dual Turnus, Aeneas can't wrench totally free his spear from the deep root of the tree. Turnus cries for Faunus and Earth to hold quickly the steel, citing the rites he has kept, the rites that “Aeneas’/ men have profaned by war” (12.1032-3). But with Venus’s aid, Aeneas regains his spear. Custom, embodied in the tree, yields, and so, the essential profanity of establishing a civilization is legitimized, allowing the shift from the standard and archaic worldview to one that appears towards what is to come.

Analogous to this characterization of Turnus as a dweller in the previous and Aeneas as a creator of the future is the portrayal of Turnus as representative of a a lot more lawless society, one that will be supplanted by the ordered society Aeneas will found, even though this order will 1st be shadowed by warfare and conflict. King Latinus welcomes the Teucrians into his palace, asking them not to overlook that the Latins need to have:

“No laws and no restraint for righteousness

They hold themselves in check by their personal will

And by the customs of their ancient god” (7.269-71).

Virgil presents the Rutulians, breakers of the truce, and Turnus, “driven by the Furies,” as restrained and driven by both their personal cost-free will and ancient gods (12.137). In contrast, Aeneas acts responsive of the orders of the gods but is totally conscious of his own human agency: “if fate had willed my finish,” he says, “my hand had earned it” (two.583). The hand of Aeneas, poised at the cusp between the primitive society he have to displace and the ordered civilization he must discovered, has much labor ahead of him, but as Jupiter decrees:

“…With battle

Forgotten, savage generations shall

Grow generous. And aged Faith and Vesta,

Together with the brothers, Romulus

And Remus, shall make laws” (1.408-12).

As in the Oresteia, the succession of institutions comes with a transition to higher order.

As a foil to Aeneas, Turnus embodies the domestic and ancestral concerns of mankind’s domain, which in the Aeneid must be supplanted by a new order that offers the state and future priority. The closing book of the Aeneid offers a disturbing account of the death of Turnus, a “man [who] does not know the finish / or future fates” (10.690-1). Virgil writes, “His limbs fell slack with chill and with a moan / his life, resentful, fled to Shades beneath,” capturing via his diction the hesitation and unease of Turnus’s death (12.1270-1). However, his death should not be viewed as an impious and inconclusive act performed by the epic hero rather, it is an obligatory and conclusive act, the compelling occasion that drives out the old establishment and enables the new establishment to enter.

The necessity for Turnus’s death is linked to Virgil’s treatment of Pallas’s belt. Throughout the Aeneid, performs of art serve as triggers to Aeneas feelings, as in Dido’s palace, when the frieze depicting the fall of Troy moves him to tears. Likewise, when he encounters the fallen Turnus, Aeneas wrath is initiated by the recognition of the belt of Pallas upon the Latin’s shoulders. Pallas belt is described as “ponderous,” containing an engraving of “a band of fifty bridgegrooms, foully slaughtered / one wedding evening, and bloodied marriage chambers” (10.683-six).

And when his eyes drank in this plunder, this

Mmemorial of brutal grief, Aeneas,

Aflame with rage” his wrath was terrible”…

He sinks his sword into the chest of Turnus (12.1262-9).

In this, the final recognition scene of the epic, Aeneas associates Turnus with the violence, plunder, and marital desecration to which he himself has had to resort in order to identified his fated city. In addition, he associates Turnus with the destructive dwelling in grief from which he seeks to liberate himself, as the belt is both a memorial of brutal grief” and a memorial to brutal grief. In order to divorce himself from each the violence and the grief, Aeneas kills Turnus. Turnus’s death is the transitional climax of the grand-scale shifting of powers, lands, and peoples, but it is also the transitional climax of Aeneas heroism, allowing him to set aside as soon as once more a warrior ethos and human pathos and to embrace his function as founder of Rome, his greater labor. This function contains the developing of excellent walls, the teaching of peace to the conquered, the sparing of defeated peoples, and the taming of the proud (six.1136-7). But like the shade of Turnus, who descends to the underworld unwillingly, and like the golden bough which yields to Aeneas only hesitantly, each transitions will not be effortless, wrought with war, conflict, and suffering.
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